Machine Music's Albums of the Decade: An Interview with Djevel

This is the 52nd installment of the Albums of the Decade series of interviews. For the rest of the series go HERE.]

Artist: Djevel

Album: Blant Svarte Graner

Year: 2018

Label: Aftermath Music

Favorite Song: "Paa Vintersti Skal Hun Synge En Gravsang Som Aldrig Ender"


The Bare Bones: Blant Svarte Graner is the fifth album by Norwegian black metal band Djevel, led by the project's main songwriter, Trånn Ciekals.

The Beating Heart: In the sea of twisted, avant-garde, left-of-field black metal that occupies the rest of this project thus far, Djevel stands very clearly apart. The Norwegian band isn't invested in breaking new ground, incorporating different genres, and taking a proverbial step forward. Black metal is what they do, black metal is what they play, and black metal, to a significant extent, is all they care about. But Djevel's way of going about this almost zealous safekeeping of TNBM is indeed distinct still. Distinct, perhaps, not in changing the formula but of manipulating it, and of insisting on the sonic variety that can be extracted out of the seemingly meagre components of traditional black metal. It is indeed that variety that marks the subject of this instalment, the harshly beautiful 2018 album Blant Svarte Graner. Personally, and basically since their masterful 2013 album, Besatt Av Maane Og Natt, they are perhaps the best modern black metal band around, producing album after album of pitch-perfect, at times melodic, and explosive music.

As I think I have already clear, the themes of "safeguarding" genre and tradition are not commonplace in this project, or in this website as a whole. For that reason I thought it appropriate to discuss those terms directly, and try to both define that tradition as well as find its importance for Djevel's main songwriter, Ciekals. Hopefully it does the topic – and some of its obvious limits – due service.

Before the interview, and as always, check out my various interview projects and other cool shit. And if you'd like to keep abreast of the latest, most pressing developments follow us wherever I may roam (TwitterFacebookInstagramSpotify and now also a tape-per-day series on TIK TOK!), and listen to my, I guess, active (?) podcast (YouTubeSpotifyApple), and to check out our amazing compilation albumsYou can support our unholy work here (Patreon), if you feel like it. Early access to our bigger projects, weekly exclusive recommendations and playlists, and that wonderful feeling that you're encouraging a life-consuming habit. On to Trånn and Djevel.

So, I decided to focus on Blant Svarte Graner, but we’ll talk about the band more generally, that’s just the focal point. Side note, I love all your albums, I've been a fan since 2013. And I have been insisting on people listening to you since and have been confused by why people don't. But I'm very relieved to see that, at least with this new album, you're getting a lot of overdue recognition. 

Yeah, I appreciate that. It's funny because I never had any ambitions with this. So, I appreciate that people discover something in what I do, but I think it doesn't necessarily change anything, since there's no financial aspect or anything or a desire for listeners, or likes or whatever. I'm not on social media and I don't….. I just wanted to get my own vinyl and go home, you know? So, but that's good [laughs]. 

Don't you care about having an audience? You know that someone is listening, somewhere?

I don't know. Since I do have it, it's maybe easy to say “I don't care,” and if I didn't have it, nobody would probably release my albums. But for me it's just a confirmation that I'm not insane. When I make an album I release it because I'm happy, I'm satisfied with it, and I feel that its quality black metal. And so it's more confirmation that I am not one of these bands to think they have made a fantastic record, like my old friends from the 90s: like when Satyricon released one of their latest albums and Sigurd [Wongraven, AKA Satyr] said: “This is exceptional, this is the direction black metal has to take,” and then comes the album and its just “meh.” It was OK, but it wasn't anything special. 

So, for me it’s more confirmation thatI I have the right approach to what I do, but it kind of ends there for me. I don't live from the music, either. I decided in 1993 that you can't live off black metal, if you want to keep it pure. So, I have gone in totally different directions in my education and career. So, I don't need the income from the music, and that, of course, gives me more flexibility to do what I want to do and say “no” to things I don't want to do. So, that's good for me. But yeah, that was just a side note from me.

