Anathema interview from Qvadrivivm #5 (2008)

A Romance with the Many Twitches of Life

Interview: Kuronen

AS ONE begins to slip further into the iris of solace which manifests itself through desolation, melancholy and world-weariness, one starts to appreciate and take into account the kindred souls round him that come in non-human parcels. Friends may drop down and away but hell, do not dare cart off that Celtic Frost album. Not that Gallo flick, that Joyce novel, that Harvey record.

Do you know what I am speaking of? Sometimes a simple piece of pop culture can forge a stronger, more intensive bond of interaction than any person ever will. At its best a CD can understand your whatever qualms or quarries and relate to your social situations, however bleak or pessimistic, at an unprecedented level of sympathy. When there’s nobody around, this notion of a product’s greater friendship, with regard to its impact and effect, tends to lift itself into a fundamental position. CDs can be fiery friends; just monitor through the racks of plastic, pick up your emotion of choice and meet comfort.

Meet Anathema.

There is an old adage that says there’s no arguing about musical opinions. Never mind that truism, let’s bicker. I doubt I will ever see why so many people consider Anathema’s A Fine Day to Exit a disappointment while at the same time praising A Natural Disaster. This work of the Liverpudlians is certainly an invigorating work that extends their momentum, but it’s no match with the 2001 effort, which was lush, mazy, constantly on the move, immense—the kind of record that never made you think of exiting this world. For the approximately 2,375 days I’ve had it, my life with A Fine Day to Exit has been successful—phenomenally successful. The time I’ve spent with A Natural Disaster, on the other hand, has been, after the initial excitement wore down, reserved, suspect, laden with wary observation, altogether stiff in some intricate ways. This album, the group’s seventh in total, is another showpiece of their unrelenting talent in creating some of the finest moments of contemporary British rock, but, seeing as it arrives after the dazzling A Fine Day to Exit, its problem may be that it’s just not good enough.

I have two more specific reasons for why A Natural Disaster, a keen merchant of the ‘less is more’ ideology, does not cut it, so to speak:

1) It is too stripped-down, too bare, too streamlined, ascetic in a way that at times obliterates interest rather than crystallises it.

2) Musically, the songs on the album do not follow a consistent line of thought. The high points are many but what’s jammed between seems like filler fabric.

“I never really thought of it like that before,” says Danny Cavanagh, whose album A Natural Disaster essentially is. “But you’re right, it’s stripped down to bare essentials with lyrics and music, and I guess that’s just because that’s the way it needed to be. It didn’t need to be big and epic so that the music wouldn’t suit with the lyrics. You know what I mean, it’s more personal and intimate, really. But that doesn’t mean that every time we write in the future it’ll be like that. But this particular album is. This is one in the collection. Like a side step, really. This is a bit of a one-off.

“I would have to say that not every song on this album is wonderful. I think “A Natural Disaster”, “Closer” and some of them are good but I’m the kind of songwriter that can come up with good stuff but who maybe needs help just to finish things off sometimes. Which is okay. I mean, that’s what the guys are there for. Vincent certainly is encouraging and he thinks he can offer me that kind of help. And certainly I know that John can too.”

If some of the songs are not great, then the question begs to be asked: why were they included on the album?

“That’s a good question,” Danny responds. “Me and Jamie were sitting in the pub and we just decided we didn’t really want to drop any of these songs because all the songs were connected, they were all written in the same time period about similar things. We just felt that it might be nice to do this, to do these songs and get them out of the way. It was like a catharsis for me, just to get feelings out. Once them songs were out of the way, then we could concentrate on other people’s songs. And to be honest with you: they couldn’t wait. I couldn’t take a song like “Are You There?” and let it wait for the album after this one. It had to go out now because of the subjects. You cannot separate songs like “Are You There?”, “Harmonium” and “A Natural Disaster” because they’re all interconnected in the lyrics. They couldn’t really be separated, so the idea was, ‘Okay, let’s get them out of the way, then’. Then we can move on.”

“If there’s one thing that I haven’t been good at in the last few years, it’s communication.” – Daniel Cavanagh

FOR DANNY, the last couple of years have brought about many a worlds-apart situation. In the eyes of devout Anathemaniacs, the most surreal and distinct and incongruous of these occurrences must have lain between the time roughly five and a half years ago when Danny briefly left Anathema to join the ranks of fellow emotional rockers Antimatter and the point at which the now-five some emerged with A Natural Disaster. It is one thing to leave a band, and quite another to return and put out an album that could almost be conceived as a solo effort; an album for which you have written nine out of its ten songs, an album which deals exclusively with the dingy cobwebs and distorted jigsaw puzzles of your life. Some people will draw their own conclusions from these episodes; some will have gotten angry and some may have been struck by utter confusion.

“If people think that I’m trying to take over, it’s not really true,” Danny explains. “I just wanted to do this album. I certainly don’t want to keep going like this, not at all. Obviously I still want to write and I still want to be able to contribute and I still want to manage the music. Like a football team manager I’d like to manage the music, to make sure that it goes okay. Apart from that, I’m not interested in dominating all the albums so much. I listen to other people’s ideas, I try to listen to everybody’s ideas but I have really the closest connection with John. At the moment, that’s the connection that I’m feeling with musically but it might come even closer with Les later. It’s hard to say.”

In the recording process of A Natural Disaster, some of these connections were in danger of crumbling.

“I started to feel pressure and crack up a bit towards the end,” the guitarist relates. “I couldn’t speak, I lost communication with Les a little bit. I was worried because the songs were really personal and I didn’t have the confidence to release them. It was okay in the end. The first half was good but then John went on holiday for the second half of the studio and it just became more and more difficult for me from then. But we got through in the end. It was a difficult process and I would certainly not like to do it again. The last two albums have been really difficult to record.”

“I start to cry, I keep on laughing”Anathema, “Panic”

“WE WRITE about reality in all its cruel, twisted forms,” someone in Anathema quite pithily said some time ago. This is what the passionate, swooping emotional expression of Anathema is all about: real life, its cycles of noxious despondency, unbound mirth and everything that goes in-between. Although this brutal reality for Anathema is no make-believe utopia of drama monarchy, neither is it fully rational, tangible, ultra-concrete. Its knives are not imperatively physical.

“I can only speak for myself, but the reality that I talk about is all state of mind,” Danny states, stressing that to him everything is, at the end of the day, a state of mind. “Certainly my depression or illness or whatever it is that I’ve had has affected Anathema in many ways—some good, some bad. Every day thought processes affect Anathema in bad ways and good ways. We kind of write about who we are. Anathema is really a collection of songs about the feelings of the people in the group, whether it was Duncan writing, or Vincent or me or John. It’s always been about the people. So in that respect, Anathema is us. Our reality is the songs. There isn’t any difference. We don’t write about forests and druids. Although I love forests and I love nature I don’t really write too much about it. Like I said, if you ask me that question, all I can say is the songs are basically us. They’re like an extension of the people. Like reflections of the personalities of the people in the group. Or certain elements of their personalities.

“What I like about our group is that the songs are pretty honest. On the last three albums, most of the songs—apart from one written by Dave Pybus, “Anyone, Anywhere”, which he always said wasn’t about anything realistic—we’ve made in the last ten years have been honest, in the lyrics.

“John doesn’t write any lyrical poetic stuff, Vincent doesn’t and I certainly don’t. We just write from the heart. Honest stuff, feelings usually. To us it’s not about moons and forests and whispering lakes. But I mean you can mess it up, you can disguise into it a little bit. But that’s basically what it is.”

While saying he thinks A Natural Disaster is the barest Anathema will ever get, Danny does not see the album as the quintessence of their honesty par none.

“I think Alternative 4 was really brutal and honest as well. I think all of Duncan’s songs were honest and all of mine have been honest. I would say that Alternative 4 and this one have been like that. But you know, you can find it how you want to if you think about it. I wouldn’t compare honesty because most of the songs have been honest over the years.”

IN TERMS of popularity and media exposure, the fourteen or so years of the Vinny Cavanagh era of Anathema have not carried the Britons far from their early metal shelters, even though their music has changed quite drastically. With A Fine Day to Exit, and its single release, the symphonic-sounding and almost cheerful “Pressure”, Anathema and Music for Nations made a serious attempt at challenging the axiom “you don’t go big from metal”—in vain, as it was proven. MTV and the notoriously crooked British radio refused to swallow the catch, going on with their chock-a-block piles of music as deep as the regular Daily Mirror number. With A Natural Disaster, the plans regarding crossover success seem to have been buried altogether. Danny admits bleakly to believing that the new album will not bring the band any sort of popularity in the alternative music scene.

“It never happens. I don’t know what we’d have to do to make it. Maybe a different record label, maybe a different group name, a change of image, who knows—I don’t. I just let the group take its natural course, whatever that natural course in the future is. I just want to do that.

“The music scene in this country, they’re not interested in what the songs are saying. They’re very close-minded. The questions that you ask in your interview are completely different to the ones that always get asked in this country. You ask more about the songs, about the music and about the feelings behind the songs. You ask real questions; in this country, they don’t. At least not with us anyway. It’s much more narrow-minded. I don’t know what we’re going to do in the future. It should be okay I guess if we stay together. It should be alright.”

And, in the end, what’s the damage if MTV and the radio don’t catch on? It’s their loss. We get to keep Anathema to ourselves. To the band itself, all those who go under that banner of ‘we’ still matter a great deal.

“I like the fan base that we have, I think they’re very loyal and great. People think that we’re good. Which is true. We are quite good. We’re not the greatest group in the world but musically we’re certainly capable of potentially great stuff. There aren’t that many really good bands. I’m not saying we are but some of the songs are good enough.”

There has been a lot of rumouring going on about Anathema possibly changing their name in the future. Danny admits these rumours aren’t entirely false.

“I don’t know. I got an e-mail today from a guy in Greece who said that we should never do it. But that’s Greece. Anathema is a Greek word, everybody knows it there. I don’t know how it’s going to go, but we are thinking about it. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen before long. If it happens at all. If we get another album, a great one, a really great album that I would love all my life, if we did that under Anathema, we’d keep the name then. But at the moment it’s hard to say which way it’s going to go.

“I don’t think some things represent what we are. The name Anathema is still associated with that scene with My Dying Bride and all those bands, and it’s just nothing like the musicians we are. We’re not like those type of bands and musicians, My Dying Bride or Cradle of Filth. We’re just a separate thing, musically different.”

You call Anathema ‘gothic metal’, I’ll be there to burn your house down.


Love History interview from Qvadrivivm #4 (2001)

The Bohemian Revolution

Interview: Kuronen

To talk the hind leg off a donkey; if we were nasty, we could well accuse Mr Radim Chrobok of doing just that. If you have ever read an interview with Love History or Forgotten Silence, you may know what I mean. He is talkative. Very talkative. But that is not all; he has also been a member in both of these excellent bands, taking part in creating some truly unique and mind-boggling music. And he has an exceptionally nice style of handwriting. Mere coincidence, all these, you say? Cannot be… When all is said and done, the following article should cover most of the relevant details and opinions, hopefully in an optimal proportion, of Love History, the Czech oddball seven-piece.

Love History drilled to the core of many an underground denizen with their phenomenally popular 1993 demo release, the interestingly titled The Astral Silence of Blooming Virgin Beauty. Relatively soon after that, in February 1994, they entered the studio once again, now to rock onto the reels an MCD that went by the name Desires. Then a bunch of troubles occurred, yada yada, and through various difficulties two Love History albums have been released in the last two years: Gallileo, Figaro - Magnificó… (recorded in December 1996, released by Shindy Productions as a cassette version and The End Records and Northern Darkness Records as a CD in 1999) and  Anasazi (The End Records 2000); just to cut a very long story short. What is most important, the band have survived through all the abysmal pits, which enables us to concentrate on more vital matters hereon. Astral matters, if you will (I jest).

First of all, the sui generis characteristics of the Slavic people are mentioned as a partial source of Love History’s well-groomed feel of independence. Some of these characteristics outsiders are taught to recognise as impulsiveness, spontaneity and benevolence. How would Radim Chrobok, the Love History drummer, say that such attributes can appear in one’s music? 

“Hard to say,” Radim utters at the beginning of our conversation. “I don’t think any of the above mentioned qualities, if we can call them qualities, represent the Slavs in general. I’m one of them, so maybe it is impossible for me to make judgements. In the Czech Republic there is not any deeply rooted pride of being Slavic; I don’t think people even care! Recently, a few black metal bands have discovered that they are ‘proud Slavs’ as they have realised it would be stupid to shout around that they are proud of being Vikings. So, they have grabbed what’s the nearest and easiest factor to learn a few historical aspects about. It’s okay to me as long as they don’t bother me with their ‘we are the greatest and blackest and the most pagan’ shit. Prior to the mania of northern heathendom and bands relating in their national roots, no bands here cared about the Slavic roots.”

Obviously Radim, after making this fiery welcome calling into the subject, is interested in having his word on this topic between musical and ethnic matters. Thus, further pathos is in order.

“I read in an interview of a certain Polish director that in Poland calling somebody ‘a Slav’ means an offence sometimes. Sad, isn’t it? I think we should be proud of our roots, yet the pride should be hidden somewhere in our hearts, not shown off bare with all the swords and helmets. This concerns all nations and roots, be it Slavic, Nordic or whatever. The contemporary age that we live in doesn’t care about aspects like these, it doesn’t care about some paganism that ruled here a thousand years ago. People should be aware of where they come from and where their forefathers have sown the soil for the first time, and they should be proud of that, yet showing off that particular pride tends to look ridiculous sometimes.”

Does the music of Love History exhibit the somewhat humanitarian Slavic qualities from a wide spectrum?

“Speaking of music only,” reckons Radim, “I can’t say if Love History represent any characteristics of the Slavic people, but as our music features some folk elements and since our roots are related to the Slavic roots, it’s rather clear that it does.”
Just to mention bits and pieces of the history of the band, in the years of 1995 and 1996 Love History faced a beast that came in the shape of contradictions concerning the line-up. Did this period of time bring the band close to the
river of Styx, death, would you think?

Radim fiercely says ‘never’, yet admits that the word ‘never’ has strong associations, and continues: “As far as I know my cousin Richard, he would never give up with Love History, not even if he was the only member left in the band. I don’t want to call him the ‘soul’ or mastermind of the band, but on the other hand, there’s none more accurate way to express how important his personality is to the band. He’s not the best musician, nor the best song arranger, yet I’m sure that Love History would never exist without him. And I’m saying this in spite of the fact that I at times have hard ‘differences of opinions’ with him.”

When I imply that something that does not kill you will only inevitably strengthen you, Radim immediately takes up on the note.

“Exactly! Years ago when I left the band I was dead sick of Richard, and perhaps he was dead sick of me too. I don’t know. My leaving was the best solution that I could do back then. We suffered from sort of a cabin fever and everybody who knows us and our characteristics must agree that we are very different persons in many aspects. Naturally these differences appeared somehow - we could get along neither in musical nor human basis anymore. We needed the break. I was out of the band for about a year and a half, and since that didn’t kill the band, you can see I’m not that important a part of Love History. Still, as I felt that I belonged to the band, I returned later on. Of course things between Richard and me cleared up in the meantime. We weren’t in contact with each other each and every day, we didn’t have to deal the common things about music, I played in other bands… It was all a relaxed kind of thing, I would say. He, in the meantime, was continuing with Love History, though without having a complete line-up. He only had the keyboardist Radek to create all the music with, and you could hear the result of their work on Gallileo, Figaro - Magnificó…, which was solely written and composed by Richard and Radek.”

