ENFANT TERRIBLE

   

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

 

Hallo, Martijn, and welcome to the Spheres. This is the first interview which, in a sense, focuses on meta-levels: writing about/asking people who are involved in the writing and creative process as well, namely your work with the Dutch label Enfant Terrible.

To get us started, a first question on the obvious – the choice for the name of the label. Why and how was that idea triggered? Right now, I have Jean Cocteau‘s novel in mind, which plays with themes such as isolation and alienation. Do you believe we could talk about those concepts in relation to the minimal wave/power electronics scene as well?

The name does of course goes back to Cocteau’s novel. But I do not think its themes has only a relation with the minimal electronics and power electronics subgenres. I think these themes are to be found in many music styles and genres that have any real content. Also all real art will reveal these themes… next to some other universal themes.

Anyway, the name I came up with mostly as I already knew back then that I can be a pain the ass to many people… a sophisticated pain in the ass, but still a pain in the ass.

I have my own ideas about how things should be done and why. I can and I will always articulate what I do and why I do it that way. In relation to this I will also always speak out my ideas and thoughts on what I come across in this world… among this the works of others.

Taking this position also means not everybody will be your friend as all outspoken people make some enemies along the way… for various reasons… So in the end the name refers to me and how I look upon the world and take my position in this world.

When did Enfant Terrible come into being and what led to its birth? Is it in a sense a response to events and bands from the Netherlands nowadays?

I started my activities as a logical step from writing reviews, DJ’ing and organizing parties and concerts. The label was founded in 2004 and evolved into a platform with next to the label, mail-order and live events also a weblog, a radio show and a paper journal.  Some of these activities I do in collaboration with others.

When I started I was not at all focused on the contemporary Dutch music scene. My interests were electronic music in the broadest sense. Starting with the second record I put for a part the focus on forgotten, or at least obscure, Dutch electronic music from the early 1980’s. This second release was a compilation LP with music from the Dutch cult 1980’s tape label Trumpett. Even though I was not the first to re-release these kind of minimal electronic sounds this record somehow seems to have set a trend. Many labels followed and still it seems like the last few years saw a few new labels every year who re-release this kind of 1980’s music.

My other focus has always been contemporary artist in the field of electronic music. The fourth release on Enfant Terrible was a compilation LP entitled Electronic Renaissance. This record is seen by many people as the first record that brought together the scene of contemporary musicians who work in the tradition of minimal electronics of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Through the years some contemporary Dutch artists appeared on my label, mostly on the compilations, but only in 2009 I decided to give extra attention to new Dutch talents.

This  is an inner driven sense that something  needs to be done…  as there are very good musicians in my country whom deserve some attention. At the same time it makes a stand against the recycle culture with its endless streams of records with so called lost gems from the 1980’s. In my opinion only very few of these releases are in fact lost gems. I focus on the here and now… on the local and the contemporary instead of dwelling in the past and trying to create obscure stars from archives around the world that never saw the light before for obvious reasons…

Next to that these musicians from the 1980’s have had their moment in my opinion… now is the time for these contemporary artists to get the credits and attention. So I am very happy to work with them and to be able to release their music and give them some occasions to perform live.

 

I found it interesting how Enfant Terrible manages to comprise so many things, part of them which you’ve just mentioned. Almost like a Gesamtkunstwerk. Any plans for adding/ aligning more things to the current formula?

Yes, I am always dreaming, thinking and planning. Around July a new aspect of Enfant Terrible will appear. Also I am breeding and writing on a much bigger plan. This is still a research project right now to see if this is possible. If not I will rewrite it and look for a different way to realize this next dream.

What could you tell us about the current radio show you’re hosting at Intergalactic FM. How was it received?

Well… it is funny… I wanted to do a radio show for a long time. One in the tradition of the 1980’s shows RadioNome and Spleen. Meaning with DJ sets and live acts to showcase music not heard everywhere. When I met Andreas (Lesbian Mouseclicks) and Peter (Sololust) one of the things that were discussed first was also their wish for some time to do radio shows.

So I contacted I-F through Rude66. Rude66 is doing my mastering for the record releases. He has a radio show for a long time on IFM and has been a working with I-F also for a long time. The idea was received with enthusiasm and so we started to plan it.

For us the radio show is a playground. We do not aim to bring professional radio. Our aim is to have fun ourselves and in the meantime showcase music not heard (enough) through contemporary live acts in the studio and DJ’ed music.

The reception until now is very good. Also the archive with all past shows available on demand works perfect. I hear from people around the world they replay the old shows at work and at home. That is great to hear. Like with all activities I am involved in there has to be an audience… otherwise it is not worth doing it… for some activities an audience is easier to find then for other activities. The radio shows seems to be doing just right without too many efforts from me to promote it. That is great!

 

How do you plan the shows and what do you usually aim to include? Are you also interested in doing live interviews with musicians or having guests who bring along their playlists as well?

The shows are planned quite close before the broadcast date most of the time. We always have one live act and two DJ sets. I am resident DJ so I will do a DJ set very show. For the second DJ set we have some people rotating, and if we think of somebody nice fitting that specific night with that specific live act we ask that person.

We do not do much talking during the show as we aim to let the music speak. There are two hours per show and we want them filled with music. So next to some short announcements we serve music only.

 

You mentioned that you also re-release lost material from the old days. Could we draw a line between new/old when it comes to electronic music or should we talk about it more along the lines of a continuum from the 80s onwards?

I recently explained in an interview that I like to work with musicians who work in the tradition of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s post-punk and experimental new wave music styles. Today this is often narrowed down to “minimal wave”, but that is a style I do not recognize at all. For me there is a style called minimal electronics not a style called minimal wave.

Anyway, the contemporary artists I work with are musicians who not just copy the music from the old days. They take this as inspiration and maybe as a starting point from where they take off. Copy cat bands who just play the old style I am not interested in. The music has to be fresh, daring and recognizable as being a product of this world and age. Even though most of the time the traces of the music from the old days are there to be found.

You could also call this citation. Like in a scientific publication. Or you can call it a reference like you can also trace this back in all good art no matter if that is a painting or a theatre play. All good art shows it roots and inspiration and is building on that tradition. That way you become part of a certain tradition, keep it alive, refresh it and enrich it.

 

To my mind, I think it is a very fragmented musical area altogether, of  course depending on where one is based as well. In some areas minimal wave was almost inexistent even in the 80s (I have Romania in mind now), how was/is it for the Netherlands?

I am too young to know how it really was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. But of course I know people who were playing in the bands backthen, were running labels, made magazines and did radio shows. In this case I am  talking about the bands, labels, magazines and radio shows that have influenced my own current activities.

From these people I know that there was something going one. But it is hard to judge if this was really bigger back then as it is nowadays. Some visited my nights in the past and they said my nights had the same atmosphere as the parties back then. So I guess it has always been and always be a specific niche for a specific audience.

Depending on the current fashion and hype some more or some less people will have interest in this type of music. But if you keep it real and stick  to the true attitude the audience will be small… always.

I have noticed a resurgence with re-releases as well, and also a growing trend for both tapes and vinyls. What do you think has led to that?

Vinyls are a different story as tapes. Vinyl is simply a superior product to a CD.  Or… it is a product and a CD is not a true product. Also the twist you can give to a vinyl record to enhance the experience around it is not to be compared to the restrictions of the CD format.

When it comes to tapes it is something really different. Tapes have been the first format to make the music industry more democratic so to speak. You can make tapes cheaply in a professional way or even very cheaply at home. Later the CD-R took over the tape scene a bit. But now tapes seem to be back and I can only say for myself that this is as tapes are simply much more charming and are a perfect format to enhance into a real object instead of just a format to release music on.

For both formats it is true they are gaining new fans in certain music scenes as a reaction against mp3 releases and all the download platforms. Both formats ask for more commitment and effort from the listener. This when it comes to getting a copy as they are not easily to obtain everywhere, but only through specific channels. But also when it comes to listening. You need to do more to listen to a vinyl record as push a button on your IPod or computer. For tapes it is also evident that in some parts of the world it is very hard to get a tape player today.

 

It’s pretty straightforward that Enfant Terrible is opting for vinyl instead of CDs or online mp3 releases. Why that decision and would you give a big no to the latter? If yes/no – why

I released one CD. It was an experiment to see if I could make a good product with that format. Only partly this was successful for me. So do not expect another CD soon on my label.

As for mp3 releases… I do not even consider that as a release… it is nothing… But if bands I work with want to spread their music I am okay on one condition… and that is that the music is for free. As I do consider mp3’s anything at all it would make no sense to ask money for it.

I did this with Kim Ki O. Their album appeared on their website a few months after the vinyl release came out, and is there available for free downloads. They put all their music for free on their website as mp3 download. So it made sense to do this also for the vinyl we did together.

Do you think that preference also makes distribution more restrictive? One advantage would be that it definitely brings along a sense of identity in the buyers, even if that identity mostly comes from the type of releases.

In the case of Enfant Terrible I work with a network of independent shops and mail-order who sell my releases. As I do not release any well known acts and the music I release as not for a general consumption minded audience I have nothing to do with bigger distributors. But… more important I never have worked with them for a much more important reason.

The music I release is for the real collectors, the true lovers and the authentic connoisseurs of music. If I would work with bigger distributors the records would end up in chain store record shops or at the best in so called “specialized” record stores. These stores only sell music to people who still read the most popular magazines and go to the regular hip clubs and festivals. That is not my world and these people are not the people interested in, or let alone aware of, the music world I am active in.

So, the network I mentioned above is the way I distribute my releases. Every single record goes through my hand and I am in direct contact with all shop owners. Which I like and which I value a lot. I am also very happy and grateful these shops sell my records as they are able to bring this music to the right people. This as they know their customers.

When it comes to identity I guess not the records themselves, or the type of releases, is mostly responsible for this. I am quite sure the Enfant Terrible trademark so to speak does this. Even though I am not here to please anybody with my releases… meaning I release whatever I like myself no matter what… people know that    Enfant Terrible stands for quality music and quality products.

If you are an open minded music lover you maybe like all my releases… and if you prefer the more specific minimal electronics releases you maybe like about half of my output but in the end it is all typical Enfant Terrible… and I am here to surprise people and try to take them with me on this trip… and I think that is an identity some people at last can relate to…

I find it paradoxical that, at least with most collectors I meet, no matter how hardcore is their aversion towards digital releases, most listen to mp3s in parallel to purchasing material. Probably  because it is sometimes realistically faster to press play on your computer rather than going through the archive to find a specific album/track. My question hence is: do you think those two can happily co-exist or are we going more in the direction of one instead of the other?

Oh, in the end both will stay… vinyl will stay forever and digital music is here to stay as well. For me personal I do not care if people like to listen to digital formats because it is easy. If they want to, why not? Who am I to tell them not to?

