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INTERVIEWSImmortal - The last interview!
Interview with Abbath from "Hard'n'Heavy" magazine (# 97, 2003)
The split of Immortal last July came as a shock for everybody. "Hard'n'Heavy" gives out the only interview Abbath (vocals) accepted to give on that topic! A real scoop!
On Friday, July 18th, the storm raged once more over Blashyrkh (Norway) but in a way a lot of people would have rather not witness: considered as one of the most important black metal bands, Immortal has decided had decided to quit. There were many reactions of shocked and disappointed fans on websites all over the world, while the media were calling for explanations. Nevertheless, the band refused to talk about it, and released only a small text as an explanation. During the last week of August, Abbath accepted to give an interview to explain the situation. The truth is maybe not as spectacular as people may expect it to be, but it comes from the heart and is interesting enough to definitely prove the importance Abbath and Immortal had gained these past 13 years...
Did the idea of the split came out of the blue or did you ponder over it for a long time?
It was not planned at all. Immortal never used to plan anything, but it is true that it was something that had been lurking at the back of my head for a long time. I am a very spontaneous person, and when I say something, I stick to it. The band members had a very good reaction when I told them. We were just back from the Roskilde festival, and were ready to go to the Quart festival, here in Norway. All of a sudden, I told the others I did not want to go on. Horgh and Saroth had a positive reaction, so I think they had been waiting for it to happen. I think that the time had come to choose between two possibilities: either I'd came up with new ideas for the band, or it would have to be put to rest. I've been playing with Immortal for 13 years now, and we lived many things all together. But I have to go on and I'm now able to do it without having Immortal in my mind. I will absolutely not retire as a musician, on the contrary! The music I'm actually composing reflects my mind a 100% and I will not go back to my previous environment. I feel a little bit lonely for the moment, but I take it as a challenge. Time will tell with which musicians and producer I will work.
What we all wonder is: why splitting while you could have taken a break for a couple of years?
Simply because we never felt like taking a break with Immortal! Either we do something or we don't! I would never have worked on a side-project outside of Immortal. When I do something, I do it 100% and I don't understand that some people feel the need to have side projects. For me, it only means that they are not totally committed to what they do. The music I listen to at home gives me inspiration, and I listen to many different styles. I'm a huge Motörhead and Iron Maiden fan, they are with me everywhere I go and you can hear it in the music I create. So why shall I take a break from a project if it is to do something totally different at the same time?
Ok. But I don't understand why you decided to split the band. Last year you destroyed Wacken, the Roskilde this year, the Quart, Metalmania,...and you were planning to go on tour, so why now?
I don't want to go on with the band for all the wrong reasons! If the spirit is not there anymore, it's no use going on. I don't want to lie to the fans! And in that particular case, money doesn't matter,as we never made things for money anyway.
Well... and how do you feel about the summer festivals of this year?
It's not the first time we played in Roskilde, and it was rather cool. We were already "en route" for the Quart when "it happened". Well, maybe I could have talked about it earlier, but I never found the right moment.
Were there some negative reactions to the news of the split?
No, not at all. Even our label didnt't bother us too much (laughs). Of course, my friends and relatives ask me questions but I don't mind it. I don't have the internet at home, and I don't know what has been said in forums, but I believe people think it's a natural thing to happen, there is no reason to make a fuss about it. After all, we were only Immortal, not Slayer or Iron Maiden! If these bands stop, then only you should expect a violent reaction.
But Immortal was an important band, a link between extreme metal and traditional Heavy Metal!
I believe it's what we were on an underground level and that we took a bow while we were at our best. Maybe we could have gone further, but we didn't see the use of it.
So there is really no tension between the members of the band?
Not at all (smiles)!
And Saroth doesn't feel left out?
No. He is his own master, he always showed much respect and comprehension for what the band was. When he joined Immortal, he received a real baptism by fire, as we went on tour immediately. We played during one month with Hypocrisy, then in the US with Manowar. It all went well with him, he is very cool, very nice. I think he enjoyed being a part of the Immortal adventure, and we appreciated his presence by our side. I believe he had a great time with us, and I really believe he should have joined us earlier. He is now studying in Sweden, and I hope he will do well in everything he does.
If we ask you this question, it's because of the press communicate explaining the split of Immortal, which was signed "Abbath, Demonaz and Horgh". Why didn't the names of Saroth and Iscariah appear?
