Geir Bratland, famous keyboard player of black metal band Dimmu Borgir has just entered Invisibli, Solvor Hegge’s the beauty salon to have his eyelids tattooed. He’s wearing a tight black T-shirt with «Slayer» printed across the chest, and jeans. The only trace of black metal is the black nail polish and he’s looking shamelessly fit for a man of 50.
Styletalk: Judging from your look sex, drugs and rock’n’roll must be healthy?
«I do need to watch my weight though, so I can fit into my stage costumes. But yea, I do have a pretty good skincare routine.»
«When your work is on stage you want to look your best, take care of your «instrument» whether you wear heavy stage makeup or just something lighter, more natural. I believe it improves your performance and you owe it to the people who come to see you.»
He lays down fearlessly to meet the needle that Solvor Hegge uses to apply a thin line of guyliner along his eyelids. Hegge is famous for her skills in permanent makeup and effective skin care, and this is his his second touchup of guyliner – a thin black line across upper eyelid. Last time he was here he came to have his sunburned back attended to, and that’s when Hegge told him about permanent makeup.
«I thought it was a good idea, as I do like a discrete black liner anyway, and this saves me having to apply and remove which takes it’s toll on the skin» he says.
Geir Bratland have played with many famous bands, among the more famous ones Satyricon and The Kovenant – but Dimmu Borgir is the mothership. When he is on stage with them – Geir becomes Gerlioz or Brat – a white faced demon dressed in studded leather and a black slash of paint across his eyes.
«Oh yes, that’s the other Geir» he says.
«The other Geir is theatre. Privately I’m quiet and a bit shy. But when I go onstage in front of hundreds and thousands of people it’s as that other Geir. That’s not saying I’m not aware, because I’m there one hundred percent in the moment, especially since the late nineties when I quit doing drugs. I mean I have tours I hardly remember, but these days I actually remember what I’m doing during a concert.»
Ever since he was a small kid and played on his grandfather’s organ he knew he he needed to dedicate his life to music.
«Yea, I never had a plan B – it was music or nothing.»
And very early on he started playing in bands and wearing makeup on stage.
Styletalk: What was it like challenging the male stereotypes and wearing makeup when you grew up?
«When you’re young you are searching for your own identity. But yes, it took some courage. I started applying eye makeup on stage during the goth period of -93 with Apoptygma Berzerk. The style was androgynous – like Placebo, but you had to be careful so it wouldn’t be tip over and become too camp.»
Brian Molko from Placebo discussing the goth subculture in lifestyle, fashion and music.
«I guess you need to feel pretty comfy with your own masculinity to pull that off. But I loved this from the very beginning, so much I didn’t want to remove the makeup.»
Geir knew early on that he was straight, and that it was the girls he was after. If they disliked him wearing kohl or eyeliner he didn’t notice.
«I just loved it so much, I didn’t give a shit. When people asked I was just like oh no it’s just leftovers from the concert on Saturday. But I did actually freshen it up to go out on the town. These days no one asks.»
He smiles as he remember watching David Bowie from his most androgyne period.
«I thought he looked awesome. The way he balanced between femininity and masculinity fascinated me tremendously.»
For a while he worked with Morten Abel, former singer with «The September When» and famous fashionista with his own clothes label.
«That really introduced me to the world of fashion, I think have at least 10 outfits from that period – yellow and kiwi green pants. So, I am well prepared for any 1980’s revival. But it was a very androgyne style, and a long shot from the dream world of Dimmu Borgir where we’re not out to look nice.»
But as he joined the black metal giant Dimmu Borgir in 2010 Bratland stepped into a world of the hyper-masculinity.
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From @gerliozofficial instagram
Eivind Westad Stuen described in an article at Kilden gender research how Norwegian black metal is famous for its hyper-masculinity, guys in monstrous costumes and corpse-like makeup belting out lyrics marinated in blood and violence. The stereotype might have changed over the years, as explained in Professor Stan Hawkins’ and Nina Nielsen’s study «Gaahl – Monster or Postmodern Prometheus? Masculinity, Class, and Norwegian Black Metal», that was recently published in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music and Social Class. But according to Nielsen, black metal also has a connection to the glam rock scene from the 1970s where men with long hair and make-up represented in a sense a hyper-feminine image.
Yet only a few key heavy metal players have dared to challenge the masculine norm by showing any form of queerness, let alone come out as gay or bisexual. One of the few is Gaahl, a central figure from Norwegian black metal whom Geir knows well.
«I imagine he’s had to take a lot of shit for his sexual orientation because when he started out that scene was a lot less tolerant than it is now. But I think he doesn’t give a shit and that’s cool.»
Geir Bratland always leaves a bit of his eye makeup on the day after a concert because it feels cool.
Styletalk: Do you pull more women when you wear makeup?
«I’m not sure. Being on the road doing huge concerts does give you an ego boost and you do walk around with more self-confidence than normal. Perhaps that’s what the ladies fall for. Anyway, I do think women in general appreciate a well-groomed man.»
«I am 50 now, so I need a good skincare routine. Applying stage makeup is one thing, it’s removing it that what wears on your skin. When you do this 5 days a week for between 6-8 months every year you must take care. I have noticed my eyelids are getting a bit heavier.»
Styletalk: You have great skin for your age, what’s your secret?
«I hope so! I have been using anti age creams since I was 30 and hope I can keep a look that I am happy with and that my skin will age slow.»
Styletalk: Would you consider plastic surgery?
«Yes definitely. I have been offered both Botox and surgery, which I don’t think I need yet. But droopy eyelids or under-eye bags? Sure, I’d get that fixed with plastic surgery if I needed.»
Styletalk: Were you aware you could have your eyeliner and eyebrows tattooed on permanently?
«Yes, I have a few friends who have tattooed their brows and liners, but I kind of always felt it was a bit much – like it makes you always look surprised. But when I came here last to get treatment for my sunburn Sol persuaded me to do the liner. I mean that’s something I’d apply every time I go out, and now I don’t, and it doesn’t look too obvious – it just emphasizes the eyes slightly.»
Styletalk: How vain are you today?
«Wow, we’re entertainers. Anyone working as an entertainer and claiming they are not vain are liars. When your job is to perform in front of thousands of people of course you become conscious of your looks. Like, you study pictures of yourself, checking: wow did I wear that T-shirt again? Obviously you want to look your best, even if we don’t talk about it all that much.»
Styletalk: Do you discuss products with the band?
«Ahh, I’m going to burst some of the myths now but yes, we exchange tips about great foundations, moisturizers and stuff backstage. We are so close, like a family, and if one of us have found a cool new eye cream or moisturizer we swap information. Like hey, check this new moisturizer – it costs a bit but fuck, it’s so good!»
Styletalk: And here I was thinking you bad boys were busy backstage getting high….
«Oh, that’s what we do! All the time! Well…maybe not so much anymore. If we did we would never have lasted this long.»
Styletalk: Have you got any good tips for our readers on skincare?
«Yes! A makeup artist taught me to dab a bit of eye cream in front of your ears as well as under the eyes, because that’s where skin starts to sag first.»
All photos except promo shots: Patrick Worthington/Styletalkmagazine