Interview conducted August 28 2017
Interview published September 20 2017
The Norwegian old-school black metallers
Satyricon put out their ninth album Deep Calleth Upon Deep on September
22nd and as the band's main man Satyr took
a trip to Stockholm, Sweden to promote the new making, Metal Covenant
seized the opportunity to get a few words with him in private.
"The pace in which we perform is much closer to
black metal in its original form than the majority of the bands out there.
So when people say something like that, it says nothing about Satyricon.
It demonstrates their lack of historical understanding of the black metal
Tobbe: So, a new album, once again, and
what has been your main goal with this album?
Satyr: So outside the usual things, that are
about trying to take the music to, you know, a new level for the band,
because that's always something that we strive for. We try to think
"Okay. So we know who we are.". We don't have to strive looking
for our identity. Not at this stage. So it's more about constantly being
on the move. Now, on this record, what we did feel was that the spiritual
dimension was more important than ever. Not that the spiritual dimension
wasn't present before, but this time around it was even more important.
Just as the spiritual dimension was always there; passion was always
there too. But I really wanted strongly this record to communicate our
passion in a more concrete manner than ever before. And these were some
of the really important key factors that we pursued in the making of
Tobbe: Satyricon isn't so frequent anymore
with putting out records, so aren't you a little bit afraid that maybe
the fans will kind of forget about the band when you're only releasing
albums every 4th or 5th year in this age of constant change?
Satyr: No, no. I'm not afraid of that. I trust
that the artistic significance of what we do is strong enough to make
an impact when it's there. I understand that, you know, there'll be
different opinions about that, but that doesn't really matter to me.
What matters to me is whether we can achieve the things that we would
like to achieve for ourselves and I feel that we have, you know, succeeded
in doing that and I think that without a shadow of doubt Deep Calleth
Upon Deep will be one of the most listened to/talked about records of
2017 and I think that's because of the undisputable musical quality
of the record and because of the band's passion and the band's strong
urge to be on the move musically and I think that's what people expect
from us and those are the people that we address with our music and
not the guys looking for more of the same.
Tobbe: When I listen to the record I kind
of hear different genres on it, but personally would you say that Deep
Calleth Upon Deep is a full-blown black metal album?
Satyr: Yes. I was sent a quote the other day.
I didn't have the time to read the interview, but I guess it was a guy
from the Dillinger Escape Plan who was quoted, saying like "If
there are rules, it isn't metal.". And I define black metal like
I define blues, so it's about a feeling and if that feeling is there
then it's black metal. So, for me, if someone tries to define black
metal through a bunch of generic conformist factors
So let's just
do a little experiment. So, kind of black metal roots go back to the
'80s, and how fast was the music? Not very fast. So how come people
today say that because our music isn't very fast it's not black metal?
It's absolutely ridiculous. The pace in which we perform is much closer
to black metal in its original form than the majority of the bands out
when people say something like that, it says nothing about Satyricon.
It demonstrates their lack of historical understanding of the black
metal genre. If you listen to some of the pioneers and if you see the
kind of Motörhead on amphetamine rock 'n' roll feel of the black
metal record Bathory  by the Swedish band Bathory it's very different
from the more majestic and epic sounding Blood Fire Death , which
is a monumental black metal album. It's very different from the self-titled
record, for sure, but there are very few years between the two, you
know. To me they are both black metal records, but they are expressed
in different ways, but what they have in common is that they have that
feeling. And I would feel that if I stopped defining our music as black
metal and let people with lack of knowledge steal the definition of
black metal it would be, you know, sort of waving the white flag for
I mean, I dedicated my life to this. What do
they know? I mean, they don't have half the experience that I have in
consuming, living this life, understanding and loving this type of music.
But, like you said, there is a variety of expressions here and when
you hear a song like The Ghost Of Rome you hear that my love for melodic
hard rock from the '70s is clearly expressed in that song. And in a
song like Dissonant you hear that my love for music, which isn't necessarily
melodic, but very percussive, is almost the main drive and the main
factor of the song is the rhythmical as opposed to the melodies. But
when you hear a song like Midnight Serpent you hear my deep and profound
love for music at its very darkest and haunting. And it's that type
of complexity which I find to be the strength of our band, really.
