Interviews > Sanrabb & Terrorizer
Terrorizer: Why don't you choose what to talk about first?
Sanrabb: "Well, I could mention that we have just finished our third CD, 'Malice'. It will be released in September, followed by quite an extensive European tour with headliners Marduk and Mysticum. About the album, the way I look upon it, it's more varied this time, which makes me happy. It is usually bad news when a band says this, but it is more influenced by the music we listen to ourselves, which basically is classical music and straight-forward heavy metal. It is probably more heavy metal this time than 'The Second Spell'."
Terrorizer:All right, so what is Gehenna all about then?
Sanrabb: "First thing off, it's about music. This means that the actual lyrics are something we add. Of course, we start out with the music, so it's basically for the music. When it comes to lyrics and philosophies, many of the lyrics are based on my personal Satanic beliefs, but this does not affect all the lyrics. We wouldn't really fit into the label black metal. Well, we could, but we choose not to label ourselves, which is a new thing to be into nowadays, but anyway... The thing is, it's not purely based on Satanic beliefs or politics or whatever. Because we don't want to deal in propaganda for this or that. It's a media for all kinds of people. The minute you start playing music and releasing it, you're sort of exposing yourself. It is a media for our thoughts and feelings about different issues. It's really hard to say, 'This is what we stand for', you know? It's a bit hard to say what Gehenna is all about, anyway. It's about music, it is - as I said - a medium for our thoughts and feelings. It is also ever-changing. I think that we haven't really put ourselves in a spot where we can't get out if we want to, so to speak."
Terrorizer:Use five words to describe Gehenna.
Sanrabb: "Melodic, gloomy, powerful, mystic and cryptic."
Terrorizer:Majestic perhaps as well...
Sanrabb: "Thank you. Well, I think 'powerful' also covers that. No, but we try to make it pretty big sound-wise and also riff-wise, by ways of using the synthesiser and all this new technology."
Terrorizer:So you're not into the minimalist approach of bands like Darkthrone and early Bathory?
Sanrabb: "I'm into listening to them, but I've never really made an attempt to play it so I don't know what I could accomplish within that type of music. I think we've pretty much found our own thing, sound-wise and music-wise. I'm pretty content with the way things are."
Terrorizer:Perhaps you could explain some of the thoughts and philosophies that inspire your lyrics?
Sanrabb: "It varies a lot, depending on who writes them. I would definitely say that when I write the lyrics they are things I reflect upon from a Satanic point of view. They are also written in such a way that leaves them open to other people's interpretations, or else I think they would become boring. Some of them are just 'mood reports', as I like to call them; more accompanying the music than standing aside from it. It's not like the music is telling you this and the story is telling you that. I like to leave as much as possible up to the music, which also means that the lyrics are shorter now. When it comes to the different moods and stuff, as a musician, it would be nice just to skip the lyrics and let the music stand for itself. What inspires me? It's sort of hard to say, because usually a Norwegian band would probably say majestic mountains, woods and fjords. This is not a fact when it comes to us. It's basically just inspired by thoughts and feelings and outside things that affect us. Life in general, I think."
Terrorizer:So they don't convey a specific message but are merely added to enhance the atmosphere?
Sanrabb: "Yeah. You put it better than I have."
Terrorizer:Would you say Gehenna is an extension of your personalities or a form of escapism?
Sanrabb: "It depends. A lot of people have a tendency to believe, or actually believe no matter how silly this might sound, to play in a black metal band involves wearing corpsepaint 24 hours a day. So yes, it's a sort of escapism. But at the same time it's very down-to-earth when it comes to the lyrics. They come from different outside influences and - as I said - from feelings. But of course there would be little reward if there wasn't some escapism in it. We hope that if there is a certain mood in the room before the music is played the mood will change when the music is on. An extension of ourselves? Yeah."
Terrorizer:There is a definite fantastical, theatrical element to the band, what with your image - the paint, the clothes...
Sanrabb: "Yeah. These are also just things to enhance the effect that the music or the band has visually and also to make it more interesting. We could probably, at some time, drop it if we could afford a large pyro-show or whatever. I'm not saying that we would necessarily, but we could. These are very simple things that do a lot, I think, both for the people who are at our gigs who and look at the records and stuff. It enhances the feeling the band is trying to convey and also has an effect on us while we are playing. When I'm on stage and playing with Dolgar standing right next to me, I'm not thinking 'That's the guy I was talking to on the phone earlier today'. So there is a kind of theatrical feeling to it, yeah."
