Interview with Satyr from "Burn The Sun" magazine by Philip Hinkle
When Americans think of Norway, we tend to imagine vast forests, clear lakes, and driving, unrelenting cold, or, at least, the Hoth battle from The Empire Strikes Back. Rarely, do we imagine highways and cell phones. Somehow, the image of Satyricon main man Satyr driving down the street, talking on a cell phone doesn't quite jive with the bald, maniacal looking creature pictured on the band's latest release, "Rebel Extravaganza". When he explains that he's driving to rehearsal, the rather bad connection is forgiven. Currently, the band is practicing for its upcoming U.S. tour.
Last year's Milwaukee Metalfest was supposed to be Satyricon's first U.S. appearance, but the band had to cancel at the eleventh hour when drummer Frost failed to receive a work visa from the United States government. U.S. officials denied Frost entry because of a prior conviction for assault, for which he spent several months in a Norwegian jail. While things seem to be all clear for the upcoming tour (beginning 28 March in Chicago, IL), Satyr isn't so sure everything is a done deal.
"It's a sacrifice," Satyr says. "It's the same thing really with the European tour. In Germany and in Scandinavia, Satyricon has an extremely strong standing. In most cases, they pay us what we're actually worth and give us the conditions that we deserve. We have [played] a lot of shows on [the "Rebel Extravaganza"] tour where we're quite unknown, just to get started. [It's] the same thing with America. We'll do this tour now, and we don't expect a lot from it. We're just going to do it. We feel very confident that we're going to leave a trace there when we leave. When we go home, people are going to remember this. I feel quite certain about that."
Unfortunately, only a handful of American fans will be able to experience the tour as Satyricon chose to cancel the last two weeks of its tour. The tour now hits only thirteen cities in as many days, concentrating on the East Coast and Midwest.
"There was supposed to be about four weeks in America," Satyr reveals. "That was all over the place, everything from California to Texas [to New York]. After all the routing was set up, we got an offer to support Pantera on their European tour, which is starting in the middle of our scheduled American tour. So we cancelled the last two weeks of our American tour in order to make it back to Europe to join Pantera. It's quite unfortunate. I asked Nuclear Blast if it was possible to just move the whole thing and do the Pantera tour and then do the whole American tour," he says. "For some reason, they felt that it would be better to cancel the last half of the tour. I don't know why. They said something about the billing being so strong and they were afraid that they couldn't set up equally strong billing in June, so they felt we should do it now. I don't know so much about the situation in America," he admits. "When it comes to European touring matters, I know how it functions; but I don't know anything about how it functions in America. I want to go [to America] again. I want to do this tour now and then go and do the Pantera tour and then do some festivals in the summer, and then I would like to return to America in the early fall."
Although other Norwegian Black Metal bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir have already toured America, Satyr feels no pressure to "keep up" with his fellow countrymen. Simply put, Satyr wouldn't be making the trip if he didn't want to.
"This is actually something we really want to do," Satyr says. "The European tour was not really something we wanted to do. That was more or less a necessary evil. Of course, we took it very seriously which we always do, but it was not exactly something that I was looking forward to. I was pretty happy when it was over," he says, honestly. "I feel a little bit different about the American tour because it will be our first time, so it will not be the same thing as it is in Europe. I've only been to Louisiana, so there are a lot of new things for me to see. I'm looking forward to seeing other places as well."
For the cancelled performance in Milwaukee, Gehenna vocalist and guitarist Sanrabb was going to be Satyricon's live guitarist; however, Satyr says that won't be the case this time around.
"He did a few songs with us ("Intermezzo II"  - Phil), but it didn't really work out. I mean, it worked out musically and all that, but socially it was a little bit of a problem. Even though we get along, we have quite different attitudes. He's not very ambitious."
In an interview with "Burn The Sun" in September 1999, Sanrabb commented that Gehenna was extremely lazy.
"Yeah, they are extremely lazy," Satyr concurs. "I don't think they're willing to do anything to reach anywhere. They just record an album every once in a while, and that's basically it, whereas we want to go somewhere with what we do. That doesn't necessarily make us better than them. It just makes us different from them, a different attitude towards what we do."
Satyr says the question of ambition has been a deciding factor in keeping Satyricon a two-person band, and he seriously doubts if the band will ever have a fulltime lineup.
"[Satyricon] started out just being [me and Frost] because there were only us," Satyr explains. "We wanted it to be a full band, but we didn't have the choice back then. Then we tried working as a full band, and that didn't really work out. Again that whole thing with ambitions and all that came up. There was nobody that wanted to practice as often as us, and there was nobody willing to bleed as much as we have throughout the years. I just sat down and thought about what we'd really been doing. We've been recording as a twosome throughout our career. When we had Samoth (bass/guitar - Phil) in there and Kveldulv (guitar - Phil) in there, it was good to have them on the albums. Looking back, I'm glad they participated, but on the other hand, I'm pretty sure that the albums would have turned out exactly the same without them," he says, honestly. "It was good having them there, but it wasn't a necessity; so I just felt that we might as well go on just with the two of us because we know that it works. [Besides]," he adds, "I'm getting pretty sick and tired of having people going in and out of the band. We'll obviously have guest musicians. We like having guest musicians."
