It is now almost 15 years since you headlined the first Inferno Festival in 2001. You've done many albums, festivals and concerts since then, including the fact that you played at Inferno in 2004. And now you'll play again in 2015. What do you recall of the first festival in 2001, and how was it to play back then? I remember it was smoky (hah, three years before the smoking ban) ... Grutle remember the gig well!
- It's the first and only time we've had flame throwing on stage! We got a good friend of ours that has been doing much of that kind of stuff, so he was blowing flames during the intro of the song "Ormgard". He was standing right next to me, and with the big mouth that he has, he could pour insanely much gasoline in his mouth. It was hot as hell, and if he'd been 20 cm closer to me my hair would've burnt! Another memory is that Roy, our guitarist at the time, used crutches. It was the result of him, which is something that probably VERY few others could have done, managing to end up in a wheelchair after a rehearsal. Those days were rough in the Enslaved camp. It may have not been as glamorous as throwing a TV out of the hotel window, but definitely something unusual.
Enslaved has played a lot of live shows and travelled around the world with the band and crew. What have you learnt from this, that you can bring with you and use at the next concert? It happens that you go on stage just doing a job, while other times everything feels right and it gives you the great extra, Grutle?
- Here we strive to live a little after Bon Scott's philosophy. Every gig counts equally, and each gig will be performed as if we were doing a giant stadium gig. It is of course not always easy, but as long as that attitude is in your mind and in the spinal cord, you can strive to achieve it. It is often also so much better to play in front of 300 enthusiastic fans in a sweaty venue than it is to play in front of 15.000 people at a festival. It is ultimately about creating a sort of symbiosis between the band and the audience, that we all go in the same direction. When it works it's really cool to play live!
I've probably asked you this before, but what is the difference for you guys to play at a festival, be it Wacken and Inferno vs. to play a headlining gig, as you did in Drammen on 22th of September 2010, an outstanding concert... And Enslaved has also done special things like playing at Henie Onstad Art Centre in 2011, where every other song was a
cover... Sparkling, Ivar?
- Cool that you enjoy the madness! The difference can best be described as energies at different speeds. At a club gig - such as that mentioned great evening in Drammen - the energy exchange and intimacy is there right from the start. To us in the band and those who know us well this can happen even some time before it becomes apparent "outside". That's why we can make a concert Monday night in a godforsaken dump on the way between an American and a Canadian city, with 104 grumpy people; and end up with heels in the ceiling and all teeth nailed in an upside down cross pattern on the wall when we get to the extra numbers. A festival is a different shape and dimension of the energy waves, and when you get comfortable with the big, tough exchanges between stage and audience, it doesn't matter how big or small the festival is. When we become more and more ourselves it is easier to be in more and more different and challenging situations. And to do those totally weird things, like the one you mentioned, is to go even deeper into our own identity. Not everything is as successful but it gives us a better understanding of this project of life we call "Enslaved".
Inferno Metal Festival takes place in Norway. Happy Easter. One thing I wonder about is how do people react to the different songs around the world? Is it like everyone scream when you play "ISA", while people Mexico go crazy when they hear "Allfáðr Oðinn", while here in Norway people don't care about that one since so few may know the song? It is not that simple, according to Grutle.
- Well, the stuff where there is sometimes a bit tricky! You mentioned renditions in place, and after the already mentioned Henie Onstad appearance we continued some time after to play "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin. On our own headlining tour in the United States, it worked really well (we even had Tony Harnell on vocals in NYC), while certain places in Europe it did not catch on at all. We played some gigs together with Cannibal Corpse, and that audience really disliked the 70s rock... he he. When it comes to our own songs, then "ISA" was a sure winner and something for the encore. It's a song people remember and want to hear, a bit like Motörhead and "Ace of Spades" to pull a weird comparison. It works pretty much everywhere, along with "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth", "Ethica Odini", "Allfáðr Oðinn" and "Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor". When it comes to us Norwegians and what we don't care for I do not think this is the right forum to explain that. It's more for a thesis for professors.
You have so many songs to choose from and I hope it becomes a sort of retrospective of your albums (like one song from each album), but there is hardly enough time to do that (if you take only the longest songs, hah). What can we expect, Ivar? And can you give some hints if the Inferno show will have something extra during the evening you will be playing?
- Well, we haven't come that far in the planning - a new album will be done before we play Inferno - but it's not a bad idea at all. Obviously a bit smaller within time frames. It is after all a 15-year anniversary for the festival and we played on the first edition. These kind of anniversaries must be celebrated with something special.
Quite briefly, what happens in the rest of the Enslaved camp these days? A few years have passed "RIITIIR" was released, so there might be something new going on? Ivar informs.
- Sure thing. We enter the studio in mid-September and work a few months with it before we release the album early next year; in any case well before Inferno 2015. Prior to that we will deliver a special show at Eidsvoll in connection with the constitution anniversary (September 13th) and make a last concert based on the "RIITIIR" album in Bergen! Then we just go into merciless rehearsals for Inferno Metal Festival 2015!
Interview by Roy K. K. Bakland.