Kjaerbye: "I hope I can stay in North, I believe in this team and my future here"
We sat down with Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye after North lifted the DreamHack Open Sevilla trophy in Spain, where the Danish lurker talked about a rough year for North, his past and personal growth, and what's to come.
North had a rough year with several roster changes, including three different in-game leaders, and were unable to make it out of the group stage of a tournament all season long. Finally at their last event of the year the Danes were able to lift a trophy, albeit at the smaller DreamHack Open Sevilla tournament in Spain.
Kjaerbye walked us through North's year, including his personal disappointment when Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså decided to move on and leave his transition to in-game leadership behind. The Danish player also had an introspective moment in which he gave us an insight into his personal growth since leaving Astralis, which ties into his great run of form as of late, and ended by talking about North's plans to kickstart 2020.
Let's start low and go high. You've had a tough season, you played quite a few Big Events and weren't able to make it to playoffs. DreamHack Open Sevilla is a bit smaller than what you're used to, but you did manage to win it. Is it a consolation to at least end with a win?
Yeah, it's been a bit of a rough season for us. Actually, the whole year, I would say. Looking back, we were close to making playoffs at several Big Events, but that doesn't matter now because we didn't reach them in the end. It doesn't matter how close we were, when you look back at the year you look at the results and the way we were playing, and for the most part, it just wasn't good enough. That's no secret. It was also a tough season for us with a lot of changes in the organization, the roster, three different callers and playstyles to get used to, so it feels really good to end the year with a win at this DreamHack. We're still not there yet, and although this makes us happy, we want to be even better.
Losing valde, a star player turned in-game leader, could arguably be the biggest change to the roster this year, how has the team evolved since?
Gade really wants to be a caller, he's putting in a lot of hours and it's a really long process, and against the teams here it worked out. When it comes to leading, valde had a really good personality, especially thinking long-term and in his career, but he wasn't done being the star player. I totally understand that, because he's still really young, but I think that with more time and if he really wanted to at this point in his career we could have become a really good team.
It was a huge blow for me that he didn't want to keep calling because I was really comfortable with his playstyle and I think we played well. We've been working hard with Gade as an in-game leader, but we lost too many games and the results haven't been anywhere close to where we want them to be. There are a lot of mixed emotions right now, I'm not sure about how we're going to approach it yet. It'll be great to have some time off.
You've been in really great form, personally, even when the team has struggled. Is that at least a bit of consolation for you?
I've learned that only team results matter to me. A lot of things happened in my career, back in Astralis we had role clashes and I had been an entryfragger my whole career up to that point, so I didn't believe I could be a lurker. This year, when things weren't going well, I decided that I wanted to try and learn something new because that's what the team needed me to do when valde moved to the leading role, and I really ended up loving it. I don't mind what role I play, but if I can be an aggressive lurker, or play aggressively on the CT sides, that's where I think I can have the most impact. I'm happy that I can play any role, I've developed more as a player and now I like learning new things.
You touched a bit on your time in Astralis and the role clashes. You tweeted at some point about letting early success get to your head. How has that experience shaped you?
It has shaped me not just as a player, but also as a person, and I believe I have matured a lot. When I was younger I wanted to be a leader and have more impact, but looking back I was just a kid. I felt happy with the people in Astralis and my life there, I'm not sure why I was in such a rush, to be honest. I looked at myself in third person, not looking at feelings or emotions, just to do what was going to be best for my career, and at the time I believed it was going to be in North because we were struggling and I didn't know if I could be a lurker. Looking back there have been huge downs and a few ups along the way, I've always been a very sensitive guy that needs to stay true to his feelings, but I've learned the hard way on my own because nobody had any impact on my decisions.
It was the road I chose, the hard road, because I put too much responsibility on myself, but as I'm slowly getting older and more experienced I feel more well-rounded and calmer as a person. I now take things a bit slower, I think more, and you can maybe also see that in the game. I may not be there yet and I want to keep learning, but I really hope to stay with North because the organization has been really good lately, there have been a lot of improvements. We just need to take it many steps up as a team. Now we're going to go on vacation, then I'll come home to renegotiate my contract with the organization, where I've been for two years, and I really hope I can stay. I really believe in this team and my future here.
Have you thought at all about 2020? Anything you're particularly looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to the Major in Brazil, first of all. Right now I need some time to reflect on the whole season, both about the team and myself. Previously in my career I talked too much, to be honest. It's okay to dream, I'm a dreamer, but don't say it out loud before you can prove it or you achieve something because otherwise you look silly, like I did when things weren't working out. That just adds extra pressure on me and my teammates and I'm not that guy, I don't think I was, it was just a phase in my life in which I wasn't acting like myself, although that's no excuse.
Now I just want to go on vacation with my girlfriend, relax, see my family for Christmas, my friends for New Year's, and then be 110% ready for next season. We're going to have a bootcamp because our first goal is going to be to earn a spot in Katowice through the qualifiers and that's going to require a lot of individual skill. We'll have to be ready quickly after the vacation.