16 07 2005




Open Forum / Debate, Roskilde Festival, 01-07-05 20:30. (Transcription: Thomas Grønkjær)

Attending: Attila Csihar (Sunn O)))), Oren Ambarchi (Sunn O)))), Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), Aaron Turner (Isis), Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved), Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved).

Ivar: We’ll start off really nice and cozy. Aaron, how do you feel about the gig today?

Aaron: It’s was our first show on the tour, and one of the first really big festival shows we’ve ever done, so it was a little bit nerve wrecking getting rushed on stage. You know, you need a good vibe to really feel it, and it took us a while to get there, but over all it went pretty well considering we played heavy metal in the daylight.

(Audience applauding.)

Ivar: I’ve got to ask you the same question, Stephen. How was the show today?

Stephen: This is definitely the first time we played in the daylight, and outdoors, which is two very strange things for our music, but considering the environment and the people witnessing what we were doing, I think it was pretty successful, actually. We cleared half the crowd but still had a pretty large crowd for our type of music. Not bad.

Ivar: Well done!

(Audience applauding.)

Stephen: How about you, Ivar?

Ivar: We’re happy. We got the 2:30 pm spot. The tent was crowded more or less, so it was good. Of course we would have wished to have a darker spot. We brought along the video thing, and everything, but it was good. What do you say, chief?

Grutle: Very good. Excellent.

Stephen: Hey Grutle, how do you get the crowd to do this kinda thing all the time? A thousand people doing that.

(Stephen is showing the horns and doing gestures.)

Grutle: Well, ehh, I’m never satisfied with the audience. I’m always trying to get the audience headbanging, and show the horns, and stuff like that… ehh…. I think they kinda gained my satisfaction tonight, actually.

Stephen: Yeah, it was good.

Ivar: I don’t know if this is a stupid question but I have to ask about the whole panopticon concept thing. Would you say that this prison invention described in the album, is that aesthetics or would you consider it an actual comment on what is going on today?

Aaron: A little bit of both. I mean, it’s a subject that relates to a lot of things I’ve been interested in my entire life but it seems particularly relevant now. I mean, especially living in America post-9/11, there’s a really heightened degree of paranoia, you know, the part of the entire citizenry, the Patriot Act doesn’t make anybody feel any safer it just makes everybody’s lives feel less private and more invaded. One of the things I got really interested in was the comparison, or the idea that the internet in a way has become a modern day panopticon. People are letting their very private information into a very public forum, and they’re not really sure who is compiling it or trying to dissect it. I don’t know. It’s a scary thought. Technology has opened up communication in a lot of ways but it’s also opened up to a whole new, terrifying realm.

Ivar: A question for Mr. O’Malley. With Sunn O))) and your extreme levels of sound, do you have any particular goal or aim with this? Is there something more than just the showbiz side of things - using these extreme levels of sound?

Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. It’s to create a physical environment and move our music into a more sensory experience than just the ears and the vision. When it comes into the touch realm it causes a physiological effect that your body will remember as well. And that experience can be very different in a performing aspect because… you go to a club, you see someone on the stage – it’s theatre, basically, but you usually limit it to your interpretation intellectually through sight and your ears, but to add the body element I think I can create a more powerful reaction… I’m actually interested in evolving other senses in there but there’s not really practical ways of going into scent, you know. On stage there’s certainly that, but… ehh… evolving other interpreters to the audience creates a more involved experience. That’s primarily why we play loud. It’s not to be the loudest band, or whatever. With volume and energy… especially with low tones, it really takes a lot of energy to create the wave movement in the air and sound pressure and air pressure, too. Curdling vibes, and also in space to create other pockets of sounds that exist in the room as a result of interfering wave forms, which is another aspect of our music that is really valuable.

Grutle: Ehh, okay… We are three very different bands but for some reason we are put on the same stage together. Maybe because none of our bands fit into a certain genre… Ehh, I just want to ask both Sunn O))) and Isis if you think we have something in common?

