Yes, it’s true: our interview with Enslaved’s brilliant bassist/vocalist, Grutle Kjellson, came at the end of a very long and stressful day involving behind-the-curtains technical issues here at MetalSucks, and another devastating loss by Vince’s beloved New York Mets. So, yeah, we may have had a few to loosen up before heading into Kjellson’s dressing room to chat. And, yeah, Vince’s can of Bud Light and Kjellson’s can of Corona were both the same color. So, yep yep, at one point, Vince did indeed pick up Kjellson’s beer and take a swig, and, yes, Kjellson did notice immediately. Lucky for us, he was cool about it.

Also lucky for us: the man is a great goddamn interview, and, it should go without saying, a great goddamn performer — later that night, Enslaved absolutely obliterated us, and their stellar performance more than made up for our otherwise crappy day, the embarrassing imbibing of the wrong drink included.

And so, after the jump, get Kjellson’s thoughts on the band’s latest North American headlining tour, their recent collaboration with Scion A/V, plans for their next album, the upcoming celebration party for their twentieth anniversary (!!!), and more.

So how’s the tour going so far?

It’s the third show – so far so good. We played in Springfield, VA on the first day and yesterday was Pittsburgh.

Still getting into the rhythm of things, then?

Yeah, yeah.  [laughs]  Trying to get rid of the jetlag and stuff like that.

The shows have been good, with a good turnout.  There’s a good vibe between the bands.

Are you excited to be back in the U.S.?  Is this the first tour on the new album?

The second [U.S. tour behind Axioma Ethica Odini], first headlining tour.  We did a support tour with Dimmu Borgir in November and December of last year.  So yeah, this is the second one.

That’s right. We know Ghost dropped off the tour and that was a big deal.  Did you pick Ghost or was that through agents and managers?

It was through management.  We have the final word, of course.  We thought it was a pretty good suggestion because we are pretty big Ghost fans.  It was a disappointment for us when they dropped out.  But we got a great replacement in Junius. I had never heard of them before this tour.  They’re an excellent band.

They’re a really good live band.

Oh yeah, really good live band.  They are heavy in a different way than metal.  Yeah, a really good band.

Not really so much a metal band. 

Good guys, too.  Good choice.

And Alcest we’re sure you guys know…

Yeah, we knew Alcest from before.  We played one show with them prior to this one in Germany.  Nice guys, great band.  It’s a good package I think.

Yeah.  When we interviewed Ivar [Bjørnson, guitarist] about opening for Dimmu, he said when you came back for the headlining tour, he thought you’d be doing side B of Axioma.  Have you stuck to that?

Yeah, to some extent.  We had a lot of old stuff from the whole career actually.

That’s cool.

Yeah, I’m surprised, too. [laughs]

How long do you play every night?

One hour and a half. That’s twice as long as last time.

You kind of need that because you guys don’t have short songs.

No, we don’t. [laughs] It’s going to be one song from Axioma that we didn’t play the last time, and it’s going to be songs from Monumension, Below the Lights, Ruun, Isa, Vertebrae, Frost, and one from the new EP, The Sleeping Gods… and a little surprise.

We actually wanted to ask you about Sleeping Gods.  How did that come together with Scion?  Did they approach you?

They did, yes, through some recommendation from somewhere.  I don’t know.  I’m really not into the booking and agency thing.  [laughs]  I basically quit doing that ten years ago, because I don’t want to have anything to do with such activities.  I want to focus on playing in the band, writing music and stuff like that.  We were recommended by some prominent person or something like that.  I don’t know.  [laughs]  We thought it was pretty interesting.

[Vince picks up and drinks Kjellson’s beer.]

You’re stealing my beer now?

This is yours?

Yeah. [laughs]

[nervous laughter; Axl facepalms] Sorry! We’ll get you a new one one later.

Don’t worry about it.

[Kjellson now drinks from the beer, thus inheriting Vince’s cooties.]

