Danheim is a Nordic folk/Viking inspired project from the Copenhagen-based Danish producer Mike Olsen, who has almost 10 years of experience in electronic and ambient music – focusing on Nordic Folk and Viking age inspired music with a certain Nordic authenticity or mood. Danheim′s music is often composed of ideas and stories based on the darker side of the Viking period, inspired or consisting of Nordic Mythology, old Danish folklore and vivid imagination. For more about this unique project read the following rows.
Questions done by: S. and Devana
S.: Hail from Slovakia! Winter is coming very slowly to Europe this year. How is it in your country?
Greetings from Denmark, wonderful people of Slovakia!
Winter is upon us and is slowly moving into Denmark as well.
Days have grown darker as we near December, frost and ice has now taken a stronghold within our cold northern nights.
S.: The name “Danheim“ itself suggest, that you are obviously from Denmark. Can you tell us something about your relation to your homeland?
Yes, Dan stands for Denmark and Heim in old Norse stands for home.
So my artist name roughly means “My Danish Home” or “Home of the Danes”. I have a strong connection to my ancestors, culture and home, something I have been researching for a while now. I have traced back my own family tree to the year 1200 which almost exclusively consists of Danish ancestors, but I still have ways to go before I hit my goal at the year 1000 or earlier (The Viking age).
Devana: It′s incredible that you are newbie on scene, you have started with your project just in 2017 and now you already have 4 albums and many fans, and views on YouTube. Would you like to tell us more about your background secret? Did you have a similar project before?
Thank you! I must admit that I am really surprised about how fast things have been moving since I started. And I am truly grateful to all of my fans around the world, including Slovakia.
I’m not sure I have a secret in the way I compose and produce my music. I think my inspiration comes from stories and old writings of the harder and darker life in the Viking age. It’s something that really fascinates me. I have always liked the darker side of music as well, even though I was never into metal or hard rock. Before I started Danheim I did some ambient and movie inspired music from time to time, but nothing too serious.
Devana: Your music has something strong and charming inside. I′m very curious where do you find your inspiration and which instruments do you use?
I think my inspiration definitely comes from my imagination and mood. But also what I read and research about in ancient times here in the north.
I mainly use instruments such as Tagelharpa, Bowed Bass Lyre, Frame Drums and my home made percussion instruments which I enjoy editing in more depth digitally to give a darker feeling in my music.
Devana: I would like to return back to the question about instruments. I’m still curious, from where do you collecting them from? And also I assume that they are from the medieval age, so how did you learn to play them?
Sure, some of my instruments like the bowed lyre were handmade from talented instrument builders, which I collaborated with to have something unique created. I’m still learning to play on them, especially bowed instruments which are hard! I have a good ear for sound I guess, so I′m just trying and practicing and learning as I go. But I have built all of my percussion instruments myself. I will probably release some pictures of them on my website next year.
S.: You mentioned research on ancient times. Did you read saga′s and historical sources? Maybe you could mention your favourite book on this topic?
Yes, I am definitely into the Norse Eddas and Sagas, I don’t think I have a favourite book (as of yet), the sources I read can be a bit “dry” at times since I don’t read fiction in this genre. But I recently also got really interested in artefacts with rune inscriptions. As an example the skull fragment found in Ribe on which I recently did a song about with Sigurbodi – “Hausrúnir”.
S.: Have you been interested into mythological concepts of other Indo-European ethnics like Slavs, Balts, Celts or others? If I may recommend it to you, there′s this book Comparathive Mythology by Jean Puhvel and it′s definitely the best work on comparative mythology.
Most of European mythology and history has my interest, but I haven’t delved much into Slavic and Baltic yet, but for the simple reason that Northern mythology has so much material to go through. But I am sure that when I near the end of my research and reading of the Viking age, I will move onto other parts of Europe. I love to learn new things, and I will definitely check out that book at some point, thanks!
S.: If we can step into a more personal area… Could you describe yourself as a heathen or is this just your “interest”?
For me the, it has always been about the fascination of my ancestors. How they lived, what stories they told, and what they believed in. I like the idea of a simple life, close to nature, and the “mysteries and folklore/tales” of old times. I’m not practicing Ásatrú much, and I don’t really have a belief in any specific gods, although they hugely inspire me, because they inspired my ancestors and it′s a part of history and the people. But visiting Viking markets, camping out in the wild is something I enjoy though, and as a heathen my main interest is honouring my ancestors, by learning about them and keeping traditions alive.
S.: Do you ask your ancestors for help? Not only those, who are not among the living any more, but also those, who are still here?
I don’t usually ask for help, if I do it would be from my family or very close friends. I also don’t really ask my ancestors for help, although I can have thoughts like ancestors give me strenght if I am in a hard situation, but that’s very rare.
S.: Do you think that your ancestors would be pleased with current situation in Europe and, for example, in your country?
Definitely not. Just imagine when christianity slowly creeped into Viking culture, there were many unhappy folk about it at that time. And as we are moving forward into the future, I think that culture and the deep sense of “home and heritage” will slowly decline for most mainstream or young people. But seeing that Viking mythology and History is on the rise, I have hope that people will be more interested in remembering our past, history, heritage and unique Nordic culture.
S.: What music do you actually listen to? The success of Wardruna has bred lots of bands in this – let´s call it a genre. Do you follow their music?
I listen to a wide variety of music not only in the Nordic folk genre (ambient, movie soundtracks etc.), but I do also listen to Nordic folk, mostly looking for new artists through Spotify and YouTube at the moment though.
