Backstage

The Swedish Vikings in Bathory leaves noone untouched!!!

What Swedish Metal band did first release five studio LPs? The Stockholm combo BATHORY. Many of our readers are probably surprised by this fact. A lot of Swedes have never actually heard about them and many of those who have heard the band have/had no idea that they are actually real Vikings. "Bathory", "The Return...", "Under The Sign Of The Black Mark", "Blood Fire Death" are the names of the first four albums, which when this issue is about to be released have been followed up by the new effort "Hammerheart". The music is not melodic light Metal you can walk around humming on. No, this is fast, heavy and powerful (or brutal if you like) Metal.
Since it's so popular (and practical) to categorise music, BATHORY can be placed in the Death/Thrash Metal department.
The band has always been surrounded by a certain mysticism, for instance because there were no group photos published the first five years and furthermore they have never played live (!). Sounds strange?
I got in touch with QUORTHON, the former of the band and obvious spokesman, to give you a deeper look into what BATHORY stands for and what they have accomplished so far.

Quorthon, when and how started BATHORY?

We started in February-March in '83, three guys who got together with the background that we simply wanted to play Metal. We were ordinary hardrockers, like any other kids. It was just that this was in '83 and there were no kind of Metal that there are today. The kids of today have grown up listening to this kind of music. When we started there were no music like this. METALLICA released their first LP that spring. When SLAYER released their debut album at the end of '83 they still wore make-up.

Tell us how you got in touch with KOTHAAR and VVORNTH, the other two members of the band!

They have been there since August '86. I had known the drummer (VVORNTH) many years but he was always in another band. They had a record contract and were recording a single when I met him, just when I had kicked out the memebers that were there before, so at that time there were no possibilities. During the summer that went by I met a bassplayer (KOTHAAR) and we started playing a bit together. When I met the drummer again his band had broken up and the record contract was no more. He became a member of BATHORY 2,5 weeks before we started recording "Under The Sign Of The Black Mark".

Tell us a bit about the problems you had with different members before KOTHAAR and VVORNTH joined the band! Many though that BATHORY was a one man band!

Of course. It was people who didn't like us who spread those kind of rumours. Those who liked us spread rumours too, but they were a bit different. The reason those kind of rumours started circulating was because it my pictures and my name came up all the time when talking about BATHORY. Of course people got tired, I guess they run out of patience. There were never any pictures and there were never any toures either, but that wasn't our fault. It wasn't anything we planned. The first line-up was together for a year, mainly because we were fairly good friends and because they always had access to a free rehearsal place. When things stared getting serious, after we had recorded two songs for the compilation album "Scandinavian Metal Attack" in January '84, I simply couldn't keep those guys anymore. Because with a bassplayer who can only play on the E-string and a drummer who doesn't know what to play there's no fun. To get hold of two guys in the Swedish "climate" who looks good, understand what it's all about and can write music is more or less impossible. Everybody in Sweden has a good education so there are nothing to fight for within Rock. They rather cut their hair to keep their job or stay home with their sick girlfriend than rehearse. There's no use keeping them in the band, so members have been kicked out all the time. There have been new names, new people all the time. We didn't want to confuse the fans, make them think that this will not last. That's why we never released any pictures. Maybe people thought it was mysterious and became more interested in the band because of that so we played along with it.

So you had a few members!

Yes, four or five drummers and 5-6 bassplayers. We've probably tried all the great drummers and bassplayers in the city.

Where did you get your "artist names"?

My name is from a saga which was featured in a so called black bible. It's the name of - what should you call it - a prince, a warrior, who to gain success in war, in gambling, in love, on the battlefield etc. signed up to the Devil. A pretty tragic but classic fate. The name looked cool so I took it. The others choosed their own names, partly becasue it was fonetically right - with this th-sound we don't have in the Swedish language - and because it was equally as corny a name as QUORTHON.

You are now back with your fifth LP "Hammerheart". Tell us about it! You are also on a new record label!

We changed record company from the English Music For Nations (their Under One Flag label) to the German Noise. The reason we did it was partly because our contract with MFN was out but also because our producer and manager BOSS distributes Noise, SPV and all those German labels in Sweden. His entire business idea is 99% together with Noise. So it was practical for us to go to that label. Now he can work with all the albums he normally works with, and with us too, at the same time.

Tell us a little about the LP!

