dinsdag 29 maart 2016

Max Lilja: The classical world is still full of puritans that will never see any value in what I or other like minded people do.

Max Lilja is famous in the metal scene as one of the founders of Apocalyptica and Hevein, and as a musician with Tarja Turunen. But this musical centipede ventures in any possible musical style. On Coalescaremonium, he will present his solo project, in which he mixes layered cellos with minimalist electronics. We had an interview with someone who dares to color outside the lines.

Dear Max. You are known as one of the founders of Apocalyptica, a band who has gained international recognition, and later on with Hevein. Why did you decide to start a solo project?

Hello all! I was always interested in finding something new in music and in the ways of making music. Already after Apocalyptica I had a vision about an electronic cello project, I was always quite open minded when it comes to music genres and I was digging electronic stuff already in those days. It then took many years of experimenting to find a satisfying way of making electronic music using the cello as the only sound source.

You had a classical schooling in cello, but you really sought and achieved to play cello in formations that are unusual for classically schooled musicians, first in metal and now in electronics. How do your partners in the classical music world react to your other projects?

I’ve actually grown a bit away from the classical world and see myself more as musician than as a cellist. The classical world is still full of puritans that from the instruments point of view will never see any value in what I or other like minded people do, but gratefully there are many that think differently and understand the importance of musicians who bravely follow their intuition without being limited by the tradition. For me, it's kind of the only way to create something new.

A big difference with the music you play in several bands is that you stand all alone on stage now. How do you deal with that aspect?

My live set with all the looping and stuff is already technically so demanding and in that sense very high risk. It also requires a 100% performance from the playing point of view in order to deliver the magic, so there really is no loose time for anything outside of the music. It is indeed very different from playing in a band where you get the energy also from playing and interacting with other musicians and especially in rock and metal where it’s full on all the time. Now it’s just me and the audience but I’ve been playing an instrument since I was 5, and I have been on stage alone already at that age, so in that sense this is nothing new.

The main difference - however - seems to be the use of minimal electronics in your solo work. Did you feel that there was a different approach in the compositions in comparison to other projects?

It’s always different depending on the concept and the people working on the music. I now have two solo albums out and the 3rd is coming together as we speak. The vision, songs and arrangements are ready. It just needs a little bit fine-tuning and I’m ready to record it in the coming months. The processes behind the three records have been very different in many ways. For instance the 2nd I composed entirely on cello, the 3rd with piano which I then arranged to cello. When I arrange my solo material, though, it’s all cello. I think almost as if there was a normal ”band” that I’m writing to. I have used almost same kind of elements and ”instrumentation”. As said earlier I always try to renew and think fresh.

You play with all sorts of bands, both in the studio as live. Will you play any style of music? Do you make a selection of the bands you want to work with?

I’ve always been fairly open minded for music and honestly, in todays world as a free lance musican it’s better to do the gigs if there is some available. I’ve been very lucky to have been able to mostly work in projects where I enjoy the music and the people around it, like the work with Tarja Turunen.

You recently started experiencing with the Halldorophone, an electro-acoustic instrument with resonating strings. What are your plans with this instrument?

The Halldorophone is a true beast. It’s so powerful and I’m really impressed about it and want to explore it more. I’ve written a 15 min piece for it that I’ll perform in an electronic music festival in Finland in a few weeks. It’s a very cinematic instrument. Halldor Ulfarsson, who made the instrument, has a vision of me playing it in the church in Leipzig during the Wave Gothic Treffen. Would be great.

You will be playing on Coalescaremonium on April 2, an event with a very distinct concept and a great variety of musicians. Are you happy with the concept? Do you feel affiliated with the other acts on Coalescaremonium?

I’ve been performing in gothic events dozens of times in the last twenty years and it’s always been great. You cannot find that variety of different genres of music and other performing arts almost anywhere else, not to forget the respect the people have towards the artists. It seems that - for Coalescaremonium - all the acts are hand selected for a particular purpose in order to build a very unique memorable night. I’m very grateful to be part of it and can create the magic of the music together with the crowd… one of the important elements for our hearts and minds in these devastating times. See you in a couple of days!
Max Lilja: website / facebook


Interview: Xavier Kruth

zaterdag 19 maart 2016

Coalescaremonium: Expect a most incredible experience, filled with high quality entertainment that you will not often see in one day!

