Excellent and different music is hard to find during these days, especially if one take a look into the Metal genre where only a few bands still have any creativity left. It's with great relief there still is great and dark music to find, you just have to dig deep into other genres and there is always something interesting to find. To make you aware of this we thought it was a great idea to feature an interview with Stephan Groth of Apoptygma Berzerk, the brilliant band that released the briliant album "Welcome To earth" earlier this year.

Interview by Stefania


I reckon that some kind of background history is necessary! Is this the music you've always wanted to play of is it the result of a long process?
We started as a demo band back in 1989, we were doing some demo trading as it was the custom then. We wanted to make hard, industrial electronic music but the older I got, the more the music has changed to "nice" pop music, so to say. It used to me something more aggressive and also childish, but always electronic. After a while I got myself a guitarist, namely Cadaver member Anders Odden, who has actually been with us up until a few months ago (And he is also the founder member of the goth band Magenta, with Vilde - ed.). Anyway, through him I made all these contacts within the underground Death/Black Metal scene in Norway, though musically speaking it was never a real influence. I mean, I was into Metal when I was younger, like I used to listen to Metallica for example and we have also made cover versions of "Nothing else matters" and "Fade to black", but Black Metal itself was not the kind of music I was into. I liked the "underground vibe" which was in the scene and I felt part of it even though I was making different music; I thought it was very exciting the way these bands were determined to succeed and make records which would be appreciated even outside the borders, the whole underground way to make business is something I can identify with. That scene also had its own strong identity and this is also something that I could share, reason why we added the word "berzerk" to our name, just to keep the whole thing very Norwegian, if you see what I mean! It's a very typical thing in the norwegian Black Metal scene, right?! So I can share some of the attitude, like doing things by yourself, without much help from outside your own circle of friends, being determined.

So you mentioned that your music has in fact become "nicer" how do you explain that?!


Well, it has to do with getting older and more experienced in every way, like I have learned to use my equipment a lot better, I can write music in a better way, I have improved the singing and so on. People have told me that my music is now so polished and in a way sweeter, but I only agree to a certain extent, because if you dig deep into it, you will see that there is still this big black layer underneath! The undertones are definetly wicked! So it is not simple pop music...

Apoptygma berzerk


As a matter of fact I have noticed that you often have some kind of concept going on in your albums and it is sometimes even stressed by the samples you use. Are they casual or do they reflect some moods and ideas?
It varies a lot, sometimes I just take something I like in that specific moment, other times it is totally spontaneous, like in the song "Mourn" where I sampled a Kurt Cobain riff, which I sort of dreamt while going to the studio! I was just thinking about the lyrics to that song and it came to me that that riff would fit, so I just bought the record, sampled that part and it was perfect! We have sampled the most diverse things, really, from Entombed to PJ Harvey, Pixies, Depeche Mode, Carl Orff… I have always wanted to take something from a lot of styles and make something that would be "my own" and kind of original. I "steal" a lot from other styles, as opposed to what happens in the goth scene, where they just tend to use stuff from the horror movies for example.

What I find rather amazing is that in the end you do not really fit in any particular scene just because you keep adding all those elements! But people from "both sides" (like the Metal scene and the electro gothic scene) don't seem to accept this...

Exactly! And what I try to do is to break those barriers and prejudices, because I really have a problem with narrow minded people and in a way I am trying to help them out of the own limited circle! As I said, this thing that I take bits and pieces from various styles makes it so that I don't really belong to any scene but at the same time it comes out that people from different scenes will actually find parts within my music that they can like. At our shows we really have a most varied crowd, from Metal to EBM, Goths and totally regular people; and I like it that way, I would never want to play for one type of crowd...

