G.A.S.P.

Shrouded in mystery, the classic Swedish death/speed/gloom/epic metal band Bathory has used it's media-given enigma to build what many have come to know as the most evil band on the planet. The group's brainchild, Quorthon, has strayed from that devil-may-care path with his newly released solo venture, simply titled Album.
Upon giving it the once through, it's easy to see that the big Q is not the bizarre half-man/half-demon the press made him out to be in the 1980's. Thus, I found him to be an easy-going, articulate, and likable individual who, in fact, happens to be an animal lover (we chatted at length about his 2 cats and the rat that he dedicated Hammerheart to).
Appropriately taking place at the witching hour from Sweden's Black Mark offices (it turns out the 28 year-old is an insomniac), Quorthon shared the following tales in the midst of mixing a now completed 7th Bathory studio album.

Many people, myself included, thought that the Jubileum compilations marked the end of Bathory when, in fact, this is far from the truth.

I thought that way too for a while. Having painted ourselves into a corner musically and lyrically with the satanic topics for a couple of years and then the Viking mythology, we sort of became musical introverts. So, by the time we recorded Twilight Of The Gods, we realized that this was probably about it. Having no ideas or anything, and realizing that we were celebrating 10 years as a band, we put those two Jubileum albums out to keep the name hot for a while until we came up with some better ideas for the future. I wasn't sure whether we deserved to go on because I thought that musically and lyrically we weren't what we used to be. So, not having any fresh ideas, I said, "Let's take a long vacation", and that's how the solo thing came about. When that solo album was released in May of this year, I went on a promotional trip around Europe talking to a lot of people, and everywhere I went, no matter who you were talking to, everybody was like, "Hey, when is the new Bathory album going to be out?" Everybody was very emotional telling me how much the band meant and it lit my fuse, so to speak. So when I got back home at the end of May/beginning of June, I sat down and started writing the most brutal music that's ever been written before! It was just heaven for me, or hell if you want [laughs]. We went in this summer and just blasted in the studio; it's going to be released in a couple of weeks.

Wow! I wonder how long we'll have to wait for it in the States because the solo album was just released here.

Actually, I have a funny story about delays and things not being released simultaneously in Europe and the US/Canada: at the time when we released Blood Fire Death in Europe, we went to Los Angeles. We had a deal with New Renaissance Records and they were just about putting out our third album Under The Sign Of The Black Mark. It was quite funny because I kept on having to do promotion for the third album, whereas I just left a promotion tour in Europe for the fourth album.

Could you tell me a little more about the new Bathory material?

Well, to begin with, I didn't have any lyrics for the songs, so we just went in and recorded all the music. Then we had a break until I came up with the lyrics - it seems to be the way for me to work nowadays. We have 9 tracks and I've been retitling the songs a million times over so I don't really remember the titles, but some that still stand are "Apocalypse", "Blood And Soil", "Requiem", which is the title track of the album, "Distinguished To Kill", and a bunch of others. Like I said, the music on the album is the most brutal thing that has ever been written before. It's just what I think people would really want from us after having released a couple of albums that sound just like...shit. If you thought Reign In Blood was fast, go fuck yourself. As soon as I started recording the basic tracks for Requiem, I actually started writing tracks for the next album which has the working title Bathory `95. It's about 4 times as fast. I don't know if the speed is the point really, but we just go full force.

Are there concepts behind any of the songs?

No, they just mainly focus on death. There is no mythology on there and there's no God, Satan, or anything like that. Of course, there are a couple of anti-Christian songs rather than anti-Christ songs, but there are no real statements made religiously or politically. There's just a lot of death in it.

Yes, back to the brutality!

But now we're better musicians. I mean, when we recorded the first 2 or 3 albums I could hardly play guitar. We reached a cult status and I wasn't even able to play good guitar. Now we're so much better, or I am, I should say, as well as Paul the drummer who's been with the group since 1986. Of course, me playing the bass ever since, as well. We're tighter, we're faster, more technical and everything.

You mentioned a "Paul" as being your drummer. He must be the infamous "Vvornth", right?

Yeah [laughs]. For him, Bathory' just a hobby and not a band situation, so I said it was okay for him to use his real name. I've been friends with him for ages.

Will Bathory continue as a non-touring outfit?

Honestly, we've gone this long without touring that it would kind of ruin the magic if we did. Actually, the main reason is that I'm not really a performer and I hate concerts. The only time that I ever enjoyed going to concerts was when I was a teenager and when I was completely drunk. Bad music becomes good music when you're drunk. A good looking girl was always an ugly girl before you got drunk. Being drunk usually means you can't play very well, so it's not a very good combination. I don't get my kicks out of concerts. I'm more into sitting at home, writing the songs, going into the studio and recording. Writing the songs is like foreplay and the studio's like an orgasm, so what's after that? Lying down and kissing the girl on the cheek and saying, "I love you"? That's not my kind of stuff.

