"the more times you tell a lie, in the end people will believe in it and it becomes the truth." -Quorthon, Bathory.nu site
For those who are not aware, Bathory was a Swedish band which existed from about 1983-2004, and are widely regarded as the inventors of modern Scandinavian black metal. Scandinavian black metal of the 1990s became a somewhat international topic when major news media began sensationalizing the deaths, church burnings, and extreme political views of some of the more notorious individuals of the relatively small [at the time] Nordic black metal scene - most of whom pretty much worshipped Bathory universally. Bathory is also considered the pioneer of a 2nd musical genre called VIKING METAL, which then lead to endless other sub genres all falling loosely under the banner of FOLK or PAGAN METAL.
Bathory was a very interesting group, not just due to their profound influence upon heavy metal, but also because of the fact that it really wasn't a band at all, but a single individual who called himself Quorthon.
"Bathory is a one-man band, if you wanna call it like that, but I’d like to refer to Bathory as a studio project, rather than a one-man band." - Quorthon
We never really got a clear explanation as to why band members were never permanent [if they existed at all], and on top of it, Quorthon often contradicted his own already questionable explanations regarding it. This makes it very difficult to find many things out about "the band" despite a seemingly endless sea of interviews and articles which were done before Quorthon's untimely death in 2004. But with the recent passing of Quorthon's father, Stig Börje "Boss" Forsberg late last year, some new information has become available via his "2nd wife" Klaudia, who now runs Black Mark Productions. There is also a vast sea of fragments Quorthon left behind in the form of interviews, which I have sifted through and categorized, in order to put the Bathory puzzle together more cohesively, if that can even be done at all.
In this first blog on Bathory, I will take a look at some of the common "myths and legends" regarding the group and see if we can gain some insight using either Quorthon's own remarks, remarks made by others close to the band, or materials otherwise produced by the "BathoryCorp" itself. [note - BathoryCorp is a term I made up myself as a way to reference the apparent protocols behind the group at any given time in history. For example, the protocol which stated Quorthon was not to reveal to the public his blood relation to his father, who produced every album and seemed to own the label his band was on for his entire career. Reading some interviews, one might get the impression this was Quorthon's idea, to keep things secret. However there is evidence that it was his father, BOSS, who was more likely the one who came up with this unwritten rule. But since we don't really know, we can simply say it was "the will of BathoryCorp" that the father and son relationship remain a secret to the public while the band exists]
NOTE - All quotes contained within the rest of this blog will be of Quorthon, unless otherwise notated. All sources should be included at the bottom of this page or within the quotation itself, but as usual, I welcome any corrections.
SECTION 1 - THE VENOM INFLUENCE
"I must have been the first maniac to know about Venom in Sweden. Cronos has done a lot for this evil thing and I thank him for that, but he didn't inspire me to sing this way as some seem to think."
..."I'm not a Venom fan but I love the Black Metal LP."
"I don't think there are any similarities musically between Venom and Bathory at all. But I do think 'Black Metal' - which I heard for the first time 3 months after we formed Bathory - is one of the best albums ever made because it has genuine feeling."
"we dedicated a song "Woman of Dark Desires" to Elizabeth Bathory mainly because everone was asking us "why the name Bathory?" And because they wanted to know more about Elizabeth Bathory...I read a book about you know, Vlad Tepes and Gilda Reyes, and everybody and...Elizabeth Bathory was in that book and I was just fascinated by her life story."
"When I was 14 I went to London Dungeon for the first time...I put her name in my memory Countess Elizabeth Bathory.... 2-3 months after the band had formed, Venom released the album Black Metal and on that album was a song about Elizabeth Bathory. But then we already had made homemade shirts and stuff... we didn't know how big Venom was in England then."
- Quorthon - various responses to the reason for naming the band Bathory, and whether Venom was an influence
As pointed out by Dayal Patterson, and any number of researchers on this topic, there are numerous dead giveaways that Bathory borrowed heavily from Venom. First dead giveaway is the name of the band. COUNTESS BATHORY is the title of a song on the album BLACK METAL - which came out in 1982, and took the underground by storm [Metallica, Slayer, and Exodus' debut albums all have a strong Venom influence for starters].
The first image above is Venom's first demo, "Demon," released in 1980. Notice there is a song on it called "Raise the Dead." Take note of the black and white goat head inside a pentagram. Bathory's first album, which came out in 1983, also has a song on it called "Raise the Dead" and also features a black and white goat head, [minus the pentagram, although the album has a huge pentagram on the back of it!] The 2nd image above is Venom's first album, "Welcome to Hell," which came out in 1981. This album has a gold goat head on the front, inside a pentagram. Well if you skip down a couple images, you'll see the infamous Bathory "Yellow Goat" record. Quorthon has said he intended the original debut Bathory album cover to feature a GOLD goat [gee, wonder where he got that idea????] but apparently GOLD was too expensive, so they went with the closest color they could afford, "canary yellow." So something like 1000 copies of Bathory's first album were printed in CANARY YELLOW. All pressings after were switched to black and white.
Venom's "Black Metal" album  is also pictured above, featuring [surprise!] a goat head, in grey/silver. The track listing includes a re-recording of "Raise the Dead," and another song called "Sacrifice." Bathory also has a song called "Sacrifice" on their first album. Finally, note the old English font on the cover of Venom's "Black Metal." Venom was obviously influenced by Motorhead. Bathory used this same Olde English font for their logo. So it appears Bathory's first album was basically copying all visual concepts from Venom's first 2 albums, and probably the first demo [ok, we'll give them Motorhead as well, a band Quorthon was always quick to cite as an influence] So now that we've established that Bathory was clearly copying Venom's artwork and song titles, possibly even from the first demo, let's take a look at some lyrical similarities.
Lyrics to "Raise the Dead" by Bathory...
"Dust to dust"...
