While many of thee olde Norwegians have long fallen into commercial decadence or abandoned black metal altogether, over the past few years an elite network of bands based in and around Trondheim has been quietly busying itself to recapture the essence of their nation’s Golden Age. The foremost of these “Nidrosian” hordes, as the fanbase has taken to calling them, is the enigmatic One Tail, One Head who, despite their uncanny ability to summon that true Norse spirit, have much more interesting philosophical and creative preoccupations than their predecessors ever did, as this interview carried out by our Brazilian comrade Thiago Silva of Intervalo Banger reveals – specially translated for LURKER and the benefit of the English-speaking world.
Simply put, One Tail, One Head is a criminally underrated, no-frills Norwegian black metal band with that classic 90s vibe, which makes them sound closer to early Darkthrone more than the band themselves lately. To a point where Fenriz should call these guys and actually ask for Panzerfaust‘s riffs back. My point being that OTOH is most certainly one of the greatest bands of the current black metal scene, crafting a primal and in-your-face sound, based on what makes black metal stand out as a separate entity from what is commonly regarded as metal: atmosphere and ambience. And that’s where OTOH packs a punch. Up until now, the band has only released a couple of demos and EPs, which are (un)fortunately sold out. After four months trading e-mails, J. Åsli, responsible for the riffs in OTOH, finally came back with some answers. And I’m pretty sure they’re worth your while.
Old-school Norwegian black metal, as I see it, is going through sort of a mid-life crisis. Some bands got too big while others seems to be absorbing other influences, new bands like Haust and Kvelertak borrow some elements from black metal and make it their own. So what’s your take on the scene nowadays?
There is no real scene to speak of and one shouldn’t mind too much. It doesn’t really matter. There is no reason to care too much about what others are doing, unless it is great, constructive or inspiring work. It is very easy to get trapped in a mindset where you try to do something “right” according to the (unwritten) rules. This is to be avoided, as it is a road to nothingness. Again, what is black metal? What does it mean in the larger context? How much of yourself should you invest in these two words, in this term? Maybe this energy should be invested in ourselves instead. Existence would perhaps begin to actually mean something. As stated elsewhere, One Tail, One Head is not really trying to be a black metal band or a representative of the term. We are often classified as black metal and that is fine, but we are not about to defend anything else than our own visions. There are millions of different opinions out there on what black metal should and should not be. It is not our intention to please anyone by following their rules. We do what we feel like, and people can take it for what they wish.
I bet you must hear this all the time, but sometimes OTOH sounds really close to what Darkthrone did on the almighty Panzerfaust back in the 90s. Would you agree with that comparison? Which other bands from that era inspire the making of OTOH?
The Darkthrone influence is present, no doubt. Other classic bands like Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate play their part. Ildjarn was the main influence when starting One Tail, One Head and we wanted to honour that raw and primitive spirit. Other than that, we see no reason to get lost in the namedropping. We are four avid music lovers in the band, all with very varied musical taste. We don’t try to sound like anything particular. All the different influences comes through naturally and it is what it is. We have come to the point where we feel what is OTOH and what isn’t. This is of course vague and somewhat abstract, but we know when we have a riff or song perfect for OTOH, and the influences may come from all over the place.
Still on the subject of Darkthrone and in reference to my first question concerning the current Norwegian metal scene, what are your thoughts on their new musical direction?
Opinions about the Darkthrone of today are divided within the band. Respect to them for doing what they want and for not trying to repeat the successes of the past.
Up until now, you’ve released a couple of EPs and demos. Any plans for a full-length or a split in the near future?
We are working towards a full-length right now, but it will take some time. We are all involved in many other time consuming projects and we all have work or studies to tend to, and then there are the live performances, which of course takes a lot of time and energy. It is important for us to do our best. To release anything sub-par is out of the question, and the same goes for our live performances. It will just have to take the time it demands. We are trying to make it happen within 2012, though, but no promises are made.
You’ve released both on tape and 7” vinyl. Are you an enthusiast, a collector of this format? How has it been received by the audience? From what I can tell, it seems some of your stuff is actually sold out as of now.
We’ve received nothing but good reactions to our output. Metal and the analogue formats are closely linked, so there is nothing strange about that. I think we will make our music available on vinyl, tape and CD in the future as well. Enthusiasts? Well, yes, definitely. As the music industry is in decline, people seem more and more willing to pay for the releases by genuine underground artists with integrity. The whole will become more and more important; the music, the lyrics, the layout, the design, the physical material, the abstract concepts, the feeling – everything. That is the beauty of it. A new dawn is at hand. We want to give people the total experience.
The band’s name and artwork references the Ouroboros allegory. How does that influence the band, lyrically speaking? Is occult study/knowledge part of your daily lives? What’s your opinion on bands that departed from the “evil” roots of yore and deal with more “modern” themes, such as urban life/decay?
The cyclical themes can be found in our lyrics as well as our performance and our music. Philosophical development is a constant process and in that sense it is of course a part of one’s daily life. It is a part just as natural as eating or sleeping.
The name refers to the constant re-creation of oneself and the overcoming of all kinds of obstacles on the path towards tomorrow. At the same time it is a symbol for some sort of returning point, always within reach, even if it is through hardship only. It is the integration of the opposite and the eternal return. It is also a personal reminder of the work that is your life and the responsibility it brings (thus moving far beyond the borders of this one band, obviously).