I like that side note, because we'll get to a lot of what you were talking about. But I’ll disrupt that for now to ask a question I always kind of begin with, which is: Do you remember a moment you had with music, an album, an album cover, a live show, anything that has to do with music as a younger person, that really…. I usually use the word “scared,” but I don't think it's really just being scared. It's kind of a  relative of that – scared, shocked, surprised, pleasantly surprised. Something that really came out of nowhere and changed what you thought about music. And I just want to qualify that by saying that obviously this happens many times, if you're interested in art. New art is always exciting. So I guess I'm not asking about the last time that happened to you, but the first, or an early moment, if you can remember something like that.

The first thing that always comes to mind is probably when I first heard Under the Sign of the Black Mark by Bathory. From the artwork to the music. I think it was the first time I heard black metal. So I think that was probably the one thing that stuck with me the most. Not necessarily “changed me,” or, maybe it did, but it was like it awoke something more, like a darker desire to do something more, I don't know, “real” so to speak. Because before I heard that I was into…. I don't come from the traditional metal thing. I didn't have this older brother or neighbor who gave me Iron Maiden albums when I was seven years old, or anything. I was listening to pop music, like A-Ha, and I still love that.

Me too.

You know, Scoundrel Days is pretty popular in the black metal scene here? It always was, back in the day.

Wow, I didn’t know that.

Nobody wanted to admit it back then [laughs], but, you know. But I think I had a very brief period of thrash metal and maybe death metal. But when I heard Under the Sign of the Black Mark, it was just black [metal] from there. I almost threw away everything else I had, I sold all my thrash and death metal albums and just dug into the black metal thing. I have opened up again for other styles in the last 15 years, but that was the gateway for me.

How old were you? 

Thirteen. Yeah, it must have been 1992, so actually fourteen.

And  you're saying that in the last 15 years as you've been reacquainting yourself with stuff that isn't just that?

Yeah. I would say maybe even in the last 20 [ years]. I'm very much into music. I don't have any specific genre. I’m very much into electronic stuff and that, but when it comes to black metal and stuff I still always go back to the old albums, the old demos. But  yeah, all kinds of music. I'm a big fan of bands like Pink Turns Blue and Joy Division and that kind of stuff, and The Cure – love The Cure. So, everything. I'm just into music. But I have never incorporated anything other than black metal into my black metal, I always kept that really pure. I see no point in adding my fascination for bands like Interpol or some electronic stuff into that metal. I think you water it out and it becomes gray instead of black. 

One of the things I'm interested in is this idea of “pure,” but I'd like to kind of connect that idea of “pure,” which is an abstract term now, I don't know what that means, and just attach it to the first thing that seems like an important part of that possible definition, at least in what you said, which is this idea that it's “real.”


That you listen, you listen to music that is dreamy, or an imagined life, something artificial, something fake, maybe. And then here comes Bathory. Obviously it's not that simple, we're just making it simple, but then comes something like Under the Sign of the Black Mark and you're like: “Oh, shit that's real, that isn't fake.” So, would that be fair to say?

Yeah. Or at least for me, it wasn't fake for what it was for him. You never know. 

I'm talking about you. I don't care about him. 

Yeah, yeah. 

I mean, I care in a way, but you know.

Yeah, I know. 

I guess I'm asking you, do you have an idea of what it is about it that makes it feel real to you?

From my point of view, you can instantly hear it in every bit of texture in any art if it’s honest, if it's really meant by the person who created it. You know, back in the early 90s, when the Norwegian black metal albums were released, you could hear just by the way the words were sung, everything, you could just hear there was intention and will behind it. And you easily hear when that goes away, when it just becomes about playing as fast as you can, or screaming as loud as you can. I think you can hear in everything that it comes from an honest place. That is, you actually mean what you do. And that's what I feeI that I do with my band also – there's a meaning behind it. I can, at least, hear that. I have so many examples of some of my older friends from the scene here in Norway that sound so uninspired and are just like: “Oh, we have to release an album.”

I feel like I want to differentiate between two things: We're talking about sincerity, this idea that “I mean it.” And sincerity can have other forms that aren't black metal, right? 

Yeah. Yeah, of course.. 

Robert Smith can be sincere.


