zaterdag 14 september 2019

Stalingrad Valkyrie: The old world will be collapsing pretty soon.

Many will agree: every opportunity is a good one to have a chat with Elena Alice Fossi. Not so long ago we've talked about the resurrection of Spectra*Paris, and again had a very good reason: the release of Martyrdom Europae, with which after a 17 years break side project Stalingrad , nowadays renamed Stalingrad Valkyrie, comes back to life. Angelo Bergamini also joined in the conversation that also was about the 40th birthday of Kirlian Camera, which makes 2019 an even more special year for both Italian legends.

DE: It was a very big and pleasant surprise when we saw the name of Stalingrad (Valkyrie) appearing at the NCN (Leipzig) festival, I think a lot of people didn’t expect to welcome you back. Why did you decide to return with Stalingrad (Valkyrie)?

Elena Alice Fossi - Don't know any reason why. Let's say it was about time. We recently composed many songs showin' that particular romantic and epically symphonic mood, so we opted for calling Stalingrad Valkyrie back to arms! I've been wanting to do that for a long time...

DE: Kirlian Camera is very active nowadays, and two years ago you’ve made a comeback with Spectra*Paris. Now also SVK joins in. I was wondering, if a new song is born when you rehearsal is there some kind of ranking in which project it (eventually reworked) will be released? Or does it happen when you rehearsal with one of the projects a new song arises that later will be released under another project?

Elena Alice Fossi – It's just a question of mood. We know listeners tend to identify a mood with a music genre, so... if it's complicated enough, a certain new song will be probably directed to Kirlian Camera, whereas complexity meets pop, new drama, futuristic visions and so on. SPECTRA*paris will take care of those paillettes Stalingrad Valkyrie couldn't offer due to imaginable reasons (unless the other part, that is Angelo, likes to paint fucsia a funeral statue!!!). But, it must be added that even in our main projects we not that seldom like to add some unexpected variation, sometimes going to put an atmosphere upside down. It happened with the last – and probably final – studio album of SPECTRA*paris, for example...

DE: SVK, KC and SP are musically three complete different projects, in which way are they different to you in ways of working?

Elena Alice Fossi - Kirlian Camera is “odd” enough for the people, so adding any further influence or sub-genres to our main project looks kinda impossible... it'd turn out to be taken as sheer schizophrenia, by today's listeners! So, it comes out natural to direct any “massive mood” (whether it goes to sound glam, naive or either apocalyptic) to other channels, being differently labelled, in order to underline that one finds himself to step on a different territory. All in all, Kirlian Camera is our most complex creature, today. Someone labels it as “Alien Pop”. We like it, it can represent us. Couldn't be otherwise!

DE: Also striking is that nowadays you added Valkyrie to your name. Is it because this is a new chapter in your history, or does it have another meaning?

Elena Alice Fossi – We've been informed that another band had the same name before we came out with our first album, time ago, although they got no huge popularity; so we decided to respect their long-service and went to add Valkyrie to the name of the project. It was not a sad step at all, as Angelo wasn't that sure he absolutely liked the original name, so we looked for a proper additional word, one having some meaning for Angelo too... Now, he looks happier by far, as his love for Wagner is going to definitely put a big stamp on the band identity!!!

DE: ’Heiliger Regen’ is definitely the key track on the Martyrium Europea album. You sing: “Wir kommen wieder, wir wollen gewinnen”, which sounds very victorious and in which you succeed. What’s this holy rain you’re singing about?

Elena Alice Fossi – Many interpretations possible. Let's say SVK owns kinda real disgust for current trends, whether they're musical, artistic, political and social in general. The Holy Rain you ask about might be found in our need to destroy today's rules, where REAL rebels are fighting alone, being stripped of any respect, even by those who claim to drive a rebellion against “new” and old totalitarisms and oligarchies. The old world will be collapsing pretty soon. A new world will rise, after a... holy rain. We wrote a song about such a joyful need to fight against darkness. And if death is a necessary ingredient of such an above mentioned future... then it's welcome!
DE: Kirlian Camera and Stalingrad absolutely have loyal followers in the dark folk and everything related to this scene. I know some of them like more the old stuff, and don’t follow the more recent things anymore. Is the comeback of Stalingrad Valkyrie also an attempt to please those people?

