Nicholay Hovland

Metal guitars, vocals, mixing

Nicholay Hovland on SoundBetter

I specialize in Scandinavian Extreme Metal with professional experience and relentless passion.

Well met, and welcome to my profile!

For those looking for an extreme and merciless Nordic sound in their metal for 20$ an hour, I offer session musicianship, mixing, songwriting, production, and more. Maybe you need a cold riff or two, or perhaps a hearty growl. Whatever it is, feel free to ask!

I care deeply about the quality of my work, and I believe that quality is best achieved through skill, knowledge, and passion. I've learned a great deal from the musicians and producers I've had the great fortune of working with, and I look forward to putting it to good use in your projects!

I'll always edit and adjust as necessary. I like to send away processed and unprocessed files for your convenience, and I prefer for them to be ready-to-go in your mix as you recieve them.

Please listen to my uploaded track for an idea of what you might expect.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Contact me through the green button above and let's get to work.

Interview with Nicholay Hovland

  1. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  2. A: Q: What did I do to this or that instrument to make it sound like that? A: Usually, it's a matter of much trial and failure. For guitars, I like to spend some time with each guitar to learn its sweet spots, its ideal picking positions, where the volume knob sounds best (it actually makes a huge difference) and even whether a metal pick sounds better for this or that take. Long story short: I experiment like mad. Q: Can I make this or that instrument sound like (other band's) this or that instrument? A: With some research, I can usually land in the ballpark, but I recommend sculpting a sound for the given project. I spent a long time recreating (with some success) At The Gates' Slaughter of the Soul guitar tone, and there are very few places where it works (but it works perfectly on that album). Q: Do you work with presets and templates? A: Sometimes, but I prefer not to if I've got the time. Q: What's your rate? A: Currently, it's at 20$/hour.

  3. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  4. A: As I like to brag about, I worked on Immortal's Northern Chaos Gods together with Herbrand Larsen and Arve Isdalen in Conclave and Earshot studios. I worked as a "hired gun" as they called me, and for the most part, I did recordings. I was the most involved in the vocal recordings. It turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated; one has to determine the quality of the recordings, how to get the best performances out of the artist, what might interact with the performance, which compromises to do in regards to edits and how to interact with the vocalist in a way that doesn't psychologically impair their ability to perform at a top level. And also, of course, when to squeeze a little extra out of the performance and when to move on. As I had never been involved with a project of that scope before, I was hyper-vigilant and noticed so many nuances of the recording process that I had previously been oblivious to. I also checked the files at least fifty times before sending them off to Peter Tägtgren, which, in and of itself, felt insane to me.

  5. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  6. A: A melodic death metal project with friends from all over Scandinavia, a personal project with my girlfriend, and a few interesting tunes that I can't wait to see the results of.

  7. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  8. A: My friend, Kristian Brynjulfsen, is great at authentic old Norse instruments, viking-esque techniques and music.

  9. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  10. A: Very hard to say. It's fun to work with the limitations of all-analog gear, and I've translated the idea of commitment into my digital work. Sometimes, it's very hard to replicate just how imperfect analog gear can be, and then it's better to just use it (if that's what I'm going for). For the most part, though, I like to work in digital, because it saves a lot of time and money, and the difference in quality is either double-edged, negligible or virtually non-existent (again, it depends on the specific gear).

  11. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  12. A: That I take each and every gig seriously, and that I never, ever, want to deliver crap. I promise to care as deeply as I can about your project, and to give it everything I've got. I also promise to say if the project is slightly beyond my scope, and if I doubt whether I'm the right man for the particular job.

  13. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  14. A: When I'm about to export the file and I give the track one final listen just to appreciate all the work that has gone into that moment, and when I get to meet new people with interesting visions and stories that they want to bring into their projects.

  15. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  16. A: That I'm just a craftsman. Session musicians, mixers and producers aren't (and shouldn't be) robots. It takes sensitivity and passion to tune into the music and give it what it needs, almost irrespective of role. In the case of a mixer, imagine the artistic difference between playing a chord with a piano and a string pad. The main difference is that they sound different, there's no set formula that determines a good mix from a bad one. The same principle holds true of everyone involved in the music; so many things contribute to the final sound, and if you don't consider the guitar tone on In Flames' Clayman a work of art, we can't be friends.

  17. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  18. A: What do you want your finished product to be like? What is important to you in my role? What kind of person are you, and what are your interests and inspirations? And, of course: what's your budget?

  19. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  20. A: Make sure that the provider has seen your vision, that they share your enthusiasm for it. That's the only reliable way to have people contribute to your vision and accomplish their roles within - but don't be afraid of an evolving vision either. And make sure that they're not just looking to put you in a box and be done with it; that's how music genres get stale. If care has not been taken to attune the mix, the playing styles, the voice with its articulations (etc.) to the specifics of the song, it has not been performed or treated with passion. Make sure that you work with someone who cares - they'll want for your project to sound good.

  21. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  22. A: My laptop, my soundcard, my 2000s Charvel San Dimas Star, an SM57, and a lot of snus.

