:: Interview with Watain
Interview with Watain
Blood. Fire. Death. No, I am not talking about the classic Bathory
album, although Watain
claims them as a major influence. I am describing the cosmology of Watain
’s stage. Candles, torches, animal skulls, occult symbols emblazoned on tapestries and the lingering, nauseating stench of putrid blood not only visualizes the malevolence found in the Swedes’ black metal music, but confronts the viewer with an ugly reality we normally sweep under the rug.
If the visual and olfactory elements do not set in with those close to the stage, the sprinkling of blood in an inverse of the Catholic priest’s holy water ritual or bluntly being showered by bloody spit should allow this macabre
reality to fully set in. There is an element of danger in a Watain
show that appeals to the masochistic side of the black metal fan.
has become infamous for their stage set up to the detriment of front man Erik Danielsson. In the following interview, Danielsson strongly expresses that Watain
’s live show is not a vehicle for shock and awe, as many people have to come view it. It represents something much more profound. Danielsson often plucked a torch or candle from the head of a carcass
and pointed it toward each cardinal direction while saying words that have some obvious magical orientation, but the distance on the stage and volume of the group’s music eclipsed any deciphering of those words.
Not only does Watain
’s stage set up represent something deeper beyond dancing candle light and morbidity, the music goes much further than lyrics and instruments. Watain
is a spiritual concept aimed at tapping into the hell bound heart that each member possesses, and paying homage to their lord and master
, Satan. While on tour in America supporting the group’s latest recording "The Lawless Darkness," Erik Danielsson clarified the occult-driven motives that drive Watain
Metalship : Watain got its name from a song from the band Von. The San Francisco band is considered the first U.S.B.M. band, but never released any full-length recordings. How did you discover this underground band?
Erik Danielsson: Back in those days, there was a band called Dark Funeral
. I think they still exist, but back then, they were an actual real band. They had something to say of relevance. One of the guys put out the Von
demo ["Satanic Blood"] as a bootleg CD. We got the demo from one of our roadies—it’s a small, small scene in Stockholm. It was two years before we got Watain
together when we all got that CD. It was something else. I was around sixteen at the time and I had been deeply into black and death metal for about two years. I had thought I’d seen and heard it all, so when I heard that Von
recording it was the last missing piece of the puzzle.
Metalship : What was it about that song and that demo that made you want to call your band Watain?
Erik Danielsson: That’s a one-hour answer, but what I will say is Von
was a band I had a lot of ties to, not only for their extreme music, but also in a magical or spiritual side of things. Watain
’s lyrics are just about that. It’s funny, if you read the lyrics now and have our band in mind, you’ll find the comparisons are almost too obvious. It was meant to be.
Metalship : Besides Von, what were some of the other black metal albums/bands that influenced you to form Watain?
Erik Danielsson: The bands we had most in common back then were Bathory
, old Mayhem
, Mercyful Fate
, Judas Priest
—stuff like that.
Metalship : The classic black metal groups. What about Hellhammer?
Erik Danielsson: I think the bands that I mentioned were the core of our listening back then. Then again, we never formed Watain
to sound like any of these bands. That was never the intention that we had. We never formed Watain
in order to fill in for any of these other old bands. We formed Watain
out of pure love, first and foremost, for the devil. We also did it for the black metal genre and the movement as it was back then and as it has been over the past fifteen years. It was a very different situation back then.
Metalship : Your first two recordings "Rabid Death’s Curse" and "Casus Luciferi" contained fewer melodies and a much rawer production than the last two. The newer material seems more structured, too. What led to the change of direction with your newer material?
Erik Danielsson: If you go through life as a blacksmith, the first knife you make will be a bit blunt. The more you work, the sharper your knives will get, and the closer you will come to what you really want to achieve. I’m not saying the first two albums were not matching our standards; it’s quite the opposite. We over did ourselves back then. At the same time, without progression there is no art. Stagnation is the enemy of any true artist.
Metalship : I think artists sometimes feel pressured to make an album that sounds a certain way, and if they start experimenting, then sometimes their fans turn on them.
Erik Danielsson: As soon as you arrive at that kind of mindset with your art, then you are fucked. I think the most important thing for an artist—no matter if he has been around for one year or twenty years—is to express that which is inside of him
, regardless of any audience or requests from the people around you might have. You have to completely forget about all of that. There is no other way…why the fuck do it in the first place?
Metalship : How do you view your albums? Do you feel each album is different from the one before? Do you still try to keep a certain mindset to each Watain album?
Erik Danielsson: Watain
in itself is such a strong idea. It is a way of life. It’s not like we release a pop album one year and a death album the next year. We are who we are. At the same time, like I said, it’s about evolution and progression. It’s not something you should intentionally look for, but it has to be there. There has to be a concept for what you want to do. There has to be progression because I can’t see myself repeating what I have already done. There is no way! We always dig deeper and lower, lower down all the time. Our aim is focused downwards. There is no other path for us.
