Interview quotes from Endarkenment

As I continue my work on the Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture manuscript, it is a privilege to be able to read through so many great contributions from dark ambient musicians, label owners, fans, and supporters.

Here are some highlights from interviews I’ve received so far.  All these quotes are also posted on the Facebook page for the book, but it’s nice to finally have them collected in one place.

The interview process has been extended.  I am still sending out invites and collecting responses to my questions, and will continue to do so until further notice.  So if you plan to answer the questions, you’re not too late!

And now, a bit of dark ambient humor…

dark-ambient-humor-by-matej-gyarfas

Image by Matej Gyarfas of Phragments.
(Thank you, Matej – this is brilliant!  The more I look at it, the funnier it gets!)


Reading YouTube comments on dark ambient music can be just as amusing:

“What movie is this from?”
“Where’s the beat? Where’s the rhythm?”
“This isn’t music.”
“WTF did I just listen to?”
“Are these people Satan worshipers?”
“I must have missed the vocals.”
“Only made it to 0:12, got too scared.”
“Reminds me of a Satanic Enya.”
“Now I won’t be able to sleep for weeks.”
“Where is the guitar solo?”

~ compiled by Jeffrey I. Michaels


Hristo Gospodinov of Shrine

Hristo Gospodinov

Q: How and when did you first get involved in dark ambient music?

A: “Back in the late ’90s, Arcana’s Dark Age of Reason album was extremely popular among the black metal community in my home town…it was a kind of a “bridge” that led some of us to dark ambient…because it was a CMI band. […] It was 2001 when someone came up with that …And Even Wolves Hid Their Teeth… CMI compilation, and I remember that the buzz around it was because of the Arcana track. My then-roommate told me it was definitely worth listening to the whole sampler: “I think you should listen to this – there is a band there that was recommended by Greg Chandler of Esoteric in an interview”. Well, Esoteric was a pretty big name back then in the metal genre, and also a band that always stood apart from trends, so I was curious about their recommendation.

“The “band” recommended was raison d’être, and by the time I decided to give the sampler a listening, the guy who initially spread the compilation already had a full length album in his possession – Enthraled By The Wind Of Lonelienes.

“I have no idea how people were able to find such underground releases back then. There were no music stores dealing with this type of music over here. The internet was so slow that nobody was using it for music yet, and it wasn’t possible to order from abroad unless you were OK with sending cash hidden in an envelope; there was no other way. It feels like the “dark ages” now, but back then everything was so exciting – not only because of the music itself, but also because it was so hard to find it that it was like treasure hunting, in a way. It remains a mystery to me how the guy came across that album, but anyway I got my hands on it.

Enthraled By The Wind Of Lonelienes is the album that turned me on to ambient in general, especially its opening track – “The Awakening”. It’s my favorite raison d’être track ever. I’ve listened to this track hundreds (if not thousands) of times and the magic is still there. I was lucky to start with such a musical album instead of some monotone droning. I think the mind needs some “training” for that – you can’t just start listening to deep drones after years of being into more dynamic music. I remember I was really disappointed when I heard Lustmord for the first time, and it took me years to start appreciating his music, while raison d’être immersed me right away.”

– Hristo Gospodinov of Shrine


Simon Heath of Cryo Chamber

Simon Heath

Q: Dark ambient is an obscure musical style with a tiny subculture. Why do you think dark ambient music has such a small fan base? Would you like to see this kind of music become more widely known?

A: “Instrumental genres always tend to be smaller than their vocal counterparts. It’s also a sub-genre, which makes it even smaller. I think dark ambient is a genre of music that will eventually be swallowed up by a larger umbrella by some other name. Most people that hear dark ambient for the first time have a very hard time pinpointing where it belongs, which is why we have been stuck with the “industrial” label for such a long time.

“I would love for dark ambient to be more widely known. I would however not like for it to be so commercial as for artists to be provocative just for the sake of driving sales, like having album covers with Satanist imagery and pentagrams. While I have zero problem with those symbols, it becomes cliché quickly.”

Q: What do you think would be the ideal venue for a live performance of dark ambient music, and why?

