28 06 2004
#356

QUORTHON INTERVIEW PART 1


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INTERVIEW FROM DESCENT VOLUME 2, WINTER / SPRING 1995
Interview conducted by Stephen O'Malley

Hail Quorthon... How are you doing this eve ?

- I'm fine though I' ve just had some sort of shit going on with my throat, it goes with the season ... cold winds and icy winds nowadays you know... otherwise I'm fine.

After a few years' rest, you have decided to release another album as mighty Bathory... It is great to see you continue the epos. What can you tell us about this new album ?

- Yeah, it’s been a while, right ?! Well, what can I tell you about the new album... It was recorded in the beginning of July this year... I believe it took about three days to lay down the guitars, bass and drums. Then there was a whole month of holydays which prevented us from keeping on recording or laying down the vocals etc. etc. Then in the beginning of September we could finally do the rest of the shit. It’ll be out the second week of October I believe... and then what can I tell you about it ? Well, it’s sure as hell not based on a bunch of songs that wound up at around fifteen minutes and where each and everyone of them begins with an intro for about a minute and a half and then after a decade or two of monotone pile of shit it all ends as if it was the end of the world and not just a song. In others words it is nothing close to what we have done lately ( « Blood Fire Death », « Hammerheart » or « Twilight of the Gods » ). Yet it is far away from that speedy noise we produced back in the mid and early ‘80s. All I know is that there is not a word on Satan or Odin, there are no fuck-ups in the playing, it is by far the fastest and most brutal stuff that I have ever heard Bathory do. But really what the album is really like can only the fans themselves say. I am partial and the stuff and it is too close in time for me have had any distance to it.

Does the album « Requiem » have any relation to the never released album in 1987 ? For that matter, why was that album « Fire and Ice » never released ?

- The album recorded this july entitled « Requiem » has no relation other than the title itself with the session we did in ‘89-’90 that carried the same title as working title. From this « never released » session of ‘89-’90 only one song has been released, « Crawl to your Cross », which eventually ended on « Jubileum vol. 1 ». The rest of the material from that session ( or sessions really ) is really not good enough and just a bunch of super-duper-ultra-extra-fast noise and screams with no real motive or clue. We were just having fun letting off a lot of steam in the process. I really doubt this material will ever be released... To be honest I shouldn’t have told the press about this or the other so called « not released » album ( I’ll get to that one later on ) coz after that went out in the press a never ending flow of fan mail has requested these two « albums » to be released tomorrow practically. So the only thing that the new album and that « never released » album have in common is its title. Then to the other so called « never released » album of Bathory. You mention an album « done » in ’87 entitled « Fire and Ice ». We recorded 24 songs for a double album entitled « Blood on Ice » in ( I’m not quite sure about the exact date I’m afraid ) the break between « Blood Fire Death » and « Hammerheart ». This whole session turned out really great. It was a sort of a theme album with a warped version of the original Conan story and our version of the Nordic Mythology. Although the songs were really great and we really loved the idea of a double album ( remember that CDs were not household stuff here in Europe in those days for bands in the league where Bathory played ) somewhere down the line we realized that some of our fans might not have the money to buy a double album and wound up listening to second or even third generation MC-copies. Secondly, we understood that the complicated Swedish history and the whole Viking sound being really a white spot on the metal map these days would be rather difficult for a lot of our fans into the band coz of the satanic stuff and enormous speed and shit. That’s why « Blood on Ice » was placed on ice

(sic). But... and I don’ t think many know this... « Valhalla », a song from « Blood on Ice », was recorded once again and released on « Hammerheart ». The thing is the same here as with that not released session mentioned earlier... I really don’t think that any of the material from « Blood on Ice » will be released. But if I would change my mind in the future and decide to release it anyway I would need to really tell people in a sort of « letter » in the CD that the album was recorded years ago and the whole story behind it... people would probably only get Manowar in their thoughts when hearing it anyway and that would not be too good I guess. I can tell you one more thing... when we did « Blood on Ice » we were signed to Music for Nations in the U.K. and they had another act called Onslaught... they found out that our album was planned to be titled « Blood on Ice » and they had no title for their new album. Some weeks later I find out that their new album is titled « Blood upon Ice » and of course we couldn’t release our album bearing a similar name being on the same label and all... by the way... we left that label very soon after that coz they were very small in Europe although they were the biggest metal label in the U.K. in those days. I should round this off by just saying that eventually Onslaught changed their title to something else anyway...

