Posted in interviews | metal | music on May 28, 2010

words and photos by Stefan Raduta, additional live photos by Steven Brown

Watain LIVE in Chicago during Black Metal Magic 2008
Watain

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sweden's mighty Watain cannot be touched. In a class of their own, they embody the quintessence spirit of what true black metal was always meant to be; I'm talking about what Darkthrone started with A Blaze In The Northern Sky and ended with Panzerfaust.

Beginning with their venomous Rabid Dead Curse exactly ten years ago, this pack of hungry wolves from Uppsala has put a fist in every mouth that took this genre lightly. Casus Luciferi stands as one of the most insanely beautiful black metal pieces of all time, and without a doubt, their Sworn To The Dark can be considered a cornerstone of black metal as magnificent as Mayhem's De Misteriis. Each more crushing and devastating than the other, their recorded output is a volcanic eruption of pure black magic, a magnetic affiliation with the dark, and a spit of contempt against all and everything. This all says nothing of the otherworldly energy they intense rituals created on stage.

On July 8th 2010 they unleash their fourth opus, Lawless Darkness, via Season Of Mist and once more aim to devour every soul standing in their way. It's everything you'd expect it to be; I personally see it as their most epic and heartfelt work so far. Whether the LP is their masterwork is for you to decide, but one thing is sure: it's an impressive and beautiful piece of work.

With Lawless Darkness on the way and Watain's MDF live conjuring this weekend, front man Erik Danielsson, wild child of today's black metal scene, answered a few questions from his Stockholm stronghold. Danielsson's thoughts on the album, satanism, black metal in 2010, and his thoughts on his own death are below...

=======================

Erik, the new album doesn't go straight for the jugular like Sworn To The Dark. It seems to build up, gain momentum and then unleash like a beast. It sounds more organic, more vast...definitely more nuanced....what do you think?

I think it's a progression that we always aimed for. Through our music we always want to use all the colors on our palette in order to describe what we are seeing, in order to create this painting of the dark side. It's is big challenge, it's something that takes time; we wanted all our emotions to come across on this one, that's why it's a bit more varied.

Was the writing process different on this one? Did you take more time off to concentrate on this one since expectations were very high?

Not necessarily...the composing process is something very hard to speak about. It's something intimate, we've been writing music constantly. Actually I was surprised that we ended up in the studio ready to record, things have been more chaotic this time around. The thing is, I don't work, I only do Watain. Everything in my life revolves around this band, it is my artistic expression. I don't take weeks off to write music, when it comes to me I just write it... whether I'm designing a t-shirt or putting together a tour, it's all about the band.

With every album, we do everything in our power to create something amazing and memorable. I am very content with how Lawless Darkness turned out. We believe in progress, stagnation is not an option for us.

Watain's Lawless Darkness album art
Lawless Darkness

Bands like Cradle Of Filth or Dimmu Borgir have made a mockery of what black metal really stands for, turning it into cheap entertainment for a naive audience. You once made a statement I really enjoyed in Terrorizer, saying that selling out is "adapting to the preferences of the mass, washing your hands until they are clean and shiny, ready for mass production. Gorgoroth and Dissection have refused to adapt themselves to the will of others. Satyricon stands for rock 'n' roll entertainment, Dissection for Satanism. The first means showbiz, the latter means black metal. I see nothing wrong with being involved in showbiz, but what I just don't understand is who are these bands trying to fool when they claim to still be bonded to the black metal legacy." Is this an opinion that you still hold?

Its definitely not something that I have sleepless nights over. I do find it rather embarrassing, to be mentioned in the same sentence with some of these bands you talk about... it's a bit of a shame, they're pretending to be something they're not. I mean, as an artist, why not be honest, why not be open about your purpose? People want entertainment, and they should have it, I don't have a problem with that. If you write a song about Satanism that's fine too, but why make statements that this is something you yourself stand behind when you really don't, who are you trying to fool? I personally would be embarrassed, it's an insult to themselves more than anything. It's like if I started a punk rock band with a political message just for the hell of it, writing lyrics that mean nothing to me but acted like they did...why would I want to do something like that, wouldn't that make a me a hypocrite? A band like Crass for example, who are political active would have every right not to like me, because they take that very seriously, it's who they are.

You've said that black metal is not the center of your life, Satanism is. What does this word mean to you?

