Watain - Interview
Some time ago I read an interview with Erik Danielsson of Watain, and he said something that stayed in my mind till this day. If anybody else would've said it, I would probably just smirk and move on, but when he says something like that - it feels like a commitment he'll most likely keep. It has been a few years since then, and now I had the chance to ask Erik a few questions of my own; and remembering what was said, I was gonna open with THAT quote, of course. Here's what it was.
When asked what are your plans for the future you said "…our plan is to kill everything that has to be killed, bleed out everything that has to bleed, to set off the blaze which will continue to fuck the world until nothing remains beyond the black gaping hole…." Do you still feel the same way, does the plan still stand?
Yeah! I guess it's a way of saying that everything we've ever done with Watain has always been about maximizing and allowing the fire to spread instead of trying to contain it or trying to limit it in any way. We rather go the opposite way so in that regard absolutely the plan still stands and that's what we're here to do tonight.
Awesome, can't wait. I’ve been listening to Trident Wolf Eclipse a lot lately and I would like to congratulate you on another stirring release. It is shorter than the previous two and more to the point, but still strong and furious. After Lawless Darkness and Wild Hunt you managed to drive most people to the brim of insanity yet again. What was your frame of mind when composing Trident Wolf Eclipse, what was your main inspiration?
I think our frame of mind was quite hostile and predatory and very direct as we were kind of trying to do things almost the opposite way to what we did with Wild Hunt. Wild Hunt was the album where we really had no thoughts about what the outcome would be, it was very much an outpouring of everything we had in us at the time and that in turn led to …quite like… it led to very like wide or broad kind of album or expression while on Trident Wolf Eclipse I think we were pretty dead set from the start to narrow things down to what felt as the one urgent thing at the time, or doing the crazy process - which was very much, once again, a very hostile and very predatory set of mind. I think we were curious about exploring the more savage side of Watain, the one that has to do perhaps more with animal instincts, and the one that has more direct almost kind of punishment, and that’s also why it came out the way it did. Like you said, it’s a shorter album, it has way more aggression, it has way more… it is based much more on direct…
…do you think that maybe everybody waited for something more in the vein of Lawless or Wild Hunt and this one is not like it at all…
You know for us it's always been important not to take under consideration what anyone expects or what anyone wants or requires, you know what I mean? Watain for us is of course writing music, but also everything else and all has to be based on personal expression - and nothing else. It cannot be that we adapt our creative process in order to fit in into someone's brain levels. For us that's never been… it's never been interesting for us to work that way. We always wanted to create something genuine; I think that how you pay the most respects to what you're doing yourself, but also to your fans and followers. If you start to adapt yourself and to kind of try to fit in you're doing everyone a really bad favor.
Was there anything that influenced you differently while composing; were there any non metal influences that surprised even yourself?
Musically, we were very much focused on, once again, the more primal, savage aspect of Watain. We try not to think so much about external influences, we try to get inspired by our own work, because that can lead to more natural progression. It's a very metal album, it has a lot of metal finishing, something that I'm personally very fond of.
It does sound aggressive and pissed off…
Not only we've been doing Watain for twenty years, but we also have been into metal for thirty, it's something that keeps on coming back - and how important that is to not be underlying that fact. I love metal finishing of Watain. For me Watain has always been acknowledging the roots and traditions of black metal. That's always been an important aspect.
What about making the album, was it mostly you or was it more of a band effort?
I was very much a group effort I'd say. There have always been three core members of Watain in the band, but I've been writing music on some albums, I've been writing more than the other guys but this time around it has been very mutual collaboration and approach. That was another thing we were really sure about from the start that we wanted it done - Trident Wolf Eclipse is very much an embodiment of Watain's essence, in order to achieve that you need everyone involved.
When composing and putting ideas into flesh - do you have a formula or maybe some kind of ritual that works for you every time or is it more of an instinct that you follow and let ideas flow and materialize?
The whole creating process, even after all these years, is still very abstract. I don't really have a good answer for that, I think it's just something that happens organically. When you look back at it you see how things come together a bit loosely at first, and then just escalate up into some kind of ecstatic final moment when the album actually comes together, but you are not really aware of that when it's going on. I think it's something that we try - to leave every window open for chaos to come and grab hold of us and allow us to as much disaster to happen as possible.
When recording vocals: how do you prepare for recording, do you have to get yourself in a proper state of mind or a mood, how long do you prepare vocal lines?