Musically, your style has changed quite a bit over the years as well... where does this new album stand, musically ? Any chance you will ever put out another release in the vein of « The Return... » or « Under the Sign of the Black Mark » ?

- When we did « The Return » and « Under the Sign of the Black Mark » we were really terrible musicians and we worked in a private studio down a basement in a southern suburb to Stockholm equipped with only a 12-track desk and a small FX-rack from the end of the 60’s. When our music became more and more complex it sometimes could be as much as three or four different sounds on one track, you could have a horse running by in the beginning of a song then a lead guitar in the middle... still on the same track ... and so finally perhaps a short slab of acoustic guitar at the very end or fade out still on the same track . You can imagine what this meant when trying to mix a whole song containing not only the basic instruments but also 12 harmonies mixed down onto one track, horses, wind and thunder, churchbells and acoustic guitars effect, drums and guitar solo’s etc etc... I tell you we went through hell at times... especially when we did « Blood Fire Death » and « Hammerheart », both recorded in this small studio ( Heavenshore ) where all our albums except for « The Return... », « Twilight of the Gods » and « Requiem » were done.So to really answer your question when we can produce another album like « The Return... » or « Under the Sign... » I think we are not talking the mood or sound of these two albums or the kind of music that we did all those years ago... we are talking really about growth and becoming better musicians and all that lot. If you really mean brutal shit and pace till your balls break you’ll have it all on this new album coz it is the fastest stuff we have ever done. The whole reason why we did this album at all was this... I went out in Europe to do some promo for my solo album « Album ». When I met all these folks from mags, radio and TV, I realized that they were very sad that there might not be another Bathory album. They all kept on talking about how big Bathory really was to a lot of people and how much we had meant to a whole generation of bands around the world... and all this made me wonder if I really shouldn’t just go back home after having done all the promo stuff and really try to sit down with my electric guitar and produce some brutal stuff. I thought that I was really unable to do this having disclosed myself off from the street-beat for almost nine years listening to classical music only. But it was actually easy and within two weeks I had written all the material for this new album. To get back to your question really... yes, we have changed over the years and the reason for that is musical freedom; as a musician and an artist you really need that kind of freedom to expand and challenge yourself writing new music all the time... finding new sides of yourself and broaden your horizons... I know it really sounds standard and dull but it’s the truth... when I was a kid myself and a fan I hated bands that went on in the press like this and then changing from one album to another... but now I know different... I hope this answers your question...

Over the past decade your style has evolved ( theme wise ) from the satanic into an Asatru / Odinist, Viking pride style... Does this continue onward on « Requiem » or do they change direction once again ? What can you tell us of some of the topics you delve into this time around ?

- Well, it is the same thing here as with the music... so see above ... but to add I can say that lyrics really mean a lot and much more than the music tell you where you are at. I have never been ashamed of any of the stuff that we have done musically or lyrically... but these days mags tend to pay much more attention to the lyrics than they used to five or ten years ago... but then of course it was all satanic in those days anyway. It seems like there’s a whole god damn lexicon out there that describes a band’s lyric-identity which is approaching the whole issue the wrong way... not that lyrics shoudn’t be important... they are... but to label a band purely satanic occult odinistic or what the fuck ever is really wrong. I am not the right person to say that I hate it when bands or people are labeled this or that coz ten years ago I was asked in the very first interview I did for a German magazine what type of metal we played

( coz back then in the end of ‘84 or so a new thing - thrash metal - was found and black metal was already out there ) and being a cocky little son of a bitch I simply answered that we played Death Metal coz most of our songs dealt with death... little did I know that when bands in Europe started to diverse a little from what was known as pure black metal mags started to label these as death metal acts... so should I really stretch my damn neck a bit and feel proud of having contributed with at least something for the history... Regarding the new album it touches nowhere on the satanic topics or Odinism or any of that shit, although I have to confess that I still haven’t left the bit of criticizing christianity as much as I can.. But most of the time the new album deals with death in various ways... post mortem, war, murder, suicide, genocide and the death of values of man etc. etc.

On a similar topic, I wonder if you ever took satanism seriously, back in those days, or was it more simply for the sensation of it all ? Has your opinion on the subject changed over the years or did the interest just fade ?

