Saturday, July 23, 2011

Made of Music: An Interview With Gylve 'Fenriz' Nagell of Darkthrone

Gylve 'Fenriz' Nagell: "Made of Music"

-Editor's Prologue-
So, this year I got a very awesome birthday present: I got to interview FENRIZ of DARKTHRONE.
This man, in my opinion, has always been one of my favorite personalities within the music scene. He is caught in the middle of a music scene that is infamous for all sorts of things that have spiraled out of control, yet, in the midst of the pseudo-mystic, attention-wanting peers of his that litter the many continents, he remains to be true to himself and his values, and casually shows a spirit of love for music instead of trying to get a big head.
Since I appreciate what he has done, and I know he gets many interviews (he estimates later how many), I wanted to do something other than sit there and ask about the 'black metal church burning kvlt' or any of those clichés. Instead, I decided to mostly discuss what makes this guy tick... his history with music itself.


View the full post for our massive interview!


The Inarguable: Hello, Fenriz! It is my pleasure to speak with you, and I hope you are well. 
I promise you I will not be asking any church-burning or Varg questions, as I, as a big fan, am more interested in your work personally.

First off, I have to state that 'Circle The Wagons', in my eyes, was one of the most memorable albums of last year. One thing which made it stand out, in particular, was a plethora of different vocal styles. After over twenty years of Darkthrone, and many facets of the band to show for within those many years, anyone who can appreciate the progression of a good band will be quite pleased with your steadfast individuality.
I was wondering if you had any more surprises up your sleeves for another album?

Fenriz: Hehe, well, we already have two songs ready for it - recorded in February, 2010. Then we've had a hiatus (after recording 8 albums in 10 years) since then and it seems Ted and I will be making more heavy metal from now on. So nothing shocking, no. It's a progress in regression as always.
Looking back, but can't seem to end up sounding like just another retro-band. As I am MADE of music, I also ponder why we sound like "us" but it's kinda hard to answer. I think we're a bit dissident and stubborn, combined with the way of the self-taught. And no rehearsing seems to help our sounding unconventional.

TI: I hear Peaceville is re-issuing a bunch of Darkthrone albums with new artwork and 'features', as well as with the Isengard material, also! Did you and Nocturno have this idea as a collective, or was it more of the label's agenda?

F: Mainly our idea, actually. The Moonfog album perhaps didn't have the distribution we wanted; we always wanted to be AVAILABLE - but not in-your-face-available with videos, TV ads and so on...but then I'd like TV ads if they were toned down - at least it would be some kind of one-way-communication (which I adored since I was a child) and not, for instance, a live concert setting which is way more interactive. So Peaceville bought the rights to, I think, most of the Moonfog catalogue - and so an avalanche of re-issues has and is on the steps. So our "hiatus" isn't TÖTAL in any way, we've got a lot of Darkthrone related matters to deal with, and with my humongous network - I could actually sit down in front of the computer and to answer everyone - I WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO LEAVE AGAIN. Luckily I realize REAL LIFE IS ELSEWHERE, so I spend most possible time doing other things (girlfriend, forest, friends, relaxing).

When it comes to the liner notes/commentary things... I know the commentary thing is MY idea, it's like interviewing oneself, and it's a bit like how I sound in every interview - but I always come off way more angry in the written interviews (I've done around 900-thousand interviews in total, if my calculations are accurate) than in the spoken ones, so many people might be baffled (as they always were when meeting me in public i.e.) by my humourous ways and dislike the spoken commentary disc thingies - but fuck that; I've always stated in interviews that I have no time for people without humour in my circles - and so it has always been done. My main reason for suggesting the commentary thing was that I needed a relief from WRITING about Darkthrone and thought it would be a well earned change of work ethic with the spoken word - but alas I found that to be a chore soon enough, haha.

TI: One thing I have noticed is that, while you are primarily known as the drummer for Darkthrone, you've made yourself known also as a jack-of-all-trades, instrumentally. We've seen you play bass on early albums (including the fantastic Dødheimsgard full-length 'Kronet Til Konge'), you've played your hand at more keyboard-driven music, and, from what I understand, even did all instruments on some of the Darkthrone music (not forgetting, of course, your doing so with Isengard and Red Planet), all the while sharing in the task of vocal duties as well.
I'm interested in knowing how you got started playing all these different instruments. Did some of them come more naturally than others?

