Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 3)

Frédéric Arbour of Cyclic Law / Visions – Interview

Frédéric Arbour is probably one of the most important people in the dark ambient scene. Since the early 2000s, his record label, Cyclic Law, has released some of the most important and influential dark ambient albums in the history of the genre. Though, Arbour himself has always seemed to be one of the most quiet voices within the genre. Along with running the label, Cyclic Law, Arbour creates music in various projects including: Havan, Stärker and Instincts. His other project, Visions, has just released a brilliant new collaborative album with Phurpa, entitled Monad. So, now seemed like a great time to catch up with him to find out more about Visions, his collaboration with Phurpa, and the Cyclic Law record label’s past & future. Enjoy!

Interview with: Frédéric Arbour [See end for links to his projects and label.]
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Michael: First I’d like to talk a bit about your new album Monad, a collaboration with Phurpa. After your last two releases as Visions, you decided to take a break from the project. Was this release with Phurpa aligned with those plans, or did this opportunity come as a surprise, changing your plans?

Frédéric: I guess it was neither a surprise nor planned. I had put Visions on hold for an indefinite period to focus on Stärker and Havan and a few other collaborations I have also been involved in, and this past year I felt I had to rethink my approach and sound and decided to focus on Visions again and go forward with new ideas.

Michael: How long have you known Alexey Tegin? How soon did you decide that you would want to collaborate with him and the Phurpa project?

Frédéric: I have known of Alexey since 2002 from a release under his own name titled Gyer. Also, having been close to Tibetan ritual music for many years prior, his unique take on this tradition immediately resonated with me. We were in contact some years later, and we were able to finally meet in 2014 while I was hosting a Cyclic Law night in Moscow, where Phurpa closed the evening. Alexey was also kind enough to invite us to his home and ritual chamber. We have since kept in contact, and have also released 2 other albums by Phurpa through Cyclic Law.

Michael: Did Visions and Phurpa come together in a studio setting to create Monad, or was this done electronically between Germany and Russia?

Frédéric: It was done through exchanging ideas and audio files electronically. Alexey sent me mantras which had specific intents, that I then processed and merged into what became Monad.

Michael: Were there set guidelines for your individual roles (i.e. Phurpa does all percussion, Visions does all drones), or was it a more fluid process?

Frédéric: It was quite fluid, there’s chants and percussive elements from both Phurpa and myself. I layered the drones and atmospheric elements throughout, and also did the final mixing and mastering.

Michael: How did you decide on Monad as the title for the album, and I assume the theme of the release as well? Should we assume this to be the Monad of Gnosticism?

Frédéric: It would translate to the totality of the whole, and its source, and the channeling of this primordial force.

Michael: Obviously, Phurpa is a very spiritually oriented project, backed by the strict adherence to the beliefs that Alexey Tegin holds. Would you consider Visions to be an equally spiritual project, or do you seek to harness more abstract ideas?

Frédéric: Spiritual, most definitely, with a strong dose of abstraction. At its etymological roots, the word abstract relates to being “withdrawn from worldly interests”. This is where Visions stands.

Michael: How did the similarities/differences in the religious/world views between Visions and Phurpa play into the creation of, and energy behind, this release?

Frédéric: Let’s just say that we both channel and explore the same currents through our musical means; and this is how / why our paths crossed and we’ve come to this collaboration. The result and energy it emanates speaks for itself.

Michael: With Monad released, will Visions continue to be a main priority for the moment or will you allow it to patiently lie in wait for your next inspiration?

Frédéric: This release is a prelude to the new album coming early next year, I’m working on new material that is soon approaching completion.

Michael: Let us turn the attention now to your role as founder and main operator of the Cyclic Law record label. In a word, how are things going at Cyclic Law at the moment?

Frédéric: Things are good, there are quite a few titles planned for the rest of the year and well into 2019.

Michael: You’ve recently made a huge move, transporting the whole Cyclic Law operation from Canada to Berlin. Would you care to speak any on the reasons for that move? How are things in Berlin, so far?

Frédéric: I’ve known for many years that I would at some point move to Europe. I’ve been traveling and touring Europe yearly for over 20 years now, and have always felt more at home on this side of the Atlantic. Berlin was a more strategic choice in terms of ease of relocation and for its very active cultural landscape. Things have been quite good for me as a whole here. I’m definitely glad this move came to its conclusion.

Michael: Obviously, during the previously mentioned move, the label’s output was a little slower, though it has considerably increased in the first half of 2018. Will you be planning to keep things moving at this pace for the near future?

Frédéric: Yes, moving took some adjustment, but 2017 and 2018 have been quite active with very interesting releases coming my way, and there’s quite a lot in the works.

Michael: I haven’t read any previous interviews with you, so I thought it would be interesting to hear a little bit about the start of Cyclic Law from your perspective. Those first few years, releasing the first handful of albums which ended up having such an impact on the dark ambient genre. What were your feelings starting up the label?