KC/SVK – No, we are not used to pleasing anybody. We several times proved we are not looking for any special followers, but those who are able to being open minded, those who are tuned in to music research essence itself. We are not a “genre band” and that has been undoubtedly proved many times, too. We could not have monocolored fans: it is simply impossible, due to the effective fact we are manycolored. Time ago, composers were used to jumping from an atmosphere to another, from a deep state of mind, say sadness or even despair, to joy and humour. That reflects kind of “being alive”, as for a musician – a real one - goes: it is necessary not to be fixed on any one way sensation, on one flat emotion only. It would be extremely easier, for us, to pack up many “one genre” albums and singles, as many other bands do in the electro/industrial scene (a scene we are not particularly fond of, as you can easily realize..). That would be perfect to exploit certain audience's request and we would lose less time in research and study. Today's music market tends to offer a global melting-pot called “Pop Music” in which several well-sponsored artists are working being tied to majors: from Editors to Madonna, from Imagine Dragons to Bjork. Different music for a wide nation of listeners and, after all, it must be said there is even more freedom than in some particular independent scenes. Then, there are the niches: Experimental, Gothic, Black Metal, Industrial, etc. All in all, we tend to going our own ways, regardless of the world and of those who claim to be alternative – ignoring the fact they are just another face of musical totalitarism. Reading these lines, you will exactly realize how much pleasing one audience or another means absolutely nothing to us. We are not slick and never will be: our sodality (Kirlian Camera + Stalingrad Valkyrie + Spectra*paris) reflects our purity. We do not reject huge success, but we are not willing to make a deal with this world. Music is our own world and it is a bulletproof world, we could not sell it out for whatsoever human reason, after so many efforts and sacrifice.

DE: If I have to summarize Martyrium Europae in one word, I’d chose for combative. Especially in songs as the earlier mentioned ‘Heiliger Regen’ but also ‘War Aurora’. Do you think this adjective is well chosen? And if so, what do we have to fight?

Angelo Bergamini - Combative and romantic, yes, whereas “romantic” shouldn't sound like an ode to broken hearts but as a strong feeling, one that doesn't find any real acceptation nowadays...

DE: The artwork (and format) of the album is also very beautiful! Could you tell us something more about it?

Elena Alice Fossi - Main image is coming from a Maximilian Pirner's painting, titled “Finis (The End of All Things)”, seemingly made early 900's. Pirner ain't that popular, today, so, given that his painting impressed us much, we opted for using it, although the original front cover of the album looked different, in the beginning. He is a painter of from the so-called style being labelled as “Finis Austriae” and I guess the sensation one may feel once taking a look to the image in question is going to perfectly fits in the general mood of our album. There's a deep sense of loss, decadence and sorrow, but some real sense of power keeps on shining kind of glorious over such darkness.

DE: Martyrium Europae contains a nice blend of neoclassical and electronic music, which artists were an influence in making these songs?
In our previous interview you’ve told me about your eclectical musical taste (Britney to SPK and back), which artists were an influence for the songs of SVK?

Angelo Bergamini – neoclassical and electronics are two main ingredients of our projects, whether you go to meet St. Valkyrie or either Kirlian Camera, not forgetting that even SPECTRA*paris got some strange digression on such a field. However, Elena Alice comes from relevant classic studies; she even was a praised singing teacher when she practically was a child, so she sometimes deeply feels an utter need to come back to the field in question. She is massively open to cutting edge electronics too, so it comes out natural she – at a certain point – would like to compose electro-symphonic music, going to sing on it. “The Black Mother” is a great example of her talent in regard to neoclassical attitude being aware of modern rhythms, although... she kind of surprised me when she came out with “Heiliger Regen”! I had no real suspect of such a powerful and genuine rage, or... let's say Elena is a complete creative musician, so... everytime she goes to surprise... although “surprise” isn't the rightest word, if you know what I mean. It'd be surprising if she didn't surprise, hahaha!!!

DE: You also told me you were looking for concerts with SV, are there already plans for shows?

Elena Alice Fossi – No dates, yet, although one is allegedly going to be planned in Sachsen (Saxony). We held two shows, recently; they have been so hugely appreciated that I couldn't understand this silence. It's to be said we aren't that immersed in any promotion, at the moment, but... who knows? Some people fear SVK, but I actually wonder why. That's music. Don't fear the music, come on... people need real music, REAL EMOTIONS, GENUINE FEELINGS!!! They're so thirsty of and... we really understand them...

DE: Meanwhile you’ve also released a new KC EP (Hellfire), and will release a full album last year. It seems there’s a lot of creativity going on at the headquarters these days?

Angelo Bergamini – Yes, a lot of creativity, you're being right! On the other hand, Elena doesn't know any rest... she hardly sleeps at night! She's in love with her gear, so she never likes the idea of having any social life, for example! She's not a bear, but I guess she loves music above all else, then... music is her real communication system: she hates social networks and promotion. She never likes to pose for photos, so I have to spit out blood for having some. Then, I have to make a lot of shots once she is available for cameras! She's a very kind person, so pleasant and genuinely well-mannered, but she couldn't help being immersed in the studio hours and hours a day. I have to do with an erupting volcano of energy and creativity! Fortunately...

DE: When we talked a few years ago about the latest SP album, you’ve told me Angelo decided to take a step back from the spotlight and let you be the spokeswoman for all projects. He even thought about working behind the stage, is he still considering this?

Angelo Bergamini – Well, here I am! You're right, I'd love to work behind the scenes. Spotlight doesn't fit my identity, although so many times I have had to play that role, in the past. And I don't like to speak about our “interests”, exceptions apart. Then, one speaker is enough!!! Elena Alice actually knows my feelings, you know... let's say none of the two is so able with words, but, given she's remarkably younger... then she'll have to take care of that; just a question of “seniority rights”, eheheh!!!