On April 2, the next edition of Coalescaremonium will take place, the fourth in a row. It will not be hard to convince those who experienced a previous edition to attend - certainly since the musical program was expanded considerably - but we thought it would be a good idea to give Discipulus - one of the organizers of the party - the opportunity to make a list of all the arguments for the doubters.

Hi Discipulus. You organize Coalescaremonium for the fourth time this year. The theme of this edition is Art Nouveau Noise. Can you give us some more explanations?

Each year, the challenge for our organization is to develop a theme in two contradictory-looking terms that define the goth scene. Art Nouveau Noise is the latest instance in which we literally want to quote the two underlying art flows and bring a figurative interpretation of 'new noisy arts'.

On Coalescaremonium, so many elements will be presented throughout the day, ranging from historically correct Art Nouveau to what some would simply interpret as disturbing noise, and this in an extensive program full of music, art, fashion and performance in which we give ourselves and our beautiful monastery location a real revamp.

The program is much more focused on music this year. In recent years, only two bands were programmed, now there are eight. Why did you expand this aspect so much?

We started with one band, one solo project and three deejays in our first edition. Our plan was to set the bar higher every year and add an extra band each time. Now there are 4, and we are exploring the limits of our concert hall.

Last year, the theme was based around performance and film. We had three appearances (two bands with use of projections and a burlesque show) in the concert room and the chapel was renamed cinema, where 4 scene related musical short films were displayed during the day.

The approach now is to provide a stage for four one-man projects with a similar setup and use the chapel as a quiet and intimate music hall, in contrast to the bombastic concert hall. Thus, we work out our concept while offering another concert every hour.

Can you briefly go through the bands you have invited and say why you who have chosen them?

We start with two Belgians; the magisterial Hedera Helix, who fit so well in our concept as if it would be determined by divine intervention; and SEM, a chiptune project from my own Heimat Limburg, where despite the low number of events, the interest in music is wonderfully high.

After them, two unique concerts will take place: Pretentious, Moi?, the British goth rockers in peacock theme that have never played Belgium yet; and the debut concert of KnK, the project of two Antwerp scene rot which was launched last year. They bring melodious drone EBM under the title Dead Body Music.

Then we have truly two legends whose influence in the scene is difficult to refute. Sirenia, with frontman Morten Veland as the founder of the Norwegian gothic metal, which will present their latest back-to-the-roots album, and Max Lilja, Finnish cellist and founder of Apocalyptica, who recently started a minimal electro solo project.

Finally, we have two musicians, who both produce a legion of sound in their most indescribable music. The Canadian Iszoloscope produces power noise full of influences from other genres; and Luminance, the one man new wave project that beautifully draws with related synth sounds.

The eight groups represent just as many styles of music; from minimal synth to gothic rock, from industrial to gothic metal. This fits in the ambition of Coalescaremonium to bring as many different submovements from the gothic scene together. Are you happy with this diversity?

We could not have been happier. All the artists were our first choice, and the totality of  their music represent our theme better than we could ever have dreamed.

The homegrown music is well represented: Hedera Helix, KnK, Luminance and SEM. An excellent choice, as far as we are concerned. Is it your express wish to support the local scene?

It has always been the intention to bring a 50/50 story. We make it our mission to program international bands that are seldom or never invited in Belgium and, secondly, to support local artists who are highly active in the goth scene.  Ultimately, we as organizers ask the same support of the Belgian public, so it seems only natural to open our wonderful location for those who are searching for ways to play in their own country.

It is noteworthy that there are less DJs than last year, but they are very international with DJs from Japan, Australia and the US. Is there a concept behind the DJ sets?

Because we already covered so many genres with the addition of the chapel as a concert room, it seemed a good idea to limit the number of DJs  this year and go for longer sets. That way, we can involve a number of artists with whom we wanted to work together for some time and from which we also know that they fully support our concept.

Ultimately, the ballroom offers a continuous alternative to what is going on in the live venues and we provide a very strong offer in DJs with Sisen (Darkwave), Totentanz (aggrotech), Necromatx (Goth / EBM), XLII (IDM) and Dargor (Metal).

Of course music plays a prominent role in our subculture, but there is also fashion, graphic arts, photography, literature, et cetera. You have paid a lot off attention to them the past few years. What do you have in store this year?

This edition invests strongly in the theme of music, with a launch by no other than the organizers themselves, who all (including me) will bring a bit out of their artistic youth, with a real acoustic mini chamber music concert, and the typical theatrical twist that - meanwhile - is expected from us.