Metalship : Is that how you view the new album, getting closer and closer to the abyss?
Erik Danielsson: Of course! For me, Watain
is not only about being in a musical group, it’s my tool
of spiritual transcendence. If I were to stop at some point or feel trapped at a certain level, then I would go do something else. Watain
is a reflection of our spiritual journey
as individuals, as Satanists. It’s a very generous offering because it’s as personal as anything can get.
Metalship : Does the title of your latest release "The Lawless Darkness" refer to rebelling against the Ten Commandments and the Judeo-Christian ideas that set down the laws for the western world?
Erik Danielsson: No, it doesn’t. That rebellion is only a consequence; it’s only a result of my love for my god. Rebellion itself is only a natural aspect of the Satanist because we live in the world that we live in. The Satanist is naturally an enemy of that world. "The Lawless Darkness" represents something far more pure, something far more illuminated than mere rebellion. "The Lawless Darkness" is the salvation of the Satanist. It’s my attempt to use words as the salvation for the Satanist. It is an extremely vast, abstract concept that I am approaching with great, great respect. "The Lawless Darkness" is as simple as a title can get. At the same time, it’s the least simple thing that my mind can imagine. Therein lies a great paradox because to describe the wordless with words or give the nameless a name is what I was trying to do with that title.
Metalship : 'Waters of Ain' is a fourteen-minute-plus epic track containing many parts. Was this track difficult to write?
Erik Danielsson: It was the track on the album that took the least time to write. I see that as a token that it was always somewhere inside of me. It was writing itself in the back of my head or in the depth of my heart, and at some point, it just came. There is the magic. That is the spice of Watain
, the indefinable aspect of Watain
that I will never really be able to talk about. It’s just there…sometimes it just happens.
Metalship : Please tell our readers about working with Carl McCoy from Fields of the Nephilim on this track.
Erik Danielsson: I expected it to be a little harder than it was. He is a great artist and so am I. I know I’m pretty hard to work with. We realized it was not a matter of wanting to put a famous name on our album, but wanting to collaborate with an artist that we have respected our whole life, pretty much. When he realized that, the whole thing came together very quickly. It was just a matter of two great artistic camps coming together for a while. I’m very happy that we did it. Fields of Nephilim were one of the first alternative bands that I started listening to together with Guns N’ Roses and Metallica
, so they have always been in my life. At some point, I knew we would work together. The next album we will have Axel Rose.
Metalship : Seriously?
Erik Danielsson: Who knows?
Metalship : Axel Rose doing black metal?
Erik Danielsson: I don’t care about genres, man. A great artist is a great artist. I could work with Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison as well, no problem!
Metalship : American brand name marketing often contains phrases such as “Now more flavor” or other ideas printed on the box to entice its buyers. Could a Watain concert ticket contain the phrase “Now more carnage?” Are you guys really getting bloody and gory with this tour?
Erik Danielsson: That’s one aspect of the whole live context that I’m really starting to dislike because people are coming to the show expecting some kind of freak show. They are expecting to see blood and guts. Fuck you! That’s all I have to say to that. You want to play with fire, little boy? Come...play with fire.
Metalship : Do you think Watain has gained a negative reputation as this band who does all this crazy shit on stage?
Erik Danielsson: I think it’s a very natural reaction for the primitive mind. People relate to what they are able to relate to, like "Friday the 13th" or "Scream" movies…blood and guts. Do you like the devil? Do you want to meet the devil, son? Do you want to meet Satan? Come, come—see if you are laughing. To some people, it’s a laughing matter. People take things a bit too lightly sometimes. It comes to a certain point where I realize people are at a Watain
show for all the wrong reasons. Think twice. Don’t come and expect a horror show because that’s not what it’s going to be.
Metalship : What do the animal carcasses and the blood represent, death? Are you giving the fans death and the soundtrack to it?
Erik Danielsson: If we did that, then we would end up like any other death metal band. We would just be another type of entertainment. These objects are sacred to us. To put it very simple: we use these objects as a gateway between us and our gods. By using, for example, the head of a deceased
animal on stage creates a bridge between this world and the backside of the world. Watain
’s stage is to be seen as an entrance into a reality that most people’s minds have been programmed to shut out, completely. Most people have been raised to deny it. That is what a Watain
concert is. That is how it all works.
Metalship : As we all know, Behemoth canceled because front man Nergal’s battle with Leukemia. What was your reaction when you heard the news of his illness? What steps did you take to ensure Watain would still tour America?
Erik Danielsson: My reaction was I hope the guy gets well soon. He is a good guy. As far as the tour goes, there was never any doubt. We were going on tour. We were doing it.
Metalship : So it wasn’t much of an obstacle for you?
Erik Danielsson: Logistically and tour wise, no. Like I said, I like Nergal a lot. We talk pretty often. He’s a friend. I hope he gets well and I know for a fact that he will get well.
added by Darren Cowan, on November 30, 2010 for Metalship