This legendary and also rather mysterious band / project from Norway has been around in the underground for quite a while already and originally started out as STIGMA DIABOLICUM. But it took mainman Snorre W. Ruch (originally known as "Blackthorn") quite some time to finally unleash the self titled THORNS debut full length, which reared its ugly head back in 2001 on Moonfog Productions after all… This following conversation with Snorre is already a bit older, but still quite interesting – and since THORNS interviews are quite rare anyway, we figured to re-publish it here on the VOICES website for your reading pleasure (it originally was done in co-operation between Sonderkrig and Agnes of TRANSIT MAG).
Could you first of all retrace the too little known history of THORNS since the cult rehearsal ’89 which consisted of the two masterpieces ‘Ærie Descent’ and ‘Melas Khole’?
"We started earlier than ’89… We started a band called STIGMA DIABOLICUM a couple of years earlier. We changed the name to THORNS because it became very popular with latin names at that time and we didn’t want to have a mainstream name because we felt that what we wanted to do with our music was so different. We wanted to experiment to make another kind of wicked music, Metal music. We wanted to sound different to other bands and we wanted to experiment with the music so we also wanted a name that was different. We changed names at the same time as we recorded the "Grymyrk" rehearsal sessions – have you heard about that? Yes – that was the tape that was supposed to be just for the members of THORNS to rehearse to and to listen to in order to learn the songs because we were spread all across Norway. Faust was living in Lillehammer and our vocalist Marius was living in Oslo, so we sent them tapes instead of bringing them over to rehearse. These tapes were spread through the underground and became famous all over the world. It’s very strange!"
You said “we”. Originally THORNS was just your own idea – or was it the input of several members right from the start? It always seemed that you’re the mastermind, the main person behind THORNS…
"I wrote the music at the very beginning and I wanted to make music and it was me and Marius, the vocalist, who started out as a two-man band under the name STIGMA DIABOLICUM and then we got Otto on bass and Faust on drums so we wanted to have a band back then."
And you even sang…
"Yeah! We also made a rehearsal at the school I was attending, we recorded ‘Ærie Descent’ and ‘Funeral Marches To The Grave’ which later became ‘Melas Khole’."
By the way, what prompted you to change its title into ‘Melas Khole’?
"Actually, it was the whole lyrics, so I changed the name to the song also."
It seems there was a huge period of absence in the history of THORNS… could you tell me more about it and explain why the debut album was only released in 2000?
"After a while THORNS moved together in an apartment in Oslo to get things more organized and to rehearse and to write songs and stuff like that. So I lived in Oslo for 6 months (laughing). But nothing happened! We didn’t get a place to rehearse so the members didn’t spend any time writing songs or lyrics or anything. So I thought I had to do everything by myself and I wasn’t very happy with that so I joined MAYHEM. And after a while I took the THORNS material with me into MAYHEM, that was the idea. But then things in MAYHEM became not so good either so I just took things from Heist and worked for myself for a couple of years and then I kinda got tired of all the music stuff and I went into (laughing) creating sleep. And then Satyr came by and wanted to release the old THORNS demos and stuff like that, and also he wanted me to start writing music again. And then it started rolling again."
So it was thanks to him, pushing you then…
"Yeah, he’s a good pusher!"
Without him, motivating you to do it, you would have never done it…?
"I would probably have not done it. I think he is the main reason that I still write music now because I had other ways of being creative through drawing and painting and stuff like that. And also later I learnt how to animate. I guess I was doing those things instead of making music. But he gave me an opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do so I felt I had to grab that opportunity and do something about it and that’s why I’m here now."
And right now, this creativity that you express – both through your music and animation, do you share it equally between your interests?
"No (laughing). I don’t know which comes first. I have no relation to those thoughts actually, I just do both. I don’t think about what comes first or what comes next, I try to do a little bit of both."
When Satyr got you back into releasing THORNS material, then you got him, Hellhammer and Aldrahn from DHG. So would you say that right now they are full members of THORNS or is THORNS likely to change in the future depending on what you want to do?
