Interview with Enslaved at the Quart Festival 2006

MER: First and foremost, it’s exciting to talk a bit about the new album, Ruun. It got a good review in Classic Rock, and has been very well-received in England, with a high position in the indielists. How do you feel about this?

Grutle Kjellson: Well that thing with Classic Rock was a bit overwhelming, at least I felt so.

Herbrand Larsen: Ivar had a dream about getting a review in Classic Rock, and in particular in the Prog section. It was a good review also, so he was totally mind blown when it happened.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah [smiles], it’s cool, we kind of reach outside our normal audience that way, and even in the Prog section! We’re getting airtime on Prog Rock radio shows and stuff like that, not just Metal. And we are like a hybrid of those genres, or a kind of fusion, anyway.

MER: It is undoubtedly a record that takes Enslaved down a new path …

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, well, it kind of continues were we left off last time. So you can say it is somewhat of an evolution going on, we haven’t been conscious about our choice of tracks, it just flows naturally. We never had any discussions about what it sounds like or what it should sound like, it just turned out that way, and it makes it fucking interesting I think. It makes the whole thing more interesting, and that’s why we’ve been doing this for as long as we have really, because it’s not like … I mean, we’re pretty good at surprising ourselves [laughs]. We never know what we are going to come up with, what we are capable of. It’s quite entertaining, to be honest.

Herbrand Larsen: All of the elements have been there all along really, from the very beginning.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah.

Herbrand Larsen: They’ve just become more or less audible, from whichever record that has come out.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, and the sound, obviously. The sound really does have a lot to say. Ruun is viewed upon as a less aggressive record than ISA for example, probably because the sound is getting more organic, better in a lot of ways. ISA has that raw, Black Metal, necro sound. I mean, I really like the sound on ISA, but it isn’t that good, really. A lot of stuff just vanishes in it … but still it’s fucking rough. I still think that the tracks on Ruun are at least as aggressive though.

MER: Now you’re doing a series of festivals in the times ahead, and then you’re going on tour in all of Norway and then onwards to Europe. Will there be any changes compared to the previous tours?

Grutle Kjellson: Well yeah … we’re starting the European tour in Ireland, which we’ve never played before. And then there’s five UK shows. We rarely do any UK shows at all while touring Europe, well maybe a gig in London. So basically we’re doing a full UK tour before continuing in Europe. The biggest change is that it’ll all be better … better venues, a bit bigger. Everything’s better! So that’s the major difference, really – and, of course, it’s a bit longer than before as well.

MER: What size are the venues that you guys play?

Grutle Kjellson: It varies a bit from country to country. In countries like France, for instance, we easily sell out 6-7-800 capacity venues. No problem. In Germany, I guess we’re playing clubs with a capacity of about 2-300?

Herbrand Larsen: It’s a bit up and down, really.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, ups and downs. Germany is so properly fucked. I mean, literally everybody toured Germany, right? There were gigs every single night, and then people lost interest, you know, no matter what band was playing. And then that fucking Helloween Metal came back into style, and nobody was listening to Extreme Metal then … suddenly no one showed up! So we didn’t tour Germany for several years actually, until last year. Now it’s picking up again, though, we played 200 capacity clubs. I mean, playing a packed 200 capacity club is better.

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah, and they were packed! [proud smile]

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, they were, they really were. But, if we’d gotten a 600 capacity venue, and 300 people showed up, it would just look stupid.

MER: Yeah, it must make a huge difference for you guys as well, because you kind of co-exist with the audience, right?

Grutle Kjellson: Oh yeah, sure.

Herbrand Larsen: If the place is packed, everything becomes a lot tighter. It basically makes the gig a whole lot better, really. Plain and simple.

Grutle Kjellson: It’s a two-way thing, it really is.

MER: How’s the response since you appeared at the short film festival in Grimstad, Norway?

Grutle Kjellson: What response?

MER: According to manager Tonje Elisabeth Hansen, there’s been outrageously positive feedback!

Grutle Kjellson: Oh, I don’t really pay attention to that

MER: Well, she is your manager, so I guess her job is to make everything seem outrageous.

[everybody laughs]

Grutle Kjellson: I remember the feedback from the crowd when we played there, it was fucking awesome. There were a lot of people, way out in the woods somewhere. It was quite surprising, because we didn’t hear anything when we played, and we had lights on us so we didn’t see the audience either. When we went off stage, we just heard this massive cheer, and I was like “Fuck! There are people here?” [laughs] So yeah, that was cool!

Herbrand Larsen: I think that must’ve been the broadest audience we’ve ever played to. You know, anything from red wine drinking old broads to Metal people. It was a really good mix of people, who all kind of took it in their own way [laughs]. I actually think most of them were really positive about it. I mean, even if they thought it was strange or whatever, they liked it.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, it was like red-stocking drunk 75 year old broads going like “It was really good, a bit too loud, but still very good!” [laughs]

MER: Tonje said that the movie industry in Norway have been very positive to your appearance there, and wants more of it.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah.

