It’s a rainy late evening in Vasastan and Erik Danielsson, founder and frontman of Swedish Black Metal outfit Watain, is slurping away on free oysters and a glass of Muscadet ‘Vera Cruz’ 2015 by Luneau-Papin in the doorway to Loyal Gallery. It’s the book release of Paris för Foodisar and the feeling is all-in Parisian. Natural wine is poured at the same pace as the cold November rain is falling. Our conversation about the new, just finished, Watain album slowly heads in another direction, away from the music and into the wonders of aromas, scents and the artisan ways of making these wines.
“I guess you could say that wine was the first alcohol drink I felt drawn to outside of just wanting to get drunk. Me being heavily into everything, from French decadence to monastery living, sparked my interest a bit further as well. Growing up, most of the books, music and art in general that I felt drawn to had a dark and sinister edge to them, and in many ways you could say wine was the natural drink to become interested in”.
Erik Danielsson founded Watain in Uppsala back in 1998, when he was only 16 years old, along with two other original members, Pelle Forsberg and Håkan Jonsson. The trio are still making up the force of nature that is Watain. Erik has, since the beginning, devoted his entire professional life to the band. Not one to care too much about school, he stopped going there around the same time he started the band, and educated himself instead. Besides Watain, Erik also does graphic design, mainly for music-related projects, though not limited to that. In January he released Watain’s sixth full-length studio album Trident, Wolf, Eclipse.
“To me, it’s an album that feels very straight-forward in comparison to many of our older works. It goes for the throat straight away. Thematically, you could say it explores predatory nature or perhaps the savage fanaticism of a warrior, from a spiritual perspective. Although I always feel I am narrowing things down when speaking of an all-encompassing “theme”. Anyway, there are eight songs on the album, no intros or outros, just pure black metal from start to finish. I am very pleased with the result, it became a very empowering and explosive album in the end, which is a honourable point to arrive at after 20 years of writing and performing quite demanding music in a quite demanding way”.
Inside the gallery it is bright, humid and very crowded as we head towards the bar for another refreshing glass of wine, this time the Cante Renard blanc 2015 by Philippe Pibarot. Still on the topic of music, I ask a little about the forthcoming tour and what to expect from it, knowing Erik’s total dedication to Watain’s live performances.
“We are starting with five dates in Europe; Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Tilburg and London. These dates will be commemorations of the album release, and quite special in themselves I think. After that we are heading to the States in March and from then on it’s just pure mayhem until the end of the year. During the summer we are doing festivals nearly every weekend, everything from underground metal festivals in Iceland to major cesspools like Roskilde and Primavera”.
Erik is a big collector of heavy metal paraphernalia, his T-shirt collection from the 80s is massive and I crawl closer to the subject of wine, asking if he has ever tasted any of the rock beers/whiskeys/wines by the likes of Motörhead, Slayer and Ghost, or even the proper real wines like Wongraven Wines by Satyricon singer Satyr/Sigurd Wongraven or the Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer singer Maynard James Keenan?
“Yeah I’ve had some of those, but I can’t say I really fell on my knees after any of them. The Motörhead wine that I had, I remember felt pretty solid though, but still, wine and Motörhead are not really compatible in my world”.
“We had an idea for a long time with Watain, to make really cheap booze and target a young, un-wealthy audience that didn’t give a fuck about taste but just wanted to raise hell, haha. Hard one to pitch to Systembolaget though”.
More wine is poured in our glasses and as we switch to rosé in form of the vivid Susucaru by Etna producer Frank Cornelissen, I ask: how did he find his path to natural wine?
“It was through friends in Stockholm in whose company it was just impossible to avoid. They were becoming zealous about it, haha! Seriously though, I was interested because these people have a very passionate but also quite unpretentious attitude to food and wine in general, which is an attitude I think sums up my idea of natural wine quite well”.
Do you think black metal interacts on some level with that kind of wine making?
To a certain extent, yes. Or perhaps underground culture in general. The wilful absence of technology. Using your own hands rather than someone else’s. Being driven perhaps more by passion rather than commercial gain. Relying on raw essence is surely one of the things I relate to the most with natural wine.
The humidity in the gallery makes us head up the stairs and out into the rain again, this time with a red in our glasses, the Italian Rosso Campanino 2015, an Umbrian delight from the Blood of Jupiter grape Sangiovese. With long and extensive tours around the world ahead, I’m of course curious: What’s on Watain’s rider list?
“We keep our rider quite small, we’re not on tour to eat and drink but to do our work with Watain. But we do have two bottles of local wine on the daily rider, which I try to save and take home with me at the end of the tour, to our tour manager’s great despair, as he has to organize the transportation. That can get pretty interesting. You can see that in some places they have been very particular about the wine they’re getting for us, as if wanting to really underline the fact that there’s good wine in the region, while in others, the UK is a good example, they just get whatever cheap and watery substance that may pass as wine”.
How has that list changed over the years?
“Less beer, more whiskey. We also removed champagne. It just never felt right with such an elegant drink in the cataclysmic area that is a Watain backstage room”.
Do you cellar any wine or are you a drinker? What is your best bottle and where so far?
“I have one unopened bottle of the Hungarian wine Bathory Villanyi Cuvee, still after many years, but that’s only because of the name, the wine is not that interesting at all. I also have some bottles of a red Italian that my friend’s family made in 2009, they should be quite funky by now. But I don’t cellar anything really, I just try to always have a few bottles at home. Easier said than done, especially this time of the year! I tend to forget wine brands most of the time, and one of the better bottles I’ve had recently was a very unpredictable Beaujolais at Bar Brutal in Barcelona, which is a great place for drinking natural wine for a whole day without pause. I am usually for heavier shit, Italian Venetos and that kind of stuff, but with natural wine I try to forget everything and just go with it”.
We round off our evening at the Parisian eat and drink experience in the basement gallery and head further into the starless night. I just want to get in one last question for our readers and for the Watain fans, as I ask Erik to name two wines to try this winter and one that should be enjoyed while listening to the Trident, Wolf, Eclipse.
“Some random good (non-natural) stuff I’ve had lately is Barbera del Monferrato by Livio Pavese 2011 (Nr 74960, 109 kr) and Château Bouscassé, also 2011 (2012 in Systembolaget Nr 2204, 149 kr). I wouldn’t say our new album is really one for wine though, rather a good absinthe like the Swedish Valkyria Midvinterblot (Nr 30084, 299kr) which is a real killer”.
Photo: Erik Danielsson with a bottle of Magma Rock, a 100 percent Gamay by avid rock fan and wine producer Vincent Marie at Domaine No Control in Auvergne, France. (Imported in Sweden by Vin & Natur). By Pär Strömberg