Interview by Luxi Lahtinen and Arto Lehtinen with the Mayhem guitarist Blasphemer
First of all we have to apologize for the incredible delay with this Mayhem interview a lot. But there were all kinds of unexpected problems, for some mysterious reason the tape literally got lost into the total mayhemic chaos until found around Christmas. It would have been an extreme stupid and embarrassing thought to dump the whole great interview with one of the most important and innovative and influential black metal bands from Norway, because Mayhem definitely stands for what a word “extreme” means in every aspect. Even though the band has gained the cult reputation in the eyes of black metallers, but their newer more avantgardish material hasn’t been approved by the die hardest fans. The Finnish Metal-Rules.com team cheered a few glasses of liquid with Mayhem’s guitarist Blasphemer and inquired a thing and two at the same time…
When your second album “Grand Declaration Of War” came out it scared both the new and old Mayhem fans because of its diverse compared to “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, but eventually people really got used to that sound and started liking the album, but what do you personally think it even scared you knowing how people might react when it once came out?
Actually before we started writing the stuff for “Grand” we knew it is gonna be very geographically oriented. For example in Germany I haven’t seen any good reviews there, well ok maybe one…heh! Actually, I do the music for myself and I can’t think about what people might think or not. I just do what appeals to be right for myself, so I don’t think about that so much.
What made you change rather the primitive black metal to the avantgardish direction?
Mayhem have always changed from the album to another, from “Deathcrush” to “De Mysteriis, in a way of difference, and from Mysteriis to Wolf Liar Abyss, well those are probably the most similar ones. And I guess at that time when Liar Abyss came out I was very very angry frustrated and everything was total shit and my personal life was total hell and I guess that covered all the frustration what I had at that time and when Grand came out it was a natural step.
I mean If you are stuck a person then you are dead.. It’s maybe more sophisticated aspect whereas Abyss was much more psychical. So it is an important thing to keep on the mind this Grand is a concept album. It is a very “titletical” connection between the first and last song. So for example the songs on the b-side are more cosmic based. The next Mayhem album won’t be anything like that it will be more darker and morbid. There are many reasons why Grand came out in that way after all.
Do you think that one of reasons for how Grand came out is that you are fed up with the current black metal thing going on in Norway?
It wasn’t the main concern thought, it just happed in the musical way which is of course very personal. But I don’t know it’s not that fed up with black metal. Of course as said there are much very similar bands and a lot of crap bands. This is how I feel. I mean Grand is still 100% black metal album I think very much, but in the different way of channeling the message.
Can it be said that Mayhem meets Voivod?
Heh heh.. A lot of people have come up that description but I don’t agree with that actually, because it’s very strange, but different scales. When people hear something else then they are “..Ohh this is Voivod”. I like Voivod a lot, but I can’t find much Voivod music in us.
So you have new material written?
We have started writing the new material.
Could you tell what Chimera actually means?
That’s a Greek vocabulary. It’s a fictional creature with a lion’s head and a dragon’s tail. That’s what I prefer calling us “The Beast of Mayhem.”
So will you bring once again some surprises like you did with Grand?
I think there will be some surprises…
On which level !? Lyrically or…
Hehe.. Both we never repeat ourselves, we always want go for and try to break the barriers. It’s pretty sure, it will surprise a lot of people
Do you think you will go even further on the next level of complexity?
No, I don’t think so. I have written some progressive elements, but it’s going to be a bit more catchy.
You have got new outputs out called European Legions and US Legions and there are two different versions available of those albums, how come?
When we toured in the States, we recorded some of shows and we thought it was a cool thing to release two different versions… By having included Us song for the European version and so on…
Did you record new versions of the old stuff or…?
No. Those ones are actually the first versions. It is maybe one year before we entered the studio to do the album. They have been done in two days or something like, just to check out how the new material sounds like.
Then you have this DVD release!
Yeah we had six-seven cameras in action, yeah but it is a way better done in live … But I think there is something missing anyway.
Then you have an official live album called “Mediolanum Capta Est” recorded in Milan, hmm is this some kind of your answer against all these piracy albums what you have around ?!?
Yeah that album was released as a limited version just to 500 copies on both vinyls and cds just to avoid all these bootlegs. And that’s an old live album recorded in 98.
What made you then change from Avantgarde to Season Of Mist anyway?
Actually we only did only one live album for Avantgarde. That came up back in Norway as the owner of the label had recorded the show and he came up “hey it sounds good” and then it was put out.