Those who have read for instance the interview in Cerberus #6 have been able to see you making some obviously heartfelt statements about the status of the underground movement at the moment. As a person who does massive amounts of unprofitable and unconditional promotion, you seem to view everybody else’s lax and not so efficient doings as something quite depressing. I am aware that you did only enter the circles long after the ‘velvet revolution’ of your country, but it is fair to suppose that within the last ten or so years you have nonetheless formed a stable opinion of the underground movement and how it has altered in the times you have been a part of it. So, would you like to try and define that scene, the indefinable?

Radim declines the offer: “I’m not going to define the indefinable; I don’t even like to call this ‘scene’ the underground anymore. What’s underground about webzines? What’s underground about zines getting paid for adds and them thus being hardly interested in new bands but more likely in the big names on the big labels who can pay for the expensive adds? Fortunately, there still are people who do it for pure passion, who do not care about any profit. I wouldn’t like to sound like I’m some messiah saving everything with my unprofitable approach, but nevertheless I’m a bit sad that things aren’t as they were years ago. I mean ‘years’ something like six or seven years ago when I actually entered ‘the circles’, as you put it.

“Today, it’s hard to hear from anybody, to even get an answer with the obligatory ‘thank you for your CD’ - speaking of the mags that simply don’t care about us, the smaller ones, the ones without any big labels’ background. I almost have to beseech to get a bad review at the very least. This is the only means to get to the potential listeners and buyers.”

Love History are a band that have received a relatively large share of troubles when it comes to dealing with record labels…

Radek intervenes, “Just one label, namely Northern Darkness Records. There have been no other pigs of the same value that we have had to deal with in our lovely history, fortunately.”

All right; then, has the collaboration with The End Records proved successful to you thus far, post releasing the Anasazi album?

“It’s proved very good, in my opinion. I can’t remember there having been any tough troubles with The End so far. We got all the recording and graphic expenses paid by the label and that was pretty much the biggest support, since we would have never been able to pay the same amount of money by ourselves. And you know many labels work like that: they let you pay all the studio costs, sometimes even the graphics, and they only press the CD’s. That is the way how things ‘worked’ with Northern Darkness. The only thing The End could hardly do for us is a proper tour. On the other hand, it would be extremely difficult for us, the seven members in the band, to leave everything and spend three weeks in a tour bus, especially because of our jobs and studies. So, it’s not such a disadvantage in the end.”

Anasazi is product number 17 in the back catalogue of the label; could that not been seen as a pretty good start? At least it has become rather clear that The End will not be one of these two-release wonders that fly by night as some sort of celestial phenomena, only managing to release those horrible adolescent bands of the neighbourhood that no one wants to hear.

“Definitely,” Radim agrees. “As far as I know, Andreas, the label boss, hasn’t signed any other bands since 1998. We were the last one to join their camp. He once admitted that he’s becoming more and more picky when it comes to signing new bands, and it’s true that there is nothing worse than a small label having about thirty bands in the list but being hardly able to do anything more than pressing the CD’s and booklets for them.”

To many record companies are surely nothing but frustration, to some they may be an appreciated aid that will help you take care of the commercial side of things, but to most they are undoubtedly a mere inevitability. Having grown up in a country that at one time certainly was not capable of providing its citizens with everything they would have hoped for, one might think that you in particular would have some deeper grudge against the hyperbolic capitalism of the labels…

“If you like to think so… Well, maybe you refer to Richard’s statements in the thank you and fuck off lists telling something like ‘fuck off the capitalism systems’ or so, right?”

That may have been an incentive, yes.

“All right, you should know that Richard is extremely against everything… I don’t know if he has any clear idea of what an optimal society should be about. Maybe there’s none such existing. From my point of view, capitalism is something far ‘better’ than what we had here twelve years ago, but on the other hand, it does bring in many troubles that are much different from those one had to deal with in the socialistic system. I think people are not willing to accept new rules, or maybe they just can’t… At any rate, frustration reigns here, that you should be aware of. People had too high expectations and then they got disappointed.”

After having veered off the track so much, Radim returns to the original theme.

“Of course record companies are a part of this, with all aspects belonging to it. A record company is, in fact, an incarnation of capitalism in all points, but don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean just the negative points! There were no record companies in the socialistic system, just one kind of a monopoly, which was under the control of communists. So, releasing anything but just cheesy mainstream pop music was totally out of question. This is the biggest difference between the record companies of the socialistic and capitalistic times.

“When you talk about the inevitability of record companies… As I said before, for us it is essential to be signed on a label that can pay for the record expenses, for we could not pay for them ourselves. If it’s not companies like Northern Darkness, a label helps us to bring our music to a wider amount of listeners than we would ever be able to do on our own. But of course, I can understand that when a band is getting bigger the demands grow, and what our label serves Love History with would hardly suit for e.g. Anathema.”

After all the bagging, do you think you have anything else to say of your love affair with Northern Darkness Records?

“Not much, heh! Only that our ‘love’ ended in a dungeon of hatred. ‘The best’ I’m now able to do for them is to spread the word about how irresponsible the people behind Northern Darkness are. Maybe it’s changed during the years, I don’t know, but the years 1997-2000 with them were a serious pain in the ass. How else could it be if a label delays your album’s release for about three years and then as you don’t even expect it to ever be out, they release it in complete silence with no promotion, and don’t even think it is important to inform the band about it, not even considering any ‘good manners’ like sending us CD’s as a payment or so. Yeah, they sent the CD’s finally (one hundred pieces) but only under the threat of us passing the whole thing onto a court of justice. That was the whole love affair! A good ending, though, like one in the romantic love stories.”

You have said that you are more likely to concern yourself with criticism if it comes from open-minded people than household-variety gore maniacs, so what are your thoughts of reviews and journalism in general, Radim?

“Journalists have great power and sometimes they don’t even know that! They make the trends, not the listeners, not even the artists themselves. Who would be aware that there is a new trend coming if the journalists boycotted that trend?

“Yes, I can accept a negative critic from a person who is open-minded and who knows much more than just one style of music. I can’t respect an opinion coming from a guy who shouts in his flyers stuff like ‘only true black/death/thrash metal here’ and ‘fuck off cheesy keyboards and wimpy females’. He can make a good review of a band playing exactly the style he has skills to listen to, but surely he cannot make a good review of a band that doesn’t fit his close-minded views. I’m sure a good journalist should be open to as many musical styles as possible, otherwise he can never be objective enough. Absolute objectivity doesn’t exist, but one can try to approach that illusion.

“Some time ago I myself wrote to several mags and zines around here. I haven’t written anything for quite some time already, though, because I felt like I was starting to repeat myself, especially when it came to reviews and interviews. I couldn’t come up with anything interesting anymore. So I stopped. However, I think I was quite objective in reviewing stuff because I could listen to anything from pop to grind and I never dissed an album only because it didn’t happen to suit my tastes.  Music that I can value highly must first of all be original, and it must dispose of some atmosphere.”

…In the meaning of ‘dealing with something successfully’, not getting rid of something, I interrupt.

“This,” Radim continues, “is what I search in music first and foremost, no matter what kind of atmosphere it is, whether positive like with Yes music or dark like with Emperor.”

It was comical to read the Kogaionon #7 feature of Love History, as it was so close to the one in Cerberus magazine. Seeing as you are a loquacious man, I wonder if frustration ever strikes upon you when you are asked the same questions over and over again. I did not bother to check out if any of the answers in the two interviews that I mentioned were similar word for word, but I suppose they are pretty damn close…

“Sometimes I even copy answers from previous inties and paste them into the new one, without any need to correct it and make it fit the question!” Radim shocks.

Personally, it would insult me a great deal to catch someone I have interviewed for the same reason. Something akin to this has happened once, though, in which instance I had to ask the person if he thought it was really too wise to copy an answer from a well known magazine circulated in one thousand copies and expect that no one would notice. He defended his case with the excuse of having so many interviews to answer, and as so few people send him copies of the magazines in which his band is interviewed, he thought, ‘why bother’. But that was just one answer. I know that saying this will seem completely out of place in the holistic conception of this interview, but now there are two of us ranting.

Radim enthuses: “The questions are mostly completely the same! Disgusting, isn’t it? But who the fuck should be answering the ‘why Love History as the moniker of your band?’ question all the time? The interviews you mentioned above, both Kogaionon and Cerberus, were amongst the best and most interesting ones I have ever done! Perhaps you’ve never read the kind of interviews usually coming from e.g. Turkey, Indonesia and countries like these? As a side-note, sorry to zine editors out there in Turkey and Indonesia who might feel offended by my words… I can’t help myself but my experiences with the level of journalism in countries like these aren’t very good… with honourable mentions to a few exceptions! At any rate, it’s frustrating sometimes, but I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to. I’m also sure it has never happened so that I would not answer to someone’s interview only because the questions are boring. If they are tedious and too usual, I can go through them with just the one-liner kind of answers.

“When it comes to the interview I’m doing just now, it’s quite a different one because I have to force myself to start the work of the lazy grey mass inside my cranium a bit. I’m afraid the interview with Mr Kuronen couldn’t end up with those aforementioned one-liner kind of answers, ha!”

I was recently talking to Mr Toby Chappell of the Atlanta based doom orchestra Eyes of Ligeia about his fancy for more progressive and experimental forms of music. As you have brought forth your admiration for this sort of music as well, could you give some depictions of why and how exactly did you originally fell in love with all the more leftist bands? Some of these bands’ outcome can be perceived in the amalgam of styles that is Love History’s music, yes?

“Yes! Yes rule, haha! Well, it was quite the usual way. A friend of mine played some Yes songs to me six years ago. At first, I didn’t like the music, it was far too complicated and chaotic to my ears. But I gave it a few more chances and suddenly I had fallen in love with this style of music. The first album I heard from Yes was 90125, and the second was the mighty Close to the Edge. Of course I tried to read as much as I could about this ‘new’ favourite band of mine, and got to know more and more names of bands related to this art rock music. I’ve known e.g. Jethro Tull for about six years now, but only two years ago we - that’s me and my girlfriend - visited their show here, and since then we have been big fans of the band. King Crimson is the favourite band of my girlfriend. I think she heard it about four years ago for the first time, perhaps Thrak. Albums like Red, Beat and In the Court of the Crimson King came a bit later.

“I’m glad you mentioned the influence of these bands in our music. However, I don’t think it’s really that much evident, as it’s not me who writes the music. Personally I’m greatly influenced by the 70’s art rock bands - and not only by their old albums because the majority of them, for instance Jethro Tull, Yes, King Crimson, Saga, Rush etc., are still doing great albums - and I think Hanka is as well. In Love History, Paul listens to some art rock stuff from time to time too.

“I almost feel like the music of musical monsters like these has been forgotten, or at least ignored by young musicians. Too many people tend to express themselves through very simple three-chord songs nowadays. It’s all right to me as long as the songs can make an impression on me - Amorphis is a good example of this ‘simple’ but still very nice music. I hate it when people damn the old ‘big’ bands and call them ‘dinosaurs’. If only five percent of today’s music scene would reach the level of musicianship of the 70’s bands!

…And what are the odds for that happening? Not high, sadly. Radim goes on for a few more lines, asking me to give his best regards to Toby of Eyes of Ligeia and inquiring if he could have Toby’s electronic mail address. Hell, this is no dating service. Yet, as he so heart-warmingly thanks me in advance for these undone deeds, I have no choice but to obey. But when Radim leaves his girlfriend for Toby and is about to start a family with him, please remember that it was I functioning as the godly incinerator of this unworldly love. That is all.

On a somewhat unrelated note: I have noticed that you are marketed by your record label, in a handful of flyers at least, as ‘progressive death metal’. Do you not think that this genre-bound labelling only harms your band eventually? I mean, personally, the term ‘progressive death metal’ does not measure up at all to the vastness of the Love History compositions.

Radim: “I know what you are talking about. Well, it is still far better than labelling us as ‘doom metal’, which is something I can’t stand at all. Yes, we recorded one sort of a doom metal demo in 1993, so perhaps we are still paying for doing that. We take bits from everything - that ‘everything’ not having to be ‘metal’, even. I don’t think that labelling us progressive death metal harms our music, but at the same time I’m sure it doesn’t tell much about what we have to offer either. When speaking about progressive death metal, names like Pestilence, Cynic, Atheist or Sadist should be mentioned… The real kings!”

You have said that, in your opinion, there is not enough romanticism in the metal world of today, so do you not find this world desperately romanticised already as such…?

“Well, maybe. I can agree that it wasn’t the best thing one could say about the metal scene of today. However, I can’t remember in which relation I said this, and what was the question actually. Doesn’t matter, anyhow.”

I am puzzled, since for instance ninety-five per cent of the current black metal bands certainly do abuse an utterly romanticised imagery of the concept of ‘evil’. And then you have the Anathema and Tiamat carbon copies and whoever else that also massively romanticise every subject matter and theme their minds can get hold of… Should we not rather say that everyone needs a bit of a ‘reality check’, or a brush up, in their art?

“Again; maybe. It’s just a matter of opinion. I’m not the one who tells what others should do. If somebody likes a romantic image, it’s all right to me as long as it is not ridiculous or pathetic. When speaking about black metal… yes, there are a lot of those clone bands that you speak of - the ones who romanticised the style - but on the other hand there are also the leaders of the style whom I can appreciate for what they have done musically, bands like Emperor, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Mayhem. I don’t care if somebody romanticises his image as long as he can offer good music. In Love History we used to do that seven or eight years ago and I don’t feel ashamed about that. We were just 18-year-old ‘little’ boys thinking such a ‘romantic’ image was somehow cool, unlike tons of other metal bands who wished to look evil to be cool. We don’t care about any image nowadays, it’s lost all of its importance to us, as well as the lyrics related to the romantic matters.”

Desires and Gallileo, Figaro - Magnificó… were an inch closer to your average listener’s idea of a commercial doom synthesis than the marvellously diverse Anasazi is. Do you feel that some people may be frightened by the upright and impeccable style presented in Anasazi? After all, it is somewhat of a quirky record, and does not reveal its innards rapidly like some other album might do.

“It’s like a nice compliment to me,” Radim beams, “so thanks. I love records that I have to listen to several times before they will grow on me. I hope I will always be able to achieve the same with my own bands. Many people have told me that they hated Anasazi at first, but as they decided to give it more chances, the majority of them really started to like the album. Many people even tell us that it is by far the best album we have done, despite its differences to our early material. Some people have even asked why we bother to make our music for the metal audience. But who says that we make our music for metal listeners exclusively? The only problem is that it’s far more difficult to get the actual product through to other than metal listeners, with distribution and stuff like that.

