Satyricon’s latest album, Now Diabolical, was very surprising to me because it has such a catchy sound and meanwhile keeps the dark, evil feeling incorporated. With this radical change, their new label and satanic sluts we had enough reason to have an interesting conversation. On September the 21st they played at the Tivoli in Utrecht and before the show I spoke to a very driven and expansive Satyr.
How are the reactions from the crowd on the new material during your European tour so far?
“Mostly really good, in a couple places like Birmingham and New Castle you see that people really like it but at the same time there are a lot of people that are really young who maybe started to listen black metal a year ago. I think that they are pretty uncertain about how they’re supposed to behave on a show like that; they don’t know whether they should be dead silent, dead serious or energetic and lively. It’s a bit strange to see people make photos all the time. All our shows have been successful, but there were also a couple of shows that I didn’t really enjoy to do, because people were watching too much; they’re not really letting themselves go.”
Why do you think that the tour is such a success?
“It has to do with the availability of black metal, in the past it was all about fanzines, tape trading, flyering and word of mouth advertising. Nowadays a big magazine like Kerrang! can easily run a big feature on a black metal band or have a poster of it. It’s not that black metal changes to fit to people’s taste; it’s rather people’s ability to relate to black metal that has improved.”
You did a whole bunch of summer festivals this year and you were billed on the Hungarian Sziget festival, but I didn’t see you guys there, what happened?
“Yeah, they advertised that we would play, but their offer didn’t fit in our schedule. When they asked us whether we were available they already started announcing Satyricon. Year after year Eastern European festivals sell tickets by announcing bands that are by no means confirmed just to get the ticket sales going. Later they said that Satyricon cancelled and they didn’t knew why. This didn’t only happen with our band by the way. It really irritates me because it makes my band look bad and I get pissed off when people try and rip off Satyricon fans by using our name whether it’s by selling crap t-shirts, bootlegs or saying that we will play a festival when it isn’t the case.”
How are things going since you're on Roadrunner?
“Great! It’s a good label; they have offices in many countries. I’m happy with our cooperation with Roadrunner and I think that if we keep working hard together we can achieve good things.”
What did you want to achieve with your latest CD?
“I always strive to reach a higher level musically; I try to make the music that I want to listen to myself. A big part of the job is analyzing what I want, so I write down some clues and guidelines before I actually start writing the songs. This time I wrote down that the songs shouldn’t be overly long and must be based around three or four strong themes; I don’t want to have songs within the songs. The sound should be raw and dry; almost like the band is in your room and the choruses to be really catchy so that it makes you want to get up and scream along. I was very obsessed with staying true to all these ideals and that’s why I was really happy with how the record came out and the material functions extremely well live.”
What are the benefits of Roadrunner above your own label, Moonfog?
“I don’t have to be at both sides of the table. Roadrunner has much more personnel because they have a much more commercial approach. Moonfog is based on a very different ideology and politics. I think that what Satyricon needs is a big label that runs it like a business and not the way I run Moonfog.”
You already made two video clips for this album, does that also has to do with your new label?
“Not really, because both of them had really tight budgets. On the record before Now Diabolical we did ‘Fuel for Hatred’ and that video clip alone cost almost double of what those videos cost! It has more to do with that we got more experience now and that we know how to squeeze more out of that format. I know where we can save money; what we can do and cannot do. I wasn’t too pleased with the ‘King’ video; it didn’t flow with the music. I always think that the video should make the song even cooler, but the director was only concerned with imagery and he didn’t follow the song. That’s the pity about having a tight budget. ‘The Pentagram Burns’ video had an even tighter budget but it looked múch better; it flows much better with the song. I read a reaction on the internet that said we could have saved ourselves all the fake flames and I was like: WHAT? FAKE FLAMES?! We had the best special effects guy in the Scandinavian movie industry and he burned my skin off!”
‘The Pentagram Burns’ video features a whole dozen of ladies, let me guess: you were inspired by all those fancy hip-hop videos you see on TV nowadays?
“That was a really BAD guess actually…Well seriously, I think ‘The Pentagram Burns’ is very mesmerizing; it’s going forward, it’s chasing and it has a kind of ritual sound. I always felt that dancing movements in rituals esthetically look really good, so I said to the director that I wanted some real dancers from the ballet or opera or something, but it was way too expensive. The director then wanted to bring in one stripper hotter than the other, but I wanted girls who looked more like satanic sluts with a more black metalish look. We made them dance on the music to see whether they just dye their hair black or they are real black metal girls. So we picked girls based on those criteria’s and that’s why they look really good in the video and it doesn’t look like they’re there to create some sort of obscenity.”