This actually makes me think of Tears For Fears, because Tears For Fears is a level of a very sincere, heartfelt music that isn't anything like black metal. And so, when we put sincerity to the side for a second, because sincerity has many forms, I guess. I wonder if you can tell what it is about this specific form of sincerity that you think may resonate with you? That you gravitate towards to the point of trying to keep it pure, right? It's obviously very important to you. So what is it about this form of sincerity that you think connects with you? 

Are we still talking about Under the Sign of the Black Mark?

Just in general. But you can use that as an example. 

Every time I discovered something I liked as a child or anything, I was always like “I want everything with it.” In Norway we have an expression: “With skin and hair.” You want to have the whole package. And in order to do that you have to have an honest or sincere approach to it,  with everything you have to take what's good and bad. You can't just decide: “OK, I want this, but I don't want that part of it.” You have to take everything. And I think that's what sort of speaks to me. I'm not sure if I'm answering your question.

I think I think you might be. So, if I understand your answer correctly, you're saying that black metal feels like that “skin and hair” type of experience. It's not just sincere, but it's like everything about the person, the good and the bad. 

Yeah, exactly. You can't just pick from the menu in this type of art. 

So it kind of feels like you're saying, if I may, that “pure”….  I mean, I personally have an issue with that word, I just don't love it. Also because nothing in life is pure, but I'm trying to get to what you mean by that. 

Yeah. “Sincerity” is a better word. I think. 

I did my day's work [laughs]. Anyway, it feels like you're saying that if someone can make art that is compelling to me, that I feel is sincere, and that even in a way shows me very unpleasant aspects and very dark and unwanted things, then that's what I want. Does that sound right?

Yes. That's correct. 

And you feel like black metal is the expression of this idea, that you felt works for you? 

Yes, for me it was. 

So I would assume from that kind of definition that your problem with things that are, let's call them “black metal adjacent,” or things that incorporate certain elements of black metal is that what is that they take is just the pretty without the ugly. Is that the idea?

I think so. I can't speak for other people, but I can speak what I think of other people [laughs].

[Laughs] Do so!

I have no problem with that. So, yeah, that sounds about right. 

That they pick and choose?

Yeah, I think…. Don't even get me started.

I mean you can get started a little. 

You know, it happens to all music genres, like hip hop and reggae, everything – punk, especially, and black metal. Everything starts at some point, but then it evolves into something that has to make too many compromises from where it started until you become something that it's not supposed to be, because people just want some parts of it. I have no respect or understanding for a black metal band playing shows and shouting “Hey, hey, hey” or “Come on, London ! Raise your hands!” I get so frustrated and annoyed by that. Really, it almost shouldn't be performed live, and if it is being performed live, it has to be under very strict circumstances, I think. So that's what I mean by you take something, you put on some corpse paint, and you go on stage at Wacken and you shout: “Have a beer! Skol!” blah blah blah. You know, it's like a stand up show in corpse paint, and that doesn't align with what it’s supposed to be. I still feel black metal is not entertainment. But, then again, I release albums and I probably entertained some people somewhere in the world right now with my music. You can't control how people will use your expression and your music, if they want to clean the house and listen to a new album, or they want to sit in a cave with candlelight listening to It. That's up to them. But I think it's the artist's responsibility to not destroy the concept. There are a lot of bands that I see that we are often mentioned together with and these bands are like this, and I'm like: ״No, we're not. We're totally different. They are the opposite of us. They have no clue. They want to be famous. They want to make money. They want to just play in front of large crowds and big festivals, and I want nothing of that.” And I get frustrated when people think that we all are all the same. It's like: “Oh, you're in a black metal band, let's be friends.” You know, it's: "Why? it doesn't make sense." 

But, this probably comes from the fact that black metal made such a profound impression on me when I discovered it and that it has never left me. I am still that 14-year-old kid when it comes to black metal. I have evolved on other aspects in life in terms of education, family, blah blah blah. But when it comes to black metal, I'm still that angry 14-year-old kid who wants to be in a cave with one candlelight and Bathory albums. 

That sounds like a wonderful bedroom, by the way. 


