Enslaved needs no introduction. Their reputation just precedes them. Two decades filled with some of the best records in metal history, are enough preface to underline the honor we felt, by having the chance to interview them.
Founding members Ivar Bjørnson (guitars, keyboards) and Grutle Kjellson (voice, bass), answered our questions and left a clear image of what Enslaved is: a band aware of their outstanding level, which however, affirms to not have created the “perfect album” yet –and still pursue it–, as well as an artistic ensemble that believes in the balance between strength and refinement, as the key to their sound.
Enjoy this precious interview and don’t miss the chance to submerge yourselves in the vast Enslaved ocean, we guarantee you’ll be in for a memorable ride.
Special thanks go out to Tonje E. Peersen of Peersen Production for the help on making this interview possible.
1-METALICOS-Hello there guys! This is Mauricio from metalicos.com in Costa Rica, thanks a lot for giving us the chance for making an interview for your Latin American fans! Let’s go straight to the point: Your recently released album Axioma Ethica Odini, has been included on countless “best of” lists for 2010 releases, even reaching #1 spot on many of them. What’s the feeling now that you see these reactions?
Ivar/ Hey how are you!? This is the first interview with Costa Rica, about time. It is always amazing to see people react to your music, and seeing such a broad and unified response is nothing short of overwhelming. We have been immensely proud of the album ever since it was ready –and personally I had a lot of expectations even back when the first riffs were written.
2-METALICOS-We all know that the black metal scene hasn’t stopped changing since its origin. How does a band like Enslaved deal with the whole process of creating music now? What changes with time… the motivation, the mindset?
Grutle/ It’s difficult to pinpoint where the motivation comes from. I guess we love the idea of developing, and hate the idea of stagnation! The day we start repeating ourselves will be the end of Enslaved. The whole idea has always been to look forward and “go with the flow”. We’ve never been afraid of what other people may think of our music, and have always done whatever we felt like. To put it very easy; we are always trying to make the music we want to listen to ourselves...
3-METALICOS-Most of the times, when European bands tour Latin America, we hear from them how surprised they are of realizing that they’re even known on these lands. But we are well aware of what’s going on in the scene, and are always waiting to see who’s coming to play live over here. What do you think about Latin American audiences, about the way they react on a concert?
Grutle/ I know that the Latin American audience knows about shitloads of stuff from the world of metal! I could see that already in the late 80’s, when I joined the underground extreme metal scene. There were already back then loads of bands and fans coming from South America. So, we know that you are familiar with our stuff. We have played very little in Latin American countries (only one tour in Mexico 16 years ago!!), but we’ve had loads of Latinos at our gigs, both in Europe and in North America! They have been very passionate about the music! It is however more difficult for us to come down there and play, due to the lack of proper booking agencies and expensive plane tickets! We hope that will change soon!!
4-METALICOS-Like most Norwegian major bands, you have toured Europe extensively but, is there any other particular place which you still have not visited, where you would like to go?
Grutle/ Well, as I mentioned, we hope to be able to play more in Latin America. We haven’t been playing much in Asia either, so a trip to Japan for instance, would be cool. We would like to play in all the corners of the world, but the further away from Norway it is, the more difficult it gets.
Plane tickets for band + crew + equipment is anything but cheap unfortunately…
5-METALICOS-When talking about black metal, Norway’s influence is clearly visible around the entire planet. That’s one of the main reasons why strong scenes in France, USA, Eastern Europe –just to name a few– have been solidifying in the last years. How aware you are of what is being done now a days on the black metal scene? Any bands that you consider good now?
Ivar/ Of course there is a lot of interesting stuff going on outside Norway, but I guess it is easy to look mostly towards your own scene. I would say that Sweden seems to have the strongest Black Metal scene these days with a multitude of expressions and up and coming acts - while Norway seem to be in a place where Black seems to be either drifting towards main stream or the other way towards the experimental. Enslaved, not being a “real” Black Metal, rather Extreme Metal – seem to be drifting outside of the whole thing, running some kind of scene on our own hehe.