Stephen: The one thing I think we have in common, specifically, is not our music but it’s the pushing… It’s almost very cliché and corny but it’s the truth, it’s very simple, but we’re always pushing our sound and trying to incorporate new ideas and trying to move things further on for ourselves, to create new experiences for our own music.

Aaron: As you said our music is pretty different in a lot of ways but I think all three bands are really representative of different strains of the evolution of metal in general. I mean, it’s all coming from the same place and origins, but it’s different mutations. Sunn O))) is the most obvious representation of this but I find that the drone is apparent in all three bands, and I find that’s a more primal, almost ritualistic way of playing music, and that can be felt in all three bands as well.

Ivar: Another question for Aaron. What are your wishes for the audience to feel during an Isis concert, or album for that sake?

Aaron: I don’t think it’s anything specific. Our music is pretty wide open emotionally. A lot of different dynamics occur, and to me, I can’t say that I go thru really specific emotions when I play music, for lack of a better word, I come as close to a spiritual state as anything else I can think of, and it just takes me into a different state. It’s not so much thinking with a conscious mind as it is following the music and being immersed in it… and I kinda hope the same for the audience, that they just allow themselves to drift into that different mind space and experience music in a different way, rather than waiting for the chorus or the mosh part or whatever.

Ivar: Maybe we should open for questions from the audience?

Audience: This particular music you’re playing, the vocals play a very different part in the music. What does vocals mean to each individual band?

(Everybody points to Attila who’s visibly under the influence.)

Attila: What’s the question?

(Attila speaks in a very, very slow and deep voice.)

Audience: What does vocals mean to Sunn O))), because it’s very different. I’ve seen Sunn O))) without the vocals and now I’ve seen it with the vocals…

Attila: It’s the… ehh… the concept behind the vocals of Sunn O)))… is just to release some structures… of the moment and get the audience spiritually involved… in the music… and a back and forth flood of spiritual vibrations… (Burbs loudly)… And Sunn O))) is always involved with the audience…

(People burst into spontaneous applause while Grutle growls “Aaaattiiiilaaaa!”)

Grutle: I want to ask a question to Stephen O’Malley, emerging from the extreme metal scene in America. The extreme metal scene used to be quite big in America, in the beginning of the 90’s with bands like Morbid Angel, Obituary, and so on, but suddenly the whole scene kinda died out, but it’s starting to recover right now. Do you have any thoughts about why it went down?

Stephen: Why it went down?... I don’t know about why it went down, but I think I know about why it’s coming up again. I think there’s a much larger acceptance between different types of musicians and fans of different types of music, and I think a lot of the newer extreme bands are incorporating a lot of different ideas that would never have worked in ’94, except if you were a very specific and individual band. I think there’s a more open perspective and acceptance of extreme music. Actually I think extreme music in the US is much bigger than it has ever been before. You know the scene in the early 90’s with Death, Incubus and Master, that was the early death metal scene, and very important, but it actually lead to something that Enslaved in a way is continuing in Norway, which is progressive, extreme music.

Grutle: It seems to be the same thing with Europe. I mean there was too many death metal bands doing the same thing in the US as well as it happened with black metal in Europe in the middle of the 90’s. It was too easy to get a record deal, everything just got blown up with too many bands with too much corpse paint. I feel it was the same with death metal in the US, just a couple of years earlier. Do you agree?

Stephen: Yeah, definitely. And it’s interesting which bands from that period are still around, both in the US and Europe, and who are still making valid music which keeps progressing in their own style and chemistry. It’s interesting who made music in ’93 and is still making music, and I think that it’s a big influence on people that start making music in 2003 because you realize there’s a much bigger acceptance of extreme sounds and experimental aspects. I think that in the early 90’s, at least with metal, there was a very limited perspective which worked for a while, but it had to go somewhere, and who took it somewhere?

