Interview with Fenriz of Darkthrone December 2012

By Nazar (originally for Moonlight Dominion zine)


1.  Thanks for opportunity of making this interview! I am excited because of “Underground Resistance”, but also what makes it even more interesting is a news about 10-minute song lengths, which differs “UR” from your latest records. Some people may think that it marks a return to style and sound of “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”, but I suppose that it is rather inspired by great prog-rock epics of 70’s. Make the situation clear, please! What course do you take on forthcoming record?

 

BREAK THE CHAINS!!! Listening to INEPSY “city weapons” from 2001 on vinyl, I got laundry day today, 3 washes, doing this interview and tending to my vinyl buyings online is all I gotta do today, it’s a north wind outside and a blizzard that so far lasted all Monday and this night and now all morning this Tuesday the day before my 41th birthday.

 

HAHA if just song length would be indicator of style…well, I can actually see how that is possible. Well, my 14 minute long song LEAVE NO CROSS UNTURNED actually has my quintessential typical heavy slower Celtic Frost parts in it (a lot of those in “kathaarian life code”, opening track of a blaze in the northern sky”) but apart from that the rest of the song is in my usual 1984/5 style, Agent Steel-like. We are more metal again on this record, but as the album starts with Ted’s song DEAD EARLY which has most metal-punk vibe to it, most people will maybe say we didn’t change from out previous albums. Whatever, all our 4-5-6 previous albums had lots of different metal on them, more and more freestyle. As usual we follow our hearts and we never seem to have any plan at all about direction or style. This time we mastered at Jack (World Burns To Death/Severed Head Of State)’s studio ENORMOUS DOOR in Texas (no we didn’t travel there, I don’t travel) to get the trusty organic punch that he always delivers.

 

2.  Personally I am fascinated with the role you personally played (and still play) in revival of the interest to vintage-sounding true metal underground music. You already did for this movement what Quentin Tarantino does for trash and B-category movies or Borges did for obscure writers, or even more than these guys did for their field of the interest. Is it hard for you to be not only a person but also a living symbol of a powerful musical phenomenon? What do you think of responsibility you have been taken – the responsibility of shaping the musical tastes of a few generations?

 

No it isn’t hard, it’s what I always wanted – I guess. As from a small age whenever I heard a neighbor play something that I thought was weak, I would play “dreamer” with Uriah Heep at a volume where I hoped they would listen and wonder and think “what is this great music, that is clearly cooler than what I am playing myself?!!!”, hahaha, and I never lost this naïve but still judgemental stance, I guess. It’s also a kind of one way-communication, one that I was also seemingly always fond of. I like to state something, and then swiftly move on, not listening much to response. This has it’s pros and cons, but then again almost everything on this planet seems to have pros and cons, so…

 

It’s hard to see many take wrong choices for sound in metal. Just last night I read a DERKETA interview that they went to record in the 90s and studio asshole wanted to change their sound into gothic style cuz it was in at the time – and then one of the members even thought it was a GOOD idea, ultimately causing the band to break up. This is rule number one, NEVER listen to asshole studio sound guy, jbut many don’t know the difference of studio guy basic tips and when they actually try to change the band. Ultimately everyone should have all equipment in the world to choose from, the equipment should be instinctively easy to use,… no even better, the sound that is in your head when making a song should be INSTANTLY transferable to sound file  J    but, it is it not this way. So I am one of the people trying to tell what works and what doesn’t. and “what’s cool and what isn’t”. for instance most of the bands in India are sorry ass copies of usa late 90s/early 00’s  type of “metal”, a whole nation gone astray, so to speak. People need to know this. People need to know CULTIVATION and taste. India needs to listen to a band like DREAM DEATH instead of modern metal.

 

And so you can see how I am, haha.

 

What is hardest about my role is when people just don’t get it, they put the NON TRIGGERED DRUM sticker (that Arjan made for our global organic metal movement) on recordings that really has no triggers – but it SOUNDS triggered anyway, so what’s the difference?! Not a lot. People trying to make metal punk with clicky bass drums is also a problem, metal punk (like Inepsy, Whipstriker etc) was the last style that EVERYONE involved understood could have no modern or clicky sounds, but it almost got as trendy as people started to make it sound wrong (just like with black metal from 94 and onwards). This is the hardest part of being me but it’s also the reason I started the fight against plastic sound already in 89. I am very tired of the fight, very tired of myself in this fight too, but every time I hear something good with wrong sound I get a bit sad and very angry and the fight continues.

