A Neo-Medieval Revival: An Interview With Dandelion Wine

There is revival of eclectic pan-folk ensemble happening, drawing together traditions and modernity into an exciting fusion of genres. Part of this is the impulse to build something new, but it is also to rediscover ancestral art traditions that have been crushed by consumer capitalism. One of the most unique aspects of the folk fusion has been the intersection of electronic production and traditional instruments, a strange crashing of worlds that has produced some of the most inspired music.

Dandelion Wine is one of these ensembles that does the difficult work of avoiding the tired cliches of ethereal projects of the past (let Enya die) by creating incredibly complex productions that feel imminently present. They reached out to us, wanting to speak out against the current rise of the far-right and to share their music with a new generation of fans. We talked about their revival of medieval European music styles, their collaborations with bands like Faun, the musicians who inspire them, and why they are speaking out.

How did Dandelion Wine first come together? What was the background of all the members? Was this their first band?

Nicholas: I was in a couple of inconsequential local bands but Dandelion Wine is the first worth mentioning – haha! When we were based in Europe I was also a member of the French post-punk band Object and after that I also played with the Australian psych-folk band Trappist Afterland. I’ve done some guest spots playing various old instruments with a few others and work with ethereal faery singer Louisa John-Krol semi-regularly.

Naomi: Dandelion Wine is my first band! I had never thought of this before… basically the band came together one day when Nicholas and I were hanging out and he was playing guitar. (even now he always has a guitar or other instrument within easy reach) I was just singing along, as one does, and we realised that what I came up with against his guitar noodlings was actually pretty good… perhaps better than the other music he was involved with and we decided to start a band. I had learnt flute at school and our family had a tradition of singing songs around the guitar or the pianola at my grandmothers house, but I wasn’t really pursuing a musical career at that point, it was just something that I enjoyed doing. My real passion at the time was acting, but I seemed to be getting further in the first 6 months of Dandelion Wine, than in years of pursuing acting so that really took over! Obviously not being afraid of being on a stage in front of people was a transferable skill though.

I think initially we poached the drummer from one of Nicholas’ old bands and advertised for a bassist. That was a long time ago now and the band has been through many forms since. The other most notable point in time was when one of our (many) drummers decided to leave the band just before we opened for Canadian folk-punk artist Ember Swift! Not wanting to cancel at the last minute and seem unprofessional, Nicholas programmed a sampler to replace him. Conscious that drum machines often sounded naff, we tried to compensate for it by using unusual sounds and not making any attempt to try to make it sound like a real drummer… the response was quite positive and it became the beginning of our development into a more electronic sound.

Nicholas: we had dabbled with adding electronics to things previously but this pushed us further down that path and we haven’t looked back. The melding of acoustic and human with the synthetic and mechanical has become central to what we do.

What drove you to such an eclectic mix of medieval instruments?

Nicholas: That was probably my doing in a lot of ways – I have always been fascinated by all things medieval – I remember in primary school we had an art project where we had to make a marionette; other kids were making firemen and stuff and I made a Templar – haha! I’ve played guitar for a billion years and always wanted a lute – it took a long time before I finally got my hands on a lute but along the way I started picking up other instruments – first mandolin and then Appalachian dulcimer, hammered dulcimer and bell cittern. I have a bowed psaltery too but these days we usually give that to Francesca to play because she’s the one with the bow skills.

Naomi: We come from a country with a relatively young history. So for me, seeing anything that’s really “old” (remembering that most of the castles and old towns in Europe are older than the non-indigenous settlement in this country) is intriguing and special. Aside from the land itself, there is nothing that old here that isn’t in a museum!

Why do you think medieval music is still so resonant today?

Nicholas: I think it’s partially about evoking a world without the digital distractions of now – there’s absolutely a magical component inherent in these kinds of instruments that is different to what can be achieved with modern instruments. I think that part of it is that medieval music is the root of most European music. Of course, you can trace it back even further, especially to the middle east, but the roots of modern folk and classical and by default rock and electronica are all there (of course rock also has a huge debt to blues and African music as well). I always laugh when I see festivals or publications about “roots music” – Roots? Pffft… There’s nothing on that bill that sounds like it is earlier than the 20th century, and most of it sounds like the 1950s or later! Haha!

Naomi: I think we were quite surprised by the discovery of the medieval music scene in Europe. There’s not much equivalent to this in Australia… again, because the modern culture here is quite young comparatively, it’s not something that exists here. I do wonder if it’s peoples way of staying connected to the past and the history of their people. It also just has an energy that’s more organic and grounding than other styles of music. 

What does the work of Robert “Bo” Boehm mean to you, and why did you include a tribute to him on the new album?

Naomi: Bo was a friend of ours who passed away about 6 years ago. He was one of the few sound engineers that “got” us. His regular gig back in the late 90’s/early 00’s was doing the sound at the legendary Punters Club hotel in Melbourne. The first time he mixed us, he gave us feedback on our music that wasn’t just “you should sing louder” or ” you have too many instruments” *rolls eyes*. He seemed to understand what we were aiming for and complemented it beautifully in the way he mixed us.

He was also a great musician in his own right. His band Clown Smiling Backwards was doing really well at the time and then later his work with Wind Up Toys was also ground breaking as well.

Nicholas: The Winduptoys albums was one of the few 21st century electronic albums that was made without MIDI and without a computer – you have to love that. Bo was such a pioneer in industrial, psychedelic and shoegaze music in Australia and was a superb human on top of that. Aside from his formidable talent and knowledge, he was also the nicest person you could hope to meet and became a good friend over the years. We initially covered “Persistence Of Vision” at a tribute gig for Bo that happened right after he died. We were organising the show as a benefit to help cover his expenses while he was in hospital but sadly he passed away before it happened. We were all absolutely crushed, as were many people in Melbourne.

Le Cœur

What was the conceptual idea behind Le Cœur?

Naomi: We began writing and recording this album not that long after we returned from a year living in Berlin. We thought we would finish it before our first child was born. He is now 9 years old! To be honest, there’s only a few songs that continued on to be on Le Coeur. At some point we threw out a lot of material that was left sitting half finished and started on new things. The energy and impetus had died on these tracks. We also had the addition of Francesca to the band around 4 years later so it seemed to make sense to start again in some respects- bar the songs that were finished and we were happy with.

We took the opportunity to do a photo shoot for the album cover when I was pregnant for the second time. I’d had this idea of re-creating Salvador Dali’s ‘Desirable Death’ with pregnant bodies. (the work is six naked females photographed in such a way that they form the shape of a human skull) I thought it would be a really interesting comment to illustrate death with women literally teaming with new life inside them. As it turned out, I could only find two other women that were pregnant and were happy to be involved, so we didn’t quite have enough bodies to make a skull, (how we would have done that anyway, I’m not quite sure… the shapes are quite different!) but we did make some great shapes that were reminiscent of the patterns that are found in nature, still continuing with the life theme. This is where the concept behind the album began to form. 

We had also recorded the sound of our son’s heart beat while he was still in utero, thinking that it might make a pretty cool rhythm track on a song. We did the same with our second child and we suddenly realised that the theme of things coming from the heart, the fear the heart has of losing things and needing a physical heart to beat to make us exist, were present throughout all the songs in some form. That’s when we came up with the name Le Coeur (the heart) for the album.

What bands have influenced you? What influence does Faun have on your work?

Nicholas: we were a lot less folk based when we started – we were more influenced by the likes of Jane’s Addiction, NIN, Smashing Pumpkins or shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine but the folk elements just started creeping in. In particular, there was an Australian band in the 90s called Lothlorien that were hugely influential. They fused Celtic melodies with African rhythms and the album Aurelia was absolutely incredible. Naomi and I used to go see them all the time and that was the first time that I really started to realise that folk music wasn’t just baby boomers trying to be Bob Dylan with generic predictable three chord songs – it opened up a big world for me. Of course, with us it naturally ended up being much darker, more along the lines of Dead Can Dance. Also, their singer/guitarist Nic Morrey built my Appalachian dulcimer, hammered dulcimer and bowed psaltery for me.

I remember when a goth DJ from a club we played at in Germany gave me a copy of a magazine that had a disc of music and videos which had an early Faun song on it. Most of the other music wasn’t that interesting but the Faun video was a great moment of discovering someone else who was combining old folk with dark electronica in a way that was really intriguing. Since then we have played a few festivals with them and had some good times together. They have been really supportive and it was great that Rüdiger from Faun played percussion on “Hall Of Leaves.” I originally did some percussion on that but I’m not a percussionist and we really felt it needed something better. We kept hearing Rüdiger’s playing on it so we asked him and within a few days it was done. He is one of those people that lives and breathes drums and is an absolutely phenomenal player – it really lifted the song and made it exactly what we were striving for. I think part of Faun’s influence is just how encouraging it is to see a band with electronics, hurdy gurdy, harp etc become a platinum selling band that sells out huge venues – not that we’re about to have a platinum record any time soon (haha!) but it’s great to see a band of really great people playing great music and doing so well with it. The integrity and quality they approach everything with is really inspiring.

