HAXAN CLOAK INTERVIEW
Seeing as though you are relatively new, could you give me an insight into how you first became involved in creating this kind of music? What was it about the more experimental end of the musical spectrum that inspired you to form The Haxan Cloak?
I studied sound-art at University, and have been interested in a more unconventional approach to music for a long time now.
For my degree piece I investigated the resonances of different instruments and the effect that sound can have upon different materials.
Research for this project was actually one of the first times that I really immersed myself in a lot of modern ‘drone’ music - when I started to realise the very real potential and power of the actual physical properties of sound.
What would you say is the whole ethos/concept behind The Haxan Cloak? Is there something specific that you personally want to achieve or want to say through your music?
I’ve been making music for more than 10 years now, and all I can really do is strive to achieve the most honest thing possible. This is what The Haxan Cloak represents to me - a desire for honesty - a clean channel between the conception and fruition of ideas.
There isn’t really a concept as, personally, I’m uncomfortable with trying to consciously mask the music with a pre-determined idea of what it should be or say. I find this very counter-productive.
The music does end up being quite melancholy in tone.
Of course, there is the question of why record under ‘The Haxan Cloak’ and not just my own name. I am sort of obsessed with pre-1900s imagery and text . I was heavily into reading about the Salem witch trials for a time. Haxan is an old German word for witch, which I always found sounded and looked intriguing and somehow beautiful.
Do you want/expect your listeners to experience anything specific when listening to your music? It has a very dark visual/cinematic element to it that implies that you want to create a sort of aura, an atmosphere with your compositions.
To be honest, I never consider the role of the listener. It’s just not something that ever occupies my thoughts.
There are definitely certain images, themes or experiences that present themselves to me at the time of writing, or at the time of listening and reflecting, but these can be highly personal, and highly unpredictable. A painting a friend may have made that week, a scene from a film I may have seen five years ago or a conversation I had with my Father. All of these and more can be randomly and unknowingly accessed at any period in time and can choose to manifest themselves in a particular part of the music unbeknown to me.
So, when you ask if I want or expect a particular experience, I don’t think I can expect anything. I would want someone to perhaps surprise themselves with the head-space they are taken to while listening. Perhaps even that is too much. I suppose I would hope they at least feel something - If it provokes any reaction at all then I am content.
Unlike a lot of experimental/drone acts your sound, to me at least, seems to combine a recognisable sense of structure and a sort of formlessness, which although two very different concepts seem to work together with magnificent results. Is this something you would say you are conscious of when writing material?
I am very interested in the concept of extremities, and the notion of playing one against the other. I think the suggestion of struggle and opposition is a powerful thing.
I hear that you have an upcoming full-length brewing that will be released by Aurora Borealis (Andrew has already told me how amazing it sounds!). Can you tell me any details regarding the album and what we can expect from it? Will it be similar in sound to your self-titled CDr? Do you have a set release date yet?
The album will be very different to the CDr. The violin and cello are more of a driving force to the compositions. It is significantly more subtle and with a much higher attention to fidelity.
I’ve never been more proud of anything I have done.
It features a collaborator and friend of mine, Mikhail Karikis. He has contributed some astonishing vocal parts.
There are also a couple of other special guests, but I’ll keep that under wraps for now.
It will be released in February 2011 and it will be 2xLP, CD and mp3.
How do you go about deciding what type of sounds/textures/drones to use in your music? Do you always know exactly what you want to get out of a piece and where you want it to go?
Well, in my house I have lots of guitars, violins, a cello, a glockenspiel and some old drums.
This is always my palette. I am conscious of honoring the natural beauty of the instruments and try to limit the sounds and textures within pieces to the natural acoustic limitations of the instrument I am using. There are exceptions to this rule, however, I don’t view them as particularly radical ones.
There have been select pieces where I have definitely decided upon a theme in my mind before sitting to compose - wether this is a compositional theme, or an idea of harmony I would like to explore or an image or particular tone I am concentrating on channeling through the piece.
