ALLERSEELEN

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE May 2011 issue.

 

Gerhard, you have recently returned from a stimulating trip to Catalunya, where you spent a couple of weeks with friends and fellow musicians. This could be a fitting trigger to our conversation – how did you find this experience, considering it was not your first visit there?

I like Catalunya very much, it is full of beautiful and also wild, adventurous landscapes. Some of its mountains like Montserrat and some coasts like Cap de Creus where Salvador Dali lived look very surrealistic with some of their geological features – and I think that this special genius loci of the nature inspired very much the art of Surrealism of artists like Salvador Dali, Antoni Gaudi and others in Catalunya. The artists just imitated the nature. I have some close friends in this area – Arnica, Narsilion, Ô Paradis and others, and all of them seem to be inspired very much by magical Catalunya too. The ritual folklore project Arnica invited me to be on stage with them for some songs in February 2011 in an open air concert in the Serra de Collserola woods close to Barcelona. This was a special experience, it was raining, we performed in the grass, and there were two fires, one for meat and one for flesh – in the second one the head of a dead wild boar was slowly burning down during the concert. I spent a lot of time with Arnica and visited with my friends of Narsilion the magical mountain Pedraforca with its twin peaks. It was a great magical mystery tour – and I also found time to explore some great places in Barcelona, for example the wonderful Art Gotic collection in the museum MNAC which was quite impressive with all its bloody and cruel iconography from mediaeval Catholicism.

You have worked on your language skills in both Spanish and Catalan during your recent visit. Both those languages are considered very mixed, would you describe Allerseelen as a cultural blend, mapping different parts on the globe?

It was great to be back in magical Catalunya. Allerseelen have a certain connection to this country as we already recorded some years ago two songs with the Catalan singer Rosa Solé. We got to know her some years ago at the festival Arcana Europa in Segobriga. One of these two songs is Canço de somni, Dream Song, and the other one is Marques de Púbol, a song about the love affair between Amanda Lear and Salvador Dali that I had written inspired by the wonderful book by Amanda Lear: My Life with Dali who was a muse and maybe more, almost a goddess, for Salvador Dali. My Spanish is elementary, and my Catalan is not existing at all, I just understand the words that are close to Spanish. Allerseelen is definitely a very polychrome cultural blend – a wild range of maybe too many inspirations from maybe too many countries. We even have a Flamenco song in our programme – the song Spanische Tänzerin written by Rainer Maria Rilke in Toledo. And there are also some compositions in our oeuvre that could be considered as certain slow motion Tango compositions in the sense of Astor Piazzolla whom I like very much too. For several years now, Allerseelen have been very colourful whereas the very early recordings that were inspired by alchemy and shamanism were quite monochrome with their loops of kettledrums, violins, bones, raven choirs. In some way I feel like a technosophical troubadour, and all these travels, with or without concerts, are for me wonderful sources of inspiration.

Judging from the photos you took there, Catalunya possesses almost a mystical quality, in the vein of the Allerseelen song – Caja de Pandora (Pandora’s Box). What would be some of the interesting items coming out of that box? A nice blend of both Christian and pagan motifs is noticeable in the paintings you’ve seen in this Art Gotic exhibition… Do you think we could still refer to places in Europe as containing secrets, considering the strong tendency for demythologization nowadays? I have in mind the name for the future Allerseelen album – Terra Incognita, which we’ll approach later on.

I think that all landscapes possess a certain mystical quality and aura. I love fairy tales about caves, mountains, woods. They tell a lot about the character of a landscape and are sometimes full of occult and surreal elements. And even if I know a lot about the history of a place, there are still a lot of secrets – there is a visible reality and an invisible reality, and we are living in the heart of a terra incognita or maybe many terrae incognitae. The Austrian occultist Guido von List wrote a book named Mythologische Landschaftsbilder – this is an expression that I like very much. Even very touristic places like Kutná Hora in Bohemia, Montserrat in Catalunya, Montsegur in Southern France or Venezia still preserve some of their mysteries. Everything in our life is at the same time surface and symbol, that is why I like so much a certain quotation by Oscar Wilde in his novel Dorian Grey: “All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.” This song, Caja de Pandora, was written by Rosa Solé for Allerseelen for the special CD release Edelweiss. For me Pandora’s Box is a strong symbol – maybe it is the mankind of the iron age, the modern world with their darkness, diseases, with death and destruction coming out of this box.

