Congratulations on the impending album, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Watain; how are you all feeling about its release? “It’s been building in quite a cool way. We’ve never been this active before the release of an album; three singles, two videos and while that’s more label orientated, it leads to a very good aura of anticipation and the energy in general… you can almost touch it in the air. It’s a very good feeling. It
feels like approaching some sort of culmination or climax of sorts”.
Launching from the Nuclear Blast platform – that’s new and exciting? “Yes. Exactly. We’re pretty use to working with new labels – Season of Mist, Century Media and now Nuclear. Two albums each and it’s a pretty refreshing thing to work with new people like that every once in a while. I understand why bands want to stick with the one label but I see it as a privilege you have – when there is more than one label interested, why not expand those collaborations? In regards to Nuclear Blast – it feels like the right place for us. It’s the biggest metal label
in the world. We’ve been Watain for nearly twenty five years. We’ve worked our asses off for this. And it’s not that far fetched – of course there are many bands on that label that we we might not be able to relate to that much, on the other hand that’s always been the case on any label”.
Changing it up, keeps the appetite there, not just for the bands, but for the record labels “I think so, and its also like, when we had the first initial meetings with Nuclear Blast, we were; as we always are – we are quite thorough in explaining that Watain are perhaps a little… different to what they’re used to. Sometimes, quite a lot different. It’s always interesting to see how people react to that. Nuclear Blast were quite motivated with this. I can imagine it would be cool for them also to work with a band who are just that bit different, who have a different approach – to work with a band who are less business orientated and more art orientated. They like this and that is of course quite important. We need this understanding in order for a collaboration to work”.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned that it is important to know what you’re looking for, before you can attempt to find it – so, does this philosophy still reign true? The move to Nuclear Blast and of course the material that has proceeded this statement. “I said that? [Laughs], right… I said that. Yeah. Cool. I think at the time, that was probably very true. I think I may have reversed that theory, at least for this
latest album. On The Wild Hunt and Trident Wolf Eclipse, we were quite specific as to where where we were going creatively, we had an elaborate vision of what we wanted the albums to be, The Wild Hunt was very expansive, we wanted to broaden our pallets and explore parts of ourselves that we hadn’t explored yet. Whereas Trident… was more a primal, savage and violent expression – so those were distinct goals. That was the mindset I was in. Now; we went back to a way of working that I think we employed more on our earlier albums – an open, liberated approach where you don’t really know where you’re going – the only thing that is guiding you is the light of your own torch, just walking into the darkness, the darkness of yourself and the unknown. Right now, I can’t think of a better way of working, I really enjoyed the whole process of getting this album together – just because it was so free and based on what we love to do and what we care deeply for and have a strong passion for”.
It’s safe to say you’re comfortable working within both a reactive and proactive space? “Yeah, I think it’s just evaluating the different ways you can go about it – it’s great to have a goal, a framework, that’s almost like having a set of limitations for yourself. Sometimes it’s really interesting to see what you can do with only just black and white. On the other hand, it’s also great to have the whole art store to yourself, to use whatever you feel like and see where that takes you. You need to be in the right state of mind for both”.
That segues nicely into my next question – getting into the new album, the approach you took; a cornerstone for an album has many depths, infinites and are often grandiose within the human mind – how do you conceptualise this? Contain it, adapt it… bend it, I guess into the material. “Hmmmm, exactly. That’s the ponderable thing right. How the fuck does this really happen. What is this process, really? Is it
a kind of translation? The age-old struggle of the artist, the creative angst, I can subscribe to that idea, I’d be the poster child for the tormented artist [Laughs]. I find, at least that this struggle comes from constantly seeking for ways to translate something that is, in essence wordless and nameless. Putting a shape to a formless thing. And this shouldn’t be simple, this requires tonnes of self-awareness, skill,
intention. It’s a meticulous craft. That can come sometimes like a brutal stream of inspiration and it just happens – but more often than not, it’s about meticulous work. As an artist, I love that challenge, I am tormented by it. If we stick to the definition that art is a form of translation, and that it’s a process to be learned and improved on over time. I can translate greater concepts and more profound ideas now, in a way that I myself can feel pleased with. I was struggling with that when I was younger, perhaps I didn’t have the tools or skills required”.
