(Our Norway-based contributor Karina Noctum scored a coup with this interview of Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen at the recent Tons of Rock festival in Oslo, where Blasphemer performed with his band Vltimas, which also includes David Vincent and Flo Mounier (their debut album Something Wicked Marches In was released by Season of Mist this past March). Blasphemer has left his mark on the history of metal through the music of such bands as Mayhem and Aura Noir, and more recently with Vltimas and Earth Electric. This interview touches on all these experiences, and what the future holds for him. All photos accompanying this interview were made by Andrea Chirulescu.)
How did the idea of forming Vltimas originate?
I’ve been playing so much extreme metal for so many years that it was always a mission of mine to form a band that I could call my little baby. Something that I created from the start, because with Mayhem, I didn’t start it; I joined Mayhem. The same with Aura Noir, I just joined them.
So it was something that was on my to-do list, you know. Starting something from scratch and building something up from the ground. So when I quit Mayhem I was thinking about it, but at the time I just thought I had to take a break from extreme metal, from Black Metal, so I did not pursue it. I did other styles within metal instead.
Vltimas is not the first time you and Flo worked together in a Death Metal project. You were involved in the awesome Nader Sadek project. How was it to work together back then?
Yes, starting around 2013 I started to compose extreme metal after having taken a break. I was hired to create and compose a couple of EPs for an egyptian artist. Flo was also hired, and that’s how I met him, because he was hired to play the drums. We had a great musical chemistry and became good friends.
So when I started to create new ideas for my own band back home, I knew I wanted to bring in Flo because he is a great musician, and a good friend of mine. So I asked him, and he was eager to be a part of it, so that’s how it started really.
Eventually, maybe a half a year or a year later, David Vincent came to mind. He is the voice of Death Metal and he has quite a character. I’ve known him over the years and obviously I needed someone to sing and play bass at the time, so David would be perfect, I was thinking. But obviously he doesn’t play the bass, he just sings, but it is perfect nonetheless.
We just happened to have this thing in between us, this kind of energy between the three of us. He was also eager because he had just quit Morbid Angel. He had been enjoying my style of music and I was enjoying his style of music, so it was mutual respect between everybody.
Would you ever work again on the Nader Sadek project? I think it is a pretty special project…
I was hired. I played on the In the Flesh EP that was actually released through Season of Mist, and also created with Flo the Malefic EP that was only released through magazines. There is also a third one we created, but I don’t know about that one. I don’t have any contact with him. We split ways. I don’t know what he is doing, if he is working with music, or what.
He is working with videos lately. He produced “Garden of Disdain” for Morbid Angel… What has influenced the Vltimas sound the most?
For me, not everything is black or white. Vltimas‘ sound has both Death and Black Metal influences. I’m quite fed up with lots of bands doing this dissonant stuff and a lot of noisy music; this is where I stand at this point. My strength has always been melodies, ironically enough. Hopefully good riffs. I think this time with the input from all the musicians that I brought together, and the energy we created together, this is the way it turned out.
But of course I started in the ’80s listening to Death Metal bands like Morbid Angel, Death, and Obituary. So it is a part of me as well. Black Metal came a little bit later, came in ’92 or something with the Norwegian wave, also Bathory and Rotting Christ. So I have a little bit of both in my blood and also Thrash Metal as well. I’ve been listening to so many different kinds of extreme metal, so this is like the melting pot of all of it, if you know what I mean.
Do you compose everything yourself first and then get some input from the other musicians, or how does it work?
It’s a mix of both. But it always starts with me writing the first riff for a song and quite possibly riff number two, they come together. Then I send the ideas to the guys and then they usually say fucking great and then I save it. When I have ten of those we meet up and start to play and toy with them and then I compose more together with Flo, just jamming out. Then I usually go back again and take all the things we have composed and try to find, more or less, a song and we meet up again. So it is a bit back and forth, but it always starts with me. I’m the one doing the strings; David is just singing and Flo is playing drums.
What’s the future for the band? Will you tour more? It doesn’t really need to be difficult to set up an international tour?
For me and David this is a full-time priority band. Of course we still have to pay our bills, and Flo still tours a lot with Cryptopsy, but in the long run this is our main project. We are just starting and this is our sixth show ever, and we have been playing together as a band for roughly two weeks, so what you heard now is the result of two weeks’ practicing. It’s a great start, a great fundament. The record is doing really well. It’s gaining a lot of great feedback.
I’m actually already working on the new record. I have already written like 10 or 12 rough ideas for the next record. So hopefully we are going to the studio in the first half of next year. So it’s full-on, there is no mercy. We don’t have time to waste. I’m tired of sitting on the fence and not doing anything, so this is full-on.
Is the music going to be in the same vein?