I gasp for air
I scream for sight
And fight against
Torment and dread
Calling the vengeance
I tear at the lid
And promise to raise
From the dead
Now let's look at the lyrics to Venom's "Buried Alive/Raise the Dead"
[intro] Earth to earth
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
I tear at the lid, my fingers they bleed...My lungs gasp for air, my eyes scream for sight
Between the torn shirts, the black dyed hair, the spandex, and the explorer shaped guitars - I think it is fair to assume, especially given the other information cited above, that Bathory was largely modeled after Venom. This is not a criticism! Plenty of bands were influenced by Venom, and most are quick to admit it. What was strange about Quorthon was not just his denial that Bathory was copying Venom's lyrics and image, but the next level he often went to in order to disprove their influence [rather unsuccessfully.] In one particular interview, which is partially quoted above, Quorthon gets audibly annoyed while speaking about this topic and proposes [rather absurdly] that Venom got their history wrong regarding Elizabeth Bathory's name. You can hear a tape edit, followed by a completely different 2nd response to the question in a more calm voice tone. So he provides 2 completely different answers to the same question within the same interview! Obviously, he intended one of the responses to be edited out. But since it was not, we get a window into Quorthon's world of fiction [I recommend people check this interview out - YOUTUBE user gabalgabow Interview 30/10/1987]
SECTION 2 - THE FATHER AND SON TEAM
"Another rumor hard to kill, and occasionally still believed in, is the rumor that insists there is a blood relation between Quorthon and Black Mark president Boss." - Bathory.nu [Quorthon's defunct website, still searchable online as of this writing]
In the above, Quorthon is referring to himself in the 3rd person. But anyone who reads enough Bathory interviews can tell that every word written within those biographical bathory.nu pages was all Quorthon. Sitting at a computer, hour after hour, trying to control the perception of his band by "setting the record straight" on whatever topic he decided needed straightening. And when it came to his relationship to his father - you can often feel his extreme frustration as he types to furiously dispel this "myth" which has since been confirmed to be true.
[Question - ace was quorthon right?] "logically I find it difficult to call him that, that was just his stage name. Borje's paternity was officially known a few days after Ace's death in an evening paper by Jonas Akerlung (Bathory drummer, today a well-known video producer - ed) who wrote there about Thomas Forsberg. Borje was quite angry about that because later he would gladly had done it himself if necessary. Thomas was just the birth name he loves to rename. Ace was on his ID. that is how he is officially known to all Swedish authorities. As a musician, he was so self-sufficient and independent that his relationship with the producer of Bathory did not matter. But Because the media could have seen it differently, he kept it secret"
The above is a rough translation I did from Rock Hard magazine, which is in German. The person answering the question is "his [Börje's] second wife Klaudia Scharein-Forsberg, who is currently continuing the business of Black Mark." Borje is Quorthon's father, Stig Börje "Boss" Forsberg. Most fans know him simply as "Boss," producer of all Bathory albums. Quorthon's birth name was Thomas Börje Forsberg, but Klaudia reveals in the above that he changed his first name legally to ACE. Quorthon was a big Kiss fan, so no big secret where he got that one. Probably the most interesting bit of information from the above is the fact that Boss got angry about Jonas revealing his relationship to his son in the press. This shows that BOSS also didn't want the public knowing - further contributing to the possibility that it was HIS idea to begin with.
[Borje Forseberg (on the left) at Quorthon's 1986 in store appearance at Heavy Sound. Next to him is Quorthon's mysterious side-kick, possibly a Paul Lundburg or Jonas Åkerlund. He says nothing and stands around trying to look creepy the entire time, while Quorthon interacts with fans and signs autographs]
"Back in the early days, maintaining secrecy about myself and the band was all-important" -Quorthon
...[in 1984] "We lived in a sort of Metal community in the house of the Tyfon label boss, together with his son that everybody knows as Quorthon of Bathory. That was a big secret back then he threatened to kill anybody who would talk about that." - Jay C. Blade [OZ]
"...and the one who talked me into the serious part of it was BOSS. If we hadn't been in contact with him we would have been one of the heavy metal bands in Sweden that never get the attention they need." - Quorthon
In the above we have a member of OZ, who were on Tyfon before Bathory, revealing in one short statement that BOSS was literally "the boss" of Tyfon Grammofon. He also reveals that BOSS was very serious about keeping his relationship to his son a secret. This was very early on, again supporting the idea that it was a decision made from the start, probably by BOSS/BathoryCorp - not necessarily Quorthon, who was probably around 17 at the time Bathory formed.
Within that last quote, Quorthon conveys that BOSS was pushing him to do Bathory, but he was careful not to make it sound like there was a blood relation between them. He also leaves out the part about already working at the label [Tyfon] he pretends to only be distantly "in contact" with [more on that later].
Quorthon seems to be playing 2 roles here. He is playing "Quorthon the musician," but also "Ace Forseberg, employee of BathoryCorp." Ace Forsberg, BathoryCorp, and to a degree BOSS, must all remain as invisible as possible to the public. QUORTHON is a character which was acted out by Ace Forsberg for the public in order to sell Bathory's music. Part of this act may have been Ace's REAL personality, but varying degrees of it seems to have always contained fiction. Over the years, we watch him struggle to balance both sides, but he slips here and there, then constantly tries to "set the record straight" again, only to contradict himself in other interviews. That is why he often seemed so confusing. Over time, Quorthon grew to resent this character he was supposed to be, and that is why he felt the need to do the Quorthon "solo albums" [or so it seems].
None of this is really that unusual in rock history, it really just comes down to selling records in the end. But often it seemed Quorthon went out of his way to confuse fans, leaving them wondering what is true and what isn't on all sorts of levels. It could be that he was simply a "bad actor" and had a hard time keeping his "script" straight over the years. But BOSS was always there hovering in the background to make sure certain things were done a certain way.
"Boss then told us if we really really wanted double bass drums on a track [during the recording of the debut album], or if there was a double bass drum passage we felt was absolutely crucial to a particular song, we could then always try out playing that short passage on that single bass drum placed over one of those cardboard boxes using regular sticks wrapped up in pieces of cloth...There were only two passages recorded in that way that we chose to keep on tape."
