On Tuesday, March 8th of 2016, I was given the chance to interview the legendary Norwegian black metal musician Abbath to help promote his upcoming show in Baltimore. We covered that and so much more in this over 14 minute long interview. Despite his grim appearance he is actually a quite humorous person, though the interview is rather, dare I say, touching, at points. I have been sick all week and my voice is rather flat in much of this interview, but I think the questions were strong enough for you all to get a better idea of the man behind the corpse paint. You can stream the interview below by clicking the orange play button, or you can download it as a 32.63mb mp3 for free here and of course you can read the full transcription below (my words are in bold).
Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra
This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’m speaking with Abbath via Skype all the way from his kingdom cold in Norway. Abbath is probably best known for his time in the Norwegian black metal band Immortal but in January he released an eponymous solo album on Season Of Mist records. Abbath, the band, will be headlining the Decibel Tour with High On Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation also performing. The tour kicks off on St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17th at the Baltimore Soundstage [tickets available here]. Now to get things started here, am I pronouncing your name correctly?
It’s Abbath [Ah-Baht].
So where exactly did you get the name from? How did you choose the name?
I didn’t choose it, the name chose me. It just appeared in my head.
So what kind of set can fans expect on this tour? Will you be performing any songs from your past bands or all new material?
Not my past bands but my past band, yeah, Immortal, yeah. We’re also going to play a song from the I album, Between Two Worlds album. Yeah and there’s going to be like maybe four Immortal songs and one I song and the rest is going to be new songs.
Now American Gabe Seeber has joined your band as Creature the drummer. How did you find him and how did he end up joining Abbath?
The mighty Creature Gabe yeah. We met this guy in Australia, Brisbane was it? He was an excellent drummer and after the tour Kevin [Foley, original Abbath drummer] left and this guys he told us about Gabriel and he’s just fantastic. He’s just amazing you know. I’m going to meet him in a couple days and [I] can’t wait to do another tour with him you know. He’s the best you know, he’s just amazing and young as well you know. 25 years old and what a fucking talent he is. The best drummer I’ve ever played with. Him and Kevin. I was devastated losing Kevin [but now we] have a kind of a second shot with Gabe.
So the new album has been really well received by fans. What vision did you have for it when you started putting it together and do you think you captured that vision?
It was the carrion call you know? And I was very fortunate to have this great lyricist called Simon Dancaster, who also participated in the early days, who also participated in writing some of the lyrics on Blizzard Beasts. I met him by accident. I haven’t seen him for years and he came to my friend Tore [Bratseth]’s birthday party. Tore from Bömbers my Motörhead tribute band. And we just started working from there you know? I had all these songs, music working and I had these themes and ideas and we just worked around from there.
So what do you think makes Abbath different than Immortal?
Well it’s still my music you know but it’s a different band and it’s different musicians, different lyrics, but it’s still the music you know as it were with Immortal. So it’s just a continuance of myself.
So do you think you’ll ever possibly rejoin Immortal at some point?
Um… I don’t know, you know. I, I, you know, eh… Never say never they say but I don’t, I don’t uh… It’s not a time to think about that right now.
OK so in 2006 you had a band simply called I that also had [Abbath bass player] King Ov Hell in the line up. Is Abbath the band something of a continuation of I do you think or do you see it as a separate entity with its own musical direction?
No I mean it’s still my music. It’s just a continuance of my music and with I, I have more old school heavy metal elements, rock and roll, heavy metal elements put into it. I just sit down and make the music I feel like making and if it works for me, it works.
In November of 2015 there was an Old Funeral reunion performance in Bergen, Norway. Is there any chance that another possible Old Funeral show will happen or even new Old Funeral music?
No that was the last Old Funeral performance ever. If I’m ever going to continue it it’s going to be New Funeral. Hahahaha.
What made you decide to go in the direction of black metal instead of a more death metal sound which was definitely more popular in the underground at that time?
No I never, I never follow what’s popular you know. I just do what I like you know. If I wanna do a fucking pop album I’ll do a fucking pop album. That’s simple as that.
