Category Archives: Interview

Primaeval: Full on Metal from Pakistan

Metal is a strange beast, and it emerges in places that you wouldn’t normally expect sometimes. One of those is Pakistan. Not the first place to think of when hearing heavy metal music, right? Let alone the often blasphemous but always rebellious black metal. Primaeval is the band that is changing all that.

With deep roots and a complex series of influences, their sound offers something new and fresh, but also is an expression from a band that breaks multiple stereotypes you may have of their country of origin. Metal has often been a male-dominated genre, and to have a band from Pakistan with a lady on vocals is groundbreaking. And as admitted by the band, the scene doesn’t treat women well, yet here they are. Paving the way for a change.

Get to know Primaeval, as Farhan Rathore kindly takes time to answer my questions and share more about his band, the metal scene in Pakistan and more. 

Fighting for acceptance: Primaeval

How is Primaeval doing?

Primaeval is doing pretty well, although there are a lot of challenges we face as individuals and a band also, like lack of exposure to heavy metal and lack of acceptance from society for our extreme style of music.

How did you folks meet and what were your individual inspirations to start making extreme music?

Farhan Rathore was the guy actively doing heavy metal music for 12+ years who went to his old friends ( Rumi and Athar ) and discussed the idea of forming a band that can showcase all sides of heavy metal. Hence creating a unique sound. Later the band found Byzma and we loved her vocals. All of us have pretty common musical inspirations, mostly old-school but also modern metal sounds. The bands we all love are Katatonia, Electric Wizard, Burzum, Candlemass, Opeth, Empyrium, Draconian, Gojira, Black Sabbath, Emperor, Celtic Frost, and the list goes on.

Am I correct in seeing that you folks are in various other bands and projects? Can you say something more about that? 

Farhan had 2 bands prior to this, Athar was associated with a band also. But as of now, we have no side projects. And we are all totally committed to Primaeval.

What kind of idea is behind Primaeval? Who are the main inspirations for your band?

The idea behind Primaeval is to bring a sound that has never been heard in our part of the world (South Asia or Asia in general). We are inspired by Progressive music, Doom Metal and elements of Death and Black Metal. We are basically a band that ranges from extreme sounds to very emotional melodies. And we want to create our own sound of genre if you want to put it that way.

I’d like to know more about the story you are telling with your music. The name of your EP is ‘Horcrux’, which appears to be a Harry Potter reference.

The main idea behind our EP was to put out songs that were personally close to us and some of our work that would let people know why we are different from the contemporary metal bands in our region. One of the songs named “Nocturne (Alternative Version) is a chunk from our full length album. This album speaks about our individual and collective sorrow and mental health related issues maybe at points. And about the EP name, yes of course we are Harry Potter fans lol. And the idea was to establish a name that makes our EP immortal for us at least. It is very close to all of us. So that is that.

What is the process for you in writing and recording the record?

Our writing and recording process is very simple. We are at the studio every weekend, from the evening to the next morning. We take our music writing very religiously, and we don’t compromise. We have spent almost a year recording and writing the EP. Farhan does the lyrics writing, while Athar and Rumi are always creating instrumentals that can draw the sound we are looking for. It’s a constant experiment with scales and tunings. We love it this way. We want to stand out.

Which bands should people really check out?

Yeah we are strictly metal. We’ve always been. Farhan’s previous band is listed in the archives as well. But with our latest EP, Metal Archives labelled it as “Not so metal. And rather a rock EP”. Which offended us since we don’t understand their point with that. But we will be patient and try again once our full length album is out. Because that will be explosive. We can promise people that. So as of now, we have left chasing Metal Archives to be acknowledged or recognized. Because our listeners are our bosses, and if we are metal to them, we are metal for everyone. Platforms need to stop making things complicated for artists with original music.

There’s a general idea that not much metal is made in your part of the world. Pakistan, however, seems to have a lively scene. What is it like and which bands are really the originators? What styles are prevalent? Basically, tell me everything.

Good question. Presently, Pakistan is pretty dull in Heavy metal area. There are hardly 4 to 6 bands actively putting out music. The mainstream music here is mostly rap and RnB. Pop also is a very popular genre in this part of the world. People treat metal as something evil and satanic labels are put on metal artists. We have been subjected to a lot of hatred and abuse due to that. Nobody is willing to give Metal bands shows or even market our music. Although Pakistan has a good history in Metal back in the 90’s and early 2000’s with bands like Dusk, Karachi Butcher clan, Dionysus, Multinational Corporations and others. Right now, Takatak is the standout band in our local scene. And we are trying to make our mark in the metal scene also. So let’s hope the new generation can get exposed to good metal music. Metal is treated as a lower-grade music genre. Although that’s a totally bad idea of treating any genre.

Which bands should people really check out?

I’d suggest people to listen to Dusk, Takatak and Karakoram to get a wider picture of how diverse our heavy music can be. And you can listen to our work also. Lol

Can you shed some light on what place metal has in society, if there is any censorship level, and what you can and cannot sing about? Just for context, in neighbouring Iran, metal bands have been prosecuted.

Metal has no respect in our country, and there is little to no support for metal artists. There is no such censorship on music other than nudity or blasphemy. Since we are in a country that is very extreme towards religion. And again, society treats metal as a source of noise and a symbol of satanism. So it’s very heartbreaking for artists and listeners. Because there are no shows unless artists organize the shows themselves. It’s not a good place for Metal. And I have heard about Iran and Afghanistan, it’s very sad to see musicians being prosecuted anywhere. Art should be promoted rather than being choked.

A metal band from Pakistan is for many people a rarity, a metal band from Pakistan with a female member even more so. You mentioned in a different interview that women were not well-treated in the scene. Can you elaborate on that and why this is the case?

Yes, a female working for a Heavy metal band is a rarity here. And women are generally hurled with offensive and sexist comments here and there, generally in this part of the world. Imagine a woman making metal music in a place where men are not safe with their art. But luckily, Byzma is an outspoken woman who can stand up for herself. And she has us to support her. And we hope she stays safe from all the abuse that women can face here. She has such a beautiful voice.

Is there anything from your origins that you put into your music? Like traditional instruments, musical themes, etc.

We generally don’t. But in a couple of the songs of our full-length album are in scales that are used in our traditional “Qawwali” music. You will love those songs. We are working on fusing traditional scales and instruments to establish our geographical identity in our sound also.

What are your future plans right now?

The immediate plan is to finish with our full-length album recording and then write the next album. We are also looking to collaborate with different local artists and bands that are interested in making a different brand of heavy music.

If Primaeval was a food, what would it be and why?

Hahahaahah it would be “BIRYANI” since biryani is the most loved food in our region. You should come here and try it. We’d love to host you for some days and show you around 🙂

Solar Temple: Blood Meridian mysticism

Not before has the project from M. (Fluisteraars, Nusquama) and O. (Iskandr, Turia) performed live on stage. Where else to have a first than on the very nexus of dark, heavy music than Roadburn? They’ll perform their commissioned piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’. Time to find out what we can expect.

Solar Temple was one of the most spectacular acts on Roadburn Redux. This interview preceded the performance and was published on Never Mind The Hype. It also was supposed to be part of the daily Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. It’s been forever and one could argue that it may not be super relevant anymore, but I was proud of this as it is one of my favourite artists involved in this. In fact, I did a new interview a year later, which can be read here

Into the beyond with Solar Temple

You have been working together on making music for some time. How did this project come about and where do you draw from?

The idea for the band came from a recording session in which we flouted every possible rule. We were guided by instinct and spontaneity and the resulting demo had an alienating and unique sound. It went down pretty well in the underground scene and soon we had inspiration for a full album. Our interest in old, experimental and psychedelic music resulted in a strange impression of sounds that we are now trying to explore further and further.

How is your process in co-creating music for Solar Temple?

Unlike our other musical collaborations, such as in Iskandr, where one of us is clearly the standard-bearer of a creative vision, Solar Temple comes about completely without any preconceived division of roles. We both take care of all aspects of the whole: from composition to performance to production. This works mainly because we both want to push our personal boundaries in all aspects of music.

Until recently, it was a purely studio-oriented project, where the creative process in particular, was of much greater importance than any notion of an end goal, more important than any image of how it should be. An embrace of spontaneous creation. This is significantly less the case in many of our other projects: there, composition and purposeful work toward a clear creative vision is actually decisive. Both impulses can be satisfying and productive. Maintaining separate projects to pursue both avenues proves to be a good method for us.

The style, feel and sound of Solar Temple is exceptional. In the artwork there is a lot of classical imagery, marble, the term Dionysian is used on the debut ‘Rays of Brilliance’, the word transcendental is often used. In short, what is the meaning?

It’s hard to add to the description, as you already put it here. The references in the artwork and lyrics are not very literal but translate the feeling we are trying to introduce the listener to; ideally, it opens doors to an experience that is beyond the mundane.

What makes you guys choose to do a live performance and then also in the form of an online version?

First of all, because Walter asked us to make a commissioned piece together, and we were already interested in doing that. That this would be under the name Solar Temple was far from certain. The restrictions on getting together, among other things, meant that we were soon experimenting with ways of writing and rehearsing music in pairs. Only later did we realize that this method might work well as a duo, also for the end product, and we decided to focus entirely on a duo performance. This fitted in very well with what we were already working on in Solar Temple. When we were clear that we were going to perform this piece of music under the name of this umbrella project, it released a lot of creative energy in us.

You have worked on a commissioned piece for Roadburn before. What makes it so appealing for you to make something that, in a sense, is a one-off?

It is indeed a challenge to put so much energy into something that is somewhat ephemeral in nature. I think it’s just a huge creative challenge for both of us: it’s a kind of external motivation that you don’t often encounter as a relatively obscure underground artist. Normally you make something, and you put a lot of energy into it, and then you hope that there is a demand for it. In this case, it’s the other way around: the demand is already there, from Roadburn who say: “we believe in you, go make something” and then you go and make it happen. Combined with a concrete deadline and the emphasis on live performance, this is just totally different from how you normally operate. And that is challenging and refreshing.