What do you learn about yourself through each album that you release, and the material you create? What of these lessons learnt, do you take into the next album? What stays with you? “There’s definitely a lot to be learned from every time we record an album but these albums
and recordings, they become so monumental, there is so much to them, they colour your entire existence. Like I said, we’ve been doing this band for nearly twenty five years, and we’ve been on the stage probably over one thousand times by now – but we’ve only been in the studio creating albums seven times. It’s not a foreign idea but I’m still not a complete master of it, it’s still a rarity and there is so much to it. The creativity, the technicality, the reflection afterward. There is a lot to be learnt. I can’t mention anything specific, but I know that I do learn. When I look back on the public persona I have acquired over the years, there is a lot I would like to tell myself, if I could go back and just tell myself, like to maybe shut up a little bit more, don’t be so cocky but also things like trying to absorb the meaningful times a little more,
don’t fucking rush through it. It was a tendency I had and had to overcome. When you realise there are no certainties – you might not be able to do this tomorrow. I’ve taken this with me, and learnt from the past. It’s important to realise what you are doing and not rush through it”.
Being in the present is hard to master. “As long as your present is a place that feels relevant and fulfilling”.
How did you want to push the boundaries with the latest album? “There’s always a pushing of the boundaries with Watain, I’m not sure if this is intentional or just something that happens in the process. Musically with the album I think we’ve stuck with the elements that we feel we have mastered and are able to fully express ourselves with. With The Wild Hunt, we dabbled around with elements for good or for
worse, that can be great for yourself as an artist to do that. I like to write really good songs that I feel couldn’t be any better, and to do this, effectively, is to use the tools you really know how to handle. There are musical elements on this album that are new, in a way, but in terms of boundaries being pushed – this has happened more in the lyrical department and in the overall artistic department where we are
taking the band, I mean, we are facing a new audience with this launch on Nuclear Blast and I felt that it was time to perhaps define things a little more… Had you received this promo package that Nuclear Blast sent out? No? That’s too bad. So in there, we have an artistic manifesto of what we are here to do and what Watain is in this state that we’re in now. As long as we can continue to call ourselves a black metal
band with pride. The role that black metal should play in a general cultural climate, should be a radical one, a controversial one, an extreme one because if you take it down to the most base symbolism, black metal is the musical devil”.
The devil is definitely a beautiful, interesting and alluring character right? “Through musical traditions, popular culture traditions and within magical and spiritual traditions – there has always been a deep fascination and fear for it. It is a figure that raises many uncomfortable
questions about ones self, about the world that we live in, about our relation to each another and I think this is what black metal should do – no matter how uncomfortable. Watain will continue to fulfil this role, I feel this is my duty as a black metal musician. There should always be a problem and I don’t have a problem being that problem”.
There’s my sound bite…
Erik, lets talk gigs…. The Chariots of Fire tour through North America and Europe is cited for later in the year. There was a bit of a shit show with the March stint with Mayhem – what else is happening? “The first thing is, we have been invited by this French TV channel, to do a small private show which will be streamed online, I really don’t know how these things work, but we’re doing a show [Laughs] you can stream it through your machines, this is the first thing we’ll be doing on stage for the new album and that’s the 26th April. That’s a worldwide event, I guess. We have a few summer festivals coming up. Then the biggest tour we’ve done in so fucking long. September. Abbath. We’re eager. We’ve built the biggest stage show over the last two months… We’ve been going nuts. We’ll need a military ship to
transport all this gear. We haven’t figured that out yet but we’ve outdone ourselves. There are still a lot of things in the air, but Australia is one of our primary targets”.
Watain’s new album, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain, releases through Nuclear Blast on April 29th. Read Michael Stronge’s review of the album HERE