There is an eclectic, international approach to the music. Talk about that synthesis, why have you intermixed cultural influences?

Nicholas: It has always seemed like a natural thing to do, rather than a thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if we mixed this with this” kind of thing. Melbourne is a very multicultural city and we grew up with that around us all the time. My background is half Greek and half garden-variety-Anglo so there’s also that mix of tonalities but I think ultimately we just gravitate to things that resonate with us. If things really click and resonate they will ultimately find their way into your own art subconsciously but it has to happen naturally – we’re not trying to be some cheesy “world music” project.

There’s also the elements that some of our guests have brought to the album – for example, none of us are about to take up Erhu (two string Chinese fiddle) but our friend HakGwai Lau from Hong Kong is a great erhu player and also comes from a metal and post-rock background so his style fitted perfectly on “One Of My Friendly Days”. Phil Coyle has studied Persian frame drumming for years and his playing completely captured the atmosphere we were going for on “Pilgrimage”.

Naomi: I think our mix of cultural influence really comes from our curiosities about sound and instrumentation and a love of the unusual. We are the kind of people that are really excited by seeing a new instrument in the flesh! We are attracted to unusual things and different sounds and tones, we appreciate the craftsmanship in an instrument and the time and energy spent creating these things. 

I saw a Jouhakko for the first time the other day played by Songleikr (Norway/Denmark) at the Faiere Worlds online festival and straight away I was curious to know about this beautiful instrument and what it was, where it came from, how the sound was being made. 

Again, living in Melbourne, we’ve always had the chance to see a lot of different styles of music, or at least been able to find them if we sought them out. The inclusion of various instruments in the band was firstly a matter of interest, then secondly a matter of coming across them for sale or knowing someone who made them. 

Nicholas particularly has really fallen in love with each instrument he has ended up buying. A great example of this is the Bell Cittern which we found on tour in London. A friend had taken us to an amazing music shop called Hobgoblin Music and Nicholas sat for a whole hour playing this Bell Cittern – Kirstin (our accordian/synth player on that tour) and I had gone through playing dozens of instruments in the shop in that time. We actually left the shop empty handed, it wasn’t until we had gotten home after the tour that Nicholas realized he was pining for that instrument. When he rang the shop to see if it was still there and if it could be sent over, the guy in the shop remembered him immediately and made some comment about being surprised he hadn’t come back for it already! It’s a love affair, mainly Nicholas and his instruments…. ;-p

Walk us through the music writing process. How do you mix organic instrumentation with electronic sounds?

Nicholas: In the studio it is always about what serves the song and what best conveys the atmosphere and emotion we’re trying to create. These days we tend to write as we record but the initial idea is usually sparked with a riff or melody on an acoustic instrument and then we build around that. When we are layering things up we approach it the same way you would approach an orchestra: each instrument has it’s own range of colour and frequencies so we use each one to fill in that particular part of the sonic spectrum. 

Naomi: That love of the instruments and sounds we have really come to the fore in this process… we really just like using instruments with sounds that we love to create our music, whether it’s a fat synth sound Nicholas has created or a riff on the sansula. You’d be surprised sometimes how these disparate instruments can really compliment and contrast each other so nicely and work together to create a mood or convey a feeling.

Nicholas: Live is a totally different story though – we usually choose the parts that are the most central to the song and go from there. We don’t try and make it sound like the album but we try for the right impact for the song. Sometimes that means I’m playing dulcimer and guitar in the one song, maybe using extra delays and things to suggest the layering on the album or Francesca will loop certain cello parts live. We do use a laptop live for the beats and synthetic elements but we don’t want to do some cheesy karaoke version of it – it’s important to us that the bulk of it is still performed live by actual humans and we are just using Ableton for beats and synthetics.

What drives most of your lyrics?

Naomi: My lyrics are usually driven by personal experiences. With the odd fairy tale or myth thrown in. Most of my lyrics are about dead people actually! (Or the fall out thereafter) This is probably the first album that is more about life than death, with two of the songs being literally about the birth of our children. And even then there’s still a ghost on the album with the inclusion of a cover by the late Robert Bohem. 

I often write lyrics that are about deeply personal things, usually buried in metaphor so as not to be too exposed and also to allow interpretation and relation to the listener. I’m a fan of multiple interpretations and meanings in art, so I think being aware of that sometimes drives the lyrical style. 

For example the song “Stable“ had once been interpreted to be about being repressed by a partner,  but the song is actually about a friend who had a mental health episode one day, it was written in first person. I was so pleased that there could be a totally different meaning in the song for someone else and I suspect that this person related to that idea because it was how they felt. 

Nicholas: There was someone else who messaged us and told us that that song had helped them through a rough breakup – again, its not what the song was intended to be but it’s great that it was interpreted in a way that helped them.

Naomi: I think it’s really important that music can show that other people have felt as you have. There’s nothing more isolating than to think you are the only person to have ever suffered like this, it’s a real comfort to be able to relate to heavy emotions in a song (and art in general) to help us through sad and difficult times. It’s funny, we hesitated to release this album when Covid19 hit. But I went for a walk one day listening to Le Coeur and realised that there’s so much in it that relates to this current world situation and how comforting it was to be to listen to this album right now. The themes of struggling past depression to get on with it, of being scared that things won’t work out, but the hope and beauty in contrast of birth and renewal and hope, these matters of the heart, were actually quite appropriate right now. So here we are!

What role does ancestral or pagan spiritual traditions play in the music?

Nicholas: It’s funny, I have always been drawn to scales and tonalities that are a bit different to the standard western major and minor scales but I didn’t really know where that came from. It was only when I was working with a friend who plays Greek Rebetika that I found out that the scales I was using were actually Greek scales – he gave me a print out of a list of Greek scales and I recognised them as being present in my music for years. I found it really interesting that my Greek heritage was coming through in ways I had never expected – I’ve only recently started learning the Greek language but the Greek musical language was sort of innate. Since discovering that, there are more overtly Greek aspects coming through, such as lute and guitar solos in “Hall Of Leaves” and the rhythms in “Too Late She Cried”. Thematically, there’s always an undercurrent of various alchemical and pagan ideas but again, it’s more of a subconscious thing – an example of general interests and worldview being present in the music without trying to deliberately encapsulate those ideas.

Naomi: Lyrically I’ve sometimes drawn from fairy folk lore and myth. When I’m tired of singing “woe is me” (haha!) it’s a rich world of images and strong archetypal characters to delve into. Like so many classic stories that have been around for so long, there’s something in them that still seems to somehow apply to our modern lives. Our base human endeavours and needs seem to still be the same somehow.

Why have you chosen to take a stand against the far-right? Why do you think it is important to be antifascist?

Nicholas: Largely because it’s the decent thing to do. Unfortunately we’ve reached a point now where the far-right can’t be dismissed as just a few random hicks that are annoying but fairly inconsequential. The rise of these repulsive populist leaders that deliberately cultivate far-right bigotry and steps toward authoritarian regimes has really made the need to stand up against it more urgent. We have the benefit of 20th century history to see where this paths leads and to wilfully turn a blind eye to that is just not an option. We now see a country that was seen as a pillar of democracy that is now using military personnel in unmarked vans abducting people on the street, we see idiots all around the world in pseudo-third reich regalia chanting hatred and bigotry and the list goes on and on. I feel like we have direct evidence of the 1930s and 40s to warn us – we can see the signs and it’s absolutely imperative that we heed them. I don’t really care how left you are – we can debate the pros and cons of capitalism all day but fascism is not something to be debated. It has no place in a civilised society.

Do you feel like there is a growing circle of folk inspired musicians who are building their own scene?

Nicholas: Yes, definitely. It is of different size and scales in different regions but it is definitely there. A lot of our touring is done in Europe and the explosion of medieval and related bands there is incredible. Festival Mediaval in Germany is a perfect example: thousands of people over three days of everything from traditional medieval, to medieval metal, Celtic folk, electronic hybrids, Balkan music etc… all folk inspired but taken to so many different directions. Menuo Juodaragis in Lithuania is another one – it is heavily centred on Baltic pagan traditions but is very musically diverse within that. We are lucky enough to have played that a couple of times and made great great friends and discovered great new bands. 

What’s coming next for you?

