Backstage

# This interview is originally from the Swedish rock magazine Backstage's last issue from 96. Even though many of the stories herein aren't new I still hope that every fan, both old and new, will enjoy reading it. It was written in Swedish but I took the time translating it to make sure it could be read all over the world. Well... here it is.

(The translating was done while listening to Blood Fire Death, Twilight of the Gods, UTSOTBM, The Return and Blood on Ice. To get maximum delights out of this interview please listen to Bathory.)

#Originally done by Lennart Larsson. Translated by Andreas Pelli [wulfpeter@geocities.com]

If you have corrections on my helpless English, contact me.


The legend lives on...

As I today look back upon my thirteen years as amateur reporter, it's not without a certain amount of pride I can claim myself to be one of the first to notice really brutal metal. I actually think I was the first in Sweden to write about bands like Slayer and Exciter.

I was already in an early stage into Bathory, our Swedish precursors within the brutal metal scene.

Bought the V/A LP "Scandinavian Metal Attack" when it was released 1984. Ever since, I've followed their whereabouts with interest. Quorthon is a true hero!

Should almost believe that I am the Swede who has interviewed him most. Did the first int. as early as in 86, then for various Swedish and foreign hard rock bibles, a year after that we first had talked. Now, when Bathory releases the theme-album "Blood on Ice", is there nothing I can think of, that could be more appropriate than ending my career with another int. with one of the metalworld's most fascinating musicians.

All of our earlier chats had been via telephone, but his time I want to meet him in person. In true glamorous hard rock spirit do I then take the bus the approx. 400-km to the royal capital, where Quorthon greets me at the City terminal. Something that makes me recall a familiar jungle-speech. We succeed after ca. 45 minutes of walk (no limo here) stalk to a café that can be suitable for a nice little talk. Four hours, a few cups of coffee, soda water and pies later, with a pair of C-90 cassettes in my pocket, are we finished with Bathory's history. The result: The longest interview ever in Backstage, and for certain one of the longest ever made about the band. I hope you can make through it!

Re-used theme album

Since we have written about Bathory many times before, I'll try not to repeat too much of the things faithful readers already know. Instead, prepare yourself for one and another exclusive exposure.

We begin from the end, of course, with the new album "Blood on Ice". An album which was mainly recorded in 1988 and 1989. The recordings were never finished though, i.e. until now.

If we ever would leave that album behind, we also could try to make something decent of it. Was surprised myself that the songs were as good as they were when we listened to the original tapes, Quorthon explains.

With the technology of today, you can change the sound on everything, i.e. on a pair of toms or on a snare drum, which did it fun to work with the original material. We used the old drums as signals, but changed the sound on them via computer. If there i.e. was any un-tight snare beats, we simply moved it with the computer. We also recorded another guitar and new bass, and I added new vox on four songs. One reason to why we had to remake that much was that if you record on a very old tracker and then are going to use it in a modern 24-channel studio certain things can leak on 3-4 channels. A guitar could i.e. lie on channel 14-16 and then we had to move it to one channel on another tracker. According the vox, it was ok mostly, but here and there the snare drum leaked from the channel next to, and if it wasn't possible to separate them, we had to redo the whole thing.

We have done a lot of cutting too, the intro is one example, it was very long and complicated. It was 5-6 minutes in the beginning, but we shortened it to only one. The last song was about 20 minutes long, but we removed a monotonous and boring part in the middle, as no one would stand listening to it. Now the song "only" is about 10 minutes.

The most expensive recording

It's very clearly written in the booklet about the long and complicated history of the album, but I still can't help wondering why it's released now.

We have different categories of fans. The ones who like the speed thing, and the Viking fans. Since the material already was recorded, we thought we could please the later category. For the speed-fans had we made "Requiem" and "Octagon".

We dared to do a theme album now. We would never have dared back then, because it laid too close in time to the old stuff we used to do. We are much freer now, and may do what we feel for.

It took all together 1,5 months to clear the tapes and re-record it. That means "Blood on Ice" is the recording which have cost Bathory the most.

It's a certain difference against the first album, which cost about 2000 bucks to record (ca. 250 $).

As on the latest three-four recordings, they have worked with Rex Gisslén. The used to hang around in Montezuma, but as that studio is closed these days; the guys worked at many different places, among others in Hellhole Studio. Can this be Heavenshore's descendent?

I won't go into a studio where 8 producers, 15 technicians and 98 secretaries roam, and the clock's ticking. I rather go down in a basement where they have some recording equipment; it doesn't matter that much these days anyway, since everything is digital.

The album was mixed in Soundtrade Studio in Solna where some guys called SAE are.

There was something wrong with one of the DATs when we mixed a song, so we went to their class and asked if someone could give us a hand. Today, they get everything served instantly, which is really fun. When we started you had to try how things worked, which button made what, we really didn't know shit. Now they have complete education from the start when they enter the studio to work.

Not suffering from idea-draught

Many with me might wonder if the real reason they're releasing his album now, is that they've run out of ideas, or that they just want to cash in as much as they can.

