Dead Rhetoric's Kyle McGinn recently conducted an interview with drummer Kjetil-Vidar "Frost" Haraldstad of Norwegian black metallers SATYRICON. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking back on "Rebel Extravaganza", what were your intentions for the album when writing it?
Frost: "It was a bit special with that album. Every SATYRICON album is pretty much made in the same way, meaning that every album is made because it's something we want to hear. What we do on the albums is what constitutes us and our spirit, and the way that we grow and develop. 'Rebel Extravaganza' is no exception, but perhaps for the only time in SATYRICON's history we were a little political about it as well. We realized that SATYRICON was in a spearhead position in the world of black metal music. It was a responsibility that we kind of acknowledged and respected.
"Where black metal was heading in the late '90s, we weren't too pleased with the direction. We felt that it was really a task that we had to take seriously — to show a different way that the one that most bands were heading on. You might remember how black metal was getting more and more gothic influences in terms of the music itself, as well as the imagery as well. We felt that these were meant to be more contrasting and secondary elements, and now they were being given one of the main functions, such as synthesizers, [clean] vocals, and all of that softer stuff. We didn't really like that development, and with 'Rebel Extravaganza', we really tried to strip our music from those elements ourselves and brought something colder and more harsh into it.
"So 'Rebel Extravaganza' turned out to be the album that we wanted to make, but it's colored by our perception of where black metal was heading, which was not a good place. I think that today, it's obvious that 'Rebel Extravaganza' is an album that created quite a difference in the black metal world in the late '90s. It was an album that changed a lot. That's also the reason that the album carries some extra significance for us today."
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any particular memories that resound with you, other than what we were just talking about, from those particular times?
Frost: "I do remember quite a bit. 'Rebel Extravaganza' was really a lot of hard work and struggle in order to make it come across as extreme as it did. We were adding quite a few unconventional elements to the music. I was much more of a traditionalist, while [main songwriter/frontman] Satyr has been very unafraid of experimenting and trying out new elements — being a bit bold about it. For me to understand where he wanted us to head, that was a bit of a learning process. It's not only about understanding the music and the songs, but also the concept of the album. Understanding how it would probably sound with those elements added to it. 'Rebel Extravaganza' is an album that has a lot of sound effects added to it — analog synthesizers and things like that. It was unfamiliar territory.
"When you put all of those layers and sounds into it, it's pretty much a game-changer. But before the songs are made with every element in place, you can't quite understand how it will exactly sound. When you work in the rehearsal space, and having only the drums and guitar, it's a bit difficult to imagine how it will all sound once all of the synthesizers and effects are there. You have to imagine what it will be like, and how it includes the musical solutions, which includes the drum solutions. I had to have Satyr guide me a lot, and make certain decisions on my behalf, because he was the only one that really knew where we were heading. When I heard the album for the first time, it sounded quite different than how I imagined it would be. Perhaps I wanted it to be a little more conventional, because I couldn't really understand where all of those more radical moves until the album was done.
"As we went through it, I started to understand what a beast it was. How cold and harsh, and how different and unconventional it was. But I liked it — I liked it for the extremity and the boldness – only then did I understand what 'Rebel Extravaganza' was all about. Struggling with material that you don't understand fully is pretty tough and demanding, so I remember that. It was fascinating to work with something that diverse, and at times, so extreme. That's something that enjoyed a lot because it was right down my alley."
Dead Rhetoric: Does being in both SATYRICON and 1349 allow you to explore different avenues within black metal?
Frost: "Absolutely. It makes it possible for me to explore different sides of what I do as a drummer and different sides of this exciting musical genre. In SATYRICON, it's really about understanding the composition of an ingenious composer because I regard Satyr as such. I think he has become one of the greatest composers in this genre today — I find him to be a visionary. How he perceives his musical goals and ideas is something that fascinates me a lot and I have huge respect for it. The way that he composes music, my role in the band is really to understand what he wants to achieve and to be as much of a part of that as possible. To find good drum solutions and add something to those brilliant compositions, and maybe add some extra spirit and personality. I can only hope that is something positive with SATYRICON. I have to imagine what another person is trying to achieve.
"In 1349, I rely mostly on my own instincts. Whenever I make drumming solutions and perform, it's about feeling those instincts and being led by intuition. Just letting that spirit fill me completely. There's nothing held back, and I can make use of my most energetic and aggressive sides as a drummer. I like that a lot, and I think it defines part of my style as well. I'm very happy that there is something else. Without the development that has been forced onto me in SATYRICON, I would have been a much poorer musician, with a much more narrow type of expression. I've grown and developed a lot because of that, which I appreciate deeply. Today I consider both of those bands to be essential, each in their own respect."
You can read the entire interview at this location.
The fully remastered "Rebel Extravaganza" was released as a special limited 20th-anniversary picture double vinyl edition, as 2-LP gatefold and digipack on December 13 via Napalm Records.
SATYRICON's latest album, "Deep Calleth Upon Deep", was released in September 2017 via Napalm Records. The disc was recorded in Oslo, Norway and Vancouver, Canada, during early 2017 and mixed together with revered studio guru Mike Fraser (who previously worked on "Now, Diabolical").