Erik Danielsson: I Never Said Watain Was For Everyone....

Let chaos grab hold of you, let the darkness fuck you...

Despite popular opinion not everything that comes from the mouth of Erik Danielsson is arrogant and self aggrandising. Although there are certain aspects of his theologies our peasant minds can’t understand, there is some beauty to his beliefs and equally some appalling horror that has us questioning our constitutions and his sanity. Erik Danielsson can be viewed as several characters; a villain, an imposter, a prophet, a pragmatist; however you interpret this dark and charming fellow do not make the mistake of underestimating his intelligence or his notions of black metal and the divine idea of The Wild Hunt. Picking up the pieces from a desolated genre; Watain hold dear notions of chaos and darkness and share its insight with Metal As Fuck ahead of their Australian tour supporting Mayhem. For what started out an innocuous chat, it wasn’t long before we were flying down the deep, dark rabbit hole with Erik clutching my forearm...

The Watain world tour kicked off in August, how is it all going so far? “It’s going quite well, we returned from a north American tour last week; I think, I lose track of time, it’s the first tour for The Wild Hunt and its very empowering and its thrilling to get back on the road and have these songs played in a live context, it’s always a very interesting part of being in a band and playing the new songs for the first time on stage. You come to know yourself very distinctively and it’s very rewarding”. Watain are very intimate and private in certain aspects – how do you prepare for a live show? What do you offer of Watain to the audience being that the band is very clandestine? “Offering a deep sense to the music, all the work and all the pain is far greater than ourselves, this approach demands a certain revel effect and secretive affect, once you start  to talk openly about such things it loses its magic. People are just so eager to put a label on something, to define something; they need to know everything about everything in order to understand it. But sometimes things have to be left in silence and in the dark to work their way up. Metal music is built on chaos and violent hunger; fire and energy – that’s the whole idea. That sense of true liberation and freedom. You have to allow for things to happen, you cannot control a creative process or what happens on stage, it’s meant to be untamed and riled”.

Back in 1998; in the beginning of Watain, what was the immediate decision in the creation of the band? “As many extreme artistic expressions as there were; Watain was started as a counter reaction because at that time, black metal was at a very low, pathetic almost, point in its history. It had been taken over by charlatans; people who didn’t have the slightest idea and had no sense of where this wondrous and terrible and divine art form originated from and I think Watain was created to bring back true passion and true extremity into the world of black metal. To prove to people that the traditions and the origins would again be revealed, that’s what we wanted to do and what we very much did”. Unfortunately, black metal is still surrounded by a stigma from the events that did in fact shape its identity; the church burnings in Norway which were advocated by members of Mayhem and Burzum; you know the history Eric – if you had the power to change anything about black metal's past or its future what would it be? “I would have liked to have seen an ever increasing way of church burnings and murders and everything that happened in those first years of black metal; I don’t think it should have ever stopped. I think it got misinterpreted once it stopped, because all of a sudden, all the danger was out of the way in a lot of people’s eyes, then all of a sudden a hundred bands attempted to recreate it all, only the action and the danger and the genuine feeling of it all was taken away [laughs in disbelief] I would have liked to see an ever increasing wave of wild fucking fiery passion sweep and come greater and greater as the years progressed but unfortunately that’s not how it worked out. The important thing now though is the future and there are a lot more important things to remember black metal for”.

Do you mean you had wished there was a revolution as such? “Yeah, I mean that’s the nature of the music, that’s what it’s meant to do but it involves too much.... human beings, it depends too much on humans and what their capable of; unfortunately anything that is dependent on human qualities is hard to be victorious, that’s the sad part of it all. We are very dysfunctional when it comes to anything revolutionary, or perhaps counter active to what nature intends for us. black metal is very much based on things that are counter active towards creation. Black metal in reference is an enemy; not just to society but of creation as such and I think those qualities need to receive more emphasis, they need to prove themselves in this sad little sub-culture. But we are doing our best to make that happen”.