The creation of the piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’ was a deconstruction. Can explain what that means?

We can be brief about this: in the studio you can do anything, a live show with two musicians is much more limited. That necessitates deconstructing what we want with Solar Temple. The rest the Roadburn Redux viewers will see for themselves!

Can listeners expect a continuation of the already ‘familiar’ Solar Temple sound?

It really will be completely different. Not completely unrecognizable for those who are familiar with our further output (also in our other bands) but really completely new.

Will this also be a harbinger of a new release?

We shall see.

What would you like to see at Roadburn?

We’re especially curious about everything concerning Neptunian Maximalism and of course what our friends in Dead Neanderthals have in store for us!

I hope you didn’t miss this back in lockdown-days; Solar Temple laid down the Cormac McCarthy-an mysticism with a vengeance. 

Soul Glo: changing the shape of punk to come

Remember when Refused dropped that record, “The Shape of Punk to Come”? Or is that an ‘old guy’ thing… Anyway, Soul Glo fits that description very well. An injection of black music into punk rock with a record so full of influences, intertextuality and loaded messages that you can’t really get around it in good conscience. Soul Glo is hardcore as it should be, on substance and not by putting it very big on their shirts.

Bands like Zulu, Scowl, Ballista, Gel, Move and so on (seriously, fill it up, everyone should check out these bands) show that hardcore is not dead, and also provides a platform for diversity, inclusiveness and a stage for the issues that are going on right now. So the new sound, and Soul Glo is part of that. The band is from Philadelphia, and there is clearly plenty to be angry about, and they show it with wry humor and a musical arsenal that rocks. Oh and live they are bold too.

‘Diaspora Problems’ has been out for a while now, and soon the band will also be coming to our capital city along. We asked Pierce Jordan to talk about it, so you can get to know them in advance. get to know the band.

Hey Soul Glo, how are you doing? What’s happening over there? How did Soul Glo get started and how did you get into punk/hardcore music yourselves?

Soul Glo got started in 2014. We got into punk and hardcore from our families and friends.

Did you like the second installation of ‘Coming to America’? And why did you pick the name Soul Glo, which as far as I know can only be a reference to the first film?

I thought it was just okay. It was nice that they restored the original cast but it wasn’t that funny. We picked the name as a reference to a classic piece of Black movie history as well as an explanation of how music represents an individuals innermost self.

What can you tell about that fantastic record ‘Diaspora Problems’. In your words, what is the album telling us and what was the process like to make this gem? 

The album is telling you about aspects of my life and emotions and how they reflect a commonality of experience that any given listener may have the chance to tap into. The process was long, arduous, sweaty, and fulfilling.

What is your approach to music like, in terms of influences, genres, styles? I hear so much things on ‘Diaspora Problems’. From heavy metal to post-punk/noiserock, trap/rap and do I hear ska? Where does this all come from? And does this tie into the extensive list of guest musicians on the album.

Our approach to our music is collaborative and a result of all our influences. It comes from all we enjoy about music, but all we enjoy isn’t reflected on this album. There is much more for us to offer. The guest musicians are friends of the band. We admire their work and want them reflected as a part of ours.

Another thing I was dazzled by is the lyrics and titles. This complete play with brackets, capitals, etc. to add layers of meaning to every title, but also that a song can switch from aggressive hiphop-like lyrics (I don’t know how else to express this) to poetic expressions of dark emotions. So, can you say something about your approach to writing, and what inspirations shine through in your diversity on this album? 

My approach to lyric writing is pretty much based on a combination of my influences, which include Audre Lorde for her emotion, sentimentality, and analysis of both, The Watts Prophets for their intertwined sardonic humor and vengeful anger, and Tim Kinsella for his technical use of alliteration and consonance. I’m influenced by the way people talk in the city we live in, Philadelphia. 

The way I talk in interviews and around my friends and family is different because of the way I was raised. Some people are like this, and some people aren’t. I like to show both in my writing because we are all made up of different selves that come out at different times in order to survive in this world.

When I listened to this record the first time, I was blown away. I was taken back to ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ by the Refused, thinking: here it is, the shape of punk to come. Punk/hardcore is undergoing a massive shift, and Soul Glo is in my opinion part of that movement, but what is happening in American punk/hardcore?

In the United States there’s both innovation and a lot of celebration and worship of previous styles from past years. I imagine we aren’t very different from the rest of the world in this way.

The hardcore/punk scene has historically been pretty white. I read on Brooklyn Vegan that you had said: “I wanted the album to feel like it was a very broad look at American music, and highlighting all of the best Black influences of American music.” To me, this can only be to the benefit of the music genre, which has only had some minor links to hiphop through hardcore. What would be the shift you’d love to see happen through music like yours in punk?

I’d like to see more perspectives and types of personhood represented within the genre and in all genres in general. That’s what pushes the forms forward.

There are some specific references on your album I understand, and I wish I could write the “Every Rap Reference on Diaspora Problems” article. Do you hope people will pick up on certain artists specifically?

I do. Everyone seems to hear the Cannibal Ox references but not many people have said anything about the 2Pac references.

So punk and hiphop are both styles that speak up against what is wrong in the world. I think that’s the most broad way to describe it. I would think that there is more than ever to speak up against (though I bet every generation says that), but your home country is particularly divided. What are the important messages Soul Glo wants to share with the world, what issues particularly come up in your music? 

Though I’m sure it’s already clear, the message that I personally want to share with the rest of the world is that the problems that our country creates for those of the rest of the planet are largely not supported by the majority of the citizens of the United States. They don’t give a shit about us either.

How did you end up on Epitaph, what’s the story? 

Essentially Jeremy Bolm extended all his resources to us and single-handedly changed our lives. This includes setting up a meeting with Epitaph, though the label was already aware of us.

You’re gearing up for a European tour. Have you been over the big pond before? What are your expectations? Are you looking forward to visiting the Netherlands?

We’ve been to Europe once before, and even though we had our share of difficulties, the shows were great. The Netherlands in many ways is the polar opposite of the United States, so yes, visiting again will be quite a treat.

So what are the future plans for Soul Glo right now?

A whole lot of shows.

If Soul Glo was a dish, not a fictive hair product, what would it be and why?

Not sure entirely, but it would probably be very spicy.

 

Zvijer – The Barbaric Roots of the Balkans

From the former Yugoslavian Republic hails the band Zvjer, a multi-national entity that brings a type of black metal that feels and tastes like its origins.  Balkanian Barbaric Black Metal is what they like to call it themselves. The band has been going strong since 2013 and last year they released their second full length, titled ‘Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta)’.

Zvijer is Serbo-Croatian for beast. The band is currently located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Knjaz is the bandleader and founder, running the horde since its early days.  It’s not his only project, he has many, and they cross borders. Yet, with a small scene, there are also many challenges. We discuss these at length, including the folklore and ideas that inspire the band in their unique brand of black metal.

Thanks to Knjaz and drummer Insanus for their time to answer my questions.

How is Zvijer doing? How has the pandemic affected you guys and your band?
KNJAZ: Greetings. All is well. A new album is coming out soon and we are preparing some new songs. I would say that this pandemic has not changed many things in our work and attitude towards music, and life in general. We do our jobs, we play, everything is in the best order. Although you can’t travel abroad, it never meant much to us anyway.

First things first, how did Zvijer get started and what has been your path towards the style of music you play as individuals? You also have plenty of other projects, could you tell something about those?
KNJAZ: The former guitarist and I started the band back in the summer of 2013. We wanted to make a band through which we would be able to deal with topics like the cult of night, Balkanian old funeral customs, the dark folklore of the Balkan countries, and so on. Then, in 2016 Insanus join the band and after the first album we continued as a two-man band. We work easiest when the two of us are alone, everything goes faster and without problems. Our music is a reflection of our thoughts and all personal attitudes that we express through words and tones. The basic motive and mover that fuel fires in us is freedom. The absolute freedom we have at work is all we need.

HIBERNUM is a death/black metal band that will release a debut album in the second half of 2021 in their 18 years of existence.
SUTON is a doom metal band that will also release a new album next year after a few years of silence.
BLACK CULT is the parental band of Insanus, it’s also a great black metal.

What does the phrase Barbaric Balkan Black Metal mean for you guys? How did you arrive at this definition of your sound?
KNJAZ: “Balkanian Barbaric Black Metal” is a phrase that we have adopted as the best description of our music. We play black metal, our roots are in the Balkans, and our regions are known for a very cruel and barbaric history with a lot of bloodshed and dead people. It is one of the sources of our inspiration. Therefore, it was natural for us to take that determinant for our sound.

You are about to release a brand new album, titled Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta)’. What can you tell about this album and its concept?
KNJAZ: Yes, our second album “Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta)” is officially out on December 4th, and it will be released by Seance Records from Australia.
The concept behind this material is human alienation from the world. It is possible to function “normally” among people, and at the same time be lonely and cut off from humanity. The idea is to evoke a feeling of isolation and enjoyment in solitude through music and lyrics. Musically, this album is quite different from the previous one, but for us it is a logical step forward. We evolved with sound, so this came to us quite normally, and it’s up to the fans to listen, compare and see if they like the new material or not.

Zvjer by Miroslav Tanasković
Photo by Miroslav Tanasković

What was the writing and recording process like?
INSANUS: Before entering the studio we had some skeletons of the songs, but in the process of creating and recording songs those skeletons were changed almost to the point of unrecognizability, so we can say that we are creating our songs directly in the studio. Having in mind that we are a two-man band, and I’m responsible for all instruments, that proves for us to be the easiest and quickest way of creating music. I recorded all instruments in my own studio. Vocals were recorded at the peak of the first wave of COVID-19  and all studios around Knjaz were closed, so he did his vocals in an improvised studio in his room or attic, I’m not sure, with even more improvised equipment which gave us that raw sound that fits our music perfectly.

