Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 2)

Erang – Interview


Interview with: Erang
Conducted by: Maxwell Heilman

Within the rapidly growing sea of creators beneath the umbrage of dungeon synth, Erang has gained a reputation for the depth and musicality of his output. Besides consistently providing incredible compositions, his boundless imagination takes his music out of this world. His impressive body of work centers around a world of his own design, which he calls The Land of Five Seasons. While respecting the DIY approach with which dungeon synth has become synonymous, each of Erang’s albums paints a unique picture of a mysterious synthesis of reality and fiction. The French mastermind was kind enough to answer some questions regarding his music, his world and the future of his creation.

Max: You often refer to the Kingdom of Erang as something that has been a part of you since you were young. Do you remember a specific moment when the The Land of Five Seasons took shape within you?

Erang: It is a bit hard to explain it with words. The Kingdom of Erang is directly linked to some places & people from my childhood and family. So I grew up with it… then, as I became adult, I’ve added to it other cultural references from old fantasy movies, books, etc. I mixed them with new events of my life, new places and also, of course, others’ creations made directly within my imagination.

So this world-building is kind of a big “monster” to me. It’s an aggregation of my real and fantasy lives mixed together…

Max: Do the recurring characters in the Land of Five Seasons hold any connections to people on earth, or aspects of yourself?

Erang: Yes, that’s exactly part of what I’ve tried to explain in the previous question. Sometimes a character is a mix of a real person name or behavior, or it is a side of my own personality mixed with a fantasy name. I’m the only one who knows exactly what’s behind all of that and I like to let the imagination of the listener wander…

Max: What role does Erang play in The Land of Five Seasons? It seems that he is more than a narrator or an observer, though one might be lead to believe that since he retells tales from that world.

Erang: Erang is kind of a ghost within this world… The Kingdom of Erang still exists, but it is not “ruled” by the character of Erang : it has a “human” king. The skull masked man is wandering through this land, he is the spirit of this land, a shadow from its golden past. Kind of an observer who knows far more than the simple mortal living within the Land of the Five Seasons… he knows about the different dimension and he knows that “Time is a Window.”

Max: How did the music come to be the medium by which you communicate this alternate reality?

Erang: It came naturally. I started making computer/synth music a long time ago by the age of 14, 15 yrs old. I’ve always been in love with raw sounds and early computer music, but always thought that nobody could care about it as it was too unpolished with fake cheap instrument like early DOS game soundtracks. So when I came across the Dungeon Synth blog and the first album of Lord Lovidicus I thought “well, maybe I’m not alone and people out there might like what I like too.” That’s when I decided to release Tome I. Many tracks on this album were written a long time before I knew about fantasy synth music.

Max: Read any good books recently? Have any literary works inspired your fantasy world?

Erang: I used to read more when I was younger, but for years now I don’t have enough free time as I dedicate all mine to my family and my music (and, of course, my everyday job).

I read The Children of Húrin two years ago and it really moved me… the ending was so powerful and beautiful.

Considering the influence of literary works on my own world I would say it is very very little: despite a few tracks name on Tome I, my major cultural influence (outside of real events from my life) comes from movies from the 80s/90s like: Willow, Dark Crystal, Conan, the Neverending Story, etc. Of course, some of them were books before but I came to them through the movies. I was watching them at a very early age and it left an indelible mark in my mind.

Max: Have you ever thought about writing a book about The Land of Five Seasons?

Erang: Well, I think about that almost everyday, yes.

The thing is that, to me, writing doesn’t come as naturally as making music. When I make music it is pure feelings and emotion… I would say that I don’t use my brain, intellectually speaking… However, when I write, I of course need to think about the words and the sentence and ideas I want to share so I need to be in a completely different state of mind which is hard for me to find in my everyday life… I would need 2 months alone in a mountain cabin to be able to write.

On the contrary, as soon as I have five minutes of free time I can instantly start to work on a track or mess with sounds. It’s like breathing to me.

So, to answer you: I’ve already started to put many ideas and scenes on paper, but it will be a very long work and I’ll need a lot of time to put all of that together into a proper book… if I ever do it.

Max: With regard to your musical training, are you self taught or do you have classical training. I ask because the classical crossover in much of your music is hard to ignore.

Erang: Definitely 100% self taught. I know absolutely nothing at all about music theory. That’s why I sometimes spend a lot of time finding the right chord I have in mind, because I don’t know the rules of progression and harmony, etc.

I’m not against theory, not at all… but this is how I am and this is how I like to make music. It’s the same way I drew as a child or made tunes when I was 14… I knew nothing but, man, it was such a blast to play with pencils or my dad’s computer…

Max: Some of the most noticeable aspects of Erang’s music are the meticulous arrangements, soundscapes, and choice of synth sounds. How does your writing process work, and what thought process goes into your choice of sounds (horns, bells, etc)?

Erang: First of all, I listen to tons of music in any style, and I’ve done so since I was a teen. In my opinion, this is a great way to “learn” if you don’t have any theory knowledge. When I listen to music, I can’t help but try to analyze it and isolate all parts in my mind… that’s also a shame because sometimes it’s hard to listen to music “innocently.” Anyway, I could divide my writing process in 3 different parts :

First, I have a melody that comes to me and I try to re-create it. It is as simple as that and I couldn’t tell you why these melodies exist or where they come from… it’s just there and I can’t ignore it.

Second way of doing, I listen to a track I like and I’m hit by a specific sound, or melody or atmosphere within it. Then I try to re-create it, and almost 100% of the time it ends up being completely different… and if it’s too close to the original, I skip it.

Third, I just run my computer and browse my instrument and synth, I mess with sounds and preset… and, lots of times, a “sound” inspire me to create a melody and that’s how a track starts.

If I think about it I would say that the third one is the most common to me.

I always try to put in each song a small thing that is a bit different from my previous work or from what I’m hearing around… just to keep me entertained.

Max: Have you taken notice of any more recent dungeon synth projects?

Erang: I’ll be honest: I haven’t really listened to dungeon synth for a while now. I know it may sound strange but it’s the truth. I follow the “news” and always give a quick listen to new releases here and there, but I don’t really listen to full tracks or albums. However, I could say that if one wants to check interesting projects, one can just go to Bandcamp with the “dungeon synth” tag and find a lot of brilliant stuff right in the first page and so on. Many new and old artists make great stuff, so the best thing is to check Bandcamp, I guess. And the Dungeon Synth Archives channel on YouTube as well.

Max: Are there any dungeon synth artists that inspired you to pursue that style?

Erang: That’s the following of my previous answer: right now I feel a bit like I need to take a step back from DS… I don’t know… it’s maybe not the right time to do so because Dungeon Synth gains more and more interest everyday but, musically speaking, I’m not really excited about what I hear.

Let me be clear, because I don’t want to sound pretentious: many people and artists make clearly great work. The problem comes from me. It’s just that, most of the time, when I listen to DS, it sounds like I’ve already heard it before… Furthermore, as the genre is stuck in the medieval fantasy imagery, to say it fast, you always end up with very similar stuff and the same topics, etc.

So, because I’m into it and making music since early 2012, the problem comes from me: it’s not fresh enough to my ears anymore. That’s also part of the reason I’ve started to experiment with synthwave with 2 of my albums… and that’s probably why the next Erang might be the last… at least for some time… still not sure about that.

Max: If you were to introduce someone to dungeon synth for the first time which of your albums would you choose? If you prefer, you can use an album by another artist.

Erang: About another artist I’ll go with early Lord Lovidicus, probably Quenta Silmarillion. Concerning mine, well, that’s hard to say because they are all different. But I’ll go with Tome I because it’s the one that started it all, and with “Within the Land of my Imagination I am the only God.”

I take this opportunity to tell you that Within the Land… will be available physically in CD really soon (with Kingdom of Erang as well).

Max: Two of your more recent albums have a synth-wave leaning. What inspired that change? Do you have any curve-ball artists outside of the DS/fantasy ambient/medieval ambient sphere that you enjoy?

Erang: The change was inspired by two things: a need of fresh air and the fact that, in my mind, the Land of the Five Seasons always took place between different ages and dimensions. An alternative future of it has always excited in my mind and I wanted to express it in music. The two synthwave albums are part of the “LAST AGE” of my world. And the next one will be the 3rd and last album of the “LAST AGE” era… but it won’t be synthwave because of a twist that you’ll know soon.

Recently I’ve really enjoyed HOME (album, Odyssey) and I’ve been listening to a lot of David Lynch music during the last weeks, some COIL as well.

Max: Dungeon synth has much of its roots in black metal, yet you don’t seem to run with that crowd. Do any black metal bands tickle your fancy?

Erang: Being a teen in the early 90’s I’ve grew up with metal as well as electronic music and other genre. So I’m not a metalhead per se because I’ve never been “addicted” to one musical style only but I was listening to big names like Megadeth, Metallica, early Rammstein, and other stuff as well because my older brother was playing guitar in a metal band. But I wasn’t listening to black metal as a teen. I’ve only gotten into it six years ago and I love several bands: Burzum (a case where I really love the music but I can’t stand the man’s ideas and propaganda), early Dimmu Borgir, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and Isengard. I love Summoning of course, some Windir as well and probably other bands I’m forgetting right now. As you can see, it’s always black metal related to synth and atmosphere.

Max: Your website features a section dedicated to covers people have done of your music, so it goes without saying that you appreciate people wanting to try their hand at your output. Do you consider the fact your art inspires others to reimagine it to be a milestone with regard to your influence in the dungeon synth community?

Erang: I don’t know what influence I can have or if I have any, but I know for sure that it’s always a pleasure and an honor for me when people make covers of my work. It’s always something surprising that someone on the other side of the world tried to make a cover of one my songs.

If some of your readers want to make a cover of me and need some midi files, they can just drop me a mail on the “contact form” of my Bandcamp page. I’ll send it to them when possible.

Max: Speaking of the dungeon synth community, to what extent do you think it exists? Have you seen these solitary artists begin to connect more?

Erang: Dungeon Synth has changed a lot during the last few years and the community has definitely got bigger. I remember a time when I was releasing an album on Bandcamp and there were only 1 or 2 pages that showed up if you wrote the tag “Dungeon Synth.” There was no Facebook group and Andrew’s Dungeon Synth blog was almost the only source of info. I have no problem if the scene is big or small as long as there are people making cool music.

Concerning the community, I’m not really a “community” or a “social network” guy. I’m on them because you can’t avoid it if you want to share your music. That’s why I put it online, because I want people to listen it: that doesn’t mean I would do anything for that and I wouldn’t put my face on a cereal box to do so (if some people from the Dungeon Synth board are reading, this is an inside joke for you). I don’t adhere to the culture of Facebook discussions on Facebook groups. I’m not against it and I find it cool when it leads to interesting discussion, but I didn’t grew up with it so it is not in my nature. However, I like to go in the FB group or in the forum board and read posts, I do it almost everyday. I would like to participate more sometimes because I don’t want to be the guy who posts only when he releases an album, but most of the time I post about new releases.

Max: Do you have any future plans for Erang that you would like to share?

Erang: Yes… This is important. I’m currently working on the last album from the “LAST AGE” era and that might be the last Erang for a while (except if something really inspiring comes across my way I will reconsider it). This album will explain many things concerning the Land of the Five Seasons and I’m sure the fans will appreciate it. It will be Dungeon Synth/Fantasy Music but with many surprises. I’m very proud of the music I have so far, and it will probably be my “darkest” album.

In addition, 2 of my albums will be available soon physically, in CD : Kingdom of Erang and Within the Land of My Imagination I am the only God.

That will be a lot of work to end the year and, after that, I think I deserve some sleep and silence…

Max: Anything you’d like to say to wrap things up?

Erang: Every time I receive a message from people telling me what my music means to them, it’s the best feeling on Earth. I’m not selling thousands of albums, but it’s still unbelievable that people from all around the world can project themselves into the world I’ve created. They are definitely a part of this world. That’s why I truly thank all of them for their warm support!

… Imagination Never Fails… the Kingdom is ours!

Erang links: Official websiteFacebook, Bandcamp, Youtube

Martin Bladh – Interview (re-pub)

This interview was originally published in January 2017 on Terra Relicta – Dark Music Webmagazine. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish the interview here on This Is Darkness!

Interview with: Martin Bladh
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Martin Bladh is a multi-faceted artist. Over his years in the public eye, Martin has worked on numerous visual, musical, and performance art projects. He entered the public realm through his power-electronics project, IRM, with Erik Jarl, and later joined by Mikael Oretoft. He would soon join forces with Magnus Lindh creating the musical force know as Skin Area. Martin has also done musical projects with Sektor 304, entitled Ruby, and with Bo I. Cavefors, entitled The Island Of Death, as well as a number of his own personal musical projects. Delving into the medium of film, Martin has created a handful of videos, many of which can be seen on the DVD accompanying Epicurean Escapism I. He also played a large part in the production of the feature film, Gasper. In the visual art world, Martin has joined forces with Karolina Urbaniak, starting Infinity Land Press. Through Infinity Land Press he has already participated in the production of a number of books, including The Rorschach Text, To Putrefaction, No Breath Of Sound – The History Of Drowning and Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome. With all these projects in the works along with more that I haven’t even mentioned, and others which haven’t yet found their way to the public eye, Martin Bladh is a very busy man. I am honored to have the multi-media artist take a little time out of his dizzying schedule to answer some questions about his art and some others which lead in a more personal direction.

Michael: I have to admit from the start, I was a bit nervous to conduct this interview. So often these days in entertainment, artists follow their own path, without much attention to overarching themes or the history of art. I get the feeling when observing your various forms of art, that there is a serious depth, hidden meanings, allegories, which all need to be taken into account to fully appreciate your body of work. Do you have a formal education in the arts, or has this always been a natural passion for you?

