Interview: SATYRICON – “We’re Like Racehorses Itching To Go!”

Satyricon new album release event

Satyricon is the Norwegian black metal project led by frontman Satyr (Sigurd Wongraven) and featuring drummer Frost (Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad).

The band will release their eighth studio album this year, which is out September 9th in the EU, and September 17th in the USA. Their last release was 2008′s The Age Of Nero.

Satyr took time to explain, in great detail, his approach to writing the forthcoming self-titled Satyricon album, how the upcoming special performance with the Norwegian National Opera Chorus came about, and what the future holds for the band.


Introduce yourself!

I’m Satyr from Satyricon.

Talk about lead single Our World, It Rumbles Tonight.

The new lead single Our World, It Rumbles Tonight is one of those songs that to me represents the dynamics of the record. It has the explosiveness, where the quiet parts and very quiet and the intense parts are as intense as they get on this record.

The sheer size of the song represents a lot of what you will find on this record, the epic feel of songs like ‘The Infinity of Time and Space’ and the Norwegian title [????] are good examples of that. This is probably a tighter version of those two tracks I just mentioned, it’s a good way of showing what the self-titled album is all about.

Talk about the writing and recording process – what was it like taking over the producing duties?

The writing and recording process was a long one. We started in the summer of 2011 and we pretty much finished the day before we went in the studio, around February 1st 2013. On this record, I wanted to approach it slightly different in the way that I have written the majority of the records – in solitude in the past and more or less told Frost what to play. This time around, I did some writing on my own but most of it I did with him around, and I even had one of my live guitar players be around a lot of the time so whenever I had ideas for a harmonies I could try it right there and then instead of pre-recording it.

To me that is one of those things that created a more spontaneous and musical feel  to the performances that go down on the record. The sonics on this record is a big part of what this album is about, the authentic, organic sound didn’t just come from the equipment used but the philosophy of the band not only the recording process, but the in writing. A lot of it was just being aware of how that can influence your writing style. Back in the summer of 20011 I made the decision to not use any pedals and started working with just the amplifier distortion. 

One of the things I noticed was how that influenced my writing style and being aware of that, we looked into other things like returning to bigger drum kits with more tone and sustain. That definitely also shaped the way Frost is playing, I encouraged him to free himself of any genre specifics and just listen to the music, play the parts the way which is intuitive to him instead of thinking “what is black metal and what is not?” It’s supposed to be good music, that’s all.

Are there any consistent lyrical themes running through the album? Are there any stand out tracks for you and why?

The lyrical themes that run through the album, it’s not a concept record or anything like that. In the past I would separate those two processes. What I’ve been doing the last few years is that I try to finish the song and I keep the vocals in mind and might make changes to the song to cater for the vocals.

I write the lyrics to fit the song, not only on a rhythmic basis but also the atmosphere. It’s a technique that I’ve been using probably since Volcano. This record was done in the same way. I find it hard to elaborate on lyrics as it’s always down to the reader’s personal interpretation, but I try and make them as personal as possible ‘cause I believe that enhances the quality of my performance.

I had on the track ‘Phoenix’ Silvert Hoyem as a guest singer. That was one of the things that we discussed. He asked me whether I was going to write the lyrics for that, and I told him he should do it ‘cause that would make his performance a more personal and a better one. That’s what we did and I think it turned out great.

Discuss the idea to self-title the album.

The reason for making the album self-titled is a case of a band need[ing] to mature and define itself over time before you do a self-titled song or record. This album, to me, we’ve never done anything that defines Satyricon as much as this one does. If we were ever to do a self-titled record it had to be this one. Interestingly enough, a close friend of mine that listens to our stuff at an early stage, usually demos and things like that – I’m always interested in his opinion. He said after hearing four or five demo tracks, he just looked at me and said “I love what you’re doing and I take this is going to be self-titled right?”.

I was a little bit surprised by that, I already had it in mind and I said “Yeah that’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about, and hearing you say that makes me even more confident that it’s the way to go”. Once we started getting this on tape there was no question about it – this was THE Satyricon record.

Talk about the upcoming show with the Oslo Opera House with the Norwegian National Opera Chorus – how did the idea come about and how much work went into putting it all together?

The upcoming show at the Oslo Opera House with the Norwegian National Opera Chorus is something that we’re doing because last year, we did the song To The Mountains from the Now Diabolical record with them at a closed event. It was more or less and experience, but it was a fantastic opportunity for us and it came out being one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done musically.

So what I did that very same day was talk to the conductor about doing a full show. Everything at an opera house is a little bit more formal than the rock scene, it took a while to make this happen. Fighting a very conservative system at the opera, but they certainly have people that are open minded and once we got in touch with the right people, this project was on and they are as enthusiastic as we are. They actually even made the show a part of the official opera programme for the Fall 2013.

It’s one of those things that we would love to do five shows in a row, but it’s not practically possible for them or us. I guess that just makes that one night an even more special occasion and fingers crossed that it will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the career of Satyricon.

Recently you headlined the third stage at Download Festival, how was this for you? Are you looking forward to returning to the UK for more live dates later in the year?

We just headlined the third stage of Download Festival. That was our second appearance at Download. We did a show on the main stage in 2006 when Metallica was the headliner. This time around was a slightly smaller stage but playing during the night is always the best thing for any rock band. Satyricon is no differen[t] being a black metal band.

We enjoyed it a lot; we obviously knew that it would be a hard time to be up against the pyrotechnics of the Germans playing at the same time as we were. Nevertheless, there’s nothing we could do about that and I really had the impression that those who were there for the music watching Satyricon had as great of a time as we did. To me that was one of those things that reminded me of how good it is for Satyricon to play in the UK.

We’re going to be back touring all over Europe in November and December, we have a few UK shows. Those are the ones together with places like Paris that we will be looking the most forward to. We know from experience that they are usually among the best of the entire European tour. We haven’t been here doing club shows since 2009 so it’s about time we get to share that experience with our fans again.

What can we expect from the live show this time around?

When it comes to what you can expect from a Satyricon live show, those who have seen it before know that how successful a show really depends on the crowd. A Satyricon show is a very interactive one, we made the choice many years ago that it wasn’t going to be about the gimmicks.

It was going to be about the music, so the time spent preparing for tours is time spent working on the music – not trying to have dragons coming through the speakers. Our fans know that and their cheer for us is almost like a group of football supporters getting behind their team.

We really feed off that energy and what we give back is hopefully an energetic, powerful display of black metal. I feel that especially the London shows are among the best that we do, and the new record – I have full faith in its ability to translate into a live setting better than most other songs we’ve done. I can’t wait to start playing that.

What does the next 12 months have in store for Satyricon?

For the next 12 months, we will be touring all over the world. I expect us to be very busy from September on. Hopefully our shows in the UK in November/December are not going to be the only ones. We hope that we’ll be back playing festivals in Summer 2014 and perhaps even in other European tours – we’ll have to wait and see. We’re like racehorses itching to go!

Satyricon will be touring the UK and Ireland in November.

Click here to see a list of dates and to purchase tickets.