Also I am convinced that a good quality product will always find its way to people. So if these people like the vinyl for their collection but like to listen to the music in a digital way when preparing their diner or cleaning their house… why not?

Only I will not start to include stupid mp3 download coupons as so many labels do nowadays. As said if bands I work with want the music to be available digital we will look for a way to get this available for free. So also if you do not buy the vinyl first. Besides this I am quite sure one or two or more illegal peer-to-peer networks will host the ripped vinyls for me.

As you rightfully said, this constant search for all underground/obscure” releases inevitably brings along a lot of redundant material as well. I second your thoughts about focusing on new artists, especially as a label. What Dutch acts have raised your attention these years, in particularly?

At this moment there are so many great bands in The Netherlands. I am really enthusiastic about this. The Kamp Holland compilation started as a project to map this current field of contemporary acts… of course from my point of view and with a focus on electronic music.

There are so many acts I like right now… just tune in to the Radio Resistencia radio shows we do and you will hear every month a new live act. Until now most have been from Holland. We will keep it that way.

Here are four acts to name just a few I really like, without being nasty to other artists I am working with:

Sololust, as he is able to create both minimal techno like elektro pieces just as easy as perfect synthpop or almost ambient like dark elektro. I am sure more people will start to hear the quality in his work after we have released more and we have done more live shows.

Distel, simply another of those of the few true talents in contemporary (electronic) music. Just listen to Distel and his other project Hadewych. If you as a musician are able to do both that then you have real talent!

Neurobit, he is one of those people who not just makes music but knows what he is doing. Even though his music can be considered pop music it is related to the Minimal Music in the tradition of Steve Reich and Terry Riley. He is an academic turned on pop music. Also he is one of those people who is not limited to one trick. With Rioteer he produces harsh industrial breakcore with a sound of its own. Next to that he is also involved in a performance group. More of Neurobit and the other projects he is involved is talked about, imagined and being planned to appear on Enfant Terrible.

Neugeborene Nachtmusik, the mastermind behind Milligram Retreat. He is working hard to get his solo act together for live sets. Next to that we are working on music being released on Enfant Terrible. Two amazing psychedelic dark elektro-wave tracks are already selected for a special project for the near future.

Let’s stop a bit at the Kamp Holland compilation, described as an overview of the current Dutch electronic independent scene. 16 bands..ranging from minimal wave to ganz experimental tracks, not an easy task to gather all those artists together. How did the preparation and selection process take place?

I always start all my compilation with a rather fixed idea and theme and from there on I start asking artists if they like to participate. The problem I have with most compilations is that there is no real idea behind. They are just a collection songs, mostly in one style and genre and often even with leftovers from bands and with no cohesion between the different tracks. There is no story told. There is no trip to tune in to…

So I take great care to make my compilations as an experience both in new talents as in sounds and in the flow you tap into. It has happened before that there are great tracks I have left out as they did not fit in with the rest of the selection or my idea for that specific compilation. I am sure people recognize the end result of this as feedback on my compilations have always been that they are really concept records, and not a mere collection of songs, but without being focused on one single style or genre.

I really like the cover: a field of white tulips. Emblematic in a sense for Holland, but also a bit ironic/in your face, especially since we’re talking about independent artists who detach from those frameworks altogether. Why did you find that choice of cover fitting for this compilation?

Hahaha, sorry but those are not tulips. Please have a second look. Also if you investigate the cover a bit more and maybe try to find out a bit more about Dutch politics you will start to recognize the meaning of the sleeve and the title. I am not going to give this away, sorry.

Enfant Terrible also has an interesting logo, any concept behind that? Who is responsible for the graphical part for the label?

Everything I do has a concept and has meaning. There is already too much nonsense in this world. But as with the Kamp Holland sleeve I am not giving away everything. I like people to get involved and find out things for themselves. That is part of the game I play.

But I can tell more about the design part for Enfant Terrible. In the early phase I worked with my sister next to Zivago. Zivago has taken over the design part since years, and only seldom a record is released he is not involved with. The Hex Grammofoonplaten sublabel is an exception as he

has until now done nothing for these releases. For some records he is only responsible for the lay-out but most are also designed by him.

He is one of the musicians from Ende Shneafliet from the Dutch 1980’s music scene and he is a real music lover. Due to this he always understands very well what I want. Because he is involved in Enfant Terrible for such a long time he is also capable of creating concepts with only a few words from me on a future record. Which is great and saves me from spelling out everything and it also means the mood and feel of the artwork will fit the Enfant Terrible trademark.

 

Concerning the artwork of the releases, is it generally a collaboration between the artists and the label or something that relies on the ideas of the musicians exclusively?

The artwork is always a collaboration as I have rather fixed ideas myself what I want and don’t want. I am open for proposals and musicians can send in elements to work with. Often this works out fine. Also I always go for an end result both the musicians and I are happy with. So even though I have fixed ideas about the design of my records it is a rather democratic process.

You are right saying that refreshing and enriching a tradition are part of a musician’s tasks now. What motivates artistic expression then and which would be the new challenges one has to face in that sense?

The real challenge for every artist or creative agency that produces artistic output, like a label, is to  always go further and at the same time to stay yourself. What you see is that many artists and labels are good in one thing only.   They go for that and market that. One single style or genre becomes their trademark.

I understand this from a commercial point of view as the mass of the people out there is an audience that needs and wants to know what they can expect. Many people claim to have a broad interest in music, arts and the world around them. But in the end they like to know what they get. They want to feel secure in their own little world. Maybe also they are not educated enough or not capable for other reasons to explore new things.

For any real artist or creative agency the challenge is to go beyond and continuously provide new fresh content, create new exciting traces to follow and start new daring stories. This new content should be linked to the repertoire already put out but needs to provide enough new angles to be fresh and daring.

I know this is not the game for everybody to play and not a trip everybody is able to provide as a setting for their audience. Let alone that everybody can create an audience around them to follow such a trip. So it a real challenge to do this. It asks a lot from all involved. I hope I succeed in this… but I know that at least do my best to archive this.

It is true that the whole cultural and economical context differs from 30 years ago, but is everything more or less solved and without problems now? What are, in turn, the challenges for an independent level?

Of course the cultural and economical context is different now. The world has changed a lot. But I do not understand what you mean with “solved”.

I think in a way it has become harder for independent cultural agents and creative agencies. One example says it all. The people behind Suction Records told me recently their situation. This label is the home of Solvent and Lowfish and was part of the first wave of IDM music and second wave of minimal elektro. They started in the mid-nineties and at their heyday the sold about two to three thousand copies of their releases. They recently started again after a break of a few years. Their first release was a CD by Lowfish in an edition of only 250 copies. It was released a few months ago back in 2010 and is still not sold out.

What do I need to say more? The challenge is for all activities, not matter if this is a live event or a physical product like a record or CD, to find an audience that wants to get involved and still values these artistic outputs so they want to pay a little money for it.

The world has changed and people have changed. All is there available within second by a few clicks on a mouse button or a touch screen… and for free. People seem to have lost all notions of value and decency towards artistic products. It has to be easy and fast. They do not want to pay real attention… all should be a commodity product that asks no commitment and no involvement. So the challenge is to create quality products that need commitment and involvement and with those  products attract and built an audience that are still interested in, and/or capable to, letting loose the conditions of modern life and become part of the experience you set out for them.

 

Questions: Diana Daia

Answers&Photo: Martijn van Gessel (enfant-terrible.nl)

Full article here.

ATARAXIA

   

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

 

Hello and welcome to the Spheres. To introduce you to our readers, Ataraxia is an Italian group exploring music, poetry, theatre and photography. There have been a number of years (almost 21 since the very first tape) since the beginning of this endeavour. How did Ataraxia come into being? Was there a concept behind it from the start, or did it come along with artistic growth?

We have started because we felt a great urge to let flow away our pain of being very shy persons. Each of us has lived a quite solitary and secluded existence. We had a vivid imagination and a huge pain coming from our childhood, so, at the beginning, our passion for music was deeply linked with a sort of rage that had to find a way out. We needed to express subliminal sensations and, year after year, digging inside ourselves, we have managed to express our vocation, a voice has called us and shown us our artistic path. That made us find our most courageous, pure and vital essence.

Ataraxia is a word describing tranquillity, calm, peace (in several languages, actually). In more ways than one, your music transcended the realm of carefully combined harmonics and brought in a second layer of meaning to the seemingly simple activity of listening. How has this ratio changed over the years and/or albums?

Our music is not meant to stir up pathos, its function is going deeper in order to touch the chords of our real nature, the ones hidden behind our ego, fears, defences and masks. Music should keep away rationality in order to reach the sacred, the mystery. What we call reality excludes all the possibilities to go deeper. Through music we can have back our natural and spontaneous pleasure of being and existing. Making music is a sacred act, a ritual. A deep exchange of energy among us. A concert, a rehearsal, a recording is just like being in a natural temple, surrounded by ancient stone or wilderness ready to accept to be filled by Grace and Beauty. Through the perception of beauty we feel the warmth and presence of the ancient forces governing the cosmos. In this way we can transmit energy to the others and start this mutual exchange, especially on stage. In the end, we can easily say that our main influences become the moments of solitude and contemplation in ancient monasteries, in abandoned castles, along the solitary Mediterranean coasts where we found our ancestral past. Year after year, our music started becoming more introspective, sweet and nostalgic and people started telling us that we were able to open gates to different dimensions, to make them travel to places that their roots probably belonged to. Our music’s evolution was towards beauty and truth of expression. It is natural. Inspired by nature. The ratio is the same at the beginnings, only the purity and transparency has changed together with the personal and artistic improvement due to years of experience. We feel at ease now, everything is natural.

If one were to sit in the middle of an empty, dark room, with Medusa playing, the sound can, on an impressive level, fill the empty space around. Considering the wide registers touched, how much of a strain is this on the voice? Is it difficult to recreate it during your live performances?

Not at all, Francesca is even more impressing live than on recordings. She sings only all what can be performed live in the same way than on CDs. She has always worked on different vocal levels as many are the nuances of human beings’ soul, from heavenly vocals down to earthy, sinister or dramatic vocal textures. That is her.

As a follow-up to the previous question, which would you say is the song that brought in most satisfaction, artistically speaking? Was a different one more popular with the audience?

There are actually many, but the most satisfying to us (its notes give us peace, freedom and a detachment from the shady side of us) is for sure Aperlae from the album Lost Atlantis. From what we know the audience shares this. Sometimes magic embraces everybody.

A Green for His Voice is an exquisite combination of words over sounds. When building a piece, do lyrics come after music or vice-versa?

Lyrics are musical, lyrics are music, the meaning comes after the sound of words just like in the creation of music itself. Sometimes a melody comes and words follow spontaneously, other times we have lyrics that are musical and evoking and inspire a special mood, melody or arrangement even if musicians do not even know their meaning at the very beginning.

