most important is the darkness that is there

Satyricon

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! You are currently in process of recording a new album! How is that going, and what can we expect?

We have come far in the writing, jamming and rehearsal process now. We're at a point where we are narrowing down the focus to material that we intend to use and record. The material is our most diverse, creative, spirited and musically most apprehensive so far. It follows that we are truly content and excited by the work.

On top of that, you are about to re-release your 1996 album Nemesis Divina. It’s been 20 years since the band changed the face of Black Metal. How do you look back at the last two decades?

Those two decades have been marked by a constant evolution. I believe it is correct to say that Nemesis Divina was the first album that displayed the kind of conquering spirit, professional ambitions and unwavering determination that has come to be signature traits of Satyricon, and that have been with us ever since.

What do you feel was the biggest change in sound on the Nemesis Divina record, compared to the band’s earlier work?

Nemesis Divina sounds much more fierce, driven and dense than the two preceding albums. The sound does to a great extent reflect the nature of the music on the album, and the rapid progression Satyricon had in the period of making it.

For the 20 year celebration of this album you've done special shows where you played the record in full for the first time. How was it to play this album live again?

It felt good, and it was a seriously intense experience. We put down a lot of effort to make the old material shine, partly in respect for the songs themselves and partly in respect for Satyricon's legacy as a live band. Personally I found it inspiring to connect that strongly to the kind of power that the Nemesis Divina songs have.

Will you be doing this set at more shows on this tour?

We will be playing the entire album live on several festival shows this summer. Pay a visit to Satyricon’s sites to see the string of shows we will be doing.

I actually saw you perform live at the Baroeg in Rotterdam, the year Nemesis Divina was originally released. What do you recall of the time you were first touring with this album?

I recall great excitement and some uncertainties as to what to expect from the tour - as one might imagine since this was our first tour ever. Getting the chance to share the Satyricon spirit in a direct way with fans that were eager to see us was a fantastic prospect, and something that we also enjoyed doing. We quickly discovered the downside of touring as well - people in the music industry that ripped us of, shows that ended up being cancelled, technical problems of all sorts and a high stress level. Perhaps that Baroeg show sums up the tour quite well: a rather shabby and unorderly place with an atmosphere reeking of filth, pot, burnt electrical circuits and laziness - but at the end of the day there was a great and appreciative crowd and a good show.

I feel the Baroeg show pretty much summed up the tour, with the rather shabby conditions.

It really was a shithole back then.

*laughs* yes, and the people working there perhaps were not that talented at helping either, but at the end of the day, great show. And meeting up with very enthusiastic fans, having a good time and this electrical thing going on between the bands, it still makes it worthwhile.

Band wise it was a great venue. They had black metal shows there almost every sunday back then and all the greats played there back in the day.

Yeah I imagine.

Were you a different person back then?

I guess so, and I hope so. Given the fact that 20 years have passed, I hope that I have covered enough things and learned quite a bit, and matured and developed quite a bit, and enough to say that I’m to a large extent a different person today. I still have many of the same passions and the same kind of drive in me as I had back then. I think that’s been a continuation process. It’s always a little uncomfortable to comment on your own person and your own development like that.  

I can imagine. It’s always hard to look back at yourself and find perspective.

I can at least say that much that I try to observe, and I try to learn. Whether or not I succeeded, must be judged by others, but that’s a goal that I have.

If you could send a message back to your 20 year younger you, what would it be?

I guess I would have told myself to pay more attention to what goes on in the band, and not to focus too much on your own drums, and how much attention is possible to draw to your own work, because it’s about more than that. I wish I had learned that a little earlier, to understand that you’re part of a totality.

I like that, it’s a wise message to leave a younger self. Last year you released a live album, Live at the Opera, with a choir behind you! How was it to play live in such a setting?

That was a once in a lifetime experience, and actually also the only performance of a unique musical work, which included the choral arrangements made for the opera show. That really makes the album something much more than just a live album. True enough, it’s recorded live. Simply recording a live album, because the setting is a little special isn’t truly something that Satyricon would do, but we wanted to record it and release it because those were shows documents of that unique musical work that was done that day.

Black metal and choirs, and opera, it’s something that Dimmu Borgir did at some point, but it’s not the most logical combination, even though it sounds awesome. How did you come up with the concept?