It's no big secret that Bathory utilized all sorts of studio trickery on their albums. That's not to say they are any less brilliant, but the point is that much of what is heard on Bathory albums was artificially produced in the studio. The first album in particular is the one usually regarded as the most "raw" and least "artificial." But the above reveals a very early example of unorthodox studio trickery initiated, not by Quorthon, but by his father, Boss. Boss was, in fact, a drummer himself. He had a very interesting, not to mention successful, musical history dating back to the 60s. [more on this later]
To conclude this section, let's review some of the key things established here - BOSS was indeed Quorthon's father and BathoryCorp had a rule about keeping it secret [seemingly from the start, and even after Quorthon's death]. BOSS was a [successful] drummer/producer with studio experience dating as far back as the 60s. BOSS seems to have owned or headed Black Mark Productions and Tyfon Grammafon. His 2nd wife [who he presumably divorced at some point] now runs Black Mark Productions. Lastly, Quorthon was a character created by BathoryCorp very early on to be the "face" of Bathory. Thomas "Ace" Forseberg often struggled over the years to keep this character consistent, without revealing whatever it was BathoryCorp did not want the public to know - which was usually something to do with his personal connection to BOSS. It was often Quorthon's own failed attempts to keep his character convincing in front of the public that contributed both to his mystique and confusing image.
SECTION 3 - LIVE SHOWS/TOURING/MUSIC VIDEO
"Yeah, sure [I've played live before]. I had an oi punk band [Strudskuk] prior to Bathory. If you translate the name it would be "Battle Dick.""
[ever played live?] "No, we have been close several times, but then always when I tell them what we do onstage...we have played in front of friends sometimes and thrashed around the rehearsal place. That gave us the reputation as being the most outrageous, craziest, and wildest thrashing band in Stockholm....no wonder the people who had arranged the show did everything to get us off the bill!"
"In Sweden, there's absolutely nothing, no bands, no kids! When we are playing over there, we cannot count upon more than two hundred people at our shows. Same goes for Finland, where our friends of Oz are meeting the same metallic desert..."
"When the real heavy hitters began playing in Finland, we left for Stockholm, where world of music was completely different (from that of Finland). In the 80s Stockholm was the rock city, and still is!" - Mark Ruffneck, OZ [yourlastrites.com]
"I did all that [playing shows] in 1983/84 and beginning of 85 it's...really boring...and besides, 50% of all the material that Bathory recorded on albums is impossible to reproduce onstage anyway...I remember the first couple of times...it was just for friends. At party's you know, and playing in cinemas and stuff like that...Bathory wasn't a big band or anything like that and...it was great fun..."
"We had never made a tour simply because Sweden is a rotten place when it comes to try to find people suitable for something like Bathory"
"Alot of people say the same thing. That I could make a million bucks literally if I would take Bathory out on the road right now. But I am not a performer and I hate concerts."
"We couldn't bring our stage with us here in Scandinavia and still can't. For Bathory it is important to have a impressing stage show so that the audience get something in return for the ticket they have paid for. I think it is boring just standing there with no effects or pyro-technics.
The above is probably a mixture of truth and flat out fiction. Quorthon obviously wanted to play live on some level, at least to give the fans what they want. But clearly BathoryCorp had a "no live shows" rule for most of Bathory's existence. Quorthon always had explanations as to why the band could not play live. But as you can see above, he changed the reasons all the time - and some of them didn't even make sense! In this section we will explore why the "no live shows" rule existed.
BATHORY/CELTIC FROST/DESTRUCTION TOUR
"...Important Records asked us to come over and do some kind of tour together with Celtic Frost and Destruction in summer of '86. While all of this was happening, I of course didn't have a lineup together..."
"There were plans for BATHORY to tour the US in ‘86-’87 together with some other bands like Destruction and Celtic Frost. But those plans just never materialized. So I said, "-To hell with it all….let’s just make records from here on!"
"It was meant that we should go out with Destruction and Celtic Frost in the states then...I asked if the Sodom drummer could come up and play with me in Stockholm to see if it could work out. We were in the rehearsal place for 2 weeks and we came to the conclusion that the fans might think it was a bit weird if we went together on tour."
"Both of our fans could be confused in the end and also Sodom and Bathory are two bands that received the most shit because we sound the way we do and we were very early and we started this whole death metal thing, but we are not having huge organizations behind us"
"Chris came up to Stockholm early ’86: the reason was, we have been offered by Combat Records to join a tour across United States together with Destruction, Possessed, and Celtic Frost, during the summer of 86, or something like that, and all of a sudden, I realized that the guy who was playing drums in Bathory at the time, I wasn’t sure he was gonna be in it or not: also he did the army, which is in Sweden voluntary, but he was in the army...I called Chris, and I said: “Why don’t you come up, and we’ll see what we can come up with. If things turn out well, could you, would you consider, you know, helping us out on this tour?,”...he stayed for two weeks, or something, this was exactly when Chernobyl nuclear pant in Russia accident. And I told him: “Hey, you better go to the German embassy to get your pills,” and he said: “Whaat?” “Well, you’re gonna die from cancer: I got my pills this morning,” you know, and he was so damn… (laughs), he was so scared that he took a fucking train to Germany immediately the next day...But we had a lot of fun for two weeks anyway. He snores like, you know, pig."
I don't think there is one fan of 80s extreme underground metal who's jaw would not drop to see Bathory, Celtic Frost, and Destruction on the same bill [Quorthon even throws POSSESSED into the tour within that last quote!] As far as underground metal goes, this would have been as hot a ticket as a Slayer or Metallica tour. We're talking legendary. So I would think that pressure for Bathory to finally get out there and play live must have been great for BathoryCorp to consider breaking the "no live shows" rule. But as you can see above, Quorthon again gives confusing answers to explain why it did not work out.
One of Quorthon's "go to" statements as to why he could not find band members was that it was too hard to find dedicated musicians into that type of music. And yet he can pick up the phone, in 1986, call Sodom's drummer, and Sodom's drummer flies out and jams with Quorthon for 2 weeks! Quorthon had no problem finding suitable musicians. The idea that he did was pure bullshit.
