August 7, 2017 Interview – James Fogarty & Anders Kobro of In The Woods . . .
Sitting down with James Fogarty and Anders Kobro of In The Woods… is kind of like opening two human encyclopedias of Black Metal history, both from different branches of the same tree. Those branches, as it were, have crossed and re-crossed paths going back to around 1997, when both these men began collaborating on Old Forest, a well-respected Black Metal band comfortably swathed in that (un)blessed obscurity fans of this music love so well. But it neither began nor ended for either man with just one band.
In 1991 a teen-aged Anders Kobro, a tall youth from Kristiansand, Norway, began the group In The Woods… with two brothers, Chris and Christian Botteri. So began a cosmic musical journey which ever so briefly rode the second wave of Norwegian Black Metal before other currents quickly swept it onto its own majestic and celebrated path to parts unknown.
Fading out of existence right around the turn of the millennium, naught was heard from the band until the mid ‘10s, when Kobro and the Botteris decided to breathe new life into In The Woods…, this time with prolific British Musician James Fogarty on vocals. Releasing their fourth album, entitled Pure, in 2016, on Debemur Morti Productions, it seems that 14 years between albums was more like a wormhole in time, with the yin and yang of the band’s hard and soft sound intact as though nary a moment had passed them by.
CrypticRock was fortunate enough to catch both of these gentlemen for a chat before their highly anticipated performance at Maryland Deathfest XV, deep in the aging heart of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The United States had not been treated to a helping of In The Woods… for quite some time, so the mood was energetic and hungry as both men indulged in a look at what shaped them, what drove them to reignite a flame that never really went out, and what their future might hold as our blue planet hurtles onward through space.
CrypticRock.com – How is it that you, James Fogarty, came to be in In The Woods….?
James Fogarty – The idea was I was going to do the keyboards, and then they tried someone out to record some demos with the vocals and they weren’t too happy about it. Anders said how about doing the vocals, giving that a go? And I said yeah, because I had been on him for like months, over a year saying if you get In The Woods back together let me do something, let me do some vocals. They were a big favorite of mine in the late ’90s. And then it was like I got there, done the vocals, and then Anders asked me to do some guitars as well, so it just kind of happened.
Anders Kobro – What I want to say about it is everything just fell into place by itself. Everything happened because it was supposed to happen. There was no doubt when we started making new songs and sending the demos back and forth, it was like kaboom! It fell right into place.
CrypticRock.com – Your voice is uncannily suited to the music of In The Woods . . . Listening to Pure, you have to remind yourself sometimes that it is not Jan Kenneth Transeth (vocalist 1991-2000) this time, its James Fogarty. Both vocalists possess a unique voice.
James Fogarty – Well, thank you. I believe we kind of have a similar pitch.
CrypticRock.com – It is very cool that you guys were friends and colleagues anyway, and then the match of James’ voice with Anders’ music went so well together. So, it is relatively new for you guys to be playing in the United States – completely new for James Fogarty – so do you guys think that touring the United States is still a benchmark for success? Is touring here properly something fans can expect from In The Woods… ?
Anders Kobro – Definitely yes.
James Fogarty – It’s such a big country. Ideally, we would do like, a week and then maybe later in the year do another week with festivals in between. You know, we all have jobs and bills to pay. It’s not like we’re rock stars doing coke before the show. We’ve all got jobs, we’re working class guys.
Anders Kobro – We have an exclusivity clause in our contract too, where we cannot do months and months of touring.
CrypticRock.com – That may actually be a blessing in disguise. Here in The States, we tend to get a lot of the same bands touring over and over again. It can get old for a lot of people, so that kind of approach to touring may actually help rather than hinder your efforts. Turning to new album Pure, it appears that Christian Botteri (guitar) composed a lot of the music, but the contribution of you, James, and Anders, was an indispensable part of the process of creating the album. Can you expand on your roles in making the music of Pure?
James Fogarty – If you took my contributions out in terms of the melodies, there would be nothing there. I think Anders gets a lot of the credit for basically the song structures. Christian and Christopher are almost like, the basics of the riffs, and I would fit the melodies and chord structures into it.
Anders Kobro – And you might say that I produced everything, as well as writing guitar riffs for Pure.
CrypticRock.com – Was it strange for you, James, to step into the creative process between the Botteri brothers, who had been making this music together since 1991? One might say this is their band, so how was it stepping into that creative process?
James Fogarty – It was quite fun. First trip to Norway and then you’re writing music with people you were listening to 20 years ago. My attitude was whatever you need done, I can do it. I can do a lot of different things that a band needs, not everything, but I can do a lot. So I just threw myself into it.