Ambition and desire aren't traits Satyr can be accused of lacking. Not only has he been the driving force behind Satyricon, he also started Moonfog Records, home to bands such as Gehenna, Darkthrone, Dødheimsgard, and of course Satyricon. Currently, Satyr owns fifty percent of the company and is still heavily involved with the label. While Moonfog CDs are relatively easy to find in European shops (thanks in part to the distribution deal with Connected Distribution), they can be difficult to locate in America.
"America is still a problem," Satyr agrees. "Asia is still a problem." He pauses for a moment then adds, "I don't know what to do. We've been trying all [the distributors] that we find to be possible, interesting partners for Moonfog, but it hasn’t worked out."
Because Moonfog currently lacks the resources to properly distribute its releases worldwide, Satyricon hooked up with Nuclear Blast Records to handle promotions and distribution of the band outside Scandinavia.
"I'm pretty happy with the support we've been getting in America," Satyr says. "I feel that there could have been more advertisement in America and there could have been more interviews as well, but [Nuclear Blast America's] attitude towards Satyricon has been good, and they've been helping out a lot when it comes to this tour. I feel that they respect us, and that they are interested in what we do."
However, Satyr's attitude is quite different when it comes to Nuclear Blast Germany.
"It would have all been very good if the owner of Nuclear Blast actually worked," Satyr states. "He used to be an active owner, whereas now he just owns the whole thing; he doesn't really work there anymore. That's a pity because they're a company that lacks leadership, and that has been affecting us in a negative way. There are people that have been working there for a long time that maybe were good enough for the company when they were small, but now they've become so big, those people should have been fired and replaced. I can't say that I'm happy," he says, simply. "I'm happy about the owner because I know he's seriously into Satyricon, and when he's around, he always does his best, but it's so rare that he actually works there. I feel that the other people that work there don't really care for us at all."
Nuclear Blast Germany (and NBA for that matter) has been making quite a big deal out of The Kovenent winning the Norwegian Grammy for "Best Hard Rock Band" (who narrowly beat out a Black Sabbath cover band, Black Debbath), but no one seems to be pointing out the fact that not only did more deserving bands not win, most weren't even nominated. This detail is not lost on Satyr. He says that he's "not angry but very surprised" Satyricon did not earn a nomination.
"Rebel Extravaganza" actually charted on the Norwegian Billboard, and no Black Metal album has charted as high as that album did," Satyr says. Despite three of the biggest mainstream newspapers in Norway giving "Rebel Extravaganza" exemplary reviews, Satyricon found itself without an invitation to the dance. "We didn't really expect anything, but I just took it for granted that they'd nominate us because I actually thought they wouldn't dare to do anything else," Satyr says, candidly, "but I also expected Emperor to be nominated as well. I would have been very happy if we weren't nominated, but Emperor was nominated because that would have shown that [the Grammy committee] actually understand what's going on, but they chose to overlook us, Emperor, Immortal, Dødheimsgard. That shows that they don't really have a clue about what's going on. I think that the idea of having a prize for Heavy Metal music in the Grammy Awards is a good idea, but everybody felt that if it was going to be something trustworthy, something credible, that it had to be done right. The first year they made a lot of mistakes (Covenant also won last year - Phil), and I was one of many to publicly criticize [the award]. The idea behind the criticism was maybe that if we criticize them then they would make it right the next year and make the prize something trustworthy and honorable. They made it even worse the second year," Satyr says. "I know we feel and Emperor feels that if we were to be given the prize next year, who cares? It doesn't mean anything. It could have meant something if they would have done it the right way, but Metal people aren't stupid and you can't fool them, and that's what they've been trying to do."
"Rebel Extravaganza" reached number 22 on the Billboard charts. The album remained on the charts for two weeks. In the world of Pop music, two weeks on the charts doesn't make headlines, but when a Black Metal album not only hits as high as 22 but also holds the position for two weeks, people start to notice.
"If you just go in one week and out the next week, that doesn't really impress the business," Satyr explains. "They like albums that are consistent on the charts, and ours remained on the charts for two weeks. In Black Metal that's quite sensational."
Americans have a tendency to think the European Metal scene is stronger and more widely accepted than the American scene. While this may be true to some extent, as is evident from the Norwegian Grammy Awards, the Europeans also have trouble separating the cream from the crap. The whole incident brings back horrible memories of the 1989 American Grammy Awards in which Jethro Tull won out over Metallica for "Best Hard Rock Band."
Even without a shiny prize on his shelf, Satyr can rest assured that Satyricon has always innovated as opposed to imitated. If releasing pioneering albums isn't enough to win a Grammy, then who the fuck would want one?
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