What's in a name?
An interview with Infernus
May 9, 2009
Founded by guitarist Infernus (Roger Tiegs) in 1992, Gorgoroth's blasphemous, extreme form of raw black metal has made the band a long-running, influential figure in the metal scene. In the last few years, the band's music hasn't been the only story. From controversial Satanic live shows, prison terms, a band member publicly“coming out” with his sexuality and an ugly debate over rights to the band's name, it has been an eventful and media-fueled ride for the Norwegian band. So much so that the hype has perhaps overshadowed what is most important.
In 2007, then Gorgoroth vocalist Gaahl and bassist King ov Hell tried to fire Infernus and take over the trademark to the name Gorgoroth. At one point, there were even two active versions of Gorgoroth. Infernus did not let this go quietly. The case was brought to Norwegian courts and in March 2009, after a long debacle—one that received almost daily reports from metal sites like Blabbermouth.net—Infernus won the rights to the Gorgoroth name and logo. Gaahl and King ov Hell have since formed a new band, God Seed, while Infernus has retooled Gorgoroth with a new lineup including the original vocalist, Pest. The next chapter of Gorgoroth has begun and the band is set to release a new album, Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, in October 2009.
So what really happened? What's the real truth behind Infernus' fight over the Gorgoroth name? Is Gorgoroth just a band that lives through obsessive media hype or a black metal force driven by Satan himself? Live-Metal.Net's Jeff Maki posed these questions and more to Infernus, who was eager to explain.
Live-Metal.Net: For those of us that have not been keeping up with the whole controversy over which band members retain the rights to the name “Gorgoroth,” could you tell us in your own words exactly what the situation was that led to it being taken into the courts?
Infernus: I think that by today, most people with a certain amount of interest probably know the basics of it. It was basically that we had some certain bass player, the seventh in the line, in fact, who took the initiative to split up the band, which of course is fair enough. The end was drawing nearer for every day that passed, and we all knew that. But then, for some reason he believed it would be worth running in secret to the Norwegian industrial property office registering the already-in-use trademark, which my band's name and logo represents, as his own belonging. And then he and that ex-vocalist tried to exploit the situation which arose to the max in the ongoing period until I could take them to court, something I promised them initially when I understood what he had planned. Those are the basics. By today the main question has been properly solved, and we—-my lawyers, my record company, my band and I—are having a look at the rest of the questions, trying to solve the rest of the mess in as good a way as possible, i.e. certain formalities concerning the cost of the process, hiring in rather expensive expertize in the field of trademark protection, et cetera.
Why did both sides put up such a fight over the name? I don't mean this in a negative way, but in the end wouldn't it have been easier and made more financial sense to just choose a different name?
Yeah, sure. And I advised my counterpart to do so, as well. They never had a good case, but they did manage to fool a lot of the press people about this, in this period when I spent my time at lawyers offices and in the studio. They should have started their own band, just like I did, out of free will. And they should have done so years ago. It would have been easier for them and easier for me. That is how I regard it. Nevertheless, some people just have to learn it the hard way, right? Always been like this.
What were your feelings when Regain Records decided to side with you from the very beginning of the dispute?
I expected them to do so, as the fact is that they were legally bound to Gorgoroth and I was always their main guy as a representative of the band both in terms of business and for what goes in regard of social and private issues. I felt content and I became happier. Perhaps also it boosted my energy levels a bit, as I realized it would make it even easier for me to get through the process with the already solid case I had from day one. It made me able to focus more on the creative aspects of my life, building up a new organization around the band, spending more time in the studio with my band, etc.
Did you feel betrayed when all of this first came to light and especially after the first court rulings did not go in your favor? After all, you were the original founder of the band.
That is just another misconception, and it is all the fault of the counterpart. It has been claimed that there have been other court rulings regarding the name issue, and that is a lie. Nothing else. The bass player tried to exploit a weakness in the patent registry system here in Norway, going behind my back and sending in an application to trademark the name as his belonging, knowing that if his application was accepted I would have to take it to court in order to get it settled properly. Perhaps he actually believed I would not, who knows? Then, this formality—that the office of industrial property accepted his application—was presented to the public as some kind of a court decision. Lies, lies, lies. Nothing else. Time showed who was right, it was me. And I was right all the time. In January, the court case came up. The first in the line. And the decision was made public some five weeks later. That's the essential.
Honestly, what are your feelings towards the ex-members (Gaahl and King ov Hell) of Gorgoroth at this present time?
I do not bother feeling too much concerning them. They are where they belong, amongst the rest of the ex-members. 25-30 or so, if I am right. I have no feelings and no respect left for them. I do not need them, and I do not care what they are up to, as long as they stay away from my band's name and logo, of course.
Have you heard any of the material they've recorded under their new name, God Seed? Will you give it a chance?