You really don't earn that much, 'cause you need to sell at least 100.000 records to do that. On the other hand, we don't spend any bigger sums on tours or videos. Since I write all the songs myself, it's obvious most of the money drops into my wallet, but it normally takes like 5-6 years before they come. They money I earn today is for the albums I made in the late 80's. When I get lists today, it's about the sales of the second, third and the fourth album. In fact, it's not until now, I can call my self economically independent.

As for lack on ideas, I can tell you that I have 30 songs for another solo-album. We were going to record that one in May last year, but we choose to concentrate on "Blood on Ice" instead.

Talking of solo-albums tells us that it was during the work with the first "Quorthon" album, the idea of re-animate "Blood on Ice".

It was when I did the promo work for the solo thing, before I made "Requiem" or "Octagon" that is. When I returned from the promo tour I had a great urge, that I wanted to play the speed stuff again. So I wrote "Requiem", and when that one was released all songs for "Octagon" were finished. After this, we only worked with "Blood on Ice".

The music of "Blood on Ice" is a bit in the same vein as "Hammerheart", though I personally think everything is slightly different from that album. There is a lot of Viking in it though... almost sounds like some laid-back Manowar partly. Quorthon also sings (!) And really good too.

More unreleased stuff

As the talk continues, it's unveiled that there still are lots of unreleased and unofficial songs recorded. Some where awakened for the two Jubileum Albums, i.e. "Crawl to your Cross" and "Burnin' Leather".

"Burnin' Leather" was recorded during a period when we planned to make a double album, containing up to 25 songs, of which one album should have been in the heavy-Viking vein, and the other in the speed-vein. We wanted to show that we really could vary the music, as we had done pretty successful on "Blood Fire Death". We thought of calling it "Valhalla", and I wrote a song with that name; later featured on "Hammerheart". That song was recorded over a year earlier the other songs on "Hammerheart". We also recorded "Bond Of Blood", which later ended up on "Twilight of the Gods", in speed style, doubles and all those things. It is the same song, but with different lyrics.

Some speed songs for an album called "Requiem" were also recorded, but that name had nothing to do with the album released later, only the name was similar.

Things were a bit fuzzy during that period, 'cause we had a lot of projects, we wanted to make experiments. It was hard to tell were one project started and another ended.

There's also lots of material that is recorded, but not complete. We have for example 10 songs on 2.5", but there's too much Motorhead over those songs, almost carbon copies. "You don't move me (I don't give a fuck)" is from that recording.

The first tune

So, what's the name of the very first Bathory song made?

The first song we finished, with lyrics and everything, was "Satan is my Master" and it sounded like "Symptom of the Universe" by Black Sabbath. The lyrics were totally hilarious. We made a song called "Witchcraft" the same week, and shortly after "Sacrifice", thus it's one of the very first songs we ever made. We also had a song called "Living in Sin", but it was a tad too similar to Iron Maiden's "Transylvania". The two other guys in the band were into bands like Saxon, Whitesnake and Iron Maiden, and asked me if I could make a song like that, and so I made one, Quorthon groans.

"Satan is my Master" and "Witchcraft" were never recorded, but they were on one of the first tapings from the rehearsal place. Unfortunately, many of those old tapes are gone today, among others a 90-tape filled to the rim with early recordings. A friend of mine borrowed it, and the next day he said he had lost it.

Sacrilege!

I got furious, but I did never think those recordings would be funny to listen at later, since we only could play those songs back then. Today there's only a title in a notepad or perhaps a stanza written somewhere, but nothing more. I don't have the slightest idea of how they sounded.

Old and new drummers

It was only during the first year Bathory had a somewhat steady line-up. After, the staff changed constantly. The longest staying member except Quorthon is the drummer Vvornth, who played on all albums from "Blood Fire Death" to "Octagon".

His brother was supposed to be our bass player two years before he joined himself, but his parents give him a declaration of war. His parents promised to pay his education if he got his hair cut and stopped with music, so he choose to. Today he's got short hair, suit and everything. Sometimes when you meet old members you realise they're in their middle ages. That's why I decided to be 15 the rest of my life.

We had a drummer who doubted about what he should do, he was about a year younger than we were. He was going into military service, and was not at all sure about what to do, but finally he decided to do that and educate himself. When he quit in the end of 1985, we suddenly needed a new drummer desperately, so I called the Sodom drummer, Witchhunter, and asked if he was interested to come up to Stockholm and help us do an album. This was when we still were thinking of touring around, and we tried to figure out which bands we would like to play with. Sodom was one of these bands, so I thought we could score two in one shot.

I called him and asked if he could come to Stockholm and make some songs together. While we were playing we suddenly understood that it maybe wasn't such a good idea after all, not for them, not for us, nor for the fans. They had just finished the recording of a new album, but something went wrong with and they had to record most of it again, and Witchhunter was forced to return home. Nothing ever happened of the planned co-operation, and after that, but he taught me some Sodom songs while we were rehearsing. I've never had any contact whatsoever with Witchhunter after that.