Martin: I’m interested in the history of art, and yes, I’ve studied it at the university as well. Even though you don’t need the faculties I really believe this is something people need to know and understand, before they can call themselves “artist,” or using words such as “important,” “urgent,” “brave” or “original.” I also went to so-called art school for some years, which was, and is nothing but utter BULLSHIT that should be shunned like the plague. I’m sure that at least 95% of all this silly playground nonsense does more damage to the so-called artist to be and the art-world in whole.

Michael: Considering my previous question, do you find that fans often notice the underlying meanings?

Martin: Well, I’ve different kinds of fans. Some of my “music fans” are mainly interested in noise and the pitch of my voice. I mean if you haven’t bought the latest IRM and Skin Area CD’s, read the lyrics and looked at the artworks you have a very vague idea about the content. You can’t listen to an MP3 and experience it, that’s just impossible. Then of course you wouldn’t count as a FAN if you didn’t buy the actual record, right? Saying that, my work has a vagueness, and ambivalence to it, it points you into specific territories but it doesn’t have one specific meaning.

Michael: Are you equally happy to see fans enjoying your art, regardless of their understanding of the underlying meanings?

Martin: I don’t like laziness, which is a huge problem these days. There’s too much information out there and it’s too easy to get it; that instead of really analyse a subject people are just scratching the surface and move on to the next download. I mean, the day people will start to buy kindle art-books everything is fucked! But of course, it’s always nice to be appreciated, even if it’s only for having composed a curious tune, or a framed decorative piece of tapestry.

Collage Inspired by Rembrandt’s The Blinding of Samson

Michael: You have recently started a company, Infinite Land Press, with Karolina Urbaniak. Would you like to tell readers a little bit about the goals of the press and some of the recent publications?

Martin: Me and Karolina Urbaniak started Infinity Land Press back in 2013 as a means to publish our own material without having to deal with any middleman. I still lived in Sweden back then and Karolina was based in London. Our first book To Putrefaction (2013), a romantic ode to death and decay, was strictly limited to 50 copies. We then got the idea to publish books with other artists that we admired, such as Dennis Cooper, Michael Salerno and most recently Philip Best, and collaborations between ourselves and other artists – Karolina did Altered Balance with Jeremy Reed and The Void Ratio with Shane Levene, and in the beginning of 2017 me and Jeremy Reed’s book Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome was released. We usually deal in strictly limited editions because that’s what we can afford and stock in our office (which is our living room), and we’ll continue to publish as long as we find material that’s interesting enough. Our credo: Infinity Land is a realm deeply steeped in pathological obsessions, extreme desires, and private aesthetic visions. Having disappeared over the horizon from the nurseries stocked with frivolous babblings of apologetic pleasures, Infinity Land is foundationally a geography configured by the compulsive, annihilating search for impossible beauty.

“True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.”
Yukio Mishima

Michael: As I’ve already alluded to, your artistic vision is truly multi-faceted. You have released everything from books, to DVDs, to albums. You have also done some stage shows which combine aspects of all these projects. Can we look at your entire body of work as part of a whole? Is there an over-arching vision which anchors all these ideas into one central theme?

Martin: I like the Wagnerian idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, where different artistic media bleed together into one synthesis. It might be a weakness, but I’ve never felt satisfied by expressing myself through a single media, and I’ve vivid memories of the suffocating frustration that I went through from the period 1998 – 2003, when sounds and lyrics was my only outlet. The multimedia expression has become an absolute necessity for me, if you read my books DES and The Hurtin’ Club you know what I mean. And yes, every new project I do has a specific content which I try to filter through these various medias.

Michael: Out of all your musical output over the years, I was the most intrigued by your work on Ruby with Sektor 304. The vocal style was totally different than I had experienced on IRM or Skin Area albums. I wonder if you could give us some insight into that album? How it came about as a collaboration between you and Sektor 304. Also, I wonder what your connection is to the character named Ruby, the main focus of the album.

Martin: I’m glad to hear you saying that as I believe it to be highly underrated. The Sektor 304 guys contacted me back in 2012, and wanted me to send them a guest recording for a live broadcast they were doing for the Portuguese radio. When I heard the result I was very pleased and asked them if they wanted to collaborate with me on an album. I remember making clear from the start that this would be something different from what I’ve been doing with IRM and Skin Area, and the guys were very sympathetic and excited about that. The whole narrative and background story of Ruby (the name’s got an alchemical inclination) came out of a clinical study from the late 50ties, about art therapy and schizophrenia which I’ve read. It was based on dialogs between a psychiatrist and patient, how the patient’s explained his painting for the psychiatrist and the interpretation process involved. I kind of re-wrote this material for my own purpose, which (obviously) took it into even darker territories, and that was the birth of the androgynous Ruby.

Michael: I had the pleasure of witnessing an IRM performance last year, on the APEX Fest Tour. The performance was magnificent. You had an extremely theatrical stage presence, which seemed almost choreographed, everything from your facial expressions to body positioning, and the handling of the two microphones. Do you put a lot of preparation into your live sets for all your projects or was this a natural presence which just seemed to be calculated?

Martin: Nothing I do on stage has been prepared or choreographed beforehand; but I’ve done these performances for quite some time now; so I might rely on my body memory. The only so called “preparation” I do is to drink, and let the alcohol sensation peak when I go on stage, I guess it’s somewhat similar to an Dionysian frenzy, and I really work myself up when I’m up there; so I’m not really aware of my body postures or facial expression until watching the reproduction of the show afterwards (which I do very seldom).

from DES: Sad Sketches

Michael: Continuing on the topic of the APEX Fest, I was delighted to read in the “Through My Eyes” article (you can read that article here) on Santa Sangre Magazine: “Any moment of 2015 you’ll remember on your death bed? The city of Baltimore. I never seen anything like it in the western world. A hellhole. Amazing.” Obviously, coming from Baltimore, I found this remark quite interesting. Baltimore, as with much of the United States and Europe, is currently undergoing a lot of social changes and realizations. I would be interested if you could take that previous statement into a bit more detail, and describe to the readers exactly what you found so different about Baltimore.

Martin: Ha, ha, well I guess that statement was a bit unfair, cause I only saw some of the roughest parts of the city, which actually reminded me of photographs of Berlin 1945, with whole building blocks caving in on themselves. I know there’s another side to the city as well, but I never seen anything like it neither in Western nor Eastern Europe. I remember asking the organiser for a pharmacy and she told me there was one just a couple of hundred meters away, but to get there I should take cab because otherwise it might be too dangerous.

Michael: In 2014, your most enduring musical project, IRM released Closure… through Malignant Records. You also released the track, “Triptych”, which is a sort of crash course of the whole trilogy which included: Indications of Nigredo, Order4 and Closure… Since finalizing this chapter of IRM, have you begun to work on something new, or is IRM currently on hold as you guys focus on other projects like Skin Area, Jarl, and Infinity Land Press?

Martin: IRM haven’t worked on any new material since finalising Closure… , and I’m not sure when we’ll start again. Everything is a bit more complicated since I moved to London and the other two guys are still in Sweden (living in different cities). Our records are recorded and put together very carefully, and the process of making the last two full length albums was very time consuming. Me and Magnus are actually in the process of putting together a new Skin Area record though, and we work on it every time I visit Sweden.

from Gasper

Michael: I recently reviewed the Pale Thorns debut album, Somberland. Pale Thorns is a solo-project by Magnus Lindh, the other half of Skin Area. When I spoke with Magnus, he mentioned that you had looked over his lyrical content on the album. We both agreed that your lyrics are totally unique and deliver extremely powerful imagery. I wonder if you can think back to when you first started writing lyrics. Were you a child when you first put the pen to paper, or did this come later in life as you started IRM with Erik?

Martin: As a kid I had a very vivid imagination, but I was more keen on drawing than writing. It was back in 1992 that I made my first attempts to write – coloured by the second wave of Black Metal – and from what I remember, they were hideously bad. It was later when I started to nurture a genuine interest in literature that something happened. Oedipus Dethroned (2000) would probably be the first serious example of some kind of craft.

Michael: Which writers or filmmakers have been the most influential on you throughout your life? Has this list changed much over the years as you have become an adult?

Martin: As a child I was obsessed with comic book- and James Bond villains, the only “books” I ever read were things like Flash Gordon. When I was a bit older I discovered H.P. Lovecraft and horror films. Then writers like Sade, Burroughs, Lautreamont and Mishima together with filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Pasolini turned everything topsy turvy. And then as an adult, “mature” man, I might settle for writer such as Antonin Artaud, Georg Trakl and Jean Genet, and as for film Ingmar Bergman, Fassbinder and Michael Haneke.

Michael: Sweden seems to be a place where so much unique talent enters the public realm, especially when it comes to the darker side of media. What do you think it is about Sweden which produces such dark and introspective artists?

Martin:That’s what an outsider sees when he scratches the surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that most of it is rather harmless and PC, filled with individuals who have a morality quite similar to your own mother’s. But yes, there are a lot of acts that originate from Sweden, and some of them are really good. A lot of it might have to do with luxury angst; to live in a safe and pampered society might give you a desire for controlled danger as spice to the boredom of everyday life. Then when it comes to medias such as literature, film or conceptual and visual art the country is a desert – total shite that is.

from Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome

Michael: You have since relocated to London, is the U.K. a more fitting home-base for your operations?

Martin: I’m closer to Karolina, and it’s of course much easier to run Infinity Land Press from here. I have two day jobs and I’ve never worked as much as I do now, but because of that I’m pricing the time I spend on my “real” work much higher.

Michael: Do you think the apocalypse is coming, if so how do you think it will happen?

Martin: Some kind of apocalypse is coming our way, but even the apocalypse isn’t the end…

Martin Bladh links: Official website, Infinity Land Press website, Infinity Land Press Facebook, IRM Facebook, Skin Area Facebook

Northaunt – Interview with Hærleif Langås

Hærleif Langås is the man behind several dark ambient acts, including: Northaunt, Therradaemon and The Human Voice. I was lucky enough to pick Hærleif’s brain about some of his inspiration over the years, information about upcoming releases and the frailties of the human condition, among other things. An interview with this Norwegian artist, one that has dedicated so much of his career to music of the coldest variety, seemed like a fitting way to give us a bit of rest and distraction from the scorching summer months.


Interview with: Hærleif Langås
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Michael: Of your various projects, it is safe to say you are best known for your work as Northaunt. Northaunt goes all the way back to 1996. This has been a pretty impressive life for the project. Do you still hold many of the same visions of what Northaunt is as you did back when the project was founded? In other words, have the focus and themes of the project stayed the same over the years?

Hærleif: I think it has. Although I found it difficult to describe in words the first years, I just knew that I wanted to create this, explore these moods and thoughts and recreate it in sound. Musical elements like melody and beat were tools to do that when I set out, I was never much into instruments and such, I just learnt what I had to – to make what was in my mind. Northaunt has always been about nature and my existential questions I think, the melancholy in the music comes from the feeling I think many have that something is wrong or missing in our lives, an uneasy feeling that we can’t seem to shake. We blame each other and we blame material things we don’t have, but personally I think we are like a fox that has never seen the outside of its cage, running in circles, knowing something is wrong… eating its paw off in desperation. I think we are lacking the same thing as the fox… Northaunt also describes landscapes, the light and darkness of nature, places I have been and places that I long for. Many people long for nature or a more natural way of life, of course, but what are we really longing for? Is it that we want to escape the human condition? Achieve the peace or harmony that we perceive nature holds somehow? And then it is that sneaking suspicion, that this peace is just a man made idea, that there is no escape, and nature in all it’s beauty is indifferent and merciless. These things can keep you up long into the night…

Michael: Do you feel that the landscape and climate of your country of Norway are very important to your musical inspiration and creations?

Hærleif: Maybe this sounds strange to some but yes, I think it is the great contrasts between nature, the big open landscapes, and us – that makes this tick. It makes our problems seem small, it broadens our perspective on things.

Michael: Do you think you still would have made this kind of music if you lived in some other country, maybe in a warmer region?

Hærleif: I wouldn’t make the same music I think, something different in a related genre probably, I have other inspirations 😉

Michael: I was lucky enough to witness your performance in Philadelphia back in 2015 during the APEX Fest mini-tour. Your performance was quite powerful. You used a variety of different elements to bring the sound together from analog devices, to your laptop, to an electric guitar. Do you find live performances to be a rewarding experience as a dark ambient musician? Have there been any great highlights or memorable moments for you during your years of performing live?

Hærleif: Thanks, but I must admit it’s not my cup of tea. I mean it’s nice when it goes well but it’s usually nowhere near what it should have been. An ambient concert should be relaxed and inspired, but too many times it has just been a stressful experience for me. All the traveling and work that went into preparing the music for a live concert (which maybe is more than people think, after all the music is made in a studio) all culminates in an evening where so many things are out of your control – most of the time you are booked on the same night as bands in different genres, meaning you’re basically just lucky if the venue and the sound-system, or even the crowd, are prepared for ambient music. Last time I played was in Montreal in 2015 and I doubt Northaunt will play live again.

Live in Riga 2008

Michael: You gave fans an update a while back about work on a new Istid album through Glacial Movements label. Will that be coming along in the near future, or do we still have a while to wait?

Hærleif: The album is done, I worked really hard to have it finished by early 2017 since it was supposed to be released this year, but when it was done I got a mail telling me the release is postponed till January next year, I was quite disappointed.

Michael: One of your side-projects, Therradaemon, released its debut Den Mørke Munnens Språk in 2011. This project also made an appearance on the Cryo Chamber collaborative album Azathoth, inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Can we expect anything new from Therradaemon in the near future? Is this still an active project?

