:: As a modest addition to the few samples of Nicolas van Meirhaeghe’s written thoughts to his listeners, the creative force behind Empusae – Sal-Ocin by his pseudo name – has offered a few more insights about himself during our discussions for O.D.K. (the Organic Disharmonia Kollective).
:: In one of the interviews you mentioned that you have discovered “dark underground scene” when you were 16. Which bands and projects impressed you the most at the time? Who did truly inspire you to compose/record/play your own music in the beginnings?
The bands I discovered at that time were Einstürzende Neubauten, Das Ich, Current 93, Coil, Death in June, these are the ones I can recall so far, but it was very eclectic actually. Just the music I discovered at parties and radio (real old school radio, not online), those were the ones that inspired me the most during that period. Ah yes, there was Lacrimosa in his early compositions, and the first release of Sopor Aeternus as well.
:: Yet you were also close to the industrial scene, and didn’t derive towards the “gothic” side of things that much, but on a more occult, if not otherworldly area, through some “landscapes of lost realms” of the mind as one might see them how would you describe your “visions” or sources of inspiration that help you create what you now create? A bit of a.. detail on the obvious parallels with lost civilizations.
Yes, I listened to a lot of gothic at the beginning. Though Empusae had a different concept of what I wanted to express (and still do) – more atmospheric music, more melancholic, there is still something “Goth” in this project, but definitely not the style of music, go figure what exactly… don’t know myself.
:: I would say there is an occult discipline in sound, a certain luring motion with something primitive, yet uniquely delicate, and well balanced. What is the story behind the name Empusae? In Greek mythology (Empusae – pl. for Empuse) is a vampire-like beautiful demigoddess seducing men and a one-footed hybrid. She also was the guard of the roads and devourer of travelers. Which of the meanings impersonates “Empusae” as a music project better?
The initial idea of choosing “Empusae” was actually for the specific kind of praying mantis.
:: Yet you did take advantage of its many meanings.
Its aesthetic fits the sound and feeling of the music perfectly – delicate, dark and threatening and yet scary and devilish. The discovery of it being an ancient vampire was revealed later, which was a nice discovery, me being a fan of vampires at the time.
:: After watching some of your live performances on the web, I have observed that not all of them are accompanied by projected visuals, although smoke and dim light-works are omnipresent components. In case these visuals make part of your stage activity, do they tell the same story as an aural segment or they are just a background ingredient?
The images are so to say, random… in the sense that there is no meaning at all behind the visuals. Just some extra input to stimulate the fantasy; this might change in the future though… working on that.
:: Indeed, your music may well be adopted as a soundtrack for one’s own thoughts and fantasies, I do agree that they can be well augmented by visual stimuli. I always had a somewhat limited view on music that imposes on the listener, which pushes him to see something, sometimes in a way they may not agree with; this is obviously not the case.
Yes, me too, unless it’s music with a very concrete concept or message but that indeed, is not the case with Empusae.
:: As another side note, there was some controversy amongst some of my acquaintances about your collaborative track with Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio (happens to be one of my favorites, along with “Error 404..” album); they felt as ORE has been “stripped by their power, and rendered cold” What was the overall vision of the song, from an artists’ point of view at the time? it does sound very haunting, as if it came from a ghost enshrouded in great pain.
The concept of the album was to offer some songs to the collaborators, pure instrumental and they could do with it whatever they wanted, as long as it was only with vocals. I choose the artists for their voices and power of poetry.
:: I understand, a medium for their voices and words.
Yes, that’s it.
:: I’m keen on seeing your next collaborations, as I haven’t seen many artists who would venture successfully in a veridic “symbiosis”, rather than superficial attempts, especially with different “ingredients” When can we expect some new projects in near future?
I can’t tell you more now; too early phases, but exciting.
:: I would never doubt it
I realize I might disappoint some fans.
:: What do you mean?
As I did before with “Symbiosis” compared to the “Hands” era, and now with “Sphere from the Woods” as well.
:: Are you referring to the “migration” of melodic lines?
Empusae isn’t “Seygot” anymore. Less electronic or industrial, but I follow what Empusae tells me; it doesn’t think, it acts. No, merely to the fact that it really changed style I guess, although it’s an even truer Empusae-essence than before. I’m getting closer to it after each release, but symbiosis was kind of different I needed this experiment to find where I was going to with this project; it helped me figure out some aspects and “Sphere from the Woods” is the result.
:: If the essence of it manifests and grows, transforms and refines itself, I would only appreciate the listeners that get transformed together with it, or at least accept and embrace its true nature.
Well, some of them might not, which is understandable sometimes, you keep the image of something which hit you in a strong way in the past had to let it go, and expectations can be dangerous.
:: Indeed, an understandable phenomenon that happens, and a wise response to it. You experience it as a listener and I’m sure as an artist as well, and life, evolution as it goes – since one might receive a “package” at a point in time they might not be ready yet to receive after a certain time, they might evolve, and go back to that “package”, which in this case can be a work of art, and understand and embrace it fully then.
Yes, within time… who knows? If not, too bad, no harm, just memories… Time will tell… or not.
:: A part of your (few) “disappointed” listeners will come back to Sphere in the woods, maybe in a year, maybe in a few months, maybe less maybe more, and understand it and love in the end, I’m sure of it.
:: Speaking of which, each time you come to a new country for a gig, how do you feel and what are the things you are trying to do first-off?
I usually don’t have time to visit anything, but I like to mingle with the local people. When I know the organizers a bit, or when they’re ‘open’, it’s interesting to get to their place to have a meal/drinks etc.; I’m more interested in the people than buildings or whatever, but when I have some extra day of course, it’s always nice to have a guided tour. However food, drinks and chats are more my kind of thing; all is depending on the relation with the organizers (on a personal level).
:: What are your usual interests in people generally? (Also as a personal curiosity) and I will not influence the question with any suggestion or example.
Hmmm, I like human warmth as a matter of speaking, don’t like cold people, you see what I mean humor is important as well, and also being an enjoyer of life’s virtues (drinking, eating, art, music, etc.), and I prefer more quite, laid back people instead of loud and stressful.
:: As I’ve witnessed the rather small, crowded venue in which the Gent concert was held, and changed a few impressions afterwards, I might already know the answer to my next inquiry. Taking into consideration that your fan base differs from one country to another and you have played all across the Europe and overseas, what would you appreciate more, a large venue but less “fan” – concentrated or a smaller gig with fewer but more of them as the “true” fans?
I would definitely choose for a smaller venue with enthusiastic audience instead of a bigger crowd which has no affinities with the music. The thing is, when people expect something specific from a concert (let’s say they expect Empusae to be Dark Electro or Rhythmic Industrial) they might just be disappointed and not be open to what they see & hear. The atmosphere is very important for me, especially for this project, being all about atmospheric music.
:: At the end of our small exchange of thoughts, would you have any specific words to address to your listeners in general, or directed especially towards O.D.K. and Romania?
I want to specify the fact that Empusae has always been and will always be an evolving project. Let’s say you could consider it ‘organic’. This is also a specification of the Empusae as insect (praying mantis) it changes skin several times during lifetime. Each time, it grows more mature, changes a little bit of appearance until close to the last metamorphose, where it really reaches its state of beautiful though horrific state As for the fans in Romania, I really hope to visit your country one day (the sooner, the better), share some passion together and enjoying local customs and beverages.
:: Thank you once again for your warm interaction and openness, added to your unique compositions. Until next time!
answers by Nicolas van Meirhaeghe
photo | Nicolas van Meirhaeghe. Empusae. Courtesy of the artist