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Interview with Frost from "The Plague" E'zine by Daniel Hinds (October 1999)
Satyricon is one of the oldest and most accomplished bands in the Norwegian black metal scene, yet they often get overlooked in favor of some of the more notorious acts. With a brand new album getting rave reviews all over the world, that is bound to change very soon. Though the band has seen a number of guest musicians come and go over the years, the basis of Satyr (vocals, guitar) and Frost (drums) has been the rock-solid foundation of Satyricon since way back in 1992.
I spoke with Frost recently and I must say he is one of the most articulate and thoughtful interview subjects I've had in a while. He clearly takes a lot of pride in his work with Satyricon, yet he never seemed arrogant about it.
How would you say "Rebel Extravaganza" differs from previous albums?
All of our albums differ quite a lot and, in the case of the new one, we have taken the elements from our previous efforts a step further. We have also added new elements to the music, all of this to add further to the splendor of Satyricon. I think we have succeeded at this very well and we have grown as musicians and as music composers. We have worked extremely hard with this new material and I feel that the blackness and the harshness and the grimness is more present than ever.
Did you do anything differently in terms of the way the album was written or recorded?
Of course, we have spent more time in the creative process and the recording process this time. When it comes to the process of recording the album, we could spend more time in the studio because we had more money to spend. That's actually very important because getting a good sound is essential and, when the music is growing and getting so complex as it has, then you need to use a lot of time to differentiate each instrument. You also have to get the right guitar sound, etc, etc., and this is all very hard, but we had lots of time and the sound is a lot better than on previous albums, which is easy for everyone to hear.
You have taken on a pretty different image for the new album. How important is the band's look?
I've always pointed out that the visual aspect of Satyricon is extremely important, as it is with black metal in general. Already at the start of this musical genre, it was viewed as very important, back with Venom and Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. We feel that we to present 100% professional product and that means the visual aspect must be as good as possible, because it goes along with the music, even if the music is the most important part. You know, when looking at the cover, that is very much what you have in mind when listening to the record, so it's very important to create the right atmosphere. So that is the main reason that we work so hard with the layout and with the image.
Who comes up with the ideas for your image?
It was Satyr who came up with those ideas on the first hand. Actually, we were a bit unsure if it was going to work or not, so we just decided to try them out and we immediately saw that this was going to be very good and exactly what we wanted. So we just continued from there on and did the shots with this make-up that we wanted to have and tried out different ideas that we had and also ideas that the photographer had.
How do you guys work together, in terms of writing songs, ideas for album artwork, etc.?
Well, it differs from song to song, but usually it starts with Satyr coming up with guitar themes. Quite often, he can hear the whole picture of arrangement in his head and from the start knows how the guitar should be, how the bass should be, how the drums will be. Or else, he will just play the guitar riff and he will present it to me and either I will try out a beat that I think will fit in or we just cooperate until we find a beat that fits right. Sometimes we just start with a lyric and we try to create the right music part for that lyric.
How did you hook up with Nuclear Blast?
We felt that Nuclear Blast could help Satyricon grow as a band, that it would be posible for us to spread out worldwide if we were working with a major company and Nuclear Blast gave us the best offers. We have not signed to Nuclear Blast, so they are just licensing us outside of Scandinavia. In Scandinavia, Moonfog is still handling us.
What are your feelings about how the black metal scene has evolved over the years?
There's been a great change. First, there was a very mystic and dark aura surrounding the scene. The people that made the core of the black metal scene in Norway, they were very extreme personalities with quite sick morals, in other folks' viewpoint I guess. You had the first black metal album in the 1990s, which was "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" and you had the first Burzum album and there was something very strange and eerie and very dark and exotic about these albums back then. I can remember I could almost feel the darkness in the room when I first listened to "A Blaze In The Northern Sky". It turned out that a lot of other people got the same feeling because the music scene and the music itself gained a lot of popularity. Later on, you had the media attention, which brought more people into the scene and got more people wanting to play black metal. It just evolved from there and is quite a popular musical genre now. I know for sure that a lot of other bands playing black metal really have no deep feeling for the music - they could just as well play heavy metal or death metal or thrash metal or whatever. But, they will get more attention playing black metal. This means that, the scene and music genre is watered down by a lot of non-dedicated people being into that kind of extreme music, extreme imagery and extreme ideology. The whole aura of darkness and mysticism is gone, but still a lot of other bands are creating good music. We are trying to give a very great contribution to the black metal scene, bringing back the intense aggressiveness and eeriness and blackness that I feel is disappearing these days. So, it's good and bad, you know. You had a lot more herd mentality in the early days because the Inner Circle demanded very much from people. That meant that a lot of people did things to please the leadership. Now there is no leadership, with the death of Euronymous, and now people just do what they want. It seems that what many people is just being dull and boring. (laughs) There are pluses and minuses but basically, we don't care. We have to do what we want to do and show the world how we think black metal should be.
Do you think it was inevitable that black metal should become more popular? From the start?
No, I had no such idea back then. Before the media attention, it was almost unimaginable. (laughs) We still saw a glimpse of a trend in the early days, but nothing like this.
What happened with customs that caused you guys to miss the Milwaukee Metalfest appearance?
