is about to unleash their new album 'Vertebrae' on us. As a special
promotional action, the record label gave away promotion t-shirts
especially designed for the listening session at the Wacken festival. We
also got a chance to interview the band. So after being tucked away in a
nice and comfortable camper, we started the interview with Ivar,
guitarist and main composer of the band.
I just received an Enslaved promotion-tshirt, are you
happy with the promotion that Indie Recordings is doing at the festival?
Oh yes, very much so. I think it reflects the enthusiasm of the label.
And yes, it's great. You know, we're pretty confident in what we're
doing ourselves, and having a team around us at this level of enthusiasm
So I assume that with all the metal press around, Wacken
was a deliberate choice as a promo place for the new album?
There are different reasons behind it, I think it's a good choice for
Indie. They're are a new label, and I think that the whole spirit of the
label, and Enslaved for that matter, is pretty in parallel with the
whole Wacken thing.
Would you be happy to do a gig here now and promote te
new album? Seeing as you were here last year.
It's very rare, it never really happens in the metal world that they
have the same band twice in a year. Some popular music festivals do it.
I think it's good though, because many people are loyal and go to the
same festival every year. Since you have so many bands in the world, it
would be a bit strange to have the same band play two years in a row.
But as for our Wacken show last year, we have played close to a thousand
gigs in our career and the Wacken gig is definitely in the top 5 of the
band. It’s a confidence-builder to promote the new album here after so
many good memories.
Now to the new album. First question that came up is: why
the album title 'Vertebrae'?
It has a pretty bizarre story behind it. I was starting to work on the
new album and I was thinking about the concepts, you know, where can we
go from here. And we were talking about the evolution of the concepts
and the lyrics of the band, which has gone along with the music I think.
There has been a change, gradually. Or perhaps not a change, but a
development, a broadening. From the early albums where it was very
external in a way. We would read about mythology, runes, and mysticism,
nature's mysticism, and basically just reflect that. And gradually we
would internalise it more. And on 'ISA' and 'Ruun' there was some more
personal input, they were more contemporary. I don't know if it's a
positive or a negative thing, but objectively speaking I think Enslaved
is maybe the most contemporary pagan-inspired band. We have a lot of
personal and present influences. Not only the revivalism and
role-playing aspect of it. So how can we take it even more into reality?
Not only through the metaphors, we keep on working with the metaphors
and the mythology and we bring them into this world now. And then I read
this small piece in a magazine where they talked to Tom Waits, an
eccentric artist that I really like. So I thought 'Oh, Tom Waits, I have
to read what he says' and they asked him: what are you thinking of right
now? And he said: I'm thinking about the vertebrae that is similar in
the mouse and the giraffe. They come from the same family and it blew
his mind to think of evolution in that aspect and how everything is
tightly knit together. Not in a religious aspect but in a very physical
way. At least, that is how I interpreted it. And I looked at the word
'Vertebrae' and I started thinking about how symbolic that is. Talked to
some friends, English speaking, Norwegians. In every language when you
say something about the vertebrae, the backbone, it gives you very
strong associations. Physically, because it's something that creatures
around us and humans have in common. But it also has a very symbolic
meaning all around the world. If you say: that guy has a strong
backbone, you might think 'Oh he can lift a lot of weight'. But it also
says something about how he reacts on a psychological level.
Do you also see it as a good album title in how it
reflects the whole package of the Enslaved-music and how it has evolved?
Yes, that happened after the title. I talked to Grutle and me and Grutle
are always developing the concepts together. And we put that on the
table, and decided to have that as a way to describe our lyrics and
music. And that's what happened after a while. This also symbolizes
Enslaved I think. It has changed a lot from the first album to now, but
you can still identify the backbone. And the third thing that we
discovered is that it is another metaphor for the connection between the
mind and the body. This is where the information travels, how your body
makes you feel your ideas. So it's like an instrument, an artistic part
of the body.