 

Hærleif: Not in the near future I think, I have a few unreleased tracks, both in the same style as the first album, very dark, massive drone based stuff, but also some tracks that are shorter and more “violent”, I will probably have to separate these into two albums. But… there’s no time to finish any of it at the moment I’m afraid!

Michael: Silent Heart, your most recent album and the second by your side-project The Human Voice, seems like it would be the perfect fit for a vinyl release. Can fans have any hope of seeing this happen in the future?

Hærleif: I agree, that would be great, but I don’t know man. I usually leave those decisions to the label people, who are supposed to know better than me what is in-demand and economically feasible. I don’t feel super confident about that, but I barely have time to make the music so for now my focus is on that. I can’t do everything myself even if I would like to sometimes 🙂

Michael: Silent Heart is probably your most emotional work to date. Was this a goal from the start or did the album slowly and unconsciously move in this direction?

Hærleif: Most of the album was recorded at night at various times over many years, not meant for any special album or even project, I just recorded what I felt at the time. I was getting more and more into piano playing and piano based ambient and liked it a lot, but It was not until I listened to all of those recordings, that I realised that maybe it was possible to make a whole album of this type of music.

Michael: You use your own photographs for most of your albums. The Infinite Fog digi-book re-issue of Barren Land has a beautiful set of photos contained in its booklet. Are you as passionate about photography as you are about music?

Hærleif: Sure, these days I do more photography than music actually. I think good cover art is very important, I prefer making my own (this has been one of my main motivations for getting serious about photography) but will use other people’s art if they illustrate my point better. Everything on an album should help express whatever the artist wants to say, and why would people buy physical albums if not for the cover and the information in it? It’s not for the music, music you can download or stream anywhere. That’s how I see it.

Michael: There is so much to the act of capturing field-recordings and photographs, taking an expedition to certain places looking for that special sound or just the right time and location for a photograph. Do you have any favourite places that you seem to constantly revisit throughout the years to capture these moments?

Hærleif: For a few years, I used to go to a lighthouse on a little island far out into the sea where me and my girlfriend stayed, recording and taking photos and just living. Its too expensive now, but I keep going out to the coast, visiting islands and remote regions. I like the ocean a lot. Other than that, I hike a lot in the woods and from time to time the mountains and other parts of Norway or abroad. I like to visit areas where not a lot of people go. So I come back to these same type of places, but not the same place so much. This interview is delayed now because I just came back from Iceland, fantastic place!

Whiteout in Spitsbergen, on the Svalbard archipelago.

Michael: Have you had any particularly interesting experiences while on one of these sorts of expeditions? An encounter with some wildlife? Getting stuck in a storm?

Hærleif: For inspiration I moved to Spitsbergen and lived there for a while. I experienced the dark winter months (when no light is visible in the daytime). This was strange and fascinating. But the time after this – and before the sun returned above the horizon – actually made a deeper impression. In this “blue period” of the year the days are only noticeable by a soft blue light over the snow-covered mountains, I remember this and the silence and the whiteouts vividly… an almost surreal atmosphere I will never forget. Sleeping in a tent in the bush on Greenland, waking up to the deep rumbling of falling ice in a nearby glacier, hoping no polar bears are around, these all come to mind too.

Michael: Would you like to describe a little about your studio-space? Is it in your home or somewhere else?

Hærleif: It’s not very fancy, just a computer and a bunch of “sound-objects”, instruments and recording equipment spread around my living room ready for use. I believe one should dedicate the best space in the house for what you really, in your heart want to do, most people just put all the furniture in the living room around a TV, and guess what they spend the most time doing…

Michael: Do you have any kind of rituals that you perform when sitting down to work on an album? Burning incense? Meditation before beginning a session?

Hærleif: Not rituals, but it may essentially have the same result. I prefer working at night. Preparing for composing may, for me, mean to take a hike along the coast or in the woods to clear my mind, then turn down the lights (I’m a very visual type of person so I’m easily distracted by things) to focus on sound and mood.

By the Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland

Michael: Are you into films? Any particular directors that have had a great influence on your life or your musical output?

Hærleif :I like a lot of films but it’s mostly just entertainment for me.

Michael: You wrote The Borrowed World split with Svartsinn after you both found inspiration from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You’ve already told us a bit about that experience [You can read that article here]. Are there any other books that have had a similarly profound effect on you?

Hærleif :I often read 3-4 books at the same time. So over the years, quite a few books have inspired me in some way. It’s difficult to pick one or even a few books. For a long time I read biographies and tales of people who had to survive/work in arctic regions by necessity in the ’30s – ’40s, old books about people who, through these experiences, developed an interesting perspective on life.

Hærleif looking for photography opportunities at the harbour in Trondheim

Michael: The Road, and thus The Borrowed World, are based on life after an apocalyptic event. Do you think our world is headed in this direction? Do you think that time is coming soon? Do you have any premonitions about how it may happen?

Hærleif: Not really, a lot of horrible stuff will happen for sure, this is the safest prediction you can make judging from history.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time Hærleif, I will leave the last words to you.

Hærleif: Thanks for reading. Thanks for showing interest in my music Michael!

Links to Hærleif’s webpages: Official WebsiteBandcamp
Northaunt: Facebook, Discogs
The Human Voice: Facebook, Discogs
Therradaemon: Facebook, Discogs

Worms of the Earth – Interview

Dan Barrett is the man behind Worms of the Earth. Over the last few years he has covered a lot of different ground with his musical project Worms of the Earth. While dark ambient has always been close to his heart and a staple of his music, he’s never afraid to blend and even traverse into new territory and different genres. He told me that he had a sale going on, 40% off his last two full length albums, Sitra Achra and Azal’ucel. He set this sale in motion as a nod to his previous accomplishments, but also as a notification of the rebirth of Worms of the Earth. Curious about the changes in store, and wanting to let readers know about these two excellent albums, I decided to interview Dan. You should really get to know a lot about Dan’s background as a musician, and the level of seriousness and spiritual energy he has put into the project over the years. So let’s get into the interview!

Interview with: Dan Barrett
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Michael: How long has Worms of the Earth been an active project?

Dan: I had been messing around with writing electronic music for a few years, but I didn’t take it seriously until about 2007. That was when I first distributed a demo to other people & started playing live and it dawned on me that “hey, maybe I should pursue this as a serious hobby”.

Michael: During this initial phase were you using the same sorts of programs and instruments to write your music, or has this evolved as new technology and hardware have become available over the years?

Dan: I think I took the opposite path of most bands. A lot of guys working in similar genres started entirely with hardware and then moved towards more software because it’s easier and cheaper, whereas I started with all cheap software and as I got more into writing music bought hardware. In the early stages of Worms  of the Earth it was all the garbage you’d expect: Fruity Loops 3 or 4, Vanguard, Vengeance sample packs, and whatever other hot pirated VSTs of the time. But I’ve always felt like hardware sounds better; it just has more character or soul or whatever you want to call it. A good filter just can’t yet be replicated in software. So anyway, I’m using a combination of hardware and software now but it’s all totally different than in the beginning. For hardware I’m relying heavily on the Nord Lead 2, Virus rack, and Virus TI for my synth needs and the Roland JV2080 + expansion cards and Korg Trinity for rompler stuff: strings, pads, ethnic instruments. For software I’ve been getting into LuSH-101 and Superwave Ultimate (something of a JP8080 clone) and I use EastWest VSTs a lot. I have more gear but those are my favorite tools. I’ll probably sell the Virus TI Snow soon and buy a couple of the new analog synths – an enormous amount of cool shit has come out recently.

Michael: Your music as Worms of the Earth has always had a bit of variety and didn’t necessarily fit into specific genre categories. I’ll be referring to it in this interview as a dark ambient project, but I’m aware the sounds often move outside that genre. Up until this point, how would you describe your sound as Worms of the Earth?

Dan: I’m a fan of many different types of music so it’s been difficult for me to stick to one particular sound. I also find that as a producer it greatly bolsters your abilities and keeps your creativity flowing to write different styles of music. And frankly, it’s just boring to write the same thing and the same sounds over and over. That said, I eventually settled on “ethno industrial & ritual ambient” to describe Worms of the Earth.
My albums run the gamut from industrial to power noise to tribal to dark ambient, but behind that there are consistent currents that run through all the releases. At it’s core I am trying to make interesting, spiritually potent music that combines all the things I like about different genres.

Michael: As I’m not particularly familiar with some of these other genres, and maybe some readers aren’t either, would you please explain how the “ethno” part works within the context of your sounds?

Dan: Ethno = tribal/ethnic/world sounds. Basically just infusing ethnic melodies/instruments and percussion into my stuff. It’s mainly been used as accents thus far, although songs like “18 Hands Of Cundi” have that stuff as a focal point.

Michael: How long have you been interested in dark ambient music?

Dan: To be honest I’m not really sure when, specifically, I discovered dark ambient. I remember in high school discovering industrial and IDM which somehow led to finding and being captivated by songs like Coil’s “Dark River”. Then at some point later – I don’t remember where it came from, but I just had In Slaughter Natives and Desiderii Marginis on my hard drive. I’ve always been drawn to atmosphere in music – in fact I think that is the most important characteristic. So I think getting into dark ambient was inevitable. It also helped that, for whatever reason, the power noise genre of the late 90s, early 00s was closely linked to dark ambient – labels like Ant Zen and producers like Iszoloscope and Ah Cama-Sotz were instrumental in fostering my love of the genre. I’ve got to give credit to Miguel from Connexion Bizarre as well; I was writing reviews for him years ago and he kept pushing the dark ambient stuff on me because no one else was covering it, haha. That exposed me to great labels like Cyclic Law and Malignant. Additionally, my girlfriend of many years (who I met through Connexion Bizarre oddly enough) is also a big fan of dark ambient and that was a major point of bonding between us. So she filled in the gaps of some of the stuff I had been missing out on, introduced me to Fred from Cyclic Law, and so forth.

Michael: Which artists have had the most influence on you before and during your career as a musician?

Dan: There have been a lot; like I mentioned I listen to a lot of different stuff. But I think Iszoloscope, Ah Cama-Sotz, and This Morn Omina probably had the biggest effect on me – guys that were mixing together all the styles that I loved (industrial/power noise, dark ambient, and tribal – with an occult slant).

Michael: Since you mention the occult slant on these genres here, what does the occult mean to you on a personal level? Do you consider it a point of interest or does it permeate your being with its religious components?

Dan: Hidden knowledge, wisdom. Magic. Basically the knowledge of our connection to and place within the universe, which has been lost over the ages. And the knowledge of how to be free from negative bindings, seen and unseen. When you’re a practicing magician (for lack of a less cheesy term), and you’ve achieved a level of awareness then you live magic. I can’t really explain it better than that. It’s not so much permeating my being as becoming aware of something that’s already there.

Michael: What territory do you expect future Worms of the Earth albums will move into?

Dan: The new stuff I’m working on is predominately Goa/Psytrance, and I’m utilizing the tribal components even more. It’s not a total departure from past work however, there are still industrial and ambient elements. This may seem strange, but in the context of Worms of the Earth thematically it makes complete sense. Azal’ucel was the first true magical album I did – the call to the higher self, opening the gateway to connect with it. That was successful and Azal’ucel was the most well received of any Worms of the Earth album, despite being a huge departure from previous material. That awakening made me realize that I was being held back by something; creatively and mentally blocked. So, to address that I worked on Sitra Achra in which I explored the darkness and chaos of my own psyche, plunging into qliphothic realms. This was the most difficult and destructive album, but it illuminated to me the darkness of this world, so to speak, and I was able to understand how truly consumed by and mired in this darkness I was. So after descending into the depths and, metaphysically, destroying myself (and the project along with it, since it is ultimately an aural projection of myself) I kind of thought Worms of the Earth was over; but later I realized that this breaking down was essential to truly move beyond the darkness that was inhibiting me. After that I did The Nightside Of Creation EP, which was the end of my working with the qliphoth and moving beyond it. It didn’t fully make sense to me at the time, but when looking back it makes complete sense in the context of my spiritual progression. I was leaving the blackness and emerged into this “desert” – solar magic, the scorching heat of desert air (air & fire; the return of intellect and will) and the sturdiness of earth, etc. After doing the destructive rituals via Sitra Achra I was looking to ascend from the darkness of nigredo and this journey set me looking for a true source of magic, which naturally led me to old kingdom Egypt which is regarded as the last truly magical society (again: desert, solar energy, etc). So the new WotE material is about the rebirth of myself and, by extension, this project. I’m writing about the Am-Tuat which in Egyptian mythology chronicles the sun god Ra’s journey each night into Amenta (the hidden place) after the sun sets. Here he sails his boat (Sektet) through 12 realms during “the 12 hours of night”, eventually being reborn as the sun (Ra in his Khepera form) when it rises the next day.
Musically speaking, this new material marks a progression in many elements of the music. My goal since the emergence of WotE was to write really complex, meaningful, and potent dance music, and I feel that psytrance is a style where I can accomplish that. In a lot of ways I feel like goa/psy is the last bastion of complex, intelligent dance music. I love that this is a genre where it’s not only acceptable but essential to write long songs with lengthy intros, breakdowns, layer upon layer of melody, and spiritual elements & themes. Additionally, I feel like the standards for production and sound design are high, so it pushed me to work hard in order to improve my own knowledge of synthesis and sound design. I’m really excited about the new material, I think it’s quite different from what people are making and I hope that this new combination of sounds will resonant with others in the way it does with me.

Michael: You mention that Azal’ucel was your first true magical album. Do you consider the writing, performing and/or listening of this album to be part of a religious experience for you and/or your listeners?

