It was a dark and storm…no scratch that. It was a pretty typical early fall night in New England. I arrived at The Palladium in Worcester MA a bit apprehensive to finally have an opportunity to speak with Erik Danielsson, the lead singer of the mighty Watain. I had been preparing for this for over a year but still had absolutely no idea what to expect (Plus this is the first interview I’ve ever done without the support of Tyrus, the other half of MR’s own Wonder Twins). I met the tour manager by the bus and followed him up a dirty old staircase into the dark recesses of The Palladium. He asked me to wait outside a door where all I could see was a table full of beers and the back half of a couch. In a few minutes, the TM came back and asked me to wait there and that Erik would be out soon. After about fifteen minutes Erik appeared not out of the room, but from some far off catacomb in the back of the Palladium and greeted me warmly. Then he offered me a beer. Score. We cracked our cans and took a seat on the steps to discuss everything from touring in the states, to magikal practice, right down to pets.
To read the complete interview you can click right here.
Erik- Fuck, this place is huge. I walked around and got fucking lost in the back.
Sean- It’s a really old building too. There’s a lot of history here.
I’ll be honest I’m pretty excited. We had tried to score an interview with you at Wacken in 2012 but it fell through.
Haha. That’s a shitty place to do an interview.
Yeah, we did a couple that came out alright, but you’re right. There are much better places. So obviously it’s still very early, but how is the tour going so far?
It’s going very well all things considered. It’s been a fucking shit storm getting here, but, we are here. It’s been a very complicated, as it always is, coming here with this band. Now we’re here though with a friend of ours from Uppsala who is helping out playing guitar for us. We figured all that out about two weeks before we took off. Plus now we’ve got a new crew and a new stage show. So really all things considered it’s been working out really well.
I think there are a lot of insignificant things. But there are a few relevant things that come to mind. I think that in general people are maybe a little bit more grateful here somehow. Or lets say it like this. They treat what we do in a way that kind of speaks for a lot of respect really. You get treated as artists, which I appreciate. I think it has to do with that in general people are a bit spoiled In Europe when it comes to these kinds of performances.
Absolutely. We have to wait a long time to see things like this.
Exactly. I think that is what makes it really rewarding. There have been a few times where we’ve had to deal with absolute bureaucratic nightmares that lead up to actually getting a visa to come into the states. There’s been a lot times where we’ve just simply said, “Ok. Let’s just not tour the states anymore because it’s too complicated to do it.” We can take quite a lot of shit and we have taken quite a lot of shit in the past, but this just proves to be extremely frustrating. So there have been many times when we decided fuck it let’s just tour Europe. But there’s something that kind of makes us want to come back and I think it’s what I was just talking about with people in general seeming a lot more grateful.
Have you had to tone your show down at all to be able to tour over here?
No…it’s not so much about toning things down as it is taking certain elements out and putting other ones in. So it’s never a matter of compromising, it’s just that some things have to be done a little bit differently. Really, I’m quite OK with that. In the end it really makes you notice other things about yourself and this band when you are onstage…other than what you are used to that is.
It helps you to not get caught in a rut of sorts.
Exactly. It’s a different scenario and I think a rewarding challenge.
You obviously take your beliefs very seriously and regard this as more than a band. Does it ever bother you that a lot of people who may be into your band have no idea about what you’re really trying to accomplish and will probably never find their own path in life?
Haha, that’s not my problem.
I know it’s not your problem, but in a way you’re putting yourself out there so that anyone who cares to pay attention can grab ahold of what you’re trying to convey. Does it ever frustrate you that many will never even take the first steps?
Yeah, of course it does to a certain extent but not to the extent of actually being bothered by it constantly. It’s not something that I lie awake at night thinking about, you know. So, I mean for me, like you said, this thing that we’re doing here with this band works both ways. For me it’s a very good thing and a very rewarding thing on its own. So it’s not really in need of any outside acknowledgment so to speak. BUT, don’t get me wrong. We’re still obviously feeding from the support we get on this side of the scene. The fanatical supporters who just really, really get it. That’s something that makes it worthwhile. In general though this whole thing is very much for us.
I read in an interview that in some ways you consider your performances a ritual. Do you take a lot of consideration into the placement of symbolism and what not on stage, and do you ever take astrology into consideration when planning certain show in order to try and harness certain energies?
Of course, of course we do. There is an important thing to understand about the shows in regards to being a ritual. A ritual is something very much dependent on these factors that you mention. It has a lot of very important and significant and meticulous ingredients. In that aspect I wouldn’t really describe the stage show as a whole in the context of a ritual. I would rather say that the concert of Watain is a mystical experience or a ceremony perhaps. Which in turn creates and evokes very radical forms of energies, but it is not necessarily……a ritual is something very specific, with a goal. I would say the concerts of Watain are very much an explosion of everything that we are or a great celebration. It’s a ceremony of liberation really of all things that abide within this band.
What are your views on the use of psychedelic drugs in ritual and ceremony?
Let me put it like this. I think that a lot of people take that as a very easy way out in order to have a…I wouldn’t say spiritual experience but an experience of a spiritual nature perhaps, depending on how you look at it. I would encourage anyone in search for anything to use psychedelic drugs, thats a very direct and harsh experience of other sides of yourself so to say. If you’re searching for whatever in life it might be a good guide just as a book might be or whatever. It’s certainly a tool, but when it comes to being used in magical practice like we were talking about earlier…I mean most rituals that I’ve ever practiced have had very specific and detailed ingredients so to say and it is quite important to have those under your own controls. Psychedelic drugs are very much about losing control. It’s similar to a state of trance I would say. It really depends on what kind of work you’re doing and where you’re heading. Of course they can be used in a ritualistic context as well but it has to be in a context that would bear fruit from that ingredient being in there. I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of people think psychedelic drugs might be an open gate into the divine and I’m afraid it’s not really that easy. To me though it’s been a relevant factor at times to expand.