Some bands like Enslaved and Darkthrone are drawing inspiration from the roots of metal in the 70s, 80s; as does Satyricon. How do you think about fans that say you aren't playing black metal anymore?
“I don’t think that there are any fans who said that. There might be writers that suggest there are fans who are saying that, but it’s important to draw the line between what you might think people will say and what they actually say. Because some black metal fans are almost like leftwing extremist and communists when it comes to money I thought that when we signed with EMI for Volcano some were going to freak out, but there were no reactions whatsoever and rightfully so. I mean, Reign in Blood by Slayer was on Defjam, the Public Enemy hip-hop label, and no one cared about that. Some people ask me whether I’m afraid that people won’t call Satyricon black metal anymore because Now Diabolical is so easy to get into, but everyone that I met that are old school black metal people dig the record like hell. Classic songs from Venom like ‘Countess Bathory’, ‘Seven Gates of Hell’ and ‘Black Metal’ all have simple straight forwarded choruses. Black metal can be so many things like epic and grandiose like Emperor, fast and ferocious like Immortal or garage and naked like Darkthrone. But it can also be very driven, sincere and overwhelming like Satyricon on Now Diabolical or progressive yet dark and aggressive on Nemesis Devina.”
You produced all your albums yourself, is there a chance that you leave it to someone else in the future?
“If I can get Rick Ruben I’ll do that. I heard from Daron Malakian (SOAD) that Rick really liked Volcano. He also told me that Rick copied the CD to get Kerry King to listen to it, so that’s cool. It’s a long road to get him to work with us, but it would be an honor. Because I’m also a producer I’m always very interested in other people’s work, like I might be interested in a new Justin Timberlake recording just because of the production. People like him use some of the best engineers, studio people and producers in the world and even if I don’t like the music I learn things from it as a producer. Someone like Rick Rubin who works with Slayer, Slipknot, Jay-Z or Johnny Cash, which I’m a real fan of by the way, seems to be able to produce highly acknowledged and successful records both on an artistic and commercial level. So it would be great if he would ever produce a record of us.”
In November you're going to do a show with a large brass section, performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. What can be expected of that?
“If you listen to Satyricon’s history you hear already on the demo The Forest is My Throne that there are brass samples. Throughout our history we had brass incorporated because it fits really well with dark music; strings are not heavy, they can be though, but brass is automatically heavy, manly and big. On Now Diabolical we got to incorporate it live, so we got a guy in the studio for arranging the stuff and he’s the same guy with who we are arranging the concert. That concert will be one of a kind and very special.”
You’re also going to film it, is that for an upcoming DVD?
“Only if the show and the filming turn out as good as we want it to be, but we haven’t got any concrete plans for a DVD.”
Back in 1999 you started Eibon with big artists like Phil Anselmo, is it possible that we're ever going to hear something of that again?
“I’ve been talking to Phillip this summer and he’s much focused to get Eibon on its feet. It was due to his long drug addiction that the whole project fell apart and due to the fact that Killjoy from Necrophagia was in the band; they had a big disagreement and I don’t think that Phillip wants anything to do with him anymore. Therefore we never finished a CD, that’s a shame because Phillip brought some of the songs on his Ipod and they sounded fucking amazing. I don’t think that we’re going to be able to finish the CD because of everyone’s schedule, but we’ll see.”
A lot of metal musicians don't listen to metal in their spare time and you already said that you liked Johnny Cash, what else do you like to listen to?
“I love metal and I think that a lot of metal artists are just a bunch of pretentious dickheads that think they are special because they don’t listen to metal or because they do the complete opposite and only listen to metal. Why does it have to be so black and white; good music is good music. Besides listening to metal I also like other styles; I grew up listening in the 90s to bands like Portishead, Massive Attack, I was into the whole dub electronica scene, all the trip-hop stuff and drum ‘n bass, which was a genre that in my view only lasted a few years. I know it’s still there but I think it was only interesting during the mid 90s. Furthermore I like folk music, classical; it doesn’t matter. I’m very open minded.”
As a finisher, do you have a nice tour anecdote to share with us?
“Well I have these warm up exercises I do before a show and many of them sound really strange. Our tour manager is a very strict man and doesn’t understand anything of it, so he came it to tell me I had to get on stage and I asked whether he could give me 30 seconds. He came in again and was like OK Satyr we don’t have time for you fucking around and play games; we have a show to play. He completely assumed that I was trying to act funny being a retard, because he never heard of those exercises. So yeah, we had quite some laughs about that and things like that happen all the time.”