As medieval influences become more intricate, they shift towards more urban or futuristic stories (for instance Il Fantasma Dell’Opera or The Island of Doctor Moreau from Arcana Eco or even Lost Atlantis). Are the issues addressed here more on a psychological level, or is it more interesting the effect they have on the world the characters of these stories have created for themselves?

The histories of these characters have always a lot in common with our life, our mind. Everything can be read on a psychological level (the collective unconscious as the sea we are all swimming in) but no history transformed into music through our own sensitivity is far from our lived experience. As it happens in myth, a single story, if meaningful and sincere, is just an archetype, a source of thinking for each of us.

Right on the verge of Terra becoming a planetary nation, languages still play an important role. Starting with Italian and Latin, Ataraxia has come to a diversity so rich, that it would seem impossible for those particular pieces to be performed in other languages. What does this say about Ataraxia as a whole? Does art emerge from diversity?

We are channels able to pick up and transform into music the energies surrounding us. We often quote some verses of the English poet Keats “Life is art and art is life”. Often music make us discover an universe that till that moment was unknown. Sometimes the words emotion and feeling are not enough, we live moments of communion with a transfiguring force that makes us feel the limitations we undergo as a human beings and, at the same time, it lets us perceive that sparkle of light to which our spiritual essence belongs. This is what we share with our listeners simply because we are able to transmit it with our own language. Francesca has always wrote and sang in many different languages from Latin to Greek, passing trough French, English, Spanish and of course Italian. Each language has a strong evocative power and gives a special nuance to the music. The choice of language is spontaneous. We love poetry that’s the spontaneous gift of giving a perspective, a meaning through a beautiful and immediate sound also made of images. Sappho and several other Greek poets of the classic age were deeply inspired by nature. Their poetry was full of the visual and auditive suggestions of the natural elements. They didn’t write complex, long verses to portray their feelings, they simply observed and lived the nature changes, the different lights of the day, the tides, the moon phases, the seasons of re-birth, death and the rest and translated them into words. Every word embodied a colour, a surface, a perfume. Their poetry was written to to be accompanied by the lyre. It was bright, sensual, absolutely musical. We are deeply inspired by this poetry. Anyway, the act of singing should be ancestral and free, it can’t be subdued to lyrics or to a specific language. Francesca likes to play with languages, sometimes to invent or re-invent them giving stress to particularly pleasant or evocative sounds. As we have already said, the meaning comes after, just in a second time if someone is interested to enter a more rational level. Of course, Art emerges from diversity starting from our own diversity as men and women inside the band, but even if it may seem obvious, art starts from Inspiration as an open channel to diversity and the unknown.

Talking about diversity, Ataraxia is not a one-man-project, nor is it a one-art-entity. In addition to the audio section and the lyrics (poetry), where do theatre and photography come into place? Are there any individual roles inside this web of endeavours?

Francesca takes care of the poetical side of Ataraxia; Livio is involved in photography and theatrical performances being both actor in an avant-garde company and a long-date photographer, all what is connected to voyages and mythology is in Francesca‘s hands as well, but everybody is called to give his inspiration and contribution. In the past we have worked with painters, mimes and poets. Right now we collaborate with a talented sculptor who creates visages with copper and wood, a mix of archaic archetypes of men’s (sometimes of men’s with an animal’s appearance) soul features.

Is there a connection to the dark cabaret performance you set up on stage? And since this show is particularly enchanting, please tell our readers more about the concepts behind it.

Paris Spleen is the Ataraxia‘s CD that inspired this live performance that meant irony, provocation, the bitter-sweet side of ourselves. Walking along the boulevards of Paris, or of many other big cities, we are confronted with two contrasting worlds, on one side the opulent and trivial world of consumer’s culture where sumptuous houses and architectures shine, on the other side people without a roof, wrecked souls full of rage and misery, horrible dwellings where the easiest thing is to catch a cancer. So we got back to Baudelaire‘s times and we saw ourselves as visitors of those popular fun-fairs where freaks were obligated to show and sell themselves to merely survive as the worst circus beasts. Even in these miserable conditions, life was spreading in the midst of all that pain and decadence. Atget, a very innovative photographer of the end of the XIXth centrury/beginning of the XXth actually helped us with his shots taken in popular quarters where the wretched ones lived. He avoided self-celebration in order to show, in a very poetic way, the other side. We felt a deep urge to release this album and we did it without any effort in a very short time, we needed this and we’ll go on with this project releasing a following one. While thinking, composing and recording this album we were a bit worried about the possible people’s reaction but we couldn’t stop, it was stronger than us. At the end we were astonished by people’s reaction in several different countries. In this release and its peculiar live-show many people found their own world, history, memories or simply had fun and experienced Ataraxia under a completely different perspective. We are really grateful towards all the listeners with whom we had the chance to share all of this. This gives us hope about the open-mindedness and self-irony of many persons. Paris Spleen live-act is a work in progress, a rich scenography, whenever possible the collaboration with 9 actors of the CircuZ KumP company and the ever-present performance of our main actor Paul Patchy.

In what regards the subtle shift in building the backbone of the stories told, there is a passing into mysticism from the older albums to the newer ones. Has the new millennium (and the world that came with it) changed anything for Ataraxia? Do you think the concepts you are relating to still apply in times of technological gadgetry and globalization? Moreover, art, as closing to an age of technology in which more diverse tools emerge, becomes as subjective as the artists’ visions. What is art for you and where do you stand as an artist?

Concerning art and life, we think that mankind is sacrificing its own soul, its purest and truer part. In order to endure and afford its fears and establish a very strict order to things mankind has killed the risk, this means, in some way, to eliminate destiny. Rationality and pure marketing have killed grace, we have no more a fate or a feeling of a fate. When everything becomes an organized system, rational schemes and technology kill the richness of life that’s, all in all, possibility. Where destiny has been killed, only obscenity spreads. The more I try to organize and foresee the more I’m defenceless in front of Fortune. Mystery guides the world, we can’t administrate it. Obscenity is all that doesn’t consider me, doesn’t ask my opinion, keeps me away from what I deeply feel so that I loose the personal experience and the world. Our age is based on reason and market that is colonial and obliges me to take care only of its needs, becomes absolute and makes possible only its productive exercise. The logic of reason is just the one of facts, in this way the whole reality is sacrificed. Reason is mainly critics, performance, production. We think to know a lot but we know a lot just in a one-sided way. We have levelled reality till making it adhere to technology and market. This negation of nature is running very fast towards a dead-point. We should find that dead-point in order to have the chance to recoup our life and soul. Art is magic, possibility and an unpredictable future based on a truly lived-experienced present.

Thomas Merton said: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Does this apply to Ataraxia?

Art enables us to find ourselves out of our ego and egoism and lose ourselves in deeper, wiser and boundless dimensions.

Your latest release, Llyr, is centred on a mythical figure representing the inherent equilibrium of the universe. From the oldest of times, to the present, the album presents a journey for this entity, drawing the fine connection between artist and inspiration. How did this concept come into being?

While creating this album and as long as we recorded it, we approached the theme of self-healing and what illness means nowadays, the way it is taken into charge by the official medicine. In old times, illness was often linked to a pain of the soul, a part of us that was missing, a wrong direction taken by our life, so our body suggested, in a striking and precise way, that we had to re-consider our life. Shamans were spiritual guides who concretely helped people to find again their soul in order to find their good path. There was a deep and very interesting exchange between the healer and the soul who was in front of him. Shamans offered their life to take care of other people’s spiritual, psychological and physical needs and improvement. Music has the same aim. It opens the doors of conscience leading the listeners through a voyage inside themselves after having kept away for a while the mask of ego – who many of us wear to survive nowadays – in order to take a path of self-consciousness and confidence. Music is a cure opening to the gates of Grace and Beauty. For a while, we can silence rationality and enter into a dimension made of a different substance, the one of dreams, of perceptions, of bright inner sighting, of intensity and pleasure.

Talking about inspiration, which/what are Ataraxia’s muses?

We all feel that our life is meant to be a spiritual growth and not just a materialistic sterile experience, all the domains where spirituality is expressed can become a source of enlightenment. And music is one of those domains. Our spiritual growth has developed in different times and situations, for sure also in times where (what is today knows as) paganism was a fulfilling and enriching experience, then in other times when the churches have had the power to control everything and spirituality could only be expressed under the surface, or external identity, of a monotheistic religion. Behind all those ways of belief there is our naked soul. For these reasons liturgical chants are mixed with tribal rhythms and pagan rituals in our music. The important thing was to preserve our own spiritual freedom from any kind of supremacy. Anyway, to us, what is more fascinating and inspiring is nature. Thanks to nature, we have always lived a deep communion with the whole, we’ve tried to accept the cycle of birth, growth, decline, death, rest and re-birth. Sometimes a mysterious writing on a door or an abandoned village appear unexpectedly behind a hill and communicate us something. Water and stone. Our music is often made of the substance of the water and the energy of the stone.

Llyr’s music seems extracted from times in which the primordial energies, and through that, music becomes healing. Could you tell us more about the way in which Celtic and Eastern influences tune into the album’s main concept?

We love approaching all that has a soul in order to obtain a sort of illumination not driven by the need to prove and rationalise everything we do. We follow our insight, this is or best guide, it is a subtle way to perceive things or messages in peculiar moments of our life. Every spirituality, especially at its beginnings, has a message to us. The same was for Gayatry Mantra that I discovered practising mantra yoga and that grew inside me for many months till the moment I felt the need to work on it with the band and record it as last track just before finishing the album. It is our own interpretation utilising the original Sanskrit words. Both Gayatry Mantra and Scarborough Fair are self-healing songs.

Klepsydra’s rhythm and repetitive tones manage to recreate the concept of time passing in a hurry around the calm and tranquillity inside. Should one close their eyes when listening to it, a fast motion film of nature’s changes around a motionless entity would emerge, with the listener at its centre. What inspired this piece?

Life is circular, just like seasons and the phases of the moon. There are phases of introspection, solitude and silence in which we need to be secluded from the world; in those periods the seeds of our artistic creation and spiritual evolution grow hidden under the earth. There are other phases of birth in which our music takes a shape and our spiritual life expresses freely outside. Seeds of creation have transformed into plants. There are moments of light, in which a sort of mother-like warm energy embraces and enlightens all what we do, and darker moments, that could be called the ones of the enchantress, where our shadowy side start gaining power in order to annihilate what has happened before and give the chance to a new springtime to be born. Klepsydra is just like sailing in complete freedom on the Mediterranean sea. No thoughts, no worries only the breeze and the water.

Are there any solo projects emerging from Ataraxia at the moment?

Riccardo, the percussionist, is working on his solo project called MASALA in which are taking part Giovanni and Francesca in a few songs both with vocals and keyboards. This project is an eclectic mix and exploration of electronics, rhythmical patterns and pads mixed to the sound of acoustic worldwide percussions.

