DATE OF INTERVIEW:
19th May 2008
Formed back in 2002, Norwegian industrial death metallers V:28 made their live debut supporting legendary progressive black metal band Enslaved in the same year, before signing to American label Vendlus Records a year later. V:28 have described the concept behind their band as being "based upon a prophecy about the deconstruction and transformation of Earth", which was to inform their conceptual trilogy of impressive albums, which commenced in 2003 with 'NonAnthropogenic', followed by 'SoulSaviour' in 2005, and concluding with the release of 'VioLution' last year. Announcing in March this year that they'll be calling it a day at the end of 2008, saying in an official statement that "we have fulfilled the work we set out to do" and "the content of the trilogy is the very essence of V:28", considering the philosophical ideas involved in the trilogy, it is somewhat apposite that the conclusion of the trilogy also signifies the conclusion of the band. However, with the promise of a few final live performances later in the year, and plans to release an album of remixes, the V:28 story is not quite over just yet. Invited by the band's lead guitarist, Kristoffer Oustad, to do an interview, I seized the opportunity to quiz him about V:28's conceptual philosophy, their decision to quit at the end of 2008, and a whole lot more besides.
METAL DISCOVERY: V:28 is quite an ambiguous name for the band. What does V:28 mean and/or represent?
MD: ‘VioLution’ is a stunning album and major conceptual achievement - to quote my own review of the album: “It is refreshing listening to an album where not only the lyrics, but also the music, reflects the conceptual themes, as many other so called 'concept albums' out there are announced as such but lack compositional relevance to the actual concept.” Can you discuss the writing process for V:28 - do you write the music to reflect ideas and concepts in the lyrics, or lyrics to fit the music, or a combination of the 2?
MD: Do you compose music with images in mind, particularly as the songs are inextricably linked to such a distinct concept? I ask this because your music is genuinely atmospheric in that it stirs the imagination during the listening experience, often provoking the need to almost ‘visualise’ the music.
MD: You had several prestigious guest performers on ’VioLution’ including Ghost from G.G.F.H., Ulver’s Garm etc., and their contributions, although clearly audible in the tracks on which they perform, add something relevant to the songs rather than just being ‘guest musicians‘ for the sake of it. How did these collaborations occur?
MD: The concept behind your album trilogy is about the “end of humanity and the deconstruction of Planet Earth”. Do you regard this simply as a ‘fiction’ created for the music/lyrics of your songs or, by extension, does it reflect your beliefs in the ‘real’ secular world?
MD: You quote a diverse range of influences on your MySpace page including Samael, My Dying Bride, Morbid Angel, G.G.F.H., Enslaved, Red Harvest etc. Although all of these influences can be clearly heard in your music, your songs are still very original. Did you set out to be as progressive as possible with these influences to create such original music?
MD: Personally, I only regard there to be two genres of music - either music you like or music you don’t. Your music has been generally described as industrial death metal, although I regard industrial and death as only 2 constituent parts of your music which also has elements of doom, black, dark ambient etc. How do you regard labels for music, particularly the metal genre which has now reached the ridiculous stage where sub-genres of sub-genres exist?
KRISTOFFER OUSTAD: The name V:28 refers to a few things, but it's basically a cryptic way of writing the name V:O:I:D (the voice of innovative deconstruction). V:O:I:D was the band Eddie and I used to play in before we formed V:28. However, due to different reasons we chose to change the band name and musical direction. 28 is the sum of the letters O, I and D in alphabetical order. The name sounds very mechanical and machine like, and one could easily associate it with some military equipment or weapons device, which suits us perfectly. The band concept is based upon a prophecy dealing with the end of mankind and the planet Earth, a total deconstruction and transformation of the planet Earth as we know it today. We like to keep the lyrical and conceptual side of the band on a meta-physical level instead of epic stories describing endless battles between "man and machine" being fought in some apocalyptic wastelands. It's all about the eyes of the beholder... only you know your worst nightmare and your inner fears, so we try to focus on how people react to the fact that the World is falling apart. The feelings of seeing everything around you wither away and not being able to do anything to stop it. We're living in a time where mankind is being more and more superfluous, and artificial intelligence and machines are taking over a lot of the work that used to be hand crafted. There's a lot of parallels between the V:28 concept and films such as George Orwell's ‘1984‘, ‘The Terminator’ and ‘The Matrix‘. However, it's important to stress the fact that in our version there is no hero or happy ending.