Terrorizer:How does theatricality translate into the live environment - is it just the paint and the clothes and the lighting or do you have stage effects, et cetera?
Sanrabb: "No, for now we don't have any special stage effects, which I suppose is both positive and negative. We would like to have something very big, very impressive, but at the same time leave most of the things to the musicians and the music, which is also nice. In the future we will probably try to work something out, but for now we only carry the standard stuff like candles, corpsepaint, spikes and hopefully a banner with the Gehenna logo behind the drumkit. It would be nice to have lots of pyros and stuff, but I don't expect that to happen on this tour anyway."
Terrorizer:How much do your beliefs and ideals reflect on your lifestyle? Are you two different people?
Sanrabb: "I wouldn't say my personality goes through an extreme change from when I use my artist's name to when I use my normal name or whatever. It's basically the same. The thing you have to remember is that the music is a result of my daily personal life and experiences which I've had. It's true that black metal is a lifestyle. This is what I base my life upon, apart from the fact that I am a Satanist. It's who I am, basically, and that doesn't change whether I'm on stage or not."
Terrorizer:For a Norwegian band, you place remarkably little emphasis on your culture and heritage. And you don't give Norwegian weather reports either, if you know what I mean...
Sanrabb: "Yes! That's because, again, we're based on our personal beliefs. Satanism itself and its origins has got absolutely nothing to do with Norwegian folklore or Norwegian mythology. I would never categorise Satanism as being mythology; for me it will always be 100% fact. Its origins are from the East, anyway. I do take pride in the fact that I live in a country with magnificent nature but I'm not willing to drag this into the music. I also get impressed when I go for long walks in the woods or whatever. It's a nice thing to do, but it's never going to be more than that. I'm impressed by what I see, even if it's around me all the time, but it has absolutely nothing to do with black metal whatsoever. That's basically why we don't have it in the band. That doesn't necessarily mean that I don't respect bands who choose to do so - if they get their kicks out of that, of course there's nothing wrong with it - but it tends to get a bit boring when all the Norwegian bands yell and scream about the fucking cold in Norway. It's 24 degrees out now, so I can't claim it to be that cold. People in Guatemala probably think that we have polar bears in the streets. Some bands do it well, and then it's effective and very good and nice and all that, but there is a remarkable amount of people who make total asses of themselves. I don't know what to say about it, really. I don't want to spend the whole interview slagging people off, but they distort the way things actually are. And they talk about it is if what they write is fact. It's really stupid. To me, Satanism is a fact and something that takes up of a lot of my time. Also, it's the centre of my interests and beliefs. If I didn't play black metal it would probably still affect my music in some way, because music is a media for my feelings. Religion is very important for any person, but I can only speak for myself. I write about different kinds of mysticism. It just happens that way, it has nothing to do with Norwegian folklore and nature. As I said, I am proud of the fact that I am Norwegian, but if I was born in France I would probably say that I was proud to be French."
Terrorizer:How is the current mood among young people in Norway? Why are there so many black metal bands?
Sanrabb: "Hard to say. It's probably because of the media blowing it out of all proportion. Of course, I can understand why people get into it - there are various reasons for myself being into it - but I think a lot of people, which brings us back to Satanism again and this new trend of oldness and Heathenism and racial issues and Nazism, judge this after the music they listen to. I know for a personal fact that my music is a result of my beliefs, not the other way around. I guess it has to do with the media. Everything in Norway is pretty small compared to other places, which brings with it a lot of talk, a lot of rumours or whatever. It's basically the media and the fact, probably, that there are a lot of good Norwegian bands available to the public in general. I see nothing wrong in people getting into the music. I'm not going to say that Norway is so bad for this trendy shit..."
Terrorizer:It is a bit of a clichť, isn't it?
Sanrabb: "Yeah, and I think we're passed that. Because we release the amount of CDs that we do it would be utterly stupid to say 'It's so annoying with all these trendies around'."
Terrorizer:It obviously has quite a lot to do with media exposure, but perhaps it's also a spirit of rebellion. Christianity has become almost synonymous with society, so maybe opposing the church is the same as opposing the state, ergo defying authority.