What does the future hold for Ataraxia? Are there any new projects in development?

Of course, an album that will alternate songs owning the atmospheres described above and very dramatic and intense piano-vocals tunes. It will be probably called GRACE RHYTHM. A very strict contrast that is born during our last China tour in which the song rider was a mix of these things, many of the new songs are born or have been improved concert after concert.

If you were to describe Ataraxia in 4 words, what would you say?

Intensity, Grace, Beauty, Depth.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. The Spheres team wishes you all the best in your future endeavours.

Thanks to you.

questions & photo by Vel Thora

Full article here.

Hello and welcome to the Spheres. To introduce you to our readers, Ataraxia is an Italian group exploring music, poetry, theatre and photography. There have been a number of years (almost 21 since the very first tape) since the beginning of this endeavour. How did Ataraxia come into being? Was there a concept behind it from the start, or did it come along with artistic growth?

We have started because we felt a great urge to let flow away our pain of being very shy persons. Each of us has lived a quite solitary and secluded existence. We had a vivid imagination and a huge pain coming from our childhood, so, at the beginning, our passion for music was deeply linked with a sort of rage that had to find a way out. We needed to express subliminal sensations and, year after year, digging inside ourselves, we have managed to express our vocation, a voice has called us and shown us our artistic path. That made us find our most courageous, pure and vital essence.

Ataraxia is a word describing tranquillity, calm, peace (in several languages, actually). In more ways than one, your music transcended the realm of carefully combined harmonics and brought in a second layer of meaning to the seemingly simple activity of listening. How has this ratio changed over the years and/or albums?

Our music is not meant to stir up pathos, its function is going deeper in order to touch the chords of our real nature, the ones hidden behind our ego, fears, defences and masks. Music should keep away rationality in order to reach the sacred, the mystery. What we call reality excludes all the possibilities to go deeper. Through music we can have back our natural and spontaneous pleasure of being and existing. Making music is a sacred act, a ritual. A deep exchange of energy among us. A concert, a rehearsal, a recording is just like being in a natural temple, surrounded by ancient stone or wilderness ready to accept to be filled by Grace and Beauty. Through the perception of beauty we feel the warmth and presence of the ancient forces governing the cosmos. In this way we can transmit energy to the others and start this mutual exchange, especially on stage. In the end, we can easily say that our main influences become the moments of solitude and contemplation in ancient monasteries, in abandoned castles, along the solitary Mediterranean coasts where we found our ancestral past. Year after year, our music started becoming more introspective, sweet and nostalgic and people started telling us that we were able to open gates to different dimensions, to make them travel to places that their roots probably belonged to. Our music’s evolution was towards beauty and truth of expression. It is natural. Inspired by nature. The ratio is the same at the beginnings, only the purity and transparency has changed together with the personal and artistic improvement due to years of experience. We feel at ease now, everything is natural.

If one were to sit in the middle of an empty, dark room, with Medusa playing, the sound can, on an impressive level, fill the empty space around. Considering the wide registers touched, how much of a strain is this on the voice? Is it difficult to recreate it during your live performances?

Not at all, Francesca is even more impressing live than on recordings. She sings only all what can be performed live in the same way than on CDs. She has always worked on different vocal levels as many are the nuances of human beings’ soul, from heavenly vocals down to earthy, sinister or dramatic vocal textures. That is her.

As a follow-up to the previous question, which would you say is the song that brought in most satisfaction, artistically speaking? Was a different one more popular with the audience?

There are actually many, but the most satisfying to us (its notes give us peace, freedom and a detachment from the shady side of us) is for sure Aperlae from the album Lost Atlantis. From what we know the audience shares this. Sometimes magic embraces everybody.

A Green for His Voice is an exquisite combination of words over sounds. When building a piece, do lyrics come after music or vice-versa?

Lyrics are musical, lyrics are music, the meaning comes after the sound of words just like in the creation of music itself. Sometimes a melody comes and words follow spontaneously, other times we have lyrics that are musical and evoking and inspire a special mood, melody or arrangement even if musicians do not even know their meaning at the very beginning.

As medieval influences become more intricate, they shift towards more urban or futuristic stories (for instance Il Fantasma Dell’Opera or The Island of Doctor Moreau from Arcana Eco or even Lost Atlantis). Are the issues addressed here more on a psychological level, or is it more interesting the effect they have on the world the characters of these stories have created for themselves?

The histories of these characters have always a lot in common with our life, our mind. Everything can be read on a psychological level (the collective unconscious as the sea we are all swimming in) but no history transformed into music through our own sensitivity is far from our lived experience. As it happens in myth, a single story, if meaningful and sincere, is just an archetype, a source of thinking for each of us.

Right on the verge of Terra becoming a planetary nation, languages still play an important role. Starting with Italian and Latin, Ataraxia has come to a diversity so rich, that it would seem impossible for those particular pieces to be performed in other languages. What does this say about Ataraxia as a whole? Does art emerge from diversity?

We are channels able to pick up and transform into music the energies surrounding us. We often quote some verses of the English poet Keats “Life is art and art is life”. Often music make us discover an universe that till that moment was unknown. Sometimes the words emotion and feeling are not enough, we live moments of communion with a transfiguring force that makes us feel the limitations we undergo as a human beings and, at the same time, it lets us perceive that sparkle of light to which our spiritual essence belongs. This is what we share with our listeners simply because we are able to transmit it with our own language. Francesca has always wrote and sang in many different languages from Latin to Greek, passing trough French, English, Spanish and of course Italian. Each language has a strong evocative power and gives a special nuance to the music. The choice of language is spontaneous. We love poetry that’s the spontaneous gift of giving a perspective, a meaning through a beautiful and immediate sound also made of images. Sappho and several other Greek poets of the classic age were deeply inspired by nature. Their poetry was full of the visual and auditive suggestions of the natural elements. They didn’t write complex, long verses to portray their feelings, they simply observed and lived the nature changes, the different lights of the day, the tides, the moon phases, the seasons of re-birth, death and the rest and translated them into words. Every word embodied a colour, a surface, a perfume. Their poetry was written to to be accompanied by the lyre. It was bright, sensual, absolutely musical. We are deeply inspired by this poetry. Anyway, the act of singing should be ancestral and free, it can’t be subdued to lyrics or to a specific language. Francesca likes to play with languages, sometimes to invent or re-invent them giving stress to particularly pleasant or evocative sounds. As we have already said, the meaning comes after, just in a second time if someone is interested to enter a more rational level. Of course, Art emerges from diversity starting from our own diversity as men and women inside the band, but even if it may seem obvious, art starts from Inspiration as an open channel to diversity and the unknown.

Talking about diversity, Ataraxia is not a one-man-project, nor is it a one-art-entity. In addition to the audio section and the lyrics (poetry), where do theatre and photography come into place? Are there any individual roles inside this web of endeavours?

Francesca takes care of the poetical side of Ataraxia; Livio is involved in photography and theatrical performances being both actor in an avant-garde company and a long-date photographer, all what is connected to voyages and mythology is in Francesca‘s hands as well, but everybody is called to give his inspiration and contribution. In the past we have worked with painters, mimes and poets. Right now we collaborate with a talented sculptor who creates visages with copper and wood, a mix of archaic archetypes of men’s (sometimes of men’s with an animal’s appearance) soul features.

Is there a connection to the dark cabaret performance you set up on stage? And since this show is particularly enchanting, please tell our readers more about the concepts behind it.

Paris Spleen is the Ataraxia‘s CD that inspired this live performance that meant irony, provocation, the bitter-sweet side of ourselves. Walking along the boulevards of Paris, or of many other big cities, we are confronted with two contrasting worlds, on one side the opulent and trivial world of consumer’s culture where sumptuous houses and architectures shine, on the other side people without a roof, wrecked souls full of rage and misery, horrible dwellings where the easiest thing is to catch a cancer. So we got back to Baudelaire‘s times and we saw ourselves as visitors of those popular fun-fairs where freaks were obligated to show and sell themselves to merely survive as the worst circus beasts. Even in these miserable conditions, life was spreading in the midst of all that pain and decadence. Atget, a very innovative photographer of the end of the XIXth centrury/beginning of the XXth actually helped us with his shots taken in popular quarters where the wretched ones lived. He avoided self-celebration in order to show, in a very poetic way, the other side. We felt a deep urge to release this album and we did it without any effort in a very short time, we needed this and we’ll go on with this project releasing a following one. While thinking, composing and recording this album we were a bit worried about the possible people’s reaction but we couldn’t stop, it was stronger than us. At the end we were astonished by people’s reaction in several different countries. In this release and its peculiar live-show many people found their own world, history, memories or simply had fun and experienced Ataraxia under a completely different perspective. We are really grateful towards all the listeners with whom we had the chance to share all of this. This gives us hope about the open-mindedness and self-irony of many persons. Paris Spleen live-act is a work in progress, a rich scenography, whenever possible the collaboration with 9 actors of the CircuZ KumP company and the ever-present performance of our main actor Paul Patchy.

In what regards the subtle shift in building the backbone of the stories told, there is a passing into mysticism from the older albums to the newer ones. Has the new millennium (and the world that came with it) changed anything for Ataraxia? Do you think the concepts you are relating to still apply in times of technological gadgetry and globalization? Moreover, art, as closing to an age of technology in which more diverse tools emerge, becomes as subjective as the artists’ visions. What is art for you and where do you stand as an artist?

Concerning art and life, we think that mankind is sacrificing its own soul, its purest and truer part. In order to endure and afford its fears and establish a very strict order to things mankind has killed the risk, this means, in some way, to eliminate destiny. Rationality and pure marketing have killed grace, we have no more a fate or a feeling of a fate. When everything becomes an organized system, rational schemes and technology kill the richness of life that’s, all in all, possibility. Where destiny has been killed, only obscenity spreads. The more I try to organize and foresee the more I’m defenceless in front of Fortune. Mystery guides the world, we can’t administrate it. Obscenity is all that doesn’t consider me, doesn’t ask my opinion, keeps me away from what I deeply feel so that I loose the personal experience and the world. Our age is based on reason and market that is colonial and obliges me to take care only of its needs, becomes absolute and makes possible only its productive exercise. The logic of reason is just the one of facts, in this way the whole reality is sacrificed. Reason is mainly critics, performance, production. We think to know a lot but we know a lot just in a one-sided way. We have levelled reality till making it adhere to technology and market. This negation of nature is running very fast towards a dead-point. We should find that dead-point in order to have the chance to recoup our life and soul. Art is magic, possibility and an unpredictable future based on a truly lived-experienced present.

Thomas Merton said: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Does this apply to Ataraxia?

Art enables us to find ourselves out of our ego and egoism and lose ourselves in deeper, wiser and boundless dimensions.

