Norway's Enslaved are a true monument in the potent international Viking – and black metal scene. With acclaimed formative works such as "Vikingligr Veldi", "Frost" or their legendary "Hordanes Land" split with country mates Emperor this band has left no stone unturned. At the turn of the new millennium Enslaved have gradually adopted more progressive elements into its characteristic sound, resulting in mind-melting opuses such as "Mardraum: Beyond the Within", "Isa" and most recently "Ruun". With a new record deal in place and a new album to be released in September, Masterful Magazine caught up with Enslaved founding member Ivar Bjørnson (guitars, keyboards) to talk about "Ruun" one more time, but also discuss international touring, side-projects and his other work in the music industry.Hails! First off, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with Masterful Magazine. We appreciated it immensely.
Ivar: Hails! Sure – thanks for your support!
How is the recent touring going so far? (Enslaved is in U.S territory right now and will be coming to our home country Canada in only a few days for shows in Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto.)
Ivar: The tour is going really well so far. That is, there is some issues with an American partner that bailed out on the promotional responsibilities on this tour – it wasn't unveiled until a few days into the tour. That is water under the bridge now, we can only make the best of it. Luckily we have quite a few dedicated allies and friends helping in promoting the tour through private initiatives on MySpace and other channels. We're sorry if anybody feels bombed by tour bulletins, but being left in the dark like this by our partners leaves us no choice but to work around it. We're really looking forward to the Canadian dates; that are going to be a highlight on the tour, like always!
Let's touch upon the past of Enslaved. You were only 13 years of age when you formed Enslaved with Grutle Kjellson (who was 17 years old at the time). Enslaved released 2 demos ('91 and '92) and then did two splits albums. One was with Emperor and the other with Satyricon (who at that time already released "Dark Medieval Times" and "The Shadowthrone"). Do you have any memories or experiences that you would like to share about these times?
Ivar: 16 years with Enslaved now.. I guess I've spent my entire youth and adult life in this band. I would have done the exact same thing all over again. Those early days were truly magical. Me and Grutle formed the band to make music we felt were missing from our own collection. The response we got from the demos and the first MLP (also a split-CD with Emperor) showed us that this could really go somewhere. Back then everything coming out of the Norwegian Extreme Metal scene was truly new and inventive. Every day was a giant leap forward for the entire scene. I feel eternally grateful for having been a part of the scene and Enslaved in particular in those days.
Enslaved got their name from a song from Immortal's demo. "Enslaved in Rot". Is this true? You are a pretty big Immortal fan?
Ivar: True! Me and Grutle played in a band called Phobia back in 1990 to 1991. It was Death Metal but we grew tired from that quite soon, the scope was too limited both with regards to music & lyrics. We decided to split up the band – the other guys were not 100% as dedicated as me and Grutle anyways and began from scratch, asking Trym Torson to join us on the drums. Me and Grutle developed the lyrical scope together and I guess was more or less responsible for the development of the sound and the music.
I have been an Immortal fan since their very first rehearsal demos, but I have also had the privilege of having them as good friends since the very start. They were ahead of us and gave us very good advice all the way, they even recorded their legendary self-titled demo in the place we rehearsed in our hometown. We still have a very close relationship with them; along with Darkthrone they are the definite Enslaved-brother band. Hail the mighty lords of Blashyrkh! Anyways, Demonaz knew we were looking for a song title, and he offered the band name Enslaved from the song "Enslaved in Rot" off the Immortal demo.
Only a little while ago Enslaved played the Wacken Open Air festival (also featuring Immortal). How was this experience?
Ivar: it was one of the best shows Enslaved has done over our 16 years together with this year's Hellfest. It is a legendary festival and this year's program was great. We were partying with friends from many bands; Turbonegro (next door backstage, haha), Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Sahg and many more. A great weekend and a very important show for Enslaved. Already looking forward to the next time. Actually, a side-project of mine; Dream of an Opium Eater (www.myspace.com/dreamofanopiumeater) is playing Wacken in 2008 – what a privilege!
How did it compare to 8 years ago when you played the 1999 Wacken Open Air festival?
Ivar: It was like day and night – but I guess the band has worked extremely hard to deserve the fantastic Wacken the 2007 edition turned out to be. 1999 wasn't very good, but I am not sure we actually deserved better back then, considering we were unprepared then..
Tell us about your newest release "Ruun" and how it is different from the other releases.
Ivar: It was released in 2006 and is Enslaved's 10th studio album. It is the most complete Enslaved release to date – combining the fury and darkness of the early black-metal influenced Enslaved with the newer more experimental and melodic angle of the band. It is different in having a stronger production, stronger song structures, a vast variation in the vocals, and a very dark yet more personal than ever lyrical concept. It is a surprising yet natural progression to the previous body of work from Enslaved.
So far, it is getting very good reviews! Are you pretty happy with this release?