As I have not had the luxury to listen to it, can you tell what listeners can expect from this record and in what way your sound is changing from the previous album to this one?
KNJAZ: I could not give an objective answer to this question. People will have to wait a little longer to listen to our album. The material will be available on most major streaming platforms but probably also on many pirate download sites very soon, so it will be available to everyone. In my personal opinion, the album is much better than the first one, but in terms of the evolution of the band. Every song we’ve done, I’m proud of it, but I think “Navia” is the current band’s highlight. I will enjoy it until we release the third album, with which I hope we will be able to surpass this one.

As I understand it, Zvijer is originally from Bosnia but currently ‘based’ in Serbia. Can you explain how that works? And as an outsider, what are the relationships like with other bands and artists from former Yugoslavian countries?
KNJAZ: Zvijer was originated from Banja Luka (Bosnia), I am still in Banja Luka. Insanus is from Rijeka (Croatia), but currently lives in England. Honestly, I wouldn’t know. The internet has made it easier to interact, but we have a fairly small circle of people we work with and are in contact with.

What is the Black Plague Circle?
KNJAZ: If you think of the Black Plague Circle; that is a group of people and bands like Obskuritatem Nigrum Ignis Circuli, Deathcircle, Niteris, Master’s Voice and Void Prayer.

How is the regional scene doing and what bands should people really check out?
KNJAZ: There’s a few good bands in Balkan region; bands like Nadsvest, Arjen, Void Prayer, Old Night, Zlobnik, Zloslut. That is from the metal scene, but I am more into punk bands.

Is there a political component to Zvijer or the regional scene? I couldn’t help but notice some association to certain ‘politically inspired’ bands from a former band member.
KNJAZ: Zvijer has nothing to do with politics. As I said above, all we are interested in the band is the history of Balkan, the concept of death, and dark folklore. We are not politicians but musicians, so there is nothing that would interest us in the world of political malarkey.

Yes, our former member is in NSBM. You see, generally, metal scenes in ex-Yugoslavia countries are quite small, and the black metal scene is even smaller. So at this or that moment, everyone will always be in touch, no matter if you are NSBM, Antifa, Satanist or pagan. So everyone does what they want, we don’t mind as long as it doesn’t touch us. Insanus and I know how we want our music to sound and what it should be inspired by.

What sort of concepts or stories inspire your music? As I understand it folklore is a part of it. I would love to get a bit more insight into what sort of dark folklore it is that inspires you, as it is obviously not familiar to me (and I’m curious).
KNJAZ: These areas are rich in stories about werewolves, vampires, local demons, and also a large and rich part of our history is occupied by Slavic gods. It is all part of us, our origins, our pride and our history. We want our music, in its originality, to have authentic lyrics behind them in topics that are close to us and that are familiar to us. That is the main reason why we write about it. Every slightly larger village here and in rural areas surely has 10 or more stories of local demons, necromancy, vampirism, fear of the night, etc.

What are the future plans for Zvijer at this moment (if the pandemic lets us do normal stuff again)?
KNJAZ: I don’t know what is meant by normal things. We are continuing our plans in this pandemic period as well. We are preparing new songs, we have some concepts that we want to materialize. One is sure, we have no plans of doing any live gigs in the near future.

If Zvijer was a dish, what would it be and why?
KNJAZ: Probably pale white aged bone, torn from a bear’s carcass on mountain Kozara. Someone sees that as a dish.

The Open Gate for Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies

This interview was published in Dutch originally in 2013. It was conducted in autumn that year, at Selim’s house. In March 2014 he had passed away. I published it here in my own translation, as done later in that year for Wyrd’s Flight. For posterity, for remembrance, for a fire that never truly goes out (and websites where this was originally published do). For me personally, this is the defining article I wrote. Nothing will ever top this I think, in intensity of experience and impact on me and my life. The light never falters.

Pictures kindly provided by Brendy Wijdeven and Paul Verhagen

The Devil’s Blood is no more. The band that gained worldwide fame under the rule of bandleader Selim Lemouchi suddenly called it quits early in 2013. The record ‘III: Tabula Rasa or Death and The Seven Pillars’ was released, but after that, this chapter was closed. A few months later, a new band appeared as a support act for Ghost. Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. Lemouchi later played a gig for the Eindhoven home crowd on July 13th in Café Oude St. Joris.
Now the debut album ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ is ready to be released. Time to check how things are going, so on a Sunday afternoon we ring the doorbell at the Lemouchi residence.
Imagine the house at the end of the street. You know, on the corner, the odd one out. The one house where the curtains are not proudly opened wide to let people look inside. It was different from the Dutch stereotype in that way. There were stickers on the door, depicting various band logos. Inside the place was crowded and filed up with books, records and cigarette butts. In between all the stuff a huge dog is walking up and down, well mannered but quite shy. One wall is covered in traces of blood and in the corner is an altar set up, just like everyone has seen in the documentaries and interviews. Contrary to what many people have assumed based on my interview, there was no gloomy atmosphere, no foreboding feeling to the words Selim spoke to me. His home was a regular terraced house, on the corner of a regular street that just housed an extraordinary person who was very welcoming and friendly.

A New Path

Since we were raised with the right manners, we thank Selim Lemouchi for making the time for us. Today the musician has enough time: “It’s Sunday, the last day of rest before we really have to start working towards the seventh of December. We must start building up for the show at TAC (Temporary Art Centre), so it’s really time to act now. Sugar or milk?” Lemouchi goes into the kitchen to make some coffee and continues talking enthusiastically. While the coffee drips from the pot, Czech black metal makes sounds on the background. Sitting down on a flight case, Lemouchi continues his story: “I want to offer people more during the release show than just another rock show. Everything needs to be perfect. The music is not the most important, I’d almost say. They used to have better words to describe that, a complete experience, a happening. Music should never become a mass product, no ready made music that gives away all it has to offer on the first play. I want music that sticks to you. If I don’t experience that myself, then it’s not good enough. That’s how I always worked with The Devil’s Blood, I didn’t care what others thought of my music, as long as I liked it.”
He continues: “With the Devil’s Blood, I would always work with the same mould, I had to let that go of that on the new record. The formula went overboard and I decided to let the inspiration go it’s own way, letting it flow out, so to speak, and choose the direction it wanted to go. That has been a huge step, alongside opening up to others and work together. Robbie Geerings (Alabama Kids, mostly known from record store Bullit) even wrote two songs for this record, namely ‘Deep Dark Waters’ and ‘Next Stop, Universe B’. We produced the record together.”

Were these ready made moulds and formulas perhaps the reason for The Devil’s blood to quit, that is the question. “No, I think that within one form you can do endless variations and have an enormous spectrum of possibilities. All music already exists, I truly believe that. That means that one can go anywhere within certain parameters. All the records we made, I’m very proud of. I just think that with this way of working, I said everything I wanted to say. It was time for a change.”

‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’

On ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’, the musical journey of Selim Lemouchi continues. There is a new sound and a changing group of musicians who surround him. “I keep wanting to change things. At this moment in time I listen to plenty of black metal. Maybe that is the next kind of record I would want to make. For ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ I took it onto myself to not hold back, not to limit myself with goals and targets. It was mainly experimenting, letting in others and collaborate on music making. That was the biggest challenge for me after being in full control for seven years. I try to steer the others, motivate them, but also to learn from myself as much as I can.”
A cup of coffee is placed in front of me on the stuffed table. It’s a mug with the Tasmanian Devil on it and the text reads ‘100% Animal’. Lemouchi drops down on the couch and grabs his phone to let me hear a bit of music. “When Robbie (Geerings) moved in here after Bullit closed, I handed him a guitar. He hadn’t touched one in years, but was he just sitting on my couch, doing nothing? I wasn’t having that. So this is what came out, which made me think: we can probably work together!”
Lemouchi  was sometimes named the dictator of The Devil’s Blood. Is he now more the manager of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies? “That’s a good description actually, I think of myself more as a director or producer though. I tell people about my ideas and let them work with those in their own ways.”

The next step in his journey wasn’t a casual step forward, it evolved. First there was the  EP ‘Mens Animus Corpus’ (Mind, Soul, Body) was released. A title that seems to be more focussing on the ‘I’ in relation to its surroundings. “That is very true, that record was the first step outwards, it’s like a bridge between how I used to work and the new way; I didn’t feel like letting go of the reigns yet, I needed a sense of control. I recorded demos until I felt it was safe to hand over the music to others, which was still very difficult for me. But I did it and and took this new course I’m on now. From element A in the music, you need to get to element B and there’s only one right path. You have to find that, otherwise it doesn’t make sense, it’s not what it potentially could be and that’s the inspiration you need to unleash, for yourself and others.”

The hard path

Lemouchi blames himself for the difficulty of the path he chooses when making his music: “I demand the best from myself and I’m painfully honest towards others about their input. I expect the same hunger and critical position in return from them as well. Some people have a hard time with this attitude, the current group of musicians I work with as well. At the start, we’d almost get into fights in the rehearsal room. Now everyone knows what I want to achieve and the drive and motivation I have and expect. The music must be great, emotions and egos have to be put aside to achieve that. This is just as true for myself. I think a band loses its quality, when people stop telling them ‘No’. When the keenness and challenges fade. I want to avoid that, but that’s not easy. Artists have to unite creativity with their narcissistic side. Of course, all of it has to do with money as well, but money is something I never really understood much of anyways. My role in this band, is to challenge others and hone them into critical musicians. That way, the band is bound to produce great things. Maybe the choice for the name ‘His Enemies’ has something to do with that, the hostility towards each other now and then. The art is the most important thing in the end.”

