Far Away From Any Messianic Complex

Story online since:  18.11.2007 / 06:42:05

Well, well, here I am, interviewing one of the most underrated and underground pioneering metal bands, whom were always mostly known by name and reputation but almost never through their one-of-a-kind musical quality. Listening to the actual ever-expanding avant-garde metal scene, one has to admit to the fact that they actually had an impact on its development as a genre. Soon enough I got in touch with their band coach singer, drummer, lyricist, synthesizer and piano man Svein-Evil Hatlevik, a most honest, laid-back and intelligent everyday journalist. Along the way I was even given a chance to hear a post-1998 recording of a new Fleurety song, which is aptly called The Animal of the City. I immediately sat down deep into my sofa, plugged in my headphones and started the song at a very high volume. What a shock! Could this be Fleurety at all? It most certainly is! However, once I got used to it, this experience made me remember that ever since I discovered this band, I’ve truly never been able to predict what would be their next disguises. For now, have a seat and discover the unstable world of Fleurety.

Hey Svein-Egil! Let’s hope everything is fine on your side of the European ground; anyway, wherever you are, a sunny and warm summer is always a welcome treat, right. Well I would like to take this opportunity to explore in details such a delicate subject as Fleurety, the now cult experimental band you and Alexander Nordgaren both gave birth to. Ever since the year 2000, just after the release of Dept. of Apocalyptic Affairs, an album that took everyone by surprise with its refreshing twists of mind, absolutely nothing seemed to happen in your camp. The momentum slowly faded away so to speak. Why was that? Any hurt feelings about that last album? No more inspirations? Of course we probably all know how Hatlevik kept on going with DHG and Zweizz, but Nordgaren all of a sudden musically disappeared, heading off to India and other exotic parts of the world. Between 2000 and 2005, what were then your feelings about Fleurety and its artistic accomplishments thus far?

Well, first thing is that summer here in Oslo is the rainiest ever since they started scientific measurements of the amount of rain in 18-twenty-something. Anyway, I was a little surprised to see that nothing happened with Fleurety after the Department of Apocalyptic Affairs album. I was still making songs that I intended to be Fleurety songs, but nothing really happened. So it took me a while to understand that the band was in a hiatus.

In fact, both the songs of the Zweizz 7" Black Necrotic Obfuscation (Vendlus Records 2004) were originally intended from my side to be Fleurety songs when I started making them. I programmed some beats and some synth stuff, and I did nothing more about them, since I assumed that Alex would add some guitars. Then all of a sudden three years had passed, and there were still no guitars, so I decided to finish the songs myself. Anyway, I was very happy about the Department of Apocalyptic Affairs album, but lately (last five years or something) I've come to the understanding that Alex wasn't too happy with that album. So well, I have no problem with that.

Now it's more like I continue one thread with Zweizz, the electronic experimental one from Department of Apocalyptic Affairs. But as I see it Fleurety as it works these days is following another thread that goes back to our very first demo, and the years that followed, with Min Tid Skal Komme. That kind of material, that kind of mentality. That's OK with me now, but I don't think I would have felt too comfortable about this in, say, 2004. I was a little embarrassed about the old Fleurety stuff at that time, like Min Tid Skal Komme and A Darker Shade of Evil, but in recent years I've started enjoying that stuff. I can very well put on Min Tid Skal Komme today and enjoy it. (But not too often, mind you!!!) I wouldn't have been able to do that five years ago.

You appear to be preparing a special comeback with the release of a 7” on Duplicate Records which will basically only contain re-recordings of two older tracks. I always thought that, as an artist, going through material from the vault was like admitting to some sort of a lack of inspiration regarding your present-day creativity. Was this an easier way to get back on track after all these years, in order to get a grasp of what Fleurety once has been and therefore should be nowadays?

Hm. We had to find another label to release this 7", because of all the usual reasons. Fleurety is cursed with label complications, we've been since 1993, so well. We actually made a deal with our very first record label Aesthetic Death Records, who released our A Darker Shade of Evil 7" EP in 1994 and co-released Min Tid Skal Komme with Misanthropy Records in 1995. This label is also releasing the vinyl version of Min Tid Skal Komme this autumn. We might be talking November. This version will feature the A Darker Shade of Evil EP and our very first demo Black Snow that we released in 1993. So let's see what happens and when it happens.

