> FLYING BIRDS FIND SOMETHING, SITTING BIRDS ONLY FIND DEATH; An Interview with Stormfågel By Raul A.
The years 2005 and 2006 will always stand out as one of the highlights in the long history of Cold Meat Industry. We saw new music from Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Desiderii Marginis, Atrium Carceri, Brighter Death Now, Sephiroth, Mz.412, raison d’être, the return of IRM, and live performances across the world. They also seemed to have had an increased interest in Neofolk, introducing bands such as Medusa’s Spell, Rome, and Stormfågel. At first I was a little hesitant, if I recall correctly there was a heightened interest in Neofolk at the time, and a sort of power vacuum as well. It would be about 4 years before we would see a new Death in June album, 7 years for a new Blood Axis, and a number of new bands coming out, some looking to make their mark, others retreading the same ground. With Stormfågel, I initially wondered how they would define themselves, but it didn’t take long before I picked up on the subtle, hidden references to Existential films and literature, and took them to be far more intellectual than some of the other new bands coming out.
Over time I felt some internal conflicts within myself, in that I’ve felt rooted in traditional ideals, but fully aware of my own functions and contributions to a modern world. After a closer examination, I was surprised to see Stormfågel also lamenting on these conflicts and with that I was even more excited for their new release and to interview front-man Andreas Neidhardt for Heathen Harvest. The following conversation was had over an extended period of time in early 2012 over e-mail, during which time Andreas was finalizing the new album “Dödsvals”, and towards the end of the thread actually saw its release.
Heathen Harvest: First of all, thank you for taking the time to correspond, I imagine you have a lot going on with your various projects and the upcoming Dödsvals album. Care to give us an update on Dödsvals?
Andreas Neidhardt: Well, Dödsvals have been more or less finished for quite some time now. The only thing left to do is the art work and unfortunately I’m very lazy so it will take another couple of months before it’s ready for release.
Max from Steinklang is also (or at least I hope so) working on the art. We were supposed to finished it when I was still living in Austria but I guess vodka and work came in the way…
HH: Unfortunately not many have the luxury to work on their art full-time, so that’s understandable. A few months would be in time for Wave Gotik Treffen, any plans to attend or have a release ready for the event? A mini-release might be a good idea.
AN: If WGT wants me to play I would love it! It’s a great arrangement, lovely people and wonderful concert halls. I know that CMI had some kind of contact with them but I’m not sure about Steinklang. And from what I’ve heard it’s quite meaningless to contact them yourself and beg. They are too big I guess. Besides all that, maybe they don’t want me there after last time…
Hopefully there will be some kind of mini-release or similar in time for WGT. I have some ideas I’ll talk to Max about. We’ll see. (Note: Stormfågel did not attend WGT 2012, but Dödsvals was released at about that time. More on this further in the interview.)
HH: Your last release, Eldvakt, marked a move from the Swedish Cold Meat Industry label to the Austrian Steinklang Industries. How has it been transitioning from working with a local label to a Trans-European model? I imagine the benefits must have outweighed the costs as your new album is also scheduled to be released by Steinklang.
AN: Actually there is no bigger difference at all. The only thing I can say is that Max answers mails faster then Roger…
The reason why my next album will be released on Steinklang is simply because I like working with them. To be released on CMI was a dream for me, both as a Swede and a big fan of their early releases. I don’t know what’s happening with CMI nowadays. I heard something about Tesco taking over CMIs back catalog but I haven’t heard anything. So I will stay with Steinklang, why fix something that ain’t broken?
HH: Right, I’m not sure what the current situation is with CMI but I’m glad you were able to work something out for your releases (Note: I later confirmed that Tesco only handled distribution of CMI releases, nothing more). You mentioned that Max is still working on your artwork, one of the things that I like about Steinklang releases is the importance they place on art and packaging, especially with their limited editions. Did Max come to you with the idea for a wooden box-set for Eldvakt, and do they have plans to put out a limited edition of Dödsvals?
AN: The wooden box-set was all Max’s idea and I also love that they do more than “just” releasing digipacks. I have never been a record collector or any kind of collector myself, but I appreciate the time and work Steinklang puts into their releases. I think a nice limited edition of an album you like actually can make you willing to spend some money on it and not just download the tracks.
We have spoken about a limited edition for Dödsvals but how it will look is too early to say.
HH: I noticed you’ve been active on the digital video front, putting together some promotional clips for Dödsvals, as well as editing video material for some of your past releases such as “StaloSthlms kanal” on YouTube . Do you have some prior experience in video production or editing? You have some quality material posted there.
