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INTERVIEW: Fia Kempe – The Great Discord

THE GREAT DISCORD have soared in popularity over the past few months. Their 2015 release, Duende, brought forth an intriguing blend of pop, rock, and a multitude of progressive and metal styles and caught the modern metal scene by surprise. Now, they’re on the cusp of releasing their sophomore record, The Rabbit Hole. We had a chat with the voice of THE GREAT DISCORD, Fia Kempe, about the new record, stereotypes within metal, and the concept behind their excellent new album.

How are you?

Fia: I am fine, I’m super! How are you?

I’m good, yeah. Been up to much today?

Fia: Yeah, a bit of work with our upcoming release of the Cadence video for tomorrow, so we’ve been dealing a little bit with that.

Excited?

Fia: Yeah, super excited! It’s going to be awesome. We’re really proud of this video as well, so it’s gonna be good times to release it.

Awesome. So, you have your new album coming out next month…

Fia: Yes! So excited for that as well.

…I can imagine! THE GREAT DISCORD’s debut was released in 2015. What can people expect from The Rabbit Hole? Give us the low down!

Fia: Wow, I think that we have developed ourselves as musicians and as song writers and as a band quite a bit, actually, since Duende’s release. When we released Duende, we had only been a band together for basically a year, so that record, we’re really proud of that one as well, but that record was more of 10 little tales. We did not have a concept, really, or a red thread if you can call it that, on the album. It was basically more 10 different tales told by a persona, Fia. Now, for this album, we have developed more of a specific sound, more of a direct sound, but it’s still hat kind of feeling that you’ve heard it before but you’ve never really heard it before. Does that make sense? [laughs] I think that we, you know, take the best pieces for this album and for The Rabbit Hole, and created more of a red thread with a concept, we have a story to the album. This new persona, Ire, just grabs hold of Fia and pulls her down the rabbit hole. We borrowed some of the storyline from Alice in Wonderland, and made our own dark twist of that story. The songs and the album in itself has more of a direct punch in it than what we had when we did Duende, that was a little bit more, what’s the word for it, vague? So, we’re really proud of this album, it’s really fun as well to be writing a book for it, I mean, for me, I grew up with prog bands, GENESIS, KING CRIMSON, things like that, and it’s always interesting when you have stories outlined for an album, when you add concepts to it. And if you’re like me and are interested in that, it’s always fun to dig extra deep into it, so that’s why we created the focus on the rabbit hole. It’s also entitled The Rabbit Hole. You get a little extra information, because of the lyrics through the songs have always been up to interpretation of how you want to understand the song and understand the music. I love that, I love when people write to us and tell us that they have interpreted on song this way or they think of this, or different scenarios, or “This helped me get through sickness” or whatever, but I also enjoy, if you’re interested, to dig a little deeper into the story and follow these two personas and what’s happening down in the rabbit hole, so that’s why it’s super fun to release this book and it feels like people are interested in it as well and was to get that extra piece of information to really understand and dig deep into the rabbit hole. Super excited about that.

I think it’s amazing how you’ve taken the concept, put a twist on it and made it your own. Did this concept come originally before THE GREAT DISCORD started making material for The Rabbit Hole, or did it just progressed as you were writing?

Fia: I think it just progressed while we were writing. We had tons of material from Duende that didn’t make it on that record. We did not have finished songs though, so once we started to write songs for this album, and picked a few pieces of the material we had left from Duende, this whole story, the direction the music was going in compared to Duende, which was a little more…I have such trouble finding words for it sometimes. I think that the songs for this album are more focused that then were on Duende, and I would not say they are more aggressive, but they have more of a punch to them, you know? So, once we started writing and got the songs together, this story just progressed like, when we wrote Dimman, the intro [The Rabbit Hole], you could just feel the persona from the first album, Fia, standing in this forest, which was the concept for the first album, the artwork is her standing in a forest with all these different figures which is the characters we’re seeing the different tales of in Duende. I could see her standing there in the forest, and out of nowhere, this other persona just appears out of the fire and that was Ire, and I just saw her so clear in my head, with more of a Valkyria kind of thing just growing out of the fire, grabbing a hold of Fia and dragging her down the rabbit hole. I mean, Ire is supposed to be a real evil motherfucker, with Fia it was more a theme of not knowing whether she’s supposed to be evil or good, or she’s just supposed to be an entity. Because from the beginning, when we started THE GREAT DISCORD, for me, always being a metalhead, and enjoying metal music for such a long period of time, I’ve always wondered why you have to label it female fronted metal as soon as there’s a woman in the front, yeah? What I felt really strongly with this concept when we started THE GREAT DISCORD was that we wanted something for people to enjoy more than just music, we wanted a show,. It’s supposed to be theatre when you watch us live, but I did not want those stereotypes that many bands have as soon as there’s a woman in the front. To me, it always feels like either the women are supposed to be all feminine, wear like a corset or sing opera or just be really girly on stage, or she’ supposed to do the same things as guys do, with the growling or military pants or CANNIBAL CORPSE t-shirt or whatever [laughs], like there’s such stereotypes! I was tired of that. If you enjoy the music, if you enjoy what you’re hearing, it does not matter whatsoever if there’s or a woman or a man in front of you singing. So, we want the persona where you’re not really supposed to know if it’s evil or good, woman or man, it’s just an entity, it’s supposed to be here. So that was like, the base for THE GREAT DISCORD, and with the Fia persona, and then with Ire, who crawls out of the fire here now for The Rabbit Hole, she has more of a label on her to be evil. She is brat personified, can you say that? She is evil, she’s supposed to scare you! And she personifies all the things that we can relate to when we see the colour red. It’s passion, it’s fire, it’s wrath, it’s anger, it’s also love. All those emotions and states of minds that symbolise the colour red for us, and that is Ire.