Take note of this thing he says above, "we are not having huge organizations behind us." He made similar statements to this in quite a few interviews I came across, and in this case he says it out of context. Why does he throw this seemingly inapplicable bit of information in with his response to the question of why the tour didn't work out? It's kind of like when a child is home alone and his mother walks into the door and asks "how are you, did you miss me?" and the child responds, "I didn't take the cookies from the jar that are missing!" He's volunteering information which was not asked for, inadvertently suggesting what nobody is thinking to begin with! Nobody asked him "hey, does Bathory have a big organization behind it?" No, the questions was - "what happened with Witchhunter and that amazing tour?" In what way does "we don't have a big organization behind us" answer this question? If it is part of a larger answer, fair enough. But Quorthon does not offer a larger answer, that WAS his entire answer! This is a typical example of the "canned responses" he threw out to interviewers in order to shut down a line of questioning he didn't like. But he didn't always seem to realize, or care, how illogical and odd his answers often were.
Clearly, a tour was seriously considered, but something happened which destroyed these plans, and Quorthon would not tell the truth about it. He gives several different reasons in different interviews. When police interrogate a suspect, they ask the same questions several times, because they are seeing if the suspect sticks to their story. Someone who can't stick to their story is generally lying. That's what Quorthon is doing here. No crime in that, but a curious fan can't help but ask, why?
"If I decide to do something, it has to be done my way."
"I'm totally comfortable when I have my 60 cigarettes a day, some wine and whiskey, a cunt to fuck and a guitar to crank up really loud."
"In January/Feb 85 we went into the studio and recorded "the return"...We were utterly drunk every bloody day while recording it"
"I can't even stand the smell of beer and prefer a bottle of fine old wine or very clean and pure Vodka."
"I'm a vegetarian so I wouldn't be able to slaughter lambs on stage (as has been hinted in the past)."
"Thomas "Quorthon" Forsberg is dead. The head of legendary cult band Bathory and son of Black Mark Records owner Börje "The Boss" Forsberg was found dead in his Stockholm apartment on Monday, June 7th. Cardiac arrest was identified as the cause of death, Quorthon suffered for years from an incurable heart disease. He was just 39 years old." -Rockhard.de [translated from German]
From the above, we can gather a few different possibilities as to why Bathory could not play live shows, and why they seemed to suddenly back out of the above mentioned tour.
The quote where Quorthon states "it has to be done my way" was probably mostly fact. Quorthon probably did get his way, since his father owned Tyfon/Black Mark. So why bother with band members, or anyone else who might have opinions about how things should operate within Bathory? Maybe Quorthon made planning the tour too difficult by being demanding?
[You were at L'Moure. L'More is sorta the big place for Heavy Metal in New York what did you think of it?] "I went with a couple of people and I told them, "don't tell anyone I'm here because I won't be able to walk around and just be anybody." After about 45 minutes people started to turn around and take my picture and I tried to cover my face. We came up in the street, we had our limousine...afterwards and there's hundreds of fans surrounding the car. We signed autographs and tits and ass and posters and everything, and its great."
"In the last ten years I've attended only two shows, a bit forced to do it. I hate being surrounded by people."
"I was head of security, and I was doing my very best to sorta like, sneak around in the shadows, cause, I mean, 80% of everybody there had my picture on their walls back home..."
"He just didn’t look like what you thought the guy that penned “Equimanthorn,” “Through Blood By Thunder” and “A Fine Day To Die” would look like – unless he also had been a member of the Cold Lake lineup of Celtic Frost. Quorthon looked a lot more like a hair metal dude than one of the forefathers of black metal – cowboy boots, ironed jeans and a black muscle shirt. I think after years of seeing him standing in a pentagram in that famous press picture I just didn’t expect him to be a sort of funny guy, who really liked to call almost everybody by the same name: Frank" - www.decibelmagazine.com/2013/04/17/black-metal-at-the-pickle-barrel-a-night-with-quorthon/
Quorthon's appearance often contradicted this notion that he was a "recluse" who hated crowds of people, shows, and playing live. For starters, his earliest promo pics show a guy pretty in love with posing in front of a camera. Also, anyone can watch the video referenced above from Heavy Sound in 1986 and see how Quorthon gobbles up all the attention he can from a crowd of fans - it's almost as touching, as it is absurd, to watch Quorthon acting like Yngwie Malmsteen alongside his silly silent sidekick, doing his best to appear creepy and vampiric, and failing in an almost comic manner. The person quoted above who said Quorthon looked like a "hair metal dude" wasn't the only one to notice this about him. Dead [later of Mayhem] was present at the signing referenced above and famously made similar statements, even expressing disappointment in his idol's horribly "rockstar" attitude. And this thing about "hating crowds" and "hating shows" makes it really hard to understand why he'd roll up to New York's hottest Metal Club [at the time] in a Limo or decide to be "head of security" at a Death Metal show where everyone would know who he is! Not to mention the bizarre events which occurred there, but we'll get into that later in more detail.
Perhaps Quorthon made all of that up because his health was an issue. The quote about being a "vegetarian" is from a pretty early interview. Unless he was making that up [which is possible] this shows he was health conscious early on - even if he did drink tons of alcohol and smoke "60 cigarettes a day". Quorthon was very skinny most of his life, this backs up the idea that he was careful about what he ate - though it doesn't really prove that a serious health issue was the reason. The above image with the caption stating he quit smoking around Twilight of the Gods  indicates again that he was concerned for his health. Quorthon also stated in some interviews and on his own website that he'd planned to end Bathory after Twilight of the Gods. That's 2 pretty big decisions made around the same time. Did some health scare occur which provoked these decisions? Although Quorthon was pretty open about drinking, he was always quick to exaggerate his hatred for drugs and how stupid people who did them were.
