Tuesday, 29 January 2013

DARKTHRONE INTERVIEW - Fenriz: "Only retards don’t change in this life"

The Underground Resistance (the name of Darkthrone's new album) is, as it is often with your work, a straight-to-the point statement. Many will appreciate its impact but I guess it is us of the old-guard who will feel its meaning the most. I share your feelings in the lyric lines from Raised on Rock off F.O.A.D.:“You think old-school is 1993 - Ha! I've been a thrasher since '84 - and almost nothing sounds true anymore”. How did you live that era?

I looked like a wimp, especially back then, but I got a stubborn AND open mind at the same time, having endless passion for music and especially music with fuzz guitars since I got my first albums in 1973 and 1974 which had Steppenwolf and Uriah Heep and so on.

Being in a well known band possibly saved you from being considered a “80s throwback”, which is what most people would have called you had you been “just that long-haired guy who’s pissed down the pub”… This is a sad truth you see all the time and shows the double-standards and shallowness of people towards the status that is placed on and around musicians.

I say with OMEN 1986 album “the curse”: you create your own destiny! Not everyone can but many can excel in their interests! I have not much pity for those who tried to be thrash metal starts but failed because they were maybe just copies and NOW they are that “poor” guy down the pub. If one really loves music you just get better at it every day. Knowing more, learning more, getting more network, meeting new people every day. This is what happened creating Darkthrone from the beginning and I would still be doing something connected to music on a very involved level without Darkthrone; I am reasonably certain of it IF I still loved music as much. On many planes, being in Darkthrone held me back, as people - as you say - are closed minded and Norway is small: one is looked upon in disbelief while being brilliant in another genre than one is “famous” for. I want to help Norwegian minds being more receptive to dualism, that people can do two or more things, not only having one place in society.

“I am the Working Class” from Circle the Wagons is, in my eyes, a key statement to understand the essence of metal. It was born as working class music: Black Sabbath came out as a reaction from working in a factory in a depressing, filthy, industrial city as it was Birmingham before the late 90s revamp. You left school early to find a humble job (rather than asking Daddy for money) in order to pay for your dream to play the music you loved, and that choice in itself makes you a true metaller.

Thanks, but not in my book. If there are people that do the same thing but they wanna be a star playing music like RAMMSTEIN, then they are not true in my eyes, just to follow THAT dream, because that music is overground and incredibly bad taste. And taste is defined by those who are able to define good and bad taste, which again stems from experience and cultivation. One does not need a job or no job or really anything to cultivate oneself, you just need the love for music and then you eventually find the good music, the good tastes, your mind opens and suddenly you are on a higher plain perhaps – but then you also have to deal with looking down on people. It sure as hell ain’t easy…

You decided to maintain your job as a postman rather than compromising your music by joining the rock’n’roll circus full-time: in my eyes, the only way to keep alive a passion as great and as all-consuming as music can be, is to grant it complete freedom and therefore not to turn it into a job (Church Of Real Metal: The rite of being free - FOAD).

I work only 27 hours a week now, today is a day off to do MUCH harder work, namely interviews. My normal job is easy as hell, I should know, compared to mind draining creative work: this is why when seeing people saying that working man is hero - and intellectuals often seem to do that – they have never had day jobs in industry mundane situation and they don’t know how great it is to just stamp out of the job and forget it until next working day or over a weekend. Creative work means NO REST, and always trying to escape, because total embracing means mostly going into drugs till you die, has happened to many self consuming artists, also in metal.

Is being a postman more “ethically compatible” with being into underground metal than working for a financial entity (doing whatever it takes to pocket the bonuses) during the day, then changing into a Darkthrone t-shirt overnight?

It’s better that these persons actually like subcultures than not, I believe at least trying to like something out of the mainstream somewhat helps the humans… but it seems you are thinking almost about the HALLOWEEN song of Dead Kennedys here. Yes it’s fun to mock the weekend warriors*, but if they have good taste then they don’t bother me. It’s worse with full time metal people that THINK they have good taste but like all the wrong bands, that really makes ME depressed.

*Interviewer’s note: it’s not about mocking weekend/fake warriors but feeling a certain basic incompatibility with hipsters and whores.