Naomi: Well, we are still in stage 4 lock down in Melbourne for another 3 weeks at least, so no concerts for us just yet. We did manage to record a video of a (no audience) live performance in between lock downs that’s just gone up online! That was a great bit of luck that we had planned it for that particular day… if we’d planned it a day later we would have had to have cancelled it!  But we do have two future concert bookings – one on Australia’s winter solstice in June 2021, and one in 2022 at a festival in Germany.

We had hoped to be touring the show we did in Melbourne Fringe Festival last year through Australia. It involved having a choir and puppeteers performing with us. I hope that we will eventually be able to do that run of shows and have a kind of post-covid belated launch tour of Le Coeur next year. There’s a bit of catching up to do before we move onto the next phase of writing and recording the next album… although if things continue as they are and live performance and touring is not viable, that actually might be the next thing to start thinking about!

What bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

Nicholas: I’m never quite sure where the lines between neofolk, psych folk, neomedieval, pagan folk etc are but some of our friends that I’d highly recommend are Wendy Rule (US based Australian pagan folk), Garden Quartet and ZÖJ (Australia, traditional Persian mixed with post rock influences), Irfan (Bulgarian ethereal), Louisa John-Krol (Australian faerie folk), Undan (Lithuanian folk released by Dangus, the label that released the limited edition CD version of Le CœurFaun, Sieben, Kelten Zonder Grenzen (Netherlands)… and for the times when you just want to drink a bunch of mead and jump about you need La Horde from Belgium. All are great artists that are all on the good side 😉  


Check out a few of their albums from Bandcamp below, and make sure to subscribe to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, which we added Dandelion Wine tracks to.

From Seiðr: An Interview With Wåhlin

The misappropriation of Nordic images and spirituality by the far-right has created a revolt inside heathen circles, but it also erases the anti-racist scene of Nordic folk musicians who draw on the Viking Age in creating integrated tapestries of sound. The new solo project Wåhlin is one of these, exploring the ancestral Nordic traditions and using modern recording tools to create a revival of cultural music. We interviewed Stuart Wahlin of this project, which has just come out of the gate with his first track, about what drove him on the project and why standing up against fascism is a top priority.

How did Wåhlin come together?

I’ve been kicking around some ideas for this project for the last couple of years. When I first began seriously exploring my Norse ancestry, it was around the time Wardruna’s first album was released. I, of course, was already familiar with Gaahl and Einar from their days in Gorgoroth, and I was really intrigued by this shift from metal to more traditional roots—something I felt I was also being called to. 

I never really planned for this to be anything more than a solo project, but the thought of performing this music live someday is kind-of exciting, so I imagine the universe will connect me with collaborators when the time is right. It’s already begun, in fact, and you’ll hear some amazing female vocals on subsequent tracks.

Was it your first musical project?

No, it’s been a pretty circuitous journey to get here. I’ve been in bands off-and-on since I was in high school. My musical background, at least as an adult, is mainly as a vocalist and guitarist, though I’ve also done some instrumental work for films. I’ve always been into trying new things, whether it’s the didgeridoo, theremin, analog synth, or whatever I can get my hands on. If it makes a sound, I’m interested in it. 

But I think the common thread in all the musical endeavors I’ve been involved with—the ones that really matter to me—is the use of music to reach an enlightened, ecstatic, or trance-like state. Shamanism, I guess, tends to play a major role in the way I write, whether it’s as a member of a band, or as someone who’s piecing everything together on his own. Each album and song should be a journey for both the composer and the listener.

As awful as COVID-19 is, one silver lining is that the quarantines have afforded a lot of nine-to-fivers the opportunity to pursue passions they might not ordinarily have the time for. It’s certainly accelerated the process in my case, and I suspect the pandemic will ultimately be looked back upon as a renaissance of sorts.

What is your production process like?

Sometimes I have a specific idea or melody in mind, other times the song winds up being written entirely in the recording process. From a fundamental standpoint, the drums typically come first. They’re the bones that hold the flesh together. Though electronics are an element in the music, I think it’s the acoustic drums that are probably most essential to achieving the shamanic state in any ritual. Vocals are important, too, but drums are quite literally the heartbeat that centers us.

And it’s really satisfying to build-out from there, layering in additional acoustic and electronic instruments to widen the soundscape. Vocals typically come last in my tracking process. Then, of course, the filmmaker in me feels compelled to add some cinematic sounds to help set the scene or mood. In the case of “A Toast Of Ravens,” the first moments reveal a shoreline, ships landing, war horns, and suffering.

What instruments are you using?

On “A Toast Of Ravens,” the instrumentation is pretty minimal. We’ve got a lot of drums, some lur and bukkehorn, electronics, and vocals. There’s some didgeridoo in there, too. Though it’s not a Norse instrument, I think it sounds like it should be! With throat-singing having become a staple for many of us, I think the didge compliments it really well.

As for the rest of the album, the acoustic instrumentation broadens a bit. There’s some fiddle, dulcimer, lyre, jaw harp, flute. I’m hoping to work some nyckelharpa or tagelharpa in there, too.

What is Darraðarljoð, and how did it inspire your song “A Toast Of Ravens?”

Darraðarljoð comes from Njal’s Saga, and it’s essentially about Valkyries crafting the outcome of a battle on a weaving loom, deciding who would live and die. The lines I use in the song are my own amateur translations from Old Norse to English, but I tried to retain some of the alliteration that skaldic poetry is known for.

Darraðarljoð is absolutely the inspiration for the music itself, too. Vocals in this song are pretty limited, and I wanted the music to tell most of the story. The first half depicts the fateful battle, and the second half represents the Valkyries exploring the aftermath, choosing from the fallen, deciding who would go on to Valhalla.

In this second half, I really tried to focus on what those first moments after a glorious death in battle might feel like as a warrior transitions into this strange, new afterlife. In Viking culture, you didn’t fear death. The only thing you feared, really, was dying dishonorably. The belief is that everyone has a predetermined moment to die, though you never know when that’ll be. So when you’re going into a battle, for instance, you take courage in knowing it’s a good day to die. But I find this mindset is less about death, and more about how to live one’s life. 

How did Nordic folk music traditions inform your songwriting?

Let me put it this way: I’m closer to the beginning of this journey than I am to the end. It was only in the last decade or so that I really began digging into my Scandinavian roots. My grandfather was a violin virtuoso who immigrated from Sweden, though most of my ancestry seems to come from Norway. Unfortunately, I never got to know him because he died before I was born. All I had to go on for the longest time was my mom’s and grandma’s memories of him. His was a pretty sad story in a lot of ways. His heart was really in his homeland, but he stayed here because he loved his wife and daughter very much. But he died longing to return home.

Once I got my hands on some of his published sheet music, though, and was actually able to hear the music he created, that was really life-changing for me. It was absolutely beautiful, romantic, and moving, and ever since then, I do feel like he’s present in my life, encouraging my musical pursuits in particular. 

As far as Norse music traditions are concerned, I don’t rely on the true folk instrumentation as heavily as others do, but I do like to sprinkle some in. For me, the focus is less about adhering to the authenticity of Viking Age instrumentation, and more about preserving the character through storytelling with themes from the Eddas and Sagas, for instance. 

You mention that this project is influenced by shamanism. How does the seiðr tradition of shamanism influence the project?

I’ve practiced a sort of eclectic—or mutt-shamanism, as I call it—for decades, really just focusing on the universally-accepted principles from a variety of cultures. Here in the states, I’ve had the privilege to take part in several Native American rites, which were a big influence early on. 

But as I was quite-literally called to—or by—my Norse ancestry, I did eventually find a home in seiðr. And it really did feel like coming home. Seiðr is often associated with the female practitioner, a völva or seiðkona, but it probably wasn’t always this way. I think there’s been a lot of misunderstanding about that. To me, seiðr is perhaps most effective with a balance between the feminine and the masculine. That’s why I’m really excited about the tracks integrating some female vocals.

There are many aspects to seiðr, but I limit myself mostly to the shamanistic side of things—transformation, trance-state visions, mostly-ancestral spirit communication, healing, and some galdr and runework. Music, of course, is also a big part of it, which is why I feel it’s a perfect medium for helping produce these mystical states of consciousness.

Do you think it is important for Nordic folk bands to stand up to the misappropriation of Heathenry by racists?

The short answer is, it’s absolutely of critical urgency and importance that all artists denounce racism. Unfortunately, racists do continue to gravitate toward Nordic music. It’s a shame that we should have to preface our art with a disclaimer—asserting no affiliation with religious or political ideologies—but I’m glad to make that distinction. Still, I’m not sure it makes much of a difference to someone who’s made up their mind that your song is somehow an anthem for their misguided beliefs. 