AN: Thanks! No I have no experience at all and I think you can see that. 😉
For many years I’ve wanted to make some kind of music video or short film or something but there has never been enough time. Now I use it when I have to do something creative or have too much energy/feelings inside but have no musical ideas. I know they are very basic but I have fun making them and that’s the most important! I use writing and painting the same way. It’s an easy and harmless physical vent but it works quite well.
HH: It’s good to hear that you’re able to exercise your creative energies in various ways. I find that some people lack the imagination or ability to work out their inner demons and find themselves counter-productively lashing out.
AN: I’m not sure it’s a good idea to upload my little videos on Youtube since they are really amateurish. But then again, who gives a fuck? I have fun making them and it’s the same for my music, even if nobody listens to it I would still do it.
I also write and paint from time to time but that I’ll keep for myself! Creativity for me is just a way to keep me from exploding. If I don’t have music and writing and stuff like that I would need alcohol and drugs and if I didn’t have that either I don’t know what to do. Go postal I guess…
HH: So how do you feel about fans who post YouTube “music videos”? I use quotes because the videos often are just still images with the songs playing over them. I have to admit to seeking them out myself at times as a way to quickly listen to a song when I don’t have access to my library, or if I feel the need to share it with friends. It seems that you’ve taken a proactive approach by putting out those aforementioned higher quality videos yourself, so in a way maintaining some level of control over the your work. I personally believe more recording artists should take this approach, if time allows, of course.
AN: I love it! If someone takes the time to put together a little video for one of my songs, even if it’s just a picture, it’s a great honour! I don’t expect anyone to like my music so to see that someone actually made a video to a Stormfågel song is…wonderful.
Everything I have done under the name Stormfågel I have done just for myself. I never think in terms of “fans” or something like that. But, if someone likes what I have done, bought a record, made a Youtube video, wrote me a letter, then I’m the happiest guy alive. If I can touch someone with my music then…I mean…that’s huge!
I blush but with a big smile inside. I’m just a sucker for confirmation like everyone else.
HH: On your profile for Stormfågel it mentions that you are influenced by “the absence of God and the decline of mankind”. Do you feel that those two issues are related? Are you familiar with the works of Julius Evola, René Guénon or John Michell? Evola and Guénon would say that we are living in the Kali Yuga, the age of the demon, the materialistic final cyclic stage of the Hindu tradition. Thoughts?
AN: They are not related in the sense that the absence of God is the reason for the decline of mankind. Since I’m an atheist, the absence of God is somewhat permanent and has always been. For me it’s more of a lack of awareness and humility towards the planet and everything living on it. God is just another name for this. The decline of mankind started out when we realized, or at least thought, that we were god. And it’s escalating rapidly nowadays when it’s all about “Me”.
We’re living in the age of egoism and I hate it. We’re not solitary animals, we live in flocks or packs. We depend on each other so instead of all this talk about “Me, Me, Me” there should be only “Us”. I’m a big fan of the collective but of course there should be room for the individual as well. But we must remember that we face danger together, we fix problems together. This is not the time for everyone to be running around for themselves.
Since Kali Yuga is supposed to be the worst of the four ages I guess we’re heading towards a brighter future. I just hope that I’ll live to see it…
Unfortunately I think things will get much worse before there will be any turn for the better and I also think that humans, as a species, must disappear before there can be any permanent change. I’m not sure this is Ragnarök but at least it’s the Fimbulvinter…
HH: Very well put, and I agree on several points. I personally see a stark difference between rational self-interest and shallow, self-destructive egotism. In many ways there is a social contract that man, as a social animal, must abide by, for it’s ultimately in their individual best interest to have a safe, productive, and healthy environment. I think it’s within man’s potential to become a Nietzschean God, but very few do, and many who try end up fooling themselves and give up control of their lives to those who sell them that promise. Then there’s those who so firmly believe in a spiritual world in an afterlife that they have no interest or intention in preserving this material world. I believe collectivism could work in small, homogenous populations, like those in Scandinavia, but when you have many competing populations spread out over large territories, I’m not so sure. Maybe we’re seeing a test of that right now with the financial crisis in the European Union. I believe you are interested in history and contemporary politics, any thoughts on what’s going on with Greece, Spain, and the European Union experiment?
AN: It’s funny you mentioned that about small homogeneous populations. I recently read a very interesting book called Dawn over Kalahari: How Humans Became Humans, by Lasse Berg.
