by Ryan Meehan with Blade Mancano and China Joe Zibrat
Unrestrained pioneers. Avantgardists. K.I.N.G.s – all this and more is the nature of the primal force and the dark beauty that is Satyricon. Front icon Satyr and drummer extraordinaire Frost have broken loose from the shackles of genre restrictions a long time ago and chose to tread their own paths exclusively. On albums such as Volcano, Now, Diabolical or The Age Of Nero – sometimes even on stage – the Norwegians have collaborated with orchestras and choirs again and again. Now Satyr`s most grandiose dream became flesh with Live at the Opera: on September 8, 2013 Satyricon shared the stage with the Norwegian Opera Choir in Oslo – a monumental extravaganza that has been captured on DVD and two Bonus CDs as a whole. We are throwing horns high in the air, because our guest today in 10 questions is Frost of Satyricon.
RM: What gave you and Satyr the idea to invite other musicians to share the stage with you on your upcoming “The Dawn of a New Age” tour? What are the criteria you will consider when reviewing the applicants?
F: The idea is first and foremost a reflection of a more dynamic and creative way of working within the band. We jam a lot at the rehearsal place, and try to open up more and more to what is guided by instinct and intuition and see where improvisation can take us. Thus it also felt to be in the right spirit to have jam sessions on stage on this tour, and even include guest musicians whenever appropriate. What we searched for among the applicants were those that seemed capable of bringing something exciting and different to the shows – something that would work in our musical universe and in the given context, but still add a quality that was new to the band. Thus the guest contribution would have potential to create interesting musical experiences for us on stage and for the crowd as well. We ended up with finding a flutist, a percussionist and a guy playing an old folk instrument that came and shared the stage with us in their respective vicinities, and the jams all turned out really well.
BM: With the scene in Scandanavia that that spawned such bands as Satyricon, Emperor, Immortal and Mayhem, it’s obvious that region is full of legendary talent. That being said, to what degree do your contemporaries influence you? For example, was there ever a time where you would listen to what Trvm or Hellhammer were doing and did their playing style ever evoke a reaction within your own drumming?
F: A drummer like Hellhammer opened a few doors, obviously – I guess he expanded the universe of black metal drumming with his accomplished and creative work on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. But I have never felt like adopting anybody else’s style, and been rather stubborn trying to find an expression of my own. These days I feel almost closer connected to the pioneer drummers of the sixties and seventies than of extreme metal drummers – there is something about the physicality and spirit of those brilliant hard rock drummers that appeal a lot to me.
BM: Black metal – especially the movement from the mid 90’s onward – seems to intentionally marry the majesty and the brutality of extreme metal intentionally, and that was certainly the case with Nemesis Divina. From Rebel Extravaganza to Age of Nero, it appears as though there was a refining of the signature Satyricon sound. Now with the live production it seems as if there is a desire to bring that bombastic element back to that part of your catalog. Was that done intentionally to make something like “The Rite of the Cross” sound more majestic with the addition of the choir?
F: Now, we did bring “The Rite of Our Cross” back to our live universe again with the “The Dawn of A New Age” tour, but that song was not among the Opera show songs, and has not gotten choral arrangements made for it. Some other songs have, though, and I find them to sound very grand and majestic with those added arrangements. We always seek to exceed – we have currently been displaying several ways of doing just that.
JZ: The style of music between 1349 and Satyricon are both similar and at times strikingly different. Do you see drumming with one being more challenging than the other?
F: Apples and oranges… Drumming in 1349 is really physically demanding, Satyricon requires more mentally. This is definitely not all black and white, though, and in reality we are talking about two entirely different worlds here, where fundamentally different approaches apply. Only one thing truly is valid for my drumming in both bands: Whether I’ve played a Satyricon show or a 1349 show, I will always be completely worn out and empty afterwards. I always give it what I’ve got.
RM: When it came to deciding upon a venue for which to select for the “Live at the Opera” performance with The Norwegian Opera Choir, you eventually selected the Oslo Opera House…Were there any other auditoriums that were even considered for the purpose of that taping; and how much did the production team experiment with the placement of the choir in relation to yourself and the other members of the band?
F: We were determined to arrange the show at the national Opera house; it’s an iconic building here in Norway, and the main hall is a great place to do a live perfomance, with its significant aura, great technical facilities and special features. Being the home ground for the choir, it also meant that it had many practical advantages – like making it possible to put up rehearsals there. It was somewhat of a dream coming true for us to get to perform at the Opera house in the first place, and no better venue could be found for our performance – not within the country’s borders, anyway. Making the band and choir share the stage was no problem as there was generous amounts of space, but we needed to put a plexi glass wall between the choir and the drumkit to make it practically possible to perform.
RM: It took over a year and a half to edit the live DVD to ensure that the quality of the concert program matched the live experience that occurred back in September of 2013…How intensely were yourself and Satyr involved with the editing process ; and which portion of that procedure was the most time consuming?
F: Satyr had to supervise the editing process – it’s his compositions we talk about, anyway – and it turned out to require highly unexpected amounts of work. So much, in fact, that the poor man would probably start to cry if he were to elaborate on the question. Let’s just be happy that the DVD is finally finished.
RM: When you consider that black metal has always possessed such strong choral and symphonic elements, does it surprise you at all that a lot of other artists within the genre haven’t been willing to take on a project such as this one?
F: A few black metal bands have worked with an orchestra, but I’m quite certain we’re the first to collaborate with a full choir and perform at the national Opera house. It’s not the type of thing that just accidentally happens. We have learnt that it takes large amounts of determination, insight, hard work and probably even some luck to get to pull off something like this. Satyricon is marked by a particular drive for venturing into that kind of projects, and that might lie behind the pioneer effort we did here.
RM: Given the fact that you have a very labor-intensive position in the band, what sort of exercise regimen do you follow in order to keep in prime physical condition? Do you have any preshow rituals that you go through before you take the stage?
F: Being physically active and healthy is a prerequisite for my work. Preparing for shows involves a quite extensive routine of Yoga and other types of physical exercise that enhances blood circulation, produces warmth and stretch the muscles; mental targeting and practice. Even the application of make-up serves as a focusing exercise for me. I find the combination of routines to work for me and hence it doesn’t feel like a large sacrifice to go through it all, but it obviously takes time and effort.
JZ: With the current musical climate worldwide, where do you see the state of Black Metal being ten years from now?
F: I have no clue (…well, that’s not entirely true, actually). I hope it’s going to be significally different from today’s state, but I’m afraid not that much will happen. The genre will continue to grow and evolve for as long as there are bands that manage to keep it vital, but the development happens at a rather slow pace these days. To a large part, that comes down to the conservative and retrospective nature of the contemporary metal scene. We in Satyricon have ourselves contributed to a revolution or two over the span of our existence, but I wonder where the young revolutionaries are. We could certainly need them.
RM: What’s up for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything even bigger in the works that we should know about?
F: Satyricon are currently working on two albums – one cover album and one new studio album – so we will be really busy doing creative work for the rest of the year and into the next. At least in our camp, there are no signs of stagnation.
Video for “Die By My Hand”
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