If you’re familiar with Heilung, for instance, you know their social media is peppered with reminders that they want nothing to do with these types of agendas. And every performance begins with the group emphasizing in unison that we all come from the same cosmic source. But when I went to their ritual in Chicago back in January, there were still a few idiots in the crowd exuding that whole master-race mentality. 

We’ve seen a lot of ugly changes in America under the Trump regime, and it’s shameful. I hate that the rest of the world probably thinks we’re all idiots. A lot of us here were taken by surprise, though—even in the artist community. People we thought we knew in our personal lives suddenly became strangers when a TV character successfully ran for president, essentially on a white-is-right platform. I think that emboldened a lot of people who’d been harboring racist thoughts, silently only until someone as ignorant as them became president. Again, that caught many of us, myself included, a little off-guard. I think most of us believed that, for the most part, the last remnants of racism in America really only survived in the South, but we now know that’s just not the case.

As for the misappropriation of Heathenry, that’s been going on for a very long time—well before Hitler came along. But today we’ve got people like Varg [Vikernes] perpetuating this ideology to a whole new generation of kids who are maybe discovering 90s black metal for the first time. And as someone who’s also involved in filmmaking, it’s particularly troublesome that a movie like “Lords of Chaos” should come along and, intentionally or not, glorify a lot of bad behavior. I mean, I can watch the movie as a sort of a walk down “Memory Lane,” having lived through the church burnings, Euronymous’s murder, and the like.

The problem is that—and I don’t think there’s any denying it—most of the people interested in watching the film are just kids, and they’re gonna think these sorts of things are acceptable. They’re gonna watch the movie, then go Google all the players, and think Varg is some sort of hero. Anytime someone like Varg mixes racism in with Heathenry, or any other belief for that matter, it’s both dangerous and disappointing. And we do need to push back. That means not just paying lip service, but showing you’re serious about it. In the case of musicians, for instance, it should mean refusing to be on the bill with other performers who may embrace these bad ideas.

What’s coming next for you?

The first thing is to complete and release the Ginnungagap album. As this is unfolding, I am finding that it’s becoming less of a solo act. My hope is that once it’s finished, there will be some sort of a demand for live performances. I really look forward to designing a live ritual that an audience will be a part of, and not just witness.

A Biocentric Future: Interview With Ecologist

 

In our effort to build up the sphere around antifascist neofolk, this has included a lot of black metal (or adjacent) artists who are a part of this growing antifascist dark music scene. We came across Ecologist while doing this, a blackgaze/black metal drone project out of Chile based on the aggressive response to environmental destruction and the revolutionary experimentation of building an ecologically sustainable future. We caught up with Vincente, the solo musician behind the project, while he is working on his two upcoming albums (right now he only has two introductory songs available on Bandcamp). We discuss the environmental crisis in Chile that has motivated Ecologist, how he builds a layered sound of noise drone, and how he handles fascists in his midst.

How did Ecologist come together? Was this your first project?


Ecologist, such as many other solo projects, was created for a musically spontaneous reason. A musically inspired momentum that generated all the projects that I’ve been consolidating since I was an adolescent. Ecologist, unlike others, is perhaps the one that I’ve appreciated most of all because of the concept of the band, which is nature, environment, it’s degradation and earth ecosystems. Ecologist is where I decided to unwrap all my work related to purely black metal. 

Ecologist was born officially in 2017 because of very curious and even absurd reasons, but when I started developing more lyrical and conceptual ideas, I got really motivated.


Ecologist is not my first project. When I was a pre-adolescent I tried to be a noise artist and released some stuff in other names in international small labels, but that’s not worth talking about. However, I have bands that are very meaningful in a musical way to me and I put all my musical and creative effort in those. My main band is Arrebol and we released an album this year and we’re still looking for a label to produce it. I really recommend this project to anyone interested in Ecologist’s music as it is where I did my best performance.

Who is all in the band? What instruments are you playing? What’s the recording process like?

The band is only me and no one else. For the second album (yes, I am already working on a second album even though I haven’t released the first one) I’ll be working with another vocalist because I’m changing the style of the original project into a more psychedelic atmospheric death/black metal with many drones in it. I play guitar, bass, electric drums and I do vocals and lyrics in the project. I have a small home-studio that consists of an interface, my computer and my DAW and most of all the recordings are digital, just how I did for my EP and for the first album that I’m working on, but I’ve experimented more for the second one. Most of the songs are old, recordings that began in 2017 that I’m still working with. Since then, in the experimental phase, I started to improvise and add different sound effects, sounds, plugins, added more leads and ornamenting all the songs.

Where did the name Ecologist come from?

The idea of the name of the band came as an inspiration for the name of the band Botanist (a very interesting project that philosophy I enjoy) but with the theme of ecology: Ecologist. The discipline of biology, biochemistry, study of nature and ecological systems have been very influential in my appreciation of the environment, but not as much as seeing and feeling in real life the ecosystems developing: observing rivers and its fauna and flora, the woods, growing of plants, relations between species, etc. Experiences as subtle as growing your own plants can be as meaningful to appreciate something so essential as the biodiversity and the use of natural resources in human life. Al the end, Ecologist was born as a manifesto on environmental degradation and the overuse of natural resources, destroying essential life, which eventually will lead us to a crisis in which human life will also be endangered, something that will expose us because of our economic systems and politics.

The releases are inspired by the Loncomilla River in Chile and its pollution. What is the situation with the river and how did it inform your album?

I’ve visited the Loncomilla River since I was a kid because of all the times I’ve visited my grandfathers that live in San Javier at the south of Chile. As I’ve been so much time going and observing, I know how notorious the accumulation of garbage and residues in the shores of the river has been, mainly because of human activity. People use the river as a landfill, leaving bags, paper, plastic bottles, food wrappers, electro domestics, chairs, furniture, etc.  I have seldom seen a decrease in trash and I’m also ignorant about the effectiveness of the organizations that educate and do cleaning of the rivers, and in the end the garbage affects people near the river and its ecosystem. I’m not blaming everyone, most of the houses in the river are a result of bad urban planning and the poor education that Chile gives to its citizens and specifically in environmental action. 

There are also agriculture companies that contaminate the river. I have a personal experience where I was walking through the shores near an agricultural field along my cousin and we encountered tons of rotting potatoes near the river, something that’s not only illegal, but very contaminating. At the end, everything resumes to the few develop necessary changes to the wellbeing of the zone. I don’t live in San Javier but it is the lack of vocalization in support of this region is unacceptable.

How does environmental consciousness drive your creative process?

Mainly through fantasy, imagining in a certain way the spiritual existence of nature and about its consummation. I feel more like hopeless for the voracious destruction of the environment in the hands of the capitalist system, but when I start to fantasize about it I tend to imagine crazier things, almost like a total and abominable destruction taken from a tale of Lovecraft. At the same time, this image of nature makes me think of the homeostasis process that develops in the ecosystems, such as cycles and natural phenomena, admiring its complexity and study. The first album will be about an admiration about nature and the second will be more about its genesis and destruction.

What can be done to confront the epidemic of pollution you’re writing about?

It is hard to answer this because I am not an academic or even student of environmental themes nor its applications to mitigate environmental contamination, but I definitely consider the act of mitigation as fundamental rather than just adapting to the excessive politician, and this is hard in a capitalist system and under the “free market.” The system we need to confront epidemic pollution is one where education of individuals is based on a perspective respectful of renewable uses of resources, environmental care and sustainability, real sustainability, not the one that capitalism sells. A system where legislation is efficient in terms of control, fiscalization and limitations, one that considers opinions of experts and academics over anti-intellectuals, so pollution can be minimized. Further, in our activism and how we want to order society, we believe that informing ourselves and attacking strategic points is where we can have the most influence over the minimization of pollution. 

How would you describe your sound?

Hmmm…. it has varied over time, I would describe it as a cold breeze hitting from the shores of a river or the sea. A black metal that uses many drones and layers of sound to be immersive, still being a bit lo-fi, but very immersive.

What bands have inspired you?

Principally, Lurker of Chalice. Other great influences in my sound are from Blut aus Nord, The Ruins of the Beverast and Thcornobog. The first album that I’m working in is inspired in the Memoria Vetusta saga from Blut aus Nord.

Have you encountered any racism in the black metal scene?


In the most intolerant genre of metal, how could I not? In the scene I’ve encountered many artists that I enjoyed for a long time that have fascist or national socialist tendencies, which have racists, individualistic, conservative and intolerant ideas that hide in apolitical discourses so they will not scare away listeners with its true essence. I can see that this is being disputed, almost like show business, but I think it’s reasonable because many people don’t know that they are supporting (and I mean in financial terms) those artists and it turns necessary to expose. Making a call that to anti-totalitarism and anti-fascism almost turns necessary to be separated from groups in the black metal scene. For example, in Chile, one can see a great support for the national socialist writer Miguel Serrano. 