Aaron: I think there might be some relation to politics as well. At that time we were still in the midst of the Reagan/Bush era which was pretty fucking bleak, and now we’ve returned to another Bush, and times of extreme duress when the population just feels suppressed more aggressive music has a tendency to arise, which I believe has something to do with it… And also, in the early 90’s Columbia and Sony did the deal with Earache and brought some of that death metal stuff into the mainstream, and as a result it was somewhat of a fad for a while. You know, the mainstream saw this freakish strain of music and latched onto it for that reason, and then after the hype had passed it sort of just dissipated.

Ivar: A question for both bands. If you were forced to, how would you categorize your music?

Stephen: I don’t like to categorize our mus…

Ivar: You’re forced to!!

Stephen: I’m forced to?

Grutle: WE force you!

Stephen: Ehh… psychedelic music.

Ivar: Nice one!

Aaron: I was gonna say the same thing. Psychedelic metal.

Ivar: Shorter answers than I expected, so any questions from the audience?

Stephen: What about you? It’s not viking music anymore.

Ivar: Psychedelic viking music!

(Everybody laughs hard!)

Audience: This is a question to Aaron from Isis. Do you have any plans of cooperating with Neurosis or Cult Of Luna? And also when do we get the lyrics for “Panopticon”?

Aaron: What was the first part of the question?

Audience: Do you have any plans of cooperating with Neurosis or Cult Of Luna?

Aaron: No. And the lyrics for “Panopticon” will probably go up in the next 5 or 6 months, or whenever I feel like it.

Audience: You were talking about the evolution of metal, and I was thinking if you ever wonder that you might become mainstream at some point, and will be on the radio for the masses.

Ivar: We love the masses, man. We love to be in the radio, but it’s not going to happen.

Aaron: I think that any band that writes songs that generally are 7-10 minutes long are pretty much shit out of luck these days.

Stephen: Not to mention 30 minutes long… Not happening!

Grutle: I want to ask a question to Attila. For many years me and you, especially you, have been doing this… ehh… extreme vocal technique and suddenly bands like System Of A Down have been using it lately, and it has become quite normal and accepted. Do you have any thoughts around that?

Attila: Ehh… I’m just happy… if I can involve other musicians to this kinda music… it’s fucking news for me that System Of A Down use our style… but music develops itself, and we inspire each other… so actually for me it’s alright… I’m going further out myself, looking for new visions… so if bands like System Of A Down… are involved in our style it’s okay for me, I’m happy with that, but we go further out…

Stephen: I recently saw a band called Blood Brothers who are pretty famous but I’ve never heard their music or seen them before, but this band Big Business was opening for them, and I went to see them. So Blood Brothers played. And I was really surprised about the size of the crowd. Because they have two vocalists doing stuff in a Napalm Death/“Scum”-vibe, and there was 700 kids that were 15 years old or so that was totally into it. It really surprised me. At first it was kinda disgusting me because their music was so bad, but I mean, I kinda looked for a positive thing in it, and it’s pretty amazing that such an extreme vocal style can have a bigger audience. Because when Napalm Death was doing that, they didn’t have that kinda crowd, maybe later, but I think it’s more common… It’s actually like extreme vocals are more accepted now, in a weird way. It seems strange to me, but it’s pretty cool.

Ivar: Where are the kids when you need them?

Stephen: We’re all old men here, c’mon.

Audience: I appreciate this effort to bring everybody together and talk about the music we love, but I’ve been reading essays and articles about Isis and Sunn O))) in Wire magazine where people are trying to make heavy metal into some academic stuff, you know, when it’s mainly just rock’n’roll. What do you think about people sitting down trying to talk about heavy metal?

Ivar: I just want to say that we are smart too… I think it’s good, because for lot of people extreme music, metal or whatever, it’s a lifestyle, so what else should you talk about? It’s a nice thing to talk about.

