I had the pleasure to have an interview with Fenriz about Darkthrone’s new album, Arctic Thunder, also talking about Darkthrone‘s influences, previous albums and others.
Hails! It’s my pleasure to have this interview with you Fenriz! How things are going?
I’m feeling sick because of a cold that I always have for 3 whole weeks every time and a small get together with Apollyon (Aura Noir) and Olav (Infernö, Nekromantheon, Lamented Souls) here last night. Both local boys from Kolbotn.
Since the fans heard that Darkthrone will release a new album, here they have ‘’Arctic Thunder’’. When did you begin to write this album?
I think it was cca. June last year when we understood that we could finally make some plans to start writing. Here is some more info around that fact: I moved back home here to Kolbotn/Tårnåsen in 2013/2014, just 200 metres away from our old rehearsal space. I pulled some strings in the local community (thanks Nicklas and Morten B.) and finally had the key to the old bomb shelter. Back in the day it was the cold war and up here, every population of cca. 350 had to have a bomb shelter – it also had to be constantly empty to house people in case of nuclear war. This meant that every single rehearsal we had there meant getting all the equipment from a side room to the garages on ground level, carry it down to the shelter and set everything up. After rehearsals we had to dismantle everything and carry it back up to the little storage space. When we got the record deal with Peaceville in early 1990 I said to my parents that “we have a record deal now, we can’t rehearse like that anymore, we have to rehearse at our house”. So we did. Thanks, parents! But half a year later the cold war ended and we could have continued to rehearse there without all the hassle of setting up and taking down all equipment. Haha! C’est la vie!
So in august 2015 Ted and me drove to our previous recording spot (thanks Kjell Arne) and fetched all of our equipment and set it up in the old bomb shelter. It still had the same smell, only difference is that many other bands rehearse there and the old CHET ATKINS “me and my guitar” poster wasn’t there. The janitor said he had to take it down because of water damage. I went home and found the album cover online and printed it out and put it back up. NOW we were back in business. We met up in September with two songs each ready to be recorded and then again in december, same procedure. How we recorded for Arctic Thunder is that we mic up the drums, mic up a guitar amp, no wall between so that the guitar will leak into the drums and vice versa. Then put the studio on red (recording) and play till we are satisfied. That means it is a very live situation, playing very loud. We don’t do much with the sound afterwards because we can’t, it’s a very primitive studio. Then Ted takes his equipment and the studio back to his home in Skien and records bass and solo and does vocals. Then I get a copy and tell what levels need to be adjusted (for this album I said, “Ted, it sounds so muffled. Treble it up a bit before the mastering process”). And then it is sent off to mastering, again to Jack Control at enormous door mastering in Texas, like our previous album. And there you have the final product. One master for CD, one for vinyl.
Lyrically, what is ‘’Artic Thunder’’ about?
I am famous for not talking about the lyrics, a poet doesn’t discuss his poems and some lyrics I did were not poems but very straigh forward but for this album I again went back to my usual way of writing which means I go very deep into myself to fetch the metaphores for my feelings and I am exhausted when it is finally down on paper and finished. So I don’t want to do through that whole ordeal again to explain any lyrics. I can talk about my songs and riff in detail but never the lyrics. Generally I can say that the lyrics aren’t very friendly and that Ted didn’t even want his 3 lyrics written on the cover so it’s just illustrations where his lyrics should have been and also ’The Wyoming Distance’ is about how I distance myself to people.
‘’Tundra Leech’’ was the first song published online as a preview of the new release, I saw the reactions and the comments of the fans, mostly being positive, that’s a nice thing indeed…
We want more negative!!! Haha!
Getting back in Darkthrone’s past, the first fifth albums: ‘’Soulside Journey’’, ‘’A Blaze In The Northern Sky’’, ‘’Under A Funeral Moon’’, ‘’Transilvaian Hunger’’ and ‘’Panzerfaust’’ made, let’s say, history in the black metal scene and still remain to be, what impact do you consider these albums had back then in the metal scene?
At the time when we made them it wasn’t much feedback. It wasn’t the time of internet or easy communications back then so we mainly just drank and forgot about the whole thing. But after many years we see that these albums were game changers, a lot of people paid attention without us knowing about it. It’s pretty cool, hahahaha!
Mainly the sound of Darkthrone is black, then we can also hear speed and punk elements, why punk, what is the main influence?
