When I first heard about tattoo/black metal festival BlekkMetal a few weeks ago, my excitement levels went off the richter scale. It didn’t take me long to get in touch with organiser and celebrated artist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen to ask for an insight into what will, undoubtedly be, one of the most significant dark cultural events to take place on Norwegian soil in 2015.
What inspired the initial idea to put on a festival celebrating tattooing and the roots of Norwegian black metal? Was it a plan that had been in your head for a while, and was just waiting for the right time to be carried out, or was it more of a sudden decision?
The initial idea was to make a different tattoo convention in Bergen, so we actually started off in the other end of what it has become…. My boss at Let’s Buzz suggested to make the theme black metal, since that’s what Bergen is known for, and it mixes two of my biggest passions, tattooing and black metal…. But in the thought process it became much more, and most of the bands being personal friends of mine, and very positive to it all, this seemed quickly to be the best angle to approach it from…. To make it into a 50/50 metal-happening and a tattoo convention.
I also want the bands to be able to get tattooed from some of the best within our dark scene, and the tattooers to experience the bands in a more personal and intimate manner than the usual huge festivals…. To make a good and different experience for all attending. The idea itself was born over a dinner in London during the London Tattoo Convention in 2012, and we have been working on it since then. To make it happen in 2015 was just coincidental, we wanted to be able to take our time to do this properly and to get the right bands and tattooers.
How big is the team behind BlekkMetal, and how is the organisation process going so far?
We are not very many people organizing this….
Besides me, there is:
-Ivar Peersen (a founding member of Enslaved and also one of the founding organizers of the Hole in the Sky-festival, an amazing metal festival in Bergen for 12 years, last year was 2011). Also two more of the organizers have experience from HITS.
-Martin Kvam (label manager for Karisma & Dark Essence Records, releasing bands like Taake, Hades Almighty and Alfahanne…. He also has a background from doing underground fanzines and from writing in magazines like Metal Hammer Norway…)
The third organizer in this who also had to do with the Hole in the Sky festival is:
-Kirsti Rosseland,(who has been doing lights and pyro for Immortal, Enslaved, Gorgoroth and more, and has toured with many of them…She currently works as a stage manager at Bergen National Theatre).
Furthermore there is:
-Agnete Sivertsen, (who is organizing the exhibitions. She has long and strong ties to the early black metal era in Bergen, and currently works as the head of Hardanger Folkemuseum).
-Annlaug Maria Tolo ( In charge of the tattoo part of BlekkMetal, she is a colleague at Let’s Buzz Tattoo Studio with many years experience within the business)
-Nils Arvid Søreide (IT manager at Vizrt and handles our IT-business) and also:
-Anders Røkkum ( an internationally recognized illustrator who has made cover art for several Norwegian Black Metal bands and who does illustrations for us).
Eight people all in all…. And we are supported and sponsored by Let’s Buzz Tattoo Studio and also Bergen Backline.
All of us having busy lives with work and life in general, family and so forth, the process is going slowly forward, hence the three years of planning… But this being a rather small event, it’s the preferred tempo. We will rather do everything slowly and thoroughly, than to make haste and chance it. All is going according to plan and schedule, we haven’t started stressing yet.
Keeping in touch with the spirit of early Norwegian black metal, you have planned to keep BlekkMetal small, and will only issue 500 tickets. I really admire this approach. Was it the initial idea to keep things downsized, and what kind of atmosphere are you hoping will be achieved at BlekkMetal?
As the idea developed, I soon realized that this would be better as a smaller event. For several reasons: BlekkMetal itself is a non-profit event and whatever is left when venue and such is covered, will be used to cover expenses bands and tattooers has had in attending this event.
The whole thing is based on an old school trade of skills, and the bands play in exchange for tattoos, the tattooers tattoo bands to hear them play…. With the two main groups of attendees participating for “free”, we would never dream of ending up with a profit, as this would not be fair. We want enough tickets sold to be able to pay for all expenses, and few enough tickets to make this an intimate event.
Also in opposition to the big festivals with commercial interests and enormous crowds… Black metal was a narrow and small scene once, this event is about the roots, so it only seemed fitting to make the event narrow and small as well.
Having said this, there is no limit, except space, to tickets being sold for the tattoo convention-part of this. There will be amazing tattooers from near and afar, and people who do not consider themselves black metal but still have a interest for tattoos are welcome to a day ticket bought at the door.
