Interview: Okkultokrati

Paying respect to the original trailblazers and taking their energy and spirit and infusing it with our own ideas, sound and complete lunacy. Making Black Outlaw Metal!

Okkultokrati have just released their brilliant new album La Ilden Lyse, the follow up to 2016’s Raspberry Dawn and it combines the band’s punk nihilism and traces of pure black metal with crucial melody to create music that is uplifting in its bleakness. Gavin Brown spoke with Okkultokrati vocalist Dionysiac to talk all about La Ilden Lyse and how it came together, black metal and its influence on the band, how Okkultokrati started, the band’s rescheduled tour dates and how their shows went before lockdown and got some cracking film recommendations from him.

E&D: Your new album La Ilden Lyse is out now. How did the creation and recording process of the album go?

Dionysiac: First off, the creating process took close to three years. As soon as our last album was in the can we started jamming on three of the songs that ended up on La Ilden Lyse. This was followed by a hard and stressful time of testing, re-working, throwing out and retrying material. And as usual, in true Okkulto-fashion, the songs couldn’t be said to be 100% finished until the last mix of the recording was set. Anything could happen along the way and the song could end up unrecognisable from the day before, but I guess that is part of the charm and the curse of working this way. Then we spent the final year getting the cover in place and setting a release date. And now we are working on new stuff again. The cycle starts anew. So, years of gruelling and meticulous pouring over details, trying and rejecting ideas, and perfecting every single aspect. In two words: quality control. It can be hairpullingly frustrating, but I would say that in this instance it was worth taking the time to do it right.

E&D: What does the title of the album mean?

Dionysiac: It’s a sneaky title because it doesn’t really exist in the Norwegian language as a thing before. It’s more of an invention or a tweaking of a phrase. Directly it would translate into “Let the fire shine”, but the way it’s meant to be interpreted and its true meaning is something closer to “Let the fire burn” and “Keep the fire alive”. Since it is our invention, we figured out we can define it as much as we want.

E&D: What has the reaction to the new material been like so far?

Dionysiac: I would perhaps go as far as saying the reception has been universally positive. I don’t want to speculate to much as to why, but if I could guess I would think it’s because we are (in some people’s opinion) finally fully leaning into the proto black metal elements that have always been there, but we have been less interested to fully explore on earlier records, but now it felt like timing was right and everything was done in organic and honest way. It may have taken us the long way around to get back here, but it feels earned.

 

E&D: What have been some of the influences on La Ilden Lyse?

Dionysiac: In four years’ time I would say we have all gone through a lot of different phases musically and we are six very different people with sprawling tastes in music and culture. As much as the last four albums have been about branching out and finding backdoors into metal and punk, and pushing the boundaries of what one can do and explore, I think La Ilden Lyse in many ways is about paying respect to the old gods of metal. To take the best parts of bands like Motörhead, Judas Priest, Venom, Hellhammer, Sodom, Ildjarn, Darkthrone, Emperor, Aura Noir and Winter. Paying respect to the original trailblazers and taking their energy and spirit and infusing it with our own ideas, sound and complete lunacy. Making Black Outlaw Metal!

E&D: That raw black metal meets punk attitude is extremely prevalent on this album, what is it about them that you find inspiring?

Dionysiac: I think we can disclose that we came to a point on this recording that many of the times we were at a crossroads we would say. “OK, that’s pretty cool, but what would Darkthrone do in this situation?” So, I would point to them embodying the spirit of that perfect merging of the two genres and being a champion of that direction for so long that they can’t be overlooked, and needs to be hailed as important and still keeping it fresh after all these years. And they are still going and exploring new territories, so that’s surely an inspiration in spirit.

E&D: Do you think that the best black metal always has that raw punk vibe anyway?

Dionysiac: Not necessarily. A lot of essential black metal is more or less completely devoid of punk rock, instead focusing more on somber atmospheres and icy cold hatred. What I like about punk is the DIY attitude, the willingness to get stuff done, to take control and not sit around waiting to make things happen and the autonomous vibe. What I find less charming is the lack of quality control and a little too much laissez faire. Things tend to be a little too sloppy or tend to be tinted in a more melodic way for my tastes. For some reason I am never interested when a punk or hardcore band is playing black metal, but when I hear about some metalheads discovering punk and playing around with and experimenting with punk ideas I almost always perk up and get excited! I guess the metal sensibility, approach and outlook just interests me more. Unless we are talking about GISM (!!!) or something. But I think metal bands could always channel more rawness and furious energy from punk. It sure can’t hurt.

E&D: Do you think that this is your darkest album yet both sonically and lyrically?

Dionysiac: Undoubtedly. Older, wiser, more confident and more focused, but also my interest and knowledge of the esoteric has only increased with the years, so it makes sense.

E&D: The album is released, almost to the day, a decade after your debut album No Light For Mass, was this an intentional move it did it just happen that way?

Dionysiac: Nothing but coincidental. Putting out music sometimes takes a long time in these days. But yes, that was ten years apart only by two days, so I can see people thinking we had planned it that way.

E&D: Does it seem like a decade has passed since the release of your debut?

Dionysiac: Both yes and no. Things were a lot more chaotic around the time when No Light for Mass came out than it is now, but it has been good to have the band as a constant, humming along through the changes and developments. It’s good to have five albums as milestones to track your own life in stages.

E&D: Are there any new black metal bands emerging from Norway at all or is it just the classic bands like Mayhem and Emperor?

Dionysiac: There are new projects popping up now and again. Trondheim has had a strong black metal output for a long time now with the Unborn Productions/Nidarosian gang doing lots of interesting stuff for a while. And Whoredom Rife is the latest and greatest to emerge from that part of the country. I would also pay attention to what Todesking from Sandnes are doing.

