"An Extravagant Rebel Conquest"
Interview with Satyr from "Chronicles Of Chaos" E'zine by Paul Schwarz (14 March 1999)
Satyricon are one of the finest Black Metal bands in the world today. Yet, as seems to be the case with many of Black Metal's legendary names, Satyricon are not as well known, popular or, on a mass level, highly regarded as newer acts such as Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir are. Satyricon do not headline main stages at festivals who have Sepultura lined-up as the next day's headliners (which is the case with Dimmu Borgir at this year's March Metal Meltdown). Some claim, and it is not an entirely unfounded claim, that Satyricon choose to stay "underground". There is some truth to this claim, but the realities of the scene mean that it is not a simple -choice- of being popular or not being popular, especially on your own terms. Satyricon have never compromised their vision of what Black Metal is about. They have never bowed to commercial pressure or the pressure of some of their more conservative peers. Their first two albums ("Dark Medieval Times" and "The Shadowthrone") were well noted by those in the Black Metal scene and did more than simply follow what others were doing at the time. After the mid-nineties' deluge, Satyricon emerged again triumphant with "Nemesis Divina", their third full length offering. Adopting a slightly different, faster style than their earlier material, Satyricon nonetheless gave us a very mature, complex and exceptionally well produced album which still stands as one of my favorite Black Metal albums. Now, after experimenting with the "Megiddo" EP, Satyricon are ready to return with a new full length. Set for an August release, the title of this as-yet-unrecorded album is "Rebel Extravaganza". I had the privilege of talking to Satyr, one half of the band's nucleus, of which drummer Frost is the other, about the upcoming album and his attitudes to and views on the Black Metal scene. I hope his answers are as enlightening and interesting to you as some of them were to me. Thanks to Mat McNerny for his help brainstorming the questions for this interview.
The new album is called "Rebel Extravaganza". Why did you choose this title? To me it doesn't sound like a "traditional" Black Metal album title.
To be honest, I don't know, really, 'cause it is the same thing that happened with the last album, "Nemesis Divina", the same thing that happened with "The Shadowthrone" and "Dark Medieval Times" as well. [It] just fell in my head and it felt totally natural, you know, it's kind of representative of my way of thinking when it comes to the new songs and the lyrics as well. I wouldn't say that the word "rebel" is unconventional in Black Metal, but "extravaganza" is very much about what we've done, for several years now. Satyricon is definitely an extravagant band, so as I said, I have [an] equally hard time to explain "Nemesis Divina", really. I could try to come up with different theories, but it just fell in my head.
How do you think the sound [of the new songs] differs, how has it moved on from "Nemesis Divina"? If people were to have heard the last album, and they pick up this new one, what do you think they'd find different from what they might expect, maybe?
Well, Samoth from Emperor was here listening to the rehearsal with all the new songs, and he said that he thought it was very much us, but it was harder, and it's probably true, but there's more than that. You can hear the trademark of the band in the songs, even though it's a vast progression from "Nemesis Divina". "Nemesis Divina" is like three years old now, so there would have to be something very wrong with the whole thing if nothing had happened since then, obviously. So, probably a bit harder, probably less medieval and Nordic, but [still] very much us.
How do you see the scene today, do you think that it compares to the old one, or do you think that there are a lot of differences now, in the bands that appear or the music they play?
Do you think that Black Metal has evolved or that it's stayed similar?
Oh, it has definitely evolved a lot, but I would say that in '92/'93 Black Metal gave me much more of a kick than it does today. Let's say if... I haven't heard the new Emperor album yet, but I guess I'll like it and I guess I'll think it's good, but I am also pretty sure that it won't give me this big kick, the same kick "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" [Darkthrone - Paul] gave me the first time I heard it. So the magic is gone really, but there is still quality around and I'm happy to see that at least the best bands, apart from Dissection, are still going.
Do you think that by remaining in the scene, Satyricon are producing something new while still providing a link to the previous scene, because you've been around throughout the various different developments?
What I try to do is also to send a message through the music. A message about how Black Metal should be done, at least in the way I like it, because I think when you write music you often tend to try to make the kinds of things that you want to hear yourself. The way I think of this kind of music is the way I do it, in my own band. And what I hope is that we can try to influence the third wave of Black Metal bands to think more in the way of the first and the second wave. There's definitely a need for new thinking and progression, but there are some things, like the extended use of female vocals and this kind of gothic romance, which I find totally unsuitable for at least my way of thinking about Black Metal.
Leading on from that, [with] bands like [the typical bands to mention] Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth, do you think that by using keyboards or female vocals, by making the style more popular, they, in some way, help it, by getting more people exposed to the more underground stuff, because, in interviews or whatever, they'll mention the older bands?
Well, they help it and destroy it at the same time, you know. They help get more people into listening to more extreme music, and they help, obviously, other Black Metal bands who have, well at least in my view, a more interesting message than they have, to come through. But in a way they destroy it as well, because, you know, they're so big, so they set a lot of standards for how things are meant to be done and that will influence some bands too - as someone here in Norway said, I would rather breed the Black Metal kids on Darkthrone than Cradle Of Filth, you know. Without that meaning that there is something wrong with Cradle Of Filth, I just think there is more -edge- to bands like Darkthrone.
Do you think that, by the character of the scene changing so much from how it was five or six years ago, by bands being, this is one way of putting it, less "drawn" to a certain way of being, of playing Black Metal, do you think it allows bands, now, to be more creative, by there not being such a strict "way to play", maybe?
Yes, I do.
So you think that allows you, Satyricon, to be more creative than you could've been?
