Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 2)

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?

: 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?

: 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.

: 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?

: 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: 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.


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

Enmarta – Interview (re-pub ’15 )

Interview with: Enmarta aka Siegfried (Der Leiermann)
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

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

Back in 2015, Enmarta had just landed on the dark ambient scene. His debut album Sea of Black took listeners into a brilliant world of dark ambient blended with authentic classical instrumentation. The album quickly became a lauded addition to the Cryo Chamber label. Since this interview, Enmarta has released his sophomore album, The Hermit which went even further in realizing this neo-classical / dark ambient amalgamation.

Michael: Where exactly are you from, and how does that influence your music?

Siegfried: Well, I’m from Reggio Calabria (South Italy), a small city for “small” people. It is easy to be imprisoned in yourself here and that’s because there’s no one who could understand your message. At least I have some friends with the same interests, but try to imagine a society who couldn’t catch what you have to say – even if you play indie or pop rock, now try to imagine it interfacing with dark ambient… This says it all.

Michael: What instruments did you play yourself for Sea Of Black? How did that effect your take on a dark ambient album?

Siegfried: My gear consists of a simple midi keyboard, a simple handmade Indonesian flute, a glockenspiel, bells and my viola. Everything treated with FL Studio and Reaper. This is what I use for Enmarta. I think I will expand my gear to different other instruments. I was just thinking about a string quartet for my second work! But we will see, I need time to study this combination.

Michael: Do you compose in any other genres?

Siegfried: Yes, of course. Actually I’m working for a black metal project of mine, but at the moment I’m too busy with my music studies that keep me in hours of seclusion. I also play keyboards in a melodic death metal band called Memories Of A Lost Soul.

Michael: How did you discover dark ambient music?

Siegfried: I have listened to black metal for a long time, since I was younger. Between songs we would always find some dark/obscure interludes and I think you must be wondering on how this could focus on my discovery of dark ambient music. Through time I just did some research and I just discovered that it was simply a genre within a genre. That’s how I discovered dark ambient music.

Michael: Do you ever perform live? Do you see live shows as a fitting way to spread the word about dark ambient, and your own album in particular?

Siegfried: I never perform live and it’s a pity. Of course it is a wonderful way to spread the word, my word. I can’t do anything here, I’m just locked, but I hope to make something great happen in the future. Maybe a performance for closer friends, who knows?

Michael: How did you come in contact with Cryo Chamber?

Siegfried: I just wanted to introduce my music to a large number of bright and able people. Cryo Chamber seemed the most suitable way to spread out my passion. At first it seemed a dream to me, but then I just asked Simon Heath if it could be possible to make this dream come true. Now I’m here.

Michael: How has your experience as an addition to the Cryo Chamber roster affected you?

Siegfried: It has been a joy to see my name and my face alongside those of many other composers who have given something very relevant to the world of music and I’m still very excited about it. It is not so easy belonging to a particular group of people.

Michael: Did you have a specific concept in mind, when starting this project, or did the concept and feel of the album change as you produced the tracks?

Siegfried: I just started this project as a bridge to my soul. I try to express what I have inside through a language that helps me a lot, MUSIC. I find no other way to make you understand how much I hate mankind and how I wish to see it rot. All my tracks have a specific message inside, but it is up to you to figure out what kind of message.

Michael: How do you feel about the dark ambient scene as a whole? Has it seemed very welcoming to you or has it been a struggle to gain recognition amongst so many veteran musicians?

Siegfried: It was not difficult to open a way in the scene, I thought Sea Of Black would have been a flop, and instead I received hundreds of compliments even from very important people in the scene and now everyone asks me what’s in store. I think it is a very warm welcome.

Michael: What are you currently working on musically? Do you have another dark ambient album in the works, or will you be focusing on other areas of your life?

Siegfried: I’m currently working on new sounds. I think I’ll bring this project with me, in my grave, one day.
(editor’s note: as fate would have it, this project did not follow him to his grave. Here’s a track from his most recent album, The Hermit, also released through Cryo Chamber.)

Michael: If you could tell fans one thing about yourself that you find interesting and they may not know about you, what would it be?