Now, the solo release, Album, is a radical departure from your work with Bathory. How did it come about? Was it something you needed to get off your chest?

Basically, everything that I ever wrote during the `80's and the beginning of the `90's had to fit in under a certain musical umbrella, so to speak. It had to fit in with the Bathory sound. You didn't have that kind of artistic freedom like a Bruce Springsteen or Madonna because you're aware of the certain image that you may have. Certainly, with a lot of people who have only seen a couple of black & white pictures and have these preconceived notions about you being a blood-drinking vampire somewhere in a cave in Sweden, you're bound to keep on having to write music that suits that kind of image. It was sort of like a prison. For a couple of albums it's okay to stand up there and play at 365 beats per minute and scream "Satan!" at the top of your lungs, but after a while it gets boring.
As early on as the third album we started to arrange our music - longer songs, acoustic and synthesized guitars, harmony vocals, sound effects - trying to develop our own style. That was a time when a lot of bands like Possessed, Celtic Frost, and everybody else was trying to find their own image. Many bands perished and the only reason we were able to make it was because we had this cult status.

With Album are you trying to show a lighter side of yourself?

Well, I'm the kind of guy that grew up with Mountain, Humble Pie, the early Kiss stuff, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, and not a lot of these groups' music can be found in the early Bathory records, or any Bathory record. So, I wrote the songs, recorded, and mixed the album for myself only, and then if anybody else would enjoy it in the least I would be very happy, but that was not my main goal. I wanted to see if I still enjoyed playing rock `n roll. It was like a turning point in my life. I wasn't enjoying playing guitar anymore and, just out of coincidence, a week before I went into the studio I happened to walk into a music shop and I saw this Gibson Les Paul Black Top from 1957. I always dreamed of owning one of those legendary guitars because of Ace Frehley, of course. The guitar was 11,900 Swedish crowns, which is very cheap. I mean, those guitars cost 25,000 Swedish crowns or something. Anyway, I bought it and playing that guitar in the studio made me feel like going back to the roots, not Satan and speed, but my roots. It was a way for me to come to terms with if I really wanted to continue playing.
So, it turned out a little bit soft, but so did Twilight..., so did Under The Sign Of The Black Mark, and the first album wasn't a very good one either, but hey, we're still here.

There's a line in the song "No More And Never Again" that goes, "I'll never eat pussy again" .Why not?

If you tried, you know why [laughs]! There are certain times in life where you find yourself in a situation you would not want to necessarily end up being in or you would want to travel back in time and do things differently. Not a lot of people would understand that deep, emotional thing, so the best way for a rock lyric would be to take the tongue-in-cheek way out - I'll never eat pussy again! - which is, basically, I'll never make a mistake again. It sounds a lot better if you say "I'll never eat pussy again" because it raises a couple eyebrows. I don't know if they would ever play it on the radio over there?

No way! Not on commercial stations anyhow.

[Laughs] There are a couple of songs on the new Bathory album which they certainly wouldn't play because there's about 20-25 "fuckings" in the lyrics.

So you're not really concerned about how long-time fans might react to Album?

Absolutely not. That was the least of my problems. The problem was that a lot of people wouldn't take me as a normal person. You always have that problem when you go through the normal promotion routines like in-stores and talking to journalists. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get across to these people because they think they're talking with Satan. I just want to be an ordinary person, and in putting this record out, I knew that this was not going to be the problem this time. I sort of took off the mask a little bit.

Would you say you're trying to shed the mystique altogether?

Actually, it's something that we really didn't plan - it wasn't intentional - it just happened. Certainly because we had huge line-up problems. Stockholm in the early-`80's wasn't a very good place to find members if you wanted to play music like what we sounded like. In those days, in Sweden, the only thing that reigned within music was Europe - The Final Countdown and that kind of shit. And all the heavy metal guys that went around clubs in Stockholm during those years really looked like girls. All the musicians I came across when auditioning for the band didn't want to sweat; they didn't want to wear leather, chains, studs, blood or anything. So the only time that pictures were printed in these fanzines, they were pictures of me. I was the only original member, so I did all the interviews.
From then on came the mysteriousness. It wasn't something that we created, it was something that the fans and fanzines created. We realized that people were drawing to the band and buying our records because of the mysteriousness, sort of like Kiss and their make-up. We just played right along with it.

As you stated, past line-up problems have always seemed to be a focal point of Bathory. How many people over the years do you think you've auditioned altogether for the drummer and bassist slots?

Oh shit! There's been a lot more drummers than bass players because I realized, once in the studio, I can always play the bass.
Although, I originally started out as a drummer at the age of 9, so, actually, I'm a drummer and not a guitar player.
Drummers...I can't give you an exact figure, but anywhere between 12-15, and bass players, probably 5-8. The longest time a line-up has been together was for 11 months, before we even recorded an album.

