Jan Axel was as a kid bored at school, his main interests were soccer, wrestling and drums. He finished his ordinary secondary education, and even though he didn’t like to study, he managed to pull through with pretty good grades.
In the beginning he learned playing drums by copying from albums he listened too. Back then he was into to bands like Iron Maiden and such, but also bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran. He then found out about Venom and Celtic Frost, and later on he was also influenced by jazz, as his drum teacher back then was into that kind of music. Back then he played on an ordinary four piece “jazz” kit. It wasn’t until later he started to play on double bass drums. He figured that learning jazz was very good for him as it taught him the foundation of drumming.
His parents were always very supportive. He could sit for hours and hours just to practice, without eating and drinking. In fact his whole family was very supportive, his grandmother bought him his second and third drum kit. His parents liked his music as well, and they supported him and encouraged him in what he wanted to do.
Before joining Mayhem, Jan Axel played in various local bands, including the progressive metal band Tritonus, where he met Carl August Tidemann, the later to become Arcturus and Winds guitarist. He did some performing live during this period as well. He then saw an ad in the paper that Mayhem was looking for a drummer. So he went down to Oslo to meet the band and gave them his demo tape. They called him the next day to let him know that he was now a member of the band. He then took the pseudonym Hellhammer, which he borrowed from the pre-Celtic Frost band with the same name, because he thought it was a shame that such a good name would disappear, and besides, it was also a good name for a drummer.
The first recordings he did with Mayhem were two songs for a compilation album around 1989,with the songs “Carnage” and “The Freezing Moon”. The first proper recording he did with Mayhem was “Live in Leipzig” in 1991. After that album, Mayhem had some trouble with the line up due to the suicide of the singer Dead and Necrobutcher’s departure from the band. During this time he founded another band Arcturus, together with Sverd in 1991. They released a 7″ entitled ”My Angel“ in 1991 and later the mini album entitled “Constellations”.
In 1995 he joined Immortal as a session drummer during their tour that year, he also agreed to play drums on their first official Video “Masters Of Nebulah Frost”. He also briefly played for Emperor during this period. The recording and release of the Arcturus debut album entitled “Aspera Hiems Symfonia” also happened this year.
In 1997 Jan Axel began working with Covenant, now known as The Kovenant, for the recording of their second album entitled “Nexus Polaris”. That album was released in 1998 with a following European tour. During 1997 Arcturus also released another album, “La Masquerade Infernale” which became rather successful.
The next year another album from The Kovenant was released, namely the ground breaking album “Animatronic” which led Jan Axel away from the more traditional black metal drumming to a more beat oriented sound.
The year 2000 was another hectic year for Jan Axel due to the recording and release of Mayhem’s second full-length studio album “Grand Declaration of War”, another groundbreaking album. More complex arrangements and some industrial beats and sounds.
During springtime that year, Jan Axel toured USA with The Kovenant, and during summer a tour with Mayhem happened, and in the fall he toured Europe with The Kovenant.
During the year 2000 he also recorded a mini album with his new band Winds, entitled “Of Entity And Mind”, which was released in May of 2001. Winds also recorded a full-length album during spring 2001, entitled “Reflections Of The I”. The music of Winds takes Jan Axel’s drumming into yet a new direction, embarking on a progressive, symphonic and classically oriented journey while still retaining his roots in metal.
Jan Axel is now a two-time Norwegian Grammy Awards winner, in 1998 for The Kovenant with “Nexus Polaris” and in 1999 for The Kovenant with “Animatronic”. They claimed the prize for best hard rock album both years. In addition to these mentioned involvements, Jan Axel has also done numerous appearances as a guest or session musician on other releases. Before his current career as a full time drummer, Jan Axel used to work as a nocturnal guard at a mental hospital. He doesn’t smoke, drinks very little alcohol, and he practices his drumming for 3 hours every day. He says that being a drummer is his destiny, and he will be one until the day he dies.
These are the albums Jan Axel has recorded with his bands:
He is also featured as a guest or session musician
on countless other releases)
Live in Leipzig
Deathlike Silence Productions 1991
De Mysteriis Dom Satanas
Deathlike Silence Productions 1993
Self Financed Demo 1996
Wolf’s Lair Abyss
Misanthropy Records 1997
Mediolanum Capta Est
Avantgarde Music 1999
Grand Declaration Of War
Season Of Mist
2000 European Legions / US Legions
“Live in Marseille 2000″
Arcturus My Angel (7”)
Putrefaction Records 1991
Nocturnal Art Productions 1993
Ancient Lore Creations
Misanthropy Records 1995
La Masquerade Infernale
Music for Nations 1997
Jester Records 1999
The Sham Mirrors
Ad Astra Enterprises 2002
Nuclear Blast 1998
Nuclear Blast 1999
Winds Of Entity And Mind
Avantgarde Music 2001
Reflections Of The I
The End Records 2002