DE: With Kirlian Camera you worked with Covenant on your latest album. Imagine you could work together with an artist of choice for a new SVK track. Who are you thinking of then?

Elena Alice Fossi – Vangelis Papathanassiou or even Klaus Schulze are the names who are immediately coming to my mind, as well as Laibach, for sure.
Angelo Bergamini – I agree with you, but I'd like to add Miley Cyrus, though...

DE: This year KC will celebrate its 40th birthday, apart from the new cd I’ve mentioned before, how will you celebrate this event?

KC – let's say we are going to release our first live album ever, AT LAST!!! Then, ideas are so many that we'd need 10 years in addition to make 'em all come true! A big compilation and a brand new album are enclosed in the bag, plus some collaborations with artists we feel real and particular respect for. Don't ask for the names, as it's a bit too early, but... hey... they're sooo great!! We couldn't imagine they liked our music, as they come from other areas. However, there's kind of real admiration, among us... It's astonishing!

DE: Let’s close with a kind of tricky question: Elena Alice, You are also almost 20 years in KC, so imagine someone who’s not familiar with KC comes to you and asks for five tracks he should give a try, which ones would you recommend and why?

Elena Alice Fossi – I think “Sky Collapse” may turn outta be the rightest choice, although it's so recent. Then, I'd add “Helden Platz”, “K-Pax”, “Eclipse” and “The Fountain of Clouds”. But, hey... come on... ain't that easy!!!

zondag 14 juli 2019

Fïx8:Sëd8 - Warning Signs (CD review)

Genre: Dark Electro
Label: Dependent
Rating: 8/10

On the Amphi Festival 2019 poster, a special name is featured. On the last line, in small letters, it says Fïx8:Sëd8, an artist which you would not really expect at a large festival with names such as Blutengel and Lord Of The Lost. I have seen Martin Sane (real name: Martin Januszewski) perform in small clubs several times, at small-scale dark electro events that usually only attract a niche audience. The fact that Fïx8:Sëd8 is now also programmed at one of the most successful gothic festivals in Germany is therefore relatively surprising, although it helps if you are signed to a leading label such as Dependent. However, Martin will have to be content with a modest slot as an opening band: Fïx8:Sëd8 is already playing at the Orbit Stage in the early Sunday afternoon.

The timing could not be better: last month, Fïx8:Sëd8 released the album 'Warning Signs' and it is to be expected that Martin will play many songs from the new record on his summer and fall tour, which recently took off with his passage at the Familientreffen. Already at the time of the previous album 'Foren6', he had announced that the new CD would be fundamentally different. For 2 years, I was wondering what he meant with that. With 'Warning Signs' playing nonstop in my car in the last few weeks, I think I finally know the answer: the new Fïx8:Sëd8 is more alternative in a way. As in: less electronic than what you would expect from a dark electro act. Tracks like 'Syringe Relation', 'Love' and 'In Denial' (the latter being featured on the bonus CD 'Aftermath', which you get with the limited edition) are not typical dark electro and not even typical dark electronic music generally speaking. That may sound rather cryptic, but I would not know how else to describe it.

Do not fear: there are for sure authentic (dark) electro tracks on this album as well. My personal favourite is the title track 'Warning Signs', which is the last song on the CD. This one starts ominously, with various unearthly vocal effects that are reminiscent of Skinny Puppy. After a dark and atmospheric intro/build-up of roughly 2 minutes, the tone changes, which changes once again a few minutes later, after a kind of cinematic interlude. Very cool, although I wonder if and how Martin could bring such a complex song live. Another track that stands out for me is 'Within Cells Interlinked', which is strikingly "clubby" by Fïx8:Sëd8 standards. The same goes for the 'Ruptured Blood Vessel' remix of 'Embolism' on the limited bonus CD, which is more dancefloor-friendly than the original on the actual album. My top 3 is completed by 'Futile Attempts', not in the least because of the lovely vocals/vocal effects and occasional piano. The other songs do not appeal to me to the same extent, but I must admit that they are really well-made. Then again, I do not expect anything else from a dark electro artist who knows what he is doing.

On social media, certain diehard "Fixie" fans claim that 'Warning Signs' would be (even) better than 'Foren6', but I do not agree with that. Both are very good albums, but personally, I prefer the more classic dark electro style on 'Foren6', which explains why I have deducted half a point (my ratings always reflect a combination of objective and subjective considerations). But all fans probably agree on one thing: Fïx8:Sëd8 is by far the best (or at least the most interesting) addition to Amphi's line-up this year. Go watch it!

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

zondag 12 mei 2019

Amnistia - Black Halo (CD review)

Genre: EBM - Electro
Label: 9XO Media
Rating: 8/10

Anyone who attended BIMFest last year could get acquainted with Amnistia. For me, it was not the first acquaintance, however, it was the first time I saw the gentlemen in my own country. I have already met Stefan Schötz and Tino Claus various times during my wanderings in the European old-school electro scene. Most of the time, I encounter the two in East Germany, more specifically at the WGT EBM Warm-Up in Leipzig (their place of residence) and at the Lauscher Festival in Erfurt. I have also stumbled across them in Oberhausen (E-tropolis Festival) and in Bratislava (Dark EBM Souls). But then again, the European dark electro scene is very small and everybody knows everybody. Consequently, it was written in the stars I would review this CD, even though I have bought it myself. Believe it or not, but us reviewers still invest in music, even though we can generally still obtain (digital) promos rather easily.