6-METALICOS-Enslaved has been very influential for many other bands, but how about your own influences? Do you still get inspiration from the bands that you first heard many years ago? How does that kind of influence change through time?
Ivar/ I would say that the influences are broader, but some of the bands that defined us are still heavily part of our inspiration; like Bathory, Morbid Angel, Motörhead and so on. Then there have been additions of a lot of other musical styles to the inspirations; everything from doom to prog rock to contemporary styles of classical and electronic music. So I would say that it has broadened and mutated rather than “changed” or “matured” like so many like to put it.
7-METALICOS-It’s been 20 years since Enslaved began to carve its own name in the metal scene, and I’m sure that there must have been some rough moments but, when did you realize that you had really ‘made it’?
Grutle/ Have we? Hehe… It really doesn’t seem like 20 years, and we’re still young and hungry! We are still trying to make the perfect album, and “luckily” we have not succeeded so far. The urge to make music and be creative is the most important thing really, not counting years! If any of us don’t die or something, I guess we’re here in 20 years too. I’m not saying that we’ve had 20 golden years, but we have released a bunch of strong albums, and we have performed a lot of great gigs. This gives us inspiration to go on.
8-METALICOS-How do you like to work on new material? Do you prefer to compose constantly while on the road, or do you prefer to do it under different conditions?
Ivar/ I prefer to isolate myself in some manner, optimally I can go away somewhere – for the last three albums I have really physically gone away with some equipment to dedicate myself wholly to the composition. But I am also getting better at creating “bubbles” for shorter periods of times to compose if I don’t have the luxury of time to go properly away. It is about forcing the ordinary things out and allowing for the so-called “subconscious” to express itself.
9-METALICOS-What do you like to get captured on the studio, what are those ‘key’ elements that an Enslaved album must have?
Ivar/ Oh, good question. Well, if I am to put it simply into words I would say that the ambition these days is to do in the studio what we are doing live: representing the sound of the interaction between man, instrument and means of amplification in an authentic and at the same time refined way. Not too much in either direction; too much “authenticity” distracts from the atmosphere while too much refinement kills the nerve and energy. I guess. Hehe.
10-METALICOS-What do you think about Enslaved being called a “classic black metal band”? Does that mean anything to you?
Grutle/ We’ve never looked upon ourselves as a black metal band at all, so that’s really not a description we care much about. You see, back in the days we had a very clear definition of black metal here in Norway. Black metal was/is any kind of metal with satanic lyrics, from Merciful Fate to Dark Funeral. Since Enslaved didn’t have anything to do with Satanism, we were never black metal! I think that is still a good definition, and we have therefore never considered Enslaved as black metal. We don’t care much about labels on music at all really. Music can be good or bad, totally independent on what people call it. We prefer to be called “fantastic music”, and “undoubtedly the best band in the world!”…hehehe…
11-METALICOS-Now a days metal is a gigantic movement which involves virtually every country of this planet. What do you think about the expansion of metal to every corner of the globe?
Grutle/ I like that of course! Metal can be a door opener for many things! In poor countries for instance, playing and listening to metal can be a real energy boost and maybe a little escape from a hard daily life. Metal is always a good way to release emotions and aggression too! It’s essential to keep up the balance for many people, myself included. If the metal scene continues to grow, we might even be able to play in countries we never even thought of ten years ago too! We’ve already done it a couple of times! So, my conclusion will have to be that the growing of the metal movement is entirely positive!
12-METALICOS-What’s in the band’s agenda for 2011?
Ivar/ A lot of gigs! Right now we know we are going for one or two rounds in Europe on tour, a bunch of festivals, an American tour and it looks like we might visit other continents also. If we’re lucky we’ll be able to squeeze in some celebrations of our 20th anniversary and home town and home country gigs also!
13-OK, thanks again for sharing your thoughts with the readers of metalicos.com, can you send us one final message?
Ivar/ Thanks for following Enslaved – hope to see you on tour some day. I’ve been to Costa Rica once and hope I’ll be able to come back someday!