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

Monday 14 September 2009

A Metal Pilgrimage to Oslo

Here are some pictures from my recent visit to Oslo, Norway. Pics from the Deathhammer, Nekromantheon, Whiplash & Agent Steel show, plus Aura Noir, Natttefrost & Enslaved at Øya Festival, finishing off with shots from Neseblod Records and an evening spent at Fenriz's house. Special thanks to Fenriz and Sindre for their hospitality. Enjoy...































Interview with Tom Araya & Kerry King of Slayer

Slayer have a new album, World Painted Blood, due out next month. Hopefully it will better than anything that they’ve released since 1986. They were in town promoting this new record and I was lucky enough to get an interview with frontman Tom Araya and legendary shred machine Kerry King – albeit individually. Here is some of the stuff we talked about.

AFITFOG: So, let’s talk about the new record. I haven’t heard it yet. Is it a continuation from Christ Illusion? A return to the old days, perhaps?

Tom: Very classic Slayer, more so than Christ [Illusion].

Kerry: It’s good! It was unusual for us the way it went down; all my songs I made up from the middle of January to the end of February. That’s usually the time I take to write one or two. Maybe. Ha ha. This is the only time we’ve ever learned music in the studio. Usually the music’s fuckin’ done. I think that’s why it’s probably as diverse as any heavy, heavy Slayer record we’ve ever done. It sounds very retro and I think that’s due to the manner in which we made it up. It’s the only time since the old days, for me, the old days in Tom’s garage, when you’d get outta school or get off work and go to the fuckin’ studio and just play. You know, that’s how we made up so much shit. In this one, I didn’t write it with the guys ‘cos we live so far apart. But, like, after rehearsal, I don’t go home and play guitar, I would go home and play for like four or five more hours, just to get quality enough tunes to work on, make sure we had enough material.

What, you still practice that much?

Kerry: Yeah, after rehearsal, it had to get done, this is something I can’t put off. So my life’s put on hold, I’d come in and play shit so many times, my wife was just fuckin’ dead tired of it. She doesn’t know or understand why I have to play something like five thousand times, because you gotta figure out how to get from this to that, you know. And then when she hears the final song, she loves it. But she hated some of them riffs when I made ‘em up.

What are you memories of touring with Venom?

Tom: That was actually a really good tour because it… it was good for us. You know, you’re young, having fun, you know, you get fucking obliterated, ha ha. Kerry was a fan of Venom, he had their first record, Welcome to Hell. But yeah, when we started out as a band we wrote material but it wasn’t Slayer material. It wasn’t until we listened to Metal Massacre [featuring Metallica & Ratt. Slayer would go on to feature on Metal Massacre III] that we thought: We could be heavier and faster than this shit. So we wrote a song, and just stuck to our guns. Thirty years later we’re still heavy and fast, which is what we always set out to do.

So was there competition between the bands? Who was the heaviest, the fastest, etc.? And was there a point where you thought: Actually, I can’t keep up with these guys?

Tom: There is no competition, ha ha. We’ve looked at it that way, there’s no competition. There’s no comparisons and no competition. Ha ha.

What bands were you listening to at the time, say early- to mid-80s?

Tom: Well, I got turned on to a lot of that material from the guys, when I hooked up with the band. I mean, that was in ‘81. I didn’t know about Maiden. I mean, I was going to school and working at the hospital [as a respiratory therapist], so I wasn’t really focused on the metal scene, I was more familiar with the American rock scene. Kerry said, “Hey, I’ve got a list of songs,” he listed off the bands and I was like, “Hey, who are Iron Maiden?” So I went out and bought it and I was like, (whispers) “Fuuuck, where have I been? This is awesome.” And then all of a sudden, Kerry breaks out Venom records and you start meeting up with other bands, Exodus, and we’d trade tapes. Then we went up north and we met the guys in the band, did shows with them and we’re like, “Fuck, these guys are fast,” not realising that we were fast too. They would go back, “No, YOU guys are fast.’

Kerry: I still fuckin’ love Venom. I don’t play it near as much as I used to, but you know to got back and visit Black Metal, fuck yeah. I love it, love that record. One of the new songs is about Countess Bathory (the track “Countess Bathory” featured on Black Metal) and people say, “You know Venom did that, right?” And I’m like, “Of course I know fuckin’ Venom did that,” ha ha. There’s no reason why if people write about something you can’t write about it as well, just don’t copy their shit. That’s a great song though.