But that makes me think of two things. The first one is a joke. There's a comedian I love, Bill Hicks, who had this bit about hating people and that and then one time they tried to arrange a conference of people who hate people, and there’s a part where he says that it was a very short phone call because it went: “Hey, you want to do this?” and the other person says: “Fuck you!” and then he goes: “We got so close that time!” 


[Laughs] So, that kind of reminded me of what you just said. But, the other thing I'm interested in what you said is that, obviously, we all know that black metal didn't sprout fully formed from the ground right from  – actually, let's be specific, from the frozen Norwegian ground, right? As a genre it traveled, went through some changes, some of it came from heavy metal, some of it came from South American versions of early black metal, some of it is from Kiss. Actually, before doing these interviews I had never known how huge Kiss was in Norway, but apparently Kiss was huge in Norway. 

Yeah, yeah. 

So, a lot of these things kind of moved together and created for a moment, for a very brief moment, this thing that we call black metal. And then, I could argue, as these things go, it just changed again and became something else, right? And a lot of the foundational bands, I think maybe Darkthrone would be the one exception, but a lot of the foundational bands changed radically from that first moment. And some of them are very annoyed by the fact…. I interviewed Kris Rygg, for instance, or Vicotnik, and they’re not the same musicians they were at 19 or 16, they’re not kids anymore.

I know. 

"Am I not supposed to make music anymore? I'm not supposed to change?" So what would you say to that?

You know that's funny, because I've had this talk with some of my friends, like Fenriz, and you know, Bård, Faust, who plays drums with me. Because when they started, they were inspired by, like you said, the South American stuff, Kiss, everything. And they created this much darker version of all this. But then they quickly sort of abandoned it as well. But then came my generation – I'm two or three years younger than Bård – and I was inspired by their stuff, in ‘92 to ‘94, when everything was really harsh here in Norway, and that inspired me. So, my inspiration came from that, and it was so dark and sinister from my point of view. I think my perception of it was darker than it was for them, who were like in the middle of it. So I came along only two or three years behind them, but I think the main difference is that my inspiration didn't come from Kiss or Venom or stuff like that, the cartoonish stuff. It came from people who burn churches. And for some reason it just stuck with me and I totally respect what Kristoffer Rygg and Vicotnik, or others, say, that they’re not 16 anymore, and they have all done it in a very elegant way, especially those two. 

But then you have other people who haven't done it with the same grace, might I say. So I think I can totally relate to that, because, as I said, in other aspects in my life I have developed. But I think you can't take black metal with you into everything else you do in your life, because then you sort of water it out. So, that's why I decided…. I left the scene in ‘96, I totally left the black metal scene here in Norway, and I went to university and everything. But I always kept it with me. The way I see it is that I have this room that I call “black metal” that I enter when I create music. When I'm in that kind of mood. But when I'm not, I leave that room, I close the door behind me, and I don't bring anything in that room with me into my family life, my career or anything. Because from my point of view, I can't, because it’s not supposed to be a part of that side of me and that side of life. That’s how I sort of kept it sincere. But I can totally relate to what these guys are saying. But for me it's always been really important to….. I never had any desire to develop it. I just want to keep it, I want to preserve it, If you know what I mean, to keep it like it was. 

So, I think the main difference is that my meeting with it was totally different from Kiss, and, Iron Maiden, and Venom, and Sarcofago. And you know, Gylve [Fenriz], he said he had some really dark years, but then he sort of came out of it when he went back to his roots, so to speak. But, my roots are what these guys first did, so I think maybe that's why I became so much more obsessed with it than they were. 

I have more to ask about that, but actually I find this is a good time to kind of veer slightly toward the album, Blant Svarte Graner, because… Alright, so I'm going to go full fanboy for five seconds and return to being a very serious person, right? 

OK, go. 

[Laughs] I do not believe there is a bad Djevel song. I don't believe it. I think the discography is flawless from the first song to the most recent, it's just all great, so that's a statement. 


Having said that 


That album sticks out to me. 