I don't think - actually, I think my answer is yes, but I think we are an exception, because the way I understand your question you are probably referring to, what shall I say, the power of people like Euronymous, for example [I acknowledge this - Paul] and the kind of influence they had, and in some ways that was positive, because some people have shown their real faces after his death and I would actually have preferred them to stay with their fake faces because I dislike their real faces so much. But in our case, I never cared about his rules or anything like that, actually, I had a bit of a conflict going with him and I think that was due to the fact that he couldn't accept that I was a youngster coming from nowhere, more or less not giving a shit about his ideas. And I told him that as well, and he definitely disliked that, but yes, I think it is positive that there has to be some quality acts to set a standard for the rest, but there shouldn't be rules about what you should do and what you can't do.
Would you say there is music or things in the world which specifically do influence you? Do you think that you could identify certain influences which either influenced you to start the band in the first place, or to still create music or to create [specific] past works?
Well, I think the drive behind the beginning was, apart from the whole thing with Darkthrone and all that, then the second wave of Black Metal, it was also me, and the others who were with me then, our huge fascination for the old acts, such as Celtic Frost, Bathory and Venom, all that. And today I don't think I am so inspired by music, I don't listen much to music, I listen to music in the car, but I usually get enough because we rehearse and I play guitar at home and I write lyrics, and I get enough music in my life. I work in the music business as well, so I don't need to use my spare time to listen to music, but in the car I listen to some music. Some electronic and industrial acts have given me impulses and I think it's a very positive thing to listen to lots of different kinds of genres, to get impulses and to make yourself richer musically. Because if you don't know what's going on you have no chance to develop. How can I, for example, develop my way of singing if the only way I know is to scream? But fortunately I listen to lots of other music and get impulses, rather than inspiration.
Regarding the use of the media to expose your music more, do you think doing things in the past like the very well produced "Mother North" video - do you think that you will continue to use media to bring attention to your music more...
In terms of advertising?
In terms of advertising and also the presentation, do you think that that matters as much in Black Metal as it does in other styles of music? Because I think that sometimes, with some bands, there is a tendency to want to remain limited to a certain number of people, to not attempt to draw other people in, to allow them to come in themselves, as it were. Not that I'm criticising that.
Yeah, yeah, I understand, but that is not the way I am thinking. I fully respect that way of thinking, but I don't think any band should be forced to expose themselves or to limit themselves, it should be a freedom of choice, you know, where you want your band to go and I definitely find the video media very interesting and I know that we will do a video for the album. I don't know what it is going to be like, I just know we are going to do a video and I'll have to think about it. It'll probably happen during Summer or something, 'cause the MCD is going to be out in April or May and the album in August. I think, actually, the record company are going to do some short clips or something for TV advertising in Germany, which is pretty new, and, to be honest, I actually don't like TV advertising with music - just five seconds and it's all over, and next up is, uh, a commercial for diapers or something, so I think it is totally unsuitable, but, in a way, you know, it is obviously very good for the band, lots of people that wouldn't have heard about the album otherwise might find it interesting and go to the record store and check it out - you know, listen to the album and make a decision whether to buy it or not. So, I guess...
It might be the lesser of two evils, maybe?
I guess so. I think it is also just a natural development of the whole thing, you know, we have the internet replacing the old correspondence of underground with regular slow mail, and now you have the internet replacing that whole underground, and, I think, in the coming years, TV advertising and such will, not replace, but I think more and more it will go over to that instead of advertising in magazines, because the rates for advertising in magazines are sick, you know, you have to sell so many extra albums to make it worth it. I think it is probably easier to reach out through television. I think radio would've been definitely the best thing, but the problem is that there are not many radio stations who allow metal programs, and if they have metal programs it's probably in the middle of the night on a Wednesday or something.
And it is only a small audience who might know about it.
Yeah, it's like twenty people who are regulars and there's probably one or two more dropping by just by coincidence.
You have a new member on this album, apparently?
No new members.
We are working with lots of different people, but we found out that there's too many problems with all the other guys and... basically we've done it ourselves all the time, we've brought some other people in on all the albums, but, you know, when it all comes down it's just like, as you Englishmen say, "at the end of the day", there has only been me and Frost, you know.
So Daemon [ex-Dismember], would no longer be in the band?
No, you know, if you want to you can - I'll be happy to see if you could - set up a "wanted" poster, because he's been gone for six months; that's what I've said to every journalist. He was supposed to go to Sweden for one week and that's like, seven or eight months ago or something, and we haven't heard anything ever since. So I don't know what he's up to, but that's the kind of things that usually happen. Strange things, people disappearing or people lacking the interest to work as hard as we want to, or maybe they think it is too much of a hassle, so we're just gonna keep on going with just the two of us, as a band. But we have our own live line-up; basically the same line-up as we had at Dynamo, and, on the album, we're gonna bring in Fenriz, doing some percussion, we're gonna bring in Mikael, from Thorns, to do some guest guitar things, and Sanrabb from Gehenna is gonna do some guitars on the MCD. We'll also bring in another guitarist, in addition to myself, on the album, and bass on the album and MCD will be handled by - well, they broke up now but, you know, Conception, it's a power metal band on Noise Records.
Oh, no, I don't know them.
It's horrible [I laugh - Paul] but, I don't know, real technical people and all that and this guy, the bassist, he has a project, called Crest Of Darkness, and... he's very good, so he's doing the bass. So we're bringing in lots of different people, I mean, we're even bringing in this guy who plays in [couldn't quite hear what he said, it sounded like "Uperting My Berserk" - Paul], who played in a Black Metal band called Mock, which was a crappy band, but this guy has turned into becoming interested only in industrial and electronic music and he's a wizard when it comes to sampling, making special effects, electronic loops, those kind of things, and he's very good at it. So he's going to be part of the mix or something. So, we'd rather work with ourselves [motioning to himself and Frost] as the platform of the band and bring in people with special skills to make the album become better.
Taken from: Chronicles Of Chaos
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