Is it wrong to approach an interview with the sheer terror that you may not escape alive? Or be kidnapped and find oneself onstage as part of some ritualistic pledge to beings south of heaven? Yes, you find these horrific images dancing around your head when MAYHEM is the band in question. It's bizarre when what you'd think would become a Stephen King novel excerpt, becomes a slapstick comedy routine. But that's the loose vibe on Barge To Hell, when BraveWords matched wits with Norwegian black metal forefather and Mayhem founder Jørn Stubberud (aka Necrobutcher) and former CRADLE OF FILTH/IMPERIAL VENGEANCE axeman Charles Hedger.
And truly, given their reputation, the cruise should be renamed Barge To Mayhem, as they have been the epitome of hell since their formation in the mid-'80s, being associated with such grisly characters as Euronymous (murdered guitarist Øystein Aarseth), Count Grishnackh (bassist/BURZUM's Varg Vikernes out on parole now after serving nearly 15 years in jail for Euronymous' murder) and Dead (late singer Per Yngve Ohlin who killed himself in 1991). Hence me making sure my last will and testament was written before I entered the room!
The question is, how does such black metal extremity fit in the tropical Caribbean? The band's over-the-top live spectacle was by far the most extreme and hellish during the entire cruise.
"This is the place for us," Necrobutcher confirms strongly about the Barge To Hell experience!
But do you think it affects the image? "Maybe for idiots," Hedger hits back. "Some people think the band like this is never going to smile, never going to have a good time, never going to enjoy the sun. C'mon…"
Necrobutcher adds: "The one thing is that we play this kind of music, but somebody has to do it! But this is what comes out when we make music. We've always been on the edge of exploring the darkness, on the wrong side of everything you know. Maybe that created some kind of image. I tell you when people meet me, they say 'I thought you were bigger.' Or I thought you were higher. I'm way past that now. All I say is 'thanks for having high thoughts about me.' So that's how it is. But it's easy math. Heavy-metal started around 1980 and then extreme metal came in at 1985. All these guys are in their 40s now. Of course they want to go on a cruise! Of course they want to see their favourite bands. That's why."
"And people have money now in the metal scene," Hedger continues. "People are grown-up, people have jobs. It's not a kids scene anymore. Of course there's still a lot of young people, but there's a lot more money. So eventually this is going to happen. Metal is not that much of a taboo thing anymore. It is an excepted art form."
Necrobutcher: "Society is getting tougher, and they need more tougher art, and that is where we step in."
So let's get off the ship, and take a peek into your musical brains. What is the update on a new album. "We are just in the middle of pre-production on the new album," Necrobutcher reveals. "We did a session recently in Budapest, Hungary the hometown of Attila (Csihar). We stayed there for three weeks, did a gig to finance the studio and stuff, which worked out well. So we will probably have a new session soon in Norway, to finish the songs and then when we we are good and ready, we will go to the studio. We are well on the way with getting the new album sorted, and it's been six years."
Are you still with Season Of Mist?
"We always go for the best offer," says the bassist. "They are one of the names… We're also thinking about Pledge Music, so we will go where we think is best. We're not going to rush into anything and not before we have to. All the record companies are stressing, but we don't need that extra stress. If they would've paid, then we would have double the stress. But we're getting to the point, that very very soon we will need some money to pay for the studio. And the one that is going to pick up that bill, will be the record label and will represent us."
And what is the status of your catalog?
Necrobutcher: "It's a fucking mess."
That's why I'm asking!
Necrobutcher: "We are Norway's most bootlegged band. There's no other band in Norway. And were talking about A-HA and all of those fuckers. So it's all spiralled out of control, the whole fucking thing. I don't know if I want to fucking shoot 'em, or send them the bill. If bootleggers really do a good job, like a good layout, nice photos, a poster, colored vinyl. And print the song titles correctly or have material from some cool gig with some good sound. I don't give a fuck, then I probably would like to collect it. But what I don't like is when I see a product that looks exactly like the original product, that's a different type of bootlegging. And I find that more and more now. But now with all the downloading and shit everything is going straight down the toilet anyways."
"It's merchandise and gigs that's the only way to band can make money now," Hedger closes. "That's the only thing people can't download, t-shirts and being in the room with you."
#1 - Necrobutcher live on Barge To Hell Pool Stage - Håkon Grav
#2 - Attila Csihar live on Barge To Hell Pool Stage - Charlene Tupper
#3 - Mayhem during Barge To Hell signing session - Charlene Tupper
#4 - Mayhem live on Barge To Hell Pool Stage - "Metal" Tim