Interview with No Fealty 2014
By Bradley Smith
As a relatively new band I was hoping you could shed some light on the somewhat obscure history of No Fealty? Why did you choose that band name and how did you form? What are your goals for No Fealty and what do you view as your influences?
Tobias: No Fealty is kinda based on the ashes of another band, Thought Police Brutality. When we decided to break-up that band, we started this one instead. We're still playing some of the songs that were written while Thought Police Brutality was still active. Jakob, Jon and I are the surviving members from that band, we recruited our vocalist Morten and our bass player Søren - both brilliant guys! I came up with the band name, at least as far as I remember. I basically just took a "travel" through a thesaurus and found cool words (yeah, really intellectual, I know). I added a "No" in the beginning and there you go :-) Our goals? I don't really know - we haven't really set a specific bar for success. I think we're just going with the flow - if it's fun and everyone is enjoying it, then we do it. Obviously we want to tour as much as our different schedules allow us to and record as many new songs as possible, but I can't be more specific than that.
Jon: We had a band meeting when Søren and Morten joined, where we had a LONG list of potential new names for the band, and No Fealty emerged victoriously. Also, it fits a knuckles tattoo, if you're in to that sort of thing. There are so many bands, artists and composers that influence my song writing that the list is too long to write. Of course there are some bands that have influenced us more than others, but I would rather not say what bands - I think it's more fun to read reviews and see who people compare us to. It's usually not the ones I would consider some of the heaviest influences on my song writing, but I think that's a good thing. It would be a bit depressing if everyone just agreed that we sound like copies of our favorite band(s).
Your debut album, In The Shadow Of The Monolith is abrasive and really heavy. What was your approach when you were writing the material for it and what were you trying to achieve with it? Why did you decide to have it released on tape? Also I would like to focus a bit on your choice of cover art which is an amazing and classic piece. Tell me why you chose it and how it represents No Fealty's music.
Tobias: I did the artwork (I use the fancy name "::will::layout::for::food::" when I do artwork). I think the theme of the record was a critique of all the fucked up things the system/the government (and its institutions)/discourse in gerneral makes us do. We thought that a monolith was the prefect symbol for these power structures and standing in the shadow of these - or rather under the influence of these - you do fucked up thinges. A guy eating his children seemed like an effective way to symbolise a bad deed. The design is based on a baroque painting by Peter Paul Rubens that I've always really liked. It depicts Saturn/Kronos eating his children because he is affraid that they might grow up and overthrow him.
Jakob: As for the tape release we were really just being contacted by this nice guy - Fabian from Wolves and Vibrancy - who offered to do a limited tape release of the record. And we were like, why not? that would be really cool, go ahead. Even though it is as limited release of only 70 copies it is still an awesome feeling that someone wants to spend time and money on our little baby and the project that we have been working on for so long. This also goes for the other labels that helped out releasing the LP-version and everyone else that are helping us out on so many occasions with shows and other stuff. DIY is really just the way to do it, unless you of course want to be Metallica or Hexis or some other mainstream metal act.
You recently collaborated on a Split 7" with Kollapse. Can you tell me about your participation on this and how did this project come together? How do you think that No Fealty and Kollapse differ from each other and how do they complement each other on this release?
Jakob: Well, first of all we have been good friends with Troels from kollapse, who is partly running 5Feetunder Records and used to front the awesome but unfortunately now defunct speedpunk outfit Mighty Midgets for many years. Therefore we have kinda stayed in touch with him and followed his projects. In December we played with kollapse, when they played their first Copenhagen show so far and that was a really good experience. Later on Troels got this idea of doing a split together and we said yes of course, but then we should also do a small tour together, and then it all kind of came together and we had some really good and funny days together in November, playing a few shows in Northern Germany. Sound wise we are quite different I think, we play fast and they play slow, but we are both still rather heavy, with a thick and textured sound scape, that is probably not that easily accessible for the untrained ear, which I think is a good thing. On top of that they are also just a bunch of nice guys, that it is cool to hang out with, which really means a lot to us. Our time is after all too precious to waste on douche bags.
Back to In The Shadow Of The Monolith, you had a bunch of guest vocalists participate. That list included members of Kollapse, Svffer, and Hexis. Why did you have so many different people contribute and what different aspects do you think they each brought to the songs they sang on?
Tobias: I think it was inspired by what Converge did on Axe To Fall. I really liked the extra layers it added to that production, so I thought we'd try out the same thing. The three songs they were asked to contribute to turned out really well and I think they were good matches for the different sounds of each vocalist. Leonie from Svffer really added a grindy element to Rabies God, Filip from Hexis (my other band) crushed the interlude in Feed the Leviathan and Troels and Niels from Mighty Midgets (now in Kollapse and Stöj Snak, respectively) ...i don't know what to call it, but it added an extra layer of manic energy to the last half of Damnant Quod Non Intelligunt. Like I said we are all really pleased with how these collaborations turned out.
