By: Marty Rytkonen
First appeared in Worm Gear #8
Out of all the excellent black metal bands emerging from the Norwegian scene, Mysticum has struck me as one of the more violent and overlooked wonders. Perhaps it is their cold mechanical sound due to the incorporation of a drum machine that has left many befuddled blasphemers alone in their bedrooms scratching their heads in confusion over what to think about Mysticum. It’s all about grating audio hate and strange industrial atmospheres and these elements set this band in a unique class among the black metal genre. Surprised on the lack of coverage this band has received, when the offer arose to interview bassist/button pusher Robin Malmberg via phone when they visited America this past summer, I had to jump at the chance. I caught up with the tired Norwegian on his last day in the U.S. as he was recovering from a late night of strip clubs and preparing for a 16+ hour journey back home.
What brings you back to America? This is like your 2nd visit isn’t it?
Yeah. The first one was the tour and now it’s just for vacation. Also we wanted to see how Jon and Fullmoon has things.
So maybe there’s a little bit of business worked into this trip as well?
Yeah, a little bit of business. All things in one you know.
I’ve been told that Osmose has shown some interest in Mysticum.
Yes they have.
What do you think brings you back to Fullmoon?
We are not sure yet because this is just what we talked about when we arrived. I think we’re going to go with Fullmoon again (Which they finally did decide on -Marty).
Since it’s a smaller label, do you think you’ll get better promotion/more attention?
I think so. I think it’s much more fun to work for him. We don’t have the pressure that we’d get from Osmose and we don’t know Osmose. We know Jon as a friend, not just a label and that is very important too. That’s the main reason.
So you didn’t see any real problems with Osmose down the road?
Not any real problems. Jon doesn’t know it yet… I haven’t told him anything. I’ll have to call him when I get home and check out all the paper work. I have to look at that first. So we are almost on Fullmoon again.
They are far more underground you know?
Definitely. The label is growing too…
Yeah and I think that has a greater strength too because they are a younger label and he has much more power and knows much more about the beginning. I think Jon is much better than Osmose will be in five years. I think Osmose will go down… That’s what I’ve heard in America. There are people that don’t like it anymore. I don’t think that Osmose will ever be anything in America really because Fullmoon is the one who has America for black metal. That’s a whole different world and that is also a problem. Osmose is biggest in Europe and they are very strong there too. Jon is not that strong, but America is 10 times bigger. It’s not the money… As long as we are playing, that’s the best. As long as I can go out for a tour and play, that’s how I want to be famous if you want to say it like that. Don’t push it, don’t use any company to make you famous because of a picture of you or something like that. I want people to like it from the beginning like it should be.
That is definitely cool that you want to get out there and tour, because a lot of the black metal bands would rather hide.
What do you mean? In a lot of the bigger black metal projects, there is only 2 guys… Maybe it’s even a full band, they just don’t want to tour…
Yeah, that’s right. That is how it was before. There are a few bands like Limbonic Art… I spoke with him a year ago and he told me that he would never do anything like touring. He wasn’t interested at all. He loves to play and would maybe do a couple of gigs in Norway, but that is all. There are a few of them left, but not many. Now most of them are getting big, they’re seeing the money and all the chicks and everything… That is what they look for. They forget the music. I spoke with the guitarist in Dimmu Borgir and he said that now they have to practice every second day and one of the main guys in the band was pushing the rest of the band to work. It was just like work and he also said that their music was like shit…
This is coming from a guy in the band?
Yeah from the band… He said so. He didn’t like it anymore because there was too much rock star in it, so the music was nothing anymore… Just the rock star thing.
It’s pretty sad when it comes to that isn’t it.
Yeah really. I’m afraid that’s mostly the black metal bands who are getting really big now like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth style. I don’t know them too much, but I think they are something like that too.
How long have you guys been together?
Since `91 I think. We made or first demo in `93… We did 2 demos in like three months. That is when we got in touch with Deathlike Silence Productions… We signed with him (Euronymous) and he was killed a week after we were signed. Exactly a week. I was supposed to go to his house the day he was going to be killed because I wasn’t old enough to go to some pub and if I couldn’t go in… If they saw my age, I would go to him instead and stay there, but that day I got in.