The story with Witchhunter is probably familiar to many of the readers, but something you maybe don't know is that Carsten Nielsen, drummer in Danish Artillery, was bidden to become Bathory drummer the year before this, but he choose not to, since he thought Artillery would become bigger than Bathory. So much for that!

Today Quorthon is in contact with a drummer he's hoping to work together with in the future.

He is very technical and good, so if there will be any album this year, I'm hoping to have him in with on it. He is interesting even though he isn't hardrocker. He has mostly been into experimental jazz. Since he is a pro musician, I probably have to pay him to get him with, but I'm prepared to pay the double to get him anyway. If this works out we'll have to rehearse some week before we can record, but time shall tell what this ends up like. There might even be a jazz sound over the next Bathory album, Quorthon jokes.

Satisfied with "Octagon"

Which of the albums is the best, and which has been sold most, and in how copies?

It's a tad misleading, the first album has existed for 12 years, and it's still selling. It belongs to the 5-6 best selling records ever on the label. If it's not that one, ‘tis either "Under the sign of the Black Mark", "Hammerheart" or "Twilight of the Gods" that have sold most copies. I think at least one of them has sold over 100.000 ex. I am pretty sure it's not "The Return" since that on is a bit too extreme. "Jubileum vol. 1" has also sold a lot. I know the solo-album also is among the best sellers on the label, that one has gone for 30.000 ex.

When it comes to "Requiem" and "Octagon", the rates hasn’t been that good.

They have received very bad criticism. It's not that you can skip wondering about the clientele who's sitting and making reviews in the magazines. They are very aware of trends. Some paper nominated "Octagon" as "Der ausbomb der monat". You die to get that kind of reviews. If I were 15-16 years old, I wouldn't want to buy the records that get 3-4 stars, I'd like to have the one that gets 15 crossed stars instead. You can't make a record for critics. Those two albums haven’t made that well, but they satisfy me more, and that's what's important for me.

In which way have they done it?

There are no errors in the playing, it's not untight and the lyrics are a hundred times better.

Even though those records aren't among my faves, I think they're totally ok. Although it's a little bit too much "biscuit tin" sound over the drums in "Octagon".

We did those during one day. Played through them pretty fast, thinking, "we can do that later", but when we got that point we didn't really care enough to fix it.

If it's something I am less satisfied with, it's as usual my singing. I never dare to sound natural, 'cause I know people will yell and shout and wonder what's wrong. I read a fanzine where they said that it sounded like I've taken helium on "Octagon". In that case it's just to face it that those dudes who are sitting and writing the papers are half as old as me. When they sit at home listening to records, they always hear singers who have used extreme harmonizer on their voices. Then when they hear a vocalist singing with his normal voice, they think it sounds like a faggot.

Censored by the label

Something that surprised me was that they on "Octagon" for the first time included a cover. The reason that cover was "Deuce" isn't as much surprising, for Quorthon is an old Kiss fan.

We have probably played about 20 covers in the studio, but never before released anything on an album. There has been everything from "Like A Virgin" and "She Loves You" to "Overkill". We actually recorded "Ace of Spades" once, and we were also going to release it, but another band did it before us, thus we dropped the project.

When we had finished "Octagon", there was over one week of time left in the studio, so we decided to do some covers just for fun. We chose songs, put up some mics, to hell with soundcheck and then we just played. We did five or six covers.

The purpose was not at all to include them on the album, but two of the songs were censored, we couldn't include because of the company, and that of several reasons. If you look on the lyric sheet you see that two songs are missing.

The names of those songs are something he doesn't want to unveil.

I said their names somewhere, but I regret it, thus you can figure out what the songs are about. Won't tell the names before the band has quit, I don't want to cause any of the label people damage because of them. When they asked me to, I excluded the songs, since there is 30 employees who would have to receive shit for it.

The album would be very short without those songs, so we wanted to have one or more covers on it too, but the only one that was somewhat decent was just "Deuce", we had just recorded them for fun. We also recorded i.e. "Electric Funeral", "I wanna hold your hand" and "Jailhouse Rock".

Many things to handle

Going back to Quorthon's solo album, he is expecting to release another one in the future, but when is something he doesn't know. There is material enough anyway.

I was totally surprised when it sold that very well. Thought it would sell about 200 and that it would get thumb down everywhere, but I haven't got any bad criticism. Maybe the sound was a bit too kind, but the purpose was not to sound like a pro band. ‘Tis my private project.

I have many side-projects running, I don't know how to get time for them all. I write five songs a day that has got nothing to do with this. Rex and I went to the studio last autumn and recorded for a new album, which is light years away from anything I've done before. No one would believe it's we who's doing this, but it's do damn funny. It's just for pleasure. Rex has got lots of own ideas. He's got a big local where he can work around the clock. If I get any ideas I go there and if he gets any ideas I'll go there to help him. It doesn't necessarily have to get on record. Yesterday I wrote two more songs. During the summer we'll probably go there and record about 30-40 songs just for fun.

Shortly after "Blood On Ice" was completed we did ten songs in the studio but deleted it and left it only on usual tapes. This was because no one would be able to neither listen to it nor use it.