When I tried to describe Enslaved to friends, especially
the last two albums, I'd say it's like black metal meets Pink Floyd. Now
on the back of the promo Pink Floyd is actually cited as a reference. Is
this a logical comparison for you?
The text on the back of the album was written by the record label, I
think. But we asked Joe Baressi who mixed the album if he could maybe
give us a few lines on the back because we thought that if people would
Google his name (as he did the production), maybe they would come across
Enslaved and wonder what this band is like. And he said: it's very
serious. It's a mix of darkness, evil and Pink Floyd. And I was thinking
that he was making fun of us, being ironic. Because darkness and evil
now have a bit of an ironic edge. But he said 'No, I'm dead serious'.
It's very sinister and dark, it's got an evil energy like in horror
movies. And at the same time you’ve got the Pink Floyd quality. It's
beautiful but you don't know if it's horrific beautiful or nice
beautiful. As you can see, I have a Pink Floyd tattoo on my arm. It's
the first band that I ever related to. I know a few riffs, but I can't
play anything for example. But for my 10th birthday my father
gave me all his Pink Floyd albums. And he said 'I don't know if you're
going to like it, it's a start and you should enjoy listening to it.
It's an important part of life'. He would go away to work on some
weekends and I would have some evenings and nights to myself. What to
do? I’d put on the albums and something happened. It's been following
me, so for me it's natural to sink into the music. I din't want to sink
into the music because that would be too obvious with all my enthusiasm
and my collection, but it's impossible to avoid. I have listened to
'Dark Side Of The Moon' a couple of 100 times a year since I was ten.
I was wondering, why did you pick a different
mixing/mastering duo for the new album? Because both Joe Baressi and
George Marino were not on 'Ruun'.
We've been wanting and hoping in a way to find somebody else to work
with. For the band, we found out that working with visual artists is
important. And to work with people that really know what they're doing.
We discovered how much positive stuff we can get from working with
somebody that is exceptionally good in their area and have them
interpret your work. The problem with our genre is that there is a lack
of producers/mixers/mastering people that have knowledge of the kind of
music the bands play. I think that some of the bands that play black- or
deathmetal that used external producers have done theirselves a bad
favor. Because they pull in a guy that is really, really good with
thrashmetal. And then he takes their whole blackmetal sound and changes
it into thrashmetal. So when we got to know Joe, we discovered that he
has a deep understanding of our music. He had a vision of what he would
do in the mix. Basically, he told us that he loved the album, he really
liked it. With George Marino we just struck gold. He only works with a
select group of labels. Through a Greek friend who has a personal link
with him, he was daring enough to ask: You know, here I have my friends
from Enslaved, and would you perhaps master their new albums. And he
said to us: Check out his website. So I went online and saw what he did:
AC/DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden. And I was like: wow, is this happening?
So I assume you're really happy with the mixing and
A very notable difference with the previous albums is the
enormous amount of clean vocals by Herbrand. Was this a conscious choice
or did this slip in during the writing process?
It think it just happened because of the way we write our music. I write
the structures of the songs. And then we work in a sort of democratic
way, everyone works on their own field. My role in the band is to
provide the blueprints, the main structure of the songs and then
everybody does their handywork on top of that. So Grutle and Herbrand,
they worked something like 6 months developing all the vocals. And they
tried so many variations and they worked so hard. I think it just
happened in the end, when we looked back we also said 'hey, there are a
lot of clean vocals'. But it's basically a question of timing and the
right solution. And coincidentally that meant a lot of clean
The song 'Ground' and especially the solo in it was
extremely Pink Floyd-ish. Also a coincidence?
'Ground' is one of the special moments of songwriting history of this
band. When I gave the structure of the song to the band, I knew it had
some Pink Floyd references, but not very obvious as there were just
guitars and drums on it. The vocalists worked on the vocals, and Ice
Dale worked on the lead guitars. They didn't know about each other, and
I didn't know what they were doing. They both gave their ideas back and
I put them on the song and listened to it and for me it was like: what
the fuck! It sounds so Pink Floyd. And that just happened. And that just
told me that there is something like group dynamics or mass
consciousness, something like that, and that tells me that the work of
Enslaved is something bigger than just five people working together.