 

3. One of the noticeable elements of the last records by Darkthrone is a sense of humor, which sometimes takes a great postmodern forms like a patches with the names of good new bands on jacket of Mr. Necro. It is more than just interesting because practically all bands which define themselves as black metal look like the ones who don’t know what good laugh is (at least when they deal with their own music; and, by the way, I don’t think that lack of humor is a big trouble for metal band). Where was your humor back in nineties? You just left it out of music then? Or maybe some part of you changed in new century, so you started to use it with full force?

 

4. The choice of ideology seems to be one of the most significant steps for black metal band. While some musicians choose for themselves Satanism, Heathenism, misanthropy, Nazism or whatever else, you two seem to have as ideology a music itself or, to be more precise, a metal in its primal form and essence (a perfect choice of ideology, as for me) and became a some kind of metal sound philosophers. Is music a main spiritual path of yours? What other ideological aspects would you represent through Darkthrone?

 

ANSWER TO QUESTION 3: No, the black metal bands with no humour are the ones that are sheep, followers. All the people in the Norwegian black metal scene up to 92/93 had lots of humour and Venom had lots of humour too, forgot their interviews? No, it’s the sheep that had most problems. But listen, we can have humour but the art we make can be pitch black, just like a jeweler can have lots of humour, but that doesn’t’ mean he puts smileyfaces on his jewelry.

 

Anyway, it is a long time since we said we made black metal. Our main period was in 91 and 92, as the others moved away in 92 and then Zeph quit. Then the project darkthrone started, like a dark metal version of STEELY DAN, but little by little the black metal was replaced by metal again, more and more like it was in our minds in 1988 but at the time what was in our/my head when I made songs sounded so far from what came out.. lack of skill, lack of sound control, etc…

 

I’d say it was extremely more humour in the 90s than now, cuz then I started my social chain at elm street with more and more humourous people to join me, and everyone who EVER knew me even from little age know I am obsessed by humour. And I will only hang with people with humour and musical input. But we ofcourse don’t put this into our music, but on the thanx list in a blaze in the norhthern sky lp there is lots of humour, no trying of hiding the humour there.

 

I don’t think it’s humorous to put patches with good bands on a mascot. But as a person I will say something funny and if I can’t I am bored. Everyone knows this, man. In the 90s when all the blackpackers and sheep came to elm street to try and find some black metal icons to hang with, most were disappointed that I was deeply into humour, as they ACTUALLY thought I lived in a cave. But if the idiots thought I was grim and living desolately, why would they come to elm stree to try and find me?!  EXTREMELY idiotic behavior!!!!

 

Also, in the heaviest hitting years of our black metal I didn’t do many interviews, and that left out any public humour really. From 91 till 98 almost no inteviews, since 98 I did extremely many interviews

 

 

ANSWER question 4: well, as we grew up with archetypical heathen bands, and then more and more satanic throughout the 80s, the same happened with us, and then when getting older it’s mixed with more heathenism again – but musical always had me. A VERY big part of me. So this is my main drive, my main obsession, my main possession; so it is my religion. Music gives me goosebums, not beer.

 

5. Once I noticed the strange and interesting side to metal music (or maybe rock in general): very often it turns to be a huge, determinative part of life for its listeners, while other forms of popular music, like pop, rap or club music more often are just a tool for relaxation, entertainment or social status finding for those who are digging them. Will you agree with this? And why do you think it goes this way? Is there something special in rock and metal music and/or subculture?

