tiistai 29. toukokuuta 2012

Watain - The Hollow World

I think it was in an interview with the Danish Evilution zine that Erik Danielsson stated that Black Metal and DVDs don't really match. About six years later, the latest drop from the grail that is Watain is precisely that - a live DVD. Not just any DVD, you might argue, but still a DVD. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bitch about the band changing their mind and evolving. I for one respect Watain for following the path they've been called to follow.

However, there have been some things in Watain that I haven't been able to take at face value. But what appear to be commissioned and rather everyday photo shoots, awkward autograph sessions or plastic collector sets, are part of the holistic ritual for the members of Watain. And for anyone who might argue that, Danielsson is willing to expand his idea of a ritual to include beating up a journalist in the back alleys of Helsinki.


"The Hollow World"
An interview with Erik Danielsson of Watain
Originally published in Imperiumi.net, June 2010.

In a couple of earlier interviews you’ve spoken about “the trinity” of releases, the idea that many bands first put out three classic/great albums and then start to wind down somewhat. How did you make sure that Watain wouldn’t take the wrong path on your fourth album?

- The first three albums of Watain can be seen as a foundation, the completed triangle of Watain. We needed three albums to explore our own ability, to know ourselves and to erect our temple. A temple which stood ready with Sworn to the Dark, and that we can now use for what we came here to do; the Devil’s work. We have always aimed for being able to perform music and art with enough dignity to be linked with the power of our gods. This takes time, devotion and determination. As far as I am concerned, it took me three albums.

- The reason I can see for many bands loosing it around their third album is that the first phase of a band usually represent a vortex of energy and creativity, of emotions that demand to be expressed. For many artists, the end of that phase means arriving to a point of repetition, of stagnation or, in the worst case, to be drained of inspiration. Needless to say, it did not work that way for us.

The working title for Sworn to the Dark was No Return. What was the working title for Lawless Darkness and how did it guide your way through the writing and recording process this time around?

- There was no such working title I think, and neither was “No Return” really a lodestar as such. The way we compose is far more chaotic, like adding ingredients to a cauldron in which hell itself must eventually boil. Experimentation and experience in excess...

How much of a parallel is there between shedding skin musically, and the understanding that a Satanist will, little by little, destroy the restrains encoded in his human body? I mean, does Watain’s musical development necessitate religious/spiritual development?

- That parallel is constant and could not be anything else, since Watain has always been an outlet for our own spiritual experience and belief. Our own spiritual progression is always the reason for any relevant progression within the band, as an artistic outlet for the same.

You’ve stated in interviews pretty much from the beginning that bands like Metallica and Death SS, rather than usual suspects such as Darkthrone, are more of an influence on your work in Watain. Listening to some of the tracks on Lawless Darkness, I think that at times the Metallica influence comes through more than ever before. Would you tend to agree?

- Yes there might be a stronger traditional metal element to Lawless Darkness, which is nothing strange to me really. That aspect has always been a big part of our lives and it would be strange if it at some point did not show in our work as artist, considering how personal Watain is to us.

- However, to me Watain will always be a Black Metal band per se. The difference between a regular Heavy Metal band and us is that while they try to hide – or are unaware of – the fact that the Devil speaks through their music, while we are open about it.

There are definitely some soul-grabbing melodies on Lawless Darkness, especially on the closing track Waters of Ain. On the classic Metallica albums, one could pretty much memorize and sing along even the guitar solos, and I think that it’s the same with some of Watain’s most touching moments. What is the inner feeling like in studio or, especially, on stage, when this kind of melodies start playing? (I reckon you haven’t yet played Waters of Ain live, but there are earlier Watain songs and melodies that have a similar effect for me at least, The Serpent’s Chalice, for example.)

- Yes, I know the parts you are refering to, and they are indeed special. On Lawless Darkness we have got closer to the formula of creating them, and this is something we will always be striving for; Timeless music, worthy enough to place upon the altar of the Gods.
- The reactions in the studio are the same as those of any sane person hearing them; solemn delight, outbursts of madness, tears of pride, the urge to praise Satan.

In Sweden Rock Magazine you said that Waters of Ain is your “begravningslåt,” which obviously speaks volumes about the personal importance of the song. If you were to die tomorrow, would you be satisfied with the way Watain ended with Lawless Darkness?

- Yes, I’d say I would. But on the other hand I would have been “satisfied” if we ended with Sworn to the Dark as well, since we always give our everything. All I can say is that there are still an abyss to discover within Watain, that still yearns to be expressed through us, and that we still yearn to express. Many depths are yet to be ventured...

To what extent are you interested in leaving a legacy with Watain? I mean, what would it mean to you if Watain would be recognised alongside the likes of Mayhem, Celtic Frost and even Slayer one day?

