I always find Friesland a fascinating place. Perhaps it is a bit of jealousy of its own uniqueness, its cultural uniqueness. Maybe also a piece of provincial sympathy, I wish Brabant was such an island within our country. What I did not know is that Friesland crosses the border. And not only in the region called Ostfriesland, there is more and that brings me to Friisk. From Nordfriesland, and that’s about how far you can go and that it’s just not Denmark.
In 2018, the band came up with their own variant of black metal with the record ‘De Doden van’t Waterkant’. I listened to it, penned something on my blog and didn’t think anything else of it. Friesland, after all, has always been a healthy ground for Dutch black metal, although often overshadowed by the more central regions of the country. But with ‘…un torügg bleev blog Sand’ I got the band in my sights again. The language was fascinating and the band was, despite a busy time, willing to answer some questions. This busy time also had to do with a show in ‘our’ Friesland with Kjeld.
Anyway, enough introduction, time for the interview itself.
Northsea black metal from Friisk
How are you guys doing under the circumstances? Did the pandemic greatly impact your plans as a band?
Moin. Thank you for having us. Fortunately, we finalised the songwriting before the pandemic started to rage and we were also able to use the advantage of the relaxations in late summer 2020 to join up Andy Rosczyk in his studio in Cologne to record the album. Just before the “long lockdown” in late fall/winter… From this point of view, COVID-19 had not a really great impact on our record itself, but of course, we suffer from the actual circumstances and wish that we can overcome the pandemic and come back to normality.
How did you guys meet and get started as a band and what musical backgrounds do you have?
With the exception of J, we have known each other for many years and have made music together in other constellations before. But in the end we all share the same enthusiasm and passion for metal music, and so over the years we developed together the sound we play today.
You’ve released ‘…un torügg bleev blot Sand’this year, which is a fantastic piece of black metal, dense with atmosphere, yet never too dreamy. What can you tell about the recording process of this album?
We recorded ‘…un torügg bleev blot Sand’ together with Andy Roscyk (Ultha) in the Goblin Sound Studio, Cologne, which has been a great pleasure for us. Since Andy has already been responsible for the mix and mastering of our previous outputs ‘De Doden van’t Waterkant’ and ‘Kien Kummweer’, we intensified that cooperation this time and took a total of five-weekend sessions to ensure sufficient space for concentration and creativity.
You’ve specifically mentioned in the accompanying notes that the sound is deeply inspired by classic German black metal. Which bands are for you the inspirations for that sound? And what newer bands would you say are formative?
Every member has his own preferences, but I think that bands like Naglfar, Lunar Aurora, Secrets of the Moon, Helrunar and Nocte Obducta would fill a playlist that every one of us would feel comfortable with and which have been an inspiration for our current sound. Of course, a lot of “younger” bands or styles of Black Metal have influenced us too, but in this context, it is a little more difficult to highlight individual band names. Ultha certainly belongs to them.
What I find particularly interesting and what made me want to know more is your theme and origins. You use various languages to express yourselves, which in itself is interesting. Could you say something about that choice?
Among ourselves we usually speak German, but (almost) all of us are also able to speak fluent Low German, as the regional dialect is still very common here. And if you refer thematically to the landscape in your home region, nothing can be more authentic than your original language. Therefore, it was natural for us to write some lyrics in our native dialect. In addition, we would like to contribute to keeping our old tongue alive. The Seelterks lyrics go primarily back to T. This almost extinct dialect is a remnant of an original Frisian language which is spoken only by very few people in a small area in Northern Germany.
While black metal never suffered from interest due to inaccessibility due to languages, would you still be willing to express something about the nature of the stories you tell on the album?
There is a deep common understanding among us about what could be suitable for Friisk when it comes to lyrics. We try to keep away from simple or used-out allegories and want to tell little stories we can identify with. I think the German language offers a lot of stones that may let you quickly struggle into a cringe and disgusting direction, therefore we are very happy with the work of T. and the way our lyrics have developed over the years. Each song follows a lyrical theme, of course, but also leaves enough room for each listener’s own interpretation.
How did the concept of Friisk develop from the initial EP, which made me think you were a Dutch band, to the current album? It appears that the significance of the regional expression has grown. I’m also interested in how that impacted the music.
