|Gylve 'Fenriz' Nagell: "Made of Music"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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