Interview - Fenriz of Darkthrone

Sometimes in the annals of music history, there is a band with a long history of doing things their own way and defying all manner of convention. One of the bands in heavy metal that exemplifies that very ideal is Darkthrone, fresh off the release of their latest effort, "Circle the Wagons." I managed to steal a few minutes of Fenriz's time, and wanted to see what gives him the drive to go on. Read below to see his thoughts on his own band, metal as a genre, and naturally, cinema of all types, including horror. Enjoy!
"Circle the Wagons" appears to have a heavy punk influence. Was there a certain sound you wished to capture, or elements you wants to incorporate into the recording of the album?
Not as punky as the two albums before, this one has a lot more heavy metal a la 1979-1985! And my songs are most often fast heavy metal (SPEED METAL) inspired from those times...but naturally as I am metals answer to John McEnroe, when I sing those angry lyrics it's bound to sound "punky". And I've listened to ALL kinds of punk on a very regular basis since 1986. So Bob's your uncle. And I guess we don't wish or plan like you insinuate here, we're all natural, we record song by song (meet up and record every time we each have a song ready) and never talk about musical direction, we just make what we currently need to make. Follow our hearts, it's total freedom as usual in the Darkthrone camp.
The punk influenced sound is a stark departure from where Darkthrone's career began musically. What drives the continuing arc of your sound's evolution?
On the contrary, we have never sounded closer to our 1988 recording "SNOWFALL", and that was a chapter I've always wanted to return to, also being one of Ted's fave Darkthrone songs. If we'd had our own studio back then, things might have looked different. But the 20 year detour did us good, we got a lot of experience and can now just enjoy our slow road back to sounding like Saxon in 1980
"Circle the Wagons" really captures the feel of old Western movies and themes. How did that come to be?
Haha, MUSICALLY?! That's fantastic if you think so, but it might just be the title and the cover that leads your train of thought there.
Darkthrone purposefully stays out of the limelight of mainstream music...what drives that decision?
Well, seeing as I'm interviewed 90-100 times EACH year, I don't get the feeling I'm EVER out of the limelight. But I do turn down most offers, be it films or public appearances (although I am a "public person" in Norway, many of the metal celebs here are,)… as one often gains (in the LONG run) on portioning out oneself cleverly instead of forcing yourself down others’ throats
What is it about Darkthrone that separates you from other bands in the genre?
That we aren't really in a genre. We represent metal punk now, the vaguest genre in the universe but also the only genre that doesn't allow POLISHED/PLASTIC production. But we might be a bit too metal for the metal punk scene. We don't really fit, especially with the clear vocals I've started to incorporate in true 79-85 speed metal/power fashion. We are also one of the few high profile acts that still have raw organic sound. One of the biggest underground bands, if you may. Also, we're on our 4th decade! woo hoo!!!

How do you feel about "Circle the Wagons" relative to your other albums? Is there any part of it you would do again if you could?
Haha, we already started to work on our next. I don't think much of the context other than what I already mentioned, it being another step closer to the 79-85 sound than before. It's the first album (almost) without double bass drums, and the one with most clear vocals so far.
What do you hope fans take away from the album? What should they be listening for that they might not expect?
I think maybe no one can be fans of it before they've heard it sometimes. As nothing really sounds like it (it's not TYPICAL anything,) it hasn't "already got fans." Like a dark funeral album would have, haha. I think if you are a real underground metal soldier, it's very hard NOT to like it, as most honest underground maniacs like ourselves often have the same tastes and this all reflects in our music and riffs. We're of course talking 80s here, with a dash of 70s. And this is my metal circle, my crew, my scene, my land in the world of metal.
What other musicians impress you right now? Is there anyone that you're dying to work with?
I never wanted to work with anyone, I am born without the "FAN-GENE.” Completely. If one can't do it oneself, it's not for me. If some crisis should emerge I would be glad to play with Apollyon from AURA NOIR. Everyone can see on our Myspace, home of the mighty BAND OF THE WEEK blog, who impressed me the last 1.5 years. Hottest band right now is GHOST (Sweden), just released a single on Iron Bonehead, I think, and they are working for an album due out on Rise Above records.
I've heard you're a fan of old cinema...have movies ever influenced your music? What movies/directors/themes/eras do you particularly enjoy?
I was never a fan of music producers. And I never paid much attention to who directs a movie either. I don't think I have seen many more movies than the common man, maybe one a day. I like a good story or a good portrayal of the human condition, like discovering something new and beautiful very far away from CNN. Like last year I discovered “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and this year I discovered “Wendy and Lucy.” I go to the cinemateque alone 97% of the time, and it is alone that these discoveries are in its full effect. Although I have seen one of my fave movies with others many a time (“Paris, Texas”.) I guess the most commercially known dudes I like are the Coen brothers. And Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” is a masterpiece.
Have you ever drawn inspiration from horror films, old or new? "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" or "Nosferatu" jump to mind...What horror sparks your creativity?
For movies that have influenced Darkthrone, I am certain the very old “Nosferatu”/Dracula movies inspired parts of the atmosphere of Transilvanian Hunger. Also the old Swedish movie “Äpplekriget” inspired the beginning of the final song on “Circle The Wagons.” But we never used a sample from a movie or anything, that's not our job, as so many others do that. But I think in Ted and I's life, the most important things are humour and music and wildlife/outdoors life, so the most important movies for us together, that sort of follows us like a red thread through life would be “Bad News” (Britain’s answer to “Spinal Tap” only way cooler,) “Bad Taste” (discovered it on a Finland tour in 91!) and the “Black Adder” series. “Evil Dead” is certainly one of the most important movies in the background of MY metal scene (80s tapetrader maniacs that are still around,) but I would have to go for the “Omen” movies as a favorite driving force. If I want gore I listen to the first Necrophagia album or go take a dump, haha.
Your cover art, especially with "Circle the Wagons" is intricate and thoughtfully designed. How does that process work? What do you give the artist to go on?
We grant him almost full freedom, we are not control freaks AT ALL. On the contrary we let coincidences rule and let mistakes be all the time, man. We just wanted a totem this time and the MORNE logo on there. Thank you Dennis!!!
Where do you see the future of the metal genre going, for better or worse? How long will Darkthrone be a part of it?
Well, the new ENFORCER album leads the way back to the glory of 79-85, the production being just the way it was back then and the songwriting too ("Walk With Me" is now one of my favorite all time HM songs. Gives me goose bumps EVERY TIME.) And this is just my point - everyone can CHOOSE which way to go! It's free choice! I PITY THE FOOLS!!! Every day you make hundreds of choices. NO, DON'T PUT ON THAT WEAK-ASS MODERN METAL ALBUM! Ask someone who's been around what to check out instead, take advice, find the RAW ESSENCE of rock’n’roll/prog/punk and THERE is your metal. Alternatively, put on “Abominations of Desolation” (Morbid Angel) and just LISTEN. Darkthrone never had long term plans, but we've played now since 1987.

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