Interview with Ferniz of Darkthrone
They formed in 1986 as a death metal group in Kolbotn, Norway. After embracing the black metal style in 1991, they became a driving force in the Norwegian black metal scene. For most of this period Darkthrone has consisted of just two musicians; Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. They claim to be influenced by punk and have sought to remain outside the music mainstream. Recently their music has incorporated more crust punk traits. The band that would become Darkthrone formed during 1986 in Kolbotn, a small suburb of Oslo. They were a death metal group by the name of Black Death, and its members were Gylve Nagell, Ivar Enger and Anders Risberget. In 1988 the band changed their name to Darkthrone and were joined by Ted Skjellum and Dag Nilsen. Heavy Music Artwork catches up with Fenriz. All hail the “Underground Resistance”
HMA: We aim to promote Heavy Metal as art and culture. Do you think Heavy Metal can now have a cultural place in our society?
Darkthrone: I think it had since “you really got me” in 1964. And it was cemented in early 80s, even in the east bloc. It certainly is a part of the culture in Norway. I mean, soccer is huge but it hasn’t got an equally large place in EVERY country, just like Ozzy isn’t an equally big part of the musical culture in EVERY country. Hell, some countries have religions that ban music altogether!
HMA: What is “The Underground resistance”?
Darkthrone: Let’s look at comebacks. Most do it really lame like onslaught with a modern sound “like the kids these days want”, it’s a desire to please. Then you have the UG attitude, which is the new DREAM DEATH album. What attitude you prefer and what comeback you root for is either over ground mentality (example one) or UG mentality (example two). The UG resistance is those who naturally defy the wrong reasons to play metal, or other music for that matter.
HMA: Do you feel that the sound marks the highlight from your previous releases?
Darkthrone: I think the biggest difference is the mastering. Apart from that it has all the elements of our previous albums present, only this time it’s even more clear HM/SPEED metal vocals from me than usual. And the cover is different. It’s funny to see how people always think in albums (to us it’s song by song but we are forced to talk “in albums” since everybody else does) and emphasize any change. I am perfectly cool with saying that most bad religion albums sound mainly the same only their production changed a bit from cool to daft from time to time, haha.
HMA: Certainly a rollercoaster of Heavy Metal styles. A great achievement maintaining a solid Darkthone record without sounding like a greatest hits of different music references.
Darkthrone: Sounds like we made a plan. We don’t even talk about our material, whenever we have a song each ready and can muster up the logistic and tactic hell it is to find a Friday or Saturday that suits all parts involved to go to the house where we record and set up our portable studio, we show each other our songs and then learn them and record immediately. That’s it, we make what we need and want to make, follow your bliss! (B’52s reference)
HMA: The title track “Valkyrie” has been cited the least Darkthrone sounding tune. Would you agree to this statement? And what’s the story with the epicness?
Darkthrone: It says under the song in the short liners where it’s inspired by. Refrain came in spring 2010, reminding me a bit about the 1985 song “How many tears” by Helloween, always been listening to that record and their first mini album, but jumped ship when seven keys came out. Then nothing happened. The lyrics came in October 2010. Still nothing happened. Then in my holidays in September 2011 (best month for me on many levels, also creatively) I woke up with the notes for the start of the song. Only it immediately reminded me of “The ides of March” by iron maiden 1981 so I had to give it a different spin. I recorded the acoustic guitar and then added another that suited well; it was the same groove as “Gypsy” by Uriah Heep 1970. Then the verse came quickly, that’s just a general speed metal early 80s riff to enable a good song line. People say it’s epic, I think Heavy Metal IS epic. “Neon Knights”, “Falling off the edge of the world” by Black Sabbath… all epic to me. Fave song by Dio too “Egypt”. And I never liked the song by Iron Maiden like “Running free”; I liked “Hallowed be thy name”. Didn’t like “Jump in the fire” by Metallica much compared to how much I liked phantom lord, for instance. But when I started Darkthrone I wrote TOO epic stuff, I included too much. But hey, look at my first BM song for Darkthrone, “Kathaarian life code”. It’s MEGA-epic! But it was the first time I succeeded with the “all included” song writing. Still, I didn’t believe it to be so Rock’n’roll/BM to make BM so epic, so soon I made simpler stuff, FORCED MYSELF to write simpler stuff. Not always but most of my songs since 92 was simpler structures.
But with Valkyrie I seemed to make a simple short song sound epic. Strange. I just made what came to me.
HMA: The 80’s gave us great Heavy Metal artists and legends such as Celtic Frost, Bathory, Mercyful Fate, etc. I surely agree with the impact and influence that these artist have contributed to music. Do you think that we are likely to relive that time in Heavy Metal history with new artists and new subgenre worth paying attention?