Well, I’m not sure if Dimmu Borgir have ever done anything like this. I don’t know about everything that they have done, but to me their approach seems to be much more symphonic and dramatic than what we would like to do. I think there has always been room for the ethic and ceremonial in Satyricon’s music and it’s indeed something that we have a lot of in many of our songs. Hence I think that well written choral arrangements for a proper choir fits the band's music very very well. It is something that we’ve thought about for a while, and I imagine that if a more symphonic band were to do something along that line, it would probably sound very different and it should also have been done very different. You have to remember that those choral arrangements on the opera album are specially written for Satyricon’s music, by someone who really understands the band and our nature and our expression. We have also worked with the choir ourselves to oversee the process, to make sure that everything makes sense with the Satyricon songs. If we weren’t sure that this would sound great, then we would never have done this and we would certainly never have recorded and released it as an album.

I imagine. It’s very important that it makes sense with your own music. If you for instance look at the S&M album that Metallica did, the orchestra parts had nothing to do with the music they make, so yeah, it’s important it makes sense.

I agree with you, I had the same. Some people might think differently, but yes, I felt the same way that you did, that’s perhaps a project that didn’t come through as fortunate.

I actually bought that dvd because I could turn off the orchestra *laughs*

*laughs* yeah, I see.

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing King from Abbath, another band that’s rooted in the black metal scene, that pushes the boundaries of what the genre can be. It’s also an artist you worked with earlier. I’m going to ask you the same question I asked him: do you feel the black metal label still applies to you?

Yes, I definitely do. It’s not important to us in Satyricon what people call it or how they perceive it really, because it’s basically a matter of what reaches you and how things move you. Yet still I feel it’s important to point out that we definitely feel that this is black metal and this is basically very much how we would like black metal to be. We think of it as a very open and creative, innovative type of music. It’s also extreme, but above all it’s a kind of music that necessary needs to live, because it’s an organism. A music genre like that would die if it would just stagnate. It has to be developed over time and it has to go through a constant evolution and it has to be constantly changed and renewed. I mean, I think of old Mercyful Fate as black metal. I think of Bathory as black metal. I think of Darkthrone as black metal, etcetera. There are many different types of expressions that are connected to the genre, so what is common is this type of metalized darkness. But apart from that, I think it’s important that it’s creative music. To me it feels like people have really lost the point if black metal needs to meet a lot of conventions and standards in order to fit to their regime. That makes no sense to me. Black metal isn’t the type of music that is meant to have lots of conventions and standards. Rather it’s the kind of music that should challenge that all the time. What is most important is the darkness that is there. I mean, if you don’t hear the inherent darkness and danger in Satyricon’s music as we make it now, and if you don’t feel the potency, power and nerve in it, well, then I think there’s nothing much more we can do, but I feel there at least a flash of that in Satyricon’s music now, as there was in the old days. Perhaps there’s even a deeper darkness now.

I agree. Genres shouldn’t be used to confine. Black metal has grown a lot over the years. It kind of evolved I think.

Exactly. And I would be very sad if it were otherwise.

How do you view the current black metal genre, the scene?

I’m asked about that quite often, but I have decided not to really mean so much about it, at least not publicly. I basically listen to the old classic albums, and I write black metal myself, so it’s wiser, because I’m not one of those that have the best understanding of the current scene. Perhaps I’ve missed many good bands for all I know.

So you’re not really keeping current with other bands out there?

Well, I’m rehearsing almost every day myself and spend a lot of time in the rehearsal place. The remainder of the time that I’m left with I don’t want more of the same. Perhaps I need to have a contrast to that. Or perhaps I need to lay down or need some silence to mentally work with all the impressions of the day. I feel that there’s not that much time left for me when the day is over to keep track of what’s going on in the contemporary music world, but I know what I love and I have many albums that work for me, so I have a tendency to speak to those.

Go to those you know. I get it. The creative process is a very intense process. I think when you’re really in your flow, it’s hard to focus on other stuff. Final question, do you have any last words for our readers?

I always say when I’m asked about last words or comments, that I prefer to communicate musically, so that will be it. I look forward to communicate musically with our fans this summer!

I’ll be there, I’ll see you at Graspop!  

Great, see you there!

Randy Gerritse