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Interview with Satyr from "Crave" magazine by Bob Cooper

Metal bands come in many flavors, shapes, and styles. We have Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Heavy metal, Dark Metal and a kazillion others. And of course Black Metal. Now, Black Metal definitions will differ depending on who you ask, but one of it's main features is that it is probably the closest thing to "thinking man's" music than any of the others. Thoughtful ideas and movements in front of a metal backdrop and tempered with a decisively rock feel, and by no means wimpy.

At the forefront of the Black Metal genre is Norway's Satyricon.

Founded in 1992 by guitarist Satyr (Sigurd Wongraven), Satyricon was born at a time when Black Metal was largely unknown in Norway and the rest of Europe as well, yet underground music was thriving, which led to the perfect scenario for a band of this ilk to come into play. The band recorded some rehearsal tapes basically for their own use and to show anyone who was interested. They continued to ply the Norwegian underground and racked up a pretty good following which led to the actual release of some of the demo discs. Unfortunately problems within the band caused several personnel changes and just when Satyr thought the right players would never come along, he met drummer Frost (Kjetil Vidar Haraldstad), who seemed to complete the band. The musical relationship between Satyr and Frost expanded to writing, and before long one of the most powerful songwriting teams known to Black Metal was born.

Over the years they have released many albums and the small cult underground following soon grew and spread across Europe, gaining recognition and putting out records that just got better and better, and now, two decades later, Satyricon is invading America with their latest masterpiece, "Volcano". The band has contained scores of players who came and left for various reasons, but Frost and Satyr remained constant.

As the band winged its way through Portland, I was given the chance to interview with the man Satyr himself as the tour hit Portland. Unfortunately these plans were halted by certain hired thugs (unknowing security idiots) that were working the Roseland that night, and I wasn't allowed to see the band despite my arrangements with the band. The same boneheads disallowed me to shoot photos despite the photopass I had (one actually told me I was allowed three photos, rather that giving me the 3-song clearance that is standard). While I normally would have argued the point, I could tell that it would be futile to try to talk sense into anyone so dense, so I resigned myself to just watch the show. Good choice on my part, because what I heard was one of the best melds of metal and rock that I have ever heard. It was like melodic metal in a way, except it had BALLS! The next day I was compelled to arrange to get that interview via a phoner, and about a week later I found myself on the phone with the man himself! Enjoy.


***

Hello Satyr. Thanks for calling. How is your day going?

I'm doing fine actually. I'm glad we got to finally hook up.

Yeah, I have to apologize for not getting with you last week at the Portland show, but that night turned out disastrous for me, and I guess for you too being as you were feeling a bit sick. It was one of those nights where the management and security staff at the Roseland didn't feel my meeting with you was legitimate and wouldn't let me out to the bus. They wouldn't even call the tour manager up to verify me, so I conceded and left after your set. But anyway it was a killer show you did. How was the rest of the tour for you in terms of reaching new fans?

Right now we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Musically it has been really fruitful for us. We have played a lot of shows and are getting a really good reception in the places we have played.

That's great. To me the new record is a real step forward for the band. I see that it is also getting a lot more commercial attention than the past records. Was there a difference in the way you recorded this record, and was it a long time in the making?

It always takes a long time to make a Satyricon record. It is the way we work. The nature of the music demands a long and thorough process. We are preparing everything and working over each part until it is what we want. Production takes as much time as actually writing the song- sometimes longer. We spend a lot of time in the studio to make it just right, and that is one of the benefits that came with the new signing we just made in Europe for this record. It gave us a much bigger budget which made it easier for us to make it right in every possible way. The record sounds very natural and organic, and noisier and more powerful yet beautiful too.

It is indeed. It is gripping and stark, and almost theatrical in much the same way that Cradle Of Filth is, only perhaps a bit more grown up.

Yes, to me the band you mentioned is entry level Black Metal. I mean that is a band that started out much later, and are inspired by where we came from rather than the opposite.

I agree, and would say that they may be a bit more commercially driven than your band, which to me seems more concerned with conveying your music as feelings and is an offering to those fans of yours that expect nothing less from you.

Right, and it is a little more goth oriented, where Satyricon takes more of a rock approach to Black Metal, as that is what we were listening to back when we started out.