Do you ever hear music and you’re like, “That’s our riff”?

Kerry: Oh shit yeah. Brian Slagel [Metal Blade Records founder] will call me up, we’ll have dinner or whatever and he’ll bring me all the new Metal Blade shit he thinks I might like. I heard Demiricous and I was like, “Fuck, I like it!” And I liked it ‘cos it sounded like us, I even told ‘em when I met ‘em, I was like, “You guys listened to a few Sayer records, huh?” Ha ha. I think everyone’s gotta start somewhere. You look at our first record [Show No Mercy] and I could pick out the Iron Maiden riffs. You gotta start somewhere.

Do you still listen to a lot of metal these days?

Kerry: Pretty much that’s it. I don’t know too much about new bands really; I still call bands like Chimaira and Arch Enemy new bands. They got lots of records you know. They’re a lot newer than us. I like Demiricous but I think they broke up already.

There’s a massive thrash scene again – in LA definitely.

Kerry: Yeah, I’ve got Municipal Waste, they’re kinda more like D.R.I. though. Somebody was telling me about Bonded by Blood and one of their guys gave me a disc and I haven’t seen it since I moved. I gotta find it, it’s supposed to be good.


So, fast forwarding a little, the Clash Of The Titans was another big tour, there was a semi-reunion of sorts earlier this year when you toured with Megadeth again 18 years later?

Tom: People say, “Oh, you said you’d never tour with [Dave Mustaine] again, but hey, it makes good business sense. Kids wanna see that stuff, the promoter was dying to get us to Canada, and Mustaine thanked us for doing it. I was hoping not to see him, but I ran into him, he was like, “Thanks for doing these shows,” and I was like, “Er… sure.”

Kerry: I went in there with an open mind, you know. I’ll always be cordial to Dave, but the instance he’s a dick, I’ll be a bigger dick. I saw him, I think it was the first show, in catering – that was the only time I saw him except when he’s on stage. So, I haven’t talked to Dave yet. The funny thing about that is even more so than Dave is the other guitar player, the only time I saw him was on stage, so I’m like, “Does he just teleport to the stage and get the fuck out?” Ha ha. I never saw that guy.

Speaking of Megadeth, they changed a lot musically in the 90s, along with Metallica, whereas you guys went back to your roots and covered a bunch of punk songs on 1996’s Undisputed Attitude.

Kerry: Definitely an idea we borrowed from Metallica too with Garage Days. Actually, Undisputed Attitude was supposed to be a collection of everything that moulded Slayer into what Slayer was, but in the context of the punk songs it didn’t really make sense. We were working on “Gates of Babylon” from Rainbow, “Burn” by Deep Purple… In the context of the thrash style, instead of punk doing metal, it was metal doing punk, so it kinda gave it more focus, and they were so fucking edgy it made all the other ones sound stupid.

Tom: We stuck true to what we do. Metallica went, and got to a certain level and were like, We’re gonna do it. Ready? Jump! Let’s see what happens! So they crossed over but they kept their fanbase, which was amazing. Dave Mustaine tried to do the same thing, he made the jump but… (mimics a guy clinging on for dear life, grabbing frantically at the sofa’s cushions) he fell off the cliff.

And he’s got his own coffee now.

Tom: Ha ha, right, I guess that’s success!

Were you into the hardcore scene in the 80s?

Kerry: I think we were the band most responsible for bringing the punks and metalheads together. ‘Cos in the beginning you’d see both at our shows and you’d see ‘em in little factions. I think they finally realised, Well, we’re here because we like this music, doesn’t matter if you’re a punk and I’m a metalhead, you know, it’s okay. I think D.R.I. probably did more work for it, after we did the initial work, ‘cos they’re totally metal-punk. I love D.R.I.; I just ran into Spike the other day, I think he said they were doing a reunion, which is kinda cool. I totally remember the days of the factions and you know, fights – fighting just because you’re different, you know?

Did the hair-metallers like you guys?

Kerry: No. They never liked us.


Kerry: Not really, no.