Anyway, when it comes to your question about "going through material from the vault was like admitting to some sort of a lack of inspiration regarding your present-day creativity", I agree. But I don't think that kind of thinking applies to Fleurety. If we were an active band, like Darkthrone or whatever, it would be an entirely different situation. But for a lot of years (1998-2005) we weren't really an active band, so re-recording old material is more like a way to get back on track, some kind of way to reawaken the dead. But as I said: Fleurety got lost, I guess in some kind of fog of experimentation, where the members of the band kinda lost sight of each other.

So I think it is better to keep things clear, and fuck all that experimental shit. I make experimental music all day, so I don't really need Fleurety to fulfill that function. We're never going to sound like your usual metal band anyway, no matter how hard we try. So it's more important to keep the band alive, I think, than being all visionary and shit. I mean, it's cool to be visionary, but we need to keep this band a social unit as well, that brings people together. We've been doing this as two people all these years, and we need to keep doing this as at least two people. Otherwise it wouldn't be Fleurety.

Let’s return for the last time ever to your almost entirely unknown and unpublicized last album, Dept. of Apocalyptic Affairs. One could obviously argue that this was a total commercial nightmarish fiasco, as I do remember how impossible it was to get my hands on it back to the day of its official release. Now what was Supernal Music’s initial reaction to the musical compositions that you guys gave them? And nine years after its conception, are you sometimes still able to give it a few spins?

Last time ever? That sounds kinda dramatic. As far as I know, the guy who runs Supernal Music really liked the album, but I assume that kind of music is not so easy to sell. On the other hand, I don't really suspect him of having tried. The album has been out of print for more than five years, and Supernal still hasn't released that second edition that he's been talking about for years. And in a way, that's fine by me. The problem is that he doesn't want anyone else to release it either, which by my standards makes him a capitalist pig.

Could you please present the lineups that you’re going to use for your upcoming 7”, and just say how you think that they might have altered the way you both compose together? Why did you specifically choose these guys to play with?

There are two different line-ups for the songs from the 7": One consists of Runhild Gammelsæter (Vocals), Alexander Nordgaren (Guitars), Necrobutcher (Bass), Hellhammer (Drums) and me as more or less a producer or band coach. The song is a re-recording of a song off our Black Snow demo. The reason we chose to do this song with Runhild is that she's the only woman I know who was really around when the Norwegian black metal underground existed and who would know how to do that kind of vocals. I initially asked the pretty well known Norwegian singer Maja Ratkje, and she was about to say yes, but she wanted money - she does these things for a living, whereas Runhild works as a biochemistry engineer, so she's pretty well off. And she was really enthusiastic about this project too.

And somehow I have this notion that black metal should not be made by professionals. I honestly don't think that black metal should be someone's way to put bread on the table. It might have worked in a non-capitalist society, but then again I doubt black metal would ever come into existence in a non-capitalist society. Or to be more specific: I have yet to hear a great black metal album made by people who play black metal for a living. Except, perhaps, Ordo Ad Chao by Mayhem. But I'm not sure yet if that album is really soooo great. Time will tell.

But as things turned out, I'm really glad we ended up doing this with Runhild, because for her it seemed like it was a journey through the time gate back to 1993. I didn't have to explain anything to her; she already knew what we were looking for intuitively. I remember I called her on the phone, asking if she wanted to do some vocals for us, she said: "Yeah, sure. I used to listen a lot to that demo back in the days." It was that Stephen O'Malley guy who made that tape for her. Now he's some kind of rock star, and we're still a well kept secret. Things really do change in ten years. Anyway, I'm digressing here: So then we met a couple of times, discussing back and forth to make sure that my intuition was correct: That she knew how to do exactly what we needed her to do. When it comes to Hellhammer and Necro Butcher, they are old buddies. They are Alex's buddies first and foremost, since he used to play with them in Mayhem, so that was more of the typical "Guy comes back from some faraway place, wants to meet up with his buddies and have a jam".

The other side of the 7" has Petter of Audiopain and Virus playing the bass and Bjørge from bands such as Yurei and Rex playing the drums. This song has a more punk attitude I guess, so I think Fleurety is in its most testosterous phase ever these days.

Considering where you guys come from, I see Fleurety as at least one of the first Norwegian black metal related bands to have somewhat introduced a humoristic, twisted colorful touch deep into the usually black-and-white, down-to-earth world of despair and suicidal teenage aspirations that black metal came to be associated with. I’m of course not saying that Fleurety was a joke in itself, far from that actually – but do you think that, in a sense, a good laugh in your case functioned as a first-hand antidote to step out of the black metal rigid and authoritarian structures?