F: Well, as I made pretty much ALL the riffs on our first demo it should always have been logical to look at me as "not only the drummer for Darkthrone" - but for some reason people didn't seem to GET IT. I also did vocals and lyrics. Almost always with the lyrics. And especially after we became a DUO in 1992 it would be apparent to anyone that we BOTH needed to understand every aspect of being in and running a band. So we both can play all instruments needed and write lyrics and also IN GENERAL do all the "stuff" that needs to be done for an underground band.

I got my first drumkit in ca.1974 I reckon, a children's drumkit, but real enough. But I ended up wrecking it and spare parts weren't easy to find - but I guess mostly my parents were tired of the noise. Remember I got all that heavy music from the 60s and 70s back then so that's my no.1 background. I wanted an electric guitar in '81, but my parents would only give me an acoustic with nylon strings. Arrrg, I still remember my half uncle teaching me the 'SMOKE ON THE WATER' riff on it. But I didn't like playing on that guitar much. I remember better when learnt myself one of my fave riffs on it, the refrain riff to 'POWERSLAVE' by Iron Maiden. Then it was clear that I had to buy myself an electric guitar and an amp. So I did, in '85 I think. I also played drums whenever I could find a drum kit. Correctly I understood that the guitar was more for making music, the drums were more... just exciting. But I could barely ever get access to a drum kit. I remember me and my half cousin out in the backwaters of Vestby, Follo. He had a drum kit in the basement and he blasted "No Sleep 'Till Hammersmith" on the stereo and I would try to follow it on the drums. I later bought that drum kit when we started BLACK DEATH in December 1986. The guitar and amp, I already had. It's easier to get access to guitarists than drummers, so I always ended up filling the drum chair. But making songs and riffs on the guitar, that was just as crucial for me. The vocals or screaming and growling just had to be done as well. It wasn't until 1989 i tried out some clear vocals on the Pilgrim Sands project (a doom project, only one song recorded). Then when getting drunk one time in 1990 I put on my favourite album since 1974, SWEET FREEDOM by Uriah Heep, and tried to sing along - and I discovered I COULD! Even the second song lines came easy to me, so that was an eye opener. I wasn't a perfect opera singer, far from it, but I always like the self taught thing, liking to hear Quorthon sing with the voice he had on the HAMMERHEART album. So I had discovered another way to "voice my opinion", and I was always doing different vocals. Then I discovered I could do the very metal way of singing too, like John Cyris, and I did a couple of 'US' METAL songs in around 1993 I think, but those were sadly lost. Anyway, I just use my voice instinctively; perfectionists aren't fan of my works anyway, I reckon.

Playing bass was always my favourite, I was lent the bass of Kenneth Sorkness, the VALHALL bassist and started to learn by playing to that slow song on KILLERS album by IRON MAIDEN; 'PRODIGAL SON'. Dunno why, I just always liked to play the bass since then, this must have been around 1988 or something.

I bought a synth in 1993 I think it was, been loving synth music since I discovered Jean Michelle Jarre's OXYGENE (an album both Ted and I adore; we have had it on vinyls since forever) and then later Klaus Schulze in 1989. And then discovered other electronica, also house and techno and trance in 1992. But I wanted to make just floating spaced out synth so I made the 3 NEPTUNE TOWERS albums, two of them released on Moonfog and will hopefully be re-released now on Peaceville with bonus DJ turntable mixes by me.

TI: I am sure anyone who has bought any of the recent Darkthrone albums will notice the pleasantly surprising lists of album suggestions, and we all like to tune in to find out what the 'band of the month' is. Legions of metalhead kids worldwide are probably now varying their range in music partially in regards to your metal suggestions, but, from what I understand, your longstanding love for electronic music has also been one to note. One of my recent obsessions, Clubroot, I admittedly found via a website which noted it as one of your suggestions.
Did you grow up interested in this music first, or did it come simultaneous with your interest in rock and metal? (editor's note.... one can tell this interview was written before the answers, as stated gracefully above!)

F: Oh dear, I seemed to have answered this question above. As an added bonus, the stuff I listened to in 1993 was VERY far from what the main result of 1993 was for me, creative-wise: TRANSILVANIAN HUNGER. Many must have thought I only listened to Bathory and Burzum that year, but they are so wrong it hurts. AS USUAL, I listened to a WIDE range of music also that year, and especially a lot of thrash again.

