TTI: After receiving and downloading The High Heat Licks Against Heaven the other day, I went to buy something with my car and played the album. Approximately some three or four minutes later, there I was, holding a speeding ticket in my hand, stopped by a police patrol that I pass by every single day. I just couldn’t believe that I was driving faster than usual at that particular spot, knowing that they were waiting. Afterwards, when I tried to explain to myself what actually happened, the only explanation I could find was that the adrenaline rush I got from Surtr made me press the gas pedal a bit harder than usual, without me being conscious of it. Has anything even remotely similar ever happened to you and is one of your music’s purposes to get people in this kind of troubles?
Teloch: I’d be more impressed if you said you killed someone when listening to our music, but ok, I’ll settle for a speeding ticket. It’s a start. Can’t really think of any situations like that experienced by myself. But it seems to me that the tune hit you in a good way.
TTI: When you are alone at home, with a guitar in your hands, how difficult it is to make those torrents of adrenaline and pulsating energy flow and transform into actual songs?
Teloch: When writing stuff, I normally don’t get any adrenaline until the song is 90% finished. Then I listen to the song at high volume many, many times, I listen to it so much that I get to the point where I’m tired of it, even before it’s recorded properly in studio. That’s not necessarily a good thing, I’m trying to change it, but can’t really see how I can. It is what it is. If I do sit down with an adrenaline overload then it’s hard to compose anything at all, those times it’s nice to shred the guts out of the guitar, just play nonsense and easy chugga chugga riffs.
TTI: Even though you are now also a permanent member of Mayhem, whose notoriety, popularity and extensive touring obligations would probably be too much to handle for anyone who has another band on the side, you still somehow manage to keep Nidingr alive and active. In that respect, would it be accurate to say that Mayhem is the band that you live from, while Nidingr is the one that you live for? Out of all musical ventures you handle simultaneously at this moment, is Nidingr the one that is the closest to your heart?
Teloch: Both bands are equally important to me, but Mayhem is the one I spend most time on. Mayhem is prioritized over Nidingr of course, for obvious reasons. Nidingr is still a baby and Mayhem is this old grumpy grandpa that needs attention and care. With Mayhem I’m still trying to find out how I should write. So, to me our last album Esoteric Warfare was very important to do, as now I know how the guys work and what is possible to do and what’s not. Of course, since I have done Nidingr for so many years, it is the closest to my heart. Goes without saying.
TTI: In addition, do you feel that, precisely because you aren’t obliged to meet any kind of expectations imposed by fans or labels, Nidingr’s music can be whatever you want it to be, in a sense that you don’t have to make any compromises with it?
Teloch: Yes, we make music for ourselves first of all. Nidingr has been the band for me to compose freely whatever I want. If anyone likes it, that’s stellar, but not necessary for us. If this was our bread and butter then it would be more important to have a million likes on facebook and sell lots of merch. For us, it is also about a constant evolvement when it comes to the music, pushing our boundaries if you like, and at the same time staying true to ourselves.
TTI: What makes Nidingr immediately recognizable is the band’s immensely personal sound that is a combination of Cpt. Estrella Grasa’s characteristic singing and your signature riffing style. It is practically impossible to mistake Nidingr for another band, because no other band sounds even remotely similar to you. Is this a fair assessment and are you able to step aside and value your music impartially? How critical are you of your own work?
Teloch: It’s been our goal not to follow as sheep, freedom has always been the key word for us. Cool to see now, many years since we started, that we actually do not sound like anyone else. I think that is an accomplishment in itself, and not very often to hear, to my knowledge at least.
I am very critical of my own work, a bit too much actually, even though it might not seem that way when meeting me. At the same time, I’m not the one that sits and polish riffs month in and month out. To me, then the riff you made on a certain feeling or atmosphere is ruined and the whole point is gone. I can of course change out a riff here and there on a track if needed, but my sketches normally sound 95% as the finished recorded song.
TTI: I agree that having a signature sound is an achievement in itself, but to complement such a sound with memorable songwriting appears to be a mission impossible for most of the bands. They usually have one gift or the other, with some unfortunately being completely devoid of both. That being said, there is something truly special about Nidingr, as you rarely have any fillers on your albums. Your riffs are catchy and unburdened with unnecessary technicality, always careful not to encumber a normal person’s attention span. Do they come out that way spontaneously or after a long, tiresome process of editing and perfecting? When you pick up a guitar, does music come easy to the surface of your consciousness or do you have to dive deep into yourself to find it?
Teloch: Thanks man. Usually things pop out as soon as I manage to be calm enough to actually sit down to write. I never sit down with a goal when making a Nidingr song, it starts with a riff, a drumbeat or a bass line and I see where it goes from there. Sometimes I do a song in a night, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to finish one. The way I write is that, as soon as I can’t come any further, then I stop and pick it up later. I learned that forcing out a song does not work at all for me, then it’s better to stop and do something else. There are too much other things going on right now, so there is not as much writing and studio work as I wish. I like better working in a studio than being out touring. It’s the creative part that still makes me do this, and so far I haven’t been very good at making much on the road. A couple of things only.