Ivar: Yes, we are very happy with "Ruun". Of course, being as self-critical as we are, there are a number things we would like to have done better – but that is just motivation for doing better work on the next release.
Tell me some information on this album and the overall feel of the album (musically, lyrically).
Ivar: It is a blend of all the paths and directions Enslaved has explored over the years; a blend of many directions and influences. To me it is an energetic, dark and powerful album that points towards something large and atmospheric and subconscious explorations.
Out of the 9 full-length albums you have released (some of them absolute "classics"), which album remains your favourite to this day? Or perhaps a favourite song?
Ivar: To me they're all classics, even though some of them are less accessible and are more likely to turn "classic" with the passing of time. My favourites are "Mardraum", "Below the Lights" and "Ruun". I could list three favourite songs: "Alfadr Odinn" (from first MLP/ split-cd with Emperor), "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" (from "Below the Lights") and "Ruun" (title track).
Alright, onto the topic of some side projects and former bands of yours. You contributed some keyboards under the name "Daimonion" on Gorgoroth's Destroyer and Incipit Satan? Can you tell us a little about this?
Ivar: Yes I did. Back in those days, when Tormentor was in the line-up; I was socially very involved with him and the others. The band had a sort of a collective feel to it where they invited contributors to their various recordings. I really like some of the experimentation and the ideas they explored on those two albums. I guess I lost touch with them around the time when Tormenter exited and K. ov Hell joined. Gaahl is a great singer!
Around the same time you were in the thrash metal band Desekrator with Grutle Kjellson, Infernus & Tormentor. How did this come about?
Ivar: That was more of an accident, haha. It was Infernus' and Tormentor's project and they just invited bunch of people. I limited my contribution to writing (in five minutes, that is) one song and playing everything on it. I think it was called 'overdose', hehe. What a project..
Okay, shed some thoughts about your side project, Trinacria.
Ivar: It is a collaboration project where I am writing the music in tridem with improvisation/ contemporary artists Maja Ratkje and Hild Tafjord (known to appear as improv-duo Fe:mail). We form the band together with Grutle & Ice Dale from Enslaved (vocals/ guitar), Iver Sandøy from Manngard (drums) and Espen Lien (ex-Slut Machine) on bass. We've done a few festivals and a Norwegian tour. We get home from this North-American tour on December 10th, and start recording the Trinacria debut album already December 17th. It will be out on Indie Recordings during spring 2008, hopefully followed through with festival shows and perhaps the odd tour now and then. I am really exited to see where we can take this band.
You have a few companies that you play an important role in. Do you enjoy playing the role of owner / CEO / producer / co-producer on the various companies?
Ivar: Yes, I do. It is hard work and requires hard discipline but I wouldn't want it any other way. This way I am in control of everything going on in my life, and I get to dedicate myself to music on many levels. I own the company managing Enslaved, I co-own a crew-company and run a festival (Hole in the Sky in Bergen) besides Enslaved. It is not about working to survive anymore (I could have been a full-time musician) it is about involving myself in other parts of music and arts besides being a performing artist. Multi-tasking is a lifestyle.
Is this a change up for you from being in a band (even though these companies involve music as well)?
Ivar: For me it is all a whole existence where the different roles glide into each other. I make sure the roles don't conflict too much. I stay out of the every-day work of the management company where I stick to economical and strategic work. In the festival I stay out of all programming and booking (too much of a conflict over interest with Enslaved as potential band on the bill) and so on.
What does the future hold for you, Ivar?
Ivar: Hard work and harvesting the fruits of that work. I am enjoying every single day and am looking forward to every coming moment.
Thanks again for the interview. Wish you the best on the tour and in the future with Enslaved and other projects. The last words are yours
Ivar: Thanks for this interview, thanks for your support. Hope to see you all on tour!
Czy damy radę wpasować się w panujące dzisiaj trendy tego nie wiem. Mam nadzieję, że tak i płyta zdoła troszkę namieszać i odbije się to echem w środowisku. Mam też nadzieję, że będziemy w stanie pokazać, że scena ma się dobrze i zachęcić innych do tego że warto coś robić mimo tego, że się mieszka daleko od siebie.
Jest old school, bo nie zagraliśmy ani jednego oryginalnego dźwięku, kawałki są krótkie, jest w nich mnóstwo thrashu i punka, szczypta death metalu – to dla wielu będzie właśnie przepisem na grindcore, zmieniają się tylko proporcje. Nie boli nas ta łata, nie chce nam się też szukać innej.
Może dzięki uwielbieniu Dissection jest na Heading Below więcej melodii? Może za sprawą Testimony of Ancients znalazły się klawiszowe podkłady? Być może dlatego, że kochamy Autopsy jest więcej tłustych zwolnień? Jakoś tak to wszystko naturalnie przyszło.