With BlekkMetal one of the goals is to bring attention away from the church burnings and murders, and bring it back to the art that the genre has to offer. On this note, I think that the talks and seminars are a fantastic idea, and will enable an insight into the craft of black metal. Are you able to reveal who will be speaking, or will names be made known sooner the time?
Hehe, I am sorry, we are keeping our cards close…. But soon most of the bands and tattooers will have been revealed ( with still some surprises kept unrevealed), and then we will release names of participants for other events around this happening…. I am looking forward to telling our ticket-holders what they are in for….
You mentioned that the bands will play whatever they wish to, no matter if it’s old or new, but is there anything that you personally would like to hear played?
Most of the bands will do old and/or special sets, and one of them even asked me what I’d like them to play, so I did suggest some of my favourite songs from the early 90s, not only of the Norwegian scene….We’ll have to see what comes from that, its exciting, that’s for sure! And I do love Fenris by Enslaved, so I really hope to hear that song of course!
What criteria did you have when selecting a venue for BlekkMetal, and what makes the USF Verftet the ideal location?
The history of Verftet is unique, it has always been a great venue for metal, having started with the Trash-Festival in the late 80s. Hole in the Sky had this as their main venue,- and countless metal bands have played here. Also it can seem full with less people. It also has room for all the different happenings that will take place, so there was no other right or better place for BlekkMetal.
Attendees of the festival will have the opportunity to be tattooed by the visiting tattoo artists. Will there be a chance to book a slot in advance, or is it a case of first come first served?
We present the different tattooers on our Facebook pages and people are welcome to get in contact with the different tattooers to plan what they want to get done during the festival. Our webpage will soon be up and running, and links to the tattooers will be posted there also.
In the room of the tattoo convention there is a stage, and most of what will happen besides the concerts will be from that stage, we want the audience and the tattooers to be able to take part of it all from the booths and tattoo-area.
Having said that, I am sure several tattooers will have time for walk-ins at the festival also, depending on what you want to get. It might be wise to contact them in advance for a bigger piece or if you want one of the tattooers in particular, or show up at opening hours on Friday to ensure you get your appointment in order.
Tattoo artists will be coming to Bergen from around the world. How did you go about deciding which tattoo artists would be ideal for the festival?
We will have the convention in Sardinen at Verftet, so the space is somewhat limited…We aim for 15 tattooers, and had to be picky. We want tattooers with their heart in black metal, and we didn’t want any local tattooers, since space was an issue. Let’s Buzz will not have any tattooers working there neither, including me. We are always around, so now the audience could get people from out of town or abroad for this weekend….
We gave thought to whom in Norway would be right for this, in skills and interest, and started inviting them and tattooers from abroad. Now, this being an event where some hours of free work is being expected from the tattooers, it doesn’t suit everyone, which I have great respect for. You have to be of the right attitude to want to join this, and to see what will come of this event if all work together for a great weekend…We have a few invitations still unanswered as of yet, but will soon be packed. I am really looking forward to seeing a room full of tattooers of such great difference in style but of the same mind and taste in music and scene. Many of them have never met, even though they have been tattooing at the same time at huge conventions earlier. This event is small enough to let them get to know each other and relax.
Will you be tattooing at BlekkMetal and do you plan to get anything done yourself to perhaps commemorate the event?
I will be busy running around like a headless chicken, I’m sure, so I will not be working… However, I am tempted by several of the tattooers attending…. Especially Kelly Doty from the USA, I’ve fallen in love with her style , although I usually do not go for colourwork myself…. I might have to get something from her. 😉
What are you most looking forward to about BlekkMetal, and what impressions do you hope the festival attendees will go home with?
I hope for everyone attending to really having had a great weekend…I hope the tattooers and bands will have formed connections, I hope both sides of this event will feel that they have gotten what they came for, black metal, tattoos and a great time…. Also, in Norwegian…Et ettermæle for the bands, The oldest bands are still the oldest, they get to go through their memories of what made them what they have become, and to show a small audience some of their journey.
I want the tattooers to have been at a convention where they relaxed, had plenty of work, and still didn’t miss any of the bands performing ( the tattoo convention will close before the concerts starts)… And I want the audience to feel that they have seen and heard a lot of music and information they never before knew of, or didn’t think they would experience… And that they will get some great surprises in who and what will be a part of this.
I am looking forward to showing an audience more of what made this scene what it was… To give them a taste of the mood, the feelings and the art… And to bring together tattooing and black metal in this way…
And I am truly looking forward to both seeing the tattooers work their art and to hear music that will give me chills and skipping heartbeats and memories of those old times. Songs I’ve never seen performed live before and probably never will again.
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