'Black Halo' is the follow up of 'Dawn', the album from 2016 which I also reviewed for this webzine at the time and on which former third band member Jan Moritz had still collaborated. Amnistia has now been a duo for a while and that has in no way resulted in any loss of quality. Just like the previous album, 'Black Halo' is a guarantee for cast-iron compositions in the old-school electro/EBM setting. Compared with other bands in the contemporary dark electro scene, Amnistia has always been more EBM-oriented. Their tracks have a cutting-energetic touch which you do not encounter with let’s say, Fïx8:Sëd8 or Pyrroline. I certainly think they are talented, but fact is I am personally more into classic dark electro. I have always struggled a bit more with EBM, even though that strongly depends on the kind. For instance, I do not like Nitzer Ebb/Anhalt stuff at all, but fortunately, that is not the case here. Amnistia’s EBM is of a very different (and in my opinion, much more varied) nature.

Even though I have to acknowledge that 'Black Halo' is objectively well-made, I do not like all songs to the same extent. For example, 'The Itch' sounds rather overloaded and 'Last Words Purify' vaguely reminds me of 'Nightfall (Over EC)' by The Cassandra Complex, a song which I have never liked. I also deem 'Suffer' as one of the less memorable compositions. But the majority of the tracks is certainly good or great. My top 3 consists of 'Through The Night', 'Misery' and 'Package Of Regrets'. They are 3 very distinct tracks, each of which in their own way showcases an attractive, ear-friendly old-school electro/EBM sound. An honorary mention goes to 'We Do Not Disturb Our Dead'. This atmospheric, dark instrumental sounds totally different from the rest of the album (as well as different from what I am used to as regards Amnistia). In a way, it would have made more sense if the band would have kept this song for the bonus CD 'Black Halo Encores' (available as part of the limited box set; soon also digitally), but instead, it has become the last track of the actual album. Not that I am complaining.

With 'Black Halo', Amnistia has proven that old-school electro/EBM still sounds exciting and refreshing in 2019. So far, I have heard nothing but enthusiastic feedback and in all objectivity, I myself can conclude that this is a solid, contemporary album in the genre.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen





zaterdag 20 april 2019

Evi Vine: "We have a few stories but maybe over a beer one day … My lips are sealed! haha … "

It was at the Black Easter Festival edition 2016 that I witnessed 2 bands performing who urged me to rush towards the merchandise stands in order to buy any material by them I could find… after 1 or 2 songs already… The first band was our National Postpunkish Pride calles Whispering Sons and the second one was Evi Vine, who came to present her 2nd album Give Your Heart To The Hawks… 
They were picked up by festival organiser (and founder of Peek-A-Boo magazine ànd IT-wizzard for Dark Entries) Ward De Prins to play on his beloved Black Easter. That same Ward De Prins came to pass away last year, being greatly missed by fellow music lovers and befriended artists alike. Some of his close friend came tot he idea to celebrate Ward with a  new edition of Black Easter, inviting some of the best bands of former festival editions, not forgetting the great 2016 passage of Evi Vine…
Evi and her band will be performing material from their 3rd record Black/Light/White/Dark, but not before kindly answering our questions…

Dark Entries : The first time I saw you performing was on the Black Easter Festival, some years ago, the same festival and on the same location you will be playing (again) on april 20… The second time was a gig for Can’t Live In A Living Room (wich was in someone’s living room indeed)… I understand that you met Ward, the late organiser of Black Easter on a previous Can’t Live-gig…? Is that how you came to play Black Easter in 2016 in first place…?

Evi Vine : Yes, that’s right: we met Ward for the first time through Eddy and Anja who are amazingly supportive beings whom we love dearly and they introduced us to Ward. He was so kind to us and his enthusiasm for the scene was unstoppable and contagious. Black Easter 2016 for us was a time of transitions, GB our drummer had just joined and we were trying out a bigger sound which led us to where we are now with this album….so we are very much looking forward to return to BE 2019 and perform the new material.

Other people came accross your music via Joy Division tribute-album A Change of Speech, A Change of Style, where you contributed with a reworking of Dead Souls. How came this into life? Did it opened some doors…?

EV : We have had some great support from a dear friend & collegue Sven Affeld who was integral in our support tours with Phillip Boa, also NCN Festival.  And being asked to contribute to the album havinjg opened doors …? I’m not sure but we have had some really positive feedback. There is a great deal of pressure taking on a track from such an influential band. Working with Danny Nolan aka 'Flint Kids' on production certainly gave it the dark edge . 
You also came to sing with Goth supergroup The Eden House (feat. Tony Pettitt from Fields of the Nephilim, amongst other fine names)… How did you end up singing and touring with them…?

