It is very rare for me to find myself in the situation that I have to do an interview with a band for an album that I have not yet listened to but in the case of Gorgoroth the circumstances were pretty special, as the album in question is a re-recording of the band’s 1997 classic “Under The Sign Of Hell” which is due for release late this year. Knowing full well how sensitive Norwegians are with regards to free time and personal space, I tried to make sure that my interview with vocalist Pest and guitarist and founding member Infernus at the backstage area of the Camden Underworld just a few hours prior to the band hitting the stage on the evening of the 14th of November was short and to the point. The result, as I trust that you will agree when reading this interview, was quite a successful one.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis
• Hi Gus – great to meet you both & thank you for taking the time to do this interview. We are all really happy to have Gorgoroth back in the UK, especially after all these thing that have been happening in the band over the years. Fans have been quite insecure as per the future of the band so seeing you here tonight reinforces the feeling that all the dark clouds are finally starting to disappear. How does it feel having survived against all odds and being here with us tonight?
Pest: Well, it’s really good to be back, especially as I have been out of the band for so many years. Coming back again at this point is fantastic. Most of our fans have kept up with what has been going on and know that there have been a lot of changes and it seems to be changes that the fans are happy with, so the response has been good both with regards our album [note: “Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt” (2009)] and on previous shows that we have done so far they have been positive. I think that this has been good timing that we come up with the release of the re-recording of “Under The Sign Of Hell”, so it is an opportunity to do shows featuring material both new and old.
• Of all the albums that you have recorded in your early career, you chose to re-work “Under The Sign Of Hell”. What made you opt for this specific one? This was of course the first album that we had Pest providing a full-on vocal contribution, so it makes sense in that respect, but I was wondering whether this choice also signifies that it stands out amongst your earliest efforts as being one of the most important.
Pest: Absolutely! I think that the majority of the live material that Gorgoroth has always done whether it would be with me or with a different singer seems to come from that album and so it was natural that if we were to do something over again it would have to be that, plus the fact that it seems to be one of the strongest albums that sort of is representing what Gorgoroth was at least at that specific moment in time. I believe that the material on offer means exactly the same to us today but it needed a new representation so it was kind of natural to do it at the same time that we were recording other things – we were in the studio anyway, so…
• The re-release of “Under The Sign Of Hell” is quite interesting in many different ways. First, the band has been gradually moving in the direction in which speed is no longer the main factor, while atmosphere is, so returning to harsher forms is indeed interesting. I cannot really comment too much because I have not listened to the material on offer but I assume that you did not move too far away from the original in terms of performing the material. Did the fact that you were giving the opportunity to re-visit this material allow enough space to work on some ideas that may not have found their place onto the album in the first place?
Pest: Absolutely and I think that this was the main reason why the album was re-recorded. We just felt that even though we were happy with the original recording back in 1996 when we first did it, we just feel all these years later that even if we are happy with the songs themselves and the material on the album, things could still be done better production wise and that was the main reason for wanting to do it all over again, along with the fact that this album has always provided a lot of the material that we do when we play live.
• One thing that is fairly dangerous when you choose to re-record classic-sounding albums like “Under The Sign Of Hell” is that you risk alienating those fans who were naturally drawn to the vibe and atmosphere of the original recordings. When you re-work such material, there is always the danger of missing that main ingredient from the proceedings – the spontaneity and raw emotion that make them so special. Many fans might wonder why you chose to do that rather than record a new album which would maybe make more sense to them. Do you feel that with “Under The Sign Of Hell” you managed to re-capture that all important vibe of the original recordings? Is the re-recording stronger or different in comparison to the original album?
Pest: I don’t think that it was ever meant to be sounding the same; if that was to be the case then we would have not bothered to do it in the first place. As far as capturing the same atmosphere or whatever, that was never really the point. We did the album all over again because we wanted to do it in a totally different way. As far as fans go, if they are not happy with it then the answer is quite simple: either you can have the best of both worlds by having both and listen to them or if you are that sort of a die-hard fan and you absolutely love the original recording then do not bother with this new one! If you are that bothered by it then stay away from it!
• It is interesting as Schmier gave me a pretty similar answer when I questioned him over Destruction’s decision to re-record some of their classic material four years ago (see “Thrash Anthems”). In your case the reaction of the fans seems to have been a fairly positive one; people like it enough to convince you guys to go on tour in support of the material on offer so it seems that you have done something good there. Today is the eleventh day of the tour, right?
Pest: Indeed! Back to what you were saying before, though, with regards the re-recordings. Re-recording an album rather that doing something else made sense because it was done at the same time that we did “Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt”, right?
Infernus: Yes, just shortly after. It was a simultaneous affair in many ways.
Pest: Yeah, so it was one of those things when we were already in the studio recording new material anyway, so it didn’t really interfere with recording new material or anything like that.