And one of the things I think that was surprising to me about it was how much it felt more dynamic, I liked the clean-singing stuff coming in, it felt like the folky stuff was more pronounced and much more upfront. And it felt like it was an album that showed me – and maybe to you, we’ll see – that Djevel’s, the music you write, can still be beautiful even if it's not just harsh all the time. And so. I mean, do you, would you agree that you kind of approached that album differently, that something happened there that wasn't necessarily what was there before? 

Yes, I think so. First of all, it was my first, and so far only concept album, with a unified theme, at least in terms of lyrics, except maybe from these new ones that are a part of this trilogy. I can see that I think the whole songwriting took a different direction in that they became more “songs,” not just riffs, so to speak, and they fit more together I think. And then the acoustic guitars became a bigger part of it, and I think it’s less aggressive. For me, black metal has always been about feeling and atmosphere, and I think that was captured better on this album than it was on the previous four albums. The singer I have now, he said that for him it was like the perfect mix of early Ulver and Satyricon and those kinds of albums put into one album, and I can sort of agree with that. Maybe it manifests more of my sources of inspiration, in terms of albums. 

Early Ulver and Satyricon? Is that what you meant by inspiration?

When it comes to pure musical inspirations, yeah, and it's that I think maybe this album shows more of it. Maybe you can say I slowed down a bit, I focused more on the atmosphere again – which was present also on some of the other albums, but they were still…. And of course there was a change of drummer and singer. It came from a very chaotic period in the band. Let’s just say 2017 was not a good year. We of course released an album and everything, but two of the guys had to leave the band and it was maybe our most disruptive year. So this album kind of came from the ashes of that, a turning point also actually in my personal life, at that time. I didn't decide then how I'm going to write songs that are more like this and that and more folky, more acoustic guitar, I just did it and that's what I still do. I never plan anything when I write albums, I just write them and so I can agree with a lot of the stuff you said. 

I have to say,  when I listen to the albums that came before, which, again, are all great, but it's kind of one of those albums that feels composed. 


I know there's something of a misnomer there, because obviously everything else was composed too. But it feels more explicitly composed and it feels like it was all thought out in advance. I know you just said you didn't plan it, but it feels very organic. And one of the things that I find interesting about that is that, there obviously is that tradition of acoustic, folky interludes, or even whole albums in some cases, in black metal that many people still consider to be black metal. But I'm not sure that in 2018  that was the standard for black metal.

Oh, not at all. 

So in one way it's a traditional choice, but at the time it's a very unpopular way of making that kind of black metal. So, were you aware of that? Were you conscious of that? That this is something that's going against the grain? 

[Laughs] No, just because I don't care or pay attention to anything else other than what I want to do.

But, now, when you look back, you realize that that’s not an unusual choice. 

If that is an unusual choice? 

Yeah, you do recognize that. You know the standard… 

Yeah, yeah. 

…for very boring black metal in 2018 is not that, necessarily.

No, obviously not. And I agree with all the things you said. It was composed…. Faust says that was the time when I started creating songs in a whole different way, a different aspect of it. And I think you can go back to the idea of a sincere approach again here because…. When I write music I like to write songs that I want to listen to myself. Not that I do listen to them a lot myself, but it has to be something like that. It has to be something that I miss maybe in other albums. Because, why would I create an album just like another band that released an album two months before this one and it sounds exactly the same? So, I've never been inspired by anything specific in bands or anything. My inspiration mainly comes from what I feel when I hear the riffs I create. 

I mean, if I brought someone else into this room to listen to this conversation, then he would say: “Well, that sounds like a very narrow version of what black metal could be, because black and metal can be only one thing.” But on the other hand it seems like you're saying that no, that's not the case. 

That's true. 

Black metal is very flexible, and you can express a lot of different emotions in it, but it's just that the building blocks can only be of black metal. Is that kind of way how you would say it. 

Yes, yes, that's what I would say. I wouldn't stretch the flexibility part too much, but I would say I can agree that when it comes to black metal, I'm narrow minded, but as long as you can hear that it's done for the right reasons, and there's a will behind it, It can be a lot of different things. It can be, as you say, an acoustic song. It can be extremely aggressive. And I think maybe this album has both of those, the acoustic parts and then  you have the last track, which is basically two riffs going for 10 minutes. So, it can be a lot of different stuff, but, but it can't just be all the correct ingredients put into a mix and just thrown out on a CD, as I think a lot of bands do. But, that's correct: I'm very narrow minded when it comes to black metal, and I'm very open minded when it comes to life in general.

