INTERVIEW: Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn, Vocalist of Ondt Blod

[K] What is it like being a hardcore band in Norway? Has there been any difficulties?

When we started out, hardcore was kind of a buzz in Norway, giving us a head start. There is also a good underground music scene in Norway, consisting of DIY-scenes and rock clubs interested in taking in new bands. However, the combination of vast distances and few inhabitants kind of excludes the possibility of living of the road if you´re not huge. We´ve been able to strike the balance between mainstream presence and radio play on one hand, and building up a fan base through heavy touring on the other.

[K] I'm not too familiar with oppression occurring overseas, as it is a strong part of Ondt Blod's message, can you shed some light on the situation?

I am of the Sami people, which is the indigenous people of Scandinavia. The surrounding states of Norway, Sweden and Russia did for hundreds of years all colonize the far north, all demanding taxes, killing of religious leaders and other classical colonial shit. At the turn of the 19th century, the Nation-states divided the north between each other, and started violent assimilation of minorities into the new constructed national identity. “wild and savage” Sami were forced to abandon their language and ways, to become proper Norwegians. The shame of being told over generations that you are sub-human is profound, and many of the elder generation still struggle with this shame.

Although the assimilation program was called off in the sixties, the Norwegian government is still trapped in colonial policies. Sami reindeer-herders are forced to slaughter off much of their flocks, as the government thinks the amounts of animals are higher than the ecosystems of the land can handle, while at the same time selling off the same lands to mines and wind-power industry. The suicide rate of Sami youth is more than a hundred times higher than that of young Norwegians.

We are of a new generation of pissed Sami artists, bringing indigenous issues to the popular culture.

[K] Is there a moment, or even an entire song, on 'Natur' you could say you are most proud of?

Nah, man. Its all good.

[K] Has language been a barrier for Ondt Blod, at all?

Not in a direct way. So far, we´ve only been touring Scandinavia, and Norwegians, Swedes and Danes to some extent all understand each other. The nerve and the energy of the music is also such an important part of punk and hardcore, meaning that if you bring raw force to the table, foreign listeners might get a kick of the music, even if they don’t understand the words (paired with the fact that no one without a lyric sheet hears my lyrics anyway when I scream).

Of course, being such a great band as we are, there should be left no doubt that we would have been multi billionaires had we decided to sing in English. So our decision to keep it real has indirectly cost us glamour, cars and millions of dollars.

[K] What would you say 'Natur' does to evolve the sound and style of Ondt Blod?

While our first record was more of a straight punk/hardcore record, Natur is a bit more experimental in several directions. We wanted to make the record without any self-imposed restrictions on genre and credibility, resulting in cheesy saxophones, chugging, ballsy metal riffs and beach’s boyesque harmonies, as well as incorporating the ancient Sami song tradition of joik on the album closer “Giron”.

We´ve also worked a lot on our melodies and choruses, making way for both “right in the feels”-emo moments, and beer soaked, punkrock anthems.

[K] What are your plans after 'Natur' is officially released?

We release Natur 9th of March by throwing a huge release party in Tromsø in Northern Norway, the city where we got the band together during our first years at the university there. After the release party, we´ll sober up; get in the van and head out for a full Norway tour through the spring, from the far north to the south. If we come out alive of the tour, we´ll do a festival run this summer, playing Norway and Germany.

[K] If Ondt Blod was an animal, what animal would that be?

We have previously compared ourselves to with the strength, work ethics and grace of a horse, the Bruce Springsteen of the animal kingdom. Beautiful, but might kick your teeth in.

[K] What/Who do you hate the most?
Rape-culture, global warming, late capitalism, overcooked pasta.

[K] Worst experience while playing live?

I love playing live. If it were not for touring, I would not bother playing music. Of course, sometimes both the pay and the crowd is close to non-existent, the gear shitty or my voice sore (or not present). But 9/10 times it is a blast. So I don’t think I have any particular horror-stories for sharing. 

[K] What would you say the band's biggest weakness is as a unit, and it's greatest strength?

I think that our biggest strength is our will and dedication to work and rehearse; making us one of Norways best live bands (honestly there are like two bands better than us at this time, not mentioning names). Our greatest weakness is probably our dynamic strength, making us better suited for lifting heavy gear and playing 40-minute sets than running the New York Marathon.

[K] When you aren't playing, what are you doing?

Two of us are in law school, one is a teacher, one does music full time and I am a policy advisor. We also play video games and drink.

[K] If you had to give up music – what would you do to be creative?

I am always writing stuff, verse and prose, professionally, academically, or for the band. So I guess I would dig deeper into writing.

[K] It would be short sighted to say every band that plays heavy only enjoys metal, what are some other bands and genres you enjoy?

On tour we usually blast sweet power pop tunes in the van. “Ripe 4 Luv” by Young Guv is a go-to record.

[K] Ideal live line-up?

Refused, The National, Run the Jewels, Mastodon and Slayer.

[K] What's the worst interview question you've ever been asked (Aside from these ones, haha)?

We were doing a facebook-live interview prior to a talk show appearance, when I got challenged to a rap-battle. The show host started to beat box straight away, setting the stage for my performance and possible demise of pure embarrassment. I backed out the last second, avoiding what might have become the most embarrassing moment on Norwegian television this century.

I'd like to say thank you to Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn for the interview and answering even the weirdest of my questions. Ondt Blod is set to release their new album 'Natur' on March 9th of this year via Fysisk Format, you can check out my review here to see what I thought of the album.

You can find out more about the band, and keep up with everything Ondt Blod on Facebook here.

-KEITH, THE ODD-