A: “A dark room with fantastic acoustics, dampened by cloth and big couches, and a black screen covering the artist so that all focus is on ourselves…I have always gone to concerts with my eyes closed, trying to find the optimal spot for the best acoustics.”

~ Simon Heath of Cryo Chamber


Miljenko Rajakovic of TeHÔM

Miljenko Rajakovic

Q: How and when did you first get involved in dark ambient music?

A: “I came to ambient and industrial music in the mid-1980s with what was then a brand new sound, with artists such as Lustmord, The Anti Group (T.A.G.C.), SPK, and Graeme Revell. SPK’s fascinating album Zamia Lehmanni influenced me greatly in those days.  It was the second dark ambient album I heard – the first being Lustmord’s Paradise Disowned in 1984. These two albums invited me into the world of dark ambient music. I also enjoyed old experimental Delerium material, including Stone Tower and Spiritual Archives, both from 1991.”

Q: What do you think would be the ideal venue for a live performance of dark ambient music, and why?

A: “Catacombs, maybe, because they provide an authentic dark atmosphere. TeHÔM had the honor of performing at the Wave Gothic Treffen Festival 2015, in the catacombs of Leipzig, in the amazing Moritzbastei Venue. It was a really nice place with good sound, video, and wonderful people – great for dark ambient music.”

Q: How would you describe the esoteric or mystical significance of dark ambient music to a curious outsider?

A: “I think the main advantage of dark ambient music is mysticism and deep spiritual feeling. In some cases, as with TeHÔM, there are a lot of ritual elements…I think dark ambient with ritual rhythms may be better accepted among outsiders who never listen to “that esoteric dark stuff.”

~ Miljenko Rajakovic of TeHÔM


William Leighton Fisher

William Leighton Fisher

“I look at dark ambient as a spirit, and we as listeners can allow ourselves to be its eyes and ears in the world. I have reached altered states of consciousness using dark ambient in meditations. During these sessions I wasn’t under the influence of any chemical agents. I would just open my mind and completely surrender myself to the music…I feel the music in every cell of my body. I look at dark ambient as the language before I was taught how to speak.”

~ William Leighton Fisher of Pisces Dark Art


Q: Scholar Kennet Granholm, in his 2013 article “Ritual Black Metal: Popular Music as Occult Mediation and Practice,” has identified within the black metal scene a growing movement of “explicit, systematic, and sustained engagements with the occult.” Members of this scene, Granholm states, “explicitly claim their artistry to be an expression of the occult – as divine worship or communion, an expression of and tool for initiatory processes, and/or an explication of seriously held beliefs.” Would you say that a similar or parallel movement is taking place in dark ambient music and culture? If so, who would you say are some of the key artists involved in this movement?

A: “Sure, I believe the interest is there and that there are a handful of artists from the new generation (Lamia Vox, Ouroboros, Temple of Not, etc.) exploring this realm, but I do not believe that artists are flocking to it in the same scope that black metal projects are…it has now become fashionable for many of these artists to take up the banner on subjects that they know scarcely little about. This can easily be witnessed in interviews with many of these projects as, when approached about these subjects, they simply speak in vague tongues or throw around a conglomerate of random esoteric keywords that do not form much meaning in the end. I can imagine it is also a daunting task to try to live up to the legacy of artists like Zero Kama, Archon Satani, Halo Manash, and the underrated Black Seas of Infinity. How exactly can one listen to the legendary The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. and hope to surpass it?

“Still, yes, I do believe that this is a very valuable area for which artists can look to evolve their craft. Personally, I’d like to see these artists look towards releasing in multiple medias though. There is so much more that dark ambient can be when combined with literature or visual additions. The collaboration between Lamia Vox and Krist Mort on Cyclic Law is proof enough of that.”

~ Sage Weatherford of Heathen Harvest Periodical


Jan Roger Pettersen of Svartsinn

Jan Roger Pettersen

Q: How and when did you first get involved in dark ambient music?

