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SATYRICON INTERVIEW EXCERPT 

(FULL INTERVIEW APPEARS IN
 'BLACK METAL: THE CULT NEVER DIES 
VOLUME ONE, AVAILABLE HERE)



Within the black metal pantheon there are few bands as iconic – or as successful – as Satyricon. Now over two decades old, they are rightly considered one of the more influential names within the Norwegian scene – indeed, for anyone present during black metal’s reinvention in the 90s, their profound impact upon the burgeoning movement needs little elaboration. A genuinely exciting outfit, they quickly made a name for themselves with their fiery combination of aggression and melody - not to mention their sense of drama, taste for the epic and what can only be described as a sort of apocalyptic swagger. Since that time, they have of course become one of the biggest names within black metal, their success putting them alongside the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth as one of a handful of bands able to break through the genre’s glass ceiling and reach the wider metal community.

Unlike the aforementioned bands, Satyricon’s music has remained largely untouched by gothic and symphonic elements, their punchy (yet at times remarkably bleak) assault instead harnessing a growing hard rock influence as the years have gone by. In contrast to this steady musical evolution has been the stability of their line-up: Despite the presence of additional musicians and guest appearances the band has now revolved around the same two individuals for over twenty years. Like Darkthrone’s pairing of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz (no chance comparison since, as we shall see, there has been a significant crossing of paths between the two groups), the personalities of vocalist/guitarist Satyr (born Sigurd Wongraven) and drummer Frost (Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad) are so ingrained within the group’s identity that it would be almost impossible to imagine the band continuing with one of them absent.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that there was a very brief time where neither member was a part of the line-up, albeit at an extremely early period in the group’s existence. While Satyr’s name is literally embedded within the band, at the point he entered the picture he was actually joining a trio of musicians who had already been working together for some time. Within this line-up was guitarist Håvard ‘Lemarchand’ Jørgensen, a bass player known as ‘Wargod’ and the drummer Carl-Michael Eide (or ‘Exhurtum’ as called himself during his period within the band). Carl-Michael has reported in interviews that before Satyr’s appearance the band was known as Eczema, the three young musicians even playing several shows under this name. In the intervening years he has of course found fame via the black thrash of Aura Noir and Infernö, as well as the more avant-garde work of acts such as Ved Buens Ende, Dødheimsgard and Virus. In early 1991 however, such bands had yet to be formed and Norway’s small underground metal community was still in the midst of a dramatic conversion from death to black metal.



“In 1991 there were a few bands like Beyond Dawn and Dementia,” begins Satyr, his tone typically serious and carefully-considered. A man of concrete opinions and lengthy sentences, the Satyricon frontman remains polite, eloquent, perhaps a little emotionally-detached and yet very much focussed on the topics at hand during our three-hour interview. “All these bands were, at the time, slightly more death metal-orientated - Dementia were heavily Autopsy-inspired for example. They were demo bands all going to the same high school as me, and some of them were taking notes at an instrument store, [and one note] said something like, ‘Thrash/death/black metal group, seeking singer’. So they said to me, ‘Why don’t you go and try?’ and I said, ‘Why would I want to that? I don’t sing, I play guitar’, and they said, ‘Because you need to be in an extreme band, you can’t just play by yourself’. They just kept pushing me to contact this band and I thought, ‘Okay, fucking hell, I will try’. This band didn’t have a name and were mostly playing covers as well as a few new songs that stylistically I would describe as not-really-black metal; to me it was more thrash or death. I played with these guys on a regular basis and the drummer would change the name of the band about once a month, until one day I talked to the guitar player and said, ‘Let’s find a proper name’, which was Satyricon.”


It was in fact Lemarchand who came up with the group’s new moniker, taking the name ‘Satyricon’ from a risqué piece of First Century Roman satire credited to one Titus Petronius. As well as being a relatively (in)famous piece of literature, the work also inspired a well-known film made in 1969 by Italian director Federico Fellini. Given the exploration of vulgarity, gross opulence and debauchery (including copious sexual content, both heterosexual and homosexual) it is either a curious or apt name for a black metal band, depending on your sensibilities.

“I don’t think it was so much [Lemarchand] being a fan of Petronius or Fellini,” Satyr admits. “He was thinking about it because I was telling him about the idea of using the name ‘Satyr’ as an artist name and he suggested it as a possible band name. But I guess I felt it was too short - like calling a band ‘Frost’ or ‘Satyr’ would make no sense. Other bands had… grander names to me. When he picked up on the ‘Satyricon’ name his explanation was rather weak and to be honest there was never a real consensus for what ‘Satyricon’ means. But the interpretation that stuck with me was the idea of it as an ‘icon’, with the ‘satyr’ being traditionally half-man/half-beast and these incredible musicians that would spellbind people and creatures with their amazing musical abilities and who were also considered gods of the woods. We liked that interpretation and decided on that name. It would perhaps have been a more thorough discussion intellectually if we’d made that decision at thirty rather than sixteen or whatever, but regardless as to why we ended up there, I’m glad we did.”