KO: Thanks! It’s definitely a combination of the two. When working with a concept like we have done for the last years, you have to stick to the main “story line” and what the whole concept is based upon. Sometimes I get an idea for a riff, and as soon as the writing process takes place I start getting ideas for the whole track, musically and lyrically. However, these things often change in the process, and it’s not unusual that I use from 6-9 months to complete a track. It’s a very long and continuous process. Other times it’s the other way around…I get some ideas for lyrics, and I have them in the back of my head when I compose music. In order to succeed with such ambitious project that we’ve done, I think you have to work with both parts hand in hand, as they both play an important role in the final result.
KO: Images and visuals are my main inspiration source when I compose music. Whenever I sit down in my studio with my guitar I always have some images in my head that I want to illustrate with the music. For me that's the best way of working while writing music for V:28. Much of the essence of the concept is a certain atmosphere and I think working with cinematic ideas and imagery allows the creativity to blossom and expand in a much more interesting way than settling for a certain sound or type of song. The process of writing a track is rather complex and the lyrics also play a big role in how the final result turns out. Imagine the track being a picture, and every layer has its own meaning and identity, yet gives a meaning to the next one and the picture as a whole. To me the V:28 concept is like a continuous film, and I just freeze some of the frames that I find the most interesting, and start working from there. That's pretty much a parallel to my philosophy when writing music for V:28.
KO: Yeah, I totally agree with you. They both did an outstanding job, and at the same time as they put their trademark to the tracks, it still sounds very V:28. That is in my opinion the definition of a good collaboration and musicianship. For us it has been an honour to get the opportunity to work with artists like these, which we have been following for years and have had a certain amount of influence on us as musicians. We first got in contact with Ghost right after the debut album back in 2003, and we have been talking about collaborating for some time. Eventually both parts had the time to do it. As for the collaboration with Garm of Ulver we contacted him during the writing process for the ‘VioLution’ album. When I finished the song he eventually did some vocals for, I immediately thought it would be a good idea to have some clean vocals on it, so we got in touch with Garm. We weren’t sure whether or not he would do it, but we didn’t have anything to lose on asking. After a few days he got back to us, and he said he thought the material was great and that he wanted to do it. Awesome! All the other artists that are featured on the album also did an outstanding job, and I’m very proud of what we achieved with this album!
KO: Well, actually it is a mix of both. When we started the band we had a much more futuristic approach to the subject, but it changed as things started to take form. I’ve always had a strong fascination for doomsday prophecies and people like Nostradamus, and how people chose to interpret these prophecies and writings. You can see a lot of religious movements using it to control and brain wash masses. Fascinating indeed, but scary as hell on the other hand! Over the years I’ve become more and more interested in how events such as the Cold War have affected the World and the global power balance, and if looking into the horizon of where mankind is headed right now, I do believe mankind is helping itself digging its own grave, but whether or not there will be a Judgement Day like a lot of films and doomsday prophecies speak of, is a another thing…
KO: The main goal when I compose music is to make music that I like. I have no goals to be as progressive or original as possible, I just try to create music from the ideas and pictures that I have in my head. The influences are many of the bands that I have been following over the years, and to some degree they have a certain impact on how I think and create music. However, when I compose music I use a lot of images and I think film and things I see in my daily life are the greatest sources of inspiration for me. I think if you "follow your heart and inner voice" it will pay off when making any form of art, and I think that is one of the reasons why V:28 has a quite original sound. Also the fact that I put a lot of energy and work into and dare use a lot of untraditional elements in the music, makes it stand out as a band with a strong identity. When we started V:28 we didn't have any specific agenda for what music we wanted to play, we just took the time it required to find a sound we were comfortable with.
(Kristoffer Oustad on the source of future plans for members of V:28 after the band quit)
"I guess the answer lies in the bottom of some bottles of beer that is yet to be drunk, haha!"
KO: For record labels, distributors, reviewers and people in general discussing music I think labels are necessary to communicate and to find the right market or people. Personally I prefer the "standard" labels that actually have some kind of meaning to them, and that's why we chose "industrial death metal", which is a well known term within the metal genre. Even though this label doesn't cover the whole truth, it still gives a quite good indication of what we sound like. If every band are to make up their own genre just to try to stand out from the masses, there won't be any point in using the labels. Like you say, there is a jungle of sub-genres and it seems like there's getting more of them by the minute... Labels are just supposed to give you an indication; it's not rocket science for god’s sake, haha!