Anders Kobro – Not to go into too many little details, but I have been in In The Woods… since the earliest days. I was 16 or 17, and sometimes I needed a kick in the ass from the other guys, but aside from a short period of time here and there I have been in the band from the beginning.
James Fogarty – He was on the demo, for chrissakes (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Ah yes, the Isle of Men demo.
Anders Kobro – It’s kind of dangerous to go into the personal details (laughs), but I have been mistakenly listed as a session drummer by some sources, but no. In The Woods… is as much my band as it is the Botteris. For you guys in the press, some details wind up being listed wrong.
CrypticRock.com – It is interesting because some people might associate you more with Carpathian Forest, meanwhile you have been involved with In The Woods… since 1991. The hazy pre-internet days, information was sometimes hard to come by.
James Fogarty – The differences between Pure and older In The Woods . . . albums is that Pure sounds like a mix between what I have been doing on my own with Ewigkeit and then it brings something new to what In The Woods . . . had been doing.
Anders Kobro – It kept the flame burning.
CrypticRock.com – You do not often see a hiatus as long as yours result in an album so seamless and true to the band’s history while still pushing things forward. It is like no time has passed.
Anders Kobro – Sometimes things just work out.
CrypticRock.com – Yes it does. James, you are in such unique and open-ended bands and projects, they are always so different.
James Fogarty – I just like to annoy people (laughs). When I started an English Black Metal band with a German name, you know. Why not? I found the word Ewigkeit in an English dictionary. But unfortunately, because of fuckwits like Varg Vikernes, people think because you have a German name you must be a neo-Nazi. That is about as far from me as one can get.
CrypticRock.com – It appears In The Woods . . . has been working on a follow-up to Pure? What has the writing process been like for you guys so far?
James Fogarty – Yeah. We’re in the early days of it now but I think we’re going to record in the summer, aren’t we?
Anders Kobro – Late summer, early fall. We have the pleasure of being independent so we do things at our own pace.
James Fogarty – We do what we like, when we like. Our live guitarist Berndt Sørrenson is going to be working with us on the new album. He’s in a band called Mental Disaster, which has a sort of Obituary, Floridian Death Metal sound. He’s very talented. They’ve released two self-financed albums.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, those unfamiliar will have to give them a listen. Anders, you are still based out of Kristiansand, Norway?
Anders Kobro – Yes. It’s like a small town by USA standards, but it’s the 5th largest city in Norway. It’s a nice town, very green.
CrypticRock.com – “Transmission KRS,” from the Pure album, is that a reference to that town?
James Fogarty – Yes. When you book a ticket to the airport it says KRS.
CrypticRock.com – Both of you are extremely proficient musicians. How did each of you get started in music and who were your major influences that made you want to make a life out of it?
James Fogarty – When I went to secondary school, which is like, 12 years old, I was really into football (soccer.) I was really good at it. But then it started to become more about whether you were willing to have a fight with someone, rather than how good you were at the sport. I just went, fuck this. And you know at that age you go through a sort of mental and physical growth spurt, and I began to get more interested in music. I guess as soon as I heard Iron Maiden, I was sold on Metal. And Maiden is still that band that I hold in such high esteem. For many reasons. They come from really working class roots in London, and the Heavy Metal scene as it exists now didn’t exist before they came along, and put together world tours with their own production crew.
Even the likes of KISS and Led Zeppelin didn’t have what they’ve put together. From a music point of view, from a business point of view, even from a cynical songwriter point of view. It was them and Sabbath from a young age. But I liked things a little bit heavier, so then I found Death Metal for a few years and then as soon as I found Norwegian Black Metal it was then I thought, okay, I’ve been playing guitar for a little while and now I want to write my own music. I guess it was about 1995 and I was rehearsing in a lot of different local bands and then I thought well fuck this, I got a keyboard. I like the keyboard sounds. Now I can program with my fingers, the drums. And just for fun I recorded my own songs.
After a few years I got a bit bored with Black Metal and I moved on to do sort of my own take on it. I kind of stopped listening to Black Metal in about ’97. EDT by Dimmu Borgir was an amazing album, but it heralded the Death of Black Metal. Cause it’s like, okay it’s now reaching ten times more people, you’ve got to this point, but then you’re gonna have all these kids hearing Black Metal for the first time and thinking that’s what it’s all about. It’s kind of like comparing the Clash to the very early Stooges records. It’s that different (Dimmu Borgir from early Black Metal). I preferred the early 90’s music. What about you, Anders?
Anders Kobro – I was probably born a drummer. It’s always something I wanted to do, from an early age, 4 or 5.
