Satyricons nya album “Deep calleth upon deep” har varit en resa. Efter att ha gått igenom en tuff sjukdom är Satyr åter redo att ta sig an världen. Vi slog oss ned mittemot den reslige norrmannen i Stockholm och fick ingående analyser av albumet, Edvard Munch och om att vara sann mot sig själv och inte följa regler:
The most important thing is to not be driven by fear of what other people say and what also is very important is that we need to understand that if we try and apply a bunch of rules when it comes to aesthetics or sound or speed or any of that, then we become the conformist pigs we grew up despising.
I love the title of the album and I googled it, as you do, and I came upon a psalm that goes ”Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts” Is that where it came from?
More or less yes. Basically the only change would be… I have an English mother and I spoke to her and I explained my thoughts to her and I said ”Based on my thoughts, wouldn´t you say that Deep calleth upon deep is more appropriate?” and she said ”Yes, that´s much better.” Obviously something like that is subject to interpretation, but from my point of view, I was reading an article about how religious texts are understood in time and age and cultural contexts in which they are interpreted. Basically you have this part of a song from the Bible and then seen through the eyes of a Catholic priest in Spain in 1600 something and what about a Protestant priest in Sweden in 2017? It´s gonna be dramtically different in interpretation. That´s the thing that is hard to take seriously in religion as a whole. There are actually people out there who don´t understand that it´s man made and it´s subject to interpretation. It´s crazy. There was a thing in American politics about these justices that can only be appointed by the president, so the Republicans didn´t want to let Barack Obama´s nomination go through, so they got the majority and Trump´s guy… he´s (Neil Gorsuch) presented as an originalist and I thought to myself ”What is that?” and then I understood that it´s someone who relates to the constitution literally and then I thought ”Is that a good thing? It sounds like the craziest thing ever!” Again, speaking of politics… I remembered when Obama was running for his second term and the guy that ran against him, Mitt Romney, there was a TV debate and Romney was really prepared and he had this saying ”Back in so and so the navy had so and so many ships and now today, there are only so and so many. With me as president, we´ll restore the American navy and the military.” and then Obama said ”Well, senator Romney, there are also fewer horses and bayonets.” Obviously the reason why there are fewer ships is because it´s not a modern way of executing war. Today it´s all fighter jets and drones. There´s no big land armies or boats with cannons. When you read these religious texts, I think to myself, ”Who are they to define…?” This was written by people at some point and then it was changed by others and I thought to myself ”It´s interesting reading also how people who are on the same team end up with dramatically different interpretations.” It was such a beautiful line (Deep calleth upon deep) and I started thinking to myself about my thoughts and my reflections and anything that is on a deeper level in terms of art is more demanding to us if we are at the recieving end of an epic book or piece of music. You have to invest. You have to dig deeper within ourselves in order to truly understand its greatness. And I thought ”Almost all of the fantastic journeys I´ve been on as a lover of anything art, has been like that and things that have stayed with me, they´ve had a depth which has called upon my own deep.” I just kept thinking about this all the time and when I explained to Frost that I had the title for the record, he was loving it and he felt that my interpretation was poetic in a way that he enjoyed it and I said ”Good, I´m glad you like it!” Just the fact that I kept thinking about it constantly kinda says it all why it was such an obvious choice for us. This is from the depths of our inner most corners and we are trying to say something that we hope you will find if you are willing to dig deep into your own corners.
I ended up on some site where there were different interpretations and translations of that quote and it said that it could be translated into ”Blow by blow” or ”Bad things happen after each other…”
I´ve also seen people try to interpret it as some form of geographical reference, but to me there´s no authority in these interpretations because I seriously feel that my interpretation is just as likely as being close to the original thought.
You´ve said that either this album´s gonna be the beginning of something new or it will be your last record. In what way?
