KICKING*ASS in '85 - Quorthon RIP
"I just want to wake up, whether it's in heaven or in hell or wherever, open a bottle of whiskey and know that I had a ball!"
by: Matthias Noll
As you all should know by now, Quorthon sadly passed away on the 7th of June 2004 , at the age of 39. To honor his work, CoC has decided to present the following interview to you -- and for the first time in the existence of CoC, this is not an original piece of work, but rather an interview that was originally published in one of the best printed metal publications that ever existed: KICK*ASS magazine. KICK*ASS disappeared almost two decades ago, and its editor Bob Muldowney has gone MIA as well -- at least as far as we at CoC know. Anyone who senses copyright infringements is hereby asked and encouraged to stand up and be counted.

Besides the fact that this is one of the rare early interviews with Quorthon, I find this piece to be especially interesting due to a variety of reasons. This interview provides a look back to a point in time when metal history was actually happening. Several passages (like for example the constant mentioning of the "death metal fad") could easily be taken from a 2004 interview, where the same problems -- namely too many bands, too many crappy releases -- still exist. Replace black with death and it describes the situation towards the end of the second black metal wave or the second demise of death metal during the mid-'90s. From today's perspective it's even more peculiar, because the number of records that got released back then is small compared to what we see today. Some problems have always existed and will never go away.

I also believe it might be interesting for some of our readers to see that in the mid-'80s, death and black metal were hardly considered separate genres -- something that is often ignored in discussions about the early days of black metal and about how to categorize bands that range from Mercyful Fate to Hellhammer and Bathory.

In addition, there's also the question of "who created black metal", which is as much a topic for discussion these days as it was back in 1985 -- even among the CoC staff. Quorthon has always denied that Venom was his main influence; in this interview, he at least admits that he's heard and even loves _Black Metal_. What's also interesting is his claim to "have been the first maniac to know about Venom in Sweden". If you take this last quote and remember that _Welcome to Hell_ came out as early as 1981 and instantly made a splash in the underground, and that _Black Metal_ got released in 1982, it's hard to believe -- at least for me, who saw and still sees the same similarities as Muldowney -- that Quorthon did not get exposed to massive doses of Venom before the Bathory debut in 1984. Of course this is my interpretation of what may have happened, and what it comes down to in the end is whether you believe that what Quorthon has said over the years about this issue is true or not.

Among many other things -- for example, the absolutely hilarious statements about "Wimphammer / Celtic Compost" (and remember this comes from a guy who together with Hellhammer, Frost and a few others is considered to have created the pillars of black metal) -- it's interesting that Quorthon was not at all concerned about his image. The fact that he openly and honestly admits liking Motley Crue and writing ballads and pop music (at a time when Metallica got accused of having sold out with _Ride the Lightning_, and people like Nasty Ronny from Nasty Savage filled KICK*ASS pages explaining what they would do with the chopped-off head of Vince Neil) is absolutely stunning. In the realm of underground metal in the mid-'80s -- which was as much concerned about image and "trueness" (even if the word had no meaning back then) as the black metal scene of today -- this is the equivalent to Euronymous confessing his love for the music of Michael Jackson during the recording session for _De Mysteriis dom Sathanas_.

When you look at the "Venom is not black metal because they were never serious" discussions that keep popping up everywhere, it would be interesting to know why Bathory and Quorthon have never fallen prey to the same nonsensical and revisionist interpretation of the past. Despite these surprising confessions, early Bathory has not sustained any damage and miraculously retained an effective shroud of obscurity up to this day. A possible explanation that makes quite a lot of sense to me is the fact that Bathory never played live and never took the risk of damaging their public image by exposing their ordinary selves and lousy skills on stage -- something that I consider to be the main reason why the public perception of Venom as the most evil and menacing people that ever walked the earth went down the drain during the mid-'80s. It seems that Quorthon accidentally (simply because he couldn't assemble a band and show off his flame-throwers) found a formula that would work equally well for a band like Darkthrone. However, especially during the second half of the interview, Quorthon doesn't come across as being any more "trve", "kvlt" or serious than Konrad, Jeff and Tony, or other people from assorted Newcastle pubs. So, I'll be looking forward to a "Bathory were not black metal because Quorthon enjoyed listening to Motley Crue better than celebrating black masses" thread on our message board.

