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Interview with Shatraug (Sept. 2012)
by Noctir
Rising from the depths of the Finnish underground in the mid-'90s, Horna has gone on to become one of the most important cornerstones of Finnish Black Metal. Despite the coming and going of many trends, this band has continued down the darkest path with a great conviction that only seems to grow stronger with each release. The last original member and driving force behind this band, Shatraug, has long been one of the most prolific artists in Black Metal, with countless recordings from Horna as well as the various side-projects that he has worked on over the years. In between tours and recording sessions for the band's latest full-length, Shatraug took the time to speak with me.

Greets, Shatraug, and thank you for the interview. First, I must say that Horna gave an excellent performance in Brooklyn, recently. How has the US tour gone? Any interesting stories, thus far? How would you say American audiences differ from those back home in Europe?

Hails! The US tour went well this time around too. Always some minor problems but nothing could stop us... The audiences all over the world are quite the same in my opinion but one thing is different in the US – there might be less people on some shows but those who actually come are there to see us and not fuck around.

The band's output has slowed down, somewhat, in the past few years. Is there any particular reason for this? You once said that one motivation for releasing Sanojesi Äärelle as a double L.P. was to clear the shelves, so to speak, and get caught up with all of the music that had been laying around. Is the relative silence from the Horna camp a result of this, or did working on the third Sargeist album take precedence, for a time?

Horna has been more silent simply because we are now working as a full band instead of a group of worshippers doing my bidding only. It's the same for Sargeist, I've simply given more freedom for the other members to join in the creation of songs and so far I'm satisfied how it's gone down. Getting back to Horna though, we are currently in the middle of recording our 9th full-length album. Original plan was to have it out before the next European tour starting on September 20th but we didn't have the time to finish it yet. It'll come, sooner or later.

Going back a bit, what sort of music did you grow up with and which records led you down the dark path that you have been following for so many years? Which musicians most inspired you to pick up a guitar and to begin playing on your own?

I've grown up with 70's metal and progressive music as well as 80's heavy metal – for example the first ever LP I owned was Powerslave. It took to early 90's when I heard bands like Beherit, Rotting Christ, Samael and Impaled Nazarene when my soul was sold to black metal. To grab a guitar of my own all it needed was to hear the first MLP from Emperor and the rest is history. There have always been many other inspiring things in my life but these gave the spark for everything else to become.

What was the primary impetus for forming Horna, back in 1993? Did you feel that there was something missing in the Finnish scene, or were you simply compelled to create dark hymns of your own design? How was the underground in Finland, at that time, and what bands were you in contact with, back then (at home or elsewhere)?

The early days it was quite chaotic, I met the co-founding member Moredhel and we simply decided to put a band together and neither could even play any instrument. We started from scratch and learned to play together, made Horna what it is. Since the beginning I have been possessed to create music and this blessing still remains upon me. The underground here was more active with live shows (or at least that's how it feels nowadays) and trading, not many labels existed and had only a few contacts. Can't remember all of them but the ones I do were bands like Vornat, Warloghe, Behexen and Solstafir. As fate would have it I now play in Behexen.

How have things changed since then, in Finland?

More and more bands and labels, even more live shows it seems, but either I'm just too old (too cold) or there's not that much interest left in me to check it all out.

Regarding your own beliefs, was it around this time that you got into Satanism and how serious was this for you, at first? Is it something that began as a passing interest and then grew as time went on? How would you describe its meaning for you; i.e. more a rejection of Judeo-Christian nonsense, or something all of its own? How does this affect the music and lyrics that you create?

Satanism has always been a major influence for music in my life and it actually started already before I was into black metal as we see it nowadays. What got me into the philosophy of infinite wisdom was Mercyful Fate (surprise surprise!) and as I have seen it's a path that has no end. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the world to seek for all the answers or practice everything fundamental to my being. There isn't much reason to be against Christianity these days, they've gnawed on their own bones for long enough to make their “religion” so contaminated with the idea of pleasing everyone there just isn't anything left. They have become a laughing stock of their own hypocrisy.

In the earliest days, Horna seemed to show strong influences from the Norwegian bands, at times. There seemed to be a good amount of inspiration from Darkthrone and Gorgoroth, among others. The latest E.P. Adventus Satanae keeps this old school feeling alive as well, though better mixed in with your own trademark musical style. How important is it to keep this black flame burning and how significant were albums such as Under a Funeral Moon for your evolution as a songwriter?

Yes, the influences were strong in the beginning, that can't be denied. It was music that struck like lightning into my heart and so it came out through my creations as well, not always as subtle as I would like but I never cared that much either. I would say the early 90's Norwegian black metal became much like a proto-type of our “genre” but when you consider other bands who influenced me as much, I can't. The Nordic sound simply fit what we were doing but it could as well have been something else.

On Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua, the song “White Aura Buried in Ashes” features the use of some clean vocals, near the end. What brought this on, exactly? As it was done in such a low-key manner, is there a reason this was never utilized again?

This “experiment” was actually done as a complete surprise to me while I was laying in the hospital recovering from a surgery. Rest of the band back then had their own ideas with some things and they came up with this. Clean vocals are not out of question but haven't been used on recordings really, there never seemed to be any place to fit them in.

