Sunday, 4 April 2010

Interview with Ritual Magazine, Italy 2009

Your new album contains reworking of compositions included in ‘The Sacred Truth’ and two new songs: what’s on the basis of this choice? What else can you tell us about the genesis of this album?
The choice was made by the material. I had no plans to remix “The Sacred Truth” until Cold Spring asked me, and even then I was initially reluctant to do so because I wanted to focus on new material. I had lost a lot of interest and belief in the music on “The Sacred Truth”. Once I have completed the recording of a piece of music I seldom listen to it, certainly not for a long while. It often go through a curve of being initially enthusiastic about a newly recorded piece only to see that enthusiasm drop away and I almost “disown” the material. Eventually, when all the dust has settled you arrived at a balanced view depending on the merits of the music but when I was first asked to consider a remix it was not something I’d have chosen to do myself, however when I sat down and considered what I could do with the pieces I realized that this was a chance to do things differently and to bring new expression to some of the tracks. In reality all the tracks are new, even the pieces that are derived from earlier tracks have been radically re-recorded. The term “re-mixed” is slightly erroneous as that suggests somebody just putting a funky baseline behind a song. That’s not what I did with this, I tried to bring something new out of the original pieces and to record new pieces which complemented the sound as vision of the original album. When I say the choice was made by the material mean that there was enough scope contained within “The Sacred Truth” to justify revisiting the tracks.,
’The Sword Was Our Pope’ is the only composition featuring a rhythmic section: it sounds like a procession, a tribal - ritualistic march. What’s the meaning of this piece?
I took this title from a proverb used by the German crusading orders in the 13th Century, when they were trying to convert the pagan Balts and rid the heathens of their goods and chattels. I’m not sure if it was the Teutonic Knights or the Livonian Brothers of the Sword who said “The Sword Is Our Pope!”. I was quite taken by this statement as it seems to me to be both slightly blasphemous, given those orders arch-catholic credentials, and also because of it’s militant sentiment. I should mention now that although I am very interested in the various histories of the martial orders of medieval Europe my sympathies lie very much with Grand Duke Gedimas. I am sometimes taken by the urge to use repetitive motifs in my music. I feel that this system of recording contains a lot of power that can be transferred to the music, the over-identification of one simple refrain repeated over and over again lends the music a very ritualistic and ceremonial atmosphere. With this piece I wanted to evoke melancholy and regret. The ghostly, whispered voices add to this. I also changed the titled to the past-tense – “The Sword Was Our Pope”, to add to that feeling that the listener is witnessing something that is past and forgotten.
Fenris was a monstrous wolf, son of Loki, according to Norse mythology. Why have you dedicated a composition to him? What can you tell us about this song?
The track “Fenris-Wolf” is a contraction of the piece “In The Teeth Of The Wolf” from “The Sacred Truth”. With TenHornedBeast I usually record quite lengthy pieces but with “In The Teeth of The Wolf” this grew into a massive track with a lot going on. The piece itself was very difficult to mix and balance because of the chaotic nature of the sounds. It took months to get to a point where I was happy and even then I had to compromise on certain elements of the track in order to make the whole piece work. When I came to the remixing and re-recording I decided that I would strip away all of the other sounds and just use the two guitar tracks. With more space to play with I could manipulate and tweak these sounds to a much greater degree than when they were confined within the larger composition. The wolf had broken its bonds! Fenrir/Fenris is a zoomorph of chaos, wilderness and death. I am interested in the realities behind myth and folklore because I feel that by looking back into the ancient immemorial past of humanity we can see things as they really are. There was obviously a time when the wolf was the apex predator in the northern world and the mythic manifestation of Fenris as the enemy of the Aesir and the agent of destruction reflects this time when wolves came into direct competition with people, both for territory and for food. The prevalence of the wolf as the figure of evil, insatiate hunger and cunning guile is common in the fairy tales and myths of Europe - Fenrir/Fenris is just another version of The Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs.
Ambient music (according to Brian Eno) is supposed to be a permeation between the environment and music. It is supposed to create a real space: how much of this definition is close to your personal research? What is different from this approach in your work?
I know little of Brian Eno and have never listened to any of his music. Several years ago I found a box of old magazines in my attic and among them was a copy of the British music magazine Q from 1989. I can’t remember buying it – or why I would have! – I think I was lent it by somebody but there was an interview with Eno in which he said that he was interested in heavy metal because metal was a kind of music in which the sound made was of more importance than the message conveyed. This was in 1989 so predates the recent gentrification of heavy metal into a sort of arty high-concept dogs-dinner in which people who have spent all their lives looking down their noses at the music suddenly remember that they’ve always loved metal. It’s strange to think of Brian Eno listening to metal in 1989 – I would like to think he was digging Liege Lord and Manilla Road. Personally I feel that Eno’s definition of ambient music is limited and maybe reflects his experience rather than mine. I can understand his assertion that ambient music links to an “environment” but I feel that dark-ambient music as it has developed since the early 90s has sought to create links between both inner and outer space and also to illustrate subjective personal experience. In a way I feel that dark-ambient music has many links to the progressive rock scene of the 1970s – and not just in the number of boring concept albums both genres have produced. Because the music is largely non-narrative it provides a blank canvass for artists to project their own experiences and desires. The best dark-ambient music does create a real space, to use Eno’s term, but I think it can also create its own reality.