And you're going on tour this fall. What will you be
doing afterwards? More touring in the US for example?
Yes. We just signed a contract with Nuclear Blast to release 'Vertebrae'
there. they were definitely the partner we preferred. We've seen the
work they have done for other bands, like Dimmu Borgir and we know the
people personally. We’ll go there and support the album. But I have to
admit: I haven't told the other guys yet because it would make them
nervous, but I want to start writing a new album. Because how
'Vertebrae' turned out really inspired me. Perhaps they will scream 'Oh
no! No mass production' but I don't think so, as we usually write with
Some time ago, I saw a video of you and Grutle
'downloading' a sheep. Got some response on that?
It was fantastic. It was not our idea, somebody asked us: do you think
it is a good idea, and we said yes. It was especially appreciated in the
US, where there is almost no discussion about the whole piracy issue. I
think what we did with this video is to make the distinction: There is
no problem with Internet, there is no problem with file-sharing, there
is a problem with stealing property. People should be able to work it
like in the old days with tape-trading, where me and Grutle come from.
It was so beautiful. You write to this guy and he encloses a list:
'these are the albums I have' and some words to describe them. This is
how I first heard Beherit, or like Master's Hammer. And the guy wrote
behind it: symphonic, in the vein of Norwegian black metal but very
different, classically trained musicians. And I am like 'what the fuck,
sounds great'. So I send him an empty tape, he sends me back the album.
It just blew my mind. I ran to the store, bought all their albums. And
this is how internet works too, it's great. People download everything
they want and go to Myspace and things like that. But what we want to
make a statement about is people who make a system out of all of this
and almost make a business about stealing music. Then it's not about
sharing anymore. It's about saying: musicians should work for free. We
still want it but we are not going to pay money for it. For me it's no
problem to sell music on I-tunes or download it. Because people download
a song, and then get the album. And I can understand if you send a
friend an MP3 to say: check out this new song from Darkthrone. And if
you like it, you go buy. And then there’s people who don’t do this, for
example Grutle, who has never downloaded anything in his life. And to be
honest, if a friend of mine says: I download everything illegally, he's
still a friend of mine. A guy I lived with once asked: what's the deal
with downloading? Is it a principle? It's more like, when we record an
album we have to work 3 months on it. And then it is impossible for me
to do any other work and I can't make any money. And I also have to do
promotion and stuff. So some musicians end up having to quit their band,
because they have to keep their family alive and stuff. In Enslaved we
have an advantage, nobody has children, but I can imagine how hard it is
to do this when you have children. I told the guy that and he was like:
oops, never thought about it like that.
Most people tend to forget that metal musicians can't
live on their music alone and need jobs on the side..
I know stories, but I'm not going to pinpoint bands. In Enslaved we all
work in the music industry outside the band which makes it easier to get
by. But I know bands who have had to cancel headlining shows because
they couldn't get time off from their work. Which they try to hide from
the outside world, but it happens. I'm not saying that anybody should
feel sorry for musicians, not at all, never! You know, everyone who
plays in a band and is able to go on stage is living their dream from
when they were kids. There is never any reason to complain. I'm just
saying that if everybody would be advocating piracy sites and making
constructions for it, there would only be shitty bands. They are
constructing a cynical music business. Because they are forcing the
bands to go out and do very expensive live shows, and very expensive
merchandise and so the bands become very cynical.
And with the prices rising you have to consider: shall I
buy a t-shirt, or save it for the next concert.
Or when you see a Rolling Stones show in Norway, where you pay like 150
Euros for the ticket. And you have to pay around 60 Euros for a t-shirt.
