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INTERVIEWSInterview with Abbath and Iscariah from "Oskorei" magazine (# 04, May 2000)
Since the release of "At The Heart Of Winter" Immortal have gained a huge amount of new fans and a much wider recognition as one of Norway's biggest and best selling acts. I would say that this album was their second peak in the career having in mind the impact "Battles In The North" had on the scene. Immortal are now as we speak back with a brand new album; "Damned In Black". This is quite different from the last one and more brutal too. It sounds like it's gonna be a new highlight in the career of Immortal. I got Abbath and their new bassist Iscariah to answer some simple questions.
Hellish greetings to thee Iscariah and Abbath! How are things in the Immortal lair nowadays?
Abbath: Quite hectic.
You have recently recorded the music for your new album which is your 6th full length. Moreover, you're still signed to Osmose Productions. So, will the 7th album also be released on Osmose Productions or will you move over to some larger label for the future?
Abbath: That's difficult to answer at this point, but we'll see what offers we get.
What has made you stick with Osmose Productions for so long? You have always just signed for two albums at a time, right?
Abbath: It has been perfect for Immortal to grow with a label like Osmose Productions, which has given us the priority we've been needing and have deserved. So far we've only signed for two albums at the time, yes.
A band with such success as you had with the last album, you probably were offered contracts by most of the larger labels, will you take any offers into consideration now as I guess this new album will be the last on Osmose according to your current contract?
Abbath: It depends on which label it is, and what kind of offers we get.
When signing with a new label what will you put in first place then?
Abbath: Top priority.
Right after the last album, "At The Heart Of Winter", you were joined by a new full time bassist (after years with Aeternus' Ares on session bass), how did you get hold of Iscariah for this job and did he accept at once? Did you offer him some nice groupies if he joined in, ha?
Abbath: Ares only did the European tour in 1998 as a session for Immortal, so he was only involved for a couple of months, not years. Iscariah was asked to join us permanently shortly after the release of "At The Heart Of Winter" and since he has been following us from the very beginning as a fan of the band, we didn't have to offer him things he knew he would get.
Iscariah toured with you last year, how do you think this went for being his first tours ever, and I know he hasn't the best live experience in the past either...
Abbath: Immortal was his first live experience as a performer, and his first gig was in Hengelo (Holland) May 1999. I had a terrible ear-infection and he was quite a nerve-wreck, but all though we had to stop the show halfway through because of my ear got worse, his first show turned him into a fearless beast.
So Iscariah, how was it for you to enter Immortal right before the peak of their career? Right after you joined in they started gaining success like never before. How were you received by the fans, label and other bands?
Iscariah: I already heard "At The Heart Of Winter" before I joined, so I kind of had a feeling how this would turn out when it came to breakpoints in Immortal's career, but although I came in during a tight schedule just before a tour, I felt quite comfortable actually. In the beginning when I met the fans on tour, quite many thought I was Ares or Demonaz since almost nobody knew that there was a new member. All in all people have been supportive anyway.
It must have been quite a change from your past musical involvement with your band Enchanted and Edged Circle Productions? How was it entering a band which is known for rehearsing very much and putting the music in the first place... did it affect your way of living?
Iscariah: It was quite a change, of course, but after playing metal for 10 years you start to feel that you want to move on a bit. With Enchanted things were really slow, and still is, but things will happen there also for sure. I just have a couple of more things to do first (he-he). I was not used to this intense rehearsing, but this is how I want it to be... so actually, it affected my living for the better... This is my urge.
You're now a full time member of Immortal, right? What will now happen to Enchanted and Edged Circle Productions? You mentioned something about a big company showing interest in Enchanted last year.
Iscariah: Yes, we were in negotiations with a German label among others, but they proved to be totally incompetent, so we didn't really care anymore. I don't need these 7 album deals... I'm not a slut. I'm in permanently, yes, but Enchanted is just on ice for the time being... We have plans on doing an album this year, but this remains to be set off time for... Immortal is a priority as of today. Edge Circle Productions is dead and buried...