Do you think those are related? 

I think one sort of makes room and uh lets the other breathe. If I was just a narrow-minded black metal person I wouldn't have a really good life. And the other way around. I need contrasts in life, I need black metal in order to be that guy I am when I'm not black metal, the first makes the other one stronger. I don't write my songs when I'm around my family with my kids and stuff. I put it away and I go to my cabin in the mountain and then I do all this stuff, and I put it away again. That's how I operate.

You know, it's interesting because one of the things I had in mind when I considered talking to you was this idea of “tradition.” That concept is something that I think about a lot. My way into this is the literary tradition. What is a tradition? Do you have to read all the books in order to be part of that tradition? Not necessarily, but, the idea goes, even if you’re not aware of it, you are participating in the tradition of people who do certain things – we will call them “art” – in order to somehow protect themselves to express themselves. And whether or not they know it, as some of these theories of tradition go, they're in a tradition. There's no ability to be outside of the tradition, because you're always in that tradition, somehow, and it's somehow better to be aware of it and to converse with it than ignore it and try to do something that is completely new. Obviously this discussion of tradition has many sides, and there is that line of writers and thinkers and philosophers and musicians who say what you basically just said, that art is not a part of life in a simple way. Life may inform art and be informed by it,  but making art isn’t a part of life in the same way that going to the supermarket is. 


It's not, you know, waking up your kids and then getting annoyed that they're going to be late to school. It's a different part of life that is very, very important – either more or less important than the rest –  and it has its function and should be separate from life. One of the major voices in this tradition on tradition is a poet called T. S. Eliot, who's pretty famous, and he has this book called The Sacred Wood. And the Sacred Wood is this idea that you can do whatever you want in your life, but when you go in there, you go in there just to make art. Nothing else. The outside world can't encroach. And you called it watering down, right? The outside world can't encroach on the art because it makes it bad art. 


Within those bounds, I feel very comfortable talking to you about our and talking about how it operates within that. There's also some very sterile ideas of what tradition is, both sterile and the complete rejection of tradition – I think that's sterile because that's not interesting to me – but also sterile and being a bit too explicit about what that tradition means. Meaning that all I have to do is listen to the first two Immortal albums and I know how to make black metal. I will just emulate that feel, emulate that atmosphere, emulate the clothes, and I'm good. And to me, this is just to me. 

So, there’s also this oversimplified version of tradition, according to which all you need to do is copy stuff that came before you and somehow protect it with a lot of zeal. I'm always very wary of that tradition, and I'm inserting myself here, this is about me, not about not about you, this is not assuming anything about you. But I'm wary of it also because it's aesthetically boring. Which I guess is why in the 50 odd interviews I have done for this series you won’t find a lot of bands that would be considered "traditional black metal." And that says a lot about me, it says I don't listen to that as much, because I usually find it very boring. But I'm also wary because we live in a world where people take tradition very seriously in their real lives, and I, being the person I am, having the background I have, I'm uncomfortable with that, right? I guess my take of what you’re saying is that you're talking about a tradition that is a tradition of almost sacred work, a ritual doing something that for yourself to be that person, that you can then be a dad or a person out in public, or whatever. But, would that be accurate? Does it make sense to you?

Yeah, absolutely. I think it makes a lot of sense. Because, if you copy a tradition just by listening to something or looking at something, and say to yourself: “Oh, he did it like this and that and if I do the same, it's the same tradition” – it's like: It’s not. Because it won’t last, it will be too thin, and you will probably lose interest in it yourself, because you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And it will also make you more susceptible to other people's ideas of what you do. Because it won’t have the same ground to it and it will be easier for people to inflict their views upon you, upon your art. David Bowie said that the biggest mistake any artist can make is to start caring about what other people think. If 10,000 people say “That’s not a good album, but when you made it, you thought it was really good, but then in hindsight someone else will say: “No, it wasn't.” And maybe even they’re right, but that shouldn't matter, because then you will have other people, other forces, inflicted upon you that will sort of over time become a part of you. So it really didn't come from you. I'm not sure if I'm making sense anymore.