- Did I really take satanism for real at any one time ? Sure I did... in ‘82-’85 I was so deep down into that shit I even joined a witchcraft circle here in Stockholm ( I lied about my age when joining ) and we had great satanic Sabbaths I tell you. Sex and stuff ( but I never ever tried the drugs ). But once I got the point where I actually read the whole bible to get some more meat on the bones when learning more about the enemy I realized that Satan and satanism was a product of christianity and that I found christianity a super mega bluff then satanism had to be it too. The reason why I turned to satanism in the first place was not just trying to be rebellious but simply coz my whole person was and still is so consumed with hatred towards the christian history, belief and theory. Some time in ’86 I turned my inner eyes and ears towards what people today call Odinism or Asatru or whatever even though these labels were yet to be invented I guess... at least within the metal horizons pre-christian Sweden fascinated me and gave me a new way to criticize christianity that was much more true than butt-fucking masked women on an altar in a dimmed basement somewhere and then spray the word Satan in ten feet letters all over a public wall down town at night or something. Has my opinion on satanism changed over the years ? Well I nowadays see it as just a way to tickle people’s imagination but I still wouldn’t use it as an idea for a song for the future... I’ve done all that already and haven’t starved or felt ashamed for ever having done it.

Which brings me to the next subject, Odinism. Did this subject hit home in a more powerful way ? Like a reforged fire in your blood ?

- I tell you... this whole reborn nationalism we see in Sweden nowadays is a result of us picking up on the Scandinavian mythology and pre-christian Sweden all those years ago on « Blood Fire Death » and « Hammerheart » ( Sweden has been « christian » for almost one thousand one hundred years now ). This has caused us some problems coz the papers being all and all out in favor of all the inter-racial marriages and births happening here in Sweden since like eight or ten years now are sure always to dig deep into anything that might have influenced youngsters to learn how to sing our national hymn and on so claiming this particularly source of inspiration being all and all out pro-nazi etc. etc. But this was never our intention in the first place all those years ago... we just wanted to do something original. While all these German industrial area bands kept on singing about that damn wall and pollution and US bay area acts tried to copy Slayer or Metallica the best way they could, we wanted to be really first to do something nobody else dared to or could get away with doing. Being a swedish act it was just natural I guess once we had taken the step to jump off that satanic band wagon ( not meaning we had jumped on that damn thing to begin with... I’m led to believe that we were there creating all that shit together with acts like Venom, Hellammer and Slayer I guess... ).

What is Odinism to you ? Do you consider it to be just an interest or is it something greater ?

- It is certainly nothing « far greater »... what you call Odinism was just simply a different topic for the lyrics and not a sign of a different sort of awareness or national pride... well a little maybe. It means nothing to me I’m afraid to say other than they are great stories although no more true than the christian shit.

Texts such as Snorre’s Edda hold much in the form of logical and practical philosophy... as well as spiritual. Do you draw inspiration from such texts ? What else inspires you, as far as Bathory is concerned, and besides Bathory ?

- The Snorre Edda which is the very oldest written script of Swedish or Nordic history preserved, hasn’t meant anything to me at all I guess... because it is as close to a modern Swede as say the story about Excalibur and Merlin would be to you

( thinking by your name that you are English by blood ). But from an academic point of view it is sure an interesting piece of document as is the Excalibur and Merlin stories, historically at least. When I wrote the lyrics for a Bathory song, no matter from what Bathory era, what did inspire me could have been a painting, a film, a book I might have read or simply just something I forced out of myself when being late with the lyrics for the studio. Very few times I can recall having been especially influenced by a certain specific thing or whatever in the sense that I could say that this particularly song was inspired by this particularly book or film or painting. I remember when reading very much about King Karl XII ( Swedish king from the age of 16 to his death at 35 or something - see how deep my historic pride has sunk details such as these into my memory ah ah ah ah ) who is a great hero among Swedish nationalists etc. coz he took on both the Norwegians the Danes the Poles the Germans the French and the Russians ( and with them the Lithuanians ) all at the same time in the years 1703-1718 or something... and he beat them all up until losing to the Russians deep into the Russian marshlands in 1709 and being assassinated by a anonymous gunman in a trench in Norway around 1718 or whenever that happened. Anyway... from reading about him intensively for a couple of months it inspired me to write a song called « Marching off to War » which surely was recorded but never released. And the story I guess could go on... but you get my point right !?

It seems, from my point of view, that there has been a rekindling of traditional Swedish and Scandinavian pride and lifestyle in the youth ? Do you see this or am I hallucinating ?