That’s just awesome. I’ve always been curious about the whole persona thing.

Fia: There is nothing wrong with doing the jeans and t-shirt band thing, I mean I love it. But for us and all the members in THE GREAT DISCORD, we are really interested in this type of concept, and when you get something more, when you add something extra visually to a show, music for the ears and also some treat for the eyes. So yeah, a show. When you go and watch us play, you’re supposed to get it, like going to watch a movie or seeing theatre, I want it to personify all the emotions we get out through the music and all the lyrics that we write. I want to be those kind of emotions, I want to feel what I feel when I’m on stage, and it also helps me a lot to be in a character and to have the headdress and the lenses and everything, it helps me to get the energy, the emotions out that I want to give to the audience. I hope I can give them that experience when they watch us.

I definitely think so. Back to the album, it definitely has more a punch than the previous one. What’s your favourite track off the record?

Fia: Oh wow, that’s such a tough question. I really, really enjoyed writing and recording Gadget. That song is supposed to portray pure madness, it’s when Fia just gets down to the rabbit hole and Ire shows off her distorted world, and they just have the fucking time of their lives, just playing around. It’s supposed to represent pure madness and craziness, when you do whatever you want without any consideration of consequences whatsoever. So, we had so much fun when we wrote that song, and we wanted it to have all the elements of just like, the feeling of running around and being crazy! The searing pain when you wake up afterwards, then Darkest Day is like “What happened?” So yeah, Gadget for me is definitely a favourite, it’s also a favourite now we’ve been rehearsing the album. I just can’t wait to perform it live as well, because it’s such a fun song to sing, such a fun song to perform, so Gadget is definitely one of my favourites. It was very emotional for me recording Neon Dreaming, I did it in one take. It was a song that I wrote when it’s supposed to be this turning point in the story, where you start to feel something is wrong, I need to turn my life around, I need to do something, I need to break out. I think it’s very relatable for people, that feeling in life, even if it’s a relationship, or all the tragic things that happen to people in daily life. When you get to that turning point, like “Okay, I really need to turn my life around, I need to do something and I need to do it myself. I need to understand my part of it all and what I can do to get out of it.” So, both lyrically and the song altogether, Neon Dreaming, was a very emotional song for me to write and record, and I really wanted a sore, fragile tone to it. It was a challenge to do it in one take, but that’s how I wanted it because I wanted it to be very genuine, and that made me so happy when I read some kind of review where they said, like, when you listen to Neon Dreaming, it feels like you’re almost in the same room as me, and that’s exactly the kind of feeling I wanted with that one, so I’m really proud of that song and it has a big meaning to me personally.

What was the actual writing and recording process like for the album? Do you kind of take charge or is it more of a collaborative effort?