Regrets the video

During the conversation we slip into mistakes that we've done in the career, which on my behalf are pretty many. When I ask Quorthon if there is something in his career that he's regretting he surprisingly replies that it's the video for "One rode to Asa Bay": The only video the band has ever done. I get even more surprised when Quorthon says he has never seen this particular video himself.

We threw a whole lot of money into that project. There was a tremendous staff and we were shooting for about 2.5 weeks. I didn't sleep more than 5 hours, I lost 5-6 kilos and I wasted ca. 4000 $ which were my own. We had 50 litres of gasoline in a lake and lit it up, walked around in caves with torches, wore Viking outfits, horses - yes, everything. We had 14 hours of film when we were finished. For some strange reason were the films given to the one who took care of the whole thing. And when the video was going to be completed delays appeared. A week passed two weeks, a month and two months. He didn't keep in touch and we couldn't reach him. The we had to go on a promotion tour down in Europe and we had to bring us something to be shown on MTV, Super Channel, Spanish and Portuguese television. Finally we got hold of him and he promised to do a mix. The day before we we´re on our way we received a tape containing something he called a "raw mix". The purpose was never to show it officially, cause we assumed we'd get back in Stockholm in time to make a real video to send around, but...

We couldn't find him when we got back to Stockholm. One month passed, two months passed, a year... I haven't seen him yet actually. Everything's gone with him. The money, 14 hours of film and what we now call the video is nothing but the raw mix he did for us. I haven't seen anything of the 14 hours we made, or the so-called video. I refuse to watch it since I know it could have been better, a lot better.

You don't have to be Einstein to understand that the video was awesomely expensive, surely around 40000 $.

It was expensive, expensive as hell. A 30-man staff was involved, so it must've been a giant production. Only to drive the crew from the shooting places demanded a lot of work and they had to eat and drink too. We rented a quarry and filled it with fog machines and copper pipes that were filled with gas, giving us 20-m high flames. Horses, knight's armour and floating islands with drumkits.

Plays because it's fun

As we talk about Bathory's future Quorthon says there is definitely a continuation. He hasn't written much new stuff but he believes there will be another release in 97.

We have released perhaps a bit too many records lately. It wasn't more than six months between Requiem and Octagon and then one year later "Blood on Ice" came. I believe a lot came through after the solo album. Earlier we had done black metal, death metal, epic- and the Viking stuff. With "Twilight..." there was really no exit except repeating ourselves. That's why we luckily celebrated 10 years anniversary and could make the Jubileum compilations. I hadn't got a single clue about what I was supposed to do by then. But the solo album came in between and now everything's just enjoyable. It used to be a work, finding the exact sound, fit into certain moulds but after the solo thing it's more fun. I've felt quite a lot freer ever since.

So what's Bathory got to offer that no other band has?

I suppose we've got nothing that someone else haven't, Quorthon says honest and without fuzz. The competition is total, and there are plenty of bands releasing records now. That's why I'm glad we sell at all. It doesn't matter who you are, what band is called or what you done before, because there is never a guarantee of high rates. I am doing this now because I think it's fun. There is a dividing line around 5000 ex though, and if you can't overcome that border, it's better to spend your time on something else. But if you still think it's fun, and at the same time is the band that is selling best on the label, I can't see any reason to stop.

Several tributes?

In these days of tribute albums there been some rumours about a Swedish Bathory-tribute, with many of the heavy names within extreme Swedish metal. When it's released is still not sure. Quorthon surprises me by telling that he knows at least 3 more ongoing Bathory tributes. One from a Belgian label, one from a Norwegian one and one with amongst other French and German bands. He has also heard rumours about an English/American tribute. Necrophobic's new MCD "Spawned by Evil" features a very good cover of "Enter the eternal fire" and a Norwegian band had "Born for burnin'" on a CD.

Talk about a Bathory-revival.

If they choose the right songs and do them well it's ok for me. It can't get worse than what we did because they have got a different technique; they have grown up with double bass and thrashing guitars. It sure will be nice to hear if they can use the same chords as I do, Quorthon comments and explains the secret behind his special sound.

I don't tune the guitar as usual, but I tune them in a way that you can take the chords with only two fingers. It sounds like an 8-stringed or a 12-stringed axe. It sounds as two guitars because due to the twin octave, and it helps me making fewer add-ons in the studio.

Do you still tune in the same way?

Yes, at least on slow songs. Sometimes I tune from normal E. I did it on some of the "Octagon" songs. The other tuning can be somewhat frustrating when you have to add the bass, cause you have to down tune the E-string to C minor. Which makes it extremely loose. You can sometimes hear how it tunes out.

Returning to the tributes, the fact is that Quorthon he isn't totally against appearing on one himself.

It depends on what band it is and in what context. We've done many covers, so why not?

I don't know if anyone has given it a thought, but Bathory hasn't been on any compilation album since the mid 80-ies.

I realised that Beatles never were on any compilations, it's not until now they've started to release Beatles song for advertisement jingles. I thought if Beatles can, we could too. We made a deal to never appear on compilations and we still haven't. We don't have it written, thus most of our deals are oral.