And you liked that?

Kerry: Absolutely, ha ha. The hair metal guys – the Poisons and the fuckin’ Ratts – were everything we didn’t wanna be.

You think that’s why the Bay Area/LA was such a haven for thrash in the early days, because of the hair metal scene?

Kerry: I dunno. I mean, being in LA, and being not a part of it but being there while all that was going on, it just cemented in stone what I knew I didn’t wanna be. But that’s probably where our black eyeliner came from [Slayer wore eyeliner at early shows]. I remember thinking, Why are girls going to do these shows to see guys dressed up like girls? Way back then it was always a question I always asked myself. So we did everything: we wore black, studs, more like [Judas] Priest, obviously. I dunno where the eyeliner came from, it must’ve been, like, being from LA – you kinda thought you had to do something, and we made ours fuckin’ ugly. First time we went to San Francisco they were all, “Why you wear eyeliner for?” That was the end of it. We never did again.

So, lastly, where do you see yourself after the tour. Making another album?

Kerry: Yep, I think I know what it’s gonna be called. I got ideas for music that I didn’t use on this one. So I definitely wanna work on those in a more relaxed manner than it was this time, ha ha. Looking forward to the tour and even though we’re not booked at any, I’m sure we’ll play some festivals next summer.

Tom: We gotta sit down and work out what we wanna do, this is our last record with Rick Rubin. Record companies aren’t, you know, signing record deals. We lucked out when Rubin said, “We’ll sign you to a ten album deal.” That doesn’t happen anymore. Now it’s, “Let’s do an album,” ha ha. You know what I mean? With us, we guarantee, they know if we put out a record our loyal fanbase will buy our album. So they know that they can guarantee a certain amount of records sold. Whereas with other acts, even with bigger acts, who knows what’s gonna happen, you know? It’s a new world for record companies.

It’s a changing industry – when you started out it was vinyl, now it’s MP3s.

Yeah, yeah, it was vinyl, tapes, CDs. We’ve been together 28 years and we’ve gone through all the formats. It’s funny though, ‘cos we’re sitting here and we’re like, (puts on a serious voice) “In 30 years we’ve gone from vinyl to…” But in a hundred and fifty years, the car has gone from four wheels and an engine to… four wheels and an engine! Ha ha ha.

Ha ha. Well, maybe at the end of your record deal you need to go and reinvent the automobile. By the way, you still in touch with Rick Rubin?

Tom: (Grins widely) Not like I would like to, no, no. I mean we did those three albums [Reign In Blood, Season in the Abyss and South of Heaven] and that was it. He’s got his own thing, producing other people. He does good but he doesn’t really do a lot… but he manages to get what he needs out of people. He did amazing stuff with Johnny Cash, same with Neil Diamond – that album is really great.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Rise of the Undead

Re-Animator (1985) Stuart Gordon (US)


When I posted Braindead a while back I said it was a perfect thrash metal movie. Well, H.P. Lovecraft's classic story is the perfect death metal accompaniment. Enjoy.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Interview with Sindre Solem of Nekromantheon & Obliteration

I caught up with Obliteration frontman and Nekromantheon singer/bassist Sindre Solem after their blistering performance at the Smuget Club in Oslo a few weeks back. Well, actually, somehow the interview got deleted so I interviewed him again, this time before Aura Noir’s excellent performance at Øya Festival. Here’s what he had to say about the scene. Again.

AFITFOG: So, I lost the interview from yesterday, sorry about that. Anyway, I have no idea what we spoke about last night, but did you enjoy your show?

Sindre: I think it was fucking cool, one of our best shows, I think – even though I fucked up several times playing my bass. The vocals worked out cool, the crowd was insane, and I actually got to kick Daniel from Deathhammer in the chest to start the mosh, which was priceless.

There’s a great scene here in Norway. Oslo is mainly into thrash at the moment, right?

I dunno, it’s good for, like, death metal, thrash and, yep, “cool” black metal, I guess. Oslo’s scene is small but it’s good, there’s not always a great turnout at shows, but the music is strong and there are several insanely good bands here who will rise in the future. So the scene here is a good place for aggressive and paranoid music.

What bands are you talking about?