Frédéric: Well things started around 1998, when I purchased my first synth to create what became the Instincts / Bustum The Mystery Visions album, and subsequently what established Cyclic Law as a label in 2002. In those years, I had met Svartsinn, Northaunt and Kammarheit through the mp3.com platform. Things evolved from there, with the release of the Nord Ambient Alliance compilation and then releases by Kammarheit, Sophia, Svartsinn etc…

Michael: Did you have any intentions of still doing this almost two decades later?

Frédéric: Well you can never predict where things will lead you. But, my intentions to push this forward as long as it feels relevant have been there from the start, and I hope I can keep doing this for some time still. Things change, but the music still speaks.

Michael: Do you have any thoughts on the dark ambient genre as a whole, with the emergence of things like Spotify, Youtube, and too a lesser degree Bandcamp, that make it easier for listeners to absorb massive amounts of music, but harder for invested labels to pay the bills.

Frédéric: Well these are 2 things, content vs form. As for content, well the genre has evolved and I’m still surprised by some of the quality and craft some artists deploy. Even after all these years, there are still new ways to interpret and approach this genre. As for form, well yes, there’s a lot of material out there and for someone diving into this genre today the scope is overwhelming. Album sales are fluctuating and the streaming reality is what it is. We just work with the means we have and keep pushing forward.

Michael: Many people have quite rigid views on their favorite genres of music, whatever they may be. Do you see a great new horizon ahead of us, or do you think the golden age of dark ambient may already be in the rear-view?

Frédéric: Most musical styles have had their “golden age” and now it is through convergence of styles and ideas that things evolve. I’m okay with this for the most part. Classics will remain classics, yet there are more classics to be made.

Michael: The reemergence of vinyl has left its mark on dark ambient, as it has on most other genres right now. Cyclic Law got into the vinyl releases early on in this trend. For you as a label head, what are the ups and downs of vinyl?

Frédéric: My initial goal with the first releases was to give the CD format the aspects I had enjoyed of vinyl, the smell and feel of heavy cardboard, inserts, gatefold sleeves etc… this was at a time when vinyl was almost out of the picture. Yet, we were releasing vinyl back in 2003, before this “comeback” of vinyl. Now we can offer both CD and vinyl, and even cassettes. So, it’s interesting to be able to present all these formats. I maybe secretly miss the 8-track cassette days of my youth.

Michael: You played a big part in the startups of Kammarheit, Northaunt and Svartsinn. You found Psychomanteum, the first released project by Robert Kozletsky, now best known for Apocryphos, while he was still in college, only beginning to even realize his own talents. The list could go on. Do you have your eyes set on any artists right now that you think are incredibly talented which haven’t yet gotten the recognition they deserve?

Frédéric: Well yes, there’s always this aspect of running a label, to push the more established acts as well as unearth newcomers that one feels must be heard by a wider audience. Recently, Shedir from Italy has had a big impact on me, as well as a few others yet to be released: Cober Ord from France, Kristian Westergard from Norway, Purba from Russia, O Saala Sakral (ex Hadewych) from The Netherlands and more…

Michael: What can we expect the future to hold for Cyclic Law, business as usual, or any surprises on the way?

Frédéric: Well business isn’t quite usual here. There are definitely some surprises. But, I’ll have to keep the suspense for now.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time, Frederic. It’s been a great pleasure getting to pick your brain!

Frédéric: Thank you Michael, and for all your work. Your platform is a haven in a sea of insignificance.

Links
Cyclic Law: Official Site, Facebook, Bandcamp
Visions: Facebook, Discogs
StärkerFacebook, Discogs
HavanFacebook, Discogs

Mortiis – Interview (Era 1 focused)

 

Mortiis is hailed by many/most as one of the greatest originators of the now greatly expanding dungeon synth genre. His Era 1 releases considered classics, and highly sought out by the dungeon synth community, as well as by fans of the Cold Meat Industry label, in general, which was home to Mortiis Era 1. With a new round of concerts featuring Era 1 material, a re-issue of his book ‘Secrets of My Kingdom’, and re-issues of many Era 1 albums, it seemed like a great time to have a conversation with the man behind Mortiis and pick his mind about the new book, his re-emergence within the Era 1 context, the Cold Meat Industry 25th anniversary festival and more!

Interviewee: Håvard Ellefsen a.k.a. Mortiis
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Michael: The last year or so has been pretty crazy for you, it seems. Since your re-emergence in 2015, there has been a simultaneous flow of new fans to your Era 1 material, which culminated in the recent tour and appearance at the Cold Meat Industry 25th anniversary festival. In general, how have you been feeling about all this change?

Mortiis: Good. The only regret I have is that everything should have happened sooner. Especially the release of The Great Deceiver. But a lot of shit got in the way of that, so it wasn´t so much that we were dormant or inactive prior to 2015, we were just dealing with a ton of crap in the background. All that bullshit culminated in us getting rid of some, let´s say, obstacles in the “organization”, that had been wasting a lot of our time, especially in the couple of years leading up to the release of The Great Deceiver. From that moment on, you could almost physically feel the shifting of gears and actual forward movement.

Michael: More specifically, are you pleased to see your old work coming back to prominence so many years later?

