Interview with Erik Danielsson of Watain
Bulldozer: You guys are touring as a full five piece this tour, but Set wasn’t able to make it. What led you to recruiting Sellm from The Devil’s Blood instead of touring as a four piece?
Erik Danielsson: The main reason was avoiding the feeling of compromising. All the other times we’ve come through the US before, we’ve been here three times if you include the Maryland Deathfest, I didn’t mind that solution, but we felt that at some point we’d have to do it the way we do it at home.
ED: We finally realized there is no way Set was going to get into the country, we just sat, and said, “Fuck. What are we going to do? We cannot bring in just some other guy, and there is no one who can take the place of Set.” And then we’re like, “Wait a minute. Sellm!” And everyone agreed, and after a phone call ten minutes later it was all settled. He came up to and rehearsed a bunch of times with us in Sweden and what can I say, it’s not supposed to be seen as another version of the line up, it’s just temporary, but still it’s a very good solution to a very unfortunate problem.
Bulldozer: The Devil’s Blood play a much different style of music than Watain, did you run into any problems with that when it came to Sellm’s playing in Watain, who are so defiantly black metal?
ED: I would say it worked instantly. I mean, the guy has always been a big fan of the band, and no matter what type of music he’s playing, he knew our songs by heart before he came to rehearsal, so that helped.
Bulldozer: Sure. So you’re pretty far into the tour at this point, hows the result been with you guys as the headliner, as opposed to a supporting slot?
ED: In the US I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I can say that compared to the last US tour, which I can say is an accurate comparison, I can say that the reaction is quite breathtaking. Things have doubled, not only with the people at shows, but also the general acceptance of what were doing. The understanding of what we’re doing has increased, which of course is very relieving. For us it’s very good to see, it’s not like we’re trying to impose a message on anyone, but it’s good to see that people got the point. They know what to expect, and we appreciate that. That makes it a lot easier to deal with anyone.
Bulldozer: Of course.
ED: And I’m not only talking about audiences, but also promoters, people in general this time around we don’t have anyone saying anything at the sight of our stage show, unlike last the time [we toured the US].
Bulldozer: So the stage show has worked better this time? I know there were a lot of issues last time with promoters no exactly liking the show.
ED: There are always complications. As long as we’re around there will always be a storm cloud around us, and that’s the way we’ve chosen. But let’s just say it’s been easier to get around it this time. Promoters in general are more ready for us.
Bulldozer: Something I’ve been curious about with a lot of bands, but especially Watain, is that with the music being very emotionally charged and physically demanding, how do you plan a set as a performer when you have so much time?
ED: It’s been hard (laughs). It’s really quite a lot of frustration, which is why we alternate [songs] pretty much every night. We keep about 60% of the setlist the same every night and we change the rest of it, and it’s been fantastic. This is the fourth night in a row we’ll be playing a different setlist. And we want to go on like that so that it doesn’t get repetitive, for our sake first and foremost.
Bulldozer: Do you feel the new songs are standing up with the old ones in the live set?
ED: Yeah. It’s hard to say you know, because every time I get off stage I just kind of look back on an hour or pandemonium, and I don’t really make out much of a difference between the old stuff and the new stuff. For me it’s all a part of our work, and I don’t differentiate. It’s a constant flow of power. I can absolutely say that the new songs have added to the live experience as far as I’m concerned.
Bulldozer: On Lawless Darkness, and more specifically “Waters of Ain” (the album’s 14+ minute closing track), there are many ideas going on, creating a song that at once is melodic, abrasive, and dark. What goes into the creative process for a song like that for Watain?
ED: Yeah, I’ve been asking myself that a lot (laughs). I don’t know man. I guess thats… Even though I could probably try to define it and try to describe a pattern that we use that eventually leads up to this type of song… Even if I could, I don’t know that I’d want to. That’s sort of the magic of artistry. I can tell you that when we left the studio, and we’d stayed the studio for two months without leaving, just living there, we just kind of looked back and said “What the fuck happened? Where did all this come from?” And I like to keep it like that, I don’t like to dissect things like that. I’m just very grateful for the blessing we have received.
Bulldozer: Fair enough. In particular, and I don’t mean to keep going back to “Waters of Ain,” there seems to be an idea of light existing in the darkness, as really exemplified in lines like “Do not mistake me for a star…” Could you go into that song a little bit?
ED: To me it is… I’m trying to shorten down a one hour answer here, but someone once said that “the brightest light will always cast the darkest shadows.” And that’s something that I think sums up a lot of the outer conceptions of Satanism. I think that’s why Watain is understood as something extremely chaotic and extremely destructive. Something extremely sinister here on this Earth. But at the same time, it comes from a source that is completely pure, devoid of any mundane filth. Devoid of any man-made thought whatsoever. And that is the light that in the eyes of many people casts a very dark shadow because it is the light that is not meant for us to see. We are not meant to comprehend this light. And what I’m trying to say with this lyric is that one must never mistake the extravagance and the otherworldliness of things that are still a part of creation for something that is actually not a part of creation as we know it, of God as we know it. And that’s why I’m saying, is that if people are seeing a huge source of power in Watain, don’t mistake it for a man-made power, or a God-made power, because it is completely the opposite. I’m not completely satisfied with that answer, but for me it’s a vast topic, and I hope that meant something to you.
Bulldozer: I think that’s right on what I was asking for, and thank you. So after this tour’s over, what’s next for Watain?
ED: We have a bunch more tours (laughs). We’re headed down to South America right after this tour is done, which should be by early December. We’ll head down to South America to relax a bit, and then we’ll head back to Sweden to let almost one year of debauchery unwind a bit. Then we’re back on the road, playing a few exclusive gigs here and there. It’s an ever spinning wheel that’s never spinning in any set pattern, just spinning on it’s own power.
Bulldozer: Is there anything you’d like to leave Bulldozer readers with before we part ways? Kind of a cheesy question, but…
ED: Nah, don’t worry, just whenever I get a question like this I get pumped up because there’re so many things I want to say. One of the things I’d like to point out is that a lot of the people coming to Watain shows are asking me, “Are you using the blood today? Are you using the heads today?” That’s giving me the feeling that people have gotten us a bit wrong, you know? Because it’s never been about being some freak show, it’s never been about being intentionally controversial. That’s more of a consequence of us doing what we’re doing. When people start to focus on that aspect, they get lost on the surface, and there’s so much more to us than that. So all I want to say is when you come to a Watain show, when you approach Watain live or on an album or whatever, do it with an open mind and an open heart. Whatever comes in, in that void in your heart and in your mind, contemplate that. Let it sink in. Because we are so much more than just blood and guts, and that’s something people need to know.
Interview by: Eric Bryan