So if you where there, there is a possibility he wouldn’t have been killed.
Maybe. That is what the police tried to check too. Since I knew him so well, I was in the same town at the same time, they checked… They called my friends and asked, “What did he do, blah, blah, blah at this time?”
A lot of shit went down during that time didn’t it?
Yeah, a lot. I wasn’t in any problem, that was funny. I didn’t like of course that he was killed, but that was a long time ago.
Do you think that Euronymous maybe opened some doors of opportunity for Mysticum with his support?
He did absolutely. I think he really opened everything. The thing that started this… Einar Sjurso from Beyond Dawn, the drummer, he was the first one to listen to our music and he had been into black metal for a long time… Longer than Dark Throne… And he made us make a demo. We then gave it to Hellhammer and he thought it was maybe just another shity band like everyone else… Because they get them all the time. But he listened to it which was the funny thing. He called up and told us it was fucking great, blah, blah, blah. Then him and Euronymous took a trip to record the Mayhem album, and then they played it on the radio in the car and suddenly Euronymous said, “What the fuck is this?” (Laughs) “Listen” he said… Well he listened and Hellhammer said, “It’s Robin and his band”… “What the fuck?” (more laughter). That was really cool. After that, he played it for a lot of different people that was supporting the scene very well. That mainly was the door he opened, he told people about it. Lots of people heard about us from him, even Jon from Fullmoon I think.
I think it’s great that you guys don’t hide the fact that you use a drum machine and keyboards. It definitely gives you a sound like no one elses.
I’m the one that programs all the drums and the thing is, when I do the programming, I’m not the drummer… I cannot play drums like a drummer, but when I program, I have to learn everything in typical drums to listen to it then all this gets very different. That is what I like too, when it gets so different. I like it very tight and I want to program the drum machine so that it sounds like a drum machine. That is very important. We didn’t get a drum machine because it was a replacement for a human drummer, it was to go for the machine method where everything is perfect…
Where you are always perfectly in time…
Uuuhhh… No. Not me (laughs), the drum machine is always in time.
(Laughs) So you are playing catch-up the whole time…
Sometimes we have real problems. When we played Wetlands in New York, there were some problems with the connection to the computer. In the com port, half [the cable] was stuck into it, so half was connected to the high end and the synth sounds, but the sampler with the bass drum and snare were gone. It is very hard to play when you don’t have the snare of course… No bass drum, no nothing (laughs). The synth sound wasn’t tight. It was really hard to play. You had to swing your whole body to make your own rhythm, or otherwise you can’t make it (laughs). After 2 songs, the sound guy said “ahh… Interesting” because we didn’t use the bass or snare and he never heard that before which was funny. When the second song started, he said, “Nah… That’s wrong” (laughs). So that was cool. He made me come down and I fixed the problem. Then we started a new song which had a really good bass drum that fit very well. After all these problems, people were waiting and getting excited over what was happening, so we made some kind of a (I have no clue what he says here… Sounds like “forshpiel” or “forcefield”, but one isn’t a word and the latter makes no fucking sense. Sorry -Marty) for the real play, and then it went really good. It really went well with the drums. That had the best sound I’ve ever heard when I’ve played.
Since Mysticum is so different, do you think your music may turn off more of the trendy black metal listeners?
Yeah, I think so. I’m not sure, but I’ve been away from looking at other peoples styles… I’ve been a long time from black metal because of the change, but I think that maybe they got sick or something, not interested in that kind. I’m not sure, but since we have the drums and the noisy things, it’s very soft and hard at the same time.
Well, you’ve got a couple of different styles in your sound and it could definitely appeal to a wider audience…
You mean Mysticum is different styles?
Yeah. Compared to the mainstream black metal, you guys definitely have a sound like no other.
Yeah, that’s what Euronymous also told us. We didn’t understand what he meant, because we try to only play cool riffs you know first, then the drum machine. The machine was the main thing. But for him, the sound of the guitar and the sound of how we play the riffs, that was the real thing. Together with the drum machine, it is very easy to make it fit very perfect with each riff, because the drums are a part of our riffs. The drums and the guitar for us is maybe the big change for the whole black metal… We still have the vocals maybe, but we also have the death metal vocal in the background.
