eter Hodgson of IHeartGuitarBlog.com recently conducted an interview with Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven of Norwegian black metallers SATYRICON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
IHeartGuitarBlog.com: What do you think would be the perfect place to listen to [SATYRICON’s new, self-titled] album for the first time?
Satyr: Well… I know it’s not possible for all writers and journalists to do this, because the way these things are being distributed is through computer streams, but it’s analog production with an awful lot of emphasis on getting an authentic, organic sound with a great dynamic range where the performance of the musician comes across in terms of actually breathing life into the song through the lows coming down really low and quiet, and the really explosive epic parts really coming across as powerful and huge. And to me, it just means to play this record repeatedly on a good stereo without coloring the sound with your own EQ. Just leave everything in neutral so you can actually hear what the record sounds like the way that it was made. I also think that due to the fact that it has so many tiny little details here and there — whether it’s the mellotron or the harmonium or the piano or the acoustic guitars or the theremin, all these little instruments that have their small features here and there that are introduced in a subtle way — to me, it’s more that than where you find yourself physically. It’s how you listen to it.
IHeartGuitarBlog.com: Even just listening to the stream over the headphones, there’s so much depth to everything, and the sounds aren’t harsh and aggressive — they’re more rich and inviting and that makes you want to listen closer.
Satyr: Well, to me, that’s a fantastic compliment. What you try to do as a musician is you try to make the listener hear what you’re hearing and what you’re trying to achieve. And that was just one of those things that I decided to do for this record. I was going to get rid of all distortion pedals. For rock music, that’s pretty normal, to just crank the amplifier and go with that sound, and then maybe they use a wah pedal or something like that. But for metal, you typically have some pedal that’s gonna turbo-charge your sound. And for me, I really believe in the amplifiers that I use and I like the microphones we were using for the guitar recording, and I wanted to bring out my style of playing, the sound of my amplifier, the sound of the old tube microphones that we were using, and I didn’t want a modern-day pedal to kill the dynamics of my playing. So a lot of it was like that, and other things we did with the drums that typically, for a metal drummer playing like Frost does, he uses smaller-sized drums for more attack definition and in order for it to be more comfortable to play for the drummer. And I kept saying to him, “I love the drum sound on the things that we’ve done, but nothing sounds like our old drum kit, and the last time we used that was on the ‘Volcano’ record. Why are we not using that anymore?” And he just said, “Because it’s old and broken and fucking hard to play.” And I said, “I’m not looking for any hyper-speed solutions anyway. I’m looking for a big fat tone with great sustain, and if it’s broken, we’ll just get some guy to fix it and get new parts, and it shouldn’t be a problem.” And then we set it up again, and when we were playing the new stuff, straight off the bat, I said, “Are you not hearing what I’m hearing? This sounds so much better, so much more musical to me.” So there were many little things we did here and there, even in the production process, where there would be computer versions of some compressor or something like that, which to me didn’t sound that great, and the engineer would typically claim that it’s the same as the real thing, and I’d say, “I don’t believe you because I know that this computer thing is a $250 item and if you try and buy the physical version of this from the Seventies on eBay, it’s going to cost you two grand.” And he says, “Well, there is a difference, but it’s a small difference,” and I said, “That’s the small difference I’m looking for!” So that meant we did spend a little bit more time than we had planned for, but it was necessary to make this record come across the way we wanted. We felt we had atmospheric songs, we felt that we needed our tone to come across and go into the songwriting and become a part of the musical expression, and we felt that we needed the songs to be able to breathe. And pretty much the opposite of what most records sound like today, as the majority of records are quite digital and processed-sounding, and we were pursuing something completely different. We’ve always had these elements in our music, but never to such an uncompromising degree as on this record. It was necessary and it gave us the outcome we now have in our hands.