The basics were recorded at the end of the last summer. We've let them "ripe", we recorded 12 or 13 songs. We've choosen seven which will be out on the album. The reason there are so few songs is that we have three songs which are more than ten minutes long. So we have one hour of music although there are only seven songs. The album was recorded in the same old studio, Heavenshore in Stockholm, and was produced by me and BOSS. We've mixed everything now and put it out on the metallic pieces and shipped it down to Berlin. The album is planned to be released in about one month (late April).

Will the music differ from what you've done before?

The music is a bit different. On "Under The Sign..." we had one song called "Call From The Grave" and one called "Enter The Eternal Fire". Those two were different due to the fact that they were not fast. They were slow and a bit different musically. When that album was released we got loads of letters from fans all over the world who wanted us to continue in that way and asked if we could do more songs like that on the next album. On "Blood Fire Death" we made the title track and "A Fine Day To Die", but we didn't go all the way, there were actually more speed songs on that LP than on any other LP - to state that here are as much speed as you want. On the new LP, "Hammerheart", we only have songs like "Blood...", "A Fine Day To Die" and "Enter The Eternal Fire". There are but heavy stuff there plus one ballad with acoustic guitar, solo vocals and a 16 channel choire - like "Beth" with KISS. We did it to show that we can do other things too.

The music is very special! What would you say to someone in order to pursuade him to listen to you? What's so great about Thrash/Speed and Death Metal?

To label the music of a group is like, if not killing the band, at least place them in a certain department from the start. As soon as the band and the members have matured and become somewhat better musicians and started listening to different music it's hard for them to be accepted if they make something new. To a band like KISS it was an enormous step to after ten years of make-up just take it off. The KISS-guys can still play their music even though they had no make-up. A band who changes musically has a very tough time ahead to be accepted for their new music. Those who listens to the band mature too, hopefully. I think it's unfair to say that a band who doesn't play in 180 km/h anymore sold out or are trying to be commercial or something like that. It's just ridiculous. If I as a musician, after seven years on album, still would release an album with twelve songs in 190 km/h with a lot of fucking noise, it would be like spitting in the face of the fans. They did write to us and asked for heavier and better stuff. If you look at all the other speed bands today most of them are only singing about politics, war, nuclear weapons, enviromental destruction and things like that. When the Devil isn't that fun anymore they write about those things I mentioned. There is fashion within lyrical themes too, it sure is.

What are your lyrics about?

We stick to these sagas and stories. There are no bands who deal with history, what once was. There are more than one band who dresses in furs and pretends to be Vikings, but they don't have it in their blood. It takes more than just muscles and long hair to be a Viking. You are Viking by blood. It would be hard to describe the life of the Vikings in the lyrics because it wouldn't be accessible for fans in Australia or Los Angeles for example. There have to be a "middle path" in the lyrics, to be able to read them as stories, like Conan stories. That's basically what the "Hammerheart" songs are about, Swedish history. We don't mention names or anything.

I want to get back to your music. What's special with BATHORY'S music?

Unlike other bands, a BATHORY song is not a solo instrument and a few rythm instruments, to us all instruments are equally as important. In other bands, no names mentioned, you have very cold hard drums which have only one dimension, then you have a bass buzzing somewhere in the background and a clattering hard guitar in your face. It's not nice at all listening to an entire album like that.Sure, it's fun to listen to when you have a couple of beers and go out thrashing in the city. It gives you energy. But sitting down with headphones and experiencing something visually, get fantasy visions by the music, and that without taking a lot of drugs, is not possible.With BATHORY you have guitar, bass and drums on exactly the same level. You don't hear a clattering guitar, it's in the sound picture. Everything has its own place. When everything is exactly balanced you can enjoy it. You can even throw in the sound of thunder or a horse running by and make it sounds as if it's part of the music. And on top of that a voice telling a story.
It's different musically because solo permormances are not very important. It's proved by the fact that I very rarely, ever, rehearse a solo before I play them. If it's not good you just take it away.

The vocals are very special. Have they developed?

On the first LP it was like all Punk bands, be the worst and sound worst. Then you started thinking about the fact that this will be on LP for all future. This is something I should be able to listen to when I'm an old man and this is something kids should be able to listen to in 50 years and think it's cool. So you have to come up with your own style and not just copy all the others. Seven years ago, few singers sounded like this, everybody sounds the same now. It's fair to move on and find a style of our own, vocally and musically, so my voice sounds more natural now than it used to. What I mean with natural is not more commersial, but you can supply feelings in the lyrics much easier than if you sound like a monotonous fucking monster vomiting the lyrics. I try to modulate my voice more.

