interview by: Mladen Škot
Sometimes we are simply lucky. The last Gorgoroth album, Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam, was great; a month later we're thoroughly impressed with Jotunspor’s Gleipnirs Smeder, and now we're waiting to hear debuts by two “supergroups” called Sahg and I. Quite a few bands worth knowing about, aren't there? And who better to ask than a man who plays in all of them? We have exchanged a couple of e-mails with King Ov Hell himself — and found out that there's even more to come.
Maelstrom: First, congratulations on participating on the two scariest releases I've heard in years. I thought Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam was as scary as it can be, but parts of Gleipnirs Smeder are still haunting me like not many before. It has just flicked some switch in my mind, and on the week that I had to write the review I was slightly depressed and those riffs were going through my head, voices, howls and a distant “Attila Csihar” voice from De Mysteriis... singing “Pagan feeeearsss... the past is aliiiveee...” What was your intention when you set off to making it, and how are you personally satisfied with it?
King Ov Hell (above): I have to admit that Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam is a way more personal and serious release for me than Gleipnirs Smeder. I have worked much more on it and nothing was left to circumstance. I got an offer from Coldspring records doing an ambient satanic noise record. It's what the label is occupied with. It's not a metal label, but he was so impressed with my composing in Gorgoroth that he wanted me to do it nevertheless. I talked with Kvitrafn and he was up for the idea as well. We started working on some riffs together and we soon realized we couldn’t make the record we originally aimed for. We had too much black metal roots binding us. Therefore we decided to make a record in honor to our Nordic heritage instead, and Coldspring had to make a new label called Sathanas Rex to release it. We worked on it together for about two months in our own homestudio; making the music, recording it and mixing it. The result of these hectic summermonths in Bergen can be heard on Gleipnirs Smeder.
Maelstrom: In another interview, Kvitrafn has explained his views on Norse cultural and spiritual heritage, but said that he can't speak for you and your beliefs. So, can you tell us how important these subjects are to you?
King Ov Hell: I am of course proud of my Nordic heritage, but I have personally a way more Satanic approach towards my views on life. I am a Satanist and I guess it's why Kvitrafn answered the question the way he did. He is an Odinist. We have lots of similar ideas, but at the same time we have our clear differences. We do however draw inspiration from the same source; the beauty of chaos and nothingness. This record represents my respect towards my heritage both cultural and spiritual. The nature I am raised from. It is also a mutual respect between me and Kvitrafn not talking on the behalf of each other. Everything is rooted in the one individual. We are two individuals creating a record together. We can not be viewed as one, and I can therefore also just speak for myself.
Maelstrom: Mentioning Nordic heritage, are you concerned that the national socialist black metal scene might misinterpret that and take Jotunspor as one of “their” bands? What are your views on NSBM in general?
King Ov Hell: I have nothing in common with NSBM. I am totally against every form of flock ideology. Nazism is an ideology for the flock. It's not room for the strong individual, even though it claims to be. My moral is made out of chaos. I do not believe in universal values. They do not exist. I create the goods and the bads. The weak need to have the moral defined for them in order to survive. The strong one deals with chaos and grows out of it. It`s also a well known fact that Nazism is a Christian movement and you can't create something sacred out of falseness. I don't care who buys or listens to my music, but never use my name under a sign based on slavemoral and Christian thinking.
Maelstrom: Is there a general concept behind Gleipnirs Smeder? Most people, for instance, find it strange that “Svartalvheims Djup,” the second track, is an ambient one (though to me it sounds like an ambient version of the title track). It seems as though all the tracks form a story — or a soundtrack. Am I close to the truth? What is the story?
King Ov Hell: Gleipnirs Smeder is not made for entertainment or an MTVgeneration, where every second needs to be created in a way for the satisfaction of the listener. We wanted to make a track symbolizing how we think “Svartalvheims Djup” would sound like. It takes a while to get into this track. You must have knowledge about Norse mythology I guess to get an understanding of this track. We haven't made it for the unenlightened anyway, in fact we made it only for ourselves. It gives me meaning and that's what's important.
Maelstrom: Could you please give us English translations for the track names? And, if possible, the meaning to each song?