Jakob: Yeah the guest vocals on Damnant Quod Non Intelligunt definitely changed that song to the better, not that it was at all a bad song before. As Tobi said Niels and Troels used to play and sing in Mighty Midgets, who had a much more melodic take on their brand of hardcore/speedpunk. Actually I don’t think we really saw this coming, when we asked them to participate. We had of course talked about how their voices would probably suit the track well and then we basically just sent them the tracks and lyrics and asked them to do their thing. Then they came up with these somewhat melodic dual vocals that really fits the song very well. They were actually a bit like, “well if you don’t like it because it is too melodic you don’t have to use all of it”, but I really love it I have to say. I really like what Filip and Leonie did as well. Collaborating with different people in this way is really interesting and adds new dimensions to the songs and the music. Apart from this having guest vocalists is also just a rather cheap publicity trick that allows us to feed on the divine rock star fame of some of our friends.
Politics apparently are a big focus of No Fealty. What are your political views and how do you view the current political climate within Denmark and Europe as a whole. How are those views reflected within your music? What are your opinions on the political influence of the USA on the world stage?
Jon: So many things in this question to get into, that it almost gives me a headache. Ithink it's fair to say that we're all somewhat "leftish" politically speaking, without necessarily being a part of any specific grouping or political party. Personally, I think that in the last 10 to 15 years, the political center, if such a concept actually exists, has moved a lot to the right in Denmark – and to some extent also in Europe. The rise of right wing, fascist groups in different European countries is really scary, especially considering European history. We just had municipal and regional elections in Denmark, and “The Danes’ Party” which is more or less explicitly a Nazi party didn’t get elected anywhere, so that’s always something. Some of our songs are very non-specific/symbolic/theoretical regarding politics and things we think are wrong with the world, others are more specific. I can give an example, using three of our songs (and I apologize for being egotistical and using three songs I have written, but I have a better insight into those): "Savior" from our LP, "Ravished" from our new 7" split with kollapse, and "Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi", which will be on a future 7", if things go according to plans. The "chorus" in Savior goes: "Batter their hearts / Proclaim yourself gods / Destroy them to save them / The savior applauds". The first line is inspired by John Donne's holy sonnet 14 "Batter my heart", but where the speaker in the poem asks god to ravish him to in order to be chaste and so on, the idea in the song is turned around, so it is an outside force, claiming to be god in order to save those attacked. This is a very general idea, that you can find in various imperial attitudes and justification for war. The line "destroy them to save them" is based on a notion of some higher-rungs during the Vietnam War that you could save people from communism basically by killing them. Though these lines have specific inspirations, I think they are in themselves pretty broad and open for interpretation in different contexts. The song also deals with religion in a pretty broad sense. "Ravished" bears some thematic similarities to the "Savior", but more specifically concerning war - the idea from the chorus of "Savior" is found again in the opening lines of "Ravished": "Self-proclaimed saviors bring destruction and despair / A nation, a village, a family, a child - wrecked beyond repair". The last of this is specifically inspired by the Iraq War, as is the rest of the text, so in that sense, it is a bit more specific than "Savior" to my mind. The song "Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi" is very specific, as the title suggests - it is the name of a girl who was raped and killed, as were most of her family, by US soldiers in Iraq - it's a bloody disgusting case. The leading soldier in the misdeeds was mentally unstable, which doesn't make it better in any way, but leads to the issue of the US using people unfit for the army, once they have to fill the ranks due to large engagements (of course the infamous William Calley also comes to mind on this issue). Concerning the US and its political influence on the world, a lot of our songs (at least a lot of the ones I write) deal with war, violence,abuse of power and so on, and I think the US has had a fair share of a hand in dealing that to the world in the last 50 years (perhaps 50 is a somewhat arbitrary number). To a great extent I think the “might is right” principle is de facto used in the world, and that the US has used this in their interest (think: “What can/will anyone really do,if we invade Iraq, despite the UN being against it”. In fairness, Denmark has for the last 10 to 15 years served as a small but very enthusiastic supporter of US foreign policy, for instance regarding wars. The political influence ofthe US on the world stage might be slowly declining, thus giving it less opportunity to pursue “might is right” engagements (they’re also expensive –consider the amount of dollars spent on Vietnam veterans and how much the VA system has been criticized, and consider the continuing costs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the coming 50 years), which is probably a good thing. What will happen on the grand geo-political scale in the next 20 years (and on) is of course very interesting. Okay, that should cover a very small fraction of the issues contained in your question.
One cannot speak of your country without of course mentioning the literary treasure, Hans Christian Andersen. As an insider, I wanted to get your take on him and his legacy. What do you think of his works and his affect on western psyche? Do you feel any sort of national pride regarding him and his work and do you have a favorite tale of his?