A: “…it was in the mid-to-late 1990s. For a long time I was searching for some kind of music that could help me in many of my personal struggles…

“I tried classical and other genres, but only a few works here and there did anything for me. But when I heard dark ambient for the first time, it was pure emotion and atmosphere, and I loved it instantly. I also knew instantly that I had the urge to create this kind of music. I felt I had it in me – that this would be my creative outlet and a “healing tool,” so to speak.”

~ Jan Roger Pettersen of Svartsinn


Q: What do you think would be the ideal venue for a live performance of dark ambient music, and why?

A: “I’m going to go with my personal experiences and say that the Phobos Festival IV I attended, which was held in an old church (and proved to be an amazing event) was more enjoyable than attending MZ.412, which was held at a standard music bar. Though I’d like to state that this choice is not based on the quality of the artists performing, but rather on the key point of this question – the venue.

“…sitting in a visually pleasing area is as much a part of the experience as any other element. The church was absolutely beautiful, internally and externally, and the large amount of space not only made it more comfortable but also provided a much grander sound spreading through the much more spacious building.

“Personally though? I’d love to see a dark ambient festival being carried out in an observatory or something similar; somewhere you could have all the visual elements to portray the effects the music has on your mental stimuli.”

~ Steven Williams, founder of Kalpamantra


Todd Janeczek of Withering of Light

Todd Janeczek

Q: Dark ambient music has been described as a particularly effective facilitator of introspection and inner journeys. One artist called it “…a special kind of music, requiring a special kind of attention.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

A: “Absolutely. I feel it puts you, or at least myself, into the proper head space needed for such a thing…for me this all came about due to certain esoteric subject matter…I am an Odinist/Asatruar – whichever you wish to call it – and am a Master Mason as well.”

“There are all sorts of cultures throughout history that use droning music, along with perhaps incense and other substances, to achieve a meditative state. I think that the tones that resonate from such things are keyed into our psyche or spirit.”

~Todd Janeczek of Withering of Light


Hærleif Langås of Northaunt

Hærleif Langås

Q: How and when did you first get involved in dark ambient music?

A: “This was slightly more complicated back then. I looked for this type of music without realising it for a few years, listening to sound-art on radio and later when my friends got into metal, and heard the occasional “ambient” track, but found these banal. Still, I felt this music direction had much more potential. Then I started getting albums randomly from mail order companies, CMI and the like. Keep in mind I grew up on the countryside in Norway and this was before Internet was available. I found the music I was looking for in the dark ambient albums of the time. This was in the early nineties.”

Q: What was the first music you heard that you would describe as dark ambient?

A: “The very first that I can remember was the track ‘Le Cerf Malade’ from My Dying Bride’s 1993 mcd The Trash of Naked Limbs. I remember thinking: “Why don’t they make entire albums like this…?”

~ Hærleif Langås of Northaunt


Q: Dark ambient is an obscure musical style with a tiny subculture. Why do you think dark ambient music has such a small fan base?

A: “Well, I’d say the dark ambient genre pretty much self-selects for people of lengthy attention spans, high intelligence, a fair bit of uninterrupted leisure time to listen to all those hour-long tracks, and a taste for darker music in general. And frankly, there just aren’t that many people in the world who fit that profile. So the limits to growth here are built-in.”

~ Anonymous


Rüdiger of Apoptose

Rüdiger

Q: Dark ambient music has been described as a particularly effective facilitator of introspection and inner journeys. One artist called it “…a special kind of music, requiring a special kind of attention.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

A: “Due to the solemn and slowly evolving character, the music helps you to move your thoughts away from the distractions of everyday life…So it sets the right mood to let your thoughts wander freely.”

Q: How would you describe the esoteric or mystical significance of dark ambient music to a curious outsider?

A: “I can’t explain that. But I’m sure everybody with some empathy will understand it while listening to the music for 5 minutes.”

“For me the process of creating music is definitely a spiritual thing.”

~Rüdiger of Apoptose


Matej Gyarfas of Phragments

Matej Gyarfas

Q: What do you think would be the ideal venue for a live performance of dark ambient music, and why?

A: “I have played and still enjoy playing a lot of strange places – an old underground war bunker, classic venues of various sizes, a huge squat, an abandoned monastery with no electricity (using fuel generators), a castle…it is always a feast when I get to play in an atypical space. I think these places have a very strong presence – their own personal “memories.” They just emanate some sort of magical energy that changes the live performance into something rare, festive…you might even say a ritual of sorts.”

