The sixth day has come upon us and with us we want to give you an interview with a slow Sludge or fast Funeral Doom band from Sweden: Walk Through Fire. They are currently working on a new record and also give us a few little hints at what we can expect from the new record. So, if you want to know more about their roots, their name, their songwriting process and why they are not a jam band at all - this one is for you!
Walk Through Fire’s Ufuk talks about his Turkish roots, the way it is connected to one of their artworks and so much more. This interview surely is so interesting and detailed so that the picture one might have of the band is not as rounded off as possible. All pieces come together for me, and I am very happy to give you this interview with Walk Through Fire, enjoy!
Now, your last record was released nearly three years ago now – and the records before were released after a three-year interval. When in 2023 can we listen to new Walk Through Fire-material?
Hello and thanks for reaching out. Yes, we do have a new album recorded. At this point we’re looking for a new label to work with, so it’s still a bit uncertain as to when it will be released. But we hope it will be soon!
What can we expect from the new material?
It’s a slow, oppressive dirge from start to finish. A natural continuation from Vår Avgrund I’d say. The organ is very central. Maybe even more so than on its predecessor. It’s also our first album with Esaias playing the organ. He’s a very talented musician and an absolute pleasure to be around and make music with.
By the way, Am I right in assuming that the same artist did the covers for your last two records? Will it be the same one on the next WTF record as well?
We have used different artists for each album cover. Our close friend and long-time fan Göran Nilsson (HYDRA GRAFISK DESIGN) did the artwork for Vår Avgrund and for some merch before that. For Hope Is Misery we used works by Turkish artist Cihat Aral depicting his experience being tortured in Turkish prisons in the eighties (same as my father and many of my relatives had experienced). The Furthest From Heaven artwork was made by me. For the next album you’ll have to wait and see!
Has Covid19 played a bigger role for you as a band or has the pandemic influenced your approach to songwriting?
It had both a negative and a positive impact on us. The negative side was that we released Vår Avgrund just a month before the lockdowns. This of course meant we couldn’t tour and promote the album properly. The positive side was that we used the time to refocus and write music for the new album.
How must we in general imagine the songwriting process for Walk Through Fire – is it jam-based or clearly structured? Who brings in what? Is it a democratic process or is there a main songwriter?
We barely jam. We actually suck at jamming. It’s usually me or Juliusz bringing an idea — either on the guitar or the organ — and showing everyone how we imagine it sounds like. Then we start playing it together until we find the right tempo and feeling, and then record it. After a while we start putting those pieces together into songs. Sometimes it takes years for an idea to find its place in a song. For instance, on the new album we have a part that was written back in 2015. We always loved it but didn’t find its right place until now.
Your name – Walk Through Fire – is it a reference to an album by Peter Gabriel (or Raven for that matter) or is it the idea of walking over hot coals that “incited” your choice?
No, the name came to me during a period when I was watching Twin Peaks and was into Charles Bukowski a lot. Twin Peaks has the sentence “fire walk with me” as a theme throughout the series, and Bukowski has a book called What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire. Both resonated well with how I imagined the music back then and what the band should be about.
Your sound is pretty unique for even though it is obviously doomy sludge or sludgey doom (whichever box one might prefer) but at the same time it’s pretty shifty and diverse. How much thought do you give that aspect of the music?
I think that comes from us trying to make music that we want to listen to ourselves — but to our knowledge doesn’t exist yet. We want to push the boundaries and explore the unexplored. For instance, we often experiment with playing a composition absurdly slow or overly repetitive. In that absurdity sometimes something unique and beautiful grows.
It seems as if slowing down the songs is important for you, but you never fall on for the droney side of doom – are you careful not to use such sounds?
We put a lot of thought and effort into our sound. Ever since Hope Is Misery (from 2014) we’ve barely made any changes to our gear. We’ve always been very strict on not applying any effects apart from distortion. A lot of metal bands rely too much on reverbs, compressors, delays and other effects to make it sound big and dramatic. It can easily feel like unnecessary cosmetics. We like it raw and simple.
On the last record you seemed to use your mother tongue for the first time – what sparked the change?
We wanted to break down as many barriers we could between the music and the human emotions it represents. And one of those barriers for me was the English language. It wasn’t the language of my thoughts, or “inner voice” (the voice we use to understand those emotions intellectually). It was very frightening at first. I felt great discomfort because I had never heard this type of extreme slow music with lyrics in Swedish before. But after a while I finally found my voice; how I was going to scream my guts out and articulate in a way that made it feel right. In the end I’m glad I exposed myself to that discomfort because ultimately it really elevated our music.
When you started the band more than 15 years ago – what was the intention behind it? To make that kind of extreme metal music? Were there any bands that inspired you for that sound?
To make music that dealt with personal and collective pain. Musically we wanted to do something that combined the melancholy of black metal bands such as DEATHSPELL OMEGA or early DARKTHRONE, with the slow punishing rhythms of doom and sludge acts such as CORRUPTED or GRIEF. On the first demo we were also very much into GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. But more than any other band, it was the Swedish sludge/doom band ABANDON that inspired us.
A few years ago you released a live album on which you played songs by Arvo Pärt – how did that come to happen? Why Pärt?
