OLD FUNERAL is surely better known because of the musicians who played with them rather than for its music. People quite often don’t find this band so interesting, but I would disagree with them… Listen carefully to the first demo "Abduction Of Limbs", and you’ll hear that it’s far better than some actual Death Metal stuff. Moreover, Tore Bratseth, the guitarist is nothing but a pure beast whose soul is totally dedicated to the god Rock’n’Roll, and he still has the flame burning after all these years… Enjoy and always say: "ALRIGHT"!!!!
Hey Tore!!!! How are you my friend? I hope that you are listening to some MOTÖRHEAD while answering this interview!!! Are you ready for the attack? Allright, let’s go!!!!!!!
"Allright! I feel fucking great! Motörhead is always with me, but right now I am listening to Black Sabbath. Hit me you bastard!"
I’d like first to hear a bit about how the young Tore Bratseth looked like back in his childhood. It seems that, thanks to your father, you get poisoned by the virus of Rock’n’Roll really early. Please tell us how you got into this music, and if your father is still involved into it.
"Yeah, my life was already ruined before I could speak. My father had all the LPs that will make your upbringing a rocking one. I can recall he had all the first Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, MC 5, Motörhead, Hawkwind, Sex Pistols etc. stuff. He was playing these records quite a lot, and of course it grew on me. He is still buying records and going to concerts yes."
You told me that you went to school with Olve (Abbath) since you were 8 years old. How were these days? Were you the only children who were so crazy about MOTÖRHEAD, BLACK SABBATH, THE BEATLES? Did you use to fuck things up, or were you quite quiet boys?
"He he, these days were quite wild. Especially Olve got quite a lot of bad remarks from the teacher in his books. I actually have a tape from 1984 when we are 11 years old from a history class and we take the total piss out of the teacher. He had to go and get the principal because we were making so much noise. Also on the same tape there is a part where me and Olve and another guy is singing ‘Shoot ‘Em Down’ by Twisted Sister. Fucking brutal shit he he. No, you can’t have the tape. Some things are meant to stay very underground. Olve along with Padden were my best friends (and still are) from childhood years."
When did you first learn to play the guitar? It must have been quite early since you were something like 17 years old when you started OLD FUNERAL. Have you played in other acts before OLD FUNERAL? What were the first songs you tried to cover on guitar?
"I bought my first guitar when I was 15, but I was rehearsing a lot. Up to 10 hours a day in the early days. I was 15 when starting OLD FUNERAL, not 17. When we started up, nobody could play at all. The first songs we tried were ‘Louie Louie’ , ‘Sepulchural Voice’ and ‘Procreation Of The Wicked’. I have the very first rehearsal from May 17, 1988 on video. Luckily nobody else has it, because I have not copied to anybody. It is bloody hilarious!!"
Was Padden also in the same school than you and Olve? You told me that he bought "Hell Awaits" and "Morbid Tales" around 1986. How did you react when hearing such a music? What pushed you to dig it more, and later to get involved into tape trading?
"Padden was at the same school as us yes, but not in the same class, because he was 2 years older than us. He was the first one of my friends to buy extreme records. I remember me and Olve looked at each other when we listened to “Hell Awaits” for the first time. It was a feeling of aggression, laughter and awe. We just laughed for minutes because we didn’t think it was possible to make such brutal music. I remember this record was listened to by maybe 6-7 people in our little village called Lysekloster. We all thought that this was the music that fitted our personalities and we started to seek more information about this kind of music. Then Padden, who was the only one with some money, bought Celtic Frost “ Morbid Tales” and Possessed “ Seven Churches”, then came “Reign In Blood” and it was no way back."
When exactly did you start OLD FUNERAL? Did you play covers in the beginning or just tried to come along with your own stuff? Was it also the first band for Olve and Padden? Did you know many other bands that played such an extreme music in Bergen at the time? Were you aware of the existence of MAYHEM in 86 / 87?
