Celebrating their 25th anniversary, Norwegian extreme metal pioneers Enslaved are making their triumphant return to Australia in October. We recently sat down with founding member Grutle Kjellson over Skype to discuss their history, their plans and their casual music choices.
I was reading an article on Metal Hammer‘s website that ranked Enslaved as one of Norway’s greatest metal bands.
Oh cool! I think I saw that, actually. I appreciate that, of course.
It’s 25 years now since you started the band. The metal scene – the extreme metal scene, at least – was only just starting to wake up in Norway at the time, wasn’t it?
Yes, at least the extreme metal scene was very, very small back then. Only a handful of bands very much spread out all over the country. There was a hard rock/heavy metal scene in the 80s with a handful of bands, but the only band perhaps known outside of Norway was TNT. They were pretty big in the States and in Europe. We were actually the second Norwegian metal band to tour with States. TNT were the first ones, and ten years later Enslaved were the second ones!
You guys were so young then, I suppose you really couldn’t imagine what Enslaved was going to become. Did you have any plans at all for the band outside of just doing your thing at the time. Was there even an inkling that Enslaved would still be a band 25 years later?
Seriously, we were 17… did you think ahead when you were 17 years old? Not at all! Maybe what we were going to do on the weekend, or something like that. You can’t even imagine being in a band for 25 years! But it was really great just being in a band, rehearsing and later on recording and then going on tour… it was fantastic! It was something that we had always dreamed of doing, so that was enough at the time being, really. It was just not in our nature to make plans for the coming years. Now, I can’t picture myself doing anything else, because I’ve been doing this my whole adult life. I think it’s too late to start working at the local factory.
It would be incredibly difficult to adjust if you had to do that.
Yes of course. Every now and then I’ve had to have a job and it’s somehow cool, somehow refreshing but also pretty weird not sitting on the tour bus or sitting on the floor of the rehearsal room. It’s a different thing completely! It’s possible, but it would be really, really weird.
Of course you’re returning to Australia again after being here in 2013. What memories did you take away from that tour?
That was the first time we had been in Australia and it was really, really cool. The travel is a pain in the ass, of course, because it’s on the other side of the planet – it’s a long way. It’s all the way on the bottom of the world. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. To be honest, Australians are not a very uptight people. It’s kind of a loose atmosphere. Put it this way: people get less offended in Australia than in the United States, for instance. I like the idea of calling your best friend a cunt. That’s really comforting for a Norwegian with a harsh sense of humour. It’s very comforting that in Australia you don’t have to keep in mind how to behave yourself.
Australia, like Norway, is a pretty isolated country. That might have a lot to do with it.
Well yes, keep in mind that Norway is in the northwestern corner of Europe. It’s not as isolated as it used to be, but it was very isolated, and music emerging from Norway was completely different even from what was coming from Sweden and contemporary Danish sounds. It was a lot more weird.
Your music has constantly evolved right from the very beginning. Are there things that you still have yet to do in Enslaved? Are there directions you’d still like to take the band in?
I’ve never been conscious about these things. Making music is a spontaneous thing for Enslaved. If we had a certain style it would completely destroy, kill off the energy and honesty of making music. Music should be a transformation of energy, something that you want to create for yourself. If you’re making music to appease a certain type of audience, it will be construction rather than making heartfelt music, and that would be really, really wrong. So it’s all about unconscious development. We are constanly thinking of new music and we are constantly listening to new music in the period in between the albums. The next album will be different. It’s going to be coloured by the music we listen to.
I like to talk to musicians about the music they listen to. A lot of fans seem to still believe that performers only listen to music in the genre they perform, which obviously isn’t so. What are some of the favourite music that you like to listen to?
I was in Montreal in Canada for a couple of days in June and July. I always wanted to pick up some Canadian rock albums from the 70s that are really hard to get in Europe, especially in Norway. I was searching in second-hand shops for acts like Moxy and April Wine stuff, so that’s what I’ve been into lately: really, really cool Canadian hard rock stuff. It was really different from the American scene actually.
Does any of that cross over into your own music when it comes time to record?
Not consciously, but it’s there. It’s impossible to pinpoint if it’s come from Rush or April Wine or wherever. The inspiration is stored on your hard drive in some way. There is definitely inspiration from somewhere. The only types of music are creative music, and crappy music!
5/10: Crowbar, Brisbane QLD
6/10: Prince Bandroom, Melbourne VIC
7/10: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW