Interview with Fenriz from Darkthrone
by Drago at 08 April 2013, 12:05 AM
When you are the Drummer, co-songwriter and co-vocalist for one of the most important bands in metal history that is an incredibly heavy burden to carry. Fenriz is a rare breed as DARKTHRONE are legends in the metal world but he seems content to make music for himself and is not bothered with fame and his place in the metal pantheon.
When your resume includes “Transylvania Hunger”, “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”, and “Under a Funeral Moon” you have a band that has personally created the blueprint for every black metal release that has existed since. With 2006s “The Cult Is Alive” the band shifted its sound and embraced more influences from CELTIC FROST, MOTORHEAD and added undeniable punk elements. To the dismay of some, the band has not looked back since and have left their black metal beginnings behind.
DARKTHRONE’S latest opus, “The Underground Resistance” released through Britain’s Peaceville Records is a step further away from their original sound. Adapting even more influences from CELTIC FROST and now bringing in some early speed metal leanings like early AGENT STEEL. The hardcore fans of their early material that are holding out a return to the glory days can look elsewhere as DARKTHRONE are remaining true to themselves and are playing a style of metal that they prefer and what a glorious style it is.
Congratulations on the release of “The Underground Resistance”, what strikes me is even though that you and Nocturno Culto each write three songs, the record is incredibly cohesive. Is this a conscious effort and how much does each of you influence each other’s material?
No, it’s absolutely completely coincidental, and frankly I don’t think the songs have much to do with one another at all, haha! We make no plans and we don’t talk about any direction, we don’t even talk about the music we are making when we are writing. I for instance now know only that his new song is mid paced/fast (that’s what he told me but it might change) and he knows that I wrote “some slower stuff so far”. That’s it, we don’t know the material until we meet and record, and then we just learn each other songs and record them immediately so they are fresh to us and will be fresh to others. Hopefully.
There seems to be more of an early speed metal influence, was this intentional and what spawned the change of direction?
The “Circle the Wagon” song from the same titled album was even more in that direction, I think I just continued where I left off there this time. But I don’t want to only do fast metal stuff a la early 80s, I have a billion influences and I am lucky to keep them confined enough to write something NOT totally eclectic or spastic or too complex. But my main style has been old metal from 79-85 for many many years and even many albums now. I think it shows more clear on this album cuz the punk ain’t there and I do even more clear vocals and take more chances vocally than I usually have done.
Since there is only you and Nocturno Culto in the band can you go into detail on your recording process? Do you record to a click track? Are guitars and drums recorded together at the same time?
Click track?! HAHAHAHAAHAH! That would be disgusting. Yeah we learn for instance Ted’s song after we set up the portable studio and then we start recording as fast as possible in the process, we usually play the song once to the end and then start to record takes. Usually take one but sometimes we need more takes. On this album the guitar was in another room so we need headphones, and the headphones aint working like they should so we can barely hear the guitar and it sounds like a bass mutant and we gotta concentrate hard while bashing out the OLD METAL. Then we add guitar. And then the bass on my songs, cuz I sing after that. Then the next day we pack up and head home, Ted sets up the studio at home when he can and record solos, his own bass track, and his vocals there. And then down the line he makes a mix and send it to me and I say if anything has to be altered.
Your vocals have grown and you seem to have adapted a wider range, I hear AGENT STEEL’S John Cyriis as a bigger influence. Can you elaborate on what motivated you to expand your vocals and who impacted you vocally for “The Underground Resistance?”
Man, been singing to AGENT STEEL and other metal with vocals like that for 22 years at parties and out on the town, and with the AGENT STEEL thing it just got bigger and bigger in my life until it reached critical mass and I needed to try to do something like that myself. Then I also guess I have myself as influence, but I am definitely in the Geoff Tate 84 85 and Cyriis 84-87 school, and many other vocalists from that era. I also do Tom G Warrior vocals again on this album. Then I also do some general beautiful 84 era speed metal vocals on “Valkyrie,” there’s no specific vocalist that comes to mind, it’s a mix of all I like from that period of gorgeous speed metal, I guess. I like rough speed metal too, but I am not doing that style.
The instrumental breakdown in the middle of “The Ones You Left Behind” seems to be a musical leap in song writing and is more intricate, can you talk about what inspired your process of writing the song?
Nice that someone wants to talk specifically about the actual music for a change. I think when we talk about that part, it is very 83-84 IRON MAIDEN NWOBHM right there, a desire to just do something beautiful. I just made it with nothing particular in mind back in late 2009 or so, but at a party I had after soccer practice in October (I’m a kick ass goalkeeper) I put on the “LOSFER WORDS” big orra-instrumental by IRON MAIDEN and thought that subconsciously this must be what I reached for with that middle part.
“Leave No Cross Unturned” I believe is amazing and could possibly be the best song Darkthrone has ever composed, can you expand on the writing process and talk about how that song came together? Did you intentionally want to write an almost 14 minute song?
No, not really, I wanted to make it long when I realized how long it took only to do the verse and refrain thing twice, and then the riffs after that became behemoths and another riff (general HM riff) came as well, and I decided to include that after the circulation of the two CELTIC FROST style riffs. And of course I had to have the verse and refrain again to finish the song, but I felt it was too abrupt, so I did a medley of the 3 riffs in the middle part and then…it felt like it needed an ending. I knew by this time my song was too long but I needed an ending and I had a great ending riff I wrote in …I dunno, it was a song that is years old, but I decided not to record it, this happens from time to time, but the end riff of that song just dropped into my lap when I needed it and I never forgot it. Which is a good thing, means a riff is strong at least. So I put that one as the ending riff – but then I had to go rewrite it in two keys, so it had to be played another round and then it didn’t seem like a great ending riff anyway, so I had to write the 4 ending-notes and repeat that twice. And that was the song. Listening to it after it was recorded was boring to me, and I said to Ted I might just fade it in the medley, I think that was around 10 minutes or so. But he asked me to reconsider and just leave it as it was. I will never know if I did the right thing there, but I left it alone. We could have easily have faded it, we don’t need a 42 minute long album anyway, haha.