I saw this video for Pärt’s “Silouan’s Song” and was totally captivated by the slow, beautiful movements in both the music and footage. After watching it a couple of times I started imagining how it would sound through the wall of sound and heavy hitting slow rhythms of WALK THROUGH FIRE. It seemed like such a perfect match. One day we started trying it out at rehearsals by ear and instantly felt like this was something we needed to do. So, we put together a couple of pieces we wanted to play, adapted the instrumentation to our setup, and Juliusz even adapted the score to work for each person’s music reading skills since most of us had none. It was actually quite phenomenal what he did. After two years of rehearsals, we did one live show, which was recorded and released digitally as a live album.
When listening to your music more carefully it feels as if there is a deeper connection to the work of Pärt, which is also about space and time between notes or chords – would you say that Sludge or Doom lends itself perfectly to such interpretations?
I absolutely would. One perfect example is the SUNNO))) album Kannon. My guess is it’s based on one of Pärt’s works (which we also did on the live album): “Kanon Pokajanen: Ikos”. Listen and you’ll hear what I mean!
Is there any other modern composer for which you would do a similar record? I thought of Philipp Glass played by WTF? Would you also be open to step into completely different genres? Like Bitches Brew by Miles Davis?
Great question. We love Miles Davis, but I don’t think it would make sense for us to play his music. And while I’m personally not that into Glass, we have absolutely been inspired by Terry Riley and Steve Reich, and also by other types of composers such as William Basinski and Richard D James (APHEX TWIN). We actually did a rehearsal demo where we played “#3” from the Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 by APHEX TWIN. An absolute masterpiece which worked perfectly with our sound. We have also recorded demos with interpretations of traditional Turkish music (which is where I’m originally from). But after Pärt we felt like we needed to focus on our own music. But who knows what the future might bring…
I ask that because there is a saxophone on your last record – is that something that drives you? To find out how far you can take the soundscapes? Which unusual elements can you incorporate?
Those ideas have come very organically I’d say. It feels pretty easy for us to explore new sound territories within our music because we don’t have that much to compare ourselves with. I don’t know any band that sounds quite like us and that’s a great freedom that allows us to take inspiration from a wide variety of genres.
Who played the saxophone parts on Vår Avgrund?
Malin Wättring, a very talented impro saxophonist.
What do you then think of bands like A-Sun Amissa or Rivers of Nihil who also use saxophones?
To be honest, I have never heard those two bands. But one band that definitely inspired us to try the saxophone was one of our favorite bands: BOHREN UND DER CLUB OF GORE.
Is there any surprise in that sense on the new record that you might give us a little hint at?
I don’t think anyone that has listened to us before will be surprised. They will hopefully just be glad we’re doing our thing again but even better. And anyone who listens to us for the first time will probably be surprised in either a good way or a bad way. It’s usually the case.
If you could do a split covers record with any band around at the moment and each band covers two songs by the other one – which band would you choose to cover which of your tracks, and which tracks by that band would you like to cover in return?
I think contrasts would be interesting. So, I’d like to begin somewhere far away from how we sound, but with some crucial elements in common with us. The contrasting elements could be slow vs fast or hard vs soft. A crucial element could be tonality or the melancholy in our music. So, let’s say…
IMMOLATION. One of my all-time favorite bands.
We would cover
“Close To A World Below”
“I Feel Nothing”
They would cover
“Den Uta Botten”
“Till Intet Gjord”
But I guess I would have to give Ross Dolan the freedom to translate the lyrics into English, as I’d hope they’d give us the freedom to skip the guitar solos!
You can curate a one-day five/six-bands festival and WTF is also playing – which spot would you play in, and which four/five other bands do you invite to play? Which running order?
WALK THROUGH FIRE
And now to our quickfire round:
Crowbar vs. Eyehategod? Both of them have had an influence on us but I’d go with EYEHATEGOD because of their uncompromising attitude and integrity they’ve kept all these years. And no other band can bend time in slow tempos like EHG.
Down vs. Corrosion of Conformity? DOWN (I & II)
St Vitus vs. The Obsessed? ST VITUS
AC/DC vs. The Rolling Stones? AC/DC (Bon Scott years)
Turbonegro vs. Kvelertak? TURBONEGRO.
Breach vs. Refused? BREACH. One of the most unique, grooviest, and darkest metal/hardcore bands that have ever existed. They were a true force of nature.
The Doors vs. The Beach Boys? THE DOORS.
Touring vs. Writing/Recording? Writing and recording.
Beer vs. wine? Beer.
Roadburn vs. Psycho Las Vegas? Roadburn. The first year I attended Roadburn was in 2011. In one single weekend I saw TODAY IS THE DAY, SWANS, GODFLESH (Streetcleaner set!), WOVENHAND, EARTH, SUNN O))), KEIJI HAINO, WINTER, SCORN and CANDLEMASS… But lately their musical direction hasn’t been for me really. So, if I got the chance to go to Psycho Las Vegas I would. Their lineups remind me of the old Roadburn days.
The beach or the forest? A silent beach
SunnO))) vs. Boris? Coincidentally enough I was listening to their joint split Altars just now. Great record. But I would go with SUNNO))).
Thank you for taking the time and talking with us, all the best for the record release and we hope to see you soon.
Thank you, Thorsten! Likewise. /Ufuk
(Photo Credit: title picture: Erik Hermanby, sheet music picture: Einar Stabenfeldt)