Interview mit Ørjan "Hoest" Stedjeberg von Taake

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TAAKE are about to go on tour in Europe with their album „Et Hav Av Avstand“, released in 2023 – and are once again confronted with Nazi accusations. In a critical exclusive interview with, frontman Ørjan „Hoest“ Stedjeberg once again comments on all the accusations.

You released a new album last year with „Et Hav Av Avstand“. Once again, you recorded all the instruments yourself. What appeals to you about this approach, given that you have a permanent live band for TAAKE?
When composing on the guitar, main ideas for drum beats automatically follow. Even little details come quickly. On the first three records, I programmed the drum beats first, to show the relevant drummers a starting point they had to follow, including the most important details. At the same time, I was open for their personal style and input, which of course is only fair and reasonable.
But with time I grew more and more decisive that exactly what I had in my head should be followed to the letter and I realized that it was time to just take over all the instruments myself. The fact that I don’t master any of the instruments particularly well is of minor importance. This only serves as giving everything more character, in addition to the fact that an important part of my expression is the protest against sounding, polished, professional or „perfect“. But most importantly, something so deeply personal should be performed in its entirety solely by the person who is the source of it all. I have a very clear vision for my expression and am not willing to make compromises in the studio. Besides, if something is to be regretted, I prefer to only have myself to blame.

Hoest with TAAKE live at Brutal Assault Open Air 2019

A solo project offers all the freedom, but you’re also completely on your own and don’t usually get the kind of feedback you get when you bring a riff to the band in the rehearsal room. How do you deal with this, or how do you compensate for this lack of feedback loop when you write music?
There is nothing to compensate. I simply rely on my own opinion only. The reaction of those closest to me matters, but not to the extent that I would change anything while recording. For live performances however, I am slightly more agreeable to input about minor changes.

The album took six years – twice as long as usual. How did this significantly longer time span between two albums come about?
Traditional as I am, a lot of people seem to think that the usual three year gap between albums was planned. But it has been quite accidental actually, being the approximate time it took me to compose a full length album. A couple of years after the „Kong Vinter“ album from 2017, I still wasn’t properly in „full album mode“. My vault of compositions was filling up with songs heading in different directions, so I rather felt like releasing some of them separately. So I ended up doing a series of split EPs, which also allowed me to include a rather old song that never fit anywhere. I had also started isolating myself more and more and realized how constructive that was for my creative process. So when the virus situation increased, there were less distractions, which led to my most productive era ever. This resulted in material for two more albums waiting to be completed in Conclave Studio, already halfway recorded. So if everything goes according to plan, this time span between releases will probably be my shortest ever.

From my point of view – and some reviews also reflect this – the album is stronger overall than the last ones. What did you do differently on „Et Hav Av Avstand“? How did the album come about?
I was enjoying a new creative boost which made me look forward to merging with the guitar as soon as I got up in the evening and to spend the night entirely in the TAAKE universe/dimension. I didn’t listen to other music, hardly communicated with anyone and spent most of my outdoors time philosophizing while further exploring the forests of the mountainside where I live. I suppose that keeping my focus by staying in this private, all-consuming and overwhelming atmosphere caused the album to sound extra inspired.

Hoest mit TAAKE in Munich 2018

There is something like the „curse of early success“ – you had created standard works of Norwegian black metal with the trilogy of your first three albums. Later on, it sometimes seemed as if you were running after this artistic relevance. Did you sometimes feel the pressure to release another song like „Helnorsk Svartmetall“ or did you have doubts as to whether it would work?
My priorities have always been far from trying to recreate anything from my past or live up to expectations others might have. I follow instincts that feel natural to produce a work of honesty.

In the meantime, you’ve joined Gorgoroth – but only as a live singer. Why is there this strange
solution with a live and a studio singer and will we actually hear you on an album?

It was quite an unusual idea indeed that someone else recorded vocals for the „Instinctus Bestialis“ album two years after I joined as a live vocalist. But Infernus is an unusual man and Gorgoroth is an unusual band. From the beginning, I was told that it would be like this. When Infernus fired Pest, he wanted to work with both Atterigner and myself. Him for the album and me for concerts, which I was totally fine with. I would rather perform old Gorgoroth songs at hundreds of concerts, than record vocals for a new studio album once. There has been talk of plans for a new album, but as far as I know, not much has been composed.