You label your music as industrial black metal. Do you listen to a lot of industrial music?
No, not too much really, because other people just said “industrial black metal”. Since it was a drum machine, it’s industrial, but I’m not really sure about that myself. When we are playing now, we think a lot about industry… A lot of our new drum things are more real industrial sounding things. Like real machines working and they work in different samples and everything. Now I have a recordable DAT player, so I record everything I see which makes sounds for us. You know a machine made sledge hammer which you punch into a concrete wall? Those sounds are cool. We like more of the industry sound in the construction jobs. Me and the singer are both working at the construction yard and we work a lot with cool sounding machines. One day we found a big oil tank, 5 cubic meters, with a lot of gas in it. The sound in it when you just touched it, you could hear a sound. It was so strong. We turned a whole machine on it. Just imagine when you punch it with your finger a little bit and you hear a very strong sound. Then we took the sledge hammer… That is something. We turned the speed of the sledge hammer up so fast, it sounded like a synth. It was going so fast you couldn’t hear the smashing, or “ZZZZZ” all the time. The funny thing was that we had to be careful, if we hammered on the same spot, we could go through. If it goes through, there would be fire and then it would explode. If that happened, the whole building we were in would be gone (laughs).
Did any of the other workers ask what the fuck you guys were doing?
(Laughs) They say that every day. They think we’re crazy. We just do our job, but we have to do the music thing at the same time because that’s our life. All the people we work with, we tell them about it and they’re like, “Wow, that’s cool” and they help us. We meet some very nice people in this kind of work. We are lucky that way.
I understand that Hellhammer was part of the band for a while. Didn’t having a human drummer kind of screw up your style?
Yeah, but we never recorded anything so no one has ever heard it besides Samoth (Emperor). First we had the drum machine, then Euronymous died, so Hellhammer wanted to play with us. We let him play, then I usually wanted to have full control over the drums like we had all the time. Of course the riffs changed. We had Hellhammer learn all the drum beats, so he had to play all the beats exactly the way the drum machine played it. He managed to do that. It sounded different, but it was really, really groovy. It was really moving. It’s hard to explain, but he plays so fast… You know when you listen to Mayhem, he plays this really fast high hat and it goes so good… It feels so wow. That’s how he played for us too and that’s how I learned him, with the drum machine. Lots of things on Arcturus… I haven’t heard it yet, but that is drums from my drum machine, so it’s actually Mysticum drummers (Laughs).
So why didn’t you stick it out with Hellhammer then?
He was a little bit to lazy and he played in 2 other bands, that’s maybe why. Another is, we wanted to have full control over the drums. It’s so hard to explain what we mean you know, because he didn’t play the same type of drums that the machine played. We just told him that we should go further on with the drum machine and he agreed of course. The only one I heard was Samoth. He said, “You should play with Hellhammer”. He liked it better I think. He still remembers it. That’s the only reason why he quit, or we kicked him out or whatever… Well we didn’t kick him out like a kicking (laughs).
He kind of looks built, so I don’t know if I’d be kicking him unless you can run fast.
I don’t run fast (laughs). The funny thing is, when he drinks, he drinks a lot. Before that, the practice room was just a block away from M Street in Oslo, were all the black metal people go. We went up there and he was so drunk, he couldn’t walk… He had to have help to go up. When he had the drum set in front of him, he was awake… He played so perfect. After he played for like a half hour, then he fell over… He was lying still (laughs). He fell backwards… That’s really funny.
I noticed that you guys support the “never stop the madness campaign”. I’ve read about others into this, but they seem to support it because hardcore drug addiction wipes out the weak and contributes to depopulation. But with Mysticum, I get the impression that you guys are into drugs.
(Laughs) You think so?
