TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Frost of Satyricon was done by phone by Andrew Zawislanski in late May 2006.
Andrew Zawislanski had the pleasure of interviewing Frost, the madman behind the drums for Satyricon, in late May 2006. What resulted was a phone call from halfway across the globe revealing perhaps a little mirth while maintaining much of the mystery behind the band. This might be best illustrated when Frost was asked if he enjoyed meeting the fans and replied "Yes and no." Additionally, opinions on bands such as Metallica and Dimmu Borgir, though the latter were never explicitly named, are definitely asserted. Read on, my liege, and remember that Frost says too much practice may not be a good thing....
Hello, this is Frost speaking.
Hi Frost, this is Andrew from Tartarean Desire.
Hello, how are you doing today?
Very good, thanks, and how are you?
Iím fine thanks.
The new album ["Now, Diabolical"] just came out and reached #2 on the Norwegian charts. Do you see any problems with extreme metal achieving this kind of success?
(pause) Oh, boy.... I think that when you create good music there are certain formulas that may work in all kinds of music, be it straight rock music or something as extreme as Black Metal. I think an album like "Now, Diabolical" is filled to the brim with energy, and it contains solid craftsmanship and all that, and I think that such elements make music function on a more general level. Many people like the music on "Now, Diabolical" because of the energy that they get a kick out of. They donít necessarily understand the whole package, and perhaps they don't get all the darkness. On an album like that they perhaps get a lot out of the sheer energy, and the sheer musical force of the album, which is very appealing to them. And that has happened to extreme metal records before. Several of the classic albums from the 80s have sold shitloads more than any Black Metal album from the 90s or the first decade of the new millennium. Think of the old Bathory and Venom and Celtic Frost albums, they sold several hundred thousand copies, and I don't see anybody complaining about the fact that they sold quite a few albums. It was generally accepted that those albums were good and were enjoyed by a wider audience than simply the core of dedicated fans. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just an indication of the music having quality that is understood by people from other musical standpoints. I think it's a good sign.
It seems like you have quite a few autograph signing sessions coming up in the next few months, [and I gotta ask], do you enjoy this opportunity to meet your fans?
Well, both yes and no. First of all it's a kind of work that we do for our band and that we do with pleasure, and I think it's a good thing to meet our fans. And you know, we don't forget that they make it possible for us to actually pursue our dreams of making the music that we have a passion for. It feels like a privilege, and you know they are very much part of that picture. It's a situation where they are grateful that we are there and deliver what we do, and we are grateful that they are there and take part in making Satyricon what it is and make it possible for us to follow our passion.
Black metal can attract some very devoted people. You must have had some encounters with some overenthusiastic or possibly even crazy fans at some of these events, right?
Yeah, definitely so. We do. And that's how it should be. We have more or less been there ourselves. We are and have been some of the more extreme fans of the music ourselves, so we know where they are coming from, and we want to have them around because they have quite a bit of that energy that we like to have, especially when you are performing and all that.
The rock 'n' roll approach to Black Metal that began on "Volcano" is continued on "Now, Diabolical." Could you describe how this approach came about, and what you hope to achieve by it, [if anything]?
Most of all it has to do with our musical taste. Both Satyr and I like the classic Black Metal of the 80s and we are huge fans of those bands that created and defined the genre. If you [don't] understand that I am talking about Venom, Bathory, and Celtic Frost, and some other bands from then. They created Black Metal and gave it a definition and a musical form. And they based their music on a very dirty and extreme version of rock 'n' roll music. So there is a part of this that has to do with our very roots and with our musical tastes. On the other hand, there is also the fact that Black Metal has moved so much away from those roots over the years and elements that have been put into Black Metal over the years -- like synthesizers, female vocals, harmonies, melodies, all this pompous stuff -- has more or less started to dominate to whole Black Metal genre. Everything that is connected to the original musical expression and its black substance that actually makes it what it is has more or less been shoved to the background. And that doesn't feel right. We also wanted to lead the way, to give a reminder of where we came from and also show a more healthy direction for the whole scene that really doesn't have all of this pompous orchestrated stuff, but more originates from Black Metal in its initial stage, but taking it further from there. Our Black Metal is closer to the philosophy of Bathory and Celtic Frost than to certain of those more prominent bands from the latter half of the 90s.