If I want to do a disco album I’ll do a fucking disco album, it’s as simple as that. I don’t care what’s popular or not out there. I just follow my gut feeling and heart feeling and just make the music I feel like making. That’s what it is you know. Music to me is freedom. It’s the freedom of expression. It’s just me, you know. Maybe I don’t write the lyrics myself but I’m part of it. The music is mine. I make the music and I find the right people to write the lyrics with me. It’s simple as that. It’s just rock and roll isn’t it? Really?
Heh heh. So what is the definition of black metal to you then?
Lay down your souls to the gods rock and roll! Just uh, you know, Venom. Black metal to me is Venom. 1982.
Do you think black metal should just be about the music itself or do you think religious, theistic and political beliefs have a place in it as well? And do you think fans of black metal need to share similar beliefs with the bands they support? For example, can you be a devout Christian that is also a fan of black metal?
You know black metal is, it’s supposed to be rock and roll. It’s the Devil’s music. It’s about freedom and it’s about, fuck off to those who would tell you what to fucking do or whatever the fuck it’s just, be your own god. Work your own mysterious ways. Believe in yourself and have a kick ass fucking time. Bang your fucking head. Be cool, hahaha. It’s rock and roll, yeah, that’s what it is. Without rock and roll you know, without Buddy Holly there would never be a fucking Venom or a Motörhead. It’s just you know, raise your fist and kill.
In March of 2000 I saw Immortal on tour with Satyricon, Angelcorpse and Krisiun in Wheaton, Maryland at a place called Phantasmagoria. I remember seeing you breathe fire on stage and leaving giant black marks on the ceiling and I’d never seen a black metal band put on a show like you guys did that night. You guys really blew me away and I became an instant fan and a couple months ago Satyr of Satyricon, he made some comments in an interview [here] about that tour and he said he disliked playing small bars and clubs in the Midwest on that tour. Do you remember anything about that tour and was it really that bad?
We were touring around the States. We did some shows on the West Coast and we did a couple of shows, we just jumped on the Satyricon tour. We were sharing a van with the Brazilian guys Krisiun. The mighty brothers of Krisiun. And [I] remember Alex [Camargo, bass and vocals for Krisiun] one of his favorite albums, Battles In The North hahaha. And uh we just jumped on the tour, the Satyricon tour, they had their own bus and Angelcorpse they had their van. And I remember, it was alright. It was Satyricon’s gig you know. We didn’t get a sound check or anything but we delivered you know. The show must go on always, whatever. The last show, we’ve been touring a month in Europe and it’s been great and everything. We’ve had a sound check every night and the last show on this tour, Blastfest, we didn’t get a sound check and the sound on stage was horrible but fortunately we know how to play. We didn’t hear jack shit up there. [Abbath makes a lawn mower sound]
Well the Baltimore Soundstage where you’ll be playing on Thursday the 17th, they actually have really good sound. They’re one of the better sounding venues in Baltimore so hopefully that won’t be a problem.
Baltimore, yeah yeah. I’m flying over with my tour manager Steve on Sunday and we fly to Philly to have a couple days of rehearsal there because our bass player is not able to come over so we’re gonna play with another bass player over there.
Oh who’s going to be playing bass on this tour?
Uhh… I don’t remember his name but he’s a friend of Gabe’s and he’s alright.
Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011
The last time you performed in Baltimore was when Immortal played at Sonar in February of 2011.
I remember that one, yeah.
Yeah I remember someone threw a bottle on stage during “Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms” [video here] and I remember you stopped the show and got really mad and yelled at the guy. Did you ever find the guy or anything? Did you ever find out who did that?
No I didn’t.
Do you remember anything else from that show? It was with Absu I believe was the opener.
Yeah Absu yeah. Absulutely! Hahahaha. Uh… that show was alright wasn’t it?
It was a great show, yeah.
