Originally this interview was published on Echoes & Dust.
Greenland is not a place you would associate with music directly. You might not even really know where it is, who live there and what they’re all about. You may never have heard of its struggle for independence and native culture.
It turns out music played a big part in what has been dubbed the ‘Thaw Revolution’, which is the slow shift to self-governance Greenland made in the years after the Second World War, when the United States actually opted to buy the country from Danmark. Music was a lot more important in this process than you might think.
It’s one of the topics I got to chat about with Kunuk Grønvold, a solitary metal artist from the town of Ilulissat (Danish: Jakobshavn). With a population a bit above 4,500 people, it’s the third city of Greenland, which should tell you a lot about its empty, wild stretches of coat and land. If the land shapes the music, there must be some interesting stories to tell. I got in touch with Kunuk about his music with Tempel and The Perfect Mass, but also the tradition of progrock in Greenland, finding out about metal, Greenland’s prog scene and being a metal chef.
How did you get started on playing metal?
I think that I really first started being really metal when I was around 15 or 16 when I first saw the Live After Death concert video by Iron Maiden. Before that I was into The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. But if I really look back to around 1997 I heard the first Greenlandic metal band Siissisoq for the first time when they released their first album. That intrigued me as well.
When I was just a kid, my mother sent me to my uncle’s place to borrow horror movies, and I saw this cover of a VHS cassette. It depicted a zombie breaking out from a grave, in chains, and lightning striking the skull. The back showed a very large zombie above some musicians. Little did I know that this would come back about 10 years in the future. I swapped my Ozzy Osbourne VHS for a Concert footage of Iron Maiden’s Live After Death. This brought back memories, and the instant Maiden started playing after Churchill’s speech, it kind of knocked out a block of rock’n’roll out of me, replacing it with a large chunk of Heavy Metal that has not come off since. Accident, as you asked, may very well have been a touch of fate.
What albums do you find most inspiring, who were your idols?
The most influential albums to me would be Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast”, as I would daydream day in day out listening to that album and shred along the classics on my guitar. I would imagine playing onstage with the Beast. Then we have “Somewhere In Time”, “Piece Of Mind” and “Seventh Son”.
Apart from Iron Maiden I have found a lot of inspiration from Queensrÿche, Black Sabbath and Megadeth. Recently I have been “in the spirit of” Sepultura and a little bit of Scent Of Flesh, to add a bit of weight and darkness to the melodies and the tones.
But when I played guitar I would always pretend I was Dave Murray. He is the absolute winner in my world.
Do you take anything of your country into the music you make?
I don’t add Greenlandic elements to my music whatsoever at this point. But there is another project I have been planning for a while. This will be mainly inspired by the shamanism and legends of the greenlandic mythology including demons and evil spirits.
You’ve pretty much done everything alone this far. How is that working out for you? How do you go about creating music?
Being alone with the music I make, is both good and bad. Good thing about it is of course that I can put the music down the way I want it to be. I feel very free in that way. Bad thing about it is that I can’t “bounce the ball” to anyone. There are no inputs or advices and it can sometimes get frustrating when I for example want the drum part in a certain way but I can’t play it well enough, so turns out chaotic or messed up. But it suits the music just fine when I master it, because I don’t want my music to be too well structured or something. It’s evil, it’s dirty, it’s chaos and hell, and that is just fine.
So, first I write the lyrics, then I write the music, and record the guitars first, then the bass, drums, guitar solos, and the vocals and additional effects for last. Works for me that way. It is quite difficult to get enough exposure, as of to this day, all that I do promotion wise is merely DIY style, but I am now in collaboration with the Swedish underground label called Salute Records, and we’re looking forwards to releasing a few albums, and if it goes well, this will grow to longer period of time making music. So I can say that, yes, Greenland is isolated but getting the music out there, no matter how long it takes, will surely be worth the effort, especially without the aid of major labels, though the dream is still a major label to carry out the music.
Do you find an audience at home that is like a sounding board for you?
Home offers very little audience, as most people are clearly “brainwashed” from the pop era. Hiphop, rap and that stuff is blinding people all over the world, from the very young, going up. This is bad for the rockers that are trying to get through to a larger audience in Greenland. Via email I get a few response about the music, mostly positive and constructive criticism, and I find that very helpful.
Your projects are Tempel and The Perfect Mass. Both are solo projects, can you tell me about the separate projects and their meaning (idea and inspiration)? Is there any religious component to it?
Tempel was actually the original name for this project. I wanted to use the name “Jerusalem” but there were actually about 3 bands named Jerusalem. So I thought about the temple of Jerusalem. I wanted the name to be linked to the destruction and the rebuilding of the temple there in the past. And for the siege of Jerusalem in 79 AD. People starved and some even cooked their kids to survive.
After a while I had to change the name. I googled stuff about sacrifices and cannibalism. I had to find something evil. Then I came across an article about the Borborites from around 330 ad. They were priests and nuns that would perform orgies and smear their hand with menstrual blood and semen then eat it. When the women got pregnant, their foetuses would be extracted to be consumed as a variant of the Eucharist. A bishop who was defected from that particular group described it to be the perfect mass. So I took it. The Perfect Mass. With the new name, the music got a bit darker and the tones gained more weight and heaviness.
I was raised Lutheran Catholic, but now I am not religious in any way. But it does not stop me from writing music with satanic themes and hell and blood and death and destruction. For all I care, writing a song with the word “God” in it might as well be the equivalent of a song with the word “unicorn” all over it.
What other musical endeavours are you on?
I am also the guitarist with my brother in Ullorissat, a folk/rock band from my hometown that my uncle established in the late 70’ies.
Is there anything that can be described as a scene in Greenland? If so what is there and what is it like?
There are scenes allright. Mainly progressive or folk rock. A little bit of hard rock, here and there, but major events are very rare. And the radio stations just keep playing the same old boring stuff day in day out. The music in greenland is very boring. Nobody really plays to excite or to create an actual show anymore.
Can you recommend some bands so people can get the vibe?
From the older days of rock in Greenland, I would recommend SUME, which has been identified to be the sound of the Greenlandic revolution during the liberation of the Danish state in the 70’ies (for more info,check this page. ed.). Then we have Ullorissat, which is one of my all time favourite bands, with songs that are more melodic, very dear to the people, and just awesome musicianship and wonderful lyrics.
Over the years there have been bands breaking through to the rest of the world, but the most famous these days would be Nive Nielsen and Simon Lynge. Then there is Small Time Giants, My Itchy Little Finger and Chilly Friday. My mother is from the old mining town of Qullissat, and there is a band from the 50’ies called the Vaigat Orchestra that I really love, and they play jazz with the most inviting melodies that just captures you, and the guitarist is none other than Pele Møller, one of the best guitarists in Greenland over the years.
Since there’s not much of a scene in Greenland, is the music frowned upon?
The music is struggling as a result of Danish and American hiphop and pop brainwashing madness. People are brainwashed from childhood to think that rap and hiphop is “cool”. Like when they said that Christopher Columbus discovered America. It’s all a lie and we know that Columbus was a rapist, a thief and a murderer and he never even set a foot on the American mainland. That’s how it is.
Your other passion is cooking I deduced from your posts. Do you find there’s a link between metal and cooking in some way? Do you take elements from one to the other?
I think there must be ways to link both cooking and metal together. But so far, music and cooking have been two very seperate worlds. Good food deserves elegance in flavour balance and presentation, and must be seasonal and creative. Heavy Metal is always the same, though it evolves endlessly.
What future plans do you have musically?
For the future, I would like to make a living with my music. But to really make it a serious project, I have not yet found band mates who would be willing to commit to this the same way that I do.