Interview conducted August 17 2018
Interview published January 9 2019
"Ordinary people during the Iron Age were significantly
more skilled than ordinary people are today."
Pär Hulkoff, who is usually
seen in primarily Raubtier, but also Bourbon Boys, has recently been most
active with his solo work. Metal Covenant met the frontman as he and his
live band made a stop at Sabaton Open Air.
Tobbe: Who is Pär Hulkoff and what
do you do?
Pär: Well, I'm a musician, composer and lyricist.
During the last 10 years I've toured and played with a band called Raubtier
and a band called Bourbon Boys and last year  I made a solo album
called Kven, which is deeply rooted in the history of Up North.
Tobbe: You chose to sing in English on that
album and why did you choose the name Kven? It's quite hard to pronounce
that title for an English speaker.
Pär: Yes, it is. But in the beginning, it was
never quite clear whether this album would be in English and I actually
made a number of songs in Swedish at first. But it turned out too similar
to Raubtier and it felt kind of stupid to make something that might
as well could have been Raubtier, if you see what I mean?
it was fun to make these things in English. And I talked to [Jonas]
Kjellgren and he thought that it made the songs take another spin. The
name Kven was decided a long time ago. I wanted to do a conceptual thing
about, you know, the forgotten population in the North, that was so
important during the Iron Age.
Tobbe: Where does your own interest in history
Pär: You know, I have always had an interest
in history. The Viking Age has always been interesting, but also military
history in general, even though not as profound as for example Jocke
[Brodén] or some of the guys in Sabaton, who are really well-read,
To me, it's more like I found things that I think
are very interesting and I go more much deep into details, that aren't
maybe always so conventional, and I've been getting some criticism for
using sources that aren't reliable. Well, well, maybe that's the case;
So what? Fuck it! This is metal music we do; nothing else.
Tobbe: But on the other hand, if you read
old sources, who's to say that that exact source is reliable? You know,
history is written by winners, and is this kind of how you feel?
Pär: Not just kind of. When you start turning
the stones and look at who has written the history and why, then everything
that is conventional, all they tell you at universities, and archaeologists
and everything they know, is so colored by a clear direction, you know:
economization of the North.
It's no secret that it's been going on and stuff
like this has contributed to that people have been depicted as, well,
humans with dog heads, you know; who aren't really humans, etc.. Well,
you hit the nail on the head; a reliable source isn't per se a definition,
And as a lyricist, how do you look at writing about different kinds of
history? Like, about the North and your own heritage, in comparison to
military history maybe a bit to the South.
Pär: You know, I always try to catch a feeling
in what I describe and not do as Jocke does, since I don't possess that
memory of details to make historical accounts. It becomes kind of like
mysticism, or whatever, in order to give the right atmosphere to the
lyrics. Or whatever it may be. I'm no big fan of mysticism; that's not
what I'm saying, but I give it a little touch of that, you know, fantastical
Tobbe: So what's most fascinating with history
for you personally?
Pär: What's most fascinating for me is that we
understand so much more about ourselves by reading about where we come
from and who our ancestors were. I have become so amazingly stunned
by realizing how far they were ahead of us, both intellectually and
by personal skills. Ordinary people during the Iron Age were significantly
more skilled than ordinary people are today.
I often draw these comparisons and say this when
people call them primitive and that we now live in a high technology
society: "Yes, absolutely. But what do you do if your phone is
broken? - You buy a new one.". Do you know what happened if an
ignition steel fell to pieces for one of our ancestors? They picked
up a piece of flint to produce a new spark, you know. They located their
medicine out in the terrain; they understood the connection between
the gods, the spirits; everything is just a paraphrase of how the world
actually works. It's so incredibly cool, you know.
And this has been modified by this Christian
mumbo jumbo, where they, you know, made up a god and changed the whole
world to fit that agenda, because they wanted to steal the natural resources
from people. And we have lost so much knowledge along the road there
and I want to find a way back to that a little bit.
Tobbe: Music-wise and lyrics-wise, why isn't
just one band enough for you?
Pär: Well, I don't really know. But I'm a restless
soul. I want to do many things before I'm done here on this earth. It's
not a difficult thing for me to make a record completely on the side.
What makes it complicated and what makes people get stressed out, you
know, is "How will you market this? How will you be able to make
business out of this?", but that's not why I'm doing this.
know what? If I just wanted to do business or just wanted to get a salary,
I would do something else. But this means so much, much more to me.
And that's the only answer I can give you. Why one band isn't enough?
Well, I don't know, you know; it's just a sense of insufficiency.
Tobbe: When you're writing songs, do you
try to write songs to a specific album you're working on, or do you save
some stuff for later, to the other bands you work with?
Pär: This is really something no one knows:
You know, the whole album, that's called Bärsärkagång
, I actually wrote in English, because that one was supposed to
be, you know, the first Kven record. That's why there are more Viking
influences on that one than on other Raubtier albums, really. So yes,
surely some stuff is saved and moved over on and off, if I feel that
it fits another place better.
The Kven record is rather spread out, if you
look at for example Raubtier's sound picture, you know. There are some
different stuff on there, like everything from Celtic influences to
Mongolian or Hunnic; you know, oriental stuff. But yet I tried to work
rather concentrated to get the Kven record done, because, you know,
life is full of challenges all the time and I have to take the time
I've got and really just finish it, you know.
Tobbe: What kind of stuff can you never
take from Raubtier, or Bourbon Boys, and put into your solo stuff?
Pär: The thing is: in the beginning I wanted
to make something that was epic, powerful and deeply rooted in history
and I have tried to incorporate that in different ways here and there.