  23. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  24. A: I've been doing this for about 11-16 years. I started playing guitar around the age of 10, and at the age of 15, I started recording my own and others' music, first with shitty 8-track recorders and then Pro Tools. At high school, where I enrolled in media studies, I specialized in audio and met my best friends to this day - we'd hand each other our mp3-players and show the music we'd made the night before, and I still have thousands of audio files from those days. We learned our craft, and years later, we'd enroll in Noroff where we studied sound- and music production. Here, Enslaved's Herbrand Larsen and Arve Isdalen were teachers. Herbrand was generally happy with my work, and so I ended up routinely working in his studio, Conclave and Earshot, where I met and worked with many of my idols in the Norwegian metal scene. In this period of time, two memories stick out; when I was brought in with Sylvia Massy over a 2-day period to work with some local bands, and when I recorded guitars and vocals with Demonaz for Immortal's Northern Chaos Gods (duties were split between me, Herbrand and Arve). It was in this period of time that I landed my first gig as a session guitarist, where I worked for Tom Cato Visnes (Abbath, Gorgoroth). Recently, I've worked on my own projects, and they turned out to be quite demanding of my skills. On the other side of it, I decided to expand my professional horizons to a wider world than just Bergen, Norway.

  25. Q: How would you describe your style?

  26. A: Vivid, animated, everything opposite to sterile. Punchy, aggressive, full. For my not-so-serious projects, I would describe them as dark but fun; they tend to be ironic celebrations of having a good time.

  27. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  28. A: Devin Townsend. He's a creative genius with little-to-no-restraints, unlimited talent and unlimited ideas. He's also a great dude, and come on, who wouldn't want to work with Devin Townsend?

  29. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  30. A: A great vision is everything, a vision that you care so deeply about that you need to show it to the world. And that you're willing to spend months (or even years) polishing.

  31. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  32. A: Scandinavian/Nordic Extreme Metal genres (death, thrash, black, etc.).

  33. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  34. A: Vision.

  35. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  36. A: I bring colors, vision and feel to a song. I am intimately familiar with the subgenres I specialize in, so I can draw from a pool of historical awareness, learn from the failures and successes of my idols, and use intimate knowledge to get the results the project needs. I make sure that everything I do comes from both the heart and the soul.

  37. Q: What's your typical work process?

  38. A: My general routine is to wake up, have breakfast, and work until it's about three hours 'til bedtime. For songwriting, and depending on whether the budget allows, I like to begin with researching various music and imagery that fits the vibe I'm going for. Then I tune a sound (often a guitar) that fits. Then I just write. If I'm out of ideas, I go for a walk in the woods and I don't return until I hear a melody in my head that I want to write down. I don't like to take breaks from a project until it's finished. For lyrics, I just take a notepad with me at all times until I think I've got enough material. Then I write it down digitally and edit and record until it's right. For mixing, I like to first make sure that the "sound" is there; DI-guitars are re-amped, noise is attenuated, etc. For more polished productions, I also edit (but I prefer not to grid-align everything; it makes the mix sound boring). Then I like to begin with the levels, panning, EQs and compressors, making sure that the various instruments fit well together. After I've made sure that the mix is punchy and consistent, I fine-tune things until it sounds great and balanced. I take frequent breaks, and prefer to give the mix the "day-after" test, re-mix, and then the "week-after" test. I always mix with references. As a producer, I like to get to know my clients very well, and I prefer not to use external engineers and unnecessary crew. I spend a lot of time "honing in" on the vision, and then I like to advice everything that goes on; from song-structure to harmony, I always have an ideal end-product in mind. The artist is fundamentally the master of the project, and it is their own decision whether or not my advice is sound. As the artist-producer, I'm in my ideal environment. I get to use all my various skills in synergy with eachother, and I can create an ideal structure for the entirety of the project.

  39. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  40. A: I have various locations where I like to do my work. My main mixing station is a primarily in-the-box environment with more instruments than I can afford, various amps, mics, tape-recorders and other sound toys. Other times I like to borrow dedicated studios for particularly loud sessions, other times I like to record acoustic guitars in the nearby forests. These days, I primarily work in Reaper. I greatly prefer Pro Tools when it works and doesn't include shady business tactics and all sorts of sacrifices to ancient Gods just to successfully export, but the last time I checked...

  41. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  42. A: Producers that inspired me include Sylvia Massy, Herbrand Larsen and Dan Swanö. Sylvia is an extremely talented, creative and nice lady, and her approach of "going wild" in the studio never ceases to inspire. Working with her was a joy. Herbrand Larsen was my teacher at Noroff, and for a period of time I engineered in his studio, Conclave and Earshot. He is a very intelligent producer, and I admire him for his personality and ability to mix with attitude. Dan Swanö is the type of self-producer-turned-producer that I admire both for his music and his strides towards developing the Scandinavian metal sound.

  43. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  44. A: In general, I find the lines between the roles (such as session musician, engineer and producer) blurry. As a session musician, I often engineer my own sound. My most frequent professional role is engineer, and I most frequently record guitars and vocals. I always like to get to know my clients well and what they're "going for"; their inspirations and their imagery. This has never failed to be of great help, particularly when dealing with the more creative clients.

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Demo for Soundbetter.com

I was the only person involved in this production

Terms Of Service

We'll discuss a price and an amount of time. I generally take 20$ for every hour spent on the project, and I always stick to the agreed price unless the plan changes. Smaller revisions are free.

GenresSounds Like
  • Dan Swanö
  • Johannes Eckerstrom
  • Johan Hegg
Gear Highlights
  • Custom Birchwood Guitar
  • Charvel San Dimas Star
  • GTX Bass
  • Pedersen Acoustic Guitar
More Photos