The fashion show this year is provided in the Art Nouveau theme by the label Somnia Romantica, with recorded music by the designer himself (classical piano) and her husband (noisy sound effects). Industrial gogo dance will also be part of the show, and dance instructor Juul Victoria - whom everyone remembers from last year - is back for two acts, included in the most various concerts you'll see.

The art exhibition is also done by two vocalists. You will be able to admire the photography of Andy Julia, singer of Soror Dolorosa (FR) and illustrations by Gina Wetzel of Rusalka (DE). Finally, there is the Photo Studio where visitors can really step into our concept and become part of the artwork.

Can you briefly summarize why we have to come?

Expect a most incredible experience, filled with high quality entertainment that you will not often see in one day!


Interview: Xavier Kruth

zondag 13 maart 2016

AlNamrood: One slip can get us to jail for the rest of our lives, if we don’t get killed before that.

Making music at the risk of your life? Few people will be willing to do that. AlNamrood does. AlNamrood comes from Saudi Arabia, and metal is completely not done there, especially if your lyrics rebel against society and religion. How it is to live in such conditions? We asked AlNamrood guitarist Mephisto...

You play black metal in Saudi-Arabia, an extremely religious and conservative state. You already had small problems with the security services of your country. If arrested, you might even face the death penalty. So you keep your identities secret and are extremely careful in your communications. How big is the threat to your lives and how do you deal with it?

Bigger than colossal! To be a blasphemous band is equal to raging war against the entire country. Islam is the constitution of the country and the Islamic regime is the approved system of politics and law. Moreover, to be anti-religion is to announce apostasy, which is directly punishable by death in the islamic law of Saudi Arabia. We are not in any contact with anyone here; we keep our life extremely private.

Your records are recorded in a very professional way, which is surprising for a band operating in complete isolation and secrecy. How do you manage to do that?

By using a PC and basic recording equipment ordered online. Thanks to the internet, we manage to get our sound in decent form but also pleasing to our ears. Of course there are no studios here as they are ‘Haram’. Everything is done at home in a very discreet environment away from the public eye and ear.

Mephisto, you are the only constant member in AlNamrood. The band has seen several musicians come and go, especially singers. Isn’t that also a threat to the secrecy you live in? How do you create contact with new potential band members?

Of course, that was the biggest issue of AlNamrood… AlNamrood started as a two men project. It was founded by a former vocalist ‘Mukadars’ who shared his interest with keyboardist ‘Ostron’ to create a Middle-Eastern Metal band based on Arabic lyrics. But when things got serious, some members decided to hold back, especially since we see people go down on a daily basis for silly acts such as posting tweets or photos that offend the muslim society. Basically, some members saw the risk as unworthy. The second vocalist was from the Bahraini band ‘Narjahanam’, but he was just a guest vocal since the he quit while we were recording the second album. The third vocal came from the band ‘Thamud’ from the United Arab Emirates, and was also a guest vocalist. He stated he could not go further with AlNamrood. The fourth vocalist is Humbaba. He is the current vocalist and the most willing one to go on with this battle.

Some people suggested that you would rather come from Syria than from Saudi-Arabia. What do you reply to such an allegation?

Well, we don’t care. We do what we like and it is up to them what they think. We have no interest in correcting people minds in any context.

Apart from the song titles, we don’t have much information on your lyrics. We can guess, however, that they deal with important subjects such as history and philosophy. Why do you keep them secret? Wouldn’t they be helpful for people who want to understand your music?

Simply because it can be held as tangible evidence against us. Up to now, we are fighting in a war of shadow. One slip can get us to jail for the rest of our lives, if we don’t get killed before that. We wish that our fans understand our position on that. We can’t afford plain risk just to insight people into our lyrics.

The thematic of your last cd ‘Diaji Al Noor’ (Darkness of Injustice) deals with the division of society between leaders and slaves. On the one hand, you could say that the people are too ignorant and deserve their status as slaves. On the other hand, you could call on the people to rise up and improve their lives. Can you tell us more about the way in which you approached the subject?

Both scenarios are correct. Leaders are tyrants. People are so ignorant to glorify them and enlarge their position, and religion is used to keep their minds away from the truth. Slavery is a two-sided equation, one side cannot force unless the other side accept it. In our album, we are describing this phenomena and it is up to the audience to interpret it, to digest it the way they like.