That’s what I’ve heard…
(Laughs) It’s true O.K. I don’t like doing drugs on stage or when I make my music or anything like that. I don’t use a lot of drugs… I don’t shoot heroin, I don’t go that way. I’m not stupid, I’ve always had full control of drinking and I have full control of this too. I’m not sure that I want to support it in the music, but the thing is… Let the weak bastard die. The people that die from that are usually nothing from the beginning anyway. But of course, it’s like bigger bands that do that, they do it because they can get it so easy and everything is so easy to get, they get real relaxed about it and they’re not thinking about the people who’s in the streets. Just let them die… Where ever they are.
So drugs really aren’t a part of Mysticum’s creative process then?
No, not really. We may try something, but for me it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when I have to make something. Then it sounds like it becomes all stupid or something. One thing is, when we do this on drugs, we don’t make music for Mysticum or anyone else… We make it for just listening to. With a lot of that, that is how we learn to program… It’s the computer we work with. Drugs and computers, that’s all…
Both of those really don’t mix…
(Laughs) No, don’t mix. So we learn a lot of things from that. With Mysticum, you can say something about drugs if you want to say it like that, but I’ve never been high making Mysticum. I just take the time to learn when I’m high. Whatever (laughs).
I’ve seen on the Internet that your next release will be called “Planet Satan”. Will this be a concept album?
It will be. That’s what I really like. Like the first album (“In The Streams of Inferno”) was… We have different songs, but I’m not the one who does the lyrics. I read them… I don’t remember them (laughs). I don’t really care so much about them because that’s their job. Mysticum is three people and all three of us are different of course. We are not like exactly the same black metal as other bands. We don’t have to be the same, that’s stupid. You are talking about a certain part of Mysticum… I can’t answer every question, but I can answer my kind of questions. What did you say again?
Just wondering if it would be a concept album.
Oh yeah… In the beginning, it has to build up first, then you have to wait a little bit. The whole music is a concept for me. I put all the songs together and I also put too close the S’s in “Wintermass”… He sings with S’s… It’s like when you are fucking a girl or something, it’s very good to play that CD then. It’s true (laughs). When you are working, it goes up and down, up and down. That is very intense. Then it ends and it goes, up, up, up and then it blows you know (laughs). Then at the end of the outro, you can just lie down… You know what I mean.
I know what you mean.
See, that’s a concept. A musical concept. I want to make “Planet Satan” more like everything flowing into one song. I’ll have synth between it maybe… I’m not sure if I’m going to have this or just a drum beat which fits in with both the song and the beginning. I have made a synth song or music which is an episode from “Planet Satan”… Just something that’s happening and you have to listen to it very careful. You have to concentrate and especially close your eyes because that’s the best. Everyone has tried it and they all think the same. It’s like taking you to another world. I’ve tried to fit this one in with the music and the music has got to fit into this kind of playing too. That’s how Mysticum has always been, but not strong enough. To me, I don’t think it’s strong enough that way. But the new stuff is stronger like that, so the music is more like made for your feelings. The whole thing is a concept about Planet Satan. We haven’t made everything yet.
Would you say that “Satan” is a way of though for you or a heightened felling, or are you convinced that he is a real being?
I really don’t believe in this creature… I think we are by ourselves and we have a bad side and a good side. When is this good side bad and when is this bad side good? That is the problem to make everything just Satanism… To say that is Satan and that is bad. I will use Satan and evil as a bad thing… I don’t want to use god as a good thing. Good is good. It is a feeling inside. When you are doing bad and good things, nothing can go above me, but I don’t go above other people. I think that if you are doing a bad thing, what you are doing is bad, that is what I call Satan. That is something we will never see. We will never have an answer for that. It’s just the evil you have in your brain when you are born.
You have been in the U.S. for a little while, I was wondering what your opinion of America and Americans is?
It is very hard to say because it’s so different all over America. When I went to New York, the people were more mean. They were not like when I came to the airport where they were helping you. When we went down to Mexico, that was much better… That was real service they had there. In Florida, I heard that it was very terrible and I would have to say that is true. I spoke with one of the strippers yesterday and I told them that there were some mean people around here. She asked me if I had been to Miami, I said “No” and she said that was the worst place… Shit, I haven’t been to the worst place yet (laughs).