Mortiis: To be honest I think it´s cool that people like my music, regardless of when it was made. I just think it´s cool to see people dig my stuff…I didn´t always feel this way…A few years back, I wanted people to feel the way I did, which was, invariably, that my latest music was the best…That´s not realistic, obviously. But I wanted things to be like that. Needless to say, an artist should always feel that the latest work is the best, but it´s not realistic to expect everyone else to agree.

Michael: After this round of 1st era re-issues, the touring, and the re-printing of your long sold out, and greatly sought after “Secrets of My Kingdom” book, what is next for Mortiis? Will the full focus return to Mortiis, the band, as opposed to Mortiis, the dark dungeon music guy?

Mortiis: We´ll have to see about that. I´d like to get another album out of the Era 1 style stuff, but brought into the light on current times. The band will resurface, because so much of my heart and soul has been vested into it, and the music and energy that it inspires in me, so I could never let that go.
As of right now. I am committed to a lot of shows for the rest of the year, and beyond that, I have many plans and ideas, and I´ll just reveal that along the way, when the time is right, haha!

Michael: Your own music aside, what are your feelings on this huge re-emergence of dungeon synth?

Mortiis: It sort of happened in my absence, and I wasn´t really made aware of it until I peronally came to terms with my musical past, which I had a lot of personal issues with up until about 2-3 years ago, when my mind became less foggy and judgemental about it. By that point, it seemed to have been growing to a decent size…It´s interesting that its happening now. Because, I don´t think my reissues had anything to do with this emergence. I think it´s a monster all on its own, so to speak. So it would appear it´s really just a very cool coincidence. I still haven´t been able to check out a lot of it. Although, I have done shows with projects like Old Tower recently, which sounds pretty cool me.

Michael: You’ve marked your stamp of approval on several recent dungeon synth releases, including Machina Coeli’s Gnosis, and at least one other that escapes me at the moment. I’ve also seen your name in the “thank you” sections of many artists’ albums. What do you think your position is within this new dungeon synth community? Are you keeping an eye on new projects, or do you mostly ignore these trends/communities and focus on your own work?

Mortiis: I don´t ignore them, I´m just not as good as I should be on checking them out. It´s all about lack of time really. I´m pretty swamped at the moment, and have been for some time… I see the forums online and I notice a lot of these names. So, I think a good portion of what´s out there, at least I´ve seen their names around, if nothing else. As for my position, I don´t know, I don´t really want to speculate in that. And, it´s not really up to me anyway, to place myself in any sort of hierarchy. If that makes any sense. I think I´m well respected by most people into dungeon synth. Although, I remember one douchebag being very personally offended at me for posting in a forum that was for French DS people only, which I missed. He got all worked up about it. Maybe he hoped for some sort of response. He never got one, so he was probably punching a screen somewhere. Hopefully it broke.

Michael: If you had one piece of advice to give new dungeon synth artists, what would that be?

Mortiis: Don´t post on French DS forums, haha! Nah, the French are OK, except this one dude, haha! To be honest, I´m not a DS expert, I don´t have it “all figured out” or anything. When I started out, I took a lot of shit for being an outsider visually, and making music that was hard to pigeonhole, so my best advice is to just keep at it. If it feels right, then let the world burn, fuck the critics, be yourself.

When I started out, I took a lot of shit for being an outsider visually, and making music that was hard to pigeonhole, so my best advice is to just keep at it. If it feels right, then let the world burn, fuck the critics, be yourself.

Michael: I mentioned earlier the CMI festival. How was that experience for you? Was it surreal to come back together with so many of these people from your formative years?

Mortiis: It was cool to meet guys like Tomas from Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Peter from Deutsch Nepal and Peter from Raison d’etre, as I hadn´t met them for years. Jouni, from In Slaughter Natives, I worked with a few years ago on mastering some of my music, so it hadn’t been that long since we´d last met, but of course it is always nice to meet Jouni. The experience was cool, I mean kind of scary, since it was my first Era 1 show in about 18 years, and I was doing things a bit different than the past anyway, so in a sense this was almost like a debut show. I think a lot of people got into it, but of course CMI attracts a lot of somewhat elitist types, with very specific tastes and with strong opinions on what they like and don´t like, so I think there was a clique of guys like that that probably had no time for me, to put it that way, but I knew that was going to happen. In that sense nothing has changed since the old CMI days when I used to go out and do shows with Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Raison d’etre, In Slaughter Natives, and so on.

 

Michael: You have been taking Era 1 on tour recently. What are your general thoughts on live performances of dungeon synth / dark dungeon music? Do you think this is an important aspect for any musician, or is it personal taste?

Mortiis: I think it´s all personal. Either you want to go out and play live, or you don´t. I´ve gotten used to it, so I´m always up for doing a show, as long as the promoters aren´t trying to pull quickies and pay peanuts and fuck you over, but I usually catch those fuckers out before the 3rd email, so they´re goners if it doesn´t feel good. We´re done at that point.
Regardless, I think all music deserves a shot at proving itself on stage.

Michael: You’ve re-released “Secrets of my Kingdom”, now entitled: “Secrets of my Kingdom: Return to Dimensions Unknown”. How has the response to this been from fans?

