Killed By Death
I’ve been easing into 2016, having enjoyed a long holiday bender...err, break, one that was interrupted by yet more tragic news—news none of us mortals thought we’d ever have to deal with. December’s column was sort of a bittersweet look back at 2015, but apparently 2015 (and 2016, for that matter) wasn’t through with us.
By now there’s been endless ink spilled for David Bowie and Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, both of whom died from cancer just days after their birthdays. Lemmy was the embodiment of rock ’n’ roll, and a bona fide rock star right up there with the biggest. What separated him from the rest of them is that he was down to hang out before the show and have a Jack & Coke with you and me. Every story told at his memorial (which I tearily watched live on YouTube) came back to this. Although my favorite anecdote—to which I can totally relate—was how pissed Lemmy would get when people talked over music. Even at parties. What a fucking guy. And David Bowie is simply not of this Earth. Brilliant in every way, and his records turned me on to so much other great music. My favorite, 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World, is an incredible, psychedelic glam record, and “Width of a Circle” and “She Shook Me Cold” are heavier than many things dubbed heavy metal.
That said, I don’t typically get upset over the death of people I don’t know. But, fuck that, these two blokes were more than musicians; they were ideals of how to live—to be considerate, and do what you want and how you want until your last breath. It’s a lot to take, although I don’t feel moved to add a whole lot more to the glut of thinky pieces and remembrances. I’m sad...that’s it. But I still refuse to call a Jack & Coke a fucking “Lemmy.”
Black Magic Women
Portland three-piece Tiny Knives make some of the most caustic punk sludge around, and their third record, Black Haze (out February 2 on the venerable Eolian Empire) is a more refined version of what they’ve been doing for the past six years. There are a few Pacific Northwest touchstones—particularly riot grrrl and some Melvins weirdness—sprinkled into their music, but Tiny Knives is definitely breathing air on another planet.
I’m pleased to be premiering one of the new tracks from Black Haze right here, right now. “Past Tense” steam rolls, rips and shreds, and the rest of the record promises to do the same. One of the best heavy releases of this early 2016. Check it out in the player below.
In the underworld of black metal, Olve Eikemo (better known as Abbath Doom Occulta, or just Abbath) is right up there with the two aforementioned gods. He co-founded the legendary Norwegian band Immortal in 1990, and he’s still ripping away, despite the band splitting late last year. Abbath himself is somewhat of a rock star, and he loves rock ’n’ roll (he’s a huge KISS fan, and he’s fronted a Motörhead tribute band called Bömbers for years). Abbath’s new self-titled debut (out January 22 on Season of Mist) stays true to classic black metal and, of course, Immortal, with a little rock swagger.
I recently sat down with Abbath, sans corpse paint, for 45 minutes over a shaky connection via Skype. That’s 45 minutes...with Abbath. A conversation with the 42-year-old black metal legend can be an unruly maze of detours and asides. He could be both irritable and jovial (mostly the latter). Afterward I could barely remember what the hell we’d even just talked about. I think we discussed the excellent new Abbath record. We talked Immortal, of course, as well as Abbath’s upcoming 50-city tour (the live band includes bassist King ov Hell and Gabe Seeber, who recently replaced Creature on the drum throne). We lamented the losses of Lemmy and Bowie. We showed off our KISS posters.
Behind Abbath the wall was bedecked with animal skulls and photos of him breathing fire during his Immortal days—as it should be. It was about 10:30 p.m. Bergen time, and he’d just finished rehearsal and was now drinking Ringnes tall cans. Here’s a taste of what happened.
HEAVIÖSITY: At what point did you decide to start a new project?
Abbath: It was never my idea to go solo—it was like, no fucking way. I had to carry on, but I never saw Abbath like a solo artist. But I have good friends and colleagues who said I should. But I wasn’t convinced until I saw the logo. I didn’t see Abbath as a band name, but if you can get the logo fucking right, and better than Immortal, then...So this English guy and I went back and forth, and done. It’s a very exciting time; there’s never a dull moment. There’s been a lot of stress, but I’ve grown more as a person in this last year than I’ve done in 30 years, I feel.
HEAVIÖSITY: The new record is great. Were those songs destined to be on an Immortal record had things not gone the way they did?
Abbath: Yeah, but it would never have been that good if it was with Immortal. You know, with Tom [Visnes, aka King ov Hell] and Kevin [Foley, aka Creature] we sat down in a rehearsal space and worked it out in an old-school way. Before that all the ideas was on Pro Tools and digital. So it would never have been that fucking good with Immortal.
HEAVIÖSITY: There’s been a lot of back and forth between you and the members of Immortal. They say you weren’t healthy; you say they weren’t moving forward musically...
Abbath: Hey, they don’t know shit about my health. I haven’t seen or talked to them for almost two years—what the fuck do they know? What about their health? What the fuck are they doing? What have they delivered lately? I’ve been out there doing what I love. My health—that’s nobody’s fucking business. As long as I fucking deliver, that’s nobody’s fucking business. It’s nobody’s business no matter what. I have to say I was very disappointed when they went out with that fucking bullshit. They are totally out of tune.