EV : I met Tony & Peter (Yates?) at Elektroworks… We were there to see our mutual friend Bob White perform with his band NFD, so the communications started from there … which led to me writing & recording  Reach Out, In The Fire For You and The Dark Half with the guys. 
In The Eden House you shared vocal duties with Monica Richards (Strange Boutique, Faith and the Muse, solo, …), so you are familiar with each other. She’ll be performing Black Eatser the same day as you… Long time no see…? 

EV : Actually we don’t know each other that well. There was a really amazing performance where we were all together but maybe for just one show? In that time Amandine,  myself & Valentine toured the first album just the three of us … but we are really looking forward to see Monica performing live again at Black Easter

To play the Fields-card again: you already worked with Tony and now Peter Yeats (one time guitarist with Fields) worked with you on the single Sabbath, from your new album Black/Light/White/Dark… Do you have any harmless Fields-aneqdotes from them…? 

EV : We have been working with Peter Yates for years. We have toured together as part of Evi Vine and of course Peter recorded on the 2nd album Give Your Heart To The Hawks too… We have a few stories but maybe over a beer one day … My lips are sealed! haha …  

So we have Peter Yates but also Simon Gallup (Cure) working with you and the band on Sabbath… How come this into life and what was your experience with this…?

EV : Being in a space with Simon was so inspiring as I’m sure you can imagine … He is such a humble guy which makes the experience all the more fulfilling. The discussion to do something together has been some years in the making just trying to get the timing right. We feel so privileged… 

The single Sabbath has a heavier sound then we are used from you (next single My Only Son proved to be more old school Vine again)… Also the videoclip has a more heavy pictural approach… The title Sabbath makes me think of a period of contemplation but I heard that the video is all bout transformation?

EV : Transformation / Metamorphosis … Who are we if we don’t shed our skins ... The only reason I can think of for being here is to learn, grow, be more than we were before .. step outside the fear … it’s not always easy … Craig Murray’s work is out of this world… We just adore him… 

Would you say that the whole album deals with transformation in some kind or another…? 

EV : Yes, I think so … The album is layered like always … The songs deal with the recent loss of loved ones … They pass into new dimensions and we remain … Transforming in the cycle or destruction & rebuilding from within… 

Black/Light/White/Dark contains 6 tracks, so people would expect a short album. Wrong, I would say, because you’ll let the tracks breathe… (discuss…  )

EV : We didn’t want to have as many constraints this time  … We were recording for the first time as a band with Matt Tye on bass & GB on drums with everyone bringing something to the table … There are a few vocal based tracks but the album is not lead by stories this time, so yes > more room for the music to breath

You and Steve are vegans… I know that veganism has a deep impact on a lot of things that I do in life… In what way and how much does this influences you in terms of your work as an artist…?

EV : I let you leave … Hmmm… to know the difference & the burden it become’s  you can’t unclear things, you can’t unsee terrible things once you know you step into a mother level of understanding… For us there is no option… 
GB is nearly there too… If we are talking about food then usually the communication works better one to one,  as long as people don’t feel like they are being threatened or judged, wich sadly is often the case … Some get very defensive when it comes to the eating of animals/meat conversation. They feel like their rights are being compromised somehow > they trust the system and don’t want to have to rethink eating…We have become accustomed to instead of taking new information on such things they may never have known… People can get very defensive .. They have animal companions, see themselves as good and kind people, have no knowledge of industrial farming practices and have never known to question the system… So defences go up… 

You are very weary about what’s happening in the world (politics, environment issues ,… ) and you speak out, being it in your lyrics (examples?) or during mid-concert speeches… As an artist you use your channels… Do you feel that people are open for this, I mean besides the music…? Do you experience moments that the message gets really across…? 

EV : Our recent show in Belgium, where you were present, was a very special night >  one fueled with emotion… Ward was as a brother to many...He was a dear friend to so many… The music community lost a friend and champion. It was a rare thing for me to feel as I did that night and I composed a spoken work piece reflecting the pain and love  present in the room…

During the Living Room-gig I was in the company of a Lady with a lifelong carreer in dancing, also Butoh (a post-war Japanese dance-art, known for it’s transformating potential)… If you would use the skills and experience of someone like that, how would you put it into use…? I did see AmenRa performing with a Butoh-dancer onstage and it was very powerful …

EV : Yes we did met her there and I’m so glad you are reminding me … She was a very charismatic inspiring woman and I would defer to her experience … I’m sure we could create a living working piece with movement both musicaly and physicaly… It could be very important to film this  … Maybe something for Craig Murray ?? 

Looking forward to your Black Easter-gig > what may we expect…? 

EV : When we get on stage now as a 4 piece, the aim is to connect with each other musicaly and sonicaly….That’s what we are looking for, The moments where you feel it may explode or take a new direction or improvisation… We will be playing the whole lot of Black/Light/White/Dark possibly for the first time ever and that will be exciting for us to share. Mostly we are also looking forward to catching up and seeing old friends… 

Well… see you folks there, for music ànd stories… !! 