Mortiis: Very good. I think people really appreciate the additional work we put into it. There´s about 100 pages of bonus material consisting of unpublished texts, artwork, interviews, and so on…The response has been nothing but positive, from where I´m standing anyway.

Michael: Are you personally pleased with the final product and working with Cult Never Dies?

Mortiis: Yes, totally. Dayal is a pretty passionate guy about the product he makes, so he really pushes to make it the best it can be.

Michael: This book re-issue, as well as the era 1 album re-issues, contain artwork by David Thierree. Are you personally acquainted with him, or did you two only work together on these releases? Will you be planning to contract him for work again in the future? Also, I wonder if you have a favorite of his re-imaginings?

Mortiis: We´ve known each other for a long time, but we only really reconnected over these reissues I guess about 2 years ago. We´ve been in pretty steady contact ever since. He also worked with me on a bunch of pieces for my live show. There will be at least one more release coming shortly, that includes his artwork, and that one may well be my favourite. Other than that, it´s a hard choice. I think the Født til å Herske artwork looks brilliant, but the Keiser Av En Dimensjon Ukjent artwork has so many hidden signs and symbols and references, it´s kinda hard not to pick that one as a current favourite.

Michael: In your interview within the new book, you mention that most of this body of work comes from your teenage years, and that you don’t fully appreciate it as much as you might like. What were the changes/arguments made that brought you to re-release this book? Do you feel that this newer version has been redeemed of any potential flaws you saw in its original form?

Mortiis: There´s the intro from the original 2001 version, that was written at some point during the year 2000, and at that point I was very disillusioned with my ’90s output. All across the board: music, lyrics, etc… That had more to do with me sinking into a depression that was deeper and darker than I realized at the time. I can see that now, in retrospect. In the interview, in the book, that I did with Dayal across several 2-3 hour phone conversations, I did probably touch upon this a lot, too. Because, it´s the main reason Era 1, to me, was locked away in some deeply hidden mental closet, and I threw away the key, just to use a worn out cliché.
I don´t think the original book was flawed, it has many things about it that I like. But the new edition is better, improved in the sense that it´s physically larger, it has more content, and I personally shed a lot of light on those days, which we thought would be interesting to the hard-core fan, if no one else. All the material was written between 1992 and 1999, though the bulk would have been written between 1992-1996, so I would have been 17-21 years of age when most of that was written.

Michael: Are there marked differences between your fan-base for Era 2/3/0 and those of Era 1? Would you say one group or another has a sort of darker mentality?

Mortiis: Not sure. I mean, if I was to point anything out, I think metal people, for a reason I still can´t properly understand, beyond the fact that they may be connecting with some sort of primal atmospheric element in the era 1 stuff, seem to like Era 1 a lot more than everything else that came after. But it´s not a rule of thumb. I get people that are fans of everything I´ve done, then I get the sort of industrial/electronic/goth person that got into Mortiis post- Era 1. It really varies, but it´s not like I could point at a guy in the room and tell you what Mortiis records he´s going to be into.

Michael: I recently discovered your 25 minute music video ‘Reisene Til Grotter Og Odemarker’. Those dark and smoky corridors and stone towers were the perfect accompaniment to your sound and your image. Would you be open to doing something like this again? Or is this something that you lost respect for over the years?

Mortiis: I didn´t lose respect for it. VENOM did shit in castles, so how can I lose respect for it? Haha! I just completed filming for a new video to be used for some Era 1 stuff down the line. It´s not in a castle, though, but it´s pretty damn dark stuff anyway.

Michael: Can you remember back to a time when these ideas of “Mortiis” first came into your mind? Were you a child, imagining these dark images and soundscapes, or did this come to you later as you began discovering black metal and the darker side of the global community?

Mortiis: The first lyrics I wrote that became the Mortiis mythology, in the summer of 1992, were all supposed to be used for a planned Emperor concept album. That never happened obviously, since I didn´t last very long in the band after that. I had sketched out a dark otherworld in those 10-12 lyrics, and I brought them all with me, because I knew I wanted to base my music around them. That´s how it got started.

Michael: Politics are on everyone’s minds these days. No need to give an affiliation or ideology, but I wonder how you generally feel about this political landscape? Will it all calm down, and life go back to the mundane boring nature of the last 30 years, or are we headed for darker, more uncertain times?

Mortiis: Well it´s steadily been becoming more and more uncertain, and increasingly hostile and violent, and we have world leaders that seem more occupied with feeding fear and stroking their own egos, than actually going to work, so as it stands right now, I don´t think it´s looking that great. I hope things will get better. I have kids, and I don´t want them to grow up in some sort of dystopian, cynical future. But when people think they can run the world like a company, with no real interest in ramifications and the ripple effects of your actions…Who knows where things will end.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers, which I have overlooked?

Mortiis: Thanks for your interest. Check out www.mortiiswebstore.com for vinyl, CD, shirts and other merchandise. Thanks!