It's the only thing that my heart has ever lead me towards. It's the only way to express what I have inside. I use the term because it's the one thing in this western world that truly expresses antagonism, opposition, spiritual liberation. However it's an image, a force that is present everywhere; if I was to live in Asia for example I'd probably call it Shiva or Kali. It's my religion. Satanism will always be ostracized by masses, and I am very aware that it's not something common, very few people are able to follow it for real. The human heart is not programmed, it's not meant to handle this kind of beckoning inside, it's something that's fitting to few. Even though man's heart always had a yearning for freedom, what I'm speaking of is a total liberation from all laws of society, from all dogmas or reason created by man. It's something that first and foremost begins with the human psyche and not many are able to handle it, few have the courage to really follow their spirit. Why this more important than metal it should be pretty clear by now. Black metal is a way of living this, a means to express this force, and would not exist without it.

Watain live at Knitting Factory

Behind all the TV documentaries on Emperor Caligula, Ivan the IVth, Attila The Hun or Elizabeth Bathory, behind the hundreds of biographies written on Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler, I see man's continuous and undeniable fascination with evil. We seem to feed on it...

Absolutely, and I think the western society we live in really encourages that kind of attraction towards evil, because it is built on a belief and on an order that is in a way very unnatural, blocking an important part of what lies in man. When something is described as evil in the western civilization, it's based on a Christian idea of evil. I don't believe in a universal humanitarian all-embracing way of looking at things. If these deeds are being carried out by men, then what they are doing is a natural part of man, it's a reflection of who we really are. And as this natural part of man, this destructive side is being blocked by western society, ultimately leaving one with an eagerness, a fascination for it when it is presented as entertainment. There will always be a part of us who actually wants to be these historic figures we read about..

And maybe deep in our subconscious, before most could ever dare to admit, we in fact admire these characters, we envy their immortality...

Of course we envy them because we are not allowed to be them ourselves. We do not dare to go there ourselves, we do not dare to break the chains they set themselves free of. These are people that will always be remembered, those who have broken all manmade laws and succeeded in following their primordial instincts. They are the true opposers, the antagonists, the agents of chaos...they are the ones creating the highs and lows of our history, breaking down structures instead of creating them, they acted like human tides, like human earthquakes.

For a civilization who has achieved the most unthinkable progress, one would think that by now we would have learned to live with each other, to put all race and religious differences aside. But a simple look at everything that's happening in the world, and not only Middle East, everywhere...we don't really want peace on this planet, do we? Where do you think we're heading?

If you look back as far as you can, every great civilization born out of a peaceful environment, a common idea or belief, no matter how great its aspirations and how far it got, sooner or later it has fallen into corruption, fallen into destruction. Just like that but in a much larger scale I see the destruction of mankind. It's sprung from a natural order of things, that reaches an all times high and eventually has to slip more and more into decay. It's just the natural way of things, it's who we are. Of course you will see more wars, more carnage. If you look at the capacity and potential of destruction man has achieved today and make a parallel for example to the atrocities performed by the warlords of Chinese empires going back thousands of years, there's almost no comparison. I mean the things we're prepared to do today, biochemical warfare, atomic bombs that can wipe out entire nations in seconds...it's the only course man can follow.

Watain

Some of the images you use in your artwork are reminiscent to masonic symbols... the inverted triangle, the thirteen bones, so on... do you believe in the existence of this shadow government that controls everything?

I believe there is a tyrannical force of a higher order above us all. It doesn't matter if it's called masonry or a secret government. The most important thing to understand is that there will always be a higher force that the one we think we're aware of. As long as you know what's in your heart and you can detach yourself from all this, then you should be ok...I'm here to do what I'm here to do...

Panspermia is a theory of genesis that most scientists today follow, and many are saying that the bible hides more than what meets the eye. Do you also see it as a coded book?

Of course the bible is more than meets the eye, it's a book that has been used to enslave nations. It's a powerful tool, it is holy because man made it holy. It contains a lot of wisdom and I personally learned a lot from the biblical forces. It's something that interests me, I am a spiritual person before being an artist.

Watain's bathroom in Denver during Black Metal Magic 2008
Watain

And yet so many black metal bands just deny it without getting involved, without having a clue of what this book is even about... they just settle with the idea that they're anti-religion and that's enough I guess...

Yes of course it is like that! Because how many people who play this music are even remotely interested in spiritual thinking? It is such a shame that all these 'musicians' pretend to be something they're not, claiming to be anti-Christians and mocking the bible when in fact they have no idea of what this book is really about, of what it hides. Yeah I can understand that you're against religion and that book is written by Christians, but if you're not really truly interested in religion or philosophy why act like you are? It would be more honest to sing about beer or soccer, if you're really into that, I'd admire that more.