King Ov Hell: It's hard to translate the tracknames. I have to pass on this one to avoid making a fool of myself. The words used have so much power in Norwegian, and will lose lots of power translated.
Maelstrom: Gleipnirs Smeder was recorded during “two hectic months in the studio.” Apparently Fimbulljod is Kvitrafn's own studio? Can you tell us more about the whole writing/recording process?
King Ov Hell: The album is made in Kvitrafn's studio Fimbulljod. We have made 50/50, I would say. I have played most guitars and bass. He has also played some guitars. He does most of the vocals. I do additional vocals on two tracks. Kvitrafn is in charge of the drums and did the producing of the album. I was very occupied with Gorgoroth at the time as well. We recorded the Sahg album in the same building as we made the Jotunspor records. It was a very hectic time for me, doing three records at the same time.
Maelstrom: Which additional vocals are yours? Screams or the murky, ancient ones?
King Ov Hell: I do the high pitch vocals in the end and some additional screams.
Maelstrom: What have (other) reactions to Gleipnirs Smeder been so far? Is there a chance of you two recording another album, or is this one going to remain the sole one (and probably become a cult album once that people realize how inventive it actually is)? I, for one, would appreciate another “blast from the ancient past.”
King Ov Hell: I have no idea how the reactions have been so far. I haven't searched the internet for reviews and such. I usually get upset reading reviews anyways, whether its good or bad. I am not a wizard and can not predict the future. We have no plans at the moment doing another album, but you never know. You might get another “blast from the ancient past.”
Maelstrom: You are no longer a member of Gorgoroth, right? Though you are still listed as band member on the Gorgoroth webpage, it says that you have left because you had problems fronting some of the ideological aspects of Gorgoroth’s agenda. So, if it’s not a secret — what aspects didn’t you agree with? I thought your views were quite similar to the ones Infernus was expressing. Some might say that you left because you were the only member of Gorgoroth without a police record (sorry, crap joke).
King Ov Hell: I have no problem with the members in Gorgoroth or the Gorgoroth’s agenda. I needed a break ‘cause of personal issues. It had nothing to do with the band. The truth isn’t always like it appears to be. Infernus and me have made music and been friends for almost a decade. We are individuals with the same agenda; spreading the word of Satan. It’s true I`m the only member without a police record, but it has nothing to do with it. Gorgoroth will come back stronger than ever in 2007. (Gorgoroth, pictured below)
Maelstrom: On Gorgoroth’s page Infernus says he abuses cocaine, but still he says he likes to go around thrashing lowlife junkies. What’s all that about?
King Ov Hell: You have to direct this question to Infernus. I can not answer questions on the behalf of him. You can however not view [every] man as equal. People react differently towards every aspect of life, including drugs. Lowlifes are people who can’t handle their abuse of drugs and let their addiction result in discomfort to others; begging for money on the streets, burglary or losing power over rational and functional acts. (King Ov Hell and Infernus, below)
Maelstrom: How do you see Gorgoroth’s future, with or without you? After all, you’ve written a big part of their material.
King Ov Hell: I have been the main composer in Gorgoroth the last years. The last record I did more or less on my computer at home. Gorgoroth has proven several times [that it does not need to rely on any single] member. I guess this is the case now as well. I`m sure we will figure something out in the future as well. I will always make and release music with Gaahl anyways. We have been a strong three-piece in the past and I guess we will continue to be in the future.
Maelstrom: Some of us Maelstrom writers (including me, and presumably many readers), have bedroom black metal side projects. Can you tell us what software/equipment you use, and briefly the way songs are composed?
King Ov Hell: I have used Reason to do drum programming and ACID to do the recordings of guitar and bass. I’m only using it to get an idea of what I`m making. I am not a skilled engineer.
Maelstrom: What equipment do you use as a bass player? And is there a difference in the set-ups between the bands you play in?
King Ov Hell: I use Music Man basses and Ampeg amps. I`ve never been a freak according to equipment, but I`ve learned over the years how to create a bass sound suitable for different musical moods.
Maelstrom: Another thing I’ve always wanted to know — what is the working atmosphere in the studio like when albums such as Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam are being recorded? What is the mindset of the band? I would be terribly disappointed if you were all just goofing around like Cradle of Filth, but I don’t think you were having fist fights and sacrificing animals (what your fans would probably want to believe).