Mortiis Links:
Official Website, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram,

Teahouse Radio / Hypnagoga Press – Interview

Over the last few years we’ve seen a huge increase in the output of Pär Boström. Once known only for his oldest (main?) project, Kammarheit, Pär Boström has since created a multitude of wonderful albums, always more or less focused on dark ambient, as Cities Last Broadcast, Altarmang, Bonini Bulga, and now his latest project Teahouse Radio. Near the beginning of this recent bloom in releases, he partnered up with his sister, Åsa Boström, to start the publishing house/record label Hypnagoga Press, as well as collaborate on their first release as Hymnambulae. After my previous interview with them in 2016, not long before I started This Is Darkness, I thought it was time to catch up with the siblings and find out from Pär about the new Teahouse Radio album, and to get some general clairvoyance on the label and future releases from Åsa. Enjoy with a cup of your favorite tea and be sure to check out the new Teahouse Radio album, which you can stream in full below.

Interview with: Pär & Åsa Boström

Conducted by: Michael Barnett

You can also read our review of the Teahouse Radio debut here.

Michael: Teahouse Radio is your latest project to be released through Hypnagoga Press. Since, over the last few years you have been working on a growing number of projects, I wonder if you could tell readers what makes Teahouse Radio unique for you? How does it stand apart from your other endeavors?

PärOne intention we have with Hypnagoga Press, is creating a house encompassing all our projects. Even the ones that have been or are still brewing in the background. For one and a half decades, Teahouse Radio has served as a counter-point during a difficult psychiatric evaluation and treatment. It took me this long to decide to finally share the music. What makes it unique, for me, is how it managed to keep its roots in the children’s books I read, as a kid. A sort of honesty and naïveté that resonates well with me. Things like Narnia, Winnie the Pooh and the Moomin books have been a big inspiration for this project. There is something in those books that connects to my own early encounters with melancholia and existential questions. I don’t really have the words for it, only the music. Some would say it’s not as dark sounding as my other projects, but I would say it has some of that as well. But more than anything, it has a different form of melancholia and dreaminess.

Michael: How long have you had the idea to work on a Teahouse Radio album?

Pär: The oldest songs on this album are from 2004, maybe a bit earlier than that. But, I can’t recall exactly when and how it started. One day it was there. A new friend you feel like you’ve known forever. I don’t know if I had the intention, initially, to publish an album. All my projects start this way. Something personal, a place to visit for as long as I need. Somewhere along the way, I invite people to take part in it. Then, the music sets out on an adventure of its own, becoming a part of other peoples lives, as well.

Michael: Can you tell us a bit about the process behind creating the Teahouse Radio debut, Her Quiet Garden?

PärIn 2016, I stayed in my sister Åsa’s old summer house and guest studio. My intention was to make an album, using a semi-acoustic guitar and a few effect pedals. I often do this, bring equipment with me somewhere secluded. It was supposed to be a singer-songwriter thing. Early on, I noticed that what I was making was similar to what I had already been recording as Teahouse Radio, years before. I had a notebook with me to jot down technical details about chord progression, lyrics, etc. Instead, immediately it turned into a studio diary, with reflections on what I was making. I wrote about my cat Kosmos who had passed away three years earlier, picturing her in this peaceful, dreamy garden. As I was sitting in the rocking chair listening to the new recordings, I wrote about the weather, the bumblebees and about loss, in general. About mental illness. Somewhere in those notes, the album began to emerge. Half of the songs had been recorded sporadically since 2004. The rest were created during a few days late that summer, in that idyllic countryside setting.

Michael: Hypnagoga Press, the label run by Åsa and yourself, has focused on releasing music by your various projects. Of course, some of these projects are your solo efforts, but others have been collaborations, for example: the Hymnambulae or Altarmang debuts are collaborations with Åsa Boström and Kenneth Hansson, respectively. The new Teahouse Radio album looks to be more of a solo project, in line with Bonini Bulga or Kammarheit. Was this, in fact, a solo project, or did you collaborate with any other artists on this one?

PärTeahouse Radio is initially a solo project, but I would like to select a few collaborators further down the road. The songs on Her Quiet Garden were sent to Simon Heath, who added a few extra touches on some of the songs and mastered the whole album. I am very grateful for the way he made the old and new material blend together.

Michael: Is there any specific importance behind the names Teahouse Radio and Her Quiet Garden?

PärThere was a tiny wooden house, an elk tower, in a field outside the city where I lived during high school. Due to my insomnia at the time, I sometimes bicycled there, and had a cup of tea while trying to find radio stations on a small radio I insisted on carrying with me. When deciding on names for this project, that memory came back and Teahouse Radio felt like a suitable name. As the first album is centered around loss, my deceased cat Kosmos became the main symbol. To imagine a garden for her. A calm, quiet garden.

Michael: You’ve given followers some hints about this release, over the last year or so. Was the process behind its creation similar to other albums? Meaning, do you usually use journals in this way, capturing your ideas for later translation into music?

Pär: I don’t think I’ve shared anything from my journal entries before. Not translated and shared almost in full like we did in The Solar Zine Vol.3. I often write about my music, looking closely for clues on how to best proceed with what I’m working on. Most studio notes are about changes I want to make and title ideas. But, this notebook went further. I will experiment with this on future albums, as well. To my defense I want to add, that when combining a rocking chair, a loop pedal and a summer house with a beautiful lake and garden view, there will be some thoughts running through your head. Dramatic weather only further added to the mood.