Most importantly, this piece serves the main purpose of paying tribute to Quorthon, Bathory, and especially his importance in the creation of the black metal genre and the fact that he played a main role in shaping metal, even as we know it today in 2004.

In addition, I would also like to take the opportunity to hail KICK*ASS and namely Bob Muldowney who conducted this interview (of course the "ed." comments are also his), and who from my perspective also played quite an important role during the rise of black, thrash and death metal. His dedication and totally no-frills style, and the fact that he never refrained from being critical and sometimes brutally honest has and will always impress me.

Quorthon himself provides the perfect quote to end my rather lengthy introduction: "I just want to wake up, whether it's in heaven or in hell or wherever, open a bottle of whiskey and know that I had a ball!" May it be so! Thank you for the music!

BATHORY - By Bob Muldowney.

(From KICK*ASS Magazine, A Journalistic Poser Holocaust, Volume XXXI, November 1985.)

At the time I initially heard the first Bathory album, death metal was just beginning to become the underground fad it now is. I saw the cover, the song titles, read the lyrics and put on the record, and I thought that this was like a vinyl version of the Sodom demo (which, itself, I loved, because it was different from and sicker than anything I've heard since _Welcome to Hell_), nothing more. Speed, satanic lyrics and image, distortion etc.

However something made me listen to the album again, and the more I listened to it, the more I realized Bathory was not a band comprised of little kids trying to be offensive and failing. Sure, the speed, distortion and raw production was there, but the more I listened to the album, the more I realized those three factors (speed, distortion and production) were part of the Bathory sound, not the entire Bathory sound. The songs were legitimately heavy, and the more death metal demos and records I heard in proceeding months couldn't come close to delivering the sheer death metal hell that Bathory delivered.

I then decided it was time to feature this band in KICK*ASS. However, attempts at such continually proved fruitless. At that point, I further began to realize this was a different band. No names on the back of the album. Not a bunch of kids who wanted to see their "evil" picture in every death metal fanzine to attain limited local "notoriety".

Shortly after KICK*ASS #30 came out, I got a phone call from Quorthon, rumoured to be Bathory, a one-man death metal assault squadron. He was not some weenie talking in a "death metal tone of voice". He didn't scream at me about the nuns he's raped, about the black masses he conducts, about the little children he's deflowered then killed. He came across over the phone the same way Tom Warrior comes across to me through his letters -- a normal, intelligent heavy metal musician who enjoys playing brutally heavy death metal music. As a matter of fact, one of the things I vividly remember Quorthon telling me was that he hates "death metal" and simply refers to the music he plays as "heavy metal". I was anxious to do the interview, and when it was over, my respect for and opinion of Quorthon were even greater than they had been before.

As I mentioned, it is widely believed that Bathory and Quorthon are interchangeable names. Quorthon is Bathory, Bathory is Quorthon. No other musicians, no actual band. Such beliefs are only strengthened when one notices the lack of interviews he does and the fact that the first record (and now the second one) gives no listing as to band members. I put this theory/question to Quorthon at the start.

"I believe Bathory rehearsed for the first time the 13th of March 1983. I met these two guys who already had the equipment and a rehearsal place so I said, 'Hey, why not put something together?' We had a lead guitar player auditioning for us after a month, but he stayed with the band for only three and a half minutes, the time it took the three of us to play one of our songs for him. I think we played a song called "Witchcraft", a song we haven't yet recorded and probably never will."

"We never took this thing with the band too seriously. We just wanted to let off a lot of steam and have fun. We didn't even care about writing some original stuff at all the first couple of months. We blasted off with covers of Motorhead, Sabbath, Maiden, Anvil and Status Quo. It's not that we were too influenced by them or really big fans of them, but all three of us knew their songs quite well."

After the band's volume forced them out of their current residence, the summer of 1983 found a new place to live and rehearse. "The other two guys came up with this asshole claiming he was the new vocalist of the band. They never really liked my way of singing so they came up with this decayed asshole. Besides, I never sang too much anyway. I ran around and shook my head till my brain felt like it was chopped meat, and I never had any breath to sing. [The new singer] stayed with the band until the middle of February 1984 when I gave him the kick in his ass a few hours before we went into the studio to record two tracks for the _Swedish Metal Attack_ sampler."