TTI: Can you please say something about the vividly colorful cover of The High Heat Licks Against Heaven? At first glance, the picture may seem like a visual cacophony of lines and colors, but if looked closely and more carefully, one can see things like waves, forepeak of a Viking battleship that is filled with warriors whose lances are held up high, evil animal eyes that lurk ominously, covered by a countless of feathers, and so many other little details. What do all those images represent?
Teloch: The artwork was made by our good friend Valnoir, who has done our three latest covers. The cover represents the universe explored by the album’s lyrics. It’s a romantic projection of the sagas and the Nordic world as we usually figure it. The elements are made of fear, steel, the ocean, signed by runic combinations.
TTI: Considering that you are the main songwriter for both Mayhem and Nidingr, what is the standard by which you determine which one of those two bands would benefit more from a certain riff or a certain arrangement? When you write a riff, are you able to instantly tell whom it should belong to?
Teloch: As I touched some of it in my earlier answer, for Nidingr I never have any goals or agenda when writing songs, it can sound like whatever I want it to sound, it kinda give itself its own sound. For Mayhem, up to now, the process has been totally different, there I felt I had to follow certain rules when making songs. I felt like I had to honor both Euronymous and Blasphemer and to respect the history. Having said that, I think the next one, which I have started writing on now, will be slightly different. I will try to create my own Mayhem universe instead of following what others have done before me. If I can, we will see. I have my doubts, as it won’t contain any Euronymous or Blasphemer inspired riffing, and I really like their style of playing. And we’ll see if the rest of the band will get it at all. So far, they are really into three of the new ones. We need to go into the rehearsal place and try them out before making up our mind, of course.
TTI: I read in some of your earlier interviews that you dislike when people label Nidingr as a black metal band. I understand that sentiment and agree with it, and not only because of your diverse, all-encompassing sound, but also because of the way you look and the bands you support by wearing their merch. That being said, I noticed that on these most recent promotional photographs Cpt. Estrella Grasa wore hoodie with a Killing Technology era Voivod logo on it. Many people, myself included, regard that Voivod era as their best one. How about yourself? Do you like Voivod, what is your favorite album by them and, considering that you also have very personal and almost instantly recognizable guitar sound, would you deem Piggy and his playing an important musical influence?
Teloch: Yes, I like Voivod, to me it’s hard to choose between Rrröööaaarrr , Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss , I like them all. No wait, Dimension Hatröss is my favorite. Not sure how influenced I am by them, haven’t really thought about it cause I haven’t really owned any Voivod albums. I just know of them.
TTI: Considering that Hallhammer, your current Mayhem bandmate, played drums on the band’s second album Wolf-Father, did you ever discuss the possibility of him becoming a permanent Nidingr member? In addition, would you agree that, out of all technically impeccable drummers in metal today, he is the one with the most personal sound?
Teloch: From what I remember, the plan was to keep on playing with him. We did the Wolf-Father album and we did some shows together. But back then, he was too busy getting any time to practice between Mayhem, Arcturus, work and family. Yes, he does have very unique style. He has a style that people are trying to copy, insane drummer.
TTI: When you wake up in the morning, how long does it take for you to think about something that is music-related? Is Nidingr right on top of your mind from the very moment you open your eyes?
Teloch: No, Mayhem is on my mind when I wake up. What’s my agenda today and what needs to be done. I turned into this very boring office rat that sits and answers emails from morning thru the night. I hate it! Musician my ass.
TTI: A few years ago, in some The Konsortium interview, after being asked about the phantom masks, you replied: No hidden reason why we wear them other than that we all are very ugly. There is a reason our mothers don’t want anything to do with us. And our criminal records is not one of them. Have your relations with your mothers improved and gotten better in the meantime, do they invite you for a Sunday lunch sometimes?
Teloch: Can’t speak for the others in The Konsortium, but at least my mother has been threatening with weekly visits to Oslo since she stopped working, so guessing the relation is good. Speaking of The Konsortium, new album is in the works. Drums recorded and this time it looks like I will have a go at the bass instead of doing guitars. Got the files with me on the road and will try my best doing some bass work. Gonna be a great album!
TTI: About your aforementioned criminal records, have they gotten bigger over the last two or three years? Of all the crimes you ever committed, which one you got the most satisfaction from?
Teloch: Can’t tell it to you, cause they never caught me doing that one. My record has been unchanged for the last 20 plus years.
TTI: When Gorgoroth played Wacken in 2008, it was reported that 75.000 souls were there that night. How overwhelming was to play in front of so many people? To this day, have you ever played in front of a bigger crowd?
Teloch: It was hard as hell to play for that many people, not very enjoyable. Keeping the energy up when people are 15 meters away from you is not very easy. That gig is my record to this day, and I hope I won’t break that one. I like smaller gigs better, when people are up in your face.
Originally published on 6th February 2017.
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