Dan: Spiritual experience, yes. I wouldn’t say religious, to be succinct: religion is bullshit. But yeah, the process of creating Azal’ucel was definitely something profound. For me first and foremost of course, because it involved rituals I did for my own development so it’s going to connect with me in a specific way. But it’s a magical work that will resonate with people who are open to it. Even those who are not attuned to “magic” stuff will, I think, recognize an unseen depth to it that is lacking on other albums. When I was younger I used to experience this with Coil albums, for example.

Michael: Can you elaborate on what you mean when you mention the terms qliphoth and nigredo for those of us not well versed in this topic?

Dan: To explain qliphoth first we have to talk about the Tree of Life in Kaballah. Now I’m not going to go into that because that’s a colossal thing on it’s own and is generally interpreted in a few different ways to symbolize myriad profound concepts (as in, the universe, man’s place in the universe, etc). But to keep it extremely concise: the Tree of Life is a map of 10 spheres, which represent “traits of god”: wisdom, benevolence, and so forth – basically, useful, positive traits. Qliphoth is the inverse of the Tree of Life, and the realm is called Sitra Achra. In this realm the 10 spheres represent “the failures of god”, which are basically chaotic and negative traits. Not EVIL per se, but either purely negative traits or good traits which get corrupted / become detrimental; these traits can cause us to lose willpower, creativity, connection with the divine source, etc. Again, the qliphoth can be viewed in a number of ways, but that’s the basics as it relates to the album. In short, when working with the qliphoth you are confronting the shadow; all the negative traits you carry and are connected to.

Nigredo is from alchemy which is another core component to my music. Nigredo is the first phase. In a regular alchemical sense it means decomposition or putrefaction; it’s where the alchemist cleanses and cooks a thing into a uniform black matter before it can eventually be transmuted into the end result of gold. In a spiritual sense it’s basically the initial phase of spiritual development where you confront the shadow (negative) aspects (see above^) of yourself so that you can conquer them and proceed to ascension.

Michael: Does your belief structure apply itself to your music and vice-versa?

Dan: Yes, absolutely. Worms of the Earth is the aural representation of my spiritual journey and sometimes ends up being an auditory ritual to aid in whatever spiritual goal I’m pursuing.

Michael: Do you follow a specific religious order or do you borrow concepts from various disciplines?

Dan: I’m a very isolated person so I don’t have any interest in joining a lodge or temple or whatever. Magic and “occult stuff” is extremely personal in my opinion and the stuff you do will largely only hold meaning to you and will be irrelevant to others.
In terms of concepts, every path is basically working with the same fundamental ideas, but they’ve been filtered through a person or people’s experiences – so to the initial scribe the ideas no doubt held significant meaning, but as each passing generation moves further from that initial experience then the ideas become increasingly more abstract and ambiguous. But in the end it doesn’t matter what you follow because once you drill down past the extemporaneous crap and find the core concepts, the things that really resonate with you on a metaphysical level, they are intrinsic to this existence. A significant part of process of studying magic is filtering through all the bullshit and finding the stuff that resonates with you specifically, and in the end you realize that it doesn’t really matter how you got there.

Michael: Do you feel you’ve exhausted your inspiration as a dark ambient musician or are you just wanting to try something fresh?

Dan: Absolutely not, I love dark ambient. It’s a core component of my sound and there are plenty of elements of it in the new material. There will be a couple of dark ambient interlude tracks and I’m hoping to close the album with a fully ambient track. I tend to work in cycles; I’ll do some beat-oriented material and then when I’ve written that album and exhausted my creativity I’ll work on a dark ambient album to bring the fire back and get inspired in a different way. I like to use different genres to explore alternate facets of a topic. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but at a minimum there will always be elements of dark ambient in my music and perhaps more full length dark ambient albums. I’d love to do a full length album of ancient Egyptian themed/sounding ambient.

Michael: Ager Sonus recently released Book of the Black Earth, which focuses heavily on ancient Egyptian themes. Does this album resonate with you or do you find the theme isn’t well represented by the sounds?

Dan: I was really excited when I heard about that one, but to be honest, to me it just sounds like a regular drone album and I didn’t get any kind of Egyptian or even middle eastern/related ancient society vibe from it at all. The best “ancient middle eastern” album in my opinion is Herbst9 – Buried Under Sand And Time. It’s based on Sumerian themes, not Egyptian, but it impeccably captures the sound and feel of the ancient world.

Michael: Has your interest in the dark ambient community, as a whole, diminished? Or, do you just feel that your own personal output needs to move in a different direction?

Dan: One thing I really like about dark ambient is how…unchanging…it is. What I mean is that it exists in its own kind of ‘pure’ realm and is completely unaffected by trends, drama, etc. People write and listen to dark ambient because they love it and genuinely connect with it, the themes, or whatever. And no one will ever score cool/trendy points for pretending to be into it. That said, one negative thing is that there really isn’t much of a “community” for it beyond people who talk on the internet here and there. Most of the fans I know are involved in a different scene but “also like dark ambient” if you get what I mean. Anytime I have been to an event (and this is probably different in Europe where they actually have dark ambient festivals), it’s always been “genre x, y, and also some dark ambient”. So to answer your question, my interest in the community is the same, but I don’t really think much of a specific “dark ambient” community exists to be interested in. If anything it’s more of a “post-industrial” scene, but even that is quite small here in the US.

Michael: I would have to agree. It seems like most of the “post-industrial” scene in the U.S. comes from the North East and artists like Theologian, The Vomit Arsonist, Compactor and their sort of community. Do you have any connection to any of these guys or their labels?

Dan: Yeah I know all the guys you mentioned and have played shows with them. I did a remix for the Theologian/The Vomit Arsonist split Nature Is Satan’s Church vinyl re-issue that came out last year. Great dudes, all of those guys work really hard and run labels, put on events, and generally support the scene. Lee/Theologian especially, holy shit he has done so much for the scene and booked so many incredible bands! I think that’s one reason that scene does somewhat “well” – a lot of the musicians do things for the scene beyond just producing music.

Michael: I totally agree about Lee Bartow / Theologian [Prime]. I really think he deserves more credit for his efforts in creating tours and festivals, especially here on the East Coast US. Do you see any other large post-industrial scenes here on the East Coast that readers could keep an eye on for attending future events?

Dan: New England and New York City are the big ones where I see events happening pretty frequently. I worked with one of the guys in T.O.M.B. / Dreadlords to put on a couple of Filth Fest events in Baltimore where we had noise/experimental and dark ambient bands play, although that was a few years ago. He moved and left social media so I haven’t been in touch. One of the nicest dudes ever though and it’s great to see them blow up and get signed to Peaceville now! Anyway, I think that Baltimore and Richmond have pretty receptive audiences to this kind of music, but they don’t have a promoter that is doing bigger events consistently like the North East. Additionally, there is a strong techno scene in DC/Baltimore that seems to throw a lot of “industrial techno” events. I haven’t been, but it may be of interest to people.

Michael: Since your music is shifting gears, can we still expect to see your input as a dark ambient journalist in the future?

Dan: Most likely yes. I still absolutely love dark ambient and listen to it frequently. In the last few months I haven’t kept up with new releases much, but that’s a thing that ebbs and flows with me. I love having an outlet to use to both write about and promote good music. It’s hard for me to find time to run a zine, write reviews, do interviews, etc., but if I can find time then I’ll likely continue.

Michael: Have you done many live shows as Worms of the Earth?

Dan: Yes, quite a few actually! I think I’m up to around 60 or so. That’s one great aspect of working in multiple genres, I can play shows in different scenes for different audiences. When playing live I typically play the more beat-oriented music; maybe because I’m more connected with the industrial scene, or maybe because there isn’t much demand for dark ambient where I live. Playing the upbeat stuff is a bit more engaging anyhow, and seeing the audience react/dance to it is more stimulating than a sea of people standing around (this can still be good, but not quite as good haha).

Michael: How have your experiences been at these shows?

Dan: Well, since WotE was my first real project I’ve experienced the entire spectrum – from shows in dilapidated art spaces with 5 people attending all the way up to playing with Brighter Death Now & raison d’être. It really depends on the space and the audience. I’ve played some terrible places and some great ones. For a long time it was difficult because people had trouble accepting the one man “laptop” performance, but technology has become more pervasive in music & at live shows so people have learned to take it more seriously. In the right atmosphere playing live is one of the best parts of being a musician.

Michael: With WotE switching gears, will you be spending more of your time producing and performing as Venal Flesh?

Dan: Again, it’s cyclical for me. After I’m finished working on a project with WotE then I’ll go and work on something for Venal Flesh to keep things fresh. But it’s more complicated with VF since it’s not just me; it really depends on what the other member VanityKills wants to do.

Michael: Are you already creating new material that reflects your revamp?

Dan: Yes, the new album is almost done! I’ve been working on it for about 2.5 years now. I just started submitting it to labels so we’ll see what happens.

Michael: How soon can we expect to hear samples of this rebirth of WotE?

Dan: I have a clip on Soundcloud and on my Instagram. It really depends on what happens with labels, but I’m planning to post more clips from the studio on Instagram. Obviously, I’d like to get things moving as soon as possible but we’ll see.
Some remixes I did in the last couple years show a glimpse of the new sound, the ones for Venal Flesh and Caustic specifically.

Michael: I briefly mentioned Venal Flesh earlier. Would you like to give a bit of a description of that project and how it differs from WotE?

Dan: Venal Flesh is the joint project of myself and my partner VanityKills. We also have a live keyboardist, Joseph Myers aka DJ Biodread. We’re trying to capture the sound of late 90s, early 00s dark electro like yelworC, Suicide Commando, Aslan Faction, VAC. I love the sound of dark electro and terrorebm, but terror ebm is one of those genres that existed for a short time and no one really took it and evolved it from it’s initial stage (instead a lot of upstarts assimilated the worst characteristics and it devolved into watered down vst trance later called aggrotech). So one of the main goals with this project is to take that sound and push it to the next level; to bring back the darkness and emphasis on atmosphere of albums like Suicide Commando’s Construct/Destruct and yelworC’s Brainstorming. Thematically, it’s very dark and explores some of the most confrontational and painful parts of our psyche. To the extent that it can be difficult to work on the project. The lyrics are all up on the website, you can read them if you want to see what I mean. That’s kind of changing though and the project is getting more into magical and esoteric territory – which seems inevitable since we are both heavily involved in magic.

Michael: Are you involved in any other projects, aside from WotE and Venal Flesh?

Dan: No, just those. I barely have any free time left so I hope I don’t get involved in anything else, haha! That said, I have been working with Henrik from Seven Trees here and there on some dark ambient/death industrial material (you can hear two of our collaborative tracks on compilations from Kalpamantra and Terra Relicta). We are working on a couple of songs for compilations, and we’ve been talking about putting together a full album which will likely happen later this year or early next year. I think that will end up being affiliated with the WotE moniker (and his Subverge moniker) though as opposed to a new entity.

Michael:Thank you very much for your time, Dan. I’ll leave the final words to you!

Dan: Thanks so much for the support!

Worms of the Earth Related Pages: BandcampInstagram, Soundcloud, Facebook

Hoarfrost – Interview

Interview with: Rafał Kopeć
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in October of 2016. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Hoarfrost have been on the dark ambient scene for a few years. Their work has definitely moved some eyebrows in the past. But, this time around Hoarfrost have delivered an album which has been receiving an abundance of praise. Released on Reverse Alignment and accompanied by a brilliantly well done music video, their latest album Anima Mundi appears to be a career defining moment. I caught up with Rafał Kopeć, the main artist behind Hoarfrost to ask him some questions about the album and the history of his project.

Michael: Thank you for taking the time to join us for this interview, Rafal. First I would like for you to give a little background on Hoarfrost for those who may not be familiar with your project.

Rafał: Hoarfrost was born in the end of 2006. The first CD, Ground Zero, was released in 2008 by the big Polish label Zoharum. Next CDs by Hoarfrost: collaboration with Inner Vision Laboratory entitled Decline and album Puppets Of Divine Coroner, also appeared on this label. After a few years of Hoarfrost’s absence on the music market, a brand new album entitled Anima Mundi, was released in August 2016 by Swedish label Reverse Alignment.

Michael: Anima Mundi is heavy on vocals, unlike your previous albums. Would you please tell us a bit about why you decided to take this direction, this time?

Rafał: Before I have started to compose as Hoarfrost, I have been engaged in music, where lyrics have played an important role. This I missed in Hoarfrost from its beginning, but it was difficult for me to find the appropriate vocalist. I met Hekte Zaren, when I was finishing the stuff for Puppets Of Divine Coroner. The compositions were almost ready and there was not much space for the vocals. This is why Hekte appeared only in a few of the tracks. When we were working on Anima Mundi we felt comfortable, because the music was created intentionally for the vocals.

Michael: This is your first release through the recently resurrected Reverse Alignment Records. How has your experience been so far with Reverse Alignment?

Rafał: When I finished working on Anima Mundi, I sent the samples of the album to Reverse Alignment. I knew, that it is a good label from Sweden, which is one of the capitals of ambient music. I immediately received a request for more music. I sent one complete composition and in two hours I received the proposition of the contract. When Anima Mundi appeared and its promotion started, it became clear to me, that my cooperation with Reverse Alignment was a good decision.

Michael: You mentioned that this album is dedicated to a late friend of yours, who also contributed much of your previous album art. Would you like to tell us a bit about this person, and how they influenced Anima Mundi?