King Ov Hell: The atmosphere varies a lot. We behave as we normally do, but we try to be focused on the final result. We have, as any other bands, arguments while recording. It`s natural since we are three very egocentric individuals and want everything done accordingly to our taste. We do not possess the quality of compromising, but we have learned how to deal with it over the years. We never make an argument personal and are always discussing what’s debated. Gaahl needs to do the vocals alone with the producer and this time I had to be the producer in the studio the last weeks to finish it. We hardly talk then and the sessions can last up till 16 hours.
Maelstrom: I’m sorry, I haven’t heard Sahg — yet. I’ve understood that it’s a doom/stoner band? As much as I enjoy stoner music I couldn’t have imagined you playing in a band of that type. Is playing in Sahg a way for you to relax?
King Ov Hell: Sahg is a band I made with close friends of mine in Bergen. We had a common interest in music from the ‘70s; Pentagram, Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost. We made a demo and got a contract four days later. I didn’t believe it [would] be this successful though. We entered the national charts in Norway, got overwhelming reviews all over and done a US/Canada tour supporting Celtic Frost. Sahg doesn’t represent me in any other way than me being able to play music influenced by what I listened to as a kid, but we are doing it quite well, if I have to say so myself... and I just did. (Sahg, below)
Maelstrom: Another band you’re in, I, will be releasing Between Two Worlds in November. What can we expect? How did you get involved in that project, and is it a regular band or a project?
King Ov Hell: Abbath started working on music for I already in 2003. He is the riffmeister in the band. He teamed up with Ice Dale from Enslaved, and they worked on the arrangements and guitar solos in Ice Dale’s home studio. Armagedda (ex-Immortal) and I joined the band in spring, 2005. It`s not a black metal band, but a classic metal band. It`s been an honor for me working with these guys. They are all very skilled musicians, if not the best, and I`ve improved my music skills in this band. Abbath has a unique way of creating riffs — the way he picks and his rhythm patterns. I is nothing like the bands we already are a part of (Immortal, Gorgoroth, Enslaved). This is a conscious choice. It wouldn’t give any meaning doing an album in the vein of the existing bands. You can of course hear some Immortal in it because Abbath is the riffmeister in both bands.
Maelstrom: Abbath has recently said that Immortal reunion is no longer out of the question and that he has started rehearsing with Horgh. Can you tell us anything about it, being in regular contact with him?
King Ov Hell: Immortal will be back for live shows in 2007. I guess most people know already. (True — check out immortalofficial.com — Mladen)
Maelstrom: Aside from playing in so many bands — what do you do in your free time — if you have any?
King Ov Hell: I play backgammon, drink alcohol and watch hentai cartoons with my three-year old son.
Maelstrom: That’s it, once again thank you very much for your time and I’m looking forward to hearing any new music you’ll be doing. Is there anything you’d like to add, your plans for the future or any special message?
King Ov Hell: I’m at the moment composing music for a new project I have with Rob Caggiano from Anthrax. We have already gotten some songs made. I`m very satisfied with the songs made so far. We have to see what happens in the future.
Maelstrom: Rob Caggiano? I know he's also a producer but I never would have expected him to be doing something with a member of Gorgoroth. Can you please tell me a little more about that? How did it happen, what kind of music is it and is there already a name for the project, something to look forward to?
King Ov Hell: Rob Caggiano is an excellent producer. He’s been into Norwegian black metal for a while. I got in touch with him at a Gorgoroth concert in London while he still was a member of Anthrax. He is an excellent guitarist and I’m always up for expanding musically through playing with people with a different angle towards music. We don’t have a name for the project yet, but we have made a couple of tracks. I don’t believe it will be an old school black metal band, and to be quite honest I wouldn’t do true black metal in any other band than Gorgoroth. This band will sound like nothing I’ve done in the past. I won’t let myself do bands with a similar sound. I’m always up for experimenting musically. It’s my way of developing and getting focused when I’m creating music for Gorgoroth. Gorgoroth will always be the band I express myself to the fullest. Gorgoroth is beyond music. It’s moral and about spreading the true nature of Satan. (Jotunspor, the band, below)