Your latest release, Llyr, is centred on a mythical figure representing the inherent equilibrium of the universe. From the oldest of times, to the present, the album presents a journey for this entity, drawing the fine connection between artist and inspiration. How did this concept come into being?

While creating this album and as long as we recorded it, we approached the theme of self-healing and what illness means nowadays, the way it is taken into charge by the official medicine. In old times, illness was often linked to a pain of the soul, a part of us that was missing, a wrong direction taken by our life, so our body suggested, in a striking and precise way, that we had to re-consider our life. Shamans were spiritual guides who concretely helped people to find again their soul in order to find their good path. There was a deep and very interesting exchange between the healer and the soul who was in front of him. Shamans offered their life to take care of other people’s spiritual, psychological and physical needs and improvement. Music has the same aim. It opens the doors of conscience leading the listeners through a voyage inside themselves after having kept away for a while the mask of ego – who many of us wear to survive nowadays – in order to take a path of self-consciousness and confidence. Music is a cure opening to the gates of Grace and Beauty. For a while, we can silence rationality and enter into a dimension made of a different substance, the one of dreams, of perceptions, of bright inner sighting, of intensity and pleasure.

Talking about inspiration, which/what are Ataraxia‘s muses?

We all feel that our life is meant to be a spiritual growth and not just a materialistic sterile experience, all the domains where spirituality is expressed can become a source of enlightenment. And music is one of those domains. Our spiritual growth has developed in different times and situations, for sure also in times where (what is today knows as) paganism was a fulfilling and enriching experience, then in other times when the churches have had the power to control everything and spirituality could only be expressed under the surface, or external identity, of a monotheistic religion. Behind all those ways of belief there is our naked soul. For these reasons liturgical chants are mixed with tribal rhythms and pagan rituals in our music. The important thing was to preserve our own spiritual freedom from any kind of supremacy. Anyway, to us, what is more fascinating and inspiring is nature. Thanks to nature, we have always lived a deep communion with the whole, we’ve tried to accept the cycle of birth, growth, decline, death, rest and re-birth. Sometimes a mysterious writing on a door or an abandoned village appear unexpectedly behind a hill and communicate us something. Water and stone. Our music is often made of the substance of the water and the energy of the stone.

Llyr‘s music seems extracted from times in which the primordial energies, and through that, music becomes healing. Could you tell us more about the way in which Celtic and Eastern influences tune into the album’s main concept?

We love approaching all that has a soul in order to obtain a sort of illumination not driven by the need to prove and rationalise everything we do. We follow our insight, this is or best guide, it is a subtle way to perceive things or messages in peculiar moments of our life. Every spirituality, especially at its beginnings, has a message to us. The same was for Gayatry Mantra that I discovered practising mantra yoga and that grew inside me for many months till the moment I felt the need to work on it with the band and record it as last track just before finishing the album. It is our own interpretation utilising the original Sanskrit words. Both Gayatry Mantra and Scarborough Fair are self-healing songs.

Klepsydra‘s rhythm and repetitive tones manage to recreate the concept of time passing in a hurry around the calm and tranquillity inside. Should one close their eyes when listening to it, a fast motion film of nature’s changes around a motionless entity would emerge, with the listener at its centre. What inspired this piece?

Life is circular, just like seasons and the phases of the moon. There are phases of introspection, solitude and silence in which we need to be secluded from the world; in those periods the seeds of our artistic creation and spiritual evolution grow hidden under the earth. There are other phases of birth in which our music takes a shape and our spiritual life expresses freely outside. Seeds of creation have transformed into plants. There are moments of light, in which a sort of mother-like warm energy embraces and enlightens all what we do, and darker moments, that could be called the ones of the enchantress, where our shadowy side start gaining power in order to annihilate what has happened before and give the chance to a new springtime to be born. Klepsydra is just like sailing in complete freedom on the Mediterranean sea. No thoughts, no worries only the breeze and the water.

Are there any solo projects emerging from Ataraxia at the moment?

Riccardo, the percussionist, is working on his solo project called MASALA in which are taking part Giovanni and Francesca in a few songs both with vocals and keyboards. This project is an eclectic mix and exploration of electronics, rhythmical patterns and pads mixed to the sound of acoustic worldwide percussions.

What does the future hold for Ataraxia? Are there any new projects in development?

Of course, an album that will alternate songs owning the atmospheres described above and very dramatic and intense piano-vocals tunes. It will be probably called GRACE RHYTHM. A very strict contrast that is born during our last China tour in which the song rider was a mix of these things, many of the new songs are born or have been improved concert after concert.

If you were to describe Ataraxia in 4 words, what would you say?

Intensity, Grace, Beauty, Depth.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. The Spheres team wishes you all the best in your future endeavours.

Thanks to you.

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.

THE VOICE OF ETHER

   

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

 

A radio is a box with tiny people making music inside of it. No, no, let me try again. A radio receiver is an electronic device comprised of an antenna and various filters to make out the valid portion of a wireless signal, using demodulation and decoding to translate said signal into things that pleasantly tickle the ear.

However common and quaint and easily ignored the radio is today, the fact of the matter is that this entity, with all of its vices and devices, set up, nearly a century ago, the birth of an age in which mass distribution of art, audio art in particular, was no longer a crazy idea. Why should this be important? Because whether you float through the waves of mainstream or dive into the depths of underground, none of these cultures would exist should it not be a way to globally distribute their beacons. The radio was the beginning of a new era in entertainment, the stepping stone of all today’s music industry, although the premises of such endeavours were completely different.

The ancestor of radio, spark–gap telegraphy, was widely used at the beginning of the 20th century, especially in seafaring vessels and messages were transmitted with the use of Morse code. The first radio broadcast using amplitude modulated signals happened in 1910 when the performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci were transmitted into the ether, only to be received by a select few. The public population only started having mass access to radio broadcasting after WWI. In 1920 the first radio station was established, following the broadcasting experimentations of soldiers in WWI, which were using their military radio equipment to broadcast music (1919, the Telephone Engineer).

During the interwar period, the rise of radio broadcasting was exponential, and by the beginning of WWII, most households would have a receiver. Though making possible for a single song to be instantly heard in millions of homes, the radio also became a political instrument for propaganda and mass control. For instance, Japan used female broadcasters, commonly referred to as Tokyo Rose, for propaganda purposes during the war. Radio played an important part in WWII, surpassing telegraph communication (using cables that were often sabotaged), and distributing specific music for troops’ control and morale.

An instrument of control, an entity that signalled globalization, radio, like television later on, gained its global independence only in the aftermath of the cold war. The brink of the third millennium brought the search for life in the outer space, and there are stations that pick up radio signals from outside the atmosphere or even send out messages via radio waves. Terry Bisson imagined the leader of the fifth invading force speaking with the commander in chief (1991, Terry Bisson, They’re Made Out of Meat):

“They’re made out of meat.” [...]
“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”
“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”
“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”
“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”
“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.” [...] “Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?” [...]
“Officially, we are required to contact, welcome, and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in the quadrant, without prejudice, fear, or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing.”
“I was hoping you would say that.” [...]
“So we just pretend there’s no one home in the universe.” [...] “so that we’re just a dream to them.”
“A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat’s dream.” [...] “Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the universe would be if one were all alone.”

Artwork: Harris & Ewing. 1910-1920. Radio. courtesy of the artists

by Vel Thora

Full article here.

SPIRITUAL FRONT

   

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

 

To begin with a predictable question: why Rotten Roma Casino? Keeping in mind that the hometown of Spiritual Front is Rome, how do those two elements “rot” and “casinos” blend in your music?

’Cause everything is destined to rot, we can’t accept this fact and we constantly continue to gamble on something vulnerable, decadent, staggering. And for sure, Roma inevitably inspired it, it’s a city full of contrasts.

On a romanticized level, Rome, as a setting, has often been couched in terms of decadence, carnal desires, orgies and so on, and you seem to employ those concepts in your work as well. Would you see Spiritual Front as a project strongly linked to Rome and its surroundings or are you more in favour of “emotions are universal, anything goes for location”?

We are influenced by the place where we live, especially if your family is born and raised there, something remains in your flesh, your culture influences your choices, your way of thinking etc. I can’t say that we are a band that symbolizes Roma but at the same time we are a band that has been scarred by her, her history, her passion, her chaos and elegance is readable on our skin.

Both Armageddon Gigolo and Rotten Rome seem to conceptually follow the same pattern – focusing on quasi–mythical constructions of Italy/Italians. Why do you think that exotic part still appeals to audiences considering the cynical age we live in?

Yes, even because we never tried to fake something or we never tried to be what we aren’t. Exotic? Don’t know if it’s exotic, we just try to express what we are, and often our identity is deeply influenced by the place which gave us a forced birth.

Talking about audiences: after having seen your performance at the Wroclaw Festival in Poland, I was tempted to compare it to some previous gigs in Romania (some people who witnessed them argued that the atmosphere was overall different). Do you feel more “at home” performing in some locations and does your set list mould to that as well?

I can’t understand if you mean better or worse, ahaaha. Anyway, I always try to do my best everywhere, but you have to consider many factors: location, timing, space, mood, tiredness, trips etc… but I usually have fun, I do what I like, rarely have I felt uncomfortable.

There seems to be a blurry line between “performer” and “audience” when one watches your live acts. What role does interaction have in that?

It is a thin one that belongs equally to performer and audience. We have to share emotions.

You seem to be welcoming your listeners to be part of your experiences, in what direction would a good concert go? Would you play more with those elements?

Absolutely, a passionate audience must be part of the show. I love that.

Do you consider your body of work as a carefully constructed narrative or as something linked to your personal experiences? Does creating characters play an important role in the creative process?

Except some movies, which I find extremely stimulating because of their theme linked to my mood, feelings etc., I am always inspired by my life, personal stories, pain, experiences, which give me the hook to go on and write.

While staring at the cover of your album, Spiritual Front could be easily placed in a quasi–urban decadent environment. Do you see your project as closer to city life in a sense?

Chris Askew painted something cool and peculiar, something made especially for us. He illustrated what we needed and what Roma is, what Roma means to us.

In the neofolk/gothic subcultures, forms of fetishism such as BDSM have been used extensively in the past 20 years or more. Do you believe one can really be transgressive while using those elements in their work?

They are usually linked, but I don’t think that many of them are so interested in it, at least… I don’t believe that most of them practice BDSM, I met many people in various sex clubs who never knew what industrial is.

In a sense, BDSM supposes staging scenarios, role–playing and constructing personal codes between people. What is lost when those elements become more or less “public” through music?

Role playing is traceable everywhere, you can see it at work, with friends, in your family in every community, it’s a natural thing. Sexually too, I am very fascinated by this, ’cause 80% of our relations are based on those displays of power.

Do you think some sort of self–censorship/personal boundaries in connection with sexuality should be applied when making music?

It’s a way to express our sexuality. Always. Music is phallic.