The [Scion] deal was pretty simple. They paid for the studio and all of the expenses and I think after a year or so or six months, we have the rights to the songs so we can publish them wherever we want. That’s a pretty good deal with promotional CDs and promotional vinyls and the free downloads.  It was a great deal.  We had some material back from ’92 or ’93 that we had never used before.  We thought that maybe we should use some old riffs and try to incorporate them into the new songs.  The songs are very different from each other.  It was a pretty interesting thing to do.  Everything was done in a rush.  It was like “Can you do it?  Can you have it ready in fourteen days?”  “I guess.” Write some lyrics and try to reconstruct those old riffs that we had forgotten about from fifteen years ago.  [laughs]  That was pretty interesting.

So it all done in fourteen days from when they first contacted you?

Something like that.


It was maybe three  weeks.  I don’t know.

Are you happy with the way it came out?

Absolutely.  We tried out a different studio that we had never used before, and it turned out great.  I love the sound of it, especially when you think that we spent so few hours doing it.  I’m real satisfied.

A lot of people say that a car company shouldn’t be sponsoring metal.  “Corporations shouldn’t have anything to do with black metal.” Does that stuff bother you?  Do you even think about that?

No. [laughs] Isn’t the music business a corporation already?  What the fuck?

Oh, we agree with you.  But there are a lot of people out there who don’t, obviously…

Yeah, yeah.  Bands should never play live, should never record, and never rehearse.

Only make one album and print one copy so it’s impossible to find.

Impossible to get and stay at home and be very evil. [laughs] Aren’t you supposed to fucking record stuff?  You’re not in a band if you don’t play live and release albums. What the fuck is that?  What the fuck?

Yeah.  So What’s next for you guys after this tour?

Heading back home and doing a few shows in Spain and one in Portugal – festivals.  I think we are doing one show in Norway, and we have a twenty year anniversary celebration.  It’s twenty years this year.


Thank you.  We’re going to have a party in late November.

Can we come?

[laughs]  Of course.  Why not?

Sounds fun.

It’s going to be a traditional birthday thing: cake, food and stuff.


Yeah, a Viking ship cake. [laughs] Which is pretty silly.

No, it’s awesome!

Yeah, and it’s pretty funny too.  We’re going to play a short set and there is going to be a jam session, so people can come up and play songs.

Special guests?

Special guests, yeah, but it’s open for everybody to come and celebrate with us.  That happens before Christmas.  Ivar and his wife are going to have a kid right before Christmas, so he’s going to be pretty occupied with that.  Pretty hormonal lady, big like a whale. [laughs] Women tend to get big when they’re pregnant.

No kidding.  I’m going to go tell him that you called her that.

No offense, but we all know what pregnant women look like.

Some people are into that.

Yeah? Some people are into loads of weird things. [laughs] Let’s not go into that.

Does that mean that the band is going to take some time off?

We have to, of course.  I think the next show in early 2012 is in February or March.

Okay.  You guys have been going pretty consistently for the past twenty years.

We’re going to record a new album next Spring. Still running!

You think that’ll be out in late 2012?


Have you started to write for it yet?

Oh yeah.

Can you tell us anything in these early stages?

It’s a little too early.  It’s going to be different, of course.  As far as it looks for now, it looks like it’s going to be a little darker, a little rougher, and more aggressive and limber and a little less safe, maybe.  It’s really too soon to tell.

How do you find the inspiration after twenty years to keep doing this and to keep it fresh and keep moving forward?

It’s pretty simple.  We never put any limits on the music.  We never painted ourselves into a corner.  I think it’s more difficult for a band like Slayer, because everybody will compare the new album to Reign in Blood or something like that.  I don’t think we have those problems because I think that people are expecting the next one to sound very different.  There’s absolutely no pressure for us, so we are free to incorporate anything we want into the music.  If we want to use violins or tubas, we’ll do that.

World breaking exclusive:” TUBAS ON THE NEXT ENSLAVED RECORD!”

The next one is going to be world music with just tablas and sitars. [laughs] But I think you see what I mean. We have  total musical and lyrical freedom.  That sounds very cool.

You guys have definitely not repeated yourselves.

Music is not a competition.

That’s true.  Wise words.

We enjoy making music.  We enjoy arranging music.  That’s what we do and that’s what we have done for twenty years.  We actually find it more and more enjoyable.

-VN & AR


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