Sigurd Wongraven a.k.a. Satyr (vocals, guitars, bass and synths) and Kjetil Haraldstad a.k.a. Frost (drums and percussion) are in their late twenties now - unbelievably young, in fact, given that they celebrate this year the 10th anniversary of their band SATYRICON. Although it was actually in 1991 that Satyr put down the basis of SATYRICON, 1992 saw the first demo ("Satyricon") and Frost joining in, and that was exactly 10 years ago. Even though they were a band with "full" line-up at the time, soon it proved that only the two of them are enough to carry on and create some of the greatest music in the Black Metal genre; so SATYRICON was ever after to be thought of as a duo. In 1993 a second demo ("The Forest Is My Throne", re-released in 1995 as a split with ENSLAVED) was recorded and next year No Fashion Records signed the band, but due to heavy financial problems during the recording sessions for the debut album ("Dark Medieval Times"), Tatra Records bought the master tape. In order to differentiate from the mostly industrial and electro-oriented releases of Tatra, a sub-label was started, which gradually became independent, and that was Satyr's own Moonfog Productions. After this a bit hard beginning, many extraordinary albums carrying the brand of SATYRICON followed, namely "The Shadowthrone" (1994), "Nemesis Divina" (1996), "Megiddo" (EP, 1997), "Intermezzo II" (EP, 1999), "Rebel Extravaganza" (1999), and the band was established as one of the leading forces in Norwegian Metal. Going up the spiral of success, they became recently also one of the very first Black Metal bands to sign a deal with a major label, namely EMI. In the meantime, both musicians never confined themselves to one band only. Satyr has been involved, to name but a few, with STORM ("Nordavind", 1995), together with Herr Nagel (Gylve Nagell, a.k.a. Fenriz from DARKTHRONE) and Kari Rueslaatten (ex-THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL); WONGRAVEN ("Fjelltronen", 1995), his solo project, where Ihsahn (ex-EMPEROR) can also be heard on grand piano and synths; Eibon, with Phil Anselmo (PANTERA), Fenriz (DARKTHRONE) and Killjoy (NECROPHAGIA); THORNS, where he performed guest vocals, etc. Frost, on the other hand, has played with a.o. ZYKLON-B ("Blood Must Be Shed", 1995) with Samoth (ex-EMPEROR), Ihsahn (ex-EMPEROR) and Aldrahn (DHG); on the GORGOROTH albums "Antichrist" and "Destroyer"; now with 1349... 10 years in the scene: a lot of time, and also a lot of things to look back to. SATYRICON's anniversary will be naturally celebrated with the retrospective album "Ten Horns - Ten Diadems". Including two songs from each album (except the debut and the EP "Megiddo", which are represented with one each), many of them remastered, this compilation has also one exclusive track ('Serpent's Rise') and an important thread to the future - the song 'Repined Bastard Nation', from the fifth, brand new full-length album "Volcano". The anniversary album, the past, present and future of Norway's greatest Black Metal band ever, and first details about "Volcano" - these are some of the things we talked about with Frost - a man as cultured and polite as very few are...
SATYRICON's 10-year-anniversary album "Ten Horns - Ten Diadems" is out now... First of all, why did you choose that title?
"It sounds majestic, it has a relevance to darkness - the beast is symbolized by ten horns and ten diadems in the book of revelations - and is furthermore a reference to our ten years of musical activity. What more fitting title could there be for the album?"
And how did you choose which songs to include?
"We just tried to pick the most significant and representative songs from the different albums, in order to sum up our musical history the best way possible, and hint a little about what the future will bring, too. It’s impossible to say whether the collection is optimal; luckily, there is no bad material to pick from!"
What is the story behind 'Serpent's Rise', which appears for the first time now?
"It was originally intended to be the opening song for “Volcano”, but plans were altered. It is a very strange and dark piece of music, and it would have been a shame not to release it. Putting it on “Ten Horns…” was the only natural thing to do, as we anyway wanted there to be one exclusive track on that album."
'Repined Bastard Nation' is a song from "Volcano". Why did you choose it for the anniversary album?
"It is a track that is quite easy to get into, and, since it is also an outstandingly great song, it was a wise choice for the compilation album. Anyway, when there are several strong and representative songs to choose between, you will just have to pick one, won’t you?"
So how do you feel now, after ten years in the scene?
"I feel comfortable about using the cliché “stronger that ever”. SATYRICON is highly vital and powerful, a fact that bears evidence of our dedication and will. Growing success is a natural result of our focused work and increasing musical strength, and we can handle it. We have never made any compromises with the band, and that is the way it’s going to stay."
