Erik Danielsson (vocals)
Paris – Wednesday November 15, 2017
“Black metal must be a way of life, it must be a way of viewing the world. And it must be something that is everything to you”
Have you had pleasant day so far? I guess it’s not always easy to answer the same questions over and over again on a day like this!
Well, to be honest, this time it has been quite good in general, you know. I think it’s maybe easier now. I mean, the latest album (Trident Wolf Eclipse) is our sixth album so it’s kind of easier for people to come up with a more diversity in questions when a band exists for that long. There’s a lot of background to talk about, then. I’ve enjoyed it I must say. It’s such a relieving thing to be done with an album and just talk about it and stuff. I really appreciate that part of the album, that coming out.
There’s been a gap of four years and a half between your previous release, The Wild Hunt and Trident Wolf Eclipse. What took you so long?
Well, The Wild Hunt took us so long. It was a very big album. A heavy album. We were touring a lot for that and I think that we just needed the time to let that album run its course, so to say. And once we were done, we started to meet in the rehearsal room to work on new material and things worked quite fast actually. It went pretty fast until we were sure about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to explore, what we wanted to experiment with. Those things can usually take a very long time. And this time, it happened pretty swiftly.
Before listening to Trident Wolf Eclipse for the very first time, I was candidly expecting some kind of The Wild Hunt – Part Two. So I was rather surprised by how short and brutal the songs were, as well as without clean vocals. I guess that’s something you wanted to do: some short, sharp shock that people would not be expecting?
Yes and no… To be totally honest, I think we always try to forget about what people expect. We try not to think so much about that. If you truly respect your audience and if you truly respect your listeners, then you have to do that. You just have to express yourself and nothing else. So with Trident Wolf Eclipse, the album became very hard and savage, violent… And I think it was… It felt very natural to do something like that. It sums up our personalities as well (laughter). It sums up the force that has been building up for the past 20 years in Watain. It’s a band that is shaking with energy, you know. Then it maybe also has to do a little bit with The Wild Hunt becoming Trident Wolf Eclipse as The Wild Hunt was such an epic project. So it was also a bit liberating to just explode and go away with it with this one.
What’s the added value of Trident Wolf Eclipse according to you? What does this one bring that the previous ones didn’t?
Well, I haven’t really looked upon it like that… For me, every album is a monumental Watain at a specific time, you know. And the same with Trident Wolf Eclipse, it’s very much a monumental of what we were at. And it’s different from what we’ve done. It’s definitely our hardest album, our noisiest album. And I think it was a chance for us also to finally explore a bit more our real musical influences, which have always been the really underground black and death metal, especially from the time of the 80’s and the early 90’s. I think you can probably hear that a bit more on the new album, which I, personally, am very happy with.
Do you think that you will give a live treatment to all songs of Trident Wolf Eclipse?
Yes, I actually do. I think that all the songs would work very well live. But we are never in a hurry when it comes to these things. It always depends on the feeling when you start touring: you have to be able to feel the atmosphere of the band and to feel how our connexion is between each other, what kind of material works best in our setting. And I think it’s different from tour to tour. Sometimes, we focus much more on really hard material and then sometimes we do concerts with only epic songs and sometimes we mix them… It will never be a matter of just playing the entire album for the reason of it: that will never happen. It will more be taking it song by song.
I think it’s always important to start an album with a great track but it’s as much important to finish it with a great track. And I think that you made the perfect choice with “The Fire Of Power” as the last track of the album. You probably agree?
Musically, I think it’s a song that works quite well for last song. It’s quite epic and perhaps the one that reminds the most of The Wild Hunt in that regard. Thematically, the idea of having “The Fire Of Power” as the last song… The entire album is meant to be seen as a path towards the source of things, the path towards power. It’s about searching for the force. It starts with the song “Nuclear Alchemy” which is a song about transformation, a radical transformation. And it ends with “The Fire Of Power” which can be seen in a way as a result of this search. “The Fire Of Power” could be the final result of this journey. That’s why we chose to put it as the last song. I think it works. Maybe people would think that we would end the album with something very fast but I really like that it ends with something that is a bit more like “standing on top of the mountain” or something like that.
The album is out in January. What’s your current state of mind? Can’t wait for it to be out? Anxious about how it will be perceived?
My current state of mind is that I’m really looking forward for it to come out. I’m not the slightest worried about how it will be received. I know that a lot of people will think that that’s a too brutal album. And I know that a lot of people will complain about the sound because it’s very distorted and disharmonic… But I’m also sure that a lot of people are going to love it and feel the power of it. And they are the people I care about… I always try to focus on the people who get something from Watain and want to give something back. That’s where my focus is when it comes to people’s reactions. If you think too much about those things, it will suck out your energy and I’m more interested in gaining the energy, obtaining power rather than giving it away.