In Darkroom Friendship you play with elements such as erasing individuality through orgies, perhaps to the point where bodies without organs and only surfaces are part of the scenery. What’s your take on that?

In a darkroom you can free yourself, sexually free, you can do whatever you want, without caring the social barriers. Sexuality is part of our culture and it is not easy to live free from it. Darkness could give us the possibility to be ourselves without paying attention to the ’form’, to the other one’s identity. I saw people transforming themselves in a darkroom.

Why have you chosen the track as your opening song for the album? Should it be regarded as an “introduction” for what there is to follow?

I just wanted to bet on something different, ’shocking’ in a way, test my audience, but people always want the ’classics’, everything which goes out from the railway is banned… The alternative scene is more conservative than it seems.

You’ve often described your music as “nihilistic suicidal pop” – what “dies” in the creative process? Do you think music should be an output for self–destructive tendencies, and to what extent can it be nihilistic?

Nihilist ’cause we don’t believe in prefabricated truths, political truths, sexual truths etc. Suicide is an affirmation of life itself, I don’t blame those who choose suicide. Also, these two terms are contrasting and extreme in a way: suicide and pop!

Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die, My Erotic Sacrifice and others, a lot of songs focusing on Lustmord on this album. Why the interest in the love/death dichotomy?

Sex contains a sort of inner death, and vice versa. Sex: that there is a defined beginning and an end, a sensual destruction of ’ourselves’, a sort of constant sense of conquest, a never–ending hot war.

Is the portrayed sexual murder victim mostly masculine or feminine? What role does gender play in it?

Roles suck, our middle class catholic culture forces us to choose this or that truth. We contain both: masculine and feminine sides, it could be stupid to think that we are just one thing, blame those who proclaim themselves 100% hetero or ’pure’ male or female. They are dangerous!!!

Sad almost a Winner has been considered relatively controversial so far. How was it received in Italy?

Controversial if you are afraid of those themes, or if you are afraid of those kinds of emotions. Well, it’s not a daily theme, that’s true, but we feel displaced just when we face something that could touch ourselves deeply.

Would you argue that Italy is still to an extent homophobic, keeping in mind some conservative political views there?

I don’t think Italy is homophobic, well, it depends on the place, the community you meet. Basically, it is a catholic country, you can easily imagine how false people are, but it’s enough to say that here transsexuals have tons of unexpected customers, politicians are frequently victims of transsexual scandal… and cocaine too. This is Italy, the surface counts a lot.

The video for Sad Almost a Winner seems to reconstruct the narrative of Fassbinder’s Faustrecht der Freiheit, and by doing so re–appropriating some concepts employed there. While the film focused on a completely different social context, love still remains to a certain degree a commodity. What were you trying to recreate in your video?

The cruelty and the blindness of our senses do not know labels like hetero or gay or lesbians. What I wanted to show is the inner evil that belongs to the human being, and yea… that certain degree of commodity, the horrible stupid social laws that regulate everything, even the feeling and the relation between people and lovers.

Another two important elements in your music: Catholicism and German boys in uniforms. Simply display of fetishism on both, how much irony is involved in playing with those stereotypes?

Through irony we have the chance to analyze several elements even the ’ultraclassic’ stereotypes such as Catholicism and German boys in uniform. I can say that I am attracted to these elements, they are open to many interpretations, dramatic or funny jokes, to discuss etc., etc.

Would you consider yourselves influenced by the Catholic background from Italy?

Absolutely so. Even if you are atheist or Satanist, you have to consider the fact that you are born in a real ancient unstoppable Catholic mechanism, something that started more than 2000 years ago, and you can’t ignore it. Ok, you don’t want to follow any Catholic rule but you have to surrender to the fact that this is a huge Catholic world. It influenced me a lot, at least I like it, it gives me the chance to analyze the clashes inside of me in a better and refined way.

Another triptych: Jesus, Hellvis and rock’n’roll. The rock’n’roll phenomenon is more or less American. Why the appeal for it and how can it be appropriated in a European context?

They have been great superstars, the lead millions of people somewhere and they both lived in open range countries. I think that such a great personalities don’t belong to any specific land.

Besides a couple of Spiritual Front videos, Solo Buio Visual Factories also produced a recent Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio clip, namely A SONG 4 HATE & DEVOTION. Are any musical/visual collaborations with ORE planned for the near future?

Who knows. We are good friends, life is still long.

How about the next Spiritual Front ones, what will follow Rotten Roma Casino?

Another evergreen album named I live through you which is based on the lover transfer concept.

questions & photo by Diana Daia

Full article here.

PROJECT PITCHFORK

   

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

 

Oh… how can one not miss the quaint atmosphere of a rundown autoshop turned into an upside down canopy bed? How can one not see the empiric symbolism hidden behind mattresses on the ceiling and big metal cages on the floor? Actually, it was only one cage, in Cage Club. The rest is history – which coincidentally reminds me of my highschool history teacher who looked like a carrot turned upside down and inside out, overbloated with a misguided sense of discipline and an austerity into what is what that has troubled me since the late years of adolescence. Why does that matter, you ask? Because I was refraining from comparing the concert there with a big carrot. Erm… too late to fake it now, so here we go.

The evening started with an utter and tragic disappointment. There was no wardrobe. However, trying all night to shield my coat from flying burning cigarette buds could have not affected my good time now, could it? So there you have it, the tip of the big red juicy carrot, slowly making its way in… Aaaaane–waaay, the stage was occupied by Tenek. British (yes, with an accent), trying hard, not that bad, not that good, but all in all they made into a nice little start. A pop–ish sound had tentacles into the eardrums at times, but they grew on the eager audience. See? The tip: sweet but not quite satisfying.

After a quick shift of musical instruments on stage, a real surprise popped up, unexpectedly delightful. Rabia Sorda was,in this rant–er’s humble opinion, the jewel of the evening. Erk Aicrag has made a captivating show on stage. So much effervescence in one guy has rarely been seen. Loud sound, very loud; rough, but not brutal; from the peeling thin latex layers on his arms to the red make–up, the show managed to bring out of the audience the will to jump around. On top of that, the dominance infused gestures managed to raise some spirits really fast. The middle of the carrot, boys and girls: yum, juicy, just the right size, wishing it would last just a little bit more; which the audience requested loudly with trampling of boots and whatnot.

And then, there comes the end of the carrot, with a bitter, hard to swallow taste and unappealing leaves, in the shape of Peter Spilles’ hair. I do not have a particularly bad opinion over Project Pitchfork’s music, but oh boy, did they suck live. While expecting a deep soothing voice, the ears got screams. While hearing those hoarse singing efforts, the eye expected consequent scenic movement, which would have been more appropriate to the deep male voice their music has while not live. But let’s make an excuse for them, since the steam–smoke–thing someone was so kind to release on stage in a closed up small little tiny space made my throat hurt sending needles in my larynx every time I uttered a word, I can only imagine what the lead singer was going through up there.

All in all, it was a good night, if you don’t mind holding on to heavy coats in a closed up club with smoke and steam and a bunch of other people.

review & photo by Vel Thora

Full article here.

WOUND CULTURE

   

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

 

For a post–communist country, Romania has not seen too many experimental/unconventional events after 1989. One of the causes for this could be that we were suddenly exposed to so many things that were happening in the Western World, that we could only grasp its hollow foil. Musically speaking, experimental acts started to appear only by the end of the 90s, but events promoting this kind of art were very few. Another decade had to pass in order for the cultural life to start taking shape and, focusing on our subject,for bands from outside the border to start playing here on a regular basis.

Recalling only the last year, I would mention some great concerts with pioneers of unconventional sonic experimentation like Lydia Lunch with her latest project Big Sexy Noise and The Legendary Pink Dots. Along these names, that have reached worldwide recognition while still remaining underground, other lesser known acts brought avant–garde sounds to the ears eager for more, like Xiu Xiu, L’homme puma, Radare, Desiderii Marginis, Khuda, Cecilia::Eyes and so many more. Romanian experimental acts were also seen on stage, altough the local scene is not yet very well developed. One city with quite a few interesting names is Timisoara, The Bad Days Will End having at the end of November one of the greatest shows I’ve seen lately, even if it was in front of approximately 15-20 people, showing that art can still be made out of passion.

Finishing with this very brief “review” of experimental events, the actual subject of this article is the Nadja concerts that will be taking place in the first half of March in Timişoara and Bucharest. They will play alongside The :Egocentrics and Hipdiebattery respectively, and you can read more about them in the next paragraphs.

Having developed a solid band chemistry throughout the years playing together, The :Egocentrics deliver a fresh take on psychedelic hard rock with a jazz–like state of mind, relying on flow, dynamics and improvisation. With its four epic parts ranging from moody and ambient spacerock passages to uplifting choruses and heavy riffing, “Love Fear Choices and Astronauts” marks an impressive debut receiving an overwhelmingly positive feedback from specialized press all over Europe and US. :: egocentrics.net

Hipdiebattery is the audio recycling product of Anca Ştirbacu, visual artist based in Bucharest, Romania. She finished University of Fine Arts Bucharest, her background is video and photography, being involved in projects with HBK Saar, RoArchive, AltArt, Spazi Aperti, Time’s Up, Interface Culture Linz. Hipdiebattery is the audio support for her visual projects and interactive installations mixing lo fi, electronic, noise, trance, witch house, synth pop, balearic, tropicalia, psychedelic, and possibly a hint of manelo–ghetto hiphop. :: soundcloud.com/hipdiebattery

Nadja is a Canadian duo made up of Aidan Baker (guitar, vocals, drum machines) and Leah Buckareff (bass, accordion, vocals) alternately based in Toronto and Berlin. Originally began as a solo project by Baker in 2003, Buckareff joined Nadja in 2005 to bring the project out of the studio and into live settings. Together, the duo creates music which has variously been described as “ambient doom”, “dreamsludge”, and “metal-gaze”, combining the atmospheric textures and elements of shoegaze and experimental/ambient music with the heaviness and volume of metal and noise music.

Nadja has released numerous recordings on such labels as Alien8 Recordings, Hydrahead Records, Beta–Lactam Ring Records, Robotic Empire, and their own fledgling label, Broken Spine Productions. Nadja has toured and performed extensively around the world, appearing at such festivals as SXSW, FIMAV, Roadburn, and Unsound. They have shared the stage with such as artists as Tim Hecker, James Plotkin, Khanate, Grouper, Earth, Francisco Lopez, Isis, Om, The Grails, KTL, Z’ev, and many others.

In addition to Nadja, Baker is also active as a solo musician and a writer. He has released many solo albums and is the author of four collections of poetry. Buckareff is also the owner-operator of Coldsnap Bindery, a production house of handmade books, and curator of The Wunderkabinet, a wandering exhibition of art, craft, and curious. :: nadjaluv.ca

by George Tanasie

Full article here.