Siegfried: I am a fetishist.

Michael: Do you have a strong connection to ancient Italian civilizations? Do you ever visit ruins, which ones if so? Does this deep Italian history play any role in your music?

Siegfried: I have a strong link with the past of my nation and its traditions. I live on the same land where the first Greeks set foot to give life to what was once called the Magna Græcia, now called Calabria. The same land that for us has become synonymous with corruption for them became a land of hope. Many ruins and tools were still preserved in the best possible way, many others lost forever or simply not brought to light yet. We still have a lot of ruins scattered throughout the region: Caulonia, Gerace, Locri, Vibo Valentia, Nao and so on. I suggest that you visit these magnificent places, it’s a real ancestral throwback. In conclusion, my final answer is YES: my music is dedicated to my ancestors, as well as the stars which combine themselves to give life to a new galaxy. Our ancestors gathered with all their forces to give us a future, a floor to rest our feet and all my prayers and passions are devoted to them.

Enmarta links: Facebook, Cryo Chamber

Vinterriket – Interview

Interview with: Vinterriket
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Vinterriket is mainly a dark ambient artist, though some albums move more into black metal or neo-folk directions. For the past two decades Vinterriket has been honing their style, with many albums to show for their effort. With a new album release on the horizon, now seemed like a good time to catch up with the man behind Vinterriket and find out a bit about his plans and inspirations.

Michael: I first encountered your music through the split you worked on with Northaunt many years ago. Do you know each other personally or was this the doing of a label?

Vinterriket: Hi Michael. The first split with Northaunt from Norway was released in 2002 if I remember correctly (in the form of a 7” EP). We did not know each other personally. I think it was me who contacted Northaunt because I thought it would be a great idea and because I thought the styles / the concept / the atmosphere fits. It was the time when Northaunt had the “Ominous Silence” CD out. It is a great record. The 7” EP turned out really great, I think. After the first split 7” EP release, various other Vinterriket/ Northaunt versions and releases saw the light of day (limited CD-r/MC-version/CD 2004/another 7”EP). Back 15 years ago, I was actually the man behind Neodawn Productions and I released the first 7” EP of Vinterriket/ Northaunt myself.

Michael: Your music takes on many different forms, from dark ambient, to black metal, some instrumental, some with spoken words. Is there a central concept behind all these different styles or do you allow your music to move in any direction you choose?

Vinterriket: Vinterriket is only influenced by the dark side of nature, nothing else. Sure, you get influenced by many things around you if you want or not, you can even say by ALL things around you: Friends, books, films, landscapes, pictures, etc.
But my main source of inspiration is the “night-side” of nature. Nature is all and everything to me. I am a “nature-child” so to speak and I have a very close relationship to nature. All Vinterriket tracks so far have been odes to the dark side of Mother Nature. Of course I prefer dark, melancholic and moody places and landscapes. I really like to walk around alone in autumn and winter through stormy, snowy, misty and cold woods… We have a lot of great dark and powerful places here in our area where you can really feel the energy and might of nature. Well, maybe there are some people out there saying that I’m repeating myself (with regards to releases) but I do not think so. Different music styles also reflect different tributes to the dark side of nature. Vinterriket’s music expresses a lot of feelings and atmospheres, just like nature itself. At one point the music turns more warm, romantic and “sunny” at the other point more dark, cruel or frightening. But the dark aspect is very dominant, I think. I am of the opinion that Vinterriket is very connected to the north because of the nature- aspect. Ice, coldness, loneliness, dark winter nights, northern lights, endless & vast landscapes, mysterious forests,… The list is long.

Michael: Do you often perform live? Do you have any favorite venue where you have performed in the past? Where would be your ideal location for a concert / festival?