MD: V:28 have only ever played a small number of gigs over the years judging by the listing of past concerts on your website. Has this been a conscious decision not to tour/play live much, or has there not been much opportunity to do so?
KO: The main reason for the small number of gigs is primarily the lack of opportunities to do so. If we wanted we could have played a few more gigs, but we think there must be a good reason for us to play. We don't want to play unless we think it serves a purpose, and we try not to play too often in the same city or region. I believe a V:28 concert should be an "attraction" more than just your standard Saturday night rock concert. Right now we're planning the last concerts before we call it a day for good, and we hope to have some dates confirmed within the end of May or beginning of June. According to the plan we will try to cover some of the Northern European continent, but we'll just have to see what offers we get. There's a lot of bands on the road all the time, and the fact that V:28 is an underground band, makes it harder to get in touch with serious promoters.
MD: I’ve heard you’ve received a little bit of negative feedback from not using live drums in V:28’s music although, to be honest, the programmed drums on ‘VioLution’ actually sound like very well produced live drums. I presume you also use a drum machine in your live shows - how has this been received by audiences?
KO: Yeah, I guess it has become one of our trademarks by now, and if I got 5 cents each time I heard or read something about it, I would have been a millionaire by now, haha! The metal scene is very narrow minded, and each time something new is introduced to the scene, it’s met with a lot of prejudice and a lot of people claiming it will ruin the scene. I mean, if there would be no such thing as musical evolution, we would be listening to the same record over and over again. Even though a classic album like ‘Kill Em All’ by Metallica is a great piece of music, I'm not interested in spending the rest of my life only listening to that album, if you know what I mean. I’m a fan of mixing genres, and as long as the result is good, I see no point in just doing what is expected from you or doing things by some "standard metal head approved" formula. After all, it all comes down to good or bad music. Using a drum machine definitely has its advantages and its disadvantages. For V:28 the advantages are in absolute majority. Back when we founded V:28 we were working towards a more mechanical and industrial sound, so using a drum machine was a natural choice for us. Also the fact that there’s a big lack of competent musicians in our region made it an easier choice to make. A drum machine wouldn’t fit in very band, but it’s all a matter of the whole package. If you play militant and mechanical sounding music, a drum machine can be a blessing. Other genres, especially pop and synth based music, has been using drum machines for ages, so to me there’s no point in not using it in metal as well. We put a lot of work and thought into the drum programming, and I think people should give the music a fair chance before judging it because we don't do things like all other bands. I know a lot of people avoid us just because we use a drum machine, which is really sad...honestly, I pity those fools, missing out on a lot of great music.
MD: What countries have been good for you in terms of feedback and album sales, and have you had much feedback/fan-mail from people in the UK about your music, as V:28 are still a largely unknown band over here?
KO: The countries that we've got the most attention from are USA, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Holland and France. With the ‘VioLution’ album the distribution changed for the better, which helps a lot, but we still have a great potential out there I think. We haven't got too much feedback from the UK, but there has been some. The albums have been reviewed by Terrorizer and we've been in contact with some webzines from the UK as well. I think the UK market is very big, and I hope V:28 get some more attention in the UK in the future. The feedback we've got is all over very good, so I guess people just need to get to know about us.
MD: You announced back in March this year that V:28 will split at the end of 2008 mainly due to reaching your creative peak with ‘VioLution’ and the conclusion of the trilogy. Can you add anything more to the official statement posted on your website, and are there any plans for the three of you to work together in the future on other projects?
KO: Eddie (vocals and guitar) and Atle (bass) are playing together in the band Ancestral Legacy, and they have just finished recording their debut album. I guess they will focus on that band in the near future. I'm also involved in an industrial band called Kristoffer Nyströms Orkester, and we are currently working on the follow up to our debut album. Both bands are quite different from V:28, and I think it's healthy that we have other bands projects as output channels for other influences and ideas. To me V:28 is much more than just a band, it's my child of heart and even though it was a pretty tough decision to call it a day now that we've come this far, artistically speaking - not commercial, it feels right. Like mentioned in the official statement, I don't think we'll be able to overdo the ‘VioLution’ album and it's better to call it a day now, knowing that we had reached the top. V:28 will always have a special place in my heart, and when I'm old and fucked up I can sit down looking back at something very special - not just another band that lost its spirit and dissolved into nothingness. We have been talking about working together on future projects, but right now we’re just focusing on V:28 and the other active bands we're involved in. I guess the answer lies in the bottom of some bottles of beer that is yet to be drunk, haha!