James Fogarty – (imitating Anders’ mum) ‘Give me a Cesarian, he’s doin’ double bass on me bowels!’ (laughter all around)
Anders Kobro – My dad was very interested in music too and he played albums like the Beatles, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, and Deep Purple, Black Sabbath. I kind of got that from my mother’s milk, and I began in a marching band at age 6. Around 11, I started drumming seriously. What got me into Metal were the bands I mentioned, but then glam bands like Motley Crue, and then Master of Puppets changed my life. James mentioning the Norwegian Black Metal scene, I was there as it was beginning. We never competed with the other bands.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. That said, there is no need to press you about Euronymous and Varg, as you have been asked about them in earlier interviews ad nauseum.
Anders Kobro – We were supposed to sign with Deathlike Silence Productions back in the days. I can’t remember why it didn’t happen. The famous Emperor/Enslaved split was supposed to be In the Woods . . ./Enslaved. I can’t remember why it didn’t happen, Avantgarde Records was also in the picture, and we wound up on Misanthropy Records. We were 15, 16, 17 years old. Who can remember everything from those days?
James Fogarty – I think that was a good place for you guys, a bunch of hippies from the south of Norway. You know, the style of Jan Kenneth’s extreme vocals on the first album. The only thing comparable to that at the time was Burzum. It was this kind of shriek. The reason they had a problem touring was he couldn’t reproduce those screams because he was shredding his vocal chords. Nobody could. For In The Woods . . . to be doing something which, cause they’re so different from that asshole –
Anders Kobro – Who?
James Fogarty – Varg Vikernes. He is this neo-Nazi and these are a bunch of chilled out guys.
Anders Kobro – I never knew Varg personally, just met him a couple of times.
James Fogarty – For them to be doing a similar style of Black Metal and to be on the same label as Burzum just as Burzum was going massive, and then they had the similar kind of vocal, people were like wow.
Anders Kobro – In those days you had the Inner Circle, and we knew who they were. It was supposed to be necro sounding, and we knew we were better than that. Plus, if it was Black Metal, to them, you had to have Satanic lyrics with that theme, and we were not Satanic. So we did not call ourselves Black Metal.
CrypticRock.com – You are credited with the first use of the term Pagan Metal to refer to your 1995 debut Heart of the Ages.
Anders Kobro – Pagan Metal now is more used for Folk Metal, but yes, I can see that. Some consider us to be the first avantgarde band to come out of that scene. We broke the rules, in that sense, and other bands followed.
CrypticRock.com – Those who follow the rules rarely make history, they say. James, to expand a bit into your own personal musical history with regard to your lyrics. Your other projects, Bombs of Enduring Freedom and Ewigkeit particularly, you make no secret about your feelings on unchecked capitalism, greed, and imperialism via modern wars for resources. Knowing your stance, do you feel the world is on some sort of precipice right now, poised to fall further into chaos, overpopulation, now as opposed to when you wrote those albums? Is it worse now, in your view?
James Fogarty – I think it’s quite stark coming here, and walking down the business district in Baltimore. You’ve got these fantastic 30 story buildings, and glass, and luxury apartments. If you’re walking on the street level, it’s falling apart. That says a lot about society. The people with the money have the life of fucking Riley, and then you’ve got the crack house down the street, it’s like, I feel sorry for those people. I think it’s a bit more obvious here than it is in the UK, but it’s there too. I think the most important thing to come along is the internet, ironically given to us by military intelligence.
If you’ve heard of Terrence McKenna, he was a Timothy Leary of the rave generation of the ’80s and ’90s. Unfortunately, he’s dead now. He was sort of a shaman/philosopher, big proponent of magic mushrooms and LSD, and he was just really so insightful, and he was talking about the internet back in 1995 and stuff that is coming to fruition now. That you can get information from one side of the planet to the other, is perhaps the biggest hope, because then someone in an office can’t block information. This whole thing about overpopulation, I think it’s true, but what can we do about it? This green environmentalist policy only leads down to one end result, culling people, and you can’t go down that route cause then you’re into global fascism.
Anders Kobro – The thing about overpopulation, in 1900 there were 1.5 billion people in the world and you can see the graph skyrocket, but I think there’s a force called Mother Nature that regulates that stuff by itself.
James Fogarty – I don’t see it getting much higher, it may even be starting to plateau. You’ve got many young people going to university, tuition costing them up to 36,000 dollars per year, or more, and you’ve got people leaving college with so much debt, and now they’ve got to find an apartment, buy a house, get a job, and that drive and ambition to have everything that they can is causing a lot of people to drop having children because they can’t afford it. How many people do you know that have one child, or no children?
Anders Kobro – So why is this happening in the first place then? Because you’re taught to think that way. This is how you’re going to live your life. You’re going to educate yourself, but put yourself in as much debt as possible so they can own your ass. It’s a choice.
James Fogarty – We didn’t go to university and I’m fucking proud of it man!
Anders Kobro – I did. I went to university. I have a degree in European History. I didn’t have to get myself into debt up to my ears either.