Probably a little bit moodier, probably darker. That’s my mindframe now, with the riffs is a little bit darker and oppressive. It’s way too early to say anything, but I think it’s a promising start. I think the first record was quite diverse, slow stuff and fast stuff. We have already opened up a box, and there’s many ways we can go from there. We can go faster or slower; we can do more groove. I don’t want to be too predictable, but at the same time it’s not going to be too different.
What is going to be the situation with Aura Noir? Are you going to keep on touring?
At this very moment there is not much going on. We have one show in Austria in August and that’s pretty much it. We have nothing scheduled. There is not going to be a new record, at least not for now. I have not much contact with the guys anyway. So now it’s pretty safe to say it’s pretty much on ice.
After Apollyon proclaimed that he didn’t want to tour that much, and so the focus was on Aggressor. It’s not easy to be the frontman in this kind of genre, playing bass. He has some disadvantages, but in spite of that he is a warrior, he really is. But there comes a time when you start to think that maybe it’s time to… I’m not going to say anything official, I’m just saying there is only one show left to do.
What about your other projects?
I have a Portuguese psychedelic rock band called Earth Electric. We released our debut record two years ago. It is a bit progressive and has female vocals. We are tuning down our guitars; it’s going to be really heavy. The material we have so far is pretty good, so I’m really excited about that. So for me it is going to be Earth Electric and Vltimas for the future.
Are there any challenges when you start a band at your level and when you play with other pretty renowned musicians in addition?
It’s never easy to start something from scratch, no matter your background. It’s true that most people know who we are, so it’s not like we are starting right from scratch. If we were totally unknown individuals starting a band then the road would be extremely long. So of course there are advantages with it.
David has a huge name, so with that comes more responsibility, but of course more exposure. We are floating on all these things right now and that’s also a part of why we have landed all these big festivals. Our warming show was in Copenhell. Usually people start in a bar.
Honestly, I’d have loved to start in a bar instead, because it’s a bit frightening to start on a super-big stage. But it’s also a symbolic thing because you start at a certain level, which is kinda cool. It’s scary in one way, but it’s nothing we haven’t done before. We are veterans in the game. So it’s just full-on, no mercy. There’s nothing to second guess, it’s just go on and fucking fight. No mercy.
Who had the idea of re-mastering Grand Declaration of War?
I think it was the label…
Why was it necessary to do that?
I mean why not? If people do not think it’s interesting enough, then they shouldn’t pick it up, or if they don’t care about it then don’t pick it up. It’s just as simple as that. We are not doing it for cash, and in the end it’s the audience who decides if they want to buy or not.
I think over the years we always tried to imagine how that record would sound with a more underground Black Metal sound, because when it came out nobody understood anything. Some said it was fucking polished and a sell-out. It was the most ridiculous thing they could have said, because it was the most non-commercial record we could have done. But people are people… So it just came out as a natural consequence. We wondered how it would it sound if we re-mixed and re-mastered it? So that’s what we did, and it’s limited edition.
I mean, it’s also a celebration of my years in Mayhem. I think the idea maybe spawned there. There was a boxed set called A Season in Blasphemy spanning the records that I did with the band, 3 records. The idea was to have the remastered version as a bonus.
I prefer the original the best because I’m so used to it. And because now, it has been so many years that you can’t really compete with it anymore. But it was fun to get a different take on it and hear how it could have sounded. But I’m glad it didn’t end up sounding like that one. I’m glad we pushed the boundaries and made something really weird. Because it is still here, you know, and as a matter of fact it is the biggest selling record on the label to this day. It did something. Even if people talked too much about it, they picked it up anyway.
I’m proud of the record. I’m glad I did exactly what I wanted. I’m not a sheep. I gave the finger and fuck that. I didn’t hew or take advice or listen to anybody, and I think that is the purest form of art, and that’s how the record came about.
Why did you choose Jaime Gomez from Orgone Studios to re-master Grand Declaration of War?
Because he has good ears and is a great engineer and producer. He is also a very good friend of mine and also happens to love that record. He has worked with Season of Mist a lot. He actually worked with the first Earth Electric record and he also did the Vltimas record, of course. He is super-talented, so the choice was easy.
What are the biggest differences between the original and the remastered version?
It’s a bit like night and day. It’s like a mirror image somehow. For me it was strange. You get used to a sound, and you have that sound for such a long time that it becomes the record. It’s still one of my favorite records of all I have composed. I had that fuck-you mentality, so there are lots of feelings in it as well. Suddenly it’s like you find a pathway into a dark hole and find a mirror image of it, but in a dirty way, if you know what I mean. It’s kind of a mindfuck, so if people want to do that then do it on acid. It freaks me out. It’s like an alternative reality .