Darkthrone: The Guitar World Interview
When it comes to uncompromising extreme metal, you’d be hard-pressed to find a truer example than Norway’s Darkthrone.
Since the band’s birth in 1987, founding drummer/vocalist Fenriz (born Gylve Nagell) and guitarist/vocalist Nocturno Culto (Ted Skjellum), have constantly pushed the boundaries of their art, caring little about industry trends or expectations. Instead, they simply play the music they want.
“We never discuss musical direction,” says Fenriz. “We never plan. We change as all on this planet changes: in a natural way, not artificial. It is total freedom.”
This artistic freedom has allowed the band’s sound to organically evolve through each decade: from brutal Eighties death metal to seminal Nineties Norwegian black metal to their current antagonistic crust punk/heavy metal sound, which has been recently showcased on F.O.A.D. and Dark Thrones and Black Flags (2007 and 2008, respectively).
With their fifteenth and latest LP, Circle the Wagons (Peaceville), Darkthrone issue an extreme metal statement that effectively incorporates all of their eclectic musical tastes. From the speed metal/punk of opener “Those Treasures Will Never Befall You” (in which Fenriz gives a nod to Metal Punk Death Squad by counting off M! P! D! S!) and epic heavy metal of “Stylized Corpse” to the pissed-off hardcore of “I Am the Working Class,” Darkthrone proudly package their distaste for all things plastic, modern, trendy and spineless in this seething metal album.
Guitar World recently had the chance to catch up with the ever-charismatic Fenriz. In the following interview, the Darkthrone founder discusses the creation of Circle the Wagons, his role in the current metal scene and his relationship with Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes.
The production on Circle the Wagons is the best-sounding yet, but you still manage to not lose the true underground spirit and sonic grimness that is signature to your sound. How did you record this album? Any secrets you’d like to share with us guitar players?
You always have that musician angle, haven't you? [laughs] I don't even know the name of the studio, the type of drums or cymbals, bass, guitar or vocal microphone I used. What will please you, though, is that I just woke up from a farewell music-session with Didrik [Telle, bass] and Sindre [Solem, vocals] from award-winning band Obliteration. I taught them both how to beatmix house/techno on turntables yesterday. It's now 7:49 in the morning and I’m eating a banana, drinking water and listening to one of the grand albums of my life: Pat Metheny’s American Garage. Now how about that?
Now to answer your beautiful question, the other day I was listening to Deaf Dealer’s first album, Keeper of the Flame—which is an old Canadian heavy/speed/NWOBHM style album with organic production—and I realized that we have that sound now. How we get the sound is from our lifelong love of heavy blues-based rock, heavy and speed metal and NWOBHM. It’s as simple as that. We were born in ’71 and ’72 and quickly became music freaks. We record everything ourselves on our own portable studio, which makes it sound oh so organic.
“I Am the Working Class” is probably one of the more aggressive tracks from Circle the Wagons, with its very old-school, blue-collar vibe. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that track?
The lyrics reflect more than working class matters. It also explains why I refuse to play live. It sounds crude but I think meeting new people every day is shallow. They just want to get a minute with a touring “star.” The fact is the “stars” never remember you—you only remember them, right? Shallow. Folly of man. Regarding the lyrics of this song, I think it's more interesting when a person that has actually been working for minimum wage for 23 years—so as to not sell out their life's work—like Darkthrone, writes those kinds of lyrics, rather than, say, a 17 year old that just started working.