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Satyricon is a band that has pioneered the infamous genre of extreme music titled "black metal." Made up of the unbreakable unity of Satyr (vocals, strings, lyrics, songwriter) and Frost (drums), Satyricon has been an icon in the Norwegian Black Metal scene since 1992 when they released their classic demo, 'The Forest Is My Throne'. Other albums followed, but none are quite as revered as the 1996 release 'Nemesis Divina', which earned Satyricon worldwide acclaim, not to mention receiving more media exposure with the video for "Mother North". After a long wait, 'Volcano', Satyricon's latest opus, has been distributed in the U.S. by (System Of A Down guitarist / producer) Daron Malakian's record label EatUr Music / Columbia Records. 'Volcano' takes off where few bands in the black metal genre dare to go by taking the classic black metal atmosphere, stripping it down, and formulating a rock-and-roll masterpiece without losing any of the extreme style familiar to fans of Satyricon. Following the release in the U.S., Satyricon set out on a U.S. tour with Morbid Angel and Suffocation in support of 'Volcano'. I caught up with Satyr on their tour bus while the band was preparing to go onstage at the Minneapolis Mayhem festival. In this interview, Satyr eloquently discussed the Department of Homeland Security (drummer Frost was unable to get into the country due to an assault charge several years ago), touring in the U.S., and among other things, finishing the long-awaited Eibon project.

METAL UPDATE: Frost couldn't get into the country because of an assault charge stemming back over ten years? What's going on with that situation?

SATYR: We got a work permit from the INS here in America, and we got a so-called "recommendation" from the American Embassy in Norway, but in the final stage, the Department of Homeland Security . . . Usually when you get your work permit and your recommendation from the Embassy there are formalities, and the Department of Homeland Security went against all logic and decided to go against that recommendation from the Embassy, so they denied the visa waiver that he needed to enter the United States. It's an irreversible decision. You can't contest it, but you can try lobbying with them. It wasn't a doable thing, so at the last minute, Trym from Zyklon and Emperor came and saved our day.

MU: So, is America much stricter than other countries, say even Canada?

S: Canada's really strict too. A big part of the problem is that the Department of Homeland Security is a quite new thing, you know? It hasn't existed for that long, so they don't have that many rules and regulations to stick by, so it's pretty much up to each individual who deals with your case. Sometimes it's an asshole, sometimes it's not.

MU: What does Frost think of the situation?

S: He and I both feel the same way; we're both bitter and disappointed.

MU: You have Trym [Zyklon, ex-Emperor] playing drums with Satyricon on this tour. He's a good drummer, but Satyricon is Satyr and Frost. Is this factor fucking things up for the tour?

S: Trym's a good drummer and he's doing well, and he comes from the same scene of music, and he started out with his stuff about the same time we started out with our stuff, so he's a very worthy replacement. I think, for me, it would be . . . Even if you have the best drummer in the world, I would still want Frost to be playing for us. Considering the situation, we couldn't have done much better than Trym.


MU: Does Frost ever use triggers, live or in the studio?

S: Yeah, when he plays live he uses the combination of acoustic signal and triggers on the kick and snare. It is completely organic in the studio, but in the live situations we use a combination of acoustic signal and triggers.

MU: Many U.S. bands have stated that, in touring situations, European venues are much more hospitable.

S: They usually are.

MU: Is it pretty difficult to tour in the U.S.?

S: Yeah. It's worth it though. We want to try and establish black metal and Satyricon in America, and the scene over here is not like other places, so I think the timing is good, but there are shitty venues and promoters in Europe as well. But I would say things are a little better off in Europe than in America.

MU: How come there are no permanent members in Satyricon besides you and Frost? Is there a certain chemistry between the two of you that would get fucked up if you added permanent members?

S: I don't know. We've tried other members, but it didn't work so well, and it works really well with just two of us. When we did Rebel, I just said to Frost, "I don't want to find two more people to be in the band." You know, we've been pretty damn professional with the two of us and I don't think that it's worth it. That's why we fired other members and just decided that we were going to be a two-piece, and that we were going to establish a live band, and that works pretty well for us.