MER: Will there be more movie scores from Enslaved?

Grutle Kjellson: I guess we’re playing that Terje Wigen thing again. It’s not for sure yet I think. Or is it?

Herbrand Larsen: I’m not certain.

Grutle Kjellson: No, we can’t really say. We probably will though, during the fall. Somewhere. In a town connected with film! [laughs]

MER: Is making music for movies a part of the Enslaved vision?

Grutle Kjellson: Naaaah.

Herbrand Larsen: It’s like …

Grutle Kjellson: What goes around, comes around.

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah.

Grutle Kjellson: If people want us to do stuff like that, we’re glad to do it. But, we will never make music with the intention of it fitting a movie format. I mean, we rearranged the whole thing for that Terje Wigen thingy, so we weren’t really playing our songs … just really weird versions of them.

Herbrand Larsen: Weird is the word.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, weird. Almost confusing to play the songs normally afterwards. [grins]

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah … but then there’s a bunch of parts on the new record that are quite cinematic in a way, which makes them work really well when you add a picture to it.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah.

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah, but it’s really a coincidence. [grins]

Grutle Kjellson: It’s just something you just suddenly realize, we noticed it in the mix, actually. Ivar suddenly went “this has got that movie music feeling to it” – and it does! But, as I said, we will never intentionally do it. It wouldn’t be any good if we did.

MER: How that would be … it would be a completely different audience.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, it’ll be a lot more red wine. [laughs] Red wine’s a good thing though!

Herbrand Larsen: Red wine and funny little hats. [grins]

Grutle Kjellson: Funny little hats and tiny canapÈs. [laughs]

MER: I understand the video for “Essence” is almost done? It was recorded a while ago, right?

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, well, it’s the editing … that’s the thing with that video. That’s what’s been taking so long. We shot it …

Herbrand Larsen: [shoots in] … while we did the other one.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, at the same time we did the other one. So that was like a day of shooting? I’m really excited about it myself, they’ve been cutting and pasting it for months now. Yeah, I’m really excited about it. I mean, none of us have seen anything yet, so we’re really looking forward to it. I really think it’ll be good.

MER: And there’s no performance part?

Grutle Kjellson: That’s it, just a storyline and loads of psychedelic stuff.

MER: On to other things, Enslaved is what you, Grutle, and Ivar do most of the time, right?

Grutle Kjellson: Well, we’ve got a part of it — writing lyrics and him doing the music.

MER: In the days when you’re not in the studio or on tour, you guys focus on Enslaved and the other members of the band have other engagements?

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, that’s changed a bit recently though. Him [points at Herbrand] quit the other bands he was in, so now it’s just with us. I guess he’s gotten a bit more time on his hands, perhaps.

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah, trying to.

Grutle Kjellson: We cooperate pretty well, all five of us, especially with song arrangements and stuff like that.

MER: Is Enslaved a fulltime job?

Grutle Kjellson: No … it would be really cool if it were, but we don’t make that much cash from playing in an Extreme Metal band. So we have to do some other stuff as well.

Herbrand Larsen: Let’s put it this way, I think there are easier ways of making some money than playing in Enslaved.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, money is not the force that drives us, I can promise you that! [laughs]

MER: What other things do the guys in Enslaved do when not on stage?

Herbrand Larsen: I’m building a studio. Been doing that for a while, have recorded a few albums and mixed a bunch of records. And now I’m building my own, so there’s going to be even more of that.

MER: Where’s that? Is it in Bergen?

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah, it’s in Bergen.

Grutle Kjellson: I do a couple of odd jobs here and there. Next week I’ll be rigging for John Foggerty, actually [grins]. So, it’s like, something here, something there, a fishing trip here and there. Trying to keep my head above water between the battles, between the gigs. It’s just … we’re obviously hoping to be able to do just Enslaved, that we could pay the bills and mortgage from that. That would be really great.

MER: Ivar does a bit of work as a session musician as well, doesn’t he? He played a bit with Taake last year.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, well that was just a one-time thing, he just stepped in. But yeah, he does that kind of work.

Herbrand Larsen: He’s more involved with festivals and stuff.

[all three] Bergenfest

MER: He’s got Hole In The Sky as well, right?

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, and he does some computer stuff for Bergenfest also.

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah.

MER: How do you feel about the current line-up? Is it the best Enslaved line-up?

Grutle Kjellson: Definitely! Both musically and personally. There’s very little arguing, we’ve been very good at dealing with stuff we disagree on. We really don’t disagree on much, though … it’s pretty smooth, really.

MER: Yeah, Enslaved with its 15-year history, has had a few changes along the way.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, it’s the way it is, fifteen years … there are not a lot of bands out there that have been together that long without any changes in their line-up, it’s only natural. Sometimes people just don’t fit. It’s looking really good now, though, we fit both inside and outside the boundaries of the band.

Herbrand Larsen: A lot of good energy!

Grutle Kjellson: Lots of good energy.