Vinterriket: Up ‘til now Vinterriket has never played live, maybe in the future? Who knows… This mainly depends on finding other competent session musicians. The music is mainly pure Ambient as you know. So it is senseless to make live-shows, at least in my opinion. In general, Vinterriket’s music is absolutely NOT made to be performed live in crappy concert halls. People should listen to it individually at home during the uttermost darkness. If there would be a gig it would be something very special, I am sure. But there are absolutely no plans for a live-show right now. And 2nd, it would be difficult to perform the stuff live, too. But on the other hand I have several offers for live shows lying here. People are asking more and more about it. But I do not know… Maybe I’ll do gig or more in the future, we’ll see what the future will bring. In the past I had mentioned in several interviews that plans existed to bring Vinterriket to stage in spring 2005 with the help of some session members. Unfortunately those plans died due to one session member leaving the live line-up because of several reasons. With his departure the plans to bring Vinterriket on stage were laid on ice now…. Maybe the plan has died forever….I am seldom attending gigs, actually. I prefer to listen to the stuff at home. I haven’t really thought about any live gig in the last months and years. Playing on a mountain or in the forest would be perfect for a Vinterriket performance.

Michael: Where is your hometown? Does this area have an affect on the style of your music?

Vinterriket: At the moment I live in the countryside in Switzerland. It is a nice area here and the mountains are not far. My hometown is in the countryside of southern Germany. As the dark side of nature is the main source of inspiration for Vinterriket, the place where I live definitely has an influence. I think the translation of the text included in the booklet of the 2004 CD “Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit” (Landscapes of eternal emptiness) expresses the situation with nature being an influence very well and is valid for all my records released so far. Here is an excerpt… There is nothing to add, I think:

“Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit” is a tribute to the night and the shadowed obscurity that is exclusive to nature, and should be understood as such. It is a conceptual work which was created with the intention of describing the dark side of nature through music and to transform its atmosphere into tonal soundscapes. The content of this CD is not music in the conventional sense; it is dark, natural, and mystical art. The title of the CD translates in English to “Landscapes of eternal emptiness/solitude”. Like the title of the CD describes, it includes soundscapes that make the listener envision solemn lands. The musical interpretations (put simply) are desolate, dark, and mysterious. Nothing more, nothing less… Similar to the way that the dark side of nature can express variations of conflicting atmospheres, “Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit” also reflects different sceneries, moods and “landscapes” of human emotion, if you will. It is only of this melancholic, dark, cold, moody and unique realm of nature’s obscured darkness that this work resides within, and it does not deviate from this at all. This CD shouldn’t be compared with technical, or so-called “industry standards,” and furthermore should not be connected with them in any way. This work was consciously created without the inclusion of predictable passages. Sublime silence, coldness and solitude are presented in it’s place. Other than what has already been stated, this work was not created to simply portray depressing-sounding song titles. “Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit” is timeless and should be regarded as a complete work. Anyone who finds their way into a mysterious and dark realm while listening to this CD has understood “Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit”. Anyone else should simply ignore this record. In order to capture the correct atmosphere of this record, it should be listened to during the uttermost darkness.”

Michael: How old were you when you first began working on dark ambient music?

Vinterriket: The story/ history of Vinterriket is quite boring and nothing special, I think. I have started the whole project back in late 1996 when I was a young boy. In the early days the whole thing was very slow and I was not 100% behind it. The first demotape was released in early 2000 or in the end of 1999, I think. So it took 3 years to finish the stuff. This was mainly because of bad equipment and so on. After the release of the demo the whole thing became more serious and I totally focused on the project. Up ‘til now many EP’s, CD’s Demos and so on have been published on different labels around the globe. Too many stuff to mention, actually. Vinterriket was founded because of my endless love to the dark side of Mother Nature. I wanted to express my feelings and the way I see nature through this kind of art in order to satisfy myself. Principally, I make music ONLY for myself, for nobody else. If others like the music, too: Ok. If not, I do not care at all. Of course it is great to see that many others share the same feelings, that many others have the same visions/ landscapes/ feelings inside when listening to the music of Vinterriket and that many others interpret my lyrics as I’d do myself. Then I see they got the point I want to express. Others listen to the stuff and they understand simply nothing of what I wanted to express. But as I said: I do not care at all and it’s ok. Vinterriket is me and I am Vinterriket. No other members have been included in the past.

Michael: Sound design was so much different before computers and DAW programs made things simpler. When you first started out, was the recording process much different for you than it is today?