"We started on the 17th of May 1988 rehearsing in my parents basement. This is the constitution day of Norway. Old Funeral was the first band of all of us, and nobody had played any instrument before this date. The only other band that played Metal in Bergen at the time was a Thrash Metal band called EMPTOR. Erik Brødreskift (R.I.P), who played drums with Immortal on “Pure Holocaust” and with Gorgoroth also, played in this band. I became aware of Mayhem around 1986 / 87, because I read about them in a magazine. I then bought “Deathcrush” original pressing for NKR 49.50 (approximately 6 dollars) he he. This seemed to be a good investment. Yeah, we only played covers the first half year, but started making our own songs in the end of 88. The first song we made with Old Funeral is called ‘Aphis’. Olve made that."
You showed to me a video clip of a Norwegian band called SORCERY, that was heavily inspired by HELLHAMMMER and VENOM, in 1986, and that could easily be considered as a kind of DARKTHRONE (from the "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" period) 5 years before. Were you a lot in touch with this band from Bergen at the time, or did you discover it later?
"I discovered it later. As late as 1997!! It was Pez, who now plays drums in our Motörhead tribute band Bombers who one day said he had a tape I should listen to. He put the rehearsal on and I was blown away! It turned out that he had played with this band in 1986. This is probably the most obscure band from Norway. Pez told me he even had forgotten for years that he played with this band. It exists only a rehearsal and a home made video clip. It was only a duo with Pez and just one other guy, who nobody ever sees. He just lives far from other people and doesn’t like to speak to anybody. This band never played a gig. What a great band."
You told me that OLD FUNERAL was the first Metal band which recorded at Grieghallen. How did it happen? Had you already a little bit of experience in recording music? Was it Pytten who recorded and mixed it? Did you rehearse a lot since the beginning of OLD FUNERAL until you got the opportunity to record the "Abduction Of Limbs" demo in March 1990?
"Allright! Yes, we were the first. I asked my father if he knew anybody who had recording opportunities. Then it turned out that he went to school with Pytten in the old days and we called him up. He said he’d never done Metal before, but was willing to take us in the studio. It was Pytten who recorded it and mixed it together with us. The result was “Abduction Of Limbs”. We had to rehearse a lot yes. Almost every hour we had spare."
Did you often get the opportunity to play gigs in the beginning of the band ? I saw in old fanzines that you played with bands like THOU SHALT SUFFER, which was coming from Oslo. How was your relationship with the bands from Bergen like PHOBIA (pre-ENSLAVED), AMPUTATION (with Harald "Demonaz"), and the Norwegian underground in general? What did you think of the Norwegian Death Metal with bands like BALVAZ, the true MAYHEM, MOLESTED, CADAVER, THOU SHALT SUFFER, DARKTHRONE in their prime times, and so on, and how do you consider it nowadays?
"We played around 25-30 gigs altogether with Old Funeral. It was a really exciting scene back then.The one you mentioned with Thou Shalt Suffer was at a festival at Notodden in 1990. Other bands then were Balvaz, Buttocks, Thy Abhorrent and Disgrace from Finland. The festival was called “The Graveyard Gig”. Our relationship was very good with the other bands. You mentioned AMPUTATION and Harald (Demonaz). Not very many people know that he was a member in Old Funeral in the very beginning (1988) for 3 months. Padden from Old Funeral played drums in Amputation, so it was like one big family really.The bands you mention were interesting back then, but today I think only Darkthrone has kept the spirit alive. Mayhem today is definitely not the same as what it was originally. I don’t like modern Black Metal very much except a few bands like Darkthrone, Immortal, some Gorgoroth and other totally dedicated bands. I need to get the grim and aggressive feeling to get me going and the above mentioned bands still do it for me."
I know that the actual Norwegian people aren’t that much into Black Metal, but rather into traditional Hardrock and Heavy Metal. How was the situation towards Death Metal from the audience at the time when you played with OLD FUNERAL?
"The ones who understood it, liked it very well. Normal “hobby” Metal fans didn’t know what to think when they saw us. A few got turned into it, but most just looked upon it as noise which was fine with me. It’s either love us or hate us you know. We don’t care."
In fact, Olve "Captain Abbath" left OLD FUNERAL in order to form IMMORTAL, as everybody knows. How did you react when he announced his intention to quit the band? Were you already in touch with Christian Vikernes and Thorlak before Olve’s departure?
