Interview With SATYRICON
Interview By Arto Lehtinen
Transcription by JP
The Norwegian black metal combo Satyricon’s main members Frost and Satyr were interviewed in the end of last year here in Finland. The main issue was of course their latest effort, Volcano, which was now nominated as the best metal album in the Norwegian Grammy awards 2002. Congratulations to Satyricon for that. Besides the album, the Norwegian metallers talked about the Black Metal scene in general.
You are doing the Scandinavian tour with lots of small and bigger towns in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and so on. How did this opportunity come up? It is not that common for metal bands.
Satyr : It is clearly a result of the upwards going scale that we have had in Scandinavia that started with Rebel Extravaganza. That album went into the charts in Norway and overall in Scandinavia it sold a lot better than what is usual for the genre so that helped create a new market for us in that part of the world. Also with all the fuss before the album was released made it possible for us to start touring, such an extensive route, even after the release. We could have done more of the tour had been a bit later.
I read that all the gigs in Norway were completely sold out.
Satyr : Not ALL the gigs were sold out but the main cities were sold out.
You did a live recording for Swedish radio?
Satyr: Yes, in Stockholm. The SRP3.
You have toured a lot and you have toured Europe two or three times before. I saw your first gig in Lepakko, Helsinki in 1997. I remember that very well as people were just standing there and watching you.
Satyr : What I remember is that the band that was warming up, a Finnish band, had trouble getting any response whatsoever, and I remember that I thought it would be one of those nights where you just had to do your best but realize you could not get them moving. The crowd was not a responding crowd at all. I also remember that we were positively surprised that we got them moving near the stage, as far as I can remember, the response all over was very good that night. They were kind of being a little still but I don’t know what you remember.
But at the Tuska Metal festival, I remember the audience was going all around there. I guess it was outstanding in the beginning and it was better [the audiences behavior].
Satyr : I agree. It was much better at the Tuska show. I like them to be as energetic as possible.
What kind of places do you prefer playing at: small venues or huge festivals?
Satyr : Big clubs! Of course only if there are going to be a lot of people there! Some times you play at a place that is too big based on your sales or popularity in that country or city or wherever, but we prefer to play 1000 seaters. That way the stage is bigger, we have six people on stage. Usually the venue, they have a better PA system, a better lighting rig…
Like on the Pantera tour!
Satyr : Everything is just better. Bigger back stages – all that stuff.
How was it to play to a completely different audience, which are not into Black Metal that much?
Satyr : I’d say that 80% of the shows we did turned out to be good ones. We always, regardless, we got a good response and often we had a lot of our fans turn up for those shows. Some shows we had difficulty in the beginning but in the end we always managed to win them over, which was pretty much the situation Pantera had themselves when they toured with Judas Priest.
It was over ten years ago when they toured with Judas Priest.
Satyr : I remember they told me that was the situation back then.
Speaking about the new album, I guess there is about three years from your previous album?
Satyr : Yeah, about three years.
I have noticed there was another three years between Nemesis Divina and Rebel Extravaganza…
Satyr : That’s about how long it takes to make a good album I think. There is a combination of the time it takes to write the actual album, music and lyrics, the time it takes to rehearse the album and the recording, the photos, the typical delays that occur, so that is just how long it takes.
Do you think that the writing and composing new material for the new Satyricon album was more difficult for you or does it come just as easily for you?
Satyr : It just a different way, when you are new to writing songs there is this overflow of riffs and ideas and it’s not like that anymore. You have to work a little bit harder to come up with the magic but you are also more experienced and you can use that experience to your benefit a lot more when writing songs.
What is the most challenging part of writing the music?
Satyr : I guess the challenging part is to keep it quite strict and minimalist but keep the level of interest level up through an entire song and entire album for that matter.
When you are writing new material, do you think that there is some perfect aspects that you have to top yourself in order to go beyond the older material? As a matter of fact, do you consider yourself as a perfectionist?
Satyr : I am a perfectionist in everything I do, and it’s not only writing songs.