Tobbe: So, lyrically. What kind of subjects
do you deal with this time?
Satyr: You know, I always think to myself that
in an ideal world you keep on moving not only musically, but lyrically,
but what I've understood when it comes to lyrics is that it won't move
as fast as music, because lyrics to a stronger degree reflect your thoughts
and your thoughts don't change as fast as your sort of musical progress
in a way. So, it's existentialism, it's life and death, it is my own
personal experiences, it's the abstract things, it's nature and I think
that with lyrics really the most important things to do as an artist
is A: Don't define the lyrics in front of your audience, because they
will definitely create their own little world based on the lyrics that
they read and let's not take that away from them, you know. I know that
as a music fan myself you don't want that.
then, secondly: I find that one of the most important things is, as
a vocalist, that I understand and feel the words that I sing. That when
I perform them it's not just a sentence, but I feel it. Sometimes I
do that through channeling those words into emotions when I sing, but
other times it can be so intense, you know, in terms of vocal performance,
and, let's say, from maybe a rhythmical point of view, that I can't
really concentrate on the words; I have to concentrate on the timing
and everything. And like a good tool for me then is for example to print
many pictures that represent some of the thoughts, with regards to the
lyrics, and put them all over the wall in front of the microphone so
that I see many of the things that are in the lyrics when I sing, so
I feel closer to them. I find that to be very important.
Tobbe: All the songs are sung in English,
but did you have some ideas about singing a couple of songs in Norwegian
Satyr: On a demo level, yes. But in the way that
the songs evolved, it ended up being all English. But there's no committee;
we just let that happen in a natural way. So there aren't discussions
about these things; they just happen in an unforced way and I find that
to be the
Tobbe: In 2017, if you wanted to, to what
extent could you vary your voice on the records, like you've done in the
past a couple of times?
Satyr: So what I partially unintentionally and
partially intentionally have developed since our second demo is to use
a sort of spoken voice performance as a part of varying my performances
and to introduce sometimes kind of a narrative element and other times
to break up the dynamics. Thankfully that has become something that
our fans also to a large degree associate with my vocal performances
and I think on the new record that would be something that is particularly
expressed on Midnight Serpent, Burial Right and Black Wings And Withering
Gloom and also actually a lot of back and forth like that on Dissonant.
Tobbe: About the front cover. Why did you
pick a cover like that?
Satyr: Actually it's an illustration by the Norwegian
artist Edvard Munch [1863-1944]. Munch is not only one of the most significant
artists to come out of Norway or Scandinavia, but basically in the world.
When one of the four versions of The Scream  was sold at a Sotheby's
auction in New York in 2012 I think, including commission, the price
was $118,000,000. [$119,922,500 according to Sotheby's] It was a new
world record for a painting sold. I think he did that five years before
he did Kiss Of Death , which is a far less known and more obscure,
but nevertheless highly regarded, piece of Munch. And Kiss Of Death
is an illustration and obviously not a painting.
you look for something in an album cover, what you are looking for is
something that can, on an emotional level, represent the music, the
lyrics, the atmosphere on the record and the overall thought and, you
know, Munch is first and foremost known for, and totally and rightfully
so, anxiety, sickness and death. They said that towards the end of his
life there was definitely a much brighter phase, but he had a family
history of a lot of mental illness and some really tough things happened
to him, like the death of his mother, as a child, and one of his sisters
basically ended up in a mental asylum. So he had some rough things happening
to him in life that very deeply affected his art and some of the darkest
stuff he did was from between 1890 and 1900 perhaps and this is from
1898-1899, so it's during that time.
We chose that because we felt that in all its
raw, naked, primitive darkness, it represented the will and the emotion
of the record. Munch had this fantastic diversity about him. You know,
he could do very colorful things like, let's say Scream, and it's quite
elaborate, but, you know, five years later he does Kiss Of Death and
it's so primitive and so brutal. But here's a thing: Munch always said
that if the emotion and the will is present, then it's a finished piece
of art. And the greatness of art can not be defined by how technical
it is or how many details it consists of.
