Storberg

Quorthon,

Nikola and Valsimoth over here, the editors of StorBerg, the first Montenegrin /Yugoslavia/ Heavy Metal zine (maybe a bit late but never too late).

Being fans of your music for now over twelve years, the first obvious thing was to try and do an interview with you. For the sake of Heavy Metal in Montenegro it would be of utmost importance if you could spare a few moments to answer a few questions, and of course it would be a great pleasure for both of us. We are glad to see you again in the first line. Welcome back.

Hi Nikola and Valsimoth, thank you very much for your kind words. Of course I would be absolutely delighted to answer you guys and help you out with StorBerg. I certainly hope that you will have use for anything I have in reply. You guys didn’t tell me whether you wanted any pictures and so on, so I leave that to you to discuss with Black Mark.

In the past six years since the last Bathory album, did you follow the world metal scene?

No. Not at all. I was an avid follower of metal between 1975 and 1983, right up to the point when BATHORY was formed in March 1983. I may still buy an occasional LP or CD, but then we’re talking either a re-release of an old Deep Purple album from the mid 70’s, or a Saxon CD originally released as a vinyl in ’81 or something like that. I haven’t bought a newly recorded and recently released metal CD since I guess Soundgarden’s "Down on the upside" (1996) or Black Sabbath’s "Reunion" (1998).

You could play me a hundred tracks from a hundred different of today’s black/death/gothic acts, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the track nor the band. I have absolutely no check whatsoever what is going on out there, nor could I name the 3 or 4 top selling or hottest metal bands in either branch of style. So to answer your question; no, I haven’t been following or listening to anything that has been recorded and released in the last 10 or 20 or anything that’s close to anything that BATHORY has ever done.

We read in an interview, that The Destroyer of Worlds is a compromise album, trying to satisfy the wishes of early and latter Bathory era fans. We find it a bit strange that you compose music how the fans want; you even scraped some material in the early days of the Destroyer demo sessions because it was not as the fans would like?

The whole story behind "Destroyer…" and what went down in the past three years, is really all to complex to bore you guys with right now. What one can just briefly say, is that we had grown tired of the constant parting of our fan base into two or three different camps. We have a death/black/hardcore camp of fans - these fans are in no way interested in anything that isn’t all occult/satanic/evil etc. In stark contrast to that, we also have a viking/nordic/epic camp of fans equally non-interested in anything that isn’t all swords/snow/sorcery etc. In the 80’s it was just fine, because it was all a part of evolution, the natural development thing. Every new style and sound we did on an album back then was fresh and innovative.

But in the 90’s all of that changed. Instead of allowing BATHORY to continue to develop and evolve, fans would write and ask BATHORY to either pick up from the "Under the Sign…"/"Blood Fire Death" period, or the "Hammerheart"/"Twilight…" period. BATHORY would consequently take one step in one direction with "Requiem" and "Octagon", then one step in another direction with "Blood on Ice". I did two solo albums to stretch out and get some fresh air, the whole Quorthon and BATHORY image felt like a prison. The stupid thing was that people thought that the solo albums was what I really wanted to do, which was not the case – I just went down a studio with a guitar, a bass and a drum machine and mixed Sex Pistols and The Beatles. It was nothing serious at all. No vacation is ever serious.

After that, we decided to wait for two years before BATHORY would do anything new. The reason for this was to let people get perspective, and to let BATHORY rest a little bit and come back fresh and innovative. I wrote a lot of material that was worked on at the end of 1999 early 2000. We told people a new album was on its way. The reaction was tons of fan mail requesting for a new BATHORY album to sound either like this or that album from the past. So we said "…it’s not the right time yet…". I scrapped the material that we had been working on thinking new material would come along later. In the meantime, our record company had signed a world wide distribution deal with SPV. BATHORY didn’t want to be associated with that distribution label whatsoever. We were even thinking about not making any more albums for as long as that deal was on, but realized of course that we would have to make an album sooner or later.