Rafał
: Anima Mundi is dedicated to Amellia, a great Polish photographer, associated with Hoarfrost almost from its beginning. Thanks to her works and visions, the Hoarfrost album covers came into existence, visualizations for live gigs and video clips to the compositions from last album. Amellia died suddenly on the beginning of the production of Anima Mundi, when we had just started planning a visual concept for the cover. This tragedy delayed work on the album. I even consider for a moment, if my music activity as Hoarfrost still made sense. Eventually, I decided to finish Anima Mundi and dedicated it to Amellia.

Michael: There are a slew of guest musicians on Anima Mundi. How did you decide on who you would work with? Will you plan to have guest musicians on future projects?

Rafał
: When I am planning, how my album should sound, I know, what instruments or tones I would like to hear on it. By this key I choose musicians. I like working with other musicians and I don’t exclude that I’ll invite some musicians for the next Hoarfrost albums. All depends, in what way I will plan the new material.

Michael: The music video for “Refracted In Illusion” turned out very well. Could you tell us a bit about the concept behind this video, and how it came to happen?

Rafał: The concept for the video was evolved by Paulina Mieczkowska, a Polish model, fashion designer and my friend, in cooperation with Jarek, the cameraman. My role was only editing the material. You should know that realization of this music clip, and problems which appeared during working on it, are an individual history. I could make a good horror about it.

Michael: Can we expect more music videos in the future?

Rafał: All Hoarfrost albums were promoted by one video clip each. There are also available on the internet a few very interesting videos made by fans for Hoarfrost compositions. Of course, if there will be an opportunity do make another video, they will appear, maybe not to tracks from Anima Mundi, but to future material.

Michael: I wonder, which is your favorite track from Anima Mundi, and why?

Rafał: I am looking at the album as a completeness, which has its beginning, developed view and the ending. Each track is an element of a jigsaw puzzle which has to match to another. So I couldn’t point to one favorite track. Anima Mundi is for me one 50-minutes composition.

Michael: Who are some of the strongest influences on your music? Which were your favorite bands from your formative years?

Rafał: It is a very difficult question, because I have always listened to many different genres of music. My first fascination was with punk rock, next there were metal, sung poetry, new wave, but, anyway, I never was interested in electronic music. At present, I also listen to many genres and many artists. The music, which I listen to, should have “something” which makes me go back to it again and again.

Michael: Do you have any rituals/customs which you incorporate into your recording sessions?

Rafał: Before I sit down to make sounds, first I try to ex-cogitate and prepare everything in my head. It helps me to go into some kind of trance. When I lose my inspiration during the work, I try to give my attention to other music. In this way I have made the album of my other project, Arbeit, which I composed while working on Ground Zero. Currently, in moments like this, I take my guitar and I play for a few minutes, trying to relax. I like to work with headphones in darkness and loneliness, because in this way I can be alone with the sound.

Michael: What is your favorite piece of equipment in your studio?

Rafał: I haven’t a favorite piece of equipment. Each thing I use, attends to the particular intention, so they are all important to me in the same way. The destination is the sound and everything is subordinate to it.

Michael: Do you ever perform live? What would be the perfect line-up for you?

Rafał: Hoarfrost is rather a studio project, but I had an occasion to perform on a few concerts and festivals. I like very much the Scandinavian scene, so my dream line-up should be created by Desiderii Marginis, raison d’etre, In Slaughter Natives and Peter Andersson with one of his projects. I have just realized, that all the projects, I have listed, are from Sweden, like my publisher Reverse Alignment. Ha ha ha!

Michael: What can we expect next from Hoarfrost?

Rafał: When I release the album, I don’t plan the next material. There should pass some time, so I can give it some distance. Each album is a separate message. It can’t be random. The music is an addiction. Releasing new album gives a satisfaction for some time. Later the requirement of creating comes again.

Michael: Do you think the apocalypse is coming? If so how do you think it will happen?

Rafał: The vision of the apocalypse has accompanied human-being for ages. History of our planet shows that in the past there took place events, which had characteristics of global catastrophes. Modern scientists also leave no doubt about the future of Earth. So if I should give a short answer, it is: yes. The apocalypse will come, but before total destruction, we would have to do with more and more powerful, disruptive phenomena which are human-induced.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time. I’ll leave the last words to you.

Rafał: Thank you very much for the opportunity to express myself in your magazine.

Hoarfrost links: Official website, Facebook, Youtube

Ager Sonus – Interview

Interview with Thomas Langewehr (Ager Sonus)
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Ager Sonus is a dark ambient project out of Germany. While he has had several previous self-released albums, Book of the Black Earth is his first major label release. Releasing through Cryo Chamber immediately drew a lot of attention to his music and it seemed like the perfect time to get in contact with him and find out more about Ager Sonus. Thomas talks to me about some of his inspirations, recording techniques and the history of his musical career. As always, I hope you’ll enjoy the interview and definitely give his music a listen!



Michael: Book of the Black Earth has been on repeat here at This Is Darkness HQ quite a bit since release. The album seems to be getting a great reception from fans and critics alike. Did you expect this kind of response?

Thomas: To be honest, I did not expect that. I am surely not the only musician who has doubts about the music he creates. I usually listen to every single song multiple times on multiple devices before I am “ok” with it, and even then I will go “could I have done this better?” from time to time.
But the release of this album has shown me that there was no need for those doubts. I was very suprised when people started to give me positive feedback, were it as comments under the videos Cryo Chamber uploaded to Youtube or messages/posts on Facebook. It has been a very positive experience so far, this is definitely the most feedback I have ever gotten, also of course due to the the huge amount of fans Cryo Chamber has. I noticed that this genre really is a big family, I have not seen fighting by fans like we see in many other genres, so I definitely appreciate it a lot that the CC fans have such an open mind and gave me a warm welcome. The reviews so far have also been great, even though so far there are only two reviews, more might be coming.

Michael: I have no doubt that you will see more reviews coming in over the next month/year. Cryo Chamber is quite obviously one of the biggest players in the current dark ambient scene. How has your experience been with them so far, as opposed to releasing your music independently?

Thomas: Like mentioned above I immediately noticed the huge amount of feedback due to the large fan-base Cryo Chamber has. Also the response just from the artists within Cryo Chamber, those are the people that I look up to, that made me get into this genre. Talking to Simon (Atrium Carceri) over the years has made me a better musician, especially in terms of mixing, he also said in one of our first chats that I would have to develop my own “voice” which I did not see at that time but it actually came out even though it took a lot of time.
My releases so far have not gotten much feedback or reception. Only a handful of people bought my previous albums (for which I am very grateful to everyone who gave me that support!) and word didn’t really spread at least not that I would have noticed. Critical reception has always been good, but I pretty much only had one person who was always willing to review my music (Casey Douglass – shoutout!).

Michael: Casey definitely runs a great blog. I always enjoy comparing our takes on an album after I’ve finished writing my review. (I never read other reviews before writing my own.) Have you been following dark ambient for a while now, or are you relatively new to this genre?

Thomas: I have been following the genre since around 2007/2008, after S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl was released, one of my favorite video-games. The music of that game was one of the many reasons why that game was so amazing and it had this amazing atmosphere that was, and still is, one of the best in gaming. I did not know the term “dark ambient” or “ambient” even as a genre, so once I had that and started to look into it a whole world of musical marvel unfolded in front of me.

Michael: Are there any particular albums or artists that inspired you to become active in this genre?

Thomas: Hard to pick only a few because there are so many. But if you’d ask me what were some of the early ones that amazed me I would say Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri and Svartsinn. “I Found It Weeping In The Field” is one of my favorite dark ambient tracks and reminded me a lot of the atmosphere in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and in that regard Nord Ambient Alliance was one of the first dark ambient albums I listened to.

Michael: Book of the Black Earth seems to be mostly focused on ancient Egyptian ruins, more so than the actual ancient Egyptian people. Have you actually been to any of these ruins?

Thomas: Sadly, I have been not. Egypt in itself and the mystery surrounding its history has always been a huge interest of mine, I always loved movies that had Egypt as a theme when it came to mystery and I also loved certain video-games just because of that setting.

Michael: What in particular drew you to this Egyptian concept?

Thomas: It is not just the mysterious elements regarding the gods and the concept of the Egyptian underworld, I was wondering if there was a way to create a musical journey, quasi substituting for the fact that I have not visited Egypt (and probably never will), at least not in a rummaging-through-ancient-tombs-kind of way.

Michael: I think you’ve certainly achieved that goal. I was recently reading “Under The Pyramids”, a story that was ghostwritten by H.P. Lovecraft for Harry Houdini. The music perfectly fit his narrative of being trapped inside a pyramid which was filled with ancient gods and demons. Will you veer off into a different direction for your next album, or are these themes presented on Book of the Black Earth essential to Ager Sonus?

Thomas: I have not yet narrowed down what the concept of my next album will be, Book of the Black Earth was a great learning experience since this is my first album that told a cohesive story. My albums so far always had a “theme” but the tracks always stood for themselves. Liminality was about going to places that were, to many people, unreachable or uninhabitable, yet I wanted to have a musical representation of being there, so I could “visit” them in my head. So in a sense, that set the groundwork for Tartarus and now Book of the Black Earth.

Michael: I see that you are also interested in orchestral music. Do you have a background in classical music?

Thomas: No, but orchestral music is a huge joy to listen to. I just love how so many musicians can work together in harmony to create amazing experiences. From film scores, video-game scores, classical pieces from Mozart or Beethoven, there is a lot to enjoy and to inspire.

Michael: Do you have a favorite classical composer or a favorite piece of music from this area?

Thomas: I mentioned Beethoven, the “Moonlight Sonata” is one of my favorite pieces because of its dark tone, so to me it showed me early on that darkness is an important part of me.

Michael: What are some of the various instruments that you play?

Thomas: I don’t actually play an orchestral instrument which I regret very much not getting into earlier in my life. The passion to actually create music myself came much later, for the longest time I was “just” a listener.

Michael: I see that you are also a drummer. Would you like to speak any about that musical project?

Thomas: I started playing the drums at 27 years of age which some would say is way too late (and I agree). It just took way longer to learn a lot of the techniques, especially in terms of coordination but I am happy how far I got with it.
I play in a Punk/Rock/Hardcore-band though it is more just for fun. We don’t play live regularly and we don’t record the music in a professional way. Just a fact of having day-jobs and some of us being fathers, it is just not do-able, which we regret sometimes, playing live is a lot of fun.

Michael: When you are creating music, is there a place or idea from which you are able to draw a constant motivation, or does the motivation for each track come to you in different ways?

Thomas: It depends, I had cases where I already knew in my head how I wanted a track to sound, what instruments to use, what name I would give it etc. But I also had tracks where the motivation came from listening to recent field recordings or just playing a few notes on my keyboard. Once I find the “opening” for a track it mostly, for lack of a better term, writes itself.

Michael: Do you perform any rituals in preparation for working on music?

Thomas: Does drinking coffee count? Mostly I just need to be in the right mindset and be relaxed. I love to create music when it is rainy outside. I just like the atmosphere of it being cloudy and the rain interacting with the environment has a nice sound to it, also I have a few bushes and a tree in front of my window next to my workplace, I enjoy having those react to the wind. I am probably very weird.

Michael: Well then we are both weird! I also find a great deal of inspiration from gloomy/rainy days. When working on Book of the Black Earth, did most of your sounds come from the digital spectrum or did you also incorporate some analog synths, or live instruments?

Thomas: It has all been digital, there are a few sample libraries of real instruments which I use from time to time. In this case I needed “real” flutes and other Egyptian or Middle-Eastern instruments. Since I don’t have the resources to get the real world instruments I like to rely on these libraries, which allow me to play very realistic articulations which was important for the flutes I wanted to use.

Michael: Is dark ambient currently your main focus in music, or will you be taking a break and working in other areas before writing another album?

Thomas: Dark Ambient is my current focus because it allows me to try out all kinds of themes and composing styles which gives me a lot of creative freedom. Before working on a new solo release I would love to work with some of the other artists on Cryo Chamber, that would be amazing and a huge learning experience to work with these amazing musicians.

Michael: Are there any movie directors, authors, or artists that truly inspire you? Of course, many of us could probably write a list, but is there any one that you hold sacred above the rest?

Thomas: This list could be very long but I will try to select only a few: John Woo was one of the first directors that I followed very closely, whose visual style always fascinated me. While I don’t have a particular genre of movie I like, he comes to mind almost immediately.
In terms of authors I very much love Dean Koontz, John Saul and Stephen King. Especially the first two wrote riveting horror/mystery-stories that didn’t just inspire me but a whole set of movie directors out there.

Michael: Between geo-politics, concerns about the climate, and religiosity, there seems to be a lot of turmoil in our current times. Do you see “the apocalypse” (in whatever form that may be) coming? If so, how do you think it will happen?

Thomas: The mystery-fan in me has all kinds of ways of how it could happen, though realistically if it happens we will probably go down due to our own doing. Melting pole caps swallowing up countries, woods dying, whole lands drying out etc. Or an asteroid! Not a fun thought.

Michael: Thank you very much for your time, I’ll leave the last words to you!

Thomas: A big thank you to Simon Heath for giving me this chance to reach more people with my music, the chance to collaborate with people I look up to, people that inspired me. And of course a huge thank you to the people that actually listen to my music, I hope it helps you to relax or take you to other places!

Ager Sonus links: Facebook, Bandcamp (personal) (Cryo Chamber), Cryo Chamber Profile

Black Mara Records – Interview

Interview with: Dmitriy (Black Mara Records owner)
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in October of 2016. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Black Mara Records is a relative newcomer to the genres of dark, ritual, and drone ambient. They have been able to quickly solidify their position as a premier Russian label. Including albums from Ad Lucem Tenebratum and Ugasanie, as well as compilations with some of the most promising new artists around the world, Black Mara has set themselves apart. Each release has its own unique packaging, coming with magical stones, herbal-teas, and various box-set formats filled with goodies. I had plenty of reason to get in touch with Dmitriy the owner of the label. We spoke about his mission for the label, along with the subjects of the gods, and some of his personal tastes. Enjoy the following interview conducted from opposite sides of the globe.

