Tuesday 29 September 2009

Interview with Apollyon of Aura Noir & Immortal

Aura Noir frontman and Immortal bassist Apollyon took time out from touring, teaching kids music, and playing in six or seven different bands (he’s lost count) to come to London and meet me for an interview. Here’s some of what we talked about over a few beers (and a lot of Pantera) in The Hobgoblin in Camden last week. By the way, did you know that he played bass for Gorgoroth at the now infamous Krakow show? Well, now you do.

AFITFOG: How has the festival season treated you?
Apollyon: They were great, we'd never played shows like that before, we'd basically just played Norway. We're lazy bastards and the only thing we know, is how to make music, we don't know the business part, but since I joined Immortal their manager offered his services to us. So much easier with a manager, he can do everything for us. Before this we hadn't been outside Norway except for 3 or 4 shows.

You guys formed in 94 when black metal was at its peak but musically was on somewhat of a downturn, how did you come to play thrash (that was unfashionable at the time)?
For us, it was still black metal back then. Everyone wanted to sound like Emperor or Darkthrone, but the point of the whole second wave starting was a backlash to everything sounding the same, being recorded at either Morrisound or Sunlight. And that was too mainstream for us, stuff like that.

Was there a defining moment, you know, a band or a song that made you say 'enough!'?
We had a rehearsal place, basically, next to Elm Street, the obvious watering hole for musicians. I was there with Carl-Michael (Aggressor) and he was like, 'do you want to play thrash metal because nobody's playing it anymore?'. Everyone still liked thrash metal, all the black metal people, but they were all doing the second wave black metal thing, and were only focused on sounding like Darkthrone or Emperor or whatever, it didn't occur to them that it was possible to be 'black metal' and play thrash or whatever. It was natural for us because we grew up with thrash metal and we knew we could make it sound good, not like the 'save the environment' thrash metal that came in the 90s. Something happens with every wave of music, after a couple of years the focus moves away from the music, it becomes a business. After 86, all the big bands started to lose their 'edge' and started to sing songs... I mean its fair enough that we care about the environment, but it doesn't really fit thrash.

It happens all the time, it happened with thrash, then death metal and of course, black metal - it becomes more marketable
It happens all the time, it's nothing new. We're trying always to stay away from that mainstream because it gets limited maybe. I guess we could record make an album in a nice studio, with nice lyrics and all that and it may sound nice to some but it wouldn't last. It would be embarrassing in five years or something. Even the stuff we're recording now in my basement, you don't get the best sound at least we don't get the worst sound, we have some kind of control what sound we're gonna get.

Is this in Oslo?
No, in the mountains, where I just moved, north of Oslo.

You're from Kolbotn too huh, did you know Fenriz and Nocturno growing up?
I knew of them, but they were a few years older than me and went to different schools as me, I don't think they made it to college he he. But I saw their show in Kolbotn Cinema in 88, I got to know them in time though.

Were you around the scene in the early 90s?
(Pauses) It was pretty extreme. (Another pause). It was strange, we were young. I dunno, it was very important to shake those death metal guys off our backs, they were destroying the scene. In the beginning you could walk around and nobody would notice but then this Grishnackh guy [Burzum's Varg Vikernes] started talking to the papers. He was so interested in having all the media attention drawn to him, making it seem like he was the “king of black metal” or something like that. That was just very annoying because it was all over the papers and you couldn’t go anywhere without people and calling you Count Grishnackh. Basically, people wouldn’t leave us alone. Because before that nobody cared, but after he went to the papers, it was all – argghhh! – believe me, he was not the guy you wanted to be called. Of course it attracted a lot of new people to the scene, people who shouldn’t have been there – lots of Nazis. People who just didn’t fit in anywhere else were like, “Let’s try black metal,” and learned nothing. In the beginning it was people who were generally interested in music and it went on to be something very different. So it was just for a year or two that it was 'good' of you could call it that. I mean we never smiled ha ha but it was important, if it hadn't been for that era we wouldn't be here now.

You guys started the Norwegian black thrash movement along with Infernö, Nocturnal Breed and Audiopain, culminating in the two Überthrash releases. Do you think you spawned the newer wave thrash bands like Deathhammer and Nekromantheon?
I hope so, I mean, they're even better than we were, so yeah, I'd like to think so. I know the Nekromatheon guys, they were listening to very different music before, I think. Sindre moved next door to my parents and I think he got a Cadaver CD, I think it made them want to listen to other stuff. I think they were just listening to Pantera ha ha. It's great that Kolbotn has such a great scene. Some of Turbonegro are also from Kolbotn. Obviously Darkthrone, (these people are) something for the kids to look up to. Better they follow them than say, Dimmu Borgir. They're nice guys though, Shagrath even signed the first Aura Noir record, because as he was working at a record store, he was like an A&R. We recorded it for free at night in like 6 hours.

You've got a different live line-up to your studio line-up since Aggressor's accident right?
Yeah, initially he wanted to do live shows but he can't play drums anymore, so we have a session live drummer. He just told me last week that he wants to join the live line-up from next year on, and he'll play guitar. It's great having Rune Eriksen (Blasphemer), he will always be a part of Aura Noir, even though he lives in Portugal now. He's a very good musician, we teach him the songs and he can record them in 10 minutes.

aura noir live

How’s touring with Immortal?
It’s sweet.

You always been a fan?
Yes, from the first demo I think, I've always been a fan. I always bought their albums. They're from Bergen so I never had much contact with them really, I always said hello to Abbath when I saw him, so it was a bit surprising to get a call asking me to join them. Of course I wanted to, they were the only one of the 'big bands' that I still follow. Its all good and very inspiring, I always thought they were the best live band of the extreme metal bands, because of Abbath mainly. He's very entertaining.

Judging by the amount of PR for the next record (there's even an iPhone application!?!), it could be huge, you might find yourself a celebrity ha ha
Nooo, I don't think so

You don't think the record will be big?
Yeah sure, but not because of me

Ha ha, no that's not what I meant but hey, you might get girls coming up to get their titties signed or something ha ha
We had that once, in Australia, It was really strange, this one girl came up in a school uniform, she wanted to have her breast signed. We thought it was a bit strange because she didn't look metal at all. Then we found out later it was hat Kriss Hades guy from Sadistik Exekution, he came to say hi to us but he didn't have anything to sign so he just picked up this girl on the street and told her to get in line

Ha ha ha ha ha

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