We are now in early summer of 2001. Realizing a lot of time had passed by, two years had become five years just like that, I quickly wrote material for a new album in 12 days. We were borrowing heavily from the atmosphere, style and sound of earlier BATHORY albums. We also recorded in a studio that was equipped with very primitive and simple machinery in order to make the session sound a bit like the Heavenshore days, all in an effort to make "Destroyer…" reminding of the past to a large extent. Our various camps of fans would be able to find at least something on "Destroyer…" that was close to what they wanted from BATHORY. We deemed this to be the best we could do in that situation, rather than to produce an album that wasn’t anything like what BATHORY had done previously, or either 100% this or that style. After so many years, it is better to come up with an album that at least sounds and feels like BATHORY rather than an album some might think do not sound like BATHORY at all.

How long did you take to finish the new album? We heard that it was done in a record time.

Yeah, apart from the first album (which was done in 56 hours from sound check to master), "Destroyer…" is our second fastest recording ever. It was written in twelve days, recorded in 112 hours and mastered in 2 hours.

Six months passed since the delivery of the Destroyer of Worlds. How’s the fans reaction to this somewhat unusual album?

It has been received as expected. During the 90’s – every time that BATHORY was making an album, we knew that half of our fans would not enjoy the new album, regardless what the material may have been like. That is not a very comfortable situation, knowing something like that even before the album has been recorded. The good thing is that the loyal BATHORY fans has been very supportive and right there with us. I guess they understand the whole situation the best. Magazines has presented a somewhat mixed reaction, possibly because they are more concentrated on fashion and what’s hot for the day, the flavor of the week, more than a fan. The stupid thing is that to this day, "Destroyer…" hasn’t been released in more than 10 countries or something like that. Now with SPV out of the picture, it is back to business.

Is the album title a revelation or some kind of lesson for all the bands that try in vain to sound like Bathory?

…hmm… no. The title is part of a quote. I once read this biography on scientist Robert Openheimer – who if not invented so at least lead the work on putting together the first practical atomic bomb. When - after years of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars spent – he witnessed the blast of the first atomic bomb one morning in the New Mexico desert in June 1945, he watched that gigantic glowing ball of fire and realized the destructive powers they had just unleashed. And he remembered a phrase from an ancient Hindu scripture mentioning the god of death - Shiva - introducing himself as death – the destroyer of worlds. So Openheimer took his pipe out of his mouth and said I am become death – the destroyer of worlds. That contrast of emotions, to go within one second from sheer joy to serious afterthought, interested me. From that came both the album title, the cover art work (the demon of destruction) and a track. The title track is about the creation and the usage of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. That is why you can hear Japanese instruments in the background.

A lot of bands nowadays are incorporating elements of different music styles in their own creations, mixing folk and classical music with Heavy Metal. For that, they are being praised, but criticized too, by the press and by a part of the fans, with the argument that they are killing the true spirit of Heavy Metal. Is it right to criticize anyone’s work?

Criticism is something you are going to have to take as soon as you work in public either as a writer, musician, actor or whatever. And anybody has the right to criticize anything. A review doesn’t mean the truth, though. A review is just one person’s idea about something. Opinions are like assholes – everyone’s got one. My personal belief is that as a musician or an act, you have total freedom to do whatever you want with your music or lyrics. In the case of BATHORY, we have to mind hundreds of thousands of fans all having very strong opinions about what BATHORY really is. Some of our fans consider BATHORY to be the original death metal band that went Nordic down the road – and so we will incorporate music and lyrics that reflects that side of BATHORY as well. Others consider BATHORY to be the true Viking act but with a dark past – and so we will incorporate that into our music and lyrics just as well for the same reason. Whether or not you incorporate ethnic sounds and classical instruments in your music or not, is entirely up to you. Some fans and magazines may not like it, others may. Sepultura incorporated ethnic sounds on the "Roots" album, BATHORY has used Nordic sounds on albums in the past. Had BATHORY been Italian or Japanese, we would probably have used Roman or Samurai topics and atmosphere in our music.