"I think that the line-up might change a little, but I think I will use the same musicians on the next projects and also I think I want to bring in more musicians. But I will use Hellhammer, Aldrahn and Satyr if they’re still interested and hopefully I will get some more musicians to join to contribute to the project."
Do you already have some musicians in mind or whom you’ve asked already?
"Yeah. I think I would like to have Fenriz doing some drums stuff and also I have some unknown musicians here in Norway to do some programming, some rhythm programming. And maybe I’ve got Fino Laho (??) to do some ambient stuff. Plus I want a band of wind instruments – like trumpets, etc."
Is it true that you took part in other bands’ compositions like primitive BURZUM and on a MAYHEM album… gossip or true?
"No, I didn’t compose for BURZUM, I’ve never done that. I guess, yes, kind of, not beyond my riffs, but I have been very inspired by some of the music I’ve done so it’s sounds a bit corny somewhere (laughing). I haven’t written music for MAYHEM, I gave Euronymous some riffs that he could use for his music before I joined MAYHEM so some of the riffs on "De Mysteriis…" are mine or created by me. I also did a lot with the lyrics on that album because there were four or five lyrics that were complete when Dead died and the rest was just notes and sketches for lyrics, so I went through the material and I wrote proper lyrics from that material."
Now to get back to your music, since the very beginning, you and Faust have drawn the face of THORNS "nesting itself deep within the substance of your soul"… a very particular way of playing Black Metal, yet very original and very raw, slow and fucking suffocating. It privileges the dark and heavy deep side of the music, at the same time granting mysticism and hysteria… Tell us more about the vibrations that drove you to this particular way.
"(laughing) I think I use a lot of dissonance in my music and I think that’s a good way to express a lot of things I feel and especially that ‘Existence’ song I think is very to the point to what I was thinking about at that time and what went through my mind because I was so obsessed with knowing everything and finding out all these questions that I became so obsessed that I really had a hard time getting out of it. It’s difficult to explain but that lyric is the lyric that I feel is the closest to my heart from that album."
In general what inspires you to compose, and I am not talking musically but greater inspiration and influences?
"I try not to be so inspired by music, I try to make music from ideas, from thoughts, from feelings, from… it’s difficult, from mathematics, from physics, from stuff that happen in nature, natural events. I try to find inspiration in everything, not just music because I think if you just listen to other music it would be too narrow when you want to create something new, I try to find the inspiration somewhere else. Most of the times, I am just trying to materialize a feeling into music."
And for you, the music is more important than the lyrics? Your lyrics are usually not printed…
"I try to make every part equal. I am not so good at writing lyrics as I am at writing music, I feel, so it’s much harder to do them (laughing). I needed some help to do the lyrics from Aldrahn and Satyr. But I think that lyrics are important as well but everything is important: music, rhythm, sound, artwork, everything."
And when you compose, I guess you not necessarily start with riffs, you probably start from something else, a specific structure, a keyboard part…
"Yeah, that’s true! Like ‘Shifting Channels’ was composed from the rhythm, then I put on the synthesizer which goes like a wave under the song all the way and then came the guitars. ‘Vortex’ is also a different story because I made some music for an animation film, puppet animation, which was kinda a horror movie (laughing)…"
Really?! Was it for an animation film only shown in Norway?
"Yes, it was in the school I was attending. There was this guy there who graduated one year before me and his exam film was this movie and he wanted me to make music for it. So I took that music and made it into a song, which became ‘Vortex’."
And do you have any preferences, not necessarily preferences, but you’ve been using both, drum-machines and a real drummer before, so how do you pick one over the other? Does it depend on what the song asks for or you’d rather have a drummer all the time?
"I would actually like to have something in between (laughing). I like the sound of real drums and I like the feeling of a real drummer with all his small details and stuff like that. But also I wanted to be strict and stern like a drum-machine and mathematical. So I want something in-between!"
What can you tell us about your deal with Moonfog and how it has been done? And is there a forthcoming album to be released on Moonfog?
