Interview with Dirge Rep
Gehenna has recently signed to Indie Recordings. What made the band leave Moonfog and how do you look upon this new partnership?
We are satisfied with our cooperation, as they are very eager to please and work hard for their bands. I have nothing but positive words about this label.
With Moonfog this was a period I was not in the band and I cannot express any feelings about this but, besides releasing good albums, Gehenna was kind of silenced in this period, since I guess Moonfog had other priorities. Gehenna’s contract with Moonfog had reached its end anyway and it was time to move on. Moonfog need to work on the promotional side, really (amongst other things).
You were out of the band for nearly ten years. Why did you leave in the first place and what made you think things over? Have you got any regrets for not being part of central events while you were away?
Back in those days I wanted to play really fast and, to be honest, I felt we had reached some sort of stagnancy in Gehenna, since we were hanging around with each other every day and nothing but Gehenna was cared about; it’s like a relationship with a woman, you know: after a while, it becomes a sort of routine (laughs) but, yes, sometimes I regretted it, of course, as these were my friends for a long time. Sarcana also left shortly after me and the band took a big change (music-wise) and I think it was good, as there were great albums in the period I was absent. My favourite album is WW, a brilliant, absolutely genius album, but also Murder and Adimirion Black were excellent in their own individuality with that unmistakable Gehenna feel. The situation right now is very inspiring within the band and, without a doubt, this new album will be exciting to make: fear us!
In-between, you’ve been involved with Enslaved, Gorgoroth and Orcustus. Why did you hook up with them and how was it like?
With Orcustus it was because of the personal level and intensity it has brought – to us, in the band, but especially to me and Taipan. It has been nothing but a cleansing – spiritually and physically – and, although we’re still finishing the album, it will be quite grim. Some vocal arrangements and the mix will remain, and it will be out this year on Southern Lord, since we’ve been working on and off on this album since 2003.
Of course the years in Enslaved had meaning as well – I wouldn’t want to say otherwise – but they are more in an “up and forward way”, since I guess I’m more “downwards” and “old” (musically, that is).
Gorgoroth was intense as well. I’ve known Infernus since 1994, I think, and that period was a pleasure – though I only did gigs with them (no recordings). The only negative thing about it was that I never got to do any songs from Pentagram live.
Gehenna’s first trilogy is truly revered. How do you look upon these albums after all these years? Grabbing the issue, what are your impressions about each, individually, and also from your own outlook as a drummer?
First Spell is kind of “immature”, yet it still holds integrity and balls, since we were very young at the time of its recording (17-18 years’ old). It’s atmospheric and dark and I still listen to it sometimes. The Conquering of Hirsir is my favourite track, although Angelwings and Revenclaws shouldn’t have been included in this release because we should have never re-recorded it (an opinion that we share). The feeling of it went all wrong and it sounds much, much better on the Black Seared Heart demo; but fuck it, really, since we are very proud of this mini-album still (as with all of our releases). Now, I don’t want to be some sort of drum-guru – and I never will – but you can hear I had just started to play here and it doesn’t matter at all because everything has a beginning (laughs). Sarcana’s keyboard work is also cool and impressive, and the guitar sound is fitting with the evolving of the eerie Gehenna’s riffing to come in future releases. The vocals are also good and switching from Dolgar’s to Sanrabb’s makes it all even more obscure.
Second Spell (Seen Through the Veils of Darkness) saw a more advanced band – structured and confident – though the sound on this album could have been much, much better; still devilish, but more avant-garde in the visual approach. Again, Sarcana dazzles with the keyboards and the guitar riffs are more complex and eerie than before. No one ever commented about my tambourine on some parts (laughs), besides my best friend who said that “it’s so catchy that it makes me want to puke.” Gehenna went from Head Not Found to Cacophonous Records, which was a big step for us, and the paths were lighting up like a fucking “anti-Christmas” tree.
Third Spell (Malice) was a climax of the two previous albums. It sounds cool and the songs are about as far as you can pull this “style” without going “happy” (if you understand). You see, Gehenna was never about “happy music”, but rather about sadness, loneliness, misanthropy and devil-worship, which were major themes throughout this trilogy (of idolising Lucifer and embracing death and darkness). The reason I’m using the term “‘happy music” is because I, personally, think some bands with a lot of keyboards can sound like circus music.
One of your most memorable tours took place in 1996 with Mysticum and Marduk onboard. Going down the memory lane, how do you feel about it, on general terms, and how was it like to have Peter Tägtgren playing live for Marduk?