"I knew the Boss [Boerje Forsberg of Tyfon Grammofon AG Records] from the time I used to help Tyfon out listening to demo tapes and picking out new up-and-coming bands, so when I found out that he was going to put together a metal sampler, I called him up and said he just had to use one or two tracks with us... he gave us a few hours in the studio one afternoon."

Quorthon said that "the band" was pleasantly surprised with the favourable response elicited from the public who became fans of the band based on their two songs on that compilation album. However, towards the end of April 1984, the band split up. "We slowly grew away from each other. They were not into this fast metal at all. I wanted to go on with total hellpaced destructive shit. They didn't wimp out at all. They dressed different and listened to totally different stuff than me, but we are still best of friends." What a pleasure to hear, rather than the usual death metal thing when a band member leaves and the remaining members scream about what a poser he is.

Despite this split, Tyfon wanted an album from Bathory, so Quorthon began looking around for guys who could fit in (and survive in) Bathory. However, this was not an easy task, as Quorthon discovered that most musicians "would rather bet their ass on a band making sure not to sweat on stage, making sure not to headbang as that is not good for their hairstyle, and a band walking around the rock clubs of Stockholm claiming to be the best with the heaviest record deal, and a band with five blonde members walking home in anger and tearing their Bon Jovi posters apart when they don't get laid after the gig." "I told [prospective band members] what I wanted this band to be all about: I wanted to breath fire with a smashed guitar, wear all these chains, spikes and studded leather, vomit blood. I knew this guy who made bombs and stage effects and he made four flame jets for Bathory spewing out five foot flames. When the record company called and asked how the auditioning was going I told them I had a few guys interested but no one looking crazy enough to be a permanent members of the band." Quorthon went no farther than that, keeping the mystery of the band intact.

At this point in time, Quorthon admits he does not have a band together. "The people who I used to jam with a bit have started their own bands now and I don't know... maybe I can find two maniacs in U.K. or U.S. the second album was recorded the same way as the first one [but how was that one recorded?! - ed.], with almost the same equipment [except] on this second one, I used my Marshalls; on the first one, I used my little Yamaha 20W home amp. Whether it was recorded with a 'band' or not, I cannot tell you, Bob. If I told you the true story it wouldn't matter anymore. I want to have this touch of anonymity with the band and therefore I don't do too many interviews." Mystery... suspense... intrigue... anonymity... far more effective than mindless gibberish about satan, evil, and violence, wouldn't you say?

Anyone listening to the first album and the second album can't help but notice a heavy Venom influence and draw parallels to Venom over each band's first two albums. The first Bathory album's album cover, song titles and lyrics sounded like they were all the end-product of a Venom fanatic. Additionally the first Bathory album sounded like a faster and more raw-sounding version of _Welcome to Hell_, while _The Return..._ shows the same type of musical "maturation" and production improvement that _Black Metal_ showed over its predecessor. However, Quorthon takes exception to such ideas. "I'm not a fan of Venom at all, though I love the _Black Metal_ album. Before _Black Metal_ and after it, they have not [impressed] me at all. They really could have gone far. I thank them for what they have done for the Satanic-based metal movement of today, but in an exaggerated form."

"I have heard Slayer's first [album] and a few [songs from] bands such as Sodom, Destruction, Wimphammer / Celtic Compost [Oh my! - ed.], and I think they all suck. I don't even listen to black metal, death metal, satanic metal, or thrash metal at all. It's mostly crap. I don't say that Bathory is the best or anything, just that I don't like any of these bands mentioned. It's all up to the kid who buys our albums. I may think that Wimphammer / Celtic Compost is the biggest load of horseshit I've ever heard, but I respect them [I can tell! - ed.] and wish them the best of luck in the future. Slayer may have tracks faster than Bathory but what the hell... on the third album, I'll beat them all when it comes to speed."

"I write slow metal and fast metal, it all depends on what I have in my balls and on my mind for the day. Bathory have some slow tracks on first album [like] "Necromancy", "Raise the Dead" and "Reaper". On the new album "Born for Burning", "Bestial Lust", "The Rite of Darkness", and the middle part of "Reap of Evil" and the second half of "Sadist" is quite slow. Once I had this question sheet from a magazine and they asked me whether Bathory was death metal, black metal, thrash metal, zombie metal, or even corpse pile metal or simply just skullcrushing fucking metal... What happened to heavy metal?! Bathory is simply just a metal band. It may be totally hellpaced, it may be heavy and really slow. I may sing about Satan, hell, perverted sex, cunts, the power of the weather, blasphemy and... or a totally evil epic; I may dress up in spikes, studded black leather, chains, spit blood, and breath fire, wear all these upside down black crosses and bounce my guitar to the wall while doing the leads in the studio; but it's still metal -- has always been and will always be metal!"