Do you ever see your own death?

I spend a lot of time contemplating about it. To me Death is something very rewarding, it's a positive force in my life, it has something magical around it. I look forward to discover what's really behind it one day, what forces it contains... it's a great unknown that I am very attracted to

I would expect you're a person who believes in reincarnation

Yes I do, but my conclusions and my beliefs about these kinds of things are very personal and I don't want to share this. What I want to share with the world I try to express these views in my lyrics, the essence of what I believe in is in there...But keep in mind that I don't write lyrics for people to discover who I am, I couldn't care less what people thought of me...but if you read the lyrics and you can relate to them that's what's important

Watain

Where do you stand on the use of drugs as a means to experience a higher level of consciousness? Are you a person who is preoccupied with what he puts in his body (men sana in corpore sano) or do you believe in a total attack of the senses in order to experience something else?

Drugs are very much related to magic. The shamanic traditions exist for hundreds of years and they were doing that for a reason. But as far as people taking LSD to experience another reality, to widen their perception I don't know...when you take these drugs you're no longer in control of your mind, the drugs take over and if you're not a strong person, you're fucked. Its not that simple, it takes years of practice. I can not say that I am there yet, I am not against the use of drugs but it's not something that I do, I don't think they're the answer.

I've seen you play live and I really saw you transform, you really live the music like few front men do. Perhaps that's your drug? By playing so intensely and exhausting yourself on stage you get there?

Yes music has effect of a drug, it has the power to transform. It is a way to transcend this reality. Every artist who writes music, when playing live that's what he achieves, that's the power music has. The music is always a link between this reality and something greater. I don't think the drug is the translator, but it's who you're talking to that matters.

Watain at Knitting Factory (by Stefan Raduta)
Watain live at Knitting Factory

So you're doing Maryland Death Fest this summer, what then? I know you're raiding Europe this fall with Destroyer 666.

We're touring the US in November, if it works out with a really cool line-up. And yes we're touring Europe with Destroyer 666 in September and October. After MDF we'll pretty much play festivals this summer. We're planning on touring for the next 3 years, this is the reason Watain exists, so we can perform our live ceremonies.

We're approaching the end. Recommend me some Swedish bands that will knock my socks off.

Definitely, I can think of two right now. Ghost and Repugnant. First, a 70's heavy metal with very dark and satanic image...I love them. Repugnant is really amazing death metal in a classical way, with a very vintage sound like early Morbid Angel.

I know you're fascinated with The Devil's Blood. You said they're the only band out there that has the potential of putting Satanism on the cover of Rolling Stone and expose it to the masses...

Right. There aren't any great bands around anymore like Led Zeppelin or The Doors that can really reach out to a wide audience. The Devil's Blood are a superb group, they do have the potential, they play their music so effortlessly. Watain will always be an extreme metal band, we can only get so far, but these guys have it. I grew up listening with The Rolling Stones and Zeppelin from my father, and I really look forward to follow their progress.

Last words to your US fans?

On July 8th Watain will unleash it's Lawless Darkness. All true supporters of Watain and the scene are asked to commit any act of lawlessness in celebration this event.

Watain live at Knitting Factory

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Watain play the outside stage at Maryland Death Fest on Friday May 28th 2010. Stay tuned for more details on those 2010 US dates.

Thanks to Erik Danielsson, Dave Brenner, and Watain!

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Comments (50)

this "band" is a joke.

Posted by JT | May 28, 2010 1:36 PM

All hail the black metal vikings. Casus Luciferi is a classic blasphemous album. Perfect background music as you're sipping on fine wine with your loved one on a cold rainy night.

Posted by Heavy Street | May 28, 2010 1:37 PM

Um, ok.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 1:37 PM

wat

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 1:41 PM

religious tools

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 1:43 PM

I like their outfits, though. I'm glad they find such meaning in their work.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 1:47 PM

So funny. You dipshits go ape over lame ass 2.5 minute jingle bands with zero poetic ability. But a weirdo band comes around that actually has bizarre, thought out narratives and stories within them and you just won't let your pea brains accept it. So lame. Enjoy your vapid, forgettable, flash-in-pan twink rock

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:05 PM

oh cool! Dystopia is touring again!