It was a great tour and a great line-up, indeed. That was twelve years ago, so I don’ remember that much of it, apart from having a good time, going out to play the songs and being fed from the energies the crowds gave us. We learned a lot from Marduk, as they were experienced on performance. I guess that if we had continued in this tempo Gehenna would have been much bigger than it is today – if we only had constantly toured to promote the albums – but, on the other hand, I guess we are still known and more “cult”, I guess, which is also fine by us. Mysticum was really great to see too. I’m a personal fan of their work since the early days, when they called themselves Sabazios, but they later changed their name to Mysticum (pure cult).
Peter is cool, no doubt about that, but this sort of question you should really ask Morgan (Marduk), as I can only tell you that Marduk sounded great (and still do).
Norwegian Black Metal has been progressing in terms of musicianship and aesthetics. As you were – and still are, I believe – a fervent devotee of the early days, how do you look upon the genre’s development and, in your opinion, are there any projects or bands that you would like to endorse?
Bands have reinvented themselves – some for the better and some for the worse – but this is a tricky question, because listeners do not decide how a band should sound, and who is to say if a band is worse or better if the band itself is satisfied? An example: now I like A Blaze in the Northern Sky better than F.O.A.D. but, still, Darkthrone is great as a band and it will exist for a very, very long time, but that means they can’t very well record the same album all over again each time they are in the studio? I don’t scream out loud if I don’t like the “new” approach of the band, I just prefer to not listen to it any more or wait until the next album, as sometimes albums grow on you and they have just not been released at the “right” time; but, for example, Venom’s Temples of Ice never grew at all – I still don’t believe this album exists. Norwegian Black Metal will always endure and there will always be quick intervals between a “new” sound approach and ideas and then a return to the old. I prefer 80s and 90s-sounding Black Metal – the sound and feeling it brings – and I am sceptic to newer sound-pictures, but there is major difference in “bad” sound and a “sound”; for instance, Transilvanian Hunger does not have a bad sound: it has a sound, and a lot of bands misunderstand this obstacle.
Both sound and concept-wise, Gehenna has moved towards a more belligerent and cruel approach in the last couple of records. In view of the fact that you were threading Black Metal waters during your first era, should one expect alike variances on the next opus? Are you involved in the creative process?
The new material is in the vein of WW but darker and eerier, I guess. We are all involved in the writing and the visual approach. I really can’t tell you how it will all be until it’s released, because we never actually know how this will turn out.
Gehenna is a word derived from “Ge Hinnom”, which means “Valley of Hinnom”, a place located outside the ancient Jerusalem. Knowing what the band has tackled in terms of lyrics, imagery and also music, in the past, I was wondering if you were also in agreement with the more philosophical and occult significance of Satanism? If so, how would you portray it?
Satanism, to me, is perhaps not as elegant as one would have it. It is knowledge, of course, but in a very extreme, negative way; negative as in close contact with my own reality-tunnel, the way I perceive this “world/manifestation”. Viewing it in this negative way, or influenced by this negative current, I clearly observe each manifestation in its true form without the cloak of any “positive” vibration – by negative and positive I mean dark and light energies/influences – the latter here being not in its true form but somehow “cloaked”, in a way (or in costume, to be specific, an illusion). Now, this is very exhaustive and traumatising to some, because one is constantly confronted with truth. I don’t have any goat on my altar or any visual representation of my Satan, because it is pure darkness without form. My will is inspired by heritage as in the northern belief but with strong influences from Chaos Magick; I like the personal freedom within this paradigm, as with the more “fixed” ways of traditional ceremonial magic, as Goetia,for instance (which is great too, since it teaches discipline). Vodoun and Santeria have great techniques for possession and so does Chaos Magick with its death posture and northern beliefs – with, for instance, “Shaking”. Open eyes are “white magic”, closed eyes are “black magic” and a combo of these could become off-white magick. I’m really into sigil-magick , since we are unable to “speak” with our subconscious with “speech”, but I’m rambling here and it’s already too big of an answer here (to put short). At least you have some sort of idea (laughs).
What’s in store for both Gehenna and other projects you might have? Feel free to add anything else.
New plans are coming; we have a lot in stock and, already, most of what is planned has been fulfilled. Some things I cannot tell you yet, but I can tell we are finishing up a new merchandise deal which is very needed, since Gehenna hasn’t really had a proper line of merchandise – in these fourteen, or so, years – and we are also working on a new album, hopefully to be recorded in July 2008. We are also doing gigs again and will continue to do so in the future, as we will play the Hole in the Sky festival, as well as a full tour this fall and winter – hopefully – to promote our new album.