There's little doubt from those statements that Quorthon is a true metaller who happens to enjoy playing blood-curdling death metal, and a serious metaller who is sick of what the death metal fad has become. "Yeah, well this satanic thrashing thing has really become a fad alright. I really think it has grown into something I really don't want to be a part of any longer. Too many bands today come up with crap demos that get quite good reviews in underground mags while, at the same time, bands like Slayer and Bathory spend a week in the studio with all the expenses and get an eight or a nine in the same mag. Too many bands today put out shit vinyl and poison the metal market. In a year or eighteen months, this satanic shit will make people throw up all over a metal album."

"I am aware of Bathory being one of those bands considered to be Satanic and total evil, but we're not. Bathory is a good way for me to unify my biggest interests in this world: sex, horror, the occult, death, speed, and noise. You may call it an image or not. I don't, because I have never really put up an image. I dress in studded leather and spikes and chains privately as well as [for the band]. I may not be totally evil person, but I have my periods like anybody. My friends say that I change a lot mentally during the period I write the lyrics or a new track."

Getting back to Bathory, since Quorthon has never been able to find any permanent or even semi-permanent band members, there has yet to be a live Bathory show. "We've been close several times but when I tell them what we do on stage, the answer is always the same: 'OK, we'll see what we can do.' We've played in front of friends sometimes and thrashing around the rehearsal place, which gave us the reputation as the most outrageous, craziest and wildest thrashing band in Stockholm."

One of the main reasons that Quorthon has been able to keep Bathory going, despite all the obstacles, is the strong support he has received from Tyfon Grammofon AB Records, who he said "gave us money, time, and studio dates during a period when no record company would even dream of looking our way. Tyfon gives a very free hand when comes to the band. They don't complain about the material, titles, music, [or] lyrics, they love this evil shit and certainly don't look down at us just because Bathory may not be as good [musicianship-wise] as their other bands. We're like a family, all the bands, and Boss is our father."

Quorthon said that the band's first album was recorded in 55-60 hours and cost about $500. "The studio was so small that the whole drum kit could not be used in case we wanted to have enough space for both the bass amp and the guitar amp. I am aware of the first album being a little too short, but I didn't have more usable songs at that time. I had tracks like "Die in Fire", "I Live in Sin", "Take it on your Knees", "Satan, Master", and stuff like that... I didn't want to use "The Return" on the first one because I wanted it to grow and, besides, I needed new lyrics for it. The cover may not be the best piece of art [as well], but I had three days to come up with something or the record company would print a picture on the front."

"The second album was a little more expensive, about $3000. We worked on the album for more than two weeks because I wasn't pleased with the sound. The drums were recorded in this big room, like a concert hall, the bass was recorded through an aluminium pipe-line to get this very specific sound, and the guitars [one rhythm / one rhythm-lead] was recorded in the same room as the drums. The cover this time is much better and the fans deserve that. I receive about three or ten fan letters a day. They send me Bathory comics, lyrics in case I'd be out of inspiration and the time gets short, drawings, and pictures of their girlfriend's cunts."

"The third album will be much heavier. I have several new tracks and some of them are really heavy, some totally hellpaced and some just thrashing metal at various speeds. The title of the third album will probably be "Music from under the Sign of the Black Mark". It'll be partly recorded in a church. I'll use a ten-girl choir [use them for what? - ed.], instruments from the 14th and 15th century -- the fans can expect a lot of surprises. I want to show them that you certainly don't have to go on at 100mph just to sell or be powerful or wild."

Okay, now that we know all about Bathory (or about as much as we'll ever know!), I wanted to delve into the person who is Quorthon. From various statements made thusfar, one can easily see that he is not some death metal weenie, but what goes on his mind when he is not involved in Bathory? What makes him tick? Is Quorthon an image or is it a person? "I may love this evil shit alright but I have distance to what I'm doing. I can take off this studded shirt, look at myself in the mirror, and see an ordinary kid from Stockholm into metal and cunts. I'm not a beast or an overly-sick person.

