Music, Blood and Spirit
by Niklas Göransson
From Sweden Rock Magazine #11/2015, the interview was written in Q/A format instead of the usual article approach.
”Music, Blood and Spirit” is a documentary by Claudio Marino that gives insight into the life and work of Watain’s enigmatic front-man Erik Danielsson. Sweden Rock Magazine has spoken to both the scrutinised one and the project’s driving force.
– I was intrigued by the unique concept as well as the serious and uncompromising attitude Claudio has towards his work, says Erik Danielsson.
I suspect you get somewhat overwhelmed with offers to participate in similar projects, why did you accept this one?
– Correct, Erik Danielsson confirms, the media’s propensity for snooping around in our private matters is almost painfully obtrusive at times. One must simply ask oneself whether or not participating benefits something greater than satisfying their filthy needs. Most of the time, the answer is no. The only reason I participated in Claudio‘s trilogy is that I was intrigued by the unique concept as well as the serious and uncompromising attitude he has towards his work. I realised that something could be achieved through this.
Wasn’t Swedish state television working on some kind of WATAIN documentary?
– They were, yes. This project was cancelled after a period of having them constantly hounding us with video cameras, which almost resulted in us murdering the film crew.
How was the project presented to you initially and how well do you think the conceptual idea reflects the final result?
– Claudio showed me his first film, “Ink, Blood and Spirit”, about the German tattoo artist Little Swastika. I appreciated the suggestive imagery and dark undertones; it’s as much an art film as it is a documentary. I liked his idea of a common thread running through three rather different individuals, the people featured in the trilogy. Claudio is probably the only one who can answer if he accomplished his vision. In my opinion, the final result ended up very good and clearly consistent with the other two parts.
Were you acquainted with Claudio before all this?
– Yes, in early 2006 he put on a very memorable WATAIN show in Linköping. Since then we’ve had intermittent contact and also collaborated on some minor projects.
This must be the somewhat legendary gig where rotten blood drenched the audience, with mass-vomiting and hysteria as a result?
– The concert took place at a time when we’ve had some exposure in more mainstream media outlets, like Vice and similar crap. As a result, half of the attendees were normal idiots that had come to witness the ‘spectacle’ – an early hipster wave of some sort. People who today probably boast about being there but at the time – just like you mention, were likely panicking and cascade-vomiting on the street outside after our blood machine exploded in the beginning of the set. Highly unsurprising really, earlier in the evening we had noticed the vast number of idiots and posers present and decided to take action. It wasn’t only blood in the containers that night.
This was a significantly deeper and more naked personal portrait than we’re used to. How comfortable are you with your life and person showcased in public?
– Not in the slightest bit comfortable! Comfort has however never had an especially high priority in either my life or with WATAIN. Conveying a deeper and more personal glance into my life’s work and what motivates it will hopefully lead to greater understanding and perception, which in turn strengthens and highlights the only things that really matter in the artistic context I work; credibility and truth. If this must happen at the expense of my own peace of mind then so be it.
You mention a greater understanding and perception. Is it a general public beyond the metal scene that’s your target group, or primarily your followers?
– I believe that Claudio‘s film reaches outside of the metal audience, which to a certain extent was an appealing aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I have deep bonds to metal but have long since concluded that my work also appeals to people who are not men enough to be metalheads. Either way – understanding and perception benefits both artistic integrity and potency, which regardless of target audience makes it something worth striving for.
Which are the most common misconceptions people have about you as a person?
– Many seem unable to differentiate between me as an individual and WATAIN, which is a necessity. WATAIN is an ancient sacred abomination; an augury carved with a scalpel in the night sky, the sickly sweet scent of an open grave – a serpentine torch-lit procession out of hell. In other words, WATAIN can’t be translated into human characteristics – it’s about something far greater. Compared to WATAIN my person is plain and unassuming. Simultaneously, my inner being houses everything that is WATAIN and is constantly tinged by it. Many of my strengths and convictions can be entirely credited WATAIN‘s constant influence over my life.
What’s next for the band?