Art needs inspiration, but the question that inspires Lemouchi will obviously not receive a standard answer. He gives some examples: “I listen to a lot of music, music is something that’s as broad as you can imagine, when you let go of categories and genres. Take what I am listening to right now, for example (Master’s Hammer from the Czech Republic is playing, red.): I read that a lot of the inspiration for this band comes from Bathory and other classic black metal. It was a review that totally missed the point. My thought was that the writer was incapable to hear the Czech folk influences in the music or the classical influences. People limit their framework of reference and that annoys me. Music is like a spider web, everything is connected and all inspires everything else. Without the Beatles there would not be any Pink Floyd and without them none of the bands that followed and so on. Don’t limit yourself to a genre or a scene by locking yourself up in it.”


Two Faces

 

“When I’m making music, I only listen to my own music, nothing else. When I have something and record it, I just get into that for days and delve into it. I listen to the recordings a hundred times over, until I think its perfect or I’m utterly sick of it. Then I start writing my lyrics and fill in the gaps in the music. I don’t even know what is popular right now, I only focus on my own music. Of course I do listen to things now and then, I have a list of songs that I think are the best…” The mobile phone comes up again and a series of band names are read out loud: “Jethro Tull, Czech band Root, Coil, Thin Lizzy, Beatles, King Crimson and Black Sabbath… and so on. I listen to this when I feel my own obsessiveness is making me go insane, but even then I have to force myself to let go and listen to something else.” The term ‘Occult Rock’ doesn’t say much for Selim Lemouchi: “I once wrote that in one of those boxes on iTunes for The Devil’s Blood. I love those boxes that you fill in with style names and inspirations… The term fitted with The Devil’s Blood and our sound at the time. Later they asked me what I thought of the occult rock scene, but I don’t know of any scene. Is Occult Rock a scene? It’s not like we and other bands that get this label meet up and hang out at shows, most of these bands don’t interest me at all or I’ve never heard of them. Ghost did make some good music, but the comparison between us and them? Nah, I don’t see it…”
Many books are being read by Selim for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes he reads nothing at all. Lemouchi describes himself as a peculiar reader. “I like to read on the toilet, I always keep a pile of books there that I read randomly. Lately I’ve been reading a lot from the French poet Rimbaud. I enjoy reading the Compte de Lautréamont, who wrote extensively on cruelties. Of course I read plenty of books on theology and theosophy. I started reading ‘An Antarctic Mystery’ by Jules Verne again and I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower Saga’ by Stephen King. I’ve always been able to draw a lot of inspiration from those books. ‘Bloody Meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy is also a great book, which takes place in the early days of the United States. Like you’d expect I read plenty of religious books, grimoires and books on archeology. The Bible and the Koran keep providing ideas and inspiration as well. It’s always good to read books in which others try to find the truth. You should always rely on your own ideas, but those of others can definitely stimulate you.”

 

This inspiring mode works the other way around as well, as can be heard on the record ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’, which is presented on the 7th of December. An album where Lemouchi inspired the band with his ideas. Lemouchi asks the first question about the album himself: “When you listened to it, did you hear one album or five pieces?” I answer it’s double, the songs are very different, but it feels like one. Some songs remind you of Pink Floyd or doom metal, others are more dreamy and kraut rock inspired, enthusiastic he replies: “I recognise that. For myself, I only listen to the full album in a file of 43 minutes, which I got after the recordings. I have the separate mp3’s as well, but it’s the whole that feels good. The peculiar thing is though, that these are indeed very different pieces of music, written separately, that form a whole. The album feels like the time between sunset and sunrise, the night. Some songs, like ‘Chiaroscuro’ and ‘The Deep Dark Waters’, are simple by design, with just one riff. These songs have a very narrative style and are basically quite simple, containing just one guitar riff that is reshaped, bent and repeated. They never get too complex, too stifled with extra stuff. ‘Next Stop, Universe B’ sounds dreamy. It seems like a very simple song, but it keeps changing although it’s hardly noticeable. It’s like the song ‘Just Dropped In’ by Kenny Rogers, never the same; if feels logical, but it’s completely irregular. It’s almost like we let go of the standard structure of a song in that one. Robbie (Geerings red.) hated it. If I couldn’t write a normal song, he asked me. That told me it was right where it had to be. We fought a lot over that song, but it really became a very good one.”

A predator

Having arguments with people is definitely a side of Selim Lemouchi, very different than the friendly spring of words today would seem to be. In his terraced house in Eindhoven he is calm and patient. It is as if he becomes someone else. I confront him about his two faces. I wrote about his friendly side and his artistic side in my review. “Yeah, I read that, but I think I have more than a thousand faces really… No, I think you were right. The friendly side may be a mask, a screen; I present myself as nice to be able to work in this society. On stage, with my music, I become a predator. I leave the herd behind and I see a red glow in front of my eyes. I think that’s where I open up, I show myself, because there I have to be in full control and everything must be right. I’m exactly where I should be and do what I have to do. Everyone else around me is required to do the same. The normal values fade away in those moments.”

Lemouchi looks away thoughtfully, he is not entirely happy with that darker side: “I keep working on it, that’s part of the task of collaborating with others. However, I need to express myself sometimes, even when I don’t want to. I can’t control that. There is a side of control and order to me, but also the creative, chaotic side. Those are intertwined and I’m still looking for the right balance.”

Dordeduh: Finding our Cosmic Memory

e across an album that defies categorization, that simply is out there in a way little else is. Dordeduh released one of those albums this year, their sophomore release ‘Har’. It’s a celebration of Romanian culture, but also an embrace of the future and crossing over into new domains. It tells of deep history and myths yet opens its arms to whoever listens to it. It’s a statement and testament to what the band is about.

Dordeduh is often described as a project that sort of split-off from the well-known Negură Bunget . Yet, that does injustice to the people behind the project, their vision and creative drive. While the roots may be similar, Dordeduh has paved its own path. It did take years for the follow up to ‘Dar de duh’, which came out in 2012, but hey, here it is finally!

Though Edmond ‘Hupogrammos’ Karban is enjoying his time off outdoors, he did take time to talk about this new album and share some insights into the process behind the band and the album, the current state of the world, and playing Prophecy Fest (hopefully) where they’ll do a Negura Bunget set.

Dordeduh

Hello Dordeduh, how are you guys doing?

Hello there. I am in vacation and I enjoy some free time in the wilderness of our mountains, with no internet and telephones and technology.

You’ve released the monumental album ‘Har’ this year, still in the midst of the pandemic. Did you consider not releasing it yet or had you already postponed the release?

We had the album ready already in July 2020. We had some chats with the label if it would be wise to release it in the winter of 2020, but in the end, they decided to have it in the late spring of 2021. But for me, seen from the artist’s perspective, I wanted it out asap, to see the album released and have it out of my hands.

Dordeduh was formed in 2009 and in 2012 you released your debut. We had a long wait for ‘Har’, so the question is; what took you so long? And what has driven you to create music again? I have read, for example, that you were never entirely happy with the ‘Dar De Duh’ sound. Does that have much to do with it?

It took so long because I became the father of 3 boys and family became the main priority in life. When kids started to grow, I started to feel more secure as a parent, I started to write music again.
Regarding “Dar de duh” I think that it was never about not being satisfied with the result, it’s more about having a perfectionistic point of view. Judging the compromises we had made on that record, I think that the result is pretty good.


Har has two active concepts in the background. One is related to the title, which means “grace, or divine grace”. This aspect is important because, in order to have such a moment of epiphany where one feels that divine grace, one needs a specific inner balance, a specific openness and a specific state of mind. One has to be mentally and soulwise fit for such connections. And this leads to the second concept, the practical aspect that this album is talking about; more precisely it invites to undertake a journey into our own depths. This journey most of the time does unveil unpleasant aspects about ourselves. The things that we are confronted with during such a transformation process are related to trauma, to different contents that lie dormant or hidden in the subconscious mind. In order to heal all these aspects one needs to be confronted with his own darkness, but also with the craving for pleasant experiences. The wanted state is one of equanimity. It’s a very lengthy process and after the initial confrontation a long integration period is needed. This has to be part of our everyday life, of our routines, of our daily practice.
Another aspect related to the conceptual background of this album is related to our lost and forgotten cosmic memory. I strongly believe that we have a cosmic heritage that lies dormant in us, way beyond what can we perceive in our normal state of consciousness. This heritage occasionally gets unlocked during the journey I mentioned before.

As a parent yourself, it’s a horrible question to be asked, but is there a song on this record particularly close to your heart?

Yes, “In vielistea uitarii”. Even most of the material I wrote for Negura Bunget and Dordeduh was always impersonal, this time there are personal touches in that whole impersonality.

You’ve stated that the recording process for the album was very relaxed, though under hectic circumstances. Can you elaborate on that and also share what the process was like for this particular record?

For me, the ideal environment for writing and shaping an album is to have an isolated place where I can freely work exclusively on the material. To be able to keep the focus and an appropriate mood for writing is crucial for me. Otherwise, every time when I turn back to the writing process I need some time to adjust and to create the right atmosphere to dive into the album. This time I did not have anything close to that. I wrote most of the things after 9 PM when I placed my kids in their beds. So the process probably took a bit longer.

But having our own studio allowed us to record some of the stuff already in the composing phase and allowed us to have some basic pre-production. I think the critical aspect for us while recording and producing our own album is that during this process we can’t work on anything else in the studio. And we rarely can afford that, because we also have to have our basic incomes. But we managed well all the things, made this record and we’re pretty happy about it.

I can’t define what style of music Dordeduh plays, but it hits all the right spots for people that love both folk, and metal music, with the mystery of ethnic elements. If any sort of umbrella term would fit its folk metal, yet I always feel that there’s a massive discrepancy between a band like Dordeduh and some guys in pirate costumes who happen to add a tin whistle. Your music feels like a whole, where you can’t separate the elements. Nothing is added. How do you realize that sound from songwriting to production, is it the original vision or do you layer the elements and ethnic instruments?