The book is about our prehistory in Africa and what made us what we are today. In the book the author refers to old interviews and studies of Khoisan, who is believed to have maintained our original way of living the longest, and in these interviews and studies we can see that a group of Khoisan rarely became over 30 individuals big (if they became too many some wandered off and started a new tribe). The reason why they, and probably our ancestors, behaved this way we don’t know. But later studies have shown that the amount of individuals that one can actually know well and care for is around 30. So perhaps it’s just simple as that; we are herd animals and in our herd we depend on each other and need to know that our neighbours got our backs. So we’re designed to live in small groups with 30 individuals. If the herd gets bigger we lose emotional connection to our neighbours and you can’t depend and trust someone you don’t know.
That is, to get back to your question, for me one big problem with EU. I know I have to care about what’s happening in Greece since it will affect my life here in Sweden, but to be honest I really don’t give a rat’s ass! I can’t really care about things/people I can’t relate to… Southern and Northern Europe are miles (and sometimes decades) apart. They should have drawn the line at the Alps. I can be very jealous of the lifestyle in the South, life seems easier there, but I do prefer the Scandinavian/German way of life.
I absolutely think there is a future for EU but then we need all of our countries to work together and let go of national pride, national stupidity and stuff like that. We need EU to be more like a nation than a union. One nation, one law under one leader.
I think this is the future but do I want it? Hell no!
HH: You’ve mentioned in interviews that you are not religious yourself but you have a yearning to be religious. Do you feel that through your art you form a sort of transcendental bond with nature that you would otherwise be lacking? For many artists, the very act of making art is a form of ritual.
AN: No, not really. Composing or creating is just something I need to do. There is so much I need to express and get out of my head so it’s more agony than ritual. It’s like I’m boiling inside and composing or painting is the only good and healthy safety valve I know. If I could choose, I would prefer some peace and quiet in my soul even if it killed my creativity.
HH: Many of your tracks reference and sample classic European films, such as the work of Ingmar Bergman. What would you say is your favorite Bergman film? “Hour of the Wolf” is personally one of my favorite films of all time. How about other favorite films or directors? Herzog?
AN: Vargtimmen is really a superb film but my favourite is Jungfrukällan. The film has, as always when it comes to Bergman, excellent acting and wonderful dialogue. There is something with the film that makes me see it again and again. There is a claustrophobic feeling in it, the agony is so intense and the fact that the beautiful Karin is raped and murdered immediately leaves me with a pleasant feeling of hopelessness.
Herzog, absolutely! Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes is a masterpiece.
But there are so many great films and directors. I love Das weisse Band but I also love Snatch. It can’t be only darkness and depression…hell, this morning I was laughing my head off to Bored to Death.
HH: Ah yes, Jungfrukällan is certainly considered Bergman’s masterpiece, and I can’t argue with that. I believe the rape and murder scenes in The Virgin Spring, which debuted in 1960, is in some ways more brutal and intense in its struggle than the desensitizing, overproduced torture-porn in today’s movies. I believe it was banned here in the United States at the time and influenced horror movies like Last House on the Left.
It’s great to have a variety in tastes, as much as “darkness” is a part of life, it’s not the totality of life. I’m sure you have musical interests beyond folk and neo-classical compositions. As much as I enjoy Post-Industrial music, I’m also fan of drone metal and some intelligent hip-hop (currently listening to Dälek). How about yourself?
AN: I remember the first time I saw Jungfrukällan. I was around 15 or something and the rape and murder scene really got a hold of me. There’s something with this pure and clean (in every sense) girl and the total darkness she’s facing that made and still makes my stomach hurt. I so want to believe in something pure and clean in this life, and not have to see it get raped and murdered.
I haven’t seen any of all these torture movies. I don’t find anxiety, pain and agony entertaining and I dream enough nightmares as it is already.
Oh, Dälek. I must listen to them, you’re not the first to mention them. For the moment I’m once again deep in The Sisters of Mercy and Depeche Mode. I’m reliving my youth or something!
There are bands I always will love and come back to once in a while, bands like Skinny Puppy, Joy Division and Kraftwerk. But of course I find new bands as well, even if I seem to be at least 3 years late all the time. I recently heard These New Puritans for the first time and fell in love with their “arty” post-punk/hip hop sound. The Streets and Crystal Castles are two bands I listen to often now a days.
Have you ever tried to read a German poem over an instrumental Wu-Tang Clan song? It kicks ass! Absolutely awesome! If only I could make music like that, and speak German…
HH: One of the first things I do when I enter someone’s home is check out their bookshelves. What have you been reading recently and do you have any recommendations for material that might give fans of Stormfågel some insight into your influences?