Michael: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me Dmitriy. First off, maybe you could tell the readers a bit about yourself, and why you decided to form the label, Black Mara.

Dmitriy: Hi! Dark ambient and similar music attracted me for a long time. The first thought about creating a music label came to me about 2-3 years ago. I was in correspondence with Halgrath and a few other performers. At that time, Halgrath was not published on Cryo Chamber. But a clear concept at that moment was not developed. Only a year later, the idea came to me again. We thought – what’s missing, in our view, for the presentation of the album and developed further on this style, as a sound and visual component of our releases.

Michael: I’ve been listening to Black Mara releases since the label first showed up on the dark ambient scene a little over a year ago. Each release has its own feel and unique packaging. I wonder, what gave you the idea to do these unique packages?

Dmitriy: Thank you! The music itself tells us, in what form it is convenient to be published on Black Mara. Dark ambient creates images, backed by emotions, they fly around, and are sometimes elusive.

Michael: Do you produce music yourself, or do you just run the record label?

Dmitriy: Yes, I create a little of some sound canvases. I began composing in my youth. Then, I was fond of experimental electronic music. I also DJ a little. My dark ambient mixes I still like, because some of them took a long time to create, carefully choosing the composition. All the work is like puzzles or colour mosaics to me. Just need to try to do it correctly and it is interesting to draw a picture of what you have.

Michael: Russia seems to be one of the most fitting regions of the world to produce dark ambient. There seem to be many dark ambient artists coming from this region, of varied quality. Can you speak a little bit about how this part of the world has been an influence on your musical taste?

Dmitriy: I realize the fact that the entire universe affects us, whether we feel it or not. Sometimes I see, for example, a lone tree in the field and it immediately fills me with inspiration. Any sounds in the street. In general, everything is able to affect us. Apparently, you only need to be open to it. I like the ambient from any point of the universe. If only it has a quality that carries any messages and is able to invoke emotion when listening, creating interesting live pictures in the imagination. I want to also note that in Russia a lot of interesting dark ambient artists have their own style.

Michael: The Dark Side, by Ugasanie, was the first record to catch my eye on Black Mara, as I’ve been a huge Ugasanie fan for several years now. It seems like his album was a great way to get the word spread around about Black Mara. Are you friends outside of the musical world?

Dmitriy: Of course, we keep in touch. It is the same with all artists whose albums we published.

Michael: Will you plan to work with Ugasanie again in the future?

Dmitriy: We would be happy. (Smiling)

Michael: Along with established artists, like Ugasanie, you also have worked with some new-comers to the genre, such as Ad Lucem Tenebratum. What are some elements you look for in a new artist when considering releasing their album?

Dmitriy: Ad lucem Tenebratum (Ad Lux Tenebrea) is quite an old and well-known project. They are considered to be one of the pioneers of the genre in Russia. They have published music since 2003. First, material for publication must be conceptually interesting. Secondly, it is very important to the quality of material to release. And third, music should affect the imagination and emotions, like I said earlier.

Michael: Oh! I didn’t realize Ad Lucem Tenebratum and Ad Lux Tenebrea were the same musician! Thank you for clearing that up! On your two compilation albums Beyond The Invisible and Gorgons Tale, you have picked artists from all over the world, including Ireland, Iran, and France among other places. Will you be looking further outside Russia for permanent additions to the Black Mara roster? Or do you prefer for this to be a strictly Russian endeavor with minimal outside influence?

Dmitriy: Oh, of course we are focused on the whole world, obviously. Many performers from different countries perfectly fit into our concept. It has always been this way.

Michael: Sun by Welcome Black, comes with a meditative DVD companion disc. Would you like to explain a little bit about this release, and how the DVD complements it?

Dmitriy: Well, I immediately appreciated the sound of this album. While I am listening to it, in my head interesting and strange thoughts arise, some memories. It looks to me as if it sweeps through all life, at a glance. Here and carefree, youth, what hidden secrets, dreams, growing up and becoming, and the end of life. This is something global, generalizing everything and everyone. This is the original idea of the author, and we think he managed to perfectly express his idea. When I started developing the release of Sun we decided to shoot a small clip. But in one short video it is impossible to fit all that music. So, we started filming a meditation movie. The film begins with the dawn, symbolizing the birth. A lot of wildlife, mountains. We are growing and embarking on an interesting path. Our whole life is a great adventure. In the movie sometimes the soul is clearly heroic. It enters into different situations in this adventure. Also, the film is affected by subliminal hidden moments, dreams upon dreams. In the film we see the loneliness and the beauty of individuality, of items, some of which remain with us, and some are slipping from our lives. Finally, the journey comes to an end. The phrase “That death should finally tell us” – most accurately describes the essence. I really like what we did. The entire film was shot on the old optics from an SLR camera, so there are real moments of defocusing or concentration. On some modern digital cameras and phones that would be impossible.

Michael: Can we expect to see any Black Mara concerts in the future?

Dmitriy: Not so long ago we organized a concert in Novosibirsk. The performance featured Sacra Fern, Ad Lucem Tenebratum and Time Spiral (Spiral Vremeni). Everything was great! And, Yes, we are thinking about the sequel.

Michael: What are your views on religion, and how do they affect your record label’s format?

Dmitriy: Each of the faiths’ professions changed very much since inception and currently do not carry the semantic load that they once had. In our day, religion is very politicized and, in our opinion, divorced from God. Almighty God is inside of us. For us God’s temple is nature, and our task, if we believe in God, at least try to save what is left. Between us and God there are no middlemen. We can always get in touch with the Almighty Creator directly.

Michael: Are you satisfied with the exposure Black Mara is getting so far in the dark ambient scene?

Dmitriy: We get a lot of positive feedback. But we believe that this is not the limit and we have room to grow.

Michael: What is your favorite film or director?

Dmitriy: Hmm. I like lots of movies, it is hard to remember them all at once. I would like to mention David Lynch with his “Inland Empire” and “Mulholland Drive”. I like the film “Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky, “The Beginning”, some old pictures by Tim Burton. “The Matrix” at the time, made a deep impression, some of the old fantasy types like “Alien”, “The Thing” and “2001: a Space Odyssey”, one of my most favorite movies is “The Shining” by Stanley Kubrick. Of course, I watch a lot of movies and many of them I like, some of them are known worldwide, and some only to a narrow circle of spectators.

Michael: Nice list! Many of these are also my favorites! If you could have any one dark ambient artist from the history of the genre on your label, who would you pick?

Dmitriy: Voice Of Eyes, Halo Manash, and Inade are the first who came to mind. At the time, I really wanted to work with Ugasanie and Ad Lucem Tenebratum. And we did it.

Michael: Thanks for taking your time to answer these questions Dmitriy. I wish you the best with your upcoming releases on Black Mara. I’ll leave the last words to you.

Dmitriy: Thank you Michael. I want to wish the readers of your magazine bright good experiences in life, fulfillment, and happiness. Good luck!

Black Mara Records links: Facebook, Bandcamp

Pär Boström & Åsa Boström – Interview

Interview with: Pär Boström, Åsa Boström
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in July of 2016. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Pär Boström has been involved in a ton of projects since the rejuvenation of his musical career in 2015. We’ve seen two Kammarheit albums on Cyclic Law (The Nest and Unearthed 2000-2002), the second release under the Cities Last Broadcast moniker on Cryo Chamber, the founding of the new label Hypnagoga Press with his sister Åsa Boström, the debut of the siblings musical project Hymnambulae and the new project Altarmang between Pär and Kenneth Hansson which released the debut Void at the end of 2016. Add to that Pär’s involvement in the collaborative albums Onyx and Echo along with Atrium Carceri and Apocryphos and its easy to see that there are a ton of things happening, as well as the prospects of plenty more to come. So in July of 2016 I got in contact with Pär and Åsa to ask the siblings some questions about their many projects happening in relation to the dark ambient scene.

Michael: Why did you decide to start Hypnagoga Press?

Pär: It’s something we’ve talked about for at least a decade now. We both wanted to build a place that could hold all our projects, from art prints to music to children’s books and poetry, with focus on beautifully packaged limited editions. We’re both nerds when it comes to packages and design and we need something like this to challenge ourselves.

Michael: What is your musical past with Åsa, did you play music together as children?

Pär: Not that I can remember. It wasn’t until 2009 that we started to improvise together. We would bring different equipment and set it up at various places and see what happened. The album Orgelhuset was loosely based on these improvisations. I don’t think it counts but I used to wake Åsa up by playing the alt horn as loud as I could when we were children.

Michael: I have been listening to the Kammarheit albums in Unearthed box set a lot recently, my personal favorites are Among The Ruins and At The Heart Of Destruction. Shockwork seems noticeably different from the other albums, was there something you learned about your sound during or after this one that changed your way of doing future endeavors? Would you mind speaking a little about the Unearthed box set and what some of the various albums on it meant to you at the time of recording and what they mean to you now, being remastered and officially released so many years later?

Pär: Shockwork was something I recorded during one night in a very inspired state of mind when I was 17. I had gone to an abandoned factory to record sound out of boredom and I stumbled over such a haunting yet majestic and peaceful atmosphere that I suddenly knew exactly what kind of music I wanted to make. But I had almost no equipment – just an old computer with Fast Tracker 2, a tape recorder and a borrowed multi effect unit. I had made similar music before but up until that night I had no name for it, no concept or any real inspiration. If I remember correctly it took almost a year until I continued to make the other five albums from the Unearthed box. By then I’d started using other software and had a bit better understanding about what I wanted to make and how to do it, although I remained totally ignorant about sound quality and proper mixing techniques. I had promised myself that Kammarheit would be a project about recording atmosphere and not to worry so much about how to make actual songs. All the albums of Unearthed were made to keep me company during my insomnia. I had no plans to release any of them, I just wanted somewhere to go, something that could help me explore the inner worlds that I was obsessed about. I was depressed, numb. I didn’t feel much during the days but at night I could drift away somewhere and that really helped. I rarely listen to any of the albums today but when I do I feel a strong sense of gratitude. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t made that music. Frederic wanted to release the albums on Cyclic Law many years ago but I wasn’t ready. It took a lot of convincing, but I’m glad they got a proper release at last. They had already been available in dark corners of the Internet for years, so why not make something proper of it. Even if the material is very uneven and in my opinion not very good at all, it shows where I’ve been and how Kammarheit started.

Michael: How much different is the creation process now with modern DAWs, do you like the new systems or do you prefer the old way?

Pär: Having a better studio has obviously helped a lot as I can now translate my ideas into music much quickly and more accurately than I could before. It was so frustrating in the beginning when I had to struggle so much to re-create what I had in my head and the tools I had didn’t feel right at all. I can miss using Fast Tracker and the whole mathematical and aesthetic approach. You had all these numbers on the screen and music played from the top to bottom instead of playing horizontal. It made sense to me, at least back then. I would probably be lost if I went back. I can easily lose my focus in front of the computer so I often try to make as much as I can outside the computer, using instruments and effect pedals and record it on tape recorders or my portable digital recorder and then import it to the computer and continue from there when I’m ready for it.

Michael: You have mentioned in the past that each album is a window into a place, some landscape which you depict. Is this a recurring landscape or do you have different places in mind for each track/album?

Pär: It’s usually the same place. The idea or atmosphere of a place at least. It can be an enormous city where I visit different areas or a large church-like ruin in some enormous cave. Some tracks can be about other places or about certain moods but I usually want to go back to the same places. Those glimpses into the imaginary places happened when I was so young and it never left me. As soon as I start a new track I immediately drift away to that otherworldly stillness. I can’t help it. I’m such a romantic when it comes to atmospheres, escapism and sceneries. Sometimes I just enjoy how some recordings sound together and build a track from there, but after a while that whole drifting thing begins and if I’m not careful I’m half asleep in my chair while some droning loops are playing in my headphones and I get nothing more done that day. The drones are like a wonderful, terrible drug.

Michael: I think it would be interesting to see you team up with a painter and try to recreate some of the places from your music, is this something you would ever consider or do you prefer to let the music speak for itself?

Pär: I try to become a better painter so I can recreate these places myself. So far music has been the easiest way for me to explore them but I often wish I could show the worlds with art or in my writing instead. I have had the good fortune to work with my friend Viktor Kvant / Dreamhours on some of my albums and he has come very close to how I see the music myself. In the past it felt more important to not be too specific. I wanted to leave a lot of space for the listener’s own imagination but even if I did include more images the listener would probably still want to go to their own places instead. In the end I think the music will always speak best for itself.

Michael: I find The Nest to be a bit larger of a sound than your previous major releases on Cyclic Law, The Starwheel and Asleep And Well Hidden. For example, I love listening to The Nest during waking hours, while I find The Starwheel and Asleep and Well Hidden to be more suitable in the midnight hours. Do you see this same variance and if so was this an intentional difference or did it happen naturally?

Pär: I wanted it to sound larger, but for me The Nest is such a subterranean experience. It wasn’t supposed to be like that, but no matter what music I tried to make I always ended up down there. Åsa and I went to a small place in the north called Borgafjäll many years ago. She went there to write and I went there to work on the album, and I was so mesmerized by the foggy mountain and couldn’t stop my imagination from building massive halls underneath it. When I came back I tried to go back to my original plan to make another kind of album but the mountain didn’t let me. This album just had to happen the way it did. All my albums are usually recorded at night or during early mornings so I will probably always associate it with night time. What started as troublesome sleeplessness has become something comforting. Those magical quiet hours when everybody is asleep and the streets are empty and you can let your own ideas and music roam free.