Darkthrone: I never left that time. I just refused to accept modern terms after a while and as many others went more and more into the underground resistance. I was in the 80s throughout the 90s even making my friends attend my huge private 80s thrash metal DJ’ing parties in 95 and 96 and 97 and then took that onwards into the elm street rock café as well. And so many others have it the same way. Others had to delve a bit into the modern sound to finally find out that it was the old sound that mattered to them, so we have many retro bands too now, they started popping up in late 90s when conditions for real old HM were terrible. But we were a retro BM band already in the early 90s; few of the riffs had anything to do with 90s metal (I mean when we started playing retro BM there weren’t any 90s BM releases so we COULDN’T be inspired by the 90s!)
I don’t know if there are any genres that came after the avant-garde BM of VED BUENS ENDE worth checking out. That’s the last style I could accept. But some bands still made fusions since then that has been fine, like HIS HERO IS GONE did in 1998.
HMA: Your commitment to the scene and music is really impressive; your interviews are full of insights and relevance. Have you given any thought working for a publication?
Darkthrone: I don’t have time; just writing those small columns for ROCK HARD GERMANY and CLOSE-UP magazine in Sweden is a major hassle. This is interview nr 97 for this album; let’s say I write 4 or 5 book pages per interview and that 93% of the interviews are WRITTEN. Well, then I already wrote 2 books worth of material during and IN these interviews. I also dislike writing about music, I like LISTENING to music. My motto is the one that heard the most, wins. I believe the truth is IN the music. Always books and focus about BM but if they can’t listen to THE RETURN by BATHORY and understand black metal, then the books and focus are wasted on that particular individual. Listen to the music, don’t read it. Anyway, if I could WRITE for a living it would be great, as I already hate it. I don’t want something I love to be my WORK, you’re supposed to struggle with your jobs, that’s why it’s called WORK. I gotta work part time too, but there I can listen to music at the same time (which is also often WORK) and that means in a 7 hour shift I get to do 14 hours of work, it’s magic. I get money for doing the simple job well at my job site, but I don’t get paid anything for my soul, my writing. It’s almost fantastic in a sense. Maybe I finally need a manager, haha. I mean I could surely need a situation where I work 2 days a week and not 4 like now.
HMA: Jim Fitzpatrick the artist behind the artwork. Did you give creative license or strict brief?
Darkthrone: Ted needed something else than on the previous albums for the cover. I asked Dylan Hughes if he had any ideas. He came up with that image. We loved it. Ted wanted it in brown. Then Dylan pasted the logo on it and the title and the brown filter. We said GREAT. Then he said it was Jim Fitzpatrick, the man behind the Che Guevara design that had drawn it. We said GREAT, how much do we need to pay to use it. Then we paid. We can afford 1000 $ cuz we got those day jobs, remember?
HMA: In Darkthrone, is there a relationship between the art and the music?
Darkthrone: Just that it’s a great cover for HEAVY METAL. Ok, I’ll stop saying GREAT now. Great.
HMA: You have also done artwork for bands. Is art also part of your profession?
Darkthrone: Hell no, Ted and me can STRICTLY draw stick men!!!!
HMA: I must admit, I gave a lot of thought on what to ask and on what direction this interview should take. What is that one thing no one ever asks?
Darkthrone: They strangely don’t usually ask about the albums that shaped us. We always try to talk about that, I mean for the previous album we even FILMED ourselves talking about the albums that might have shaped our album. But the journos don’t seem to watch it or ask questions according to that. It’s just…it’s always about THE MUSIC for me, man.
They seldom ask what I was like in school or the early years. I think biographies should be written by people when they are still alive and the early years are always so interesting. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic hearted guy.
HMA: …and that thing every journalist is always unprepared?
Darkthrone: I think they are largely prepared but it was easier to be interviewed in 1988, 1989 and 1990 when people had the same background as me and I KNEW they would understand all the musical references. Now it’s too much talk about the 90s (like that decade ever shaped us… right) and very little by what shaped us, 60s 70s 80s sound. But apart from that I think the interviews are rather well prepared mostly.
HMA: Lastly… looking back at your discography what is the defining moment in Darkthrone musical journey?
Darkthrone: I think we changed so much, did a lot of fine choices. I think the transition from our first demo to the snowfall second demo in late 88 was important, at least for Y’ALL, but what you all didn’t know was that we had a song in between there which shows the perfect link between demo 1 and 2. Luckily it was taped. Live show. Our first. Horrible sound. Ted was in the audience. Haha good old times. Same place Mayhem played 3 years before. Local battle of the bands thingy, haha.
HMA: Thanks for this interview and your interest in Heavy Music Artwork.
Darkthrone: VÆR FET
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