These days, I stumbled again upon this fragment written by Roland Barthes: “Myth hides nothing and flaunts nothing, it distorts; myth is neither a lie nor a confession: it is an inflexion.” So, deconstruction, a tendency to get away from myth and create new frameworks, and yet a “love–hate” relationship towards it. What is your take on this, and how important is mythology for your musical project, Allerseelen?

I see everything with the eyes of an artist, so for me the colourful world of mythology is like a Grail that never may be empty – it is a vessel full of significances, symbols that are inspiring and nourishing my imagination again and again. And maybe my imagination is nourishing this Grail too. It is a dynamic world without stagnation, the world of mythology never may become boring – even if allegories and myths remain the same, I am experiencing them some time later in a different way. C. G. Jung wrote a lot about this in his works. You cannot climb the same mountain twice as you changed in the meantime – and very probably you cannot look at the same symbol twice as you changed in the meantime too. Maybe mythology is at the same time a medicine and a poison – a Grail full of precious things and a Pandora’s Box full of poisons. Anyway, I am in love with these medicines and poisons of mythology and like to play with them to create new configurations, constellations – and maybe new realities which are playing later with me. In my music I am working with sounds like a child with toys or a worker with tools, in some way an alchemical process and a sacred science, a certain quest in a mythological sense – but at the same time it is also very much a joyful game and play.

I believe that myth can become “dangerous” when placed in direct connection to history, and consequently politics. Once one acknowledges that history intrinsically implies fragmentation and mystification, they are able to detach themselves completely from facts and years. In a sense, this is something that Allerseelen pursues, right? Although linked to the neofolk / industrial scene, you are not interested in portraying WW2 scenarios, for example.

I think that history and politics are always dangerous, also without myths. They are always bloodstained. Both, Ludwig II and Adolf Hitler were Wagnerians, the first one was very peaceful, the second one very martial. Both were inspired very much by all the myths that Richard Wagner used in his work. This is for me a fascinating example for the power of art – a powerful medicine or powerful poison. I have ideas for an Allerseelen concept CD that may be called Neuschwanstein, inspired by Ludwig II and his magical life. In some way, the Allerseelen CD Neuschwabenland that we published some years ago contains some utopic poison from the Pandora’s Box of the Twentieth century named totalitarianism: It was inspired by a terra incognita named Neuschwabenland, a territory in Antarctica, that combines reality and myth, politics and utopy, technology and occultism. Sometimes this release by Allerseelen had been misunderstood and also created some minor problems for us – so I agree, certain myths and symbols definitely may be dangerous, especially for the artists playing with them. But this special release was also inspired by various other things, for example by J. G. Ballard’s amazing novel Crystal World. Two years ago we published on Ahnstern of Neuschwabenland a beautiful vinyl edition with additional songs that one may find only on vinyl.

You’ve described your concerts as magical mystery tours, which convey a certain atmosphere for Allerseelen. How important is to be consistent with that narrative and to induce a similar trance state in your listeners?

I do not consider the concerts themselves as magical mystery tours but the way of travelling with all its experiences in another city or country when we perform somewhere – this is sometimes like a microcosm of life. I love concert travels that are a wonderful combination of culture and nature and like to return home with dozens or hundreds of new impressions of previously unknown wonderful artworks, legends, places, people. The actual live performance is only a part of many wonderful experiences, some kind of peak experience – like the peak of a mountain that becomes much more worthwhile because it took some time and efforts to climb it. I really love this special kind of travelling, Allerseelen always have avoided to perform somewhere without having time for the place where we are invited. Allerseelen was in the beginning very close to ritual music – but nowadays, Allerseelen are too much song-oriented, and the songs that we usually perform on stage, are probably also too short to induce states of trance in the audience. To achieve this gain, it would be better to avoid vocals and to concentrate on long and hypnotic soundscapes – like in the very early recordings of Allerseelen.