Devana: A few days ago I have noticed that you shared some news about your upcoming album. It seems that you are going to introduce your audience something huge. Would you like to tell us something more mainly about those animal components or would you prefer to leave it a surprise?
Yes, the next album which now has a title “Hringrás” will definitely be different than all of my other albums. It′s a more “rooted” album with a slower tempo and more simplistic style, and some insane amounts of new recorded material. One of the songs on the album will portray life and death literally through sounds of recorded material. I went pretty far on this project and even recorded real human bones for the death (last) part of the song.
A lot of nature, animals, animal bones, shells rattles and other material was also recorded and implemented as well. I think it will be interesting to see if my fans and listeners prefer the sound of the living or dead!
Devana: That sounds absolutely stunning! I’m really looking forward to this masterpiece. Also I would like to point out that it’s lovely to see how you communicate with your fans through social media. It’s obvious that you really enjoy your work and are full of new ideas.
Glad to hear it Devana! Yes, I definitely enjoy communicating with my fans on a more personal level than most other artists do, it’s something I feel they deserve since they support my music and it′s the way I am as a person as well, so it works out pretty good this way I think. I think many artists forget to engage with their fans when they get “big”, I don’t think it should be that way. Of course I cannot reply to everyone, but I try my best.
Devana: This is quite selfish question, but which of your albums are you proud of most? Which one required the most effort? Is it the upcoming one or do you rate them equally? (Comparing the atmosphere, meaning, background…)
That’s a hard question, but Munavarg, my first album is definitely one of my favourites, since it was the first album that started it all. I’m also really excited about my upcoming album since I have put a lot of extra effort into it, and tried to push myself in new directions.
S.: What about a label? Who is going to release the new material? Where could Slovak fans buy your new stuff?
I have kindly turned down a lot of big offers from labels interested in signing me up.
My own self-created label “Ballista Records” is the one I am going to release my music through. I really enjoy promoting, releasing and do video material myself, and it also makes it easier for me to choose exactly when and how I release new music.
Devana: I′d like to go back to your artwork – there′s merchandise. There are lots of jewellery, souvenirs, T-shirts and hoodies on your website. Are those patterns also your own design?
Most of the designs on my merch come from really talented graphical artists like Camila Maldonado, Ysambre Fauntography and the Danish Ræveðis which I work closely with, for my merch ideas. I did do the graphics for the two albums Munarvagr and Mannavegr myself though. But my graphical skills are not on a level in which I think it′s good enough for clothing.
S.: Actually, lots of clothing is made in Asia in ways that are not environmental-friendly or ethical. What is your option this topic?
I think it′s important to take care of our nature, and is why my clothing is made in US and Europe (Latvia). I’m really happy about that, and they do care about making it in an ecological way:
“We try to do our best to minimize waste in packaging and source eco-friendly packaging materials. Many of our packaging materials are either recyclable or biodegradable. Bubble wraps are made from a minimum of 15% recycled plastic and 10% post-consumer content. Our craft tubes are made from 70-100% post-consumer recycled content and 0-30% secondary recycled content.”
Devana: And, by the way, is it actually possible to see your live performance? I mean, I′ve been looking for something like a tour with your new album, but I couldn′t find anything mentioned. Are you planning to make a live gig someday (in the near future) or would you rather stay in your comfort zone?
I don’t have any plans for live shows and concerts for the time being. I have had to turn down a lot of big venues who have invited me to perform live. It’s something I really don′t like to do, since I know a lot of my fans want to see me perform live. But as I′m only one person behind Danheim I feel like it would take a long time to train and setup a show like that, and I truly enjoy creating music more than planning, training and hiring people for live shows.
That′s one of the reasons behind my decision, there’s also the reason that personality wise I′m not that big on being in the spotlight, at least not without everything being 110% perfect. I might do a show at some point in the future, but I would need to create some music material that is more simplistic and live performance-friendly.
S.: As far as you are alone, how does the process of creating your music and recording look like?
In some cases it′s easier I imagine, I can compose what I feel like and do the style I personally like. But it takes more time on the other hand to record instruments and sounds. So it’s a bit of a longer learning curve.
Devana: So, Mike, we are close to the end of this interview. Hope that our questions didn′t bother you too much. My last question is about that guy “Sigurbodi,” who appears in some of your albums. Can you tell us more about him? Did he help you with vocals or music composition? And are you going to include him (or someone else) in your future work?
Not at all. Yes, of course. Sigurbodi is my favourite vocalist to work with and we have done quite a few songs together already. He’s from Iceland and has a great amount of knowledge about instruments, vocals but also Viking mythology and history. I’ve learned a great deal from him, and expect us to continue our collabs for a long time, if he agrees. I am actually finishing up our latest collaboration as we speak. The last two collabs (and the one I′m working on now) has been about the futhark runes. It’s sort of a “Rune Galdr triology”, and all three songs will be on the first out of two albums which I plan to release before Yule.
S.: Mike, thank you so much for your time and this interesting interview. We are looking forward to your future work. And as the Head Editor, I would like extra thank you for the interview on behalf of our webzine. Is there anything you would like to add?
Greetings, S. and Devana
Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk a bit more in depth about my project and thoughts about different subjects. I would like to send my warmest greetings to you, and the people of Slovakia. I’m extremely grateful for the support I have gathered around the world. Skål from the cold North!