Enslaved recent completed a massively successful tour here in the States with Amon Amarth, including a sold out performance at The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. Their current album RIITIIR has been hailed as a masterpiece by fans and critics alike, and the famed Norwegian collective performed selections from this, as well as their many other metal classics they’ve unleashed over the years. We caught up with lead vocalist / bassist Grutle Kjellson just prior to their devastating the cavernous Wiltern. In this interview, we discuss touring the States in winter, the “real” Roots Of The Mountain, the secret of a long lasting collaboration with guitarist Ivar Bjørnson that has thrived and persevered since the band’s inception, and other epic topics. Read on…
How has this tour with Amon Amarth been going so far and what have been some of the highlights?
It’s been a really good tour. I think 15 out of the 23 shows have been sold out – not only because of us of course. (Laughs) Amon Amarth can draw some people. But yeah, it’s been a blast. We get along very well with both Skeletonwitch and Amon Amarth. The crew has been fantastic for all the bands. And the audiences – we’ve never played in front of so many spectators in the US before. We’re real satisfied.
We’ve been having strange weather here in the States – it’s been snowing in some parts of the country. Probably not as crazy as it can be Norway. How has touring during the winter been and have you had any cancelled shows here in the States because of the weather?
We had one cancelled because of this much snow in Charlotte, North Carolina (indicated very little snow) – there was a State of emergency because that this much snow. The venue was fearing that – a couple miles from the venue there was apparently THIS much snow, so if someone jumped in the car and had an accident on the way to the show – this is the United States and they’ll be suing the shit out of you – so they didn’t dare put up the show. It was ridiculous! I’ve never seen anything like that.
Have your shows in Europe even been cancelled because of the snow?
No. It’s never happened.
Your current album RIITIIR was released about two years ago? How close are you to writing and recording new material and how will it compare to RIITIIR?
We’ve only just started writing stuff. We had the first rehearsal actually in December. One song is ready. It’s a pretty heavy song – it’s pretty fast, really, really heavy, really rough stuff actually. We have only written one song. We plan on recording the album by the end of the year and release it in 2015 probably.
RIITIIR has been hailed as a masterpiece by critics and fans alike. With that being sad, how much pressure is there on you to record yet another Enslaved masterpiece?
Nothing at all, actually. Only the pressure that we put upon ourselves. We try to constantly improve. We kind of have a basic, simple philosophy when making music – we always try to make our own contemporary, favorite music. That’s about it. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves – improving the individual skills in both the arrangements and sound wise productions – lyrics and music. We don’t feel any pressure from outside.
One of the highlights of RIITIIR is a track entitled Roots Of The Mountain. What inspired the lyrics for that one?
Roots Of The Mountain – the lyrics are very rooted in the Norse mythology – it’s my own little interpretation of that. The Roots Of The Mountain is kind of a metaphor for human beings. There is still hope for human beings, although there is a lot of stupid shit going around – but there is still hope in the Roots Of The Mountain.
So many of your albums have won big awards in Norway. How exciting is it for you to be nominated and go to these awards shows?
Those shows are a bit lame. (Much laughter) Just a lot of celebrities of any kind. It’s pretty much a dumb party. It’s a huge honor to be nominated and win awards – we appreciate that of course – but the actual parties – nah! The last time we were there, we were at the election, but we just skipped the whole after party thing and just made our own. And we invited people to that one!
When you look back on the split recordings you did with Emperor and Satyricon back in the 90’s, what do you think of them now?
(Laughs) I haven’t heard them in a while. I’m not one those guys that will go back and re-record or fix anything like that. When we recorded those things – we totally gave our best – that was the level of ability we had at the time. I’m very proud of every single release we’ve ever done.
What do you think makes you and Ivar work so well together after all of this time?
We have developed the skills of being clever not to step too much on the teeth of each other. Spent just enough time together – have a healthy brother from another mother relationship. We work well together – we trust one another. We’ve never had any problems. I think I’ve told Ivar like two times in 22 years that “I don’t like that riff. So please can we just make some new ones?” Just twice! I pretty much enjoy the music he’s making and he really enjoys my lyrics. So there’s no reason to call it a day!
What’s up for Enslaved after this tour is over?
We’ll go back and try to make some new songs – rehearse – write new material. We have some festivals coming up – so many festival this summer – 15 festivals or something like that – we’ll be pretty busy. This is what we do. And the release of a DVD later this year! It’s going to be a pretty interesting year.
What is your favorite American beer?
There’s so many good ones right now with the microbreweries. I like Brooklyn, I like Sam Adams, I like Sierra Nevada – probably Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is my favorite beer.
Do you have any messages for your fans out here in the Los Angeles area?
Great to be back! Always a pleasure to play in California – in L.A. A very passionate audience – and that suits us well because we’re a pretty passionate band – passionate about music. It’s always great to be here and we hope we come back soon for a headlining set.
Grutle Kjellson – lead vocals, bass
Ivar Bjørnson – lead & rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Ice Dale – lead & rhythm guitar
Herbrand Larsen – guitar, keyboards, mellotron, synthesizer, vocals
Cato Bekkevold – drums, percussion
(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)
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