Continuing on the book

The last time Bathory was in Backstage, # 24, Quorthon told us that he was working on a book which would contain the biography, the discography, lyrics, pictures and facts from the different recordings. A colossal project which he hopes to finish to the 15 year anniversary.

I've written notes, i.e. exact dates and strikes of the clock when things happened. When Bathory was founded, when we had the first rehearsal etc. The notes cover all the years and I've checked them through. The first chapter is more or less finished, and the description of the rehearsal place is very detailed.

In the end of the book I'll have all the lyrics plus a comprehensive discography. We'll have every recording date, which day and which month. There will be a chapter on each album, where everything is going to be told in detail. Most of this is already written, but the things I can't remember will pop up if I listen to the albums again.

About photos and pictures, here is some exclusive material to show, but not as much as you could wish.

We shot some pics in the studio when we recorded "Under the sign...". Above that we've got only 5-6 private photographs from that period. People have always circulated so there has never been a real use of pictures. Almost every picture is of me and Palle, and perhaps on some old bassist or drummer.

I wouldn't get too surprised if one or another special picture appeared.

Except the book, some other things in the same direction are maybe going on.

I've got a pal who's keen on computers, and we're thinking about making a Bathory homepage, where you can find the latest news and info about the band.

The longest thanks-letter ever

During the 80-ies, Quorthon received tons of mail from all around the world.

I replied on practically every letter until 88. I wrote thousands of letters during that period, and I always tried to include something as memory: An autograph, a plectrum or something similar. We don't get much mail at all now.

Quorthon tells about sick letters they got, and he pulls one example after the other of which none suits in the magazine. Perversity and blood. Some really fine letters has also come throughout the years. If you study the thanklist in "Under the sign...", Yoshiko Yamashita is acknowledged for the longest fan mail ever.

It was a Japanese girl who sent it. She had used really big sheets of paper, the kind you use for lectures. She had linked 20 of them and rolled it together to a tube, and it was at least 20 metres long. It must've cost a fortune to send it all the way from Japan, and we just had to thank her.

Dissociates Satanism

A couple of years ago there were a lot of fuzz about Satanism in music, due to the return of black metal. It all escalated when several Norwegian churches were burnt. Now the subject has been put into spotlight again, newspapers have written about it, and there have been actualised on TV. I am quite curious on Quorthon's opinion; after all he is reputed as a guru in these associations. Does he feel any guilt?

I remember that the Norwegian security police was involved. It was because of the murders and the arsons. Then someone said in some interrogation that we had served as inspiration. It was said that the security police studied our lyrics, and they surely expected to find anything inspiring. But they couldn't because there is nothing. The first time I even talk about church arson is on "Requiem", and then as reaction against all this.

I'm personally against anything related to Christianity, but it's a personal matter, and we live in a free country. You should have the same right to worship any god you want as to have long hair. The problem with those Norwegians is that they mix the concepts, right wing extremism, populism, heathendom, Satanism, which are contradictions. If you're a Satanist you can't accept Odinism, since Satanism is as fundamental as Christianity, and if you're asatruar you can't burn churches because Odinism means freedom for everyone. If you're right extremist you can't have long hair and play heavy metal at all, everything is just straining for effect. The whole story is a bit sad because other bands also are blamed for this. If they say we've served as inspiration it's nothing I really care about, because we didn't intend to.

I don't know much about this, but Quorthon seems to be quite informed in this matter.

Now I am, but I weren't originally. I was into the black stuff around 84-85 but I pulled the conclusion that Satanism is a fake. Satanism and Satanists are not older than Christianity and are just invented to scare people. I thought it was a good subject for our lyrics. I've written a tad about in the booklet for "Blood On Ice" and I'll also do something about it in the book.

Black Army

When I ask Quorthon to describe himself, he immediately retreats because he thinks his not objective enough.

Music is the only thing I know. I began playing the drums when I was 7-8 and later on the guitar and bass. Today I actually find it funnier to play the bass than the guitar. I play the bass 3-4 hours a day and only the guitar when I'm composing songs.

What most people don't know is that Quorthon is interested in sports. Mainly ice hockey and AIK. He hasn't missed one single home game with AIK since 1977 (!). The truth is that he has been seriously involved with Black Army.

About 15 persons have grown up on the standing room, and have stood there since the end of the 70ies. It means you've got a special position in the cheer section. You know everyone, know the talk, what and where things will happen. It's pretty obvious that you get involved then. But when people reach their ages they move from standing room to the chairs and get children.

I don't get much from Quorthon about his private life, except the fact that he's got cats. He used to have real rats for pets, of which one was named "Rattis". On "Hammerheart" ‘tis written: "In memory of Rattis 1987-1990. Now you're eating from under the tables of the great warriors of Valhalla".

Keeps his name a secret

Something, which never stops to fascinate me, is that Quorthon has managed to keep his real name secret for all these years, and that no one who knows it has revealed it. The means of exposing this have been quite a few during the 13 years. Many international journalists and Swedish too, have tried in vain. Personally, I do respect him and I won't be the first one who prints it down. The secret probably is that he's succeeded to keep his music career apart from his private life.