Metal can not always sound like "The Number of the Beast" or "Smoke on the Water" forever. When Metalica came out with "Load", it created an outcry. People called it country & western. If metal do not develop and evolve, it will die. Nobody has the formula for true or genuine metal. We all have different tastes. I listen to so many different styles of music. I enjoy classical music, but that does not mean I love all classical music. I love Beethoven but can not stand Mozart. Wagner is my housegod but I can not listen to Stravinsky.

Journalists may criticize an act for incorporating ethnic or classical sounds into their music, but who will criticize the journalist for what he is writing? Ultimately in the end, the people who will get the most out of a very diverse and rich metal scene, are the fans, the audience. They will decide for themselves which band to follow, which album to buy and which magazine to read. There is no such thing as true this or false that. That’s all bullshit. There are just a lot of opinions. And opinions are like assholes - everybody got one.

In times when you started Bathory, there was no metal scene in Sweden. The same thing is over here, right now. After all the political problems, the people’s self-conscience is rising and we’re slowly building a scene for us and for the generations to come. Could you describe us how it was for you in the beginning, and could you give some advice for young bands with lots of ideas and lots of doubts?

Well, there was no metal scene in Sweden in those days. And there is still no metal scene over here in the sense that we have less than a handful of clubs in all of Sweden that will allow for metal acts to play. Everybody seems to believe that Sweden is a country full of great metal acts and clubs etc, but that’s bullshit. I know that there’s allot of Swedish acts putting out albums and that there is this Swedish sound, but that’s on foreign labels and do not mean we have a living and throbbing scene.

Back in 1983 when BATHORY was formed, all we wanted to do was to play and have fun. We weren’t thinking about a record contract, making albums or playing shows. We never ever recorded a single demo. We were just three young kids with some instruments, which we really didn’t know how to handle, and a rehearsal place which was something unique for a young band to have. We were just three young kids with different background and with very different ideas of what was great metal, or what our band should sound like. The other two original members were listening to virtually anything metal, whereas I was basically only into early Motörhead, early Black Sabbath, early GBH and assorted Oi-punk. We’d play covers of Black Sabbath and Motörhead. I’d write some of the first original songs. We named ourselves after Countess Elizabeth Bathory. We had no idea what Satanism was all about.

The first original line-up held together for just one year. We never took anything seriously. We had no ambitions or plans. Had somebody told us back then, that BATHORY one day would be considered the true origin of extreme metal and considered a legend, we would have laughed our butts off. When we invited friends to come and see us play, they would tell us that you can’t play this kind of music. They said we would never get a contract, gigs or girls if we’d play like that. Guys in other more serious acts would tell us what we did wasn’t music. I constantly run into these guys at clubs in Stockholm, they are still 20 years later talking about maybe getting a contract, still dreaming about making it with their band while having to drive a taxi or frying hamburgers during daytime. And here I am. Quorthon of BATHORY. A living legend to hundreds of thousands of metal heads. It’s weird.

The only advice I would have for young acts are these; 1. Stick to your own sound, do not try to copy others. You will bring enough of personal influences in the beginning anyway. 2. Stay friends, do not split up because of different taste in music or whatever. 3. Don’t read reviews – even if they are good, journalists will never be able to tell you something about yourself or your music. 4. Not getting a contract fast is no problem, a contract will not be the answers to all dreams. 5. There are thousands of other acts just like your band, even if nobody will ever get to hear you or like you, write and play for your own pleasure – you have to be your own number one fan and critic.

In your carrier, you absolutely ignored the basics of the music industry (singles, concerts, promotions…). Would you advice this attitude to upcoming young bands, too?

