Backstage #22

QUORTHON
Now on his own

"Album" is the title of one of this years biggest surprises on the album market. Behind it stands none other than Quorthon, who at the age of 28 recently released his first solo album. He has for more than ten years been the undisputed and legendary leader of Bathory, and is credited as one of the forerunners of the Death Metal genre. Now he has decided to take his first stumbling steps completely on his own, which he has in earnest - even though the most fanatical Bathory fans probably thinks otherwise.

After chatting with Quorthon a handful of times he has become one of my definitive favourite interview objects, he always has a lot to say and he always says what he thinks. A big personality! The last time we spoke (#17) there were some plans that he might release a solo album. Thus plans he now has realised.
The creation was recorded in Montezuma Recording in February this year, and besides a cellist Quorthon plays all instruments himself. When it comes to Bathory's albums Boss (Börje Forsberg - the man behind Black Mark) was always involved in the production, but not this time.

He came down to the studio every now and then and checked that everything worked out. When I introduced the songs to him I sang and played an acoustic guitar, just like I wrote them. He wondered if I was about to make an "Unplugged" album, laughs Quorthon. The thing is that many of these songs actually work out great unplugged.
Instead it's him and the technician Rex Gisslén who handled most of the production, and they didn't always have the same opinions on different matters.
I didn't want this big drum sound with a lot of echoes and shit because I hate it. It works great with Bathory but I would personally have preferred a rehearsal place sound, but that's another story.

Bathory, a closed chapter?

Does "Album" mean that Bathory is a closed chapter?

I don't know, says Quorthon. Me and the drummer haven't talked since we recorded "Twilight Of The Gods" in '91. He moved to Arvika and plays in the Arvika symphony orchestra, he also got married and have kids. We didn't exactly keep in touch but on the other hand we didn't exactly keep in touch when we were involved with Bathory either. I wrote some 30 songs and then I called him and asked if he could join me in the studio for two weeks. The bassplayer hasn't been in the band since we recorded "Blood Fire Death".
I guess the best thing to do is say that it's finished because then people will be surprised if a new album is released. If we say that the band still exist they'll go there waiting and waiting and forget us. It's not like you die just because there aren't a new Bathory album every six months. We're not living off this and are not that dependent on it. What we did during the eighties are already on album so if you want Bathory for that Saturday party the albums are already there.

Like most of the confirmed Bathory fans already know, there are two Bathory albums which were never released. Quorthon does not eliminate the chance that they might be released in connection with Bathory's tenth birthday since the first album. It looks like it's a different story with new material though.

...What the fuck can you do that hasn't already been done? We have done "everything" you can do... musically. People can tell us how they want us to sound but even if we did that there are still one half of our fans who get disapointed because we have both speed- and Viking fans.
When we did "Twilight Of The Gods" we knew it might be the last time we entered the studio and did a thing like that. You can only strech a rubber band to a certain length before it breakes. That's why you should quit while you're having the most fun.

A different album

Even though there are traces of Bathory here and there, we're talking about the later albums, "Album" still sounds different compared to anything Quorthon has done before, and that's the point.

Of course people will compare the album with what I've done during eleven years with Bathory, but I did this album for myself! When you have reached a certain stage, when you don't have to care what a lot of people think and are not depending on album sales, then it's really fun just to go into the studio. So this album is made just for me, he explains. If someone else thinks it's great it makes me very happy of course, but it's nothing I rack my brains over.

This album will surely create reactions among the dedicated Bathory fans.

They won't understand this at all. The only reason they will listen to it is because my "name" is on it. If I put out my real name not one Death Metal kid would know who it is. Therefore it's obvious that I release the album under the name Quorthon.
A lot of people will probably think it's fake and wonder why I use that name when it's such "crap music". But as I said, the album is for me and for me only. When you have passed the stage that you don't have to care if the songs fit the Bathory sound it feels very good,
says Quorthon and compares it with what I am doing.
If you write reviews every day and then is given the opportunity to release a book - a book you would want to read yourself. Then you feel like doing it even though noone else would read the book.
And it is a point that self-satisfaction is a heavy argument no matter what you are doing.
Bathory was one of the first Death bands and thus have influenced lots of bands and musicians.
When you're down at Montezuma and some Death Metal bands turns up and spots me they either ask for an autograph or act out that typical Swedish jealousy: "Who the fuck do you think you are?"
There must be a reason why there are so many Swedish bands. All of them are very good musicians but they did have high speed albums to rehearse after. There wasn't any around when we started. If you had an impact or influenced these guys you can at least be a little proud,
thinks Quorthon.