Metal comes from proto metal and hard rock from the late 60’s and the whole 70’s hard rock styles and prog and punk created metal. Everyone knows that. So instead of trying to make metal nice or trying to TAME metal, we continue with those early fathers of our music and we are trying to just BE that. We never wanted to make anything new, we are just honouring the past fathers. My songs on the new album are mainly what I could have done in the late 1988 but I wasn’t so good at writing slow heavy metal at that time so the band continued more in a varied doom/thrash/death etc style until summer of ’89 when we surely went into a very death metal direction. So I am revisiting my mind in late 1988 and make more of the style that I did then, only now after so many years of experience I can make better riffs and better drumming for those riffs: I can’t speak for Ted here, I imagine that he always just makes music from his own head, inspired by himself, sitting down with his guitar and making it, but that would be pure guesswork on my end. Me, on the other hand, I had a vision for this album ‘’aArctic Thunder’’ that I would make Darkthrone a bit more introvert this time. Why? Since we finally got our own studio again (thanks to Ted’s initiative back in 2005) we’ve been making a lot of freestyle records, many of the songs having lots of glint in it’s eyes. However, our last album shaved away some of the many styles we play and was a bit more serious but still incorporating heaps of different styles. We were very pleased with THE UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE and personally I was wondering how to top it. So years went by and I felt the same way, that album was some kind of mammoth for us and it was hard to deal with the fact that we would either have to kill that mammoth or go around it. The latter was chosen (talking again about my own take on making new songs here) and I opted to shave away some more styles, leaving my usual knack for writing speed metal songs in the way of the swedish 1983-1985 style behind. So what was there for me to make? Slow heavy metal. When slowly decided to try for another album (back in the middle of 2015), I had 4 albums in mind. This doesn’t mean that I will sit down and listen to the albums and try to copy anything, but it’s more like a road map. Or after hearing music my whole life I choose away all of those thousands of albums and songs I do not want my inspiration to latch on to – instead creating a vision of a direction that I do want to delve into. 4 albums were Dream Death ‘’Journey into Mystery’’ (1987 new renaissance records), Sacrilege within the prophecy (1987 under one flag), Black Sabbath ‘’Mob rules’’ (1981 warner bros.) and Candlemass ‘’Epicus doomicus Metallicus’’ (1986 black dragon records). After all the songs were recorded and I was given a copy of the recorded album from Ted, I discovered that there were for instance nothing on my songs that reminded me of Candlemass so you can see that I am not exactly working like a robot or anything. However there were riffs on my songs that had the feel of the other 3 albums, and also some Iron Maiden, some Hellhammer, some early Exodus and some Autopsy and some Necrophagia 1987 style and so on. A riff will typically come like striking lightning into my brain and then I will have to hum it until I reach my guitar or I will have to record it on my phone. From there I will typically play that riff and start to make other riffs that will fit. Who knows how I make that process work and what inspires me but it is just me and that guitar and all the music I ever heard (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is A LOT) and what I choose away and that little tiny spec that I decide to keep. I will tell you a secret here – what I am really trying to write is what I would have written in 1988 if 1: I had the writing skills and drum experience back then and 2: if we didn’t go into more death metal territory, which we did in late 1988/early 1989. What I am writing is the real original Darkthrone music, back to the real roots. It always says in biographies about us online that we started out as a death metal band but listening to our first demo it is clear to everyone that we did not, we had all sorts of inspirations that were way older than that.
Do you have any Darkthrone favorite album?
For the 3 best of LP bow with the book called ’BLACK DEATH AND BEYOND’ a couple of year ago I had to listen to all our albums and rate them. I rate all the music I get (helpful for the radio show, making comps, doing dj’ing or making playlists) so rating music is not new to me but it was of course strange to rate our own music. What I found out, statistically, is that our best albums are ’Under a Funeral Moon’’ and ’The Cult is Alive’. I probably like ’Under a Funeral Moon’ the most.
What is the main reason you didn’t want to play live shows?
I don’t have time, if I go away the chores of promos and email will just be backed up and I will be fucked. Also, I have met all the people I need to meet in this life. Meeting more people will just be confusing and create even more chores. We played live cca 20 times from 1988-1991 and I never liked it. I am also an album guy, I never feel the need to see live because the sound of recordings are holy to me and can’t be recreated live. I have so many reasons not to play live that I couldn’t just write a book about it, I could write a book series about it.
Time ago, you, togheter with Satyr and Phil Anselmo set up a band called Eibon, were released just a few songs if I’m not wrong, but the album you planned was never released. Why so?
I actually don’t know!
What other hobbies do you have, what do you like to do in your free time?
I do radio Fenriz, which takes up a lot of my time, before I had the forest life (301 square kilometres of forests around Oslo!) but when I moved back here to Kolbotn it has been mostly keeping house, you know, refurbishing, keeping the lawn, outdoor garden, and stuff that is generally not very metal, haha, but radio Fenriz takes about 40 hours of work for every episode and that is very metal indeed since 36 of those hours are all about listening to new metal.
Thank you very much for your time Fenriz. All the best. Cheers!
Don’t forget to listen to Krov Za Krow with Aria!