Why is it important to stand up against fascism in the black metal scene?

For the same reason that one should stand up against it in any situation. No authoritarian ideology that makes us less free, censors our opinion, discriminates for absurd reasons, stands against minorities, other cultures, origins, skin color, sexual orientation, should be tolerated.

It is understandable that maybe there cannot be ethical consumption in a capitalist economic system, as for the consumption itself, only through self-management can one avoid consuming products that had a certain grade of labor exploitation or that caused a bigger externality. Then, I think that if someone is going to appreciate a musical piece that is problematic, just the music itself, at least one should download illegally for its own enjoyment and not support fascist artists by directly contributing any coin, but even doing that, one couldn’t just simply ignore the weight of the lyrical and conceptual concept. For me, it gives me a disgusting sensation. For example, I wouldn’t enjoy playing a streaming of an album from M8l8th knowing that they’re receiving a % of royalties and you are de facto support their behavior and their manifesto. I suggest taking a look and not supporting bands that one knows supports national socialism, white supremacy, nationalism, racism, intolerance against migration, and others.

What bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk and black metal fans?

Lately I’ve been listening very few black metal, but I would recommend a record from friend Téleos that has a demo done in 2017 “Empeira, Scienta” or the most recent album release from another friend with his project Mutterings called “Room”. Stuff I’ve enjoyed very much this quarantine are the Duster discography, Hell III from USA and the split from Spectral Lore/Mare Cognitum

What’s coming next for Ecologist?

Well, I am actually working on two releases at the same time and I hope to be signed to a label soon so I can release everything on a physical format. Ecologist will remain alive till the extinction of humanity.

We are adding Ecologist’s two tracks below, and will add their full length albums when they are available. They are not on Spotify yet, but make sure to add the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

In Earth’s Cycles: An Interview With Crown of Asteria

Crown of Asteria draws on the animism of the pagan spiritual traditions, which see sacredness in the cycles of the seasons and the spirit of animals, people, and the physical world. We first encountered Crown of Asteria in the split they did with Vetten Runotar, who has vocals from Finnish nordic folk artist Amanda Aalto. This unlocked a truly prolific series fo releases going back to 2013, with a sound ranging from the bleeding textures of black metal to the quiet, acoustic meditations of her recent nature inspired recordings.

We were able to interview Meghan Wood, the singular artist behind Crown of Asteria, about how this project came together as a focal point for her spiritual journey into the ghosts that animate our natural world.

How did Crown of Asteria come together? 

I had been in and out of bands for a couple years, but it wasn’t personally fulfilling. That’s when the idea formed in the back of my mind to do my own project because I just really had a need to create something during this intense period of life I was experiencing. I was doing traveling at the time, through the wilderness and overseas. There was a lot of self-discovery going on and reflection. Something just clicked. Dealing with losses, and painful transitions at the time Crown of Asteria became my anchor to ground myself when things were falling apart and changing.  It really gave me something constructive to pour my energy into. Not to mention explore the themes in the music that I found interesting. 

Was this your first project?

Yes

Is this entirely a solo project?

For the most part. Sometimes guests are involved.This is incredibly intense and layered music, melding genre into these ornate tracks.

How does the recording process work? 

I usually start with guitars and drums. Guitars take up most of the time, naturally. Layering them with melodies, leads, solos. Cleans, harsh and reverb effects takes quite a bit of time.  When I have a significant amount of the structure done I go back several times and just keep layering bits and pieces. Vocals take up a significant chunk of time layering the chanting and such. More recent releases have been much more involved. Ire of a Bared Fang is probably the most defining when it comes to how much is involved recording wise. It’s a lot, haha. 

What instruments are being used?

Guitars, bass sometimes, keyboards, hand drums, flutes, Jouhinnka, Kantele, Acoustic guitar, shakers, bones, field recordings. You’ve been incredibly prolific, what is your writing process like? A mess usually. inspiration and ideas strike and I get to recording as quick as I can to capture it. Much of the time it’s like a mad scientist experimenting. Not as cool though.


Which albums were the most personal to you?

North, Karhun Vakat, Hjem Blant Skyene, Arctic Fever.

Tell me a bit about the mystic path that brought you into Crown of Asteria?

 I’ve always been a deeply connected person to the subtleties of nature. By that I mean, empathetic allegiance with animals and plants and the primitive temperamental laws in which they engage. Animism. My path is one of balance and understanding. I see the nobility in the way in which nature performs in our existence and it’s perfect construction. The cycles, transitions, all come together as a force we must live with and respect. Crown of Asteria became a sort of mixing pot of earth based mysticism, ecological philosophies, universal laws and myths. Which I humbly try  to convey in a way unique to my own understanding and seeking. 


How did you start working with Realm and Ritual (who we also interviewed)?

That was actually through Nodus Tollens and the split we released together. That’s the only thing I’ve worked with them on.How do you classify the genre of your music?Blackened Folk Ambient I guess.


Do you draw on any folk traditions in your music?

Yes,  belief in animism, honoring seasons, wilderness, solstices. 

How about folk spiritual paths?

Yes, mainly earth based folk paths. Ones that consist of attuning to moon phases, changing seasons, and communing with the natural world in general. 

Why do you think its important to stand up to fascism in the neofolk and metal scene?

It’s important because they sew seeds of their hate and prejudice wherever they go and taint scenes then instead of your interest in music being your passion   it  now is exhausting and you begin to question projects and individuals In the back of your head whenever you find something new to listen to. That’s what they have done. They give folk and metal more stigmas to contend with. They need to know their rhetoric will not be tolerated. They are driven by their own stunted misguided philosophies. It’s dangerous, cowardly,  and creates divisions when people just want to enjoy music.How do you think of your own politics or social beliefs?Do what you want unless you are harming/disrespecting others. In any way. 

What’s coming next for you?

Working on the Enon Chapel full length and a split collab with a band. 

What metal, neofolk, or similar bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

Canis Dirus, Elk Tooth, Vetten Runotar.

***

We are embedding one of her most recent release, a four-track EP that she did in collaboration with Vetten Runotar that tracks the four seasons. Even more of her work is available on Spotify, so we have added several of her tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

Wound Dresser Releases Album Preview and New Track, “Run With the Wind”

Wound Dresser is a new antifascist neofolk project that has released their first introductory track in advance of their upcoming album. They are coming together as an explicitly antifascist band from the start, helping to build a new antifascist culture of neofolk. We spoke with them about the project and are presenting their first track, and will follow up with them when the full album is released.

How did Wound Dresser come together?

Min Naing: I was booked to play a Halloween-themed show with my Dungeon Synth project, Vaelastrasz, and I ended up being booked with four acoustic acts so I stuck out like a sore thumb. One of the acts approached me dressed up as Morticia Addams and vehemently complimented my Chelsea Wolfe patch. Anytime I tried to talk to him about Chelsea Wolfe he kept on interrupting me by going “You have no idea!” as if he was the only Chelsea Wolfe fan in existence. That was my first interaction with Aliss Getz and I was immediately drawn by his songs.

Sometime later around early December, I decided to hit him up if he was ever interested in writing music together. We had gotten to know each other quite well at that point as it turned out that we had quite compatible music taste so I thought, why not? He was a fan of what I did, checked out my stuff after our show together, and also thought that we had the potential to mesh our styles and influences together to form a band. So here we are.

 

Who was your biggest inspiration?

Min Naing: After listening to Nature & Organisation’s Beauty Reaps the Blood of Solitude, I immediately wanted to make a folk project. My guitar skills are below average, to say the least, so I wasn’t going to accomplish something like this by myself. I wasn’t going to match Michael Cashmore’s beautiful compositions or the otherworldly lyrics of David Tibet, but it was a nice place to start on where I wanted to base myself. The big named acts of Neofolk were ones that I was really inspired by, like a lot of artists, but I was more focused on the lyrical contents of love and hopelessness rather than dousing myself with WWII-fetishism and romanticism that gives the genre a quite polarizing view to some people.

 

What is the lyrical inspiration for your new track, “Run With the Wind?”

Min Naing: When I wrote the song back in December my mind was fluttering with the ideas of escapism. I have lived in the Washington DC area for all of my life and being surrounded by metropolitan, suburban areas have taken a toll on my mental state. I want to be free, be one with this planet when all is said and done and that means leaving an area where infrastructure, construction, and traffic runs rampant. To “Run With the Wind” is to leave the hellscape of the modern world and to let mother nature guide you on her path.

