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Interview: Nocturno Culto(Darkthrone)

Pure metal...interviews

There were many good reasons why I wanted to attend this yearís Wacken festival. One of the main ones was because I wanted to see Satyricon sharing the same stage and performing some classic Darkthrone songs with Ted Skjellum, better known as Nocturno Culto - guitar player and co-leader of the amazing Darkthrone. Having just released a new album called 'Sardonic Wrath', N.Culto was very keen to explain why the Norwegian outfit is so much against live performances and what Black Metal fans should expect from them in the near future.

Hi, Nocturno Culto. Before we start, let me just say that Iím really happy to be given the opportunity to meet you, and since we have quite a limited amount of time, letís talk about Darkthroneís new album, 'Sardonic Wrath'. How, and when was the album recorded?

N.Culto: We started writing the material for this album straight after finishing the recordings of our previous album 'Hate Them'. As it usually happens, Fenriz sends me some new lyrics, and I base my music upon them - thatís how we normally work in Darkthrone. Along the way, Fenriz starts composing music as well, and then we start rehearsing. We meet up - since I live so far away from him, and he lives in Oslo, we meet in the middle, somewhere in the woods and we rehearse - weíre having a good time. All of the Darkthrone albums are planned and rehearsed in quiet, desolate places - we like that.

That also gives a certain atmosphere to the music.

N.Culto: Very, very good atmosphere. Sardonic Wrath' is the first album in the history of the band that was geographically recorded in Oslo. That was really good for Fenriz, since he lives there.

How about you though? How did you manage to cope, especially since you live so far away from the capital?

N.Culto: Iím originally from Oslo, so itís really ok. The albumís recordings went really well. Our engineer, Lars Klokkerhaug, is a really understandable person, very -

The sort of person that understands the bandís vision?

N.Culto: Yes, yes - he knows everything about what we need to do. First time we used him was on 'Hate Them', but back then he didnít really understand our working process - he understood it now though. Heís a very good guy to have working for us.

The recordings of the album took six days, and that took place last April. When we start doing the first few tracks, the sound that we have is always nice, for some strange reason. We also used some production company that makes these mixer sound tables, and itís cool because you can press a button called 'necro', and by just pressing it, everything turns 'necro' (laughs), but we also have to turn all the knobs to make the sound 'necro' (laughs) - Yes, we had a great time in the studio, definitely. We always have a relaxing time in the studio, we donít stress around, but still even we choose not to stress around, we always spend a short time in the studio, because we know our thing.

We donít feel like we need to be so careful about every single detail in our music, like 'oh, we need to make this sound differently', or something. We want to have that typical Black Metal atmosphere when we enter the studio, and we want to keep the same feeling when itís time to leave the studio. I really donít believe that we need to spend any more time in the studio than we already do - itís not like weíre playing Domino or something there (laughs). Weíll probably turn up hating each other, so the ideal thing for us is maximum one week in the studio, and that includes both the recording and mixing.

Since the return of Darkthrone in the music scene, which took place in 1999, you seem to be more involved in the lyrical and the vocal part of Darkthroneís music, so I guess that youíre the right person to ask about the lyrical content of 'Sardonic Wrath'.

N.Culto: Fenriz is doing all the lyrics. I only wrote some lyrics for the 'Total Death' album. His lyrics are always twisting and turning in different directions. As I told you before, my inspiration in making music is based on his lyrics. Of course I have my own musical inspirations, but without Fenrizís lyrics Darkthroneís music would be just good music, nothing else.

Youíre doing all the singing though, thatís why I am a bit confused there -

N.Culto: Yes, Thatís true. Iíve done the vocals for all the Darkthrone albums, except for the 'Goatlord'. The vocals are usually the last thing that I have to do. When the time comes for me to record them, it means that weíve pretty much finished all the other things that we needed to do for the album. I can then create the right atmosphere in the studio, so as to have the feeling that I need to pass to the songs - I really need to have that. Again, I do not make plans on how the vocals should sound, it all depends on the right feeling- it has always been like that! When I do the vocals, I donít use a specific formula. I just turn the music loud and express what I feel.

Nocturno Culto

Whatís the response of the music press towards 'Sardonic Wrath' so far?

N.Culto: I really only know the response from people everywhere in the world, and they seem to be very pleased. For me I can say that weíre almost more than usual happy with this album. If you make a comparison between 'Sardonic Wrath' and 'Hate Them', you will see that 'Hate Them' was based on typical Black Metal riffs, but on 'Sardonic Wrath' we combine both Black Metal riffs with Rock ní Roll and Heavy Riffs - all and all this new album is a quite diverse and interesting package.

