Interview with Bardspec’s Ivar Bjørnson

It’s far from unprecedented for a darling of the (guitar-oriented) extreme music scene to veer off into ambient territory.  Many such transgressors do so early in their career, even concurrently with their entrance into the awareness of the extreme metal audience.  Whether that happens because such artists were predisposed to be omnivorous and disparaging of boundaries or because the business moves so slowly that their adoration of aggression has already burned out by the time their recordings see wide release, the reasons vary with the individual.

One of the most recent curiosities to come to the fore is Ivar Bjørnson’s BardSpec, a project he has been tinkering with for years, and for which he has recently drafted the volatile guitarist Steve Austin (Today is the Day) and filmmaker/provocateur David Hall, with album layout by visual artist Josh Graham (IIVII, ex-Neurosis).  The auditory voyages offered throughout the project’s debut, Hydrogen (June 23 on By Norse Records), is thoroughly engaging, and its subtle reality-shifting power is augmented by Hall’s videos.

We asked Bjørnson some questions about his newest baby, and we shared some of his thoughts with you in Issue #153 (July 2017, Integrity cover).  Catch the rest of the interview right here, alongside a few videos that exemplify what BardSpec is really all about.

How permanent is the current BardSpec lineup?  Are your current collaborators strongly tied to the work, or do you think you’ll work with other artists depending on people’s availability?

The people involved as members now are the people I want to be part of it, but being realistic I am sure I will have to look at other solutions from time to time.  Different continents and schedules will be challenging.  I am sure it will work out, as I am lucky to have a pretty awesome network of great talented musician-friends all over the world. Hopefully some of them will want to try and help fulfill Steve and Dave’s visions when the originals cannot participate. It is what comes out that counts, not who produces it!

Did you have a particular vision for the visual media that accompanies your music?

I love everything David Lynch has done, and I suspect Dave Hall has lent an eye or two to his work, too. An integral part of this kind of approach to moviemaking seems to be letting the mind operate effortlessly from image to image, without too much conscious meddling. That’s when white-clad cowboys just appear… Ha ha… Sort of a transcendental flow of subconscious ideas rolling by, and the job is to try and glue it to the film roll. I will tell Dave for instance, “I have some footage of this person dancing, but you can only see the contour because it is dark. It would be awesome to use that.” He will nod and then it magically appears in between something weird the next time I turn around on stage.

What kind of headspace do you hope this music to evoke in your audience?

I expect any listener who gives it a chance to find it dream-like and with a bit of luck it could take the listener into exactly that: some kind of headspace. What kind of headspace all depends on what he or she has going on in there. Same thing for me: sometimes it is a meditation where it goes blank, sometimes I go into whatever rooms is open in my head.  Occasionally there will be a kicking down of doors, if necessary.

Will you be supporting this album live as you would with Enslaved?

Not as intensively, both because it will take time to build a name for BardSpec where I could tour a lot, and also just being in Enslaved takes up a lot of the calendar already. I will do as much as I possibly can, though! I am certainly in this to relax.

What do you think BardSpec’s future looks like?  Are you planning to do more with the project, is it more of a momentary thing, or will you just wait to see what you feel like doing?

It is up and running, so it will continue running for as long as I am active – that is my bold prediction. It really feels like a very natural outlet for me. I feel like working as much as I can while I can; that’s what I feel like!

You can order your copy of Hydrogen from By Norse here.