Interview with Robin Isaksen (Wizziac) from Keep of Kalessin

On 15th May 2013 our intrepid man of the pit, Ben Alexander took to the Underworld (Camden) to check out Finntroll and Keep of Kalessin. Being the hardened Scribe he is, he ventured into the underworld of the Underworld to have a clandestine meeting with one of extreme metal's warriors - Wizziac from Keep of Kalessin. Be warned, the following transcript features topics such as 'Eurovision', 'Dragons' & 'Burger King', so if you think you're extreme enough, read on...


Hello and welcome to the UK. I know you haven’t been here long but how has your stay been so far?
Pretty good, we haven’t been walking around as much this time. We have been here a few times before. I like Camden because you have the markets and shopping areas to explore. I've bought some cool stuff today including a Burger King.
Tonight you are supporting Finntroll, are you looking forward to it?
Oh yeah! The Underworld has been good to us before and on this tour we have had a reception from the audiences. I'm not sure if it's because Finntroll's fans do a lot at shows, like cheering and chant 'hey hey hey.' They make it easier for fans to be a part of the show. I'm really looking forward to it.
Who have been some of your favourite bands to tour with?
There have been so many! We have probably toured with all the bands that I grew up listening to. Bands like Morbid Angel, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and Satyricon. One of the best and most important tour for Keep of Kalessin was the Dimmu Borgir/Behemoth tour across the US in 2009.
Keep of Kalessin have suffered some setbacks and line up changes through the years. Do you feel as though this is the strongest line up in the bands history?
Yes, even though we are a three piece now. I really feel as though we have made the right choices. We feel that it is important to get the audience looking at what we do on-stage and how the musicians play. Having a singer running around can take a bit of focus off of the instruments. We still have some freedom to move around like when I swap sides with Obsidian C and use each others microphones. So far we have managed to pull of the live shows as a three piece. It is going to be apparent when the next album comes out, what we are really capable of. We are tracking vocals for the next album and we are discovering new potential in both my voice and his. We are settling into a bit more of a 'traditional' black metal sound.
As you said you are now a three piece band. Will you be looking for another member or are you happy with three members?
Right now we are happy with how it is going. We will have to see how it works out as Obsidian is doing the main vocals and lead guitar. A lot of the songs are very difficult but he is going to do it. I'm confident that he can pull this off but if we are going to get another member, it will only be a live session musician.
So you won't be looking for a full member any time soon?
No. Sometimes the more chefs you have... the more mess you make.
Your new EP 'Introspection' is the first new material for a few years now. How would you say that your sound has altered in that time?
Introspection is one of the slower songs from the upcoming album, if it makes it onto the album. It has quite a thrash vibe and the vocals are a lot more mature. Lyrically it is a bit deeper than previous songs. A lot of the older stuff was about warfare or dragon slaying, I'm not saying that we will stop doing that because we are known for writing songs about the oldest of times and impossible things.
What preparation do you go through before begging to write new material? And where do you draw inspiration from?
It is like preparing for a test in a way, You'll be sitting down and thinking of a lot of things and how you want it to turn out. Obsidian C writes most of the music but we share the lyric parts. We haven’t been rehearsing much as a band lately but we have been to Obsidian C's place and written some stuff there. We had a studio but we had to let it go as we couldn’t manage to keep it running. And for inspiration, we look to movies, computer games and stuff like that.
You label yourselves as 'Epic Extreme Metal'. What other bands would you put into that category?
That is an interesting question, we were just talking about that actually. We have a tour coming up with Soilwork later this year and they would be one of the bands that I could take from the top of my head. They mix the same kind of elements that we do with clean vocals, blastbeats and really heavy melodies.
Your split with former vocalist, Thebon, got a bit heated toward the end. Could you shed some light on what really happened?
Well, the things that were posted on our Facebook was what really happened. It was sort of a mutual spilt. Thebon released a statement to say he was looking into doing other things. We were in the writing stage for a new album and Thebon decided to disappear in South Africa for so many months, it was a difficult decision. I think that we made the right decision and there are no hard feelings between us. Thebon wished us luck and we did the same for him.
Do you still keep in touch?
We still live in the same city, but we don’t keep in touch like before. We are in different social groups so it can be difficult to get in touch with him. I think that he wants to be left alone now.
What sort of thing do you listen to on the road?
As you get older you probably decide that the new stuff is never the same as the old. 'It was better in the old days' mentality. That is how I feel anyway. I recently bought Dream Theater's 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' which I think is almost their greatest album. I'm listening to a lot of black metal like Emperor. Bands like Morbid Angel, Dimmu Borgir and Nile.
Whose idea was it to enter the Eurovision song contest?
Totally Obsidian C's
Is that something that you would ever consider again?
Probably not. I was a bit sceptical at first but it was a good opportunity and we almost qualified. It was very unexpected since we were competing with boy bands and other good looking Norwegian bands. Maybe all the 14 year old girls were voting for these pretty boys.
Unfortunately your drummer couldn't travel over for this tour. Could you tell us a bit about that?
We couldn’t bring Vyl because he had some personal matters to deal with. We had already committed to the tour, so we needed a replacement. We spread the word and we hooked up with this 19 year old drummer from Oslo. He is very talented, hard working and is showing a lot of potential. Our music is very difficult and technical but he is doing a great job.
Was he a fan?
Yes. So this must be fun for him to be touring with us. If we are in a bad situation again, we will probably use him again. His name is Sondre Drangsland and he has played for a black metal band called Iron Throne.
What is next for Keep of Kalessin? And can we expect a new album this year?
After this show we will be going home to continue working on the vocals for the new album, which we hope will be out around October or November.
Awesome, so we will keep our eyes peeled for the new release. Robin, thank you very much for your time.
No problem.

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