A plague is about to be unleashed upon Europe. It will spread without remorse or pity leaving in it’s foul wake the stench of death and fire.
Arguably the biggest Black metal band on the planet, Watain are bringing the ‘Black Death’ tour to the UK and mainland Europe in December and this is one not to be missed.
With the latest album ‘The Wild Hunt’ (see our review HERE) surpassing all expectations and breaking new ground in the Black Metal genre, and also a full US tour currently being undertaken, I had a brief conversation with the bands enigmatic frontman ‘E’ and here’s how it went.
Louder Than War: Firstly, congratulations on ‘The Wild Hunt’ and having a #1 album in your home country of Sweden. How does that feel and did you ever imagine the album would be such a commercial success, not just in Sweden, but worldwide?
E: I don’t know, I haven’t thought much about it to be honest. I kind of have my focus elsewhere with this band. But I am sure our label is happy.
Louder Than War: ‘The Wild Hunt’ seemed to come from nowhere, one day you were ending the ‘Lawless Darkness’ campaign at Bloodstock and in seemingly no time at all, a new album was imminent. Was this a deliberate act to keep the Watain momentum in full flow or was most of the new material written whilst touring the previous album and therefore ready to record?
E: Hard to say. We don’t really think so much when it comes to making plans, we just “go”. Decisions are certainly not based upon “career-beneficial things”. Chaos reigns!
Louder Than War: Tell us about the Watain writing and recording process. When you enter the studio are the new tracks fully complete or do you just go in with basic song structures and finish them in the studio?
E: It is different from album to album, depending on what we feel like. This time we had a lot of time in the studio so we did not want to have a complete set of finished songs. A lot of the material was completed and elaborated on during the recording process.
Louder Than War: Musically, ‘The Wild Hunt’ continues to defy the confines and traditional elements of what is known as more ‘orthodox’ Black Metal. Watain clearly shows progression with every subsequent release, is this something the band actively seek to do or is it a more organic and natural process that just happens?
E: The latter, for sure.
Louder Than War: In the media, the religious stance that Watain take is seldom far from the surface, some may interpret this openness with a desire to create a ‘Shock Element’ that in turn generates more exposure for the band. How would you react to such claims and would you say that without the spiritual aspect there would be no Watain?
E: The people that see the Satanic foundation of Watain as a shock element are clearly unable to relate to such things in any other manner. It is of course quite provoking that people can be so extremely shallow and unintelligent, but then again these are some of the most predominant characteristics of mankind, so unfortunately it comes as no great surprise. Anyway, to put it simple; there is no way that will adapt the way we speak about these things just because the average retard misinterpret what we say. We do not speak for them. We speak on behalf of our Gods. And those who have ears, will hear.
Louder Than War: Watain are a prolific live band that spend very long periods on the road touring the world. How important is it to the band to get out there and play live?
E: Very important! It fuels the fires and keeps the altars from turning cold.
Louder Than War: The live shows are becoming more ambitious with every tour yet you say they are ceremonial, a ritual if you will. How do you balance the theatrical side of a live show with the religious element and how long does it take to put together a stage set for Watain live?
E: What you people see as the “theatrical” part of the live show is what we see as ceremonial. Such will always be the misunderstanding between the godless and the blessed. Some people considered the world trade centre collapse as a terrorist action, others as an act of utmost Divinity!
The fact that the fire and the many other things that adorn our stage are things that people find fascinating and intriguing (or “theatrical” as you call it) does not change the fact that we put them there for completely different purposes than to “entertain” the audience. They are there to present a glimpse into the world of Watain, to alter the minds of people and make them forget about the prison that they unknowingly live their lives in. Perhaps even, in the best cases, make them aware of it.
Louder Than War: The band seems very much like a ‘closed shop’ to outsiders and it appears that as far as possible, all Watain-related business is kept ‘in house’. Is this just because it works better for the band or is it more of a control issue and a mistrust of outside elements?