“Evil” is a troublesome term in many ways and as we do not concern ourselves with the “regular” black-and-white dualism in OTOH, the latter question becomes somewhat obsolete. “Good” and “evil”, as known in common Christianity for example, is not part of the OTOH universe. Bands should write about whatever they wish and follow their hearts.
I’ve stumbled upon a few snapshots of OTOH performing live, but it seems you rarely do any gigs. Is that right? Any interest or plans for an extended tour? Do you prefer just to focus on the recording or is OTOH definitely a live band?
We do quite a few gigs, but maybe not so many compared to your average rock or metal band. We are currently not a touring machine, but OTOH has definitely become a live band. We are open to touring, but not before there is enough interest. There should be a certain demand. The intensity of our live performance has become an integral and important part of the band’s existence. Live work and studio work will probably reflect each other even more in the future. We like the idea of how these two can stimulate each other to new heights, even though that is something very natural when you think about it. More than a live band or a studio band, we are a strong force.
As I said, the live pictures are amazing with that deer head and all that blood. How’d you guys get hold of a deer’s head? Is there the need for a new head with each concert? Do any of you take part in hunting at all, or just go to the butcher and that’s that?
The deer head was part of an art installation done by an up-and-coming artist from Trondheim, Erik Tidemann, and not something we normally do. The blood and the earth is, however, an integral part of the performance, as the symbolic value of it cannot be underestimated, although people still think we use it to create some kind of shock effect, which is not really the case. The blood is obviously a potent symbol (or is it?) for life and death. The earth is what we return to, and what we will once again grow out of. Life is death and death is life. Our live ritual is a celebration of the more dramatic points of the turning wheel. It is so simple, yet so profound.
OTOH is a key element in “Nidrosian black metal”. Do you see yourselves as a tight-knit group with any serious goals? Do the other bands follow any guidelines, much like the infamous French Legions Noires, or is it more like a laid-back group of friends that just happen to have the same interests?
A tight-knit group, yes, definitely, but with a common background more than a common goal, you could say. The individuals involved and the different bands and projects coming from here are moving in increasingly different and diverse directions, and it makes it all the more interesting. There are no guidelines. The bands, the projects and the individuals are independent, but mostly supportive towards each other.
Trondheim is quite fertile when it comes to black metal with a great deal of awesome bands and some trainwrecks like Keep of Kalessin. How are things over there? Do shows with local bands still happen or do you have to travel to other cities to see some better gigs? Any other bands you’d recommend?
This is probably an issue which isn’t really of grave concern to any of us. We are very used to working on our own and treading our own paths, and we have always been able to achieve our goals without external support or funding and such. This seems to make us into some kind of outsider in the rest of the music scene here, which is of course natural considering the rather “extreme” (well, extreme compared to many others, at least) expressions we work with. And it works very, very well. For us, Trondheim is an excellent base. We would of course recommend most the bands related to our little circle here. As for gigs and shows, there are close to none for bands like us, but the situation suits us just fine, as mentioned.
All the band’s members have one or more side-projects, including a band like Behexen. How do you make time for OTOH?
Side-project is definitely not the right word for established bands like Mare, Vemod, Celestial Bloodshed, Altaar and Behexen, as you mentioned. These are all serious, independent bands with serious, independent visions, as is OTOH. We all have demanding jobs and studies as well, so there is not much time, to be honest. However, OTOH is well rehearsed and ready to enter the stage and vehemently kill whenever it is required. New material is slowly taking shape in between. We are resourceful people, and we can manage a bit of pressure.
As we’re a Brazilian zine, I’ve got to ask you this: what bands from Brazil are you familiar with? Besides Sepultura and Sarcófago, I mean. Do you listen to any Brazilian bands?
Except for Mystifier, none other than the classic bands you mentioned – a pity and a shame. You should send us a list with all the Brazilian awesomeness we should be listening to. Deal?
It’d be awesome if you could comment on the last five albums you’ve been listening to.
Thought it would be better if we just gave you a recent top five list from all of us. OTOH recommends both classics and obscurities and inbetweens. Hail!
Solanaceae – Solanaceae
Obsequiae – Suspended in the Brume of Eos
Orrery – Nine Odes to Oblivion
Dead Can Dance – Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Darkthrone – Dark Thrones and Black Flags
In Solitude – The World, The Flesh, The Devil
Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane
Hank Williams the III – Damn Right, Rebel Proud
Funeral Mist – Maranatha
Behexen – My Soul For His Glory
ZZ-Top – Best Of
Sepultura – Schizophrenia
Siouxsie And The Banshees – Tinderbox
Massacra – Enjoy The Violence
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
Clikatat Ikatowi – Conducted And Constructed By Clikatat Ikatowi
Fields Of The Nephilim – Elizium
Iron Maiden – Brave New World
Negative Plane – Stained Glass Revelations
Törr – Armageddon
Nekromantheon – Rise, Vulcan Spectre
This space is all yours, wrap it up as you see fit.
Thank you very much for this interview and your interest in our work. And not to forget your patience! We hope to play before the hordes of South America one day. Look into the night, the firebirds are flying!