What was, according to you, SATYRICON's greatest moment up to now?
"I really can’t tell. The release of “Rebel Extravaganza” was undoubtedly an important event, as will be the release of “Volcano”."
How far do you think has SATYRICON made it from 1992 till 2002?
"To measure something as abstract as that is difficult; the obvious facts are, however, that today we are a band with much authority, a band that set standards, and we are deeply respected in many different environments - also apart from the Black Metal scene - for our strong artistic integrity and high level of quality. It seems like it is due time to start harvesting the fruits of all those years of dedicated work."
Taking a look at the past, is there anything you're sorry for?
"No. We have definitely made decisions that have turned out not to be the best for the band, but at the time of making them, those decisions seemed to be the right ones."
And taking a look at the future, what do you wish for?
"To make an impact, expand and grow stronger. I hope to see SATYRICON turning into a beast of vast proportions - nothing less."
The next step in that direction should be your new album "Volcano". What should we expect from it?
"Strong, dark atmospheres, coldness, eeriness - you can expect “Volcano” to invoke this in you. This album is mostly about powerful and quite straightforward Black Metal, with some Thrash and Hardrock elements thrown in. Don’t bother so much with how it eventually differs from the other albums or what means are used to make the music - “Volcano” is a journey to the deepest dark, you just have to let it take you there!"
In fact, why were both "Ten Horns - Ten Diadems" and "Volcano" delayed so much?
"Mostly because the mix was delayed to such an extent. First we waited for a long time in order to get Joe Baresi, whom Satyr strongly wanted to work with, to help us with the mix - he was full-booked and therefore we just had to wait until he could do it. We got an appointment with him, but then, when two months of waiting had passed, it became evident he was double-booked. So we just had to start the process of finding a suitable technician again… Luckily, at last we ended up with Jeff “Critter” who did a splendid work with the mix."
How do you feel now working with a major label, EMI?
"It seems like the cooperation is working well, but, since Satyr handles the communication between band and label, I don’t know that much about the current situation. We’ll see how good support EMI can give us when "Volcano" is released and we start touring. Anyway, getting signed on a major label that gives us 100% artistic freedom is really an accomplishment for a strictly non-commercial Black Metal band!"
SATYRICON is, indeed, one of the first Black Metal band on a big label, but it might become a trend - CRADLE OF FILTH also got a deal with Sony... What do you think of the directions the Black Metal scene is taking in general?
"The wrong kind of bands is shaping the scene to a large extent, and this is not at all fortunate. A general conception of Black Metal being mostly harmonic and pompous music totally without an edge is the opposite of how I want it to be, but this seems to be the situation today. OK, so fuck the general misconception; I focus on what interests me, and truly the scene is still very strong. SATYRICON aside, there is excellent musical art being made by bands like MAYHEM, FURZE, CARPATHIAN FOREST, ENSLAVED, THORNS, DARKTHRONE, 1349, AURA NOIR, GORGOROTH, KHOLD and many others. So Black Metal can’t really be on the totally wrong track, even if there are tons of shit being released as "Black Metal" every day!"
What has changed in the scene in general, according to you, for the ten years you've been witnessing that scene as an insider?
"Increased popularity and knowledge of the musical genre Black Metal have inevitably lead to this, that the obscure, mysterious feeling that was connected to Black Metal before has gone. It used to be a real happening when a new Black Metal album was released; now Black Metal releases are a run-of-the-mill affair. It’s not exciting anymore, much due to the fact that 98% of the releases are pure shit. Then, the focus has moved from actions done by people connected to the Black Metal scene, to the music itself. This latter development is, of course, fortunate for the scene."
Controversy, extravagance, progress, extremity - these are words that are often mentioned in connection with SATYRICON. Your comment on them?
"What could I say about this? These words are all rightfully mentioned in connection with SATYRICON!"
Over the years, many session musicians have played in SATYRICON (e.g. Ted Skjellum a.k.a. Kveldulv or Nocturno Culto from DARKTHRONE with guitars on "Nemesis Divina", Samoth from EMPEROR with guitars on "The Shadowthrone", Snorre W. Ruch from THORNS on "Rebel Extravaganza", etc.). Whom in particular did you enjoy the most working with?
"Kveldulv and Richard "Daemon" Cabeza (bass, ex-DISMEMBER) did in particular fit in SATYRICON… too bad the cooperation couldn’t last. Anyway, I feel more than fine with the line-up for the live band as it is today. Both Azarak (Steinar Gundersen, lead guitar) and Lars (Lars Norberg, bass) are magnificent and dedicated people that it is a true pleasure to work with. Hopefully we will get people of their calibre to fill the two remaining roles."
