Hard to imagine Flint public TV doing a 12-part docu-series on hometown kings Repulsion. Not least because they wouldn’t have the budget, but I could imagine the principals involved freaking the fuck out over in-depth discussions around “Splattered Cadavers” and the insane goings-on during (and after) Repulsion gigs the in the basement (called The Fallout Shelter) of the Capitol Theatre. They wouldn’t have the appetite for it. Well, over in Norway — specifically in Haugesund, a municipality in the southwest corner of the country, with a population of less than 40,000 — they’re not like the cultural puritans in Michigan, let alone Flint. To wit, TV Haugaland, the main broadcaster of the Haugaland district, has OK-ed with great interest a 12-part docu-series on their hometown heroes Enslaved, to be simulcast over-the-air and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Conceived and executed by TV Haugaland producer Dag Olav Husås, the Heimvegen series details the origins of Enslaved up to their move to Bergen. From Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson’s start in death metal act Phobia and candid interviews with their parents to the formation of Enslaved and the recording of the now-mandatory demo Yggdrasill, Dag and his trusty handheld Sony FS7 documented it all. Our man even brought the members of Phobia together again, the first time members had hung out together since 1991. Through the 12 episodes, Dag captures the members of Enslaved — including former drummers Hein Frode Hansen and Trym Torson — in their reflective (and humorous) best! We even get outside perspective from Norwegian journalists Torgrim Øyre (Dagbladet) and Harald Fossberg (Aftenposten), as well as members of Old Funeral, Immortal, Abbath, and a cameo (or rather the story of) an exploding hotdog.
That Dag had the foresight to subtitle the doc-series in English is not only pivotal to the story of Enslaved, it was a brilliant move to widen the audience that is largely non-Norway based. I’m sure it’d be fun to do numbers on how many albums Enslaved have sold in (and maybe around) Haugesund, but the reality is the group’s fanbase are all over the world, and the lingua franca of extreme metal and its participants is indeed English. So, with that, Decibel and Dag hooked up to showcase the soul of Heimvegen, which happens to be May 2020 cover boys, three-time Hall of Famers (Frost, Below the Lights, and Hordanes Land), and Decibel Beer & Metal Fest headliners Enslaved. Read on, uh, Viking warriors… Be warned, however. There’s plenty of bone-dry humor and awesome naivete in front of you. Links to all 12 episodes after the Q&A.
How did the idea to cover Enslaved on TV Haugaland start?
Dag Olav Husås: Well, they’re the biggest act to come out of Haugalandet, their place of origin, yet few people here really know much about them. They don’t play commercial music, so they’re not a household name. But I knew that their story is so rich, and so unique for this area, that it would be interesting to hear it even for people who don’t have a particular interest in this kind of music. I’m an old metal guy working at TV Haugaland, so for me it was a no-brainer. This documentary needed to be made.
Did the leadership at TV Haugaland approve the idea out of the gate? I know Enslaved have won a lot of Norwegian Grammys, but maybe the subject matter or sonic qualities might’ve given leadership pause. Then again, I haven’t seen TV in Norway in many years.
Dag Olav Husås: No problem at all. In fact, my boss thought it was a great idea. I think it’s an obvious story to tell our audience, really. We aim to reflect the local community with the programs we make, including its cultural output, and we would be amiss if we didn’t inform the people of this area that they have spawned one of the most important bands in Norway, regardless of genre.
What were the planning stages like? There’s a lot of ground to cover.
Dag Olav Husås: I was already fairly familiar with their story, as someone interested in this kind of music, so I had a decent starting point and a rough idea of what I wanted to do. But I obviously talked to Ivar and Grutle for the inside info, and eventually the other guys that I wanted to interview as well. People were generally very positive to share their thoughts and stories, so, for me, it was a case of mapping it all out and choosing what to focus on. But keep in mind, the documentary only focuses on their Haugalandet years. They relocated to Bergen in ’96-’97, and that’s where this documentary stops, at least in the sense of digging deep.
Over what span of time were the 12 parts produced?
Dag Olav Husås: Between June and November 2020, but I was only sporadically working on it. The breakout of COVID-19 and subsequent lock down of society halted the start a little bit, but I started planning properly at the end of April 2020 and started shooting in June. The main interview with Ivar and Grutle was what I shot first; that setting where you see them sitting together. When I prepared the questions for that bit, I figured the whole interview would probably be about an hour long, but I couldn’t really know just how good those guys would be on camera and how much brilliant material I would get from them, and the thing ended up being four hours long. Only then did I start to see the scope of it all, but it was brilliant, and I shaped the rest of the documentary around that interview.
