Band of the Day: Vanhelga

The sun’s shining here in Glasgow, yet I’m feeling cold and dark and miserable. I blame Vanhelga and their in-depth responses to our Band of the Day questions…

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

Greetings Moshville, we are from Östergötland, in Sweden. It’s a fucking cold, dark and miserable place. Don’t believe all the stereotypes about us. The women are not good looking and the weather is fucking terrible. Most people from here are suffering from mental health issues.

How did you meet?

We’ve had different members during the years. Right now the band pretty much consists of me and J. Ejnarsson. I think we’ve known each other for over twenty years and it wasn’t long until we started writing music together. It’s a good thing for us that not too many people are involved in our creative process. ‘Too many chefs makes a bad soup’ or what is the expression again?

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How long have you been playing as a band?

From the start Vanhelga was a one-man band founded by me. I was bored and tired of all the regular bands and felt like I wanted to break free, to do whatever I felt like, instead of being trapped within the expectations and opinions of other people. Musicians are usually too narrow minded in my opinion. They’re afraid of trying to do something different is what I meant to say.

You could say that we started playing as a band in 2013. By that point I felt I had done everything I wanted to do by myself and it was time to bring in other members and see how things evolved. Performing on stage is something that I really wanted to explore and we have a strong reputation concerning our shows at this point. You should come and see us one day, we won’t make you happy that’s for sure.

Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?

The direct translation of the name is ‘desecrate’. We strongly believe that everyone should start thinking for themselves instead of being sheeps. So start desecrating all norms and opinions that you have been taught by society or other people in general.

Begin to create your own view of the world and thus be the creator of your own existence. Take control instead of being controlled. That’s basically one of our standpoints and it’s an important one.

What are your influences?

Life. We don’t follow anything, really. We just let the creativity flow freely and see where it takes us. Our music comes from within and not from external sources. From the heart instead of logic. Materialized from the unknown instead of the known. I could go on forever, but you get my point.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

We strongly feel that we have a new and unique approach when it comes to making music. At the moment all artist are always trying to control their inspiration and creativity by limiting themselves in some way. They are concerned with concepts such as genres and other people’s opinions on how their music should sound. And they adapt by following these rules and guidelines. You could say that they are actively censoring their art, in a way.

We, on the other hand, don’t give a fuck about other people’s opinions or genres. If we happen to write a pop song then so be it. What’s the big deal? We would still fucking release it. The inspiration and creativity guides us instead of the opposite, meaning that we are not trying to guide or affect the inspiration. It’s a huge difference between the two and the result is music that transcends all boundaries. It’s beautiful and unique instead of merely a bleak repetition of something that has already been done. Do you understand what I am trying to say?

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

It’s the same when writing lyrics as it is when it comes to the approach we have when writing music. We get inspired and we let that inspiration guide us in whatever direction it takes. The lyrics have been very personal on the last releases, almost always dealing with personal struggles, depression, anxiety and general forms of darkness.

If the lyrics took another direction we wouldn’t mind it as long as it’s genuine and always from the fucking heart, no matter what shape it takes. Delivering something honest and original is important for us. What’s the point otherwise? We don’t want to be a cover band and write music based on some other band’s music. That’s a big “no” for us and we would never go down that road.

What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?

I think we have done at least 100 shows at this point.

We try to make every show unique and original. Thanks to our ‘fuck everything’ attitude they kind of automatically becomes that way. This attitude leads to the fact that people who have seen us before will experience a completely new experience every time they come back to watch us. We would say our performances are very unpredictable and more in the style of a result of the present moment instead of something carefully planned or choreographed. We simply do whatever we are inspired to do.

There’s no point in doing the same stuff over and over again and, as I said, therefore we just do whatever we feel like on stage. In the early days we learnt, the hard way I should add, that this was a problem because we did stuff that some organizers thought was way out of line. And since we wanted to continue performing we had to stop doing certain things. I will talk more about those things later.