You’re going on tour with TAAKE at the end of March. At your shows 2023, you only played one song from the new album. Why don’t you put more emphasis on presenting the new material to the fans?
2023 was TAAKE’s 30th anniversary, so there was a clear intention to perform songs from each album. Most of the essential ones are quite long, so we decided to save more new material for the upcoming tour.

In the context of the tour, accusations against TAAKE regarding racism or neo-fascism came up once again. One thing you are still blamed for today is the so-called „Svastika scandal“ in 2007 when you came on stage in Essen with a swastika painted on your chest. Even though it was a long time ago and there was a statement back then – can you explain again what motivated you to do this back then and how the evening went from your point of view?
I had had a bit to drink and impulsively painted a swastika on my chest on this one single occasion, right before the show and without thinking about possible consequences. Since the very morning after, I have said that it had nothing whatsoever to do with support for the 3rd Reich. The fact that certain parties refuse to take this seriously after 17 (!) years, says more about them than about TAAKE or myself. It was nothing more than a meaningless reminder that Germany once invaded Norway under this particular banner. I could never betray my homeland by admiring an occupying force. Case closed.

GORGOROTH beim Brutal Assault 2023
Hoest with GORGOROTH live at Brutal Assault Open Air 2023

Back then, that incident immediately made waves – and led you to make a statement, but you rather added fuel to the fire by excluding the organiser from your apology with the words „except for the untermensch owner of that club; you can go suck a Muslim!“ – and thus using fascist and racist terminology. As a result, the statement and the remorse expressed for the action have lost a great deal of credibility. Did you deliberately want to ridicule the statement in this way, or what prompted you to use this choice of words?
I called the venue owner an „Untermensch“ in my hastily written so-called statement. I was still furious with him for throwing me out of the place and chose those words to provoke him, as I had heard that he was quite a leftist. Not very mature and totally unnecessary, I’ll gladly admit. I regret not writing the statement in a clearer way, in another tone. It was the morning after, I was hung over and pissed off. However, I have actually been back at the Turock venue years ago with Gorgoroth, during which the owner and I shook hands in the spirit of having put the incident behind us. Imagine how it feels for him to be mentioned every time our self proclaimed adversaries bring attention to this. He doesn’t deserve this and I shouldn’t have mentioned him at all in the statement.

You’ve sometimes worn an iron cross on stage – a very common symbol in the metal scene, which we’ve even seen on Lemmy or Slayer. How do you explain the fascination in the (black) metal scene for this particular symbol, and what is the meaning behind it for you, why do you wear it?
Yes, even my former use of the iron cross is even presented as further evidence of my imagined affiliations. All it represents to me is a war medal. As far as I know, it’s even used in the German military to this day. The version worn by the German army during World War 2 had a swastika on it – mine doesn’t.

Hoest with TAAKE live at Brutal Assault Open Air 2019

A recurring problem with such accusations is that bands are blamed for others, such as their support bands. You were supposed to perform in Australia in 2023 with Akhlys as the support act – the shows had to be cancelled after protests. Did you know about the accusations against this band and how did this tour billing come about?
This seems to be quite typical for our opponents‘ method of slandering: „This person performed as a session member 10 years ago, in a band who was on a label 20 years ago, who had released an album 30 years ago by another band who featured an ex-member who said this-and-this 40 years ago“. With all their in depth investigation, one could be excused for thinking that they would realize that they are wrong in our case. Anyway, I still know absolutely nothing whatsoever about this band Akhlys. And I feel no urge to investigate, considering where the accusations against them are coming from. It was not TAAKE who chose them to be our support band in Australia. Nevertheless, I’ve been told that this band are being used as an example of TAAKE having connections in the NSBM milieu. This is utter nonsense and the lowest of desperate attempts. They don’t even have other examples, real or fictional. Because there aren’t any.

Hoest with TAAKE in Munich 2018

In view of the fact that TAAKE are „under observation“ in this regard, should you have checked the background of the support band yourself, or do you not see this as your task?
I would say that it’s up the promoters to decide whether or not to background check the support bands. As we have to be annoyed by these unfortunate rumours year after year, I would be surprised if someone deliberately paired us with a band that actually deserves such a stigma.

In our society we’re „used“ to critical statements about Christianity, so it’s not a big thing if there are anti-christian motivs in (black) metal – other religions, on the other hand, are rarely criticised, so it was kind of a big thing when you released (and wore) an anti-Islam shirt with TAAKE – and once again followed by accusations of racism. Has society become too sensitive when „disrespect“ against an other religion then Christianity is enough to be pushed into the right-wing corner?
Absolutely. Distaste of religion has nothing whatsoever to do with racism, which should be obvious to anyone with a brain. There are millions of white muslims, just as there are millions of black christians. Islam has somehow aquired an undeserved victim status. Contrarily, islam creates victims. I’d argue that islam’s biggest victims are muslims themselves, especially considering there is the death penalty for leaving the religion. A penalty which any believer are allowed to carry out.

