A much discussed band that creates untraditional black metal. It is eerie, it is evil, it is dark and every sign of joy disappears to the rhythm of the music. In what is only his second ever interview, and, according to him, it will be a long, long time before he does another, General Gribbsphiiser talks about the ideas behind Slagmaur, about the music, the lyrics and about black metal.
He begins by condemning the ceaseless pandering on television to all those searching for their five minutes of fame. The first thing that comes to mind is the name of the band, Slagmaur. I’ve learnt that amongst other the Scream forum there are those who ridicule the name and think that the concept is childish. What springs to my mind when I hear the name is that we are all ants (maur) but there are those who are bigger and stronger, namely battle ants (slag maur). And I think that there is something that the band wants to crush be…
“There was a lot inside me that needed to find some form of expression and I thought that the name was important if we wanted an instant reaction. What I really wanted was a name, and an overall image that implied force, but that at the same time was ridiculously childish. The first cover we ever did showed a giant destroying a church. It’s essentially General Gribbsphiiser like some fairy tale ogre, sitting there with a huge sledgehammer, crushing the church.
I considered “Kardemommeby” (from a story about the imaginary peaceful town of Kardemomme and the people there, the good, and the trouble makers, and considered to be one of the most important Norwegian children’s books) and the themes running through it, about a society where everything is more or less ‘perfect’. But I wanted something even more childish, and came up with Slagmaur. Most band names conjure up a particular image, something that already exists. There is nothing called Slagmaur, and because of that the name is, just as is the music, mine alone and as well as being the trademark for what we do. When you hear someone say Slagmaur you think of dark music. Not ants. Of course, if anyone does happen to think of ants and assumes that the name is ridiculous, then when they hear the music, live or recorded, the contrast between the name and the actual sound is enough to make it disturbing.
The General tells me about his reluctance to give interviews. If every band thought like this, the scene would be different and perhaps smaller, but personally I really respect those bands that focus solely on the art itself. The prime examples on this are Deathspell Omega and Devil Doll. Nostalgia comes to mind, and the General tell us that before every band was Google-able there was more mystique to everything. An example is Emperor, where the band was distanced from the listener since there were only a handful of interviews at the time when the band was formed. The music was more important and Ihsahn was just the name of one of the artists. The whole thing was more exclusive, so to speak. And Slagmaur prefer it this way…
The Three Protocols Od Fosen – you cursed swine
Before you began the Three Protocols of Fosen - “Svin”, “Skrekk” and “Domfeldt” you probably had a vision of what you wanted Slagmaur to be. And already from the first few tunes Slagmaur shows its identity. I’m thinking particularly of the rhythm, which is something we’ll focus more on later. But first things first, what was it that you wanted when you began Slagmaur? The General had a clear thought when it began the band, and refers to what he wanted to pick up from different bands and use this to make his own thing.
“Personally I don’t think Slagmaur is necessarily as original as people make it out to be, but that could be due to the fact that it comes from inside of me, and I’ve been living with it for as long as I can remember. I definitely don’t sit there thinking “now I have to create something original and special”, I simply create what comes naturally to me.
And I get really pissed off when somebody refers to Slagmaur as doom metal based only on the fact that it lacks blast beats. To me this is black metal and nothing else! And to create this, everyone involved has to give 110 %. I remember when we finished recording the track “Oldermann Uhygge” and started to record “Norwegian Giant”. Nobody had any voice left, so all we managed to do was make a kind of howling noise, and we included it on the track, because it shows that we go the whole nine yards to bring out the emotions we strive for.”
How did people respond, those few who got access to the first music you recorded, having in mind that these were demos, if I’m not misinformed?
“ “Svin” (Swine) was something we made very quickly and I still think it’s quite good. “Skrekk” (Horror) was good, though a bit too short. “Domfeldt” (Convicted) doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I thought it should have had more of a doom-ish feel to it, if you see what I mean. The reason these came under the Protocols of Fosen trilogy was that we needed to keep something back that would allow us to broaden our horizon since Slagmaur was, and still is, based on my life. I didn’t want us to be restricted in any way on what was to come, but at the same time, they had to fit into the Slagmaur universe. If we got the same sound on these three releases, as on the new “Von Rov Shelter”, I don’t think they would have been as different as they are. I’ve always played disharmonic harp guitar, and also used the finger plucking method. I guess not many people notice this since the music is as floating.
Basically, “Svin” and “Skrekk” mean a lot to me while “Domfeldt” was over and done with once I finished my time in jail. When the last track was completed in the studio, all I felt was emptiness.
“The Art of Oldermann ” was supposed to close this chapter. In between “Skrekk Lich…” and “Von Rov…” I did think about releasing an blank CD, with a text that dealt with frustration, limited to 1000 copies. The art I create is not restricted only to music. The intention was that when people ordered the CD they would experience real frustration. But Snorre W. Ruch thought nobody would understand this, and it would just be nonsense. So, “Von Rov Shelter” is supposed to be the last chapter in the trilogy."
The Darkness – the therapy’s dark creation
What is it with black metal, its atmosphere and the ideology that made you choose to express your art via this genre? It says in “Skrekk Lich Kunstler” that “This is black metal”…
“Yes, and in “Von Rov Shelter” is says, “This is Devil Worshipping”. I was totally tired of the genre. I guess I couldn’t say so with “Svin”, but “Skrekk Lich…” was an ultimatum. People who know me say that they can hear that I’m about to go insane. I have thought of black metal more as horror in a way, turning things upside down and making the music dystrophic. It is only then that it becomes beautiful…”
Eh…, something beautiful about “Skrekk Lich Kunstler”?