But it's interesting that Satyricon in the early days was almost an originator of the more melodic style, bringing in different sorts of instruments....
This is true, and I need to say a few words about that, because we have been thinking a little about it ourselves. It is true what you are saying, and I've been stating the fact myself in a few interviews. It was all the more important for us to go away from this very melodic and harmonic line, and I think it felt very correct to do what we did with our early albums, bringing into the musical genre a new dimension that dealt with medieval melodies and a very Norse feeling, and at times a rather folk inspired feeling. We felt that it had a place there and was interesting, and helped to develop the scene. But we've always kept our music on a very dark level still. When we took melodies into our music and when we brought in synthesizers and traditional instruments we always did it because we wanted to achieve something specific. We did it consciously and we did it with care, and we never let it dominate our music entirely, and I feel that certain bands that were inspired by what we did, and thought this is really cool and wanted to do something similar, ended up mixing the key points. They took the untraditional aspects of what we did and concentrated solely upon that, and more or less forgot to bring in all the darkness that was also there that actually connected it to the musical genre that we were and still are a part of. So, many of the bands that were inspired by us at the time, perhaps Enslaved and Gehenna and some other bands, they built their own music upon what didn't belong to the core substance. They took these new elements and built their music on it, and lost the core element, which resulted in a kind of music that sounds very artificial, that lacked substance, and that was far too light, too soft, too pompous and too melodic, just going in a very wrong direction. So it felt right for us to try to lead things on a different path, as opposed to what has gone so wrongly. And Satyricon were more or less finished with that approach, we had taken it as far as we wanted to, so it was time for us to seek new territories musically.
[Changing the subject a bit,] what is your practice schedule like?
I try to practice every day. At certain times I have been practicing several times a day, but it has had some negative results, [such as me] becoming too exhausted. And I have met with some physical limitations, and it's a very negative experience. But at certain times you feel like testing your own limits, and I'm afraid I exceeded certain of those limits, just practicing too much, and it was physically and perhaps even mentally too demanding, so I had to take it down a level. But I'm still practicing quite a lot, and I have a very strong consciousness about what I'm doing, trying to use my time more effectively, and trying to rehearse in a smarter way, concentrating on what is most rewarding and what gives the most back.
I heard that once you even played with a broken leg.
Yes, I did. That was on a European tour in 2002 or 2003. Luckily there were no complications [as a result]. At the time I suspected that I would get into some serious problems because of what I was doing, but luckily my foot was getting back to its normal function. So I guess I was plain lucky about that, because I was playing like that for almost two weeks.
Is there a possibility for a North American tour in support of the new album?
There will be a North American tour. I don't know if it will happen in the Fall of 2006 or in 2007, but it will happen.
I heard that there were some difficulties with the last North American tour, would you like to explain what happened?
That is finished business for our part. These problems are solved.
[Shifting gears again,] I remember seeing a video clip on the Satyricon website where Satyr talked about coming to America in order to show people what Black Metal is about. What do you think of the American Black Metal scene, and what do you think the American understanding of Black Metal is?
I don't know too much about how things are over there, I must admit that. But I have a feeling that many of the Black Metal fans form North America today are lacking a sense of history. They have a feeling that it all began with these bands of the latter half of the 90s. They have a feeling that it's all about blast beats and this orchestrated and pompous stuff, the huge guitars and synthesizers and all that, which is very wrong. That is at least how it seems from the reaction of journalists and fans that are writing to us. They think that is what Black Metal is all about, and we have to teach them a little history, and teach them the core values of Black Metal. This has been a passion in our lives for 15 years now, and even before that we were fans of the music, and I think that we are in a position to take this whole thing much further and to educate certain people about where we come from and what the essence of this whole musical genre actually is.
Because Iím also a huge fan of Industrial music, I was very interested in asking you about your collaboration with Apoptygma Berzerk on the "Megiddo" EP. How did this collaboration come about?
Stefan from Apoptygma badly wanted to do a remix of a Satyricon track because he was a huge fan. He liked the band for its edge and its extremity and darkness. He wanted to do his own version, because he felt he could add something interesting to the song. When he presented Satyr with his thoughts and ideas, Satyr was also interested to hear what he might come up with. So Stefan made a remix that was based on the song "Dawn of a New Age" from "Nemesis Divina," but it's almost hard to recognize the traces of that song in the remix because he was making new arrangements and new vocals, and he was just playing around with different pieces of the song and adding his own elements to it.