DARK BOMBASTIC EVENING II

   

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

 

When: 10th & 11th December 2010
Where: Kulturhaus. Bucharest. Romania

 

Line-Up:
Desiderii Marginis
Dirty Granny Tales
Irfan
Simone H. Salvatori
Seventh Harmonic
Ataraxia
Arcana
Naevus

 

DAY 1

 

Two years have passed since their first event and Kogaionon and Donis Art still amaze me with their perseverance and stubbornness in organizing underground concerts reaching to a limited amount of individuals. When the program of this year’s Dark Bombastic Evening had been revealed, I found the first night more appealing through its diverse line–up and interesting bands who were to visit Romania for the first time. Although I wasn’t familiar with all of them, I decided not to listen to their music beforehand, nor read anything about, and instead rely on the live experience and expect anything/nothing.

I arrived on the first night a little bit late, in the middle of Johan Levin’s (Desiderii Marginis) performance, only to find a somewhat distracted public. To be honest, I didn’t manage to induce myself a proper mood either. Not only on the account of the surprise to find out he had to go first – contrary to what the official signboard was mentioning, but rather of my personal and probably old–fashioned conviction that this kind of music, which requires perhaps a certain type of audition similar to the one required by classical music, is not compatible with the sorts of setting Kulturhaus had to offer. A better location would have been, in my opinion, the Reduta Cultural Center – previously used by the organizers for similar events hosting Arcana, Ataraxia, In Slaughter Natives and others.

photo by Vel Thora. Desiderii Marginis Live in Bucharest

After a quite abrupt finish, Desiderii Marginis was followed by Dirty Granny Tales, the band I was most curious about. Four strange characters stepped (barefoot) on the scene, whose appearances, ranging from broken, ragged dolls to allegedly grim corpse–paint enthusiasts, promised – and later confirmed – an unusual and original show. From the first notes which gave way to a twisted lullaby, I was mostly drawn to what seemed to me a healthy dose of self–deprecating humour. The action got more complicated, as from the second song, other characters began entering the stage and a whole story about different human experiences unfolded, involving an array of custom made puppets and costumes, intelligent interludes for dance solos and interventions from the members of the band themselves, assuming an active role in the play and becoming key figures for the narration. A show thought and rethought, implying a good amount of work invested, with impeccable interpretations, left me wondering how much of a crippled experience would it be only to listen at home Didi’s Son album.

Later on, the pause in between Dirty Granny Tales and Irfan, continued by an extended soundcheck, allowed me to observe closer the instruments which one by one were brought on stage: a portable harmonium, the more exotic daf, saz, oud, duduk and others, hinting what was to follow. Inasmuch as Irfan and Isihia were the first (roughly tagged) neofolk and neoclassical Bulgarian bands I got acquainted with, and considering that once they had musicians playing in both these projects, I’ve always felt encouraged to view the two bands, as complementaries, since the two stands are both Balkan in essence: one looking towards the vernacular culture and folklore and the other one towards east, aided perhaps by the generally more neglected heritage left by centuries of direct Ottoman rule, which included, among others, policies of repopulation and conversion to Islam.

photo by Vel Thora. Dirty Granny Tales Live in Bucharest

Playing a more eclectic card, the musicians from Irfan composed a balanced playlist for Friday night (even preview songs for the next album), ensuring a trip which brought to my mind the the vivid visual memory of wandering through a rather dull town, full of communist–era blocks, and discovering and entering a lavishly decorated Djamia centuries–old (Bayrakli Mosque in Samokov, Tombul Mosque in Shumen), bearing on the walls words in the arabic script that add up to a paradoxical “intimate estrangement”. Providing such a setting favorable for other possible worlds, the musicians, with the support of a very receptive audience, attempted convincingly to draw an arch through various eras and places, offering their own interpretation of turkish and persian classical music, oriental christian chants, western medieval chants and music, Renaissance, once in awhile returning to folk and old church–Slavonic singing. In spite of the problems with the sound system, all the band members played in a flawless manner and again, the live experience proved to be better.

photo by Vel Thora. Irfan Live in Bucharest

Next, and supposing to close the first DB evening, was Simone Salvatore, trying to perform “a solo version of different songs”. I recommend searching for other reviews, because the weak performance that started out, and the invasion of Kulturhaus–on–Friday indigenous customers encouraged me to leave earlier. :/

To be continued with the Second Evening of DBE II.

photo by Vel Thora. Simone H. Salvatori Live in Bucharest

DAY 2

 

Evil spirits seem to have been cast upon this year’s 2nd edition of Dark Bombastic Evening, prolly Romania’s (& to some extent Eastern Europe’s) answer to the well known Western & Central European industrial, goth, experimental & underground music festivals. There were many bad omens hinting at possible failure & they started to manifest themselves even months before the 2–day festival’s dates.

First of all, the venue was changed, from the grandiose The Silver Church to the hipster–ish Kulturhaus. Last year’s 1st edition had all the ingredients, from the bands – focused on nostalgic neofolk & bombastic martial industrial – & perfect sound, lights, visuals to the wonderful venue, The Silver Church, a spacious & classy, yet not pretentious location featuring columns, arches, chandeliers, candles & torches creating a perfect atmosphere for the 1–day then festival. I’m sure the organizers realize that the setting & atmosphere for such an event are extremely important & maybe this is a reason for their announcement of next year’s location for the festival, somewhere in the open in the heart of Transylvania. My guess is that Dark Bombastic Evening III will take place in an old fortress, maybe Alba Carolina or in other related sites in the city of Alba–Iulia. Oh, & another thing, the date’s changing, from the traditional 2nd week of December to the 19th & 20th of August.

photo by Vel Thora. Seventh Harmonic Live in Bucharest

Secondly & the most important bad omens were of course related to the festival’s line–up. Some bands due to various reasons had to drop out of the festival or cancel their shows starting with Sunset in the 12th House (a new musical project featuring former members of Romanian black metal band Negura Bunget), continuing with Naevus’ disband (though leader Lloyd James did come for a solo acoustic Naevus setlist) & culminating with Tony Wakeford’s statement that Sol Invictus will be unable to make it to the festival due to some health problems (Tony did record a video message for the audience in which he kindly apologized for the inconvenience, wished us all the best & gave us a preview of a new song from Sol Invictus; felt so sorry because of Sol Invictus’ absence form this festival, definitely my first choice to see at this edition & I’m sure that a great number of those who bought tickets were really looking forward to seeing this icon of the neofolk & neoclassical scene perform live on Kulturhaus’ stage. Hope you’ll be able to make it here & play in the near future, Tony, till then keep it cool, take care and control!)

Enough of “what could have been DBE II” & moving towards the live performances of the 2nd day’s line–up: Seventh Harmonic, Arcana, Ataraxia & Naevus.

photo by Vel Thora. Arcana Live in Bucharest

Seventh Harmonic – an English neoclassical group founded in late 1999 with an all–female line–up. I arrived about 15 min. after their show had started & their set seemed decent & standard for a neofolk/neoclassical band. Because Ann–Mari Thim (vocals, Arcana) was unable to supply vocal duties because of a sore throat, Seventh Harmonic’s set was 100% instrumental, with some highlight points like the violin bow guitar playing & the percussion sector. Also nice visuals to fit their music style. All in all, a decent & enjoyable live performance.

Arcana – the neoclassical/darkwave group founded in 1993 & hailing from Sweden was the next name on the list; all the members appeared on stage wearing only white clothes, including fellow Swedish musician Johan Levin (Desiderii Marginis) who joined the band on stage for some songs. Arcana, being for the 3rd time now in Romania & familiar to a lot of the audience presented a nice, standard setlist filled with their traditional ethereal atmosphere, though less focused on its medieval feel; too bad Ann–Mari vocals were yet again absent. Prolly the most significant moment of the night came at the end of Arcana’s show, when Peter Bjärgö announced, with tears in his eyes and tremble in his voice, that this might well be Arcana’s last live performance (after the show, Ia Bjärgö confirmed to me that it was their last live on stage) and that the Swedish group will surely disband. After a few seconds time, there was a rain of applauses from the awed audience and shouts of respect for the band & their entire body of work during the past 15 years.

photo by Vel Thora. Ataraxia Live in Bucharest

At the end of Arcana’s show, during breaktime, the organizers screened Tony Wakeford’s video message and the audience appreciated the Sol Invictus leader’s gesture.

Ataraxia – the Italian cult neoclassical/neofolk/ethereal folk ensemble formed in 1985 – had announced that their show will consist of 2 distinct parts, the 1st one focused on their more traditional music style (which the organizers had labeled on the event’s poster as “cosmogonic folk”!) which is also featured on their latest album LLYR, while the 2nd part of their live performance will revolve around a dark cabaret concept associated with their 2006 release titled Paris Spleen, an album inspired by Baudelaire’s late 1860s work, Le spleen de Paris. Their scenography for both parts, especially for the 2nd one, was delightful – the sound & set, the wonderful costumes, a mad S&M paggliacio/pierrot acting on stage & the whole La Belle Époque atmosphere were high points and it seemed like Ataraxia was doing this type of dark cabaret show for years & years, like they have been this type of artists in their previous lives. Francesca Nicoli’s presence & performance were absolutely fab & dedicated (such a penetrating voice from such a beautiful & trv kvlt female leader of the band, truly a gnostic Sophia of the European neofolk scene, Ataraxia almost resembling a mini–matriarchate) & her band mates also lived up to the audience’s expectations & even to their name as a group – ataraxia – or to put it better in other words, the killers of apatheia. Thus, their show as a whole, lasting for nearly 2 hours, was surely the most impressive one from the 2nd day of the festival & prolly ax en aequo in beauty & originality with Dirty Granny Tales’ performance from the 1st day of Dark Bombastic Evening.

photo by Vel Thora. Naevus Live in Bucharest

Closing the 2nd day & the festival was Lloyd James or, as he stated, “all that’s left of Naevus”. You might consider this the 2nd musical project from DBE which disbands & plays its last live show after Arcana. After more than a decade of work, James decided to put an end to Naevus and focus on an acoustic solo career with his first solo album, The Division of Labour coming out soon. James delivered a modest performance in front of a small audience, many of them leaving after Ataraxia’s show and many compared his poor live show with the one from the previous day delivered by Spiritual Front leader, Simone Salvatore. All in all, Dark Bombastic Evening II had its highs (Dirty Granny Tales, Ataraxia) & lows (Simone Salvatore, Lloyd James).