MU: All of my favorite bands come from Norway. The atmospheres, aesthetics, everything you guys use in your music. Is there something in the water in Norway, or what? Seriously, though, is there one common factor that would be an attribute to every one of the individuals, or the bands from Norway, and something common that makes you all so musically experimental?

S: It's a strong and healthy scene that has lasted for a long time, and that has a lot to do with it, you know? That creates a good environment for progression that the foundation is built strong. I think the environment and the surroundings and the scene start a good foundation for being successful artistically, especially with our music.

MU: Since Daron Malakian signed you to EatUr Music, it's obviously made 'Volcano' easier to purchase, and I've seen really good advertising, especially for black metal. Has EatUr Music been a big help to Satyricon?

S: We just started working with them; in the way that the album came out a week ago, so it's too early to say. I'll know how I'm going to feel about it, you know, a year from now, that's going to be the test; to see what's going to happen throughout 2004. So far, I've been happy with what they've done. What it comes down to is that they're going to try and establish this band in America, and we're going to need good distribution, you know? Availability is the key, and we need tour support. We've been given tour support, that's why we're here now. We're not making any money for this tour, but it's all paid for by record companies.

MU: 'Volcano', being a more stripped-down album than your previous efforts, and more rock-oriented, is not as intricate as your other albums. Was it easier or harder to write, because you strayed away from your usual style?

S: As hard as any of the other albums (were to write), it's a different approach. We tried to have a very strict and minimalistic framework for this album. For an example, when we did the song "Repined Bastard Nation", I tried to explain to Frost that I wanted him to play absolutely like a freight train, you know, just powerful, with tons of kick drums, with a lot of drive. When he started playing a lot more than I wanted him to play, I had to try and explain to him that he was playing too much, and it was holding back the driving force of the song, it didn't make it move forward the way I wanted it to. I wanted to try to avoid things that were going to mess up the most important thing, the atmosphere, and the overall feel of every song. For example, when we got to the song "Black Lava", that's when Frost really started figuring out what I wanted, because when we did the chorus of that song, I tried to explain to him what I wanted to do, and he said, "I think I'm going to play as little as possible." It seems to be the case that black metal drummers play too much, they do too many fills, and it just didn't seem quite right. That can be cool, and that just worked on 'Rebel Extravaganza', but on this album, it was going to be atmospheric and very direct at the same time. There's a lot of solitude to the record. Music you discover all the time, no matter how simple it is, and minimalistic, and 'Volcano' is definitely that kind of album that grows on you over time.

MU: I see a theme of apocalypse on 'Volcano', is that what you were going for, or just a more negative vibe?

S: No, I don't think it's an apocalyptic album, it's about darkness lyrically, and, basically everything. The aesthetics on this album . . . It's all about darkness, and I think this is the darkest record we've made. This is the album that breathes dark all through the feeling of it, more than any other record that we've done.

MU: Was there a certain musical or philosophical influence that motivated you to take a different approach with this album?

S: Well, I guess it's always what lies within me that inspires me to do whatever it is I do. I don't have any, like, bands that I'm directly influenced by; I'm more influenced by creating music. There are certain things I am trying to achieve with my music, and I also want to make something I would listen to myself. The reason why I would want to listen to the type of music like 'Volcano' is because I like that kind of vibe and atmosphere, there's something inside me that makes that stuff appeal to me, and the way it's put together, so to speak. Like any other person, it's based on what I've experienced throughout my life.

MU: In your opinion, do people in Europe embrace heavy, extreme music more than the people in the U.S.? To me, it seems to be, as many black metal bands in Norway and surrounding countries have even won Grammy Awards for albums or songs.

S: It's bigger, more popular. A lot of the reason for it not making it to the States, I guess, is because of lack of distribution and bands haven't been touring here.


MU: What kind of music do you listen to, primarily?

S: I listen to a lot of different music, but I don't buy that many new records. People send me records a lot. I listen to thrash metal, dark atmospheric electronica, you know, more tripped out, or just ambient. I listen to a lot of music, and as long as it's good music, I don't care. Good music is good music.