Michael: Onyx is a colossal album. I have listened numerous times and haven’t come close to getting tired of it. What was the best part of working with Simon Heath and Robert Kozletsky? What was the most surprising? Did the collaboration bring out any aspects of your music on a personal level that you had not expected?

Pär: The most surprising thing with Onyx was that the whole process felt so incredibly natural yet always interesting. Simon and Robert are both extremely talented and kind and I love working with them. We communicate a lot and leave enough room in the songs so that the others can do their thing. No egos, no rivalry what so ever. We all want it to sound as good as possible. Since Onyx I often go to the both of them for advice when it comes to most of my creative work. Simon has especially been an influence when it comes to organizing my files and keeping track of what key the songs are in and what tempo I’m using. As I often use effect pedals and askew tape recorders and pitch things up and down that kind of information usually gets lost in the process. But somehow we have found an easy way to communicate and work together. We are making a follow up to Onyx and it sounds very good so far.
Editor’s note: That follow-up turned out to be the album Echo, released through Cryo Chamber.



Michael: What has been your favorite thing outside of music recently? Movie/TvShow/Book. I have to add here that I’m a huge David Lynch fan, are you a fan of his work? What would be your favorite piece, if so?

Pär: I’m indeed a David Lynch fan. I especially love Twin Peaks and watch it on a regular basis. I also enjoy his music and writing. The Music Of Hildegard von Bingen album he did with Jocelyn Montgomery and his album The Air Is On Fire is something I often go back to. I love reading and I love collecting beautiful books with old illustrations but I haven’t read much lately. I’ve been busy with music and writing and when I get some free time I want to either take notes while listening to music I work on or just rest my head in a quiet space. At the moment I’m reading The Club Dumas again, the book that lead to the movie The Ninth Gate and from time to time I read books on printmaking and a biography about Tove Jansson who wrote the Moomin books. There are unfinished books laying everywhere and I often just pick one up and read a few pages before I do something else.

Michael: I still sleep to The Starwheel almost every night, do you still use your own music for sleep aid, do you have any other favorite artists that make “sleep music”?

Pär: I’m glad to hear that people are still enjoying The Starwheel. I sometimes use my music for sleep aid but I get so many ideas on what I could improve that it is difficult to relax. I prefer to listen to the NASA Voyager Recordings instead. That is the ultimate sleep music for me. But I do listen to tracks that I am working on just before I go to bed with the ambition that ideas about how to improve the music somehow finds their way into my dreams so that I know how to proceed as soon as I wake up. Too many dreams are just stupid and boring. I prefer to give my brain a task before heading into the strange labyrinths so it knows what to look for.

Michael: Which artists have been the most influential to you throughout the years?

Pär: That would probably be Arvo Pärt or some of the early Cold Meat Industry artists. I’m also a huge fan of the music that Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann recorded together. There is something about those old recordings that puts me in a wonderful kind of nostalgia concerning something lost and vague when I listen to it. I also think that bands like Coil, The Klinik, Throbbing Gristle and Swans have formed me a great deal.

Michael: Thanks so much for your time Pär! I’ll leave the closing words to you, before we turn the questions over to Åsa.

Pär
: Thank you for the interview and your support, Michael.

Michael: When did you first come up with the idea for Hypnagoga Press? Was this something that happened simultaneously with Hymnambulae, or were they totally separate ideas?

Åsa: Both projects have evolved simultaneously. We’ve discussed the idea to form our own label and publishing house for a long time, build a possibly life-long business together, with the potential to include all our creative outputs and collaborations, as well as collaborations with others. In the past we’ve done exhibitions together, Pär has illustrated some of my text projects, and we’ve shared studio spaces and traveled together. All of this has lead up to Hypnagoga Press. The past years I’ve also done much traveling on my own, and when I decided to set up a home and studio in Sweden again and got my house in the countryside of the village Innansjön, we decided it was time to found Hypnagoga Press. Now my house functions as somewhat of an headquarter for us.

Michael: We know a lot about Pär’s musical talents, but you are a bit of a mystery to me. Would you like to talk a little about some of your input in Hymnambulae’s debut?

Åsa: Orgelhuset is loosely based on improvisations we’ve done for the past seven years. For this album Pär has been the technician, using his skills to figure out how to musically translate conceptual designs we’ve outlined together – alongside visual, text-based and philosophical concepts. When we’re in the studio we tend to work quickly. Over the years, having listened to the same music, been exposed to the same influences, developed similar preferences, as well as several differences of course, we’ve developed an understanding for each others creative worlds and created a common language that’s very useful when collaborating. In the studio we have an ongoing dialogue, often referring to our other projects in progress and the overall plans for what to publish on Hypnagoga Press. I have a history of playing the violin and with spoken word and dance. Voice has been my main instrument, as an extension of my writing. Onwards it will be interesting to see how our collaboration through Hymnambulae will inform my overall creative practice – as an artist, writer and composer.

Michael: Would you care to talk about any of your upcoming projects, not much detail is necessary if you like.

Åsa: This summer I’m exhibiting art in Italy and the US. Together with a team of consultants I’m also working on scaling up a program for writing after trauma called Write Your Self, a program I’m the owner for – a big creative project for me. Besides this I want to spend as much time in the studio as possible. In my own art-making I’m currently experimenting with film-making, and in my writing I’m moving between several text projects, completing a collection of poems, a children’s book and a novel. After all these years of traveling I’m enjoying being still and spending time with collected supplies and impressions. When living in France a couple of years ago I studied paper-making. It would be nice to equip my home studio for that.

Michael: Pär seems to have a deep interest in the mystical, supernatural, and occult, especially after hearing his release The Humming Tapes. Do you have similar interests in these subjects or are yours a bit different?

Åsa: Since childhood I’ve been interested in, or pulled towards, spirituality. This has expressed itself in many ways. Through studies in the occult, shamanism and witchcraft in theory and practice; through many years of yoga and meditation practice, finally resulting in training to become a teacher; through academic studies leading up to a degree in Comparative Religion. Back then I had the aim to do a PhD in Psychology of Religion, but then decided to proceed with my studies outside of academia. Spirituality and creativity have been key elements when traveling too. Mysticism forms a foundation, it’s a part of who I am, how I live and it also shows up in my work. My creative practice is a channel for it.

Michael: You seem to have a very good sense of home decor, from the photos I’ve seen through Hypnagoga; if you could have any painting in your home, which would it be?

Åsa
: Thank you. Difficult question, still getting used to not being a complete nomad. Perhaps something by French symbolist Gustave Moreau, like The Apparition (love his museum in Paris); or Le Silence by Lucian Levy-Durmer (hanging at Musée D’Orsey); or something by American abstract painter Rebecca Crowell. I took a workshop with her in Ireland a couple of years ago; she works with oil, cold wax and pigments, making multi-layered and heavy-textured paintings with both simplicity and complexity to them. I’m very selective with what I bring into my home, it has to really add to the space – presence, spirit, beauty, complexity that can grow over time. Or perhaps traditional Japanese screens. Something that I could reflect upon while exploring where to take my own art-making next.

Michael: After looking through The Solar Zine no. 1, I learned a bit more about the flute player on Orgelhuset. He really seems to naturally complement the Hymnambulae sound. Was it nice working with an outside musician, and will you plan to work with Sergey Gabbasov again in the future?

Åsa: Yes, I enjoyed working with Sergey, his contribution really elevated the album, also pointing out directions that we’re interested in taking Hymnambulae in the future. I liked to learn about his musical-anthropological travels. That also added to the overall story of the album.

Michael: Will you plan to work with more guest musicians in the future? Any particular instruments you dream of collaborating with?

Åsa: Yes, we do. There are several musicians we plan to contact in the future for discussing collaborations, and we already have a few coming up. The cello, drums, more classical music would be nice to experiment with. One musician we’re thinking of is a friend of mine who’s a composer of classical baroque music. Would be interesting to place that within the Hymnambulae framework.

Michael: Would Hymnambulae do live performances, or is this more of a studio focused project? I feel like the whole aura around Hypnagoga Press would fit nicely in a festival setting.

Åsa: We’re discussing it, but for now we’re a studio focused project. In the future live performances might become a part of our travels. Both Hymnambulae and Hypnagoga Press offer a wide spectrum of expressions that could be combined live.

Michael: Thank you very much for your time Asa, I’ll leave the last words to you.

Åsa: Thank you Michael for this interview, for your support and for inviting Hymnambulae to be a part of your upcoming compilation. All the best to you and your work.

Kammarheit links: Official website, Facebook
Hymnambulae links: Facebook
Cities Last Broadcast links: Facebook
Hypnagoga Press links: Official website, Facebook

Randal Collier-Ford – Interview (repub ’16)


Interview with: Randal Collier-Ford
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in August of 2016. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

In August of 2016 I conducted an interview with the dark ambient artist Randal Collier-Ford. He was fresh off the release of Locus Arcadia, a collaboration between himself and three other Cryo Chamber artists. Not too long before that he released his second album through Cryo Chamber, Remnants. He talked about some of the behind-the-scenes of the Locus Arcadia as well as his plans for the future, among other things. Here you can get to know a bit about the man behind the music. Enjoy!

Michael: You have just recently released a collaborative compilation with Flowers For Bodysnatchers, Council Of Nine and God Body Disconnect, entitled Locus Arcadia. Congratulations on the great feedback the album has been receiving. I can’t really say I know of any other albums which fit within this frame-work of four separate musicians telling a tale through an album. What led the four of you to decide to take this direction with the album?

Randal: It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, after releasing Remnants. I read a couple of reviews from different media sites stating my obvious turn to a more “spacey” feeling with the music, and yes, I do admit it, releasing that I had an itch to do a more literal album concept based in a sci-fi theme. But when I thought of moving forward with it, I also knew that I wanted to finally work with other individuals on the album, people who at one point or another, have stated they would like to collaborate on a track or two, maybe even an album. So I reached out to the others with this idea, since we’ve all said to each other that it had to happen eventually, that I wanted to work with them on something different. And immediately, I had responses from all of them just stating “yes”. And they all seemed enthusiastic about it, which made me very happy.

Michael: This particular direction taken on Locus Arcadia seems very similar, in its style at least, to the Sabled Sun 21xx series. There is the same focus on a protagonist, and we (the listeners) are placed directly inside his mind, hearing and feeling everything just as he does. Obviously, we have a totally different story and each of your tracks hold the distinct characteristics of each artist, but was the idea of creating a sort of stylistic connection to 21xx done consciously?

Randal: As far as style goes, not exactly. We all wanted to bring in our distinct styles of music to the album, to give each “chapter” a musical theme, but we did want each experience to be very personal. So the similarities are there, but it was not intentional to make them. I suppose great minds think alike?

Michael: Was there a strong line of communication between everyone involved as you constructed your tracks for Locus Arcadia, or did you each take a base concept and come up with your own track privately?

Randal: Oh yes, we spoke nearly every day during the initial phases and leading up to post edits. Most of the communications consisted of jokes, though. And most of those jokes were my terrible dad jokes. I was booed quite often. Haha…

Michael: Bruce from God Body Disconnect came up with an awesome prologue text, which accompanies Locus Arcadia. This really gives the listener a lot to think about and brings us even further into the story. There is really nothing to give us a sense of when in history this happens. Do you consider it to be a “long time ago in a galaxy far far away” type concept, or is Locus Arcadia a near future, near Earth, scenario?

Randal: The story takes place in the future, but we would rather not discuss how far into the future it is. As far as it’s location, we’re not telling either. Not yet, at least. There’s been some talks behind the scenes lately, and some of these questions will be answered in a hint in the near(ish) future. But I’d rather not spoil anything.(Editor’s Note: That “neari(ish) future” secret would turn out to be revealed on the 4th Sabled Sun album 2148. The 6th track on the album, “Project Locus Arcadia” makes a concrete connection between Collier-Ford’s collaborative album and the 21xx Series by Sabled Sun.)

Michael: In my opinion much of “Into The Maw Where All Men Die” seems to take place in the mind of the protagonist, yet there are certainly bits of the real world coming through. Did you construct the track to move in real-time or to focus more on the emotional state of the protagonist?

Randal: Good ear! It’s a mix of both, actually. The music is definitely meant to give a sense of what’s going on in the mind of our protagonist while he moves through the first sections of the station in real-time. Some of the sounds used we’re meant to be a middle ground of field recordings turned into musical notes, to give a continuous feeling blending our character’s mind, emotions, and environment into one thing.

Michael: You seem to have quite a wide range of interests, which of these would you say are the most important to you, as a dark ambient musician and how do you see them affecting your musical output?

Randal: Too many to count, really. Growing up listening to electronic dance music, spending my later teenage and adult life listening to black metal, with jazz and classical music infused through out all of this, covers the musical side of things. As for other media, I think it goes without saying for anyone who has seen me on social media, I’m very interested in cyberpunk, space themes, futurism, and a slew of other nerdy things. Haha. But before this past year, I was just known for my interest in the occult. Which was also what I mostly focused on in my music, and to a degree, still do. Picking just one would be impossible for me, because I try to find a way to use as much of my influences as possible.

Michael: I know you have worked on some previous albums under different monickers, one of which, The Temple Of Algolagnia/Funeral Mantra split, was recently re-released in cassette format. Were there any other previous projects that you would like to mention?

Randal: Hmm, I do have a list. Mors Universa, The Temple Of Algolagnia, Black Sun, Singularity (O), Grey Light Shade, as well as some time in production with The Seven=Crowned.