I would have guessed that, because there are moments in your music that are very rock oriented. What were some of the rock bands that made an impression on you?

I would say that it is more of a rock feel than a rock sound. I listened to a lot of music that my older cousin turned me on to like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Motörhead and Rainbow and bands like that. That is what I grew up listening to when I was growing up. Then I started listening to Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal going into the eighties, and toward the late eighties I started listening to more to Black Metal and Death Metal. Now I listen to just about anything as long as it is good music.

Your music seems very visual to me, meaning that if you put on the record and close your eyes it sort of takes you on a sort of cinematic journey.

Thank you.

Do you visualize in that way when writing the tunes, and has it ever occurred to you to attempt to put those same ideas to film as well?

We did make a video for the song "Fuel For Hatred" with Janov Dokren, the director from Stockholm Sweden who worked a lot on videos for Madonna and a couple for Metallica, as well as videos for U2, Ozzy Osborne and Lenny Kravitz. He is a really, really good director- one of the best in the world. His videos are being aired regularly on Headbangers Ball and on MTV in the States.

Are you writing any new material currently while on the road, or thinking ahead to the next record on your off time on tour?

I am going to be concentrating more on songwriting after the tour, but I don't really like writing music on the road. Writing music is a very spiritual thing for me, and being on tour is not very spiritual to me. It is definitely something I separate- those two processes- and I have already started writing music for the next record, but then we have started this touring cycle in America, which is probably going to last to the end of 2004, therefore with the time I put into writing you probably won't see a new record until the end of next year.

Do you think you will be coming through Portland on another leg of this tour?

There is talk of maybe doing some sort of run out there in the last two weeks of July, but whether or not we will come to Portland I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see.

Would that be a summer festival tour perhaps?

We are one of the headliner at the Wacken Open Air show in Germany, which is the biggest metal festival in Europe, and I have to tell you we are excited to be able to play in front of 30,000 people on the main stage. But I don't know if we are doing any festivals in the USA. We'll just have to wait and see.

I see you aren't on the Ozzfest roster, and I congratulate you on that! While Ozzfest has brought many good commercially successful bands to us, I think the integrity of your music might be compromised by the commercialism involved with that festival.

That is basically a choice I made. The band is big in Europe, and I want to try to establish the band in America as well. The Black Metal scene is our life, and we want to be a part of that and influence the direction of that. So the timing is important, and we would much rather go out there and decide the rules of the game a little more ourselves touring with a couple other bands and do some headlining stuff than spend all of our money on the Ozzfest, and that's it. Because it is very expensive to be on the Ozzfest.

That is what I've heard, and the very idea of "pay to play" just doesn't make sense to me at all, especially when a lot of these newer bands just aren't allowed the budget to be a part of Ozzfest. In fact many of the newer bands have NO budget for touring and often have to pay for touring out of their own pockets. There are enough artists on the radio that are only there because they bought their way into fame with money, and obviously not with their talents and that is just not right. Now Satyricon is basically you and Frost as constant members, with some rotating members accompanying you. Do you hand-pick the players for each project differently each time?

We have a live band that we have used for years and it is very, very strong. They are very good musicians that work very closely with me and Frost all of the time. They don't play on the records but they are involved in every other way. Touring is a big part of what we do, and we spend more time on the road than we do in the studio so they are very much members of Satyricon. Frost and I have a very good chemistry in the songwriting area, and our work together is a very personal thing which is nurtured over time. When the songs are established we will call in players to perform the parts in preparation for the recording, and when that is done the live band comes in and learns the songs, and we are ready for touring. That is what I mean when I say my live band is so good, because I can count on them to come in and quickly learn the music so that it can be performed for the masses.

Well, I would agree with you there, because your live show is absolutely fantastic, and there is the feeling of a band present there, and nobody would suspect that the players were anyone other than the same people that wrote and recorded the music. You are lucky to have players who work that well.

I really am.

Well, thank you for taking the time to discuss your band with me today. I am in the beginning stages of discovering your music and have a lot of your other stuff to listen to, so don't be surprised if I try to talk to you again, maybe after the tour.

That would be fine, Bob. Thank you for giving my music the attention!


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Taken from: Crave
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