Watain: The Gun Shy Interview

Watain

Anyone who knows me — truly knows me — knows that I fucking love Swedish black metallers Watain. So when I had the chance to talk to frontman Erik Danielsson again, I jumped at it. And of course, Erik didn’t disappoint, even telling me which bands in the scene he’d have wiped off the planet as part of a heavy metal holocaust. In June, Watain released its fourth record, Lawless Darkness, and its by far one of the most crushing releases of 2010. And Danielsson told me that he feels this LP is the culmination of everything Watain have done to this point.

“I think that everything we do with Watain solely has been a matter of sharpening our artistic skills,” Danielsson tells me. “And I’m not talking about skills that the band Atheist has. I am talking about the skill to deliver that which is inside of you, artistically. To have as little a barrier between what you want to express and the final outcome as possible. That is like the main progression that we, ourselves, have experienced during these last 11 years. On Lawless Darkness, we have been able to, for the first time almost, bring forth exactly everything that we wanted to bring forth, and its liberating to finally be able to reach that point where you sense some kind of artistic freedom.

“To us, there’s never this feeling that we have to outdo the last album, or we have to do this or we have to do that,” the singer continues. “Watain is very organic in that sense. It sort of does whatever it wants to do. We’re not really in charge anymore, in that sense. The kind of evolution this album represents I think is natural. I see the progression of Watain as one that goes inward, one that is exploring ourselves more and more, rather than tripping out in this avant-garde kind of thing that many bands have lost themselves in completely.”

In what feels like the last five years, Watain have gone from underground enigmas to mainstream metal masters. And Danielsson doesn’t really like the fact that more and more people are discovering his band.

“It’s strange,” he explains. “I am so focused on what we are doing, and so focused on the brotherhood that is Watain. We are a little alienated from that whole reality. We’re not very different from where we were five years ago other than the progression I was talking about. How others see the Watain universe from outside the walls of our temple that’s not…it may sound like shit, but it doesn’t concern us somehow. Its escapes me.”

Still, Danielsson — who tells me he has several guilty pleasures, including Portishead, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Tori Amos — feels that his band should be the representation of black metal, and clarified the band’s position on what, ultimately, they seek to achieve with their blasphemous brand of catastrophic cacophony. “People seem to think that its alright that black metal be represented on a major scale by bands like Dimmu Borgir. I don’t think so. I don’t agree. I think the major face of black metal should be a horrible one. I think, for example, Watain’s. We are proud artists. We are here to do the devil’s work. We are not here to fuck around in kindergarten for the rest of our lives. We have important things to do. We can not be concerned about these mundane things.”

Danielsson also restated the band’s position on church burnings. In case you didn’t know, they fully support such actions. “These things are natural consequences of this kind of music,” Danielsson explains. “There shouldn’t be any question about that whatsoever. This genre has been represented for years by pacifists…people who would rather have fun and entertain. But this is never what this genre has been about. This genre has been about bedlam, lawlessness, rebellion, revolution. The fiery spirits in this world, they are the ones who created this genre and I think the fiery spirits of today are the ones who should bring it forward. Not these pacifists scum who’ve been around for far too long.”

Watain obviously have strong opinions on the state of heavy metal, and Danielsson claims if he was in charge of things, he’d give the gas to most of the bands who claim to be part of the black metal movement.

“What I’m most allergic to is this like plastic kind of music, be it metal, but especially metal because that is the genre I am most personally involved in,” the frontman starts. “All of these bands, like Black Dahlia Murder, Job For A Cowboy…I vomit on these kinds of things. I can not take it. What the fuck is this? I have always been fascinated and attracted to metal by the real juicy, dirty, sweaty, bloody kind of thing…organic, real metal. Rainbow, Deep Purple…the classic stuff. The blood and guts and spirit. I don’t see that in all these new bands. Its not like…when I have to talk about it, I get a bit annoyed, but in general, its not something I waste time on. They exist like a splinter under your fucking toenail. Its just fucking agony that they exist. Id rather take them out with good old extermination, because metal has grown into something cold and pathetic.”

Later, I asked Danielsson if he ever has nightmares, because, you figure a guy like Erik would likely have some fucked up dreams. But he doesn’t, he says. “When I dream about bad things, I don’t refer to them as nightmares,” he says. “The things that people often refer to as horrors, the things they personally shun, these are the things we have reason to explore and have come to know, instead. People who come to our headquarters, they expect something different, but they think we’re sick in the head. We never pretended to be anything else than honest in our music. To me, it would be very strange to play this kind of music, and be an ordinary guy and live an ordinary life. I would feel like a hypocrite every time I was on stage. To me, I think when it comes to black metal, that’s a genre which has been at its most potent when the artists themselves have actually been involved in the things they are saying. It’s the only way to do it. I am not a Nazi, I don’t scream that I am a Nazi. I don’t understand why people want to sing about these kinds of things without having the slightest clue what they mean. Its better to sing about hot dogs and football if that’s what you’re life is like.”

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