That's something I never talk about cause it's terribly frustrating. I wouldn't be able to get buddies if they knew who I am, because the view on me would be totally different.

I still think it does astonish that no old school mate or band member has used the opportunity to cash in some extra money.

I quit school the year before we created Bathory, or more precisely: I was kicked out. I haven't met anyone of them ever since. If I hadn't started playing in punk bands around 79-80 I'd probably ended up on the street with a fix through my arm. Fortunately I never got any friends like that, and I got into punk, inspired by bands like Exploited and G.B.H, Quorthon explains before he says that there actually once was an old member who tried to gain fame of his past Bathory membership.

It was an old drummer we had who told a lot of stuff, but never revealed my name or something that could have been an obstacle for us. He lives in London since 10 years. There he tried to put together a band, a pretty good band, and to start up the punk wave again. They had a couple of good songs but split shortly after. He asked me if we couldn't do something together and he sent me this demo tape which contained a real hit tune. It was so fucking good that if they ever had managed to do something of it, it would have been a bigger hit than "Smells like teen spirit" and "God Save the Queen". I was tempted, but I never jumped on that train.

Inspired by Yngwie

Considering the cult around Quorthon, he should have been asked at least once to appear as guest musician.

Some Black Mark band asked me if I could come down and sing on their record, and another band on the label asked me if I could make some solos. Some dude in the band was both a great Bathory and Kiss fan and he thought that I sounded like Ace Frehley when I play leads. I can't make black metal nor heavy metal solos; I play rock solos. He said to me that it would be quite hard to get Ace Frehley down to the studio, and that I could come down instead. This never happened because it felt kind of silly as we were on the same label. These mentioned occasions should be the only times I've been asked.

Strange!

I never practise solos and I always improvise. If it doesn't stick the first time, I'll make another, and if it still doesn't fit, we'll take the first one anyway. The only album I rehearsed the leads for was "Twilight...". Almost all the songs are in D minor, and basically it's the same solos in all of them. I got an Yngwie-record from a friend. Yngwie's technique is a gift from the gods, but he's quite boring in a longer row. I got some inspiration and I decided to see what I could manage myself. I never rehearse, never ever, but then I sat and played the solos for almost a month before we recorded. You can hear that the leads are arranged, the turns and stuff are better.

Humble though his success

What's the greatest memory Quorthon has from the years with Bathory, except those who aren't printable?

Things you recall easiest is like when you for the first time heard yourself on radio, saw your record in a store, saw a fan with your T-shirt, got your first fan mail or when you did your first interview. I don’t react if I see anyone with a Bathory shirt today, but 12 years ago I did, and that's when we'd done our first shirt. It looked obnoxious. It had the logo in yellow and lots of blood. We paid for in ourselves and it was printed in 100 examples.

Even though Quorthon isn't the temperate type, he's rather humble for his band's success.

I'm still really grateful when I hear that an album is pre ordered in 20 000 ex. When we recorded the first album, we did it under the condition of selling 1000 copies. That was also the number of the first pressing (the one with the yellow cover). It was sold out pretty fast so we pressed another 5000. When we went to record "The Return" we were told that is was already pre ordered in 5000 ex, but we couldn't understand how people could order it before they had heard anything, or even before we've recorded it. We felt like really big boys and did a lot of partying.

We recorded in Elektra's big, nice and expensive 24-channel studio. Just to have more than five mics in the studio was unbelievable. When we did the first LP we only had two mics, and we couldn't record everything at the same time. We had to reverse the tape and make add-ons, and we did this for 36 hours and it cost us 250 $.

Now afterwards, you can really say that it was worth the money.

An album like "Blood Fire Death" was recorded during a whole year, a week here and a week there, but it still didn't cost more than 800 $, non-taxed. When we did "Twilight...", we used the Montezuma studios, and it meant real bills, technicians, expensive amplifiers and everything you could wish. The price tag was 100 $ per hour. Even though we recorded during only three days, it became much more expensive than all the other albums together.

Burning interest

Going back to memories, it's clear that Quorthon apparently has experienced one thing and another.

I remember when we were in Los Angeles. We'd an awesome party the night before and we were on our way to miss the plane, had to run to get there in time. Some girl, who carried my bag, lost one of her heels and fell. My bag got open and all the things therein slided across the floor, big pieces of flesh, chains and leather underwear. People just stood around and stared, and a narcotics dog started chewing on one of the meat bones, Quorthon remembers.

One other memory is from when I stood on top of a skyscraper and breathed some fire. The police came, but there were two elevators in the building so when they were coming up with one we went down with the other one, jumped in our van and drove away.

Quorthon has been doing fire breathing for 20 years, since 1976.

I saw pictures of Kiss and of course I had to try myself. We tested everything from gasoline to paraffin oil. We saw that chocolate drink is great, cause it's damn explosive.

This is nothing we recommend ourselves, breathing fire that is. Quorthon himself has been injured some times due to this.