How do you define your sound? This has a very classically neofolk vibe.
Aliss Getz: Min may have more to add, but I’ve always heard a certain beautiful yet dark sound to our music. It’s also unlike music I have heard in my lifetime. It’s fluid. I don’t know if this is good or bad, I believe time will tell us that, but I stand behind it. “Run With the Wind” is one of the softer songs on the album. It’s raw, as every song has been thus far, but it does present itself in a less provoking way than some of the songs on the upcoming album are.
Min Naing: In a way, I feel like I’m trying to get that sort of vibe with some of these songs. Around the time of recording and writing this I had been listening to a lot of Of the Wand & The Moon and Backworld, especially the latter with Anthems From the Pleasure Park. Having songs like “The Devil’s Plaything” and “Leaves of Autumn” stuck in my head made me use them as palettes for the basic idea and structure of what I want to do with these songs. So at the end of the day, I feel like this album will definitely have that sort of classic Neofolk vibe, but with our own little twist to it.
What’s your biggest inspiration when songwriting?
Aliss Getz: Mother Earth, and all the life that lives about her.
What’s coming next?
Aliss Getz: Wound Dresser has an album on the way called “Wails of the Widow.” Min sings lead on this song and a few others yet unheard , I sing lead on a few not yet heard as well. This album, and our project, has been very much a mesh of certain aspects of our artistries, so I foresee us continuing to explore and grow with this project. I think it will continue to carry a certain dark beauty like a lily in the middle of a patch of dark woods, as both Min and I are in tune with our darkness, and beauty.
***
Below is the first track released by Wound Dresser and their entire album is being recorded now and should be released soon. As always, remember to follow the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

At Daggers Drawn: An Interview With Alsarath

 

Alsarath is one of the most exciting projects that we have covered since starting A Blaze Ansuz, and is an organic expression of the artistic vision that was behind the creation of our project. From Margaret Killjoy, also known from the antifascist black metal projects Nomadic War Machine and Feminazgul, and her co-conspirator Jack, Alsarath is an antifascist neofolk project built from the romantic space of resistance and passion. Their debut EP Come to Daggers brings together a new vision for neofolk that is sparked from a revolutionary space rather than the reaction of nationalism, and is helping to carve out this new antifascist neofolk scene by capturing the genre for our own version of romanticism and folk culture.

I interviewed Jack and Margaret about how Alsarath came together, how their creative process works, and why are open about their antifascism.

 

How did Alsarath come together? What were the ideas the preceded it?

Jack: The origin story for Alsarath is sort of convoluted: Margaret and I had been scheming about creative projects since basically the minute we met, and we’d started playing around making sort of dark pop music. At the same time, I was writing songs in a doom band in Montreal, which would’ve been my first band, and that band was asked to jump on a bill last-minute with Divide and Dissolve, who I love– but we had broken up the day before. Margaret was staying with me at the time, and she’d written some pretty folkish songs that didn’t fit with the pop project we’d started, and we’d been talking about how it would be cool to start a neofolk project that was explicitly antifascist. So, rather than turn the promoter down, I asked Margaret if she thought we could throw a set together with the stuff she’d been writing, and she said yes, so we started Alsarath and wrote a set in the next ten days so we could play the show.

 

What does the name mean?

Margaret: I wrote a story a couple years back called “The Free Orcs of Cascadia” about people who start calling themselves orcs and living in abandoned towns during the slow apocalypse of climate change. In that story, one of the holy nights for the community is Alsarath. It’s the last phase of the moon before the new moon, the last little sliver. The new moon is a good time to set new intentions and bring new energy into your life. Alsarath, then, is for letting go. Alsarath is a time of introspection and rejection. It’s a day when you think about all that has not been working for you, that you’d like to be rid of. Either on an individual, relationship, or community level.

 

This was not Margaret’s first project, how did Feminazgul and Nomadic War Machine inform this new project?

Margaret: Well, Jack will tell you that pretty much whatever genre I write in, I use the same chord progressions and melodies, and they’re not wrong. I like working in a lot of different mediums and genres, because they all inform each other. There are some musical ideas that I can’t get at right in certain forms, so I might abandon a dark pop song and turn it into a metal song, or a neofolk song, or vice versa. But Alsarath is also its own beast entirely because… in most of my projects, I’m the primary songwriter or composer or whatever. Alsarath is one of the first opportunities I’ve had to really collaborate and come up with things more organically, and in some ways more magically.

Jack: I probably wouldn’t have told you that!

 

How did you integrate folk music traditions into the music? What ancestral traditions inspired you?

Jack: If anything, the lineages that I draw on are medieval European music (particularly English folk songs), and American folk music. I don’t have connections to my own heritage (Ukrainian and Polish) but I have always loved folk music and especially folklore. “Into the Arms of the Moist Mother Earth” started as a cover of The Cutty Wren and then just became… something else. We’re both very much inspired by folklore, but neither of us has particularly strong ties to ancestral heritage, so we draw mostly on universal themes or on mythology we create ourselves.

 

Take us through the recording. How does the process work? What instruments are you using?

Jack: We write songs collaboratively– usually Margaret will come up with a fragment of a melody or a lyric, and then we’ll spin it out into a song together. Alsarath was initially meant to be Margaret on harp and me on flute, but she didn’t have her harp with her when we started writing songs, so she used piano instead. I was still pining for my doom band and wanted to be able to do something weirder and heavier than just flute would allow, so I added guitar pedals. I like that we can play an acoustic, fairly traditional set, or we can make it noisier, depending on what we want or where we are. 

Margaret: I’ve never written songs in quite this way before, and I enjoy it. I know it’s cliche but there’s something organic to our process, and some of what comes out develops subconsciously between us, even lyrics. Yet when things start subconscious, we then spend a decent bit of time talking over the themes, over what we’re trying to say. Over whether the mood of the music or the content of the lyrics fits with our intentions, and then we refine from there.

 

What is your lyrical inspiration? What is the artistic core of the writing?

Jack: Some of our lyrics are things that Margaret dreamt, others are drawn from folktales, and others are abstractions of things we’ve been preoccupied with– some of the lyrics in Eyes of a Heron, for example, are based on the last words of dead anarchists. In some cases, the songs themselves are spells and the lyrics are meant to invoke something in or for us. We’re telling stories, or we’re singing something into being.

Margaret: I work a lot with my dreams, pretty consciously—no pun intended—at this point. Dreams kind of produce the raw stuff of what I want to create, but the trick is then working them into usable shape, and I’ve been learning a lot about that through this project and through Jack’s influence.

 

How does your experience as a fantasy writer inform that?

Margaret: It used to bug the piss out of me that I was no good at lyrics. I make my living as a fucking writer, I should be able to write lyrics. Yet for years and years I failed time and time again to write lyrics that were really compelling to me—fortunately, very few of those songs saw the light of day. Turns out though, writing lyrics is just actually its own medium and skill in one doesn’t immediately translate to skill in the other, so I actually had to work at it. I’m still working at it. (As a side note, you know what’s fucked up? John Darnell, the guy from Mountain Goats, also writes really solid fiction. It’s not fair to anyone else that he’s good at both.) Okay that said, just because I have to learn new technical limitations with a new medium doesn’t mean I don’t get a lot out of having written so much fiction. I do. I get themes and ideas that I’ve developed through story (like Alsarath itself) and it’s magical to get to play with them in a different medium.

 

Why is antifascism so central to your musical space?

Margaret: On a surface level, antifascism doesn’t have a lot to do with what we write about. Like we don’t (yet) sing about drowning nazis in the black ocean and we don’t (yet) sing about those who have fallen, knife in hand, willing to tear apart those who seek their destruction. Well, okay we touch on it a little bit. The politics of our music I think is overt but not as overt as say, if we were a punk band or something maybe. When we sing about the beauty of decay and rot, it’s not meant to be a counter to fascism, but it is anyway. Because (and Jack can explain this concept better than me) the beauty of decay is something that fights against stasis, against forcing the same status quo to always be the status quo. But we call ourselves antifascist very explicitly, and often describe our music as “antifascist neofolk and noise” because the neofolk scene has some… problems. And it seems to me that someone listening to our music should not have to fucking wrack their brain trying to figure out what side of shit we’re on. In fact, knowing what side we’re on probably offers crucial context to better understand what we’re doing. It, ideally, makes the spells more effective.