Michael: The album art for this release has an incredibly unique and surreal feel. What is the importance of this image and how was it created to have such a unique look?

PärI am constantly drawing. Strange animals, trees, figures interacting with each other or dealing with sleep in different ways. It has been like this for almost two decades. I decided early on, that Teahouse Radio should try to fill a gap between my music and these drawings. So, for Her Quiet Garden I made a lot of different paper landscapes with trees and a pond. I tried all kinds of papers to make it look like water and other transparent papers to get a fog like effect. Not many of the photos I took were used for the final artwork, but I will continue with these kinds of images in the future.

Michael: Will Teahouse Radio remain an active project after this release?

Pär: That’s my intention. The illness, the need to take a break from the world, to dream and drift, will likely never change. And there will always be the need to make music for weather and cats. Aural tales.

Michael: What does the future hold for Teahouse Radio? Do you intend to do any live performances as this project, or will it remain a studio entity.

PärFor now, I wish to remain in my studio for quite some time, before doing live performances again, with any project. I’m happy to be able to create now. I’ve had long periods of inactivity before, or have felt a big need for distance and avoidance, so I want to make sure I’m making the most of this moment. As I said earlier, I hope to collaborate with different musicians in the future. Hopefully animators and paper landscape artists, as well. Her Quiet Garden is merely the introduction.

Michael: Is there any interesting news happening with any of your other projects, currently? I’m sure you have a lot going on, but anything you are willing to share?

PärA new Kammarheit album is completed, but it might still be some time before it can be released, as it is a soundtrack and must be synchronised with a product that isn’t finished yet. I have yet another unknown project I will share soon, and then it is hopefully time for new material from Altarmang, Hymnambulae, Cities Last Broadcast and Bonini Bulga. It moves in cycles. Even with Hypnagoga Press, I feel like we’ve barely started yet.

We Didn’t Tell Each Other How Wounded We Were by Åsa Boström

 

Michael: Transitioning to label matters, Åsa, would you like to tell us what has been happening lately around Hypnagoga Press? Any new plans, projects or developments that you would like to speak about?

Åsa BoströmWe’ll open the publishing house part of Hypnagoga Press soon, and to begin with, publish some of my books. Going forward, the music label and publishing house will overlap. Literary texts, voice, spoken word will be embedded in our music publications, and our literary publications will include music components.

Onward, we’ll also be focusing more on collaborations. Recently, we made a remix for Carl Abrahamsson, featuring on an album set for release at the end of May. It also contains both music and spoken word, with Carl’s and my voice overlapping.

Michael: Hypnagoga Press has already done releases in several formats: CD, Cassette, Zine, will you continue expanding into different forms of media?

ÅsaYes, we’ll continue expanding into different media formats. Explore multimedia products – music, literature, art – as well as various packaging formats. Boxes. Hybrid products. Possibly include objects as a part of the packaging. In my art-making, one medium I work with are sculptural objects, a form of ritual objects, made from materials collected on travels. Some of this might also turn up in our packaging. We’ll also introduce vinyl and more types of fine art prints. We intend to keep the physical editions very limited.

I Had Words Left, You Found Them by Åsa Boström

Michael: So far, Hypnagoga Press has been a conduit for you and Pär’s creative output. Will there be plans to search out talent from other individuals, or are you happy to keep this a close-knit sort of personal operation?

ÅsaHypnagoga Press is mainly a space for realising our own projects. But we’re planning an outlet for collaborations with others, an imprint or a series of publications, in the future.

Michael: Hypnagoga Press is still quite a new label, with your first release being Orgelhuset in 2016, by yourself and Pär as Hymnambulae. What has the startup been like? Are you happy with the current position of things, or have there been any setbacks?

ÅsaI’m very pleased with our first music releases – the debut albums by Hymnambule, Altarmang, Bonini Bulga, and now Teahouse Radio. Projects with narrative depth, supported by interesting creative processes, and I look forward to their progression.

Hypnagoga Press will be built long-term. It’s intended as a life’s work, with our creative and spiritual practices interwoven with creating experiences in which others may take part. Our publications serve as a form of tools, also for others to utilise, forming their own path and journey. To step in closer, reach further, manifest more.

Life also interfered in our startup. I got ill, due to mold in the countryside house where I was living, in the woods in northern Sweden. A house we’d made our Hypnagoga Press headquarter, where I had also set up my own studio space and a guest studio. All of that had to be taken apart and some of our publications got delayed. Now I live in Umeå, where Pär also lives, which makes running Hypnagoga Press together easier. Forces more joined and space freed up for what’s ahead.

Prayer Book by Åsa Boström

Michael: Are there any topics you would like to tell readers about, which I haven’t mentioned?

ÅsaI’d like to add a few words about our new release by Teahouse Radio. I’ve followed the development of the project for almost 15 years now. It’s a good example of how our individual projects often influence each other. I’ve been listening a lot to Teahouse Radio while writing my novel The Seafarer, which we’ll be publishing soon. And Pär has read The Seafarer while working on Teahouse Radio. Initially, we had planned to release them simultaneously.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time, it is always a pleasure!