"you’re gonna die from cancer: I got my pills this morning”
This was part of one of Quorthon's more absurd, and obviously fictional explanations [quoted earlier] as to why things didn't work out with Witchhunter, who obviously wasn't the only drummer he could have rehearsed with. We're supposed to think Quorthon scared Witchhunter away by making him think he needs to go to the German embassy and get some anti radiation pills from the "Chernobyl fallout." Despite the fact that this makes no sense at all, it does reveal something interesting about Quorthon's thinking at that time. He makes specific reference to DISEASE and PILLS. Was this him accidentally revealing part of the REAL reasons he could not tour? His obituary stated he long fought an incurable heart disease. Perhaps he had this disease longer than people realize, and perhaps he took prescription pills for it. If true, the real reason things didn't work out was because Quorthon's health problems became obvious to the point where a tour was ruled out.
If I am correct, this is clearly something Quorthon/BathoryCorp probably wasn't at all comfortable with people knowing. Shows and tours can be brutal on one's body. Witchhunter himself later died of liver failure at 42. Jeff Hanneman, of Slayer's "official cause of death was announced as alcohol-related cirrhosis." Most underground metal musicians deal with the brutal lifestyle of touring over the years through drugs, alcohol, therapy, coaches, or some other sort of vice. BOSS probably didn't want his son, who liked to drink and smoke, exposed to it for his own safety. This is the best reason I can guess why Bathory never played live and declared no more shows would be planned ever after dropping suddenly from the Celtic Frost/Destruction/Bathory tour.
OKAY WELL, LET'S JUST MAKE A VIDEO THEN!
"...we intend to record a live video as soon as possible to give all our fans, wherever they live, an equal chance to see our stage show. But to go on the road touring and putting on the type of show we have would cost a lot of money which we don't have right now...It will have about six or seven tracks and we will probably incorporate a little bit about the history of the band as well."
"Well, we will be making 2 videos. The first one will be a promotion video which will be shot outdoor in a deserted place here in Sweden that looks very Scandinavian. Next up we will do another video that will last about an hour or so, with loads of unreleased material on it - rare stuff. There will also be some live songs with our stage show for people that haven't seen us live."
Quorthon was talking about doing a video in interviews as early as 1987. That would be a short time after Bathory's big tour with Destruction and Celtic Frost was aborted. It seems this was BathoryCorp's way of placating fans who were anxious to see Bathory live. Professional music videos were not cheap to make in the 80s - yet Quorthon uses finances as an excuse as to why the band cannot tour in the above. Most of what he describes above in 1987 did eventually materialize, but not at the same time.
The "Road to Asa Bay" video provided the only footage the public ever got of Bathory "playing live," which isn't even them really playing live, it's just Quorthon playing air guitar with a fake band and fake members. The documentary/biography aspect Quorthon describes is something he was working on, but was only ever released in partial text form, via the now defunct Bathory.nu [which pages can still be partially recovered from on google] and the "In Memory of Quorthon" release, which contained an extensive booklet that can also be mostly found online. The "outdoor deserted place" manifested itself also on the "One Road to Asa Bay" video, which was very high quality in the end [and cost tons of money according to Quorthon]. Finally, the "unreleased material" he speaks of appeared in the form of the Jubileum series, of which there were 3 full albums.
"Music is so unimportant live. We want to do something different, not what the fans have already seen, so we decided to do a big video which will cost a lot of money and have everything that we want in it, exactly how we want it!..There'll be a huge stage show, for all the fans to see the songs the way they want. We'll have bombs...they've been done before, but ours will go 30 feet. We'll have big mountains as a backdrop and horses, naked women...everything."
Now Quorthon gives us something like a combination of the first idea - a video featuring the band playing LIVE, but also specific hints of what would become the "One Road to Asa Bay video." He says it will "cost a lot of money." Why does he think people care how much money it will cost? Again, here he is offering up information nobody seems to have asked for. He seems to be responding to the question, "Hey Quorthon, what are you doing with all the money from album sales if you never tour or play shows?" He probably felt guilty because he's sitting on his ass writing letters all day and drinking tons of booze and banging chicks while fans are begging for a live show! So he wants them to know that he is going to USE that money to give back to them. That is my guess as to why he brings up the money thing there.
"Among others we went to viking graves, but a lot of the things we filmed are apparently not in the video according to those who saw it. We poured five hundred liters of gasoline in a big lake and gasoline is thicker than water, so it spread like a thin membrane over the surface...But all of this was for fun. Not a fraud, just to have some fun."
"I spent 25000 SEK out of my own pocket...If I had known that I wasn't going to be able to see a second of the 19 hours we shot for the video...I have never seen it and I never will. But I managed to get back the original master copies from assorted video channels in Europe and managed to burn them."
"I spent between $3,000 and $5,000 on that video out of my own money, and we had 16 hours of film. Once, the whole thing was supposedly mixed together. There was so little time because I was going on a promotion tour in Europe for six weeks. We had so little time to do the video properly before we went out. So I said, "O.K. Let's wait. I'll take care of all that when I get back to Stockholm." but sometime when I was out there, someone put the whole thing together and just started to distribute it - and it was not meant to be that way. I should say first that I have never seen the video myself. I refuse to see it. the guy who was filming that thing - six months after recording that video, nobody heard from him anymore. He owes us alot of money and all that. I spent two weeks organizing - renting horses, uniforms, armor, swords, people, food, driving people - everything. I paid a lot of money and I wasn't even allowed to be there when the whole thing was mixed. We had 16 hours of film, and I wasn't even allowed to see one second"
This all gets very Spinal Tap here, but I think the bottom line is that BathoryCorp was following through on their plans as described by Quorthon in the earlier quote from 1987, but he probably didn't have as much control of everything as he would have liked. Again, Quorthon brings focus on the vast amounts of money it all cost because it is important to him, and I think this is genuine actually, that the fans know the money they have spent on Bathory is going back to the fans in some way.
Being that BOSS was involved in so many other projects, his time to devote to Bathory was probably somewhat limited. So I do buy the idea that Quorthon probably ran Bathory by himself to a large degree. But this entire business of how the video was shot, then taken away, then sent back, then destroyed by Quorthon after never bothering to watch it is all a bit too much. Something wacky happened here, and it's not being explained fully. However, the video itself is far from the "hack job" Quorthon makes it out to be. In fact, it seems quite meticulously edited and shot. If Quorthon was concerned whether his vision was interpreted correctly, I think it is clear that SOMEONE's vision was clearly interpreted in it. We'll take a closer look at the video in a future blog.