Hey, I bet those strippers loved you guys with you accent and everything.
Yeah, that’s what they like.
They gave you the special treatment eh?
Yeah, they do (laughs). They did the day before yesterday too… We went there for 2 days. It is no problem to get in touch with them because we play in a band and we talk different.
Anyway… Back to America (laughs)… The people that I’ve met now, both in New York and here in Florida, it seems like the music is just music and the way of living is a different way. Like it is for me, Mysticum and other black metal bands, I don’t really think that they are living in it. They’re not 100% true to black metal or Satanism or something. Here, they just start a band and they want to play something new… They don’t want to make it exactly how Norwegian is, they try to make it sound like their own style.
Which is a good thing.
Sometimes maybe. But its not the music I look at, I look at the way they want to make the music. They just want to make the music, but they don’t want to make the style…
They don’t want to live the lifestyle.
Yeah. That’s what’s underground, you have to live in that style too. That’s what I think. As I’ve seen, its like someone jumping from death metal to black metal, from all this devil worshiping… All this jumping around, I think that’s the same as jumping from techno, to black metal, opera. I think that’s the same thing. When you are working so much with the whole band, not just the music, the music goes towards its own. It works much better that way. You know yourself if it’s good enough. It’s much easier because you don’t have to listen to other bands and worry if it sounds like them, or worry about changing this or that riff. We never think like that, how to play different. We just play what we like and we know what we like because we are who we are.
How did your U.S. tour go?
It wasn’t any tour, because we only played one show in New York… We were supposed to play in Chicago and other places, but it was too far to drive and we didn’t have a bus. It was the first time for Fullmoon, so I understand that. This is a really big country and we’d need a tour bus for this long trip. We couldn’t drive 16 hours with a small car only, that would be terrible. We didn’t want to play that time, so we just relaxed, met some cool people and talked with them for a week. Then we went to Mexico and played there. The place there was really bad… The speakers and all that shit was so bad. It was really old shit. I got so angry in Monterey that I punched the monitor on the stage because it didn’t want to work. It was the cable, but I didn’t know that. They took a new a new one, I put it in and it was the same problem and the people there are so stupid, they don’t understand what you are talking about. It’s so hard to explain things, so I took the whole thing and threw it away. When we played, I was so fucking mad that I just had a great take off. People came up on the stage and they were banging and things like that… I was like, “O.K., that’s cool enough, let him do it you motherfucker” (laughs). After a while, he was still standing there. At first I didn’t see him because I looked the other way, I looked back again and was like, “What the fuck? Your still standing here?” I was still mad so I went running and kicked him in his ass and his whole head went, wooooo… Doing!! This stage was 1 ½ meter… It was a really high one (laughs)… That was really funny.
But they were really into the music down there, weren’t they?
Yeah, some of them are. Most of them are more into the old stuff. They like the old black metal more… They don’t like the new black metal. When we played there, it was like, “A drum machine? Where’s the drummer? What’s happening?”
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’ve got to work and we will start to work on the music. I’m going to move into a new place and I have to make money to be able to stay there. Then I’ll have more time to make my music because we’ve been gone for a while. We will try to make the new LP around August or something.
Since the death of Euronymous, the black metal scene has grown out of control. Do you think he would have been disgusted with how commercialized it has become?
I think it would have happened anyway, but not that fast. He had this control… All the bands knew that he was the one they had to talk to, that’s how it was in Oslo. Most of the bands came out of the Oslo district. That is how it was in the beginning, but that would have never survived anyway. He would never do that if he were still alive of course. He had all the connections, I think he had a really good mind for that style… He knew what was good. He crushed the people that weren’t black metal, that was the people he didn’t like. He didn’t listen to their music so much really. If they tried, he made them stop playing black metal. Several bands did that… They stopped when he told them to. That would have lasted maybe a year more. Also when he was dead, it [black metal] was in all the papers, on television… It was so big really. All the young people saw this and said “Ah cool, we need to play black metal too.” From there it all started.
So basically, things really started rolling with his death.
It started then. It would have happened anyway. I think the reason was from the church burnings and the death of Euronymous, is why we have all these shity bands around.