Well, if there is something we learned from the nineties, it was that it's no problem being tongue in cheek and dead serious at the same time. That's what the nineties were all about, at least in Norwegian popular culture, and I guess a lot of other places. If you see it this way, Fleurety is a typical child of its time. That said, we were dead serious all the time way into 1995, and perhaps even longer. Hm, it's hard to remember really. But we've never had an expressed agenda of "bringing humor into black metal". I mean, we don't suffer from a messianic complex.

But sometime after 1994 all the makeup, social intrigues and talking about hate and darkness began sounding hollow. And it still does. So in 1996 we were all about leaving the sinking ship and make some other kind of music. I'm really glad we never made any black metal in the late nineties with Fleurety. In my opinion there is only one good black metal album from the late nineties, and that is 666 International. I don't think we would have made a black metal album with Fleurety that would have been even half as good as that.

You’ve collaborated before with both Czral-Michael and Yusaf Parvez from Virus and DHG fame, be it on a lyrical or a musical level, and by my standards, both Virus (VBE) and Fleurety do share at least a few similarities in atmosphere. What were your relations back in 1995 and were you guys all perceived as some sort of pariahs by the overall "scene”? You seem to be good friend with Czral-Michael in particular; would it therefore be possible that either you or he collaborate with the other and vice versa in the future? I’m obviously pointing my fingers towards the next Virus album...

I remember very well the day when Yusaf played the entire Those Who Caress The Pale tape over the telephone. That was in 1994, I think. That's one thing nobody would do these days. There were close relations between Fleurety and Ved Buens Ende back then. At one point we discussed whether Yusaf should join Fleurety as a permanent guitarist. Ved Buens Ende had good relations with all of the other bands around, with some very few exceptions. We were less popular. So I remember Yusaf in particular being somewhat of a devil's advocate on our behalf. Yusaf and Carl-Michael were also a part of the Fleurety live line-up for a show in 1995 or 1996, can't really remember which year exactly. When Tiziana who ran Misanthropy Records came over to visit us in 1994, we played the Those Who Caress The Pale tape to her, which led to Ved Buens Ende releasing Written In Waters on said record label.

These days, relations are less intimate, but yes: I will play some minor role on the new Virus album, participating with some lyrics and possibly more stuff as well. Czral also borrowed some photos I had lying around, and they might be used in the layout of the new album. I assume you'd want me to reveal more details about the upcoming Virus album, but I don't really know much more.

Oh and now that we’re exploring your cult past, what did really happen between you and Ulver back in 1993-1994? I remember reading in their Vargnatt’s liner notes how you Fleurety were nothing. Quite rude to say the least! Now what was wrong with the G-Man?

I don't think there is much to say about this. If I were to explain this, I would get it all wrong, because I don't remember the details or what was the reason for anything. We've been good friends for at least ten years now.

Fleurety, the band’s name, not only is connected to the actual name of a demon, but also concerns the psychedelic substances he’s known to be giving a form to. Would you dare claim that the more psychedelic bands of Norwegian black metal, at least in the nineties, somehow came to experimentation through the use of chemicals and other sense-expanding substances?

I'll confine myself to talking about hallucinogens here: I'm not really sure about how much of this went on. I don't know too much about other people's use of these kinds of substances, though I know certain members of DHG used to be very heavily into that. I took some substances like this on various occasions, but that wasn't until the very late nineties, like around 1999.

You said somewhere else that Fleurety will be taking a more stripped down approach to music on your (for now only) hypothetical next sonic adventure, going as far as to claim that an upcoming low-fi sounding full-length album wouldn’t be out of place. What is so appealing about that kind of minimalism? Do you believe that you could regress to a one-dimensional, sordid black void world of sounds, or are you once again taking the piss at us? Jussi Lehtisalo from Krypt Axeripper fame recently said that "regressive is tomorrow’s progressive”. Is that a musical philosophy you’d like to explore further within Fleurety?

Dunno who Jussi Lehtisalo might be, but I've never liked statements about how "X is the new Y". Experimental is the new mundane. Silent is the new loud. Nerd is the new black. Bread is the new cookie. Old is the new new. Obesity is the new plague. And so on. Fucking trendspotters. Obviously, if you're interested in exploring new ground, you'll know that as soon as someone identifies whatever it is you're doing as the "new cool thing", it's time to move on to something else. Otherwise you'll risk being run over by all the clowns who have just jumped on the band wagon. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you.

So well, as I was talking about earlier: At the moment Fleurety works in an entirely different way than it did ten years ago. These days Fleurety is more or less a time portal that opens once every year when Alex comes back from England or India or Canada or Rumania or wherever he might be working at the time. That means we have to work quickly. We don't have any time to hesitate, no time for discussions. We would typically have one day to record a song, that's it. So if there's anything we planned to do, that we didn't get time to do, that would usually mean that you'll have to wait another year until the time portal opens once more. So how do you solve this? We make the kind of music we know best: Simple primitive black metal. It's a question of survival. If we had insisted on being "experimental", "avant-garde" or "sophisticated", we'd be dead.