"We poured five hundred liters of gasoline in a big lake and gasoline is thicker than water, so it spread like a thin membrane over the surface...But all of this was for fun. Not a fraud, just to have some fun."
Maybe Quorthon was upset because he needed the fans to know how much money he spent on the video and he needed to prove to them that he was "not a fraud" by creating these awesome visual spectacles? Without scenes such as the one he describes above, he figures people would be asking "where's the bombs and fires and explosions Quorthon was bragging about?" He then goes on to state it was "Not a fraud, just to have some fun." So here he seems to be speaking to people he believes are calling him a "fraud." I can only assume people were, otherwise, why would he hint at a desire to disprove this accusation, seemingly out of nowhere? Creating a high budget video was again, his way to show the public that "here's where your Bathory dollars are going! Bathory is a real band, not a fraud!" Albums weren't enough, he needed to give them something more, and touring was out. So when certain key [expensive] scenes were edited out of the video, Quorthon was livid because these scenes were probably THE WHOLE POINT of doing the video from his perspective! By stating he "never saw it" he's probably trying to get out of having to discuss details within it, which was a topic that likely made him furious. I actually feel kind of bad for Quorthon, if this is all true. He must have been under tremendous pressure - and to make it worse, he couldn't vent his true frustrations to the pubic, he could only do it through the limited character of "Quorthon." Perhaps I am wrong, but this would explain almost every ridiculous detail of Quorthon's otherwise impossible to make sense of quotations above, regarding the final version of the video.
THE MANOWAR THING
Swing your hammer to crack the sky
Lift your cape so that you might fly
- "Thor (The Powerhead)" by Manowar (1984)
God of Thunder
Who crack the sky
Swing your Hammer
Way up high
-"Valhallah" by Bathory (1990)
BLACK CLOUDS on the horizon
Great thunder and BURNING RAIN
His CHARIOT pounding
I heard the heavens scream his name
- "Thor (The Powerhead)" by Manowar (1984)
In CHARIOT of gold
Ride across the clouds
The BLACK STORM is unfold
BURNING MIST is but a shroud
-"Valhallah" by Bathory (1990)
God of thunder, God of rain
Earth shaker who feels no pain
- "Thor (The Powerhead)" by Manowar (1984)
God of thunder
The winds of glory
Whispers your name
-"Valhallah" by Bathory (1990)
Above we can clearly see that Bathory was again modeling themselves after a band that they felt was on the pulse of something. It is not my goal here to lessen Bathory's impact as the "innovator of Viking Metal," but the bottom line is that they copied a hell of a lot of it directly from Manowar!
"[on Enter the Eternal Fire] we copied the rhythms thing, I mean, the rhythm beat from Manowar, cause the drummer who was at the band at the time was a big Manowar fan, and he introduced that way of playing for me, you know, that (sings) “doo-doo-dah-duh”, 3/6th , or whatever it’s called..."
"About me talking about people probably making comparisons with Manowar was simply not an excuse for not putting it [Blood on Ice] out, but mainly to show that I was aware of the fact that the comparison was gonna be made by allot of people, not to piss on "Blood On Ice" as an album or Manowar as a band."
"I teamed up with Joey Demaio. We were in the same hotel or something. A good encounter...I was introduced to Manowar by the drummer we had in 1987. He was very much into them."
Quorthon always avoided saying that HE was a Manowar fan [while also avoiding saying ANYTHING bad about them]. Instead, he would say that his DRUMMER was a Manowar fan, and that is how the influence crept in. The album "Under the Sign of the Black Mark" was released by Under One Flag, a sub label of Music for Nations, in 1987. Manowar was also on Music For Nations at one point, but apparently left the label just before recording "Sign of the Hammer" in 1984. This encounter with Quorthon was likely the result of a business connection via Music for Nations, but we never really get enough information to determine the full details. However he does state his "drummer" introduced him to Joey Demaio and that his "drummer" was the big Manowar fan.
"Twilight… is entirely drum machine"
"The drums are a mix of drummachine and real drums. I think it's 75% drummachine and the rest is something I do afterwards when you feel no, the beats should have been harder there."
"I just enter the studio, I’m calling him up, I’m sending him tapes of the songs, where I play bass and guitar and I have a drum machine, and, you know, how to play the songs to go into the studio, we record the stuff, and he goes back home."
"For the past 11 or 12 years it's been a two man project situation which I have no intention whatsoever to bring onto a stage or even further than what it's all about today. I am much too happy about the present situation."
"Well, it’s not a band, actually for the last fifteen years it’s been a two-man project"
"I do not deny that earlier in our career I played most of the instruments on our records and produced much of the material."
"Someone called Palle Lundburg we have NEVER HAD IN THE STUDIO. QUORTHON PLAYED THE DRUMS HIMSELF on “Under the Sign of the Black Mark." - BOSS
After reading the above, it is clear that Quorthon either was the drummer, or the drummer was a drum machine which he programed, possibly with the help of someone else. Quorthon's father was a drummer, he was in the studio for every Bathory recording, he was the one watching the NWOBHM trend in the early 80s, and he was probably the one watching Manowar and deciding to incorporate their style. Boss would have had the connections to introduce his son to Demaio, probably not some non-existent "assistant" who helped him program drums which he already programed himself! Boss is probably the one Quorthon was secretly referring to as the "drummer" who introduced him to Joey Demaio.
Invincible in battle, wargods hear my deathwish cry
I'll laugh in the face of death, I into glory ride
-Bathory "Equimanthorn" from Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987)
If we go back to Bathory's 3rd album, the phrase "Into Glory Ride" pops up in the lyrics. This happens to be the title of Manowar's 2nd album! Given that Quorthon admitted above they were already borrowing Manowar's drum beat - it seems Quorthon was thinking of them when writing his lyrics as well!