I think I think you are. 

Yeah, and that has always been my approach and why this is so important to me and why I don't care about what other people think about it. When I make the albums, I make the albums, and I give it to the others, and I say: “This is the new album.” I don't ask them: “Do you think it's good? Do you like that riff? If they don't like it, I expect them to leave. 

I think it's relevant to this conversation about this specific album because obviously all the stuff we mentioned before that was different about this album could also be the kind of things that people would say: “Hey, that's not that's not ruthless enough. That's not cold enough.” 

Yeah. It's a warm album, almost. The production of the album is kind of warm. It’s a cozy album.

[Laughs] Yeah, as black metal goes.

Yeah, exactly. And I think that's why many people who came from my background and that same period, they always tell me that it's like traveling back in time. So, yeah, I get what you mean. But for me, time has been standing still in that regard, so I don't know any other way to do it. I wouldn't know how to make a “fast and furious,” violent album. I could probably do it….

There's a lot to be said about this and we don't have enough time unfortunately, because I could say that there’s a bit of a conflict here, right? On one hand, the concept of what you think is black metal is internal, so you just make the music you think you need to make and fuck anyone else, right? 

Yeah, yeah. 

On the other hand, you have a very clear idea of what. other people are doing wrong with their black metal and. 

Yeah, I think that goes hand in hand. I consider it my right to feel what I want to feel about what other people do with something that means so much to me. And if I feel they are coming off as doing the same thing as I am,  and I don't feel that, I don't feel they are sincere about what they're doing ,then I feel it's my right to let them know that. It's also Important for me to sort of defend what I feel back metal is, and I will probably always do that. And that was also very normal back in the day, people did that. But now people have grown up and become so much nicer to each other. And I'm also a nice person, but I speak my mind about this kind of stuff because I feel it's an invasion of my space, sort to say, when a band portrays itself as something I feel they are not, and people can feel this about my music as well, but I don't care, and so they shouldn't care either. But they do. But that's their problem. 

I don't know if you've noticed, but you it's almost like the frequency of the conversation changed when you use “sincerity” instead of “purity”

Yeah, yeah.

Because “purity” feels kind of gross, to me. 

Yeah, it was a bad choice of words, I agree. 

No, I didn’t mean that as an indictment of you. I think it's a but I think it's very important to be aware of the difference, because some people do use that other word very seriously, which is uncomfortable, for me, at least, given the political ramifications for that word. So I think if you insist on a kind of means of expression, and if you also insist on the kind of expression that shows you to be a person who is imperfect and that that is a kind of sincerity, then that's fine. 

Yeah, yeah.

That’s what art is. People listen to Bruce Springsteen because they think he's sincere. So, I want to ask you one tiny question before the last question. The tiny question has to do with the acoustic parts, and whether or not. To me they feel kind of almost medievally, does that medieval feel or folky feel come just because it's inspired by black metal albums that have taken that inspiration already into themselves, or is that the kind of music that you find interesting regardless? This spacey, warm, almost spiritual type of music?

Yeah, I would say both. I have always been a huge fan of the acoustic track on the Ulver demo, and the way Haavard played the acoustic guitars, and always liked that a lot. But it also has a lot to do with, especially on this album, when you think about the concept of the album and what period of time it's supposed to transcend to, It's also an expression of that period of that, those days like 500 years ago, of the whole experience. As I said, when I create music, I instantly feel if this melody or riff has an atmosphere or feeling that is correct, in terms of how I want to experience it myself.

But I also listen a lot to classical music and I have always done that. So, when I started teaching myself to play guitar, I listened to a lot of classical music and I just picked…. I can't read music, I don't know notes or anything, I hardly know the name of the strings on the guitar – true fact –  and it's always been about just listening and improvising. I improvise probably 30 or 40 percent of the album when I record it. The lead guitars and the pianos and synthesizers, it's almost all done on the spot when it's recorded, to capture the intensity and the feeling of it. I don't like things to be planned out too much. It has to happen, it can't be planned out. Some of the songs are written in 10 minutes, some are written in two hours and some are written in one week. But, to go back to the question, I would say a bit of both. 