Considering all the sheer bad luck around this 2nd edition of DBE, the organizers have their excuses (considering the long list of events in Romania organized by Kogaionon & Donis Art & their dedication, they have lived up to their goal of bringing some of the most interesting names in underground music – from dark ambient, neofolk, martial industrial and neoclassical to black metal, doom metal, post–rock and even dark cabaret), though there were some low points – like not having fillers in case an artist has to cancel its show or at least reduce the price of the tickets, the venue, reduced line–up & audience, some disappointment regarding the live shows of some artists, a slight distancing from the music styles of the first edition which focused on neofolk & martial industrial to a more neoclassical & dark cabaret edition (some people complained about this shift, but for me it was an interesting choice). The audience’s number decreased this year with more than half if we compare this 2nd edition with the 1st one from 2009 when there were like 500 persons from Romania & all around Europe. All in all, we have to appreciate the organizers’ (Kogaionon & Donis Art) attempt to continue the Dark Bombastic Evening tradition which started in 2009 and we can only hope for a new, different & interesting experience during the summer of 2011 in the heart of Transylvanian land.

by Roxana Vasile [day 1] and Adrien Seelebruder [day 2].

Full article here.

WROCŁAW INDUSTRIAL FESTIVAL DAY 5

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE December 2010 issue.

 

When: 14th November 2010
Where: Lulu Belle Café. Wrocław, Poland

 

Line-Up:
Inner Vision Laboratory
[haven]
Benicewicz
Vilgoc
DJs Mniamos
Acid TV

 

 

Alter last year’s rather Kafka–esque experience, I didn’t know what to expect from the last day of the current Wrocław Industrial Festival edition. Seeing that this time the venue was a café situated in the same building as the main location of the festival, I was relieved that at least we wouldn’t have to search for it nor wait in the cold for the shows to begin. Not that I’m complaining about such experiences, they tend to add to the mood and, depending on what you are going to actually see and hear, that can be a bad or a good thing. Talking about 3D, huh?

 

Even though most of the audience was not Polish, I must mention that this was an all–Polish evening. We got to the café a few minutes after the first band started to play and hence all the comfortable places had already been taken. Conforming to what I previously said, I proceeded to sit on the floor and peek–a–boo at the visuals. The band playing was Inner Vision Laboratory, an industrial/dark ambient group creating a cinematic and sometimes horroresque ambience, similar to better known bands such as Raison d’être or Desiderii Marginis.

photo by Diana Daia. Inner Vision Laboratory Live in Wrocław

 

The announced order had been changed a bit, so the band that we were all expecting got to play the second. This was [haven], a ritual ambient/ idm project, probably the best known band from the line–up. The performance was more energetic and diverse, as well as the visuals, creating a heavier yet sullen atmosphere.

photo by Diana Daia. [haven] Live in Wrocław

photo by Diana Daia. [haven] Live in Wrocław

 

Following [haven] was Wrocław’s audiovisual artist Wojtek Benicewicz project of ambient/ idm/electronic music, heavily focused on the visual part.

photo by Diana Daia. Benicewicz Live in Wrocław

 

Closing the evening (well, the last live act, the evening actually continued with a great after–party with lots of tunes from old school industrial icons) was the power electronics Vilgoc, another project from Wrocław. I must confess I wasn’t impressed at all with the music, which I found to be aggressive for the sake of aggressiveness and nothing more, but it was an interesting feel to listen to power electronics inside a café.

photo by 6414. Digital manipulation by Diana Daia. Vilgoc Live in Wrocław

by George Tanasie

Full article here.

AND ALSO THE TREES

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

And Also The Trees came into being in a small village in Worcestershire, United Kingdom, a setting which has been significant for you from the very beginning. While analyzing your more recent releases, these undercurrents seem to be easily traceable in your songs. What has changed throughout the years?

S.H.J.: Justin and I lived in a hamlet in Worcestershire for almost thirty years. There was a period when we made an effort to get away from this environment creatively speaking but it does take a conscious effort. This is where our roots lie and I imagine we will continue to be taken back there one way or another. These days it seems reflect our relationship with nature or solitude for example, rather than the place itself.

In shaping your songs, you seem to begin from identifiable places and moments (related to rural history or to English literature, for example) and then construct a narrative that detaches completely, while positing itself outside geographical and even temporal framings. Would you consider your body of work as an attempt of “looking back” or as something that goes beyond that?

S.H.J.: It is more than just looking back, as you say there is a certain disregard for “temporal framings” – lyrically I have always enjoyed the freedom of being able to drift backwards and forwards through time. Having said that I don’t recall moving into the future that often. I sense the past around us, for good or bad it is there, in the city or in the countryside, it is in our minds and dreams. It can hold us back but there is also a lot we can learn from it.

Nostalgia seems to play an important role even in today’s cynical culture. While having gathered experience from your tours and travelling, would you see it differently perceived in Britain than in other places you have lived/visited?

S.H.J.: I think nostalgia is a human emotion isn’t it? Which would make it the same everywhere.

In terms of music, listeners seem to be currently more nostalgic about the past than they were some years ago: the growing interest in early post punk or cold wave releases, for instance, compared to the inclination towards deconstruction/nihilism in the early ’80s. How would you regard this shift and what music & visual art where you interested in when you formed AATT?

S.H.J.: It goes round and round in circles, we are constantly learning from, referencing from, yearning for what has past… we always have been and we always will. Whilst the punk scene in the late 70’s was about deconstruction and rebuilding it was quickly followed by a big Mod revival and then a few years later there was plenty on interest and nostalgia for the Rock–a–billy scene.
What I see now is that the lines between one scene and another are more blurred and that scenes in general are more fragmented than they were and as a result I expect they have less of an overall effect on society.
As a band we have been influenced by many artistic/musical movements from Pre–Raphaelite romanticism to the Jazz age, East European folk to Psychedelia. These avenues of exploration have been and still are very important to us creatively.

Listeners have often linked AATT to post–punk/neo–romanticism, genres which expose(d) urban anxieties and dystopic visions regarding the City. Is the urban environment with its cultural turmoil significant for you, as artists?

S.H.J: It has it’s significance to us yes but obviously, due to our environment when we were growing up and indeed forming the band, much less of a significance than to other bands who were at their creative peak at that time… like Joy Division, The Gang of Four, PIL, Magazine etc… The atmospheres and emotions generated by that era and it’s “urban anxieties”, as you say, were something we felt close to and even a part of as young people growing up but creatively we were compelled to write about subjects and themes that were more closely linked to our actual situation.

Do you believe that we could talk about a striking dichotomy between the rural, idyllic environment and the industrialized blackened city? I think that those lines tend to get more and more blurred…

S.H.J.: They certainly do get more blurred yes, especially in our part of the world. This ebbing and flowing of the rural and urban is a subject we’ve thought a lot about over the years.

Your music is charged with melancholy, a quality that is given by both the vocals and the haunting instrumental. Would you regard it as a pervasive element throughout your releases?

S.H.J.: I’d say all of our work has a pretty thick vein of melancholy running through it, yes. Our aim is to balance it with an energy or light that comes either through the music or words.

While listening to your songs, one is tempted to visualize them as vignettes, similar to the Photo–Secessionist photographic pieces that used Pictorialism as a source of inspiration. Would you regard them as separate narrative fragments or as a continuum that supposes thematic connections between them/between full albums?

S.H.J.: I regard them as separate narrative fragments that can often be linked one to another. They separate move off in opposite directions then eventually, sometimes come back together again. This at least, is how it happens in my mind… the lyrics are usually born from the music, yet in the context that we are speaking about now I am sure they take a different course – I mean I imagine that the musical connections are different to the lyrical ones.

This summer you have performed at the Temporäre Kunsthalle in Berlin, within the frame of the exhibition FischGrätenMelkStand by John Bock, who is also a close friend of AATT. How did this collaboration come into being?

J.J.: John is one of life’s interesting characters. He approached us when he was planning his show at the Kunsthalle as AATT are one of his preferred bands from the 20th century. We met a few times and have become friends. I’m hoping we can collaborate on another project next year…

Have you also participated with artwork to Bock’s exhibition?

S.H.J.: He hung some of my photographs (five) in the Virus Meadow music room. I used to work as a photographer and have exhibited my photographs from time to time. John saw my pictures and wanted them as part of his exhibition. He also exhibited Justin’s guitar and a film of us performing live made by the La Blogotheque team in Paris was projected on one of the gallery walls.
J.J.: It was good to have our own room in the “house” at the exhibition and we all loved playing the show in front of this “mad Terry Gilliam like structure”.

Many people came to see your acoustic performance, the location ending up full in a couple of minutes. What are your thoughts on the public and overall atmosphere in Berlin?

S.H.J.: I was really quite moved by the whole Berlin experience. I felt like I wanted to live there.
J.J.: Strange that after playing in Berlin so many times after these years we finally had time to experience the city and walk it’s length to discover the massive roads with tall houses with bars and Biergartens. I always thought of Berlin as a winter place but the summer suits it very well.

Nowadays, Berlin seems to be a point of convergence for many artists and musicians. Are there any performers that caught your attention during your stay? What contemporary musical projects do you find interesting nowadays?

J.J.: (didn’t stay long enough to experience anything of this kind)

Your official site has recently divulged that Justin Jones will contribute to the future album of Othon Mataragas: Impermanence. What do you think of Othon’s music and what are your ideas for the collaboration?

J.J.: I met Othon on a boat on the river Thames in London. Turns out he knew of AATT and some months later he asked me to play on this song as he had my guitar sound in mind. The he got Marc Almond to sing on this same track which appealed to me as I have followed his career for a while. Recently I saw him (M.A.) at The Royal Court where he was singing as a part of project entitled 10 Plagues.
Othon seems to be a brilliant pianist as well as a creative mind.

In 2009 you released the acoustic album When The Rain Comes, and you are currently working on an Acoustic Live DVD. Are you going to focus more on acoustic performances and recordings rather than electric ones in the future? Are acoustic performances important for conveying a certain atmosphere?

S.H.J.: The acoustic project was a very successful and hugely enjoyable one, we would like it to be a side of AATT that evolves, we are certainly thinking of continuing the live shows anyway. We have learnt a lot from it and it’s true that certain atmospheres come through more effectively in the acoustic environment and with the different instruments, we didn’t predict this.

Would the release of a video also be fitting for rendering visible the themes that you approach?

S.H.J.: I don’t know, I am quite content that what the listener pictures when they listen to our music is made and remains in their heads, however some of the short films and videos that people have made for our music have been interesting and I’ve liked watching them.

A question which you might have been addressed a couple of times already: how was the name And Also The Trees born?

S.H.J.: It was the name of our first song.

“Never stop, never stay” (Jacob Fleet). And Also The Trees seems to be constantly moving: what are you taking with you next and what should listeners expect in the near future?

J.J.: A new album should be recorded in 2011. It will not pretend that it is still easy to be creative in an original sense after more than 10 albums. This is why it takes us a long time to write them, we already wrote one and decided to start again. I’m sure that the acoustic project will influence this next album one way or another it is still early to know. We always have a feeling for the imminent work at the start. It’s realizing this which is where the magic happens.

questions & photo by Diana Daia

answers by Simon Huw Jones & Justin Jones

Full article here.