I AM VALBORG – Q&A With the Versatile Mr. Toyka

Valborg is not your typical metal band. I know that in these times, it’s getting harder to define what a typical metal band would be, but we’ve still got some distinctions that make bands metal:

• Their musical expression belongs to a certain subgenre, be it black, death, doom, thrash or something else, or in-between.
• The visual identity that accompanies that expression (Church of Misery’s mass murderer’s series; Mastodon’s flowery, stark-colory, epicy drawings; Cattle Decapitation’s fleshy, bowel-y covers, etc.).
• The way the band itself represents to the world, which, in our genre is, well, mostly this:

**Random bands from my music collection.

All of the above represents a framework in which (most) metal bands work and create, and it’s that pattern that enables us to recognize or sniff out “our kind” – to look for metal in the most obvious places. And then you get Valborg… Time to get cozy outside the typical framework.

With a sound that’s hard to define within the confines of one (or three) sub-genres, and an image that’s down-right giggly with brilliance, one would best describe their music as avant-garde. However, the avant-garde here is not for posers and hipsters looking for the next post-modern, one-minute miracle. No, this here avant-garde comes so naturally to the band and from the band that one would think any other kind of artistic expression is physically impossible for them.

Furthermore, Valborg is safely nested inside a musical collective that is the definition of eclectic: Zeitgeister. It is a collective of 6 musicians based in Germany that, when put together, work in approximately 12 bands with music ranging from grindcore to melancholic sludge. How’s that for math?

Now, we have written quite  a lot  here on Last Rites about the band’s albums, and since they have a sexy new album out, we thought it was high-time to pop some questions about this crew. Our interviewee is Florian Toyka, a founding member of the Zeitgeister collective, and a drummer for Valborg (and for GruenewaldWoburn House and Island, and also guitarist for Klabautamann).

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Well, my dear Flo, I’d like our readers to get to know a little bit about how Valborg came to existence – how and when did you guys come together?

Hi Mire! I’m not sure… I’m not part of the original line-up – I joined after the debut album Glorification of Pain to replace Patrick on the drums. But I’ve known all the guys since around 2002, and I’ve played with them in various line-ups before (Patrick in Klabautamann, Christian & Patrick in Island), so it went very smoothly and we had a good flow from the beginning on, regarding songwriting, jamming, hanging out… good times!

Having followed your work for a fair amount of years now, I’ve always been impressed with the musical collective within which you act and create – Zeitgeister. Can you share with us how the idea of such a collective came to fruition, what was the goal behind the creation of Zeitgeister, and was the path towards its realization thorny?

We just had the idea to have some kind of roof for all our bands. Made it much easier to handle the sales and also we could show people all our musical adventures at one glance.

Since Zeitgeister creates a wide variety of music – from black metal (Klabautamann, Ekpyrosis), through avant-garde and experimental metal (Skarab, Valborg) to atmospheric sludge and grindcore (the now defunct Woburn House and Slon), how do you handle shifting between such different forms of musical expression? Do you need some kind of a break between going from one to the other?

For me it’s no problem, since I focus only on Valborg at the moment. But the shifting is easy, for example when rehearsing we do lots of jamming, and we play almost everything, from wave to funk to grunge, skate punk, death metal, avant-garde, ambient stuff… there’s so much to explore, and the shifting is easy. All that wants to come out finds its way. What you can listen to on our records is just a small fraction of your musical universe!

Let’s get back to Valborg, shall we? The band has been characterized as experimental, avant-garde, progressive, dark, satirical, etc. To which of these tags would you give a nod to, and, as the inquisitive journalistic mind always wants to know – where does the inspiration come from?

Oh, I don’t mind how people characterize us. If it’s how they see us for them, then it’s the reality. Let everybody have his or her own interpretation! I think Valborg is essentially very dark and primitive music. Unpleasant sometimes, seldom beautiful… heavy and dark. But from time to time, another facette of our musical cosmos sneaks its way in there. Then we get stuff like “I am Space” and the likes… Inspiration comes from everywhere. Live with its ups and downs, society, nature, emotional turmoil, other bands or personalities, the mood we’re in… literally everything.

What works of art inspire you other than music? Literature, visual art? Do you draw inspiration from that aspect of the art world as well?

Of course other aspects of art inspire me as well, but it never works on such an obvious level. Like, “I saw that painting and thus wrote this song” – that almost never happens, at least to me. I think it all comes together on a rather subconscious level.

Do you think it’s possible to have a career in the music industry today with the kind of music Valborg plays? Is that even of interest to you?

Definitely not. You can make a career when you appeal to a broad audience, which I’m sure we don’t. Anyway, we’re happy the way it is. Music as a career means compromise and obligation. What if we decide to just jam in the rehearsal room for the next couple of years without releasing anything at all? Then we’re fucked, if we’re in this for a living. No, no… let’s keep it simple!

For the end, could you share with us what was your personal high and low of making music?

There are many highs and almost no lows… in fact, every time we’re on the road it’s a personal highlight for me, and many rehearsals are as well. But of course the tour with Ahab was a unique experience, also being part of Roadburn Festival in 2010. And I very much enjoyed being at Vanjas place in Zürich, when suddenly Tom Warrior entered, humming one of our tunes (“Eerie and Old”), haha! In two weeks we will go to Romania and tour with Bloodway, the band of romanian master artist Costin Chiroreanu, and I am sure this will be another high! But you know, there are so many things. What I also really love is that I got to know you Mire because of Zeitgeister Music and that I had the pleasure to meet you a couple of times! Hope to see you sometime soon.

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And there you have it, dearest readers. Be sure to check out Romantik, and to take your vitamins. Stay metal.

Posted by Mirela Travar

Passionately want to do everything.

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