Is their a deeper meaning on the title “The Underground Resistance” and can you go into depth about the lyrical meaning of “Valkyrie”, “The Ones You Left Behind” and Leave No Cross Unturned?”
“The Underground Resistance” is the right part of the underground and even the right people in the overground too, but it’s the ones that fight the great metal fight against the shit metal people. We know who we are!! Haha! But it’s those that put CIRITH UNGOL and MANILA ROAD back on the map, for instance. And the old sound too. More shit needs 70s sound, when instruments sounded like they should. A lot of the 80s metal had a lot of 70s sound in it cuz of old studios and small budgets.
Lyrically, “Valkyrie” is a song to my girlfriend, all this info is in the album cover, and I also write what songs or bands my songs are inspired by and a quick meaning of lyrics. I never talk about lyrics, the rest of the lyrics of the entire album is coincidentally about JUDGEMENT, we seem to have a lot of judgemental lyrics always, haha!
You are a huge supporter of underground metal, can you go into detail on your Band of the Week website and what it entails and what your goal is with it?
Since I was a kid I liked to play URIAH HEEP loud and let the neighbours know what I liked. The little music I heard from neighbours didn’t impress me. So this was my first meeting with musical one way communication. Band of the week is just that. Every week I post another band that I think is worth listening to. I had been doing the DARKTHRONE myspace since 2006, must have been one of the most busy pages on myspace, we had like 56 000 friends by 2009 and I did constant networking and pushing other people’s music there instead of just selling our own band. So I had been getting podcasts every week myself (from resident advisor, for instance) and I thought it could be a THING to make an every week music presentation on that myspace instead of the very random posts I had done before and so BAND OF THE WEEK was born. And then came the festival people Marek and Mark and asked to do the Live Evil festival with only BOTW bands – and so I turned into a curator. And then the vinyl line appeared, but it goes slow. Most importantly, dutch Arjan came to my aid and did a whole web page of it, and an own BOTW myspace and most importantly the BOTW FACEBOOK, and that’s where it’s at. I am not on facebook myself, btw, but many impostors are.
The CELTIC FROST inspired vocals bring me back to 1984 listening to “Morbid Tales” for the first time what impact did CELTIC FROST and bands like early SODOM have on DARKTHRONE?
One of our fave black metal vocalists is Angelripper on the Steamhammer lp version of “OBSESSED BY CRUELTY” and when I did the tower of limbs and fevers vocals for AURA NOIR you can hear how that influenced me, but for DARKTHRONE we never had any old SODOM parts in our music. But CELTIC FROST made me start my band, I thought the riffs were simple yet genius and I thought I could do something primitive too, and a band like CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER convinced me that one didn’t have to be expert on ones instrument to start a band, so there I went! Xmaas holiday 86 is when I started black death and one year later darkthrone was a fact. Actually the first CF riff on “Leave No Cross Unturned” is typical 85 CF while the second slower one is more 84 “Morbid Tales.”
Are you still in the process of rereleasing more of your early material and what is the release schedule? What is behind the commentary tracks and what inspired them?
Hehe, BEHIND the commentary tracks is just me. And I thought when it’s done on dvd’s, why not on albums. And it’s also cuz we don’t have anything else to offer, we’re like DEPECHE MODE in that we use everything we make and therefore there are no leftovers for re-releases. Instead commentary discs where people can learn INCREDIBLY MUCH about the music and such, I think. Well, all our Moonfog releases was just lying dormant, NOTHING was done to push those records, so it felt like 7, SEVEN, of our albums were just fading away into obscurity. Better to re-release them with real distribution and actually they are being pushed a bit, or at least are AVAILABLE, you know.
How hard is it to live up to your legendary past and does it affect your song writing process at all? Is there thought put into trying to distance yourself from your black metal roots?
No, cuz this is interview number 77 and there’s ALWAYS talk about the BM past, there’s no realism in trying to escape it, after all I like all the great metal styles of the 80s and black metal is in there too.
There was only a year or two between your past records but it took three years to release “The Underground Resistance”, did you spend more time on song writing? Was there a reason for the delay and do you see DARKTHRONE taking another three years to follow up “The Underground Resistance?”
Well, interviews have taken soon 4 months, so I am not keen on doing another album ASAP, but I have like two songs ready. Maybe I’ll scrap them, I just want stuff to feel fresh when we meet up in the house where we play and record. Two of the songs on “The Underground Resistance” had already been made and recorded before “CIRCLE THE WAGONS” came out, and we were making more but then we both bot new girlfriends from TOTEN and the life altering stuff that comes with that. Also since 99 we had our second wind and released 8 albums in 11 years, I think a break was much needed and it was certainly welcomed, although writing “Valkyrie” actually took 1.5 years. I only had the refrain and then there was nothing. And I am not trying to squeeze out inspiration, when it comes to my head, it comes to my head, it takes the time it needs.
Again, congratulations on releasing what I consider another classic record to add to your already legendary status. Thanks for your time, as a long time fan it is an honour speaking with you.
Listen to HOUR OF 13