Interviews > Satyricon
Interview by Athena Schaffer

Satyricon transport us back to one of the darkest moments in humanity’s history to remind us that the history forgotten is doomed to be repeated. They take us to the waning Roman Empire – or more precisely, to the Age of Nero. As a long-time Satyricon fan, The Crowgrrl has got to say this is the band’s most powerful, most chilling Black Metal masterpiece to date!

Check out the first video from the album, the compelling "Black Crow On A Tombstone"!

Hailing from Norway, Satyricon is simply frontman Satyr (who does most of the instrumentations himself although when touring surrounds himself with a full live band), and percussionist Frost.

When this excellent album was first released in early 2009, Satyr stated, "Everything that we do in Satyricon is built around the music itself. That means that our artwork and visuals are chosen or created to function well with the music - either to emphasize elements in the music or to contribute to a sense of totality. The layout for The Age of Nero is truly a fine piece of art; everything from the pictures chosen to the fonts and colors of the letters are carefully picked in order to feel right for this album and its general atmosphere. The album title has multiple references to subjects that on some level pertain to the album itself; 'Nero' is a metaphor for darkness but also for destructive elements in mankind that threaten to bring down an empire. The 'age of Nero' refers to Satyricon as that famous piece of literature depicts scenes from Nero's Rome, but it also refers to our own time and the threat of downfall that is again mirrored in the apocalyptic feel of our music. It all neatly comes together."

The Crowgrrl caught up with Frost – who had to sit out a few US tours – when they embarked on their headlining tour here last Fall.

I’m glad you’re back in the U.S.!

Same here!

I saw you with Cradle of Filth in Baltimore at Ram’s Head Live a few months back.

Yeah! And we’ve just done our own headlining show there the very first night of this tour.

Yeah, I know, but I had previous commitments and couldn’t be there, unfortunately. How did it go?

That first one was obviously marked as the first one on the tour, and we were having a new crew so there were the usual technical difficulties of such shows, but it was powerful because the crowd was so extremely into it. It’s that kind of crowd that gives everything from the crowd which makes the band give everything they’ve got, too! So all and all, it’s an experience that’s just special!

You definitely whetted our appetites last March! There was so much power, so much intense energy coming from that stage! Phenomenal show!

Thank you! Yeah, we were trying to be even more now. I definitely think we are, actually. The band is better and more on the edge than ever!

Oh, yeah! And the new album is phenomenal, too! Did you have any input in the songwriting?

No, that’s really not how it works in this band. As a band, we are so lucky to have the best composer in the whole Extreme Metal scene per say. That’s my honest view! And I think having that talent, you have to apply it for what it’s worth, and I see it as my task to help fulfill Satyr’s compositions, his ideas, and his visions for what he wants each song and each album to become. He’s both very detail oriented and looks a lot into the totality – he has the wholeness in the back of his mind the whole time even when he’s focusing on the details. Therefore, I don’t really want to try to alter his compositions or try to interfere too much. I try to strengthen what I feel is already there – put my touch to it and give it my energy.

"Black Crow On A Tombstone" has to be my favorite song on the album. I love crows anyway. But the song sounded like a warning – how did it fit into the story of Nero?

I think that the idea for that particular song and for the lyrics are kind-of special. Somewhere in the middle of the process of writing the album, Satyr was at Snorre’s [Ruch] place. You know Snorre from Thorns?! They were working together. Snorre has this home studio, and he’s pretty good at programming drum beats and all that sort of thing. Snorre is an affiliated person in this process. He was working with Satyr on several occasions on this album.

On this particular night, the two of them had been working together, they had a really, really long, hard day. They had been working most of the night, too. Between all the late hours, they had some red wine. Satyr found himself in the morning having this condition of almost a coma from having worked for some 20 hours, really emptying his mind and being totally devoid of any more resources. He was starting to cry in the dark inside.

There was this cemetery just by the house. As he was standing in the kitchen on this morning, he could see a crow sitting on one of those tombstones. He got this feeling that it was really staring at him – that the crow could see him. That it was watching him. The bird really wasn’t. But to Satyr anyway, it was a very real experience. The crow just sat there and continued staring as Satyr was walking back and forth at the window, the crow was following him with its gaze. It kind-of induced this very strong emotional current, which gave birth to the lyrics.