“Of course I’ve also heard opinions about how our album is too crazy or immature or so. Yes, that is what it is. I’m glad that it is crazy and I’m glad it is immature since then there is a lot where we can continue from in the future. We have much to improve in, of course. We haven’t done a perfect record. If we had, and if I knew that for a fact, I think there would be no strength for me to push any further.

“I’m sure we have lost a few fans who liked that more ambient, or let’s say synth, based atmospheric and melodic stuff, but then, we have got a lot of new friends for our music. Since we weren’t very well known before, I’m sure the gain given by the new fans is way bigger than the loss.”

The title and lyrics of the album are a grandeur symbolisation of mankind’s decline, or so I have understood from your statements… Yet they - the lyrics - come only sort of ‘halfway’, as you have confessed yourself… To which direction do you think you are going with your lyrics now that you have destroyed mankind - onto the apocalyptic raids, perhaps? Obviously there can be no sunshine or flowers left anymore, and the music surely has to become one of the ‘no hope’ sort as well…

“Honestly, I’m close to a burn-out when I have to speak about the future lyrics. I don’t have even the slightest idea of what I should write about. I desperately hope someone in the band starts to write lyrics so that I don’t have to. You are right, there is not much to go onto with the lyrics after I have destroyed everything, hehe. No, it wasn’t meant to be that rough. On Anasazi we tried to describe a fight between man and nature, and of course we couldn’t end it in a positive way, or does anyone really think mankind is headed towards some better tomorrows? I don’t think so, I’m quite sceptic about it. But I wouldn’t like to describe that in the lyrics anymore, no way.

“When listening to some fragments of the new songs, I could imagine some folklore being used in the lyrics, simply because the music sounds so folky. Another trend, maybe? Hard to say. Maybe some ideas come my way within a week, a month or a year, and I will write the lyrics - or the majority of them - again.

“And now it penetrates my mind… Yeah, when everything’s destroyed and all nature’s gone, we can still write about industrial matters. There are beautiful factories around, lots of spaceships in the air, wonderfully smelling cars, prismatic oil spots on the sea surface… there’s really so much to write about!

“By the way, I have to remind one thing that I remarked in your review of Anasazi. You complained about the ‘easy’ English we use in the lyrics. Well, you should know - if you haven’t noticed it so far, that is - that English is not the mother language of anybody in the band, and thus the capabilities of expression for us are quite limited. Singing in Czech would work out, but believe me, not many people would understand it. We were quite careful to have no grammatical mistakes in the lyrics and things like that, but of course one can never evade some unusual or ridiculous, even, phrases. I’m sorry for that, Mr Kuronen! For me it’s still better to write in easy English than in bad and not understandable English.”

A-ha, so you are attacking my language skills! I knew it… Anyway, Voices is a pretty comical piece of narration. The lyrics are nice, but otherwise, nahh… I cannot possibly see it having anything the album could not do without. What are your defences? Why did you include the track on the album?

“You are aware what the lyrics to that song are about, at least the idea, right? We needed that track just for the lyrics of it, but on the other hand, we didn’t make that just because we had to. Voices disposes of an atmosphere that we really wanted it to have, it was meant as kind of an ‘introduction’ to the final song Phantomous. Maybe it’s a bit too long, but there was much to be said. Of course, I would never like to do an album full of songs like this one but I can’t find anything wrong with using it once in the whole concept of the album, either. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. Fortunately it seems like we can satisfy your needs better with other songs, heh.”

If I did have a critical word or two about the linguistic level of the lyrics of Anasazi, unfortunately the same has to be partially said of the visual side. The cover painting is a little bland, and as always, I have a hard time with bands with band pictures in the booklet. So tell me, Radim, why does one want to add pictorial presentation into one’s musical recording? Is this not a rather insipid form of idolisation?

“Yes, it is,” Radim admits. “I have thought about this several times already, and found no use for including the band pictures. But many people need those. There are so many mags that simply need your picture, otherwise they can’t print an interview or an article with your band. Reminds me of mainstream pop culture which is deeply related to the faces of the artists. If you don’t look nice you can just fuck off. Right? The same starts to apply in the metal scene too, it seems. Too many bands take way too much care of their image. Well, the fact that taking care of the image is more important than the music is, is perhaps okay sometimes.

“Some time ago when I played in another band, I refused to be photographed for any band purposes. I felt it was stupid. I thought that people weren’t interested in my face but were interested in the music. Maybe I was wrong. People and listeners are interested in the pictures. If I look through a CD booklet, of course I look at the pictures too. Sometimes they make me hunger for the music, sometimes they do the opposite. You are right on that it shouldn’t be connected to music as much as it is today, but no one can really do anything about the matter.”

What is your personal relationship to pictures taken of you?

“What is my personal relationship to pictures taken of me? Relationship? What relationship do you think I should have to my pictures? Narcissism is not my cup of tea, and the same goes for the rest of the band as well. I think my relationship to pictures taken of me is quite normal: “Oh fuck how stupid I look there!””

But you and Hanka do make for such a nice couple… Ah hell, to be honest, at some point it escaped me that I had even asked about such a tiring matter.

The usage of keyboards in Love History’s music can get a bit overwhelming at places. After all these years of pro- and anti-argumentation over the use of keyboards in metal, what is your personal take on the matter? Are you capable of being as objective as to dissolve the keyboard use in Love History and the keyboard use in metal in general? How would the perspectives between these two differ from each other?

“Without keyboards the music of Love History wouldn’t be as dramatic as it is with them,” Radim says. “You would wonder how ‘easy’ our music sounds without the keys.

“Well, Opeth, for example, are capable of portraying a wide variety of moods with the use of guitars only, and they have my respect for that, but I simply can’t imagine us doing the same. I don’t think the usage of keys is overwhelming in our music. Maybe it was in the period of the Gallileo, Figaro - Magnificó… album - where the keys were also played by another musician - but surely not on Anasazi. I’m sure the keyboards on the new album are well balanced and well thought out, as we took good care of that in the production. I’m sure our use of synths is way different from the tons of others drowning their music in five tracks of voices and strings sounds. Our synth sounds are much clearer and sharper, and they work more in the manner of making the melodies or just spicing them up a little, both in harmonies as well as in rhythm, for the guitar riffs. Only a few times do we tend to ‘drown’ the riffs in the typical synth chords. Still, I’m sure keyboards are not any extra instrument, just an ingredient. It’s an instrument of the same importance as any other instrument in our sound… Spank me if I’m lying here!

“As for the matter in general, I hate discussions on whether keyboards are or are not a metal instrument, and whether keys are cheesy and shit like that. Might be a useless instrument for Dark Throne or Cannibal Corpse, but that is not the kind of music that I would like to create. We need keyboards; that’s why we use them. I don’t really understand why this instrument is still considered ‘non-metal’ after so many years of so many bands using it. Does anybody ever ask if bass guitar for example is a metal instrument? Who set the rules? Who said ‘this is a metal instrument and this is not’?

“And the last note, related to this: Hanka, who plays keyboards in Love History, is my long-time lovely girlfriend, so you can just guess how objective I am on the topic, ha!”

Let us be serious for the last actual question. “Communism was a nice idea in the beginning…” Now what the hell do you mean by that?

“Exactly the way how tabloid journalists work, heh! You’ve taken a fragment from a long answer and you present it like ‘look at this silly idiot who thinks that communism is nice’, right? But my answer - which you so nicely didn’t present in its entirety - continued in the sense that maybe it was a nice idea with all those rules such as everybody possessing everything and nobody having to pay for anything, but mankind hasn’t reached a level, and will never reach the level, of applying it. The core point of the thought will always be unrealistic and will not ever come true, as it simply rejects the true nature of people. But still, it is a nice idea. Just an idea.

“Maybe I was wrong calling that ‘communism’ as I was actually talking about ‘socialism’ instead. Yes, a silly mistake of me. In fact, I see both these aspects being lumped together, it’s almost like the same to me, although historically it is not, of course.”

As a nice ending to a fine day to decide whether to live for another one, I ask Radim if we should wish for another dawn to rise. He sees that we are definitely to greet the marvel of the sun rising once again. Once more. For the reasons to this, he mentions the hope of Qvadrivivm magazine painting smiles on people’s faces. Yes, perhaps, but I am not sure if there is any meaning in entertaining people via this magazine. Another man’s hell is another man’s heaven, after all.

Radim is exhausted. He drops hazardous lines of learning and inventing new words in English, being still bitter about his vocabulary, saying nice things about the magazine, and finally, telling the only thing people expect him to say:

“Let me sleep, please.”

Radim Chrobok, the former drummer of Love History, giving reasons for his and Hanka the keyboardist’s departure from Love History. 4 May, 2001. 

It was the other band mates who asked Hanka to leave the band, and I joined her on my own decision. No way she followed me but the other way round. There were certain problems during the last weeks, especially in communication, because as you may know we are living quite far from each other. Hanka was heavily involved with her studies during the last months and she expressed her excuses for that fact a long time ago, but nobody in the band seemed to comprehend her time limitations. Then, they decided to kick her out but didn’t ask me about it (and you should know that especially Richard always shouted around that we are such a fucking democratic band and discuss everything together and make final solutions with regard to all members’ opinions… shit happened and they didn’t ask me in advance because they were afraid I would leave… so I did, just a few hours later, after I realized how things were in reality). Besides, we’ve just got to know how Richard was spreading ugly things about us (about being too little involved in the band and shit like that… Apart from him, none of us (including me or Hanka) has ever been drunk on stage, which is something that Richard enjoyed a lot and ruined a lot about the band’s image… His involvement in the promotion and things like that is strictly limited to the amount of money he has after all the drinking parties at the end of month… it was me (how modest I am) who did all the promo shit around the band, answered tons of inties and promoted as hell, and the only result was that the other guys tended to kick my ass if they didn’t agree with some of the views I wrote about in the inties… shit!). I’m truly afraid that this band is going to die… or better said, not really die but turn into playing for a few local fans around Ostrava city, in the pubs, in the drinking parties and stuff like that. I’m not interested anymore. Believe me, I was really sorry for that situation, but I was too involved in the band’s birth to go on the way the other guys went, if you know what I mean. I didn’t want to play with a bunch of alco idiots, sorry to say that.”


Bathory interview from Qvadrivivm #5 (2008)

Revenge Every Day

Interview: Kuronen 

there is no need to bring about excessive drama over what happened on 7 June 2004. People die, bands travel to places of otherness, prosperous eras disperse into hazes of disregard and memory failure. Those who make it to the next day project their fear of life on the deceased. That is, by all and any means, precisely the way things go.

The knotty consequence of Quorthon’s departure for myself was to hear the dead man’s voice on the TDK tapes that recorded our conversation in the spring of 2003. The three hours of material on those tapes now seem like a phonetic mausoleum that is both precious and eerie. It confines a spirit just as it contains one. This interview is set to reflect some aspects of that spirit and not act merely as the typical commemorative racket.

Unto thee, gods of the twilight. Death is only the beginning.

quorthon was still very much alive and well when he sent me a couple of e-mails prior to our interview. Wondering the unorthodoxy of my then e-mail address (suppose ‘antimetal’ is not the right account name to have when dealing with matters concerning Bathory) and advising me to take it easy during Easter, to ‘let the knife and the Vodka be’, those e-mails were nothing special. Just a few lines of ordinary digital noise transmitted in the trash-bloated routes of the information society. Except that when they came from one of your most valued musical heroes, they did have an additional layer of relevance attached to them, rendering the messages objects of scrutiny and preservation of a heightened level.

Some people feel that none of Quorthon’s music from the last fifteen years has opted for any greater goal than one that is analogous with the socio-emotional sender–receiver scenario of human communication. Cynics will tell you the man, like a champion whore of late capitalist mediocrity,  produced commonplace audio information for people who were already so entranced with the mythological Bathory ethos that they uncritically lapped up everything the demigod decided to churn out in his pay check driven idleness. Trick the audience to fall in love with you and then you can really do anything, realise every misdirected shell of delusion boiling under your hat and make Brezhnev look like a miniature of motionless boredom. There are no boundaries. Not perhaps the ideal form of artistic transcendence to any of us, some people were downright ready to take matters into their own hands in their dissatisfaction of the ways in which Quorthon had dragged down the Bathory saga.

According to Quorthon, it was mostly journalists—‘the biggest fashion whores’ he calls them—who were to blame for the spiteful backlash. The expression of critical thought wasn’t much more than a drop of spit in the wind for him. Bathory was always a utensil designed for the fans, those who cared with burning minds and bleeding ears; those who placed the new LP or CD in the player with trembling hands; those whose economy could stand the stamps and IRC’s demanded for affectionate semi-regular correspondence with the artist. This attitude is something that made my conversation with Quorthon exceedingly intriguing. Were I a fan or a journalist when I spoke to him? Was he supposed to respond with harmonious love or metallic odium to what I had to say?

It didn’t take much more than the initial, lively-sounding “Moi vaan!”, spoken in a flawless Finnish accent, to tell that Quorthon was not going to push yours truly in the category of journalists to be hung, drawn and quartered. (If you wonder the unblemished nature of his pronunciation, here comes the explanation: “I went to Finland a couple of times when I was younger and met a lot of Finnish girls. If you go to Helsinki or Åbo or the big cities, the girls aren’t very much nice, but if you go to places like Harjavalta or other places out in the woods, you will meet girls who are wilder than guys in Stockholm! Oh, I’ve had the best of fun there… Unfortunately I cannot remember all the Finnish expressions—ei saa heittää!”)

It might not have been audible in his voice, which purred mischievous and zealous as ever, but a lot of people were after a piece of Bathory meat once the Nordland albums had been released into the transcontinental metal air. This made the Swede’s daily routine something akin to a daunting vocational cross between that of a publicist and a factory worker. Interviews and promotion, promotion and interviews, some more interviews: you imagine how it goes. Add to this all the supplementary urges and needs a musician has, and one can be relatively sure the man did not spent the Easter holidays practicing diabolical rites on an inflatable Maria Magdalena figure.

“I'm just feeling really confused these days because when you're making interviews you talk to all these different people from all over the world. I was just doing an interview for a Turkish webzine and I've spent three hours trying to figure out their questions,” Quorthon utters, the words followed by an ample attack of his eerily devilish laughter.

“I didn't have much of a holiday. There's always something to deal with. You talk to people who are building a studio somewhere or you're helping people over here or you're working for an artist for a feature record or something. Especially now when there's two albums, Nordland I and II, out in a very short span of time, I'm busy. I didn't even know there were so many webzines out there. There are twenty of them each week. The great thing about e-mail is of course that you can type letters sitting in the office by the computer so you really don't have to go places."

Not going places, of course, also stands for not touring, as everyone even slovenly educated in the Bathory fable knows. Selling 1.4 million records and receiving e-mail and regular mail in the heaps, it’s a good amount of attention for an artist who does not go anywhere.

“No, but look at the Unabomber—he wasn't going on tour and Discovery is interviewing him, you know. Elvis Presley is hotter than ever, and he's been dead for twenty-five years.