Our earlier shows are still spoken about and people will probably never forget them. You could say we became infamous because of this and we still have a strong reputation which is followed by a lot of rumors. People like to create and spread drama all the time, that’s how it feels like to me. We don’t want to be a part of that shit, fucking pointless waste of time and energy.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?

That would be from our earlier days.

We had a show in Stockholm and a lot of people came. Played together with Harakiri For The Sky and Kall because we had been kind enough to arrange a smaller tour for them here in Sweden. Our current label at the time, Art Of Propaganda Records, came all the way from Germany to help us with the tour and support us. They also sold merchandise at the shows and stuff like that.

There were drugs everywhere and, unfortunately, me and the vocalist simply got totally fucked up. We had a really strange idea that we wanted to hand out razor blades to the audience for free, which we also did by the way. Was it the smartest idea? We don’t care. At every show we had a box with razor blades at the entrance.

After this specific show in Stockholm the floors were soaked in blood, mostly from me and the vocalist, but also from people in the audience. The owners of the venue had to bring out the floor mops and clean the floors from the massive amounts of blood. The evening ended with both me and the vocalist having to go by ambulance to the hospital because of the serious injuries we had brought upon ourselves during the show.

I got out of the hospital the next morning, you could say I got a paid hotel for the night, not so bad if you ask me. But our vocalist got committed to the psychiatric ward, he even got tied up in one of those straitjackets. Talk about a totally fucked up situation. So we had a bit difficulties the next day to get him out of there. After convincing the doctors we finally got him out and we continued the tour like nothing had happened. In fact though, things similar to this happened, during all the shows.

I think this event is one of the most infamous histories that people still talk about here in Sweden. ‘Do you remember that night in Stockholm when Vanhelga handed out free razor blades to the audience and it all ended up in a massive bloodbath?’. It even got noticed in the national media. No one will ever forget this show whether it’s bad or good for us. I don’t give a shit.

There’s many wild stories to write about but this interview would become very long so I’ll just leave you with the one above. Since we have toured so much we have seen and experienced many strange events. I am sure if you ask other bands that tour a lot they will also have a lot of weird stuff to talk about.

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What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?

I use ESP guitars and we are sponsored by nologo guitar picks. The picks are really awesome to use by the way. Today I wouldn’t use any other picks. I think our other guitarist uses a Gibson guitar but he’s currently looking for a new one. In the studio we have been using an ENGL amplifier lately for most of the rhythm guitars. For the leads we have been experimenting with a MESA BOOGIE.

That’s pretty much all I know at the moment. We are not so focused on the equipment. We care more about the final results and sometimes not even the most expensive equipment can deliver us the results we are looking for. If you want to sponsor us we are for sure open for suggestions, send us a message.

What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?

Right now we are promoting our new material which will be released later this year. Just some weeks ago we released one of the new songs on all the digital platforms, such as Spotify, iTunes and many more. It’s called ‘Dagar som denna’, check it out. It’s fucking brilliant and the feedback from our fans have been really fucking positive.

The new songs are, in our opinion, getting closer and closer to what we believe is perfection. That doesn’t mean that our earlier songs are imperfect, it just means that we continue to evolve in accordance with our inspiration.

What are your plans for the next 6 months or so?

Pretty much doing what we feel like. We don’t follow any rules or plans, we’ll just see what happens. We currently have some live shows planned around the world but we’ll see what happens. At this point, with the pandemic, most of our shows have been postponed. Personally I think it’s starting to look more and more like a senseless hysteria. But that’s just my opinion.

We’re also working on some new videos and new merchandise for the upcoming release. The record label will be Sommar records this time around. I have some more work to do in the studio but you can be sure that it will be released this year.

If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!

The best would be to do a show together with Triptykon and Meshuggah since these are some of the bands I listen to more or less every week. For promotional purposes the ideal would be with Metallica, Iron maiden and Ghost. Something like that. I bet the other members of the band have completely different opinions but since I’m answering this interview you are stuck with me, unfortunately. Stay fucking positive everyone!

Vanhelga: official | facebook | twitterinstagram | bandcamp | spotify | youtube

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