Today we have a chat with Benedikt, founder of Iceland's Azoic where we talk about music, language, and some of his activities outside of metal. Keep an eye out for the band's upcoming EP, which the band may have given us a glimpse of the cover art on their Facebook page. This interview is the last one from the Icelandic black metal article, and Benedikt sure made it an interesting one. Enjoy:
Apteronotus: The band’s last full-length, Gateways was in 2012, and it looks like you guys have been keeping busy, what has Azoic been up to since then?
Benedikt: Mainly we have been working on new songs and the work is almost over for an EP. We did some live gigs locally but nothing worth noting.
A: Gateways had a mix of Icelandic and English lyrics, even within particular songs like “Spirituphysics.” What motivates the decision to have lyrics in one language or the other or even using two?
Benedikt: To create a differing atmosphere was the main motivation. The Icelandic tongue fits well to some aspects of what we do and will play a bigger role in the future. Also, it gets exhausting quiet quickly only writing lyrics in your second language and Icelandic does feel more fitting for some parts.
A: In a prior interview with Slaying Tongue you had described music as “a portal for something not expressible by our language.” Why do you feel that music has such a powerful capacity for expression when compared to everyday language?
Benedikt: Well languages are very different. Expressing emotions can be difficult in your own mother tongue let alone in a second language. So music or art in general can channel emotions or a certain atmosphere cross any language barrier. “Gateways” tries to characterize this, perhaps in a metaphysical way.
|Azoic - Gateways (2012)|
Benedikt: I had a very musical upbringing. Both of my parents have always been in a choir and both of them play the piano. At age six I was put into Violin class and I stuck to that for about seven years until crossing over to classical guitar. In the northern part of Iceland were I grew up there was not much to do so starting a band was probably the best way to kill time.
My first exposure to metal was when I was about ten I think and heard some Metallica songs (Kill Em All) at my uncle’s house and I’ve been hooked ever since.
A: Azoic has gone from a solo project to a duo and then expanded into a full band. How has the influx of new members influenced the writing process and direction of the project?
Benedikt: It has changed the direction completely for the better I think. At first I had a very precise and narrow vision of what should be allowed and delivered. Now each of the other members contribute to the writing process which gives way to a more creative environment. I can assure you that there won’t be another album sounding like “Gateways” and for us that is a positive thing.
A: From looking at the Azoic Facebook page, it appears that the band’s arsenal now includes a 5-string bass and 8-string guitar. How easy is it to get the gear that you want in Iceland, especially with atypical instruments?
Benedikt: Yes we have use both 4-string and 5-string bass and also 7- and a 8-string guitars. Prices are much higher here than in mainland Europe and in the US but you can get any instrument you want, both on in music stores and on the “black market.”
A: Without saying anything that would be too revealing, what exactly is the black market for musical instruments in Iceland like? Is it getting around some kind of tax?
Benedikt: Haha no, most of the used instruments are sold between people without any store involvement. For example through Facebook or a forum or something like that. There is no black market activity that I know of (although that would be much more interesting.)
[Side note: I was really hoping a crazy story like "we meet under the volcano next to the glacier at midnight, the guitars are hidden in a big crate marked Fiskeboller" but I really appreciate Benedikt's honesty when faced with my ignorance. Of course, he could just be protecting the black market's secrecy!]
A: What bands have you been most interested by lately?
Benedikt: The last band to really hit me is actually not a metal band. It’s called Swans and I’ve really been digging into their new album “To Be Kind.” Very very interesting music IMO and seeing the live is something else.
|The Antichristian Symphonies (2013 Split - Baalberith / RÁN / Loup Noir / Azoic / Váboði)|
A: If you had to estimate, how many people do you think have heard Azoic’s music and how do you feel about the listening public’s reception so far?
Benedikt: Well we have about 2000 downloads from our direct site and then a couple thousand views on Youtube but it’s hard to tell who actually listens.
The reception has been exceptional and we’ve gotten some very decent reviews. Most of the attention seems to originate from the US but also from Europe.
A: Outside of the music world, what are some things that you do for fun or have a real passion for?
Benedikt: I’m studying Geology which I got into because my passion for understating our surroundings (the mountains, rivers and volcanoes). Also I’m a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (training in Mjölnir MMA gym) which has grown to be my second biggest passion besides music making.
A: When did your get your blue belt and do you compete at any events as part of your training?
Benedikt: I've been a blue belt for about a year now and yes I compete regularly (currently training with the Mjölnir competition team.)
A: Music is a multifaceted endeavor that can involve tasks like composition, individual practice, band rehearsals, playing live, mixing, and designing visuals. What part of making music is most satisfying for you?
Benedikt: Performing live is really the high point for me. It’s kind of the end point for endless hours of hard work in the rehearsal space, where it all pays off.
A: Thank you for your time and for doing the interview! Is there anything you would like to add for a final comment?
Benedikt: Thank you too for good questions and thanks for taking the interest in our band!