Bathory, and Quorthon, have always been considered as forerunners. If you listen to "Album" you think you every now and then can hear pieces of todays big bands, so it's easy to think that Quorthon now is trying to follow a trend.

The only chance you have to hear this music without buying records is through MTV and I hate MTV! They more or less only play things that were recorded that same week, but music history goes way back to the Middle Ages. I more or less listened only to classical music in order not to be influenced by something that is fashion, Quorthon says. I am convinced that there are lots of bands that I would love completely but I don't have the time, money or interest to care. Maybe because I have listened constantly to classical music for eight years.
The only band whose album I have actually bought, an album recorded in the '90s, is Afghan Whigs. I never heard about them and I would never have bought their album if I hadn't happend to hear them on the radio. I was in a small cottage in Dalarna and had a little transistor recorder. I was searching for the sports show when I suddenly heard something. I reacted and wondered what it was. It turned out to be Afghan Whigs so I bought their album, and it was really different... and very good actually.

Rediscovered his roots

Despite that he will probably have to put up with more than one - listener and journalist - which will accuse him for paying attention to the Grunge wave. Something he doesn't care about:

Nothing can hurt me because I don't care about album sales. If they accuse me I know it's unfair because I know nothing about what's going on. I don't listen to the radio, I don't buy music magazines and I almost never buy records.
I must also take the opportunity to say what I listened to before Kiss entered my life in 1975. Between 1970 and '75 I listened to Humble Pie and Mountain, and that's bands that not one kid today know of. You played those albums until they broke and they disapeared when you moved but now they have been released on CD, so I rediscovered them. During the last three years I have bought the early albums by Humble Pie, Mountain and Kiss and I guess it's because of that I'm back in Rock. After "Twilight..." it was impossible for me to play on a distorted guitar. Instead I sat at home and did string quartets.

Even the lyrics are different from anything Bathory did.

It's not wine, women, song, Satan, Vikings or anything like that, they are about every day situations. If you stepped out of the Satan suit and took of the barbarian sword there's not much else to sing about. I got inspiration from things I saw on TV and read about in the papers, Quorthon explains.

More prolific than ever

Working with the solo album meant a new start for Quorthon, who now bubble with inspiration and energy. He tells me that everything on the album was written after the last summer.

Half of the songs were written in January and two of them were practically written the same time we recorded, but it has always been like that. When we recorded the first album they said: "Guys, you have too few songs, we can't sell this as a full price album.". So we wrote "Hades" fifteen minutes before we recorded it.
Two weeks after this new album was mixed and finished I wrote twelve new songs so I can record an album next month if I want to. I already have more songs now than I had before "Album", which maybe turned out a bit too nice once you were in the studio. We worked a bit too fast and they might not have the right raw sound in Montezuma, but it was cheap and you have to start somewhere. On the next album it will really be... dictatorial. There will be no echoes anywhere, more of a rehearsal place sound. It will sound like you're in a phone booth.

Bathory have never played live and it doesn't seem like Quorthon will play in connection with the release of this album either.

If people want me to play I might do it but at the moment there are no such plans. I can't say now I want to tour and then 50 people turn up. You have to check if people are interested first.

Now that you gained back much of the happiness, do you feel as motivated as before?

I have experienced so much during these ten years, things millions of kids dream of; MTV, radio, TV, promotion tours, champagne, limousines and so on. When you had the cake and know what it tastes like you can lean back in your chair and live off the memories. It might sound resigned but... If you just have the ambition that this album is for me only it's so much more fun if people like it.

Start a new band?

Finally, Quorthon reveals that there are advanced plans on joining a band or starting a new.

Since I don't hang out with musicians and like being lonely and am a bit egoistic I though it would be fun to play in a garage band. To get away from the artist name, the image and things like that and just be a musician in a band where they might not even know who you are. It would be fun to know what it feels like so I'm actually thinking about joining three or four guys. To make an album or just for the fun of it. There are so many bands on Black Mark which turned out to be Bathory fans and also are great musicians and have their own studios, so I'm thinking about if we can do something together.

Interview from Backstage #22, 1994
Lennart Larsson interviewed 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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