But that’s also total Satyr and this process that he was so much in the middle of – how demanding it was and how much darkness there was. But there was also something very strong there. There was strength, and it was menacing, too. That menacing feeling is mirrored both in the music itself and in the lyrics of the song.

And I think that it was just this way that the happening interfered with what was going on in his mind and how he was totally consumed with this crazy process. That’s probably where the magick arose.

I think that it tells quite a lot about carrying those mindsets when you dedicate yourself the path that it takes to create your ultimate album so far, which is really how we see The Age Of Nero.

I have to agree! This is an excellent album! Were there any fun behind-the-scenes stories behind the video shoot for "Black Crow On A Tombstone"?

Not really. We had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted to do, and just got to it – worked hard in order to make the scenes as good as possible. Parts of it were filmed in some old cave systems about an hour outside Oslo, I suppose. The others were filmed with the band in a studio location in Oslo. We just gave of ourselves to make the imagery really come true, and to make the energy really a present factor in the video. I don’t remember anything particularly funny happening, or any accidents or that sort of thing.

Are you going to be filming a video for any of the other songs on the album?

We might do a video for "The Wolfpack".

Oooh! Awesome!

The idea has come because we get such a fantastic response from the audience each time we play that song. Therefore we felt that it would be a good idea to perhaps make a video for it. We’re also releasing it as a radio single. Accompanying that single release with a video would also make sense.

But we’ll wait and see. We’re on this tour right now, and that’s where our focus is at the moment. We’ll see what will happen when we’re back in Norway in November.

Awesome! That’s one of the best songs on there! It’s Feral; Predatory!

Yeah, I think the same, actually, so I’m happy to hear you say that. I think it’s the kind of song that comes through even stronger in a live setting because the audience really takes part in the chanting. When we add the live energy to it, it just becomes so Alive, so Living it’s like an organic thing. It’s having a Beast becoming alive when we play that song and everything really works.

Yeah, I love that song! "Commando" and "The Sign Of The Trident" are other favorites.

Those are songs that others mention as well. "Commando" is one of those songs that would never have fitted on another album, not with that vocal. It needed an album like The Age Of Nero which is an album more like a wild beast more than a tamed animal. That’s really how I see these two latest works. Now the vocal is like this guardian hook holding everything. It’s very controlled, slick, and strict in a way. It’s still strong and powerful, but it’s held back. But we let loose the reins a little for The Age Of Nero, and had to find room for a song like "Commando" where the aggression is much more evident.

Also "The Sign Of The Trident" is another song which has a lot of size to it. Structure-wise it’s another song that updated our album with that new vocal. I think those two songs are very typical for the size-ier style, the more muscular style that we have on The Age of Nero.

"Sign of the Trident" is a special song for us because it’s a song about Satyricon. It really tries to captivate the spirit that bonds basically everything that we’ve got, the essential energy. I think that we succeeded that task. Every time that we perform the song live, it’s almost like a ceremonial event for us.

Awesome! Do you have a personal favorite song on the album?

It changes. But for some time now I guess it has been "Die By My Hand". I think that the contrast between the first two-thirds and that last third gives incredible strength to the song. It’s that kind of dynamics that I like a lot. The first two thirds are extremely driven and pure; it’s very tense. The last third is freezingly cold! It just gives me a feeling of primal Norwegian Black Metal – it’s almost the essence of how it is. It has those icy cold guitar themes and also that blood-freezing guitar sound – the way the chords shift and everything. It’s Norwegian Black Metal in a nutshell, that song!

I think that adding that to the extremely aggressive first part of the song makes it more dynamically interesting, and also gives it a very fine totality. It gives it a lot of size and makes it into a huge experience. It’s like a musical journey more than just a good song.

Yes! I have to agree with you there.

It’s extremely rewarding to play that song live, too!

Which new songs are in your set list? And are you doing your earlier material, too?

All the songs from The Age Of Nero are part of our song pool that we play songs from. Sometimes we play 4, other times 5 songs. We actually change the setlist every night. Of course we cover the backlist stuff as well.

OK. Are you filming any of the shows for a possible DVD or anything?

Not on this tour. There will be a European tour, and it’s possible that we’re going to film one of the shows on that tour. But it might happen on this tour as well if we see the opportunity to film any shows, we might just go ahead and do it – if we think it’s such a quality that we’d like to release it. As of now it’s more like something that we’re hoping to do but we haven’t made any definite plans of doing it on this tour. We discussed this earlier and made this loose plan of filming at least one of the shows from the Age of Nero tour cycle and see if we can release it on DVD.