HEAVIÖSITY: It sounds like they’re going to keep on performing as Immortal.
Abbath: Actually, I sincerely mean it—good luck to them. I really want them to deliver. If they want to carry on without me, OK. Give them a chance. Give them a shot. If they fuck it up, it will not be good for them. Immortal is just a name now. It’s not a band. And it hasn’t been a band for a long fucking time. Of course I’m disappointed, but I don’t hate the guys. Demonaz [Immortal guitarist] is still fucking family, you know? I don’t want to see anyone go under. Just don’t step on my toes.
HEAVIÖSITY: You mentioned that you learned more in the last two years than you have in the past 30. Why do you think you’ve been able to avoid some of the issues that plagued black metal going back to your days in Old Funeral?
Abbath: We all have our demons, and I have mine. But the music is a journey; it’s an escape. The music is everything; the music is the most important. I could have easily been part of it. We were young. We liked to put on makeup and walk around the woods at night and scare the tourists in the morning [laughs], but we were never committed for any other crimes.
HEAVIÖSITY: Do you consider it a lifestyle, or is it just music?
Abbath: Well, I haven’t cut my hair yet! [laughs]
HEAVIÖSITY: And you still look good in makeup.
Abbath: [Sings AC/DC song] “I’m a wheeler, I’m a dealer, I’m a wicked woman stealer.” You know, I just want to have a kickass fucking time. And be honest, and no bullshitting whatsoever. I’m getting this optimism back. I’m really proud of this unit. I’m collaborating with people who believe. Especially King, I couldn’t do this without him. He’s a magician. Every time I’m on stage with King it’s like, “Fucking hell, he’s having sex with his bass.” I wanted him in Immortal as well.
HEAVIÖSITY: Your music has always had a lot of melody. Where does that come from?
Abbath: This I [black metal supergroup formed by Abbath, Demonaz and King ov Hell] album Between Two Worlds were ideas and riffs that I couldn’t use in Immortal…because you can’t have rock ’n’ roll and KISS and Ozzy influence there. But actually Immortal’s “At the Heart of Winter,” the main riff there, came about while thinking about AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” And “Count the Dead” [off the new Abbath record] you can just listen to “Over the Mountain” by Ozzy Osbourne. “The Storm I Ride” off the I album, the opening riff is inspired by this KISS song from ’75, Dressed to Kill album, “Ladies In Waiting” [hums riff].
HEAVIÖSITY: OK, you opened the KISS can of worms. I love KISS.
Abbath: [Pans camera to far wall] Original ’79 poster.
HEAVIÖSITY: Wasn’t Creatures of the Night a big one for you?
Abbath: Yeah. Creatures of the Night, if I have to choose one that’s the ultimate. They came with a statement—they proved it to themselves, but they didn’t prove it to the big world out there. People were like, “No, we don’t like KISS anymore.” And then they took off the makeup for the Lick It Up album, which was a very good followup. Especially Gene Simmons—the way he sang there. If you want black metal vocals, there you go.
HEAVIÖSITY: His vocals are great on Lick It Up. “Not For the Innocent”? Come on.
Abbath: [Screams verse] Even Quorthon from Bathory was a KISS fan. Have you heard his version of “Black Diamond”? It’s amazing. And there’s Motörhead.
HEAVIÖSITY: Yeah, you’ve been doing your Motörhead tribute band for years.
Abbath: I started it with a couple of my closest friends. We grew up together listening to Motörhead. We weren’t really into the cover band kind of thing, but one day we were in town partying and the three of us went out to the drummer’s place and we put on No Sleep ’til Hammersmith. And I thought hey—we’d just put up a new Immortal rehearsal space in ’96—let’s go out and have a jam. I would never be here if it wasn’t for Bömbers and those two guys. It was a band of brothers; it was more than a cover band. And the last year, last couple years Bömbers has become something really good. It’s a celebration.
HEAVIÖSITY: Now it’s even more important. Lemmy’s gone…and now Bowie.
Abbath: Yeah, Bowie. He made his own rules. This guy, who the fuck knows, he could have been planted here. There was definitely something weirder or extraterrestrial about him. He was amazing. When it comes to Lemmy, he took a lot [chemicals] but he was in control. He never fell over. He never fucked up. He treated people with respect.
HEAVIÖSITY: Those guys seem to have had an influence on you as far as doing what you want on your own terms.
Abbath: It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not a job. I don’t want to look at it as a job. And you can’t be alone. It’s Abbath, we use my name and my character, but I want it to be a band. I want to be the band Immortal couldn’t be. I just want to do this on a daily basis, and have a kick-ass time. I’m 42 years old—I want to do this at least as long as Lemmy.
Mark Lore writes here and there, and is over yonder on Twitter.