"Yes, we already knew both Thorlak and Varg before his departure. Olve was still in the band when Varg joined you know. We were of course a bit upshaken when he decided to leave, but we solved the problem by letting Padden handle the vocals which turned out just excellent. Olves last gig was The Graveyard gig I mentioned before."
How strong was the influence of the new members on the way to compose songs for the "Devoured Carcass" demo? While listening to this one, we can feel that OLD FUNERAL opted for more technical tunes this time. Were MORBID ANGEL, CARCASS and AUTOPSY big influences on you?
"Varg was a very good musician, so he participated a lot in the songwriting. Thorlak was more the lazy guy, but he was good to have in the band as well. Yes, Morbid Angel was maybe our fave band at the time, so obviously we got influenced by them."
Did you go again to Grieghallen to record this demo? How was the collaboration between the members? How did you decide that Padden would take the microphone from Olve’s departure until the end of the band? How did it happen on stage with a drummer singer?
"We went to Grieghallen to record again, but not to do a demo, but a 7” vinyl EP. Thorlak does not play on this EP as he became a member too late to learn the songs, even though he is pictured on the cover. Both, me and Padden, did the bass lines for it. Padden had been training his voice in the forest a long time for this EP. He went out in the forest just to scream and growl every day for many weeks. One time he scared the hell out of some blueberry pickers he he. They thought a total maniac was loose he he. Then the word was out in Lysekloster that him and his band were a bunch of lunatics allright!"
On some pictures of the "Grim Reaping Norway" bootleg LP, one may see that you wore corpsepaint in 1991!!!! Was it a CELTIC FROST influence, or rather because you are a KISS maniac? Ha!!!
"First of all this is not a bootleg, but an official release. It may look and sound like a bootleg but it was done that way to make it appear total underground. At that time I was very much into splatter movies, and I had this idea that I wanted to look like a rotten zombie more than traditional corpsepaint. I just wanted to look as horrible as possible basically. Fuck nice people! ARRGH!"
You told me that you slept one night at Euronymous’ shop ("Helvete"). Were you in regular touch with the guy? How did you consider him at the time? How do you see his cult status nowadays? Did he support the bands from Bergen and eventually yours?
"Yeah, we were in touch with the guy, because he helped selling our demo, t-shirt and 7” EP in his shop. He was without a doubt very dedicated to the Metal way of life and was always interested in new bands and supported everybody he considered true to the spirit. I have nothing bad to say about him at all. He was also a record collector like me, so we had much to talk about. Mayhem also borrowed our rehearsal place before the recorded “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” so I’m glad I got to see the true Mayhem live with Varg on bass!!! I don’t care if he is cult or not. What I care about is that Mayhem made some really fucking good Metal in the beginning. ‘The Freezing Moon’ is forever one of my fave Black Metal songs. It doesn’t get much darker than that."
You told me that the OLD FUNERAL demos sold quite well and quickly when they were out. Have you had some labels interested in releasing an eventual full length with you? Don’t you feel that nowadays some people tend to collect the OLD FUNERAL and AMPUTATION stuff, just because these bands featured some future IMMORTAL members, and not really because of the quality of the music?
"The Older Ones" is as you know a full length LP released by Hammerheart. But other labels were interested also at the time like Deaf Records, Witch Hunt Records, Thrash Records, Wild Rags etc. It’s true that many people maybe collect for the reason you mention, but it doesn’t deny the fact that we sold over 1000 demos in 2-3 months and the 1100 copies of the EP was sold out immediately. However I don’t blame them for collecting just because Abbath or Varg were in the band. I am a collector myself of for example Motörhead. Lemmy was in a band in 1966 called Rocking Vickers and I had never heard them, but I knew that they had a 7” single out. I had to pay 550 NKR (about 65 dollars) for it on the second hand market, but I don’t care ‘cause I need it. Although the music is 60s rock instead of the hard rocking Motörhead I find it an extremely interesting item from a historical point of view."
On your last demo with OLD FUNERAL, Vikernes is gone to form BURZUM, and Jørn joined to take the second guitar duty. It was 1992, and OLD FUNERAL sounded then much more like a Norwegian Black Metal act. How did this evolution come? Had you a good relationship with DARKTHRONE and BURZUM at this time?