MU: The song "Black Lava" has the lyric, "The smell of black metal 1990 -1995." What does that mean, exactly?

S: That was referring to an experience that I had, almost like an experience that made me, for a few minutes, think I was in a different time era. I don't know how to explain it . . . I guess a new experience where you find yourself in a situation or a certain place and you start to think, I've been here before, I've been through this situation. I guess it's more like, the smell in the air started reminding me, it made me think of a certain time in my life, and how my life was back then, and it was almost like starting a movie inside my head, and I started thinking about my life between 1990 and 1995, which was the timeframe in which Satyricon started, and that's what shaped my life and started me in to writing lyrics.

MU: Do you write lyrics outside, more with nature, or are most of your lyrics written at home?

S: I've written lyrics everywhere, but mostly at home.

MU: You've probably been talking this question to death since the beginning of Satyricon, but was there ever a Black Metal Circle? The reason I ask, is that on the back of a Darkthrone album Fenriz wrote, after Euronymous had died, that you were to be the new King of the Black Metal Circle.

S: Euronymous' idea at the time was that it was going to be, sort of a group of people that were going to shape the direction of black metal, and control everything in black metal. To some degree, it did, and those people who belonged to that so-called "black circle" were the most influential and powerful people in the scene at the time. I don't think we have anything like the "black circle" now. We don't need that, but we have a few people that are still very influential and control the direction of black metal much more than others and that sort of thing.

MU: What do you think of the current state of Norwegian Black Metal? Is there unification or friendships, or even hatred between camps?

S: Well, I guess we all know each other, but we don't all hang out. Yeah, I know all of them, but . . . You know, most of the more successful bands are so busy doing their own music, that there is no time. But let's say, for example Darkthrone. I have a very, very close relationship with Darkthrone. But, how would I hang out with them in the way that Nocturno Culto lives five hours from Oslo, and he's doing his own thing constantly, either working, or DJing and doing all the things he likes to do.

MU: Did you say DJ?

S: Yes, he's a very good DJ.

MU: That surprises me a little bit, considering he is a part of Darkthrone

S: He can do anything. He will be at metal bars playing old school thrash metal, and black metal and death metal, and in Norway we have more electronica places and doing that, in a way that's actually impressive to the people. It's pretty fucking impressive. He loves doing that. The point is, we're all doing different things on our own and we don't hang out, necessarily. Everyone knows who everyone is.

MU: Is the live set going to consist of primarily newer material, or are you going to be playing the older stuff as well?

S: I guest we're almost encoring in Europe with this record. When we toured Europe with this record though we did a combination, though just like any other band, we play some old stuff and the new stuff. On this tour, we only do 35 minutes or 45 minutes, so if it's 35 minutes, about five songs, so we do three new songs and four old songs.

MU: Everyone who knows about the project is dying to know: Will Eibon ever be released?

S: I think that it will probably be released sometime next year, that's my prediction. Not only being busy, but Phil has gone through some major changes in his life. He quit Pantera, he divorced his wife.

MU: So you still keep in touch?

S: Yeah. Big changes in his life, though . . . He started Superjoint and Down, and I think that he was trying to make it with those two bands simultaneously. As soon as he got off the road with Superjoint, he went out with Down, and now it's all Superjoint. I got to speak to him the first time in about a year a couple of months ago, and he said he was sorry he lost touch and that he had all these major changes in his life. Then, I said, "OK, whatever . . . Do you want to finish the project?" And he said, "Abso-fucking-lutely." There are four songs on tape, and the three other songs are much better than "Mirror Soul Jesus". But I think we could finish it within the year if it goes well.

MU: What are you planning for tonight?

S: I would like to check out the American sports. Our sports culture is much different, more soccer and stuff like that. We don't have baseball, or basketball, and stuff like that. It would rule to see a boxing fight, but I really want to see it live. Or basketball, that would be really cool to see live. I would like to see a fight in Vegas; they have fights there all the time. That would be very cool.


review of Satyricon 'Volcano'

review of Satyricon 'Rebel Extravaganza'






Interview: Travis Loutsch [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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