Talkin’ Prog with Enslaved’s Grutle Kjellson

Photo: Thor Broedreskift
Photo: Thor Broedreskift

Enslaved recently wrapped up a month-long North American tour that saw them play several tunes off their latest album, In Times—another progressive masterpiece for the band’s impressive portfolio. We talked to vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson to find out what the band thinks about the “progressive” label and how that translates to their musical output.

What does “progressive music” mean to you?
Every type of music, from jazz to metal to rock, if it’s stuck in a frame, it can never be progressive. Progressive means going further; stepping out of the frame. It’s pretty funny, nowadays there’s sort of a ’70s music revival, and the bands sound exactly like Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd, and they call it progressive rock. How is that progressive? That’s so fucking regressive, you know? It has nothing to do with progressive music whatsoever. And this is prog rock! Like you have any rules in prog rock. Like King Crimson had any rules when they recorded their first album. They were like a jazz band playing rock and roll. The rock scene hated them, the jazz scene hated them…they were progressive because they did something unexpected. I don’t know, I think it would be extremely boring to try to please an audience.

I think that explains why you choose such diverse bands to play with when you do your headlining tours. Previous tours have featured groups like Alcest and Pallbearer, and this year you took YOB and Ecstatic Vision on the road. Why is this approach more appealing to you than, say, taking two progressive black metal bands on tour?
I guess it’s because we listen to a wide variety of music ourselves. I can enjoy a good doom band and a good rock and roll band and a death metal band and a black metal band. What you hear on an Enslaved album is colored by what we’ve been listening to in our private lives. We don’t like to be stuck with a label and record the same album over and over again, and we certainly don’t want to tour with bands that sound like us. That’s not interesting. Let’s give people a diverse experience! That’s very important…at least we think so.