 

For hip hop, it’s got 4 elements to it (turntablism, graffiti, breakdance, rap) and is quite a big part of a lot of people’s life it seems, also cuz the roots stem from funk and then one can dig deeper and find out, just like with rock, the roots aren’t definable, it’s like evertything ultimately floats over into everything. Pop isn’t a musical direction, it’s basically softened up styles/crossover. Like damage inc by metallica is most likely not pop(ular music) but “one” would be/is. Depends also on what country you see it from. Metal is extreme, and in many ways extremely ridiculous, it’s the music form of those that has an extreme need to SET THEIR MARK. And those people quicky connect, I remember when I was a kid going on holiday, I would be extremely curious about other kids that looked like they could have an interest for hard rock. We are just very much more visible than other styles of music often, the extreme fuzz guitar music (punk and metal).

 

6. Did you ever notice that there are some bands which have really worthy songs/albums spoiled with stupid trigger productions? I mean that many hordes from so-called new wave of thrash metal actually play good music but it is just destroyed with that plastic sound. Or, for instance, the veterans like Overkill whose latest records could be a masterpieces if they would not sound like lamb of god or something?

 

Extremely good and accurate question.  But yeah, this happens ALL the time, and when bands ask if they can send me stuff I gotta tell them in advance that I can only listen to REAL drum sound. I also think last Portrait album has too plastic drum sound (I also think king diamond had this, so I never bought any king diamond album except for fatal portrait) but the music is so incredible that I can live with that. Same goes for first WOLF album from Sweden, total worship, I just wished the drums sounded more organic. This is my fight AND MY CURSE hahaha.

 

Hahaha I thought the very same when I heard a song from new overkill (well, I TRIED to hear the whole song but had to switch off after some seconds)

 

Thrash with real sound where people care about the sound and even make the tom toms sound like the typical 1986 sound is NEKROMANTHEON “rise Vulcan spectre” album, and with rawer sound but still perfect heart for thrash try EVIL ARMY. Anyway the ANTICHRIST album forbidden world is my fave thrash album since 87, along with Aura Noir’s HADES RISE

 

7. Bands rarely change the albums artwork for re-editions of old records, and you belong to minority who did it (I mean the recent new covers of “Plaguewielder”, “Goatlord” and “Ravishing Grimness”). Why did you decide to do that? By the way, I like new covers, and the one for “Ravishing Grimness” perhaps belongs to the best metal covers I’ve ever seen.

 

That’s a great thing to hear for the artist! We had a competition where people could send in art that could end up on some of our re-releases. I was in charge of album covers until TOTAL DEATH album in 1996, then I lost interest in the visual thing. Unfortunately that meant that PHOTOSHOP technique snuck into the covers of darkthrone, and I didn’t care much until I took a bit charge of album covers again in 1997, with F.O.A.D. album which was me and Ted who agreed on using Dennis Dread as we liked his coves for autopsy and also we wanted hand drawn covers. In this 10 hour period my fave darkthrone cover was ofcourse the brilliant cover for SARDONIC WRATH in 2004.

 

So when the re-releases was decided upon doing (it was the moonfog-albums, they wasn’t pushed anymore and that meant 7-8  of our albums was about to be forgotten) it was clear that I was in a period in my life when I cared more than usual about album covers and wanted new hand drawn covers for the ones that unfortunately ended up having photoshop-covers or otherwise weak covers.

 

8. One of the key elements of 70’s and 80’s charm apart from music was a huge amount of horror and exploitation movies which represent the cinematographic style which is almost completely lost today but has many ardent fans (including some vintage metal sound followers among them). Do you have any preferences in the world of retro-horror? Are you the fan of this genre?

 

Nope. I like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT series.

 

9. As I know you have a taste not only for music but for musicians interviews too and even said about your favorite part of interviews – the name dropping. Your adoration for some records and bands is well-known. But do you have a favorite musicians in terms of giving interviews?

 

Haha, good question but a bit innacurate – I really don’t like to read about music at all – nor write  about it myself. Many wants me to do it, but if they see all the blogs I made (hundreds) on the BAND OF THE WEEK page, they see I mostly just write a couple of lines and make the music speak for itself. I have no favourites at all, I fail to find someone with more eclectic taste than myself anyways, but people I will read an interview with if I come over one, is Joel Sundin (Entrench, hin haale) and Peter Stjärnvind in general, these are CURRENT favourites, things might always change and has changed. I never followed anyone in reading, I have enough interviews to do myself unfortunately. I think Nicke Andersson had the coolest and most important taste in the whole world probably in 1987 and 1988 and it was great that he became my mentor then, more or less. And he was half a year younger than me!!!