MER: That’s important.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah. Now it’s very, very steady.

MER: Are the rumors true that you’re going to the States soon to tour?

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, we’ve got some money we need to spend there.

Herbrand Larsen: [laughs]

Grutle Kjellson: Vi got this grant from the Norwegian Department of Culture. So it’s being worked on at the moment, hopefully putting together an interesting package over there. We’ve had a few offers …

Herbrand Larsen: Now we’re in a situation that lets us choose a bit.

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, that’s a bit cool.

Herbrand Larsen: There’s no point in jumping on a thing, if we don’t really want to.

Grutle Kjellson: We’ve done a few things over there before, with various results.

MER: Thinking of something in particular?

Grutle Kjellson: No…

Herbrand Larsen: There were really big, huge clubs with loads of people, to …

Grutle Kjellson: We’ve played pizza restaurants and laundries and stuff … you have so little control over what happens over there, that country is so strange. So you never know. Now we’ve set a few criteria … we had to. Vi won’t go on tour in vain again, sitting sixteen hours getting a backache and catching a cold, it’s not that exciting anymore. So there are a few, how should I put it, physical requirements that need to be in order. Like okay tour busses and okay clubs. And obviously there needs to be some economy in it. So yeah, there are a few trivial things that need to be in order first. And, of course, it needs to be an interesting package for us. There’s no point in going with a mediocre American Death Metal band or a mediocre European Black Metal band, for us. Been there, done that. It has to be … I mean, we don’t pull enough people on our own … I think? So we need to go with a band that’s interesting and a bit hyped, to help pull it off. That’s important. There isn’t a point in playing for like 13 people, that’s not even promoting, you know. So it’s being worked on, and I really believe that it’ll be sorted before New Year.

MER: Have you got any idea what bands fans might be seeing you with?

Grutle Kjellson: No.

Herbrand Larsen: A lot of things have been discussed.

Grutle Kjellson: We haven’t really been that fucking keen on anything that’s been presented to us so far [laughs]. But, just that shows that we keep on working on it to make a cool package. The best thing might be to go support for some bigger band.

Herbrand Larsen: Yeah.

Grutle Kjellson: Oh well. We’ll see.

MER: Well, that’s it, really, quick and dirty.

Grutle Kjellson: That’s more than most. Hardly anybody is as prepared as this.

Herbrand Larsen: [laughing] Yeah, like those “What’s it like to be a Satanist these days?” [laughs again]

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, people that don’t do their homework, and it is pretty easy, really. You just click onto our Web site and you’ve got a tiny bit of background, if you don’t know anything from before.

Herbrand Larsen: “Yeah, you guys wear makeup on stage” – NO!! [laughs]

Grutle Kjellson: But that’s it! People have these stereotypical ideas … I mean why are they interviewing us then? I don’t get it.

MER: How’s Roy Kronheim doing, by the way, are you guys still in touch with him?

Grutle Kjellson: No, well we meet him occasionally, bump into him. He’s doing that band of his. It’s … well I guess it’s a bit slow [laughs]

Herbrand Larsen: They are fucking awesome!

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah.

Herbrand Larsen: They do seem to have a bit of difficulty getting anywhere.

Grutle Kjellson: Well, he’s not exactly the kind of guy that push those things himself, and neither are the other guys in the band. Perhaps even less so than he is.

MER: Do you have any other contact with him besides bumping into him?

Grutle Kjellson: No, not really.

MER: Is there any bad blood between Enslaved and Roy?

Grutle Kjellson: No, absolutely not. No, that’s not even a subject, it was a mutual breakup. Well I guess he has his ups and downs, a bit on and off the uhm … [puts his finger to his nose and snorts]. It’s a bit stupid, not just a bit stupid, it’s fucking sad. He’s a fucking all right guy. That’s why he needed to quit the band, it just didn’t work.

MER: He used to be a terrific guitarist.

Herbrand Larsen: Oh no, he’s great!

Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, he’s still great. He does it a bit much still, that’s all [laughs] it is a bit like “whiiaaaaiii” (imitating guitar solo) with the guitar on eleven, like. [laughs] But that’s the way he is, he loves to make sound!

After this, outside of the hotel, Grutle mentions that they have been kidding around with the idea of playing soccer with Iron Maiden in November, when they visit Bergen, Norway – Enslaved’s home turf. After bouncing ideas back and forth, Grutle decidedly said something like “We seriously need to do this, instead of just kidding around about it.”

Thanks a lot to Tonje Elisabeth Hansen (Enslaved’s manager), Thomas from Tuba Records (record company’s press agent), and, of course, Grutle and Herbrand, two of the Black Metallers with the sweetest smelling hair this side of purgatory!


  • Pål Johansen

    Pål was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Klokkarvik, just outside Bergen, Norway. Growing up in a rainy place like this can get anyone addicted to music. Listening to Iron Maiden, Helloween, and AC/DC made him pick up the guitar back in the days, and so Metal has been a huge part of him ever since.  

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