We have read your letters, we have heard your call
We were brought together cause we've got the balls
Manowar "Army of Immortals" [1984, Music for Nations]
You kept your faith, you mailed us your hails
You spread our name and commotion
You are the ones who believes and supports
and that's called shear bloody f*cking devotion
-Bathory "Of Doom" [1987, Under One Flag/Music for Nations]
In the 70s, KISS had a fan club called "The Kiss Army." It was great marketing and it's fun for the fans to sort of "play act" this "us against the world" attitude. Manowar took this same concept when addressing their "Army of Immortals." They continued this theme with their "Warriors of the World" album - which was largely influenced by the events of 9/11. Bathory obviously took their own awkward first stab at this marketing technique, in their otherwise pretty badassed song "Equimanthorn." When we consider that Bathory's first appearance was on a compilation called "Scandinavian Metal Attack," we get hints that Bathory was merely an extension of a larger marketing plan, whose think tank existed before the band did. Again, BOSS was in the business, and was successful, for many years before Bathory formed. It would be naive to assume he did not apply his wealth of wisdom when it came to marketing Bathory's music early on. Quorthon was a teen still when Bathory formed. He didn't "accidentally" become one of the the most successful/influential extreme metal artist of all time without lots of help.
I'm not suggesting any of this is necessarily positive or negative, but that this was already a well known marketing technique by the time Bathory was formed. There is a term most of you may have heard, where a band may be described as having a "cult like" following. Ghost [also from Sweden], in particular, is a modern example of a group who are so blatant in their attempts to market themselves as a "cult band," it tends to put a lot of people off because of it's obvious commercial motivation. A band who can develop a "cult like" following, basically creates a small society within society. This then gives the band a degree of power within larger society - who are largely DIVIDED, which is why large record corporations end up either creating, owning, or destroying these types of bands. Bands like this are profitable, but beyond that, they can have a profound influence upon society. One need only consider for a moment, the social impact that the viking/folk/pagan metal movement has had upon societies internationally to begin to understand the potentially profound importance of what Bathory was doing from the start.
[Varg Vikernes is probably regarded as the most influential, and infamous, "Black Metal musician" of all time. He continues to post videos to this day on his "thuleanperspective" youtube channel. You may have to tap on the above image to blow it up, if you are on a smartphone]
A BIT MORE ON THE VIKING THING
"In 1984-1985 I came to the conclusion that Satan and Satanism was created by the Christian church itself, so here we had a hoax made up by another hoax to terrify people into the arms of the Christian faith. It's all religious bullshit anyway...I went further back in time to see what was there before Christianity came around to become the dictatorial way of life and death. I didn't need to go too far from my front door, to be reminded of the rich culture and history in Scandinavia before the Christian church came around."
Bathory was formed in 1983. So if he had this "awakening" that early, why did he write 2 or 3 albums of "satanic music" before making the switch to the Norse theme? As much as I want to believe the above, it is hard to buy it given BathoryCorp's obvious marketing strategies driving the band's musical direction from the beginning. It seems Ace's job here was to play the role of Quorthon, now as the evolving artist - fed up with the contradictions of both Satan and God, deciding to embrace his own country's pagan culture. This is great marketing because it allows their "anti christian" fanbase to follow along without feeling alienated - but also takes them on a new musical journey, closer to their own world [if you were a Scandinavian fan especially]. What is more interesting is that it also brought them closer to a heated social/political territory. The unfortunate fact is, Neo Nazi organizations have a history of appropriating Norse themes and symbols, making this a much more sensitive topic in parts of Europe, than here in America. And the truth is, Sweden had a well documented history of problems with Neo Nazi Skinheads - particularly in the late 70s/early 80s, and through the 90s. Some of them were in Oi! punk bands.
"Ultima Thule (Latin for "Farthest North") was founded in early 1984 in Nyköping, Sweden... Their style is based on what they call Vikingarock ("Viking rock"), which combines occasional folk melodies with rock, mixed with Oi!, street punk and Teddy Boy...The band's first EP was sponsored by Bevara Sverige Svenskt ("Keep Sweden Swedish") and was used as a campaign theme by Sverigepartiet. Some of their songs were included on compilation albums with bands like Skrewdriver and Brutal Attack...Their first vocalist, from 1984 to 1986, Bruno Hansen, was the leader of the Nyköping "action group" of the Nordic Reich Party, and some music critics classify the band as White Power music...Between 1984 and 1987 the band played at about 30 skinhead concerts. On 6 June 1987 they played together with Agent Bulldogg, Vit Aggression and Dirlewanger at a white power concert in Södertälje. On 30 November 1991, the band played at a white power concert with Vit Aggression and Division S...Ultima Thule has sold one certified platinum and three gold albums in Sweden, and managed to have three singles on the 20th-best hits list at the same time. Their lyrics are mostly in Swedish, with only a few songs in English, including covers of bands such as Sham 69 and Ronettes" - Wikipedia
I should first state that this band has actively attempted to distance itself from "Neo Nazi" groups more recently, and does not seem to agree that they ever were "Neo Nazis." Nevertheless, they formed about the same time as Bathory, and were in the Swedish Oi! punk scene. Although not from Stockholm. Oi! punk originated in England, mainly London. According to Quorthon himself, he was in Oi! punk bands just before Bathory [2, in fact], and visited the "London Dungeon" around 1981. So I am sure he knew very well, as did BOSS, what a Neo Nazi Oi! punk skinhead was. Given Ultima Thule's controversial history and their eventual mainstream success - I find it very hard to believe Quorthon and/or Boss did not know who this band was, which called itself "Vikingarock," BEFORE they decided to "go full Viking" with Bathory. It also begs the question, what motivated the young Quorthon to suddenly jump from Oi! punk misfit to "cult heavy metal icon?" I am not accusing Bathory of being a politically motivated band, but it would be very naive not to at least consider it. We will go into possible political motivations behind the creation of Bathory, or lack thereof, in a future blog.