Vinterriket: Yes, that is correct. In the past I used 4/8-track recording machines and real keyboards. The process of creating and recording music was definitely different and more complicated. Nowadays, with software synthesizers there are many more possibilities I would say. These new technologies also bring new inspiration. The old stuff I composed as a teenager back in 1996/1997 was only heard by a few close friends and it seemed that they liked it, though the sound was very bad. I had no good recording- equipment. I borrowed the synthesizer and the recording-equipment from our local school…! Some of the old riffs you can hear in the first song of the demotape’2000 called “…Gjennom Tåkete Skogen”, but of course a little bit differently arranged. I do not even have these old recordings anymore. I lost them or erased them… I don’t know. Or there is no device that can actually play the material anymore.

Michael: You have a large discography. For a newcomer to your sounds, what would be your recommended album for them to hear first?

Vinterriket: This is a very difficult question. If people are into Dark Ambient, I would recommend listening to Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit – it is my 2004-release.

Michael: What can we expect on the new album? Will there be surprises or is this going to stay similar to previous releases?

Vinterriket: The new album will be released this summer 2017 and is entitled Nachtfülle. The album will be released in a limited edition only by a French label. There won’t be any surprises. This time it is a pure dark ambient album again, no lyrics, no, vocals. Again, the album is very moody, depressive and atmospheric, here and there also quite hypnotic.

Michael: You have some beautiful frozen landscapes as your album art on many releases. How important is the album art to the greater picture for you? Do you usually create these covers yourself or do you have a favorite photographer with whom you collaborate?

Vinterriket: The cover- pictures/booklet pictures should always fit 100% to the music. I am of the opinion that the layout and the pictures on my records fit perfectly to the music. The pictures I used on covers / booklets and so on have more or less ALL been taken by me. I am proud to use self-made pictures and not to steal them in the internet like others do. Photography is a great field of art. I have created all the artworks of my releases so far (almost…. there are some exceptions when it comes to re-releases). Layout, music and lyrics are always going hand in hand within Vinterriket, therefore I have chosen dark “nature-layouts” in order to underline the music. Vinterriket’s music is a tribute to the dark side of nature, exclusively, nothing more and nothing less. I am of the opinion that a record consists of four main parts which should perfectly fit together: format (extravagant packing), lyrics, music and artwork. I am of the opinion that black/white covers/booklets are fitting best to Vinterriket’s music. I’ll probably never use coloured stuff…Lyrics, song-titles and pictures are very important to me. Music, lyrics and pictures (layout in general) should go hand in hand to underline each other. All three components should melt together and the whole thing should be considered as union. And therefore I always use black/white booklets/covers because nothing would fit better, I think. For example, Winterschatten, …und die Nacht kam schweren Schrittes and Landschaften ewiger Einsamkeit are conceptional releases exclusively. On all mentioned records layout, packing, music and lyrics (titles) are perfectly fitting together in order to become “ONE”!

Michael: How does your studio space look? Do you just have a laptop and midi keyboard, or is there an elaborate set-up of analog synths and the like?

Vinterriket: I actually use both – Some analogue synths and software –synths together with a midi-keyboard that is connected to the computer.

Michael: Do you have any favorite artist in the dark ambient scene, or some specific album that you listen to the most frequently?

Vinterriket: Not really. I more focus on individual songs instead of albums. I am actually not listening to music that much anymore. There are definitely some great artists – too many to mention. I mostly like music that also reflects and expresses the dark side of nature.

Michael: Our modern world seems to be in a bad state sometimes. Do you think the apocalypse is coming? If so, how do you think it will happen?

Vinterriket: Yes, it is worrying with regards to the modern world. But I think it is also realistic that e.g. something from space hits us,… or e.g. a natural disaster. But technology and digitalisation is also scary.

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

Vinterriket: Thanks for the interview Michael.

Vinterriket links: Official Site, Facebook

Here is the link to an interesting and beautifully executed video interview with Vinterriket from 2015 created by: Highelvetia Movies. Link.