Please say a couple of words, now from the distance of time and at the point of looking back with the anniversary album, on each of the SATYRICON releases:
"Perfect aggression, coldness and darkness. "Rebel Extravaganza" is state-of-the-art Black Metal."
"Our first audible sign after almost three years in the creative pit. Most noteworthy on this release is the insane fury of 'I.N.R.I.', the SARCOFAGO classic, and the mysterious darkness invoked by 'Blessed From Below'. I like this release a lot."
"Our most experimental release. Especially the (Apoptygma Berzerk) remix of 'The Dawn Of A New Age' has been a bit hard to swallow by many fans, including me, but I still think “Megiddo” is a good mini album."
"Brutal and intense Black Metal. I am particularly satisfied with the guitar work on this album."
“The Shadowthrone” sounds majestic and Norse above all, but is definitely a Black Metal album, rather than a Viking Metal one."
"Dark Medieval Times"
"A damn fine debut album; the whole thing is LOADED with a weird kind of darkness. The album set some standards back at the time of its release."
"The Forest Is My Throne"
"Primitive and barbaric Black Metal, BATHORY-style. This demo is fucking great, even if the drums sound like being handled by a hippopotamus, or some other animal lacking anything close to rhythmical sense!"
Oh - so when did you first start playing the drums?
"In 1989. I didn’t start to rehearse seriously before late ’92, though, when I joined SATYRICON."
That explains "The Forest..." - case... And when do you think you'll stop playing music - if ever?
"It’s totally useless thinking in terms like that."
What do you do in your everyday life, apart from SATYRICON?
"I study at a college, then I work at a gas station in order to pay my bills… I exercise quite a lot, and rehearse almost every day. There’s not much time left to do other things, but I am soon finishing my studies, so that will change the situation quite a bit. I like to wander in the forest, and that is one of those things I will do more regularly when getting the time to do so."
How exactly did it happen that you decided to play full-time with 1349 [the current line-up comprising you on drums, Ravn (vocals), Archaon (guitar), Tjalve (guitar) and Seidemann (bass)]? By the way, does the band name have anything to do with the Black Death, the great plague epidemy of that year?
"When it dawned upon me what a force 1349 really was, I decided to join the band. It’s pure Black Metal hell! It suits me perfectly to play in one band that is all about controlled hatred and discipline playing-wise, and one that is all about sheer brutality and violent intensity. The moniker 1349 has everything to do with the Black Death, it symbolizes the arrival of darkness, death and grimness."
When should "Liberation" (the debut album of 1349) be out?
"Sometime this autumn."
Do you currently take part in any other musical projects?
"Apart from the mentioned two? Not really, but I’ll record the drums for the next GEHENNA album, which will, by the way, be magnificent."
How would you define those ten years in the world of music in only, say, 3 words?
"Ingenious dark creativity."
Shortly after we published the interview above, "Volcano" finally got released, so here's a little update with Frost, focusing on the new record and tour activities of SATYRICON...
First of all, congratulations on the European release of "Volcano"!
"Oh, thanks a lot!"
How have the reactions to the album been so far?
"We've got reactions from the Nordic countries only, because that was the first place where "Volcano" was released. We were certain that the reception will be good, but it was even better than we hoped for! We are more than satisfied, and we also feel that this time people are getting the album much faster than was the case with our previous releases, which, I think, is a positive sign."
"Volcano" has an incredibly dark feeling. How did you accomplish that?
"It is a wish and the ability to fullfil it, and the hard work you put into it. We have a composer who has the ability to project his own very dark wishes and thoughts into the music, meaning Satyr, and also the two of us having the spirit and the attitude that is demanded to take it all the way to a finished album. We have been working tremendously hard, and we had all along the passion that is needed to make an album with such a strong feeling."
It seems to me the music is more minimalistic than on, say, "Rebel Extravaganza".
"Yeah, that is true. It was a definite point for us to make the album a lot simpler, the reason for that being that we wanted to pour that dark element over the music. And in order for us to make that come through even more clear than we've ever done it before, we had to make the music as simple as possible. Everything was going to serve that main purpose, the uplifting dark atmosphere. If the music has a lot of what you could call unnecessary details, that will steal attention away from the feeling. If you listen to "Volcano" now, you're not going to concentrate on how the music is performed technically and musically; we wanted the atmosphere to grasp you immediately and to stay that way throughout the entire album, so we stripped it of all effects and all details that didn't help create the atmosphere, which is the wholeness of "Volcano"."