It already is the beginning of something new. The 2000s we thought was the age and era where we had become full circle. We lay the foundation in the late 90´s or actually, if you go back to a song like ”Transcendental requiem of slaves” (Nemesis Divina 1996) you can start to hear traces of something that´s gonna become apparent on ”Rebel Extravaganza” (1999) and on that album you hear hints of what´s gonna be expressed fully on ”Volcano” (2002). We go from there to ”Now, diabolical” (2006) and then it feels like we reached full circle with ”The age of Nero” (2008). There´s not one but several reasons why there was five years between ”The age of Nero” and the album ”Satyricon” (2013), but the most important reason was the fact that I needed to step away on many different levels from where we were at, to find out what to do, how to do it and to feel a strong urge and need to do it. In my opinion, that album has a value of its own or to put it in a rather simple term, I am really pleased with the album ”Satyricon”. Let´s put it hypothetic… let´s say you love the album ”Deep calleth upon deep” but you don´t like the album ”Satyricon”, then you have to understand that ”Deep calleth upon deep” would have been impossible without the album ”Satyricon” because with that album I was able to say ”Ok, this is out of the system. Let´s try and move forward as a band!” and when we move on, that´s also really important for the essence of the sound. We don´t move on because we feel like we made a mistake or because we think it wasn´t working, we move on because we feel that we´ve said what we wanted to say musically and we feel satisfied and ready to move on to something else. We couldn´t move on for any other reason than our own motivation and now, this new journey that we´re on, is much more apparent and evident with ”Deep calleth upon deep” than the album ”Satyricon”, because things are outlined in a more crystal clear manner on this recordit´s on and it´s on many levels more hard hitting than the previous record. This is a record that had different goals than the album ”Satyricon” and it is set out to be a different animal than the previous record. The reason why I´m saying it could be the last record is because… now I´m fine and strong, but getting sick in 2015 made me realize that it isn´t really about saying ”I´ll play as long as I´m motivated.” I was never a guy to take anything for granted. I always was about Murphy´s law, if anything can go wrong, it´s gonna go wrong and a lot of the people that know me really well… like if you speak to Frost, he´s gonna say ”Satyr is very thorough because he doesn´t like to speculate. He knows that if there´s a chance that something could go wrong, although unlikely, I´m gonna make some steps to make sure it doesn´t happen, because why not?” What I was not prepared for was to walk around on a normal Sunday in Oslo and for life to be more or less normal and then kinda fall apart in my own living room on the Sunday evening and then go to the ER and the ER saying ”This guy needs to go to the hospital now!” I didn´t see that happening and when that happened, at least for a couple of months, I was so sick and I was in terrible condition. I thought to myself ”How the hell is this gonna work out? I don´t understand how I´m gonna do this?” Then I managed to get back on my feet and for the most part I´m fine, but what I understand, and also from having setbacks and I was back in the hospital last year, but it´s just that you don´t know. The unfortunate thing about life is that sooner or later all of us are gonna face something tough, either physical or mental or we´re gonna go through some real trauma and for some of us there will be many things, and then you start to understand that doing more records is not necessarily something you can decide. I felt this sense of urgency also while doing this record. Let´s run through the walls here and let´s just be more uncompromising than ever before in our pursuit of excellence and our ambition to be the utmost version of ourselves. The reason why we have to do that is because if we´re gonna do this for many more years, if that´s possible, than only good things can come from an attitude like that. If it´s a goodbye, let´s just try and make it about that moment.
Being sick and getting better, do you feel that you came out feeling stronger in any way? Do you get paranoid, knowing stuff like that could happen again?
No, I don´t feel stronger and no, I don´t feel paranoid. To me, it´s primarily a pragmatic thing. The reality is that I was a strong person going into this and that´s why I´ve also been able to handle it well. Physically I feel more vulnerable than I used to, but I still feel when I test my body physically in, let´s say a work out situation, I feel capable. From a mental point of view… what I don´t like is the level of uncertainty. No paranoia or anything like that, but let´s say you have a seizure like situation which I had, I wouldn´t want to have that on stage or I wouldn´t want to have that going in high speeds on the highway, but it doesn´t make me paranoid. It makes me alert, so if I feel some sort of physical sign, it makes me very scared.
I can see that. Last time I spoke with Frost, we talked about this cover album of yours.
I remember him saying that ”Holiday in Cambodia” (Dead Kennedys) might be a song on the album. Is it on the album?
He also said that recording covers of Venom and Bathory wasn´t what you were looking for because others have done it and he said that the songs you were gonna do covers of really had to mean something to you. Do you agree?
Yeah, sure. The way I would phrase it is that one can assume we´ve been listening to Bathory and so on, but what has also made an impact on me as a music lover and as an artist is traditional folk music, some electronica, classical music, punk rock, classic rock and hard rock and hence the title ”Formative oddities” Things that helped shape us musically as music fans and as professional, but not necessarily the obvious ones. ”It´s something that I was thinking we would complete before ”Deep calleth upon deep” and all these things happened in my life and everything changed and I said ”Ok guys, now there´s so much crazy stuff going on and I can´t do all of this.” so I did my own stuff and we can´t pick up work on the record now because we´re gonna tour for a year and once we have toured a year, then I don´t know what we´re gonna feel. Do we want to do nothing for a while or do we head straight into a new album? Do we never want to do this again or would we like to pick up where we left off on ”Formative oddities”?
Any other songs you could mention that might be on the album?
No, not really. I know which songs we have played the most and spent the most time working on, but as they may change, it´s probably best not to.
The album cover, which is a drawing by Edvard Munch (1863-1944), how does that work? Do you license it?