But I don't think we'll ever enter a "one-dimensional, sordid black void world of sounds". I just put on our first recording of new material since 1998, a song called The Animal Of The City, and yes, it is in fact recorded on a Tascam Portastudio, the same type of equipment that we used for recording our first demo way back in 1993. But it is in fact also an electro-acoustic experiment with old school recording equipment, rather than just two thirty year old guys trying to be teenagers again. So in some sense I'm contradicting myself here. Or to be precise: I'm demonstrating why this new Fleurety material is not one-dimensional. Because what might be correct along one axis, is not correct along some other axis. Thus our music is at least two-dimensional.

Oh yeah, I can clearly hear that this stuff has got a multiple personality symptom going on. You guys are now less messing with tricky progressive riffing and more playing with layers and layers of white noise through what sounds like a static but massive wall of guitars. You mentioned Stephen O’Malley earlier on, and I would like to know your opinion about what he and his label mates are doing with (black) metal in general. Is that the genre’s future gateway?

Hm. As a person who used to study digital signal processing at the university, I always end up feeling somewhat uncomfortable when people use the term "white noise" about signals that aren't white noise. White noise is energy distributed evenly all over the frequency spectrum, and is quite possibly the least interesting kind of noise there is. It sounds very much like the sound you get when you turn on your TV without it being tuned in to any specific channel. The noise you'll hear on that song comes from computer processing, from sending the song through a portastudio several times and some of it is differences in signal phase that turns into noise when it's layered a certain number of times. So that was today's lecture.

You'll not gonna hear me talking about who is "the future of the genre", I don't like that kind of speculations. But I know for sure that bands that work hard get somewhere. SunnO))) have been working hard, therefore they've come somewhere. Fleurety, by contrast, never really used to work that hard. That is, we took our music very seriously, but none of us really had any serious ambition of becoming "rock stars". So we hardly ever used to play live, we never toured, but we seized the opportunity to get our music out to people on CDs. And I guess that's as far as our ambitions went.

My experience with SunnO))) is through their live performances, which I think are very good. They played here in Oslo a couple of years ago, and I got the feeling that their tour was a black mass on wheels. Most black metal bands would die to do a concert as powerful as that, but they're stuck with the rock concert format, not being able to think outside of the box. I have some records with them too, but I never really came to the point where I would listen to them more than once or twice. But I like the way these people make the music more physical, in the sense that it appeals not only to the ears, but to your gut as well. But I guess I'm more interested in this stuff because of their ideas than because of their music. If I want to listen to people who work frequencies with their music, I tend to prefer more typical noise acts such as Lasse Marhaug or Kevin Drumm.

And by the way, what is Alexander doing around the globe? Is that a matter of a job-related mission, or is the man only very keen on exploring as many countries as he possibly can?

These days he works in Rumania with some computer game developing company. Other places he's lived have been either education or work.

Have you ever heard anything of his I Left The Planet side-project that we’ve all read about but unfortunately never were able to listen to? Was it any good?

I think the I Left The Planet recording came out quite successful. They recorded three songs in 1997, I think. But this recording has not yet been released. It would be cool if it were to be released some time. I guess that interested labels ought to get in touch with Alex about this. He has a MySpace profile, and there is a link to it from the Fleurety profile.

Being the prime lyricist in the band must be a handful job to go through. What are you nowadays trying to say when using the pen? Is there a field of thought and of styles that you fleuretilly feel at home with? What’s on your mind, man?

I don't write that many Fleurety lyrics these days. I was really active ten years ago, but now I make a living out of writing as a journalist. Therefore I rarely sit down and write in my spare time like I used to. The Fleurety lyrics are to a great extent influenced by 20th century writers such as Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf. At that time (1992-1999) I was pretty much fucked up mentally, and the last thing I wanted was to write lyrics about how fucked up I felt. But in fact that was more or less the only thing I was able to write about. So in some lyrics I go to great lengths trying to make the lyrics be about absolutely nothing, but more like an abstract painting made out of words, and also play on the musical aspects of each word. This may sound like a very obvious thing to do if you're into literature and poetry, but my impression is that this way of working is not so usual if you write song lyrics for a metal band.