Rock came in the '70s from a very young age, 3 ys old in '74 is when I got most of that very important music from my uncle, STEIN TOMTER, and I am eternally grateful for that, giving me THE DOORS 'Morrison Hotel' at my birthday in '72 and then Uriah Heep, Grand Funk and last but not least EASY RIDER soundtrack in xmas and birthday '74, then more metal from 1982, hip hop in '84, and then synth and punk in 1986; these were days long before internet and I had to find a lot myself, not alot of mentors to put it mildly. So it was many hits and misses throughout the years. I really broadened up to female singer/songwriters in '89 as I already liked Suzanne Vega, but Metalion sent me record shopping for him and that's how I discovered Joni Mitchell. Also in '89 I started buying lots of various music in a very good record store in Oslo (Akers Mic) and at the end of the '90s I had what you would call a super eclectic taste and from only dj'ing metal before (and techno of all sorts in private and on dj mixtapes) I started dj'ing around Oslo in the '00s all kinds of styles. I then made a lot of compilations, which is what I'm best at, and gives me a lot of meaning in this life.

TI: I have to ask... we often see photos of you wearing a large amulet, and it has been circulating for quite a while now. Does this have any significance to you?

F: On my way to Elm Street rock cafe in 1993, I saw it in a crafts store and I thought, 'THAT'S ME,'. And I wore it since. Like every day really, and right now. In ca. 2000 I saw an interview with Quorthon from around 1998 when I saw he also wore it. Two minds must've kicked on it the same way, as it was handcrafted in Sweden, and probably not many of those were made. The store closed a long time ago. I even tattooed it in ca. '97/'98 with the Dark Angel quote "Death Is Certain, Life Is Not" around it, as I had used that already on a page in the second ISENGARD CD. I don't even know what the symbol means and I never bothered to find out; it's "MY" symbol now.

TI: Alright, now time to change gears for a minute; here are a few questions from some of our staff members:
1. Both Darkthrone and 80s UKHC band, Broken Bones, have an album called FOAD. Was that an intentional sort of tribute to Broken Bones? Are you a fan of punk music and, if so, can you tell us something of the bands you are into?

F: I never got into Broken Bones back in the '80s, EVEN THOUGH I think Dan Lilker wore a shirt with them on the GAME OVER album by Nuclear Assault (which both Ted and I worship). I heard them first like in the last 5-6 years and they're okay, sometimes way more than okay, but I was never inspired by them as I didn't hear them. ENGLISH DOGS, on the other hand, has been a huge inspiration since December '86. I'm into mostly ALL kinds of punk, from DISCIPLINE (Holland) to DEAD KENNEDYS, BAD RELIGION to WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, THE SONICS to NEW YORK DOLLS, TESTORS (we even covered them) to SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES (we covered them too), PUKE to RAPED TEENAGERS (my two fave Swedish punk bands), from DISRUPT (both the punk band and the dub project, hehe) to first DISFEAR, and post punk as well; the list just goes on forever. I really have no boundaries; it's like with metal, you just have to realize that everything connects with everything. It's just good and bad bands in all genres, hehe.

TI: 2. Do you feel that the “second wave” of black metal that Darkthrone is a part of is/was punk influenced?

F: Even NWOBHM took inspiration from punk, also thrash, death, black and grind. Not so much power metal and doom metal, I'd reckon. THE SECOND WAVE, though, was not a term, when we started playing black metal; it didn't exist, and suddenly I just woke up to this journalist-made term. Same with "extreme metal". I may have wanted to make something extreme once, but not for long. I want to keep things traditional. But original, too, I guess.

TI: 3.In the beginning, Darkthrone played in a death metal vein. Aside from the "second wave" that took Norway by storm, what other factors inspired you to change over to black metal?

F: No, we played more freestyle with emphasis on EPIC DOOM; our first logo even had EPIC DOOM written ON the logo, haha. Death metal didn't enter much until our 3rd and 4th release in 1989. Before that we were more inspired by English Dogs, Metallica, Slayer, and Celtic Frost, and Napalm Death's 1st vinyl.

TI: 4.When the name "Darkthrone" is brought up in conversation, the next name to follow is the album, "Transilvanian Hunger". Is this a fair representation of your career so far? If not, why do you think so?