(interview by Jan Denolet) 

maandag 25 maart 2019

Trouwfest #3: Art Abscons

The first name that was announced for the third edition of Trouwfe(e)st was German act Art Abscons. A mysterious masked man whose music we’ve been following from the beginning. He invited us for a private concert, “Art Abscons in the Green”, at his homeplace in Duisburg last summer. It was a unique experience, after which our decision was made to let this nice man make his debut in Belgium. An offer he accepted very gratefully even though performing on stage is not his favorite part of being a musician.

DE: Art Abscons: an artist with a mask. Logical first question: why? What’s the story behind the mask?

AA: I believe that there are two kinds of artists. Firstly, there are those who do their art mainly for personal fulfilment. They are usually proud of their own accomplishments and enjoy whatever appreciation, recognition or fame – huge or small – they receive from their audience. In most cases, they enjoy what they are doing, and this is also the reason why they are doing what they are doing. They are expressing themselves through their art. They simply do what they want and, often, what they think their audience wants. A very healthy approach. Secondly, however, there are those artists who are forced to do what they are doing, no matter if they want to or not. Their urge to create art is compulsory. Art is like a spirit on its own that haunts them and that forces them to do whatever art wants – neither what the artist wants nor what they believe their audience wants. These artists do not express themselves; they express something more universal, something that is merely speaking through them. Art is like a Higher Will from a realm beyond that is forced onto these artists, and they are merely artisans who use their craft and their tools to create what this Will commands. For this reason, artists belonging to this second category do not feel personally responsible for what they are doing, and, hence, they are not proud of their works and do not feel that they, as a person, deserve the applause or recognition they receive. I have always felt that I belong to this second category. I have chosen a mask to show that the art I deliver does not belong to me. I am nothing but a tool.

DE: The mask is also quite contrary: the scary mask and the lovely music you play. Just like the picture where you're posing with the mask next to children, which I think is a very strong image.  

AA: When the Grandmaster came to me for the first time some ten years ago, he communicated the following formula to me: "Good + Evil = Beauty". The world is torn into a thousand shreds by the force of contradiciton. Nothing makes sense by itself, except for beauty – because beauty resolves all contradiction. This is why we need beauty, desperately. Most people do not fathom the abysmal quality of true beauty. They confuse beauty with the nice and pleasant and do not realise how shallow this is. They are numbing their minds and their senses with cheap pleasures. However, you do not heal the pain of existence by distracting yourself from it. You have to face it, immerse yourself in it, analyse its nature and resolve it from deep inside. Beauty is the product of knowledge and understanding. The process is painful – but the more painful it is, the greater is the consolation awarded by understanding. You can see the traces of this process in the Grandmaster's countenance. He has suffered, he has seen life's universal ugliness and yet there is something triumphant in his features, a stange and knowing smile. He has mastered the universal challenge of transforming pain into beauty by means of knowledge. He has eaten the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  
Children usually love the Grandmaster at first sight even though he looks ugly. I guess that is because children understand complex things more easily and intuitively than we grown-ups do. They instictively know that the Grandmaster is safe and instantly integrate him into their cosmos. I have never seen a child that was scared by him – even if parents were sometimes sceptical in the beginning, especially if they know that their child is usually afraid of masks or easily scared in general. Maybe you will remember five-year-old Vincent who was also at the small gig out in the green last year. When his parents asked him if he had not been afraid of the mask, he replied, "Why should I? Superheroes also wear masks." And I could add that superheroes usually know a lot about suffering, too. 

DE: You use an alter ego you named Grandmaster Abscon. What’s the story behind this character?

AA: To me, Grandmaster Art Abscon is a personification of art itself – of the ART that haunts ME. I do not know exactly where it comes from. The orders I receive come at night, when I am sleeping. Their source is hidden to me. I call this source "Abscondinium". It is a realm I know to exist. I can see and hear it constantly weaving behind all phenomena of the physical world. I believe that many have tried to describe it. It could be the "Realm of Ideas" in Plato's Allegory of the Cave, it could be the Gnostics' "Pleroma", it could be Rudolf Steiner's "Devachan" or Philip K Dick's "Republic", or, it could be C.G. Jung's "Collective Unconscious". It is all true, I guess, and at the same time, it is not. This realm is unknowable. There are moments, however, in which our material world is drenched in it. This is when magic happens. I love it when that happens. 
Art's last name is Abscon for a reason. My family has roots in the north of France, in a small town called Abscon. I always loved this word, especially when I learned that, in modern French, "abscons" means something like "difficult to understand". The word is derived from Latin, of course, "absconditus" meaning "hidden". When the Romans invaded Gaul and came to the place that today is called Abscon, it was deserted and hidden deep in the woods. They used it as a secret hide-out and called it "Abscondinium". 

DE: Last year you released under your own name Tellbach a minimal synth album. Did you feel the time was right to do something else?