Mountains seem to play a special role for you, starting from your trips in Europe and continuing to depicting them on many Allerseelen albums. One image I have in mind when picturing high peaks is the scene from Das Blaue Licht, where Riefenstahl is at the threshold: between splendour and danger. And yet, she consciously portrays herself as an outcast. Do you think this outsider position is (generally) weakened or strengthened by the alpine scenery?

There are many alpinists in the mountains today, and I think that only a minority of them may be considered as outsiders. There are however some hermits and outcasts, and maybe I am one of them as I am quite often experiencing alone the beauties and dangers of the mountains. The quality of a beautiful or dangerous experience in the mountains is usually much more intense if I am there on my own without being able to share my emotions with a comrade or friend. There is just the mountain and me. And maybe a god or gods and a devil or devils. Basically I know my limits and usually I do not risk too much as I have a certain vision: I like to survive, I like to return with dozens of photographs and diary pages – like a heathen harvest. Quite often the paths are more important to me than the peaks. I do not have to stand at any price on the peak of a mountain – in this context I am not similar to impatient Ikarus but closer to the patient Daedalus. Sometimes mountains are like psychoactive drugs. It happened various times that I saw somewhere a photo of a peak or read a certain name of a mountain – and suddenly I was in love with this mountain and had to travel there. Mountains and volcanoes definitely have a certain magnetism. Leni Riefenstahl definitely was an outcast, as woman in a very male world of actors, alpinists, politicians, and in her beautiful film Das Blaue Licht she in some way already foresaw in some way her fate and fights after the second world war. Unfortunately I never met this adventurous woman. But I had sent to her one day a text that I had written on her movie The Blue Light and received a very friendly answer. I also visited her tomb some years ago in winter and spent there some time.

In connection to mountains, why does the Edelweiss become such a powerful symbol?

The Edelweiss could be considered as a symbol for the triumph of the will, spirit over matter, a spirituality that overcomes gravitation. It is a special and wild plant that is not beautiful at all in the average sense of the word. In some way it even does not look like a flower, its blossoms with their white fur look like the claws of a lynx or mountain lion. For me this white fur is a white vlies compared to the golden vlies of the argonauts. The Edelweiss symbolizes at the same time a romantic idea but is also a symbol of reality, of realism. Too much romanticism in the mountains might become dangerous. Each alpinist needs apart from his love and passion for the mountains a certain realistic attitude, some reason – otherwise his beloved mountains might embrace him forever. I simply like this little white entity. It is an essential part of my private mythology, and I am collecting everything in connection with the Edelweiss. In the Allerseelen CD Edelweiss there is also the Edelweiss cross on the peak of the Kehlstein in the Berchtesgadener Land which is famous or infamous because of the Eagle’s Nest.

The backcover of Hallstatt also includes the passage “the songs are dedicated to those who decided to disappear forever in the mountains “. What’s the story behind that?

There is always a certain danger in the mountains. And the beautiful mountains and landscapes are more dangerous than the less impressive ones. Beauty and danger are close to each other. As I love beautiful mountains too, I am also a bit in danger. This passage refers to various things, for example also to the fate of the Grail researcher and troubadour Otto Rahn who wrote so much about the Cathars and their mystical suicide Endura – and then commited suicide close to a dangerous mountain with the beautiful name Totenkirchl, Chapel of the Dead, in the mountains of Tyrol. Maybe one day I will also disappear forever in my beloved mountains – like Tannhäuser who returned to the mountain Hörselberg. I have a favourite place in the Julian Alps in Slovenija that I discovered some years ago – if I want to disappear one day completely without leaving any traces I know exactly where to go.

Allerseelen is definitely operating within imaginary realms, what insights could you give us on your future album Terra Incognita? Two songs have already been partly revealed so far: Schwarzes Vinyl and Ikarus. Concerning the latter, there’s definitely an interesting myth behind it, which focuses on flight/falling/frailty, almost like a complete triptych. However, one could also sense a certain Geworfenheit condition there, being thrown in the world. What made you choose that representation and how do you appropriate it for this track?
Regarding
Schwarzes Vinyl, there’s almost an alchemical quality to it, also suggested by the lyrics. Makes one think of Robert Fludd’s illustrations, an ad astra state which also links back to Ein Ganzes Jahr, for ex. However, Fludd is not new for Allerseelen… Could you share more thoughts on that?

