For the release of Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s new album Noktvrn, I had the pleasure to have a talk with Nikita Kamprad, the band’s guitarist and vocalist.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Would you please introduce yourself and the band Der Weg Einer Freiheit without using the usual “Black Metal” label?
Nikita Kamprad (vocals/guitar): Hello and thanks for having us here ! We are doing music that is deeply connected to our inner feelings and emotions. I see our music as some kind of shelter, a companion in times of solitude, being alone and when it’s important to listen to yourself. Of course, you can also enjoy our music with others and obviously there are live shows with many people in one place. But I like when people close their eyes, escape into their own world – l often do this on stage, too. I think our music has the ability to paint pictures in your head and enhance your own imagination.
Do you remember where does the name Der Weg Einer Freiheit come from?
Nikita: When I tried to find a name for this project I was just thinking about the essence of what this music and lyrics I wrote mean to me. In these first songs (speaking of the first debut album) I found a certain freedom and peace for me. Everyone can find his or her individual freedom in many different things, be it music, writing, sports, cooking – whatever. For me it has been the music and lyrics I’m writing in which I’ve been receiving my inner freedom ever since and that’s why this name, roughly translated to “the way of a freedom”, was just a logical result.
Your new album Noktvrn is about to be released, how do you feel about it? What is the story behind the name and the artwork?
Nikita: Now as the album is out, we feel a big relief and fulfilment in finally having released these new song we’ve been working on for so long.
I somehow always wanted to create an album about the night, about dreams and the world between being awake and asleep. I remember there was one night or rather morning in particular some time in 2018 or 2019. I got up in the very early morning hours like between 5 and 7 am or so and I was somehow still asleep but also awake and it might sound odd, but in this state of mind the basic structure of the song Immortal came to my mind. Like the very basic bassline with the simple drumbeat and actually the whole buildup from the intro, the first verse until the second chorus. It was like half an hour or even an hour when I was lying in bed, the first rays of sun shining through the window’s shades, trying to find a way to my half-opened eyes and filling the room with this kind of purple early morning light – a mood that we also wanted to express through the colours and gradients in the album artwork. It was kinda surreal but interesting to experience that my half-awake mind was apparently able to write a song and I found this experience so weird but also inspiring at the same time that you could say it was the very initial point when I decided to base the whole album theme around the night.
I always had a faible for classical music and Frédéric Chopin is one of the composers that inspired me a lot, especially his so-called “night-pieces” for Piano – the Nocturnes. I see music, also Metal, rather like an orchestration of different, carefully composed elements/instruments that create a certain image and vibe only when consumed in the whole picture. Working in the studio a lot over the past years I found out that an instrument might sound great and beautiful when played alone, but if you’re doing records what is important is the combination of instruments and sound in the band’s context. If you listen to just the guitar tracks alone, you will never understand the whole, same as you just listen to only the violins in a symphonic orchestra for example. This classical kind of approach got more and more present in my songwriting lately, even though on Noktvrn there’s not a direct musical connection to classical pieces like Chopin‘s Nocturnes. With the album title I just wanted to pay kind of tribute to the great composer that Chopin was.
How does the composition process happen for this album? Was it different from the previous albums?
Nikita: Once again, the songwriting itself still remained in my hands. Though, ever since I started writing Noktvrn I had the idea to have it later recorded by the full band in this live environment. This means I already had to make sure at the songwriting stage that transitions between parts and riffs have a natural flow and the different drumparts leave Tobias enough time to recover and be able to record each song in one piece from start to finish. Same for vocals and all the other instruments, of course. Basically we made sure that the songs are not too hard to play, which on the other side got us to play only stuff that we are really capable to do, focusing on only the important things the song really needs. Not saying that the previous albums are written in a way we can’t perform them (we are obviously playing them live), but they have been written rather to sound good on a studio recording without thinking too much about how they will sound live. This gave the songs a different vibe already at the songwriting stage, made them more compact in way and ultimately more accessible and easier to consume (not in a bad way).
How did you work with Max Löffler about the artwork? What about the connexion with the music?
Nikita: We’ve been working with Max Löffler since more than seven years and three different releases now. He’s just an easy-going person and very dedicated artist. He’s not one of the artists who’s doing “just another Metal artwork” for you, instead he always tries to connect the artwork with the musical ideas and vibe. For this artwork it was important for us to deliver this gloomy and nightly mood the album transports musically, to find a fitting typography and to make it stand out from other covers, but at the same time being not too complex. What came out (on the cover) is just quite a simple colour gradient and some very simple forms, mostly based around a “V” – since Noktvrn is our fifth studio album. We’re very happy how it turned out and holding the physical formats in our hands and not only looking at it on a computer monitor now makes even more sense. Everything, the used materials, the lamination, the vinyl colours, all this compliments the artwork very well.
