Leif Gylve Nagell, better known in the music community as Fenriz, is the catalyst behind one of Norway’s most notorious duos. As the drummer and lyricist of the legendary Darkthrone, Fenriz has spent the better part of his musical career somewhat in seclusion, preferring to keep himself and his musical endeavors away from “the glitter and showbiz side of the music industry.” A breath of fresh air in an exceedingly diluted enterprise, Fenriz has brazenly kept his artistic integrity intact over the course of nearly thirty studio albums, creating music for himself and on his own terms entirely.
Checking in from Norway for LA Music Blog, Fenriz spoke candidly (and jokingly) on the past and current black metal scenes, his prior struggle with depression, and what the year has in store for Darkthrone.
Circle the Wagons was released last year and carries a heavier punk and speed metal influence than much of your previous work. Was that the intention going into the writing and recording process?
There is never any intention; we make what we need to make–in other words, what our hearts tell us to. The opposite would be doing the Christian thing of trying to control every next step, and also the way we record this and that and how we write. There are no plans, and we only write one song each at a time. So there you have it–we are the definition of keeping it so real it’s unreal.
Musically, Darkthrone seems to be doing a 360, returning to a similar sound as to where the band initially started out. Although the process somewhat began with The Cult is Alive, what was your motivation to take such an extreme departure from black metal?
Easiest motivation: R&B ’60s and what R&B became in the ’90s remind me of a lot of what I’ve always got the black metal feeling from, and what “they” have been trying to peddle since, well, 1995-ish. Here’s some explanation, but I’m just winging it as usual. Those who get it will get it, and the others can take a long walk on a short pier:
Well, we had the inspiration we needed to make black metal already in early ‘91, meaning our inspirations came almost solely from the ‘80s. Seeing how press, newer clueless “scene” people, and record companies alike changed everything plastic and hyperfast into being “BM,” the party had just gotten too lame to hang out at anymore. This happened for Zephyrous and Nocturno Culto already in ‘92, for me it happened in ‘94 when I didn’t really like any of the new styles after that, but regardless, took responsibility for fronting the way of black metal. I still do–this week’s “Band of the Week” is black metal and this year I will focus on spreading more black metal bands than usual. But playing it myself isn’t what I crave at the moment.
Checking in from Norway
Now that Peaceville has acquired Darkthrone’s Moonfog titles, the label set forth in re-releasing the efforts, starting last October with Panzerfaust. The new edition’s bonus disc features your extensive commentary of the record, something really unexpected. What made you decide to speak so candidly, given your general reclusion?
Well, I had to do something! HAHA! And unexpected suits me fine. It was my own idea too, as we never saved anything we ever did–no photos, no nothing, nothing for the museums, the book writers, the reissues. So I did commentary tracks on all of them. Sue me! HAHA!
Doing an average of 90-100 interviews A YEAR (start checking) isn’t really adaptable to pinning the term recluse on me, but I hear ya. I usually refuse to be part of anything cerebral. Haha! Cerebral Hemorrhage, the side project of the Whiplash guys that I ordered from them in spring ‘87, recorded on a 2 – TWO – track recorder. Hello, Dolly!
The same can be said for the Isengard reissue, which your commentary was incredibly thorough for. Do you plan to give the rest of the Isengard catalog the same type of treatment?
Thorough, very thorough..nah, thanks for saying, but i was just improvising as usual–in the spirit of un-control (de-control? fuck it) that I mention in my first answer. Anyway, I hate to do stuff over again, especially creative stuff, so I just start talking. I always did interviews and press and radio shows so I’m extremely used to talking about my music; it ain’t no big thang.
As for the rest of the Isengard stuff, I think perhaps the first Isengard, which is a collection of demo one (summer ‘89) and other stuff I did in 1990-93, it probably should come out on vinyl and I probably should talk about that on a commentary disc as well. But remember, I just start talking. I do it at home with only a mic, no advanced recording program, just through my old DJ mixer onto a vinyl studio program so I can’t edit: what comes out ends up on the disc.