“It's very good from the point of view that Bathory does not make tours but you have to understand that there are so many labels out there who will put out so much crap. There are so many Dutch and German labels that will put out anything. If it sounds like metal and if those guys will take 20 beers and record anything in a studio, you can put a logo on top of it and just put it out. They're trying to sell as much as possible because there's a market out there instead of concentrating on a few bands that really have something to say and who are really interesting musically. Today you can release a band called Satan's Penis and the guys will go ‘brrroarrrgh’ and it will be a cult band. They will probably be able to sell only 10,000 even if they do a few shows and appear in all those magazines and have their own web site because there are two hundred of them out there. There's only one Slayer; there's only one Bathory.”

It’s not a long way from the fictional Satan’s Penis, all dark and beer-swollen and cult, to the other end of the pool, to the ha ha fun elements of parody put forward by the likes of Satans Penguins. Quorthon acknowledges the mouldy aspects of the situation.

“That's the problem of the Swedish music scene. You have so many members in so many groups who are involved in so many different projects instead of spending their time and energy on one thing. I could produce five different records every year because I'm involved in so many different types of music: I could do one solo record, one black Bathory album, one Nordic Bathory album, and then pop and punk and rock and whatever. But I'm not going to do that. Right now we have two Nordic albums out for our Nordic fans because we have such a diverse audience. When we put out something like Nordland we will be drenched in mail from our black metal fans who will go, 'Eh dude, when are you going to do some satanic shit?' And when we do something like Octagon and Requiem, all the Viking fans will be like, 'What's this? There are no whale penises in here’. So I mean, you have to be patient. If I've been doing this for twenty years, I could be doing this for twenty years more.

“50 percent of my heart is very brutal. The sad thing is that the latest stuff that's been going down in the press about Bathory—as soon as Bathory has done something that has been very brutal it has been written down, not because it was bad but because Bathory is supposed to be slow and heavy. It is the same if Yngwie Malmsteen would all of a sudden start to do something completely different. You order or expect something and you get something completely different. If life is about buying an album and knowing everything about what it's going to be like beforehand, what's the fun? What's the point? It's like Nirvana. All the sudden all record companies would go to Seattle to try to find something similar to Nirvana. And Nirvana is nothing different from what has been going on in garage rock circles for twenty years. There are thousands of groups like Nirvana but you have to find them in Seattle and they have to look a certain way. It's all fashion. Everything is fucking fashion. If you change a little bit—the music and the lyrics and the image—you make sure that you never become fashion. I'm not going to wear spiked leather underwear and black and white make-up just to play brutal metal. On the other hand, I went down to the music stores many years ago and one fan came up to me and said, 'Are you really Quorthon of Bathory?' I said yeah and he said, 'Well, you don't look like him'. ‘Okay, so why not?’ 'Well, you have jeans and a t-shirt'.

“When I did a lot of interviews around the time we released Destroyer of Worlds, people didn't know what to call the album because they were so fucking messed up with labelling music. With an album so full of different styles of music, they didn't know how to handle it, and all the journalists I talked to said, 'What are we going to call this album?' Well, you can call it a sorry motherfucker if you want to. If it makes you feel good, you can call it an asshole of a record. I don't care. We aren't making the records for the journalists who are into Slipknot this week and Hammerfall the next week. If we were writing albums or doing this for the Hammerfall fans or the Slipknot fans, we wouldn't have any soul. Twenty years down the line I still think Bathory do have a lot of soul left from the original days. That's one of the reasons why we still continue doing this shit."

“There’s a couple of albums we did in the 80s that have been called legendary albums and I can understand that now because so many of the journalists who are writing these days and so many of the acts out there grew up listening to those records, you know, Welcome to Hell, Black Metal, Show No Mercy, Under the Sign of the Black Mark and all of those records I can’t remember the names of, by Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Sodom and so on. These records are called legendary. And if you produce something that is called perfection—even though it’s not perfection; a lot of those records are actually poorly played and produced and are actually not perfection vis-a-vis, they are more or less just extended demos from a quality point of view. But if you have been making something that’s been called legendary you will never be able to surpass that. Everything that you will do now, twenty years later, will be compared to that, not quality-wise but from sentimentality. Everytime you release a Bathory album you have to fight that because there are so many opinions about a new Bathory record. But opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one, ha.”

With Bathory, Quorthon did make a slew of albums that are different in their essence. Some of them, like Destroyer of Worlds, can even be deemed to have no essence at all, which is a feat of variation in itself. In the 1990s, in his mid-twenties, Mr Forsberg went some way to renew himself musically, which is something a fair amount of people find hard to comprehend. Those who deemed Quorthon’s musical decisions too radical in the 1990s are often found criticising the Nordland releases for being too conservative. Some logic.

“People who have something to say of that fashion, we’re not writing the records for them. They haven’t been there for 20 years. The Bathory fans have been there for 20 years. Oh god, I hate the word ‘fans’. Let’s say audience; the people who are buying the records with their own money who will actually sit down on an evening, coming home from school, who live in Russia or Japan or South America, and write to me and tell me about their lives. They’ve written to 15 other bands who have never answered. This Russian guy may make the same money in a year that I make in a week. Still he refuses to buy bootlegs down the square. He’s ordered these albums from Europe. It’s amazing, the way he lives; that he even has a CD player. The only band, at least so he writes, that gives him emotions more than just the average impressions from listening to most black or extreme metal is Bathory. The only albums he listens to before going to the forest where he lives or to cope with his fucking life are the Bathory albums that deal with the environment, nature and the fate of people, like in Nordland a person’s dying. The albums he was referring to were Hammerheart and Twilight because those records expressed emotions. There is a lot of melodies and emotions in Bathory songs simply because I’m not 14 and a half years old anymore. I was 18 when we recorded The Return, and that album is just a lot of ‘Aaaarghhh, I’m cool, I’ve got hair on my dick, I’m a man’. But there comes a time when you become a bit older, and I’m probably five years older than most of those guys out there anyway. And I’ve been doing this for 20 years. If they want me to sound like 14 and a half, they should buy all the early albums. That’s where a lot of the ideas of the whole revival of black metal and death metal comes from. I don’t have to repeat myself. That’s the good thing with music and time: you evolve. If those people who don’t buy the records, they get them for free, if they cannot evolve and realise that time moves on, I don’t need a comment they have to say about my records.

“I think the journalists would like to have the power to decide how the Bathory albums should sound like. They would want a Bathory album to sound like every other crap album they’re reviewing every issue in their magazines. It makes things easier for them. One month they’re tuned into gothic metal and next month something else is going to be the flavour of the month. They’re going to listen to something completely different, they’re going to wear a Hammerfall t-shirt but they’re going to listen to Dimmu Borgir or they’re going to go to an Immortal concert or go home to listen to their old Slayer albums. What they will never be able to understand is the fact that there are people out there who do not listen to music the same way they do. Music to them is a profession in the sense that they’re actually sitting down and listening to ten records a day, trying to come up with something witty to write about them. The fan buys the record with his heart and passion. When a fan writes to me and says, ‘I like this and I don’t like that’, I want my fans to be honest. If somebody just comes up brown-nosed, I will tell him, ‘Hey, I’m not going to read your first letter one more time, please write me a second letter and this time please be honest’. If I start to produce Qabbalah music or Michael Jackson disco just because that’s what I want to do right now, then I will be selling out. The power of the artist and the music is with the audience anyway, regardless of what you sound like. The more groups, sounds and styles you have in a scene the better it is because ultimately in the end the people who will get the most out of a very diverse scene is the audience. So the audience has the power anyway. Look at for instance Kerrang! When Kerrang! started to write about militant communist hippie kind of metal groups only because that was the fashion at the time, Kerrang! dropped. They didn’t sell anything anymore. All the small magazines took over the markets. Look at all the big magazines like Rock Hard and Metal Hammer, they don’t sell what they used to anymore simply because there are other magazines out there that are much more independent. Metal Hammer and Rock Hard will write what the record companies want them to write. They know that if they do not support the record companies they will not get free CDs. And 50 percent of the pages in the magazine are ads. They live from being prostitutes. So naturally they will be very frank about telling a group like Bathory who refuse to stay in the same spotlight all the time, ‘Why don’t you guys sit over there and do this. That’s what we want you do to because it makes it easier for us to write about you.’ If our audience tells us, ‘Hey, we love your new record but we didn’t like this song or that song and please don’t write about ice hockey’, we’ll say ‘Okay, we won’t’, haha.”

1.4 million is a useful figure. It allows for a number of pretty stories, like that of the Russian Bathory fan. 1.4 million justifications for the existence of Bathory. Who knows how many satisfactory moments and experiences within those 1.4 million. Bathory made 12 full-length studio albums. Six of them are almost unequivocally canonical, six of them live off of the first six. Broadly speaking, all of the canonical six can be described as genre-defining. Even naysayers will acknowledge the pioneering value of albums such as The Return (black metal), Under the Sign of the Black Mark (Norwegian black metal) and Hammerheart (Viking metal). Still, as much as these works were defining genres, they were moulding Bathory. They were—and are—utter testimonials to the cultivation of an individual sound. They portray an evolution resisting the temptations of flashy audio. Albums made after the ostracized thrash-revival of Requiem and Octagon are much about revisiting history, but admirably, they have kept the Bathoresque honesty and roughness with regard to sound and production. Quorthon tries to tell why this is so.

“I don’t buy a lot of records; as a matter of fact, I buy one or two CD’s every year and it’s not metal. Each and every time I receive some of these magazines and they have the sampler CD’s and when I come down to the office and I pop one of those CD’s in the stereo and I listen to them and there’s ten, twelve, fifteen, whatever tracks, it all sounds the same. Then I come to the conclusion that they all use the same equipment because it’s fashion. Then you realise that in the metal magazines they have all these pods, and all the guitar players buy the exact same pods and choose from a list in the way of ‘Okay, extreme metal, pod H7D5, patch 5’ and they all pick the same sound and the sound is called modern. The sound that Bathory has is called old school because we only have a guitar and a Marshall. We don’t have any pods. People talk bad about Bathory because we’re considered old school, but I think it’s much better to be traditional than to be fashion. I’m not a prostitute.

“Our audience always tells us because when you receive 25 e-mails and seven letters per week and the audience who buys your CD’s tells you, ‘we hope you don’t go Slipknot, we hope you don’t do this and you don’t do that’. Some people want to have more Viking stuff—now they have two more Viking albums. But it still sounds like Bathory. It depends on what kind of music we’re talking about. With something like Nordland, you have to sound a certain way. You can’t sing with a… um, I can’t remember the name of the guy with the cross on his forehead.”

Glen Benton.

“Yeah, the Deicide guy. You can’t sing these kind of lyrics with that kind of a voice. You can’t have that kind of production; you need to have clear guitars so that you can hear that I’m tuning my guitar in a very different way and I’m taking chords that really don’t exist. Sometimes there are five or six guitars on one song and not just one growling type of vocals, which is just 99 per cent effects and one per cent voice. You’re losing the communication tool of the voice; you cannot express emotions or sing about this guy sitting on a beach with arrows through his body, fucking dying. You cannot express those emotions and the landscape around it by using a lot of harmonizer. It sounds very cool when you use a lot of harmonizer but only when your 14½ and you’re drunk on beer and you really don’t have a clue of life and the world. We have used harmonizer only one time on a Bathory album on the voice and that was on a song called “Possessed”.”

That was a long time ago.

“That’s a long time ago, and we only used it on one word, haha. ‘I’m possessed!’”

Did it ever occur to you that you would have to update the Bathory sound or did you always feel that would mean selling out the unique entity known as Bathory?

“Well it’s not very unique anymore, people have been copying it a little bit too much.”

Well, we don’t care about them.

Quorthon bursts into a whole-hearted laughter.

“And you’re a journalist?! It’s understandable. There are a lot of Swedish and Norwegian bands—all they have been doing for ten years is copying Bathory. But I think it’s more or less a tribute. They have such an enormous Bathory and Quorthon complex but they will never admit it. I can’t remember the name of the band but there were some Norwegian black metal musicians who would write me letters and tell me what happened in the early and mid 90s when they started their own bands and their own satanic cult in Norway. They started to burn down churches and one of the guys shot himself with a shotgun and the picture came out on an album cover and they said that they were sorry about spreading lies about Bathory for a lot of years out of jealousy. And I thought it was so nice of this guy to write me and tell me. There was a lot of insecurity and a lot of drugs and this guy who wrote me told he had never taken drugs since. But he was involved in all this shit, burning down churches and killing negros. He was a good friend of this guy who shot himself and he said, ‘I’m sorry we spread a lot of lies about Bathory. We did that because we were jealous, and now we’re old and mature enough to say that we admire what you have been doing and we said a lot of shit about you when interviewed by the Norwegian police’. So the Norwegian police was reading a lot of Bathory lyrics to see if we had been inspiring people to kill other people. It was ridiculous. And all of that shit was given too much of a focus. You have ten guys in Norway more or less running the whole industry. They’re not even known for their music but for their misbehaviour.”

It is a well-worn rumour that our favoured Swedish shotgun advocate Per-Erik was a friend of Quorthon’s and that all of a sudden there was bad blood between the two curious Stockholmians.

“That was a strange thing because this guy who wrote the letter said this guy who shot himself was Swedish and that he was supposed to be a friend of mine but I didn’t recognise the name. I couldn’t recall having met someone with that name. I know my friends; I still have the same friends I had twenty years ago. He was probably just one of those guys who make up a lot of stories to make himself interesting. And he was probably a very big Bathory fan because this guy writing the letter said he had all the Bathory records, he knew all the Bathory songs and that he was cutting the Bathory logo with a razor blade in his hands all the time. Probably he was just a psycho, but even psychos are human, they can hurt too. If you do something like that, cutting your arms, you hurt really bad in your soul.”

Some people will say this is a sacrament of dedication.

“But it’s dedication in the wrong way. If I read a book or something like that, let’s say I’m totally dedicated to the Bible and I do what the Bible tells me to do. If I see people out in the streets prostituting, I will kill them because the Bible says: ‘If your left hand causes you to commit sin then cut it off. If you see someone else committing sin, then cut the left hand of that person off. It is more important to stay free from sin to please God and for all humanity to enter the divine Paradise and an afterlife than to live in a world that’s full of sin.’ And it says so in the Bible. But then on the other hand the Bible is supposedly very dedicated to a God who in his first commandment said: ‘Thou shalt no other gods have but me and worship.’ Who needs Stalin when you have a fascist in the sky? It’s ridiculous. The Bible and all those religious values are constructed in the Mediterranean two thousand years ago; it doesn’t have anything to do with our culture and our time.

“You can read anything into anything, basically. I’m a big The Beatles fan so I know from reading a lot of books on The Beatles that people would write or read a lot of stuff into what the band were writing. I produced a couple of solo albums and Terrorizer in England, when they wrote a review on one of those albums said, ‘Oh how very nice it is to see that Quorthon of Bathory has finally found a forum in which to discuss his drug problems’. And I have never taken a drug in my life! And I haven’t even been a ski athlete, haha! So people are going to read anything they want into a lyric. There was one lyric on Destroyer of Worlds which talked about western culture—the fat Christian capitalist western culture which is so very perfect and doesn’t have very much knowledge or respect for other cultures or other human beings. It was just as much talking about Sweden or England or Belgium or Luxemburg or Canada or America and that album came out just about the time the World Trade Center came down. And everybody interpreted that as I suck the balls of bin Laden, as an anti-American record. And I was like, ‘Hey, fuck you people, if that’s the way you read my lyrics, I’m not even going to spend my time commenting on it’.”