The album begins with the song Finisterre II, which is an echo to your previous full-length, called Finisterre, how did you manage to create a link between those albums?
Nikita: They are actually not more connected to each other than just through the titles. So there’s not a direct musical or lyrical link between them. However, there’s an emotional link. When I wrote the previous album and especially the song Finisterre (that can be translated to “end of the world”) I had the impression that some things are really going wrong in our world. Seeing it today and how we keep on destroying our planet, it didn’t really help my impression. So entitling the first track on the new album Finisterre II, that at the same time acts as the album-intro, was for me just a continuation of the thoughts that have been present a lot on the previous album, that keep being present as we continue not giving a shit about our planet.
You welcomed Dávid Makó (The Devil’s Trade, Stereochrist), on the song Immortal, how did you work with him?
Nikita: I got to know Dávid aka The Devil’s Trade on a tour in 2018 when I helped out Crippled Black Phoenix on guitars and he was the support act. Just half a year later in 2019 we (DWEF) invited him on our 10-years-anniversary tour to be the support and we instantly fell in love with his music, his voice and his kind nature. As I have the feeling that we share the same understanding of emotions within our music (although our musical styles are pretty different) I wanted to have him contributing on our album and Immortal was the first song that came to my mind here. He’s singing the clean vocals in the verse parts and I’m doing all the screaming in the loud chorus parts. He just got the lyrics and the demo recording of the song and was totally free in the creation of his vocal line. We are so happy how it turned out and feel very honoured to have him on our album now. Considering Immortal is already a very special song that breaks out from the traditional DWEF patterns Dávid even made it more special with his voice.
My personal favorite song is Gegen das Licht, the longest one. How do you manage to melt haunting, raw, ambient and deep sounds together?
Nikita: I remember this song being one of the hardest to finish. After I had the whole song-intro (which consists basically of only one guitar pattern) and about 6-7 minutes already finished and recorded I somehow had the impression I’m going towards a dead end. I tried out so many different ideas and riffs for the second song part but all the time I was hitting a spot that got me like “no, it’s not feeling right”. So what I did, I trashed the whole song except for the intro and re-wrote everything within just a few days. Sometimes you need to start (almost) all over again to get new ideas and new approaches you feel comfortable with. How this works exactly, I can’t tell. Mostly the riffs and parts come naturally, I’m not really thinking about it but I certainly feel when a song hits the right spot and goes in the desired direction. The second part of the song definitely has a strong “first album” vibe in it and if you listen closely there’s even a lyrical and musical connection to the song Ewigkeit. Long songs are always harder to write than shorter songs as the arch of suspense is so much more difficult to maintain over the course of 10+ minutes. But in the end these songs are often also the most appreciated by the listeners, so I guess it’s all worth the effort !
I was also surprised by Haven, the last one, made with only clean vocals. How did you create this one?
Nikita: Haven has been written on only the acoustic guitar and was also the first song ever for which I wrote the music and lyrics at the same time. It all came very naturally in only a few hours. It’s definitely one of the two different songs on the album and has been the very first I tried out english lyrics for. The falsetto-like clean vocals are also something completely new I wanted to try out and honestly, when I wrote song, I wasn’t really sure about it. But when I showed it to the others they fell in love with this new vocal approach immediately even though it’s not the usual DWEF song you would expect. Now, it turned out to be our favourite on the album that has been important for the evolution of the band’s sound on this new recording, opening many doors for the future.
As we all know, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up since last year, how did you face the situation as a band? Did the crisis have an impact on the album itself?
Nikita: Well, I was sure that I want to start writing new songs in 2019 and especially 2020 anyway, to lock myself up in my studio and be creative. I certainly don’t want to downplay the negative sides and impacts of the Covid-misery in our world and especially the music scene, but on the other hand it helped me in a way to keep focused and to concentrate on writing the new album. Though, we’re certainly aware that there are so many bands and people working in the music business that basically lost their jobs overnight, not being able to work since many months now. Who knows if or when the music scene will ever recover from this, as we notice that there’s a lack of live technicians and engineers already, venues are closing down, festivals call it quits to give just a few examples of the Covid-19 impact.
