(Karina Noctum returns to us with this interview of Norwegian musician Per Valla, founder of Vredehammer and Valla and former member of Abbath.)
Tell us about yourself, your musical career so far…
I was born and raised in a small town in the north of Norway called Mo i Rana. Here I lived a typical small-town life with typical small-town friends and typical small-town dreams. When I was around 15 years old I injured my knee, and my dream of becoming a professional football player instantly died.
That same day after leaving the hospital, I went to our typical small-town music store, and the first thing I saw when I entered was a VHS with the amazing John Petrucci on the cover — entitled Rock Discipline. I bought the fucker and from that day on I started practicing guitar and my focus on being a professional football player quickly turned into working towards becoming a professional metal guitarist, preferably lead guitarist.
Time went on and I joined bands such as Allfader and Elite where I had the pleasure of releasing some albums and touring for the first time. Playing in these bands was great, and good friendships were established, but for some reason I never felt that this was where I was supposed to be playing for the rest of my life. Long story short, I decided to start the band Vredehammer and began teaching myself how to sing/scream.
Today Vredehammer has released 3 EP`s and 2 full-length albums and we are working on the third album. We have done many live shows, tours, and festivals and basically have come a pretty long way since the band started in 2009.
How was it to play with Abbath? Any funny or curious stories?
I was session lead guitarist in Abbath for about 6 months in 2015 and did somewhere around 10 shows with the band. I was fortunate to be part of the project in the mere beginning, before they had done any live shows and many things were still in a “where do we go with this”-stage. This gave me a really good insight on how things work in the big leagues where there are many important people involved, like managers, booking agencies, artist development agencies, etc.
Playing with the guys in Abbath was of course an enormous step upwards for me and I got to travel the world, play big shows, headline, and also establish great new friendships.
I don’t really have any stories to tell from this experience, but I would like to emphasize how incredibly focused Abbath and King are as artists. There is a reason why they are on top of most metal festival posters out there, and that is because they know their shit. I learnt a lot from playing with them, and for that I am grateful.
About Valla, your side project, what is it that the project allows you to express or show that your other bands do not?
The Valla project is something that came to me when I was in a pretty frustrated state of mind in regards to the music industry. It would take me forever if I were to go into detail about this, but in short terms Valla is like a personal playground for me. It is a study of the music industry. It is a project where I do not rely on others to use “business formulas” to form the band. I make all decisions musically, visually and promotion-wise. All artwork is hand-drawn by me, ideas for band photos are directed by me, and to some extent the mixing of the music is done by me. I only involve other parties at the end of a project when it comes to the final details of a mixing process or rendering of pictures and artwork. I only surround myself with partners who I know are professional, talented, and who I trust to do a great job.
I would also like to add that I do not want Valla to be known as that guy who was a session guitarist in Abbath for a short while. Neither do the guys in Abbath want this. I feel that I stand solid as an independent artist, and the artist name Valla was something I took on before ever having met the guys in Abbath. Also, Valla in a live situation will only consist of me, my guitar, and a drummer. The rest of the instruments will be played via playback. It’s like I said, I play all the instruments except for the drums anyways, so why have someone else play them live? I understand that the visual aspect is better when there are more people on stage, but if you think about it, this is metal. Not a dance show!
The use of synths is widespread in atmospheric, ambient, melodic bands, but still I think many fail or do not wish to tune it like in the ’80s. It can be that the authentic sound may give another different texture to the music. Perhaps less atmospheric and more dark. I once attended a conference about goth in England and so on. And I remember I learned that goth is non-metal even though it is stereotypically associated with it, but musically and in its origins, it’s another thing. Many take it under the metal umbrella because both images and some other elements from it are used in metal.
So I would like to know, first, what made you use that authentic sound in the first place? What inspired you? And what is your opinion when it comes to goth/darkwave and its relation to metal.
One very important thing to mention is that I never have and never will make electronic music. At least that’s what I think it’s called haha. When synth is mixed with “disco-drums” you know. I only use the synthesizers, and the rest is pure fucking metal.
When I was younger I listened to a lot of Jean Michelle Jarre, Vangelis, and Mike Oldfield. These artists and also Depeche Mode used the same kind of synth that I use in Valla. I think it has a great feel to it and it really takes me back to Horror and Action movies of the ’80s. I was basically just goofing around with this sound, making different kinds of music until one day I tried it with one of my unreleased black metal material and it sounded awesome!
I find it interesting as well that your songs have epic undertones. Epic Norwegian, which is awesome. I’m always trying to find epic bands, I think they are kinda rare, I mean the top excellent ones. However, it is a subjective sub-genre, so I would like you to tell us what you consider epic in BM and please give us some examples — it can be songs, albums ,or bands.
The Epic sound is definitely the sound I think is the coolest in extreme metal. I was never a big fan of the thin sound offered by the old school black metal bands. Lately I have been listening to bands like Septic Flesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse. These have really mastered the sound of epicness! Before this I would say that Dimmu Borgir probably had a lot of impact on me. I used to listen to it all the time when I was at the end of my teen years and early twenties. My favorite epic album must be Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia.
What are the plans for Valla? Is Kevin Foley going to play more songs? It has happened before that the drummer is too good and it sounds just awkward when the rest of the band are not at the same level. But when it comes to Valla, I think it fits and is super-tech and sounds so good, so congrats. We need more tech in BM definitely.
Thanx alot! Me and Kevin are great friends and I am sure we might work more together in the future. Hopefully both live and in the studio, but honestly we haven’t spoken about this yet. Just let me add that I agree with you. Kevin’s drumming skills deserve a big WOW!
So what’s happening in the Norwegian scene these days? Anything worth mentioning?
Since I live quite far in the north I don’t really have the chance to stay updated on the metal scene in Norway any more than you probably do. I did however notice that Nordjevel put out a masterpiece of an album earlier this year. Definitely worth checking out!
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanx for the interview and stay tuned for some exciting news from the Valla crypt!