When black metal was only a twinkle in the eye of the public, Darkthrone were… well, playing death metal under the name Black Death at the time. But in 1991, they changed their name and created the music we all know and love them for. With the release of their new album The Underground Resistance (out now on Peaceville Records), the dynamic duo continue to show the world what black metal is all about.
There are a lot of metal bands that hardly make it to 5 albums, yet with the release of The Underground Resistance, this makes it your 15th album so far. Like some of your previous albums, was this album written 50/50 with bandmate Nocturno Culto?
Like most, already in summer of 1991 after having recorded the A Blaze In The Northern Sky album, I decided that we should all (we were 3 then) write on our own and not co-operate. And then Zeph left in end of ‘92 and since then we wrote on our own, if it was 50/50 on albums – well, that also happened, but we’ve had all constellations, me making whole albums, Ted almost making whole albums, then some 30/70 splits or 40/60. But we always shared the money evenly, amazingly.
Unlike most of the other black metal bands that formed in the late 80’s, you guys have built upon the traditional formula and experimented with thrash, punk, speed metal, and rock n roll. What brought about this change in direction instead of sticking with the black metal sound?
Well, there weren’t many black metal bands that formed in late ‘80s, it was mainly Blasphemy, Samael and Tormentor and Masters Hammer. I mean, in Norway we had many bands forming in the late ‘80s but none were strictly black or strictly ANYTHING, it was just the underground sound at the time, a mix of thrash and death and black mainly. And when these lads wanted to play black metal they took it as natural to continue their playing skills within black metal. Whereas we wanted to stop playing technical death metal, it started to verge on prog rock for our sake, and play primitive black metal. That was what set us apart from the others you’ve come to know. Except Burzum had the same way of thinking as us, just going in more primitive and monotonous way.
Every album we made we changed, slowly most of the time, but that’s the way we know it is and the stuff we talk about on the commentary discs. Changes on the last 5 albums have been particularly slow, I think, the first 5 albums you could hear the change a bit more from album to album. But people get caught up in album layout and such when looking at a band, we see it from the inside and know that to us it’s more song by song, from the outside the album is kind of a tombstone/milestone. But for us we usually had half the next album written until the one we’d already done came out. Not always, but 15 albums,…that’s a lot of angles.
And sticking to the black metal sound…we already changed at least TWICE before the slow change to black metal (half of “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” are death metal song “blacked up”) and then it was the change to writing on our own, which eventually led me into doing just black’n‘roll tracks for a while and then we started to freestyle on the “Hate Them” album we made in 2002 and then just continued with the freestyle until now, and as far as I know we will still continue down that path, we freestyled in the beginning and are especially fond of our “Snowfall” track from 1988 and we are kinda back there now but from a completely different angle of course.
Being only six tracks, it’s noticeably shorter in track number than your last few albums. That being said, I would contest that it’s also one of your most diverse releases to date. What was the writing process like during the 2 years it took to create The Underground Resistance?
Oh no, our previous albums were from 35 till 38 minutes or something, this is 42 minutes, so it’s longer. I can’t talk for Ted, I never know how he makes songs. For me it was songwriting as usual, just waiting for ideas to come, and when they come I start elaborating if the metal gods are willing. Different this time was ‘Valkyrie’ that took a helluvalot of time. First the refrain popped into my head at work in march 2010, had to hum it into my mp3 player/recorder. And then nothing happened until September 2011 when the beginning of the song was in my head when I woke up in my holiday. Then I just made the verse and bob’s your uncle. So that took it’s sweet time.
While recording the album, what set of bands do you feel that you drew influences from?
Not while recording the album, when we have one song ready each, we meet up to record, put our portable studio up and learn one of the songs and start to record immediately. We NEVER hung around in a studio, that’s the only way we did NOT record an album. But it’s clear that my songs have these influences:
Valkyrie: Gypsy by Uriah Heep, 1970, Ides of March Iron Maiden, 1981, generic beautiful speed metal early ‘80s, How Many Tears, Helloween, 1985, myself.
Those You Left Behind: Agent Steel mid 80s, savage grace master of disguise album, Iron Maiden 1984, myself.
Leave No Cross Unturned: Savage Grace Master of Disguise album, Agent Steel ‘85, myself, Celtic Frost ‘85, Celtic Frost ‘84, generic early ‘80s heavy metal, Pentagram ‘87
But it’s not like I sit down and listen to this and then make music. I make the music and then later figure out what I must’ve been subconsciously inspired by or what it reminds me of. Kinda like when I rate or review others music (I do that constantly).
What is the reason that you two have decided to keep Darkthrone a studio band instead of bringing the music on the road?
As a kid I never wanted much to be on stage, I just wanted to record. I think the magic was to record and the hassle was to play live. So that quickly became the rule, I wanna do this MY way. I am definitely a RECORDED MUSIC kinda guy, not a live music kinda guy. That doesn’t mean I don’t go to gigs, I went to a shitload of gigs since the late 80s and I also dj at quite a few shows.
What’s the current status on your other two bands Valhall and Red Planet?
Not really my band, Valhall, it’s the band I started with some other metalheads that had cabins where I lived in ‘88. I had to quit when I got the record deal with Darkthrone in early ‘90 cuz I had to concentrate on Darkthrone. I started in Valhall again in 1993 when Darkthrone had been sleeping since summer of ‘92. Red Planet was something I did in that DT break and I donated one or two Red Planet songs to Valhall when I started there In ‘93 again. Red Planet was supposed to be an album for Peaceville or the underlabel, Dreamtime. No, my other band was ISENGARD , first demo in mid ‘89, as I wanted to do something separate for Darkthrone. Then there were so many other projects in early 90s, Neptune Towers, Regress FF and then mid ‘90s Dødheimsgard, Storm. I made around 10-12 albums in ‘93-96 so I got burnt out and decided not to pour out so much of the music inside me anymore. Worked great.
There are numerous black metal documentaries and books that try to explain the genre and movement, but some have been met with criticism. Which of those would you recommend to people who are interested in learning the history of black metal?
Trying to explain is key here, cuz it is ALL IN THE MUSIC! If people can’t hear the black metal in the first possessed album they ought to quit right there and then (Of course there are other vibes on that album too. But in the 80s it was a primordial soup and the understanding starts THERE) because they obviously don’t feel it. Instead they ask and make movies. Bah. I haven’t seen any, I don’t need to, I was there. I don’t recommend any. Just to try what I mentioned here in the beginning of the answer, perhaps. Hahaha, but really.
It’s been a while since your last release on your label Tyrant Syndicate Production. Any plans on bringing that back?
That was just an underlabel, like Necrosis was for Earache back in the day (it was the Carcass guys that had that label.) Ted finally discovered what me the pessimist had said all along, it would be more work than glory, trying to spread good metal seems impossible sometimes. But it released good albums, especially cool Aura Noir albums.
After this album is released, what is on each of your agendas for the coming years?
Well, I’ve soon done interviews for 4 months, this is number 83 by the way. We have maybe almost half an album ready but the interviews are killing me so instead of going to the studio now, I might scrap my songs and make others later, I often tire of my own stuff and need to make new. But most concretely we gotta do commentary discs for UNDER A FUNERAL MOON (our best and only total black metal album) and SARDONIC WRATH re-releases.
Any last words for the readers of Heavy Blog is Heavy?
Don’t forget to listen to HOUR OF 13!!!!!! !!!!!! !!!!!! Great band.