I must admit that I was originally a little bit worried about how this interview with Fenriz would finally go, seeing as he was often described to me by fellow journalists as a difficult character.
Now as I sit back, reading through this text, I realise that the skinsman of Darkthrone is not a difficult character at all, but simply a man who is not willing to compromise his artistic integrity.
Well, with a really good quality album such as "The Cult Is Alive" the sinister Norwegian had plenty of interesting things to say.
Hi Fenriz, I am happy to see that Darkthrone are back with another killer release. You must feel really proud about this new "child" of yours! How is the promotion of "The Cult Is Alive" doing so far?
Fenriz: Hehe, the promotion? You mean how do I like answering 60 interviews in the middle of my cross country skiing season? Hehe, it's a bit troublesome, as I never quit my full time job either, so I am extremely busy, but I’ve managed 36 forest trips this winter season (yes, I count them), so it isn't bad.
Many music journalists have been quite critical over the band's musical direction in albums like "Hate Them" and "Sardonic Wrath", often accusing Darkthrone of refusing to "take any risks" with their music. Do you believe that "The Cult Is Alive" is the album that will put them back to their place once and for all? Does this new album signify the beginning of a new era for the band?
Fenriz: As I do not read reviews and such, this is all news to me, but I would rather not hear about it at all. We continue finding true bands to be inspired by and if this moves OR DOES NOT move Darkthrone's music further backwards, it's all the same for me. In all our albums we hear that some people think we don't take chances (1 Darkthrone is not about taking chances), and then again others that think we change too much. Argh.
There have been quite a few new/different things happening within the band lately, starting with your decision to work again with Peaceville records. How did you reach that decision, and how different is the relationship between the two parties nowadays?
Fenriz: Tyypical Ted-question, as I deal with the music and only the music. Well, and lyrics and press. Ted had been in contact with Peaceville for a long time, and this wasn't the first time a change to Peaceville was considered.
I was quite surprised to see that it took you guys almost twenty years before you decided to release your first ever EP, "Too Old Too Cold". Was it your decision to choose such a promotional "avenue", or was it Peaceville, which suggested it?
Fenriz: I have no idea, as Ted deals with the business side of things. What it looks like is that Ted has ideas of his own, or ideas and proposals from others. Many of these things he says no to, some of these he considers and deals on, and yet others he has to ask me about. As I always see the negative, I almost always say no, but to the good of our relationship, I realize that I have to say yes sometimes, so I don't know where various ideas come from AND I DON'T EVEN WANT TO KNOW, as I usually get angry with both the person and the idea. Now I just get mad at the idea.
I remember reading an old interview of yours, where you mentioned that Darkthrone would be the last band on earth to record a cover, yet, one of the songs which are featured in your E.P is a cover of the Siouxie and the Banshees’ anthem "Love In A Void". I am definitely quite happy that you decided to change your mind about covers, especially since this is a really cool one, but I was wondering why you chose to work on this specific song and how did you manage to make it sound so fitting to Darkthrone's style?
Fenriz: I just chose the most primitive song they had, but I haven't changed my mind about covers, I felt like a hooker recording it and I hope I won't have to do it again. When I say yes to a thing like that, I expect the idea makers to understand that they have pushed me, and it takes some time before they can push me again. It seems we were at least almost the last band on earth to do a cover, hehe, but we have been playing covers in our rehearsal place in the old days – “Third Of The Storms” by Hellhammer, “Tales Of The Macabre” by Slaughter (Canada) and “Under The Sun by Black Sabbath.
"The Cult Is Alive" is a much more varied and "adventurous" album than your previous two releases. When did you realise that this was the direction that you wanted to follow? Did the album come out to be exactly as you had envisioned it?
Fenriz: Adventurous is a word for epic metal like Manilla Road or Kansas. We are just furthering our studies into the roots of Black Metal and REAL METAL. For you people it is ALBUM BY ALBUM that we live, but for us, we take decisions every day, minute by minute, song by song - and we go back and forth all the time! Our style is TRUE, HARD, RAW and CRUSTY - and we are the ones that’s accomplished this, yes.
Your twelfth studio release consist of many "attractive" compositions, but I hope that you'll agree with me that it is the more "uplifting", Rock n' Roll-influenced compositions such as "Too Old Too Cold", "Graveyard Slut" and "Whiskey Funeral" that are more likely to win people's attention from the very first spin. What is the outlook that you have received by the media so far? Were any of the above-mentioned compositions amongst their favourites?
Fenriz: Well...it's a mix of songs, both mine and Ted’s, that hit off immediately this time. Of course the single “Too Old Too Cold” (Ted), “Atomic Coming” (mine), “Whiskey Funeral” (Ted) and “Graveyard Slut” (mine), but I don't read reviews, and we didn't send out promos before most of the interviews come in, so we luckily haven't got feedback. I am not into feedback, at least now that we are already in full working process of the next album - Nr 13 “F**k Off And Die” album.
It seems that you are normally quite preoccupied fulfilling solemnly your drum duties, but your recent "experiment" with "Graveyard Slut" showed that you are also quite skilled in terms of vocal performances. Are we going to hear more of your voice in future Darkthrone releases?
Fenriz: Yes. I am more into song writing in the traditional sense now, so I have many lyrics that fit for me and for me to sing - I know where the lines should be, how the refrains should go etc.