Bands who chose a different path argue that music being their main job allows them the freedom to dedicate all their time to being creative (and, crucially, tour). In my eyes they interpret the word “freedom” mainly from a temporal viewpoint, but to me inner freedom is what ultimately matters! How can you feel truly free if at the back of your mind you feel you have to produce a work that pleases the buyers, the big mag journos and, last but not least, the merchandise-buying fans at the concerts (got to write that festival anthem!)?

When a band meet and start up and have success with their style…. and then they of course change their music taste along the line, BUT THEY NEVER CHANGE THEIR BAND STYLE because it is success… that’s understandable but makes me rather sad. I don’t know, they might play total modern dragon power metal but backstage they only listen to Deep Purple or Blue Cheer….I think then it’s time to ponder if they are fooling themselves.

Very few honorable bands manage to keep both job and touring going: Scruff from legendary, uncompromising crusty-thrashers Hellbastard was (I think still is) a postman all his life and managed to do a few tours in UK and USA (not trying to convince you, by the way… Darkthrone are far too well known to think of doing the odd underground gig: you’d be sucked in immediately into the big stage circuit due to public demand). Have you heard Hellbastard’s new EP “Sons of Bitches”?

No, I had their first LP but never got into it in a big way, I liked Axegrinder more, but still I was a child and I liked more wild stuff like Sadus or the Extreme Noise Terror peel session. I think Hellbastard was too crusty for me hahahaha! Later I got Hellbastard’s stuff from Marius KOLBOTN but now I can’t find it, and I’ve been looking in my record collections for ten minutes, feeling like an idiot, but I remember I liked it. It was probably old, though. Did Energetic Krusher and Hellbastard have split bands? I am thinking Hellkrusher had members from both bands… or was that someone else... Fuck, I’m losing it here haha!  Just put on PARADOX first LP, they look like mega dorks, I always thought so, but it’s ok: thrash from 87, must have been a reason I almost sold this many times as a kid but never parted ways with it. Very far from Hellbastard for sure. I think I bought Hellbastard through postal order, it was a very autumnal album cover and now worth a lot probably; I think I sold it to buy speakers or gave it to Euronymous’ shop in 1991 (I gave him 60 vinyls! He needed something to have in his record shelves).

The Underground Resistance is Darkthrone’s best album since F.O.A.D. for me personally. Everything sounds more powerful, fuller and vigorous than Circle the Wagons: it packs a healthy punch, both sonically and energetically. The vocal performances are top-notch and, crucially, the somewhat cleaner sound does them (and the music) justice. 

It’s strange more people think the sound is clearer, as Jack’s mastering really meshed things a bit more in my ears, but I love the sound, first time I had a fine drum sound in ages. Jack hasn’t mastered anything wrong for other bands as far as I have heard; he also mastered some of my faves, THE ASSASSINATORS  from Denmark… and with us it seemed like he had a magic MORBID TALES 1984 button, wo ho!! A fine organic bass punch, yes indeed… He said years ago he would master us for free cuz he KNEW what we needed, he said. And so when it was finally time for this to be mastered we gave him free hands and then I decided we should wire him 666$ afterwards as thank you.

Bacause of my background, I have always perceived hints of Amebix’s crust punk/proto-doom (obviously both Darkthrone and Amebix share Motörhead and Black Sabbath amongst their early influences) and even lyrical themes in Ted’s tracks, but the brand new (and splendid!) Dead Early made my heart skip a beat because on that track in particular Ted’s vocals are incredibly similar to the (now twice-disbanded) Amebix singer’s, The Baron. You probably don’t know if Ted is a fan, but does their early discography appear in your collection?
Nah, I’m not an AVID fan and both Ted and me probably only heard the most MUST HAVE stuff by Amebix, but I really like my ARISE!  album. I like LARGACTYL a lot, and the sound in general is original like other bands I like from the 80s in punk styles, I often dig the ones that stand out a bit like that. Also the SEPTIC DEATH album and CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER and RUDIMENTARY PENI and so on. But I think Ted definitely just DOES VOCALS and especially after he finally writes his own lyrics the vocals have even more magic power.

In “Valkyrie” there are tremendously catchy parts - one in particular has been stuck in my head for days and I have no problem with that because it is such good company! Aside people such as Napalm Death, Benediction and the righteous Bolt Thrower, I had the good fortune to get to know true old-school thrashers when in 1990 I chose to live in the birthplace of metal itself, Birmingham/The Midlands, and I came to appreciate their total dedication to the underground and its ethos (99% of them dug punk), and how important it was to hang out and have a good time together over a (large amount of) beer! Can you see a strong relationship between living with/for music and how you actually metabolize/write your metal? 