Rosalie Mulder – Interview

Interview with: Rosalie Mulder
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Rosalie Mulder is quite the unique dark ambient artist. At the age of 17 she has managed to release her debut album on the Minnesota based Dark Winter label. Dark Winter has released some memorable albums since founding back in 2002, with releases by well-known artists such as Alio Die and Steve Roach. In recent years their output has slowed considerably, but the quality has remained consistent. Rosalie Mulder started her journey with dark ambient several years ago, experimenting with music for the fun of it in her father’s studio. Chords of Chaos is the culmination of these experimentations. When speaking with her, it is quite obvious that she is still a young artist, with a whimsical approach to her output and just beginning to find her place in the music world. However, the sounds on Chords of Chaos are quite experimental and interesting, it seems that as her experience progresses in this field, we will almost certainly see some more amazing albums coming from her in the future. So without further ado, let’s hop into the conversation with Rosalie!

The following track is “Chords of Chaos” from her debut album.

Michael: First off, congratulations on your debut release! It is not everyday that someone is able to make their first full length release on a label at such a young age! Can you first tell us a little bit about the concept for Chords Of Chaos?

Rosalie: The concept was kind of vague. I tried to give the right feeling to the music.  The feeling I felt was like a dream or another world and it seemed a good concept for this album.

Michael: Each track on Chords Of Chaos is ten minutes in length. What was the reasoning for doing it this way?

Rosalie: Oh you noticed… I heard around 10 min would be a good length for a dark ambient song. I am weird.

Michael: Ah, so you decided on this from the very beginning?

Rosalie: Yes, when I was finishing the first track, “Yoru”.

Michael: I see that you have used a variety of live instruments on this album including: lap harp, guitar, flute, drums and your own voice. Can you tell us a bit about how you learned to play such a wide range of instruments?

Rosalie: Oh I didn’t say I play them well, just making random cool sounds I guess. Like, I even played some weird flute, really out of tune, but it still worked out. We have a lot of instruments at home to use.

Michael: When did you first start taking interest in music?

Rosalie: Around age 12 I guess.

Michael: How long have you been listening to dark ambient music?

Rosalie: Well, I don’t remember. My dad played it a lot when I was a kid.

Michael: Did your father teach you many of the techniques you used to make this album, or are these ideas that came to you on your own, after hearing his and other music?

Rosalie: Well he kind of taught me how to use the software, when he played dark ambient and other stuff so I learned what it was. Then, some years after that, I experimented with sounds and it ended up becoming this.

Michael: How long have you known that you wanted to make an album like this?

Rosalie: I don’t know, I just started making songs, selected a few and made it into an album.

Michael: How long did the whole process take once you started writing and recording?

Rosalie: No idea. I took my time. It took a few years, with breaks.

Michael: What was your favorite instrument to use on Chords Of Chaos?

Rosalie: Oh, the little harp was fun. I have no idea how you are actually supposed to play it, but it made nice sounds.

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

Rosalie: I use a laptop to produce and record the music. There is a studio but I like to make music around different places.

Michael: What were some of the places or emotions that you drew on to make this album?

Rosalie: I don’t know, I tried to produce some kind of feeling in the songs.
To show my idea of an interesting atmosphere, like dreaming music in a way.

Michael: Do you listen to dark ambient other than your own and your father’s music? If so, who are some of your favorite or most influential artists?

Rosalie: Hmmm, I listen to a lot of uh stuff… I haven’t really heard my father’s music in years, hehehe. I remember it being good though. I have listened to Abelcain in the past, though more the breakcore-ish stuff. I dont really listen to others in the style much.

Michael: Did you create the art for Chords Of Chaos, if so what was your motivation behind it?

Rosalie: Oh yes I made it. Well, the motivation was just trying to make images that fit the feeling of the album and my style.

Michael: Do you create music in different genres? Or, are you only creating dark ambient style music now?

Rosalie: I’ve tried some other stuff too, like programing a metalish song and trying to learn to play it on my actual guitar too. Now I don’t even know what to call most of it. I’ve been experimenting a lot.

Michael: Do you have plans for writing another dark ambient album?

Rosalie: Now that Chords of Chaos is finished, I’ve started working on a second album.

Chords of Chaos is available from Dark Winter as a free download here.

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