So now you have to reveal why -in your opinion at least!- you are so much appreciated within the Norwegian Black Metal scene!
Because I think we have a lot of the same roots. I think you can't just one day be a straight person and the next day be totally into Metal, for example. You can start to like things, but you need time, you need a background and some knowledge. For example to understand the Black Metal scene you cannot just go tomorrow to buy a record and then pretend to know everything, it takes years to get into all the terms, the "rules" and understand what it's all about! It's like a little world in itself with all the bands and all the events that took place through the years… And I really think that to be part of the underground scene in general is a matter of your own personal roots, what you have gone through in your personal life and what music you have been into, you whole way of thinking. And that is why all of a sudden people can find something in some music that speaks to them, something they can understand deeply and that has to do with common roots, I think.

A lot of people are for example shocked to learn that someone like Fenriz is totally into Trance Techno, they see this mix as something almost impossible...
Actually Fenriz is the most peculiar example! He is a very good friend of mine and he is amazing… I mean, he is the only person from a different scene who has managed to teach me things about the scene I am in! He knows everything from both sides and he is also a DJ! This is what it means to be openminded, he can hear a great techno track and recognize it without problems and then he can still make excellent Black Metal albums! I remember how strange it was when he started to go to the specialized techno/house record shops, people were almost making fun of him, but as a matter of fact he knew much more even than the owner himself!

And then the big "scandal" which was your collaboration with Satyricon, to release the "Megiddo" mcd! That was probably the record that put your name in the BM scene world wide and shocked a few people who tought you had "ruined" Satyricon!
The only thing is that I am good friends with Satyr as well and we both felt the urge to experiment something new. We are always in touch about different things, from how it is to play in a certain country to how to use some new piece of equipment he has bought! Though we make different music, we are on the same wavelength and like to exchange experiences… Right now for example we have in the band the same keyboard player that played with Satyricon a while ago (Geir - ed.); I just like to see both scenes merging, together we are strong! Some people did like what I did on "Megiddo", they even thought I added a new touch to Black Metal! Maniac of Mayhem is also a good friend of mine and we have been talking for ages about doing some project together… Actually one of the very first tracks that I covered was "Chainsaw Gutsfuck"! You see, after all the prejudice is also on the other side, because when I cover or sample such music, the goth crowds doesn't get it… I see it as our mission to keep this all up, meaning that I want the whole group of underground scenes to keep growing and not stagnate, renewal is needed on every side.

A very good way of thinking in my opinion, still it seems a damn hard concept to put through people's mind...

I know and I understand this as well, because when my record or the Satyricon record come out, we, the musicians, are already so much ahead compared to the listeners who have just bought those records and it must be like this because after all we are the bands that make the scene possible! It is not that I want to brag now, but we do have a different spirit and attitude towards the music we make. We have to keep a step ahead of everyone else. So when a record is finally out, for me it is actually the end of a chapter and a new one is already under construction and I would really like people to understand this and get ready for what is to come next. I just think it takes some time, they have to grow into what they are listening to… Like everyone hated my "7" album in the beginning, but some months later they started to get it and actually the track "Love never dies" became one of the biggest club hits in the States and Europe! And then people truly were on my same level when I was actually composing the music!


By the way, something tells me that the next step might be a co-operation with Garm of Ulver/Arcturus...!

Funny you say this because just before leaving for this tour I got a package from him with some recent releases and we talked about at least having a meeting as soon as we return! I remember when I heard the first Arcturus cd, I just thought that if he had taken the guitars away and added synth, it would have been great pop music, Depeche Mode style! And I do mean this in a very positive way, I like melodies and stuff so I don't see anything wrong with that!

Back to your music, you actually work with all electronic equipment, but then on stage you have a band... Why is it so?
When making music, it is much better to just work with machines as they are basically perfect, they will never play out of tune and you can also arrange a rehearsal whenever you want!
Still, is is my job, as the only "human band member" to add that human touch, that extra feeling. On stage it is a different story, as it is more interesting to see a whole bandperforming and actually I want guitars as they are THE live intrument, they add a totally different dimension to the music itself.

Last but not least, what is the meaning behind the title "Welcome to Earth"?

It is not only referred to aliens, as it shows on the cd single cover, but it is more generally referred to anything that can make our life on this planet better, make positive changes. I am quite a positive person myself and I do hope for something good to happen, I am still waiting...