"We all knew Burzum and Varg of course, but the first time I talked to anybody from darkthrone was in 1995 I think. I guess things just got much more serious and darker in our minds. Instead of making songs at home or in the rehearsal room, we went out in the forest to make them (the lyrics and sometimes riffs), and I reckon that put a rather grim feel to it all."
You told me something that I really appreciate when you said that only the 2 first BURZUM albums are good, and that the rest is crap. Don’t you think that too much people are praising BURZUM and MAYHEM only because of the tragic events that happened in 1993, and because of the involvement of Vikernes into the Nazi thing? After Vikernes will be set free, how do you think your relationship could be with him? When is the last time you talked to him? How do you find his behaviour toward the Metal music now?
"Silly kids will of course continue praising the bands for what happened back then and not the music. These are not Metalheads or music lovers or what you wanna call them, but usually people who want to be in a scene for all the wrong reasons. To me music always came first. People may think what they want for my sake. To be quite honest I don’t think Vikernes wants to have anything to do with us when he gets out. I guess (but I don’t know) he looks upon us as weak stupid people. If he thinks that it’s fine with me, because I know myself and I know that I am me, and don’t need anybody’s approval. However I do not look upon him as stupid. I think it was not necessary to kill Eronymous, but that was his choice. He is a highly intelligent man who just happens to have other views than most people. Last time I spoke to him was in July or August 1993. If I meet him on the street I will say. “How’s it going?” and we’ll take it from there. He may think about Metal in whatever way he wants, but I think it’s sad that he doesn’t make good music (in my ears) anymore. The 2 first Burzum LP’s are just excellent pieces of work. Bloody original vocals and killer riffs and evil feeling and intelligent lyrics."
Please tell us about the reasons that lead OLD FUNERAL to stop. Don’t you think that you could have become bigger? I mean you produced a quite good quality Death / Black Metal, and you had an identity.
"It was a chemical reaction. We would have been big."
Why are you most proud of the first OLD FUNERAL demo? How come that you decided to reform the original OLD FUNERAL line up for your birthday party, on October 15, last year? How were the emotions you had while being on stage playing your old shit? Why did you choose to cover ‘Procreation Of The Wicked’ of CELTIC FROST and to play the song ‘Skin And Bones’ from your "Abduction Of Limbs" demo? Which memories do you keep of this evening? Why are you so fucking Rock’n’Roll dude??? Hahahahahaha!!!!
"On that “Abduction Of Limbs” demo we were young and fucking hungry. It has good songs and is bloody original if you put it in time spectre. My birthday party was the 15th of February, not October. You were there. Were you that drunk he he?? (he he he, yeah, I was totally pissed off, but I think it’s just a silly joke from my mind that made me write “October”… Of corpse I remember that it was in February. Sorry dude! But hey, it is not so easy to be drunk with such a fucking bad and expensive beer! Hahahaa!!! – Nathaniel) I decided that I wanted to do the reunion because it was a perfect opportunity to do it. All of us are still into Metal and I wanted to do something special since I was turning 30. I wanted to sum up my life so far and Old Funeral took 4 years of my life. The emotions on stage were just “strong” to put it that way. It was aggression, legendary, raw, cool, good, evil, fun, fuck off, intense, allright and everything at one time. IMMENSE! We played ‘Procreation…’ because it was one of the first songs we ever learned to play, and it has a place in our hearts and sometimes what you have in your heart has to come out blasting!! I am Rock‘n’Roll because I am possessed by it and I wouldn’t have it any other way!"
Then you stopped to play music until 96 when you decided to start a MOTÖRHEAD cover band called BOMBERS with Olve. How was it to play again with your best friend who became to be known at that time with IMMORTAL?
"It was great as fuck! Olve has always been my friend through thick and thin, and he wanted to have a band just for fun besides Immortal and I wanted to play something again. So we got Pez on drums and started rocking! Although he is not in Bombers anymore, he quite often does guest appearances on ‘Ace Of Spades’ when we play live."
