Götz Kühnemund of Germany's Rock Hard magazine (web site) recently conducted a revealing interview with GORGOROTH frontman Gaahl (real name: Kristian Espedal) in which the controversial black metal singer spoke publicly for the first time about his sexual orientation and his political beliefs. The chat, which appears in issue 258 of the magazine, was translated exclusively for BLABBERMOUTH.NET and appears below in its entirety.
For a long time GORGOROTH frontman Gaahl was deemed "the evil face of black metal." There was nothing anyone wouldn't put past him or try to pin on him. In his native Norway, he regularly finds himself on the front page of the biggest daily newspapers — as Satan personified or national bogeyman supreme. But now this villain of all people has outed himself as gay and reveals a few sides to his personality very few people would've thought possible.
Rock Hard: I think it's pretty ballsy that you've outed yourself as gay. I'd love to ask you two or three questions on the subject, if you don't mind.
Gaahl: "Sure, no problem."
Rock Hard: When I met you, we talked pretty extensively about an old JUDAS PRIEST live video that had made a strong impression on you. Was Rob Halford coming out a partial factor in your publicly acknowledging your own sexual preference?
Gaahl: "No. Rob Halford is a big musical inspiration for me, but nothing more. It doesn't feel to me as if I've outed myself because up until now the whole thing was a non-issue for me. All this evolved very naturally. I feel how I feel and I've never made any secret about it."
Rock Hard: But there are people that do not accept homosexuality. Isn't it true that you were in fact attacked by someone in the backstage area at Wacken [Open Air festival in Wacken, Germany]?
Gaahl: "That's something that went down behind my back. Nobody has ever said anything derogatory to my face in person."
Rock Hard: But King (GORGOROTH bassist) witnessed something and told me about it later (Note: there was a vicious brawl backstage at Wacken, which involved King among others. It was reportedly triggered by anti-gay remarks by a certain person who found himself in a hospital shortly thereafter). How are people treating you?
Gaahl: "Absolutely positive. I haven't felt any animosities directed toward me."
Rock Hard: But there are likely people on the right fringe of the black metal scene for whom you as an avowed homosexual have become an enemy.
Gaahl: "Possibly, yes. My idea of art, and black metal especially, is the depiction of honesty without compromise. I really don't care how other people react to it or the feelings it might provoke."
Rock Hard: There are people who were previously close to you that have contacted Rock Hard over the past few months offering "information" that would purportedly make you appear in a "whole new light." Since your homosexuality has become known, those sources have gone silent. Is there a connection?
Gaahl: "Yeah, most likely (laughs). It seems like I've pre-empted a few people. And for that I'm truly sorry. (laughs) But the information in question could also pertain to certain things that happened in the early '90s."
Rock Hard: You mean political things?
Rock Hard: Since then you've openly admitted to having associated with radical right-wing circles back then.
Gaahl: "That's correct."
Rock Hard: Can you elaborate a bit more?
Gaahl: "These are things related to the past and the environment I found myself in at the time. In the early '90s, there were all these different youth gangs in Norway and one thing led to another. I was involved in gang fights and had false friends. It wasn't about any deep political convictions but rather about disassociation. Eventually it took on violent strains. I mean, gangs don't meet up to hold discussions."
Rock Hard: Would you call yourself a one-time die-hard Nazi?
Gaahl: "No, there was no political disposition — not with me nor any of my friends. But you had to profess allegiance to a certain group if you wanted to defend yourself and not get your ass kicked. I think we all — my friends at the time as well as myself — felt that way but some of them drifted off into politically extreme circles."
Rock Hard: Were there racially motivated incidents?
Gaahl: "It was all about gang affiliation. Who attacked first and who merely defended themselves is impossible to say after all this time. But there were definitely violent altercations. Some of us even had guns."
Rock Hard: When did your attitude toward these things change?
Gaahl: "It was a slow process that took years and not something that was triggered by any one thing. I've always had friends from different cultural backgrounds, hence I was exposed to different ways of thinking from the get-go. That's probably why I've never developed a deep set of political beliefs. But there have definitely been changes and an evolution in my thinking. I'm a different person today."
Rock Hard: Who are you exactly?
Gaahl: "I am I. I'm an individualist."
Rock Hard: Are there people in your circle of friends whom you'd call right-wingers?
Gaahl: "Yes, there are. Just like there are left-wingers. I don't judge people by their political beliefs. That may sound strange. The people I associate with are a motley crew and yet there is no violence. My friends have respect for each other just like I respect them."
Rock Hard: So we're talking about people who don't resort to violence when it comes to representing their convictions?
Gaahl: "Exactly. People evolve and accept differences. But now and then you do have to be patient with those you're close to (laughs). Not everybody always knows right away what's best for them. You have to give people leeway to experience things and grow because that how they might change their way of thinking."
Rock Hard: How are your right-wing friends responding to your being gay?
Gaahl: "There has been very little in terms of negative reactions. I'd like to think it's because my friends respect me enough to where that side of me doesn't bother them. If I was another type of guy, the reactions might be more drastic."
Rock Hard: You've been jailed several times. Did any of that have anything to do with your political or sexual background?
Gaahl: "No, absolutely not."
Rock Hard: I'm mentioning it because I forgot to ask you an important question during our last interview. When you talked about that "contract killer" that was out to get you, and whom you injured so badly that you had to go to prison over it, we never even talked about what provoked the attack in the first place. Who had it in for you?
Gaahl: "That was connected to my previous stint in prison. Someone whom I had caused trouble wanted to get revenge on me. But since he didn't want to get his own hands dirty for obvious reasons he hired someone who was supposed to attack me and in fact broke into my house carrying a weapon."
Rock Hard: Can you elaborate on what you mean by "causing trouble?"