Tobias: National pride? None, what so ever! (I think that's the punk thing to say, right?) Most Danes really like to point their fingers at anyone who doesn't fit in, I mean, they say (and think) that they are really tolerant and open-minded, but when it really comes down to integration that's not what they really want. I think Danes have a tendency to put this romantic idea of what Denmark used to be on a pedestal - and anything threatening this fucked-up nostalgia is unacceptable. The universe that Hans Christian Andersen constructs in his writings is, to some extend, one of the sources of this weird way to look at the history of Denmark and the Danes. That's how I see it, anyway.
Jon: I basically agree with Tobi, although I'm not sure it's fair to hold Hans Christian Andersen accountable for how he is being used by nationalistic romantics today. We all grew up in Denmark, so I guess we all know some of his fairy tales. However, in the realm of No Fealty, I think it's safe to say he plays no role. I don't know enough about the subject to comment on his effect on western psyche. A positive thing I can say about him is that compared to our other most famous writer, Soeren Kierkegaard, I would choose HCA - Kierkegaard has a lot of psychological insights and and literary experiments, but he's basically a religious nut, in my view (and if we are to take his own word for it, everything he did, he did in order to get people to become christian). I guess a lot of punks can to some degree relate to being treated like the Ugly Duckling, but I don't really think I have a favorite of his fairy tales.
Jakob: Haha I actually like the Princess and the Pea and the Emperor’s New Clothes, because in my reading they contain a very outright criticism of the monarchy, the royal family and the nobility. I am not gonna fantasize a whole lot about the motives of HCA, to me he didn’t appear as the biggest revolutionary and is today like Tobi says to some extent being used to favor some agendas that I don’t necessarily agree with. To me though it is rather strange that we didn’t get rid of those medieval institutions after reading those fairy tales. At least that is always my first thought when I read those two stories for my kids, even though they don’t get it either I’m afraid. At least my daughter just wants to be a princess, even though I tried to tell her that it is really rather expensive to have a real princess in the family, ‘cause they have so high requirements regarding their mattresses and stuff. On top of that it is not very hardcore to be a real princess, but she doesn’t really buy that either… Do you think I have failed as a dad?
Denmark has topped the list once again of the happiest countries in the world. I was wondering why you thought that the people in Denmark are so happy? And why is your music so angry and abrasive in comparison to the mood of your country?
Jon: Of course this is impossible to answer, even if you accept the findings, but my guess would be that a number of factors could play a role as to why many people in Denmark are pretty happy with their lives: a pretty decent welfare state (though it might be in the process of being dismantled) where we have free healthcare and free university studies, we have no "natural disasters" such as earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc. in Denmark - both of which give a pretty high level of safety for most people. Also, we have the highest rate of use of anti-depressant psychotropic medicine, and a high level of alcohol consumption. I have heard some university professors discuss that Danes perhaps in general have lower expectations in some regards - many people probably want to be happy, but don't dream of being a Donald Trump. As for our music, I think we just play music that we like - which happens to be some kind of crusty hardcore. Our lyrics go well with the music, in my opinion. Also, we're fucking pissed that Denmark is musically most famous for fucking Aqua!
The whole of Scandinavia is comprised of Norway, Sweden, and of course, Denmark. Each of the Scandinavians are both similar to their brethren and distinct at the same time. What do you think joins these cultures and how do you feel that the Danish differ from the other Scandinavians?
Jon: Well, all of those countries have a pretty decent welfare system. Also, our languages are somewhat similar, though most younger people don't understand each other between those nations, but prefer to communicate in English. The thing that comes to mind about how Denmark differs from Sweden and Norway is that Denmark is a small country, geographically, so we don't have a lot of wild nature, forests and mountains. How that affects us as a country and as a people I'm not sure. Also, we have cheaper beer with more alcohol - we're closer to Germany in that respect, though far from being as great a beer country as Germany.
There seems to be a (anti)religious aspect to No Fealty's music. What are your views on religion in general and how do you view the influx of Islamic culture on the world stage and especially within Europe?
Tobias: I love it! Our way of doing things needs to be challenged constantly if we wanna keep it fresh. What I love, is how it brings out the beast that's lurking beneath the surface of the minds of the Europeans. Instead of everyone sitting around agreeing that racism and fascism is a bad thing - and that open-mindedness and tolerance are virtues - it exposes the ugly face of the beast, especially within the left part of the political spectrum. A lot of things can be used as an excuse for doing fucked-up things, both science and religion, and when this happens we should criticize it. Don't get me wrong, I love science - and I am in no way religious - but these days I think there's a tendency to abuse it and in this way to make atheism the only acceptable way to go. I don't believe in god, but there should be room enough in society for everyone to practice their various beliefs, whether they are political, religious or something else. I guess that this might seem like an obvious point to make, but I think it needs to be said.