- As far as I am concerned, Watain is already a legacy on it’s own. To us it has become a brotherhood, a holy mission and the very center of everything that Black Metal ever meant to us. If other people will look upon the band like that in the future, that would mean they reached an understanding similar to ours. But understanding of other people has never been our goal in the first place, and neither something we have been regularly blessed with, so to us it matters little. This is not a popularity contest, it is the relentless transcendence of the Devil’s sons.

Another question about the worldly dimension of things. You’ve stated that if people want to see the works of Satan in this world, all they need to do is look around, look to covetous world leaders and natural disasters. I can understand the natural disaster part, but have some difficulty with the world leaders part. After all, they’re mostly driven by very mundane desires like money and fame. How do these “vices” represent the transcendent nature of Satan?

- Sometimes I really regret even opening my mouth about these kind of things, because to speak about the nature of religion to people who are either non-religious or even anti-religious, is truly throwing pearls for swine. It is like trying to explain color to the colorblind. Singing songs for the deaf. Who then happily nod in confusion and misunderstanding.

- Of course it is not the mundane, pathethic desires of the puppets of the earth that i refer to when I speak of the manifestation of Satanic energy. “World leaders” equal “worms” to me, and there is as much of Satan in them as there is in my coffee. What I am refering to is of course the glowing dominance of true Tyrants and Executioners of history, the great white-eyed butcherers of mankind, who, in the name of religion, ideology or whatever it might have been, have carried out the Devil’s work. When the lust for dominance and will to eliminate your foes is driven to such degree that it reaches godlike qualities, then you can see the Devil shine in the eyes.

You state that rather than seeing people’s souls being fed with plastic shit culture, you prefer filling people’s souls with blood. How does a box set limited to 1,000 copies including a black candle fill souls with blood?

- Your childish and arrogant description of the Lawless Darkness box does not deserve an answer other than “Fuck You”. But, doing my best to ignore your inborn finnish stupidity, i’ll try to explain, as I would explain it to any child; Metal thrives on quality, determination, vision and strength. This is what I refered to as “blood”. Metal is however broken down and made insipid by unintelligence, weakness and lack of vision. This is what I refer to as “plastic shit culture”. You, and many other individuals and bands constituting todays scene, represent the latter. We, Watain, represent the first. The Lawless Darkness box is an attempt to bring about quality, thoughtfulness and artistic vision. The ideas behind the contents of the box are many and intricate, and I would gladly have explained them if you would not have revealed your lack of respect in the question. People who fail to see the value of this release are too caught up in their own false metal world where things such as box sets equals attempts to make money and satisfy collectors. But that is your ignorant and self-reflecting conception of things, not ours.

In the midst of soundchecks, traveling, the Bathory cover gig and exclusive photo sessions for Sweden Rock Magazine, Zero Tolerance and what not, so it would probably be easy to let it all go and just ride the wave of routine. Also, no matter how holistic the nature of Watain is, things like exclusive photo sessions could be seen as extracurricular activity at best. To what extent are you willing to serve the needs of, say, music magazines? In other words, can you justify things like the exclusive photo sessions to yourself on a deeper (spiritual) level?

- Everything we do with Watain, be it a photosession or beating up a journalist in a back-alley of Helsinki, is an extent of our artistic (=spiritual) expression. We would not do a photo-session if we did not have an idea for it or did not feel like it. However, we have many ideas, and we often feel like having them manifested. That is why we have a band, to be able to manifest our artistic ideas, no matter what they be. Without magazines wanting to publish photos, labels wanting to release albums, and magazines wanting to do interviews, the ability to have our ideas carried out and take their toll would be rather limited.

Is the path to world domination paved with good intentions?

- Not as far as I can see.

I was reading a slightly older Watain interview in Close-Up Magazine, where you talked the incidence that you’d had after the photo session for that interview. That is, when you were walking through the town after the photo shoot in your full gear and smeared with blood, you referred to the people’s (non-)reaction in the lines that even though people see a demon walking on the street, they don’t react, because “det blir på något sätt för mycket att ta in.” Do you ever get that same sense when you’re playing live, that even for the people who come to see you live, it’s somehow too much for them to take?

- The live shows is yet another outlet which we use to make the fire within our hearts come alive and manifest upon this earth. This is why they become very powerful experiences. To me this is nothing strange, Black Metal the way we perform it is very powerful and should not be underestimated. It has the power to alter ones state of mind and body and should not be approached lightly. I have seen people vomiting and crying during our performances. I respect their reactions fully, because at least they have been opening themselves enough to take in our art! I much rather shake hand with someone who has tears in the eyes after a concert, than some proud idiot who was too narrowminded and stupid to realize what was going on. Watain is a band for those who want something more than a regular concert experience, for the people who live and breath for the passion and the fire contained in the heart of the genre, the very fire of Satan.

If there’s anything you’d like to add, feel free to do so here. Thank you very much for the interview!

- Fuck you.

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