As the western world becomes more critical of the Saudi regime, the country seems to become even more repressive towards dissidents. Cases as Raif Badawi, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr and Ashraf Fayadh have been reported in the west, and we know that there are many more individuals like them, whose names remain unknown. How do you think things will evolve?

I think it won’t make any difference. While those people are viewed in the west as victims, they are viewed here as criminals who deserve death. Things go as the mass want it to go, the guilty and the innocent are the same. It is just how the societal system categorizes them. And this is how the government played it very well; the reaction of the mass was very supportive of the government decisions.

In Iran, two members of the metal band Confess were arrested. They are facing jail sentences for several ‘offences’ as playing in an illegal band and talking to foreign radio stations. They might even be sentenced to the death penalty if they are found guilty of ‘blasphemy’. What are your feelings about that?

We feel sorry for them. At some point we imagined ourselves in their place. What would we do? And are we next? However, we managed to keep our stand concrete regardless. I think when danger escalated to this level, these will be the first people to be granted refugee status in a country that value human life.

You are now working on a split-cd with the Kyrgyz band Darkestrah. They also play epic and folk-infused black metal. What can we expect from it?

You can expect it to be awesome! Speaking about our side of the split, we brought a different subject this time. Our concept is inspired by Shakespeare novel ‘The Merchant of Venice’ where we illustrate the injustice of usury trade and how the rich can manipulate the poor. Musically, the songs are heavy as usual and have AlNamrood unique touches lead by the psychotic vocal of Humbaba.

You said in several interviews that you would search for ways to leave Saudi-Arabia. Do you still intend to do so?

Yes of course, but they are some difficulties that I cannot speak of here. We are not sure if they will be cleared out in the near future, but we keep the hope up. It is what we live for.

Interview: Xavier Kruth
AlNamrood: bandcamp / facebook

zaterdag 12 maart 2016

HEDERA HELIX: It is only in a live performance that all the elements which make up Hedera helix are present.

Hedera Helix exists for 14 years now. They are currently finalizing the their new en second album 'Pastiche', the successor to the excellent 'Dolce' from 2003. There are also two gigs in the pipeline, on which you will be hearing the new work. The first is a special set for Coalescaremonium on April 2; the second is the official CD launch in Zulte on May 7. Oscar Valerius Kandinsky Hedera Helix is ​​known as a great erudite, and so we asked him some arduous questions.

Hedera Helix is more known as ‘ivy’ among the people, an evergreen, woody vine from the Ivy Family (Araliaceae). What is the actuality surrounding this highly popular plant?
It is a project that has been around for over fourteen years. Filling a gap in the contemporary performing arts? Hedera helix is ​​a musical mix between electro and industrial pop. Lyrically sharp and visually eccentric, with physical theater. Sometimes danceable, sometimes intimate and intense. We are six, a collective. A 'corrective' if you will.

Research shows that plants grow faster under the influence of music. But it is therefore a good idea to play music for your ivy? 
The machinery is working well this time. The new CD is almost ready. Eric Van Wonterghem is busy mastering and the design for the packaging of ‘Pastiche’ is worked out also. Only Sabam (Belgian copyright agency, xk) has yet to provide proof of ‘non-intervention’ before pressing. It is really Kafkaesque, because we manage our rights ourselves.

At a mourning tribute or the Hungarian star footballer Ferenc Puskás in Madrid in 2006, Laura Benítez played a piece on cello. How did you feel about it?
You should come and see us especially at Coalescaremonium for the art nouveau set. Or on May 7 for the CD launch. For those who like the CD as a tangible music bearer in their collection: it will cost eight euros on the show instead of ten. Mild equivoque: ‘by the same token, you will pay more’…

Dr. Edgar Berillon argued that, at the time of Louis XIV, travellers already knew when they had crossed the border of Germany by the enormity of the excrement. In his book ‘How can we ever get along with a people that stinks’ in 1915, he furiously criticized the Germans and their excrements. What do you think? Can we get along with the Germans?
God ‘success’ ... I prefer ‘respect’. A CD issue is not really important to us; even the music itself is not everything. It is only in a live performance that all the elements which make up Hedera helix are present. We took thirteen years to record thirteen songs. Time was a problem, I admit. We are all busy with many different things. Life is too short to learn only one trick, right?

Did you notice that ‘asthma’ and ‘isthmi’ are the only English six letter words that begin and end with a vowel separated by only consonants?
The choice of Dutch in our lyrics has to do with a certain degree of maturation. We have long passed the Hollywood imitation phase. But I have to admit that an exotic touch is not strange to me. On ‘Pastiche’, you will find one song in Spanish and one in French, and we also throw some Italian, Portuguese and Russian phrases in the lyrics.

