For many fans of Enslaved here in Greece their upcoming shows are like a dream come true. For us it’s another opportunity to talk again with one of our favorites bands. Thanx to Mr. Jim Kotsis in the other side of the line is Mr. Iver Sandøy, producer and drummer of Enslaved.
The first time I interviewed Enslaved, I started with the question:, “I still can’t believe that there’s a black metal band from Norway 25 years on the spotlight, without one member of it murdered or in jail, no churches burned or vandalisms written on their criminal records. How on earth can you explain it Mr. Ivar Bjørnson?”. Now I have to ask How on earth can you explain it Mr. Iver Sandøy that you are 28 years on the road, this is your first time in Greece?
Hahaha, I really don’t know how to explain this. Of course I wasn’t in the band all these 28 years, but still I can understand why schedules are sometimes too difficult, how all this things work, bad timing or not a good proposal from the promoters.
You’ve mentioned that you weren’t in the band all these years, (you joined in 2018), so all this regular change in the line-up how does affected the band and how did you overcome these obstacles?
Personally speaking, I have worked with the band for many years, so when Cato Bekkevold decided to retire, the two original members and founders Ivar (Bjørnson) and Grutle (Kjellson) thought that it was better for me to join the band and fill in the gap in order to keep the bond, as I was working with the guys for several years. I guess they thought that I was something like a natural selection for the band. Now as this phenomenon of the lineup changes is not new for Enslaved I have to tell you that one of the reasons that this band evolved is actually this new blood that was coming through the years. Take for example our last studio album, “E”. Håkon Vinje is only 27 years old now (born 1992), and look how much energy he brought to the band. So I believe that Enslaved never felt going back in any way including the lineup changes.
Since our last interview with the band, you’ve released one studio and one live album with Enslaved, done a lot of touring and released a couple of albums all you members with other projects. Where do you find the time to do all these things?
Now that’s a difficult thing to answer. I don’t really know how the other guys find the time to do all these things. I have to answer for myself and believe me that it’s difficult to say, too. I guess the passion for creativity makes things a bit easier for everyone, as long as it still burns insides us, we will be able to find enough time to do all these things. I know it must sound too cliché but I think that the weather here in Norway has a lot to do regarding creativity and the hours we spend on writing, playing and composing. I have so many friends in Athens. Some of them are artists. Musicians. And have so busy days and so many things to do. And they open the window and see this bright sun. And then you see them with a beer on their hand fooling around, being outside the studio, no worries just living, enjoying the sun, hahaha. I wish I could do this to be honest.
In 1928 a famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, traveled to Berlin. He describes in his autobiography a pagan feast he attended where the elite of Germany took part while the President of the Weimar Republic, Hildenburg was Wotan (the Old High German name of the Germanic god Odin) and the others there worshiped him as a God, all drunk and all in hedonistic state. He actually wondered how paganism was involved with power and how the late ‘20s and early ‘30s society in Germany was collapsing and no one had the courage to stop it. I know that paganism is about the simple, the common man and it’s not about the elite. How do you react when people tries to connect paganism with Nazism or with the elite?
That’s a nice question, because it gives me the opportunity to clear some things. I don’t speak in the name of Enslaved or on behalf of the other guys but I know they are on the same page on that. Personally speaking I consider myself as an atheist and Paganism is a term first used for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism. I’m into paganism as far as it gives things from tradition and heritage and to things that usually focus on spirituality and nature. As for Nazism there’s nothing that connects this terrible and dangerous ideology with Norwegian heritage or pagan tradition. They may use our symbols and try to abuse or patronize some things taken from pagan culture, but I think we are living in times where the whole scene is united and demands to take these symbols back. I understand that in the story you told me, the Mexican painter saw a brutal and barbaric ritual where the German elite of the late ‘20s-early ‘30s was actually collapsing. They probably tried to do it with an astonishing way. The mistakes that humanity made 80 or 70 years ago must stop. All this crimes in the ‘30s and the ‘40s will always be crimes and besmear humanity and it is time to abstract paganism from Nazism and cut apart any connection of these two. Our runes, Yggdrasil, The Valknut and so many symbols have nothing to do with Nazism, and so does Enslaved.
Actually you’ve answered to my next question that was: “What does paganism mean to you?” and I have to ask you why are non Norwegians or non Scandinavians attracted to Norwegian and Scandinavian culture?
Norse mythology and culture may seem exotic to so many. But as Greek, ancient Greek mythology and culture will always fascinate people, will always be a guide or a way to find something to lean on, or something to give you strength. Past must be a source of wisdom and an example for us. We all can take lessons from the past, and filter the knowledge we get from our heritage (I’m talking about all humanity’s inheritance) and as Scandinavian culture consists of tales of various beings and heroes this thing fascinates modern people. I hope for all the good reasons.
Let’s talk about music now. I know it is difficult to listen to music on tour, or while recording new material, but as a fan besides being a musician and a producer, what are you listening when you are alone at your house?
Even though I found the previous questions quite interesting still I prefer talking about music, hahaha. Well I listen to various things that you probably may not heard before, and only know them as names.
Test me please…
Aaahh you mean this guy that died a couple of days before? Never heard a single note from his work, indeed.
Well yeahh, this guy. He was a quite impressive artist. He played a mixture of pop rock, avant-garde, experimental sound so, it may not be so metal but it is definitely worth exploring. Besides that I also hear a lot of The Claypool Lennon Delirium, you know John Lennon’s son band.
No I don’t know! Hahaha
You know Primus right?
Ok (at least) I know Primus!
Well Les Claypool, from Primus has a psychedelic rock band with guitarist/vocalist Sean Lennon and I’m listening their last studio album entilted “South Οf Reality”, probably find time to check it yourself sometime. We saw them live a little time ago in New York, as we were in Philadelphia for a show and tried to find two-three days to rest and go to see a live show there and it was a brilliant choice we’ve made I have to say.
You guys draw strong inspiration from so many different things, ‘60s, ‘70s, fusion rock, pop, avant-garde and your song structure is similar to many prog rock bands. How easy or difficult is to keep the balance between progressive elements with black metal sound?
Being on the road for almost 30 years could kill the most of the musicians. I mean physically. Listening to the same stuff over and over again probably could kill any musician mentally. Ivar and Grutle were always open-minded. They wouldn’t make Enslaved so big and so miscellaneous if they weren’t. All artists develop themselves. It may sound too magniloquent, but take Picasso as an example. He wasn’t the same artist in his beginning, as he was in his last days or at his peak. The same evolution you can hear on us, we try different things, taking elements from new sources and drawing inspiration from eclectic music.
When you were referring to Picasso I was thinking of you playing in a drumset influenced by cubism…
Well hahaha that’s an interesting idea to use in our next tour…
The closing is yours. A message to your Greek fans?
I really want to play to Athens and Thessaloniki. I have visited Athens so many times, I have friends there as I mentioned before and I’m really looking forward to play there. And we will go from Athens to Thessaloniki by bus to see the country, as we really like to explore any country we play.
You probably will see something unique that day, as the over 20,000 fans of a football club from Thessaloniki will travel across the land to watch their team (happens to be my time also) in Athens for the cup final. But believe me that won’t affect your shows that I think will be both sold out.
That’s great to hear as we want our fans to be there and hope to see you in Athens and watch your team the other day!