He was very controversial in his time, because
he came from a time where people said that art should be about, you
know, mountains, or forests, or women, or a vase, or a flower and it
was also quite photographic, so people said "So, that's a forest."
and then Munch would probably paint a part of it and then he would add
things that don't exist and fellow artists were like "What the
fuck are you doing?", you know, because they were trained to "What
you see is what you paint." and here comes this guy that starts
adding stuff that's not there and you'd think "What's the problem
with that?". Well, this was a different time and you were not supposed
to do that. But it's interesting to see that what he does stirs up emotions
A little tricky question. This far into your career, what can a ninth
record really do for Satyricon?
Satyr: Well, to me it's the satisfaction that
it gives on a personal level. I said to the guys, and that's what I
honestly feel, actually for this whole decade which we are now soon
at the end of since we are in late 2017 so we got a couple of more years
to go in this decade, that the chances of Satyricon getting much bigger
are basically almost nothing and the chances of this band becoming a
lot smaller are almost nothing. I think that Satyricon can do records
that are, you know, more successful commercially than people expect
and some of them less successful, but it's not gonna be gigantic variations.
But that's sort of the commercial aspect of,
like, how you come across, you know, with gold records and charts and
this and that, and, you know, if the people that's spending money on
making these albums feel that they get their money back in what they
invest and all that. But from an artistic point of view: What can we
achieve? Well, whether it's the first, the ninth or the nineteenth,
what it really comes down to is its relevance. Our record is coming
out on the 22nd of September and I can guarantee you that in the month
of September there will be many first, second and third records released
that are insignificant and the world's gonna say "Whatever."
and they're gonna shrug their shoulders.
And then there's gonna be records coming out
from people who have done music for decades that the world is gonna
turn to and feel inspired by and motivated by. So, you know, to go back
to Munch, it isn't really about, you know, what you do, but it's how
you do it.
Tobbe: You know, some people say that rock
is dead, foolish or not, but would a statement like that also include
Satyr: My most important goal is to enjoy the
musical ride that we are on and to work with our music in a way that
keeps me happy, satisfied, emotionally fulfilled and that can inspire
and motivate, well, people's lives, but also other bands so that they
can, hopefully, feel the urge to push harder and do great things that
we all can enjoy. But I also hope that our contributions are helpful
for, you know, the state of extreme metal music.
know, I don't care about it and I think that things like "Rock
is dead." and all of that stuff is just slogan talk. But if you
look at Celtic Frost: So when I met those guys for the first time in
2004, 2005, something like that, then what I said to them was "I
wasn't necessarily inspired by your lyrics or your riffs, but what I
was inspired by was your bravery. You did one thing and then you did
something else, which was clearly you, but it was so different from
the last thing and that shows courage and bravery.".
So that was inspiring to me and what I think
is important for, you know, you, as someone who writes about music,
and those who are listeners that don't write or don't play, is that
you acknowledge and understand that the influence that Satyricon or
any other band can have doesn't have to come down to, like, if you hear
a band that sounds nothing like Satyricon, that you like, and they have
no riffs that sound like our riffs, they can still be very inspired
by us, because maybe they considered doing things that they were afraid
of doing and they saw us do it and then like "Fuck yeah! Come on!
Let's do that!".
And that's a good thing and that's the kind of
stuff that you think about. I know that Daron Malakian, the songwriter
of System Of A Down, which is a huge band, selling millions of records,
has so many sources of inspiration and one of the most important is
Norwegian black metal. He's been loving this music for 15 years, you
know, if not more. Actually, in his case, there are a couple of riffs
where you hear that it's really inspired by Norwegian black metal, but
for the most part I think he's looking at structural moves in the arrangements,
general thoughts, musical attitudes and those things and it helps him
in his own music. So being relevant and inspirational to other people
in art is also a driving force, for me at least, and it helps keep rock
and all its subgenres alive.