Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with vocalist Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven of Norwegian black metallers SATYRICON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metalshrine: The [new, self-titled] album [from SATYRICON] was recorded using analog equipment. A lot of bands seem to be doing this now. What’s your thoughts about it? I get the feeling that it’s kinda coming back.
Satyr: Well, I’m actually under the impression that it’s not coming back. I might be wrong, but my impression is that music throughout the last three or four years is disgustingly processed. I have talked to people that have worked with some of the true superstars. There’s this Norwegian production bureau called Stargate and they do a lot of stuff for Rihanna and so on and they are obviously very good at what they do, but I’ve talked to them as a musician and about sound and some of the things that I intensely hate about modern-day music productions and they explained to me that it’s what the artists want, management wants, record company wants, radio wants. They don’t want it to sound real, they want it to sound super processed and as a producer, that’s what you cater to, of course. I guess that’s the shocking part of it. I drove around once in a car with one of the instrument endorsers of SATYRICON and he played me some record from a very famous metal band, that was heavily processed. Everything sounded very powerful and ultra-tight, but to me, it was lifeless and dead. He was very enthusiastic and he was blasting it in the car. It was impressive, but I still hated it. I just said, “OK, fine,” but I thought to myself, “How can you not hear that this sounds so fake, so manufactured?” I was hoping that this SATYRICON record, working they way that we worked, not only would it communicate the emotions within the songs, the atmosphere, but also perhaps somehow contribute to what I’m hoping will become more of a trend, because that would be one of those good trends. For bands to do things more organic. That’s not something new to SATYRICON, but the difference is that it’s been so much hardcore and uncompromising on this record, compared to previous records, and that’s perhaps because we felt these songs needed it more than what we’ve done previously. But it was also because I’ve never felt so strongly about these things as I do now. When I had discussions about the record with A&R legend Monte Conner, and he’s a music nerd like me, and I said to him, “I think a lot of the sounds you’ve been hearing from metal bands in the last few years are gonna be tomorrow’s embarrassments, just like when people look at photos of themselves from the ’80s.” I think a lot of people a few years down the road, when they listen to their records from like 2012, are gonna go. “What were we thinking?” Then Monte said “I think you’re right. I actually think a few years down the road, a lot of the records that are popular today, are gonna be remastered to make them sound more analog,” which is the complete fuckup of some of the classic analog records that are being remastered in a way to make them sound more digital and sterile. I think the purist approach on the record helped create the record that it is. We thought that if we were gonna get this to come across the right way, and to have these songs provide that kinda authentic language, like we feel when we play them, we had to make the record, to a large degree, like it feels that you’re in the room with SATYRICON when you hear the record. That’s what we tried to do and I think we succeded. There’s a reason why it’s self-titled, because we really feel it defines the mentality and the musical philosophy of the band in terms of song writing and it shows what SATYRICON is about and it also points at the future. A part of what defines SATYRICON is a progressive attitude.
Metalshrine: You worked on it in a very isolated place for a long time. What do you draw inspiration from? Do you read a lot?
Satyr: I never stay in such a way that I stay there all the time. What I did was that I talked to an engineer friend of mine, where I know that he was using this old cabin lodge on his private property and it’s actually dated from 1550, because you can see it in the wood and from the building techniques. He had almost like an antique garage in there where he would set up his music and being in there is so cool. I said, “I love the atmosphere in here and to have something like this and do the SATYRICON record in,” and he said, “You can do that!” I was, like, “No, we can’t do a record in here.” But he just answered, “I think you could.” I started going through the process of myself, since having done this for so long and being used to be working in some of the best studios in the world, and then all of a sudden try to move into something that was actually made to either store food in or to keep goats or pigs in. We actually did most of the album in there. We were in the studio for about six months and five months were in there and we did six to eight months of pre-production and rehearsals in there as well, to get used to the place and feed off of the vibein the song writing and get acquainted and just feel at home. I’m very glad that I did that and I think a part of how I convinced myself into taking that chance, was based on experiences like the “Now, Diabolical” record, which I’m very pleased with, but there are things on the record that I would’ve wanted differently and I think part of why certain things didn’t come out they way I wanted them to was that I wasn’t where I needed to be mentally because I hated the place where I was working so much. In hindsight, I realized that it affected me more negatively than I understood at the time.
Metalshrine: So hadn’t you stayed in this cabin, it might have been a different-sounding album?
Satyr: Yes, definitely. Even the fact that everything was so primitive. There’s not much to do outside of recording, and I guess that it is actually quite nice to be at a place where there’s a sense of comfort and a possibility to have a little bit of variation during the day, but again, if you have something which is very rustic and primitive, it becomes very intense. You never have breaks, you just go, go, go, because there’s nothing else to do. That creates a bubble, and you find yourself living in a world within the world. To disconnect from reality when working with music is something I have great experiences with and I think that’s why a lot of people, whether they’re in music or journalism or whatever, find it constructive to do work during the night. I don’t think it’s the fact that it’s dark outside or some dark force connecting with your inner self, I just think it’s because the phone doesn’t ring, there aren’t as many new e-mails, there’s no spouse telling you to do things. It’s more quiet and you enjoy being in that state of mind where you undistracted can move on with your stuff and stay in that mind frame.
Read the entire interview at Metalshrine.