Haavard (ex-Ulver) Talks His Turn to Folkish Black Metal; Stream New LP, ‘Haavard’ Now

pic: Ann-Karin Jorung

Guitarist Haavard needs no introduction, but allow me to try. Composer of Ulver’s original Trilogie, namely Bergtatt, Kveldssanger, and Nattens Madrigal, Håvard “Haavard” Jørgensen’s mark on black metal and folk-informed neoclassical musics is indelible, defining the genre’s inseparability from a vast, landscape-inspired character which led to modern acts like Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, and countless others who cite his songwriting and performances as primary influences. Though Haavard recently returned to black metal as part of the Dold Vorde Ens Navn supergroup, an acoustic-guitar forward album has been in the works for years–Haavard would infrequently upload songwriting and studio progress videos to social media over the past near decade or so. Now ready for release, Haavard’s eponymous album, years in the making and gestating even longer, is a direct continuation of the Kveldssanger style: stark guitar instrumentals evoking images of the Norwegian fjords and sceneries. At times joined by former Ulver bandmate and frequent collaborator Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg and going so far as to continue an idea from the original Kveldssanger album (“Kveldssang II), it is hard to separate Haavard’s solo album from nostalgia, but he insists it isn’t meant to be a revisitation of the past, rather something that never really stopped. Always armed with an acoustic guitar, Haavard’s approach to music has been a private constant, only with ever-increasing skill, discipline, and love. Listen to Haavard ahead of its Friday release date and read an interview with the artist below.

We’ve seen your progress on this album and the return to a folkish style on your social media pages over the past half decade or so, but what made you want to make this type of music again?

Well, I’ve been playing acoustic music all along (my acoustic guitar is never far away), but I didn’t plan on releasing anything. I was asked to play some acoustic guitar on Myrkur’s M album back in 2014, and that kind of inspired me to write a piece and record it. I made a demo at home, and put it up on YouTube (just for fun to be honest). It got some attention, and I remember Prophecy Productions reached out and told me that if I was ever to consider a full-length album, they would be interested in releasing it. Of course, I was thrilled to hear that, so as time went by, and I had more ideas to put to tape, I took them up on the offer.

So, in a way, being in the studio with Kris [Garm] again (he was producing the M album) and layering acoustic guitar on a black metal album again did something.

There are some callbacks to either Norwegian classical music (indirect phrasing quotations from “Anitra’s Tanz” by Edvard Grieg in “Emmanuelle”) or even your own oeuvre (“Kveldssang II” acting as a sequel to the original “Kveldssang” from the Kveldssanger album). Do you enjoy revisiting the past in your music?

It’s not intentional (revisiting the past), but inspiration is somewhat the sum of everything up until now, if you know what I mean. – and although I didn’t have “Anitra’s Tanz” on my mind when I wrote what would become “Emanuelle,” I can clearly hear the resemblance. “Kveldssang II” has so much Kveldssanger feel to it, so it was only natural to call it Kveldssang II, and I thought it would be a nice “tip of the hat” to the listeners who have followed Ulver’s and my journey.

Speaking of Kveldssanger, that album turned 26 within the past few days (apparently). What is it like revisiting that album’s style in such an intimate way after so long and in a public setting?

It feels good, at the same time a bit frightening really. It’s always a bit scary to expose oneself–I can’t hide behind anything. But, again, I’m very proud of how this album turned out, so I’m mostly looking forward to sharing it with others.

It’s interesting to hear that you’re scared of exposure considering your tenure as a musician in multiple genres of music. Do you prefer to hide normally?

Well, it’s somewhat easier–being a part of a band or group to lean on. I remember back to the earlier days, I was seldom a part of the getting to know people in the scene, I was more a home playing and writing kinda fellow. But, I´m learning now – and I also appreciate being more exposed (to an extent) now when I’m older. Thicker skin and not so “shy” anymore.

Now that you have over two and a half decades of experience under your belt, do you feel it was easier making music in this style when compared to the Kveldssanger days?

If not easier, cause I have more or less the same approach now as the–it’s easier in terms of the recording itself. I have also gained more experience with arranging etc through the years–which makes the writing part more faceted. But, I can’t say it’s easier. Sometimes the process of a song goes quickly, other times it needs time to mature.

(Haavard releases November 11 via Prophecy Productions.)