Watain Front Man Talks New Album "The Wild Hunt"
Swedish metallers Watain will embark on "The Wild Hunt" next month, as the latest full-length excursion from the black metal masters comes out August 19th/20th.
Contacting Metalunderground.com via phone, Watain vocalist Erik told us all about the coming release (review to be published soon), as well as how this album channels 15 solid years of the band's experiences into one eclectic offering.
Read the full interview below, in which Erik discusses getting a bit too much into the GG Allin spirit and breaking his leg in an altercation, the looming presence that spurs on his music ("It’s this thing that you know could devour you in an instant if it wanted to, but instead of devouring you it takes you and speaks through you") and a taste of the horror to expect at upcoming live shows ("People will either like it very much or they will run away in tears").
xFiruath: I’d like to start off with the artwork, which is pretty dark and brooding. Can you tell me about how it came together and how it connects with the album?
Erik: We went with the same guy we worked with before, Zbigniew. It was never really a question of working with anyone else. It’s been a very fruitful collaboration. He’s meticulous about the artwork. We sent him some demos and so on and were discussing back and forth about the nature of the album and how to best represent it artwork-wise. It a studio environment, the artwork part takes up about 30% of our time, it’s a big part.
xFiruath: There’s also a pretty interesting GG Allin cover you just released. Tell me about how you ending up picking that track and how GG Allin has influenced you.
Erik: It was a bonus thing. He’s been part of the history of Watain since day one. He’s always been a big source of inspiration in the sense that he embodied the outlaw spirit to the maximum extent, which I find very inspiring. Black metal as an art form is very much an enemy of humanity. It was a natural decision, we didn’t want to do another Bathory cover or something like that. We wanted something a little different. Recording was painful like it should be when recording a GG Allin cover. I actually broke my leg recording that song.
xFiruath: Wait, what? How’s that?
Erik: It was just one of those really bad things. We were recording for a long time in Finland in the studio for weeks I think. We went into town and got into trouble and got into fights like we always do when we stay at the studio. We recorded the GG Allin cover and went into town, and long story short I broke my leg.
xFiruath: On the recording process, where did it all take place and how did the recordings go for “The Wild Hunt?”
Erik: We were in the studio for four months and it was a little adventure on its own. We recorded at four different studios. All of those places were located outside of cities in the middle of nowhere in Finland and Sweden. We drove around to these different places and tried to absorb the energies of these places and make them a part of the recording. One of the things with this band getting bigger is that it allows for more detail and more time to focus on getting it right, and that helped a lot. That whole journey of recording this album translates well into the nature of the album itself. It became a very diverse album.
xFiruath: Would you say you feel more at home in the studio or performing live on the stage?
Erik: I would say on the stage, because I spend far more time there than I ever have in the studio. Its two entirely different scenarios. Let’s put it like this, the studio scenario is about complete and utter focus, it’s almost like a monastery kind of silence, it’s very severe and solemn when we’re in the studio. The concert scenario is the opposite, it’s about explosive energy and fire and violence and powers that come to life when we play. It’s very much a liberating process. It’s a loud fucking explosion. At this moment in time when I’m talking to you the live scenario seems like something I more want to be in, it’s been so long and it’s something I need. It’s become a very important part of our personal lives on stage to feel those liberating energies surround you and become a part of you.
xFIruath: I’ve heard you have a pretty spectacular stage show for your upcoming tour dates. Can you tell me about what you’ll be doing differently?
Erik: You know I don’t really want to give away too much away. It’s going to be quite a traditional Watain show I’d say but with a few new ingredients as well. People will either like it very much or they will run away in tears. It will be interesting.
xFiruath: A new lyric video for “All That May Bleed” came out not too long ago, and I’m wondering with this trend of lyric videos now how much the band is actually involved in those. Is that something you have total control over, or is something the label puts together?
Erik: It’s kind of 50/50. It came up a bit last minute but I kind of liked the idea. It’s one thing to have the song out there and get people to notice we’re doing new things, but they want lyrics in it as well and want it to be a video. I don’t really like last minute things like that, but it is what it is. I like to focus on the actual song, but whatever’s going on outside of that with the lyric video and all that, that’s not something I put a giant effort into.
xFiruath: As the creator of the music and with different formats of the album coming out, do you have a preferred version for how you’d ideally like the fans to digest the album?
Erik: I always prefer to listen to music on vinyl and I always have. I’m not a nerd or anything, it’s just my preferred format. That’s what I would pick if I was picking up a Watain album. But I don’t know, I have a difficult time dealing with the fact that the majority of the fans will listen to our music on the computer. We put so much time and effort into the production including the artwork and lyrics, and you can’t sit in front of the fucking computer reading the lyrics and experience it the same way. Get a physical format at least to see everything we’ve done, there’s quite a lot of reward in that because we have a lot invested in the artwork and lyrics.
xFiruath: Back onto the album itself, how does the sound differ this time around, and where do you tend to take your inspiration from when creating new songs?
Erik: I don’t know where to begin. The album songs like a musical conflation of the last 15 years, it’s a reflection of our past. It’s also very much about what the past has led up to. With that in mind, it became a very diverse album, because obviously a lot of things happened in that time, that’s about half our lives, which is insane if you think about it. We tried to incorporate as much of our emotions and experiences as possible into the songs.
As far as how the songs themselves come about, well, I could write a book about that. It could also be just one word. It’s a very, very abstract thing. I don’t know how to talk about these kinds of things. It’s hard for me to put my finger on what’s going on there. It’s always the feeling of… something else… being present. There is a feeling of a looming presence that individuals are only dust in comparison to. It’s an intimidating feel, you feel very small. It’s very hopeless and helpless. It’s this thing that you know could devour you in an instant if it wanted to. But instead of devouring you it takes you and speaks through you. That’s what happens.
xFiruath: I was looking back through some news about the band and I ran across that story about Watain having some gear stolen in Gothenburg about a year ago. Did you guys ever recover that equipment?
Erik: That was actually not my department, that was our guitarist who played with a band called Unpure. I’m not sure what happened with that, I don’t know if they ever caught the people. I’m sure that knowing our guitarist he wouldn’t give up until finding that gear though. I would not want to be the person who has it in their possession though.
xFiruath: What else would you like to add?
Erik: We’re going to be announcing a tour soon for the album that will have two more bands from Sweden, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
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