I do not know very much about Terra Incognita. I just started working on some songs, and I have no idea how the final Terra Incognita may look like. I invited some wellknown musicians from Sweden, Catalunya and Italy to accompany me in this travel to Terra Incognita. Yes, Ikarus and Schwarzes Vinyl might be on Terra Incognita. I have been fascinated by the hero Ikarus for a long time. While working on the song, I thought of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima who died in some way very Ikaruslike too – his vision brought him definitely too close to the utopic sun of Japanese traditionalism. I opened his book Sun and Steel and suddenly discovered an Ikarus poem written by Yukio Mishima. There is a lot of magnetism in art. Ikarus is full of significances – and maybe all of these meanings make this myth so heavy that the hero had to fall. I like to combine various elements in a surrealistic way – and suddenly something brand–new and colourful may arise, a certain private mythology. Actually the life and work of Robert Fludd is for me terra incognita too. I saw some of his drawings in a book about alchemy and magic, I liked them and decided to use one of his diagrams for the now sold–out Allerseelen CD Sturmlieder. Schwarzes Vinyl is actual the black sky at night that slowly rotates – and the stars are little pieces of dust on this black vinyl.

Böses Blut is another song I am looking forward to. Pertinent title, what is the story behind it? Where is it going to be included?

The song Böses Blut or Evil Blood was inspired by Atropa belladonna. Böses Blut is the black blood of belladonna – I took one of these incredibly sweet and beautiful cherries last summer during a magical mystery tour with Allerseelen to the Netherlands and Germany. Belladonna, like all drugs, is definitely a Pandora’s Box too – one should be careful with opening it. If one risks too much, one might get to know a certain terra incognita named death, so also in the realms of natural psychoactive drugs I am behaving more like Daedalus. Otherwise probably I would not be able to answer your questions. But maybe the most dangerous of all psychoactive drugs is music.

Böses Blut has also been performed in your tour with Agalloch and Waldteufel in America in December 2010. Many were interested to see how a live collaboration between Allerseelen and Agalloch would be like, considering that the musical “styles” seem to be different. What were your expectations and how were the performances received by the audience?

These were great events, and we were also glad to be able to present to the public a brand–new compilation named Oak Folk that featured Agalloch, Allerseelen and many others groups. Allerseelen love Agalloch, and Agalloch love Allerseelen, so they decided to invite us to tour with them at the Pacific West Coast. I already knew some members of Agalloch as they had attended the first Allerseelen concert in Portland in June 2003. Agalloch also had asked me in summer 2010 to remix two of their songs – these remixes were released two months ago on a very limited vinyl edition named Whitedivisiongrey. Allerseelen performed with Agalloch in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, we also made three additional small concerts with Waldteufel in various places at the Pacific West Coast. Allerseelen consisted in North America of my bassist Joerg (Der Blutharsch, Graumahd), my drummer Axel (Hekate) and me. Joerg played a wonderful psychoactive bass, somewhere between krautrock and metal which fit perfect with the psychedelic metal of Agalloch. In one of the Allerseelen concerts our percussionists were all three members of Waldteufel. This was definitely a very special experience. And luckily almost all the concerts were filmed by Adam Torruella, we are thinking of releasing a limited DVD release with Allerseelen and Waldteufel and maybe Agalloch too. North America was again a wonderful experience, I really like the landscapes of Oregon and California and got to know amazing people, met old friends and got to know new ones. Again I spent a lot of time on the country–side and experienced again a beautiful organic North America. It was definitely a wonderful adventure and magical mystery tour and I am looking forward to the next North America experience that probably will take place in autumn 2012.

Artwork: Gerhard Hallstatt. 2007. Hallstatt, Upper Austria. Courtesy of the artist

Title Quote. Oscar Wilde

questions Diana Daia

answers Gerhard Hallstatt

Full article here.