When Metal Wears Prada. Interview with Jón Aldará (Hamferð)

Hamferð is a doom metal band based in Tórshavn. Hamferð [Ham:fer] is a Faroese term for the living images of sailors appearing before their loved ones. Formed in 2008, the creative ensemble, dressed in funeral black, has followed their own enigmatic and courageous trail. Having been on numerous tours with bands like Amorphis, Moonsorrow and Týr and having played plenty of European festivals such as Wacken, Summer Breeze, Tuska, Inferno, SPOT, Eurosonic and others, Hamferð always manages to give a unique and intense live experience due to the strong conceptual nature of the music. 

Baldo, Cultartes: Hello! At first sight there are places and moments with at least some unusual shades when you played your songs. On March 20 of 2015, you have chosen to celebrate the solar eclipse singing in an outstanding landscape, somewhere in Kvívík. How did it felt, exactly, this experience?

Jón Aldará: Hello. It was most likely very different from what everyone else experienced that day, since we did not see the fully eclipsed sun through tinted glasses. Instead, we saw the landscape flicker and change colours in the broken sunlight as we performed a very personal song. A truly magnificent moment.

You are relatively a new name on the firmament of metal music, yet you’ve managed to impose yourselves as live performance and style. Do you think the presentation style and the removal from monotony through various manifestations (which seems to be dusted over the years), succeeded to propel you in doom metal?

Yes. Although the music is and always will be the focus, I am quite sure that we would not exist if we did not have an overarching concept that also involved visual aesthetics and thematical references from our native culture.

While we’re here, let’s make an imagination game. Where or when would you see perform, taking into consideration the latest social events and not only appeared in the world?

There are few – if any – places where we would not perform. Although we appreciate the difficulties and restrictions involved in playing concerts in certain politically strained countries, I believe that we have a non-threatening and somewhat intangible band concept that would be hard for governments to protest.

Photo by Olaf Olsen

You recently won the award for the best video in the Faroese Music Awards 2016. How do you think should be perceived such an award to a music that is often overshadowed by media and many others?

The Faroe Islands are a small country, and if you possess talent and make something real from that talent, your work will be appreciated in some way. That includes – to some degree – heavy metal music. It is much more difficult in a big world, where corporate politics are the be-all and end-all of musical prestige. In that respect, the Faroe Islands are more supportive of artistic integrity than most larger countries. The FMA is a joint effort by the Faroese press and the culture center, and is therefore predominantly governmentally funded. To us, that means a lot.

In August this year you will take a trip into the land of Dracula, in Romania, for Dark Bombastic Evening. What do you guys, as tourists, expect to encounter on these lands that are leavened of stories? But as artists?

We have quite a few Romanian friends, and are first and foremost excited to get to meet them. From them we have heard that Romania is a beautiful country, and we expect Transylvania to be no less beautiful. The lore of Dracula and Bram Stoker’s wonderful and horrific evocation of his realm bring the expectations to dizzying heights. We hope for a grandiose experience.

Are there any Romanian foods or drinks you’ve heard about and want to try? What was the weirdest dining experience you’ve experienced so far?

A friend of the band is Romanian-Faroese, and he has warmly recommended sarmale. Hopefully, we will get to try that! Otherwise, local food, drinks and beers are always exciting to us, and we seek it out wherever we go.

You’ve tried to amaze the metal world in many ways, as many have tried too. But can one say you’be clothed the doom metal with the coat of elegance?

I would not take credit for that, since there have been many elegant doom metal outfits over the years. In fact, thinking of the big British three – Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride – and all those who have followed in their footsteps, I would say that much of doom metal since the early 90’s has relied heavily on elegance. We walk a similar path, but try to bring our own manifestation of elegance, if you will. 

What artist would you see collaborate with?

It is difficult to say. Collaboration is something we have only done out of necessity. The wonderful Eivør Pálsdóttir, for example, performed on Evst because we had a song that needed a female presence. Further collaborations would need to make sense in the great whole. Personally, I am a fan of a large amount of artists, and it would be very difficult to pick any out as a dream collaborator.

The man detaches more and more of his nature and of nature in general. Is there inspiration in it (nature)?

There is indeed. Humans are animals, and even though we like to think ourselves unique, we are still very much alike other animals. Our social lives are extremely complex, yet when we are faced with the often brutal conflicts in nature, we can relate and sympathize. The basic underpinnings are often the same, and I find this very inspiring.

If you had the power to change something through music, where would you turn your attention to? And, fundamentally, do music and art have the power to change something, of placing feeling where there’s none?

With Hamferð, it is difficult to say. We are not particularly political, and our lyrics are more related to psychology and emotion. But I do believe that melancholy music can be cathartic in the right moment. In that way, I can imagine our music affecting people’s ability to face difficulties in their life or perhaps even deal with depression. Not sure if that is realistic, but it would be wonderful. But there is no doubt that music has world-changing abilities, whether it is about making people dance or making people sit down and reflect.

After the communism’s fall, the music news reached with some difficulty here in Romania. And they were pretty scarce. Many of those who listen or create metal in Romania started by listening to Iron Maiden or something like that. What was the first metal band you’ve listened to? Is there any band or artist that have inspired you on this road? 

Maiden was also among my first, together with Metallica. I think that those two bands are universal gateway bands for potential metalheads, simply because they are very popular. I also know many people who were teenagers in the early 2000’s and started out with Korn and Slipknot and then went further into the metal scene. The popularity of metal has always been fleeting, but I really believe that the big heavy bands of the 80’s and the millennial nu-metal wave really did good things for metal.

How the world’s movie would look like with Hamferð as a soundtrack?

Grey and dull, haha. I would not want Hamferð to be the sole soundtrack of the world. But we need one track, somewhere in between The Beatles and Whitney Houston, just to shake things up. I truly believe that it is necessary to face true violence and despair now and then, if only for a moment.

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