Yes and no. This is the way it works. After somebody´s been dead for so and so long, it´s not protected by copyright anymore, so for example, we wanted to use something which involved the art of another Norwegian artist which wasn´t gonna go on the album cover, but as part of some promotion presentation, and we had to skip the project because the fees that they asked for were way out of our league and also very complicated. It´s kind of a silly thing because with that artist in question, which was not Munch, next year we´re not gonna need this stuff. So if it was gonna happen next year, in 2018, we wouldn´have to ask anyone or pay anyone because 75 years or whatever it is, has passed. With Munch´s art, that recently became released. On the other hand, if you as a band on an international level and releasing records in all the countries in the world and touring all over the world, if you want to do something and have high resolution photography of the original artwork scanned for use on merchandise, huge backdrops and so on, you´re not gonna get anywhere without the kind cooperation of the Munch museum. That´s the only way to do it. Instead of trying to google and find something, we said to them ”This is what we want to do and how would you be able to, if possible, help us with that?” With serious people you´re gonna get farther with that approach. This past weekend we got an invitation by our rep from the Munch museum to come down to the vaults and view the original art. That was great. For me that was an organic process. Munch wrote in his will, because he was afraid that the German occupying forces would confiscate everything, that he donated everything to the city of Oslo. I pointed out something to a woman at the National gallery who´s also on the board in the foundation looking after Munch´s properties in Oslo, I pointed out to her that ”Fair enough, however, what I don´t understand is how Munch found that if he donated everything to the city of Oslo that then it´ll be fine because he died in 1944 while we were still occupied by the Nazis? The whole country was under German control and donating it to the city of Oslo which was then under siege, I don´t know how that would protect his art. But he was lucky and we were all lucky. He gave them everything, so 9000 artworks, sketches, photos, notes… and the Munch museum was built for that. He became an old man, especially for his time and he struggled and just had a really hard time and it´s funny that what is by far his best period as an artist is what people hated the most. Between 1890 and 1900 he did, among other things ”The scream (1863) and ”Kiss of death” (1899), which is the cover for the new album and what a contrast. The elaborate and colorful ”The scream” the crooked, raw, dark and naked ”Kiss of death” What is fascinating to me is that people think that when the lines are crooked and not straight they go ”Well, this must be an idea.”, but that´s a really deep misunderstanding of Munch. Munch said ”That the amount of detail does not determine whether a painting is finished.” and he also said ”Even a line can be considered a piece of art if it´s done with will and emotion.” If he´d been a musician, he would´ve be the kind of artist that if he did a demo for a song and loved the demo, he would put the demo on the record instead of rerecording it because he would feel that this represents the will and emotion of my idea. If you ask a Munch expert they would say that ”Kiss of death” is a famous Much piece because in the nerdy world they live in they know everything, but to the public it´s definitely an unknown piece. We couldn´t have used it if it was something that was known to the public. Then there would´ve been all kinds of other associations and we chose that because when I saw that I thought to myself ”Wow, this sums it up. This has the dark existencial nerve and discomfort that I find really represents the music and the atmosphere on the album.” I pointed oy to the graphic designer and I said to him… I don´t think I´ve said this in an interview so maybe this is a scoop, I said to him ”Listen, there are so many emotions going through me when I see this and there are som many things about it that cause like a rollercoaster inside me, so I don´t know what to feel about it. But what I can say, is that when I feel all these emotions and this attachment, I would feel false, dishonest and without integrity if I didn´t choose it.” It would almost be like someone that you felt was immensly beautiful and you´re so drawn to this woman and she says ”I´m drawn to you and I want to be with you.” and you think ”I´ll wait and see if there´s something else.” (laughs) I really felt that everything that I stand for when it comes to consuming art and making art, if it feels right it´s right and I say it to the band in a way that… and they know that I grow into a four meter tall guy with Hulk muscles when I say ”Don´t ever try to sell me a musical part! If you have to try and persuade me about a part, that says it all, it isn´t good enough. If your part was so good, I´d be like ´That´s it!´, but when you´re trying to talk me into liking it… why? Just go back home and try to do something because that won´t work.” Same thing with the cover. Either you feel it and it´s there for you or it´s not. I saw an ex music journalist from Germany who I remember from the 90´s and 2000´s as one of those people into deep black metal as an art form and I saw her make a social media post recently about how she was looking forward to the album and why and she explained in her post that she was no longer part of the scene and working with something else. That was it and then she wrote ”PS. To those of you bashing the artwork, fuck you! You know nothing. DS.” I thought that last sentence is the part where she gets it right. It´s kinda scary because we are a community mostly made up by people who are curious, tolerant, liberal and adventurous and we are looking to understand things that are unconventional. The American band Possessed has a lyric line that I always remember, ”Conformist pigs gather around and critisize the life that I´ve found.” (My belief, 1987) That´s who we are as a metal community and that´s the way we feel, but what´s unfortuante is that we´ve allowed conservative forces to become a part of our scene. I read recently and I think it was the Dillinger Escape Plan that said ”If it´s got rules, it´s not metal.” and I feel as an artist it´s my responsibility to make choices that are organic and not driven by speculation as to what people are gonna think or not think about. The most important thing is to not be driven by fear of what other people say and what is also very important is that we need to understand that if we try and apply a bunch of rules when it comes to aesthetics or sound or speed or any of that, then we become the conformist pigs we grew up despising.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Michael Barkensjö