I think the key element in making all these materialize is to preliminarily have a vision of what one wants to achieve, as detailed as possible. Of course, while the process starts to form a body, the vision gets from the realm of the ideas to something concretely manifested and the image becomes clearer and clearer. At that stage sometimes an added element can improve and support the overall image.

Dordeduh press photo

On the other hand, this used to be the job of a producer for the cases of the bands that preliminarily had no vision, or had only a general vision about what they want the next album to sound like. The producer was the one that shaped the whole production in certain directions. Nowadays producers exist only in the area of a big-budget production. On the any other cases, this input could come only from sound engineers who are willing to dive into producing and mixing an album. In the underground scene, it’s close to impossible to find a good producer. And that’s because of a very simple and pragmatic reason: there are no budgets for producers anymore.

Can you perhaps tell a bit more about the instruments you use, such as the Tambal, toaca, tulnic, nai, dube and timbale (etc.) and what they mean or tell in your music? I read somewhere that there is a reflection of different places and regions in your music, which is hard to detect for those not in the know. Is that something you are willing to expand on?

I know that it’s probably hard to imagine, but we don’t use these instruments because we have to use them in order to be cool, different, exotic or name whatever other label. It’s used to enhance a different state, to put more emphasis on certain aspects and so on. We never planned anything regarding these instruments like: “this album should be more folkish”, or “this song should have more traditional instruments”. I want to keep a nice balance between the instruments. I only use them where they are relevant. I prefer to have a general vibe of good taste and not overdo them on the whole length of the album.


The “tambal” is a hammered dulcimer that is present in traditional cultures from all around the world from east to west. The instrument has some variations that varies from culture to culture.
With the “nai” it’s the same story. The nai is a panflute that is found in different shapes, materials and sizes around the world.
We also use traditional flutes that are pretty specific to our culture, but similar instruments are again found in many traditions.
The “toaca” is a hammered wood that nowadays is used in orthodox churches. It’s not really known as an instrument, but it’s dated in ritual contexts for thousands of years. I remember that I envisioned having this instrument present in my music since the first album. I always found it’s percussive sound appealing with huge amounts of long reverb on it.
The xylophone, the timabels or “dube” are usual percussion instruments. The types of “dube” we use come from Romanian oldschool fanfare kits.
The “tulnic” is probably the most Romanian instrument we use. It’s originated in the Apuseni Mountains and initially, it was a tool to transmit different signals between the villages in different hills or mountains. It’s interesting that in our culture it’s attested that it was mainly used by women and it’s known through history that there were choirs of women who were playing these instruments. It’s the first instrument we used and again I always envisioned that image of a distant mountain where these beautiful songs were played on this instrument.

-The spiritual aspect is very important to you. You’ve also stated that in writing ‘Om’, you meditated a lot. I was curious what you talk about when you mention spirituality?

Yes, spirituality is important for me. I rather dislike using this term because it’s vague. Generally speaking, I prefer to keep this subject to myself. And I do it so because it’s really easy to be placed in contexts that I actually don’t belong. Considering the criticism and the opinion entitlement that everyone has these days it’s probably the worst environment to be mentioned with these kinds of subjects. For me this aspect is a private one, I don’t want to convince anyone to do anything, I don’t feel that I have to prove anything to anyone and I definitely don’t feel that by having a spiritual interest I have something more than other people have. Spirituality is not a virtue by default. It’s a predisposition like any other predisposition. But through practice one can make it a virtue. So, talking about this has no relevance; practice on the other hand has all the relevance.

The ethnic aspect of your music is another thing that fascinates me. As I perceive it, this is very much connected to the land itself, to regional identities and particularly to nature. I’ve read some strong opinions on the state of our world and nature and I wonder how important this is to you as an artist, but also in the music of Dordeduh.

Until I had kids I preferred to not have any kind of convictions concerning the outside world. Nowadays, having a family I started to form and voice my opinion towards different things that are happening in my country and around the world. At this very moment, the outside world got to be quite intrusive and started to affect more and more the inner world, especially with this pandemic context. All the artists around the world are strongly affected by this new context. Even before the pandemic, the artistic profession was already nearly impossible to be sustained, now anything related to arts is almost eradicated. And if I see it from a factual point of view, I can’t predict a bright future.

Your music breathes an identity of Romania, but how has your country changed since your previous record, and has it affected your music and perception?

Happily, we’re not very tuned with the social, cultural or political life of Romania. I admit that I live in my own bubble, secluded from most of the trends that apply to most of the people.
This is a good and bad thing in the same time. It’s good because we’re dependent on very few things around us and it starts to be bad in the moments when we’re inevitably confronted with the reality we’re living in.

I’ve got my tickets for Prophecy Fest and I was happy to learn you are part of the Prophecy roster (which I had missed because I forgot Lupus Lounge is one of the iterations). I feel it is a great label and a perfect match for an artist that defies the definition. How is your relationship with the label?

Our relation is pretty straightforward, quite transparent and if there are any kind of misunderstandings or differences of opinions we found a pretty flexible team at Prophecy. Another aspect that I appreciate with them is the fact that they support “unusual” ideas. If we come up with a crazy idea they don’t dismiss it right from the start. They are willing to experiment and they are usually open to new ideas and weird projects. So, we can’t really complain about them.


I sincerely hope we can go enjoy the festival and I can finally hear Dordeduh live. You will also be playing Negura Bunget songs. What is it like to play music from that band for you now, so long after the split? And have you played in a cave before? Apparently, no one had asked Mortiis to play in one before the 2019 edition.

I look forward to the event especially because it’s going to be a special show for us, but also it will be an opportunity to meet up with friends that I wasn’t seeing for some time.
Playing Negura Bunget songs seems to me a bit un-actual; it’s a part of our past that defined us for that time around, but not very representative for what I am nowadays. And don’t get me wrong: I love those songs, I even love playing those songs nowadays because I feel I can have an expression that is much close to the initial aim of the songs. It’s also a big and important part of me and my personal history. But nowadays I would like to focus more on the future and less on that past. I personally hope that this will be the last time I will play Negura Bunget songs. Unfortunately for me, my colleagues have a different opinion.

A hard question to answer, but what are your future plans?

Having close to no predictability for the future, all that we can do is to be prepared for any possible live activity. For that we prepared two possible sets, one with a reduced budget for promoters, where we offer a reduced travel party and we play with a minimal setup and line-up. The other one is a bigger production, with a larger travel party and with an extended setup and line-up for the shows.
Another thing we can do is to prepare the work for a possible new album and start this process as soon as possible to have a minimal gap between the albums.

If Dordeduh was a dish, a type of food if you will, what would it be and why?

It would certainly be a simple dish with a lot of subtle colourful tastes  Why? Because I think our message is simple and can be heartfelt, without falling into much intellectualization, but it contains a lot of layers that reveal a lot of details.

Dordeduh

Saħħar: Maltese Catharsis in black metal

I actually ran into Marton Saliba, the sole member of Saħħar, once upon a time during the Eindhoven Metal Meeting event. An event, where a small enclave of Maltese metalheads apparently sojourns to in order to get their fix of heavy music. Years later, I came across his latest album, titled ‘Tiġrif tal-Ġnus’, released in 2020. I felt the time was right to reach out and ask some questions. Though the album had been about for a while, time has stood still, so it’s fresh enough to dig into.

Maltese metal is a different beast altogether. It’s outward looking, diverse, inspired by the Brittish scene it would seem if you look at the heavy doom presence on the island. But Malta is a strange place, if you look beyond the touristy veil. It has a long history, a peculiar mixture of peoples and cultures, and an own tongue that is impossible to grasp. Interestingly, Saħħar chose to perform in that language. 

Below you find the questions I asked and the answers given. Thanks to Marton for his time and make sure to check out his music.

Sonic Mirage of the Mind

Hails Saħħar, how are you doing? How has the pandemic treated you? 

Greetings, I can’t complain at the moment, trying to keep my life in balance. Ironically, the pandemic gave me more time in my private life, with enough time to be creative, while my day job was unchanged, although it has been more stressful.

How did you end up playing and loving black metal? What was your musical path?

I’ve been classically trained in Piano and music theory since my childhood. But it was only after discovering metal in my early teens that my interest in writing music started to grow. By the age of 15-16, I already heard several black metal bands, and I also started learning the guitar, so I chose black metal as the genre to experiment on songwriting, and I haven’t looked back ever since. I tried other genres with varying personal satisfaction, but it’s black metal which I always return to.

You have two active projects, of which one is an international collaboration. You also had a project called Entität. Can you say something about what these projects represent to you, in particular Saħħar, of course?

They are all different creative outlets. At the same time, they all will probably bear some recognisable riffing style. Entität bears more melodic and progressive music, whereas Eerbaruh is relentless tremolo picking, with Saħħar being the more intimate musical outlet. I’m the guitarist in all three projects, with Saħħar being quite literally everything else. The additional projects also aid me in publishing more music that would otherwise make Saħħar’s discography more saturated than it already is. Finally, they serve as a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and see what our creativity takes us to.

Saħħar is me, and vice versa. Everything which comes out from Saħħar is always a reflection or sonic mirage of my mind.

Sahhar 2021

What is it you draw your inspiration from?

When I’m in my songwriting phase, I try to avoid listening to other music because everything will become an aspect that could inspire my music. I’m musically influenced by a lot of factors to single out, but what inspires me is my drive to write music, my family and the need to explore more themes and topics and put them in more and more releases.

Having been to Malta for the Doom Days I noticed that the island has a vibrant and tight-knit metal scene. Yet, it focuses on classic heavy metal. Since you do Saħħar solo and perform in these international collaborations, is there no interest in black metal or what is that scene like in Malta? 

