Interview with Utmarken
2021 is off to an amazing start with the pending release from Sweden’s Utmarken. “Svåra År” will blow you away with it’s mix of soaring vocals, catchy riffs and the unique sound of the nyckelharpa. I sent some questions over to one of my favorite artists, vocalist and nyckelharpist Mathias Gyllengahm. The questions include the new album, the vocals, the pandemic and how it has effected them amongst other things… check it out…
Congrats on your epic new album “Svåra År” and my forerunner for album of the year…..how has the response been to it so far?
“Thanks, Jeff! Glad you like it. From what I can tell the response is very positive so far, although some people find it strange that the album contains so many already released singles. And yes, that is a bit strange.”
Let’s go back to when “Förfallstid” had been completed…..were there some ideas on what the new album would be or were there tracks forming for the next album?
“It feels like ages since “Förfallstid” and the beginning of the work with this album. It is difficult to remember. As I recall it the slate was pretty clean when work started on “Svåra år”.”
I feel that the new album has tracks that are catchier and simpler in song structure than previous albums…..did you alter the writing style or process or is it just circumstantial that they turned out this way?
“Everything related to Utmarken is circumstantial and has just happened, although there is of course a lot of hard work put in. Nothing happens by itself. But there was no plan to make this album this way. Perhaps an intention to make things a little different though.”
Stay in Shape
“I believe your vocals are better than ever on the new album……have you had any formal training? What vocalists are your biggest influences/inspirations? Do you have a routine to keep your voice at peak performance?”
“When it comes to my own personal favorite vocalists I think Dio and Bruce Dickinson are at the top of the list. I haven’t had any formal training at all and I don’t have any routine for keeping my voice in shape. The lack of a routine comes from lack of time and energy. I have so much in my head and feel like I’m all over the place all the time. I would love to be able to sit and practice on the nyckelharpa and sing much more since I can see for myself that I get better when doing that but I need to distribute the limited time and energy I have over the different parts and hope that the overall outcome becomes good enough. It was interesting to see how much better we became throughout the tour! Those things cannot be practiced in a rehearsal studio.”
“I think most important when it comes to vocals is that you try to “stay in shape”, both physically and mentally. I think a good way to look at vocals is to view vocals as the most explicit way the soul can manifest itself in the physical realm and in order for this to work well what you sing and what you feel must harmonize. When you perform you need to believe in what you sing, at least in that very moment, otherwise it comes through that you are forcing it. I’m not a vocalist that can sing everything, and I don’t think you should try to be that although it is good to try to mimic and experiment with different styles until you find the expression that is right for you.”
The nyckelharpa is still a very identifiable part of your sound although I feel there is less than the previous albums…. did you attempt to change the role of it on this album?
“This was also something that just happened, but I agree with you there. It is a bit more in the background than previously.”
I know of at least 4 tracks that were released before the album…… is it hard to wait to release tracks all at one time and you prefer sending tracks out when they are completed? Do you believe there is a benefit to releasing multiple tracks prior to the album release?
“Hmm, there are plenty of tracks in the drawer that haven’t been released since I/we haven’t found the correct context to put them into. So sometimes it is easy to not release things, but other times it is a pain to wait. It was a wise choice to put these singles out before, and in relation to our tour, but it wasn’t really planned. This album was more or less ready in late 2018 but I got injured in my neck and had to put literally everything on hold for a while. And we had festival gigs and a tour booked at the time… The songs got released as singles instead when we decided to try to go through with the gigs and the work with the album as a whole stopped. Luckily we were able to go through with it all!”
I feel that the band has really come together on the album….was there more input from the members in terms of song writing, riffs, lyrics etc?
For every album I always wish that we can do things properly, try things out more in the rehearsal studio instead of having everything more or less ready before we rehearse. But for some reason it never happens. Lack of time, resources, synchronization? Or is it just because I want to do so much myself? I don’t have the answer. Looking at the result of the festival gigs and the tour in 2019 I think it is clear that we have advanced quite a lot as a band. One usual comment from people that hear us for the first time is that we’re better live than on the recordings. But perhaps they’re just being nice, haha!
I love the album cover….could you give us some details on the art, the artist and what the cover represents?
“It is great, isn’t it? The artist, Mark Seydewitz (dukespook on Instagram), is a friend of Thomas Väänänen (ex-Thyrfing). Thomas has, once again, helped us with the album cover and was the one to contact Mark. I think the request to Mark simply was that it should be an image of a man pulling a heavy load outdoors, and this was what came back. Only small adjustments were made. I cannot say exactly what it represents and it is possible to read more than one thing into it (which I always like) but to me the idea of a man pulling a heavy weight was important. I was thinking of the everlasting, everyday struggle of the common man. It appears as if life is supposed to be a struggle. There is one thing that is worse than having something to struggle with and that is having nothing to struggle with. If we don’t have anything to struggle with it seems we create something. Like starting up a band!”
I find the lyrics mesmerizing and being in Swedish even more so….has there been a temptation to offer tracks in English at some point or do you feel they wouldn’t work for some reason?
“It wouldn’t work with English in Utmarken, but I’m actually working on an English album with a completely different context. Plain, simple classic hard rock/rock n’ roll. I didn’t intend to but it just happened. It all came so easy. It is a theme album. It will probably be released in some way, mainly because it was a fun studio project.”
Covid as Usual?
The pandemic has really put a lot of plans on hold for most bands….how has it affected what Utmarken may have done or will be doing as far as touring, etc?
“Honestly, 2020 was a well needed break.”
I have found your live performances to be super energy packed…..How often do you practice? Is playing live you will be doing more of in 2021 pandemic permitting?
“We practice far too little! About gigs in 2021… I cannot for the world see that our beloved leaders will allow gigs in 2021 and I’m not having high hopes for 2022 either. We’re planning for 2022 though. If things go back to normal (otherwise I guess we’re all doomed anyway) we have big plans for 2022!”
What albums were your favorite from 2020? Any albums in 2021 you are looking forward to?
“I haven’t had the energy to listen to much new music in 2020 and I’m terribly bad at keeping an eye on what is coming. I was involved in a few projects that were released in 2020. Hulkoff’s “Pansarfolk” is one of them, a powerful album! Otherwise there was Nordein’s “Nordariket”, a great debut album with a magnificent atmosphere. And I do a couple of stunts on Falconer’s final album – “From a dying ember”. About 2021 Byrdi will release a new album in 2021 that I appear on. And to not promote myself only, I saw Kauan released a new single recently. If they will make a new album in 2021 that is something I look forward to.”
Any closing thoughts?
“Do not fear. It will all be alright in the end. And if it isn’t alright, it is simply not the end. I don’t remember where that is from, but I like it. Until then – ride hard, shoot straight and speak the truth!”