Sweden’s Nattsmyg have been equally prolific and elusive in their 13 plus year history with now 6 full length albums to their credit. Their latest album “Midnattsfesten” shows both the folkier and black metal sides to their style which should grab many an ear. I was able to throw some questions to Dan Heikenberg who is the main guy behind Nattsmyg and he answered some for us including the writing and recording process, live performing and a few other things check it out…
Congrats on your latest release “Midnattsfesten”….have you been getting some feedback regarding it so far?
“Thank you! Not much feedback. One Facebook post on New Year’s Eve might not be the best way to release an album.”
How did this album come about that may have been different than previous releases? Did you have ideas of taking your music in different directions this time around?
“I almost don’t remember, because I wrote most of it in 2012.
I think it started with the intro melody on “The Harper And The Devil”, which I heard in a dream, in a glade, played on a harp. So I woke up and recorded it. The rest of the song and the rest of the album grew from it. I don´t know if it was good enough, or a good enough direction, but I felt that I had to do it.”
What is your song writing process? Do you compile riffs and then put them together? Do lyrics and music get done at the same time?
“I often start with a feeling, a keyboard and a cup of coffee, and play until I find a riff that I like (or use a riff from a dream, in a glade, on a harp). That riff inspires the rest of the riffs to that song, and maybe even the whole album. I don´t force it too much, not even the song structures, which often results in non-pop song structures and no clear refrains. The riffs just go on until that feeling is depleted and I´m out of ideas, but all the riffs are connected by that same feeling. It´s not random riffs. I think I will try to see what Nattsmyg with a more clear song structure sounds like in the future. They might also work better live. When all instruments are recorded, the song gives inspiration for the lyrics.”
Is it safe to say the “Midnattsfesten” is folkier and more symphonic than previous releases? How do you think this album differs from previous?
“There’s a pattern I think. Every other album is more heavy in the keyboard and a little bit more folky (När Solen Slocknar, Fylgja, Midnattsfesten), and the albums in between are a little bit less heavy on the keyboard (Född Att Härska, Sinmara) and maybe a little bit more black metal.
This is to keep it a little bit more interesting for me, and because the keyboard heavy songs are often about specific parts of the world I´m imagining. Trolls are more folky, and plague doctors are more black metal. Maybe the next album will break this pattern.”
You have to wear many hats to be a one man project….. how do you accomplish playing all of the various musical instruments necessary to make your albums?
“I’m no expert in any of the instruments. I try to learn and play only what I feel is needed for the songs, and hopefully I get better overall in the process. I can´t do female vocals, and that´s where Linn comes in to save the day. She´s also a much better singer than me. On earlier albums, I had more help from talented friends with some guitars, bass and drums.”
Linn Carlshaf adds a special touch in the tracks with her vocals…. how much is she involved in the writing process? Does she have parts written by you for her or does she create her own parts?
“She really has a voice I feel is perfect for this music. I write the basic parts, and she turns it into something that sounds good. She is a trained singer that finds and changes the details to something more professional.”
The album cover is killer, how did this come about and who is the artist?
“Michelle Helen Tolo is the name of the artist. There are links on the Nattsmyg website to her own website where she shows her art. She is a really talented, easy to work with, and kind artist who really understood what I wanted. She´s from Norway so she´s no stranger to trolls. I couldn´t be happier with the album cover. She also made the art for a Nattsmyg card game I´m working on.”
What are some of the biggest influences in your sound as far as other bands, books, movies, TV, etc….?
“Early Vintersorg and Finntroll were strong influences, and I´m sure they still are. I think I´m pushing Nattsmyg in different directions to vary the sound, but I think there´s a feeling from within that is ever present that also contributes to the sound. I have tried to do other types of non-Nattsmyg music, but the same feeling is always there to alter and often destroy the sound when it´s not metal. It´s what makes the songs feel a little bit slow, heavy and depressing even if they´re fast. Maybe that´s just in my head.”
Have you ever played live or does this not interest you? Have you considered putting a live lineup together at all?
“2008 was the last time Nattsmyg played live. It was really fun, and the live lineup was great. It would be really fun to do again, this time with Linn. Something that makes it hard to do is that Linn studies in Hungary, and I work in Sweden.”
Do you write in other styles of music at all or strictly metal? What instrument are you the most comfortable writing and playing on?
“Some years ago I did the music for a PC game called Bloodline Champions. That was fun and different. I´ve tried other styles, but metal is what works best. Keyboard are my main instrument, but I have no trouble in writing songs on electric or acoustic guitar, and on Sinmara I actually first wrote the drums for three songs and continued from there.”
What style of music do you consider Nattsmyg…. are you a black metal band? What genre works for you if you had to pick?
“I try to not stick to one genre, so that´s a question I´m glad I can´t answer.”
You do everything independently, is this the best situation for you? Any aspirations of being on a record label?
“It´s nice to have freedom. Maybe I´ll try to find a label. Too bad I´m lazy when it comes to things like this.”
What is the future plans for Nattsmyg is you have thought that far ahead?
“I´m working on a new album, and from now on I think I´ll try to bring in more members to add more ideas, energy and skill. It´s fun to shake things up. I´m also working on acoustical songs, but I´m not sure they´ll be recorded. Also, I´m working on a Nattsmyg card game because why not.”
What music are looking forward to in 2018?
“I´m curious about the new Dimmu Borgir album. I might be completely wrong, but I think it´s the first album without Mustis in any form.”
“I have totally forgotten to put Midnattsfesten on Spotify.
Thanks for this interview