“Dark ambient is definitely a big part of my spiritual life…It almost functions as a gate to another reality, where different rules apply. It’s like reading a great book or looking at a painting, but much more intense, faster, and more direct.”

~ Matej Gyarfas of Phragments


Ketil Søraker of Taphephobia

Ketil Søraker

“This is a genre which demands something from the listener…I don’t think this kind of music is for everyone…it is not an easy listening matter. Dark ambient can well be compared to a mystical book which is not easy to read, but after having understood it, it becomes your favourite.”

“…there are powers out there that I cannot explain…I feel a certain magic in the room when I create something, a magic that cannot be explained. Just as if there were another person who actually creates the music.”

~ Ketil Søraker of Taphephobia


Johan Levin of Desiderii Marginis

Johan Levin

“A piece of art to me is a bit like a magician’s hat. The artist can make something disappear and then have it reappear to the spectator. But the spectator may also put his hand in there and pull out something completely unexpected…”

~ Johan Levin of Desiderii Marginis


przemyslaw-murzyn

Przemysław Murzyn

Q: How and when did you first get involved in dark ambient music?

A: “I remember a funny story – my internet connection was so slow and expensive that I wasn’t even able to download samples from labels’ websites.  One day, though, I managed to download one raison d’être track.  Unfortunately it turned out that the file was somehow corrupted, and I could only listen to the first 10 seconds of the piece. I fell in love with those 10 seconds!  I listened to them over and over again, and I knew that this kind of music was for me.”

Q: Dark ambient is an obscure musical style with a tiny subculture. Why do you think dark ambient music has such a small fan base?

A: “I think most people instinctively look for three things in music: vocals, rhythm and melody. If any of these three attributes is missing in a song structure, it automatically becomes less interesting for the majority of people. And that’s only when one of these elements is missing. In dark ambient, often all of these elements are absent. Sometimes artists use vocal samples, rhythmic structures, or melodies. But plenty of dark ambient tracks consist of nothing but static drones and abstract soundscapes. For an average listener, such a composition is unacceptable, because it doesn’t contain elements that are easy to approach and ear friendly.

“I once played a couple of dark ambient tracks for a friend who didn’t know anything about the genre, but was very open-minded. It didn’t reach him at all, except for a Sephiroth composition – a track that had dynamic rhythmic elements to break up the monotony.  Patience is the virtue that is required to appreciate dark ambient, and most people don’t have enough patience, nor do they have the will to learn. Not to mention a specific, hard to describe sensitivity that…I don’t know, you have to be born with it I guess.”

Q: Dark ambient music has been described as a particularly effective facilitator of introspection and inner journeys. One artist called it “…a special kind of music, requiring a special kind of attention.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

A: “…it’s not a coincidence that ambient music is the closest to the sounds of nature. And just like the sound of sea waves, whistling of the wind, or howling of the wolves can affect a sensitive soul deeply, drones can do it as well. Dark ambient requires patience, but can be very rewarding. It’s perfect when you’re in a half-asleep state – then the drones can sneak into your mind more efficiently than any other kind of music. Plus, the tracks are often very long; they have no lyrics nor other elements that might distract the listener. I can’t really imagine any other kind of music that haunts you so entirely, overwhelms the body and the soul, and takes you into another world. It’s a link between the mundane and the world beyond.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the role(s) of the visual and performing arts in relation to dark ambient music?

A: “For me they aren’t a necessity, but if they’re well made, why not?  I can imagine that for many people, staring at a person with a laptop for an hour or more can be too much, even if the music itself is top notch. But the visuals have to be good and carefully thought out, not just random sequences from horror movies. Dehn Sora from Treha Sektori is one of the best in this business. I loved his visuals during a show I had the pleasure to see during the 2015 Wroclaw Industrial Festival.”

~ Przemysław Murzyn of Santa Sangre and Embers Below Zero


Next up to be added: quotes from Dehn Sora of Treha Sektori!

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