"Yeah. I like Moonfog and I like the way I’ve been treated by Moonfog. I think they’re very professional and that they appreciate my way of writing music. And I feel they take good care of me. I am not writing music right now but I am making sound with my synthesizer and I’m kinda diving into that now because I don’t have a studio right now. But actually we’re on the verge of moving into a new home so I will get a cellar room in there and make a little studio again and start recording and experimenting with music. But there’s no plan in the near future to release anything so I think I will concentrate on THORNS when I move, and I am thinking about making a side-project just for myself."
What kind of side-project would that be?
"It will be totally different. I don’t know what it will sound like right now but I guess it will be more like ambient music."
And totally instrumental?
"Yeah, I guess so."
It will be all for yourself or would you involve some people in that project as well?
"I have to see about that (laughing). I am quite egoistic when it comes to making music sometimes and if I have my special ideas, I always get frustrated if other people have an opinion. But I think it’s fun working with other people because of the social aspect. I may bring other people to the project but I don’t know for sure. I would like to do something all by myself also."
You’ve been involved with people from Black Metal, but would you consider working with people who are completely outside the Black Metal world?
"Yeah! I think that would be more right, especially with THORNS, to bring in other people with other musical references. Because I would rather like to go further apart from Black Metal than to bring in Black Metal musicians and make it more mainstream Black Metal, I think that’s less exciting. I would choose to use non Black Metal people to do things in THORNS."
Is that, what THORNS has done up till now, beyond Black Metal for you?
"I think that THORNS has always been a step beyond Black Metal, not necessarily in a matter of quality but also I hope more like stepping out of Black Metal in different directions. And I think we’ve been on the sideline all the way. We’re not typical Black Metal and do not wish to be. And I don’t think THORNS will ever be typical Black Metal but it still has very strong elements from Black Metal like in the instrumentation and the riffs; they are very related to Black Metal. But many of the ideas are original and not very Black Metal. Have you read the lyrics from ‘Stellar Master Elite’? That’s very non-Black Metal!"
You have influenced so many people in Black Metal. What’s your look upon nowadays scene in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe?
"I may not be the right person to ask that question because I am not following the scene in particular. I just listen to the new KHOLD album, I think it’s very cool, very clean. And I’m also very interested into what SATYRICON does and what Dødheimsgard does, but of course these are all the bands on my label; I guess the only reason why I’m following them is because Moonfog sends me all these promos (laughing). I think it’s really cool music!"
And of course they play with you…!
"Yeah, of course! I have to pay attention (laughing). But apart from that, I am not really interested, I just like to do my own things and I let them do their things."
But are you glad that you’ve inspired people?
"Yeah, of course. I think that’s great. Without sounding too arrogant, I think it’s great if I can inspire other Black Metal musicians to widen their horizons and widen their ways of thinking and their ways of writing music because I think that Black Metal is too narrow. And I think that was not the idea at the beginning with Black Metal. I think that Black Metal was revolutionary and it was radical but now it is conservative and very narrow. I think that all the conservative Black Metal people don’t know what Black Metal really was about back in the early 90’s, late 80’s."
And did you realize that you influenced more than just Norwegian bands? For example, in my country in France, we also have bands who have been influenced by you.
There’s a great band for instance called BATTLEHORNS. You should check them out… and use them for the next THORNS, haha
"(slowly) BATTLEHORNS? Ok, I will!"
What are your plans for the immediate future?
"To get a raise (laughing). No, we’re just moving and the economy is to the limit so I hope to get a raise and I hope that my girlfriend will finish school and get a job, and that we have a proper economy and the ability to have equipment to make music and animation and be creative."
As soon as you’ve got your home and your studio, you will be working on a new album for Moonfog?
"Yeah, I think so."
The material for the THORNS album was written and recorded between ’98 and ’00, so have you been composing, writing ideas ever since?
"No (laughing). I am taking a long break in music!"
With such a break, do you think that what is going to come out of you next is going to be very different?