This is not the only time Quorthon’s artistic choices have caused spurn and dispute beyond the heavy metal subculture. Hammerheart brought him some trouble for the use of the sunwheel on the back of the album. It is difficult to tell if using the symbol was a case of well-planned controversy or plain naivety from the front figure but this is the story he has on it now.

“I didn’t hear about the sunwheel being a very hot neo-Nazi symbol in Germany. For us, the sunwheel was a symbol of life because that was what the record was about. In “Baptised in Fire and Ice” there’s a child, it’s the story of a child who’s to be born in the song “Father to Son”. That child goes into battle as a grown man in “Shores to Flames”, and then he dies and comes to “Valhalla”. So the whole album was about Nordic life, the culture that was before Christianity and before neo-Nazism. The sunwheel is a very powerful symbol for life and rebirth. The sun is of course a lifegiver. Noise Records were distributing the record in Germany, Switzerland and Austria and because they had to put it out they were tipping all the journalists to say that this Swedish band are neo-Nazis. They didn’t want the Noise label to be connected with a band that are dubbed neo-Nazis so they wanted the record to receive so much bad reviews that it wouldn’t sell and the record would not come up in record shops and Noise wouldn’t have to be standing there with a record with the sunwheel on it. They would press a lot of LPs and the contract was for just one year. When that one year was out, we bought all the records back. They said they cannot sell the LPs so we said okay, we will buy the LPs back, and we sold all that in three days. Which only proves that they didn’t want to sell it. It wasn’t that they couldn’t sell it, they didn’t want to. They had so many other bands who were competing with the audience and the market shares. So all the German journalists paid a lot of attention to writing crap about Bathory not because of the music but because they thought that we were neo-Nazis. I wrote a letter to a couple of these journalists and said, ‘Hey, look at me, I have one-metre long hair, I have tattoos and rings in my ears, I play heavy metal—do you think I would survive in a neo-Nazi country?’ I would be the first one to go to the gas chamber. It was like—hey, this is a band, why don’t you go down the street and tell the punkers with the Stalin stars on their t-shirts to read history. They were just chasing a lot of ghosts. We said, ‘Hey, we better do something here’, so I wrote a lot of songs that were very hard politically—the Second World War, the gas chambers and everything—just to make them pissed off! Oh my god, they were absolutely crazy about it, and in Germany it was almost impossible to sell Bathory records, all the German Bathory fans had to buy imported records from Denmark or Switzerland.

“It’s paranoia. Who cares about twelve years of German history? Twelve years. It’s ridiculous: here you have a population of 72 million people and an Austrian corpral comes over and leads them. They are so ashamed of it; they don’t understand we make jokes about them. The problem was that I was making a lot of songs about it—the gas chambers and the holocaust—on the Requiem album. But we didn’t have the time to print the lyrics on the LP or the CD so they never read the lyrics. And they missed the point, haha. Idiots!”

there has always been a certain mystique around Bathory. I remember looking at a 1990 special issue of Metal Attack magazine and its Bathory interview, being totally mesmerised by its image. At that time, Hammerheart was the only Bathory album I had heard. Chances are it will also be the last Bathory album I will hear in my life. From the point of hearing that voyage, I was well on my way to sketching the front cover into a notepad and drawing the logo on cassette insert cards. Said story was illustrated with the famous picture of Quorthon, Vvornth and Kothaar standing shirtless in the woods, wielding swords and looking ill-omened in their spikes and studs. For a long time, this outcome of the Blood Fire Death photo sessions was the very image that nailed Bathory down in my head: it was the nature, the names, the nakedness. It was not until much later that issues about the amount of Kothaars on the albums, the presence of drum machines, the relation of Boss and Quorthon, Quorthon’s hand holding the skull on Oz’s Fire in the Brain and other pieces of legend entered my consciousness. They did, eventually, season the otherworldly, historically inclined music with another layer of exotic curiosity.

Needless to say, all of these aspects have helped to create a certain enigmatic aura around Bathory, one which has also caused a lot of unnecessary and preposterous rumours concerning Quorthon. Add to this the slowly brewing myth of an artist who died before his time, and you just know that the Bathory myth is far from reaching its ultimate height.

“It’s a 50/50 case because you could never have the legend and the cult status without the crap that comes with it,” Quorthon estimates. “This whole mysteriousness was not a plan. It was not something that we created. Other people created it for us. When we started to make our first fanzine interviews in 1983-85, the line-ups Bathory had those days would stay together for three or four months. There wouldn’t be a line-up together for six or eight months. So invariably each and every time there was a magazine that we would talk to, when they would send questions, the person who would type the answers would be me. And all the answers in those days would be to the same kind of questions: So what other groups do you like? When were you formed? How many are you in the band? What’s you favourite food? What do you play? It was almost like going to the military for an interview. When the fanzines started to grow a little bit and feature pictures and things like that, we decided not to send in any line-up pictures because the people who were in the pictures were not in the group anymore. The record company told me, ‘You have got to send some pictures. If you don’t do it, you won’t be able to sell any records at all’. So I did send some pictures to some fanzines. Because I was the only stable member in the band, it would always be my answers and pictures in the fanzines. So when people came up to us and asked, ‘So when are you going to go on tour and what about the line-up? Do you have any pictures or names?’ We didn’t produce any pictures because we realised people were drawn to Bathory because of the mysteriousness. It was not something we created, it just happened. There was not a line-up every time a magazine was asking. So the magazines would be sitting there, going, ‘Okay, what are we going to write about this Swedish act? There’s really nothing to write. We don’t have any more info than the records. Let’s just say they’re mysterious’, hahaha. That thing still lingers on today. Even though I’ve told everybody the whole true story. I’ve spent at least 12 years now telling people that Bathory is not a group; Bathory is a two-man studio project; we’re not going to go on tour; you’ll never see a Bathory live show; and no, I do not work at Black Mark and I do not eat babies. And sometimes I even have jeans and a t-shirt.

“People need the imagination. Why would we leave ground and go on a rollercoaster? We know it’s silly but we go, ‘Wohoo, it’s cool but it’s really frightening’. And sometimes we have unprotected sex with strange girls even though it’s very dangerous, haha. Sometimes you read horror books and go to the movies and see all these horror films. We play computer games blowing each others’ heads off and we watch CNN for buildings going down and bombs falling and everything. It’s all just frightening, it’s actually perverted.”

“Why you watch a carwreck, / Muthafucker? / Cuz it looks fun to die.” Greg Dulli’s on a dialogue with this shit.

“We are a very vile race and we get a kick out of violent stuff. It’s such a very safe society these days, particularly Sweden. We don’t even go out on a strike. We have a Volvo and you have skiis, haha. I think people need demons, ghosts and danger. If I show up somewhere and a fan asks me, ‘Are you Quorthon of Bathory?’ and he knows my face from the pictures, and I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I’m not fulfilling the role that he wants me to fulfil. I came down the office of a very big European metal magazine ten years ago, promoting Blood on Ice, and I was shown to a room that was filled up with stupid things. They said they wanted to take my picture there. I said, ‘Hey, grow up!’ haha. It was like, ‘Where did they dig this shit up?’ It was plastic skulls, pentagrams, black candles… come on, this was the 90s! I don’t want my music to be reduced to black skulls, leather underwear with spikes and black and white make-up. I never was anything like that. It’s an image that has been created by others.”

What do you think are some things people haven’t yet learnt or don’t know about Bathory—have you got any skeletons in your closet?

“Not any skeletons in my closet but I had a lot of bones in my hockey bag when I went on a promotion tour in the 80s. Particularly when you come to American customs and when they go through your bag and they see leather underwear, chains, spikes and big bones with blood on them, they wonder, ‘Okay, so are you here on business or on vacation’. I mean, what do you say? ‘I don’t know, pleasure I think?’ Haha. When you go through an airport with big meat bones in your hockey bag all these narcotic dogs are going to go berserk. Woof woof woof. ‘Hey sir, could you please come over here. We want to check your bag. This is a narcotic dog and he just made a sign of your fucking bag.’ ‘Please be my guest. Bring on the mustard and come over.’”

This is the way you answer a question about the dark secrets of Bathory?

“No, we don’t have any skeletons. One thing that may be something that people probably will not know very much about is that there is a lot of humour in what Bathory has been doing. I’ve always said that half of the time in the studio we spend laughing. Laughing and laughing until we die. When you see pictures of these Scandinavian black metal guys, they’re standing in a forest and looking so very angry. Why should you look angry when you get to make records? Be happy, don’t worry. There’s a lot of humour in everything Bathory has ever done even though the lyrics may be very serious. When you turn the knob in one direction or you press the stop button and you put your guitar down for the day, you don’t have to be coarse for 24 hours a day. You can actually just say, ‘Okay, that’s a wrap guys, let’s go have a pizza or go to a hockey game and then just be normal’. Having a sense of humour is probably a good idea. If you take yourself and your image as too much of a serious thing, you’re going to lose your mind.”

Early name suggestions for Bathory included Natas, Mephisto and Nosferatu, while Quorthon initially liked to call himself Black Spade. Clumsy as these monikers are, they show the hunger early Bathory had for misdemeanour of a devilish sort. Seeing as he was so young back then, Quorthon’s information about Satanism came from sources that weren’t quite that elaborate or scholastic. Quorthon wipes the strength of his Satanic studies out by asking me to tell him “one person who has met Satan to confirm that his theories and practices about Satanism are correct”. Well, maybe Hammer flicks do it for educational matters, then.

The transition to Nordic mythology was tentatively carried out on Blood Fire Death. On Hammerheart it came into full bloom, which somehow seemed to reflect the ‘coming of age’ of Bathory, if you’re into such biographical  terms.

“Saying coming of age and matured, it sounds like saying anything we’d done before the Viking times was immature. And that’s not true. What happened was that when we first started writing all this material, the satanic stuff, we didn’t know about anything else to write about. We grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Motörhead. Now as an adult when you read Black Sabbath lyrics you realise that there is so much stuff in between the lines. And when you read Lemmy’s lyrics, you realise that this is better than Shakespeare. Nobody’s written better lyrics than Lemmy. He’s still the master. But you have to have to lived his life to write that kind of stuff. If I wrote that kind of stuff, it would sound shallow because I’m an asshole compared to Lemmy. I haven’t lived even one percent of the life that he has lived. Sure, I’ve fucked hundred and hundreds of girls, I’ve drunk so much alcohol you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve never taken any drugs or something like that, but when we formed Bathory we were three 16-17-year-old kids who didn’t know shit about life. And we didn’t know shit about religion either. So when we started to write the kind of lyrics we did, it was horror stories from comic magazines. Dracula, Frankenstein, Hammer films. It was very, very innocent.

“There was this very famous story we read in the Swedish newspapers that there was a San Francisco satanic cult coming to Sweden for a secret meeting and the police were trying to find out where it was. There were these horror stories about how they sacrificed babies and how they were drinking urine and blood. It was like the Christian little protestant social democratic Sweden got a shock. The only three people in the Swedish society who got a kick out of that were the three original members of Bathory, haha. 16-17-year-olds who had never been out of Stockholm. We were like, ‘Hey, we have to find this place!’ haha. Obviously we didn’t have a car or motorcycle as we were just kids, so we ran around Stockholm, going on buses and the underground, trying to find some place that looked like the place for a satanic meeting. We ended up at this place with a lot of strange symbols and lettering and we went in and asked this guy, ‘So, when are you going to sacrifice the lamb?’ He just looked at us and said, ‘I think you’ve got the wrong place’. All of a sudden we realised we had just talked to a rabbi. We went into a synagogue. So that’s how satanic we were, haha. We had never read the Satanic Bible and we didn’t know shit. I wouldn’t have known Satan if he jumped out and sucked my balls. And if you say that these days, a lot of 16-17-year-old black metal fans will be very hurt. They have painted a picture of Quorthon of Bathory as the true son of Satan and that I should be sitting here with inverted crosses and lambs on the walls and things like that. Children in the closet and blood in my refrigerator. But I have never been into religion at all. We were just using the Christian church images of something that is bad and evil, like the boogieman. We weren’t satanic. I’m anti-Christian but I’m not satanic. When you ultimately decide to read as much as possible about black metal and Satanism and the church, you have to read the Bible and everything about Christianity as well. Then you come to the conclusion that it’s all bullshit. It’s just a hoax. Satanism is created by the Christian church. It just didn’t make any sense, and I said to myself, ‘Oh my god, I have fifty friends who’re in bands and they’re ten times better than me and they rehearse ten times more than I do and I’m the only one who actually gets to release records. I’ve sold about quarter of a million records, so why the hell should I continue doing this shit?’ So I started to write a little different kind of lyrics. I was influenced by movies. There’s a song called “A Fine Day to Die” and people have been interpreting that as a Viking song but it’s not about Vikings but about the Sioux Indians and the battle of the Little Big Horn. People don’t know that because they read so much Viking stuff into an album that was a transition from the black metal stuff to what’s been called the Viking metal stuff. But that label didn’t exist in those days; that category, Nordic metal, didn’t exist. So when we released Hammerheart, people said this was ethnic metal, haha. The British Metal Hammer said ‘This is not death metal or thrash metal, this is ethnic metal because they have Swedish moose farting in the distance’. And so the term Viking metal was invented.”

Do you think the ancient themes that are discussed on many of the Bathory albums have any links to modern times? As discussed earlier, some have at least been interpreted as having such links by gatekeepers within and without heavy metal.

“We’ve been walking this earth for how long, 30 million years or something? We are still acting like animals in certain situations. Football games and more, haha. From another point of view we’re very complicated creatures in the sense that we’ve actually walked on the Moon and we can almost do brain transplants and we can create a thing like a computer. And elect somebody like Bush for president… We are a very sort of high-tech species and from that point of view, if you bring something from the past and make a modern person listen to it, then you build bridges through time. Because it’s obviously very boring to just think about something that is very contemporary. We did that for a while, on a couple of albums, singing about nuclear war, modern society, religion, priests and things like that but after a while people who’d write to us would say, ‘Hmm. It’s not very interesting if you guys start to sing about environmental stuff’. There is magic in all that. If you sit down reading a magazine like Conan the Barbarian you wouldn’t want to read the story of Bush the President or… What is the name of the Finnish president now?”

Tarja Halonen.

“Or that. You wouldn’t want to read a comic on that unless it’s a political farce or satire. If you don’t want to become ridiculous, you have to treat each and every suspect with the utmost sincerity. And the best way to do that is try to pick up something that is very close to your place on earth. If we had been Japanese, we would’ve been singing about the samurais, and that would’ve created a sense of credibility. “Here is a Japanese metal band singing about the samurais. How cool is that?” And if we had come from Italy, we would’ve been singing probably about the Roman empire. If we had been a Finnish band, Väinämöinen. You have the entire Finnish mythology which is very different from the rest of the Germanian mythology in Europe. It’s so cool because it’s explicable to modern culture as well. If you go to Swedish mythology, the Vikings and all that, you have a cow liking a big pile of eyes and that creates the earth. But then who created the cow, heh? It doesn’t hang together. So yeah, when you pick historical things up, treat them very gently. Don’t try to go academic about it and sing about actual stuff. Treat it as a Bathory object. That’s why we created something like Asa Bay.”