I still surprise myself with where the recording session can lead itself. These are the most rewarding, but often the most rare.
Does technology play a big part when composing material, or is everything done live? I ask this because you have such an organic sound that is different to many or most other experimental / drone acts.
Everything is played live, and played and recorded by myself. Due to this nature, technology does play an important role in terms of multi-tracking and building the pieces, but I like to believe it has an almost negligible influence upon the composition and the intent.
I think also because I tend not to view or refer to the recordings as experimental.
This terminology never sits right to me. It implies a lack of commitment, or perhaps a lack of direction or faith that the composer would have in their own ability. Labeling something as experimental has become somewhat of a scapegoat. A way to imply that it is not quite in it’s finished state. It is easy to fend off criticism by taking this standpoint.
The period before the piece is deemed to be complete would be more appropriate as being labelled ‘experimental’ by my definition. However, I am very conscious of what I am playing and recording when it comes to the actual finished pieces - the experimentation is what precedes this period.
Having played live a few times now, how do you find your music comes across in a live setting? Do people generally ‘get’ what it is you are trying to purvey? Do you feel it loses any of its atmospheres in a live setting?
I am very fond of performing, and will be doing it much more frequently in the new year.
I do however, view the performative aspect and the studio/recording/releasing aspect as very different beasts.
The incarnation of this project in a live sense represents a different palette of emotions.
The album is about subtlety and patience and allowing a gestation period whereby you permit it the proper time to become familiarised.
These luxuries tend not to present themselves in a live setting. I tend to go for a much more aggressive, noise-driven, dissonant approach, almost forcing the experience upon the audience, rather than hoping they will embrace and appreciate it’s subtleties.
It is frustrating having to rely on the shallow hope that (at this level of performance) you will be allocated a sound engineer and sound system that will pay respect to these subtleties also, so for now it makes sense to me to engineer the live performance in such a way that it can be presented in any context.
Having said that, I also view live performance as a unique opportunity to for an audience to gain an insight into the personality of your music and you as a musician. By this definition I sometimes feel like sitting and playing old classical and folk compositions, and I probably will for some shows, as this also represents a significant amount of my musical personality. I grew up listening to and training to play in that style of guitar, and I still do. So, I would say I am of the position that the music you play does not have to be a recreation of a released recording, as long as it is true to your musical nature and history.
Also, the structure and texture is very limiting being a sole performer. I do have plans to involve other live players, so perhaps this is all subject to change….
is expanding your works thematically just as important as expanding your compositional/production abilities technically?
I believe this is all encompassed within the realm of compositional ability.
Thematically, the works will always grow and mutate in correspondence to the unpredictability of experiences that will permit growth and mutation within myself.
The determining factor in my personal success when writing, is efficiently and relevantly transcribing this experience compositionally.
How much importance do you put into the visual side of The Haxan Cloak? Do you think it is important that your listeners get the full package, so-to-speak?
It’s paramount with the music in my eyes. I am a very visual person in the way that I receive and process information and ideas.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by friends who are quite honestly the most creatively and artistically gifted humans I have personally encountered.
A selection of these have agreed to help me realise the visual concept of my release.
I’m not sure if “the full package” is the terminology I would choose, I’m not terribly into ‘free’ things with records if it’s too gimmicky. Although, I am definitely fond of personal touches and hand-made elements.
Finally, what purpose does The Haxan Cloak serve to you as the composer?
I don’t know if I am able to answer this question succinctly enough. It is similar to me trying to explain to you the purpose that sleeping serves to me as a human being.
The Haxan Cloak, or the idea of composing in general is as organic and natural to me as a bodily function. It is something I cannot live without and something which forms the foundation of my daily existence.
I think catharsis would be too strong of a term to use, as I don’t think I’m exorcising anything….yet.
It’s more of a personal duty and obligation. it can be the dearest friend I have ever had, and also possesses the power to physically and emotionally displace me more than I could have imagined.
HAXAN CLOAK INTERVIEW