Already in the run-up to the songwriting it was an important concern for all of us to deliver with the first complete album a well-rounded and coherent body of work, in which every song has its raison d’être and doesn’t just “grind out a few minutes of additional playing time”. This was admittedly very ambitious and at times anything but easy. But all the work was definitely worth it, the feedback on the album is overwhelming. Even though in retrospect our EP may seem less regionally expressive because we worked less with different languages, but this time we bring ourselves to the level we focused on. In general I can say that our interest in regional history and culture is coming from heart to mouth. Nothing could feel more comfortable for us than bringing our Frisian mentality into music.
From this point of view, everyone here lives from and with the sea. Therefore it felt natural for us to use impressive but also oppressive paintings of the sea.
You guys hail from, according to the internet, the town of Leer, which is in the Saterland. I was vaguely aware, being Dutch, that Frisia didn’t end at the Dutch border (in fact there’s a whole province in between, but that’s another matter). I knew about the North-Frisian language group, but Seeltersk of Sater Frisian had escaped my attention. Would it be possible for you to tell me a bit about it, it’s history and why it’s so important for you to give these roots expression in your art?
The Sater Frisian lyrics and influences all come from our lead vocalist T., who has his roots in the municipality of Saterland, home to the smallest recognized language minority in Germany. Sater Frisian or Seelterks is the last variety of the origin East Frisian languages and until today still spoken in the Saterland, which once also belongs to the Frisian Sealands, a historical union of traders and chiefs that reigned the region politically. Except for T., we all originally come from different communities and counties of the region East Frisia, and for more than ten years the city of Leer has been the place where we meet, as it is somehow in the middle for all of us. Leer itself is located in the south of East Frisia, very close to the Dutch border (approx. 70 km east of Groningen). However, no origin Frisian languages are spoken in East Frisia today, they have been displaced by regional variants of the Low German over the centuries. But they still show characteristics of the previous languages and differ significantly from ordinary Low German. This probably explains why we use Low German in the first place. It differs a little bit from town to town and our version may contain influences from different regions in East Frisia. The Seeltersk dialect on the other hand is still even for the other members a challenge and until today something very special.
The Seelterks lyrics go primarily back to T. This almost extinct dialect is a remnant of an original Frisian language which is spoken only by very few people in a small area in Northern Germany.
Though Saterland lies inland, the artwork on your EP and LP depict the sea. Is this showing a broader interest in the Frisians and their connection to the sea?
The Frisian history generally connects you to the North Sea. It has always been above everything as a useful but also very unpredictable force of nature and has shaped the country and its people for centuries. While old seaport towns such as Emden or small traditional fishing towns such as Greetsiel have a direct connection to the North Sea due to their location, regions in the south like Moormerland or the Saterland, on the other hand, had to dig miles of canals to ship their goods like peat into international waters. From this point of view, everyone here lives from and with the sea. Therefore it felt natural for us to use impressive but also oppressive paintings of the sea. And in my opinion, the artworks have a very high recognition value, not least because of the chosen painting style.
Can you say a bit about this choice for the ‘sketched’ drawings, which are far from a cliche in the black metal scene, particularly since they don’t depict fantastic beings or so.
We are more than satisfied with the artworks of all three outputs so far. They all fit stylistically very well together, which was in a way intended. We all like this rather simple style of painting very much, as we think it has something attractive and oppressive at the same time. Something that can be transferred to the North Sea. At this point, we would like to take the opportunity to thank Chris from Misanthropic-Art, who has turned all our ideas into a set of unique artworks, far away from known stereotypes and incomparable in their own way. And this despite the fact that he works for so many other quite interesting bands.
Hopefully, you’ll be on the stage in October with none other than Kjeld from West-Frisia. Are you in touch with bands like them who also deal with Frisian language/culture in their work?
With our former band, we once played with Vike Tare from Wilhelmshaven, who deal with very similar topics. But they don’t use dialects or old languages as far as I remember. Nevertheless, we love to share the stage with bands that pursue similar interests, and we are all looking forward to that date. Evenings like the show in Drachten with Grafjammer and Kjeld offer a good opportunity to get in touch.
What future plans does Friisk currently have?
We’ve released three outputs so far and cannot wait to perform these songs on stage. We are open for requests and hope that we can have a good time together with people who share our passion for music. Currently, there is a lot of planning that happens in the background and we are optimistic that we can present our debut album with an appropriate number of shows in the next time.
If your band was a dish (a type of food), what would it be and why?
I would say we are a Queller, a grass that grows in the Wadden Sea. It’s something very natural that emerges from the sea, but not the first thing you associate with it.