Or 100 euros for an Iron Maiden shirt here at Wacken
I think somebody is fooling somebody. When people try to give it away
for free on internet they think they are saving money. But they only
make the music business more expensive. And there's always somebody
better with calculators and spreadsheets than musicians.
And in the end, they screw the real fans because
everything gets more expensive.
Let's conclude that, but I'd like to say though that it's not really the
fans’ fault. They are only seeking ways, it's just natural. The real
problem is that the record business recognized the problem 15 years too
late. It's because they're old people. I'm not talking about the
independent labels, or even the metal labels like Nuclear Blast. I'm
talking about the big ones: Warner, EMI, Sony. Those were like the fat
cats. Sixty old men with fat bank accounts with no touch of reality
You also performed at the Roadburn Festival, how did you
enjoy it? It's a bit of a different crowd than what you’re used to.
Another one of the top 5 shows! It was a bit strange to go on stage, to
have all of our songs with 100 bpm's, faster than all the bands on the
festival. But Walter, the chief of the festival, he had a vision of the
band when he booked us to replace Celtic Frost. He had a vision of the
atmosphere of the band, perhaps because of the Pink Floyd influence, he
had a vision that the psychedelic or the extreme mental energy of the
band would fit into the festival. And that happened. It was very strange
to see in the first song, second song, third song, how people would
transform from sceptic, to curious, to very much enjoying it. And it was
a bit strange as we came from some very hardcore extreme black metal
festival, and then we faced a still standing crowd smoking all kinds of
stuff there. It was very different. But the reaction was so generous and
positive. And it was a milestone for us because we had an unspoken
relation with that scene for so many years. And the festival guys told
us that the Neurosis guys, who were also performing, were really eager
to see the Enslaved show. And halfway through the first song I see Scott
Kelly on the left side, first row. And I felt a little bit dizzy, as we
are all big fans of them. But all in all it was great.
You are here at Wacken to play with Dream of an Opium
Eater. Could you tell us something more about the coming to existence of
Yes, it is another bizarre story. My management told me at the Roskilde
festival that they wanted a final piece to close the festival. So they
wanted to show horror movies, and then have metal musicians play along
with them. A bit like the old piano-guy idea. And they asked if I could
be a part of it. And I got introduced to the other guy, Reuben Gotto,
and we decided: ok, let's try it. The Enslaved management has also
worked with the Norwegian film industry. And exactly at that time there
was a project in Norway to make short horror movies that were one hour
long, and that was a bizarre coincidence. And we called them up and
said: could we use those movies for our movies, and they said: yes, of
course. So we played there, and now we were asked to play here at Wacken
too. I think it's a good thing to have something different on the
programme. And we're also showing the videos here.
That's actually a question I forgot. I saw you perform
with visuals and without visuals. Are you also going on tour with them?
Yes. We did a tour with no visuals. And then we did the 'Isa' and 'Ruun'
tour with loads of visuals. We have now arrived at some synthesis where
we are gonna use some parts of the shows without visuals, and then at
some shows there will be a real focus on visuals.
Any last statement before we end this interview?
I hope a lot of people give the album a listen. I think they will enjoy
it. I'm gonna be arrogant but most people are going to find things that
they like on the album. And I look forward to presenting them live
Ok, we’ll see you on tour. Thank you very much for the
Current members :
Ivar Bjørnson - guitar, keyboards (1991-)
Grutle Kjellson - bass, vocals (1991-)
Arve Isdal - guitar (2002-)
Cato Bekkevold - drums (2003-)
Herbrand Larsen - keyboards, vocals (2004-)
Former members :
Trym Torson (Kai Johnny Mosaker) - drums (1991-1995)
Harald Helgeson - drums (1995-1997)
Per Husebø (also known as Dirge Rep) - drums (1997-2002)
Richard Kronheim - guitar (1997-2002)
Vikingligr Veldi (1994)
Mardraum - Beyond the Within (2000)
Below the Lights (2003)