It was under this name that the band issued their debut demo, a self-titled/nameless cassette recorded bang in the middle of 1992 and now generally referred to as the ‘All Evil’ demo, probably because two versions of the track account for fifty percent of the content. An unpolished piece of work to say the least, it is nonetheless a surprisingly listenable tape with enough attitude-soaked riffs, groove and changes of pace to make it not entirely unrecognisable within the context of what the band would become - perhaps odd considering the fact that Satyr was not driving the writing process at that time. This release would mark the last time the four men would work together however, with Satyr taking a more commanding role and consciously pushing the band into a new direction, a process that resulted in a cull within the line-up that left only himself and Lemarchand.

“At the time the guitar player and the drummer were spearheading the songwriting,” explains Satyr, “which in itself I felt was absolutely fine, but I was getting more and more hardcore, and metaphorically - and literally - my hair was getting constantly longer and blacker, spikes and bullet belts were getting bigger and more of them, and I considered the approach to this band to be like a lame teenage-hobby thing. I wanted to do something more along the lines of Mayhem or Darkthrone, in terms of being completely committed, not only to playing music, but to black metal as a lifestyle. It became overly apparent pretty quickly that this was not anything the bass player - or the drummer in particular - would be ready to commit to, so we let him go and the bass player left himself.”


Like so many of his peers, Satyr was now utterly bewitched by the black metal phenomenon that was exploding within the country and quickly began connecting to the movement, both musically and socially. A good four-to-seven years younger than the ‘first generation’ black metal musicians of Norway, his introduction to the scene had come – as with so many of his peers – as a young customer at the legendary Helvete store.

“Probably the first guy that I would speak to in that scene would be Euronymous,” Satyr confirms. “That was as a customer buying demo cassettes and the odd t-shirt. He’d be the guy sitting behind the counter and I talked to him about music like you would in any record store, though there was nothing ordinary about that record store and nothing ordinary about that guy. He was very theatrical and dramatic when he explained something and that was interesting and fun to encounter. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh yeah we have this demo, it’s really interesting, you should check it out’. It was like, ‘Oh yeah, this band are dark, evil Satanists and they have made something which is a maelstrom of evil, this could accompany any ritual you want’,” he laughs. “So it made it very intriguing and exciting. I mean he was a few years older, so that made an impression on me and the whole visual imagery was so hardcore.”



“There weren’t really office hours at the shop,” he continues, “they had opening hours but it was pretty much open when it was ready to open and closed when it was ready to close. It was not just a record store but a society really - there were people living in the back office and the basement and people hanging out in the room behind the merchandise - and I later became one of those guys myself. But you would see Euronymous working on his music or his mail order and then people like Hellhammer and Faust would look after the store. I gradually befriended them and then in the fall of ‘92 I got to know [Darkthrone’s] Fenriz. I had seen him many times, but that’s when we got talking and that was the beginning of a relationship that lasted until, I don’t know, I guess I lost touch with him in the mid-2000s. And he was different back then, he had very long black hair, fingernails painted black, skinny, lots of rings and necklaces. He looked the part. He was also renowned for his mystical disappearances. He never said goodbye, you’d be sitting talking to him and then he would literally disappear. He kept doing it for years and years. I had great fun one day frustrating him; I decided I wouldn’t let him go, I didn’t even go to the bathroom so he was forced to leave, to be spotted leaving, it was hilarious. I also exchanged some messages with Immortal and met the Emperor guys, Ivar from Enslaved and Nocturno Culto around that time.”


It was with such musicians and scene figures that Satyr really identified and so he began to seek similar talent for the reshaping of his own group. With Wargod seemingly leaving the music scene altogether (reportedly to become a UN soldier, which would certainly be fairly apt given his nom-de-guerre), and Carl-Michael forming Aura Noir and joining Ulver (sticking with the latter just long enough to appear on their legendary Vargnatt demo), the remaining duo now required a replacement percussionist if they were to progress with the group. Bard ‘Faust’ Eithun of Emperor and Thorns fame was briefly considered as a temporary solution, though it would in fact be a friend from his hometown of Lillehammer that would ultimately enter the fray.

“I wanted to bring a black metal drummer in, not just some random guy from [the same] part of the city,” Satyr explains, “I was in contact with all the major bands, so I talked to Faust who was in Emperor at the time and he said, ‘Realistically, I can help you record, but I can’t really be in your band’. I talked to Hellhammer, and other people, and everyone was basically doing their own thing. Then Faust one day said, ‘Listen, I have a friend who plays drums who just quit recently, maybe you will change his mind, and if it works you will have a guy of your own, and if not I will help you with the recording’. And that person was obviously Frost.”


This is an excerpt from a much longer chapter in the book 'BLACK METAL: THE CULT NEVER DIES VOLUME ONE', available to buy  HERE