Yeah. You never know who’s in the fucking audience. It’s like, that’s a part of the battle isn’t it? It’s the front line, you never know who’s going to show up, what’s going to fucking happen. We were supposed to play in Bataclan [the concert hall in Paris, France, where terrorists killed 90 people while the Eagles Of Death Metal performed there on 13 November 2015]. You know Motörhead was supposed to play there a couple days after that massacre you know. It could have been us, it could have been Motör[head]. You never know but the show must go on. You have to go up there because, it’s your life it’s what you want to do you know. It’s just rock and roll and if that’s what’s going to fucking kill you, alright. So if someone throws a bottle, you know, I’m not fucking Axel Rose alright?
Now you were in a Motörhead cover band called Bömbers for a while and I was curious what kind of effect Lemmy [Kilmister, bass and vocals of Motörhead] had on you musically and how did his passing last December affect you. Did you ever get a chance to meet him?
Yeah several times. What a fucking gentleman he was, yeah. Him and Ronnie Dio, coolest guys I’ve ever met. I love my father but fuckin’ hell those were my fathers too ya know. And [it was] just devastating. It was… I still can’t believe they’re gone ya know. Fuckin’ hell. Me and King you know we went to Greece… a couple days ago we came home recently from Greece finishing the video for “Winterbane” and I bought this Metal Hammer special. I mean I had like a five hour wait in [the] Copenhagen airport and [the] Metal Hammer special, Lemmy special and I just sat… there in the bar reading it and, and uh… you know I… I got this lump in my throat and it just… it just, you know… devastating. He was like a father to us in many ways. Lemmy… he was the best. He was the coolest. He was everything. So where do we go from here you know, yeah. Carry on. Carry fucking on. Rock and roll. Yeah.
Lords Of Chaos movie poster
So what do you think about this Lords Of Chaos movie [based on the book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind] that is in pre-production right now? Do you know if you will be portrayed in the movie or have you been consulted about it in any way?
Really? I didn’t know, I didn’t know about that.
Apparently it’s not a documentary it’s going to be an actual movie with a script and everything.
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
I think Ridley Scott has attached his name to it, the famous director. I think he’s producing it or he’s somehow tied to it.
Ridley Scott? You’re talking about the Alien director?
Yep. Yeah I don’t think he’s directing it I think he’s like the producer or something like that. He’s been attached to it. I saw his name attached to it [here].
Yesterday in fact I saw this movie with my girlfriend called The Martian [that is directed by Ridley Scott].
Yeah, yeah. The one where they go to Mars and he’s a scientist trying to stay alive.
Yeah, yeah. And there’s a Norwegian actor in that called Aksel Hennie and that was fucking great I mean, Ridley Scott? Wow. It better be good then! Hahaha.
Hahaha. I mean it’s probably a couple years away still or at least a year I would think but I was just curious if you’d heard anything about it.
Whatever, we’ll see! Hahaha.
Now there’s a brewery in Austin, Texas called Jester King that names some of their beers after different heavy metal subgenres and they make a stout named Black Metal and the drawing in the label is a guy that wears corpse paint and he looks pretty similar to you. Have you ever tried that beer and do you like it?
Jester King’s Black Metal beer label
Never heard of it, I probably don’t like it. Hahaha.
Do you like craft beer at all? Do you ever drink the micro brews or anything?
I like this… Ringnes!
That’s something we don’t have over here.
This is what I drink mostly. It’s a good Norwegian beer.
Well 1349, they’ve had a couple beers come out with their name on it like official 1349 beers. Do you think there will ever be like an Abbath Ale?
Abbath Ale? Hahaha. I just did a tour with Behemoth recently and they had a couple of beers they wanted me to try. They were actually good, yeah. Pretty good. Yeah. Everybody is doing that now. Nobody sells records so they gotta fucking sell something. Hahaha.
Well thanks so much for your time Abbath. Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans before your tour starts here on March 17th at the Baltimore Soundstage?
Die hard! …please come to our show. Hahaha. We’re gonna do our damnedest! Yeah. I can’t wait, I can’t wait. Fucking hell.
I’m looking forward to it, yeah.
I’m really excited it should be a great show.
Thank you Metal Chris!
Alright have a good one man and have a good flight over here on Sunday.
Thank you sir.
Alright, take it easy.