Gaahl: "I was attacked in a bar, apparently because I had provoked someone with my appearance or something I said — someone with a reputation of being 'dangerous' himself. It turned into a physical altercation with serious consequences. I ended up in jail but the well-to-do 'victim' who had provoked me got off scot-free."
Rock Hard: Are you safe now from acts of revenge?
Gaahl: "I sure hope so. It makes no sense to be afraid of something you have no influence over anyway. Should it turn dangerous again down the line I'll simply have to deal with the situation."
Rock Hard: Sounds as if you've gotten rid of a lot of muck in your life.
Gaahl: (laughs) "Yeah, you could say that. I'm content all around with my situation right now. I love life at the moment."
Rock Hard: Would you say you're a happy person?
Gaahl: "Oh yes, most definitely."
Rock Hard: It's got to feel great: You are free and no longer have anything to hide.
Gaahl: "That's right. But I've never really hidden anything to begin with. It's just that I was never in love before."
Rock Hard: Never?
Gaahl: "No, not until last year."
Rock Hard: There is a girl who for a time lived with Jenny from Rock Hard in Norway, and she claimed to be your ex-girlfriend.
Gaahl: (laughs) "Then she lied. I was never ever together with anyone until last year."
Rock Hard: How old are you now?
Rock Hard: And you were a lone wolf up until age 32?
Gaahl: "Yes. I've just now reached puberty!" (laughs)
Rock Hard: Very cool that you talk so openly about these things.
Gaahl: "Well, that's the way it is." (laughs)
Rock Hard: You're a pretty strange bird, if I may say so. Anyone familiar with your image wouldn't think it possibly for you to have such an astute sense of humor.
Gaahl: "Thanks. I'm a strange dude, I know."
Rock Hard: Up until very recently, I had a totally different impression of you — and it wasn't exactly a positive one.
Gaahl: "Well, people tend to draw their own conclusions and create an image where other people are concerned. You always see the character you want to see."
Rock Hard: You sound very content and well balanced indeed. How is that gonna affect GORGOROTH?
Gaahl: "As far as my 'outing' goes — King was more nervous about it beforehand than I myself. He is glad that everybody's been cool about it. As far as the musical aspect is concerned — we've started work on the next album and I can't wait to write the lyrics for it. I already have ideas in my head but normally my lyrics just sort of 'happen.'"
Rock Hard: That's what I was getting at. Aren't you lacking the hatred to write the type of lyrics GORGOROTH is known for? Or are you tackling dark subject matters differently in the future?
Gaahl: "Time will tell. I take the view that you should always be moving forward and not standing still. It's gonna be different for sure but I can't say how exactly. A lot of what happens during the process of writing lyrics stems from the unconscience anyway. That is more honest than conscious planning."
Rock Hard: Isn't it difficult not to fool yourself? How do you know what originates from your unconscience and what comes from your conscience?
Gaahl: "It's difficult to differentiate indeed — but that's what the artistic aspect is all about. And I think I'm pretty well versed in it." (laughs)
Rock Hard: When I look at your overall concept — your provocative show, morbid aesthetics, and intellectual aspirations — I'm heavily reminded of CELTIC FROST. Can you relate to that sentiment?
Gaahl: "Yeah, even though I'm more familiar with the early CELTIC FROST classics, I know what you mean. We're pretty good friends (with them),and I'm gonna sink my teeth deeper into the last CELTIC FROST album as soon as I have some time."
Rock Hard: Martin [Ain] and Tom [Fischer of CELTIC FROST] were part of the reason why we decided to interview GORGOROTH for Rock Hard. They think very highly of you — and we of them. You can't be all that asinine if you have advocates like that.
Gaahl: "I'm happy about that. (laughs) I'm definitely seeing correlations between the two bands as well. We have a similar way of overstepping certain boundaries. I know Tom a little better than Martin but I see parallels between us and both of them."
Rock Hard: You just returned from Mexico, right?
Gaahl: "Yeah. We played two shows there. The fans were unbelievable as was the technical equipment – albeit in a negative sense." (laughs)
Rock Hard: Where do things stand legally right now as far as the name GORGOROTH is concerned?
Gaahl: "I can't say anything about it due to pending litigation. As long as there is no final ruling, both sides will continue to use the name GORGOROTH." (Note: Guitarist Infernus, the last remaining founding member, was fired by Gaahl and King last year but has so far refuses to relinquish the band name).
Rock Hard: Do you have a steady line-up now?
Gaahl: "Yes, we do. We'll make an official announcement shortly — it's gonna shock some people!"
Rock Hard: Positively or negatively?
Gaahl: (laughs) "Positively, as I see it. But I don't know how people are gonna react… It'll definitely be a surprise, and I'm excited about it. What I can confirm is that Frost (SATYRICON, 1349) will be the drummer on the new album. We view him as a full band member even though he doesn't figure in a creative role with us."
Rock Hard: That leaves two open spots in the band….
Gaahl: "Not open, merely unknown. I know, we come off as chaotic but we have everything under control. Believe it or not — there is a plan." (laughs)
Rock Hard: What else you got going on at present other than GORGOROTH?
Gaahl: "Working on an ambient album that's currently being mixed — really interesting stuff, in my opinion. Other than that, I spend a lot of time painting. I've become really creative lately."
Rock Hard: What kind of paintings do you paint?
Gaahl: "Hard to describe. They definitely don't have anything in common with GORGOROTH. People might think that all I'm painting are chopped off heads but that's not the case."
Rock Hard: Then what do you paint? Rob Halford in various motorcycle poses?
Gaahl: "Exactly." (laughs)
Gaahl with "close friend," modeling agent Dan DeVero (photo displayed from iBergen.no):