Fenriz, the multi-instrumentalist of the legendary Norwegian black metal band Darkthrone, discusses the guitar, his first gig and his philosophy on playing live.
You played all the instruments on some of Darkthrone’s releases. What inspired you to play guitar?
The hunger to make metal. My parents refused to give me an electric guitar. I had to strum away at the nylon-string acoustic guitar they bought me. An uncle taught me the “Smoke on the Water” riff around 1983, but I preferred to make up stuff. In ’84, I finally learned a riff I really liked—the refrain riff to Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave.”
What was your first electric guitar?
An Aria Pro II. It didn’t matter, though. I never gave a shit about musicians or their brands much.
Were you inspired by any particular guitarist?
No, my approach was always pragmatic. The word “instrument” means “tool,” and that’s how I always used instruments: as tools to make my songs. I have a loose way of playing guitar. I guess I sound like a sloppy Tony Iommi: lots of vibrating notes and string pulling.
What was your first gig like?
I’m probably one of the few people in the world who played my first gig without having attended a gig by another band. I was very nervous that I wouldn’t remember the songs, but I also worried that the other guys would fuck up. To this day, I only really trust myself…and barely!
It was in spring 1988, at a “battle of the bands” thing called Follorocken. Ted [Skjellum, a.k.a. Darkthrone guitarist-vocalist Nocturno Culto] came to the show so he could check us out and see if he wanted to join the band. I sang and drummed at the same time, and Ronny [Sorkness], the vocalist in Valhall, said my vocals sounded walrus-y, which was probably very true. Amazingly, Ted joined Darkthrone after that gig.
It’s well known that Darkthrone refuse to play live nowadays. Was there a specific gig that made you want to stop playing out?
All of them. I didn’t even like it when people came to see us rehearse. Since I was a kid growing up with music in the Seventies, I only wanted to make albums. I never saw myself up onstage. Not playing live is my religion. I could write a book series about it.
What advice do you have for guitarists?
None. Learn yourself. Everyone does blues licks or Steve Vai over-the-top weird shit. Do proper solos instead…like Iron Maiden.