Pre-Scandinavian Metal Attack?

That was the Scandinavian Metal Attack. 7 days after that thing was recorded, I gave the other 2 guys the boot.

Due to, let me guess, artistic differences?

I have to tell you this: the only reason why I joined these two guys a year previously to that compilation album - we're talking February/March 1983 - was because the bass player had a very rich family. His father owned a lot of real estate and we could rehearse in the basements of the office buildings when they closed at night for free. Also, he had a lot of equipment, so I stayed with these two guys for 11 months. During that time Frederick, the bass player, only played on one string, and you bet your ass he never changed strings once the whole time he was in the band. The drummer was only in the group because he wanted to impress girls. They never wrote any music or lyrics for the band. I almost didn't write any songs myself up until that compilation. We only had 5 songs that we rehearsed; we played Black Sabbath and Motörhead covers. After we went into the studio and recorded that shit, they kept wanting to write Saxon and Iron Maiden kind of music because that's what was hip in `83. I said, "Haven't you guys realized anything? Haven't you heard what we sound like in the studio? Don't you know shit about what I'm writing?" Then we split up and I knew that I was able to do something on my own; experiment a lot with speed and Satanism.
One time, those guys went to London for a weekend and I used our two-track demo recorder with two of my friends - one of those guys was Paul playing drums - and we recorded 2 songs, "Die In Fire" & "You Don't Move Me (I Don't Give A Fuck)". Both of those tracks wound up on the Jubileum albums. They were recorded during the time when the first line-up was together, before we even recorded the compilation. So, you see, those 2 tracks are historically very important for the group.

Now, I remember reading a lot of press way back when that your fourth album was supposed to be titled Blood On Ice and that it was going to be a double album. Why the name change and what happened to the other LP?

When we recorded Under The Sign Of The Black Mark, we asked ourselves if we should continue the satanic shit for one more album. If you want to maintain respect for yourself as a musician, you should cover new grounds all the time and discover new sides of yourself. So, I came up with idea to make an album based on the Nordic mythology; not necessarily taking it word by word from books, because people in Mexico and Australia will have to be able to listen to the album not knowing everything about Swedish history and pre-Christian times. We all were pretty up about the idea because Sweden has only been Christian for about 900 years, so they say, anyway. We just sat down and wrote the songs and somehow everything turned out to be a copy of the original Howard story of Conan. Unfortunately, we realized that, first of all, people will accuse us of being very bad ex-satanic Manowar copies; second, people will probably not be able to take it to their hearts because the music would be very different; and third, we were on Music For Nations, the Under One Flag label in England, and on that label there was a British band called Onslaught who had first copied our first album cover on one of their albums. Now they found out that we had an album title Blood On Ice, so they entitled their album Blood On Ice. When we found out, we changed our whole plans for that album. In the end, they didn't name their album Blood On Ice either.
In the meantime, we realized that putting out a double album so soon and not being very big at the box office was big risk taking. But having recorded 25 songs already, we felt a couple of these songs would really make a good album anyway, so we put out Blood Fire Death. Two of those songs from Blood On Ice actually wound up on the Hammerheart album, which, in itself, was more or less a Nordic mythology album anyway.

Blood Fire Death is my favorite Bathory album, that's why I was curious.

Mine too.

Really?

Yeah, because it's a good mix between speed and heaviness.

Well, I'm glad I'm in good company. Actually, I also read that there was supposed to be a home video to coincide with the album's release.

Again, that had to do with line-up problems. I actually had a couple of American drummers calling, sending tapes, pictures and everything, and at one moment I was even toying with the idea of moving to the United States or England or wherever to get the hell out of here because here it seemed like you couldn't get any good members for the band. But, at one time, we actually had the group together; this was the end of `85/beginning of `86. Our management here in Sweden also distributed Noise Records in Sweden. They were lining up a tour with Celtic Frost and Destruction in the US for a couple of months down the east coast and they asked us to be on the bill.

[Orgasmic sigh!]

Are you jerking off while we're...

Those are my 3 favorite European bands from the `80's, if not all time. That would've been immense. Anyhow, sorry to interrupt.

When we were just about on the verge to rehearse a stage show, it seemed like we weren't able to keep the band together. I was never ever pleased with the people who came across playing bass and drums. So, when those 2 bands went away playing with another act, At War or something, we came across the idea of putting on a real big stage show, recording it on video, and having everybody, no matter where they may live, see us the way that we would want them to see us. In the end, we realized that this was going to cost us a lot of money and would take a rather huge organization.
The sad thing was, though, that I went out in press telling everybody about the idea. Great dreams, but it just didn't turn out to be true.

So nothing at all was ever recorded?