Pär/Åsa BoströmThank you Michael, likewise!

Links:
Hypnagoga Press: Website, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube
Teahouse Radio: Website, Facebook, Bandcamp
Hymnambulae: Facebook, Bandcamp

Pär’s projects reviewed on This Is Darkness:
Altarmang – Void (2017)
Atrium Carceri & Cities Last Broadcast – Black Corner Den (2017)
Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast & God Body Disconnect – Miles To Midnight (2018)
Bonini Bulga – Sealed (2017)
Kammarheit – The Starwheel (2005)

 

Nhor – Interview


2017 was an interesting and eventful year for the UK project Nhor. He pushed the atmospheric element for his approach to its minimalist limit, which resulted in a quadrilogy of EPs that formed the
Wildflowers cycle. Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter shed light on aspects of their respective seasons not often explored in any art-form — let alone through piano ambient music. As this portion of Nhor’s existence closes out, the artist was kind enough to sit down and give some insight into the creative process, hidden meanings and personal significance of Wildflowers.

Interview conducted by: Maxwell Heilman

Maxwell: Do you have a favorite EP out of the four? Does it coincide with your favorite season?

Nhor
: I don’t think I do have a favourite, not yet anyway. They each have their own unique mood and special moment held in time. As each season approaches, I always consider it to be my favourite, but the flowering of bluebells in Spring is always a special occasion for me, and very likely a catalyst in realising the Wildflowers concept.

Maxwell: Other than the imagery, what differentiates these four releases from one another? Are there any distinguishing characteristics to listen for when listening to the EPs?

Nhor
: I suppose ultimately this is for the listener to decide. I can hear a great deal of change, but I know how I play and write music, so maybe some things are more apparent to me, especially including the knowledge of what inspired each song, and the process undertaken to convert that into music.
I think Autumn has the darkest mood. Spring represents an awakening, Summer is more hopeful than any of the others, but I won’t pass judgement on Winter yet, not publicly anyway, I’d rather people made their own conclusions about the new EP.

Maxwell: Wildflowers are the cycle’s unifying image, yet these songs never seem to directly address them. Do you have any insight into how the Wildflowers concept lays the foundation for the music?

Nhor
: The wildflowers fit the idea, of musical ideas. Wildflowers are beautiful flowers, that bloom for such fleeting spells within their own seasons. These hopefully mirror my music, which is made more of ideas and moods than it is of “songs”. These ideas hopefully fit within their own time of the year, mimicking the short spell of a wildflower in it’s given season.

Maxwell: Even in your black metal releases, piano often takes center stage (Within the Darkness Between the Starlight comes to mind). What is your history with this instrument? What draws you to it?

Nhor: I think simply, I find it very expressive. Luckily, I don’t think it requires a lot of skill to play it as I do, or coordination to press a key (which is the basic requirement of getting a nice sound from a piano, a violin requires much more coordination to make a note sound good). I don’t mean to offend any pianists, I know there are very, very accomplished pianists out there, but this isn’t what I’m trying to achieve. I’m trying to translate the mood of myself and the seasons. Also, the piano helps me to simplify my own work, and concentrate on the melodies and notes I’m working with. If there was no darkness between the starlight, would the stars still hold your gaze? I stick to that concept in giving the notes room to breath. Nothing is more fertile than the void.

Maxwell: The Wildflowers EPs have a very raw, immediate sound to coincide with the music’s delicate delivery — almost sounding like they’re being played in the same room as the listener. Care to elaborate on what the recording process was like?

Nhor: Recording is not something I look forward to. I enjoy writing music and exploring ideas but the recording can completely change my mood and take my focus away from what I was trying to create. There is a point where the recording/mixing/mastering process becomes more of a science than an art. I tend to leave a take rolling for a long period of time, to try and forget about what’s happening and let it come naturally.

Maxwell: How did you approach writing these songs? Are any elements improvised?

Nhor: I don’t really have any knowledge of music theory, so everything is just a natural progression or elaboration on an idea. I suppose everything is improvised. It’s strange to say but I can hear the melody before I’ve written it. I then spend some time chasing those notes, trying to find them, and exploring anything else I stumble upon along the way.

Maxwell: Did you find it a challenge to impart discernible structure and unique moods to such minimalist, ethereal music?

Nhor: It’s not something I have actively tried to achieve. If I have achieved it then it has been a welcome accident. I write what I feel, and try to not plan anything, or make any rules, especially not in structure.

Maxwell: These songs are incredibly vivid within their stripped-down sound. Do you have imagery in mind when you write, or does your music paint a picture for you similar to how it does your listeners?

Nhor: A lot of the time I’m drawing from a sight or experience that pushes me to play my piano. At times the music will pull old memories of my own which then create their own space or story with their song.

Maxwell: The moon is a recurring character in the cycle. What does this entity mean to you within the context of Wildflowers?