Having listened to the album, I agree with you, but all these influences are all under the typical Darkthrone sound and feeling that we all know and like.

N.Culto: Absolutely. Let me put it this way: we have to maintain the ground stone of Darkthrone, you know, and we can build many different things on that basis. You really need to make sure that you maintain the ground stone, or else everything is a useless circle. Itís amazing though - I believe that 'Sardonic Wrath' is the perfect example on how much you can experiment with riffs and different sounds, and still make the final result sound Black Metal.

I have been closely watching the bandís progress ever since the release of 'Soulside Journey', and I strongly believe that after 1999 and the release of 'Ravishing Grimness' the band sounds more mature and gives the impression of an outfit that knows exactly what they want to achieve with their music.

N.Culto: Yes, youíve got that completely right. All the things that weíre doing after we returned on the music scene are a bit more planned than they used to be in the past. In the beginning we were young - everything was a different story. Since 1996, I am the one thatís running everything in Darkthrone regarding labels and contracts, so things are totally different now - things have definitely changed. I was living so far away, and we (Fenriz and him) had to communicate on a different level.

OK. Tomorrow we are going to see you on stage with Satyricon, performing some classic Darkthrone songs. Many of your fans would do anything in order to be able to see you, Fenriz and Zephyrous playing these songs live. Are you ever going to give us such a satisfaction, such a great pleasure?

N.Culto: Well, one never knows, but it sounds like a very optimistic thought. Weíll see, but I have to admit that itís not very likely. We have many reasons for not wanting to play live.

Can you tell me which the most basic one of all is?

N.Culto: Well, the most basic is that we donít like playing live. We are just two people, so in order to play live we need to get other session musicians, start rehearsing all the old songs, and that will be an immense amount of work. We donít like so much exposure basically. We donít really care that much about ourselves as persons - we care about Darkthrone, and all the attention thatís connected to live gigs and stuff I could handle, but I donít think that Fenriz would.

What about Zephyrous? We were told that he also gave his blessings for this gig - he also approves this live performance.

N.Culto: Yes, yes. Have you met him? Heís here now - (laughs). The funny thing is that heís here today with us booked as Darkthrone crew (laughs).

So, does he hate publicity so much that he decided to disguise himself as a member of your crew?

N.Culto: No, thatís not the case. Heís exactly the same person as he always used to be.

What do you want to say to all those people whoíve been accusing Darkthrone of becoming softer since 1999? Many of them claim that the style of 'Transylvanian Hunger' and 'Under a Funeral Moon' is the one that the band should have kept. I personally donít agree with these statements, but I need your opinion.

N.Culto: This is all Bull**** really. You just need to be able to look around and see all the options that you have available. I mean, 'Sardonic Wrath' is a typical Darkthrone album, and weíre definitely not becoming softer, of course. We donít really care about that, we donít really care about what people think that we should sound - itís so useless.

You should make the music that you like, by the end of the day -

N.Culto: Yes. If people start complaining about it, then donít buy the record and forget about who we are (Note: well said, mate!!!) We donít need to be remembered by everyone all the time, F***ing let it go - thatís the only way.

What should we expect from Darkthrone in the future then? Knowing how you work, are you composing material for a new album as we speak or you do not plan things so far ahead this time?

N.Culto: We always think about a new album. We always have a plan, so we will start rehearsals probably late autumn. We will write some new material then, and thatís the thing with us - since weíre not playing live, we donít have to care about the 'Conquering the World tour' (laughs). We donít have that kind of thing in our lives, so we can focus on our albums.

What is it that Nocturno Culto does outside Darkthrone, since the band does not pay such a big part in your life?

N.Culto: Well, the band does take a big part of my life. I do absolutely nothing outside the band - I spend my time handling the bandís affairs and stuff.

So thereís no other business that youíre involved with, as most would assume.

N.Culto: No, not really. I am trying to work a little bit from time to time, but I donít really need to do that thing that much. Weíve quite recently put up our own label, so I work with that as well.

Tell me a few things about it!

N.Culto: Well, Itís called 'Tyrant Syndicate Productions' - weíre not really aiming for anything like releasing a lot of bands - we just want the albums that we release to be, as far as weíre concerned, instant classics, or in the long run to be treated as classics. We wonít release any crap music - this will be the purest of the Pure Metal! The first band that weíll be releasing material for is Aura Noirís new album called 'Merciless', and thatís a fu***** excellent album, I can tell you!

Well, unfortunately weíre running out of time here - I would like to have asked you more things about Darkthrone, but Iíll leave that for another time. What do you want to say to all the Darkthrone fans that will read this short interview?

N.Culto: A message - listen to the Darkthrone albums in the dark, because darkness is part of us!

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Interview © 2004 John Stefanis

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