Frost : What he says is very true. He writes the songs and basically what I’m doing with the drums is a bit different than before. Satyr has started to record the different guitar themes that are usually the basics for all the songs and he gives me the tapes and I start working with drum patterns based on what I hear and then I present them to him at a later point and if he likes it we take it from there and if it isn’t coherent with his ideas of how it should be we try to work out something else. He will explain in what kind of way he would like it to be done, so now it is more of a creative process instead of going through and through…it is more work but it is a way to get better solutions. It is a better way to work I guess. I think it is a lot better to do it that way. Also a lot more can be done by each of us separately. We don’t have to go through all the rehearsal paces, there are better possibilities of preparing the themes and songs.
Satyr : By working that it means we haven’t given up anything, we still sound extreme and brutal and raw as well.
Frost : I think so. There has to be…
Satyr : It is what we demand from the music, there has to be edge in whatever we do.
With the new album I can say that, I noticed there are some old school metal elements. It is a really good head-banging one…
Satyr : I think all the Satyricon albums have old school elements in them, which is self explainable in a way in that the musical background of the band is what is referred to as ‘old school’ today. It is where we come from.
Frost : Thrash metal!
Satyr : Well that too! It’s just extreme metal music from day one. That is where the liking of the band lies and therefore there will likely always be elements like that in the music.
Frost : This too as a band is half and half. Pure innovation in terms of Black Metal and the other half is a reflection of our own musical taste.
I was just wondering about the title of the album – Volcano; a reference to some old band?
Frost : No it has nothing to do with that.
Where did you come up with the title, Volcano? What background does it have?
Satyr : Like I always say, the title of a Satyricon album is a conclusion of the content of the album, be it music, lyrics, visual presentation…it is all meant to be a summary of the entire content. Volcano is a very suitable way to sum it all up in one word.
Like lava? I’m just wondering, does it have some kind of connection between the whole album, or I was wondering if it had some sort of volcano background?
Black Lava is the closest we get to a track on the album. Other than that, I’m not sure what it means. When you ask what it means, do you mean what the ‘word’ means or is there a connection?
Well yes…what is the cobra on the cover?
Satyr : Cobra?
Ehh…Cobra that snake on the front cover?
Satyr : It’s a python! (Laughs) What about it?
Oh Sorry, well where did you get the idea for the front cover?
Satyr: It is a great symbol of darkness. It’s a very traditional symbol and I think the snake also reflects the emotions and lack of emotions…the cold…the dark feeling that lies there. It is a great symbolic effect. I always liked the snake myself and it’s not a picture that was taken from a book or something. It was a picture taken by the designer and there were various ones that looked good but this one was particularly good because the snake was coming from…falling down… you know what I’m saying?
Satyr : He was coming down against the photographer and looking directly in the lens, so it was a good pose right there.
Frost : There is also an organic element, like the title, it is a very organic feel and they are interconnected very nicely.
TO BIGGER LABEL
Tell us about the Universal label thing a little bit, as it has got a lot of press in general. Did you get surprised by how much attention you got from the black metal fans, as they didn’t accept it in the first place that you are on the big label?
Satyr : I never heard that anyone had a problem with that.
Well some people have said you have sold out now.
Frost : They should be happy on our behalf.
Yes, that’s true indeed.
Satyr : Actually the thing I find really interesting with the whole thing about our signing is that there has been a lot of talk from the press, that elements of the black Metal scene have very strong feelings about this. I’ve never seen it! I’ve never talked to anyone like that, I haven’t seen them at shows, or anything. So to me it looks like we are getting past that age where people are more concerned about politics than music.
Frost : Of course there are those who have to claim that we have sold out or whatever. If that was the case we would not have done a deal with Nuclear blast and did a licensing deal with them as well. There people who knew such things and can’t avoid it. also one should notice that a lot of the bands that are duly credited by die-hard people, like Venom and Celtic Frost and Bathory were all on bug labels and did it in a big way all over. The press seems to forget that.
Yes, that’s true! Tell us about the new video clip for “Fuel For Hatred” and Jonas Akerlund directing it. How did you get him? He is very known for the big projects and the big bands.
Satyr : Well, I know him. The way I got to know him is that I got in touch with him when we did Rebel Extravaganza and I just sent him some of our stuff and I explained to him the idea of the band and how we do things and that I wanted to do a video. At the time it was not possible because he was doing his movie project and he was also doing stuff for Madonna. Later on after finishing his movie project, he contacted me and actually wanted to use parts of the Mother North video for the movie. He wanted to use it in a scene for this movie. And that’s where we picked it up and started talking about our ideas. Should we try and do a video for this album, and yes we had many, many conversation on the phone. I went over to Sweden to visit him and talk and finally it materialized. I must say it was a great honour to work with Jonas and I’m extremely satisfied with the outcome of our collaboration.