AN: Well, my bookshelves are pretty empty for the moment. I got some complaints that it was a total Blitzkrieg in my apartment so I had to get rid of some war books.
This last year I’ve been reading more fiction than ever. I need to keep my mind busy and occupied with something else than thinking so I’ve been reading 24/7 and there have been some really great books.
If I should give some recommendations it has to be:
- Les âmes Grises by Philippe Cladel
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- City of Thieves by David Benioff
- Les Bienveillantes by Jonathan Littell (Even if I hate the meaningless incest. It nearly ruined the whole book)
- And last but not least: Kunzelmann & Kunelmann by Carl-Johan Vallgren
HH: Thank you for the recommendations, I’ll be sure to add these to my reading list, if I can find them in English! Or maybe it’s worth the challenge to learn some new languages! This might be the second time Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) has been recommended to me, I’ll move that one up to the top. It appears that David Benioff also wrote the screenplay to the Game of Thrones TV show. Have you read the Songs of Fire & Ice books or seen the show?
As for reading a German poem while listening to Wu-Tang… well I am trying to learn German so I wonder if that would help or hinder me, either way I’ll give it a try! Ah, Crystal Castles is great, would highly recommend Cold Cave, the latest Prurient, and Health as well.
AN: Oh, must check them out! Thanks.
Well, Les Bienveillantes… I actually think that the greatest benefit with that book is the tremendous work the author put into it. The story itself has nothing new to offer. An ordinary man becomes a killer for the Nazi regime but then the author gets cold feet, “An ordinary man, a man like you and me, becoming this Nazi killer? No! This can’t be! Of course he was a monster!” I get so tired of it… Adolf Hitler was a human, Josef Stalin was human, they were all humans, not monsters. By referring to them as monsters instead of humans makes it easier to just dismiss them and their atrocities. So maybe I shouldn’t recommend that book at all…
I saw first season of Game of Thrones but I didn’t like it. First of all I’m not a big fantasy fan at all. I like tales about gnomes and goblins but that’s about it. It was the blonde girl in the desert that spoiled it for me I think. Which is strange since I usually like thin blonde girls with big boobs and no brain…
There should have been more focus on the wall in the north and the scary things beyond it. Then perhaps I would have liked it.
HH: Well, some time has passed since we started our discussion and I was pleasantly surprised upon returning from WGT to see that Dödsvals is now out from Steinklang as a limited 500 digipak CD release! This has just been announced, so I’ve yet to hear it myself in its entirety. What can you tell us about what to expect from this new release? Any changes in mood or themes?
AN: Well, if you have heard any of Stormfågel’s previous releases you won’t be in for a big surprise. Dödsvals follows the same path, principles and ideas as the three albums before. Some traditional songs, some new. Some in Swedish and some in some other languages. Some electronic sounds and some acoustic.
After Eldvakt I promised myself that that was the last record sounding like that. I felt stuck in the genre and was really fed up with everything. Apparently I failed. Perhaps I can’t do anything else than this…
HH: I’m sure it’s not easy to pick favorites, but do you have any standout tracks from the new album that you’d like to call attention to?
AN: “Reach for the Sun” and “Hatesong”. They are the most personal songs I’ve ever made and I also think the music is very good. Much more Pop than the rest of the album, perhaps, but I like it.
The whole album is about fucked up relationships, as always, and the lyrics to those two songs are as close as I get to my feelings.
HH: You made mention to “what happened last time” at WGT. While I don’t want to retread topics which have already been discussed in the past, for clarification for those not familiar it seemed that there were a few extreme leftists who tried to sabotage your show and cause trouble with your fans. This was somewhat of a concern for me this year, as there was a strong Neofolk/Martial Music presence with bands like Luftwaffe and Dernière Volonté performing. Fortunately there weren’t any issues as far as I’m aware of, which gives me hope that the staff at WGT will be more open to bands such as yourself playing again. Any plans for live performances in support of the new release?
AN: Nice to hear. Maybe Antifa finally understood that you can play martial music without being a totalitarian maniac. But! I sometimes feel that some bands want that kind of reputation. You know, all publicity is good publicity.
HH: Andreas, this has been quite a pleasure, thank you for such a varied conversation! Any final remarks or announcements?
AN: Hmm, no not what I can think about right now. Thanks for interesting questions and a nice chat!
HH: Best of luck with your new release, ever forward!
AN: Thanks, and take care!