• Ok, so that means that we are already in a period of two years where we have not yet listened to any new Gorgoroth material. Are you currently working on any new material or are you first waiting for this tour to be dealt with prior to starting?
Pest: No, we already have prepared something; Infernus, how much would you say is already done so far?
Infernus: We have already prepared most of the music but we need to arrange things in a proper way and we need to have a break to do that as this is quite a long tour. We will continue with the writing process in January but how much time it will take to have the album ready is pretty difficult to say. We have to keep on working until we are finally happy with it.
• Based on what you have prepared so far, would you say that it is closer to what you have been doing over the last two years, or are you moving back to faster forms?
Pest: As far as the production is concerned, it is going to sound more like “Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt” as our intention is to make the production as tight and as powerful as possible. Music wise, I think that the fans will be able to hear that it is going to be a stronger album as we intend to make it a mix of melody and aggression and so I believe that it will turn out to be a typical Gorgoroth album!
• I have to say that I was quite attracted to “Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt” both in terms of emotion and vocal performances. I believe that the end result was better than anyone could have expected at that stage in the band’s career – a classic example of atmosphere being more important than speed, an element that many people have associated classic Black Metal with. I know fair well that you are quite in touch with your audience; do you tend to listen and adhere to their desires when it comes to recording a new album or do you tend to do your own thing anyway and hope that people will understand and follow?
Infernus: I always do what comes naturally to me, so it is the latter. If I don’t like it myself I will not even attempt to do it.
• It is a thing that all non-artists are interested in finding out; what motivates a band to record the music that they do. What is it that keeps you guys going after all these years?
Infernus: What drives me is the need to always do something better as I am always not one hundred per cent happy with what I have done in the past. I always try to work upon becoming better as a musician.
• We have a member in our family who is a Norwegian and so I am well aware that as a nation you are known for needing your own space and privacy perhaps much more than the rest of us. Now, the fact that you have booked a long tour for the promotion of “Under The Sign Of Hell 2011” must be a fairly uncomfortable thing for you, right? That is a contradiction to the whole Norwegian psyche, so how do you cope with that?
Pest: Well, it does take some dedication and this is a very good chance for us to go out and promote the new release and…it’s just one of those things that come with it. If you are going to release a new album, people expect to see you live so we really don’t have much of a choice! That being said, we do enjoy playing live so the fact that we are living in a bus for seven weeks is not necessarily ideal but playing in front of a live audience, presenting your new material and getting their feedback is one of those things that makes it worthwhile. It is not something that we can do all the time but for so many weeks at the time we just bite the bullet and just do it.
• Norwegian Black Metal has evolved a lot over the years and if one was to look back at those bands who kick-started the scene, they would find that these are the same bands that gradually moved away from what has been described as the classic early 90s sound. Ulver sound totally different now than they did back in the day, Satyricon are more Rock n’Roll sounding and the list goes on and on. You guys have decided to stick to your guns, so to speak, and still record and perform classic sounding stuff. Were you never tempted to follow an approach similar to any of the previously-mentioned bands?
Pest: We got into classic Black Metal because that is what we wanted to do back then and as far as wanting to do something different, as individual members of this band we have the opportunity to go and do something on the side with bands that play a style of music different than Gorgoroth’s. This is what Gorgoroth are about; it is not about Prog Rock, musical experimentation and that kind of stuff – it is Black Metal and that is what it is! I do not think that there has ever been a desire or need to go somewhere else with it.
• Part of the privilege to be a band that has been around for as long as you have is that your fame precedes you. Do you find that it is easier, on the strength of the band’s name, to promote your music nowadays or do you feel that the music industry has change so much over the years means that even a band like Gorgoroth has to work pretty hard to promote a release?
Pest: It obviously helps the fact that the name of Gorgoroth has been carried on for close to twenty years now but it doesn’t mean that you can sort of lay back and relax- you still have to do all the work and of course there has been a huge change in the music industry due to many people illegally downloading music. You still have to promote your music and you still have to be out there and do as much as you can to draw people’s attention to the band. I don’t think that it’s necessarily something that has changed the way that we work but it does help that the band has been around for a while.
• Quite a few bands have started promoting and selling their music directly to their fans as of late, leaving record labels outside in the process. Do you see Gorgoroth going down a similar path at some point in the near or distant future or do you support the traditional approach?
Infernus: All we want to do is to continue selling records like before but as times are changing we will have to adapt to and cope with things somehow. How the situation is going to be three years from now is anyone’s guess – we will just have to wait and see.
• Gents, I want to thank you both or doing this interview. It feels very good to have a band like Gorgoroth that has been around for almost two decades still recording and performing inspiring music – I simply hope that you are going to continue doing that for many years to come. I really hope that you will enjoy tonight’s show.
Pest: Thank you very much!
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