GOD SEED – Interview with bassist King Ov Hell
By Peter Atkinson
Promo photos courtesy of Earsplit PR
The saga of this interview is about as complicated – though nowhere near as interesting nor as epic – as that of God Seed itself. I’ll spare you most of the boring details, but after a series of e-mail exchanges that began in October – prompted when a planned phone interview with frontman Gaahl (Kristian Espedal) fell through due in part by his remote locale in the Norwegian forest, then complicated by the communication clusterfuck caused here by Hurricane Sandy, the band being on tour in Europe for seven weeks and the holidays – some responses by founding bassist King Ov Hell (Tom Cato Visnes) arrived via the publicity folks at Earsplit (thanks Liz) in New York in late January.
Now, as to God Seed, the band released their studio debut I Begin on Oct. 23, capping a series of events that actually, umm, began five years earlier with the disintegration of the infamous Gorgoroth in 2007 and a two-year battle over the band’s name that ending in 2009 with guitarist Infernus (Roger Tiegs) retaining the rights.
At that point, Gaahl and King opted to carry on as God Seed. But after playing a couple of festival shows, Gaahl suddenly decided to retire from metal, this after dabbling in fashion design and acknowledging he was gay, all of which made for popular Internet “tabloid” fodder for some time.
With God Seed’s future uncertain at best, King went on to record the album The Underworld Regime in 2010 under the moniker Ov Hell with a veritable black metal supergroup including Dimmu Borgir frontman Shagrath, Satyricon drummer Frost, Enslaved guitarist Ice Dale and Nidingr guitarist Teloch.
In January 2012, God Seed released the Live At Wacken CD/DVD – from a 2008 showed they played under the Gorgoroth name with Teloch, Ice Dale and drummer Nicholas Barker that replicated Gorgoroth’s blasphemous Black Mass Krakow stage set studded with sheep heads and live crucifixions – and the ball was rolling again. By then, Gaahl had returned to God Seed and work commenced on what became the rather awesome I Begin, with the band’s lineup being rounded out by guitarists Sir and Lust Kilman, keyboardist Geir Bratland and drummer Kenneth Kapstad. After the album was released, the band toured Europe with Cradle of Filth, which brings us to the present.
At some point along the way, King took the time to answer the questions I had e-mailed. The transcript follows and – though the questions are over-simplified to fit the e-mail format, and the answers predictably terse as a result – brings us up to speed as to where God Seed is now, and what the future might hold for this most unpredictable and explosive band.
I guess an obvious place to start is what led to God Seed’s resurrection/reformation and when did the pieces start coming together?
King: I view the process of making in two parts. I did write most of the material and did preproduction prior to anyone’s involvement. Then I presented the music for Gaahl and we got the new members for God Seed. It’s been a rather long working process, but now we are finally done and the album released.
Was there anything in particular that brought Gaahl out of “retirement?” Any coaxing on your behalf to get God Seed going again?
King: Not really. I guess he felt the time was right to get back into extreme music. [Gaahl also contributes vocals on the upcoming second album by Wardruna, the Nordic folk act headed by ex-Gorgoroth drummer Kvitrafn.]
Given all the turmoil that went on over the rights to the Gorgoroth name, and all the attention that was paid to Gaahl’s involvement with the fashion industry and his sexuality, did the hiatus end up being a blessing in disguise? Did it give you time to recharge your batteries, get all the old shit out of your systems and bring new focus to God Seed when the decision to move forward was made?
King: Well, I guess most things happen for a reason, although it’s taken quite a bit of work to get everything up and running again. I do not think the past events of unwanted noise was more than unwanted noise. I did, however, have plenty of time to get the songs right for my liking this time.
Is Gaahl committed to getting back into metal and being a public figure again, or does he still seem a bit reluctant?
King: I guess he is very into God Seed and his work since he always has a 100 percent dedication on what he does. I don’t know what he thinks about being a public figure again. You better direct that question to him.
After all that God Seed have been through, a tour with Cradle of Filth to launch the new album and get the band back out there would seem to be a big step in the right direction?
King: I totally agree. We have toured with Cradle in the past and Dani [Filth, Cradle frontman] is a good friend of mine. Cradle of Filth has built up a big fan base during the years, so they are presenting God Seed to a new audience for us.
Do you have any plans to revisit the Black Mass Krakow stage show in the future, or has that been retired?
King: We will never do that show again. We are focusing on God Seed now and it would be totally wrong of us do reproduce the past.
Is the idea with God Seed now to simply move on from Gorgoroth and leave that in the past, or will you try to maintain/continue the Gorgoroth legacy somehow?
King: Infernus is Gorgoroth now. It’s up to him to continue Gorgoroth to his liking. We are concentrating on our art, which is now God Seed. We will play some old material we have written ourselves though. God Seed is basically what me and Gaahl did together in the past and what we will present with our new members in the future.
Is the mission or purpose of God Seed any different that it was with Gorgoroth, and if so how?
King: We have left the Satanic imagery. We are now using symbolism linked to Norse shamanism instead. That’s the biggest difference.
After Celtic Frost split up again, Tom Warrior formed Triptykon with the intent of it being stylistically and musically as similar to his old band as possible. Do you approach the music for God Seed in the same way, or are you looking to chart a different path?
King: I want God Seed to be its own entity, but at the same time it will be built on our past. I think it’s rather obvious that quite a bit has changed if you listen to the record.
The certainly are some distinctive flourishes on I Begin – the keyboards, the clean vocals, the ambient “Bloodline,” etc.
King: It’s my son, Trym Hartmark Visnes, singing on “Bloodline,” hence the title. This album is very sacred to me and it felt natural to involve him on this record.
Is the material on I Begin what you originally were working on for God Seed before Gaahl stepped away several years ago? Or is this all new music written after the reformation?
King: Well, in my world I have just continued working on my music. Nothing much more to say really.
How much of that earlier musical material, if any, did you end up using on the Ov Hell album?
King: Everything ended up on the Ov Hell album I did with Shagrath from Dimmu.
What does the future hold now for Ov Hell? Is that something you are looking to continue, or is it being put to rest now that God Seed is active again?
King: Right now, God Seed occupies all my time and is my main focus. Shagrath and I would maybe do something more in the future, but right now there is no concrete plans.
And what is the status of the Temple of the Black Moon project with Dani Filth [along with now ex-Anthrax/new Volbeat guitarist Rob Caggiano and The Cult/ex-White Zombie/Exodus drummer John Tempesta]?
King: We have demoed more than an album’s worth of music. Rob Caggiano from Anthrax has been touring constantly for a while, but there are talks entering the studio spring 2013.
Back to God Seed, how much input did the other members – aside from you and Gaahl – have in writing the material on I Begin, or did they come onboard after it was written to play on the album and tour?
King: I wrote most music before anyone’s involvement. Lust Kilman wrote one song, “Aldrande Tre,” and Geir Bratland wrote “Bloodline.”
Is God Seed now a six-piece “band” or will it continue primarily as you and Gaahl, with other musicians being brought to record and tour as needed?
King: We are a band with six members who will record and play live.
And is the plan for God Seed to continue into the future, or will I Begin serve as a beginning and an end?
King: The plan is to continue for some years to come.
Given all the controversy that was ever-present with Gorgoroth, would you like to put that behind you with God Seed going forward, or does controversy just mean you’re doing something right?
King: We never did anything of the purpose of creating controversy. I guess Gaahl and I are controversial for some, but I’m not thinking too much about it.
Thank you for your time and safe travels.
King: Thank you!