Were you pleased with the results?
Personally I found it hard to swallow the first time I heard it. I know that Satyr was partly involved with the process doing some new vocals for the track, and knew that he liked it a lot. Being of perhaps a bit more narrow-minded nature, I felt it to be hard to swallow. But after giving it a few spins, I started to like it for its weirdness and harshness. I listened to that track a few weeks ago, and I think the last time I heard it was several years back, and I got very much the same feeling, that it sounds hard and harsh and very obscure. It was an interesting project, and it was never meant to be anything more than that. It was not part of Satyricon's evolution or a guideline to what we were about to get into, not at all.
What is your general opinion of Industrial/EBM music?
I hardly listen to music of that genre at all. I like a few bands that I find to have qualities that I like, for instance In Slaughter Natives, that I find to be extremely dark and brutal in a very different way than Death Metal or Black Metal.
Do you think that Satyricon and other Black Metal bands have been influenced by Industrial in recent years?
Not to a large extent. I don't hear as much of an Industrial influence in Satyricon's music, for instance. I know that several people found "Rebel Extravaganza" to have lots of Industrial qualities and influences, but I can hear them in very few places, not dominating the album in any way. So I would say to a very small extent.
I wanted to ask you about the name Satyricon and if you're a fan of the Petronius book.
I wouldn't call myself a fan. I started reading the book several years ago, [but then] the copy was lost and I don't know where it is, so I never finished it. I remember it dealt with decadence in ancient Rome under the government of Emperor Nero. I've also seen the Fellini movie, and it's a very interesting story. But how connected it is to the band name, I don't know. It was the former guitar player of the band who came up with the moniker, and in a way he didn't want to reveal his intentions with the name, he preferred to be a little bit mystical about it. But the band felt good about the name and also it has its own interpretation for us. We feel very at home with the band name and we will stay with it.
Over the years you have participated in many projects outside of Satyricon. Do you have any new projects coming up soon?
As of today, I don't even have time for my other band, 1349. I have those two bands only, and that's all I have time for. It was necessary for me to give up activities in 1349 for a period to come now, because Satyricon is really taking all of my time and all of my resources, so for as long as we are working with "Now, Diabolical" and the supporting live jobs for that album I won't have time for anything else.
[So does that mean you won't] be playing with 1349 on their UK tour with Enslaved this fall?
I won't have the time to. I will be touring with Satyricon myself, so probably Tony Laureano will be filling in for me, as he has done on a few concerts now, and I think he is the perfect replacement, since a replacement is necessary for the band to keep up. So it's not ideal, but it's the best thing that could happen now. I can't be two places at once, so I have to deal with it.
Over the next few months Satyricon will be playing several festivals, including one in Donington where you will be opening for Metallica. How do you feel about sharing the stage with Metallica and what do you think of the band now?
Satyr is a personal friend of Lars Ulrich, and I guess he knows the other guys pretty well, too. I myself do not know them. I like their early works, perhaps "Kill 'Em All" mostly. But they aren't a favorite for me, and they haven't been. But still I think their role in the early days of the extreme metal scene was really important. And they're a very very good live band. First and foremost, I see playing before them as an opportunity to play in front of lots of people who might be souls for us to win. I think that it is definitely a positive thing to play in front of large audiences that may not necessarily be familiar with Satyricon's music before hand, because at one stage or another people have to encounter Black Metal, and I would very much like them to have their first meeting or experience connected with Black Metal with Satyricon, because I think that Satyricon is a band that really could manage to be convincing. And I think that we really have all the energy and the qualities needed to harvest those souls that are receptive to our darkness and extremity. So I think it will be possible for us to do a good job.
Those are all the questions I have, do you have any last words you'd like to give?
No last words really, see you around I say.
(laughs) All right, thank you very much.
(laughs) Have a pleasant day now.
And with that the interview's 30 minutes were completed. No chance to ask Frost what he thought of Joey Jordison (Slipknot) filling in for him during Satyricon's last appearance in North America, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. C'est la vie.... Many thanks to Century Media's lovely Heather Smith for making this interview happen. Cheers, doll!
--Tony Belcher, American Editor
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