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:20 PM

agreed w/ @205 wholeheartedly. You fuckers look in the mirror recently? Some of yall look straight up absurd…and even without listening to this band I can already tell you that this is not even the slightest bit more weird than Joanna Newsom. I guess they would look more normal if they were wearing Tide w/ Bleach tshirts to be ironic.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:21 PM

posts about black metal bands are always guaranteed to bring out the laughs in the comments section.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:26 PM

HAIL WATAIN! this is why i love you brooklyn vegan. one minute there is some wack ass band like beach fossils or fucking dan deacon or even hip hop or something then...BAM! next post up is fucking satan. love it and thank you, nice interview.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:26 PM

LOL!

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:31 PM

So MEH. You dipshits go MEH over MEH ass 2.5 MEHnute MEH bands with zero MEHability. But a MEHirdo band comes around that actually has MEHzarre, thought out MEHrratives and storMEHs within tHEM and you just won't let your MEH brains accept it. So MEH. Enjoy your MEHpid, MEHgettable, MEH-in-pan twink rock

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:33 PM

MEHtain

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:34 PM

Satanists may be the only people dumber than Christians

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:43 PM

2:43

I'd say it's a classic draw.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:46 PM

I admire their passion. I'm a dipshit.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 2:50 PM

You know, talk to somebody who has served time on a chain gang breaking rocks, or a refugee in a war-torn country, and you'll get a more realistic sense of human pain than is presented by yet another band in the same "scary" outfits. What if the power goes out? Can't play the monster riffs and howl about darkness. What if the make-up doesn't arrive? Can't look otherworldly! Would have to be content with being human. Try it sometime!

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 3:18 PM

@318 I assume you are talking about Animal Collective.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 3:24 PM

AniMEHl Collective.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 3:41 PM

All true supporters of Watain and the scene are asked to commit any act of lawlessness in celebration this event.


Doesn't that just prove what people are expecting if someone at these shows wrecks property or impose violence on someone else?

He sounded intelligent and then threw it out then window at the end with a comment or two.

There are newer countries from 60 years ago with a control of their perceived democracy or secularism that may admire dictators but many people with a brain dont admire those dictators.

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 6:15 PM

wow, someones goin to hell

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 7:05 PM

Black metal pussies

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 7:26 PM

Which member of Watain had their period in that bathroom?

Posted by Anonymous | May 28, 2010 9:23 PM

I think it was your mother who had her period there :)

Posted by Anonymous | May 29, 2010 4:08 AM

do you think any of those dudes like hummus?

Posted by Anonymous | May 29, 2010 5:42 AM

all you motherfuckers need to shut the hell up

you criticize things you don't understand, and that's the most visible proof of mediocrity. you have nothing good to say about something, yet you feel compelled to share your stupidity with the rest, just so you know you've done something that day.

watain are amazing. what they do is art, true art, and if you do not have the capability to understand or at least accept that you don't understand, at least stop jerking off on blogs, get a life

Posted by Anonymous | May 29, 2010 11:28 AM

I beg to differ, 11:28. They're kinda laughable. Just look at em.

Posted by Anonymous | May 29, 2010 1:47 PM

Such a shame that behind all the prominently displayed blood, fire, & death, they're still just your average normopathic squares with fuckin girlfriends and facebook pages. Fuck this shit. Give me some real goddamn demented criminals and psychos playing musick.

Posted by Doomstoned | May 29, 2010 4:26 PM

Charles Manson has some songs but there you have a demented psycho criminal who isn't into death metal. The Beach Boys recorded one of his songs.

Also, Hitler was a painter but his paintings were not the least bit extraordinary.

Posted by Anonymous | May 29, 2010 7:21 PM

Scary men condoning acts of lawlessness who splash themselves in fake blood and scary makeup before performing on stage is "true art," 11:28? I'm sorry, but what is there to understand about this? Am I missing some sort of symbolic meaning conveyed through violence? Because what I'm seeing now is what other people said before me: laughable. I'm sorry I don't have the "capability" to see otherwise. True art...really? Go to a museum, you idiot.

Posted by Anonymous | May 29, 2010 9:32 PM

there no such thing as "good vs evil". there's only good luck and bad luck. that's it. nobody can say for sure if there is something called "afterlife". the only thing we about what happens after you die is that you stink.

museums aren't the only places where one can find "true art". true art doesn't necessarily have to be a commodity. art is all around us. some of it is great, a lot just mediocre.

as warhol said, "art is anything you can get away with".