Jack: The short answer is that it’s central to our musical space because it’s central to both of our lives. I mean, we know that this is a scene that has made a lot of space for fascism. We knew it was necessary to state that explicitly in order for this project to exist. But beyond that, antifascism is like, the bare fucking minimum. It shouldn’t even need to be said, but it does. We know what we stand in opposition to. I am constantly annoyed that I feel like I have to investigate every band I listen to, especially in particular genres but really across the board, to see what their politics are, and I’m constantly annoyed by the “for the riffs” argument– that a band’s politics don’t or shouldn’t matter if their music is good. I don’t want to engage with the artistic products of people who would see me or the people I’m in solidarity with destroyed. Neither of us is interested in being apolitical. Our politics inform everything we do, so of course they inform our lyrics, even if there’s layers of abstraction there. I don’t think we need to be singing explicitly about hating nazis, but I do think it’s important to make it clear that we hate them. We also aren’t throwing “antifascist” around casually– it is not just an adjective that describes our band, and it is not the summation of what we believe.

 

What role do antifascist neofolk artists have in fighting back against the far-right?

Jack: If you’re gonna exist in this genre and you aren’t a nazi or a sympathizer, you have to say so. That’s the world we live in. You say it so that the far-right doesn’t get to claim this thing for their own. I firmly believe that if you have a platform and you aren’t using it to stand for something, you’re wasting it. There’s a definite sense that “neofolk” just means far-right, but there’s nothing inherently far-right about it– the very idea of folk is one that despises authority, that ought to reject totalitarianism and dictatorial power, but those things have managed to ride in on the coattails of nationalism. There’s something so incredibly intellectually lazy and lacking in nuance and boring about conflating “steeped in or celebratory of a folk tradition” with “the folk from whom this tradition comes are better than all other folk.”

Margaret: It took me a long time to really appreciate the role that art has in revolution, even though I’ve been interested in both, and their intersection, for a long time. Like Jack has pointed out, antifascism isn’t a flavor we’re adding to our music, it’s the background we come from as activists. And I think it’s easy to kind of overstate the importance of the arts, but it’s also easy to lose sight of why they’re important too. Art, perhaps especially music, and perhaps especially folk the way Jack is talking about it, creates culture. The subcultures we participate in sustain us through the fight, but there’s also the larger, overarching culture and there’s a war, an intentional war, being waged by the Right to influence that culture towards values that lead to oppression. It behooves us to fight fascism on every front, including but certainly not limited to the cultural front.

 

Why do you think the left needs romantic music of its own? Why don’t we abandon romanticism?

Margaret: Because I’m a fucking romantic. It’s obnoxious. I cry all the time and… okay hear me out… when the riders of Rohan crest the hill to see the beseiged city of Gondor. The city that abandoned them in their own hour of need. They scream “death, death, death”  and “a red day, a blood day” and they fucking ride off to what they assume is their doom and I fucking cry every time I see it. Because some shit deserves to be romanticized. When something is necessary, like solidarity, let it be beautiful too. Fuck living life ironically, let’s be earnest. Etc. etc.

Jack: There’s this thing where we only talk about “romanticizing” in the negative sense of idealizing something, making it out to be better than it is, but if we’re talking about romanticism as in an artistic movement that recognizes intense emotion as an authentic source of experience– in that case, you can frankly pry my intense emotions from my cold dead hands. The left needs songs that can stir up passion, can pull things up out of the depths of cultural memory or shared experience, can talk about terror and horror and awe– we need them more than the right does. We need to believe in a better world and fight for it with everything we have. Yes, we should be wary of individualism, and yes, we should be able to apply reason– but you can’t tell me you want to live in a world without passion, without awe, without the sublime. I certainly don’t want to.

 

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

Jack: I’m likelier to be listening to music that falls outside of neofolk, like Vile Creature or Ragana, but I always recommend Sangre de Muerdago, and Hawthonn is just a staggeringly good project that is deeply magical in a way we aspire to be.

Margaret: Is it cheeky to just say every version of Irish folk songs and Bella Ciao you can get your hands on? Because that’s what I do. And yeah I learned about Sangre de Muerdago through this magazine and sure love it.

Jack: oh, and Unwoman, who does such an amazing job of playing music outside the usual anarchist styles.

 

What’s coming next for Alsarath?

Margaret: Well hopefully they’ll open the border and we’ll write a full length. Jack is Montreal, and I’m stuck here in North Carolina.

Jack: Yeah, hopefully someday we’ll be able to be in the same space again! And then we can write more music. We were planning to tour this summer and then everything got cancelled forever– but it’s definitely something we want to do as soon as we can. We’d like to make a music video, too.

 

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We are putting their debut EP, Come to Daggers, below, and we have added all of their tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

 

Talking with Autumn Brigade About Neofolk, Marxism, and Independent Producing [INTERVIEW]

How did Autumn Brigade first come together? Was this your first project?
Well, I guess Autumn Brigade came from a lot of different things. Primarily it was from the music I was listening to around that time. Stuff like Current 93 and King Dude mostly. I guess the other factor that led me to forming Autumn Brigade was a response to what was going on around me at the time, politically speaking. The world is in a state of struggle and change, and I hope Autumn Brigade can have a positive impact on that change in order to help it be for the better!
In terms of Autumn Brigade? No, It was not my first project. Before starting Autumn Brigade I had a project called “STAGGH,” which combined elements of harsh noise, black metal, and drone. STAGGH was the first official named release I had on the Self Loathing Records label. Autumn Brigade came shortly after that, but it certainly won’t be the last project I ever work on!
What is the songwriting process like? What instruments do you use?
Most of the time songs usually come to me gradually over a period of time, gradually being shaped, improved and hammered out. Other songs come more quickly than that, but usually I take my time and make sure I’ve completely mastered a song before I sit down and record them. Everything that has been recorded by me has always been DIY, although when I was recording STAGGH, I did get help from some friends of mine in order to record it. With Autumn Brigade however, it’s just me recording my guitar into a music program and going from there, cleaning up the audio, adding samples and whatnot!
Does your music have a Marxist influence? How does that inform your work?
In general terms yes, but there are certainly other influences on the aesthetic and subject matter of Autumn Brigade as well. Marxism, as well as other different “isms” on the left have certainly influenced me, although primarily the works of Leon Trotsky and Edward Said. In terms of Trotskyism, The Russian Revolution is possibly one of the most important events in human history, we live in a world shaped by what happened during 1917. However, the bureaucracy came and decades of tyranny followed. Autumn Brigade; just like Trotsky, comes from that tradition of “neither Moscow nor Washington.” Several songs that are going to appear on the upcoming album are influenced by a number of struggles. That’s where Edward Said comes in, particularly his idea of Orientalism, and how Western civilization tends to pin the Orient as a place of barbarism and savagery. Songs on the upcoming album deal with a number of struggles, including the anticolonial movements in Northern Ireland and Palestine, and the failed Hungarian Revolution in the 50’s.
Of course, I would be lying if I said my Marxism is the only influence on Autumn Brigade. There is of course, the military aesthetic, which comes from more of a fetish standpoint than anything. In my eyes, there’s something sexy and seductive about people in uniform. Going off of that there’s also influences of the LGBTQIA+ and Kink communities which have influenced some of the lyrical content of my songs. Autumn Brigade is an expression of those things, as well as a way of flaunting my sexuality in a tasteful and interesting manner in front of others. The profits from the Split EP Lodge of Research and I did recently, go towards both the Baltimore Sex Worker Outreach Project, and the Trevor Project, since those are both causes Lodge of Research and I are deeply passionate about. The last influence on Autumn Brigade would of course be nature, I mean just look at the name of it! Autumn is the prettiest season nature has given us. I grew up going on hikes and camping in the woods and in mountains. Nature’s majesty has always blessed me in the most beautiful way possible. Even now when I’m bored I tend to go for long walks out in her domain!
What is Self Loathing Records?
Self Loathing Records is my own independent label. All of my solo work is uploaded there (except for of course the song Lodge of Research contributed for the split EP). It’s mostly because I want to have the rights and profits to my own music. If I venture off and start a traditional band, maybe demos and rarities would be uploaded to SLR, but other albums I did as part of another group would be either uploaded independently or on a different label.
How do you define your sound?
That’s an interesting question. I really haven’t put much thought into how I define the Autumn Brigade sound. I guess it comes from whatever I think sounds right. Hopefully in the future I’ll have access to more instruments beyond a guitar, which could compliment my skills nicely.
Why do you think its important to stand up to fascists in the neofolk scene?
Trotsky once said it better than I ever could, “If you cannot convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.” In all seriousness though, underground music scenes of all sorts have been seen as a refuge for fascists of all stripes. You cannot negotiate with people who want to see you dead based something as arbitrary as your religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and preference. The underground offers them a place where they can market their ideas to alienated youth and apolitical people. It’s our duty as members of an open society to prevent jingoistic bigots from being able to have a platform of any kind! Especially when people like our president are empowering them.
What Artists Had the Biggest Influence On You?
Autumn Brigade has been influenced by King Dude, Chelsea Wolfe, Zola Jesus, , Current 93,, and labor songs from around the world. A lot of the symbolism and aesthetics of Autumn Brigade are sort of a parody of Douglas P’s whole getup, the logo being something I fooled with and made into something Antifascist.
What’s coming up for you?
Like I said previously, there’s an album that’s coming soon! I had to take a hiatus from working on it for a bit since I was sick for a period of time, and that was affecting the recording of vocals since I sounded like I was dying of the plague. I’ve since gotten better, and I’m hard at work on the album!
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Check out these tracks from Autumn Brigade Below, and the split they recently did with our friend at Lodge of Research. Unfortunately they are not on Spotify yet, but check out our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify for other great bands.