In your song „Orkan“ from the „Noregs Vaapen“ album, however, you also sing „To hell with Mohammed and the Mohammedans with their unforgivable customs“ and finally „Norway is awakening/Norway will awaken“. Referring to the Mohammedans‘ habits is no longer a criticism of religion, and „Norway awake“ is strongly reminiscent of white power slogans. Why did you choose these words if you don’t want your lyrics to be understood politically?
Wrong. Islam is all about the habits of the so-called prophet. He was the spokesperson for Allah and the moon god himself said that Muhammad was an excellent example of conduct, to be emulated in every way. Well, his habits included lying, robbery, slavery (including sex slavery), rape, ordering torture, assasination of critics and the mass murder of entire tribes. Dividing the world into believers and non-believers, the best of created beings versus the worst, is nothing but pure racism. Threats of violence whenever islam is criticized, placing the nightmares of sharia law above western law, which includes lesser rights for women, sexualizing children with child hijab and child marriage, female genital mutilations, honor violence, honor killings, general disrespect towards the host culture. And it’s because of his marriage to a 6 year old girl when he himself was over 54, that child brides are the norm in several countries. He is the last and final of all prophets and Allah’s words are unchangeable and valid for all eternity. There are also no examples whatsoever of self-examination or self-criticism to be found throughout islamic history, ever.

GORGOROTH 2023 in München
Hoest with GORGOROTH in Munich 2023

Some of the mentioned behavior has undeniably become frighteningly familiar in the daily life of modern Europe, it thrives among us whether we welcome it or not. Not all muslims is the automatic standard response. Of course not, but more than enough of these practices endure as long as all irreversible islamic sources condone and encourage it. An uncomfortable truth, no doubt. But a fact nonethesless, which way too many have the dire ability to ignore.

Freedom of speech allows me to voice my opinion and I will never be silenced, even if constant attempts at re-installing enforcing blasphemy laws should succeed. Infidels are to be subjugated, humiliated and killed with impunity, as well as spend eternity being tortured in Hell. The least I could to was to say something similar back. I still don’t understand how this is supposed to be considered extreme, compared to my other lyrics (and indeed islamic sources). Hell doesn’t even exist, so what the Hell is the problem.

GORGOROTH beim Brutal Assault 2023
Hoest with GORGOROTH at Brutal Assault Open Air 2023

A song called „Jew Killer“, on which you contributed guest vocals, was interpreted as anti-Semitic. Even though it’s probably a concept album about the murder of Jesus Christ, so the song doesn’t glorify the anti-Semitic murder of Jews, you have to expect the song title to be misunderstood. Why did you still decide to call the song that or to collaborate on a song with that title?
Because I will never play by the rules of people who are eager to misunderstand. In their desperate search for nazis, they have to invent some. Twisted assumptions are again way out of line concerning this song by The Meads of Asphodel, featured on a concept album about the murder of Mr Christ. When I agreed to record guest vocals for the track back in 2010, it was obvious to me that the lyrics were not at all meant as anti-semitic. By the way, TAAKE has performed in Israel and were supposed to do so again this very month.

Thank you very much for your time and answers – the last words are yours:
I have had this band for 31 years now. If I truly had the sympathies that I’m accused of, wouldn’t there be countless examples of proof through the years? Instead there is not even a handful of ridiculous attempts and pure speculation. It’s time to stop wasting everybody’s time with this unfounded hysteria.

GORGOROTH beim Brutal Assault 2023
Hoest with GORGOROTH at Brutal Assault Open Air 2023

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4 Kommentare zu “Taake

  1. Puh…. Immer der Alkohol. Ich selbst habe auch schon unter Einfluss Dinge gemacht, die nicht super waren. Aber sich mit Hakenkreuz zu beschmieren und es dann auf den Suff zu schieben… das ist einfach zu billig. So jemand ist für immer verloren. Dasselbe gilt zum Beispiel auch für Phil Anselmo. Wer angetrunken kein Problem damit hat, für den ist es auch sonst kein Problem

    1. Naja, aber ich denke, der Unterschied ist, dass Phil im Suff wohl sein wahres Gesicht im Sinne einer Weltsicht gezeigt hat, und Hoest im Suff nicht gemerkt hat, dass seine Idee, wie er heute provozieren könnte, verdammt schlecht ist. Er erklärt ja nicht das Hakenkreuz durch den Suff, sondern erklärt es sehr klar als reine Provokation – was dumm ist, ja, aber zumindest aus meiner Sicht eben auch nicht mehr.