After the 2001 album, Sudentaival, several changes came for the band. There was, of course, the issue of a new vocalist, but there seemed to be a musical shift in the material that came after that. Was there a point where you felt that working with the Sargeist material allowed you to truly come into your own as a songwriter and did this carry over into subsequent Horna releases, as it seems? Would you say that the existence of Sargeist helped the development of Horna in a significant way, or do you feel that you would have eventually arrived where you are now, without that additional outlet?

It's hard to say. Of course it helps to let creativity flow when it's there and with the years I learned that I needed several other outlets to let it all out instead of trying to fit everything into Horna. I have always had the problem of being unable to create anything new unless I finished working on the idea which was in my mind at the given moment. I have numerous notebooks filled with lyrics and songs which have never been made to final songs, and probably never will. This has been the biggest asset on keeping up my creative flame and so far it has worked like I hoped. The problem with this has always been the aging of the material, but then again, that also works for the benefit of my composing – with time laid on them it's easy to see myself which ideas have stood the test of time for me.

Was there a conscious decision to go for a more raw and stripped-down sound in the recordings made since 2002, or did it happen naturally?

Very conscious. I got so fed up with the studio sound that we got on Sudentaival that I was sick of the final result. I absolutely hated how it sounded and for a long long time the production ruined the whole album for me. Everything just sounded too fucken plastic and digital that I decided to get my own recording gear and work with that.

This may be just my own interpretation, but since (and including) Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne, there seems to be a much darker and more miserable vibe found in much of the music of Horna. I would not go so far as to label it suicidal, but there are moments where the listener may well feel the urge to slash his arms open and bleed freely with the mournful melodies guiding the blade. What would you say differs regarding the feeling and mood that you try to convey with your music these days, as compared to many years ago? Is is merely a way to harness all the dark energy possible, in its various forms, and to channel it into the mind and spirit of the listener?

In the early days I was simply full of hatred and violence and this resulted in the music being directly hateful as well. Nowadays I'm more content on being alive and actually living, but on a wider scope the world is so full of shit it's impossible to live “happy” in a way. Music is my way of keeping myself sane and my way to channel all the excess emotion into it. If the music of Horna has sounded more depressive and suicidal, that has well reflected how bitter my life has tasted during those years. Despite all the human happiness and many good things there is always darkness within every aspect of life... If I have managed to feed the same poison to any listeners as well, I have succeeded.

As the past decade has shown, you are an incredibly productive musician. While many burn out after just a couple albums, your skills appear to have increased and your music is just as relevant now (if not moreso) than when you first began. To what do you attest this raging fire of creativity?

Being possessed by darkness in life. That is the only way I can explain it, I just become obsessed with creating something when those moments overtake me. Even if it may seem that I'm being highly productive, there are still times when I might not even touch my guitar for months at home. The darkness keeps building inside me, like a cancer...

Throughout Horna's lengthy existence, you have been the sole driving force, with an ever-changing lineup of musicians around you. How has this had any severe impact on you or Horna, in general?

I've seen the good times and the bad. Some line-ups worked better than others, some were personally more close, some more inspiring and so forth. Even if it may seem a cliché to say, the current line-up has been the best ever.

Speaking of former members, what was behind the idea to celebrate the band's 15th anniversary by joining together the old lineup for the Herran Edessä E.P.? This was a very interesting concept. What was it like to work with your old band mates again?

We were simply talking about doing something special and since the guys knew I had my notebooks I checked if there were any old ideas we never recorded and this E.P. is exactly that. Working with the founding line-up of the band was like we were never apart at all, a nostalgic trip to the past but not more than that.

Sources, online, indicate that there is a new Horna full-length in the works. What can you tell about this upcoming release? What can fans expect and how does it compare to the recent offerings? How much input is present from those relatively newer members, such as Spellgoth?

Yes, the 9th album in our history is being recorded as we speak and will have 9 songs, on purpose of course. As it's currently under work I can't say how it's going to turn out but it's something a little bit different than our recent albums. I would say this is Horna taking the hatred from our first 3 albums and infusing them with completely new ideas. On some part it continues the same path we took with Adventus Satanae E.P. but also takes it further. I have composed majority of the music as usual but Infection is doing all his contribution 100% as he sees best fit, same for Qraken. For the first time in the history of Horna I've let go of the tyranny... Even if I've written most of the lyrics as well I don't even know which lyric is going on which song, that part has befallen Spellgoth entirely.

How long has this material been in progress and what is the primary thing that you hope to accomplish with this record? What does this album most represent, considering the long history of the band?

Everything on this album is fresh, nothing has been dug from the past graves of creation and instead of going through my notebooks like always in the past, every song has been composed and every lyric written during recent times. This album will show a more mature side of Horna, mature as musicians but not one bit more mellow...

Thanks for your time. It seems an eternity since the last full-length, so looking forward to the new one, greatly. Wish you all the best. Any final words?

Thanks for this interview! Has been refreshing to answer one after a long time without doing any. Hails to all those who stay true to themselves despite what this world expects of us.  


Copyright 2006-2021, Noctir