Nhor: I don’t think it’s possible to explain it’s meaning only within the context of Wildflowers. There are so many aspects of the moon I treasure. How the full moon lights the earth, how it disappears, how its light changes through the clouds, its shifting form, its silent presence above. I wrote this short passage a long time ago:

A heavy weight upon my eyes.
A confidant of secrecy.
Soft light spills over me.
It slows my thoughts,
And it calms my wild swelling heart.
I swear that it waits for me.
So profound in its solemn vigil.
Silently it serenades me.
And it knows,
It knows my thoughts;
Of my longing to return,
And of my desires.
It waits for me.
And even when it slips beyond,
I know it will return.
And I pray that when it does,
I will be taken forever.

Maxwell: Judging by your social media, you make a point of immersing yourself in nature. Do you remember a time where you realized the inspirational potential of the wilderness?

Nhor: In my art book Towards A Light that Dwells Within the Trees I speak about how Nhor started, this excerpt from the introduction should cover it:

Many years ago, as I stood beneath the stars during a cold cloudless night, something crept behind the cabin at the foot of my garden. As I gathered myself to approach, the overgrown grounds in front of me began to rustle. The cabin overlooks the forest to the East of my house, so it’s not unusual for creatures of the forest to visit. In fact, ever since this night I have taken such occurrences and crossings of paths to be a good omen. I stood waiting for the creature to re-appear for some time but it had dissolved into the night. As I moved to return to my place beneath the stars the cabin loomed in front of me. I opened its door and stepped inside to find my father’s old piano. On the top, sat his father’s binoculars and lantern. I have been told that he knew the names of every tree in the forest and each constellation overhead; knowledge that I would later find myself drawn to. I left the door open to let what little light I could in, and also in the hope that I would see my visitor once more. After lifting the piano’s lid I remember being surprised at how close its tuning was despite the weather. Then with my fingers stiff from the cold I began to slowly play. It was there that I stumbled upon two chords that ached with sadness. I played them over and over listening to how the room began to fill with their song. I could feel the atmosphere within the cabin changing, beginning to flow out of the door and into the starry skies above. Today though, I wonder if it was in fact the wild night making its first tentative steps towards my side. One thing I do recall clearly is how the two chords sang out like the stars above. Their pale notes hung in the air, painting the room with their light; as if the stars themselves were softly appearing within the darkness around me. It was there that I found Nhor, it was in this moment that its all began.

From this, I became drawn further and further in the forests and woodland that surrounded where I live, becoming obsessed at times. This has been the case for many years now. Nhor is really an extension of my life, I’ve been inspired greatly by my surroundings, and they have helped shape me, and also helped me to answer many questions about who and what I am.

Maxwell: With the Wildflowers cycle coming to a close, how do you feel about the past year of the Nhor project in retrospect?

Nhor: I had a clear idea in mind, and I feel that I’ve achieved what I wanted to. I’m really pleased that people have taken to the idea of me releasing my music seasonally instead of one big single release. It’s allowed me to make a very broad release, but focus quite finely on specific aspects. Also, I must thank the people who have consistently ordered everything I have ever made, and who message me with their support. I’ve received so many thoughtful messages during each season. It’s interesting to hear from people who find themselves drawn to differing seasons. Those kind of things are what help inspire me to continue to release my music.

Maxwell: Do you have anything you particularly desire your listeners to take away from these EPs?

Nhor: It’s enough of an honour for me, to know that people have chosen to spend their time listening to my music. That is something I struggle to get my head around at times. If there was anything I wanted them to take away, I suppose it would be a desire to connect further with nature, or to help maintain the bond between themselves and the natural world that they already have.

Maxwell: Can you give any information as to the future of Nhor in the coming years?

Nhor: The full Wildflowers album is roughly 1 hour 40 minutes of minimal piano. I feel I’ve explored this quite thoroughly. I have a few ideas that have come from Wildflowers, and also worked backwards to some ideas I didn’t get the chance to complete when writing Within The Darkness Between The Starlight. I suppose it all depends on what one I get around to finishing first.

Maxwell: Any final words?

Nhor: Sic transit gloria mundi. Thank you.

Nhor links:
Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram

Erang – Interview


Interview with: Erang
Conducted by: Maxwell Heilman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… Imagination Never Fails… the Kingdom is ours!

Erang links: Official websiteFacebook, Bandcamp, Youtube

Martin Bladh – Interview (re-pub)

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

Interview with: Martin Bladh
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collage Inspired by Rembrandt’s The Blinding of Samson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from DES: Sad Sketches

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

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

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

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

from Gasper

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome

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

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

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

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

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

Northaunt – Interview with Hærleif Langås

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


Interview with: Hærleif Langås
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live in Riga 2008

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whiteout in Spitsbergen, on the Svalbard archipelago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland

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

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

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

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

Hærleif looking for photography opportunities at the harbour in Trondheim

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

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

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

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

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

Worms of the Earth – Interview

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

Interview with: Dan Barrett
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael: How have your experiences been at these shows?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan: Thanks so much for the support!

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

Hoarfrost – Interview

Interview with: Rafał Kopeć
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael: What can we expect next from Hoarfrost?

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

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

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

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

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

Hoarfrost links: Official website, Facebook, Youtube

Ager Sonus – Interview

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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