"Quorthon is a two-way thing. First, it's a good name and it fits in with the certain style of Bathory. Second, I don't want to use my real name in case I'd start a new band after Bathory when that days comes, and I wouldn't want people to be reminded of Bathory while looking at me in this new band." Quorthon also wanted to make one thing clear about his vocals. "I must have been the first maniac to know about Venom in Sweden. Cronos has done a lot for this evil thing and I thank him for that, but he didn't inspire me to sing this way as some seem to think. I used to sing through the guitar pick-up once and, shit, that really did sound cool, so I picked the whole thing up, growl and roar like a beast."

"I'm totally comfortable when I have my 60 cigarettes a day, some wine and whiskey, a cunt to fuck and a guitar to crank up really loud. I may not live day to day, more like night to night, but I have big plans and I take one week at a time. I just want to wake up, whether it's in heaven or in hell or wherever, open a bottle of whiskey and know that I had a ball!"

"I quite like cunts and I've had a lot of them. I like women as friends and as sexual toys. Every new cunt is an experience because they all want to be fucked, licked and beaten up in so many different ways. I have written a few tracks about women. "Born for Burning" is a song dedicated to a witch who lived in Holland from 1521 to 1591. "Bestial Lust" is a track dedicated to this girl I fucked on the lady's room floor at a rock club here in Stockholm, one night who was really into bestial sex."

As far as his pre-Bathory days, Quorthon was quite vague. "Let's just say I was born during the middle sixties -- peace, love, and understanding, brother. Bathory is actually my first real band. Before starting Bathory, I got together with some friends and thrashed but I felt I wanted to start something for real. I'm self taught, having started to play the drums a the age of nine, then guitar and bass, piano and some other instruments at the age of fifteen."

"I don't like any of these bands out there today playing black, death or simply just decayed metal -- well, today you can use any word and be right, so I can't figure out what band influenced me to perform this type of hellpaced metal. I don't just write this kind of evil shit. I write ballads, rock, pop, and metal because I enjoy writing different kinds of music."

"My favourite bands would be Kiss form 1973 to 1978, Sex Pistols, GBH, The Beatles. I like Toyah, the first three albums with Pink Floyd, some Motorhead. I like Motley Crue and Aerosmith, Space Ace Frehley, Sid Vicious, some Triumph, some Sabbath, Ripper, some Sweet stuff, and classical music. That certainly is an odd combination, so you know the end result would have to be sick. It's sort of like throwing ice cream, chopped beef, pickles, vinegar, and onions all together into a blender, mixing then thoroughly, and tasting the end result -- SICK!!!

One other thing that Quorthon mentioned to me over the phone. An interview with him was published in some German metal publication which included him saying he liked some Motley Crue songs. He said sometime after that, he received a couple of letters from people who said that they burned their Bathory records when they found out Quorthon was a "poser". Why is he a poser? Because he likes some Motley Crue songs? If he enjoys some Motley Crue songs, some Beatles songs, whatever, but listed his favourite bands as Destruction, Death and Satan's Penis just to "impress" death metal weenies, then he'd be a "poser". And why did these people burn their Bathory records? Does the music sound any different? What a bunch of losers.

Anyway, that about wraps up this interview, and I'd have to say that from it all can see that despite the underground fad status which has caused death metal to spit up a bunch of chucks of metallic vomit that do little else but leave a sour taste in any true metaller's mouth, there are a couple of people/bands who are true metallers playing savage death metal with sincerity, all the while keeping things in their proper perspective. Quorthon and Bathory, Bathory and Quorthon. We may never really know for sure if they are one in the same. We may never know the whole story behind Bathory and, while I remain curious, the knowledge of anything beyond what has been discussed this far is quite irrelevant. As long as Quorthon keeps Bathory alive, as long his sincerity is maintained, as long as Bathory remains a viable entity in the metal scene, that's all I care about. Is there anything else?

(article submitted 16/7/2004)

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5/29/2003 Q Kalis 6 Bathory - Nordland I
1/14/2002 V Eldefors 7.5 Bathory - Destroyer of Worlds
6/9/1996 A Wasylyk 9 Bathory - Blood on Ice
10/1/1995 G Filicetti 8 Bathory - Octagon
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