I’ve just checked out your website and there are pictures from the video and they look pretty cool! So, I want to talk about the old-school stuff that you have covered for example – the old Sarcofago tune INRI and Motorhead’s, Orgasmatron. Do you have any other plans to cover old tunes like Slayer or Sabbath?
Satyr : Well We have done that quite a long time ago. We had done that one and half years ago. I don’t know…it’s a song we used to play live as part of the encore.
Hmm, like in the Tuska metal festival where you played Slayer’s Reign in Blood and concluded with a Black Sabbath tune.
Satyr : Yeah! Then we asked by this label in Germany, to record it for a Slayer tribute so we just did that. I don’t know if they ever released it, but we recorded it anyways. In the same session we just did a cover of a band with some of our friends called Turbonegro. We did a song called, I’ve Got Erection. That was fun, friends and blah, blah…it turned out pretty cool. Then in ’95 I think we did a Bathory cover.
Turbonegro: they split up and got back together again?
Satyr : Yes, they are back together now and they are doing a new album. I think they are going to do well.
BLACK METAL HYPE OVER?
Speaking of Black Metal in general – do you think that the biggest hype is now over and that the strongest ones are going to survive, like you?
Satyr : I think that happened many years ago. I think that it has been that way for, let’s say, five years because, I think that if you look at a very typical…that’s when I realized the way it is. When we released, “Hostmorke” by Isengard through Moonfog, I must say that the promo for that album was certainly done with the best intentions, but looking back it is now, it was shit. It was simply not good enough the way we worked the album and it still sold over 10,000. Later on we did the Admirion Black album by Gehenna, that album has been hugely surpassed by the masses but I think it is clearly the best Gehenna album. With that album we spent a lot of money promoting it, a lot. WE had never, ever used so much money promoting an album and the reviews we got were great, five out of five, six out of six, nine out of nine, ten out of ten, but we only sold only 11,000 or 12,000 records. Before that, they released the Malice album and the label did a terrible job, and they still sold 15,000 or something like that. Now, selling 10,000 records of an established band in the big league is quite an achievement. I talked to someone about the Red Harvest album and from what I see the reviews all over and good and people like that album and you know they have been out promoting it, and playing live and the last I heard it had sold a little bit over 200 copies. 2000 is nothing.
Do you think that it is a good sign that Death Metal and Black Metal, even Thrash Metal are getting back to being united? Different kinds of bands are touring together in Central Europe. Of course now there is Testament, Morbid Angel and some Death Metal bands touring together.
Satyr : No, I don’t think it is good at all. I don’t see what it has to do with being united. What I see is that there are less possibilities all over the land. So, what you call united, I call desperation. What these bands are trying to do is…they can’t fill up the venues anymore with shows of their own so they have like 15 bands on one bill and hope they can pull 300 people. It’s pathetic.
Frost : It is also unfortunate for everybody, I think it will be everybody’s loss when these things happen.
Satyr: Look at Morbid Angel. The last record they did was a really good record I like that a lot, but if you look at the band the way it used to be, they used to tour the world and they had to bring their own console and own mixing table and system so they were really good. Morbid angel always had a great sound and always looked very impressive. In order to get people coming to their shows now they have to bring at least two established Black Metal bands to pull people to the show because they just can’t do it themselves anymore. And that’s unfortunate.
Frost : Yeah, another very bad thing is a lot of promoter and booking agents will only work with those tours where there are lots of bands and they have that makes it a lot different. They have six bands on one bill in a tour.
Like on the No Mercy Tour?
Frost : Yeah, whatever, it makes it very hard for all the bands to do a very good job and makes it hard for the crowd to give a good response to all the bands you know? It is the desperation principle that comes in again…it is less intense live and poorer overall for all the bands.
Speaking of Morbid Angel there are only two guys left in the line-up these days! Let’s conclude this interview by asking you a question about your side-project. What’s up with that, you are doing a new album I guess?
Satyr : As soon as possible we are going to complete the album. Half of the album is already complete and the music for the rest is also completed so we just have to record the second half.
Alright, my time seems to be up now. I, for one, thank you for the interview.
Thanks for the interview!
Band Website: www.satyricon.no