During a conversation with Kerrang Magazine, IHSAHN looked back at the infamous Norwegian metal scene in the ’90s.
Norwegian black metal had an extreme, evil image. But you were also, in some way, just a group of mates, right?
“Absolutely. At the time we were so focused on the whole idea of the black metal scene, on this particular atmosphere, it became a strong creation.
“When we went to [Mayhem guitarist, later stabbed to death by Burzum’s Varg Vikernes] Euronymous‘ shop, Helvete, in Oslo, everything was black. There were candles, there was black metal playing or other dark music like Tangerine Dream. It was all focussed on getting that fix of a profound atmosphere.
“After rehearsal, me and Samoth would go to dark rooms with candles and have dark music pumping. For long periods of time in my late teens, I would fall asleep and wake up to [terrifying performance artist] Diamanda Galas’ ‘Plague Mass’ album.
“It’s mental, but it still tapped into this religious type of atmosphere. It was special, without any drugs or anything.”
People seemed to view the Norwegian scene either as scary or a joke. How did that make you feel?
“To be honest, I think it was both scary and empowering at the same time. There was really no other choice than trying to feel empowered by it. The provocation, the resistance in people – there was obviously resentment to a strong extent.
“My oldest brother-in-law lost two jobs just for knowing me. And we were still teenagers! People empowered us much more than they probably should have. And from my experience, if I met teenagers who had an extreme style and have some extreme views, I would probably laugh it off or take it as a sign of youth rebellion.
“I’d have the perspective that these are developing people, but there was none of that for us. It was so extreme for people that they lost a lot of perspectives.”
How did you feel when churches burned and people died or went to prison? Did you ever think it had gone too far?
“In that period, given how we did it, we were so dedicated to keeping that sensation, that everything that added to this almost alternative experience of the world. We were constantly focusing on it and keeping those atmospheres and everything.
“When these things happened, it became part of that sentiment. Even when people went to jail, we never went, ‘Is this the end of the band?’ We were just practically finding ways of keeping the band going. ‘’Okay, we’ll have to trade tapes for a while,’ but there was never a question of stopping.”
Did you ever feel in danger yourself?
“We were – we were attacked. So many of us were attacked. I remember on my way home I was attacked by five people who beat the sh*t out of me, and nobody really cared. And this was prior to a lot of that stuff happening; this was just for wearing those clothes.
“It’s interesting to see how people felt it was okay because we were a self-chosen minority. We asked for it, they thought.”
How do you feel looking back at it now?
“All in all, to sum up, that scene and that state of mind, I’d say that it could become very, very destructive. And for many people it was. On a personal level, having been through such a special youth and coming out the other end, I think you get confronted fairly often.
“But you become ambitious – far more ambitious than I might have been. All in all, I would say it’s a positive thing for me. And it’s enabled me to carry on doing what I want, which is music.”