James Fogarty – Oh, my apologies, I didn’t know that. Yes, you probably had a free education in Norway, unlike the UK and the US.
Anders Kobro – Yes, we have a welfare system which means if you have an education, if you are somehow hurt or prevented from executing your education on a professional level, you get a second chance. At first I was a masonist for 5 years, did an apprenticeship, and my wrist and knees said no. The doctor said ok, you qualify for welfare.
CrypticRock.com – They certainly want you in debt here in The States as soon as possible.
James Fogarty – It’s the downward push from above. If you want to have a family you have to scrounge for the money.
CrypticRock.com – Or people have children at advanced maternal ages, which presents risks. Moving back to music, how important of a role do you think music, particularly your own, plays in conveying the messages we have been discussing, the social commentary?
James Fogarty – I really had this idealism in me when I did Conspiritus, and it kind of died. That album had conspiracy around it. Although we had Digby Pearson with Earache Records who loved it and he paid for John Friar to mix it (NIN, Tool), and when I did it, Digby gave me all this shit that he could make the album do well, and the people working for him had no idea, were only into Death Metal, and they didn’t like it and they didn’t promote it. I thought well fuck this, I need to put my energy elsewhere.
Anders Kobro – To answer your question, I believe it’s a channel of course, but it’s sort of a platform but it isn’t forced. You’re generally not shoving it down anyone’s throat, or changing anyone’s point of view. With In The Woods . . . we have been very open minded. The early days of Black Metal which gained a lot of followers worldwide in the tape trading era. You had this power of people in Norway, you had Varg, Euronymous, and Jan Kenneth. And Jan didn’t want that. He didn’t want to be the one to tell you how to live your life, because that should be an individual pursuit. In retrospect, the Inner Circle had more of a communist point of view, forcing an opinion on other people. And we kind of oppose that, because we are not gods, do not obey us.
CrypticRock.com – Who crafted the lyrics to 2016’s Pure?
James Fogarty – Christian did one or two and I did the rest.
CrypticRock.com – The lyrics have kind of an existential desperation to them.
Anders Kobro – I am not usually moved by lyrics, but when you read these lyrics you can hear it instantly that they are telling you to open up your perceptions. I have a very scientific mind, I started with history and then kind of have been self-educating myself in science, especially astronomy. When you can then go to the source and core, it’s all simple physics, then everything makes sense. So let’s say everything is just electromagnetism, in waves. We have this conscious corpse that senses things, and that makes it hard to break out of the cage of your own limited perceptions. Our album cover, it encompasses the biggest and the smallest of things in the universe.
James Fogarty – What was particularly in my mind during writing, was my father had died about 9 months before recording. And that’s the thing. It happens to all of us. Dealing with that first very close person to you dying, puts you on the track of wanting to know the why’s and the wherefore’s. It’s one thing to criticize religion and dogma, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a Darwinian atheist. I’m not an atheist. I believe in something else, beyond the 3 dimensional universe in which we live.
CrypticRock.com – First off, condolences on the loss of your father. Are you referring to Deism, which the founding fathers of the United States followed, which is the idea of a nonspecific creator that takes no part in our personal lives or follows the creation of the universe at all. Or something more specific?
James Fogarty – Thank you. Well, I don’t think it can be specific, because no one knows. I think the founding fathers were probably on the right track, because they believed you could believe anything you want, just don’t force it on others.
CrypticRock.com – The evangelical movement of the late 19th century put an end to that sort of tolerance to freethinking.
James Fogarty – Yes, and Terrence McKenna once said basically, these fantastic developments in science and philosophy, but then anyone with a brain can do nothing but put their minds towards the words of a Judean freedom fighter for one and a half thousand years. What a waste. How much could we have actually progressed, if instead of sitting in a monastery coloring in bibles, they were doing real work that would not keep people down and let them liberate themselves.
Trying to reconcile that hatred of religion that Black Metal has, because we are associated with that scene, and at the same time we’ve got lyrics like in Pure. Take extreme examples like Cannibal Corpse, gore lyrics, that stuff doesn’t leave space for anything else. I think that is a big mistake.
CrypticRock.com – Well you know, you do not eat a chocolate bar or ice cream to get nutrients. You eat it cause it tastes good and is quick. When you are going for a long walk to contemplate the stars, you are probably not listening to Hammer Smashed Face. (all laugh) Speaking of hammers smashing faces, CrypticRock covers Sci-Fi and Horror films as well as music. What are some of your favorite films in these genres?
James Fogarty – The original The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). The remake was shite. The first Alien film was very good. Second one was a little Hollywood. Prometheus (2012) I thought was fantastic, I’ve seen it ten times. Its fucking brilliant, not just some reboot.