What was your crew comprised of? And what type of equipment did you and your team use?
Dag Olav Husås: It was just me, and I mainly used a Sony FS7.
Logistically, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Dag Olav Husås: COVID-19 prevented me from going abroad to interview relevant people there, which was a shame. It also meant I wouldn’t be able to follow the band on the road a bit, which I wanted to do, nor could I interview their fans. But OK, that just meant I had to find other solutions.
Were English subtitles part of the original idea? I would’ve watched without (and not understood much of anything), but the subtitles helped me enjoy the series so much more. I’m sure that goes for the rest of Enslaved’s non-Norwegian speaking fanbase too.
Dag Olav Husås: I knew beforehand that this would probably draw interest from abroad, and that it should be subtitled and made available for a larger audience. In terms of content, I was trying to ride two horses at the same time, making a documentary that would be interesting for the locals on Haugalandet, who maybe don’t know or care as much about the music, and at the same time making it interesting for the die-hard Enslaved or metal fans worldwide. Before I started production, I thought I would have to make some tough decisions along the way in that respect, but it turned out to be less of an issue than I thought it would, as a lot of the material I eventually got seemed to cater to both camps most of the time anyway.
Some of the members of Enslaved hadn’t seen or heard from each other in many years. You were also able to interview parents and other folk associated the Enslaved story. What was that like pulling all these people together to talk Enslaved?
Dag Olav Husås: Grutle was very helpful in that respect, and contacted most of them on my behalf. And most of them said yes right away. It was obviously very important for me to get Trym [Torson] involved and as such get the perspectives from all the original band members. It was also a lot of fun to sort of reunite Phobia, Enslaved’s predecessor, this short-lived death metal band that in a way spawned Enslaved, Theatre of Tragedy, and also the techno/dance act Galaxee, of all things.
What did you learn about Enslaved or its current/previous members that impacted you the most?
Dag Olav Husås: I knew they were good at talking in interviews and all of that, but I was positively surprised by just how open they were, and how much humor they had about themselves and everything Enslaved. I went for a down-to-earth style for the documentary, so that fit perfectly. There have been made so many documentaries shrouded in mystique, especially when it comes to black metal-related bands, and band members are almost portrayed as characters in a movie rather than real people at times. I just thought it was more interesting to go in the opposite direction, which was natural for me anyway.
Humor (dry humor) is a big part of the Enslaved experience. Not many get to see that side of the band, but I think you did a great job in showcasing that they’re not a bunch of humorless Vikings making loud music. Thoughts on that?
Dag Olav Husås: Oh, their humor was just a gift! I used almost every bit they gave me. To paraphrase something Grutle said, they’re old enough now to see the funny side of their own history. And they’re really funny guys, maybe especially in tandem when they’re riffing off each other. It’s all them, I just hit the “rec” button. I think the way they come across in the series, with the humor and everything, helps whisk away any negative preconceived notions any viewer may have had about them, the genre, the image or whatever.
What was your favorite part about the Heimvegen series?
Dag Olav Husås: I have to say their stories from their first tour in Mexico were quite interesting. Firstly, you would think some of it was written for a comedy movie. It’s just hilarious. But secondly, it was also so brutal and dramatic at times that they even feared for their lives, and it’s interesting to hear how all of that heavily contributed to actually breaking up the original line-up. Crazy stuff.
The Heimvegen series was broadcast in Norway first? Or, was it concurrently broadcast and posted online?
Dag Olav Husås: Pretty much concurrently, every episode has been posted online just a few minutes before it airs.
What has the reception been like so far?
Dag Olav Husås: Really good. The band seems to like it, which was the most important thing for me. And I also like that metal people seem to like it as well as “normal” people here on Haugalandet. It’s been interesting to see the “monster” unleashed. TV Haugaland is a tiny local TV station in a small part of Norway, and the Enslaved documentary has totally taken over our YouTube channel now, with metal fans from all over the world subscribing to it.
Will there be a physical product of the 12 parts available?
Dag Olav Husås: No plans for that at the moment, but who knows…
And will there be other TV Haugaland-produced Heimvegen-like series in the future?
Dag Olav Husås: No plans for that at the moment, but you never know.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 1 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 2 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 3 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 4 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 5 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 6 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 7 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 8 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 9 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 10 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 11 HERE.
** Link to Heimvegen Episode 12 HERE.
** Subscribe to TV Haugland on YouTube HERE.
** Check out Decibel’s 2020 cover story on Enslaved HERE.