Your t-shirt (sold by Red Stream) sports the Norwegian flag. I would take it that you are very proud of your heritage? What endears Norway to you and how does it influence the music?
Harald: I think anyone should, in one way or another, be proud of the country they come from, even though there might be a lot shit there you don't agree upon. Norway is fortunately not yet totally overrun by scum and corruption, like in many other countries. Norway still has huge areas of untainted nature which we love.
I wouldn't really say that any elements of the country influence Bloodthorn's music. It's more about recognizing who you are and where you belong and where your heritage lies. The flag is one of the few things we use in connection with the band that doesn't have any direct link to the music or lyrics.
Can you tell me anything about the large dragon-like creature/warrior depicted on the t-shirt? I've not noticed him anywhere but the t-shirt.
Harald: It was done by a friend of mine, and based on original sketches and ideas we gave him to develop, and it's directly connected to the lyrics and the album (Under the Reign of Terror). We're extremely pleased with this one, and actually there's been a lot of people coming up to us who don't know about the band or metal music at all, who really think the shirt looks great.
Originally, we wanted to have this kind of character on the album cover as well, but J.P. Pascal--who painted it choose not to use it--instead came up with the knight that is there now.
I like the dragon better than the knight, but the knight is more serious and warlike than the dragon. The art on many of your albums depict animals with lots of character. Who's the animal lover? Someone in Bloodthorn must have a love for reptiles. Do you feel animals are somehow superior to humans because the art always depicts animals in a superior stance to humans?
Harald: We never thought about that. There's animals on all the covers, really. Maybe it's something sexual... Ha ha! I don't think animals are superior to humans, but at least you don't see them killing each other off for religion or other stupid things.
How apropos for the world at large. It seems that Bloodthorn takes a more active stance in their promotion than many other bands that just turn it over to a label and depend solely on them. Your art and promotions and the music always appear to be well-coordinated, and I can't help but think some of that would fall on the band. Most labels just don't pay that much attention to details, and the art on the Bloodthorn discs is always fantastic.
Harald: The band didn't have too much influence on the layout of the first two albums, especially Onwards. The art for In the Shadow was picked by Tom and Krell--it's some early work by Alf Svendsson. The Royo painting on Onwards was selected by Season of Mist. On Under the Reign of Terror, we had total freedom and commissioned the painting for the cover based on our concept and ideas. We picked the interior photos and did the layering effects on those, decided on the colors, and so on. Then with the help of one of the guitar players from Perished (who's a professional graphic designer), we put it all together and made it print-ready.
It's nice to see a band that takes matters into their own hands. Bloodthorn is now signed with a label in the United States, Red Stream. Are you still on another label in Europe, or is Red Stream handling the worldwide distribution?
Harald: Red Stream is distributing the album worldwide--with the help of local companies in each country, of course. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have the album licensed to another label in Europe, and maybe Japan, and also for cassette versions in Poland and such. We're very satisfied with Red Stream and the work they do for Bloodthorn, but their distribution isn't the biggest, and the album can be hard to find. But as the label grows this will surely improve.
I've seen a lot of growth from Red Stream in the past few years myself. I've heard both that the split from your former label, Season of Mist, was not very pleasant and, alternately, that it was good up until Reign in Terror. What happened with Under the Reign of Terror that destroyed the relationship with the label? You might also want to let the readers know some of the tortures that occurred to the band in writing, recording and releasing that album, as I understand that you had a deep relationship with rats.
Harald: The deal with Season of Mist was for two albums, and after Onwards we had fulfilled our obligation to them. There were disagreements in how they run their label and how they treated (or mistreated) their bands that we didn't agree upon. We couldn't work with them anymore and decided not to sign a new deal. They paid our studio time and got us on a tour, even though it was small and disorganized. But their attitude towards the bands on the label and the scene as a whole was despicable, and we couldn't stand the thought of cooperating with them in the future. Never knowing what's happening, one day being told one thing and the next the total opposite... There was a lot of shit and we refused to deal with that any longer.
So as you can see, we do have a deep relationship with rats. As for the recording of Under the Reign of Terror, that was a fuckin' mess--filled with rats. The studio was a shithole, the equipment broke down all the time, the engineer would suddenly disappear for a day or two. And that's just part of it. It's behind us now, fortunately, and I never want to go through that again.
[Note: I think Season of Mist is a fine label that has released some great recordings that were previously unavailable in the US unless imported. Recently Season of Mist and newly-formed Renegade Records (under the helm of Rhodes Mason, ex-Nuclear Blast America) became a partnership in the US that will drastically improve their distribution. Red Stream is also a great label with terrific bands and a no-nonsense attitude. Earpollution makes no recommendation or condemnation of one label or another.]
Did it start to seem like the world was against the release of Under the Reign of Terror after all the pitfalls? Now that the disc has been unleashed upon the world, how do you feel about the recording?
Harald: For a while we actually thought that the album would never be released because we had so many problems with the studio. During the recording we never thought we could make it in time, and we ended up having to stay for a week longer to try finish the mixing and all. The time was too short though and we missed the deadline. The engineer was hopeless, hard to work with, rarely there and refused to admit his mistakes. So it had to be remixed before it could be released after he wasted over four months of studio time. When it came out this summer, we could hardly believe it.
We're just glad it's out and over with. People have latched onto the album and appreciate what we do, and that's reward enough for us. We're working on new material now, and this time we'll record in Norway or Sweden, with Scandinavian efficiency and with a real engineer--not with some bum who doesn't care and wastes other people's time and money.
Hearing that this album took a while makes me think that the music might not be your most recent creations. Will we be seeing another Bloodthorn disc soon?
Harald: Under the Reign of Terror was recorded a year ago, so you're definitely right that the material, at least for us, is starting to grow old already. We're not in hurry to get the next album out, however, so we'll take our time. We plan on going into the studio next summer and have an album out by early fall.
Are you going to tour to support Under the Reign of Terror in Europe, Scandinavia and the US?
Harald: Well, we definitely hope so, but in this business nothing seems certain. There were a couple of tours we were hoping to go on, but both fell through for various reasons, so now we're checking out different opportunities. I can't say anything for sure at the moment, so we'll just have to see what time brings.
Has the black metal scene in Norway supported Bloodthorn, or is it a horribly cutthroat and competitive scene? I've seen great bands come from both situations. And is the Norwegian black metal scene as active as it seems, or is everything going down in the studios, and not out playing live?
Harald: There are very close relationships between many of the bands in Norway, and sometimes if you're not part of that "circle" they won't support you. We have never received any real support from the Norwegian scene, and have never really been a part of it, either. Now, however, we're a little more in touch with people from other bands, and while some people act like rock stars, there are many who are really alright and step up to help and support others. The live situation has improved a lot compared to a few years ago, as most bands do gigs and go on tours these days. I guess it was easier to say that they didn't want to play live when they were smaller and didn't get any offers to do so. Now, when everything is set up and they get the cash in their pockets, it's more lucrative.
But you know, the things I talk about here, I don't think they are limited to Norway. You find these situations and these kind of people all over.
Finally: Should fans, readers, or groupies need to get the attention of any Bloodthorn members at a gig, how would be the best way to make contact?
Harald: We're not rock stars or anything, so we're not hard to get in touch with, and we don't see ourselves as any better than the people in the audience. If any girls want to get our attention, buying a beer would be a good move. Then stripping is definitely not a bad follow-up.
I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. I really love your recordings and look forward to the next album. Thanks again!
Harald: Thanks a fuckin' lot for your support and stay with us for the next attack. It'll send your soul to hell!
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