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Enslaved

The last Enslaved album 'Riitiir' was released already quite some months ago. However, it was difficult to arrange an interview wit the band. In the middle of January LoM finally got the chance to have a chat with Grutle Kjellson, bassist and vocalist for the Norwegian institute of proggy black. Even though the information regarding 'Riitiir' has lost some of its actuality, the delay also offers some opportunities to ask Grutle about some other events that came to pass in the mean time such as the Enslaved tribute that was recently released and the band's participation in the Barge to Hell cruise.

By: Richard G. | Archive under black metal

Obviously, 'Riitiir' denotes your first album for your new label Nuclear Blast. What was the main change for the band after this switch?
Of course they have the biggest distribution worldwide. That is the main thing so far. It opens some new markets and opportunities for us. Now we are also playing in some new territories outside of Europe and America, such as Asia and Australia.

Your new label Nuclear Blast is very successful in creating a buzz in the media and in keeping it going, releasing more information piece by piece. As the subject of the attention, do you feel this public anticipation also growing? In what way are you as an artist involved in this process?
There was absolutely a lot more promotion going on than we were use to, prior to the album release. The promotion machine is definitely a lot bigger than what we were used to work with. As an artist I am obviously involved in doing all of the interviews!

As opposed to Indie Records where you guys were the big Kahuna, on Nuclear Blast Enslaved is one of many bigger names in the roster. How do you make sure that the label gives enough priority to your causes?
The negotiations about this are of course part of the contract. We did not sign on a standard Nuclear Blast contract, they actually gave us a little better contract than most of the “newer” bands, anyway. Obviously we had good cards on our hands prior to the negotiations, so that was no problem for us and I don't see any problems for us so far.

The new album 'Riitiir' was obviously released already some time ago. DO you maybe remember the most surprising feedback you got?
That people did not hate it (awkward silence). No, I'm joking of course! The release was indeed a while ago and we only did some touring in Norway until now. We are yet to see the response in the States and in the rest of Europe. But the response in Norway was overwhelming. Only a week after the release we started playing and it came as a surprise that people were adapting to the new songs so fast. A lot faster than was usually the case. Next Tuesday our tour in the US starts. Over there they had more time to absorb the album, so I am really looking forward to the response over there.

In my opinion, true artists always strive to improve and progress and at least they should have the intention for their latest output to be their best. In my opinion, Enslaved is a prime example of a group of true artistic intention and 'Riitiir' is for me your best album to date. In your ears, which features make 'Riitiir' different from the rest of Enslaved's discography?
It is hard to pinpoint, but in the band we have a really simple philosophy. We always want to move on. We want to develop, evolve. We always want to make our own favourite music at that time and we hate the idea of repeating ourselves. The main goal is to try and keep it interesting for ourselves. Of course there is the trap of repeating yourself without even knowing it. But at the same time we are very aware ourselves of what we have already done. We are not afraid to do something new. We just take us where the flow takes us. We don't have any specific plans of how to sound.

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I read somewhere that the album title is actually a word that you made up yourself. And what does 'Riitiir' mean for you?
It is a word that is inspired by the old norse word 'riiter' (spelling improvised, RG). And for me it denotes more or less the rites of mankind. I see lots of similarities between people from different cultures. Cultures who differ from each other geographically and who have had almost no contact wit each other. But at the same time they still possess the same ideas on how to approach life, how to worship deities. You can find lots of similarities between Indian mysticism, Norse mythology, Celtic mythology, Egyptian mythology. In the end it is all based upon worshipping forces in nature. So in cinclusion, 'Riitiir' is about canalizing all the old forces that we had once and that we maybe still have and that other cultures might not be so different as we now think they are.

Some other release last year that caught my attention was the Enslaved tribute album, a project organized by Pictonian Records. What do you actually think of it? What is your favourite contribution?
Obviously it is an honour. Many bands were spending a lot of time on order to pay us tribute and many of the songs turned out really good. And I have to admit that some of the versions are actually better than the originals. And the cool thing is that you can actually buy the CD in stores here in Norway. I saw it a couple of times. Apparently they have a pretty good distribution going on as well. With respect to a favourite contribution: not only because they are friends of us, but I really like Krakow's version of 'Centre'. I think it is really cool to hear more of a doomy band playing one of our songs. The other songs are great too, it is really not far to mention just one, but since you asked.

Half December I saw some news flashing by that you are working on live DVD. What is the status of the project?
Well, it has been recorded, but at the time I have actually no idea how long the process will take to finish it. The audio is ready and we are waiting for the movie guys to do their stuff. It is kind of a low-budget thing, so it might take a while. But I guess somewhere during 2013 it should be released. And that is really all I can say about it.

One other phenomenon that you recently participated in was the Barge To Hell cruise. Was this the first time you guys joined? What were your impressions?
Yes it was indeed the first time we played on a huge cruise ship. It was different of course, but somehow it was similar to playing a mid-sized festival, or a big venue. It was somewhere between the Bahamas and Miami and the boat was not actually moving much. Only prior to the first show there were some waves. Since it all took place on a boat, which is a relatively small area – you have nowhere to run. You were of course meeting the same drunk people over and over again for a week, which was a cool experience (chuckles). I am not sure if I myself would pay that amount of money for being on a cruise like that. But it was definitely a cool experience to be there as a band.

People who do not go on a cruise like this might have the preconception that the whole thing is kind of decadent. Is it?
You can say that it is a bit decadent to go on a cruise of course, and to spend a lot of money, just drinking and eating a lot of food. So it is pretty decadent in the sense that it is a cruise ship, but at least there is a theme, there is music, there is a festival going on there, so you are actually doing cultural stuff. And in that sense it is not that decadent. I would say it is much more decadent to go on a normal cruise. That is decadent. That's evil! This was only metal, hehehe.

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