I haven't heard any of it at all. Nevertheless, there was a reason why I chose to work with them back then, in the end of the nineties. And we somehow managed to work together, more or less professionally, for a substantial amount of time. Therefore, I expect them to come up with something I should be able to enjoy listening to. To claim something else would just be immature talk.
You are bound to run into your ex-bandmates at a festival or somewhere down the road, if you haven't already. What kind of encounter do you anticipate? What will you say to them, if anything?
I see them every now and then. Bergen [Norway] ain't exactly São Paulo or Mexico City. Anyway, it is not a big deal. We were not friends for years, and at the time being we definitely do not have anything to talk about—we settle every conflict of interest via our legal representatives these days. So I guess we do not have much to tell each other anymore. It is plain and simple like that. For me, this issue is old already. I won the case, and it was proven I was right. I do not hate them for what they did. I lost my last amount of respect for them, that's all. From my side, there is just a lack of friendship towards them. And that is irreversible. No big surprise, though. Nothing new.
Tell us about the current lineup of Gorgoroth. How did it all come together? What led you to get Pest back into the band?
The situation which arose as an effect of the counterpart's disloyal action effectuated it. I had been playing around with the thought of freshening up the lineup a bit for some years, but now it was definitely time for it. They are all old friends and connections of mine. The two ex-members from before Gaahl and King's time in the band, and the two others. I appreciate all the guys' personal qualities, and I enjoy their professional attitudes and their abilities in terms of music and craftsmanship as well. One thing led to another, and I picked up the phone in October 2007. From then on, we rebuilt the lineup, and we did so in a manner which perfectly suits my wishes and goals. I am really fond of the combination of personalities now at work. And I have great expectations for this.
[Editor's Note: Gorgoroth's 2009 lineup is Pest (vocals), Infernus (guitars), Tormentor (guitars), Frank Watkins (bass) and Tomas Asklund (drums).]
The new album is going to be called Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, correct? What is the meaning of the title? Are there any song titles you want to reveal?
All this will reveal itself to the one who has her or his ears and heart tuned in on the right frequencies. And they better stay sharp and focused in October. The album will hit the stores then, and it will, as I said, reveal itself. It will be heavier and more sinister than whatever I invested my soul in earlier on. Hopefully, it will cut deeper into the essence of metal, that is my only will these days, and my only heartfelt desire. That is all I have to say about it for now.
With band members coming and going, how does that affect the working conditions for you? Is it somewhat frustrating for you or is this more or less a new beginning for Gorgoroth?
There have always been obstacles in one form or another. And there has all the way from the beginning been lineup changes. The original lineup lasted until 1994, and after that half of the Scandinavian or European metal scene somehow has been involved. Losing a member for some reason, whether he has to go to jail or is getting married, losing interest in metal or whatever, is always a setback in a way. It can at least be regarded as such. But hey, it is not something to sit down and cry for. At least, I do not. You pick up the phone and replace the person. The only thing you have to get straight is that you dial the right number ...
What was your reaction when Gaahl publicly came out in the press stating his sexual preference? Was this something that you had already known about? Do you think he is a better person for doing so?
Whether a member or ex-member of the band—and specifically one who I have not been a friend of for years—is gay or not, is, of course, of complete irrelevance to me and is not something I feel the need to comment on.
From courts, to prison terms and the controversial live show in Poland, Gorgoroth is a name that is constantly in the news when it comes to metal. Do you think this overshadows the musical career that you have accomplished, or does it do more to help promote the band? For instance, I'm a fan of the music and have heard all of Gorgoroth's albums, yet whenever I hear the band's name now, I immediately think of Gaahl's memorable appearance in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. [Editor's Note: In January 2007, it was reported that Gaahl was under investigation by Norwegian Police for his comments in an interview in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005), in which he said, “Church burnings are things that I support 100 percent, and they should have been done much more and will be done much more in the future.”]
Well, you can regard it both ways. You can appreciate, as I do, the effects of all that unnecessary hassle which came with the Poland affair, as promotion. Perhaps not a perfect representation of the band, but the PR effect became quite strong nonetheless. It took on a life of its own. And if we can sell some records as a result of some Polish catholics choosing to be insulted by what we did, so be it. Then, again, there has been a lot of circus going on. And I am not completely at terms with all that. It gives me a bit of a bad taste when seeing what the media turn some things into. With good help and initiative from band's ex-members and also from other interested parties in the business. I am not in this for whoring my way through the media, getting on the front page of some magazine no matter the cost. I am more into keeping my own personal integrity. And for the future, I will for sure not partake in any desperate attempts of self-mythologizations or easy way out by appealing to the acceptance or approval of anyone in the music industry or the media. I am in this for the metal and the Satanism. That is all. It was like this all the way till now, and it will for Satan not change.