No. Everybody has got to do what they feel is right for them. The whole no-appearance policy of BATHORY came about as an accident, it wasn’t planned at all. After the first line-up had gone separate ways in the spring of 1984, I found myself without a line-up and really had no plans to continue with BATHORY. BATHORY was then just one more shit band that I had been playing in. No more and no less. At exactly that moment in time they called from a record company where I had been working during the winter. They said "-You guys have to make a full length-album!". In January 1984 we had recorded two tracks for a compilation album. We were just young shit kids and all the other acts on that album were more or less professional musicians, they did gigs and had been playing for years. But BATHORY was the only act to receive fan mail from that record, and that fucking album would sell like crazy because of BATHORY. The distribution partners and record shops would call to order that album for the BATHORY tracks alone. So in June 1984 BATHORY entered the studio to record a full-length album with a temporary line-up. It would sell like crazy. But I still didn’t have a line-up. So whenever interviews were made with fanzines – in those days – I would answer the questions and it would be my picture in the articles.

During the next couple of years, BATHORY went through a number of temporary line-up changes. It was down right impossible to find guys who wanted to play this kind of music. Europe was big in Sweden at the time, and everybody who would play metal, would try to look and sound just like Europe. I would have guy’s coming down the rehearsal place auditioning for BATHORY, looking like fucking prostitutes. There were a number of albums done between 1984 and 1988, but the line-ups were always temporary. We didn’t want to publish one set of line-up pictures in one fanzine and six months later having to publish a new set of pictures on a completely different line-up. That would confuse anybody into BATHORY and people would have said "-BATHORY will just never happen….let’s skip them!" The funny thing is. The one and only time that we had a very good line-up together for a longer period of time, and a picture printed on an album (the "Blood Fire Death" fold-up), by that time people were so used to think of BATHORY as a one-man-act, they believed that photo to be a fake. I realized then, it makes no difference what you do or say, people will make their own mind up about anything anyway.

There were no places for an act like BATHORY to perform in Stockholm. Even if we would have had the money and organization behind us – which we didn’t – there would still have been no place for BATHORY to play in Stockholm. There were plans for BATHORY to tour the US in ‘86-’87 together with some other bands like Destruction and Celtic Frost. But those plans just never materialized. So I said, "-To hell with it all….let’s just make records from here on!" By that time our music had changed and evolved so much it would have been impossible to play most material live anyway. And that’s what BATHORY has been like ever since. It’s not something I would recommend young acts to adopt. It is great not having to worry about tours and things like that. But on the other hand, not all acts can survive for 20 years without any tours.

Can we soon expect a new Quorthon solo album, or maybe some other kind of project?

Both solo albums were just accidents. There were no plans or any major thorough ideas behind any of them. It was just having fun in a studio doing something that did not have to fit in under the BATHORY umbrella. I was so tired of the many ingredients that people stuffed into the "Quorthon" myth that I wanted to scare some of the more extreme and insane cases away by recording ballads, pop, punk, stuff that sounded like your average radio-hit kind of material. I wanted to kill Quorthon as that blood-drinking, baby eating, satanic neo-nazi viking that people had make Quorthon out to be.

I have no plans for a third solo project. And I have no other projects planned either. I know that there are rumors out there that a third solo albums is being worked on. Not true. I know that some magazines and fanzines have reported that BATHORY is working on a musical on the life of Elizabeth Bathory. Not true. I know that people think that we are working on a "Blood on Ice part II". Not true. The only thing on my mind right now is the new BATHORY album. All titles have been written. Demos have been recorded and we are just waiting for the whole organization to gear up after the SPV years. The new album should be recorded this early summer and released by the end of this summer.

Did you find your spiritual way, and have you been looking for one at all in the past years?

I am in no way a spiritual person. I have never been interested in spiritualism or religion. There are no gods. Religions are all fakes. Eat, sleep, fuck, shit, enjoy your one life then die.

Well, Quorthon, that's it.

Thanks you guys. Take care. Good luck with StorBerg ("big mountain" in Swedish by the way – but I guess you knew that already). All my best to you and my greetings to all BATHORY fans in Montenegro.

We both thank you and remain yours sincerely,

Valsimoth and Nikola Franquelli

Hail the Hordes !

Interview provided by Nikola Franquelli / Storberg, March 2002
Taken from Twilight web-site.
www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palladium/6646/


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