AA: Yes, I needed a change. I had been working on ART ABSCONs' "The Separate Republic" for five years. This work had been very exhausting. I needed something lighter and easier to recover and to distract myself for a while. I did in fact use Tellbach to narrate some personal stories and to get them off of my chest. I needed it as a kind of psychological compensation, a holiday from my serious work, so to say. But I also used it to learn new things about music production, like dabbling in analogue synthesizers and recording on all forms of magnetic tape. It was... fun. Some of the things I learned from it are coming in handy now that I have started to work on the next ART ABSCONs album, "Nach allen Regeln der Kunst". Art has started to contact me again during my sleep, and I know that the work on this new album will be very exhausting again. I am sure that I will need another Tellbach album to recover from it when it is accomplished. 

DE: Alongside the Tellbach you also released the Misty Bywater album on your own Opus Abscondi label. What will be next on OA?

AA: I have the very great privilege to release the next Kinit Her album, "Fire Returns to Heaven". I have always loved their music, and this just feels right. This new album is a very good one, maybe even their best so far. I am currently waiting for the final audio master, and then the album will probably be released in April – the CD version on Opus Abscondi, and the cassette version on Brave Mysteries. 

DE: I just want to show my respect for this. Nowadays you have to be an idealist to release music and me as a music lover are very grateful for people like you. As a musician, what’s your opinion about the future?

AA: Thank you. There are many reasons why I stick to releasing physical albums on vinyl, CDs and cassettes even though there are only very few people left who are still listening to physical sound carriers and even though you spend more money than you earn if you release music on physical mediums. Not only do I believe that the latter sound better and that the poor audio quality of music streams is damaging to our physical and mental health, I also know from first hand experience that music streams are virtually killing music and artists. It is not only the financial aspect, but money is an important factor, of course, that can either make art possible or impossible. Recording a good album properly takes a lot of time and energy, but it also requires expensive equipment and other resources. If you only have the sparetime that your day job leaves you to work on your art, you cannot accomplish that much, and if you earn nothing with your art, it will be very difficult to finance all the things that are required to produce it with the money your day job provides you. Music streams have made it impossible to earn any money with music. Either your music is on YouTube or bandcamp, where people are listening to it for free, or they pay for an account in a digital music store. While the latter is very noble, the artists they are listening to will actually only get a ridiculously tiny fraction of the money. ART ABSCONs, for example, is available in various digital music stores, and I can see that my music has ten thousands of streams per month, and yet I only earn about three or four US Dollars per month. I can buy two bottles of beer from a kiosk for this – for albums that have cost thousands of euros in production. All this leaves me very little time and resources for my art. I am not complaining because I know that every aspiring musician today is facing the same problem. The good thing about the internet is that it makes your music available to many people and that it can have great exposure. However, people will have to understand that, if they are no longer willing to properly pay for music, new music will gradually get worse, and good music will become less and less and eventually disappear, simply because gifted artists neither have the time nor the money to create beautiful things – and those who will struggle on anyway will be sacrificing their entire lives and energies for this until they collapse. It is only the big music industry that profits from music streams while minor artists are being eliminated. The conditions for producing and promoting good underground music are getting worse and worse. Everyone who is still investing their energies in it deserves praise and is a hero – and I am not taking about myself – I am talking about people who organise underground concerts, write reviews about obscure artists or host alternative radio stations, I am talking about DJs, but also about those people who will still buy a vinyl record or a CD from an independent artist. I am talking about people like you, in short. Thank you for existing. 

DE: Am I the first to say this or did you heard this before: your voice reminds me a lot of Alexander Velljanov. Deine Lakaien is very successful, also because of this specific voice. I would feel very frustrated in this case. How difficult is it to promote your music, because I know you've started your own label because you weren't happy with the labels you worked with in the past?

AA: To be honest, you are indeed the first to compare my voice to Alexander Velljanov's! I must admit that I was never really interested in Deine Lakaien, even if I think that they are quite good and that I would probably like their music if I gave it a proper listen, so at least I can claim that I am not trying to imitate Alexander Velljanov. But, why should it be frustrating to me that they are successful? They were lucky enough to get a proper record contract at a time when there was no internet and when the music industry was still functioning and took the fact into consideration that artists also need money to be able to produce art. Musicians who had some success back then will even nowadays enjoy a better status and better conditions than those who have started out to try their luck in the days of the internet, but I know that things have also gotten a lot harder for the older heroes. So, no, I do not envy them at all. I suppose that all times have their own particular challenges, and I am ready to face the challenges of today. I enjoy the fact of being truly independent now with my own label, Opus Abscondi. I can make all decisions for myself – and even if I am not super-famous, my music has a few very dedicated listeners. I am generally more interested in quality than in quantity, also when it comes to the nature of my listeners.

DE: You’ve worked with Osewoudt on a track for their first album. Willem Witte, at that time still in Osewoudt, will also perform at Trouwfest with his EBM project Pantser Fabriek. Are you familiar with this project?

AA: You know what? I think it has been eight years since I last saw Willem. I look very much forward seeing him again. It was always a very great pleasure to meet him. Of course, I have been aware of Pantser Fabriek. I love it. 