But why Season Of Mist, they are a very small label and has quite a weak distribution for example they don’t have a label here in Finland, why did you pick up Season Of Mist?
Because we have always wanted to keep Mayhem priority, it is very important for us. Signing a deal with some big major label is definitely not a good thing for us.
When you are composing a new song, what’s exactly the most changeling part of the whole process for you when writing new tunes?
The most difficult think is probably to create the immortal riffs which you can listen to five hundred times and still like it. That’s the problem. And come up the new stuff that lasts forever.
Besides that you always have to try to top yourself and the older material what you have done previously trying to make it better all the time when the song writing process is in the process when coming up new songs and I think that is one of those things that a musician tried to do in my opinion…
Of course that’s all about the progression as said earlier you have to move on that you can’t be stuck to one thing.
Would you consider yourself as some sort of perfectionist as far as making the music from your side is concerned?
Absolutely! I usually spend five days to find the first guitar sound. It is very important to have the right sound for Mayhem. Sounds also have to reflect what a song is all about. I am very perfectionist and so is Hellhammer. He is a real madman what comes to the drumming.
Now speaking of HellHammer as he plays in several bands besides Mayhem, how is he able to share his time between all these bands, I mean Mayhem is a very active band touring quite a lot right now?
Mayhem is of course his main priority, but when we don’t rehearse so he is free to do whatever he wants to do with other bands. For example me I have to focus on the music, when I wake up in the morning I have the music inside my head.
What inspirits your musically these days?
No music at all, just…Just shit like this, sitting here in the backstage and doing whatever and being alive and that is what inspirits me mostly.
What about the nature as Norway is famous for the wonderful landscape and nature?
I am more urbanist, I rather prefer cities. The nature is not my thing, but the weather of course. What is more depressing that a rainy day in Oslo.. haha…
You toured in The US with Hate Eternal how was that?
Oh it was good, it was an excellent tour all in all and great guys and we also toured with Exhumed there. It was very inspirational indeed.
What kind of sizes of clubs did you play there?
All sizes, We also played at the Milwaukee Metal festival at that year and it was co-headlined by King Diamond on the big stage.
You also played at Wacken in 99 and I was there for the first time of my life, so how was it from your point of view, there were thousands and thousands of metal heads…
It was ok I guess. Actually it was like we just went to the stage and did the gig, just drinking. We didn’t just care we weren’t that professional at that time, we wanted to have a good party anyway.
Do you personally prefer playing big venues or then small clubs?
Sometimes it is much cooler to play in small clubs to have more intensity feeling but playing on huge stages is sometimes totally out of control, everything is 100 meters from Maniac. There should be a car to drive on the stage cos it is too far to walk.
Have you had problems with the fans and people on the gig for example have you ever got any kind of death threats?
There is always shit people trying to fuck up everywhere. You can’t bother those morons, just ignore them, just let them be what they are. I don’t care. We are easy to hate. I think Mayhem is one of the most hated bands actually. We can’t be ignored and people have to have their opinions about us and if they don’t like Mayhem and they are like fuck off.
Does it bother that people always want to hear the old Mayhem classic and ignore the newer material?
Some places yes. It is very geographical oriented. In Germany and England it is ok, but Sweden was quite strange. We just did two gigs in Sweden, the one in Ume� and another one in Stockholm, they went pretty well.
How do you see the Norwegian black metal scene has changed through all these years when we started out and which bands have come out to play black metal in Norway. What kind of direction do you think it has been taken to and is going to in the future?
I mean it used to be one thing in the first place. Then everyone was mixing other musical styles like industrial and all kind of shit. I think it is getting back to the roots and I think that’s going to happen with Mayhem as well. The next album could be a little bit more traditional black metal. But it is good to hear that people have started to understand the album that’s good.
Do you think it is great that death/black/thrash bands tour on the same bill when touring all around that there is not only black metal tour or death metal tour?
In that way you can attract more people on gigs, but of course we can’t go too far to mix everything. I think death metal and black metal is pretty same thing. I thing that’s cool. When we were on the European tour, we had three bands Red Harvest, hard industrial band, Aeternus playing death metal and then some stupid heavy metal band called Griffin. That was quite a strange bill, but it worked well. That’s too much I guess..
What is Mayhem’s relationship with Dimmu Borgir, Emperor nowadays?
They are cool bands…But I haven’t had a contact to Emperor for a while, but I guess Hellhammer is in touch with them.