Not only with vocals but I think you have to be in another specific mood to record. The way you hammer on the guitar strings will also come out different when you're completely relaxed and careless, or if you are very much in there with your guitar and playing. It's all gonna come out differently if you do it… We always make sure that we have the time we need to get in the zone. Everything you record and everything that you allow to become a part of the final thing on the album is your legacy, that is what you leave behind and we always make sure that whatever we leave behind is something that comes from a very important and urgent place. Everything has to be played and performed with acuteness and urgency; I think that's the most important. We can't ever feel blasé about anything; it has to be very important all the time. I think that's how you make something important…
…and that's how you create albums that matter. With Watain album titles there is deeper meaning to them every time, what is the meaning of Trident Wolf Eclipse?
Trident Wolf Eclipse is very much summarization or summary of what Watain is in essence. That's really what we wanted with that title, that's what the album cover is about and at the same time it's quite an open-ended title. We always try to allow for various interpretations.
Can you tell me more about the cover of the album and the elements on it, the 3 elements representing Watain?
The album cover, once again, is likely the center, like any other form of artistic expression. Of course we have our own ways to approach it and we have our idea of what it is. It's also a very open ended cover that anyone can relate or look into. What it is very obviously is a path that leads to a very difficult kind of environment, onto the sacred symbol of the trident that we have in the center, the core symbol of the band. It's very much like the ancient Latin saying goes: 'per aspera ad astra' - which means to the stars through difficulty. It's about acknowledging the dangers of inhospitable environment our paths lead through, and the fact that no matter what happens we know where we are going and we know that whatever is going to happen along the way, we know it's going to be worth it, because ours is a pilgrimage, because ours is a journey to a sacred source back home. That is very much what the album title says to me personally, but then again it's an album cover that I think everybody can relate to differently.
Bonus track on digipak called 'Antikrist Mirakel' has a massive text written entirely in Swedish which you are not singing but use kind of recitation or reading maybe, what is this song about (Google translate was no help at all), was there a special reason you decided to do it in that particular way?
I've wanted to write something in Swedish for a long time because I believe that there is something in (not only) Swedish language, but the entire northern soil that relates very heavily to black metal traditions, and the energies that have always been underlying our movement and our genre. I guess the lyric is my very open ended way to try and summon the energy through the Swedish language. It's very much like, if you know Swedish you'll realize that the lyric is kind of written in a way that is like talking in your sleep, it doesn't really make it, it's not really a coherent lyric like that, and it's more of a dream. It's something quite abstract, but there is few very important things in there as well that I wanted to have sang for a very long time.
Any particular reason why you decided not to sing it and go for the way you did?
Well, hard to say. Actually, an interesting thing about that song is that we recorded it already for one of the albums and we didn't have the lyrics to it, so we finally ended up not using it for the album, but the music part was really dear to us and hence I wrote the lyric part of the song. I write all the time when I'm home, that's what I do - and I've used heaviest piece that I wrote somehow, so that was spur of the moment and it became a very natural combination.
Opus Diaboli is one of the most satisfying DVD's I've seen; in one of the interviews I've read some time ago you said that if you had time you would like to add and explain more stuff in there and maybe you'll do that on the new DVD. Well, will there be a new DVD in the near future, with new music, new stage set up and with continuation of narration from the first one?
Well, I'm totally open for it, it's just that I know from doing that first one that it's a massive project and it requires a lot of work, time, everything. But it's more that the thing that the way we operate now as a band doesn't really leave that much space for the projects like that. So we'll see. I think perhaps maybe by the end of the touring run for Trident Wolf Eclipse, we're gonna sit down and see if that's actually something we should look into doing because I still feel exactly that way. It was released in 2012 so naturally you develop and progress and you got new music and new stage set up and so on.
If you could chose (considering Watain stage set up, burning fires and the whole show), what kind of setting Watain feels better in: big stage, big lights and massive amount of people or more of theatrical setting with only few hundred devoted Watain heads?
It's hard to say really. What I like about this tour for example is that it allows for a different set up every night. You play in front of 1500 people one day and the next day you play for 300 in a different size place. It's kind of the way I like it because it's more of a challenge and every day it's something new and that's kind of keeps away the stagnation. It's a very important thing, it's really hard to say what I prefer, I think both experiences, both big and small, are very powerful in their own way.
20 years is a long stretch of time to be in any business, but music is probably the least forgiving. If you think all the way back to the beginning and then see Watain right now, what would be the thing that makes you most proud of?
