Legendary Norwegian black metal band ENSLAVED took to the stage in the Tivoli Theatre recently and left a fantastic set of classic '90s era black metal as well as their more progressive influenced material. I was lucky enough to catch the bands vocalist and bassist Grutle Kjellson before the show, where we talked about prog rock, Ireland, beer and sheep.
<<<GP>>> How are things going with the tour, how do you find playing in Ireland?
It’s cool, we were here with Opeth last year and it’s great.
<<<GP>>> What do you listen to on tour, anything particular at the moment?
I don’t listen to anything on tour. Some stupid tunes back stage, but you get enough music on tour as it is so it’s all about resting your ears. We can’t listen to that much music on tour.
<<<GP>>> During the recording of your last album ‘E’ last year the line-up changed. As the vocalist did you have to undertake any more additional vocal duties as the recording took place?
Yeah of course. Although it went well, we got Hakon in just before the end so he was able to join in on the recordings towards the end of the process. He works quite well with us, very nice keyboards and a very skilled guy. He’s young and enthusiastic and brought a great dynamic to the band.
<<<GP>>> While you describe yourselves as an extreme black metal band you bring in the progressive elements too. You guys are clearly inspired by the more old school bands?
Yeah we’re heavily inspired by more '70s rock bands. None of us are listening to the newer prog bands now. It’s mostly a fusion of '70s rock in general, not just the prog bands. Where all the good music was made haha. Of course we came from the extreme metal scene though. We’re still very much that sonically but we like to incorporate what we like from that era into Enslaved.
<<<GP>>> The progressive element adds a feeling of adventure to the raw black metal sound but how do you get the balance righth?
It’s all about getting the dynamics right. It’s supposed to be seamless. That’s a crucial part to writing a song. As you said, I too don’t like when things are just thrown in. It doesn’t make sense at all, it needs to have a natural flow to it. That’s something we work on all the time. Trying to make it perfect unity you know.
<<<GP>>> Obviously you guys deal with Norse mythology, spiritual themes. As the vocalist, how do you prepare for the lyrical side of things when approaching a song?
It’s a little bit of knowing the stories and researching. Ideas can come from everything and nothing. There’s rarely anything specific. It comes natural and when it doesn’t you put it aside until it does. Sometimes you can get ideas from something like a dream. Even a sunset or a storm or anything like that. Something that makes you think or moves you. Then you simply incorporate things that you already know.
<<<GP>>> Your setlist is always very mixed. Your not the kind of band to forget your roots. Is there ever any disagreements in the band when you’re picking the setlist as you have such a deep back catalog?
Not really. We try to incorporate old songs that we can change a little bit. Not all the old songs are perfect for a new line-up but some of them really do work. Even for me and Ivar though, it’s challenging for us to pick up old songs as we are trying to recreate what we did at the time. Sometimes it’s hard to pick out the riffs. Sometimes we say ‘What the hell were we playing there?’. Some of them we’ve played for the past 15 years and some come and go. We usually play the good ones. It keeps the setlist fresh for every tour.
<<<GP>>> Your recently came out with a custom beer ‘Jotunblod’, can you tell us about that?
It’s a red IPA. A friend of ours, the wife of one of the members of Krakow the support band, started working in a brewery, one of the best in Norway. We talked about it before though and we knew we had to do it as it’s one of our favourite breweries. We knew the perfect designer for the can. We figured naming it ‘Jotunblod’ after the song was a cool name for a strong beer. It tastes pretty wild. ‘The Blood of the Giants is a pretty fitting name. And it’s red.
<<<GP>>> You’ve been known to play a Rickenbacker bass, then moved onto a Thunderbird and even an SG at one point. What’s the new bass your playing currently?
It’s a Monson bass guitar, they are a guitar company based in Seattle. The mics and the design are custom, the shape is one of their originals. The next one will be a custom one.
<<<GP>>> Some fans wanted to know about the ‘sheep incident’ ten years back.
It was initiated by an organisation called ‘Piracy Kills Music’ and a politician in Norway wanted to legalise illegal downloading, which would have included Enslaved's music. We teamed up with a production theme and staged a fake kidnapping of (supposedly) one of his sheep haha. Just to make an example though, it wasn’t actually stolen it was just a statement.
<<<GP>>> There’s now four members in Enslaved who were involved in the band TRINACRIA. Some fans are wondering will there be any more music from that project?
I would never say never but not with the same members. Everyone's involved in other projects now. It’s put on ice to say the least.
<<<GP>>> Is it true that you met Ivar in the late '80s at a gig where you fell on him?
I landed on his head ha ha. Correct.
<<<GP>>> If you hadn’t landed on his head would you be playing in a band?
I think so yeah. Although, we would have met somehow. It was such a small scene. It’s not actually the reason why we met but it’s how I remembered him when we started playing together.
<<<GP>>> What’s your favourite prog rock band?
Hmm. Maybe it’s Rush, King Crimson, Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator. It really depends. To make it easy, Rush.
<<<GP>>> I know you’re an ice hockey fan so, favourite sports team?
New York Rangers.
<<<GP>>> If you like ice hockey you should check out the Irish sport hurling.
I wanted to check that out actually. I’ve seen it online. I want to go to a game and a Gaelic football game too. I must take a vacation here sometime and do that for sure. Just a case of finding time. It’s on my bucket list.
Enslaved latest studio album ‘E’ is out now via Nuclear Blast.