In 1997, you played with BOMBERS at Garage, the rock pub in Bergen, in front of an audience in which a certain Lemmy was drinking some alcohol. How was it to play MOTÖRHEAD covers before the god of Rock’n’Roll himself?
"He he. It was some of the same feeling as the first time I played live in 1988 with Old Funeral. My legs were shaking, but then I thought “ALL RIGHT! “ and rocked the fucking place apart! A great gig it was!"
How often did you meet Lemmy? How did the last time you meet him in Oslo happen? Do you think he’s got still enough strength to survive during a decade???
"I’ve met Lemmy 3 times. Truly a great human being! I met him in Oslo because I had an album by Captain Lockheed and The Starfighters he was looking for. This is an album he played on in 1974, but he had not heard it in years so I had to give it to him. The only reason why he is still alive is that no disease can survive in his body."
If I am not wrong, you started a new band that lasted just for a month, or something like that, and that was called DESEKRATOR. To be honest with you, I never saw one good review of this band in any magazine!!! How come? Don’t you think it’s because people were awaiting something more serious as the DESEKRATOR’s members were known to play in more serious bands like OLD FUNERAL, GORGOROTH, ENSLAVED, HADES ALMIGHTY?
"Ha ha. Desekrator was great fun. I don’t care if we got no good reviews. If you got a sense of humour you will like it, but it didn’t seem like anybody had it. I saw one magazine that didn’t know whether to give it the best or the worst points. I have met some die hard Desekrator fans in Italy, Portugal and Holland. Two guys from Holland even do a cover song with their band (I can’t remember what they were called)."
As stated before, DESEKRATOR lasted only for a short period of time: how come that you immediately got signed by Hammerheart Records and that you got some singles pressed on 10" picture discs? How did it sell at the time? Have you still echoes of this band from people getting in touch with you recently? Have you ever met a die hard fan of DESEKRATOR?
"I guess Hammerheart only signed us because of the members and not for the music. We released a set of 3 7” picture discs which was pressed in 500 copies and all sold out. The CD sold 3000 copies. Hammerheart said we desecrated their recordlabel ha ha. ‘Bergen Belzen Svinepelsen’ is sometimes played at parties here in Norway because it is a great drinking song."
Talking about your musical carrer, it seems that at the time when IMMORTAL looked for a bassist, before "At The Heart Of Winter", you were asked to take this duty. Could you explain why you were asked to play the bass, as you are originally a guitarist, and that Olve always had the bass duty. Why did he decide to take the guitar then? What do you think of the choice of Stian "Iscariah"? Were there many people in sight at the time to fill the free place in IMMORTAL?
"I was asked to take this job because Abbath needed a Metal veteran. I can’t remember why Abbath had shifted to guitar. I did not work out on the bass because in 1995 I had a motorcycle accident where I flew 10 metres and broke some fingers and my wrist. I have no troubles on guitar, but the bass was to heavy for me as it started to hurt in my bones after 30 minutes. Iscariah was a good choice at the time. He is a great man with his head in order. He now plays with Necrophagia and Wurdulak. It was not many in sight at the time no. Bergen is a small town."
You went on tour with IMMORTAL as a roadie, selling merchandising and stuff: how did it happen? How do you see the evolution of the IMMORTAL fan base since their beginning? Have you had the time to visit a bit the different places where the band played, or was it just the tour bus area you learnt to know by heart?
"They asked me to sell their stuff and I said yes. That’s how it happened. The Immortal fanbase is growing and growing. No doubt they deserve every fan. This band has worked fucking hard to get where they are and will survive because they are not a part of the latest trend. Just like Motörhead. I got to see lots of places. Almost all of Europe. I’ve been around!"
Back in Bergen, there’s a Heavy Metal fest every year. And there you sung some TWISTED SISTER covers. How come that you are such a die hard Sick Mother Fucker? For how long do you worship Dee Snider? When did you get your TWISTED SISTER tattoo? How much time have you seen TWISTED SISTER on stage, and met Dee Snider? Do you know people who are more dedicated than you towards TWISTED SISTER’s music?