'Fuel For Hatred' is a song many of your older fans will be surprised with...
"Well, perhaps - I don't know. It actually seems to be a track that even many old-school people like, because it has these old-school rock elements in it. To me it seems that we have succeeded in many aspects with that song. No negative remarks so far, actually."
There is also a video for 'Fuel For Hatred'.
"Oh, that's something! We've had it in our tourbus for a week or so now and we have watched it several times and it's simply blowing us away! That video is so monumental, so very much what we wanted, that we feel a very deep level of satisfaction with it. It's like a constant attack of aggression and intensity, and the scenery makes up for a very strong kind of darkness. It's everything we could have wished for, and we had the best man in the world to do a video for us - Jonas Åkerlund (famous for his work with Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Madonna, Prodigy, etc.; he was also the drummer on the first BATHORY album) - with his background and his skill... I think it's an honour for us to have worked with a guy like him. It's a victory every time that we get to work with the best people, who could have made a lot of money working with something else! I understand that this is something Jonas had a very strong feeling about, he strictly WANTED to do that video and he wanted to make it really GOOD - and he has done it, so many thanks to him for that! Have you seen it? No, of course you haven't, just a few people have so far, but they are astonished, I can tell you!"
So how is it going to be released?
"We will release it on VHS and DVD, but in what sort of package, that's still a bit uncertain. We have thought about releasing it on DVD with a couple of songs that we recorded for "Volcano", but we didn't get to fit in on the album... Or perhaps it will be released on a "Fuel For Hatred" single, or EP or something... There are many possibilities, but we will release it in one way or another, that's for sure."
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
"I think I'll have to mention two - 'Repined Bastard Nation' and 'Mental Mercury'. These are the two songs that make the strongest impact on me as I am now. I love the entire album, but these ones... What about you? What do you think about the album? Do you have any favourites?"
I loved 'Black Lava' and 'Angstridden', and I also like 'Mental Mercury' a lot... But I must say that 'Fuel For Hatred' was the one I couldn't quite come up with.
"Well, it sticks out in a way... It's a lot shorter and more direct, it has a different kind of dynamics than the other tracks... The idea of it is like being run over by some very large machine."
Maybe I'll get it at some later point of listening... To change the topic for a moment, the photos in the booklet have been taken in Iceland, right?
"Yes, we were in Iceland in December last year. They are shot in different locations - we rented a car and drove as far as we could before it gets dark. We tried to find places that looked coherent with the idea we had for the pictures. We wanted them to be very strict, and hard, and cold, and dark. I think we have succeeded - they are just like we imagined them to be. We also worked with the make-up and the clothing in order to get that kind of strict, simple line. We had a very competent guy to take the shots - it's the same one who took the "Rebel Extravagnza" pictures (Marcel Lelienhof), he really understands our way of working."
And what is the idea behind the snake on the cover?
"At first, we had to choose from several alternatives, and pick the best one. Among these we wanted a picture of a snake taken form an angle just above the head - so that one looked exactly the way we wanted to have it. It turned out it's the one we also wanted to use, it had the cover-quality to it. The snake is a very apparent symbol of darkness. Furthermore, it is a being of nature, and a very dark one. It has got an evil touch... It fits the organic sound and the darkness of the album perfectly!"
Looking a bit back, what was the studio experience like this time?
"The studio itself (Puk Studios in Denmark, and partly Barracuda in Norway) was the best equipped studio we've ever been in - a state-of-the-art mixing console and everything else we needed. The recording process itself was initially what has always been the case, but we were stressed with the element of perfection even more this time. We have gotten much better, but we still strive for more... We had a bit of a problem with the technical side of it, however, because the engineer we were at first working with was an American, and after the September attacks in the States last year he had some sort of a breakdown and didn't feel capable of working with anything that had negativity and darkness in it. So he basically just let us hang - we had made a lot of takes with him, and he had worked with us in his own way, so finding a new technical engineer wasn't an easy task. It was like starting all over again... But we found a very skilled and competent person in Critter later. That delayed the whole thing quite a lot, but it's all been because of the strive for perfection, all along the line. So that' s the basic story behind the recording work this time."
How did it happen that you have a guest appearance by Anja Garbarek (daughter of the world-famous Jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek) on "Volcano"?