Peaceville will be reissuing Goatloard and Ravishing Grimness later this year, and you’ve called upon your fans to create new artwork for both albums. Considering that you’ve always seemed to carry a disdain of sorts for your fans, what made you decide to include them with this venture?
What the…hell no, ANYONE can do those covers if they like. Who the hell can control if they are fans or enemies HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I’m breaking your balls here, sorry, hahaha it’s just damned funny:
“So, was her artwork any good you think, should we accept it?”
“Yeah….but….is she really a fan, though? Let’s ask her about our regression into black ’n roll and senseless trivia for half an hour first”
So, as you see, that wouldn’t work. That kind of thinking reminds me of a certain bigshot in the “bm” scene over here, haha. No, we ain’t like that.
Basically, Richard Nixon could draw us whatnot from beyond the grave and if it looked killer and wasn’t any photocollage crap, – we’d use it! No plans at all in Darkthrone, and certainly no plans of future cover art competitions: what happens, happens.
And why change the cover art now? Do you plan to follow suit with a similar contest for the future reissues?
I wasn’t visually interested in 1996-2005. I had just cared so much about the previous covers, I let it go. But then I see in hindsight that I’d like our covers to be painted or drawn, not typically computer designed (HURL)! So that’s why we should have new covers for Goatlord and Ravishing Grimness and Plaguewielder, I reckoned. I’m sure it’s not the end of the world either way!
You’ve been pretty outspoken about your disapproval of the book Lords of Chaos, but then appeared in the documentary Until the Light Takes Us. What made you decide to be a part of the film?
I can’t really disapprove of it if I didn’t even bother to read it. Haven’t you sometimes gotten a promo CD and you started to listen and you think after 14 seconds, “No,” you know they got it all wrong? Well, that’s the Lords of Chaos book for ya. The movie that Aaron and Audrey did I did because they are cool as hell. I didn’t see it yet; it’s my own choice.
Already in ‘88 I didn’t like to receive my interviews back typically 3 months after I did them because I’d already moved on a lot in my mind about lots of the things I’d say. Now, here is a movie that was shot 10 years ago, and in addition to that, I was coming out of a depression at the time, so I’m sure you can understand I’d be uncomfortable watching it. I mean, I don’t even like watching me when I’m doing funny stuff on TV here in Norway.
You came off somewhat disgruntled with the state of the current black metal scene. Are you proud of your contributions to Norwegian black metal and music in general?
I have never said there were no great black metal bands at any time, but let’s just say in ‘85 or in ‘90 absolutely ALL the black metal vibes from around the world were lo-fi and totally killer. Let’s just say in 1998 that only counted for a few of them.
In ‘91, I was used to everybody in the “scene” simply just getting it. In ‘94, there were more and more people not getting it–at all, but still calling themselves black metal. Capice? It’s damn easy when I break it down like this, huh?
[My] current BM faves are Vomitor (Australia), Aura Noir (Norway), Hinsides (Sweden), The Return (USA) and so on. Y’all can check my blog on Myspace, find the “Band of the Week” Myspace, or find that same profile on Facebook. Everyone can see to what extent I spread and listen to new music incorruptibly, how many of the mentions are black metal or whatnot, and how much I care compared to any other oldie from the ‘80s underground. The glove had been cast. HAHAHA!!
There is a lot happening this year in the Darkthrone camp, but what else do you have in store for 2011?
Making more compilations, always doing that, but I’m happy doing them just for other’s blog pages really! WAY better than DJing: I kinda quit that, just doing one-offs now. Like the Metalucifer show that Proxy is setting up in April here in Oslo. Kudos, Proxy. And this weekend, I attend the only festival I go to, Metal Merchants. Brocas Helm will be playing this year. Although when I curate my “own” festival again in London this year (Mark Lewis’ Live Evil festival), I prefer new bands that play old styles instead of, for instance, Germany’s KIT (Keep it True) that mostly has old bands that still play or have reformed. But anyway, festivals like KIT and MM’s do more for old metal than most others, so they are all cool in my book.
Then we gotta record some more songs after they are written. 2010 saw major life changes for both Ted and me, so we only did 2 songs that year; we need 7-8 more for a forthcoming album. But, you know, we don’t wanna make any plans or anything.
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