Heres’s a quote: “Black metal should be kept explosive, burning, toxic, dangerous”. Would said that?
I don’t know… Me?
Yes, you did! In a short documentary about you (Music, Blood & Spirit : The Life & Work Of Erik Danielsson)!
(laughter) Oh, I remember now!
Many black metal bands tend to get away from traditional black metal and add different items such as the use of traditional instruments, symphonic elements, choirs. Does it mean that the black metal scene has reached a dead end and has to evolve? Does traditional black metal still has a lot to offer by itself?
How shall I say this… I’ve always said that the way that black metal will survive and the way that black metal can be taken further is by continuing to dig where the first black metal bands started to dig. They were scratching the surface and I think that they started to dig above a great abyss, you know. And that’s a place where you can go as a black metal artist: it’s possible to go there and explore it even further. But I don’t think that so many bands do that. I think that a lot of bands repeat themselves and repeat the blueprint that already exists. It’s not necessarily a big problem as long as the band itself exists because of other reasons than that. Black metal must be a way of life, it must be a way of viewing the world. And it must be something that is everything to you. You cannot… I personally don’t really see how you can have a family life and play in a black metal band. I don’t know how you can have a regular job and play in a black metal band. For me, that doesn’t work, you know. I think this is the way that black metal should survive. It survives because of the people who are willing to give everything and to explore, to continue, to dig even deeper and deeper. These bands haven’t been so many… Maybe 5 in the past 20 years?
Do you think that in some way black metal and hardcore punk are more than connected? Fans of each sub-genre seem to have a way of life that is really linked to its philosophy…
Yes, I think that all strong sub-cultural movements are connected in a way or another. Especially if they are antagonistic. If they raise a fist towards something, sure they are. They’re connected in a way but there are so many differences as well. Hardcore is perhaps more related to the current state of society and it’s more a political commentary when black metal lives much more away and deals with philosophy? But there’s also a lot of philosophical stuff in hardcore. Black metal lives with a different kind of darkness. But yes, there are definitely comparisons to be made between sub-cultural movements. I’ve lived my life exploring sub-cultural and underground arts since as far as I can remember. So for me those are really dear things. I will always keep my focus there because that’s where interesting things happen
Let’s talk a bit about Hellfest now. That’s going to be your 4th time there (2008, 2010, 2014 and 2018). Any specific memories?
Yeah! Nothing that I want printed though… (laughter) What can I say? Hellfest is one of if not the best European festival, to me, personally. I have gone there also just to be there, doing press, stuff like that. Things can get pretty wild there. There’s a lot of room for real fucking maniac behaviour there and we have enjoyed that part quite a lot. My best memory from there was probably seeing The Devil’s Blood (2010). It was probably my greatest moment there. But I’ve seen some great concerts at that festival, you know… Everything from Discharge to Kiss (laughter). Our 4th time you said? Our first time must have been…
Don’t you think that the festival context isn’t the most appropriate one to enjoy a black metal concert?
If the black metal concert is well performed, then yeah, for sure it’s appropriate. But I think that when we do festivals, we have a pretty different approach than we have when we perform in a club. We try to make sure that what we’re doing on stage can translate to much bigger crowds. But Hellfest is good because they have the Temple stage and it gets a little bit more confined, which is a good thing, I think. It would be a very big challenge to play on one of the outdoor stages… I can’t say that I’ve seen that many great black metal concerts at festivals. I always prefer seeing this kind of bands in a more intimate situation. With Watain, we have things than can fill out a festival stage. We have kind of a more traditional stage show so I really enjoy doing festivals. You’ve really got to make sure that it’s what you want to do before. Seeing a band who’s going up on a festival stage and performing like it’s a club, it doesn’t do it all. You really have to put something more into it.
Can’t festivals be a threat to traditional tours? Some people tend to save their cash for festivals and not go to clubs anymore while some bands rarely tour outside of festivals nowadays.
I don’t know… That’s a bit outside of my head, I think. I don’t really think about things like that. I mean, I talked to someone yesterday who grew up in the 80’s as a die-hard metalhead. He said that people don’t understand how good things are now compared to the 80’s. In the 80’s, if you went to a metal festival, there was only one: The Monsters Of Rock. The bands were great but there was nothing else great about it. Everything else was just shit. There was one beer tent, you were treated like animals pretty much. The only thing that you could do was to enjoy the bands. And now, you have festivals like Hellfest and a hundred others. So as a metalhead nowadays, I don’t complain. I think it’s very good for the metal movement in general that they exist. If people want to do tours, their own tours, play regular venues, they have to fight even harder to get the people there but that’s fine as fighting hard should be a natural thing for a metal band.
Many thanks to Valérie (JMT Consulting for Century Media)