 

10. You are well-known true underground metal (and not only metal) music gourmet and connoisseur of many metal cuisines from the different edges of the world. Do you here a favorite musical dishes from ex-USSR countries – my native Ukraine, Russian vastlands, forests of Belarus, swamps of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia? I only know that you praised Russian Aria and Ork Bastards in your interviews and blog.

 

I am not ESPECIALLY interested, I am especially interested in good metal only, so where it comes from it doesn’t always matter. One of the last good albums of the thrash wave was the MAGNUS stuff from 92, we were always influenced by first VADER demo. I dj a lot a song by MAGNIT. I like several bands from the DDR. I like KAT and TURBO, but also stuff like POKOLGEP and ofcourse early masters hammer. MOST IMPORTANT BAND was TORMENTOR, those 7th day of doom and anna domini are STILL one of the most important things from the east bloc ever. But for old metal, it seems the old Swedish bands are interesting me most these days, also old French stuff like blashpheme (Vengeance Ba(r)bar HAHAHAHA), and it is questionable that latvia and Lithuania has as cool bands as LANDSLIDE from Sweden for instance. In any respect those recordings must then be from some years after, like 1989, and for instance in DDR at that time a lot of the studios used drum machine but vocalists and guitarist were good…but in Sweden everything clicked at the right time with the right sound..and Sweden is still perhaps the leading country, especially if you take into consideration how few people live there.

 

So no, I don’t feel like an expert on those countries at all, I have the “USUAL” metal maniac knowledge about them, I’d say. Maybe I have a little bit more than normal from the DDR, that’s all.

 

11. The question that is could be called the personal one. I’ve seen your photo with some cool dog. Is he yours? What is the name of this four-legged buddy? Does he support you in your music listening habits? Once I had a cat (R.I.P.) who did not react to the sounds of metal music but carefully listened to speakers when they played Finnish dark folk project Nest…

 

Nice one, but unfortunately that’s not my dog (killer line from the pink panther movies with peter seller, the biting dog scene)  (“ I thought you said your dog did not bite!!”  - “that’s not my dog”.

 

The dog belongs to the PROFESSOR and it’s called Saiph. It’s main interest is going on tent trips.

 

12. As I know you belong to those have a habit of escaping from the modern media-saturated world into the forest trips. What feelings and experiences does it give to you? Did you ever encounter any mystic things or entities among the ancient forests of Norway? Have you ever thought of traveling to forests and mountains of ex-USSR countries? Your comrade Nattefrost visited Ukrainian Carpathians with his band not so long ago and he was delighted with our alcohol and local forests with beautiful forests, werewolves and Dragula. We understand that chances are tiny we would be happy to see you here one day, man.

 

His camp trip skills are dodgy, man.

 

As I don’t travel, there is no hope, and there is enough forest here for the rest of my life. I am known in the media here for this, just this weekend I had 5 pages in norways meganewspaper VG cuz of tenting. Anyway, I don’t even know where my passport is, or if I have one. I think my subconscious made me lose my passport so travelling could be even more out of the question.

 

Living in Oslo, one is surrounded by 1600 square KILOMETRES of forest, easily accessible as well. For many many people here, the forest is a lifestyle, or a natural ingredient in life. And forest are not just forest, some are plant fields of trees which for many look like forest but is actually only forest industry with little room for biological diversity. But a lot of it is great, troll-like and the atmosphere is great. Hill tops are often leading to a beauty for the eyes and for the inner beauty, and can feel nostalgic or melancholic too. It’s a culture on it’s own here, the boreal fur forests. Norwegians have a lot of spare time and a lot of nature to spend it in. it’s more mystical for the new beginners or kids, I am more used to it, and I just need to get out there, last time was on Sunday, before the beforementioned blizzard, we just walk for 20 minutes and we are at the forest edge (ØSTMARKA this time) and it was great, a little light snow and around 0 celsius, only problems are density that cause slippery roots and rocks. And so goes the days up here…