You are relatively unknown in Sweden, few people know about you, but it's totally different abroad. How big are you abroad?

How big are we abroad? If we say that we recieve between 5-10 letters every day and have so for seven years. That's how big we are. We've been in 500-600 magazines all over the world.

How many albums do you sell?

It's hard to say because the information are questionable. But my guess is between 60000-80000 copies of every album.

You will also release an interview album in the Rock Sagas-series. Tell us!

We don't know ourselves what will happen. If what we did is good enough. It was supposed to be a radio interview, which would be broadcasted around Christmas. The question now is whether we can use it or if we will do a new interview. It was short, very short for an LP release. It was slovenly but the future shows if it can be used or not.

Wouldn't there also be some unreleased material on that album?

Yes, we have material for many, many studio albums. I guess we have to pick the 2-3 best songs which represent both the old and the new. We have an album which was recorded in between "Under The Sign..." and "Blood..." which hasn't been released, almost one and a half album. Then we have a super speed album, among the fastest things ever done - which was recorded at the same time as "Blood..." - which we also haven't released. We recorded it mainly because we in the band felt it would be great fun to at least give it a try. If we would release that album after this heavy LP, "Hammerheart", people might think that they tried the heavy stuff and it obviously didn't work so now they are back playing speed, but that's not the way it is. This speed album was recorded way before "Hammerheart". We didn't want to release it because there are 3000 other bands who sound exactly like that. That album is actually speed just for the sake of speed.

You are also planning a spectacular video!

We are just about now organising all the people that will be involved in it. I'm checking out places and so on. If we take pictures from a helicopter it will probably be on Iceland or something like that. If you saw the "The Shadow Of The Raven" and "The Raven Flies"-movies + a few Conan movies you might get a picture of what it will be like.

Will it be live or an "acting" movie/video?

To place something on a stage, do it with playback and have 500 Metal kids in front is like spitting in the face too. We can do something different with the help of pictures of big mountains and things like that. We are making a movie of the lyrics, with a story. The song we will probably use for the video is entitled "One Rode To Asa Bay". It's about Christian missionaries who came here 900 years ago.

You have never played live. Will we ever see BATHORY live?

Sure. A couple of years ago people had preconcieved opinions on what kind of persons we were. There were very few pictures until "Blood" was released, mind you. People though I was some kind of vampire living in a cave somewhere. I've heard incredibly ridiculous rumours. So if we go up on stage people discover we are three completely normal hardrock kids from Stockholm. Then people would say "Fuck off" and leave thinking it wasn't particulary special - like KISS without make-up. So for us it's better if we in the first place are musicians, which we show on the new album. Making something exciting with the music with the help of sound effects. Showing a more serious side of ourselves. Instead of screaming Satan, blood, death and so on in 190 km/h we make something more serious, about what we think of the Swedish history, but we do it in a saga format. When this album is out it's time to check out what people think of us, as a band. Then it's time for us to travel the all over the world and show ourselves. Travel around the world sounds like some battlefield tour but it won't be like that. It will cost enormous sums, unless you tour clubs - but that's something any band can do. That's why we want to make something special. We will rather spend X money on a video which we can show to our fans in Argentina, Brazil, Australia and so on, which they can watch on their TV, because they can't go to those places anyway. Ten consertes in Europe, England and maybe one or two in the USA will cost just as much as a one hour video which we can sell all over the world. You have to compensate people.

Finally, is image important?

If we on an album cover is standing in a primeval forest with a lot of smoke and fire, dressed in leather with polished swords, long hair and tensed muscles maybe people will think that we have puberty problems or something like that. Rather that than wearing eye shadow, lipstick, hairspray and god knows what. It is also closer to the lyrics we're dealing with. We won't wear, like all the other bands, skateboard pants, dirty sneakers and whatever they are wearing - funny caps, goatees and skateboards. We would be just another band, besides, it has nothing to do with BATHORY'S lyrics. It would just be following a trend. Look at today's Metal bands, what are they wearing? Flowery shirts and Bermuda-shorts. What happend to leather and studs which was such an incredible identity thing to hardrockers ten years ago? They are almost not around at all anymore. If we wait five more years we'll see how many people who actually have in mind that BATHORY is actually one of the few bands that still wears leather and studs. Nothing was wrong with it ten years ago so why would it be wrong today?

Interview From Backstage #6, 1990, Lennart Larsson interviews Quorthon.
Provided by Johan Hellström.
Typed out and translated by the Twilight Webmaster.
Taken from Twilight web-site.
www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palladium/6646/


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