- No, you’re absolutely right. But here in Sweden although not at such a paranoid level as in Germany, nationalism is a very hot issue. Everything that has got anything to do with Sweden or Swedish history is a bit taboo over here... don’t ask me why. I can give you a very up to date example of what sort of taboo I’m talking about here... When the Swedish national team went on to win the bronze medal in the world football cup 1994 ( soccer to you suckers ) in the USA recently ( which was a great shock to all of us coz we would have been happy if we would have reached the quarter-finals or something ) and the players got back home the first question ( when referring to the hundreds of thousands of Swedes filling the streets and town squares in Stockholm and in any other major city or town of Sweden shouting happy and waving their Swedish flags crazy from joy ) was if all the Africans and Arabians and South Americans in Sweden would not be upset about all this Sweden-sweden-sweden and if it was a really such a healthy thing going so blue and yellow ( our national colors mind you ) coz intertionally it might be taken for racism . But underground if that’s the light way to describe it ( and above too it seems these days ) no one gives a shit and kicks the shit out of anyone claiming you to be a nazi or psycho when you say or show off that you are proud of either your nationality or history or whatever...

You’ve seen it all, from the beginning of black metal and thrash to its peak, then death metal set in during the late ‘80s... currently, black metal is making a resurgence in the metal scene and most of these bands ( and many in this magazine ) claim Bathory as a major influence. What do you think about this ? Does it surprise you ?

- It doesn’t surprise me and shouldn’t really. But somewhere deep down inside of me I try to keep all from of thinking in that way as far away from me as possible. I know that after our two first albums came out ( or even as early as after the first one ) bands started to use long long intros and effects on their demos and albums. I know of bands taking their name from a Bathory song title or just a word or a phrase from a lyric

( like there are bands called Equimanthorn and Hammerheart and there are magazines called Under the Sign... and Twilight magazine etc. etc. ). All this should really matter me in a way and it does... it sure does but I am not too sure whether I am that well informed of anything that goes on out there or in the underground . Sure what is known as black metal is bound to come back and sure have recently... new generations of metal fans will pick up their guitars and find inspiration from either be it Metallica coz of their great commercial success or a « underground » type of band regardless if this band has been around for ages like Bathory or even Hellhammer or not. If a guy in a band or a band on a whole claim Bathory to be his or their greatest influence you are of course very happy and proud in a sense I guess Bathory could never have « survived » all these years without concerts, tours and what have you if it wouldn’t have been for the sort of cult status that we have been able to always be there fresh and known to everybody although ( I am very positive ) not always liked by everybody.

I am sure you have heard stories of the Norwegians’ exploits... things seem to be a lot more serious these days when it comes to black metal and living the lifestyle... do you agree ? Did you ever think things would come this far ?

- I am aware of what’s happened or is happening in Norway within their rather local and limited black metal scene . But I wouldn’t pay too much attention to that . What happened is something done by one or two kids and shouldn’t be laid upon the shoulders of a whole metal genre or a generation of fans. I honestly don’t mind that church-burning bit unless there isn’t someone in there while the place goes up in flames. The only person living in that house anyway is god and burning the place down is a symbolic act of defiance and no more. But it is also a criminal act similar to what the christians did when coming to Scandinavia burning our holy houses down and destroying everything in sight that could remind the people of the north that they had a past before the cross etc. etc. Also we must not forget that behaving in such a way is very close to what muslim fanatics are doing in most countries around the world today it seems and in no way am I defending their actions.

On the same note, the church burnings in Norway were intented to drive out the christians and give the land back to the « Vikings »... what is your opinion of this and do you support it ( at least in theory ) ?

- No not even in theory am I supporting that . If that was their claim they are so brainless that it’s unbelievable. Just coz you burn down a church or two ( or even burning them all down and killing everybody claiming to be christians - and you should remember that Norway is a very, very conservative country in reference to say Sweden and Denmark... you wouldn’t believe how much is forbidden over there - you could never achieve a « Viking society » or whatever. We are no more Vikings than the folks in Zimbabwe. Viking is just a word to describe the people living in Sweden, Norway and Denmark about one thousand years ago. So much has changed and modern man couldn’t live by the standard rules and laws and ideals of the « Vikings ». To sum all that up I believe that these guys not only had a crush on Vikings but also had it up to their ears with satanism and neo-nazism and that their « pride » in their « Viking blood » was just one of several ingredients in their own soup mixed with perhaps drugs and a troubled and suppressed childhood ( wouldn’t surprise me since we are in fact talking about Norway here ). If any of these guys or anybody else have done similar things and have claimed Bathory to be their main influence in doing so I can only say I am sorry and accept that all may not have it as easy as others to take reality for what it is and fantasy as a spice...