– We just got back from Japan and Australia, in November we’re headed to the US for a tour with MAYHEM and ROTTING CHRIST. It looks like this will be the last tour we do for “The Wild Hunt”. However, we are scheming some fairly sinister plans for a final show on our home turf, come spring. If this is actually viable or not remains to be seen…
We now turn to the film’s creator, Claudio Marino, starting with the actual conception of “Music, Blood and Spirit”.
– Directly upon finishing “Ink, Blood and Spirit” – the first film of the trilogy, I started exploring ideas; new subjects and individuals to discover and immerse myself in. Around this time I was doing some design work for MMA fighter Magnus “Jycken” Cedenblad. During our meetings it struck me how similar his outlook was to Little Swastika‘s life philosophy. I felt that an MMA documentary with a wider span would be superfluous. Every fighter seems to have their own film, of varying quality, so it didn’t feel especially appealing. That’s when an idea dawned on me, to make a trilogy in the same spirit and focus as the first one. I asked Magnus and Erik and when both of them had accepted I developed the concept and set to work.
Erik has already mentioned how you first met, the notorious Linköping concert. Tell me about the evening from your perspective.
– We invited both WATAIN and SWITCHBLADE as we wanted some contrast and not a pure black metal gig. Both bands played before a full house. Our marketing must have been pretty efficient as we had people coming from all over the country. It’s worth mentioning that WATAIN shows were a bit of a novelty at the time, compared to today. The stench from their blood started spreading as soon as they arrived in the afternoon. An hour or so before midnight when they took the stage, the reek was intense. When those cannons exploded it got so nauseatingly overwhelming that people in the tightly packed crowd started vomiting, which did little to improve ventilation. By some miracle I managed to get out of cleaning up the place and all charges for ruined video equipment and clothes were dropped.
What can you tell us about the actual recordings, where were they shot?
– They took place during a long period of time; the first scenes with Erik were recorded in the midst of my work with “Fight, Blood and Spirit”. Watain were about to vacate the infamous Wolf’s Lair, their rehearsal place and bar – it was thus a chance that could not be missed. I did a bit of filming backstage during the last Swedish tour with DEGIAL and finally spent a long day at Erik‘s place. The actual interview was recorded last of all, in a then emptied headquarters.
The film’s title and written content is in English but the interview is in Swedish?
– I prefer watching documentaries and films where the participants can express themselves freely in their native tongue. The exception being Little Swastika, but this is only because I don’t speak German – he speaks in heavily accented English which gives both him and the film a certain charm. Further on, I feel no need to adapt my films to people who find it challenging to read something as simple as subtitles. If someone opts out of seeing it due to this, I can’t say I view it as much of a loss.
WATAIN’s music can’t be heard anywhere in the film, was this a deliberate choice or due to copyright issues?
– Just like I didn’t show any of Jycken‘s UFC fights, I chose not to feature WATAIN‘s music. The films are about them as people, how they relate to their respective professions and what their worldview is.
The trilogy deals with tattoos, pugilism and music. The subject matters of choice – are they a result of you happening to find three compelling individuals with these crafts as their respective outlet or is there a deeper meaning to this?
– Just as the films’ titles imply, these professions share a focal point in blood. Little Swastika‘s clients bleed as he carves ink into their flesh. One of Jycken‘s primary goals during his fights is bloodshed. Erik pours rotten blood over himself and his audience. If one looks to art itself rather than just tattoos, these are three subjects that I am passionate about. It’s also for this reason I was in touch with all three before the trilogy was conceived. These are also individuals I have a great deal of respect for – partly from their output but primarily their view on what their work means to them. I sincerely doubt I would be able to make a documentary with this level of passion unless it was about a question or a subject that really interested me.
What are your plans once the film has been released?
– In December there will be screenings at film and music festivals all over the world. I’m also planning a showcase in Stockholm where we hopefully will be able to have a Q&A with the films main characters. Thereafter they will be released on VOD (Video on Demand) on Artaxfilm.com. A DVD release with all three films is planned for the beginning of 2016. I am currently finishing up a lyric video for GHOST as well as a music video for my own band TID. Following this, I will set my sights on a more ambitious project again.