What the hell is black metal?
“Black metal is a feeling. It is a feeling about being free, about being freed from the repulsive aspects of society. I am sure that black has a very different feeling from, for example death metal which is more physical, as opposed to black metal which is a more mental thing. Black metal involves music and lyrics but also philosophy and energy.”
With so many different styles of bands that are named black metal – from Kovenant and Cradle to Dimmu and Emperor – it is stupid to keep using the name black metal. The word has lost all meaning with so many different bands.
“Black metal has not changed that much, the only thing that has been changed are the people who name the bands. I think metalfans and the press should be more aware about what they call black metal. Every band calls themselves blackmetal nowadays regardless of the essence of the music. For me it is not widely determined: for me black metal is a very specific feeling. Nowadays I hear a lot of bands that call themselves black metal, even though they have nothing of the aggression and spirituality that I feel are essential to the genre. I am not talking about using keyboards and female vocals – those things can be used and the band can still be called black. The fucking problem is that there are a lot of bands that do not have the right feelings. It is all about being true to yourself.”
Mayhem doesn't evolve enough.
“Mayhem is not a band that evolves at the same rate as the genre. We see Mayhem as a band that is outside the genre, or perhaps in the middle of the scene with everything revolving around it. The mentality of the band has not changed much over the years. Mayhem have always done what they want to and that is exactly what we are doing today: thinking for ourselves without trying to please our fans.”
Satanic black metal is for teenage kids who want to rebel against their parents.
“Who the hell thinks these things? Black metal is not about rebellion at all. Punk was, but not this style. I do not mind if a kid buys Mayhem-records to piss off his parents as long as I get the money from it, but that is not how we intended this music in the first place. Besides, I do not consider Mayhem a satanic band. We are anti-religion but write lyrics on a spiritual level. You could say that we are satanists because we are against Christianity, but that's all.”
It is stupid to keep using these weak productions. Black metal would appeal to more people if it sounded better.
“No way, black metal could never appeal to a large audience. The commercial aspects of black metal are non-existent. The dark aspects are what draw the attention. Because of this the music could not appeal to a huge group of people: it is to dark for them. Mayhem is not a big band and we will never be. We sell a maximum of 70 to 80 thousand records. If much more people bought our albums, I would be worried about having lost the essence of the music.”
Okay, I have to confess: your new album 'Chimera' was one hundred percent black metal.
“Yes. Mayhem does not do anything to please anything or anyone, but it came out this way: fast and furious.”
So if 'Chimera' was one hundred percent black metal, than your last album 'Grand Declaration Of War' wasn't black metal at all.
“I guess you can say that. I still believe that it still had the black metal aspect though, but on a mental level. It is a very anti-social album that does not go with the flow, not even with our own. But it was a onetimer, not something we will do again. I think we kinda shot ourselves in the foot by releasing this album as our comeback-cd. But once again: we are doing what we feel is right. The response was mixed. Media were into it but the fans hated it. I understand why. I just would have liked if they went a bit deeper into it and going a bit deeper into what we were trying to tell."
Putting demotracks of 'Grand' on your 'European Legions'-cd was a desperate attempt to win back fans.
“Our recordcompany surely made it seem that way. We put the demo's on a cd because we thought that, together with the live-songs, it would make a great release. But then the French connection put out ads that read that this was how 'Grand' was originally supposed to sound. Bullshit of course: it sounded exactly like it was supposed to.”
Black metal needs to come from Norway, right?
“That's ridiculous. The feeling is everywhere in people's souls and that is not restricted to a certain country. The only thing that should change is that bands from Columbia write about Nordic mythology. That is just plain silly. Don't they have legends of their own they can write about? Besides, the Norwegian scene isn't as good as it used to be. Emperor and Immortal was gone, so now it is mainly Satyricon and us keeping this sound alive.”
Being true and evil is sooo passé.
“Being true to yourself and the music is still essential to the genre. You have to be real about it. But being true does not mean putting up corpsepaint and screaming a lot, even though that is exactly what a lot of people mistakenly label as true. As for being evil… Black metal has to invoke a certain feeling, which is more than screaming about hell and damnation.”
Your music would sound much better if you sung in Norwegian.
“We have never contemplated abandoning the English language. Norwegian does not have the same impact for Mayhem. Norwegian is more suited for singing about the romantic side of this country, the mountains and the rivers, than it is for our regular subjects. In fact, I think that if we translated all of our lyrics into Norwegian it would sound really silly. If we ever were to sing in another language, it would be German. I like the strong tones in that language.”
Black metal is an image, not a lifestyle.
“Bullocks, it is a lifestyle. It does not mean that I do my daily groceries in an evil way, but it is a way of thinking. A way of acting and reacting. I do not consider myself to be a part of society. I never worked in my whole life and find society repulsing. I live in a cheap, comfortable house and am able to live of off the band.”
Then black metal is still not a lifestyle to you. It is a job.
“It definetely is a lifestyle. It is not a dayjob that you have to go to in the morning. Black metal is my lifestyle, I just happen to make enough money with it to support myself.”
You recently moved to Portugal. This means Mayhem will fall apart, right?
“No way. We are not the band that rehearses every week, so it will be okay. But I did move to Portugal at the beginning of the year. My girlfriend lives there. It is a great country, great weather. The biggest difference with Norway is that the history seems to be more alive and religion seems to be more entangled with the landscape. Portugal still has most of the 15th century churches. Norway doesn't have that anymore. Most old churches were replaced.”
That is because your band burned them all.
Black metal requires a lack of talent.
“The opposite is true. But there are too many idiots without talent making black metal and giving it a bad name. You need talent and you can hear that in a Mayhem-album. It is too bad that many unskilled bands still sell. People without any knowledge of black metal allow those bands to exists buy purchasing their records."
Corpsepaint is gay.
“It can be, that depends on the paint you put on. Nowadays, the only person in the band who wears it is our singer Maniac. The rest of the band doesn't wear it. I wouldn't feel comfortable with it. But for Maniac it is kinda his thing. Besides, all previous vocalists had corpsepaint. But it would be no problem if he wanted to take it off. It is just a bit of white paint in the face. You can perform without it and still make pure black metal.”
Being anti-religious is dumb. Any Christian could make black metal just as well as you can.
“I do not believe that a Christian can make black metal. A lot of Christians have deep-rooted problems that disqualify them as songwritersfor this style. The feeling of black metal goes too deep for them. I know that there are christian groups that call themselves black metal, but I do not believe it is possible to take their religious point of views and link it to this music.”