Are you in contact with any of these newer black metal bands ? What do you think of them, musically and objectively ?

- I haven’t heard anything of these bands at all I promise... but I have read of them whenever I get my hands on a magazine featuring metal acts and Bathory might be featured.

What about the efforts of the more pagan oriented groups such as Enslaved and Unleashed ? To be taken seriously or... ?

- All acts should be taken seriously as musicians but their lyrics perhaps shouldn’t always be that much for the real thing although all acts regardless of origin, label or musical talent or whatever deserve the same bit of respect and treatment. I again have to say that I have heard nothingof the acts you mention here.

To me, Bathory has held a symphonic sort of feel over 2-3 albums... I know you enjoy some classical composers, maybe you could talk about this interest ?

- It all started when I felt that too many acts were picking up on this black metal thing to be a part of something that was happening at the time while at roughly the same time bands that you followed as a fan ( like Motörhead for instance ) had changed beyond recognition. I had always loved Beethoven as a kid but didn’t know anything about his work or classical music on a whole. From reading a lot on a certain part of European history ( you may know which but I prefer not to mention it openly ) and a certain person in the eye of the storm of this specific time in European history I got in touch with Wagner in ‘85 roughly and I started to collect classical music on LPs CDs and taped literally hundreds of classical compositions on MC. Besides Beethoven and Wagner both my « house gods » I enjoy the work of people like Anton Bruckner ( his 8th symphony has influenced much of Bathory’s music ) Edward Elgar, Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, Franz Liszt, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Jean Sibelius, Samuel Barber and even Aaron Copeland. All these men have written some of the best music in history of man but I shouldn’t and couldn’t just sit down and even try to give you one or two examples of what to actually listen from these great minds. I used to listen to only classical music between ‘85 and up to last year but I have realized that even I can get too much and consequently I have cut down on my classical menu and listen nowadays perhaps less than half an hour to only one or two special things.

Have you ever thought of composing in a non-metal mindset, a symphony or some sort of operatic piece ?

- I bought a synthetizer some time ago and sat down many nights composing classical music... strings quartets and stuff like that I have forgotten how to read and write music nowadays but keep most of it on tape or in my mind. I have also written stories for operas.

One band who also dabbled with this was Celtic Frost with « Into the Pandemonium »... did this album have an effect on you when it came out ? What did you consider of it then... and now ?

- Don’t laugh now buddy but I never listened to and have still not heard that album although I know it of course.

What about the other bands of the time... it seems that many of them ( Destruction, Venom, Celtic Frost ) changed their style pretty incredibly over the years... was it a loss in your eyes ( or ears ) ?

- Regarding Venom they were great for a brief moment... and that was for about six months between hearing the album « Black Metal » for the first time sometime during April-May ‘83 up to the moment when you saw them in Kerrang! and read what they had to say and you saw their pictures. I had no opinion on Hellhammer coz I had only heard one single track by them before they changed name to Celtic Frost and changed overall I guess. I only know one thing though ... I hated Celtic Frost more than anything else on this planet and I still do. I met the guys in London when we stayed at the same hotel they were out on a British tour ( which had been canceled the night before it happened due to the fact only 25% of the tickets being sold for the remaining shows ) and I was doing promotion for « Hammerheart ». They saw me sitting down there in the bar with a couple of journalists while yet a few others were waiting their turn... me taking my time as always... and they would pass us by no one taking notice. Anyway I had to go up to my hotel room to get some stuff for a magazine ( some photos or whatever ) and on the way I passed the guys just before the elevator. I said: « Hi ye guys » and they nodded saying something like « yeammmm » in reply. Of course they were aware of all the shit I had thrown their way in the press. I still hate them... Destruction was a band that never reached anything in terms of fame and sales figures to be reckoned with... they just sucked musically and typified a German industrial area act to me and many others they were just as much a great big laugh as I believe they think I was probably. Of course bands are bound to change from one album or one line-up to another... that’s only natural and I think good in the long run. But since they never touched me in any sense I can’t be fair and say their changes was either good or bad.

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