Don't you think it will be hard to continue in Immortal as well as doing Enchanted on the side, there won't be much time left for other things then if both bands will be rehearsing as much as a band should be doing?
Iscariah: Enchanted is not rehearsing as much as a band should anyway... never have, so that's not a problem here. As I said, not much is happening with Enchanted today and I guess would not anyway even if I did not play in Immortal as well, but things will when I have time set off for it.
You weren't a part of the song writing for "At The Heart Of Winter" album, but for your new one you have been writing music, haven't you? Does this song writing differ from your past experience where you were the one and only song-write (in Enchanted) to now when you're a part of the whole process?
Iscariah: No, I did not take part in the creating-process for this album, but with the next one, I will contribute with some material. I had enough to indulge into with the extreme amount of playing, so for me to contribute with that as well would just be too much at once... Lately I have been able to take a step back and look at the big picture and have placed myself more on the map if you know what I mean... Now things are more settled and I can focus on such things as well.
The music on your new album will be harder you have said, what's the biggest difference and how will it sound?
Abbath: This one is a bit more hard and intense than "At The Heart Of Winter" with a more marked and brilliant sound.
You also didn't record the vocal when you first were over in the Abyss, why was this delayed? Didn't you have any vocal lines done/ready or wasn't there enough time to get things done properly? By the way, how was it recording in such a large studio as Abyss?
Abbath: Some stuff became undone the first month we were in studio, stuff like the vocals and leads, so we had to book one more week and we got the first one in February. Abyss is a fucking great studio, and the best thing about it is the man who runs it, Peter Tägtgren. He is one of the reasons why we reached this higher level. We have learned a lot working with him in his studio.
So what's the plan for the rest of this year then? Are you planning on playing as much live as you did last year? Are there any gigs/tours confirmed already for the summer/autumn? Do you think playing live is an important part of being a well known band?
Abbath: Immortal is definitely a live-act and we get stronger and stronger the more shows we do. We have already a lot of touring-offers and we'll try to take as much as possible. The first on the list is 3 weeks in North and South America during March. Playing live is extremely important for Immortal and it keeps the spirit in the band stabile.
How was it first time you entered the stage on one of the last year's many festivals in front of so many people? Where did you have the biggest crowd? Have you managed to get a favourite country when it comes to playing live? Norway isn't the best country for this thing, the last gig in Oslo wasn't too successful considering the amount of people showing up though...
Abbath: We did 8 or 9 festivals last year. The first one was the "Artefact Fest" in Strasbourg (France) at the end of May and it was a powerful experience playing in front of the 5000-6000 people who showed up that day. Biggest crowds were Wacken Open Air and the Rockwave Festival in Athens, Greece. There were between 100000 and 15000 people and these two festivals had the best audience for Immortal so far on festivals, but also Dynamo Open Air in 1998 was awesome with about 10000 people in front of the Black Metal stage. The reason only 350-400 people showed up at the gig in Oslo was because it was advertised only 4 days before the show, so there were only people from Oslo there. Otherwise it would have been packed.
Quite a few local bands, in Bergen that is, has gained more and more success. Aeternus is said to have a bright future with their last album (a very good one indeed), Obtained Enslavement have just launched their new opus "The Shepherd And The..." album which shows some awesome potential. Where do you see the Norwegian in five years? The last few years 90% of the newcomers have either been shit or utter shit compared to the average quality back in the early nineties.
Abbath: As long as there is Immortal and other killer bands like Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, Darkthrone to mention some, then the Norwegian scene will grow... I'm sure. The latest albums from Aeternus and Gorgoroth has bigger potentials and I think we will hear more from them in the future... Obtained Enslavement as well.
Oh well, we shall sign off now... Any last thoughts, ideas, statements or any other shit you want the readers to waste their time on?
Abbath: DIE HARD!
Author: Lars Jamne (© 2000 "Oskorei" Magazine)
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