I think the fact that we stayed together all that time, and still maintaining the same core members in the band. I think that's probably the biggest achievement as far as I'm concerned. Maintaining integrity, I think is something I take pride in, a lot of bands go this way or that way or over there and transform into something that you can't tell it is still them anymore. For me I think is has been important to learn that what we found all those years, 20 years back is still something we hold sacred and feel extremely humble and grateful for having stumble upon. So, I think that in itself it's the greatest achievement.
What do you consider best and worst that happened in those 20 years?
Well, the best parts are probably the fact that we just been able to maintain it in the way that we have, without compromises, without fucking around. The worst: going to band members' funerals, of course, and everyone else that has died along the way. That leaves scars on everyone.
What about the scariest?
Scariest. I think the whole experience in itself is quite scary [laughs]
How does it feel to act and create, get support and even win a Grammy Award in a country that appreciates even such a controversial band as Watain when you hear about censorship, show or even tour cancellations that happen in other countries?
I don't know. I just take all those things as they come. If you don't face a certain kind of opposition as a black metal band, I think you're doing something wrong, I don't think your heart is in there unless you're ready to face problems and opposition which we sure have. On the other hand, getting the support that we get, Grammy and all that weird shit aside, having such a devoted fan base and really devoted fan club that follows us wherever we go, that takes away everything else and that's where I keep my focus, on the people that really care deeply about what we do.
Do you sometimes reminisce those moments when, a 15-year-old met 16 and 17-year-olds and together wanted to start a blaze to the world that was not seen before?
Of course, especially right now when we have our 20-year anniversary, it's a good time to look back and think about those moments. The fact that we're still together makes it even easier to get in that line of thinking, because you see everyone is getting older but at the same time everyone still has the exact same glow in their eyes and that makes you think… absolutely it does.
What about the 15-16-17 year-olds that are reading this and also wanting to keep the flames going… is there anything you want to convey to them?
What I think our most important decisions and choices that we made back then was that if we were gonna do this - it's gonna be everything that we do, there's no room for anything else, there is no room for compromise, there is no room for being scared, there is no room for thinking twice about decisions that ultimately would be for greater good of the band, we just do it. Be prepared to sacrifice everything you have, be prepared to have your parents in tears out of what you do, be prepared for all of that, because without that kind of dedication you'll find it very difficult to achieve something of lasting value.
How would you describe the evolution of Watain in those 20 years, and what do you see ahead?
Well, I see a show in a few hours [laughs] and I see 7 or 8 more US dates on this tour. What I'm saying is just that we never think further ahead than two weeks at the time with this band, and that's another thing that keeps you going - because you never know what's around the corner.
I remember reading somewhere in some magazine that someone was asking about blood on the stage, and the whole experience of seeing Watain live and you answered that 'it probably will not be a pleasant experience…… for anyone'. What can we expect to see tonight?
Expect quite traditional Watain show I would say, that goes quite well along the lines I was describing in the other answer. Every venue is different on this tour, every set up is different so you never know, but expect the whole shebang!!
Before we finish this interview - is there anything you want to say to the people that are about to witness Watain live for the very first time.
We always like when people participate rather than just watch. I've been on many concerts myself when I just been just a stand-by spectator, but if you really want to experience Watain in full, then you have to surrender your ordinary day life and step into the ring. Join us in the dance.
The Agony & Ecstasy Of Watain
Trident Wolf Eclipse
The Wild Hunt
Sworn To The Dark
Rabid Death's Curse
The Ritual Macabre
Black Metal Sacrifice
The Essence Of Black Purity
- Spirit Adrift - 20 Centuries Gone - Aug 19
- The Sombre - Monuments Of Grief - Aug 19
- Eruption - Tellurian Rupture - Aug 19
- Tomb Of Finland - Across The Barren Fields - Aug 19
- Elliott's Keep - Vulnerant Omnes - Aug 19
- Intent - Exile - Aug 26
- Child Of Caesar - Spirit & Liberation - Aug 26
- Machine Head - Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn - Aug 26
- Hexis - Aeternum - Aug 26
- Anchillys - Elan Vital - Aug 26
- Consumption - Necrotic Lust - Aug 26
- Adaestuo - Purge Of The Night Cloak - Aug 30
- Phobophilic - Enveloping Absurdity - Sep 01
- Heads For The Dead - The Great Conjuration - Sep 02
- In Grief - An Eternity Of Misery - Sep 02
- Imperium - Ex Mortis Gloria - Sep 02
- Reincarnated - Of Boötes Void Death Spell - Sep 03
- Vrenth - Succumb To Chaos - Sep 05
- Revocation - Netherheaven - Sep 09
- Mo'ynoq - A Place For Ash - Sep 09