E&D: Is the cover to La Ilden Lyse a deliberate nod to classic black metal album covers?

Dionysiac: We were discussing a lot of options on what we wanted the cover to be. First Black Race had an idea for a massive wall in the middle of a forest, that was hard to illustrate. I had an idea for a man carrying a torch up some impossible stairs up the side of some mountains to a hidden door. And we were going to have Trond Sebastian Rusten, who did all our earlier art, come back and do it, but he got busy. But we knew we wanted the cover art to convey as much of the feeling of majestic darkness and unease as the record itself, so we knew we needed somebody great to do it and we got lucky.

E&D: What are your all time favourite black metal bands and albums?

Dionysiac: I dig all the proto BM stuff of course but after that I can’t get enough of Filosofem, Transylvanian Hunger, The Return of Darkness and Evil, Live in Leipzig, Panzerfaust, Sons of Northern Darkness, the first Ulver-album, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. I think the fifth Furze album, Reaper Subconscious Guide, is amazing and really underrated, warts and all!

E&D: In the four years since your last album Raspberry Dawn, how has the band’s sound developed since then?

Dionysiac: Harder, colder, while more frostbitten and evil!

E&D: How have you been keeping busy during this coronavirus pandemic?

Dionysiac: Busy watching a shit ton of movies, yes. Highlights: The Laughing Woman (1969), The Fifth Cord (1971), Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), What Have You Done to Solange? (1972), All the Colors of the Dark (1972), The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974), Daughters of Darkness (1971), Ganja & Hess (1973), Peeping Tom (1960), The Ascent (1977) and Seven Beauties (1975).

E&D: What music are you listening to at the moment?

Dionysiac: Diamanda Galas, Nico, Anna Von Hausswolff, Maggot Heart, the latest Midnight, the Daniel Lopatin soundtrack to uncut gems is great, and the latest Old Tower record is a slammer. Right now, I also think Malokarpatian from Slovenia are doing some really exciting things, mixing some trippy elements in their music, and I can’t wait to see them live later this year.

E&D: Have you got any rescheduled live dates so far?

Dionysiac: Everything got cancelled, but we are slowly looking at the possibility of playing and touring again, next year. If we are still alive by then.

E&D: Do you miss touring and being out on the road now that it has been taken away from you for the time being?

Dionysiac: Yes and no. I love being on tour and playing, but as long as playing and touring is not 100% my job, I find it more and more a chore travelling. And it is gruelling work trying to be on your best behaviour and being sociable for somebody as close to a shut in as myself but all that stuff goes away after a few days in and you settle in to it and you become a TRUE ROAD WARRIOR!!

E&D: You played some gigs at the start of the year, how did they go?

Dionysiac: Those were some of our best shows, probably ever, so it felt weird to amputate it all just as we were gearing up for full activity but A Sinister Purpose was a close to a true highlight

E&D: Did you play much material from the new album?

Dionysiac: All new songs from the latest album yes, and it felt like the songs were truly coming into their own, at the height of their powers, so to speak.

E&D: Are you looking forward to Roadburn next year?

Dionysiac: That should be a blast. We are bringing our A-game as always, so that should be excellent. The Netherlands have always been good to us.

E&D: What have been some of the best tours and gigs that Okkultokrati have ever done?

Dionysiac: We have been lucky to play a lot of shows and met a lot of great people, and they are all special, even the really bad ones make for good stories. But I always enjoy playing Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Prague and the Czech Republic have been really good the last few times as well. But the best times on the road have probably been the two times we have toured Spain because you never know what awaits you around the next corner. It always felt off the grid in some way. Like we were out on the frontier playing for more excited people.

E&D: How did Okkultokrati start on the first place?

Dionysiac: Black Race and Vermin Scum met each other working in a storage facility and they wanted to do a ripping thrash band together. They both knew Virgin Taker and he wanted to play black metal. I was working in a record store and the in-house label’s first release was Black Race’s other band Haust and him and me started hanging out. He said they were looking for a singer and I told him I was their guy. A week or two later we had our first practice, 7 weeks after that we had recorded our first demo, and 7 weeks later we played our first show in Oslo releasing that demo the same day on our label Ormeyngel, and we were off!

E&D: What are your main memories of the bands early days?

Dionysiac: Four very hands on and capable guys with a good division of labour, all pulling in the same direction, getting shit done. And one year in that fall we recorded our debut album over three days in the Caliban studio with Ruben Willem, and then in December that year Le Ghast replaced Virgin Taker on bass and everything fell into place, and that has been the core line-up ever since.

E&D: Is the Black Hope Crew still active and can you tell us a bit about it and it’s creation?

Dionysiac: I would say Black Hole Crew fell apart around 2012. As a loose collective of artists and fellow freaks people wanted to do different stuff, no hard feelings. It also coincided with the Norwegian state raising the price on postage with some 300% over night, and made it impossible to run a label and distro. So that kind of took some steam out of the communal activity of doing projects together as well. Haust, Dark Times, Blackest Woods and later Drugged SS were all doing stuff around the time and it was a natural thing to document some of that raw passion and energy coming out from all those bands.

E&D: What have been some of the most memorable moments of your time with Okkultokrati?

Dionysiac: Finally going to Finland in 2018 was great. We had an extra day off and all went to a sauna together, and hung out at Aki Kaurismäki’s bar in Helsinki. Almost dying on the highway on our way to Sweden in a crappy rental car in the winter of 2011 was also…memorable.

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