Why waste time on something that’s already been? Forget the past, live in the moment and plan the future! Today’s interview subject acknowledges that the past is important, no matter how you look at the big picture. Pól Arni Holm, former singer in Týr, now founder of the folk rock project Hamradun, is a well-mannered individual with both feet firmly planted on the ground, despite being an influential figure in Faroese rock music. “How Far To Asgaard” certainly got plenty of spins in my stereo; great music that sounded fresh and vocals that projected you right into the heart of the legend that was being sung about… and it was Faroese! A fact I was proud of to say the least. That was 2001. Fast forward to 17.december 2015, and I’m sitting down with Pól Arni at the venue Reinsaríið, to talk about his new project. The band is playing their second release show later in the evening (a soldout show and no less than one epic performance btw). Before rehearsal Pól Arni has agreed to let me interview him. Here’s what came out of our session.
Welcome back to the music landscape Pól Arni. How does it feel to be back having released the first Hamradun album?
Pól Arni: It feels great! I’ve been meaning to do something musically for a long time. I was in Týr until 2002, afterwards I joined another band called All That Rain for circa two years, plus having performed solo here and there for different social occasions as a guest singer. I always had thoughts about doing something that was my own but never seemed to find the right timing. These thoughts began to manifest slowly after moving back to The Faroe Islands in 2012.
I guess the Hamradun project really took off when I met blues guitarist Uni Debess, onboard the ferry to Suðuroy. He told me that he was working on a new album, I told him I was working on some stuff as well. I was working at the youth centre in Tvøroyri and had booked Uni for some guitar teaching there. Since he was already coming to Suðuroy, he suggested that he came by to listen to the music I was working on, and after hearing it, he wanted to be part of it, and it kinda took off from there. One year later, the album was released.
You’ve briefly mentioned some of the musical involvements since departing from Týr. What else has been occupying you in daily life?
Pól Arni: Well, I finished my education in carpentry and have worked as a carpenter for the last eight years or so. I moved to Denmark and got a bachelor degree in archaeology with emphasis on northern Europe and especially Scandinavia. But like I mentioned, today I work at a youth centre.
Alright then. Now, regarding the Hamradun album, how did the whole process go down in producing it? Did you run into any problems on the way?
Pól Arni: It was a smooth process overall. In the beginning Uni and I had some longer talks about how to approach the whole thing. He’s a blues musician whereas I´m very occupied with the Faroese music culture, the old ballads, chaindance etc. So we talked a lot back and forth about getting the right sound for the album. I’ve enjoyed working with Uni, he’s well suited for rock music that’s for sure hehe.
Where was the album recorded, mixed and mastered?
Pól Arni: All the guitar and bass tracks were recorded at Uni’s home studio. Drums and vocals were recorded at Finnur Hansen Studio where we also brought in a few ballad singers. Finnur Hansen has done the sound mix and master, plus he also plays some instruments on the album like keyboards, flute, and organ.
The cover artwork has a strong nature motive. Is there something special you want to convey with this artwork?
Pól Arni: The artwork was done by Jón Einarsson. When I think about albums, I definitely want a cohesive thread that binds everything together, music, atmospheres and visuals. The setting of the cover artwork is actually a mountain in Tvøroyri on a day of spring. I walked to this mountain called Hvannahagi and that picture (the cover) is actually taken with my phone. Jón has of course done some editing after I sent him the photo.
The idea of the name Hamradun I´ve had since the beginning of this project. What I sing about, what I want to invoke with Hamradun, is ancient storytelling. You have the words “hamrar” and “dun” combined. “Hamrar” are the highest peaks of moutains and “dun” is a sound of rumbling. So when combined, Hamradun stands for the peaks retelling the ancient stories that they’ve observed through time. They’ve been standing there forever and they know everything that has passed. The silent roaring of the past is very much a key factor in what I’m trying to tell with for example tracks like “Snæbjørn”, “Sneppan” and “Kvæðið um Hargabrøður”.
A question regarding the people who are involved in Hamradun. Was it difficult finding a line-up for the studio sessions?
Pól Arni: It started with me and Uni. Then we needed another guitar player. I know John, we both live in Suðuroy and I know he plays Metal, and I wanted to bring some of that into Hamradun, so that was a natural solution. The rhythm section I consider to be the foundation of everything in music. I thought that Rani would be a good choice because he’s a heavy drummer with a good sense of rhythm, same goes for Heri Reynheim, whom I’ve played with in bands back in the nineties, he was a natural choice for the bass. Uni did play the bass on the recording, Heri joined afterwards. Finnur was heavily involved in the recordings, it became unavoidable that he played some instruments as well. We also brought in three ballad-chanters for “Sinklars vísa”, which was very efficient, took a couple of hours and they were done. It’s been easy to coordinate all of it and the people involved have been working intensely and for that I’m thankful.