Once in a time you should have spray in the hair to look like Nikki Sixx or Blackie Lawless. It happened several times that my hair was put on fire, some times really badly. I've burned myself many times, but I quit this around "Hammerheart" because it wasn't only me who was doing it anymore.

Quorthon can live on his music today. He doesn't earn any fortunes, but enough for surviving. He lives a sparse life, never goes to the bar or to the cinema, he doesn't buy clothes or furniture. He hasn't got any real vice except the music.

I only buy new strings when I'm to record. I still have the same set of strings on the guitar and the bass from when we recorded the album. It is possible that I sometimes replace a string if it breaks, but I don't care about tuning and such. I buy new strings when I'm going to the studio though. You always get surprised of how good it sounds, he laughs.

Temporary vocalist

The dialogue gets on the early years of Bathory here and there, and Quorthon uncovers one "secret" after to other. For instance that they once had a vocalist, even though for only a short moment.

In the winter 83-84 the contemporary drummer thought that my singing wasn't much to celebrate, and he wanted me to sound like Bruce Dickinson. And without asking they got a new singer. When I came to the rehearsal place one day I found out that this had happened. I can’t remember his name but he sounded like something between Ian Gillian and Ronnie James Dio. The only real memory I've got of him is that I traded a bullet belt for a Dio record with him.

I even have a tape on which he sings three songs. If I'm not wrong the titles are "Dirty women", "Die In Fire" and "The Return of Darkness and Evil". Imagine them with falsetto, he laughs. It sounds terrible, but it couldn't have been easy for him to just get into the band and sing songs he had never heard before.

Influenced by Exciter

I was myself into the underground scene between 82 and 89. I traded a lot of demo tapes, I probably have around 2000 demos recorded during these years.

We also got plenty of tapes from bands that wanted us to produce their albums. I think they mainly were after the special Bathory sound, but it wouldn't have been right if many bands had the same sound.

When we're discussing the "good ol' days" I can point out that not many bands have survived since. Two of Quorthon's three hate-bands are still alive, though, namely Kreator and Destruction (re-formed). The third one was Celtic Frost. Another band Quorthon thought he didn't like was Voivod.

I threw a lot of shit at them 84-85 when I didn't know better. Some years later when I listened to their records I understood how genial they were. Then I regretted what I had said about them, because I had never really listened to them before, but it was the time when you were supposed to be the biggest, the best and the most beautiful.

One of my fave bands from the early 80ies are the Canadian Exciter, whose debut "Heavy Metal Maniac" is a landmark. Also Quorthon's been listening to them, more than enough.

We tried to get the same sound on "The Return..." when we recorded it. They had such a brutal drum sound that really caught me. The vocals were never something I liked, though.

It sounds a bit like me when I'm singing. It becomes two notes higher than when I'm talking. The only record I ever tried singing bass on was "Twilight...", and I make some narrating singing on the solo album. I refuse to use harmonizer like everyone else's doing. I have only used one twice. Partly in some reversed thing on "Scandinavian metal attack" and the other time on some refrain on the second album.

The first album

For myself personally, perfectionism has never been the most important part of music, but what I value and respect is feeling and authency. Quorthon seems to be sharing these opinions, but he has an extreme self-criticism.

When people listen to an album they only hear the final result, they don't know all the work that lies behind it. When we did the first album we didn't mix it, and we just rigged the equipment up and started playing. We didn't know how to control things and we turned all knobs to 5 and jammed. There was always a tune out in the beginning and the end of the songs, for we didn't know how to open/end songs properly. We plugged the bass and the guitar into my tiny 20 W Yamaha amplifier.

We had a deal which gave us free access to the studio for 250 $ during four weeks. We had to do it during the summer when they weren't at home, because they didn't want to hear it. That's why it's recorded during vacation time, in July. We had no soundcheck, no mixing, and we played it right into the reels, on one or two takings.

We weren't even planning to make an album out of it, and we were just hoping to get enough material to show around, and then become signed for real recordings. It wasn't sure that you would be given a record deal back then. But after we had been on the "Scandinavian metal attack" we were the only band that received letters, and we decided to press the first album anyway.

The first album is very short, only 28 minutes.

And we even wrote a song in the studio, "Hades". It shows, because half of the song is instrumental. Additionally we had a 3.5 minutes long intro. There after, everything we made began with long intros, even the demo tapes. The intro is listed as a song, and I get money for it too. It's called "Storm of Damnation".

I'm very fond of the very first recordings, especially "Sacrifice" and "The Return of Darkness and Evil" on "Scandinavian metal attack". I've always wondered why "The Return..." wasn't on the debut, but on the second full-length.

I reckon it mainly depends on the fact that our present drummer back then couldn't play double bass. I think we recorded it once, but we didn't feel satisfied. When you were in that age you were strict and conservative; double bass at any price. Actually, not many drummers could use double bass back then.

Hidden "messages"

As for the lyrics there are for every album except Requiem.

