Thanks for taking the time to talk to Metal on Loud Magazine, Benjamin! To start with, could you provide us with a little background information on Iotunn? How and when did you guys get started playing music?
Jesper reacted to an online forum post which said I was looking for musicians to share my passion for 70’s rock with. After a night with lots of Pink Floyd and beer, we agreed to officially start a band. In the fall of 2009, Bjørn joins on drums and we quickly became 5 band members. It started off as a 70’s prog, spacerock and rock ‘n’ roll band. In 2011 we got rid of our bass and keyboard players and Jesper asked his brother, Jens Nicolai, if he wanted to stand in on bass for a concert. Shortly after, Jens Nicolai joined the band as bass player. Later, we rearranged the band, so I got on the bass alongside my vocals and Jens Nicolai got on the guitar. The band’s expression became gradually harder and harder over time. We never let go of our musical starting point, though. In a way, we’ve been on a journey from the late 60’s and up to current time, from rock to metal, until we would find the musical identity that was befitting the four specific individuals we are. Iotunn was the result. Iotunn has been our name since February 2015.
You mentioned that local magazines are talking about your band as the new hope for Denmark’s metal scene. What are some of the reasons they’re giving?
We’ve seen Iotunn described as a band who aren’t taking genres and unspoken rules too seriously, if they exist, and who play what they want without losing their identity. We’re often told we sound like ourselves, whatever that is, and that we sound like we look back in time and also forward in time all at once, all framed within good song writing. It’s been a thrill to hear all that, and it really motivates the will to improve.
Could you describe that Denmark metal scene for us? Do very many metal bands come out of Denmark?
People don’t seem to talk about a ’Danish sound’, like most people seem to agree there is a Norwegian sound, a Gothenburg sound, a Florida sound, a San Francisco sound and so on, but of course there have been a lot of heavy weight bands on the Danish scene who have been around for many years. Also, it seems that the underground scene is developing in a positive direction. A lot of bands who have been under way recently are beginning to peek out their heads. Only time can tell if these bands can be categorized under a homogenous style that eventually will be given a name, but at the moment it’s pretty cool to see a lot of underground stuff happening across genres.
What’s it like being from Denmark and trying to appeal to a global audience? Is your music intentionally in English? Is Danish your first language?
Of course, with a band name in Old Norse, we may signal that we weigh our ancestral roots highly. Of course we do and we are to some extent a product of having grown up in Denmark, Scandinavia or Northern Europe, if you will. And this is both musically and personally for Iotunn. Having said that, we don’t have many appeal considerations. I guess it won’t carry much meaning to anyone that we are from Denmark. People can listen to the music and make out their personal opinions from there. Danish is my first language but I did spend 3 years in Seattle as a teenager and English is an old friend of mine. In fact, many times I find it easier to express myself in English, especially lyrically.
Your vocal style has been described by you as “hyper-melodic,” which I think is an accurate description. What or who has influenced your singing? What are your reasons for incorporating such a melodic element into heavy music?
I’ve been mostly influenced by various rock singers from the 70’s, actually. I’ve had a lot of favorite singers, also some from the 80’s and 90’s. Although it may not have audibly influenced me much, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam was a big influence. After the release of our EP, people have compared my vocal style to a lot of singers I never saw as personal favorites or influences. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my voice can do and use it according to what the music calls for. In recent years, exploring my own voice has been my primary influence, although I do take inspiration from all kinds of music and genres also. I may alter my style to some extent between records. To answer your other question; to me, incorporating a melodic vocal element into melodic music seems logical. A lot of things could probably work out, but I just try to do what I like best.
As far as your band’s music as a whole, what or who has influenced your sound? Could you point to any specific artists?
It ́s tough for us to point out just a few bands. The list is long! All bands are inspired by other bands, but they tend to sound very distinct and different from those anyway. In Iotunn, we listen a lot to 70 ́s prog – and space rock, classical music, film soundtracks, black metal, prog metal, thrash metal, melodic death metal, NWOBHM but also a lot of other stuff. If I have to mention a few names it must be Metallica, Pink Floyd, Mercyful Fate, Arcturus, Death, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Carcass, Dissection, Morricone, Hans Zimmer… As the music fans we are, we listen to many different artists and really appreciate the width and depth they have created in music over time! But for us the inspiration is also a broader term that is based on the things we experience and feel. It will probably be like this always. The people we are and the lives we live will be reflected in the music we make.
Tell us about the progressive elements heard from Iotunn. How did it come about?
It has been there since the beginning. We have all listened to progressive music for a long time. The link between the fact that we like to hear progressive music, writing progressive music and playing progressive music it is given that the progressive elements are part of our sound.
How does the writing process work for you? Does one band member lead the effort, or is it a group affair?
At first all the guitar parts are written by Jesper and Jens Nicolai and presented to Bjørn and me when they have formed a compositional draft for an entire song. This is followed by a process where drums and bass come in to the picture. At this point I start to get a clear impression of the song ́s identity and I start to brainstorm what pictures, themes, emotions and general thoughts that come up when I listen to the music. From this I start to write the lyrics and melodies.
At this point we kind of have the song. From here on we finish the song in a circular process, almost like shaping clay. We look at it, change something, redo that a given number of times until we think the song is finished.
You recently released your first music video for the track “Frost” and said the response has been good. Tell us more about making the video and the response you’ve seen. Is there any particular reason you chose that track to shoot a video for?
We just wanted to make an honest video where we don ́t pretend or look superficial. A video where we just play the song in our practice room across some video shots taken in the area where we practice. We are happy with the result we got. Particularly in light of the video being a hundred percent homemade video except for the help of a good friend, Kasper, who handled the camera stuff. People ́s reactions to the video have been positive and when it comes to the actual song the response has been very breathtaking! It could indicate that many think it ́s the best song of the EP. We tend to believe it is the best song and therefore we didn’t have second thoughts about landing on “Frost” for a first music video.
Thanks again for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add or tell us about Iotunn?
We are a very productive band. We want people to know this so they know that there will be much more Iotunn music coming out. During the autumn we begin to track a lot of songs that will make out our debut full length album. It is all entirely new material. No remakes from the Wizard EP! Furthermore, the riffs are flowing from Jesper and Jens Nicolai these days, so album two is in the making as well. If you are more interested in keeping up with what ́s going on in our band, Facebook is our primary news feed out to you guys. We will keep you all posted about what’s going on in our camp. Thanks to you too!