Alright then, let’s move on to the lyrical aspect of the album. I knew it was going to have a focus on folklore, but the variety of content surprised me. I mean you’ve got everything from psalms, Irish folk tunes, chain dances plus the original material.
Pól Arni: My interest was in describing Faroese tales from tradition in a lyrical and musical context. Having a psalm for example, only adds to the diversity, because a Faroese musical universe embodies everything from ballads to psalms, you could throw an old Kingo psalm in for good measure if you wanted. All these traditions make it a very interesting and complete package in my view.
Any reason why you’ve chosen these specific topics for your first album? I mean there’s a lot of material to work with.
Pòl Arni: True, there’s a lot to work with. My point of entry with Hamradun is the island of Suðuroy, where I’m from. I think the tales are still very much alive here. The idea is to start off locally and see where it will progress. The tales are our possessions, the Faroese people are imbued towards these traditions. “Sinklars vísa” is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. There are several renditions of this epic tale, Harkaliðið were the first I believe, Týr and Eivør have also made their interpretations and now you have my contribution on the Hamradun album.
The tracks “Ùtlegd” and “Frísarnir” then are original compositions. Care to tell a bit more about these songs?
Pól Arni: Those are written by me yes. “Ùtlegd” actually ties in with the preceding track “Snæbjørn” and has lyrics inspired from that tale, whereas “Frísarnir” is entirely my own creation.
If we can turn back to the topic of archaeology for a moment, what is it that is so exciting working in this area and being able to channel it through art as well?
Pòl Arni: I was always interesting history. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to read books on interesting historical topics. This curiosity has always been with me. I think the past is very important, history is important. If you don’t know where you’ve been, how are you supposed to know where you have to go?
Do you feel some kind of responsibility to keep these traditions alive, preserving old wisdom to add a counterpoint towards the hyperfast running society we have today?
Pól Arni: Definitely! Culturally, I think we, the Faroese people, have a special identity, and that is something I think we should preserve. The modern world is massive and runs faster and faster all the time. It consumes the old world, and if the traditions aren’t being retold and accounted, they can quickly disappear, slowly fade away. You see this in many modern countries, where old traditions are replaced with new values, which become the new identity. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be open-minded to progression, but I think it’s important to have your history with you.
Let’s go back to your time in Týr. You sang on the debut album “How Far To Asgaard”, a personal Týr favorite of mine btw, and also a milestone in Faroese music history. Can you reflect back to your time in the band and how you experienced it?
Pól Arni: It was great fun. It was great being part of that beginning, playing with those guys and collaborating with Heri on the lyrical themes. Especially when the track “Ormurin Langi” was released, because it hadn’t been done in a sort of metal/rock context. It became a huge hit all over the country. It was a bold move to take something traditional and sacred and add new instrumentation and atmosphere to it. Today it’s more accepted for sure.
Care to reflect back the debut album, seeing as it’s turning fifteen years in 2016? Are you satisfied with it as it is, or would have changed something?
Pól Arni: I’m proud of the album. I may put it on every now and then and reflect back on the recordings. Soundwise, maybe it could have been better but overall I’m content with the album.
What made you leave the band after such a short time? You had mentioned that you were slowly focusing on other things.
Pól Arni: There were disagreements on some things within the band. Things that happen in Rock´n´Roll music you know, standard stuff that happens when you’re young hehe. All within civilized manners though, we’re good friends and we’ve played together since I left. I look at my time in Týr as an exciting, influential and great time.
Alright, let’s slowly round off this interview, I know you have a release show coming up tonight. This is your second show since you played in Tvøroyri back in November. Are there more Hamradun shows being scheduled?
Pól Arni: We were planning on playing in Gøta as well. Turns out that Uni is not available on that specific date, so we had to postpone that one until 2016. We’re going to try to play as much live as our schedules permit, maybe a few festivals in the summer, we’ll see what happens.
You mentioned that there are huge amounts of material to work with within the subject of Hamradun. I guess this means that there are more albums in the future right?
Pól Arni: Yes, I think so. I think it’s safe to say that this debut album is not the last one to come. When the next one will be ready, that depends on a lot of things, but you’ll hear about it when the time is appropriate.
Pól Arni, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It was great to finally conduct an interview with you. Do you have any last words?
Pól Arni: Thanks for the taking an interest. Be sure to check out the debut album of Hamradun! Rock on!
For more info about Hamradun, check out their Facebook page here
Hamradun’s self-titled debut album is out now through TUTL Records
Extreme Metal Voyager review can be read here