On that album there were some parts the label wanted me to change, but we chose not to include the lyrics sheet at all. The lyrics aren't available in every country either. We can't control that to a 100% because they are pressed and sold through licence. They have also changed the layout of the lyrics, which has removed some points and meanings.

When we were to do "Blood Fire Death" there was a lot of talk about Satan here and Satan there so we decided to do an album where Satan isn't mentioned one single time, but still would be present. If you take the first letter on each line on "The Golden Walls of Heaven" and read from the top down it reads "Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan". If you do the same thing on "Dies Irae" it says "Christ the bastard son of heaven". Many things like that have been destroyed when they've chosen to display the lines in a better way. The whole meaning with it is ruined.

Quorthon would rather forget some of the early lyrics.

There were many grammatical errors. Only in "Sacrifice" there must've been around 5-6 simply grammatical mistakes, some of them really embarrassing.

Didn't want to show their breasts

There are many things you would want to have undone or remade. My own stumbling attempts of a music reporting career was on a Swedish that would make me blush all over, but it still isn't too great. Something it did was, was fun.

One good example if the cover for the first album. We made it in 5 minutes. We thought that it was something labels were supposed to manage, but they gave us a call and said they needed one, and fast. I went through my old horror magazines and found a suitable monster. I added a pair of horns and a pair of long ears, which we pasted on the picture. And then we magnified enough to show the screen. Oh, it was so cheap. We also did a poster, 1 x 1 metres. We had to magnify the head even more until the screen was big as dollar coins and you had to stand 20 metres away to see what it was supposed to look like. It was the first and only poster we've done.

An album cover I've always been wondering about is that on "Under the sign of the black mark". It shows it too has got a history of it's own.

It was originally meant to be called "Nocturnal Obeisance". On the cover the four daughters of the winds would sell their souls to the devil. They would have lain around an altar with a butchered angel and the figure with the Bathory mask was meant to stand with the angel heart plus some sacrificial dagger.

When I searched for an altar I amongst others asked the Opera. When I got there I saw the mountain massif from Carmen, which was played right then. I liked it from the beginning and I wanted to hire it, but it was impossible because it was French and from the end of the 19th century. It was insured for enormous sums and was going back to Paris two weeks later. They needed 2 hours just to build it up so they could push it in and from the stage between the acts. We finally managed to bribe a stage attendant to use it between the first and the second act, when everyone was sitting out in the hall waiting. We had 20 seconds to take the photos while the curtain was lowered. The guy we hired, one of Sweden's best body builders, ran up to the cliff, and the girls laid in place and the photographer too. We got about 5-6 pictures before we had to remove it all.

When the girls heard that they were going to be on an album cover they didn't want to show their breasts, so we had to cut them away, but the image got narrowed. We had to remove even more and the whole effect disappeared. That which you see on the cover is actually the centre of the image, there was as much above, under, and on the sides. The girls were lying on the floor beneath him and there was smoke, fire and lot of effects.

Have done live performances

For all these years you have been told that Bathory never has played live, but Quorthon says it's not quite true.

We did 6 to 8 gigs between 83 and 84 with the original line up. It was in theatres in front of 30 pals. The last time we played live must have been in January or February 84. After that we did a concert together with two punk bands and another hard rock band. We rented the Smedslätten cinema and all the bands played on the same gear. It was the original line up, but we didn't call our selves Bathory and everyone had fake names that evening. It ended with all the musicians on stage. Playing Sabbath or Motörhead songs. There was no organisation back then.

One month later we went and recorded "The return of darkness and evil" for the "Scandinavian metal attack" compilation. They day after they asked us if we could make another song, and we did "Sacrifice".

Quorthon was using the moniker Ace Shoot by then.

I had another name before that, Black Spade. It wasn't on any record, only on the very first biography. The drummer, the same guy who went to London, was called Vans MacBurger. He always wore tennis shoes of the brand Vans and always ate hamburgers and the name suited him perfectly. The bassist called himself Hanoi something. The last time I saw him was on an Iron Maiden concert in Stockholm 1986. He had short cut hair, coat, shirt and tie. It would be funny to meet some of the old members again.

Quorthon was later on chosen from a list with important demons.

It was impossible to pronounce, it had a background, and it was phonetically similar to Bathory. I never imagined it would last for 10-12 years, so we did mainly as a cool thing.

By now, after four hours, my freestyle dies at the same time as we've run out of questions, the coffee, the pies and the soda water. I follow Quorthon when he says he's going to Mega and see if they have got any interesting records. Now this is an ultimate opportunity to check out what the legend plays in his stereo. Gladly I can tell that he i.e. bought "Overkill" (Motörhead) on CD since his vinyl version is played to pieces. Still the "old man's" going strong! Just before we say goodbye he shows me to another place where I have an appointment. When I see his back disappear down the street I understand that I've experienced something very special. I will cherish this memory as much as my 7,5 years with Backstage.

Interview from Backstage, 1996
Provided by Andreas Pelli
Taken from Twilight web-site.
www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palladium/6646/


Your comments

Write a comment



© 2000-2018 Bathory Hordes • Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS & RSS feedCSS On/Off

▲ On top ▲