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To That Which Lies Beyond


Архив интервью | Русская версия

It’s truly fascinating just how indifferent Watain are to anything or anyone other than their art. I’ve always known that (noticed how Erik Danielsson responds with “I don’t care” to any question concerning listeners’ or critical reaction and other things like that?). “Fuck the world” is, after all, their motto. They see this world of ours as hollow and they simply don’t belong here. These words are a part of a longer quote from “Opus Diaboli” which I’m sure all Watain fans will easily recognize: “Let’s make one thing clear. The world you live in is hollow. It is plain and simple, and contains only matter that in itself does not possess anything of lasting value. The only way to create something of dignity and true beauty in this world is by looking beyond these borders. It’s the search outside of the mundane and enter into connection with that which lies beyond the safety of the established form. It’s a step into the realm of liberated wilderness, of untamed fire and of that ancient chaos for which every truly potent artist has been a mouthpiece. There is a great abyss between this world and that place. An abyss which very few are ever able to cross. But by means of magick and communication with the divine there is a way to penetrate to that vast darkness, to that which lies beyond, to build bridges and open gateways to that terrible and wondrous place that lies outside the borders of the world. This is the way we have chosen to look upon the spiritual characteristics of our work. And this is why it is divine. It acts as the mediator between high and low, a link between two worlds and we have chosen to call it Watain.” What I was trying to do with some of the questions was to better define the beginning of the journey one is to undertake if they venture to follow Watain into the lawless darkness. The attempt to make Erik refer to our world only resulted in bitter miscommunication. Once you’ve crossed the bridge over the abyss, there is no way back, apparently. To the death and see you on the other side. Come and try to withstand Watain's mayhem in St. Petersburg on April 20 or in Moscow on April 21. Or do you have the guts for both?

My first question is really obvious, but it has to be asked: how do you feel about your upcoming gigs in Russia, do you have any expectations about them? And what should the people who are going to attend the shows expect from the band?

Performing in Russia with Watain always mean high expectations. We have been there three times since 2005 and every time the shows have been wilder, louder and more magical than the previous one. Because it is a Northern country, there are many things about Russia that make me feel very much like home, also when I look into the eyes of the people I meet there. But there is also something else, this wild and untamed eastern spirit, which adds great fuel to our fires and always makes me want to come back to explore it more in depth...
As far as what people can expect, a massive ceremony of Black Metal Magic of the highest order, far greater than anything we have done in Russia before.

Some 10 years ago you used to say that you “have always liked to perform at big stages” but now it seems you tend to make your shows quite intimate if possible (I think, the “Trident Wolf Eclipse” premiere in Stockholm can serve as a good example, and for me it is one of the best live shows I’ve ever been to so far). So how do you feel about performing at big stages these days?

We have been touring for a bit over a year now with “Trident Wolf Eclipse” and it has been on everything between smaller club stages for 300 people in Thailand or Peru, to huge outdoor festival stages across Europe. All these different setting present a good challenge in their own way, and with each of them we have sharpened our weapons and improved our capacity of truly opening the gates into the Chaotic dimensions where our work is born. Big stage or not, that is what we are always trying to do. I cannot say I am more in favor of one or the other, as long as we succeed and we can present a ceremony worthy of the Gods.

I’ve heard extremely contradictory opinions about “perfect” behavior at a black metal show. Some people insist there is no place for mindless headbanging or moshing as black metal is highly spiritual. Others, though, get all butt-hurt when the crowd is just passively watching the show. What kind of behavior do you see most fit for black metal in general and what would you like to see from the Watain audience in particular?

We have always encouraged our crowd to be wild and loud, to let go of their human all day selves for a while,find the savage spirit deep within, and let it loose. We want the audience to join us in our mad dance, this is a ceremonial celebration of Satanic power and Black Metal force, not an intimate ritual where one must focus intensely and direct energy at will. Anyone who has taken part in both such settings in real life will also understand the difference. Don’t come to watch, come to participate. Bring fire, bring hunger.

I think rebellion is one of the core concepts of black metal and, according to your own words, it was Dave Lepard (late singer of Swedish sleaze metal band Crashdiet – ed.) who taught you — among other things — what the difference between wanting to be a rebel and actually being one is. Can you share your understanding of a true rebellion with us?

Rebellion is simply put the wilful act of challenging and opposing that which is considered the norm. It is a beautiful and admirable idea to most sane people, but also tragically foreign to most of them. What is lacking is generally a reason. A passion strong enough to make them question things, or having something to defend which is so important to them that whatever that opposes it must be fought. Most people don’t have that. But when you do, the concept of rebellion transforms into a burning necissity. Words are replaced with action. And in that act, whatever it may be, energy and force that have been lying dormant may awake and take hold. This can be seen as an initiatory step into magical work, rites of passage that have the potency of changing the direction of ones life as well as that of others. I have gone through many of those and it made me into who I am today.

While talking about “Trident Wolf Eclipse”, you once said the following: “Om vi inger oro med titeln, så har vi absolut kommit en bit på vägen”. Who is this “discomfort” meant for? It’s quite hard for me to imagine someone from black metal community to feel intimidated by the imagery that has been part and parcel of black metal for years…

It is hastily made idiot assumptions like this one that really makes me wonder why the fuck I still do interviews. Anyway, the answer was given in response to a question about whether the title of the album, having a very “final” and “summarizing” tone, should indeed be a cause of discomfort/alarm/worry/concern (some of the many translations of the Swedish word “oro”) for our fans in the sense that it might refer to this album being our last one. My reply was that if we managed to create such a dialogue - meaning having people discussing the title of the album in a way other than just a plain interpretation of the actual words of which it is made up - that would be a good thing. We did indeed want the title to raise some eyebrows in that regard. That hopefully explains the matter a bit more clearly.