"She was chosen after going through quite a lot of names. Satyr visualized the kind of voice that he wanted on certain themes of the album, and looking for that voice he found it on a solo record by Anja Garbarek - she's actually quite a known artist here in Norway. He contacted her, and it turned out that she was more than willing to do the task. Finally, getting in the studio, she felt very inspired and motivated. I think it was very interesting and fascinating for her to do that, and very exciting as well - she devoted herself totally to the task at hand. She managed to bring forth some elements of herself that she didn't know she was capable of, or didn't know she possessed at all! Originally, what Satyr wanted from her was a contribution of a very naked, bizzare kind of female voice, but she even managed to bring forth a very dominant, dark-sounding voice on the 'Black Lava' theme. I think it all sounds very good, very mysterious and has that nice little touch to it that we wanted."
And how about Erik Ljunggren of Zeromancer?
"He was working with us as an engineer. He had to deal with the technical things around producing the album, that's where he came into the picture."
Now you are on tour with KHOLD. As far as I know, both you and Satyr like this band very much...
"Ah, that is true! They deserve all the credits you can think of. It's a band that is very healthy for the scene to have. It sounds very old-school in a HELLHAMMER-ish or BATHORY-ish kind of way, but also has a modern, unique touch to it. I like it a lot, it's ingenious! It fits to SATYRICON very well, too - both bands have some sort of a rock basis, but sound completely different and that is very good."
By the way, what is the live line-up of SATYRICON, except you on drums and Satyr as vocalist?
"We have kept the lead guitar player from the "Rebel Extravaganza" tours (Steinar Gundersen). We are very happy with the capacity he has and I think he feels at home with the band. We are most satisfied with having him there. I guess he will remain a permanent member of the SATYRICON live line-up. Our bass player (Lars K. Norberg) is from Spiral Architect, a very technical progressive Metal band from Norway. He is the best bass player I have ever witnessed play - at least this kind of music. He's just terrific, he's monumental in his way of playing and his steadiness! There's also the rhythm guitar player (A.O. Gronbech), whom we found through auditions. He used to play in a Black Metal band here in Norway, called Keep of Kalessin, but I believe it's now a finished project. He is professional to the bone and fits very well in the band. We also currently have a session synth player. Ivar Peersen from Enslaved was handling the keyboards for us at the summer festivals, but he had to go back to Enslaved and focus on their work. However, he knew someone that he recommended very strongly - he said the guy was an even better keyboard player than himself, playing in Malignant Eternal from Bergen, Norway... We also found that he was good enough, so he is doing the keys for us now. It's definitely the best live line-up that we've ever had!"
Has anything crazy happened on the road so far?
"I wouldn't say so... I can't think of any particular thing that would strike me as crazy. There has been just one incident - on the Rockefeller gig (in Oslo, Norway) there was this stupid guy who threw a beer at the mixing console and ruined 8 of the channels - it cost 1.2 million Norwegian crowns to repair it afterwards - he spoiled so much at the most important show on this tour! Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get hold of him - his life would have been shortened quite a bit if that had happened! There has been some beer spilling in the light mixer in Turku, Finland, as well... People just have to stop throwing all these beers around - it seems they don't realize there's a lot of technical equipment surrounding them. It's very sad that things like that happen and that there are people who ruin a show like that! But the overall response from our concerts has been totally good and that's what is important."
You will be having just one concert in Germany... Why?
"Oh, it's too early to say. We are working right now putting up a tour, but we are having some difficulties - there are too many short notices and so on... I don't think we will end up doing just one show in Germany, but so far only a club in Hamburg has given a decent offer. It may happen that we will delay the whole thing a bit in order to put up a much better tour, in a better time and with a better organization."
Talking about organization, are you happy with the support of your new label, Capitol, so far?
"Yes, they have done quite a lot to put up the Nordic tour, and also about the availability of the album - that is a result of the very good distribution system that Capitol / EMI has got, which we can make use of now. We had about 10 concerts in Norway and there have been a lot of people on all of them, and sales in the Nordic countries have been overwhelming as well, so seemingly the co-operation with EMI is carrying fruits. What we can say so far, is that it's very good both for the label and for us that the contract came about. Besides, they are not interfering with our musical or artistic work - they are rather providing us with a very strong support, which is just what we need."
What comes next on your schedule now?
"After we are finished with the Nordic tour, we'll start working on the European one. As I said, I'm not sure if it will happen in November and December, or it will be delayed a bit. That is the next thing, and we will also be looking after the video matters. Live activity - that is the key word, I guess."
If there is anything you'd like to add...
"Oh, there are always books to write about those things you have on your mind... but that's not the time to start such a large subject, so I'd better leave it with the talking there."
And I'm sure these books would be fascinating to read, but until then we'll spend our time enjoying "Volcano"... A masterpiece as it is.
Both interviews: Deni Petrounova
Originally published by WALLS OF FIRE, so all copyright goes out to them!
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