I think it depends on the psychedelic as well. For example, I wouldn’t consider LSD to be a true psychedelic.
Of course. There’s totally different schools in all of that as well. Really I find the subject very fascinating, it’s not something I would stray away from.
Have you heard of DMT?
Yes, it’s very fascinating.
Yes, it’s a very interesting substance.
So I’ve heard, We’ve just never crossed paths. I’ve gotten recommendations before though.
Wow, you’re really getting out there huh? Unfortunately I’m afraid we don’t have enough time to really get into this. In all honesty though these are things that occupy my mind 26 hours a day on some level. I consider myself a very simple man in a very complicated form of illusion reality that I’ve been working on and will continue working on until I can’t anymore.
So you do believe you’re creating your own reality then?
To a certain extent absolutely. It gets interesting when you figure out a few things about how what we see around us is built up. We have to rely on manifested things all the time. Energies that have manifested into things that are around you.
How have your beliefs evolved over the years and are they still evolving even though you have a pretty established set of beliefs at this point?
Without getting too personal…even though I guess this is still very personal. I will say that one of the most important insights that I’ve gotten in say the last five years about working so much with the divine and the unmaterialized is that it’s called transcendence for a reason. I believe that the mind being in constant touch with the spiritual world eventually elevates and transcends above what we consider the material world, and it does so even in this life. My concrete experience with that would be that in general I start to care less and less about things that are going on around me in the world. I find myself fulfilling a loftier state of mind and not being attached to problems or things that are going on in the “real world.” I would say it is partly a very rewarding thing but at the same time it raises the question of wether or not one is turning or becoming a bit pacified. It’s always a dilemma within me. It’s of course an important question. I think that is probably one of the most radical evolutions of my way of seeing things in general. I see the world as much more loose and abstract now. I feel quite detached from reality at most times which is a both a blessing and a curse at times. It’s very easy to say forget where you put your house keys or where you live. To me though it’s a very rewarding thing and allows your radar to cover different areas of reality.
I’ve found I’m usually able to pull myself back when I need to.
Well, sometimes you do…and sometimes you don’t.
Anytime I’ve actually pushed myself out that far it’s been pretty terrifying.
Well fear is a very important emotion in all of this.
Oh…haha…Cerberus comes to mind first. The three headed dog guarding the gates of Tartarus in Greek mythology. It’s very fascinating in so many ways and one of the most obvious references to trinity in a sinister aspect, which I find very interesting. We reference it lyrically in the song “Wolves Curse” and it relates very much to Watain with us being the trinity. I’d say yeah, that’s my favorite.
Do you have any musical influences outside of metal that you could key us into?
Absolutely. Loads really. Off the top of my head though I’d say like Fields Of The Nephilim and early era Tiamat has just made a huge influence on Watain. Not necessarily musically until this latest one, but before definitely emotionally. Really though I have a very varied taste in everything from music to literature. I always search for the diabolical nerve in things and I can find that as much in destruction as anything.
It’s all a balance so it’s always there somewhere.
Yes. I mean I can find it in say Screamin Jay Hawkins or anything really.
Do you have any pets?
No I don’t. It doesn’t really work with the way I live. I mean I’ve been home four weeks this year and for me I find the idea of pets kind of disturbing. I wouldn’t want to be a human being on all fours chained to a pole. Not because I care so much for the human being, but because I would be frustrated having a living creature around me and having to take care of their needs. I have enough of my own really.
I see. I ended up with my dog in a bit of a different way. My old roommates had his mother and she gave birth to a litter of twelve. When I came home I looked at her and gave her some shit about not having a thirteenth so I could take it. Hours later in the middle of the night we got up to check on her and found a thirteenth puppy still in the embryonic sac or whatever it is and not breathing. We used a turkey baster and got air into his lungs somehow. He’s been absolutely attached to my side ever since. I still feel I conjured him into being somehow.
In that case I can understand. Some things are just meant to be I guess.What’s your dog’s name?
Scrambles The Death Dealer. I’m not sure if you’re familiar but it’s a Metalocalypse reference.
Haha. I know of it but am not familiar.
I’ve got one more a bit on the humorous side that I ask everyone I interview. On the road you can’t always eat as well as you’d like and it’s not like you always have access to a bathroom. Any good stories about anyone shitting their pants or anything like that?
You mean like excrement?
Yeah. Basically any accidents or awkward situations. We’ve gotten some really funny stories from a few bands.
Yes I’m sure you have. To me we’re traveling through a world made of excrement so anything funny that goes on in that world would probably make for a good excrement story but then again I don’t think we’re really that kind of a band who puts too much focus on that.
Fair enough. I know we only have a couple minutes but I have one more. Are you familiar with fractal geometry and chaos theory and what do you think of it as a representation of reality?
I wouldn’t say I’m so well versed but it is about repetition in nature. I would say it is definitely another interest of mine and I wish that we had more time to get into it. It could take days really. But I would say definitely pay attention to whatever kind of makes you wake up a little. There are fascinating theories both in science and religion that can help guide you to whatever insight you are meant to have. I tend to be a curious person and seek knowledge wherever it can be found.