Jon: Some very good points by Tobi. Religion is a fascinating thing, though I also consider myself an atheist, or at least agnostic, for theoretical purposes. I think religion, like human beings, holds the seeds of both the most wonderful and altruistic actions, as well as the most horrible actions, historically speaking. If religion makes people happy, gives them meaning to their life and so on, I consider that a good thing, even though I don't believe they are "right" in their religious beliefs. The major difference for me where religion becomes dangerous, is when people feel justified in their religion for using violence against people who do not live up to the same religious and moral codes as them. I definitely do not consider that a good thing. I mentioned Kierkegaard earlier on, and he has an idea about the "teleological suspension of the ethical", very profoundly found in his work Fear and Trembling. In the book he glorifies the biblical story of how Abraham is willing to kill his son, because he thinks god is speaking to him and telling him to do so. So he is willing to suspend ethical concerns (not to kill your own son), due to religious concerns (proving his faith in god - it is teleological, because this is the end of his actions). I think that the idea of people believing god is speaking to them, asking them to commits acts of violence, and them acting on it, is pretty scary. Kierkegaard even thought that the story was a bit weakened by the fact that god interferes before Abraham kills his son - he believed that Abraham would in a more true sense have proven his faith in god, if he had actually killed him. I've discussed the issue of the "teleological suspension of the ethical" with theologian scholars that are experts on Kierkegaard, offering the idea that this could be used to justify something as 9/11, if you truly believed you were doing god's mission, and all they could say was along the lines of "well, Kierkegaard meant it in a christian context," which I found unsatisfying. As to Muslims, I think that in Denmark, and the rest of Europe, there has been tendency to generalize to the extreme that all Muslims are the same - some sort of jihad warriors - which has led to a great deal of Muslim-bashing. I believe such generalizations are hurtful to society and the process of integration. Obviously religious nuts exists, but just like I don't expect all Christians to be held accountable for Kierkegaard or the Crusaders or some other right-wing religious nut's views, I don't expect all Muslims to be held accountable for their religious nuts.
Jakob: I think Jon and Tobi said a lot of wise things already. On top of that I think that unfortunately we as human beings need to have enemies. Since we in the West didn’t have the Soviet Union and the imagined communist threat to fear anymore around the turn of the century, at least it seems pretty convenient that we could construct some new enemies - in this case Islam and the Muslim world. I’m not saying that 9/11 didn’t happen or that CIA necessarily orchestrated that shit. I’m just saying that lots of innocent people are getting killed or mutilated here and that a few others are getting very rich and powerful in the process that followed that specific turn in history. If any god exists I am absolutely (or at least 40%) sure that he didn’t intend this to happen. We need to clean up this mess ourselves and need to start learning how to co-exist in this tiny smelly hellhole of a world. Hell (not even sure if that even exists) the fact the we start blabbering about 9/11 the very instant you mention Islam is rather sad in my honest opinion. At least it shows how distorted and fucked up the public discourse around this topic is. Oh and by the way I love falafel and I despise drone warriors. I am 50% sure that there is a special place in hell for those people - the drone warriors that is, not the falafels.
So what are your near term Plans for No Fealty? Any new recordings we can look forward to? Any special projects of performances that stand out?
Jakob: At the moment we are taking a little break from doing shows in order to catch breath after a really busy fall - not just band wise. We have unfortunately been forced to turn down some good shows and tours, but sometimes reality catches up with you, and we all agree that some things are after all more important than this band. However we plan to hit the studio in the beginning of 2014 - probably in February - to record a new 7” (or maybe a 10”? - internal note to the band ;-)) stuffed with a few new recordings of some older songs we have kept in storage for you and some new bangers that are taking shape as we speak. It will probably be out sometime in the beginning of 2016 or something like that ;-) no, seriously we hope to be able to wrap it up a bit faster than In the Shadow of the Monolith - which took us more than two years to finish, but we’ll see. What comes after that is hard to say. We would definitely like to tour a little bit more, but it is hard to find the time in between other obligations such as jobs, families, Netflix and other (very) busy bands. However we are stoked about the way our shit is being received these days, and at least for me it gives me the energy to keep doing what we do, even though I know that we are probably never going to be able to tour for months in a row.
I'll leave any final thoughts on Feeding The Leviathan a Strict Seawater Diet to you. Thanks again for the interview. Scorch the world in a firestorm of abrasive hardcore and crust!
Jakob: Thanks for the
support. Go download our record for free (or buy it if you like it). We
have some physical copies left, so please don't hesitate to contact us.
run a distro or something like that, please also get in touch and we
out some copies for you. If you don't like it you really shouldn't buy
Knock knock... Is this microphone even turned on? 1-2. 1-2. Check
(Note: Black and White pics taken by Lisa/FatHoschi)