That sounds like us allright. But I had no contact with this scene back then. The only thing I could easily hear was that it seemed Bolt Thrower took 22% of their riffs from the second SACRILEGE album Within the Prophecy which is still one of my fave albums, and that guy who wrote a review for that Sacrilege album in Metal Archives saying that Holy Moses’s Finished with the Dogs is much better is TOTALLY not on the same wavelength as me (although I did HM’s Current of Death track to death, I’d never compare those two bands arrrrgh). Anyway, we always knew those bands came from punk, we could hear it clearly. Also knew cuz I had the first Bolt Thrower and Sacrilege, and when it came to Napalm Death we always looked on them as way more than 50% punk when we heard their 1987 era stuff. I jumped ship after that EP after Obliteration, btw. Was never a fan of Benediction but at some point they had an impressive deep growler. Anyway, there was a period where British thrash was suffering, I think in 1986 till 1988 only two albums had “un-punk” production and that sort of told us that punk was a major thing over there and also that there was a GAP, a band had to have huge money in the bag to get a “pro” thrash sound. So that was strange, as we viewed England as a MAJOR country for music in general. So the two albums were Onslaught THE FORCE in 86 and second SABBAT album Dreamweaver from 88. Anyway the British album we obsess totally over here in Darkthrone is the incredibly unique sounding ENGLISH DOGS “Where legend began” in 1986. That and the second Sacrilege album is one of my forever faves that even now gets stronger when I listen to them. 

The cold and individual aesthetic of black metal is often seen by the “old metal throwbacks” as arty-farty bullshit: it’s definitely not do to with the lo-fi racket (since most love their Extreme Noise Terrors) so I have always wondered if it is because they perceive it as a high-middle class scene…

I think that is a false wall building process, I think metal is lower middle class per say (haha per say, so posh haha) but the aesthetic you mention comes from OTHER DREAMS. The dreams that throwback metal was originally about, dragons, naked women and swords, it was just taken into a new decade in the 90s, but many of the throwback bands… only some were more underground and….oh, it could be discussed for long times, but they should just shut up and dig more of each other. I went through both scenes and find it very easy dealing with those who also went through THE ENTIRE METAL SCENE and came out at the end facing the beginning again. Those who just stayed back in the days aren’t my heroes either, as they also lack perspective. Man, only retards don’t change in this life.

The choice of splitting the songwriting between you two works out on many different aspects: it keeps the listener curious and engaged due to the different angles, making the album dynamic. Also, from the fan point of view, it is like we get two opening tracks! I must say that I cannot think of a recent album that had two totally killer “opening tracks” like in The Underground Resistence: classics, both of them, and they contrast/amalgamate to perfection. The musicians’ enjoyment is palpable and contagious! 

I would think people would get confused and angry by it, but it seemed the only way: it is my job to sort out the puzzle of track order and it sort of had to be like that as it was Ted’s turn to have the beginning track. We started this whole EVERYONE FOR HIMSELF IN SONGWRITING as far back as immediately after the A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY was recorded, summer 1991. Slowly I started singing on mine and he started doing lyrics for his own and here we are almost 22 years later with some strange DIVIDE. I am so afraid always that we will be misunderstood for our divided sound, just so fond of it all when someone likes it, haha… Holy shit this PARADOX album is melodic! Haha but I won’t sell it still. I like it. Maybe I’ll play the vinyl standing after it in the shelf, the forgotten very old Swedish punk band THE PAST! WO HO got it from Erik from Motorbreath.

Your comment about having been often alone at home as a child struck me. It was the same for me, so I began to listen to cool music at the age of 4 to fill the void. There were times when I felt very scared so I would turn the volume right up up to feel safe: that means that I find loudness very exciting and comforting to this day; so when I see people wearing ear-plugs at metal concerts I think they are totally missing the point! Away (Voivod’s drummer) had a similar kind of childhood. Perhaps, had we been thrown amongst other little fuckers at kindergarten, our way to relate to music as our most important reality would have been very different… 