No. Actually, I was contacting a lot of people into pyrotechnics and things; making big bombs for us exploding 100 feet up in the air and stuff.

Ever the image-hound!

Yeah, but if you remember the mid-`80's, that was the thing.

Oh, definitely. Now, speed was always a driving force behind Bathory. On your song "Pace `Til Death" there's a line that goes, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I'm the fastest of them all!". Why did you decide to slow down after Blood Fire Death?

There are only a certain amount of ways you can play a song fast, although, who am I to sit here and release an album containing the fastest, most brutal shit I've ever written to say that. Anyway, it was just a love of experimenting. We were also into storytelling in those days, and it's hard telling a story playing at 365 beats per minute. We really wanted to make 10 minute long songs, tell a story, and put a little bit of emotion into our songs and lyrics. That's why we changed.
Actually, that line you came up with from "Pace `Til Death" was me making fun of the competition - who is the fastest of them all? Some people didn't take it as a joke. They thought we were serious.

Was it a dig at any band(s) in particular?

It was for everybody. Everybody who was releasing records during `85, `86 & `87 was trying to break everybody else as far as speed was concerned. And once you've been playing as fast as you can play, you've already made your point. There's only a certain speed that you can play where it's enjoyable.

You were the master of the atmospheric intro and outro at the beginning and end of your albums/songs. This is now commonplace on many new black/death metal albums. Would you agree that Bathory has had an overwhelming effect on a majority of these bands?

During the `80's, before we were big enough to be interviewed by Kerrang!, we had demos sent to us from all over Europe, the US, and from as far away as Australia and Japan. So we knew that there was an impact, not to the point where we were an influence to a lot of young bands, but only that we were known. We weren't thinking in terms of, "We're big; we're famous; we're gonna make money; and we're gonna be the main pattern for a lot of groups to come for years.". We were just happy that people knew about us; we didn't even give a shit whether they had actually bought the record or had a friend tape it. The important thing was to have your voice heard, which was the main issue in the whole underground movement.

What about today?

Although I don't know that much about the groups, I've understood since a year or so ago a big thing has been going on in Norway, which has turned into a bit of perversion - burning churches and killing people. And when being asked about this in England making promotions for the Quorthon album, I was asked about this. I really didn't know anything about what had happened except for what was in the Swedish press. Of course, it was not until I finished answering all of those questions that I read an interview with a guy who was accused for doing all this shit. He said he never did anything and there was no evidence. I felt bad about myself having answered all those questions about something that I really didn't know anything about.
Regardless, if we were an influence to what these people were doing or the hundreds of other bands around the world making great records, who, in turn, were an influence to new bands, it's a give and take thing. We were influenced by other acts and other acts have been influenced by us. We all will have our hangover - Venom are no more; Slayer took their make-up off sometime in `83/`84; Metallica made a few ballads; and I went off to make a solo album - so, here we are again.

I've talked to many Swedish bands like Entombed and Unleashed and asked them if they had ever met or known you. They all said no. Would you consider yourself a loner amongst the scene?

Oh yeah! I haven't been to a club since 1986; I haven't taken a drop of alcohol since I made promotion for Blood Fire Death; I went to the movies once this year; the last concert I went to see, sort of like for old times sake, was Manowar half a year ago; I never go to places where there's a lot of people; and I've never taken any drugs. It doesn't give you anything after a while. You just wind up spending a lot of money. Certainly, a hangover is great, a one night stand is great, but it doesn't give you anything in the long run. If your flesh craves pussy and alcohol, that's okay, but if you're more interested in sitting at home drinking a nice cup of English tea and reading a good book, which is something that I prefer, you loose contact with reality and the street beat. I only know that there are a lot of Swedish bands out there, and even though they may not admit they were influenced by Bathory, the great thing is that we can give a lot of these bands the attention that they need because Swedish musicians aren't very good technically, not necessarily musically. I read somewhere where this band Unleashed you mentioned said a lot of shitty things about me, and I never met any of these guys.

What about Entombed?

I cannot answer for them because I'm really cut off from reality, more or less. During the years when I went to the clubs and when I was in contact with the rock `n roll thing - fucking beautiful girls in the back of a limousine in Manhattan; drinking champagne and breathing fire in the middle of the night from the top of a skyscraper in Hollywood; making out with two beautiful girls in a swimming pool in Milan; being invited backstage at a Slayer concert in Brooklyn and everybody coming to ask me for an autograph rather than Tom Araya - I've seen and experienced everything that a lot of kids only dream of. Going to clubs and drinking expensive whisky doesn't make my cock stand. It's much more enjoyable sitting at home developing your mind reading a good book.

Interview from G.A.S.P. Magazine #6, volume 2, number 6, autumn 1994
Provided by Mike Baronas.
Taken from Twilight web-site.
www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palladium/6646/


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