  2. Ich muss immer wieder ob der Doppelmoral bei euch schmunzeln. Bei Sabaton empört man sich jedes Mal vom hohen Ross herunter (wie können die über Krieg singen während es Kriegt in der Welt gibt!), aber so einen Quatsch hier lässt man vollkommen unkommentiert und unangefochten durchgehen, bzw. verteidigt die Person noch aktiv.

    „Ich habe keine Ahnung warum die bösen Linken mich immer in die Nazi-Schublade stecken wollen, denn obwohl ich mit Hakenkreuz aufgetreten bin, Leute Untermenschen nenne, Moslem als Beleidigung benutze, darüber schwadroniere, dass der Islam sich immer in der Opferrolle sieht und dabei alle gängigen Alt-Right Motive und Ausdrücke benutze und bei einem Lied namens Jew Killer mitgemacht habe gibt es eigentlich überhaupt keinen Grund dafür mir so etwas zu unterstellen.“ Glückwunsch, das hätte ein Höcke nicht besser machen können.

    Ach nein, stimmt ja, laut euren News hat er sich ja dafür entschuldigt mit Hakenkreuz rumzurennen und die Vorwürfe glaubwürdig ausgeräumt. Wenn man das Interviews so liest, nimmt man ihm das natürlich ab, das klingt alles extrem reumütig und besonnen…

    Aber immerhin hat er weder Tarnfleckhosen getragen noch einen Song mit Mia Julia gemacht, dann ist ja moralisch alles in Ordnung 😉

    1. Lieber Marcel, danke für deine Rückmeldung, die wir natürlich ernst nehmen, so aber auch nicht ganz stehen lassen können. Zum Thema Sabaton kann jeder seine Meinung haben, und insbesondere, wenn sie in Meinungsartikeln wie Kolumnen zum Ausdruck gebracht wird, ist es eben auch dies: eine Meinung. Trotzdem findet die Band bei uns (etwa in den Reviews) ihren Platz und wird dort (soweit möglich) objektiv rezensiert.

      Was Taake anbelangt, um die es hier ja eigentlich geht, haben wir in diesem Interview versucht, SÄMLTICHE im Raum stehenden Vorwürfe – vom Hakenkreuz über das Statement bis zu strittigen Songtiteln und -texten zu addressieren, damit sich anschließend jeder selbst ein Bild machen kann. Dies weiter zu kommentieren ist nicht unsere Aufgabe, aktive Verteidigung möchte ich mir unter einem derart kritischen Interview aber auch nicht unterstellen lassen.

      Wenn ich deinen Kommentar so lese, habe ich allerdings nicht das Gefühl, dass du – egal, wie eine Antwort ausgefallen wäre – bereit gewesen wärst, das Bild, das du von Hoest hast, zu ändern. Denn Fakt ist, dass Hoest zu sämtlichen Vorwürfen ausführlich Rede und Antwort gestanden hat. Wenn du nun nicht bereit bist, zu glauben, dass die Hakenkreuz-Aktion eine dumme Provokation unter Alkoholeinfluss war, für die er sich ebenso dumm „gerechtfertigt“ hat, und nicht bereit bist, ihm abzunehmen, dass er das aus heutiger Sicht bereut (was er so explizit zum Ausdruck gebracht hat), steht dir das natürlich frei. Nur stößt diese Herangehensweise dann eben an die Grenzen der Debattenkultur: Wenn ich von vorne herein nur meine Meinung gelten lasse, egal, was jemand anderes sagt, brauche ich ihn natürlich gar nicht erst fragen.

      Aber wenn du mich fragst, was ich problematischer finde – wenn Sabaton regelmäßig vor zigtausenden Fans Geschmacklosigkeiten wie „Enter the gates, Auschwitz awaits“ trällern und das Thema Vernichtungslager damit zu Entertainmentzwecken missbrauchen, oder einen Dude, der sich vor 17 Jahren (!) einmal (!) als „Provokation“ ein Hakenkreuz auf die Brust gemalt hat … sehe ich das Problem eher bei Sabaton.

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