Yeah, but I think my grandparents was at least watching me, I was just around the house playing and then my grandmother learnt me to write before she died when I was 5. I still think I wasn’t the same after that happened, fucked me up a lot but I just kinda shut it out, like the only think I EVER remembered from her funeral was that we saw an am-car on the way home. I was obsessed by cars and am-cars especially as a kid, until I was in my teens when music and soccer took over, then music just shut everything out. I never had a YOUTH either as I didn’t drink or hang with a crew until I got the record deal in early 1990 and then it WAS TIME TO MAKE UP FOR MY LOST YOUTH. I didn’t settle down from the pub life until 2005 but now I just got named MUSICAL DIRECTOR at a metal/rock/punk pub that opens downtown Oslo, so  I am hurled back into that life again… GOD HELP US ALL hahahaha. Anyway, ear plugs is a hassle but I sometimes wear them as I got tinnitus in 1991 when someone broke a balloon right by my ear cuz I had passed out drunk at my mom’s 50 year birthday. Very NOT majestic story, but I woke up the next day on my couch and I could hear clearly from one ear (had fallen asleep again with Altars of Madness on repeat, damn CD) and I could only hear treble crackling from the other ear. That was the biggest hung over-angst I ever encountered, and it took 8 months until it was a bit evened out and still it will never go away. So that’s why I use plugs sometimes. Some frequencies are unlistenable but what the hell. 

We have come to expect lyrics from you where you take a dig at what you don’t like about your fellow musicians: does the tongue-in-cheek musical approach of “The ones you left behind” indicate one of those kinds of songs lyric-wise?

The main lyrical subject seems to be JUDGEMENT yeah, I’m a RIGHTEOUS PIG!!! Haha, well, I am very sore about seeing great 80s metal being treated wrongly, I have fought for this a lot throughout the years, more than most realize, cuz as a DJ it’s been mainly the very good old shit I’ve been playing and presenting in podcasts or compilations or on various radio shows. I have extreme amounts of longevity and fighting energy when it comes to this. Maybe one day there will come a NINETIES MAN and there will be a major musical battle hahahaha!

Rock ‘n’ roll and sex have always gone and in hand: those who think that underground extreme metal is somehow removed from that equation are clearly in denial! Would you agree that - as genres - thrash and death metal are pure testosterone while black metal, when it’s not completely a-sexual, has a stronger feminine element to it? 

Nah, I thought that thrash and death metal had too often to play very technically and therefore guitars where high up on the musicians’ chests. While rock’n’roll had guitars way lower. And lower is sexier.
I think a band like VOMITOR (they are black metal cuz they give ME the black metal feeling) are one of the LEAST feminine bands in the universe, however black metal was not a defined genre in the 80s and could therefore exist on many planes in the future, whereas death and thrash are a bit “TRAPPED” in their dogmatic realms, so if they stray they are quickly deemed not to be thrash or death, but black metal can be anything from In Solitude to Sarcofago. Perhaps. Anyway I’d rather fuck to HAND OF DOOM, rugged late 70s German hard rock, than any of the above.

I know you admire and support Aura Noir and Nekromantheon. Has there been a dark thrash scene as such in Norway all along (which you perhaps contributed in feeding)?

Yeah we always liked thrash but never understood why other countries seemed to put the more dark or obscure sounding thrash bands down: we could listen to Kreator’s Endless Pain and the first Testament album at the same time, but none of us from the 80s ended up playing this ourselves, instead taking a lot of inspirations from them. So the maniacs 2-3-4 years younger than us had enough in the early 90s and started up INFERNÖ and AURA NOIR in 94-95 and so on with Nocturnal Breed and then finally AUDIOPAIN which were the 4 big in Norwegian dirty black necro sinister thrash bands in around year 2000. Personally, I had private thrash parties throughout that time, also DJ’ing mostly thrash at Elm Street, pushing all kinds of 80s thrash at the same time; no niches, no totalitarianism, except it was only good stuff, not plastic shit that started coming in the very late 80s. But I only made one thrash song myself to back this up. One song on our TOTAL DEATH album. 

Nekromantheon are in your end of year playlist. Indie Recordings have been picking up a lot of Norwegian talent spanning from vintage rock to hardcore. Is there such a broad music scene because of government encouragement through sponsoring, etc., or are people really pissed off!?... 