Sanrabb: "You have a point there, and I think that's very true. But this is also a thing that annoys me, for example, when a Black Metal band spends so much of their time talking Christianity this, Christianity that, just because they're so used to hearing that Satanism is a result of Christianity. I don't see why people can't see their own religion, whether it's Odinism or Heathenism or Satanism or whatever, as something aside from Christianity. Christianity is very annoying, because it's a state-funded Church. If they are believers they should pay for their own beliefs. It's very annoying to see them on television, screaming and yelling for their own network. Also, I read in the newspaper yesterday that the Church of England has now decided that Hell is non-existent, because no god could be so gruesome that he could send all sinners to Hell, which is so utterly laughable! I mean, now they blame Satan for having blamed Satan..."
Terrorizer:Some would have Satan as basically a nice guy who got cast out of heaven due to a misunderstanding with the management.
Sanrabb: "My view, when it comes to Satan, is not that he is a 'nice guy'. I do believe in a personified Satan, but not in physical form. But the thing is, if you summon something that is totally and utterly 100% evil, which Satan is supposed to be, absolutely no good will come of it. A lot of people into Satanism have a tendency to say that Satan will serve them, Satan will do this, Satan will do that... Satan will do nothing! Satan hates everything, Satan hates every human being. It's just about being a part of this power. It's nothing that you become, it's something you are, I think, which is my personal belief. To quote Euronymous, 'We are but slaves to the one with horns'. Some people will probably say 'That's pretty silly, because there's no use worshipping someone who hates you', But it's not necessarily about worship. Either way, you don't have to like it, but you are who you are. It's just something that comes very naturally to me. I don't think Satan's a nice guy, though."
Terrorizer:So you definitely believe in a divine duality - good and evil, dark and light. Would you say there is a similar contrast in the music of Gehenna?
Sanrabb: "I'd like to think so, because sometimes we want to take both good and evil sides, a contrast which I also think makes the music interesting. One of the things that I like about my own music is that it carries a lot of contrast. Some of the riffs are very light, some are very deep and powerful. This also has to do with the plain composition of things, I think. You want these calm-before-the-storm riffs to elevate those that come after them. It's just a matter of composing, I think."
Terrorizer:Without good there can be no evil, right? How can you know what is evil if there is nothing to compare it to?
Sanrabb: "It's impossible to say whether good and evil exists or not, because those are just human definitions. Of course, without these definitions I would not be able to communicate with you, as we're both human. I could probably imagine evil being a victorious force and standing alone, but it isn't within me. I consist of both good and evil, but that doesn't mean I adhere to the belief of Yin-Yang. And I don't believe in a grey zone or whatever. There is black and white, and that's it when it comes to the good and evil part. We are actually talking about a divine power, so how could such fragile beings as ourselves say what it is and what it isn't? I can't say you are wrong or right, because I do not have the knowledge to make such decisions. I basically plan to live my life out of the way things are. Pretty simple, really."
Terrorizer:Back to the music. How important a role does Sarcana play in the songwriting process? Are her keyboards used as a basis for the melodies or are they simply designed to enhance the atmosphere, as with quite a few keyboard-based bands?
Sanrabb: "It varies from song to song. Sometimes I myself compose all the music for a song with the synthesiser and she comes up with the basis for another, as we're continuously changing stuff. The sound on 'The Second Spell' is mostly controlled by synthesisers, because I didn't think the guitars had too much interesting to add, really."
Terrorizer:That was particularly obvious on 'The Shivering Voice of the Ghost' on 'First Spell' as well...
Sanrabb: "Well, we just make our priorities out of which instrument is doing the most work. 'Malice' I think is more guitar-based than 'The Second Spell', and I'm pretty happy with that fact because it changes Gehenna's music. Not so much, because it's the same melodic theme only played with more emphasis on another instrument, which I think makes it a bit interesting. I don't think 'Malice' differs too much from 'The Second Spell', though."
Terrorizer:The individual songs seem stronger; they have more of an identity.
Sanrabb: "We actually received some criticism for being too varied on 'The Second Spell', which is probably the silliest comment I've ever heard. It's like we were being criticised for trying to make the music more interesting."
Terrorizer:'Malice' sounds more malicious, if you will excuse the pun, than the previous two records. Have you become angrier as people?
Sanrabb: "No. We've always tried, not necessarily to sound aggressive, but it's like 'We are playing heavy metal so let's be a metal band, okay?' That's a very simple way of putting it, but I think it's just a natural development of the music. At the same time, we have things that are a lot slower, a lot more calm than our previous albums. There's this one song, 'Touched and Left for Dead', which I think is very powerful. It reminds me of the track 'The Eyes of the Sun' from 'The Second Spell'. Overall, of course 'Malice' sounds a bit more aggressive. I think that has to do with the guitars being more dominant than last time."