But Emperor quit the whole thing…
There was their last album, yeah they are or were a great band. I guess this is why Samoth has this Zyklon going.
What about this Eibon project, there have been all kind of huge things in magazines having written about it like project band from certain Usa and Norwegian bands advertised as some kind of black metal super band?
In the beginning it was meant to be that Maniac is on vocals together with Killjoy and other people. I guess Maniac didn’t want to do it anymore cos he quit the band. But I think Eibon sounds like a rock’n’roll version of Satyricon. I think Satyr makes the music. I didn’t like that one song that I heard on the compilation, but we get a lot of press because of that.
I am sure you get .. I am coming to your song writing process…I have always wondered when you come up with let’s say a very aggressive part for one song. Do you think it always needs aggressive lyrics in order to fit together?
Yeah, well. I think cos the music and the lyrics are very connected to each other and especially in the lyrical wise. Sometimes, in our case, when you write a song then suddenly Maniac has lyrics for that and this part…Maybe it is not necessary to have aggressive lyrics for the aggressive music. Actually it could be interesting to write a love song with the death metal lyrics. Heheh…
I think this is a very hypothetical question, but when Euronymous and Dead were in the band. But do you think if they could be a in band nowadays you may have never done Grand and tours around the world?
Hmm… What am I supposed to say?! Well he liked a lot of different music styles and I don’t think Mayhem would have this position with him alive and could have the same status. I think he may have died actually in the right timing in order to be a king he is concerned. I don’t wanna speculate about this, but everything or anything can happen. I am better musician than Euronymous, but they could have done something teamwork.
What were your reaction when you were asked to join Mayhem?
Actually I played together with Hellhammer before I joined Mayhem and Euronymous was still alive and that was 1992 or something. I played in Hellhammer’s side project and I was in the town drinking and he asked cos he had heard I was the good guitar player, so I was like “Let’s try”. We had a couple of rehearsals and played some songs. Then they started arguing and I left the whole city and moved 60 kilometers away and started my own black metal thing. Suddenly they called me “Long time no see”, I was “Yeah sure”, he told that “I am gonna start Mayhem again”, “What?”, “Yeah sure”…I was a bit surprised cos we had this argument as well. But he believed in me when anybody else didn’t. He was sure that this is a right thing to do. He was right, and I think a lot of people have realized that much that Mayhem is here to stay.
Well when many people heard when Euronymous was dead and Dead was dead, they also though that Mayhem is not going to be any Mayhem any longer, but you got back because of HellHammer wanted to continue?
But everybody has always talked in that way when Euronymous and Dead died that no you can’t continue, this is wrong Mayhem is not Mayhem anymore. Well don’t bother let people say what they want to…
Yeah those guys used to be spokesmen of Mayhem and when the name of your band Mayhem came up everywhere, everybody was thinking that it was Euronymous and Dead only, but there was HellHammer too…
The one thing is important that, as I have understand, Euronymous was more interested in the business side like sitting all day long writing letters in his office and became more and more business man, It was actually HellHammer who was like “Hey we have to get into the studio.” Hellhamer had the equipment of his own and the stuff like that, but Euronynous was at home office all the time. People don’t know the story, they don’t know anything and they should keep their mouth shut.
What is your relationship with the internet, there are a lot of rumors about Mayhem and so on, do you usually use it a lot to find things about your band?
I am always interested to read what is written about me and Mayhem. I am not much on the net. I use it as a way of communicating, I write of course, but I don’t surf there that much. If people send me links I check them out, but I am not that interactive anyway.
What is the strangest rumor that you have heard or read about yourself?
I don’t know, there has been so much bullshit during all these years that I have stopped caring anymore. I once heard that I was supposed to be in a plane crash a couple of years ago on the way to a place where we have never played. But there are always a lot of things happening, everything can happen… Well yesterday was total hell in the Scandic hotel..Oh..
What happened there then?!?
We had been drinking all fucking day, u know. Maniac and a lot of other people…
Well Maniac seemed to be in very good condition…
Yeah ..Laughter… Exactly….When I woke up this morning, my hotel room was completely over filled with bottles everywhere. There were black marks and shit everywhere. And Maniac’s footprints on The mini bar was totally empty and there were burnt marks everywhere. I had to put this sign on the door that “come to clean up and quickly” and the cleaner was totally shocked, standing and staring how to clean the room. Then there was a message on the TV that “Get the contact to reception”.. Actually we had to pay a lot of money…
There was the true mayhem going on ?!?