Michael: Which of these projects were the most important to you, as a growing musician?

Randal: I would have to say that The Temple Of Algolagnia would have been, because it was my first step into making dark ambient/drone music. And with the great reception it got, it kept me motivated to show the music to the world in my first years and try to grow in production methods.

Michael: Will any of these see a possible future release, or are you solely focused on Randall Collier-Ford albums?

Randal: Currently, I am focused on my named work, as it has taken up all my studio time. But I do have a desire to see Black Sun and The Temple Of Algolagnia release a new record, when time and inspiration permits.

Michael: You have a playlist on Soundcloud, Random Piano Debauchery, do you have plans on incorporating this material into an album one day, or is this just a lighter musical outlet for you, through Soundcloud?

Randal: I do have some hopes for it, and I had a plan to move one or two tracks into Remnants or the new one, but when I created that public playlist, I thought I’d just wait for responses from others to see if they would enjoy hearing such a thing in a more dark ambient album. But it’s starting taking its own turn into a general outlet for that style of music and other demos.
(Editors note: That playlist would become the basis for his recent release on Kalpamantra Net-label, Piano Movements.)

Michael: You are one of the few dark ambient artists that I know of performing live shows in North America. As I live on the opposite coast, I’ve yet to personally attend one. How is it for you playing this type music in U.S. and Canada? Are the crowds who have never heard it before generally receptive to the style?

Randal: It’s been phenomenal, and the people in the crowd have been very receptive, giving me kind words I’d never expect. When people tell me that my music takes them to a whole new world, or that I am painting a picture for them, or that they are given such shocking, unnerving feelings that lifted their spirits (yes, I’ve heard that one before), it makes me feel like a million bucks. Like I’m doing exactly what I set out to do. I had one woman approach me once after one of my shows to buy a CD with her boyfriend, and she wanted to hand me a vertebrae she had found in her area of Oregon, and this was a big deal to me because this was during a time when I would hand out bones to the crowd during my sets. But when she gave it to me, I felt like I couldn’t take it. Not without giving something back that I felt was as valuable as what she was giving me. So I gave her a mostly intact deer spine that I used for my stage set up, and she then cried saying she couldn’t take it. This, in turn, made me cry a bit, because I thought it was so sweet and both of them were so kind and receptive to my work, so I gave her a hug and urged her to take it, because I cherish her act of giving me a gift like this. I also remember a child once, who was at an all-ages metal show that I opened for in this tiny coffee shop that was packed front to back, and outside, with people here to see the bands perform. During my opening set, the child was running in and out of the front door, which was to my left, and she was always staring at me. I thought it was adorable that she was so playful and happy. People would come up to the stage and take a bone, sit down and listen, chat among each other, and so on. And after my set, the mother of the child came to me with the child and told the child to take one of the bones as well. She giggled and ran between her mom’s legs to hide, so I handed the mother a large rib bone for the child. The child smiled and the mother told her to say thank you, and she did, which was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Moments like these, the interactions with people after my sets and during, seeing people on the floor meditating, even on their knees (that one was weird to see), make what I do feel all the more worth it. To truly give with my music, a feeling that can last years for individuals, to inspire and mold minds to reach for something new or something strange. To not follow the flock and find wonder on their own terms. To me, that’s the greatest feeling in the world to hear someone say that I’ve done that for them. And that feeling never gets old for me, just makes me want to keep trying harder and harder to move forward.

Michael: I was lucky enough to catch Northaunt, Svartsinn, Visions, and others last summer in Philadelphia for the APEX Fest by ANNIHILVS there was a lot of incense in the air and the crowd, especially the ones who had been to this type thing before, just sat down in the middle of the floor, which I thought was awesome. What type of things do you like to do at your shows, if you’d like to speak a bit about your set-up and anything else you incorporate into your sets?

Randal: I used to hand out bones to the crowd, or have them come up and collect them on their own time and terms. I would create an altar before my set, bones bathed in my own blood, in ashes, and burn candles with them, as well as incense from time to time. My set up started this way because my sets would start with an opening sermon where I could interact with others to take something to latch onto, something physical, to pour all their emotions and memories into during this, to pray to their Gods during the sermon, then the show would begin when the crowd felt invested. This sort of thing has stopped lately, as it has been troublesome lugging a suitcase of bones by myself for long distances, but after gaining a merch hand/stage hand, this has been put back into motion with creating a stage altar again. We’ll see if handing out bones becomes a thing again though…

Michael: Who has been your favorite act to perform with so far?

Randal: Haha, too hard to choose. I’ve played with acts I never thought I would perform with, from classically trained musicians to heavy hitting metal bands. Too many of these bands and acts are considered as friends to me, so I couldn’t say which one was better. It’s just a joy to share the stage with friends.

Michael: What can we expect next from Randal Collier-Ford?

Randal: A deep dive, down into something… unnatural. There is a solid plan for the next studio album that will tie together both, The Architects and Remnants, to form a trilogy. Musically, it will take a different direction, but the theme will not only be personal to my life experiences, but personal in the aspect of the “protagonist” that will be created. But info on this album and how it ties together will come at a later date, so no spoilers quite yet.
(Editor’s note: As we have yet to see this release, there’s a good chance that we can be expecting it in the near future.)

Michael: What has the experience been like working with Cryo Chamber?

Randal: Strong, connected, filled with like minds and more jokes than I care to count. Haha. The label is more than just a label, we are our own community, we trade between each other, talk, share ideas, make new ideas, bring our experiences, and form new ones. It’s like our own family with Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri, Sabled Sun,…) overlooking all of it (and always smiling about what he sees). It feels like home, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. We’re always taken care of.

Michael: Are you in communication with many of the other artists on the label?

Randal: Most of them, yes. Some, more than others, but not everyone on the label is on social media that often. Due to location or personal reasons. But we always find reasons to chat with each other, or ask each other if we’d like to work together or give input to each other in our private online groups.

Michael: And how has it been working with Simon Heath?

Randal: A dream come true. Not just because I can get feedback from him and generally just talk about everyday life, but actually spending time with him in the studio, or grabbing lunch to swap stories, it’s almost surreal. He’s been my main influence with creating music, and to have a chance to see the magic behind the scenes, to hear his advice, to have hands on sessions with production. I’m happy like a little kid and I take in every bit of knowledge I can.

Michael: What is it like working on a Randal Collier-Ford album? Do you have any recurring rituals for your studio space?

Randal: Usually I start off with a bottle of sake, or a nice stout, then curl into a ball and begin to cry. After about 2 hours of this, I’ll start messing with new sounds until I’ve destroyed them enough to see what new and interesting ways I might be able to use them. Then I cry again when I can’t think of anything to do with them, and suddenly an idea would hit me and I will sit behind my computer for roughly 14 hours until the track is completed. Then repeat the process until I have a coherent album. Sad thing is, this is mostly true. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which parts are true and which are not.

Michael: I feel like there are a lot of differences between The Architects and Remnants, can we expect to see another stylistic change for the next album, or are you leaning more toward something similar to one of these?

Randal: Oh yes, as stated before, there will be a dramatic shift in musical styles/genres for the third album. But I’ll leave this as a surprise for a later date.

Michael: If you had to choose one artist as the greatest inspiration for your music, or for you becoming a musician, who would it be?

Randal: As stated before, Simon Health. And I’ll leave it at that, to not sound too much like a fan boy. Haha

Michael: Thanks so much for your time, its been great having the opportunity to speak with you and find out more about the man behind the music. I’ll leave the last words to you!

Randal: I’ve said this before in a past interview, and I’ll say it again now: Never stop pushing forward with your passions and dreams. Even if you think you’ve accomplished them or feel comfortable where you are, keep pushing forward and growing beyond your limits and your own expectations. Never give up, even when you think you’re never going to achieve them, or if you think you can’t compare to others, find what makes it special for you. Put your signature in your work, try something new, push the envelope, and dedicate yourself to what you want to put into it and get out of it. In time, you will gain it. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you do isn’t worth it, or try to compare you to others, don’t ever try to carry the fire set by those who have come before you. Be a new fire, and burn brighter than you ever have before. And watch yourself outshine the sheep and parrots who fill the world around, all on your own terms that you set for yourself. Or, you know, what ever feels right for you. That works too.

Randal Collier-Ford
links: Facebook, Bandcamp

A Cryo Chamber Collaboration – Azathoth – Interview (re-pub ’15)

Interview with: Randal Collier-Ford, Neizvestija, Darkrad and Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri and Sabled Sun
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in October of 2015. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Azathoth was unleashed on the world in 2015. The collaboration by the Cryo Chamber collective was the second in their series of Lovecraft albums. The series started with Cthulhu and in the time since this publication Nyarlathotep has also been added to the series. The following interview gets some insights about the Azathoth album from a few of the artists involved.

Michael: Were you very familiar with Azathoth going into this project?

Neizvestija: Yes, I have read a lot of Lovecraft, but not incorporated it into my work prior to the Cthulhu album.

Randal Collier-Ford: I want to say that I have held some sort of influence from the work of H.P. Lovecraft in degree, I have always had such atmosphere tied together with other inspirations for individual tracks here and there. Just nothing solely taken from his work.

Michael: How did you find inspiration for the sounds you would use?

Neizvestija

Neizvestija: The image of darkness and desolation in outer space.

Michael: Do you have a favorite H.P. Lovecraft themed film or video game?

Randal Collier-Ford: Oh yes, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of The Earth. It was the first game I owned for Xbox when I was a teenager, and it scared the piss out of me within the first hour. So I knew it would stick with me forever in a great way, and its atmosphere helped me realize what I loved in dark atmospheres.

Michael: Did you use more of your own sounds or did you pull heavily from others’ collections?

Neizvestija: Mostly my own. Main theme of my track is borrowed though.

Randal Collier-Ford

Randal Collier-Ford: I pulled mostly from other people, because I wanted to challenge myself to do something I had no control over creating. Additionally, it was so exciting to see and play with the raw materials from people that I respect to no end, and I look up to as artists (I did feel a little bit like a fan boy while working with these sounds).

Michael: This was quite an experiment, collaborating with so many artists in this way, did you enjoy the overall process?

Darkrad: Absolutely. I have never collaborated with such a large amount of artists at the same time. In fact, I don’t collaborate much at all. I was always a loner on my creative path. It’s not easy to find the right person, the right mood that matches what you have inside, and it’s not easy to trust something very personal. I have done some remixes and live sessions with the other musicians, but never anything similar to this kind of project. But despite my sometimes isolated and self-centered approach to art, I always search for the new ways and I open my mind to anything that might be interesting and that will allow new discoveries. The process of this collaboration was fantastic, very well organized and highly interactive. It was exciting to listen to the work of the others evolving and elaborating into a finished piece. I’ve already known some participating artists personally, but I was also able to discover the art of musicians, who I didn’t know before.

Randal Collier-Ford: It was a dream come true, the thought of working so closely with such fantastic artists, men and women who are carrying the torch for a new generation of Dark Ambient artists, as well as veterans I grew up listening to, its mind blowing. I couldn’t ask for anything else.

Darkrad

Michael: Did this large collaboration bring something extra out in you as an individual artist you weren’t expecting?

Darkrad: I definitely enjoyed this kind of work, when it’s not just one or two musicians getting together to record a joint piece, but it’s a whole team of individuals, with their own thoughts and approaches, from different parts of the world, merge their skills to create something beautiful and remarkable. I thought of this project as something global from one side, but very intimate from the other. I could feel this intimacy from the sounds of the others and I could feel it speaking out in myself too.

Michael: Was it more chaotic working with so many artists this time around, or did everything synchronize smoothly as you envisioned?

Simon Heath

Simon: With more artists, there is a lot more work to be done on my side when trying to orchestrate it, it also adds considerable time to the process since some artists are out playing live so the synchronization can be an issue. It took 3 months longer compared to Cthulhu to complete Azathoth.

Michael: Will you do more H.P. Lovecraft themed albums in the future, or are there other mythos you would like to delve into?

Simon: We are already in the pre-planning stages of something for next year. Lovecraft as it turns out is a huge inspiration to all the artists and is something that binds our sounds together very well. As for other mythos, I would like to explore the cradle of civilization with other artists, Sumerian or Egyptian mythology. But that is not something we are currently planning for.
(editor’s note: The album he alludes to here would later form into what we now know as Nyarlathotep which pushed the limits even further with more artists involved, culminating in a three disc 3+ hour album.)

Michael: You have been part of a lot of collaborations recently: Onyx with Apocryophos and Kammarheit, Cthulhu with 13 artists, Sacrosanct with Eldar, is this becoming your favorite way of composing music, or do you still prefer to do things on your own often?

Simon: I love to collaborate with other artists if we are on the same page. As for Onyx, Kammarheit and Apocryphos turned out to be very easy to work with. We shared many philosophies on sound design and we separated our egos enough from the project that each one could let his strengths shine and let other artists carry each other’s weaknesses. Mutual respect creates good collaboration and when I am in a space where I can share my accumulated studio knowledge with someone that is on an equal level, it makes things very interesting when they come back with their own knowledge and share it with me. It results in all of us progressing in our fields faster and more importantly creating spectacular art. I do like to produce as a solo artist a lot, and it’s a completely different approach I use for that.

Michael: Does Azathoth sound as you originally envisioned or did it evolve into something none of you were expecting?

Simon: Not at all and that’s the beauty of such a behemoth of a collaboration. I may be orchestrating Azathoth, but I function more as a guide in the process and we have a very open line of communication on the label about both collaborations such as this and the label in general. We function more as a collective with me at the helm of the ship trying to get us to our destination.

Cryo Chamber links: Official website, Facebook, Bandcamp

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