The Doelist movement opposed the power of mayors in and around Amsterdam in the 18th century. They obtained the restoration of the guilds in their ancient rights and the ban on street trading. However, the mayor election in 1752 was a great defeat for them. What has gone wrong?
The visual aspect makes a concert complete. A green cabbage tastes best stewed with bacon, and the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It’s all part of the project. We are now six on stage. It began with three persons musically and three for visuals and dance, but that was an absurd separation, since Elixir has no challenge splaying the piano and percussion is not a challenge for Buttercup either. It will therefore be very varied, both musically and visually.

Recent scientific research has shown that pigeons can recognize cancer cells on biopsy images. Do you agree with the use of birds for this purpose?

Last year, at the entrance of Coalescaremonium, sat a graceful lady who kindly asked us 40 euros. They put a plastic strap around our wrist and then we could simply stride in. Astounding. Contacts with Coalescaremonium have taken place two years ago and a part of the organization came to see us at a small festival in Berlare. The fact that they worked so hard to make everything fit made it go smoothly. And there’s also the location: the venue is theatrical and therefore it blends perfectly with what we do.

A gigantic cloud of alcohol was detected at a distance of about 6,500 light years from Earth, in a region where stars form from clouds of gas and dust. How long do you think it will take before we can exploit that cloud?

The set on Coalescaremonium is fully adapted to the theme, the location and the public, with a special French-language cover. For the CD launch, we want to focus more on our work. We can not ask family and friends who might be afraid of goths to pay 35 euros to go to Coalescaremonium. It’s better to invite them in Zulte.

What are your plans for the future?

That's a weird question.

Thanks for your generous insights.
May your beans be plentiful.

Pictures: Bert Blondeel & Bart Vandermeersche
Interview: Xavier Kruth

Hedera helix: website / facebook

vrijdag 11 maart 2016

Skeptical Minds: Omega-Thanatos

Hey hey. Something different than a regular CD! A CD with a comic book... Both the CD and the comic tell the same story... an unusual approach, but one we can fully support, certainly if it's done as well as Skeptical Minds en Alain Poncelet did here.

A girl has a weird dream. She asks herself questions about its meaning. The girl is lonely and desperate. Fortunately, there is nature, where she can find rest and consolation. But a walk in the forest unfolds as a real nightmare. All sorts of monsters surround her and confront her with her deepest fears.

We're not going to tell you the full story, but there was a real interaction between the group and the artist. The songs and the script were already finished when Alain Poncelet began to draw. However, there was heavy discussion about the significance of the songs and how they would fit into the whole, so much so that some songs were re-recorded and edited during the process.

Skeptical Minds had previously collaborated with Alain Poncelet. Poncelet already processed the song ‘Broken Dolls’ in a comic for the live DVD ‘Watch Your Live’. And the concept behind the album? I guess it erupted out of the mind of singer Karolina Pacan. She had previously released a collection of poems with drawings by Helcanen Val, that bathed in the same melancholy fantasy atmosphere as this comic.

Musically, the album is very diverse. Of course, the main style of the group is gothic metal, and preferably supplemented with a dash of electronics. But But they are using a lot of styles to tell the story well. A lot of pieces are more atmospheric, with a lot of piano and strings, and some songs don’t have guitars at all. But rest assured, sometimes the lady and gentlemen are rocking with a vengeance.

‘Omega-Thanatos’ is a bold concept, and in my humble opinion, one that has proved a total success. Music and image fit perfectly together. And we actually have to add the beautiful clip for the song 'Emptiness' on, which was also created in collaboration with Alain Poncelet and completely fits into the concept of ‘Omega-Thanatos’. A hit!

Xavier Kruth

Skeptical Minds: facebook / website

Upcoming concerts:
  • April 17: Haunted Sky Festival II, W2 Poppodium, Den Bosch
  • April 23: Reanimacji Centrum Kultury, Wroclaw, Poland
  • April 29: With Anwynn, L'Os à Moelle, Brussels
  • May 1: Opener of Leave's Eyes, The enlightened mind, Roeselare
  • May 7: Electro-Metal evening, with Bak XIII and Obszön Geschöpf, Taverne du Theatre, La Louvière
  • September 17, Rock Classic, Brussels (free)