Indeed, Black Metal is not the most popular sub-genre here. It’s not to say that there isn’t any contemporary interest either, but Saħħar takes up most of my creative time, and it’s not very easy to commit to other bands. That’s the reason for my relative absence from other local bands because international collaborations mean that I don’t have to leave my studio. There are other groups, with Martyrium actually achieving a decent level of success. But other BM bands have a more temporary project vibe, or they are run by one or two individuals, which severely limits their reach.

Before I ask you about your last album, I find it extremely interesting that you sing in Maltese. Using your own language is not an oddity in itself in the metal scene. Bands who use their native tongue have been known to thrive, but Maltese is a unique language. What made you choose this language? 

Around the time I was scribbling my very first tracks, I was listening to several bands from the Norwegian Black Metal scene (as one does), and I noticed that most of these bands wrote most, if not all, their tracks in their own mother tongue, and I thought it would be a good idea, creatively speaking, to do the same with my project. I certainly was not thinking about future successes or failures when I chose so, but writing in Maltese was given its due recognition over the years, including award nominations.

Do you think other things that spring from being Maltese enter your music? Any myths, ideas or stories you have found shaping what you say with your music?

The very name Saħħar, was picked from local folklore, and there were other instances where I either wrote or was inspired by local myths. Themes vary quite a lot from release to release, but there will be a local mythology-inspired album in the future, I’m sure.

You’ve released ‘Tiġrif tal-Ġnus’ in 2020, your 6th full length, as I understand it. What are you telling on this album? What is its concept?

Its theme is Genocides and Massacres. I chose a few historical events, and I wrote the music’s words around these events. It was an attempt to show the true darkness in mankind. No occult, no magic, no religious mumbo jumbo, just the darkness plucked from our history itself due to mankind’s actions towards his own kin.

You also released a record with Eerbaruh. Would you tell us something about that?

It started as a happy accident, really, when I contacted a guy looking for a guitarist. It resulted in 4 guys pouring all their creative ideas into a short release to test the waters. The result was a really abrasive and intense release which I am very satisfied with the outcome… We are working on another longer release, but so far it seems to be a lot of hurdles in the way, which I hope we will overcome as a group soon. The same goes with Entität, to the point it seems that the band is disbanded, but that’s not the case just yet.

You released this record in the middle of the pandemic, was it on the shelf long before that, or did you create it during the problems? What were your process and creative trajectory like in this case? 

Tiġrif tal-Ġnus was already in the works when the pandemic hit, and I simply stuck to a somewhat predetermined schedule. Truth be told, the creative process was not too different from previous releases, except for having more time to research the lyrics and less pressure in producing it, perhaps. With the exception of the second track, Nirien ta’ Smyrna, all the other tracks were written in roughly a short span of time. Then I focused on the lyrics and then spent the longest time producing the album while preparing the respective artwork in parallel.

Recently, you posted a blog about depression where you share your experiences in a pretty brutal and direct way. What made you open up like this, and do you feel that there may be a sort of suffering in silence thing going on in black metal? 

I’m not quite sure why I opened up like that, but it certainly felt better doing so. I suppose I needed to clear the air after a hazy and dark chapter in my life. Kind of how one admits to himself that he has a problem in AA to help himself heal.

Yes, I have noticed that several one-man projects are being used either as a creative outlet or as a cry for help from people with mental health issues, and it has been occurring since the inception of the genre. Several individuals use the genre as an ‘edgy’ attempt, and unfortunately, that makes it hard to separate the bullshit from the ones with the real issues. My suggestion for anyone with depression or any other mental health problems is to seek help and not rely on music as a form of therapy. It can be quite effective in the short run, but otherwise, medical help will be needed.

I have this idea that most people who are into this kind of music are often in various gradations out of sync with the modern and fairly hegemonic world. It’s why there’s such a hunger for nature, spirituality, etc. What do you think about this?

That’s an interesting insight, one which I’m bound to agree with. Black Metal in itself is very individualistic, very close to the soul of who writes it, and has this Carte Blanche situation where anything you write about is fair game because it’s the individual expressing his deeper thoughts through the genre. Overall, Black Metal belongs to a world beyond (or beneath?) this one, where the petty, and weak whims of the contemporary human do not belong, and the genre actively opposes and rejects the notions. Unfortunately, that might also mean that some of us are somewhat detached from reality but, it is what it is.

What are your current future plans with Saħħar?

I have another album in the pipeline, already in its pre-production stage, as well as an EP or two. With the help of some friends, I am also laying down a script and plan for a proper music video, which will be a first for me, and hopefully, there will be some opportunities to return to the live stage.

If you had to describe Saħħar as a type of food, what would it be and why?

That’s an interesting question! I would consider it a Spaghetti Aglio Olio, Pepperoncino. Simple but not simplistic and great when done with passion with a lot of flavour and spice. I am biased, after all, being from the Mediterranean!

 

Interview with Death SS Steve Sylvester on Ten

For those in the know, Death SS is a legendary band that you can not overlook when you look back on the history of heavy music. The name, always mired in confusing controversy, stands for In Death of Steve Sylvester (get it, (S)teve (S)ylvester). The band was founded in 1977, but it took until 1988 for the band to release the first album after a series of demos and rarities.

Even more rare is any clarity on the times before that, which Steve Sylvester, still the leading man in the band, was kind enough to fill in (albeit partly and often more confusing and obscure than you’d want) in his book on the history of the band. Read it and be hooked, because it is much like the stories about Kiss. Only here the occult is really the occult, the skulls and bones are really skulls and bones, and the weird stuff is… well just as weird (let’s face it, Kiss has a weird history too).

And now, we are at the point of ‘TEN’, the tenth album of the band. Before we continue to the interview, I have to share the press notes on this release:“X”, the number ten in the Roman numerical system, chosen to name this album, is not a random title.
The number Ten symbolizes perfection, as well as the cancellation of all things.
10 = (1 + 0) = 1, illustrates the eternal starting over.
Ten is the total of the first four numbers (and in our case the first four Albums / Seals) and therefore contains within itself the entirety of the universal and artistic principles contained in each of them.
It corresponds to the Pythagorean Tetraktys which, together with  Seven (the total number of musical / magical seals of our pact), is considered the most important number, as it is formed by the sum of the first four  (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10), thus expressing the totality, the fulfillment, the final realization…! The number 10 is divine because it is perfect, as it brings together in a new unity all the principles expressed in the numbers (or albums) from one to nine.
Esoterically the symbolism of the decade represents the perfection relative to the circular space-time, or the divine immanence.
Ten indicates the change that allows the initiate to evolve, grow and rise spiritually.
It is the symbol of the totality of the represented reality.
From a religious point of view it recalls the number of commandments that God entrusted to Moses on Mount Sinai.
It contains the Unity that made everything and zero, a symbol of matter and of the Chaos from which everything came out.
It therefore includes in its likeness the created and the non-created, the beginning and the end, the power and the strength, the life and the nothingness.
There are also ten circles, the Sefiroth of the Tree of Life.
In the Tarot the number Ten, which in the Major Arcana corresponds to the Wheel of Fortune (Arcane X) and to Judgment (Arcanum XX), represents the end of a cycle of experiences and heralds a new beginning.
Finally in Dante’s Inferno, the tenth canto takes place in the sixth circle, in the city of Dite, where heretics are punished, that is, the rebels, the free spirits intolerant of Dogma, those who choose to take themselves out of the ordinary way, to  which this work is dedicated.
Steve Sylvester

I gather, that this is a fairly long intro, but I could hardly ask Steve to rephrase this in the interview, but here it is. What it tells you, that Steve put way more thought into the title than you’d assume, but also that Death SS may be about the show, shock and theatrics, but has a profoundly deeper layer to it and love for that which is dark.

Without much further ado, here is The Necromancer of Rock himself.

Death SS

Hello Steve, how are you doing? How did you cope with the pandemic (this far)?

Hi! I did as practically everyone did, with patience and trying not to get discouraged by the absurd situation that has arisen. I have dedicated the unexpected free time to further devote myself to music and to my studies, and “Ten” is the result of these last two years …

You’ve just dropped your tenth album, titled unmistakably as ‘Ten’. There’s a lot of significance to this number, as you explain in the accompanying bio. It shows a side of Death SS that not everyone is aware of, which is the depth of thought behind the music.I’m curious as to what resources you have perused to come to this complex idea of the number.

It ‘s something that was born spontaneously .. While I was dedicated to the composition of the album I thought that this would be the tenth “seal” of the career of DEATH SS and this thing should not be underestimated. Gradually all the esoteric and kabbalistic references that are connected behind this magical number have arisen and this has provided me with a further input for the composition of my lyrics …

What can you tell about the creative process of writing and recording this album? Was the relative isolation helpful to you or detrimental?

I would say both .. It was helpful because it gave me more free time and concentration to devote myself to the collection of ideas for composing the songs, but it was also detrimental because it prevented the movements and the relative union between the members of the band because we all live in different cities, and therefore we had to work remotely.

I understand from another interview you did that the album follows a concept, as the songs are connected. Could you elaborate on this? How personal is this record?

“TEN” is personal to the extent that all the records I write are because they represent my mood of the precise historical moment in which I compose them. IT is almost a sort of concept album because all his songs are connected to each other by a common feeling, related to this particular historical period, dominated by the terror, that we have all lived and that in part we are still living today …. Both lyrically and musically there is, therefore, an alternation of lights and shadows, even if the latter often seem to prevail over the first. The mood is very “doomy”, even if there is no lack of power and energy and the desire to rebel and fight, which is the characteristic of all the “heretics” of the Rock people. 

What can you tell about the track ‘Zora’? I’ve read your book, The Necromancer of Rock, so I am aware of your love for classic comics. I also watched the video, which I believe contains exactly what your vision of rock’n’roll is. I can only imagine how much fun it must have been for you, so what can you tell about this?

