April 23, 2021 — The brainchild of Kent-born Alex McCree, Herknungr is forged in the meeting point of ancient culture and modern production. The sound of the heathen folk project is rich and atmospheric, exploring the stories and cultures of times and tribes’ past.
Herknungr released the single Ængletribe into the wild in early February, before quickly declaring a short hiatus to focus on other projects. Now as this break draws to a close we look in on the Kentish act to see what the future holds for the project.
How would you describe yourself and the Herknungr project to the uninitiated?
I would describe Herknungr as a new-age-inspired, Nordic folk project that also goes into Saxon stuff. A Bit more loosely with the Saxon stuff, as we still don’t really know much about them.
You’ve created quite a body of work in the past few years. Do you consider yourself to be prolific and can you tell us where you draw your inspiration from?
I think so, there are songs I think people really like a lot more than others.
I draw inspiration from a lot of sounds you hear on TV, video games, or film. I’m a big sound lover and pride myself as an avid collector of different sounds that may be used towards Herknungr.
I think there wouldn’t be any Herknungr without Danheim for a start, a lot of the beats and ways of composition are hugely inspired by Mike. Heilung also.
Danheim and Ulf Söderberg are a huge inspiration in terms of new-age/ambient sounds.
“The mindsets, practices, and religions in Germanic culture just make total sense to me. I love the sense of morality and masculinity in these ancient writings, I translate it upon myself into energy and feeling.”
You make good use of a blend of ancient and classical instruments. What is your starting point when composing with these?
Thank you that means a lot to me. I try and get together a melody together and think of ways I can enhance it. To give more of an epic feel!
Strings and horn sections can be a very good way of sustaining a rhythm or a melody of talharpa for a while and give more body. It can be just double bass, cello, trumpet, or trombone. It sometimes starts with a classical instrument in my head and the rest of the song fits round it or the same deal with the talharpa or blowing-horn.
You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that while you try to keep an authentic sound you also incorporate VSTs (Virtual Studio Technology) and samplers. How do you feel this affects your sound/process?
I try to keep it authentic as I can if it’s a mood or feeling I’m trying to express. I still use Eduardo Tarilonte’s stuff and Danheim’s Asgard sampler occasionally, if they still have stuff that fit’s the composition nicely.
I try to do my processes organically as much as possible with actual instruments, the classical side is through VSTs, but sounds decent enough. It is recreating how 800CE resonates with me in a 2021 setup. Recordings are definitely much more natural sounding.
You can always produce things a bit better.
In addition to Viking, you’ve explored Saxon, Angle, and Germanic folk music and history through your work. Do you feel a particular affinity to the history and identity of any of these cultures more than the other?
Yes, I would definitely say so. The mindsets, practices, and religions in Germanic culture just make total sense to me. I love the sense of morality and masculinity in these ancient writings, I translate it upon myself into energy and feeling. But that’s also said for Celtic polytheism, I do like researching about the Picts and Gaelic cultures too, as they draw a lot of parallels.
I would like to get into more Slavic polytheism in the future.
Your recent work has focused on the Angles. Is this a theme and a narrative we can expect more of in your future material?
I would say so in the not distant future. As I am English, I am fascinated with this historical side of the UK and how other nations settled here. I would like to get into more on why the Angles were the more prominent tribe in setting the UK up as it did, down the line.
What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
I will continue to add songs to my Pond5 profile as time goes on.
I am writing another full-length album, got 30 minutes so far. This one is more focused on Viking life in a settlement, so it’s a bit more contained. It’s great to write about the Saxons and Angles to then come back to Scandinavian writings.
Really like the songs so far, some with a bit of an otherworldly sound. A release maybe soon.
As well as the dark Viking-inspired sounds of Herknungr, you work on stock music and other ambient works. Do you have a different music process when composing for stock works?
Yeah, the stock music was a recent thing, I thought it would be a nice side project.
From years 2015-2017, I really didn’t know what I was doing with my life, there is still a little echo from those years today in a financial sense. I didn’t know what job I wanted and what music to write as the main project. I was delving into medieval/Celtic music for a little while but thought it was more of a side thing.
When I approach Herknungr, ambiance and sounds are built up first and then instrumentation is layered on top. When writing stock music, these are more highly melody-focused in a 1-2 min format and use a lot more VSTs in them.
My stock music is shorter and generally a bit more of a commercial sound.
You’ve composed several ambient materials inspired by video games. What is your current favorite game and can you see it influencing any future work?
As a PC gamer, I have played quite a lot of games. I’m waiting on a few games like Stalker 2 and Atomic Heart to play this year, they will be very atmospheric visually and sound-wise. I’m really into horror-themed FPS’.
I just played Quake 1 recently and didn’t appreciate the Lovecraftian aspect of it through previous play-throughs, it’s a really good game.
I really like the Silent Hill, Resident Evil games, and Stalker and Metro 2033.
Also, shout-out to Skyrim too for Jeremy Soule’s ambiance.
As well as your own output, you curate a number of Viking and Pagan-inspired playlists on YouTube. What artists do you recommend to fans of Herknungr and other, similar heathen folk projects?
There are quite a lot of artists now which I really like.
So yeah, Danheim, Wardruna, Ulf Söderberg, Heilung, Munknörr, Forndom, Fuimadane, Osi and the Jupiter and Sowulo. Just to mention a few.
Herknungr’s ÆngleTribe is available to stream now on Bandcamp. A new album is in the works, although no release date has been set yet. Herknungr let us know 30 minutes of music has already been written.