Indie have distribution or something for us in Norway. I’m doing stuff myself often here, I have been in contact with sooooo many people here, we are more or less “public figures”. I have to say NO to TV, for instance, as they often want us to be on stupid or unfitting shows. Or debates about culture I often turn down now, twice these last two months. I make my natural sidekick Sindre from Obliteration /Nekromantheon take some of them now as he needs to get his good views forth. I think it’s been a broad music scene here cuz we started doing it ourselves and Metalion and Mayhem started that up a lot, and then more and more people in Norway got higher hopes and more courage for themselves; this goes for many music styles after a while . Until mid 80s Norwegian music was a joke abroad, from 1990 until 2005 we had many successes abroad and inside this little country. Biggest difference after us maniac metalheads started the DIY was that NORWAY didn’t count, the WORLD counted. I just wrote two pages about this in the BY:LARM paper that had shockingly high distribution last Friday and will continue to have during that festival. So I’m fed up explaining more around this subject but let’s just say it isn’t INDIE that have put this forth, they just put it OUT.

Years ago you confirmed the “shocking rumors” that you were into electronica. Many of us extreme metallers did get into underground dark techno, progressive house, psychedelic trance and hard drum ‘n’ bass in the 90s, and personally I thought it made completely sense as there were lots of elements that made me connect with each of these genres. Are you still following electronica and what have your most recent discoveries outside metal been, if any? 

All the time, one checks the resident advisors pods, the fact mixes, prints out tracklists and marks off and searches out the best songs which again can be obtained on vinyl or beatport or spotify, if lucky. As a DJ, it’s of course the one off track that gets me going, not entire albums. My fave label is still probably DELSIN. My first 12” I ever bought was AQUA FORTIS The House of Usher, from 1992, and from then on I bought a helluvalot of vinyls, DJ mixes and CD’s… and tapes too, as DJ mixes were on tapes a lot until 1994-1995. This stuff came out on CD’s and then ended up as pods in the last few years. It’s hard to just recommend tracks in these genres, as they need the right tempo too. The new DJ STINGRAY album is insane. But not my style exactly, my fave DJ tends to be ELI VERVEINE but as with tracks, it is more a question of fave mixes than fave DJ’s . Fave house track of all time is CRICCO CASTELLI Life is Changing, btw, one of DJ Sneaks old favourites. 

Now and again an album gets marketed as “endorsed by Fenriz”, and your blog on myspace is still very active! People seem to need a huge amount of information on bands on a daily basis. I myself crave to hear new music all the time and listen to 6 to 8 hours of promos a day but, unlike in the old times when demo-swapping was slower, I cannot find the time to write about all of the ones I feel are worthy a mention. Are you ever frustrated by all this frenetic exchange of pill-sized info, which inevitably makes the average life-span of a good album far too short?

Yep, daily, it is both a western world problem but still an existential problem nonethesame. Luckily I am not a part of the promo-wheel that most journos have in the musical genre-press, where the sad thing is that many seem to get the same promos – at the same time you can all get together and discuss the same promos you’ve all heard, and thus take the edge off. I have no official address and don’t partake in that “rat race” because I haven’t got the time: there is soo much great music but there is only me and I ain’t got time for it all. The last time I was in heaven thinking there was so much great music around was the other week, but that was none of the music reported to by my many informants. It was inspired by a guy called Ralph Myerz who got interviewed in a serious newspaper here, saying he and his wife often used Fridays to go to the used store and buy some albums and drink and listen to them. So my girl and me have done this 3 times already, but I also transfer those vinyls to wav files to CD so I can feed them to my mp3 player, and I write a little note with it and sit at work and rate the songs. Thus I discovered that the 10CC album she liked was actually both extremely good and bad, and I offered to buy it for twice the price she got it for. This was the album I enjoyed when I was last very happy with all the great music in the world. The song I’M MANDY FLY ME for instance. Then I feel free, there is no music I HAD to listen to, instead it was just found in the cheap bin by my girl and I could get it as she eventually didn’t want it. 

I write about music for free as I want to keep total control and integrity over the greatest passion in my life. Sometimes people find it difficult to get round their heads that a person (I should say a woman, as it’s more ok for men) could carry on being so active about promoting extreme music after reaching an “adult” age, as if metal were a “hobby” relegated to the earlier years of our stupid lives only… It’s amazing that views like this are still embedded in young people’s minds in the XXI century!

YOUNG people react to that? OMG how reactionary!!! Well, I feel a certain “GROWN UP” cloud hovering over my world but not when I am DJ’ing (that’s when it all makes sense) and not when I do music, which is most of the time. I am rarely in situations when I am questioned at all, mostly people want my time to check out their music or want a favour, so if they at the same time think I’m too old, it’s sadder for them than for me.

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