Suppose the video for “One Rode to Asa Bay” marks as a genuine Bathory object by this definition.

“The video a lot of people have seen even though there are no official copies out there. All the copies on the market have been taped from television. I haven’t even seen it and we don’t even have a professional copy of it. There’s no master copy of the video and the video everybody is referring to is not actually a video at all, it’s just scrap bits we found in the studio where this guy was living who had all the master tapes. We had sixty hours of film in the can and we couldn’t get hold of the tapes and we couldn’t get hold of the guy. We had two days before we had to go on a promotion trip in Europe for four weeks; we had MTV, Super Channel, Sky Channel and all these rock shows we were supposed to do interviews for. We had to bring them something; we had promised them. We had spent a lot of time and money making the video, and here we had nothing. So we just glued a lot of pieces together and the thing doesn’t even sync with the music. I was very sad and depressed about it; it was heart-tearing when you had spent so much time and money and everything just disappeared and was lost forever.”

As the duo of Nordland albums was completed, speculations instantly started running about where Bathory would go from there. Some hints of a possible Nordland III release were whispered aloud. Conversely, the possibility of a much more extreme album was also suggested. With hindsight on our side, we can say neither of these ideas was accomplished, yet it’s interesting to document Quorthon’s views on the topic when there was still drive for a new Bathory studio album.

“Black Mark said, ‘Why don’t you guys continue to do something similar, like Nordland III.’ And I’m like a guy who will fuck a blonde one night and a brunette the next night; I want a little bit of change. But having said that, the material that we’re writing right now is a mixture of all styles. But I’m not sure if we’re going to produce a record that is a mixture. Because we’ve learnt now. That is not a very good idea. Whereas we did not produce a record for four years in the case of Destroyer of Worlds, now we’ve produced three records in two years. We’re going to take our time. We’re going to say to everybody what the album is like in the spring of next year. It could be tango! We’re going to hire the guy who falls all the time, a really funny guy… Shit, what’s his name… He sings with a high-pitched voice and he has a guy playing the accordion. Väinö… Anyway, we’re going to use him as an opener.”

No source, no text, no perspective. The Bible for editing this interview has been Black Mark’s ‘final’ chapter on Bathory’s career, the 3CD, DVD, 174-page booklet mourment box called In Memory of Quorthon. Sure, it is a flawed Bible with a fluttery cardboard packaging and copious mistakes: “Black Diamond” is “Black Dimons” on the back cover, Nuclear Blast turns into Nublear Blast on several occasions. The booklet is anything but classy, reminding a collision of badly designed, colourful late-1990s websites. Recording credits are recycled endlessly. Yet, a disinclined appearance is a characteristic for many latter-day Bibles. When you get to see Börje filming Tomas on a promotional tour with Hammerheart, visiting record stores, signing posters and giving phone interviews in hotel rooms, some inadequacies are reimbursed for. The measly 38 minutes of the DVD are damn near pure gold.

Aside basic Bathory bile, the selection of tracks on the three CDs covers anything from an atrocious “War Pigs” to the emotional, grunge-tinged “Boy”, the best song Quorthon ever did on his solo career. Obviously, there is no sign of the Maleficarum/Necronomicon nor Okkult material, which leads to believe that this is not the very last tribute to Quorthon’s spirit Black Mark will slip out.

The songs may have been Quorthon’s personal favourites, but whoever compiled them in this selection should consider further education in dramatics. “Song to Hall Up High” and “Odens Ride Over Nordland” as tracks number 1 and 2 on CD 1? Well-tested ending numbers such as “One Rode to Asa Bay” and “The Wheel of Sun” as openers on CDs 2 and 3? Give me a stick and I’ll show you order. The idea of beginning and concluding the escapade with “Song to Hall Up High” is clever, though.

Musically, the compilation exhibits lucidly that it does make sense to speak of Quorthon as a man of change, elusion even. The rudimentary organisation of Bathory into three different categories, the black metal side, the epic Viking stuff and the dirtier and rockier thrash vibe, is one that Quorthon never truly lauded, yet it is a good working platform from which detours can rise.

“Pick in a Bathory album, just any one,” Quorthon prompts when asked to make his own differentiations and dividing tangents on the mass of Bathory material. I enter the game with personal darling Hammerheart.

Hammerheart. We already talked about Hammerheart and when we wrote that album we decided on writing an album that would be very different from anything we had done in the past, and also that that album would be totally dedicated to the Nordic feeling. And we didn’t know what the Nordic feeling was. So you had to create it. Nowadays when we produce something that is considered Nordic metal, you have to fit within that frame. That means that you’re going to have horses running by, sounds of waves splashing against the shores—so much in fact that you almost get sea sick, haha!—and you’re going to have fucking chirping birds and wind and thunder and rain and all that shit in order to create an atmosphere. In order to forget that you are actually sitting down and listening to a piece of revolving plastic. If you don’t give your audience something that is a little bit extra… I mean, you can sound like a drunken bullterrier on steroids with a lot of harmonizer on the voice, that would be very cool—for about 60 minutes. But if you’re sitting down and listening to a record and you can almost smell the trees—and the dog shit, haha!—then you have achieved something. But it’s a challenge to record it. When you’re in the studio, it’s a very static atmosphere. It’s killing creativity, really, because you have to perform well and it goes down on tape. So you have to use a very vivid imagination in order to be able to see, hear and feel things that don’t have anything to do with music but which will help the music a little bit, just like spices in a good dish. Each and every time you record an album you have to decide which proportions you are going to use of this atmospheric framework. When we recorded Requiem for instance, we were so dead tired of sound effects, big arrangements, big drums and everything that we said, ‘Let’s just record one guitar, one bass and one drum kit—no effects, no delays and no production—and see what comes out of that’. We were there for one week and there was blood and sweat on the floor. It was like being on drugs. LSD. We were enormously happy because it was just us. No effects, no big production, no dragon ships, no horses or anything like that, no dog shit. So it was just bare metal. And it was very important at that time because otherwise we would’ve been painted into a corner.”

It has been stated that writing for the Nordland project started from the same spot as Hammerheart. Apart from stylish interjections of acoustic guitars, swathes of echo, choirs and the traditional slow romp, what is exactly meant by this?

“It is in the sense that when you pick something like the Nordic or the Viking thing up, there are several ways you can do that. Either go the academic way and pick up history books and use actual names and places and historical events. If you do that, everybody will have a relation towards that because they know that this city does exist and that this historical person actually did exist. The day that Vikings invaded London—that actually happened, so people will have a personal relationship to these historical facts. This means that you’re just interpreting or putting music to something that is not original.
“The other way you can go is actually to go back into the sort of Bathory Nordic atmosphere and pick small pieces of the past. We invented a place called Asa Bay. It doesn’t exist, it’s just an imaginary place. We are not frank about saying that this is the Viking age. We’re not even saying this is Sweden. We’re just saying Nordland. On the other hand, you have North Korea, haha. You have North Carolina and North Ireland. It’s a timeless place without a geography other than it’s north of somewhere. And it does have some Scandinavian link. And it originates from a place called Asa Bay, which does not exist. There are no names in the story. There are no directions or anything like that. When you write that way people will be able to relate to that even if they live in Spain or Brazil. They will be able to connect with the feeling of the story. If I go, ‘Toni went down to the bus and he took the bus to Russia’ (spoken with a mock Finglish accent), it’s typical Suomi Perkele. So you cannot be very specific in detail about it. Look at the CD booklet for instance; there’s just one picture. If you use ten pictures, you kill the imagination. A good stripper will not take off her clothes all at once. If you want to create images within the listener’s head, you provide the listener with a good story, good atmosphere and one picture. This is where the story begins; here is where they sailed from. Then you get part II: you see the same fjord but from a different angle; the guy is coming back.”

One of the things that is continually impressive about Bathory is the unbelievable emotional charge and capacity the music has. What we want now is Quorthon explaining the proceedings that do the trick for this sound. When played loud enough, this sound almost belies the notion of there being no after-life haven for us mere mortals. Quorthon handles the dare by way of detail.

“Do you remember all the tracks from Nordland I?”


“There is one acoustic track in there called “Ring of Gold”. That is a song that is entirely acoustic and it was the only song on the album where I wrote the melody and the music at the same time. All of the lyrics came a bit later. When I wrote that, I realised that I had been sitting there writing 22 tracks for the Nordland saga and I don’t have one single song about what it’s like to say goodbye to the people you’re leaving in order to be go out on these adventurous trails. You have people sailing across the Atlantic, you have people going deep into Russia and down to the Mediterranean to see great adventures. Experiencing many great things. Yet there is not a single word spoken about the people who are being left behind. So I said I have to write something about a warrior leaving a loved one and then I can weave a little mythology into that. So I stole a few parts from Wagner’s opera, the ring and the lake. When you write a lyric like that over a story like that you cannot use heavy drums and violent guitars. You have to put forth emotion. Even though we’re cool heavy metal guys, saying goodbye to your loved ones is not very nice if you’re going to be away for one year. Even on a Bathory album, you can use the word love because love is an expression for so many different things. I read somewhere before that Slayer was doing a cover song and there was the word love in the title. They didn’t want to use the word love so they changed it to some other word. I felt that was ridiculous. I mean, how cool are we? There’s a lot of emotions and melodies in Bathory music anyway. “Ring of Gold” was very emotional in the sense that here we have a guy going away. So you have to have a pretty emotional song and you have to arrange the music in that fashion. So the topic of the song itself decides what the atmosphere is going to be like. For instance “Vinland”, which is a track on Nordland II, has a very propulsive, ‘go forward’ kind of beat. Then you have another one called “Mother Earth” which is more of a chanting song. All the time when there’s a topic you have to adapt your atmosphere, playing style and voice to the story. You have two volumes here, two hours of fiction made in music, and if I would sing and play the same way for two albums, it would be very boring.”

The In Memory of Quorthon booklet contains numerous texts which go through a wide range of Bathory history. Often heated and almost compulsive in tone, these rants offer arguments and anecdotes on the name of the band, on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation, on the Bathory bootleg issue and, naturally, a heap of rumours. This kind of filling is commonplace for well-curated anthologies and memorabilia. More eyebrow-arousing, however, was the strong urge to accompany the release of Nordland I and II with very straight-spoken and enlightening web articles concerning those two releases. Quorthon and Boss apparently considered this a counteract to prevent full-term media abuse.

“When we released Destroyer of Worlds, everybody—well, not everybody but a lot of the people I was talking to—were more or less very offensive and not at all friendly. They almost told me, “Why don’t you kill yourself. Why don’t you burn your guitar. When I was 14 years old I bought Blood Fire Death and bla bla bla…” I said, “Hey buddy, do you have any pictures of yourself when you were 14? Do you know what you knew of life and everything when you were 14?” Obviously those persons had been developing a little bit. Please allow Bathory to develop as well. If those guys loved Blood Fire Death, please love that album. Jerk off to it, buy one more copy and help me pay the rent. But please allow other people to do other things.

“So I was actually quite shocked. At least 50 percent of the interviews were more or less just me thinking, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself? Why are you even into metal? Why do you take the job of writing for metal magazines because you obviously have no interest in music? You don’t have any love for metal or anything.” A lot of these people were expressing ideas that were totally contradictory to our artistic freedom. I tried to sit there and explain to them, “Okay, so you don’t like half of the songs but you like the other half of the songs. Isn’t that good? What if you didn’t like any of it?” I realised then that putting a Bathory album out was not just like putting a slab of music out. It was putting the Bathory image and mythology on sale. If that image did not meet up to what people thought about Bathory, if I talked to a Norwegian black metal magazine or fanzine, they would only ask me questions that were black metal or Satan related. You know, drinking blood and all of that. The next day you would talk to some German pagan magazine who would only ask me questions about Nordic stuff. “Is it true that you’re walking around the forests talking to trees?”

“So you are the whore and the madonna in the same figure. I have two roles: the ballsucker role and the cocksucker of Satan. This happened in the case of Destroyer of Worlds because we wanted to test how much humour you can put on a Bathory record and how valuable the actual topics were to the audience. When you put out something like Destroyer of Worlds which is a 50/50 production with 50 percent slow songs and 50 percent brutal songs but without any Viking or satanic topics, people are going to go, “Hey, you’re killing my image of Bathory”. And I go, “Sorry buddy, it’s my band. Fuck you.” So I was very hurt, actually. I told Black Mark that I don’t want to do any more interviews for the next album. Then when the rumour went out that Nordland is a big two-volume Nordic Viking saga, the pre-sales figures of all the distributors who were checking the interest in their local territories and sending their lists to Black Mark, we realised that this album would sell more than 150,000 copies in no time. I couldn’t just say no. I mean, it would’ve been like killing the release.

“I may take one or two webzines on the side because that doesn’t take too much time. Also, they will have proper English. Like I said, often when I’m talking to a Polish guy he will not understand 50 percent of what I’m saying. So ultimately, in the end, 50 percent of what is going to be pressed in his article will be wrong.

“So Black Mark asked me, ‘What if we make an interview with you? We send you a couple of questions and you answer to them.’ I said, ‘Well, no. Then it’s going to be just like talking to a magazine anyway.’ They said, ‘Why don’t you come down to the office and you’ll be just talking to a microphone while we ask you some questions’. So that’s how the whole thing came about. That was a big mistake, heh, because we’ve had two thousand people answering to it. ‘That’s such a good article!’, ‘Is that true?!’ and so on. For the first time, people hear my words. Half of the time I’ve been talking to the press in the last 20 years people have been changing around my words. This is the first time when you actually hear something. Maybe that’s why you say this is such a frank and open interview. For the first time it’s not censored by some fashion journalists. It’s my plain words. They said, ‘you can talk as much as you want’ and I was sitting there talking for nine hours, haha.’”

Said Bathory site also contained stacks of questions from B-loonies all over the world. E-mail must be a nice extension to fan participation, even if it is difficult to digitize graveyard gravel on which you’ve just masturbated.

“Black Mark said, ‘Okay, so what are we going to do with Nordland II? Are we going to just update everything and say that this is a story continuing from last time?’ I said, ‘Why don’t we put out Nordland I and then have a lot of fans send out the questions? Let the fans ask the questions because they never get to ask them anyway except when they write their fan mail.’ Black Mark said at the end of the article that why don’t you send Bathory an e-mail and ask a question. I thought, ‘Sure, even if a hundred e-mailed me, I would answer them and put them up there.’ And I can’t remember how many e-mails we got, 2,800 or 3,000. It was crazy. A lot of the questions were about the same things. ‘Please tell me about Heavenshore’ and bla bla bla. In the end, I think I answered about six hundred personally and one hundred went down on the Internet.

