by R.S. Frost
Erik Gärdefors is the singular force behind Swedish band GRIFT. Rich with a DIY approach and soaked with desolate yet comforting nature aesthetics, Grift has managed to put out eight releases over the past five years.
I caught up with Erik to talk about his solidarity and exceptionally artistic approach to black metal, how he came to be involved in the genre and where his relationship with music as a whole began.
- I was born on a small mountain in Västergötland, Sweden. A couple of years ago I moved back to this region, and now I live close to the place where I grew up. When I moved back I decided to take advantage of this and let myself be inspired by all of the things that, unconsciously, have a very big impact on me. I think that ever since I was a little boy I have sort of leaned away and sought something else. And I still do. That longing can be very frustrating. And from that frustration, I get the power to make new songs I guess. I feel some kind of duty to do something about all of this.
I think it was when I discovered punk music that I really felt that music and lifestyle belong together. I started a band together with my best friend when we were 12 years old. We played our “songs” several times a week after school, and we dragged his big Peavy amplifier on the school bus to my house, because I had a drum kit (the same one that I still use) in my bedroom. Then when I was a teenager and picked up bands like BURZUM and ABIGOR everything become very serious for me, and I felt that this was also a way for me to express my inner self.
Since then I have explored many other musical genres of course. I think that music with a melancholic touch, and with a mission to be more than just tunes, makes me feel comfortable in some way. For example, I really like orthodox Christian hymns and Klezmer music. The teenage period had a very enchanting impact on me; sometimes I get very nostalgic when I think back to when I lived as if in a fairy tale world *laughs*. But every year my music and my way of living go hand in hand, so I guess that Grift has, more and more, become my lifestyle.
You have been involved with music for around fifteen years, much longer than Grift has been around. What projects were you involved with in the past?
- My main focus now is Grift and UNDANTAGSFOLK. I've played in metal bands ORCIVUS, ARFSYND (both are still active in some way), BANISHED, HERESY, ZARAQ, and ASHUK USHATAR. I also had a prog rock band called DAGBROTT a couple of years ago. I played drums in two indie rock bands, ATOMBOMB and MUSTA POND and I have also appeared on various records that friends have recorded and have been a live session member for some bands.
Erik has put out two releases with Arfsynd, three with Orcivus and eight with Grift. He has also played, recorded and mixed every instrument along the way, not to mention being responsible for the majority of album artwork, layouts and adjoining promotional photography.
Am I right in that a lot of the wilderness and dwellings we can see attached to your work are photos taken at your home, and that the elderly gentleman that appears throughout your albums is, in fact, your father?
- Yes, all the impressions I convey through Grift are motives from home. With Orcivus and Arfsynd I have had a different aesthetic, which does not revolve around my origin, but about religious issues. And yes, the old man is my Daddy. He has become a bit of a mascot for Grift.
Erik is also responsible for the Tredingsriten Festival, which is held at an Iron Age burial ground near Högkullen, situated just south of a 200-million-year-old mountain range in Sweden’s south-west.
- Tredingsriten is my own little festival that I organise during harvest time where I invite artists and friends to play and exhibit their art, and we have brewed a special beer for each festival.
Can you tell me a bit more about the festival grounds and which acts have performed there?
- The idea of the festival is to make an intimate event in the countryside during harvest time. I have arranged transportation from a nearby town so people can go home at night. The Swedish countryside dies out more and more every year. There is increasing urbanisation and politicians do not want to invest so much in the countryside. So I want to make a counter-reaction to this and show off alternatives, and it has been very much appreciated.
The first year featured FORNDOM, NOÊTA and Grift. The second year was DRAUGURINN, BHLEG and Grift. The artists Dísa, from Draugurinn, Johannes Bengtsson and Andreas Hultberg have exhibited their art there also. And TEMPEL BRYGGHUS has brewed the exclusive beer. This year I will not arrange Tredingsriten, but hopefully will have it again next year.
Have you run into any major challenges along your journey so far, given the sheer amount of projects you have undertaken?
- The most significant was undoubtedly when I collapsed after a tour in 2015 and ended up in the heart department of a hospital for a week. They wanted to put in a pacemaker, but at the last minute there was no surgery. That was an exhausting experience.
Dare I ask what led to this collapse?
- I was probably mentally exhausted. It was a lot for me to think about, and I'm bad at asking for help sometimes. It was instructive for upcoming tours I guess.
It’s clear that you are a very creatively driven and artistically minded individual; why have you chosen the music industry as your expressive platform, and which artists do you look to for influence or inspiration?
- I suppose it gives me some kind of meaning and understanding of my own emotions. Hm, it is difficult to know. I guess artists can have an impact in very different and specific ways. I like, for example, how Draugen in SVARTSYN plays on the ride cymbal. I like how GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR build their very dynamic songs. I like how BJÖRN ISFELT is able to save me from evil forces. And I think if I must go out to war one day I will listen to PYHÄ KUOLEMA very loud.
As I said before, my music is a very big part of who I am. I write songs about what concerns me; it is very concrete in my lyrics most of the time. I'm pretty much shielded from what you call “industry”. I work with NORDVIS PRODUKTION, and together we create something unique together. This fine collaboration makes me motivated to release my records in a suitable way.
I would say that we who are signed to Nordvis have our own little scene. Nordvis has really managed to find artists that are unique, and we all sound very different, but you can see a red thread between us. Otherwise, I follow very little of what happens in the so-called “scene” today.
Trends come and go all the time, and everyone tries to look like they're not affected, *laughs*. But the motivation to write songs comes from leaving the bed every morning and meeting the everyday life. We'll have to see when it ends.
What has kept you going for all of these years? Are there any motivating factors that you turn to when the proverbial river runs dry?
- It is a question I often ask myself. What I have learned over the years is that I have to search for inspiration here and there. The inspiration never comes as a gift from heaven. At least not for me. So I read a lot of poems and novels, watch movies, and go walking in the woods.
What are your creative plans for the foreseeable future?
- This year I will mainly play acoustic solo shows. During spring and summer, I will do a European tour with a band that I think is fantastic. And during autumn I will hopefully record a new album. I have some ideas ready, but I have to record some demos first and see how it sounds.
Thank you for an interesting conversation.
This interview is featured in the print edition of Inner Missive #2, alongside discussions with THY DARKENED SHADE, WOLCENSMEN, THE ANTICHRIST IMPERIUM, ART AS CATHARSIS, ALTARS, ALTARAGE, ADRIAN BAXTER, PRIMITIVE MAN, COSMIC PUTREFACTION, EMYN MUIL, GIGAN, BYRDI, SLUDGE, ULCERATE and ÖXXÖ XÖÖX.