But if I would try to visualize the Fleurety lyrics, it would look like maybe the entrance of the emergency room on a hospital, where each new patient is the lyrics for one song. The Fleurety lyrics I've written recently have been put together by samples from things I've written as a journalist. I take a phrase here and a sentence there from articles I've written in magazines or newspapers. And if you put that together you get some kind of distorted image of what's happening in the world today.

Would you now say that after having released the new 7” EP, Fleurety has enough material to potentially start the recordings for a new album?

Hahaha. No way.

15. Since we are driving this interview for a webzine primarily concerned with avant-garde metal in general, I’ve got to ask you one thing: how do you feel about the actual metal scene? Is it diversified enough to your own tastes or is there still a whole lot to do in order to reach its full potential? What is avant-garde and what is not for both the composer and the listener inside you?

The last couple of years I've been listening more and more to new metal acts. And through MySpace I've had the pleasure of having been in contact with a good number of them as well. I was surprised to hear the new Abigor album, for instance. I really liked that. I've also been checking out bands such as Joey Hopkins' Midget Factory, Bergraven, Blackdrone Inc., Yurei, Execration, Vrolok, Organ: and lots more that I can't remember right now.

I had this very interesting experience a couple of years ago. I was sharing an apartment with a couple of friends, and one guy moved, so we needed a new guy to move in. So it appeared that this new guy who'd just moved in was playing in a band called Nidingr. So he gave me a CD with his band and wanted me to listen to it, and I thought "Oh no, this is probably gonna suck". And that wouldn't be the best way of starting living together. I mean, I had a huge problem with taking the guy who had previously been living in that room seriously, since he liked all the wrong Metallica and Megadeth albums. I was prepared for the worst.

So those of you who know Nidingr very well know that their album Sorrow Infinite And Darkness rules soooo hard, and after hearing that, I started to check out more black metal bands and stuff from related genres. And I was so surprised to find out that there was so much cool shit around. You know, I gave up on the entire metal thing around 2000. I'd been losing interest ever since 1995, but in around 2000 I just gave up finding decent bands. At that time there was more or less only crap coming out, or at least: All the metal stuff I ever got to hear was crap. But these days I'm checking out new metal bands with a huge appetite, and I'm constantly surprised that there's so much kickass stuff around. After a while I also started a new band with this new flatmate. He's better known as Teloch, and our band is called Umoral.

I've seen that you've been having this discussion about "avant-garde metal" on your web site, and my answer to what "avant-garde metal" would be is that it is an aesthetic ideology. You know, in most other disciplines like painting or video art or installations and whatever, it's usual to say that the avant-garde is dead, in the sense that the wish to break the rules and try to push boundaries and all these things that are commonly associated with avant-garde have become the de facto norm. These days, if you want to break the rules in the art world, you'll have to be reactionary. Or you can just plainly suck. But metal is much more conservative than that. Metal must be one of the most conservative fields of artistic practice in the world, second only to punk rock (perhaps). So metal is a field where it still makes sense to be avant-garde, in the sense that your aesthetic ideology is to make music that's more than just average metal.

Very interesting remark there, I've just started wondering what metal music being always de facto avant-garde will try to sound like when it will start to re-break the new rules, for example, as you suggested, by seriously wishing hard to be reactionary. Now isn't this what you in Fleurey are doing nowadays? Well, I guess time is running out, right... I'd like to say thank you very much, Svein-Egil, for taking your time to answer my questions. I honestly wish you all the best with Fleurety: you guys ought to become the next rock stars! Now what are you doing nowadays? Any upcoming releases from your part that you’d like to share with our avant-garde metal enthusiastic crew?

I don't think Fleurety will ever become rock stars. There will be cold winds of funeral frost in Hell the day that happens. These days I work and make music, sometimes getting shitfaced on days off. Fleurety will be featured on some strange compilation CD that comes out next year with DIY black metal recordings. We are working in getting our debut album Min Tid Skal Komme reissued, but it seems to take forever. After that we're releasing that new 7” EP I was talking about earlier, which features some re-recordings of material from 1993/94, with a more updated twist, I guess. We're also hoping to record material for another 7” this winter. This will be all new material, so this will be our first proper recording of new material since 1998, when we did the recordings for the Department of Apocalyptic Affairs album.

Also: Thanks to anyone who ever reads this far and to all the people holding that avant-garde metal flag high.

Yeah, I guess that was a nice chat with a pretty cool man, don't you think so? Now let's all do Fleurety a favour and browse through their back catalogue all at once and together for a few days, hoping this is gonna send inspiring and ass-kicking signals out to the mysteriously slow-moving, Fleuretean miasmas of cold and dark Norway.

Oliver Side

[Back to the stories]