The Wild Hunt is a new era for Watain; dependant on human capabilities; I am intrigued; how do you begin the writing process for an album such as this? “I wish I could talk widely and openly about that; it is an interesting question but it’s also very hard to answer because to me that whole process is so intuitive and is very ‘heat of the moment’ it’s very undefined and perhaps for the better – chaos has to make its way into music and to create that unbound, untamed music you have to let go of any preconceptions and just make sure you’re in the state of mind where basically anything could happen; let chaos grab hold of you, let the darkness fuck you, that’s how I feel about it; just become completely liberated in that moment”. Watain is a discovery for you in aspects such as art, music, religion and creation however what was it initially in the attraction to black metal? There are so many variations of darkness and brutality in several heavier genres; what was it about BM in particular that drew you in? “... It was the Devil...... The undeniable presence of the ancient enemy of the world, the feeling of stumbling upon an art form that embodied everything that I perceived as diabolical and thereby also liberating and untamed. All these things that I had been fascinated with my whole life were all of a sudden embodied and materialised within this one form of art. That was what drew me in, I sensed that feeling at such a young age and it swallowed me completely. Some people discover sports you know; sport runs with their personalities, some people discover science and think it’s the answer to life. I found my answers in the Devil and the archetypes that dominate Satanists and that’s really what it all comes down to – I mean I consider myself quite a simple man, I don’t ask much from life and I have my own way of seeing things, I can express it all through this art form and its more than I could ever ask for to have this weapon in my hands”.

The symbol of the Devil is hardly a new revelation in heavy metal. The ideologies have been tightly wrapped about the genre since the dawn of time; with millions of us bearing our own stereotypes – why is it though that Watain are so heavily condemned? “Are we heavily criticized? I don’t know, maybe we are. I live in my own little world so I don’t know what people say. Although the people who generally have an opinion on Watain are usually the people at our shows, that is the only interaction I have with other people’s opinions, I don’t spend time on the internet and I don’t really read magazines. I try to stay detached from all that. People get a little nervous when they face things they can’t understand, it’s the human fault. People react out of fear and when you represent something that is in nature extreme and when people realise its genuine, they get a little confused. I don’t blame them. I never said this was a band that was meant for everybody. I’ve never tried to hide who we were; I am always open about the fact that we have pretty radical views on things. That is the beauty of art; you can either look at it or not”.

Which is amazing due to the fact that ‘metal heads’ consider themselves among the more open minded people in society. “Yeah exactly [Laughs] that’s a very interesting notion that has struck my mind on more than one occasion too. It makes it worthwhile what I do because I like to poke those people in the eyes and give them a slap on the cheek you know, I mean you all talk about freedom, breaking the chains of society, being a free spirit but at the same time your all afraid of true freedom and true liberation, people are afraid of doing exactly what they want to do. It’s a strange concept to me and scary somehow to see that its sheep in wolves clothing instead of the other way around. I’ve never had high hopes for people or related to humans anyhow, it doesn’t keep me up at night. It’s just another sad insight into the world”.

Switching to an entirely different subject; I am curious if you have any publications on your theologies? Are they something in which you want to advocate or are they yours alone? “There is wisdom everywhere; it’s hard to talk about it without sounding a little bit abstract because we’re talking about things that are in essence based on emotion and on the inner workings of the soul and the mind - I think you need to know what you’re looking for before you attempt to find it; a point of reference; once that is established you can find truth in almost any religious book or in any philosophy book. Even the [Christian] bible has passages that I consider very important to me. There are books on Satanism that are very relevant yet if you’re not attached to the ideals they become totally irrelevant. Satanism exists on a higher level; it goes way deeper than reading pages off a book. Throughout every religion that exists in the world there is always a dark side, that is what I look for, it exists everywhere, every form of art, music, and way of thinking”...

It is a dark side that will no doubt be seen throughout the Australian tour with Mayhem who are celebrating their 30th anniversary tour. “We are very much looking forward to this tour. To be honest the whole touring scenario is always so complicated because there are so few bands today that we want to tour with, also we are a pretty complicated band to bring on tour because we have a lot of ingredients in our stage show that a lot of people find too complicated to deal with; it’s a lot of bullshit pretty much, but this Australian tour is one of the few that we have lined up that feels 100% it’s a good solid line-up and I’ve actually just found out that the support act for the tour is an Australian band called Nocturnal Graves, they are one of my favourite bands from Australia right now. It feels good to come back and do a proper club tour this time with like primitive circumstances you know, the dark dingy, mouldy fucking clubs which is exactly how I want it to be. It’s very much different to what we did last time with the Soundwave tour; it served its purpose, it was a surreal experience, we were playing to like 4000 people just before Black Label Society [Laughs] it was strange but it worked. But this tour is the one we have been looking forward to the most – it is going to be very minimalistic which I’m also looking forward to, we get to improvise, and the Australian tour is definitely going to be a wild fucking ride”.