With the he festival season only just behind us, Norway’s favourite progressive paganists have already finished the work on their newest full length ‘Riittiir’. Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson give us the story on what’s been going on in the Enslaved camp since last year’s ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’.
You’ve been quite busy, after releasing a full length only a year ago, you followed that up with 2 EP and now already a new record? The inspiration must be oozing out of you guys.
Ivar: Hey, yeah it kind of has oozed a lot for some years now hehe. You know, music is our lives, so there is an endless source of inspiration coming from just being dedicated to music; listening to your favorites and exploring new music at the same time. It is not by any means a result of a forced production of new material; it all stems from wanting to create new music continuously. We tour a lot, that is an inspiration – when we play that many shows together, the band sounds better and we learn more about how far we can go as band. When we get back home from the road, it isn’t a question of wanting to get time away from music – it is a question of wanting to work with music from a different angle; like writing new stuff and working in the studio, working with new lyrics and concepts and so on. And the other way; after recording and theorizing it feels refreshing to get back out on road. It is a good cycle that we want to keep reinforcing – it works for us, so we do our best not to think about it; just keep doing what we’re doing!
Do you see the new record as a logical continuation of last year’s ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’ or what did you try to do differently this time round?
Grutle: Absolutely, I think we did a lot of things the right way on “Axioma Ethica Odini” and we learned a whole lot about quality studio working in the process. Thus it was an easy task for us to point out what we could do even better and I think we accomplished that on “Riitiir”. We made some adjustments, like recording the drums, bass and Ivar´s guitar live in studio, hired in an extra co-producer (Iver Sandøy), added some additional instruments (Moog Taurus, Castanet, Theremin etc.) and some other minor adjustments as well. This resulted in a more diverse and potent album, it kinda breathes more, it´s more organic and more dynamic. All the elements in the music has come more alive, more visible and evident. We are really proud of this album!
What does ‘Riitiir’, then name of your new album stand for?
Ivar: It is a re-shaped version of the word “Ritual” or “Rite”. It was a natural step for us to deal with the rituals of man at the point we had reached conceptually with our albums – we have dealt with the runes as a mystical language, we have dealt with specific runes and their associated powers, we have dealt with flesh/mind-borders, we have dealt with the philosophy of ethics, and the psychology of moral. The next dark house along the path was the Rituals that we humans utilize to see change through. We wanted to re-shape the word itself in order to make the concept truly universal – it is neither Norwegian, English or anything else – but still it contains the core of the word so that people know what it is about.
Have you noticed that there is a remarkable resemblance between its cover and that of Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’?
Grutle: I have heard that people have mentioned it, and I have seen that cover afterwards. But, I don´t get it. I see no resemblance to be honest. Both covers contain hands….and? If it´s a resemblance because some hands are stretching out on both covers, I guess there is a remarkable resemblance between the “Riitiir” cover and every picture of demonstrations, football games, concerts, political motivated parades etc…that list is pretty long. Humans have a tendency to stretch their arms in the air. So back to the question….no, not really….hehe.
Last year you’ve celebrated your 20th anniversary. How do you look back on those 2 decades?
Grutle: It feels great, and I think we have achieved a lot these two decades. We have developed a lot and I think we´re one of those bands that are getting better and better with every release. Loads of bands seems to stagnate and only exist for a handful of years, until they´re having a ‘huge’ comeback after two years... We have at least proven not to be among those. We have proven to be a creative force over many years, and that is really something that makes me proud.
When we started in 1991 it was still very underground and of course no such things as facebook and myspace. In fact there wasn´t even an internet. There were letters and underground fanzines, and that was about it. That is definitely the biggest difference between then and now. It was hard to be recognized as a band, but we worked hard for it, and I strongly cherish that time. The underground was a stronghold back then and will of course never exist in such a way ever again.
A few months back a tribute album was released by a score of Viking/Pagan bands? Have you heard any of those covers and how do you feel about being regarded as one of the pioneers in this genre?
Grutle: We heard all the versions long before they were released and I find many of them really good, some of them even better than our own versions!! I feel very honoured that so many great bands contributed, and it´s fantastic to think about how much effort those bands have pulling through just to honour us! We are really grateful for this tribute cd, and I would like to thank all the people involved for making this remarkable release!
Talking about hero worship, when I saw you at Hellfest in June, one of the most magical moments of your set was your cover of Led Zeppelin near the end of the show?
Grutle: Thanks! We appreciate your enjoyment in our humble effort to honour one of the best bands on the planet, ever! All the guys in the band are listening to shitloads of different music, and it is fair to say that we do not share the enthusiasm for everything the other ones in the band are listening too…hehe. That said, there is a handful of bands that we all adore, and Led Zeppelin are among those bands! We played a special show at an art center here in Norway last year, and each one of us were to choose one cover song to play that night. We played songs by Faith No More, Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin. Somehow “Immigrant Song” worked out very well, and we ended up adding it to our live set. Now it almost feels like our own song!
With ‘Sleeping Gods’ you released an EP that was could be downloaded for free. Any plans to do something similar in the future?
Ivar: I am pretty sure we will do something like it in the future, yes! You know, we were pretty active in the whole debate around downloading and piracy. To me there is a huge (!) difference. Some bands wants to give their music away for free – great, I respect and admire that. We, however, are not one of those bands. We do like constructive debates about prices, quality and formats and so on – but I will not accept that someone else decides that they should get what I make for free and then just take it through piracy under the guise of being “liberal” and “free” and so on. Our listeners really understood what we were saying; the response was overwhelming – again, we had proof that we had the best fans in the universe of music. So, when we got the chance to do “The Sleeping Gods”, where the sponsor Scion paid for the recordings (it didn’t cost us anything and we didn’t make any money from it), we finally had something to give back. For free, because we wanted to – not because someone else decided we had to give it away. When we get a chance to give something like it back to the fans again, we will do it again for sure.
Enslaved or parts thereof have also collaborated with some very peculiar acts like Trinacria and Shining. Will we see more of those side projects in the near future?
Ivar: Well, the Shining (Norwegian Shining of course) project we did, called “Armageddon Concerto”, was one of the most challenging and rewarding projects we have ever done! Some of the material supplied by the Shining camp into the project was so intricate that we literally had to sit at home between rehearsal and rehearse like there was no tomorrow, just to be able to play the insane things they came up with. And just hanging out with the guys was an immense treat in itself. But a large part of the charm in that project was that it was going to be those two performances (at Molde Int. Jazz Festival 2008 and Roadburn Festival 2010) and then it wouldn’t happen again.
Trinacria is a different story all together! You wouldn’t believe it, but two weeks ago I actually started writing the first few notes for the next, and second, Trinacria album. It will no longer include the musicians from noise act Fe-mail, but rest assured that it will continue in the spirit of Trinacria… whatever that means, haha! Watch out for a new album in 2013 or -14; this is something that will take some time.
Will you be doing any tours around our parts as promo for the new record?
Ivar: We will start the proper touring for “Riitiir” in January 2013 – starting off in the US and then turning to do Europe in approximately March… And then there will be other continents and shows before the festival summer. So yes, we will be coming to your parts shortly – check out www.enslaved.no and www.facebook.com/enslaved for details shortly!Wish to see you all at the gigs! Thanks for all the support over the years! Hails