E: Watain is a world we have created for our Selves, and a temple we have erected for our Gods. What people are able to take part of in terms of Watain “the band” besides its outside structure are windows that we have opened to allow a certain glimpse into this place. But in general, people have to understand that this world is our own, and shut to strangers. This is also why we like to keep the business side in our own hands as well, and why we have formed our label His Master’s Noise and our own merch company Wolf Wear.
Louder Than War: What do you see the logical conclusion of Watain been? In other words, how far do you see the band going and what would be the ultimate goal and ambition of Watain?
E: The goal of Watain is to pursue the ever whirling path into the unknown, with increased ardency and fanaticism. To praise our Lord and illuminate the night with Fires lit in His immaculate honour.
Louder Than War: A full US tour keeps the band pretty busy until nearly the end of the year. Do you enjoy playing in the US? Is it good Watain ‘territory’ and have you ever encountered any of the ‘moral majority’ trying to disrupt Watain shows? If so, how was it dealt with?
E: A Black metal band must count on encountering opposition, especially while touring in a country as fucked up as the US. Every Black Metal band that manages to tour the states -or anywhere else for that matter- without doing so should think about what they are doing wrong. If you are a member of a Black Metal band you are also an enemy of society, and this goes beyond just talking the talk.
Louder Than War: Many bands within Black Metal have side projects and off-shoots of the band. Do any of the band members have other project they are working on or is it all strictly Watain?
E: No there’s no time for such things. I prefer to keep all my inspirational flow into Watain. I have a label / publishing house on the side with the Åhman brothers from In Solitude, but our activity is very underground-mannered and only based on what we feel like doing whenever we have time and inspiration.
Louder Than War: What plans are there in place for 2014?
E: We are touring for most of 2014. I don’t know really how and where yet, but I am not counting on seeing much of home, that’s for sure. As far as the old and putrefied soil of the UK goes, we will descend upon it already in December this year, in the company of two other Swedish bands!
Louder Than War: I seem to recall there was talk of a possible collaboration with Niklas Kvarforth. Did anything come of this and how was the European tour that Watain did with Shining? It must have been pretty eventful as Kvarforth is now rocking a Watain tattoo on his hand!
E: I’ve known Niklas since we were both in our teens, so we have always had a connection. He’s a great artist and friend. The tour we did with them was every bit as eventful as one can imagine. A clash of the titans indeed!
Louder Than War: The worldwide Black Metal scene is flourishing, are there any bands you feel particularly strongly about? Either in a positive or negative way and is there any non-metal music that you really love that would perhaps come as a surprise to the readers?
E: Here are some currently active bands that I personally find very inspiring; In Solitude, Degial, Ascension, Vomitor, Alfarmania, Mortuary Drape, Negative Plane, Occult SS… well the list could be long in fact.
Louder Than War: Is there anything else you would like to say that I’ve not covered?
E: No this interview covered everything important between high and low, and should be proposed as the new Holy Writ for the aeons to come. Hah!
The UK dates are as follows
05/12/2013 Academy 2, Manchester.
06/12/2013 The Garage, Glasgow.
07/12/2013 The Library at The Institute, Birmingham.
08/12/2013 Camden Electric Ballroom, London.
The “two other Swedish bands” E mentioned as tour support have not been confirmed at the time I write this, but rumours of Entombed and In Solitude are rife. It is also worth mentioning the venues the tour visits are considerably bigger than those played on previous tours and it’s a reasonable assumption that the full ‘fire and death’ production will be present.
I saw Watain twice on the last tour when they were on the ‘Lawless Darkness’ campaign and it’s fair to say there are in a different league to most Black Metal bands in the live environment. Candlelight, potent incense competing with the cloying stench of the rotting animal carcasses that adorn the stage creates an uneasy and sinister atmosphere. And that’s before a single note is played. I honestly can’t recommend the Watain live experience highly enough, a completely unique event that thrills and exhilarates whilst at the same time is both provocative and disturbing.
In the words of Watain expect ” Ceremonial fanaticism, black mass hysteria, blood, fire and death; rock ‘n’ roll as the Devil once intended…”
All words by Andy Santiago. More writing by Andy on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.