And I try to, you know, strive for that it should not sound like it's
Raubtier, and it doesn't, when you get the English lyrics. That's the
I compose everything for Raubtier and most of
it for Bourbon Boys and everything for the solo stuff, so somewhere
it becomes pretty obvious that the main theme is there in one way or
another, you know. You put a mark on your work, whether you want to
or not. But, you know, the Kven record could never have been made by
Bourbon Boys for example, since that's a country rock band, and shall
mean, I think it's good to have different epithets to use, in order
to not make it kind of too messy. There are many Bourbon Boys fans who
don't want to listen to heavy metal, you know. That's the way it is.
And I understand them, you know. The same goes for both ways, like "Well,
country is not for me." - "Okay, that's fine.", you know.
But most people accept that I like both.
Tobbe: I think there's a greater chance
that someone who listens to Raubtier also listens to Bourbon Boys, than
that someone who listens to Bourbon Boys would start listening to Raubtier.
Pär: Yes, that's the way it is, I guess. You
can notice that heavy metallers tend to be more generally musical, you
know, and have a greater musical interest than what they perhaps have
in other genres. Without being prejudiced, you know, but that's my spontaneous
Tobbe: You have started to put out singles
and might that be a step for you to put out more singles and fewer albums?
Pär: You know, even before I made Kven, the
thought occurred to me to go from the album format and more to start
releasing song by song. Even if heavy metallers might be open-minded,
they are still at large pretty conservative as well and many of them
want a record, you know, like "It's the way it should be.",
but now I have made a record and now the plan is to release, you know,
one song at a time.
I will try to combine those releases with live
premieres and other cool stuff, just to create more participation around
the whole thing, because I know that the fans that actually show up
are real die-hards and it's really great if we can do things more together,
you know. And every song gets maximum exposure instead of having 3 singles,
and the rest of them in some way become fillers, even if they are really
great songs. So, as a songwriter, I think it's a positive progress.
As a record company executive, maybe not as great.
Tobbe: Can you actually end up with even
greater songs in the end, because you can work more on details when working
with one song at a time?
Pär: Well, I'm inclined to agree with what you
say. I do whatever I can to avoid making fillers or bland material,
but everyone who has a deadline, journalists or composers or whoever,
knows that it always comes to a point where there's very little time
left to work with, like "Deadline in a month, and I've got 6 more
songs to complete." and that's not so good. I'm exaggerating of
course, but the deadline is always there.
think it will be much harder to build a career on just a gimmick and
you will need really great songs if you're gonna be successful on singles
only. It's like back to the '50s in a way. But great songs and great
live shows; that's what makes you still stick around, you know.
Tobbe: Could there be a difference, economically
seen, for you between putting out singles and a record? You don't have
to mention any numbers, okay?
Pär: Well, fact is: Kven sold way more physical
copies than what anyone expected it to do. I won't tell you any numbers
- Classified! [Laughs] Certainly it could affect the result, but at
the same time it's very expensive to make albums and there's a lot of
work with it. You know, this is the way it is: I'm very, you know, inhibited
when it comes to new technology and the use of social media, and whatever
beautiful word there is for it.
Let's say I'm not really super interested in
all that and I very often have some problem with remembering those things,
you know. If you're really good at doing that stuff, then, I think,
this new way to work might generate a great impact. Well, I'm not that
person, but on the other hand I have fans that are very valiant and
loyal, who make sure that people find the material, you know.
But of course we will get it together in the
end and we're working on the label site, in order to develop that whole
detail, with people who actually are able to get it done. It's all about
headhunting the right staff to get the job done, you know.
Tobbe: I just asked you an economy related
question, and might there be too much focus nowadays on bands' economy
and such stuff?
Pär: I think that, on the whole, everything
today is about money. Money and weird status symbols that I don't comprehend
at all. That's the way it is; it's like if you don't make a lot of money,
then you're nothing. But I know a whole lot of people that live, you
know, to hunt, to fish and to build their own log house. I think they're
real men too; or real women for that matter as well. They're not living
under the yoke and are free from the debts, the panic, the stress and
everything like that. So, I mean, that's complicated.
of course, when you run a business you aim for a good result and somewhere
you have to find the right balance. And like I said before: If you want
to make really big business, maybe the music industry today isn't really
the right way to do it. I mean, all the ones who made big money moved
to another line of business when, you know, downloading took over from
the CD market. They quit and all the great businessmen are working with
something else today. That's the way it is. And all that's left are
the passionate idiots in a way. [Laughs]
Tobbe: Through social media and internet
people get information about everything, and doesn't that create kind
of a situation that make people call for deeper information about bands
Pär: Well, I think that 9 out of 10, or maybe
even more, of the people that you can call my fans are incredibly respectful,
you know. They respect the fact that I don't want to get into their
life and they don't want to get into mine; but we have one thing in
common and that is the music I deliver. And that's how I think it should
be. If it starts to cross some kind of line and gets so up-close that
you have to report what color your feces have in the morning, then it's
gone too far, you know. That doesn't work for me; I'm an individual
that requires a lot of freedom.
Tobbe: You're not so young anymore, but
do you still have some kind of dream of what you want to accomplish with
Pär: You know, I've had the gods with me, in
every single way, and have really been given this great opportunity
to do this thing and to experience a thing that very few from my region
have. I usually say that if you really want your dreams to come true,
they do, and then you have to be able to handle it. So it's all about
dreaming carefully and one thing at a time. I mean, I keep developing
the business side, know you.
My dream of what things will be is, you know,
that I will be able in some way to build this tribalism around all merchandise
and all music related editions there are. You know, you communicate
directly with the fans and the fans communicate directly with the band
and you build the business around that.
Everyone benefits from that, so to speak, and
more people can make a living of what they do. You know, all unnecessary
middlemen will have to step aside, which I really think it's time for.
There are so many people that just live to suck the blood out of other
people and trick people into contracts that will break their future