F: No, Transilvanian Hunger is more of an experiment (no rhythm change until side B), very cold, lo-fi sound, but it was made that way to WORK for the guitar riffs and general atmosphere. Ted thinks it's too gothic and I could say that as well, but it feels fine to have made something that STICKS. Our most important track, and Ted and me have spoke about this (we rarely speak about our music together) is SNOWFALL from 1988.

TI: ...It seems to me that many of the metal musicians in the 'black metal scene' try to portray themselves with some sort of 'mysterious' vibe. One thing I have always liked about Darkthrone is that both you and Nocturno have a personage that is respectable and influential, yet not pretentious. In my opinion, a bit of transparency and 'human' qualities can almost draw more and more listeners to one's music. What do you think of this? How do you feel is a right way to perceive Darkthrone as an entity?

F: One day I think only I can see it the right way. But what about Ted then? And other days it's easy to see the cliché that once you let go of your music, it belongs to everyone. Anyway, we'd like to see people understand our development and where we came from (god knows I've shown that a thousand times), but it isn't really necessary in order to listen to our music. If it rocks somebody's hearts, it's plenty for me. On some days. Haha! We're in it for life, so it's natural to keep it real. Others have come and left, bigging up themselves, and are now forgotten fools. Or, as Ted would say, we all are like that in the face of the universe and gaia. It's certainly not calculated, as in "let's keep it real and not be pretentious idiots - that way we can get more listeners". Hahaha, hell no. We've been winging it since day one, just following our hearts and what we need to play, and that is often the kind of metal/punk that keeps us interested at the moment.

TI: Now, I know you are a busy man, and I'm sure that, if I were granted an opportunity, I could talk to you for hours on end, but I am sure that my lengthly-written questions were probably enough for you by now. I'd like to thank you for your time and responses. But I have one more question to leave us with:
What album are you spinning right now that you can't get enough of?

F: No whole albums right now (and I mean right now, so far in July - and this is early 22nd of July - I've got 38 new titles on my list), as in I got only fave songs from these albums. But the amazing "Kingdom Of Kings" by CRUSH (Greece 1993) has 3 superb songs in the middle and one fine ballad at the end. Then I just got very into BARRYTOWN by STEELY DAN from their "Pretzel Logic" album from 1974. I also like the entire DIABOLIC FORCE album from 2009 (Brazil). And, my girlfriend just got me into THE SLITS' "Cut" album from 1979. Also, I've been listening to the FUNEREAL PRESCENCE (yeah, it's spelled like that) 10" on AJNA OFFENSIVE label, it's the one man project of MM from NEGATIVE PLANE.

-Elan & Jon

Questions by Elan O'Neal and The Inarguable
Curated by Jon Rosenthal


  1. Fantastic!
    I wish I could get a Vulcan mind meld from that guy!
    Until then, I'll keep reading


  2. STEELY DAN is shit btw, and funereal IS a proper word (adj frm funeral)

  3. Right, but 'Prescense' isn't.

  4. lol fuck me and my stupidity for the misunderstanding, sorry...

  5. He actually corrected himself for the "prescense" thing on his Band of the Week blog haha.

    Great interview!

  6. In doing preparatory analysis of this planet before initiating the thought-scrapes part of the Τὸ Μεγα Θηρίον initiative, we found this individual particularly unique and interesting. As the Vulcan mind meld is difficult from afar we will take your suggestion of this
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    Great innerview indeed! Sun Ra would like immensely!

  7. So great! Fenriz is such a cool guy.

  8. Great interview, thanks for sharing!

  9. Fenriz is cool as hell, and I love the beard. Just saying. Much respect.

  10. Finally a great interview!!!!

  11. How did you interview with fenriz because ı want to talk with his and ı cant find a kind therefore;if you can help me,ı’m very happy
    please elan

  12. I've always wanted to try the congo drums- not the usual drum kit. I think that would make a lot less noise but let's face it, drums of any kind aren't exactly quiet. Maybe drummers need sound proof rooms.

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  14. Fenriz is cool as hell, and I love the beard. Just saying. Much respect.

  15. The Inarguable: Hello, Fenriz! It is my pleasure to speak with you, and I hope you are well.

  16. This music interview with Gylve sounds really amusing and interesting like the one shared at to know what an amazing drummer he is and how amazingly he just plays, excellent post share.

  17. Nice outdoor themed photos too.

  18. His amulet is the perfect match.

  19. I think that would make a lot less noise but let's face it, drums of any kind aren't exactly quiet.
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