I can hear riffs, possible transitions in songs, new ideas

In Vain

This month we once again have two great bands on our cover. Even though they’re quite busy with their upcoming album, In Vain was the first of the two to get back to us with their answers to our questions. We spoke with guitarist and founding member Johnar Håland.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview with us! How has your year been?

Hi and thanks for showing interest in our band! We are working hard on our upcoming album, so most time is spent on writing music. However, we did play a show at Blastfest in Bergen a few weeks ago. The festival was a celebration of Norwegian Metal, and only Norwegian Metal bands participated. It was a true honour to be a part of it!

How is the writing going for the new album? Can you give us a glimpse of what lies behind the veil? What can we expect?

The songwriting is going well and I am confident that we have enough music for a new album by now. When it comes to the actual music I would say, perhaps not surprisingly, that it sounds like In Vain. In my humble opinion, I believe that we have had our own sound since the beginning. That being said, you will still see us experiment and add new elements to the music. Our musical landscape is already very wide, thus—as with previous records—the songs will be very varied in terms of sub genres of metal.

How does your creative process work? Who does the writing, and which elements are most important to your writing process?

So far I have written all the music. However, for our upcoming album our other guitarist, Kjetil, has also written some songs. It is the first time in the band’s history that other people will also contribute, and I find that very positive.

For me the creative process is nothing but hard work, and I have to put in the hours to put it frankly. Also, I find it harder the older I get, as work and other commitments take up more of my time. I think you can be more creative when your energy is high and batteries are fully charged, instead of composing in the evenings after a long day at work.

When I complete the songwriting for an album I usually take a long break from composing music, and when I start to write again it is always very hard to actually produce something. In the beginning I usually do not come up with anything, or the ideas I do come up with are really bad. Hence, for me it is essential to get into what I label ‘songwriting mode’, and to develop this mindset takes time. However, when I do get in a good flow I can write music rather fast and anywhere, be it on my way to work, at the gym, etc. Then my mind is focused on music all the time, I have songs playing around in my head, I can hear riffs, possible transitions in songs, new ideas, etc. I seldom use my guitar when I write so for me it is not necessary to be home in order to compose music.

On your Facebook you mention you travelled the globe to set “the conceptual and spiritual framework for the new album”. What did you set out to find, and did you find it?

As a firm believer in travelling and exploring our globe I have experienced the benefits of travelling in my own life. To put it short, I believe in spending money on experiences rather than things. On my travels I focus on experiencing the culture and meeting local people. My view is that all these experiences shape you as a person, and it can also have an indirect effect on songwriting and lyrics. It is also easier to compose when you have recharged your batteries after travels.

How will your travels reflect in the new album? Only lyrically, or also musically?

They have a profound impact, but not necessarily musically. For instance, I did not travel to Japan in order to incorporate Japanese music into our own. For me, travelling is more a way to clear the mind and relax. Not to mention, travels can give lyrical inspiration.

When I listen to your music I can tell there are a lot of different styles that influence you. What do you listen to when you’re not making music yourself?

It’s very hard to say what bands that influence the music as I believe everything I have ever listened to has shaped me as a songwriter in one way or the other. In addition, I have been influenced by different bands at different points of In Vain’s career. If you want to write music, I strongly believe in listening to the “best” (highly subjective of course) bands/songwriters in many different genres. Learn their songs, their tricks, etc and find out what they are doing that make their songs better than others.

Between your second and third albums (Mantra from 2010 and Ænigma from 2013), there was a big difference in sound. What changed between these two albums?

In terms of the music, Mantra was a more slow, heavy and sombre album. When I started to write for Ænigma, I wanted to get more more of the aggression and the fast-paced riffs that were present on The Latter Rain (2007) back into our music. Besides that I believe the pivotal difference is the production. Jens Bogren did a fantastic job, and for the first time we are very happy with the production. When it comes to our first two albums we do not think the production do the albums justice.

Will the upcoming album once again be different in sound?

As commented previously, it will sound like In Vain. No big differences, as our music has already been all over the place, but as usual there will always be new elements, and as our songs are very individual you will probably hear a lot of different musical styles on the album, i.e. the merging of styles that we have become known for. With regards to the production itself, I would like to make some changes, among them to have a more organic and less “modern” sound.

How is the hiatus of Kristian Wikstøl going? Will he be part of the next album?

Kristian has been in Daytona Beach for the last few years, studying to become a pilot. We still do not know when he will be back and where he will be based when he is back. Alexander will play bass on the upcoming album.

In Vain has seen quite some changes in its lineup since its inception. Is the current lineup a solid one?

I do believe so. Disregarding Kristian’s hiatus, the current lineup has been stable since 2008.

Almost the entire band are also the live band for the Norwegian Black Metal outfit Solefald. That strikes me as quite the unique thing. How did this come to be?

Actually, I pitched the idea of a tour with In Vain and Solefald back in 2011. There were many economic and logistical advantages, apart from the fact of getting them back on stage. Also, with In Vain as the backing band they would play with someone they already knew personally, and did not have to hire expensive session musicians. On the other side, I viewed this as something that could give positive synergies for In Vain. Consequently, I considered it a win-win situation. We played our first live show in September 2012. I am not involved as a live member anymore, and it is only Kjetil and Alexander who still plays live for Solefald.

What are your favorite tracks to play live? What makes them fun to play?

Some of my favorite tracks these days are “Image of Time”, “October’s Monody”, “Det rakner”, and “The Titan”. The first few mentioned are catchy and have a nice energy to them, and I like “The Titan” because it is a slow and headbanger-friendly song, so it is a nice contrast to many of our other songs.

You have already been confirmed for Blastfest 2016. What will your year look like, tour wise? Where can we see you live?

As mentioned in a previous question, our focus is on completing our new album. We already did two European tours after the release of Ænigma and do not plan to do any tours until our new album is out. We might do some exclusive shows though, like Blastfest, which we played some weeks ago.

Are there any other big things on the horizon for In Vain?

Besides our new album in the works, all our albums are now available on wax for you vinyl freaks out there! So please check out or Facebook or Bandcamp site and place your order!

Any last words for our readers?

Thanks for this interview and to everyone who shows interest in our band. Salude to all who still support real music and true art! We are working on our upcoming album and we will make sure it will be worth the wait.

Thank you for taking the time for us! Metal On Loud!


Randy Gerritse

Randy is the founder of Metal On Loud Magazine and its community. He is a lyricist for several bands (Dissector, GOOT), an author currently working on his second book, and does web development for a living.

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