"I dig Twisted Sister because they are a Rock’n’Roll band with a sense of humour, have great catchy songs and great lyrics (some of them) and Dee Snider is one of the best frontmen I have ever seen. He knows how to fuck up an audience! Twisted Sister was also the first band I started collecting when I was 11 years old. I have met Dee Snider 2 times and seen the original Twisted Sister once in Norway in 1986. I got my tattoo in 2000. But Dee’s other band Sick Mother Fuckers I have seen 4 times. But I will go to Sweden Rock Festival in June to see both the original re-united Twisted Sister and Motörhead! It’s gonna be soooooooooo great! All Right! All Right All Right!"
Do you sometimes regret that nowadays a lot of Metal fans are getting into this music with some so called extreme bands, and don’t pay attention anymore to the origins like HELLHAMMER, VENOM, JUDAS PRIEST, SLAUGHTER, MANOWAR… and the likes? What do you think about the Metal scene (underground and mainstream) after 1994 / 1995?
"I don’t like new bands. Bands that come up today have no personalities in my opinion. People must learn their history lesson, see what made the greats great. I don’t mean to copy them, but get inspired. It’s not many good records that have been put out after 1995 I think. I always buy Motörhead, AC/DC, Immortal and Darkthrone because I know they are good. May these bands live forever. It seems like I have to start up a new band again to get some good music to listen to he he."
A lot of people are praising bands like EMPEROR, DIMMU BORGIR and the new MAYHEM and SATYRICON, but it seems that these bands are nowadays really far from the "true" Black Metal spirit which has always meant aggression, rawness, harshness and unpolished sound, like BATHORY, VENOM, HELLHAMMER, TORMENTOR and DARKTHRONE did. What do you think of this clean and commercialized wave of Black Metal? (Tough question isn’t it? He he he!)
"I hate the commercial wave of Black Metal. Some bands are so fucking far from what they were (I won’t mention names) that I don’t even consider them anymore. Fuck progression. Stay to the formula you know best. People only change because they think they have to and that it’s expected from them. I wish some musicians could stop a minute and think to themselves: ”What made me start this band in the first place?” and then stick to the answer to that question."
You were heavily involved in the underground and the tape trading back in the beginning of the 90’s. How much are you involved into these things nowadays? I know that you are still a regular reader of the almighty SLAYER mag, but are there any other zines that capture your attention nowadays? What do you think the Metalheads should do to keep their beloved music still interesting, and not stagnate by copying what’s been done years before or trying to be original for the sake of originality? You have seen many bands come and pass by, but which of them deserve your eternal dedication from the beginning to the end of their carreer?
"I do not do much tape trading anymore, but I collect vinyl quite intensely. Yeah, Slayer Mag has my total respect. Metalion is a great man! I also read Imhotep, Scream Magazine, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and sometimes Metal Hammer and Kerrang if I don’t have to buy them. What should Metalheads do? Don’t cut your hair, and don’t do as your mother tells you. Get a personality and put some balls into it. Bands I always respected from the beginning to the end (or bands that are still going): Motörhead, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Ramones, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Darkthrone, Sex Pistols, Immortal, Ozzy Osbourne, Slaughter (Canada), Twisted Sister, Possessed, Hellhammer, Sodom, Destruction, Venom etc. A lot of bands had great early careers like Celtic Frost, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Metallica, Mayhem, Burzum, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin etc."
Alright my dear Tore, let’s ask some cooler stuff now. If Metal was a beer, which one would it be according to you? Please don’t say Hansa or Ringnes, cause they are fucking tasteless, ha! Please give your definition of Death, Black, Thrash and Heavy Metal!
"If Metal was beer it would have been “Konjøl”. It’s a beer made by goat farmers in Sogn Og Fjordane county in Norway. Fucking strong shit! Death Metal: Morbid Angel – “Altars Of Madness”, Thrash Metal: Kreator – “Pleasure To Kill”, Heavy Metal: Judas Priest – “British Steel”."
Ok, would you like to ask me a question?
"No. It’s not necessary because I know everything."
Now you can drink the beer you deserved after having answered this fucking long interview, and spit your last words in order that our readers may feel the fire that burns inside your veins! Thanks Tore. ALRIGHT, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT!!"
Interview and all live pics: Nathaniel Colas