Even if there are still a lot of doubts about the worldwide situation, you have a tour planned in Germany, how do you feel about it?
Nikita: To be honest we felt quite torn regarding these shows. Yes, we were aware that the pandemic wouldn’t be over by now when we confirmed the shows around half a year ago. But with the increasing numbers it made organizing and executing the shows a very difficult challenge for us, the tour manager, the promoters and of course also for the audience – there have been restrictions, yes, but we had the impression that people were still very keen and finally happy to see us despite all the difficulties the pandemic brings along. We were lucky enough to play these shows as right now there are already new restrictions in Germany that wouldn’t have made the shows possible. We managed to play 6 out of 10 shows, which is not a bad result considering these crazy times. We hope, as probably everyone, that the world gets into a somewhat more stable condition soon that also makes international touring and traveling reasonable again.
Do you remember the first time you tried to play an instrument? When and how was it?
Nikita: It must have been the piano at my uncle’s house who I also had my first lessons with. He was a teacher at the local conservatory, so he was a piano pro and one of the first persons who got me in contact with a musical instrument if I remember correctly. Piano was the first instrument I learned many years before I got interested in the guitar.
What do you love about your music that you cannot find in other band’s music?
Nikita: It’s pretty simple: for me my music is like a diary. I can tell it everything I couldn’t tell anyone else and doing it for more than 14 years now on a kind of professional or public level and not just for myself, it’s always kind of a time traveling if I listen to the old music and lyrics I’ve written back then. It’s something very personal that I’m obviously very connected to, but that’s just the emotional side of things. Of course, there are so many other bands and artists out there, I feel a strong connection to as well and who can play their instruments a thousand times better than us, haha ! But that’s not what matters – for me finding an emotional connection with music is the most important thing.
Do you feel changes between now and when the band began?
Nikita: Definitely. Like I wrote above, my music is like a diary. As you evolve as a human being, experiencing new things, getting to know new people, dealing with loss and change, this is what’s the basis of my music. I wouldn’t write the first album again today, simply because I’m not the same person anymore. Of course, I am in a way, but there are years of experience between now and back then and a lot has changed musically and also technically. The means I have available to write music have changed, there are so many different new things I want to try out and I’m sure there will always be a certain amount of innovation within our music. So changes in our sound are quite inevitable and that’s a good thing in my opinion.
Do you have hobbies aside from music? Do you also have a job, or does your music income allow you to live?
Nikita: We all have our daily jobs, although two of us are self-employed and thus being quite flexible in time management. However still, we’re not a full-time band which sometimes makes logistics and touring difficult as you always have to count your off-days from work. So we can’t be on the road 300 days a year, but that’s also not our aim. We’re happy with our jobs and we don’t want to be fully financially dependent of the band. Music is the most important thing in all our lives – however, I also love cycling in the summer, our bassist Nico is a part-time tattooer and everyone basically has his own personal projects he’s working on in his freetime.
Maybe you already heard about the french Metal scene? Which French bands do you know?
Nikita: I really love what’s going on in the french scene ever since. Bands like Deathspell Omega, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Blut aus Nord, but also rather electronic stuff like Carpenter Brut, Perturbator and Igorrr are great examples of the variety in the french scene.
Which Black Metal album would you consider as “cult Black Metal” for you?
Nikita: For me, Emperor‘s Anthem to the Welkin at Dusk is one of the best Black Metal albums of all time.
What is in your opinion the best Black Metal album of the year 2021?
Nikita: I honestly haven’t been listening to that many new albums this year but Spectral Wound‘s A Diabolic Thirst has been an album I enjoyed a lot.
What if I ask you to compare Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s music with a dish? Which one and why?
Nikita: Not sure what to answer haha ! In case of emergency Pizza always works.
Are there some musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with on a song, or more?
Nikita: Leprous and especially their drummer Baard Kolstad would be interesting to collaborate with.
Last question: which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour with Der Weg Einer Freiheit and three other bands!
Nikita: Even though we’ve already toured with them it would be Regarde Les Hommes Tomber and The Devil’s Trade. I couldn’t imagine better companions to tour with I think. For the third band I’d name Deathspell Omega even though they would never play live I guess. I’d just love to see this performed live !
That was the last question for me! Thanks a lot for your time, last words are yours!
Nikita: Thank you for this extensive interview and giving us the chance to talk about our band and the new album. We highly appreciate your support and hope to see you soon again !