“We didn’t sort them out. Some of the questions were anonymous. We made a policy not to feature any questions from anonymous e-mails because you just don’t do that, even if the questions were interesting. And a lot of the questions were duplex. When people would e-mail you they just wouldn’t write one sentence like, ‘Tell me a little bit about bla bla bla’, they would write four pages long texts and you would have to pick the best bits from their letters.

“Some of them were very charming. There was this one Mexican guy and he couldn’t write English so he wrote in Spanish. Nobody at Black Mark spoke Spanish and I don’t speak Spanish either, and I don’t know anybody who speaks Spanish. I know one guy who speaks Portuguese but Spanish to me is like Chinese. I had to go to the library and translate his letter personally. I’m not sure if I got everything right because Spanish is very difficult. You just miss one letter here or there and it means something completely different. ‘I want to fuck you on a mountain on a grey day’ and if you miss the ‘s’ there it means ‘I want to marry you in your car’.

“It was interesting to answer them but it completely destroyed my Christmas, haha! I didn’t have any vacation at all because at the same time we were working on Nordland II and recording the material. We cut the album in halves and said, ‘Okay, this is volume 1. Let’s concentrate on that.’ During the winter we put vocals and guitars on the rest.”

grand bathory.
General Bathory.
All Bathory.
Forever Bathory.
Bloody Bathory.
Pledge allegiance.

Once again, the weightiest enquiries have been saved for the final passage. The 1980s and 1990s were not twin decades for Quorthon—one saw his explosion into the worldwide black metal underground as a rampaging mystic who learnt his music through painstaking Motörhead trials, the other brought about an adult myth-buster whose musical tastes showcased a stern Wagner/Beatles split. Encountering the jovial fellow in the third decade and asking him how he feels about the two previous ones is no easy piece of trivia. First, some dense summarisation is required.

“Oh my god… We were as isolated in the 80s as we are today. I don’t give a shit about the scene. I don’t listen to the CDs, I don’t read the magazines, which I realised later was a big mistake because each and every time when a fan in some country will send me a translation of an Italian or Portuguese or Brazilian interview, you realise how the journalist has been writing everything down completely wrong. I haven’t been checking anything up because I only read English, Swedish and German. Whenever I make an interview with a Czech magazine, and the guy you’re talking to doesn’t speak very good English you’re just hoping that he’s taping the interview so he can spend two or three days to actually hear and understand right. And he’s just interpreting everything completely wrong. I’ve been accused of having said that all the Bathory albums of the 80s are shit; that I feel like a prostitute doing Bathory albums; that I hate working with Bathory; that I only do it because I want money to pay the rent. Sometimes you realise that your fans must think you’re a big asshole. If the only ‘truthful’ information they get from Bathory is reading these crap magazines written in Polish, Czech, French or whatever—and I don’t understand the interviews because I never read them and I don’t understand the language—but they understand the language and if their only source of information is these shit magazines, I have no control. So that was one of the good things about the 80s: the fans—they were only fans those days, and the people who were writing the fanzines were fans themselves. So you knew that everything that was down on the fanzines came from the heart, but these days it’s like the journalists from CNN down in Iraq. They’re promoting themselves, standing in front of a building with a microphone. That’s the 90s and today. The 80s was a golden age in the sense that those days everything was very innocent. Everything was fresh. The record companies and big magazines didn’t even consider extreme metal to be recognised. For ten years we fought with the English press to be recognised as a band. But the generation of rock journalism in those days, the early 80s, they had been growing up with bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. So of course there was not going to be any recognition of extreme metal. Today’s journalists, they don’t know shit about Led Zeppelin. They grew up listening to Venom. It’s a completely different situation. There was a solidarity feeling among the underground in those days that doesn’t exist any more.

“I remember I once said in an interview that a record like Under the Sign of the Black Mark is a legendary album but it was poorly written, played and produced. When you listen to it today, at least in my years, it’s a record that didn’t stand the test of time. But then you compare that to how the sound has been developing these past 18 years since that record was done—and that’s a very wrong way to do but I don’t know any other way because I am a musician and songwriter and I do work in a studio—but for people who bought that record when it came out, it was a completely different thing from the Bay Area sound which was very high at the time. So when the young people buy that record today—for instance, I received a letter from a young person who was 16 and had just bought Under the Sign of the Black Mark. He said it was one of the best albums he had ever heard. I realised that he wasn’t even born when we released that album. If you hadn’t been developing as a person, songwriter, musician and a studio act, something would be wrong. So of course, we have changed just like the world has changed. And journalists have changed. They will spit you in the ear when you don’t sound like the son of Satan any more. A fan will write you a letter, telling, ‘I’m Vladimir and I live in a city that is radioactive. I make two dollars a month.’ But still he buys his Bathory CDs. He refuses to buy bootlegs. And you have to believe the guy because why would he lie? Why would he even write me a letter with strings around the envelope?

“It teaches you a lot about people, life, the world and everything. When you’re sitting down and talking to a stupid American guy from a satanic American magazine, all he wants to talk about is life after death experiences. I say, ‘Well, if you have any of those experiences, you shouldn’t be sitting there talking to me. You should be on the Oprah show.’ He was saying, ‘I saw a picture of you in a magazine and you had these silver scarlet rings and to me that’s Jewish stuff. Why do you look like that? Are you a whore?’ I’m sorry if I don’t look like the way you want me to look but if it turns you on for me to look like a faggot in leather, then please save those pictures. I will dress up any way I want. If you think I am a Jewish poser for having silver rings, Lemmy’s the biggest Jewish poser ever. The problem was not how I was wearing my clothes but his problem of perceiving the world. If you don’t develop from experiences and things like that for 20 years, then… You can just imagine when we recorded The Return; we had just recorded five songs and the guy who owns the record company comes in and says, ‘You guys better make a good record and speed it up a little bit because we just sold 25,000 copies’. I said, ‘How can you sell 25,000 when we haven’t even recorded the record?’ That how it works in the record industry but we didn’t know.”

Where indispensable reasons for Bathory’s distinct individuality are sought, there an answer clear as a bell is found.

“We try to stay away from fashion,” Quorthon states, approaching persuasion. “That’s the biggest idea because metal has become so much fashion these days. Like I said, I don’t listen to the CD’s, I don’t follow the scene, I don’t even know half of the band names out there, I don’t care about sub-categories, I don’t give a shit about magazines. When some magazines report that they want to interview me, and I know that they’re crap magazines whose journalists have been writing and talking shit about Bathory, spreading false rumours on all these festivals, you know, talking in the beer tents… People who I know personally will call me and say, ‘Hey, did you know what this journalist said?’ ‘No.’ And I’ve even had people say the most stupid things like, ‘Oh, did you know what this journalist said at a festival last weekend?’ ‘No.’ ‘He said that you’d said Kerry King is a fat motherfucker.’ It’s ridiculous. They just spread shit because old gods have to be killed in order to make room for new gods. And Bathory is among the old gods with Venom but Venom does not exist any more. And Slayer is over there in America, and America is a show country. They’re just happy that Slayer is making it big because okay, they’re a metal band and we should support them, but in order to make room for all these panda groups, heh, you have to kill all the old gods. So they just hope that I choke on a baby some day, haha.”

For an artist with the posture and recognition of Quorthon, it must certainly be problematic to account for anything he has not achieved with Bathory. Goals and targets have lost the relevance they had in years of yore.

“I think that in terms of achievements, there was a lot more planning in the 80s because in those days everything was fresh. These days when you make an album you know before you go in the studio what it’s going to sound like even though you only have the song in your head and you haven’t even made a demo. You know what it’s going to sound like and everything. In the 80s you didn’t know shit. With each and every record we took a very big step and it was just a big challenge and interest for us to record. Today it is more or less a fact of producing a record that surprises yourself. If you write music and produce an album and you can sit back and go, ‘Hmm, that was interesting, I can listen to that one more time’, that is an achievement—not the sales figures, not the good reviews because I remember when Nordland I was released last year there was a couple of magazines who dubbed it the release of the year and I said, ‘Oh my god, no!’ I hoped it doesn’t become the album of the month because it would really be bad for Bathory. I remember when they called me and said, ‘Hey, did you know that Bathory was on no. 31 on the official German lists?’ and I said stop it. It would be terrible for Bathory if we were accepted. The achievement and the goal is to maintain an underground feeling to what you’re doing. If you’re able to do that and never be a part of the big scene, that is an achievement in itself. But having said that, we have sold 1.4 million records. I make as much money every year as if I would have three or four very good jobs. Bathory takes all my time these days. If you’re not sitting down talking about an album that’s just been released, you’re writing material for the next album. There’s always a lot of things to do because not all publications have deadlines to keep. Once you’ve been talking to those that do, it’s goodbye for them until next year. But then you have 250 webzines, haha. They don’t think in terms of deadlines—they will update every week. So every time they hear a rumour or they want you to comment on the history of black metal or Viking album productions, there’s always a lot of things to do. And I always answer all the fan mail personally.”

As such, it would be easy to deduct that for a band with the stylistic scope of Bathory, the one obvious musical influence would be Bathory itself. Think of an emotion and it’s fairly certain that some form of its musical emanation is present in the Bathory/Quorthon discography. Quorthon has done stubborn, cocky rock, wistful epic metal, menacing black metal, terrifying attempts at thrash and smudgy cover versions of various sorts. Writing groundbreaking music in such a situation is no undemanding feat. Furthermore, it is one thing to tackle down Bathory music, another to wrestle the hopes of the Bathory musos.

“In terms of Bathory, you said before that the Bathory audience is very powerful in deciding what the next album is going to sound like. The Bathory audience’s thoughts are very conservative so even if I should sit down and listen to only Slipknot 24 hours a day, I couldn’t write an album that sounds like Slipknot. I have to listen to my inner self and everything that I write, even if it’s good, I couldn’t put on a Bathory album if it doesn’t sound like Bathory. You have to make sure that it sounds and feels like Bathory, that it has that atmosphere. Then when a Bathory fan listens to it, even though it’s from a new album, they can say, ‘Oh, this is just like “The Wind of Mayhem” or this is exactly like “Shores in Flames”’. If you’ve been able to do that, connect into the Bathory history, then that is a sort of an influence. But it’s an indirect influence for historical and sentimental values and for tradition and conservatism.”

What have you learnt from the business during the Bathory years?

“I think I’ve learnt very much about how media and people in general work. If I had been Mr Nobody in a factory somewhere, I’d probably still believe everything I read in the papers. I’d probably still believe that life is in a certain way for all these rock stars and whatever. When you see Britney Spears—no it was not Britney Spears but that other fellow, Mariah Carey—on a promotion trip for a week complaining about wanting to have a holiday, you think, ‘Shut up, bitch’. Shit, she eats breakfast that somebody else made for her. She makes interviews from lists that somebody else compiled for her. She doesn’t drive her own car. She doesn’t make her own bed. She lives in suites. She makes millions and millions of bucks. She eats the most expensive food and flies in business class. Shut up. I’ve been on promotion trips for six weeks throughout Europe. I’ve taken flights on too small engineer planes from little islands in Spain, going to Greece in 45m/s storms. I’ve been sleeping in Indian hotels in America. I haven’t eaten for four days. I’ve driven a bus from Toronto to New York. I’ve done so many things that Mariah Carey would die from.

“But having been doing that for 20 years, I’ve learnt to never trust the media. Journalists are assholes. Don’t believe what you see on television because television broadcast networks are all paid and owned by the politicians. The only mind you should trust is your own. Don’t follow fashion. In 20 years, nothing of this even matters. In a hundred years from now, people will still talk about Beethoven and The Beatles, but who the hell is going to remember Hammerheart and Bathory? Nobody. This is just for now. In a hundred years we may not even exist. This may be a big pile of anthrax, haha. Can you imagine what a great tour that would’ve been, the package tour of Anthrax and Holy War? Haha.

“Why don’t they refer to Speak English or Die?” Quorthon asks, venturing into the controversial yet timely topics of 9/11 and the Iraqi war. His opinion does not the meet the leftist European consensus, but this does not make him any more timid about voicing his views, quite the contrary. “Give me your oil. Speak English or die, you Muslim faggots. When that airplane went into those buildings, I was in a garage working on a couple of Harley Davidsons with a couple of friends of mine. The sister of one of my friends was calling him, saying, ‘Hey, did you hear what happened? Some terrorists have been flying traffic airlines into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the buildings have gone to the ground.’ I said, ‘That’s impossible’. First of all they have the Air Force in America and they have radar protection and everything. They have very good security, I know because I have been flying in America myself. They almost go into your rectum for bombs. So I didn’t believe it. Then you have these German artists who think that September 11 was almost like a beautiful piece of art. So there are many ways to look at it. To me it’s just like business as usual. People of different opinions, religions, political ideas, race, colour and creed have been throwing rocks at each other for three million years.

“Fifty years ago, the people who were the Saddam and bin Laden of those days, they would only have rocks and Kalashinikovs. Today they have atom bombs and biological warfare and they will be able to kill people on a completely different scale. If America would not send their sons and brothers into battle to fight for other people’s freedom, you and I would be speaking Russian or German these days. America have absolutely nothing to gain from spilling their own blood on other people’s beaches and countries. But we have a very pacified Europe with a very violent history, and Europe is sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, we don’t want to fight. We’re going to talk until hell freezes over.’ Whereas America is prepared to take a terrible beating for actually doing something; to actually change the situation in that part of the world. In that part of the world there are 22 countries and not one of them is a democracy. In all of those countries you can stone a woman for going out to buy a cart of milk without having three brothers escorting her. Do we want to live in that kind of world? No, we do not. We want to have the freedom of the individual. Freedom of information and expression. The whole media situation today is that 50 percent of all the journalists are of the generation that formed their political opinions in the 60s. Of the Vietnam war. They are not pro-Saddam, they are anti-America. They see the world situation through that kind of a filter. I will never be able to read a newspaper again, especially not Swedish newspapers and television, so I’m only watching American TV and whatever other foreign news channel I can see. I know the Swedish news people. They are anti-American.

“If you didn’t have democracies who are ready actually to use weapons to fight evil, and evil is of course a question of definition because terrorism is a result of something. If I burn your house down, you’re sure as hell to flatten my tyres. So that’s terrorism for me, but for your people you’re a hero. The next time I come down and burn your house or somebody else’s house, like your neighbour’s, you’re not going to be satisfied with just flattening my tyres. You’re going to take a crap on my porch, haha. That’s what terrorism is all about. It’s been around for ages. Especially with Iraq and Kuwait, a country that doesn’t even exist, a country that was invented by an English oil company a hundred years ago. Kuwait belongs to Iraq, and look at the borders down in that part of the world. They’re absolutely parallel and straight. Those lines were drawn on a table in England in 1886. So you have to understand the Arabs. But if you fight Iraq to a corner, it’s going to bite you like a tiger. The more you’re going to whip them, the more they’re going to hit you back.