Because Demonaz and I created the band! Then Horgh joined in and I contributed to its development. This is the reason why I think it's right to say that Demonaz, Horgh and I are the creative spirits of the band. But Iscariah and Saroth played important parts as well. Saroth quickly found his position within the band. He was ok with it and appreciated it. Iscariah always wanted more and wanted to participate to the creative process, but in a way that didn't suit Immortal. But I don't worry about him... He is a very good musician, he has gained recognition within the scene and it will not be difficult for him to go on.
If you look back on those past 13 years, these 7 studio albums and these dozens of gigs, do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to with Immortal?
Yes and no. I learned many things, which is a form of success. Yet I think we had to face too many upheavals, and we always had to fear what would come next. We have not turned into rockstars nor became very rich, but we managed to find a balance, both as human beings and as artists. Even I found a certain form of stability. I know life is difficult and full of obstacles, but I managed to create around me a universe that allows me to fulfill my desires. Even if Immortal has been a heavy load sometimes, I could not consider my future without this band. Yet, it finally happened. I thought it was impossible. I understood that Immortal had to stop to allow me to start from scratch again. After all, Lemmy was 30 when he created Motörhead. I'm not dead yet (laughs)! The next chapter will have nothing to do with Immortal, but whatever I do, it will be for the best: I couldn't compose for a long time, but now I have written new things and I'm happy with it.
From the very beginning, even before the release of "Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism", to this last gig in Spain in front of 20.000 people, how would you describe the evolution of the band?
Immortal did not gained celebrity immediately. We tried to build something that few people thought possible to achieve. We proved to the world that we were in the right track! As I was saying, there were numerous obstacles but we never ceased to learn.
Have you dreamt of such a success?
When I started the band with Demonaz, we had great expectations! I remember one night near the ruins of Lysekloster, when we had painted our bodies... We had drunk some whiskey while watching videos of Venom and we were dreaming of success! In a sense, the band was a total success as it allowed us to live extraordinary things. We love to play live and Immortal was made to be onstage. We never listened to anyone but ourselves. Since the first day, we always followed our instinct, never paying attention to any form of fashion. So yes, I would say that we knew we were going to be successful one day, but of a success such as two kids who wanted to play a music inspired by the one they liked could dream of having. It's true that it's incredible to play in front of 20.000 people, but it's nothing compared to the moments that Demonaz and I lived when nobody knew who we were.
Now that it's all over and you look back, isn't it frustrating to see that you are not rich at all, while people made money thanks to Immortal?
It's the same thing for every band! People who work in the music business always make more money than the artists. But without this industry, we would have gained nothin at all. We don't feel Osmose Productions nor Nuclear Blast tried to f*ck us, or maybe we're too dumb to realise it (laughs)! Moeny comes and go, and I never made an obsession about it. I never let the financial aspect interfere with the music even if, whent the band became bigger, it was a source of problems. If the flame had still been there, maybe we could have dealt with it, but it was too much in the present situation. Too many discussions and negociations with the management, this is what made me realise that it was time to stop.
Well, it all belongs to the past. What is going to happen, now?
If I'm healthy enough to go on, I'll keep doing what I've always done, yet in a different way. It will be 100% Abbath, but I don't know when it's going to be released. It will take a little while and I don't feel like accelerating the process. For the time being, what is important for me is to practice sports and stay active. I train a lot and drink less. I don't think it's the right time to stop completely, it would only be an other source of pressure. What is important for me now is to see people who are close to me. I know that I'm a lonely wolf, but even wolves need company (laughs)! I don't like being absent from the stage for a while - because I adore being on stage playing live - but it will happen again only when the time is right. Be it in front of 30 or 30.000 people, I don't care, as long as I can give them what I want. What I'm composing for the moment, I make it for myself first, but it would be stupid to say that I would make it only for me. Even Quorthon and Fenriz need to release their albums (laughs)! Listening to it alone in your corner is not enough. When a musician feels that he has found something good, he has to share it.
We ask the question one last time: is Immortal dead and buried for ever?
One must never say never. We hope that the band will still live in the albums and the songs, and that the heritage of Immortal will survive in our future projects.
Ok, yet the news of the split was such a terrible shock for your fans. Is there no hope to see you, say, newt year at the Wacken, if the number of zeros on the check is high enough?
As I already said, money doesn't matter! Now, I'm sure that if that had to happen we would ask our fair share! But it may not happen before several years, and maybe it will not be worth it then. It doesn't matter. It's possible, yet it won't happen in 2004!
Author: Håkon Grav (© 2003 "Hard'n'Heavy" Magazine)
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