Christopher Porter of Washington Post Express recently conducted an interview with drummer Kjetil-Vidar "Frost" Haraldstad of the Norwegian black metal band SATYRICON. An excerpt from the chat follows below.
Washington Post Express: In Norway, Scandinavia and in many parts of European, black metal is well-known, long-established genre. But here in North America, it's still a cult thing, and many music journalists who don't cover metal on a regular basis have no contact with it. Is it hard to explain what SATYRICON is really all about, without the ancient tabloid stuff getting in the way?
Frost: You're absolutely right that [black metal] is conceived of in a very different way [in Norway]. I think it has sometime to do with the work that bands like ourselves do to make the music media understand our genre for what it is musically. And our strategy has succeeded in a way that most bigger media actually have music journalists who understand this kind of music, so whenever there are references to bands like SATYRICON, they are made by people who understand what SATYRICON is all about, and approach the band in a rational manner, rather than taking the tabloid view of being totally alienated by the whole music genre. Here in the States, there's a rise in popularity of this music genre now, but it will popularity take some time for the music industry and music journalists to understand the music for what it is. But in Norway, we've come a long way and we can also operate like every other band, and being understood for the musical qualities and the musical level that we have, instead of just belonging to an extreme genre for particular devotees."
Washington Post Express: The last two SATYRICON albums have been great rock records, as opposed the more esoteric and wall-of-sound rippers that your earlier albums represented.
Frost: I feel that SATYRICON has been taking a very different turn than a lot of bands that have been around [since the birth of black metal]. Obviously, on the later albums we've brought some rock 'n' roll spirit and some rock 'n' roll structures to our music — not necessarily to all the music, but to substantial portions of it. There are several reasons for that. The music we like to listen to ourselves within this genre has that kind of raw rock 'n' roll energy and perhaps a bit more masculine feeling to it. VENOM and BATHORY have that, for instance, and that's very much where we come from musically. We have found it to really work for us.
When we started to bring an element of more traditional songwriting and structuring of the songs, they also become much more powerful and much more timeless. I think when we listen back to our old albums and our old songs, which we very much still like, we also sense they are very marked by the era that they were made and recorded. While the music we make now will still feel the same in 10 or 20 years, because we've brought something to it that's really tested and tried out and has proven its merits. Once we did that, the band became so much better and so much more powerful. But we still have that unique spirit that we started to show all the way from the first album, and I think we have cultivated and created an essence of that spirit.
Many bands have a tendency to water our that significance, the hunger that they show on the early albums, and the substance of their music have gotten thinner and thinner. I think SATYRICON has gone the other way: The substance is denser and denser for each album, but the SATYRICON spirit is more strongly present on each album. Of course, I'm very biased, but I really, really feel it, and I also hear it from other people — they feel the same. So, I have a certain confidence that there's something to it.
Read the entire interview from Washington Post Express.
A two-minute video clip featuring footage of SATYRICON's February 11, 2009 concert at The Music Box at Fonda in Hollywood, California can be viewed below.