"Maybe not, actually. I think what I will do this time, I will try to be more free when I write music because I have always wanted to achieve something special. I’ve always had a very strong image of what I wanted to create and I’ve never created something that didn’t meet my own ambition so easily. I would like to write music and see what happens instead of being so sure of what the result is going to be."
Any idea about what the new material orientations could be?
"I want it to be hard, to be shocking hard and catchy like ‘Stellar Master Elite’ and ‘Existence’, primitive and not so complicated song structures and good riffs of course (laughing). And I hope that there will be some cool lyrics also. For that album, I will try to experiment with instrumentation and kind of soundscapes in the music. I don’t know if I will do an ambient part this time, I think that would be for my side-project. But all this, I can’t promise anything because anything can happen."
Do you think THORNS’ music is only for a selected few or do you want your music to reach as many people as you can?
"I think I would like to reach as many people as I can but I still would have to be able to stand for it. I think that’s possible. Don’t you?"
Sure, even people who don’t know Black Metal can enjoy THORNS.
"Yeah, that’s what’s great about THORNS because people tend to like THORNS even if they don’t like Black Metal so maybe I’ve found something universal (laughing)."
Do you ever plan to play live?
"No, not yet. Maybe the next album will be very slow and (laughing) easy to play and then I will maybe play live with it and if the instrumentation is easy to do live. But I think I am so busy with all these other things that going on tour seems like hell to me. I am sure it would be great but I haven’t tasted it so I don’t know what I’m missing."
From everything you’ve done, are there particular pieces that you are more proud of, either creatively, musically or lyrically?
"That’s a tricky question (laughing). I think some of the riffs I made I like… It’s difficult to point out something special. I am very happy with the new album, my favorite are ‘Stellar Master Elite’ and ‘Existence’."
What about ‘You That Mingle May’ that was put on the Moonfog 2000 compilation album?
"I don’t know why we chose that song, I can’t remember. It first appeared on the ‘Grymyrk’ tape and I had the chance to use Fenriz on drums and Satyr on vocals so it was great fun. And it had never been recorded with drums and vocals before so now people could hear what THORNS would sound like back in ’91. I don’t know if that’s what people expected but it’s the closest idea to what THORNS would sound like back in the early ‘90s!"
What are THORNS’ main aim(s) (spiritual and / or musical) and what pushes you to keep on walking the path of sorrow…?
"I guess now it’s mostly for my own creativity’s sake. I like the concept of THORNS and I think it’s most fun and I learn a lot about music and about myself while I am doing it. And also I get to be in contact with a lot of interesting people. I have no intention to change the world or anything like that. I would like to show Black Metal, the conservative part of Black Metal, that it’s possible to write such music without being conservative… That would be a little goal in my head."
Thanks for the interview, Snorre, and all the best for the future!
"Thank you very much as well. I think you covered every possible question, now my head is blank (laughing)! It was a pleasure, bye bye!"
(full length album, 2001)
"Thorns vs. Emperor"
(split release with EMPEROR, 1999)
"Moonfog 2000 – A Different Perspective" (2000)
(songs featured: ‘Stellar Master Elite’, ‘The Discipline of Earth’ (taken from "Thorns vs. Emperor") and ‘You That Mingle May’ (feat. Fenriz and Satyr)
"Blackend Volume 4" (1999)
(song featured: ‘The Discipline Of Earth’, taken from "Thorns vs. Emperor")
"Darkthrone Holy Darkthrone" (1998)
(song featured: ‘Pagan Winter’)
"Nordic Metal Compilation" (1995)
(song featured: ‘Ærie Descent’)
Demos / Rehearsals:
(songs featured: ‘Ærie Descent’ and ‘Funeral Marches To The Grave’)
"Grymyrk" (1989 – 1991)
(songs featured: ‘Lovely Children’, ‘Fall’, ‘Thule’, ‘Fairytales’, ‘Home’ and ‘You That Mingle May’)
with STIGMA DIABOLICUM:
"Luna Des Nocturnus"
(songs featured: ‘Mare Frigotis’, ‘Into The Promised Land’ and ‘Lacus De Luna’)