You had had 10 songs before entering the studio to record “Trident Wolf Eclipse” but only 9 of them ended up on the album. Was that one song left aside because it didn’t fit this particular album or did you find it not strong enough in general?

We had about 20 songs I think. Depends a little bit on how one defines “songs”. The process in which a vast body of material is being boiled down into what eventually becomes an album is quite complex, intimate and to a certain extent quite mysterious, in other words not something we’re too keen on sharing with nosy outsiders.

“Antikrists Mirakel” is the first Watain song to be ever written in Swedish. In your interview for Sweden Rock, you said writing in Swedish felt “extremt förlösande”. What is so fundamentally different about writing in English and Swedish? And why didn’t you attempt to write in your mother tongue earlier?

I have written tons of material in Swedish, but never anything that I aimed to use for Watain. Initially, the aim of this text was no different but things took a turn at a certain point which allowed me to explore wether or not it might work in a Watain context. Which it certainly did.

You’ve said many times that Watain isn’t here to make people convert to Satanism and your works are open for interpretation. Yet, each song is so rich in diabolic symbolism, archetypes and references that I can’t help but feel our experience is incomplete without the ability to recognize all the complexity and vitality of your music. So, where should one start in order to get a better understanding of Watain’s philosophy and music? What materials are there to study?

The religious and magical systems which I have acquainted myself with for the past 25 years have all left their mark on how I view the world, and ultimately they also provide a vast foundation of language and symbolism for my writing. I have delved into most of the world’s traditions that bear mark of what I define as Satanic; namely the mark of the dark opposer, the treacherous one, the sinister current undermining all of creation and awaiting its collapse. Such concepts can be found expressed throughout thousands of books and multiple traditions, now made widely available on the internet, but is is not until the days that we live in now that this scattered knowledge is being summarized and joined into a singular perspective by great men and women who bear that very same mark. It is interesting times we live in indeed.
My saying still stands however, in that the lyrics are indeed not written with the aim of converting anyone or to lead someone in a specific direction of thought. I do not like the idea of people “wanting to be led”. My lyrics are simple odes to the Powers that have governed and blessed my path, and if others can find strength and inspiration in them, great.

For most musicians there is a dramatic contrast between tour life and “normal” life which is in itself too much to handle sometimes. But in your case there is even more to it. You tour relentlessly all year round, play literally every night, being surrounded by burning flesh, rotten blood and bones. And when you’re off stage, there are constant small talks with excited fans, shallow questions from journalists, queueing in airports and other mundane things. How do you handle it, how do you manage not to lose yourself in that chaos?  

This dramatic contrast creates a friction that I find absolutely crucial to maintain a good creative flow and to continue to be inspired. It of course has problematic qualities as well but such is life. What it provides in terms of inspiration and nourishment to my well being and hence the continuation of my life work is whorth every struggle, avery annoyance, every pain.

Apart from the bands you tour with, do you attend any other live gigs?

Yes, I go to concerts quite frequently both at home and abroad.

I’ve failed to find commentary on what role drawing plays in your life. Do you draw anything that doesn’t have to do with Watain album covers, prints, posters etc.? Why have you chosen the path of music and not fine arts?

I do artwork under the name of Trident Arts, for both Watain and for other bands, since 15 years back or so. I don’t do much drawing though, it’s more collage, cut and paste, primitive printing and so on. I wouldn’t care to make a choice between creating graphic art or writing and performing music, which is why I have chosen to combine the two instead.

Why do you see this world as a prison for the spirit and what lies beyond the realms of death then? (I hope you don’t mind this Judas Priest reference)

Why? Because that is simply the way the world is made. That fact makes for a lot of struggle and discontent if one wills, but it also provides us with an opportunity to walk the earth and do what we will with that brief time. What awaits when we are done here, I believe, is liberation. In its purest and most perfect form.

Black metal originated in the North and the Scandinavian scene has always been most thriving and diverse. But the more I reflect on it, the more paradoxical it seems. With that much security in social, economic and political aspects of life (as compared to other countries), free press, the government generously sponsoring all artists (including metal musicians), SJ & identity politics combined with discouragement towards individualism, ‘tvättstugor’ being a symbol of Sweden, Scandinavia has given birth to the most hateful, most uncompromising black metal bands and even the very (sub)genre which is now known as DSBM. How is it even possible? And don’t you feel uncomfortable in such overly comfortable, sterile social climate?

I don’t relate the spirit of Black Metal much to society. I just don’t approach things from this kind of sociological angle. To me, there is something in the soil here that made strange and wonderous plants reach for the heavens. Twisting and deforming the landscape, utterly neglectful of its surroundings. Deep in their hearts, people have always feared the North. The Darkness here. A vengeful mystery at the worlds pinnacle. Treblinka. Bathory. Dissection. In my world they are all fruits of an underground garden of Evil, owing nothing to the world of illusion which you focus on in your question.

What question people who approach you should really ask you but they never do?

Nothing, I don’t like to be asked things. I like to learn, not to teach.

P.S. A friend of mine told me you like the Russian word “чёрт” (chjort). How did this word end up in your vocabulary and does your knowledge extend any further?

Yes, it’s one of my favourite Russian words. I can’t remember when I learned it but it resonates very deeply in my heart. I’ve always had a thing for cyrillic, and for Soviet aesthetics. I was a member of the revolutionary communist youth party for a few months when I was young, basically just to get access to old propaganda graphics and to hear people speaking wildly about revolution and violence. I still have a weak spot for these sort of things.

Watain on the Internet: http://www.templeofwatain.com/

Special thanks to Oleg Kolenda (Delta Mekong Concerts) for arranging this interview

Interview by Lena Pashko
Photos by Margarita Stefankova
March 23, 2019
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