Terrorizer:There is also this 80s influence which you briefly mentioned earlier. The Destruction element.
Sanrabb: "You're thinking about the last track. That just goes back to what we listen to ourselves. I really hate it when bands say 'No, we are not influenced by other bands. We listen to them and they might just have caused us to make something that sounds the same.' I hate that. Actually, there was this question one time whether the name Gehenna was taken from Tolkien. At the time when we chose the name - this is actually true - we had never read that one before! But yeah, we wanted to make something heavy metal-ish because it's the sort of thing we like to hear."
Terrorizer:A lot of bands are harking back to the eighties, but too many of them spend all their time trying to recreate Bathory, Celtic Frost and Venom note for note. What separates Gehenna from that crowd is that fact that you are looking forward as well as back.
Sanrabb: "Yes, I would like add that at the same time as we do use early metal influences in our band we also combine it with our own ideas in what I would say is an interesting way because of the contrast it makes. We have standard heavy metal riffing and then suddenly go back to this majestic synth thing, which also makes for a contrast which I think makes the music interesting. Even though not all of the riffs we play are that original, I think they are used in an original way."
Terrorizer:How different is Gehenna '96 from the band that recorded the 'Black Seared Heart' demo? What has changed?
Sanrabb: "The line-up, for one thing. We've become better musicians. I'm still a young chap, but I think it's just natural progression that comes with the years. We've gone from being a pretty standard black metal band to being Gehenna, I think."
Terrorizer:What is the exact line-up today?
Sanrabb: "The exact line-up? Let's see... there's me, Sanrabb, and there is Dolgar, Sarcana, our drummer Dirge and our new bass player. In between this guy Svartalv, who left after 'The Second Spell' and started off with Satyricon but is now out of Satyricon, we had this other bassist. His name was Noctifer, and he is now out of the band. We've recruited a new bassist, who we have called E.N. Death. Basically the 'Death' part is because he originally came from a death metal band. There isn't so much mysticism about his name. So that's us now - the same four members as we have had for two and a half years and E.N. Death on bass."
Terrorizer:Wasn't the demo meant to be released on CD and vinyl by Holycaust Records from the States at some point?
Sanrabb: "I think it still is. It's going to contain the full demo, some live studio tracks and one live track which has never been released before called 'Midwinter Forest'. Don't get us wrong - it's not about Norwegian nature or weather reports. But that's the tracks that are going to be on there."
Terrorizer:When is it going to come out?
Sanrabb: "I have absolutely no idea! I'm not the one who deals with that exact project and I haven't been informed about anything new. We got to see some of the layout, which looks pretty nice, but that's basically everything I can tell you about it."
Terrorizer:You're touring with Mysticum and Marduk soon. Do you have anything else lined up? Are you ready to headline, do you think?
Sanrabb: "Sure, that would be nice. Maybe we'd be able to have our own stage-show and stuff. So yeah, I think we're ready, but I don't know when that will be. I'm quite looking forward to playing with these bands, though. They are both very good."
Terrorizer:Itís a very varied bill, too. You have the black metal mayhem of Marduk, then the bizarre Mysticum, who are pretty much the most extreme band in Norway at the moment.
Sanrabb: "Theyíre very strange. Their music is very simple..."
Terrorizer:And very aggressive.
Terrorizer:Well, is there anything else you would like to discuss?
Sanrabb: "Could you also mention that we are going to release ĎFirst Spellí on LP now? Itís through Damnation Records in Holland. Itís really weird - we always end up releasing our vinyl on Dutch labels. Itís a curse! NGP did a very good job with our LP, I think, so letís just hope that part of the tradition carries on. But I have no idea when that is going to be released either. Weíre going to have this poster with it as well."
Terrorizer:Is it going to be of the cover?
Sanrabb: "I donít know - thatís what weíve spent half a year disagreeing about. Damnation claims itís really our fault that everything is delayed because we canít decide what the hell we want on the poster. And Metalionís cat actually managed to eat one of the photographs of our drummer, plus he also lost some master tape. Really stupid screw-ups and stuff. So weíve ended up really hating his cat. Our drummer is just delicious, I guess. Thereís always some strange shit happening to Gehenna. Thatís also something that all bands claim, but I think itís true. Weíve been cursed with crap ever since we started..."
Interview taken from the preparations for the Gehenna article in Terrorizer #45 November 99.