QUORTHON'S "DAY JOB"
"...he [BOSS] gave me an opening to get my head off school at the age of 14 when he gave me that quarter time job back in 1980."
"I quit school, or, more or less, I was thrown out of school back in ’82...we had something called, whatever you could translate...uhm…you would go to school 2 days a week, and you would work a regular job..they sorta like got me this 2 days, or 3 days a week kinda job at the record company"
If he was working at his father's record label, Tyfon Grammafon, in 1980 - this would have been before Quorthon says he was "thrown out of school in '82." That kind of messes up his story a bit!
"Borje [BOSS] was very rich at the end of the seventies because of his success as a hit producer" - Klaudia Forsberg [Boss' 2nd wife]
At the beginning of this section is an image I found at www.blodelddod.se which shows Quorthon as a child, presumably in a commercial for a toy which involves a vinyl record. This was a really cool "toy" put out by Marilla Grammofon - which was owned by BOSS's friend, Hans Edler. BOSS worked for Marilla and was also a band mate of Edler in the group I pictured earlier, Ghostriders. Was young Quorthon paid for this appearance? I'd imagine so. If he was, this would be the earliest job he had that I know of, a "child actor" of sorts?
My guess is that Quorthon really didn't have to go to school because his dad owned a successful business, which he was eager to work at from an early age. I've read various stories about Quorthon being present as a child during some of his father's recordings, and even some stories claiming he played here and there on some of them. I don't know exactly what the truth is, but I think it is safe to say Quorthon did work at the family business fairly early, and he was just trying to make it all sound cooler by stating he was "thrown out" of school. I don't imagine he ever worked a "real job" by the time he formed Bathory in 1983, because he was already working at the family business AND playing in the band which would quickly become the label's top seller. So why would he need to get a "real" job?
"...I'll tell you why I've never driven a cab: I don't have a driver's license."
"I get my money only 3-4 times a year. But it is enough, it really is. But I do some other work every now and then. Like for instance as a security guard at concerts etc. I don't know if it counts as a job because you are mostly standing there with your arms folded and a button that says security. So its like getting money for nothing."
"There's a curious thing, and it's that the whole BATHORY discography is selling quite well. I think it's maybe because of the 'legend' that has been created behind the band's name...the albums sales increase year by year."
"In the 80's we would receive up to 100 fan letters every week. Now a days I spend most of the days answering fan email."
"So now, about 6 years ago, I started getting money that I was supposed to have been receiving during the ‘80s, so I wasn’t making a single cent during the entire ‘80s, and now I’m getting all those money—I haven’t had to take a work or have a job in 6 years"
"Bathory has sold over 1.4 million records, we don’t spend any money on tours or videos, I haven’t had to flip burgers down at McDonald’s for twenty years"
[Karlstad-Örjans – I Hennes Blåa Ögon, Produced by Börje Forsberg, Tyfon Grammofon 1987 - POP/Schlager]
If Quorthon's dad owned Tyfon and Black Mark - both companies he worked for, how is it he wasn't ever paid during the 80s? Tyfon was producing bands through the 80s right up until Blackmark was established in 1991. Are we to believe BOSS was so clueless as to operate his business in the 80s without making sure Tyfon/Blackmark was getting the money due to them? And if he was, why would he NOT pay Quorthon, his son, forcing him to "flip burgers" and take on these dangerous "head of security" gigs at death metal concerts for bands getting death threats [Gorefest and Deicide] where bombs are going off at a venue known to contain the Neo Nazi headquarters of Stockholm?
"20 feet away from there you have the militant Stockholm neo-Nazi organization have their headquarters, 20 feet away…from the concert, and they have been placing bombs just about everywhere, 2 times a week for the past 12 months or so, but, I mean, you couldn’t say it straight out"
In the quote from 1997, he says he hasn't had to work a job in 6 years. Another quote has him stating he hadn't had to "flip burgers" in 20 years. Bathory only existed for 21 years! The security gig which was mentioned earlier would have fallen within 6 and 20 years of both interviews quoted above. There were many witnesses who saw him doing security at the 1992 Fyshuset gig where a bomb went off. This sounds like a guy who never worked a "regular" job, but who's trying very hard to sound like he has! Seems to me he wanted to create an image of himself as a young misfit who was thrown out of school, who struggled in the working class [the history of Oi! punk is based in working class youth of London], dabbled in the occult, built up this occult band with the help of a producer [BOSS] who believed in the band. This is part of Quorthon's role. But Quorthon was a character whos story was not entirely based in reality.
"writing for Bathory is work. Because I do so many other things, I write sixties’ pop, classical music, I’m just now completing my fourth string quartet"
None of what we are discussing here is meant to detract from the impact of Bathory's music. But when you leave a trail of question marks behind, as Quorthon did over the years, some day people are going to start to pick them up and ask "just what is this?"
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SOURCES - http://m.bathoryhordes.com, STORBERG Heavy Metal zine (2002), HELL AWAITS (2001), Menelaos Megariotis (2001), Twilight (2001, )Vampiria (2001), Metalunderground.com Phone interview with Quorthon by CROMCarl (1997),Phone interview with Quorthon by Oliver Ueck, KILL YOURSELF 1997, Hard Rock Magazine (1987), Power Metal (1987), Metal Hammer (1987), Metal Forces (1987), RAW! (1988), Morbid (1988), Loud Zine (1988), drunkinagraveyard.com April 24, 2003, MTV (1990), Tales Of The Macabre (1997), Victim (1997), YOUTUBE user gabalgabow Interview 30/10/1987, Slayer Magazine, Black Metal "Evolution of the Cult", Wikipedia Germany, Descend Magazine/96 (Metallian diaries), Ian Christie 96, Slayer Mag 1986, Slayer Mag 1995, Decibel Interview, 2013, kick ass 1985, http://www.maelstromzine.com/ezine/interview_iss12_99.php 2001, https://www.decibelmagazine.com/2013/04/17/black-metal-at-the-pickle-barrel-a-night-with-quorthon/ (1986), Lords of Chaos, Bathory.nu
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