If anyone knows what evil lurks in the heart of mankind, it is Erik Danielsson of Watain. He has been a student and a teacher to a legion of followers who have ravenously devoured his music, and words like a delicious meal. With their recent album The Wild Hunt (Century Media), Danielsson continues to defy expectations and innovate musically like few other bands in the genre after over fifteen years in existence. Erik chatted with Raymond Westland about the new album, Satanism, misconceptions about his beliefs, and many other topics.
The Wild Hunt should be seen as a stand alone release and not so much as a continuation from the previous works. Can you clarify this, please?
I do not know how you drew that conclusion but no, that is not correct. Every Watain album is a “continuation” of our journey, and although that journey always takes us to new places that may appear different from those we have visited in the past, it is still very much a living continuum. Every Watain album should be seen as a monument erected at a specific point in time and space, but still transcending that point by reaching beyond the tangible and the defined.
The Wild Hunt is a very rich and diverse record and it far exceeds the traditional black metal aesthetics. To which extent was this the thing you set out do?
We set out to make another Watain album, and as always we let the currents of our Temple lead the way. As these currents are and have always been strongly rooted in the black metal cult, that obviously reflects on the album as well. But Watain is first and foremost a world on it’s own, a place in which we can do whatever we feel the need to do, unbound by musical genre. We do not answer to any expectations of anyone else but those of our own. Watain is a mouthpiece of Satan, and as such we can not limit our ways of expression, we must always be open to learn new languages in order to express that which needs to be expressed.
Can you take us through the motions of writing and recording the album? What did you really set out to achieve?
The album was written over a period of three years, starting after Lawless Darkness. Many of the lyrics were written on the road, in Australia, Japan, USA and Transylvania. The recording itself was four months long and took place in different places in Scandinavia which altogether made for the diversity that you mentioned earlier. The nomadic impulse of Watain, and the ever on going pilgrimage we find ourselves on, were things that became quite central in the album. We took the time to look back on past experiences and the evolution of the band, and eventually framed it inside a spiritual, even mythological, context. The Wild Hunt is the long, hard and yet incredible rewarding road which we have walked upon for the past 15 years.
On The Wild Hunt you’re not afraid to show your influences on your sleeve with Bathory and Dissection being some of the most dominating ones. What do Bathory and Dissection mean to you personally? Can The Wild Hunt be seen as a homage to those bands?
I don’t know what specific things you are thinking about but I suppose those bands have had their impact on the material, as they have been two of the most central musical sanctuaries of our lives. We do however never aim to sound like any specific band when writing songs, that would be a far too shallow way of approaching the divine art of making music of this kind.
Watain is all about pushing boundaries and challenging the music status quo. Why is it so important for you to evolve and questioning musical conformity?
It is a part of our nature to do so. Satanism is the dissolving of stagnation, the shattering of patterns and the upheaval of order. Evil has no boundaries, so why would we?
You’re an avid follower of Luciferianism. To which extent do your personal beliefs influence the music and lyrics you create? How does it influence the overall creative direction of Watain through the years?
An avid follower of Luciferianism? What exactly is this Luciferianism you are referring to if I may ask? You people take these things far too lightly most of the time. This is also why I am getting less and less interested to talk about beliefs and the doctrines upon which they are built. The music and lyrics of Watain is my gift to those who feel the need to explore the arcane depths of religion and sorcery, approach them with an open heart and you might be able to find a fraction of a seed that in turn might lead you on to something that points you in the direction of the first gate. But don’t look to me for answers.
Watain is not “influenced” by our personal beliefs, it is a result of them. A consequence of for the most of my life having searched the unknown and found solace in the answers that evidently lay there in wait. That search and exploration of the Dark is ever ongoing and Watain is a reflection of it.
Watain takes D.I.Y a a whole new level with your own merch company and label. Why is it so important to you to have everything in your own hand? What are the pros and cons?
Independence is another fundamental aspect in the world of Watain. These things you mentioned are results of always searching for forms in which liberation can manifest. Being in charge is also quite crucial when it comes to such a personal form of expression that Watain by all means demands. We simply can not leave these things in the hands of other. A label and a merch company, to take specific examples, need to be driven by a righteous form of motivation, otherwise they are just unclean means without a relevant purpose, something that has not place in our world.
For outsiders black metal as a genre is almost a contradiction in itself. One one hand it’s all about self expression and clinging on to your artistic vision, but on the other hand it has some of the most ardent purists in the metal scene. What are your thoughts on this?
I don’t really see why those two things would contradict each other. If you are very sure and stubborn about what it is that you want, then of course many other things become seemingly irrelevant and pointless. I definitely consider elitism and intolerance as natural ingredients in Black Metal, it is a genre whose artists are required to have the nature of wolves, not sheep.