Arielle Castillo of New Times Broward-Palm Beach recently conducted an interview with drummer Kjetil-Vidar “Frost” Haraldstad of the Norwegian black metal band SATYRICON. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
New Times Broward-Palm Beach: The last time SATYRICON toured the United States was in 2004, but you weren’t even able to come because of visa issues. Was the five-year wait since then because of these continuing issues?
Frost: That’s true. We feel very happy and very relieved that I can come along now. This feels like the place for SATYRICON to come to work, basically. And to be denied the opportunity to go here with the band before has been really depressing, and felt very wrong. But finally the paperwork is all okay, and I can come here. It feels like a victory, finally. I’ve been looking forward to that for many, many years, and also being on the tour feels really good, because the response that we get every day is so good. We are really, really getting well received by our audience. Every night these people that have been waiting for years and years, and these people that have been traveling for a very long distance to see SATYRICON, are having the night of their lives. But you know, the band, they tour without me. There was one tour done with Trym, the drummer of EMPEROR, and one with Joey Jordison from SLIPKNOT. It wasn’t really my situation there that held them back. They did go here. But we have been spending our time in the meantime creating new music, and we have been touring Europe. And to make an album like “The Age of Nero” is a very time-consuming process, really. It is also a fact that to do a record deal for Europe doesn’t automatically include a record deal for America. Sometimes that means that you can release an album at a certain point in Europe, and then after that release, you will start to negotiate a separate deal for America. And this obviously means that the album will be released at a later point. So sometimes that also means that it’s hard to coordinate the touring plans the way that you really want to. You have to take into consideration practical circumstances. We also feel that we have gotten on a level where things will work out much smoother, and that we can coordinate the happening to a much larger extent.
New Times Broward-Palm Beach: What was extra time-consuming about the recording process for this album in particular?
Frost: In SATYRICON, we have put it on ourselves that we always had to take significant steps forward with each album that we make. And after many years in the business, with several records out, we really had to take it far to push ourselves really hard to go further. This involves the creative work, but definitely also the way that we perform technically, and the recording process, the mixing and mastering and all that. We feel that if it takes time to have a full album, with only killer songs on it, it will just have to take time. Sometimes you have a lot of inspiration flowing, and you can create four absolutely top-notch songs that you are deeply satisfied with over a time span of a couple weeks. Other times, it will take half a year just to complete two songs that you are fully satisfied with. We cannot really take it upon us to have a deal where we have to record an album every year, for instance. That might mean that some of the songs on the album will be just filler material. And that’s completely not how we work. We put our souls into it, and we have devoted our lives to this band, and as a live project, we have to feel 100% satisfied with each album. That means lots of work, but also that we have to feel that we have everything working for us. We have to have the inspiration there, and whenever a song doesn’t feel completed, we have to work on it until we feel that this is the best that it can possibly be, that it’s a perfect fulfillment of an idea we had for a specific song. We worked for like two to three years on the creative process on “The Age of Nero”, and at that point we felt that this is absolutely the best SATYRICON album that we’ve ever had. And then of course the recording process was also as demanding as the creative process. We were extremely focused on every single detail, and we were extremely focused on sound and how to create that kind of very vital, organic, authentic sound that this album needed. We never leave anything to chance. We always supervise every single detail. These things take time, but the end result will be so much better. The whole recording process for this album took several months. And finally, we ended up with what we feel is the ultimate SATYRICON album, “The Age of Nero”.
New Times Broward-Palm Beach: Did you personally feel more involved in the songwriting process this time around?
Frost: Taking part in the creative process, just being there, and creating the rhythmical structures is huge work in itself. And when we have the most ingenious songwriter in this whole genre of music, why should I try to go in there and mess up his ideas? It’s a bit like having a Mozart or Beethoven in the band. And if you are an assistant to Beethoven, for example, you don’t go in and try to put in pieces of work in his compositions. Those compositions are a whole, they are total pieces of work from the composer’s hand from beginning to end. There’s a certain sense to it, a certain flow, a certain energy in every part. I think at that level, one person will necessarily have to be in control of that entire process of building up and releasing energies and all that. So that’s basically what Satyr does. Nowadays, he creates very whole pieces of music, where every single bit has a functional element to it. And therefore I see it as my task to help him out in that process, and to perhaps bring in something that inspires him, and something that enthuses him. When we jam in the rehearsal space, for instance, I try to go along with whatever he does, and catch the kind of spirit that the material has, the vibe that it has, and interpret that through the way that I drum. And when I do that, I also add to the present in the rehearsal place. And that will probably help Satyr in getting the inspiration that he needs, in order to build upon the material that he already has, and get this sense of flow that we’re on the same frequency, which is always really good for inspiration. So I see that there are basically two core elements to my participation. One of them is like, being there during the creative process, and sharing and tearing out the vibe that’s materialized. Two, is to create rhythmical structures and to perform them and thereby add my own particular expression. And that is a huge task, I can tell you.
New Times Broward-Palm Beach: Considering you’re undertaking such a large-scale tour of the states now, what do you think is your biggest challenge still in trying to bring your music to this country?
Frost: I guess that here in America, people come from a different place than we do musically. We have very strong roots in SATYRICON that I’m talking about — our musical history, where we come from, and what has inspired us. And I think here, most people lack that kind of references that we have, and they have a different foundation for understanding our music. So we feel that perhaps we don’t really share a common ground musically, but then we also think that, fuck that, it doesn’t really matter that much. The whole point is to present something that is so unique, so powerful, so convincing, that no matter where people come from musically and no matter how they understand it, it will just hit them full force and make them, you know, turn around just because of the sheer, raw energy, and because of the convincing quality of the expression. So this is something that perhaps bothered us a little more before, that so many people failed to see our music in the right perspective. But we have gone away from that, so even if people perceive the music in ways that we ourselves don’t, it doesn’t really matter as long as they are able to appreciate it. And that’s what we see now every night that we play. There are people who have been following this band since our early days, as well as youngsters who perhaps who have never even heard about the band before, and they are right here with us. And they are so fired up with that energy and the exposure of raw musicality that they see onstage. They are jut like, Wow, this is the shit! And we can see the glow and the fire in their eyes, and these are probably people who will b e there when we come back. We are getting new fans every evening, and it’s very rewarding for us to see that. We don’t care how they perceive or describe or define or categorize SATYRICON, as long as we see that they are fired up by the energy. And if they catch the vibe in the music, they can call it whatever they like. We share something with them, there and then. We are here to share magical moments with our audience so that both the band and the guys out there can have these electrical moments, where you feel that everything is just a strong flow of energy and enthusiasm and fire. That’s excellent.
Read the entire interview from New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
A two-minute video clip featuring footage of SATYRICON’s February 11, 2009 concert at The Music Box at Fonda in Hollywood, California can be viewed below.