MD: What kind of feedback have you had from fans since announcing your plans to end the band?
KO: The feedback from the fans vary a bit. I guess it wasn't a big surprise for most of the people that have been following us over the years, but it still seems like a lot of people don't understand why we chose to do it this way. On the other hand there are those who fully understand it, and along with us they think it's the only right thing to do. Personally I think it's important to do things properly, even when calling it a day. Too many bands just quit without announcing their departure. That's a shitty thing to do to the fans.
MD: Did you have only a 3 album deal with Vendlus Records to fulfil your planned trilogy or have you ended your contract with the label when announcing the demise of V:28? And how has your relationship been with Vendlus?
KO: The deal we have with Vendlus Records is more a "gentlemen's agreement" than a standard formal recording contract. I consider us more friends than "business associates", which I think is a really healthy thing when we work at the level we do. Vendlus Records was a fresh label when they released our debut album, but the most important thing for us was finding a label that we could trust and work with without having any artistic or time limits. We're the artists and they are our publishers. On an underground level I think the idealistic spirit and friendship are the most important things in order to succeed, depending on how you define succeeding. Sales wise I guess you can't call it a huge success, but it all comes down to one thing - the relationship between the band and the label. What good does it if you sell tons or records if your label manager is an asshole or you never get to see the result of what you're doing? We have had a dialogue over the years, and we already discussed ending V:28 when the trilogy was complete back when we signed with them in 2003. Like you might understand, we have been talking about ending the band from the very beginning, but we weren't sure until we finished the last album.
MD: It’s been recently announced that you plan on releasing a CD containing remixes of V:28 tracks by other artists. How did these remixes happen - are the musicians involved friends and/or fans of the band, or did you approach anyone with the idea to remix tracks?
KO: The remixes are currently being made, so we have no idea how they will sound, hehe! I'm really excited about this project, and I'm looking forward to hearing how it turns out. Over the years we've established a lot of contacts, with metal bands but also a lot of alternative bands and artists. Some are friends and fans of V:28, and it's really great honour to get the chance to work with this project. We have had this project in mind for a long time, and the musicians involved have been carefully selected. They have either a strong connection to us or we have a fascination for their work and think they are able to do something interesting with the V:28 source material. The whole project is more to be considered an experimental project than a regular album. In addition to the remixes the CD will also feature two cover tracks we recorded some time back, one while recording the ‘SoulSaviour’ album and one while recording the ‘VioLution’ album. The tracks are covers by Bleak (Lycia side project) and Swans, the best band in the world! The latter one features Coph Nia on vocals.
MD: Finally, what can fans expect from V:28 before 2008 is out and the band is no more?
KO: We are currently working on getting a few more gigs before we call it a day for good. There will be a last farewell gig in the end of the year and we hope to announce details already in the beginning of June. We will announce the rest of the shows as soon as they are confirmed, and we are still interested in getting in touch with promoters if they are interested in arranging a gig with us. Besides that, the remix CD will be out the coming fall, which will be a worthy end of the V:28 saga. Seek shelter - the end is nigh!
MD: Thanks so much for your time in answering these questions, and sincere best of luck for your future ventures. And on a personal note, I think it’s a genuine shame you’ll not be continuing with V:28 as the metal genre, and music in general, needs original bands like yourselves to continue progressing its aesthetic beyond the constant abundance of self-imitating genres and bands.
KO: Thank you man! I get your point, but I feel this is the right time to call it quits…I haven’t had the inspiration to write a single riff since we recorded the album (over one year ago), so it feels like ‘VioLution’ sucked me dry of energy, haha! And I’m kind of glad it did, as it makes me more confident that we made the right decision. Make sure to check out the remix CD when it comes out. The remixes will be very exiting, and the cover tracks are awesome! Take care, and thanks for the interest in V:28!
V:28 promo photo - 2007
Photograph used with kind permission from Kristoffer Oustad - copyright © 2007 Eivind Yggeseth
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official V:28 Website:
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Vendlus Records Website: