Enslaved Interview: “You can expect a new release in 2017”
Enslaved are currently celebrating their 25th anniversary. Next week they will be heading over to Australia for three intimate shows. They will bring with them a special format of 2 90-minute sets playing songs from all different phases of the band’s history. I had a chance to catch up with founding member Grutle Kjellson. Here is what he had to say.
Marc: It is great to have you coming over to Australia very soon.
Grutle: It will be great to come back. It was fantastic the last time three years ago. We are looking forward to playing some songs for you again.
“We were kind of tired and fed up with the whole death metal thing by the beginning of 1991. So we really wanted to start something a little bit more unique.”
Marc: This time around you will bring a special show for your 25th anniversary. You are going to play two full sets each night. What can the Australian fans expect from these shows?
Grutle: We are going to play two sets. The first one will be with really old songs and the second one with more contemporary songs. If you buy a ticket you can vote for songs on the set list. It’s really up to you Australians which songs we are going to perform. I am a little curious what’s going to be voted for. At this time we don’t know what we’re going to play. That’s gonna be pretty exciting. I am looking forward to what you are going to pick.
Marc: Have you done that kind of show before that you let the fans decide what you play?
Grutle: We have played two full sets in one evening, not many times, but we have done that. We have never done this voting thing, we never had any polls. That’s the first time. It will be really interesting. This year we have been playing a lot of the old songs. We had a 3-day celebration in London where we played a lot of the old songs. We also incorporated the old songs into our live set during the summer festivals this year. We are sort of familiar with playing those old songs, at least some of them. We discovered that these are pretty good songs, surprisingly good actually. It is exciting to play these songs from the beginning. Some of these songs we haven’t been playing for 20 years. For the other guys in the band except me and Ivar it was the first time they ever played them. It was really cool. It was very refreshing, strangely refreshing being your own songs.
Marc: Can you take us back to the days when you and Ivar started the band. What was your motivation at that time?
Grutle: We were very young when we started Enslaved. We had been playing together already before we started Enslaved. We were both members of a local death metal band. That was actually the only death metal band around in the area. It was called Phobia. Some of the songs we made were pretty good. It was kind of like a doomish death metal thing. But we decided to move on. We were kind of tired and fed up with the whole death metal thing by the beginning of 1991. So we really wanted to start something a little bit more unique. We decided that we were the only two members of Phobia that could continue playing together. The drummer moved to the US and the two other guys were – at least at that time – not that much into this kind of music. They were into being in a band. They were just there because of lack of people. So we hired some friends. They really didn’t know what was going on. Cool guys, but not Enslaved material. So we decided to hire Ivar’s old friend Trym Torson on drums and started the new band as three-piece. And that was it. That was the beginning of Enslaved. It was really exciting, just being in a band, rehearsing every weekend, having beers. After a while we started recording demos aiming for a record deal. Exciting times, really enthusiastic. It was very different from nowadays. This was still very underground, all the letters, no emails, no internet. We were just receiving cassette tapes and fanzines by mail. It was a different world. I really miss these days. Everything was so special to receive this material. We were almost waiting for the mailman to arrive. There were letters coming from Singapore ordering our demo tape, it was really exciting. Totally different from streaming and so on.
“The concept of trying to recreate the previous album or trying to please the people who like the previous album is a very boring approach to make music.”
Marc: Over the years your sound has developed substantially, especially when you included keyboards. How did that happen? Did you get bored again and decided to change it?
Grutle: It’s really about the idea of repeating yourself. It’s really, really boring. The concept of trying to recreate the previous album or trying to please the people who like the previous album is a very boring approach to make music I think. We always hated the idea of repeating ourselves and we always like the idea of development. We are trying to make our favorite music at that point in time. Your sources of inspiration change all the time of course. You pick up new music that you listen to. We like to begin with a fresh starting point and totally forget what we have done before starting at point zero. Obviously it is still recognizable. Obviously there is a red line because it’s played by the same people. We always like the idea of starting at point zero and then try to create something new and unique. It’s a pretty simple philosophy. It’s not very complicated. It is about making music rather than constructing music for a certain audience.
Marc: You make it sound very easy but I’m sure it’s not. The quality of your music is quite unique.
Grutle: I tell you, it is that easy because it is the greatest fun to make new music. It’s cool to use all these inspirations and all the input you were absorbing since you were in the process last time. It actually becomes more and more enjoyable over the years. It is actually not difficult, believe me.
“It is about making music rather than constructing music for a certain audience.”
Marc: You said your inspirations change over time. Where do you currently draw your inspirations from?
Grutle: I like to collect records. I like to go to second-hand record stores and buy records from mostly old bands. I’ don’t buy old stuff for the sake of being old but if you go into a second-hand, vinyl record store most of the stuff is pretty old. I like to dig into specific scenes and periods. Right now I’m collecting old Canadian albums from the 70s rock scene. I’m listening to bands like Trooper, April Wine, Moxy and stuff like that. Next month I might be digging into the Italian prog scene. You’ll never know. It’s cool to listen to periods and specific scenes. I mean it’s not necessarily all great albums but you can find great stuff from all over the world. The most crucial thing about music is to be open-minded. In the end there are only two types of music: There is good music and there is bad music. Genres are really not that important. Music is about the release of energy and the use of dynamic atmospheres. It really doesn’t matter what the music is labelled with as long as you can find something in there that sounds great for you, that gives you something.
Marc: The other part of your success is that you obviously have a lot of fun making music. How do you keep that spirit alive after such a long time in the business?
Grutle: It’s all about balance. Live performances are both fun and deadly serious. It’s a release of both positive and negative feelings. It’s about balance really. Life isn’t black or white. There is much more to it than that. Live performances are also a reflection of the mood in the band. That’s the way it should be. Many times and in many ways it is. Then you have to interact with the audience. The amount of fun and jokes depends on where we are. In Australia it’s pretty easy because everybody is calling each other a fucking cunt without being negative. That’s an atmosphere we can enjoy. We come from a harsh climate on the west coast of Norway so we have a lot of self-irony ourselves. It is really comfortable to perform in Australia for a band like Enslaved. In many ways it felt like coming home.
Marc: Have you already started to work on new material?
Grutle: Yes, we have. Ivar made riffs for at least a couple of songs. At the beginning of 2017 we will keep on working on the songs, making arrangements and so on. As soon as we can start jamming on those songs, things will move forward more rapidly than they are now with all the touring. I am looking forward to the shows but I am also looking forward to working on new material. That’s the most fun part of being in a band: creating stuff. You can expect a new release next year but I’m not sure about the release date yet.