Audience: What about these articles were they are trying to make the music into something it probably isn’t?

Stephen: What’s the problem? That is their interpretation as journalists trying to interpret through their filter as writers, people who may not be correct in what they talk about, as far as what the musicians are concerned, but they’re being affected by the music and they’re reacting to it. I don’t see a problem in that at all. I’m really not for a segregation of… ehh… you know, only these kinda people can listen to our music, or only these kinda people can write about our music, or whatever. I actually think it’s kind of a blessing that it has crossed over and affected more people. The Wire writes about Sunn O))). That’s great. I don’t necessarily agree with what they are saying about our music, but I feel privileged that people are actually being affected by it.

Aaron: Music is open to interpretation and it always should be. I think anybody that play music, with the exception of very few people, want as many people as possible to hear what you’re doing. If you’re playing out on a stage and your releasing CD’s you want to share your music with people, and I think ultimately that’s what is the most important, and yes, The Wire can over intellectualize certain aspects of music but at the same time I think a lot of people underrate the intelligence of metal. It’s always been considered this very brutish, knuckle-dragging style of music, but if you really sit down and listen to it, and you dissect what people are doing it’s obvious that that’s not the case. We all put a lot of thought into our music, and beyond that, going back to what Stephen said earlier, we really are trying to push the envelope of what we are doing, whether we succeed or not is another question, but all three bands are adventurous music. The Wire claims to be a magazine that’s about the adventures in music, so there you go.

Stephen: Also I think it’s very obvious when a musician or a band is very passionate about what they are doing no matter what they are doing, and it comes across, and people who love true music will relate to that. Whether or not they like the music that’s happening they’ll appreciate the fact that it’s happening with passion and integrity…. Any more questions?

Aaron: No questions about colored vinyl!

Ivar: Yeah! Any questions about vinyl?

Audience: If we look beyond the lyrics do you think music in itself speaks about good or evil, does music in itself have meaning? Maybe it’s a bit hard for me to phrase this question, but I just had this thought that maybe music is not about meaning, or good and evil, or anything else…

Aaron: I don’t think you can say what it’s about. You can’t write a riff about something. You just can’t. I think it’s about the individual, even within one band everybody feels differently about the music, and have different reasons for doing it. I know everybody in my band is on the same page to a certain degree but I know we get completely different things out of the music, and we have different interpretations of it…. I don’t know, I think it’s really an individualistic thing.

Ivar: I just want to add something. For us music is simply a gateway or a door. All day you go around and live, and music is simply just a doorway to get out of that. If your life is great, or if your life is shit, music is something different, basically. You can go to a concert or you can listen to an album for an hour, and you’re going somewhere else.

Audience: If you had the choice, would you want to be more commercial or stay small…

Ivar: It’s the eternal question about being underground or not. We want to write the music we want to do…

Attila: Ehh… Our music is about… spiritual energies, you know… ehh… sexual intercourse… if you can feel… you will feel… it’s a downtrip to the underworld… ehh… all about fucking perversive…

Grutle: Staying underground or not is not a question of attitude. You’re still underground if you’re producing your own albums. If you’re commercial the record companies or the producer are setting the rules. If you’re doing a production yourself and you’re not obeying the audience or the market you’re still underground. From our point of view Iron Maiden is still underground.

Stephen: “Forever Underground”. Great album!... Vital Remains.

Aaron: I don’t think it’s a matter of being underground or overground, it’s just a matter of what reasons we have for playing music…

Attila: Whhhhaaaarrwwrooooaaaaarrrghhhoooooraaaaaaaarrhhhh…

(Audience applauding Attila’s deep growl.)

Stephen: That’s underground!

Aaron: That’s the best answer you can have.

(Audience don’t have more questions.)

Stephen: Thanks a lot for coming out. Stay grim and don’t cut your hair!

(Everything ends with Attila and Grutle growling and screaming into the microphones.)


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