What about the connection between artistic and spiritual/mystic research through the TenHornedBeast project?
TenHornedBeast is a reflection of my life and my interests. I have come a point in my life where I do not see a separation between my everyday life, my music or my magick. TenHornedBeast is my third arm.
Dark-ambient music is generally perceived as “meditative”, melancholy and even disturbing. Which are the main elements of its live impact, according to you?
If by “live impact” you mean live performances in front of an audience then I personally feel that this is not desirable, at least not for me at this point in time. I feel that dark-ambient music is personal and introspective and is best experienced by the individual. It is not rock n roll, it is not a kind of music that lends itself to live performances, certainly not in the traditional music venues with their poor quality PA’s and apathetic audiences. I have no interest in playing to 20 bored Goths as they moan about the price of their cider+black.
The technology available to musicians has changed during the last years. Does the technology play a different role, nowadays, if compared to the past and is dark-ambient a “user friendly” style that is easier to perform than other genres, in your opinion? What are the main differences between unsigned bands and the ones working with, for instance, Cold Meat Industry or Cold Spring? Is that just a “quality gap”?
Technology has greatly changed the way I record. When we began recording as Endvra in 1992/3 we used a 4-track mixing desk and a metal cassette tape. We bounced track after track down to the tape then when we had finally filled them all up and couldn’t do anymore we “mastered” that across to a DAT recorder. It was state of the art home recording at that point but it did not allow for any precise control over the sounds or the sort of micro-mixing I currently do with TenHornedBeast. Nothing on earth would make me go back to those days, I don’t miss them in the least! I am far happier using as much technology as is available to exercise as much control as possible over the sounds I make. Obviously there is a fine line between using technology creatively and becoming a slave to technology but that’s the challenge – to use something that it sterile and digital to make sounds that are earthy and organic. The availability of home-recording technology has democratised music but this, in my opinion, has been a double edged sword. On the one hand it makes recording technically easier and quicker but it also allows those with little or no merit to inflict their substandard music on the “scene”. I don’t agree with the statement that dark-ambient is “user friendly”, I think it is as difficult to get right as any other style of music and as with other genres of music there are masters who understand the flow and dynamics of the music and there are the imitators and followers who contribute nothing original. This is the same in all styles of music but perhaps the seemingly simple compositions and textures employed by dark-ambient artists lull some people into thinking it is easy and that they can do it. This is obviously not the case, as anybody who has delved into the “scene” will know – for every Inade, or Caul or Schloss Tegal there are dozens of imitative projects – usually cobbled together by second rate black metal bands. I think there is a quality gap but it is not solely between “signed” and “unsigned” artists. I am sure there are many people currently recording and releasing their own material who are just as good, if not better, than artists signed to well known labels. I also feel that sometimes artists in this style of music find it difficult to develop their music. It seems to be quite common for projects to fizzle out, as if they only had one good album in them and once that is gone it’s all over. This is the real statement of quality – artists who can develop and grow their sound release after release. For me working with Cold Spring is an affirmation of my material, it is good to know that a label with such a history and a respected roster of artists is prepared to stand behind my music.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming album “Hunts and Wars”?
I have been working on the material contained within the “Hunts & Wars” album since 2005. One of the benefits of recording at home is that I can dedicate as much or as little time to a project as I desire and can drop or pick up a piece of work as the mood takes me. I think I was quite conservative when I recorded “The Sacred Truth”, I got an album that represented what I was feeling at the time but in terms of the sounds used it was quite a safe recording and did not push me or the audience out of our comfort zones. On “Hunts & Wars” I have used a different style and tried to create different moods. There is a lot of heavy distorted bass guitar used to create rythms and riffs and also more percussion, both drums, gongs and cymbals. There is also a lot of droning feedback from electric guitars used to create textures. I don’t think the album is as dark as “The Sacred Truth” but it is more epic and expansive, I have tried to work the same feelings into the music that I feel when I read the work of Robert E Howard or Lord Dunsany. Dunsany and Howard have been the main touchstones for this work, the title is taken from a line in Howard’s poem “Cimmeria”, and was also used in the Celtic Frost song “Circle Of The Tyrants”. I think that some of the material on “Hunts & Wars” is as good as anything I have ever done, I am very proud of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a fantastic interview