Fia: I mean, when we wrote all the songs for Duende, it was basically just me and Aksel, so for that album we wrote most of the material ourselves and then André, Gustav, and Rasmus came a little late to the party, so they weren’t in there of course, but the material was already written for the album. But that has been so much fun for this album release and for this whole record, to write together as a band, which we really want too. I think all the members of THE GREAT DISCORD, we have so much different influences of all types of music, I mean Rasmus when he started playing with us, he didn’t listen to metal at all. Like, he’s a funk guy and listens a lot to jazz and pop music. Gustav and André also have musical influences from pop and hip hop, me, I come from the prog scene and also metal, Aksel a lot of metal but also a lot of film music, and I think altogether, that makes for so much to work with when you create music. And one fun thing for Duende was that I wrote most of the guitars on piano [laughs], so when the guys came in and was trying to play some of the guitars they were like “This is impossible, you can’t do this on guitar”, I was like “Yeah, you can do it on piano!” [laughs], so, for this album it’s a bit of pleasure for them to be a part of the guitar writing and riffs, which is one of the reasons you can feel that the songs are a little more direct, more of a punch to them. They’re not as flowy as the songs on Duende are, so the whole writing process has been a lot of locking ourselves in a cabin in the woods, just writing, writing, writing together, coming up with different themes. Me, I write a lot of the lyrics of course and the whole signing arrangements, but it’s definitely a common effort. We all try to contribute as much as we can, and we also had such a good time together when we are writing music, which also makes for good songs, I think. I mean, we love working together. We are a group of friends that enjoy what we do, which makes it easy for us to come up with different ideas and we’re not the kind of people who are, you know, if somebody comes up with an idea we’re like “Ah, I don’t think that’s suitable for this” or whatever, we always try to push each other up and come up with new, fresh things and see if we can make it work or not, so it’s a common effort and we really, really enjoy doing it together. Aksel has been the one behind the computer, so to speak, with the producing of the album and mastering of the album, and I think he did an excellent job.

You need that kind of friendship when you’re making music, it’s like a little family. You can’t really make the music you want to make if you can’t get along with who you do it with.

Fia: Not at all. I think especially when it comes to a band like this where we have so much stupid fucking ideas, and so many things going on with the concept and the story. So, when we, for example, wrote Gadget, it’s like supposed to sound crazy, a little bit ridiculous almost. So, what can we do? And Rasmus was like, “Yeah, we should do something fun with the chorus”, we just have fun while we do it instead of just being that kind of group of people who are like “No, no, let’s keep it serious!”. It’s not like that at all, it’s very fun, we just have fun together.

Onto touring! THE GREAT DISCORD have a few shows coming up, don’t you?

Fia: We have nothing I can talk about right now, the only thing we can say is Damnation Festival which we are super happy to do now in November. So, that’s the only thing I can talk about at the moment, but the plan for this album is to tour the shit out of it [laughs], so even if we don’t do much this fall, with the release and everything, for the next year and the year after that, we’re planning to tour as much as we possibly can.

With Damnation Festival, it’s great to see THE GREAT DISCORD on the bill. Makes for a nice mix of bands, and also shows how far you guys are going now.

Fia: Aw, thanks. It’s super fun and we’re looking forward to it so much and to come back to the UK. They [Damnation] have a great line-up, so we’re proud to be one of those bands, it’s great!

Another thing, not THE GREAT DISCORD related. You’ve done guest vocals for GHOST?

Fia: Yeah! So much fun, a great collaboration. I mean, I’ve known the guys from GHOST for a long time, but Tobias has been a friend of mine for a long time. He just asked if I was interested in doing some vocals for the EP and I was like “Yeah, that would be super fun!” and it was great working together. Also, working together with their producer for that EP, Tom, great guy. And then, after that, we were asked to join the tour with GHOST, on the Scandinavian part of it. So, when we played in Stockholm, we were like “We have to play Bible” because they hadn’t done that song on that tour at all, so that was great to just do it. I think they did it once on that part of the tour, and it was just so much fun to be a part of that. I think the crowd really enjoyed it as well, it was a magical feeling to play in Sweden, sold-out in Stockholm. We had so much fun touring together too. Great guys, yeah.

Are there any other bands or artists you’d like to work in the future for another collaboration?

Fia: I would love to tour with DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT. I mean, he is such a huge inspiration to all of us in the band, and I love him, both as a person but as a musician, I respect him so much, everything he touches or does becomes magic in my ears. So, that would be something great. I also think it would be kind of a cool combo with THE GREAT DISCORD, because he also has this visual aspect to the show only he’s just…himself [laughs]. You know? That’s enough! Such a cool guy on stage. That would be a dream scenario. It would also be really fun to tour with PERIPHERY at some point, as we also had Mark do guest solo for Omen on this record. He’s also such a great musician and PERIPHERY’s such a cool band as well, we could have good shows together. That would be a really cool scenario.

Lastly, other than the touring and the book, what’s next for THE GREAT DISCORD?

Fia: Yeah, like I said, our plan is just to tour the shit out of this album and take over the world! I mean, why would you do this if you don’t want to take over the world? So that’s the plan. I mean, we’re planning to release some fun things maybe this fall or early next year, and tour as much as we possibly can and keep the concept going. We’re already in the process of writing music for whatever may come, so we’re just keeping ourselves busy with having fun together and writing music and coming up with weird, crazy shit concepts, I guess!

The Rabbit Hole is out now via The Sign Records

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