Yes, it was very funny shooting the ZORA video. As you said, the song is dedicated to the homonymous character of the Italian horror-erotic comics of the 70s and 80s, so I wanted to give it a vintage, sexy and ironic touch, like the comic in question …Death SS red glow

What is the connection between heresy and rock’n’roll for you? I very frequently see those terms together concerning Death SS, so I’m curious about your thoughts about this.

Great question! The term “heresy” derives from the Greek “haìresis” which means “choice”, also in the sense of “turning”.

The heretic is who refuses to accept what is passed off as dogma or absolute truth, who is not satisfied with easy definitions or predefined schemes. Even in music. Being heretics is a way of life. It requires us to dig where someone tells us there is nothing to dig, to speak up when the others try to silence us, to be critical of any dogmatism and imposition.

The heretic is therefore a “free” man, because freedom, as opposed to power, generates a passion for public action and creative participation. For all these reasons I consider DEATH SS and all our followers as “heretics”…..

Death SS is still the horror-inspired band, that it was from the start. A band that delivers a performance. It’s been said that this performative side of rock music appears to be disappearing (Nikki Sixx actually writes that in the last edition of ‘The Heroin Diaries’). How do you feel about this? And how important is the visual aspect of Death SS?

The visual aspect in our musical performances is and will forever be a very important aspect to me. Since I was a child I have always been attracted to the glamorous and scenographic side of certain artists and I have incorporated this aspect into the DNA of my band. I would not be able to conceive DEATH SS differently!

Since reading your book (which was my ‘get to know’ Death SS moment) I try to explain Death SS as something akin to Kiss and Ghost. I very frequently see this comparison, so how do you feel about this? What are your thoughts on these bands?

Well, KISS have certainly been one of the sources of inspiration for the band, as well as Alice Cooper, all people who started doing what was then called “shock rock” before us, even if when I formed the band in 1977, I didn’t thinking at these artists, but rather at the  SWEET, obviously in a “horror” version …..I like Ghosts. They came out long after us and from what I know, it was probably us who influenced them in some way.

Having mentioned those, it’s as if in the evolution of rock and metal, other bands choose punk or metal, and Death SS did something else. Paving the way for what was to come, yet never really challenged, sounding uniquely like yourselves on Ten. But what is that unique essence of Death SS and the drive behind its creativity?  

Since from the beginning, I’ve never asked myself the problem of labelling what I was playing. It is difficult for me to channel my band into a specific musical genre. This is why I have always said that DEATH SS play “Horror Music”, because it simply means that we want to express certain atmospheres that draw from the esoteric and horror imaginary, in the freest possible way, obviously always with a Rock matrix.

What are the current future plans you have for the band? And in your personal artistic endeavours?

For now I’m simply promoting “Ten” which has only been out from few days. I’m waiting to see how things will go and above all I’m waiting to see if the concert situation can finally evolve without all the limitations to which we all was forced lately, in order to be able to do some important show …

Will there be more writing with adventures from Steve Sylvester? 

Who knows? Maybe in another twenty years … Ha! Ha!

Would you say that rock’n’roll is the secret to keep looking as young as you do, or is it actual vampirism? You’ve been making music with Death SS since 1977, there are artists who started a decade later and look 40 years older than you. What is your secret?

You said it: I’m a true vampire!

All The Be(a)st!

Steve

 

 

 

Skinflint: dark tales from Botswana

Botswana is a metal country and that is something most people will not know. The African continent is not known for their wide range of metal bands, but Botswana is the exception. And while some bands have ventured outside their native boundaries to play their music, none has seen so much as Skinflint.

The band hails from Gaborone and has been around since 2006. Having just toured the USA, the group found itself stalled by the global pandemic. Nonetheless, the spirits are ever high in Skinflint and they were glad to answer a number of questions I had and share why they feel African stories are well-suited for metal music, what it’s like to tour with Soulfly and what comes next.

Skinflint

How is Skinflint doing? Has the pandemic been hard on you?

It has affected us all. But fortunately, we are all fine and getting back to making music again.

What got you folks originally into metal music? What made it such fascinating music for you?

Metal is music that breaks stereotypes and pushes boundaries. It was the best platform for our artistic expression.

I’m curious as to how Skinflint started as a band and how you managed to keep a rather solid line-up for so long. Though there’s a vibrant scene in Botswana, finding the right chemistry would seem like a challenge. How is that for Skinflint?

It is hard to find like-minded musicians here in Botswana as even though there is a dedicated Metal following, the scene here is actually small and does not get much recognition locally. I met Kebonye at a festival in Lobatse many years ago. Cosmos I knew him from another band he played for called Amok which disbanded. When Alessandra left the band I thought of him and asked if he wanted to try for auditions.

Musically, you are hard to place in one stylistic corner. But what I find very fascinating is that you take African mythology as part of your themes and topics in the music. I assume these are regional stories, because saying African mythology is as wide-ranging as saying European or Asian mythology, obviously. Could you say something about this and perhaps give a bit of a background for those not in the know on these themes?

Africa is a continent rich in myths and storytelling. Much of which has not been covered by mainstream media. I thought of incorporating some these tales into the bands music. I believe this gives the listener a new perspective to listen to Metal, and also bring to attention some of these tales. Some are regional, some are inspired by true events and others I have played around with.

Why is it significant for you to use metal to tell these stories? What do you want people to take away from Skinflints music?

The stories are raw, dark and strange. It fits the kind of Metal we play well. I hope to see these tales told in other art forms too. I hope people can find some inspiration in them and even incorporate them into their own works. Furthermore, I would love to see more of it, in music, art, video games, comics etc as I don’t see much coverage for them. This is why I have been consistent with them throughout my career. They are important to me and most of it unheard of.

After your last record, the self-titled album from 2018, your drummer Allessandra left the band. You have a new drummer now, has this impacted the direction or sound from the band much?

It has. But not too much. But not just because of her departure, but we feel like it’s time to try something new while still retaining the identity of the band.

Before Covid-19 hit, you guys were touring with your new drummer in the USA. What was that like, playing with bands like Soulfly? And since you got home on the 3rd of March, was it tense towards the end?

Playing with Soulfly felt like a dream. Coming from Botswana, the only place we see these bands is on YouTube or videos. Next thing, we are sharing the stage with musicians we watched growing up. The tour was intense and a vital part of the bands’ growth process. These are the things you cannot teach but need to experience in order to achieve a higher level of playing.

You’re now getting work underway on a new album. What can you tell us about it? Has your creative process been different? What can we expect?

The new album is almost done. You can expect the same raw energy the band is known for but with a few surprises. The songs are heavier this time around, with a newfound energy and chemistry within the band. You can hear a band playing with hunger and heart here. I am confident in the new material.

When do you think it’ll be out, and what plans does Skinflint have for the future?

Early next year. We already have some festivals booked in Europe, and then we hope to confirm further dates in the USA too, hopefully.

Botswana is one of the few African countries with a metal scene that is globally known and seen. While it makes little sense to treat it as an oddity, it is very distinct, DIY and creative. How are things there? Which new bands are coming up that people should know about?

We are proud of the scene here. With Covid hitting and the scene being on hiatus for 2 years now, nothing new has come out. It’s still the same bands that I know of. Check out Overthrust if you like old school Death Metal.

Your local scene was subject to numerous articles and documentaries. In what way has that impacted the metal scene? Has it been positive or negative?

On the positive, it brought attention to a scene that may not have been discovered in the first place. Some of it was really good. But on the bad side some of the documentaries were all about the imagery and completely excluded the music/bands. Skinflint has distanced itself from those, as we felt it was more like a fashion show.

If you had to describe Skinflint as a dish (a type of food), what would it be and why?

Braii. Putting meat on a fire in the middle of the bush. The closer to the bone the sweeter the meat becomes. That is what Skinflint sounds like. In fact, we have braii every time the band gets together to rehearse or record.

Check out the band website here. Article originally published on Echoes and Dust.

Wardruna, ‘Kvitravn’ and rediscovering the sacred earth

For those eagerly awaiting the release of Wardruna’s ‘Kvitravn’, it’s not merely a record on the purchase list for this year. There’s a significance to Wardruna’s music to its listeners that borders on the spiritual. It makes sense, as that is where the music by Einar Selvik comes from. It hails from a deeper place, where we reconnect with nature, our past, and the sanctity of the earth. And through the years, the audience for the Norwegian group has grown and grown.

‘Kvitravn’, release date 22 January 2021, heralds’ new beginnings. It’s the first full-length album outside of the trilogy. It breaks with the original project yet is a continuation. Interestingly, the title is the same as the nom de guerre Selvik used in his black metal days, as part of Gorgoroth, Jotunspor, and other projects. Things come full circle, as it is often in our ancient traditions, which are closely related to the natural cycles. Birth, death, rebirth. We spoke with Einar Selvik on the latest album, or complicated histories, his creative process, the sanctity of nature, and the messages in Wardruna’s music. Enjoy reading this, and keep your eyes peeled for the white raven.

Thanks to Paul Verhagen for the pictures. 

Wardruna: myth, mystery & natural harmony

First of all, how are you doing?

I’m doing good. Of course, it’s been busy times with the release coming in. That’s a positive thing in my line of work. I’m chronically busy, actually. Not being able to tour and stuff like that, is of course, sad and strange, but I’ve been busy in the studio working with the music for Assassin’s Creed: Walhalla and stuff like that. So it hasn’t been a downtime at all—more than enough work to do.

You have the new album out now. What has the trajectory been like since the trilogy (Runaljod – Gap var Ginnunga, Yggdrasil, and Ragnarok) and Skald to Kvitravn?