United States is the fourth largest oil exporter in the world. Why would they need Iraq’s oil when they almost export as much oil as Iraq oil that goes to America. So all that German crap about Kein Blut für Oil, it’s bullshit. America has 164 nuclear plants and although you cannot drive your car on nuclear energy, America can get cheaper oil from elsewhere. The reason why they went into Iraq right now is that they have intelligence information about Iraq’s use of the money they made from selling the oil into ex-Russian weapons, nuclear and biological weapon technology. If the US and Britain hadn’t done something now, five years from now there might not perhaps be any world. Can you imagine if there was a nuclear war down there? All the oil would be nuclear, radioactive. Can you imagine the price of vinyl LPs, haha? That’s a big problem. Not only would it be more expensive to ride my Harley Davidsons, the LPs would be radioactive. Can you imagine what cool picture discs you would have, glowing in the dark?”

Nuclear oil war or no nuclear oil war, many of us will undoubtedly forever be thankful for the dark glow of the Bathory discography. What is Quorthon himself grateful for about Bathory?

“I thank each day. It’s not a miracle because it takes a lot of work, but I’m never going to complain Bathory for anything. I can complain the media for being very respectless—the Bathory media situation is becoming a legend of its own by now—but no, I couldn’t and I wouldn’t and I shall not ever complain on Bathory because I’ve got to do all the things a lot of people only read about in the press and in the rock history books. I’ve fucked girls in limousines and in Boeing 747s across the Atlantic. I have made millions. I have been able to buy everything I ever wanted to buy. I haven’t had a job for twenty years. You go to a rock club in New York in a limousine and you have four girls jumping into that limousine and you go back to the hotel and you ask them ‘Do you know who I am?’ and they say ‘Yes’ and in the morning when they leave you forget to ask their names. I’ve got to do everything I ever wanted to do. Now it doesn’t make any point any more. A limousine is just a car and you only hire limousines because you have the money. You just want to do it one time. You want to have two bimbos sucking your dick in the back of a limousine just one time to try it because you’ve read about every big rock star who’s done it. Once you’ve done it yourself it doesn’t give you anything. You want to go back to your fucking garage and record your fucking primitive death metal records. What it all comes down to is that all you need is a cup of tea, a good book and some nice weather. Have a good crap and a good night’s sleep.”

as an epilogue we end up talking about fanzines, somehow rounding up the interview by coming back to the qualms I had about the position from which I ought to approach this immense figure, perhaps the most central ever for Scandinavian metal of the darker variety.

“I prefer fanzines before magazines,” Quorthon says. “There are a lot of big magazines in Europe that we’ve said no to. We did one with Metal Hammer and one with Rock Hard and to Rock Hard we said fuck you and they won’t talk to us ever again, heh. But I do fanzines all the time.

“There’s two ways that you can go about it. If you say yes to big magazines, you know that you’ll reach about 100,000 readers. But the problem is that a lot of the things that go down on the article are incorrect and 50 percent of the text in the article is the journalist’s words. If on the other hand you make a lot of interviews with fanzines, you will be able to reach the same audience but not at the same time because fanzines will be distributed in letters and small record shops and between people in the underground. So it’s going to take a longer time. But it will have an effect that will last for more than six months. It can be lasting for five or six years. Bathory would never have been able to continue for 20 years if we had been doing only Kerrang! and Metal Hammer.  That is why I pay so much attention to the fanzines. Last week there was this one guy from Sweden and he said, ‘I really would like to conduct an interview with Bathory. I don’t know if you guys are interested as my fanzine goes out in only 200 copies.’ For me it’s not about quantity but quality. And quality can be present even though it’s typed out on a typewriter. I’ve made interviews with the world’s biggest independent metal magazines and I’ve been doing that for five or six times now. Those magazines will still not be able to reproduce an article with my words. I was fighting with a Canadian webzine for two weeks, saying, ‘You guys have misquoted me completely. Out of respect for Bathory and your readers, will you consider doing a new interview or kill the link to the interview on your webzine.’ They said, ‘Sorry about that, but we’re not going to do it.’ I said, ‘Okay, sorry about that, but no more promos for you and don’t report an interest in making any interview in the future’. The only pleasure I have is that I know Bathory is going to continue for another 20 years but 50 percent of those magazines are not going to be alive in five years. So I have my revenge every day, haha.”

The Countess and Her Things: A Pre-Nordland Bathory History

Bathory (1984):
“It's a kind of virginity being taken. I remember we did a lot of recording in the studio before we actually recorded the first one, so that was kind of like foreplay, haha. The debut album was really taking the virginity. I mean, for a start, we didn't record it in an ordinary studio. The second album was recorded in a proper studio but the first one was recorded in a garage with eight-track equipment. We didn't know what to do! Two of the songs were basically written five minutes before we recorded them, and then we added three and a half minutes of thunder, wind and rain and still the album is only 28 minutes long! It's a classic these days and if you look at it from a sonic perspective, that’s very difficult to understand because it has demo quality by every standard. For historical values, it was of course a very important album. I just wish we would have done a few more of the songs that we had in those days. For some reason, some of the songs we had those days didn't end up on the record, which was a drag.

“Demos are recorded in order to get a record contract. For us, when we recorded the first album we didn’t have a record contract in the sense that we didn't have a record company, so we invented a record company. We did that label thing and I was sitting in my kitchen drawing it with a pen to make everybody believe we actually had a record company. Of course, the record was distributed by a proper record company but we didn't have a record contract. The two tracks we did on the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation album in January 1984, that was more or less a demo because although there were five or six bands on that LP, only Bathory received fan mail. The record company said, ‘Hey, you guys better record your own full-length album because we’ve sold 25,000 copies of this record and all the distributors in Europe want to have this record because of this group that was on the LP, Bathory.’ And so they called me up and said, ‘You better record an album' and I said, ‘Sorry, but the band is no more,’ haha. The other two guys had moved to England, so we didn't have a line-up those days. So I recorded that first album using two friends of mine from Stockholm who were playing in an oi band, which was kind of natural because most of the stuff we were writing was based on oi! punk anyway. I think it's even safe to say that if you know about bands like The Exploited and GBH and then listen to the first couple of Bathory album—if you scale away the sort of black metal or satanic topics—what you end up with is basically just oi punk. But Venom was very big in Europe in those days. Unfortunately we didn't know anything about Venom when we recorded the first record. I know for a fact that the first time I heard Venom was sometime in August 1984. When we put out the first Bathory LP Neat Records, which was distributing Venom, sent a promotional package with a Venom LP and a poster to our Swedish record company and asked them if they could distribute Venom in Sweden. They didn't have a distributor in Scandinavia in those days. That was when I heard Venom for the first time. Today I can understand that people are drawing these connections between Bathory and Venom because of the apparent goat on the album cover, a black album cover, and obviously the satanic topics. To me it was very shocking news actually even to be sitting there talking to Kerrang! who didn't know about bands like GBH and so they just said, ‘You guys must be Venom copies’.

“Today I can understand it. I can understand that people make those kind of connotations. People don't have that wider range of musical knowledge or history. They will come up with easy answers and the easiest answer was to say that everybody—Sodom, Destruction, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Slayer and everybody else—were Venom-influenced. But you have to realise that a lot of these groups had been around for just about as long as Venom had. Venom was only really big in England, they weren’t even selling out concerts because they did one show per year. So Venom was an underground band up until they started to make all these festivals for Holland and Germany. Once they started to do that, about two or three concerts a year, they went broke because they didn't sell any records and they had spent so much money on the live shows. Venom was not really for real, it was just three guys from Newcastle who had put something together, and it just exploded. The way the thing exploded was that what they had come up with happened at the same time in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and the US, and I'm sure there must have been some band influences too. Only that they were playing black metal with some other instruments, haha!”

The Return (1985):

“I have a lot better and more detailed memories from the first record than The Return because when we recorded The Return we were completely drunk, from day one to the last day. The guy who was playing bass on that record, I think he played bass only on half of the tracks on the record because he was doing a lot of hashish, and I didn’t like that. I told him that it's okay if you drink vodka or whiskey or something like that but I don't like you sitting here doing dope. He didn’t want to be in a band who didn't accept his being a rock n’ roller, so he went probably back to his girlfriend. Anyway, I finished off half of the record playing bass but I don’t have too many memories of The Return actually. I remember we recorded it in a 24-track studio anyway.”

Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1986):

“We went back to the Heavenshore studio. Now we felt that as we had recorded one album in a garage and one in a studio, we had to think what were the pros and cons, so to speak. Was there anything in the studio we couldn’t do in the garage? No. So why should we spend all this money hiring a professional recording studio when we could do the same job in a garage and have fun for the rest of the money, haha. And that’s what happened. We paid 5,000 crowns and we worked there for three months, going in just for fun. There weren’t any video games in there those days—this was before the computer—so we would just party. It was hilarious. We would watch videos and toy around a little bit with some ideas—we were very free about our time in the studio those days. But actually I don't have too many memories from Under the Sign…, either. I have more memories from photographing the album cover, haha. It was a classic. And nobody believed me when I told them.”

Blood Fire Death (1988):

Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart were also recorded in Heavenshore. I don’t have too many memories from Blood Fire Death because what happened at that time was that we recorded basically around the clock all the year. We were recording five or six different projects at the same time. Initially, we had one project called Blood on Ice and then we had a project called Valhalla and we were so tired and psyched out—we were mentally broke, we were like schizos, we shouldn't have been allowed to work in the studio at that time because we were so down by this immense work load. We had tapes up to the ceiling. So we said, ‘Why don’t we just stop working and put some good bits together and put a record out?’ That’s how Blood Fire Death basically came about. That was sort of like an average of what we were doing at that time.”

Hammerheart (1990):

Hammerheart I have very good memories of. It’s one of the records from the 80s I remember best recording because that was the first time we had actually written all the material before we entered the studio. Eventually we all set our minds on recording an album with a very specific sound and atmosphere; the Nordic atmosphere. Because we had never had that on our records before and we were dead tired singing about nuclear war and satanism and things like that. It was almost like a theme album, but it wasn't. Another good reason why I remember recording that album is because of the circumstances with the studio. The whole place was like a construction site. Hammerheart was a very fine recording.”

Twilight of the Gods (1991):

“It was very strange because all the people I had been working with sort of didn't like to be in the music industry anymore, so I was alone. People who had been working with us in the studio all said, ‘We don’t want to have anything to do with the music business, we like to get married and have kids and everything’. Also, the Heavenshore studio where we recorded it, we recorded there no more. So this was more or less working with new people in a new studio in a completely different environment. This was at a time when I was reading a lot of very heavy Germany philosophy, books from the 19th century. I was not really very much interested in music at all, so most of the songs on Twilight have the same key and the same rhythm. I really don’t have too many memories from that record other than it was probably the first record where I actually rehearsed guitar solos. I had never done that before, haha. Also, we didn't have drums on that record, we did it entirely with a drum machine. It was a completely weird feeling. Usually when you’re in the studio and in the recording room, you have people sitting on the other side of the studio glass behind the desk. Now I was sitting in my shorts on a stool in the control room recording a guitar with a drum machine. I mean, how weird is that?”

Requiem (1994) and Octagon (1995):

“First and foremost, it’s a complete myth that they weren’t well-received. Well, among journalists they weren’t. Journalists are the biggest fashion whores on the planet. They are bigger super models than Cindy Crawford. They are so sensitive about what it is they’re writing; they have to write about the stuff that’s hot. When Requiem and Octagon came out, the big idea about Bathory was that Bathory is writing 20-minute long very slow songs about Vikings with blood and beer in their beard. That was all that Bathory could do. Here we come up with two records that are in-your-face razor-blade-up-your-ass with no production and just basic raw naked metal. We didn’t even mix the Requiem album, we just recorded it, basically. If there was some mistake in a song we didn’t care about it because we were dead tired of the big arrangements and the big songs and the big choirs and everything. We just went in there to record something that was beer metal, almost like when we did the debut album. When that album came out, everybody was like, ‘Ummmhhh, I ordered a Big Mac and you give me a road kill’. People didn’t know what to call it. If they cannot paint you down into a corner they feel like losers because they cannot have the control. They want to be able to put a label on you. And here Bathory comes up with something that’s completely different from Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods. When people start to paint you into a corner, that's when you're dead. When they put you into a museum, that’s when you’re finished as a musician and a songwriter. It’s very difficult to get out of there. For the rest of your life, you’re going to have to be just like that. It’s just like Arnold Schwarzenegger; when he does these fucking twin movies or kindergarten cop movies, nobody’s interested. If Bathory had continued to do that kind of music—Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods—we would never have been able to get out of that corner. It was our way of telling people that they cannot tell us how we want to sound like. If you don’t like that, that's okay. But I know the sales figures, and Requiem has sold better than The Return and better than Blood Fire Death, so I don’t understand how this legend can live on that those two albums were failures. Octagon has sold just as much as Twilight of the Gods, and Twilight is called a legendary album. I know the sales figures, I receive a list every three months of how the records have been selling. The figures for Requiem right now are 96,000 and for Octagon probably about 92,000. So only those two albums have sold over 180,000 copies.”

Destroyer of Worlds (2001):

“When we wrote stuff for Destroyer of Worlds, I wrote that whole album in 13 days. We recorded the entire album in 112 hours. We have been involved in so many projects throughout the years and each and every time we told Black Mark that okay, we’re in the studio now recording some demos, possibly in three or four months you could have a record. Black Mark told this to all the distributors and all the time fans would call Black Mark and ask when’s the new album coming out. Of course, they’re our record company and they’re going to say, ‘Okay, we have a release date here’. We were still in the studio and we were not sure what we want to do because we were so tired of the satanic stuff and we were so tired of the Viking stuff. We were trying to find something new to do because Bathory must be interesting to us, not just to the audience. Each and every time the release date was set what happened was that we were drenched in mail from people who said they wanted us to do stuff that was like Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods. The next week we would receive stuff like, ‘Hey, I grew up with you guys, we want you to do stuff that was on the debut album, The Return and Under the Sign’. So we didn’t know where to go. 50 per cent of our audience were sort of like into the blood stuff and the other 50 per cent were into the mean stuff. So we said okay, what about if we sit down and write an album that’s gonna sound a little bit like the stuff from the past but with new topics? We have airplanes, motorcycles, suicide, independence, anti-religion and things like that. Even real-like stories like a cult murder in America and stuff on society. There’s nothing on the album that is satanic and there's nothing on the album that is Nordic. But you have the songs that are either very brutal or very heavy and epic. So they got the music but they didn’t get the topics. We wanted to see how very important the topics were to our audience. If they could accept different styles in music then that was okay with us because that meant we could do future topics that weren’t satanic or Viking, but if the Viking and satanic topics were very important to our audience and they would say, ‘Hey, we want you to sing about Vikings or Satan’ then we would have some serious problems because lyrics are very important in the sense that they come from your heart. The music comes from your balls. And if you’re Finnish, you have to inject it, haha. Man, I love you guys, you’re so bad when you inject all that stuff in you. I think it’s cool because everybody else is doing it but the only thing is that the Finns, they’ve got the beat for it. Everybody else is sitting around going, ‘Ah, look at the Finns, they got caught, ha ha ha.’ But everybody’s doing it. You shouldn’t have forgotten that bag, haha! You should’ve eaten makkaraa ja perunamuusia! Mitä maksat itte?

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” – Josif Stalin