You are credited as the lyricist of "The Cult Is Alive", so you are the right person to ask about this frustration and anger that derives from most (if not all) the lyrics of the album. What is it that makes you angry nowadays? Is there also a reason why you chose not to include the lyrics of two of your "sauciest" songs "Too Old Too Cold" and "Shut Up" in the booklet of the new album? Where do your fans have to look in order to find them?
Fenriz: Nowhere, we have so loud vocals now that it should be possible to hear it. We don't include lyrics cuz we hate the idea of someone trying to cover these songs AND we like that people think "DID THEY REALLY SING THAT?!", spreading some uncertainty. These are only a couple of the reasons. Everything makes me angry. Last night I got a bit lost in the forest, and that made me mad. It was a bit too cold, that made me only a bit angry, HAHAHA, some slope tracks were messed up by dog sled tracks, which made me pretty angry, and I was in the end too tired to take one of my orientation posts which TODAY makes me rather angry. So, as you can see, the only scene I am really A PART OF, the cross country skiing scene, can make me angry as well. Haha.
I know that Nocturno Culto is the main composer of the band, but how influential are you to him while the compositional process is taking place?
Fenriz: Not much, since 92 we have made our own songs in the band. Ted has made 75% of the material on our 99-04 albums, me slowly recovering from severe burnout AND depression, but since 2005 I was back in the saddle, and I now make 50% of the songs, and more vocals too.
How long did it take you guys to put together the songs for "The Cult Is Alive"? Did you spend some time together on the studio, or did you work from a distance, as quite a few artists are doing nowadays?
Fenriz: Again, we make our own songs since 1992. We don't work together or plan together, but we have many of the same musical influences.
Another innovation has to do with the fact that this is the band's first ever album to be recorded at your very own "Nercrohell 2" studios. How did it feel working in your own environment, and how did that affect the sound and general atmosphere of "The Cult Is Alive"?
Fenriz: Instead of the usual hassle and stress of booking a studio, living arrangements, we could now just focus on the music, as we record in our rehearsal place, so it is VERY RAW AND LOUD. We just BANG IT IN, we laugh at the ones who twist and turn the knobs in the studio forever. It’s live.
Darkthrone has achieved from day one a very distinctive sound. Which are the elements, in your opinion, that make your band sound so unique?
Fenriz: We have 2-300 bands from the 80s and 70s that influence us, influences that we do not share with many others. Also, we are one of the few bands that don't wimp out when it comes to production/sound on our albums. It’s always raw, but you can also hear our instruments and riffs very clearly.
Well, it looks like this was also the right time for the band to record its first ever video - another big surprise for me personally. Did you guys approve of the final product, and most importantly, did you enjoy the time you spent making it?
Fenriz: You obviously haven't seen the video! I only said OK to the idea because Ted should make the video himself, meaning very primitive, non-flashy, nothing fancy etc. I do so hate music videos and their "plots", stupid computer effects and people in spandex! F**K OFF TO ALL OF YOU POSERS!!! ARGH!! I spent no time "making" it - he just filmed me outside our rehearsal place for 5 minutes.
Tell me a few things about the cover of "The Cult Is Alive", which feels as if it came straight out of the 80's. Who is the artist that created it? Is he also responsible for the modern-looking but very dark and impressive artwork that can be found in the booklet?
Fenriz: As I just implied above, I am not interested in visuals. I do the EAR things in Darkthrone now. I’m not sure about any of the details you asked for, but the inner sleeve stuff was done and designed by Kim and Trine, I believe. It’s photos that they somehow manipulate, I dunno.
Both my memories from 2004's Wacken, where Nocturno Culto performed with the help of the guys from Satyricon some Darkthrone classics, as well as the footage in the special edition of "Preparing For War", reminded me of my desire to see you guys on stage. Now that quite a few "taboos" have been left aside, have you considered doing exactly that? I am sure that seeing you on stage will make quite a few people happy!
Fenriz: It would make me extremely unhappy.
Fenriz, do you believe that Darkthrone have received the appreciation that a band of your status truly deserves? Which have been the main obstacles that you had to overcome so far in your career?
I am sure that you are not going to particularly like this question but...what is your opinion about today's Black Metal scene? Are there any bands which you feel that deserve people's attention, and if yes, which are they?
Fenriz: Hm, I only like new bands like Cult Of Daath, Flames Of Hell, Orcustus, Vomitor, Audiopain (Thrash), Old. These are bands that are EXTREMELY old school, and believe me - idiots even misunderstand me when I say old school. Old school is 80s, not fu**in 1993. ARGH!!! In short, if a Black Metal band don't now how to thrash, their sound has very little to offer me. The most pathetic is all these bands that copy our 94 sound and think that I have an interest in hearing it. Do these people think I ever sent MY music to Quorthon or Tom G Warrior? Why are these people such suc*ers?! They are supposed to be metal, no? Instead they send me their copy music like I am their mommy. FU*K!
Are we to expect many more albums from Darkthrone in the future? What is the one thing that could potentially make you decide to stop recording music, and which would be your professional direction, if that was to happen?
Fenriz: Death seems like a way to stop being able to make music, but I would like to haunt idiots everywhere even from BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL. We have already recorded 2 songs for our 13th album “F*ck Off And Die”.
Fenriz, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. The last words are yours!
Fenriz: Support real metal! Manilla Road, Orcustus and Pentacle!
Interview © 2006