“You know, when I played something to someone I would say that I thought this or that was beautiful. But they’d tell me that it was just creepy and quite repulsive… But to me it’s beautiful… And this is something I wanted to push even more with “Von Rov Shelter”. I studied classical music intensely for half a year because I wanted to find out how you could combine different musical theories. It’s not easy. You could do what Blut Aus Nord does, which is combine different disharmonies with the result that the music becomes ugly. But my opinion is that you must include something that holds the attention. Where people play Pippi Longstocking I want to play Pippi Wrongstocking, and turn something hideous into something stunning. These tunes are not easy to grasp straight away. If you listen to “De Mysteriis dom Sathanas” it is, essentially, quite a simple album where you can hum along to much of the music (The General hums a bit). I want this in Slagmaur as well, but it has to be very dark, filled with horror. And that goes for the whole concept, from the cover to the final melody.
Black Metal, to me, deals with disharmony, in the same way as Satanism and turning things upside down. There is an upcoming book that explains it.
Mayhem’s “Ordo Ad Chao” was written from a harmonic starting point. But Blasphemer told me he turned the music upside down and made everything disharmonic, yet there are structures and harmonies therein. My mood sinks every time I listen to the album, and the same goes for Slagmaur’s music. The General tells that his mood improves even more when he is in the good mood while listening to Slagmaur, and when he’s in bad frame of mind Slagmaur’s music makes things even worse. His theory is that he knows the music and all the aspects connected to that, while the listeners only know the music itself. General Gribbsphiiser wonders if I get a better impression of the music now that I’ve met him, but I just say that everything turns worse… We chuckles a bit. Being on the subject of chuckling, I wonder what he may find positive about black metal? He hesitates…
“Eh… Black metal saved my life! If I didn’t have the music and everything connected to it, something would have gone very wrong a long time ago. I was really bad at times. The music is a therapy for me, and I get paid for creating the music and therefore I look upon myself as an artist. And extreme metal has saved the lives of many people. Look at the rap-scene. There are way more murders and violence connected to the genre… When I was in prison, there were those who dragged their feet just to pretend that they had been shot. They were wearing those baggy trousers. You know, everything is so cool… I’m not denying that there have been murders connected to black metal, but a lot of people have found themselves within the music and also in the creative processes. I watch documentaries about religion, astronomy and whatnot that can be related to black metal. There are many doors that open up…”
How do the listeners view the Norwegian lyrics? As it is now, not everybody in the world understands Norwegian…
“The problem is that the lyrics are difficult to translate into other language, or English in this case, and ours in particular are full of hidden meanings and imagery. Both our manager, who is English, a trained translator, and has a lot of experience editing lyrics for bands that don’t have English as their first language, and Carpathian Forest’s bass player Vrangsinn, who is fluent in both English and Norwegian, couldn’t come up with something that we could all agree on. If it’s done, it has to be in such a way that the whole concept and feel comes through, it’s not enough to translate literally, and so far we are all three in agreement that Slagmaur “aint do-able”. But we do include photos that illustrate each of the lyrics on “Von Rov Shelter”.
A genre that earlier glorified death and destruction, discomfort and provocation, has slowly turned into the arms of conformity’s indifferent embrace where music is more or less all that is left. What does black metal need to become black metal again?
“"At its inception Black Metal had a purpose, a war to fight if that’s the way you want to look at it - the burning of churches and so on. People gave themselves up to something that went beyond the music itself. However, Black Metal is now another established genre, even commercial if you will. Hypocrisy is just as prevalent in Black Metal, as it ever was in Christianity. I'd say that the war that the adherents of Black Metal must fight is a war within themselves. You can burn as many churches as you possibly can, but ultimately the battle is with yourself.
At the end of the day, why should you care about how others waste their lives? You can't save the whole world, because in the big picture you're nothing. But to other individuals you can be the whole world. And you can be that to yourself as well. Be realistic and do something for those you can affect, those that you hold dear and that you care about. There aren't many in the Black Metal genre who use the phrase "I love..." in their lyrics, but I look upon myself as someone who enjoys life to the full. But I also worship death and the Devil, defined as darkness.
Of course, things don’t always go according to plan. I had one disturbing experience, and feeling frustrated I tried to dredge up the deepest darkness with some music I was writing..., and ended up writing melodic riffs in the vein of In Flames. I called a good friend of mine and complained that I was really depressed, but couldn’t write music the way I wanted it to be. He said that I just needed something good in my life. As sure as I'm standing here, he was right and I understood that when I want to express what I feel with my music it’s all about balance. When life is a good as it gets, that's when I manage to bring forth the deepest darkness..."
We talk about balance and that depression doesn't not lead to our creativity. The General mentions the picture from the booklet where a character is brushing her teeth whilst a dark entity is crawling over her back. He adds that those who only focus on life as a positive thing will rot from the inside...
"I think this is why many people listen to pop music. A lot of people live the A-4 lifestyle (having 9-5 jobs, 2.4 children, dog and a weekend cabin by the sea while driving the average car). They unconsciously follow society's rules and dogmas. But deep within they're unhappy and that's why they reach for pop music, which is sort of positive, relatively speaking."
Composed by Roy Kristensen