In a way, for me, it is hard to separate this from especially the trilogy. It feels like a continuation. During those 15 years, I was so focused on the trilogy, but there were some things I wanted to do that I put in the drawer for later. Revisiting a lot of these ideas and thoughts was part of the process after the trilogy when I was thinking about what comes next. So, in many ways, it is a continuation. Perhaps, on this album, I go more into the details, the specifics, and the human sphere of things, our relation to nature, and how we define ourselves as a species according to older traditions. It’s more complicated than our body and consciousness, or if you are a religious person, you also have a soul. But in the old ways of seeing it, it is much more complex. The album sort of explores some of these concepts in depth.

There was a series of brief documentaries as part of the album’s promotion, in which you touch upon topics such as animism, traditions, and history. Are these aspects you are referring to?

Animism has always been central to Wardruna and what our music is about. It has been so since the beginning. The topics in that documentary are definitely the backbone of this album, but also relevant to previous works, I would say.

The topics you are working with are incredibly complex and hard to digest in today’s world. I’ve just finished the book ‘Children of Ash and Elm’, which is an excellent resource about Viking history. What one learns is how complicated and multidimensional. We know so little, and there’s so much more than warriors there. As an artist, do you feel the desire to go beyond that simplistic view and be properly understood?

I have the book too. Well, first of all, I have to specify I never intended to replicate music from a specific time period. I use instruments and ideas that go back to the stone age, the bronze age, the migration period, the Viking Age, and even modern times. The idea is that it is kind of timeless and still has the potential to speak to us in the same manner it used to do.

Yeah, I do feel a responsibility. I always say, don’t climb into a tree without solid roots. Doing thorough research into the musicology and the themes I’m working with, approaching them in a scholarly manner… So I have solid ground before I go into these intuitive and creative processes. That’s very much at the core.

As you say, it’s so much more than warfare; that’s just a small part of it. That’s one of the many reasons why I never use the word Viking to describe my work. I prefer the word Norse or whatever. Because defining a whole culture based on what a small group of people did for a short time, that’s entirely wrong. On a personal level also, I’m not so fascinated with that whole era and that warrior culture.  It is interesting, and I understand this big focus on Vikings and warfare because they were rulers of their times in many ways. But still… If you would make a series or a game that would be authentic, it would involve a lot of time farming, cooking, or spinning wool, and that’s not so sexy in a way. It’s understandable, but I don’t share that fascination. For me, there are so many things that represent this culture in a more complete way.

There are actually simulation games like that. Yet, you did make music for the Assassin’s Creed videogame and, of course, the TV-show Vikings, which both, in their way, represent that cultural snacking and enable people only to take that element from it. Is that why you get involved in these projects because there is a certain contradictory element in there.

Yes, well…. You have to take it for what it is. The Vikings TV-show or a video game like that, for example, is made for entertaining the masses. For it to be a success in the modern-day, it needs to play on historical correctness and balance it with the modern notion of what that time is. You need both to make it catchy, and with that in mind, you have to deem and judge it by what it is. My expectation is not that they should make a TV-show to entertain only history nerds like me; that would probably not be a very successful show in a broader perspective.

For me, it is, as you say, an opportunity to highlight certain things, like the poetic culture, which is one of the things I really wanted to get across in both my work with Vikings and Assassin’s Creed. Of course, it’s Assassin’s Creed, so you see a lot of the fighting element, but I think they did a great job in including a lot of other things. On the musical side, I really wanted to give voice to the oral tradition, the skalds, which we often forget but were so central for the people, their culture, and the courts. Even for the aristocracy, it was a central part. This allowed me to actually give voice to them and give voice to that and how that culture might have been. I understand the contradiction, but I don’t see it as one. My expectations are based on what they set out to do and what is logical in contemporary times. In any case, I think it is a step in the right direction because they are, of course, removing some stereotypes… and perhaps creating new ones. But also illuminating them and creating a more nuanced view of the times.

Over to ‘Kvitravn,’ can you tell me what the white raven is and what it means to you? Though you have stated there is no relation to your black metal nom de guerre as Kvitravn and this record, it tells us how close this theme is to you.

It is; it’s what inspired me to take that name in the first place. I have long been fascinated by ravens, and I have a form of totemic relationship. Of course, the raven itself is such a central animal in the Norse tradition and mythology. Not only in the north but globally, the raven is seen as a messenger between this world and the next. In the north, it is seen as the trickster, the animal embodiment of the human mind and memory. So, it’s almost seen as the human in nature, in animal shape. It carries a lot of meaning, and then you have these sacred white animals, which is also a global phenomenon. Whether it’s white elephants, serpents, lions, or reindeer, they often come with a prophecy of some form of change, renewal, enlightenment, etcetera. The image of the white raven, the coming or return, labeling an album that, to me, is a powerful symbol and perhaps even a hope and call for change.

If you would condense it in a way to a modern factor of change, what is it that you hope people take from this? Because through your words, also in talking about animism and your creative process, which is so tightly interwoven with the connection to nature, I detect an environmentalist viewpoint.

You are, of course, correct. But I hate preaching or claiming to know any truth, saying what other people should do… But if my music has some form of a message within it, it would be that I do think it would be beneficial if we all had a more animistic view of the world. What I mean by that is the idea that nature is something sacred, something we are a part of and not the rulers off. That doesn’t have to be a spiritual or religious thing; it’s an attitude. The second we took that sacredness out of nature and put it up in the sky or completely disregarded it, that’s when we got into trouble. I think it would benefit us all if we all had a more respectful view of nature as something we are the caretakers of in a way. It’s something we should respect, something sacred in a way.

It’s simple. I think it represents all of my music. You can look upon many of these things as spiritual things, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s something that is relevant, whether you are a spiritual person or not. It’s an attitude, a philosophy; it’s something beyond those things. Timeless, universal, and highly relevant to all of us.

You spoke at Roadburn a few years ago about your creative process and explained the deep connection to nature when you actually compose and even record your music. For the video of Lyfjaberg, you climbed up a mountain. How was that during the creation of ‘Kvitravn’?

The inspiration can come from many things. As you say, perhaps my main muse is when I walk; it’s when I see and hear things. Sometimes it comes from the instruments, poetry, or the themes I work with have such a strong image that I see and hear the sound of it, and then it’s about chasing down these things. This album follows the same kind of creative concept, where the themes themselves find the instrumental needs, where I record, what state I’m in when I record. I try and go as far as I can in interpreting the theme I’m working with on its own premise. Capturing it, if you will.

Einar Selvik by Paul Verhagen

Some recordings on this album have been done in places that have a connection to the theme I’m working with, the time of day, or a state of mind. It’s hard to give you concrete examples of it, but I still work in the same way. There are quite some recordings in forests, sacred places, and on burial mounds.

While listening to it, I felt more buildup and cinematic quality, if I can use that term, compared to the previous records. Do you think your other projects affect the sound you create in that direction?

I don’t think there has been any conscious decision on changing it. Of course, in everything I do, every song I write, I learn something from and build on in my work. That goes for everything in my life. I guess I’m always chasing this soundscape; I feel I’m getting closer and closer to my visions. I get better at replicating what is in my head when I’m inspired, hearing, and envisioning these songs. That’s an ongoing organic process, but not a conscious process of decisions. I try to let the song go where it wants to go, rather than me trying to give it any kind of shape.

You mentioned before not wanting to preach anything, and I want to get back to that for a moment. When you started Wardruna, it was singular, unique, and a new avenue. By now, Wardruna is a global phenomenon with dedicated fans around the world. Listening to Wardruna for them is usually not ‘just throwing on a record’; it’s more than that. Has this in any way affected how you see yourself as an artist and how you approach your art?

No, I try not to relate to that part. Fame, the growth of the band, that’s something I try to keep a distance from, especially when I’m writing my music. I’m not writing music for anyone else; I’m writing it for me. That’s my perspective. I’m writing music I want to hear, and if anyone can enjoy it, that’s fantastic, but not the reason I’m doing it. Which, I think, is a healthy way of looking at it.

I don’t think it would be good if I felt pressure to create this or that, to adapt my art in any way. I don’t compromise. But, of course, it is challenging. You meet a lot of people, and I relate to the fact our music is growing. Yet, I try to keep a healthy focus on it and not feed my ego; it’s not about that. I try to distance myself from that side of it.

What are the best compliments for you that you receive from listeners?

I don’t know, but it is always special to hear that people connect to it, which I hear often. It gives them something and awakes something healthy on a very personal level. That’s, of course, more than anyone can hope for. Many of these songs live their own lives in the world and give meaning to people. That’s a special thing and overwhelming in many ways.

This album has been ready to go for a while. You mentioned you’ve been busy, so I’m curious if you’ve already started looking for future musical directions for Wardruna?

To be completely honest, actually no. I’ve been so busy on the Assassin’s Creed project, which is an ongoing project. I’ve been very occupied with that, and this period has allowed me to pursue that in a more healthy way without touring on top of that. But, of course, if this period continues putting limitations on what we can and cannot do what we normally do, I will remain productive.

I always think about where to go and what things I want to do and give voice to. On a certain level, that process is ongoing, but I haven’t started recording or planning yet. I presume that is to come.

So those are my questions, just a personal anecdote I wanted to share. A few years ago at Roadburn, a photo exposition was posted, which giant concert photos. One photograph (by Paul Verhagen) of you displayed there was given to me as a wedding gift and now hangs in my living room. My 5-month old daughter has her playpen right beneath it and stares up at you a lot, to the point I’m worried she may be unclear which face is daddy.

*laughs* I’m honored to take part of your home. Give my best to your family!

Einar Selvik with Wardruna by Paul Verhagen
The particular picture by Paul Verhagen

Thank you very much Einar, best of luck on your release, and let’s hope things turn to normal so we can see Wardruna live again!

Same here! We always love coming to the Netherlands. We’ve always been received very well there, and it’s become our second home in many ways.