Yeah, definitely! I thought you guys were taking a break in November.

We are actually taking the break after the end of the year. We’re going to tour until Christmas or so. 2010 is going to be the year where we go back to the cave of creativity again and start working on a new album which will hopefully find release in 2011.

Cool! Have you guys already started writing material for it yet?

Well, we do have material which is basically material that was written for previous albums. Whether we’re going to use it or not, I don’t know. Usually we just discard our old material whenever we start a new chapter in the Satyricon book because we feel that it’s better to start with a new and fresh mindset, and with nothing that really carries the old spirit. We want to invoke a totally new spirit and new atmosphere with each new album.

It can be destroying that process to bring old material into the new process. Even if you like the material, it probably wouldn’t fit the new direction that we want. So probably we will discard anything we might have and start anew.

What we have now is more like a strategy more than a bank of material. It’s an interesting one, but one that we don’t want to reveal at this moment.

OK?! So you want to keep us guessing at this point.

If you start to tell too much about what you want to achieve at an early stage in the process, then people are starting to get ideas of how it’s going to be. If their expectations aren’t fulfilled, they’re going to be disappointed even if the end result is good. So at this point it’s better not to do that.

I can tell you that it’s a strategy at this point for Satyricon, and it’s one that fills us with motivation and drive. I strongly look forward to starting the process and see where we end up. I feel that the chemistry between Satyr and me has gotten way better over the later couple of years. We’re more intuitive together and we have developed better communication as well as becoming better musically and technically.

Therefore I think that the rehearsals and the jam sessions that we have carry much more fruit these days than they used to do some years ago. It’s more fun going to a jam session when you know that interesting things are going to happen no matter what. We can have confidence in ourselves that there’s going to be something good and something constructive coming out of it because we feel that as soon as we are gathered to rehearse or jam, good things just happen instantaneously.

Very cool! There’s an inscription on the inside of the album that says, “When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.” Very profound!

Yeah, there is a sense of it being profound, but it also is quite direct. It’s easy for everybody to relate to, I think. So you can see it in a profound sense or you can also just take it for what it is and it’s just as applicable or valuable.

OK. Any stories behind the cover art?

We had quite a different idea to begin with. We did some tests, and it turned out to not really work as well. So we decided to go for a different approach. We needed something that kind-of expressed the energies and inherent qualities of the album. I think that Satyr and our graphic designer spent several hours just looking into the kind of motive that we wanted. He knew that there should be an eagle, but it didn’t have the right kind of emanation that it needed to have – the feel of lifting off. It needed to have a sense of power in its movements.

After all these hours, they found this very fitting motive. It’s an eagle that has a lot of energy, it has darkness, and it’s quite menacing feeling to it as well. It felt really correct for The Age Of Nero.

Of course there was a lot of work to enhance or embolden it from the back.

Right! What type of merch are you bringing this time around?

Really nothing but the usual set of items. Anything in particular you’re looking for?

No, I just love to shop the merch tables!

Ah, so you combine your musical interests with your shopping. That sounds great!

You have a tour diary on your Twitter page?

That’s right.

Do you guys do that yourselves?

Yeah, it’s us.

Very cool! Are you also hands-on with your Myspace and website?

Yeah, to a certain extent. We look into them quite regularly.

What are you doing in your “down time” on this tour?

We try to stay healthy and balance all of our activities. We’re working out a little and eating well and all that. It takes a lot to do a good performance, and that’s really how we’re focused. So whatever we can do in order to enhance the feeling of those 1 ½ hours that we’re onstage, we will do that.

That can be hard to do on the road, especially finding healthy food!

Yeah. I know a little about it, and it’s something we’ve been paying quite a lot of attention to today. We have discipline and we make it happen.

Awesome! Is there anything I didn’t ask that you want to tell fans about the album, the tour, or anything coming up?

I just hope to see as many of our fans as possible, and I want to have some fine, strong, memorable moments with our fans while we’re here on tour. We had a fine round when we were here last January and February, and we want to have that again being the headliner band with the possibilities that it gives us to have an even more varied and more dynamic set. To be here and have some strong moments with our American fans is the best thing that can happen that we can experience.

I know that your focus right now is on Satyricon, but is there anything going on with your 1349?

Things are going to start happening next year. There will be a new album out after the first of 2010.