The immigration authorities in the States are quite difficult to work with and it takes a long time to get a working license and visas, because (laughs) half the band have been convicted of stuff. So it just took too long and we couldn't get it done before the Metalfest. That was a shame, but there was nothing we could do about that. So we will probably return to the States later and do a tour there.
When you hear other bands that sound like Satyricon, does it bother you or is it a compliment?
I think when we have a record like the one we have released now, Satyricon is a natural inspiration for a band. But it's stupid not creating your own music. If there are just influences and they manage to create their own music, I think that is just splendid, but what I see with many bands is they try to copy their influences and then it sounds very ridiculous. That's also the case with all those bands trying to copy Dimmu Borgir and whatever shit, they should just stick to their own stuff. If they gain inspiration from a band, they should gain inspiration for the atmospheric part, but not for trying to make their own music similar to the bands they like. It could never be as good as the original anyway.
I might just ask you, how is the metal scene in the States right now, with this tour and stuff that we are planning?
It's actually quite a bit better than it was a few years ago… Yeah, I know it hasn't been as good in the 1990s. I think right now is probably the best time in the last decade or so. It's definitely gotten better, though I still don't think it's as good as-- Yeah the Emperor guys told us they were doing pretty good over there. There have been a lot more real tours lately, for one thing. For a long time, no one could really tour because they couldn't get the people out to the shows. So we can expect the gates of black metal to be opened? (laughs)
Were you happy with the results of the "Mother North" video? Have you done other videos?
We haven't done any other videos, but we will do one for a track on "Rebel Extravaganza". We haven't chosen the track yet, but we will decide on that later. As for "Mother North", we are both very satisfied with it, but if we are going to do something now, we will do it a lot better because we will use a better film crew and put more money into it. Also, I feel the standard today is expected to be quite a lot higher.
Can you tell me a bit about the track "Blessed From Below?" Do I detect some industrial influences?
I don't know if it's right to call it "industrial", but it is of course influenced by non-metal stuff, electronic music. I feel it is just very eerie and chilling and actually it is my favorite track on the MCD. Usually, I am very narrow-minded and stick to metal, but this track... (laughs) well, it just gives me the creeps, you know, and I love it because of that. It's hard describing the genre because there are almost black metal parts, the very noisy and distorted guitar stuff, there are also black parts that are clearly not metal. And there are other parts that are other parts that are influence by not industrial music maybe, but something related to it. Hard to classify, but then that is not necessary, I feel.
How did you hook up with Apoptygma Berzerk for the remix on the "Megiddo" MCD?
You know, Grothesk from Berzerk listened to our album shortly after we recorded it and he thought he could do something very bizarre out of it. He just started to work with the song that he liked the most, which was "Dawn Of A New Age", and he presented the idea to Satyr and he thought it was quite fascinating. When the result was presented, new vocals were made, and it just sounded very great, very harsh and destroying. It's very important that Satyricon - we have not made this remix, it is Apoptygma Berzerk's work with Satyr's new vocals on it - but I still think that track has a lot of interest, but we will not do something similar again, I guess.
I like the fact that you guys don't have a problem with experimenting like that.
It's the natural result of a creative mind. You will want to explore new territories and new musical fields. From what I've seen, the reviews of "Rebel Extravaganza" so far have been very positive. They are overwhelming and ten minutes ago I got to hear that the second biggest newspaper in Norway, which is also very conservative, gave us 6 out of 6 points and the largest selling newspaper in Norway gave us 6 out of 6 points. We also got 7 out 7 in "Metal Hammer", 9.5 out of 10 in "Rock Hard". I guess they originally gave us 10 but they were then told to be a bit firmer when giving a 10, so they gave us 9.5, which I still think is incredible. Things are bright for the moment. (laughs)
How important for you is it for people to like your music? Do you need to have that connection or would you be just as happy if no one liked it but yourselves?
Of course, it does matter. It is not the most important part and it's not a driving force either, because when making the music, we are not thinking about the critics or what people in general may think of this, because if we thought that, we couldn't make the best music possible. It would be shit and ruin the band. When the music is made, you do of course like to harvest fruits of our work and it's very good to see that people enjoy music that we ourselves do enjoy very, very much. And also we feel as if this is very sincere and good for black metal. In our eyes, it's good for the scene that people like this record because we feel we can judge if music is good or bad, we have some experience and we are musicians ourselves, and we are satisfied when people like this.
When did you first get into playing music?
I was battering around as a kid, hammering on everything and on myself, boxes and stuff. I got my drum kit when I was 15 years old, but I didn't start to play seriously before the end of 1992 when I was asked to join Satyricon. I was a terrible drummer back then, I could hardly play the double-bass at all, so I just rehearsed day and night. It was a pain in the ass, but it was the only way to go.
Are you currently working on any projects outside of the band?
No, I'm not. This is taking all the time that I've got.
Have you got a tour planned yet?
Yes, we will start touring on the 28th of October and tour until the 21st of November. Later on, there will be a festival tour in December and also some single concerts, and also we'd like to tour after that, maybe in the States. We want to tour quite a lot throughout this year, because I've taken the year off from school to concentrate fully upon Satyricon.
Taken from: The Plague
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