DE: Which act at Trouwfest you don’t want to miss?

AA: First of all, let me thank you sincerely for inviting me to play there. 

As for the other acts, since I will be there, I will want to miss none of them, and I am sure I will enjoy all concerts a lot – provided that I will not be too nervous about my own performance. I must admit that, apart from Pantser Fabriek, I did not know any of the other acts until I looked them up. I am not a great scenester and usually so busy with my own music that I am hardly aware of what is happing around me. It is not out of arrogance or ignorance, though. It is especially during my creative episodes that I can hardly listen to anyone else's music because any foreign input will distract me from what I hear inside. But I have looked into all the projects that will perform at Trouwfest, and can say that I look forward to all of them.  

DE: Last summer you invited 20 friends for a private concert in the green in Duisburg, the place where you rehearse. Thanks again for sharing this magical moment. Is it harder to do a concert like this, or just the oppossite?

AA: The worst thing that can happen to me is to get on a stage and sing into a microphone. Technology hates me. It usually all goes wrong. When I wear that mask, I am virtually blind because I cannot wear my glasses under it. I do not see where things are. Damn, it is so dark. I am night-blind on top of it all. I stumble over cables. I might even tip over and fall from the stage. I cannot see which foot pedal I need to hit or what the tiny red lamps on it say. I am drenched in sweat. It is too hot under this mask. Those stage lights are killing me. My left cheek is itching and I cannot scratch it. It drives me insane. Oh no, the microphone stand just collapsed. I hope it did not hit anyone down there and that no one got injured. There is a humming noise from a broken cable. Damn, why does it have to happen now? The battery for the active pickup of my guitar is suddenly empty, too. Damn, it was brand-new. I need to replace it before the next song. That will not look very grandmasterly. Why am I doing this? This is hell. Why the hell did I agree to play on a stage again? I must have been out of my mind when I said yes. I have no idea how many people are out there in the audience. I cannot see a damn thing. Are they all filming this to later expose my misery on YouTube? I think I actually prefer unplugged concerts. Yes, I do. Small, unplugged concerts. Without technology. By daylight. Without cables on the ground. Without a microphone stand before me. You have no idea what you have done to me. 

DE: Art Abscons is always placed in the neofolk corner, but your style goes further than that. You’ve already worked together with some big names of the neofolk genre (Luftwaffe, Gnomonclast). Do you feel comfortable with this neofolk label?

AA: I don't know. I always did what I did and never really cared how to call it or what the genre was. It was mainly others who have put me into this corner. I am both grateful and annoyed by it. I am grateful because neofolk has been a genre that permits many artistic liberties, offers a very interesting framework and because it is a highly intellectual scene that has been very faithful and loyal to its values and to its artists. Without it, I would most probably be nothing. Or at least, hardly anyone would care for what I am doing. However, at the same time, I am sometimes annoyed by the artistic restrictions and the very narrow expectations that such a categorisation can impose on you. Some people will hear strummed acoustic guitars and windchimes in my music and see runes all over my artworks even if there are none while others will comdemn my music especially if there are no strummed acoustic guitars and windchimes or runes all over my artworks. Yes, my music is different from what is generally referred to as neofolk. As I have said earlier, I do not do what I believe a specific audience expects. I do what I have to do. If this mainly appeals to neofolkers, I am okay with it.  

DE: When I published the flyer for Trouwfest you’ve said it looked very ‘German’, of course because it’s in the style of our headliner Wappenbund. Do you feel you have to compete with the prejudices that are related with the neofolk genre?

AA: What is traditionally referred to as neofolk often purposefully polarises by treating a specific part of German history in a highly artistic and ambivalent manner. This approach is often highly intelligent, and I find it very intriguing and thought-provoking if it has great artistic quality and does not follow a one-sided political scheme. All of it just does not happen to be my topic. Everything that characterises ART ABSCONs lies beyond everything else: beyond space and time, and most certainly beyond politics, or, history. ART ABSCONs is all about magic and the quest for knowledge. 
The impression that most people outside of the scene have is that neofolk is nothing but a glorification of fascist ideals – which is, of course, even true to a certain degree. There have been several people thoughout the years who have personally accused me of being a right-wing extremist, just because they have googled my music project, stumbled across a term called "neofolk" and let their fancy guide them. I am not interested in strengthening this connotation with my music since it is not a part of it. 

DE: I remember on Facebook you’ve participated in some kind of ‘book-challenge’. As holidays are coming closer, which book do you recommend to put in our luggage?

AA: All of them. I am currently reading a book by Maria Renold that is called "Intervals, Scales, Tones and the Concert Pitch C = 128 Hz". I can recommend it if you want to be totally confused and then wish turn the world upside down by means of music. 

Thank you very much for the interview.

Credits pictures: picture 1: Pantalaimon Fotografie , foto 4: Sebastian Pichard

Art Abscons

Trouwfest #3: with Art Abscons, Riotmiloo, Ashtoreth, For Greater Good, Panster Fabriek and Wappenbund: June 15th at JH Wommel (Wommelgem).