by Jorge Patacas
During the last edition of Inferno Festival in Oslo, Norway, we were able to talk to Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, the artist who created logos for bands such as Immortal and Enslaved, as well as the album covers for the now legendary first two Burzum albums. She’s a tattoo artist who has her studio called Nidhogg in Bergen and was invited to the festival as part of the art exhibition. We discussed the beginning of her career, the inspiration behind some of her most iconic artworks, the early Black Metal scene and more!
RISE!: – When did you start drawing and when did you become a tattoo artist?
Jannicke Wiese-Hansen: I started drawing before I could walk. I’ve always been doing it and I started drawing logos and covers when I was about eighteen. And because of the Immortal logo, the only tattooer in town asked me if I could do drawings for his newly opened shop. He would pay me with tattoos and then I became his apprentice, so I’ve been tattooing for 27 years now. And with the logo thing for about 30 I guess.
R!: – What’s the story behind your current tattoo studio? When did you start with it?
JWH: I worked at a shop called Let’s Buzz for over 20 years, and then I organized a metal festival in 2015 called BlekkMetal in Bergen.
R!: – Was it just that year?
JWH: Yes, we just wanted to do full-on that year. We put everything into it. There were a lot of different things and only Norwegian bands from 1994 or before. But then I kinda woke up because I have two kids and everything and after working there for almost 20 years, some of the visiting tattooers were asking me why I was still there. That made me start thinking that maybe it was time to open up my own studio. So me and a colleague from there, Annlaug, opened our own within half a year after the festival we had. So now it’s at Bryggen in Bergen, that’s a UNESCO heritage site. It’s probably the most famous row of houses in Norway, so it’s really special to sit there, specially doing what I do with the norse woodcarvings and runes. The house is from 1705 and it feels like you’re walking into a pirate ship every morning because the ropes are hanging from the ceiling and nothing is completely angled. And even our clients with wheelchairs, we have to hold them up with ropes through three floors really, to get them up there. So it’s nice. It fits us very well.
R!: – What was your inspiration for some of the early album covers? For example, the Burzum albums.
JWH: We were friends with Kristian, or Varg (Vikernes), back then, so we were hanging out, role-playing and everything together. He had this D&D role-play book, “The Temple of Elemental Evil”, and the cover there was a castle with a little guy in the mist. That was in colours and everything. So he wanted me to do a much darker primitive version in pencil to get the right expression that he was looking for, so we did that. So, the inspiration comes actually from that book. Editor’s Note: Jannicke is talking about Burzum’s debut album. For his next album (“Det Som Engang Var”), he wanted a temple in the background also, so we did that, and I had to do the little guy again, but very little.
Also, with the Immortal logo, I was just sitting hanging around because I don’t play any instruments and they were starting their band Immortal. They were like “we need a logo! You draw, so you can do it”. I’ve never drawn a logo before, and they said “well, we want an inverted cross and don’t want it to be readable because you’re supposed to just recognize the concept, and if you don’t recognize the concept, you can read on the side of the album, but it’s just supposed to be recognizable”. So we looked at Unleashed and Mayhem logos. The Unleashed logo is one of my favorite logos, it’s amazing! Just to have the feeling to how we could go from there.
R!: – You did a good job then! It was an inverted cross with an unreadable logo indeed (laughs)
JWH: Yes (laughs)
R!: – More recently you’ve been working with Mork and with Immortal again on their “Northern Chaos Gods” album. Did they give you some ideas or were you free to do whatever you want?
JWH: With Mork, well, he (Thomas Eriksen) doesn’t live in Bergen, so we couldn’t meet up that much, but he told me what mood he wanted it, then I made the sketch and when he was ok with that, I continued. He wanted me to have the same feeling as the old pencil drawings. I don’t use that style much anymore when I draw, so I had to rewind my head thirty years. It was actually pretty hard to go back into how I was drawing at that time, you know? But it came out pretty ok. I’ve also done another cover in the old pencil style that is coming out later, but I can’t speak anything more about it.
R!: – Which of your artworks is the most meaningful to you personally and why?
JWH: Editor’s Note: she thinks for some seconds. I don’t know. My most ambivalent feelings are towards the first Burzum album, because of course everything happened and Øystein (Aarseth AKA Euronymous) was killed and I spent many years hating the guy (Varg), but still that’s the one that has become the most iconic of all the different ones. But I’m very happy with the Mork album actually. I really like that because that’s very much my style of drawing. For the last Immortal album, I did so many sketches and me and Harald (Demonaz) were sitting for hours, discussing and sketching everything. But I had more freedom with the Mork album, so it’s nice.
R!: – So with Immortal was more like a team work in a way.
R!: – You were there, so I have to ask you, what are your fondest memories of the early days of Black Metal?
JWH: We had a lot of fun exploring caves, doing the role-playing and everything. Travelling, living in each other’s parents’ houses when we went to Haugesund to see Phobia who became Enslaved and Embryonic who became Emperor. Staying at (Enslaved vocalist) Grutle’s mom’s place. All these little memories are really nice, but one thing I really appreciated and it will be special in August at Beyond the Gates is Emperor performing “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk” at Grieghallen because the whole band lived at my house where they were recording in Grieghallen and every night when they came home, they were sitting in the living room just listening to what they recorded that day, so it was the closest I ever become to building up an album, to listen to it from scratch. That was really special and I love the album too. Emperor is awesome!
R!: – Yes, it’s a classic album nowadays! But tell me, what’s in your opinion the most important thing you need to become a good tattoo artist?
JWH: I think that you’re never good enough. I think you can always do better, but you have to know your limits too. Don’t come to me for a colorful old school ship because I would suck at it (laughs), but there are some tattooers who… if there’s something that you know you’re not good at, rather say no to doing it and show them where to go to get the best tattoo than just headstrong and go “I’ll just fix this”, you know? I think that’s the most important thing, and that you never stop learning.
R!: – Talking about Inferno, do you remember how many times have you been here?
JWH: Just once before.
R!: – Just once before!?
JWH: Yes, last one (laughs)
R!: – Wow, I thought you were coming here every year!
JWH: I know (laughs). I’ve missed Dissection and a lot of bands that I should have seen. But I’ve been to almost every Beyond the Gates.
R!: – What do you think is special about this festival?
JWH: I really like the Norwegian festivals. Inferno too. Because there’s people coming from everywhere to join, but it’s small sized, it’s not like Hellfest or Wacken. It’s intimate in a completely different manner. With Inferno, specially when you walk around and you go for dinner outside the venue, there are patches and cool t-shirts everywhere, you know? Metal people. It’s like a community thing. So for Black Metal, we’re very hippie I think (laughs)
R!: – Have you seen any bands at the festival?
JWH: Almost none. I’ve seen maybe one song here and there. I saw “Freezing Moon” yesterday. I always have to if I’m close to them playing it. Now I’m aiming for Whoredom Rife and I’m gonna see the whole thing actually. I want to see them and also Kreator.
R!: – Thanks a lot for the interview!
JHW: Thank you!