Posted by Supreme Freak | May 29, 2010 9:59 PM

@ 9:32
they actually do use real blood, nothing's fake about them, their tour busses are a reflection to that. other bands in the scene actually refuse to tour with them because they do carry death with them.

these are not just heavy metal shows, they are rituals. you obviously already have prejudice against this band although you never sat down and listened to casus luciferi, tried to sink in the lyrics or at least try to understand what's be hind this before you laid your judgement.

so what are you really criticizing here? a group of artists or your incapability to go further than scraping the surface? either way thanks for your imput. and if you think art is only in museums you're a fucking moron.

Posted by Anonymous | May 30, 2010 2:52 AM

He sounds like a really interesting person. I appreciate his drawing of parallels between other more ideologically based musical communities. It's nice to hear a voice from within black metal that acknowledges and reacts to outside stimuli.


Art is meant to reflect and interpret culture as it is happening, this is definitely something Watain is doing, even if it's just by exploring Western culture's detachment from death. Nowhere does it say that art shouldn't be theatrical or aesthetic, and in fact, it generally is. If art becomes too academic, it becomes a thesis paper, which will raise no hairs on the back of your neck nor will it likely touch you in any meaningful way. Every time I've seen Watain they have effectively altered the environment and performed in such a way that I had an experience that was something more visceral and powerful than the standard performer/spectator interaction. If you're not familiar with the idea of performative, violent, or challenging art Bob Flanagn or Marina Abromovic would be a good place to start. She just had a retrospective at MOMA, perhaps you've heard of it?

In addition, they're phenomenal musicians.

Posted by Owen | May 30, 2010 1:02 PM

@2:52am..If they use real blood, who's blood do they use?..if it's their own blood I hope they're tested for hiv before each show...if it's some animal's blood i'm surprised bv supports them.

You'd think the Dept. of Public Health would shut down their performance if they used real blood. They won't even allow restaurants to serve human (mother's) milk.

Posted by Anonymous | May 31, 2010 4:04 PM

here's hoping they get those US dates in.

Posted by ian | May 31, 2010 9:16 PM

their set at MDF was phenomenal. it's easy for non-fans of black metal to cast it aside as folly, to them it's just "dudes in costumes". i embrace that reaction, it's lack of acceptance is an affirmation of what it represents.

Posted by Anonymous | May 31, 2010 10:47 PM

I wonder what they look like on Halloween?

Posted by Anonymous | May 31, 2010 11:40 PM

They dress up as hipsters on Halloween.

Posted by Anonymous | June 1, 2010 8:45 AM

LOL @ the last comment

Posted by Anonymous | June 1, 2010 2:36 PM

Mr/s. 2:52:

It is input, not imput.

Posted by Anonymous | July 29, 2010 11:20 PM

They use pig blood. It smells like shit, believe me.

Most badass live show I've ever seen though.

Posted by Anonymous | November 15, 2010 6:22 PM

agreed..BV should not support this shit

Posted by Anonymous | November 28, 2010 10:02 AM

^^ BV shouldn't post your worthless comments. Watain should catch your sorry ass and use your blood for their NYC show.

Posted by Anonymous | November 28, 2010 12:02 PM

This band doesn't play black metal. This is jock rock in corpse paint.

Posted by P.Z. | December 1, 2010 5:52 PM

Was at santos concert in NY. Cool sound.
Genuine artists.

Posted by Anonymous | December 6, 2010 2:44 PM

Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie were really good albums. Got them when they came out, still throw them on at times and think they're great. It saddens me when I hear bands from that era when I was a teenager and hear their new stuff and it's so clear how they've lost it, they sound desperate to recapture a sound/magic that they haven't had in 15 years (holy shit).... And then I realize that is not unlike a lot of us.

Posted by منتديات | January 22, 2011 7:53 AM

Fuck this band. Lying sellouts. Used the underground and used Dissection to get ahead of the pack. Lies about drug use. I know for a fact, every time they tour USA, they have certain little goth whores they hang out with that get them drugs and use with them. Typical rock and roll faggots.

Posted by Fuck Watain | December 16, 2012 5:53 PM

"Fuck this band. Lying sellouts. Used the underground and used Dissection to get ahead of the pack. Lies about drug use. I know for a fact, every time they tour USA, they have certain little goth whores they hang out with that get them drugs and use with them. Typical rock and roll faggots."

And yet you furnish no proof.

Posted by Anonymous | December 17, 2012 12:05 AM

I FART BLOOD!!!!

Posted by Bob Redneck | December 28, 2012 3:06 AM

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