Grendel 101: An Interview with VLRK

Posted July 25, 2014 in
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Grendel’s VLRK is a musician, producer and teacher. Artwork: Axel Torvenius

Finally, a powerhouse agro-tech EBM artist is making a stop in the Beehive state. Regretfully, most of these musicians pass over us, completely unaware of just how dedicated our music community is. I am very excited that the word is getting out about how fanatical we are when it comes to music. I believe that our passion stems from the fact that the majority of us that were raised here had religion jammed down our throats and, like me, found escape from the oppression through song.

Grendel have been creating music and causing a ripple in the underground for over 15 years now. They have had tasted success and topped some of the European charts with hits like the cover of “Kernkraft 400,” retitled “Zombienation V.2k5,” “Timewave Zero” and albums such as Harsh Generation. They’ve toured the globe numerous times and thousands have flocked to see them play at some of the top festivals in the electronic music community. Many Europeans would give an arm and a leg for the opportunity to see this band so up-close-and-personal in the coziness of Area 51.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to interview and learn more about Grendel. I was delighted when I discovered that the central pillar of Grendel, VLRK, is teaching the next generation about music. He teaches Media & Music to troubled youth—for someone of his status, to take the time to help inspire young people shows heart, patience and consideration. I was grateful he took time out of his busy schedule and preparing for his tour to answers some questions for me.

SLUG: What inspired you to start creating music?
Grendel: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a strong passion for music, being raised on a very diverse diet of music by my father. In the ‘90s, at around 13 years of age, I picked up a guitar after hanging out in the rehearsal space of my high school with friends, and continued with drums and bass. After a couple years of doing this, I discovered MOD Trackers on the Amiga & PC (simple sample based music software) and realized I could put whole compositions together with ease. It was around this time I also came into contact with industrial and electro music, which really appealed to me, and I felt the urge to make my contribution to this genre. [I] honestly never expected things to go the way they did, at the time, let alone to still be making this music so many years down the line.

SLUG: When did you turn your focus to production?
Grendel: This was after completing an audio engineering course at the SAE [School of Audio Engineering] and doing a solid amount of remix work. It was only years after doing this that I truly had the experience I needed to produce for others.

SLUG: You have listed that you are a music teacher as a profession. How long have you been an educator and what do you teach?
Grendel: I have been teaching Music & Media for about a year now, to kids with both behavioral & learning difficulties. Apart from being a musician, it’s the most rewarding and enjoyable experience I’ve had up until now and is definitely something I intend to pursue further. There’s nothing quite like seeing that musical spark being ignited in someone. A lot of my students don’t have it very easy, so music often offers them a great way of venting their emotions, giving them confidence and escaping from their struggles for a moment. Music meant these same things for me growing up, so it’s great to be able to pass this gift on to the next generation.

SLUG: Who does the artwork for your releases? Why did you choose them?

Grendel: All of our artwork is done by the amazingly talented Axel Torvenius. I came across his work via a friend of mine and was immediately blown away. His whole style fits perfectly with Grendel’s concepts and music. I contacted him to compliment his work and ask him whether he’d be interested in working for us, to which he replied that he is also a fan of Grendel’s music. So, a perfect match, really!

SLUG: When you are not creating music what do you listen to?
Grendel: To avoid the cop-out answer “Pretty much everything,” I’ve lately been listening to a lot of Volor Flex, Brodinski, Gesaffelstein, Year Of No Light, Sannhet, CFCF, Tying Tiffany, Thomalla, Man Without Country, Youth Code, Jimmy Edgar, She Past Away, 3 Teeth, Kate Boy, Ital Tek, Death of Lovers, Brooke Candy … I’m quite non-discriminate when it comes to music. Anything goes.

SLUG: Why did you take your vocal style in a different direction? Did you have to retrain your voice?
Grendel: I felt the straight-up, harsh, screamy vocals were a bit of a dead end and didn’t offer enough versatility, so I decided to take on a more melodic and flexible approach. It did take a bit of retraining, but mostly came naturally. I believe it’s better to utilize the characteristics of your own voice, rather than try to manipulate it into doing something else. This has worked out very well and [I] can now deliver a much more powerful sound.

SLUG: “V.3 Soilbleed” has had quite the success in clubs, and is in high demand still. What expectations do you have for the rerelease?
Grendel: I was aware that it’s still a staple track for many DJs, but what surprised me is to what extent the re-release would sell and the reactions we’d get. After almost 10 years of the original being released, it’s still lingering in the Top 10 CD sales charts of Infrarot.de and people are still wilding out to it. Needless to say, I am very proud of achieving this and very thankful to the fans for their massive support!

SLUG: Some Grendel fans are so dedicated that they get Grendel tattoos. How do you feel about the way your music has impacted them?
Grendel: I’m speechless every time, in a good way! It’s so amazing, and a real honor to know your music has meant so much to someone that they’d dedicate part of their skin to it and show it to the world.

SLUG: What plans do you have for touring or new releases in the future?
Grendel: Right now, getting ready for the epic U.S. tour, of course, and completing work on a new EP set for release later this year. After that, work will continue for a new full-length album, planned for release in 2015 and we will be playing a number of major gigs throughout Europe in [the] fall.

I assure you, it is worth the $12 ticket price to see the Grendel North American Tour with Ludovico Technique, DJ Electronic Commando and locals Tragic Black when it stops at Area 51 on Aug. 8. You most certainly do not want to miss this show! Buy tickets here.

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