There’s plenty: Diskord, Deathhammer, Grotesque Hysterectomy, Infernö, my bands of course, Execration, Ghoul-Cult and bands surrounding that area, and also older bands like Aura Noir, who we’re going to see in a few minutes. Yep, the scene is cool and there’s not much between the bigger bands and the smaller bands, and that kind of has created an unholy unity.

Yesterday we touched on this whole thrash revival of the past four or five years and how it started off on the wrong foot with bands like Municipal Waste. They burned a paper church onstage here on Wednesday!

What was that about?

What was that about?

Municipal Waste! Answer me! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT?!?

But yeah, the thrash revival...

Yeah, I think those bands took like the partiness, the fun of thrash and crossover of the 80s, like the first Anthrax (record) and D.R.I. and stuff like that and only focused on that and tried to do it a bit more modern sounding with a modern image, so it's acceptable for the hipsters also and not just the metal scene. But I think it got off and the wrong foot because I think the strongest thrash bands from the 80s like Dark Angel, Sadus, Slayer, Voivod, the Canadian bands, most of the German bands - at least from the start they were aggressive and they were angry, hated. You know, violence in a sonic way. And these new thrash metal bands forgot about it, and I think that's a huge mistake, so with Nekromantheon and Obliteration we're taking the dark and serious and negative side and ferocious side of earlier death metal and thrash and bringing it back to life.

But that's like, the perfect sound, wouldn't you agree?

Yeah. I wouldn't play that if I didn't think it was perfect but it's important to have humour as well.

I guess those guys – Municipal Waste, etc. – are just referencing one side of thrash, mainly the New York scene, the party scene, bands like Anthrax.

And Nuclear Assault.

Hey! I like them!

They’re great! I also love Anthrax too, but still, you need a mix. I think it’s weird that most “happy bands” come from New York, because in the punk scene it was totally different – the serious bands were from New York and the more fun bands were from California and the west coast.

So, you guys are from Kolbotn, the home of Darkthrone, right?

Yeah! Kolbotn thrashers union, alright!

Ha ha, have you been recording some new stuff out there?

Arild [aka Arse], guitarist in Nekromantheon and Obliteration, and Kick, who plays the drums in Nekromantheon and Audiopain, have their own studio in Kolbotn where we have recorded the forthcoming Nekromantheon album, the forthcoming Obliteration album, the Nekromantheon 7″ split with Abigail, and loads of other stuff. That’s a true studio, it’s all analogue, no digital stuff. We have a sign over the mixer saying, “Is it necro enough?”.

I think at the moment the most important thing is getting the sound of it right, you know what I mean?

The sound is half of the music. I can’t listen to albums with great music and piss-boring sound. I know it’s a dumb thing to say, but I feel that way. I can listen to boring music with great sound.

Who wants to listen to over-polished, over-produced stuff anyways?

I think it’s insanely hypocritical. When you’re making a style of music like thrash, a non-comformist type of music, it was supposed to sound like a rebellion. A fist in the face of the established world. I think it’s so fucking hypocritical: “Oh we’re a thrash metal band, we’re hard, blah blah blah, but really we did everything that Britney Spears would if she were a thrash metal band.”

Ha ha ha ha!

She is trash!

She is definitely. White trash! White thrash metal!

Black thrash attack, ha ha ha ha!

Hahahaha definitely. So, what do we here in London need to look out for in the next few of months?

I dunno, the fall and the rain. That's gonna be cool ha. We are recording an album with Obliteration which will be out this fall and it's insanely cool, much more old-school, much more doomy and weird than our first album, which I think has too good a sound. Not exactly sure when, but this will be out sometime this fall. Same Nekromantheon, we just need to record the rest of the vocals and some lead guitar and that album will be out as well and hopefully will have plenty of gigs and touring if we get it together...

And you're hoping the same for Deathhammer etc?

Deathhammer are extremely cool but extremely slow, lazy and unprofessional when it comes to recording discpline, so we don't know what will happen haha

They certainly take the old-school thrash party vibe to the extreme, they were certainly the most trashed guys there last nite (at the Whiplash show)

They're always way drunk and they always stink but they're insanely cool people and I love them. And their gig was phenomenal.

Thanks again to Sindre for everything while I was in Oslo. More pics of their show coming real soon.