Yeah, I was just about to say that that sounds like one way of maintaining sincerity in improvisation, right? Staying in the moment. 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. A lot of things on the album just became because it happened. It was not supposed to be like that, that someone, even I, maybe made a mistake, if you can say that, but it turned out perfect. The atmosphere became better, and I think it was supposed to be like that. So we'll keep it. On this new album [Naa skrider natten sort], when I recorded that one, I woke up really early, before my producer, and I just went into the studio and found the piano and I just started to play, and recorded stuff, and 30 minutes later it was on the album. It was just kept like that. I was just looking out the window at the sea and the view and I was so inspired by that feeling that something just came to me, and then it was done, you know? And then I threw away what I did the day before. 

Great. OK, last question ,and this is a question that I always end with, which is: Obviously the album wasn't recorded a million years ago, but still a lot of a lot of stuff has happened since a lot of water under the bridge, and I was wondering if there was something about that specific album that when you think of makes you especially happy or proud that you did? It could be a section in a song, a song, the artwork, the whole album, production, whatever, but something that you really look back on and you're happy you did. 

Yeah, I think it was probably the first I was happy with everything. All the other albums had something I would maybe change, but I always felt like that's how it happened then and there. So I never regretted anything, or I never wished or wanted to change anything, and I would never do anything about it. But this was maybe the first time I felt that everything, from the artwork to production lyrics, everything was: “This is good. This is something I can relate to at a later point in my life and look back on and feel like everything sort of fell more into place.” I have never strived for perfection, I just strive for the right feeling and atmosphere. But I think this was maybe the first step into what…. For me there was a shift in the band before this album and after this album. Absolutely no, questions asked. I think like the last song, the long one, “Banker Som Doedningeknoker,” I think that it has all the ingredients for what I feel is a good black metal song: brutality, but also the beauty with the acoustic parts. It's one of the stronger tracks from that album, and I think it sort of summarizes black metal for me, in a good way. For me it’s good black metal, because it also shows the beautiful side of it, with the melodies and the acoustic guitars and everything. It shows that it doesn't have to be blast beats all the time. It doesn't have to be brutal and everything, it can be nice. I think that's it. 

The skin and the hair. 

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's skin and hair. I think. That's a good way to put it. 

See how we come full circle here. 

Yeah, we did. 

Very, very professional endeavor. I'm just kidding. I just. I have no idea what I’m doing 

[Laughs] No, no. 

I really enjoyed talking to you, and…

Uh, you know what? I did too. This is probably the most interesting conversation I've had, and honestly, I don't do many interviews anymore because they only drain me. Because people just ask: “What was the first black metal album you listened to? What do you think of the new Darkthrone album? What do you think of this? What do you think of that?” This is one of the interviews that…. You know, when I play a concert, have to get something out of it. There has to be something in it for me in order to do it. So, there was this really big festival in Norway that called me and wanted us to play like in the summertime, and they were paying ridiculous amounts of money, at least from my point of view, and I was like: “Sorry, but there's nothing in it, there's nothing in it for me. I respect your offer and everything, but: No, thank you.” And I have the same feeling with interviews. So, I told my label that I mostly don't do interviews anymore. But this was really good. I really appreciated it. Good questions and good conversation. 

I appreciate that. And I feel exactly the same. I don't do things that I don't get anything out of them. Obviously these interviews are very beneficial to me, and this one's obviously included. And just to kind of give a counterexample to your festival example: There was a point where I was like: “Yeah, no one's reading my interviews and it kind of sucks,” so I thought I might need to get an interview with a band that’s a “name, that way people will come and read my thing. 


And so I had the “name interview” and it was such a horrible experience. That I will never do that again, because not only did it not give me anything, I'm pretty sure it took something from me.  

Yeah, it probably did. 

Yeah. So, I've learned my lesson. 

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Anyway, thank you very much for your time.