Traditional Simplicity: An Interview With Quercus Alba

In the intersecting worlds of post-punk, post-industrial music, of which neofolk is our flagship, there is an interesting melding of the ultra-modern and the class, folk, or traditional. This can feel as though it is a futuristic memory of the past, electronic music with influences from the oldest forms of generational music. Or it could be a touch of one genre with something established, such as Appalachian folk songs blackened around the corners. With Quercus Alba it is actually simply light, finger-plucked guitar work that is expanded on with a temperamental ambience or meditative sound. We first came across Quercus Alba with a split they did with Foret Endormie, and were excited to finally catch up with them for a full interview.
Now we have been able to corner them for an interview and discussed American folk influences, how the project came together, and what their recording process is like.
So how did your project come together? Was it your first musical project?
Sort of a long story, however I’ll keep it brief. It starts with my study of classical guitar and music in my early 20’s during college.  My education and teachers introduced me to many artists, genres, and compositional styles that kind of opened my mind about what music can be. After I graduated I started listening to many folk and neo-classical type ensembles and bands.  I particularly enjoyed nylon-string guitars mixed with other instrumentation in a modern chamber ensemble setting.  Unfortunately, its not as common as one might think. I also dove quite heavily into soundscape and ambient type sounds.  Most recently, I picked up clawhammer banjo.  So, I decided to put something together with instruments I was familiar with while combining some of these influences into a sort of solo ensemble. I tried to create something that is both instrumentally and sonically unique.
This is my first project composing anything in this genre. I have been an active member of the metal world for quite some time.  Until recently I was a live member of Panopticon.  I also play in a doom/sludge metal project called Circadian Ritual, and did a project called Inaeris with my friend Jori Apedaile (Eneferens).
How did you settle on the name?
Quercus Alba is the scientific/latin name for a White Oak tree.  I was raised and grew up in an old grove of white oak trees in northern Minnesota.  It seemed fitting due to this project’s main idea of portraying the Minnesota landscape through musical means.
What folk musical traditions do you draw on? I feel like there is an Appalachian influence.
I guess most of my folk influence comes from singer/songwriters and some American primitive players.  Also, there is a definite Appalachian influence. I play clawhammer banjo on my recordings and will on future releases.  I have wanted to play banjo since I was young but just never had the extra money or time.  Through playing in Panopticon and the influence of my friend Austin I was able to get my feet wet with both the banjo and mandolin.  This led to my current absolute obsession with clawhammer and open back banjos.  I enjoy playing, jamming, and listening to much olde time / folk type music in my free time.
What instruments are you using? What is your writing/recording process like?
So far my instrumentation has been guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano/synth, and accordion.  I record and write everything from my home while learning as I go and slowly improving that process (I hope). Most of my compositions are modeled after emotions or settings I’ve experienced in the wilderness of Minnesota. I attempt to interpret what i see, hear, or feel into musical ideas.
 
Why do you think it is important to stand up against fascism in music scenes?
I believe it can be a very destructive path of thought for our modern society.  We need to move passed this ill-founded ideology to continue social progress.  The more its allowed to leak back into conversation without being challenged the worse the problem will become.
 
What’s coming next for you?
Another full length coming out either Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 which I’ve almost finished writing. Also, I hope to work on anther split with a good friend of mine shortly thereafter.
 
What bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?
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We are putting both of their albums here, includin the Foret Endormie split, so check out their Bancampe. Also we added three of their tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so make sure to add and share that as well.


A Community-Centered Folk Revival: An Interview With Vael

The Spanish neofolk scene is producing some of the most engaging bands of the last decades, creating massive ensembles with an orchestral feel that is constantly looking to reinvent their sounds. This is how we found the band Vael, a collection of seven musicians who create a rich sound that alternates between ecstatic frenzy and quiet meditation, all while drawing on a range of traditional instruments and international inspirations.

We interviewed Vael about the band’s history, how they draw on folk traditions, and how they took a stand in the neofolk scene.

How did Vael come together? Were you involved in any other projects before?

We were just a group of friends that wanted to play together and have fun. The band was born that way, and over the months we recruited some more friends to complete the formation. In the beginning we just wanted to have a good time and play covers from our favourite bands. We decided to make our first song together, “The Hunt”, which we started being five people but finished as seven. That was the moment when Vael was born as it is today. Most of us had been previously involved in other bands from the folk or folk metal scene, such as Ocelon or Cuélebre. Some of us are involved in other projects from different scenes, like our guitarist José, who plays in Abÿfs and some other Spanish metal bands, and Teresa, who collaborates with the project Bear, the Storyteller.

What bands were an inspiration to you in Vael?

Each member of Vael has very different influences and inspirations, which come together in our creative process. Some bands that we have in common and we really love are, for example, Sangre de Muérdago, Percival or Faun, but we think that we are more inspired by sounds, rhythms and cadences from folk music all around the world in general than by bands in particular. We listen to a lot of world music, ethnic and neofolk, but we also like to listen to rock, metal, electronic, punk, soundtracks, classical and much more. Putting it in that way, we can say that Vael is a mix of everything we like, to honour everything we respect and value as humans. We really have some very actual references in terms of music, instead of tying us too much to the past (which is very normal with folk music), making our music also for today’s ears.

How do natural rhythms and cycles inform your music? How has Vael channeled this natural energy?

We are not very aware of those things in our daily lives, to be honest. We live mostly in the big city and so we are affected by very prosaic things like workdays or public transport and that kind of “urban” things. But we are affected by seasons, for example. We get more productive at certain seasons, sad songs born usually in autumn and winter mostly. Also we believe in natural cycles, which play an important part in human life so we talk about those movements inherent in nature, its forces and how humanity is part of it in our songs. For doing that, we use rhythms that imitate waves like in our song “Nana” or “Nimue,”  percussion that reminds us of heartbeats and things like that. 

The concept of cycles is deeply rooted in our album “Kairós” since its very conception, and we have manifested it with the first and last song in the album. Those pieces are built upon the same harmony, but phrygian dominant in “Caravanserai”, which is about beginnings and travels, and minor at the end in “Vesna,” which talks about farewells. 

So, maybe yes, we are more influenced by those rhythms than we think, hahaha.

There is a strong mythic sense in your work, what myths and folk traditions inform Vael’s creative vision?

One of the aims of the project is to find topics present in different cultures and try to bring them together. We create music inspired by myths from western and Mediterranean Europe to Nordic and Slavic culture, but we also look for inspiration in cultures from other parts of the world, such as the Middle East or East Asia. We are also starting to explore American sounds. This, all together with our own tradition as the crossroad of cultures that is the Iberian Peninsula, tries to address certain topics from a “human” point of view focusing on the beauty that lies in diversity. After all, we are all human beings with our own myths and our own cultural memory, which in many cases share much in common.

Specifically, we have explored several myths in our songs: the myth of Prometheus, the legend of the Wild Hunt and also the abstract image of those old deities from nature (which are still present but forgotten) in our song “Mil ecos” (Thousand echoes). In our future work we’d like to explore myths from other parts of the world. Regarding traditions, the essential folk tradition behind Vael is the primitive and universal act of joining all together and making music for feeling good and being connected. That’s the “folkiest” thing that you can find in our music and in music in general.

How does the songwriting and recording process work? What instruments are you using?

Actually, we don’t have a regular pattern for composing. Sometimes one of us brings a melody or a chord progression and we start adding and changing things, but we also like to songwrite when we are all together in our rehearsals. We start jamming and music flows from us. Both methods work for us.

We try to use every instrument that falls in our hands. Sometimes that’s a problem because we are seven members plus our instruments. We look like the philharmonic orchestra of an anthropological museum, so we need big stages to play (and also big cars to travel). In summary, the instruments that we use most are davul, cajón, darbuka, bodhran, some small percussion, spanish guitars, baglama, hurdy gurdy, nyckelharpa, guzheng, violin, different flutes, bagpipes… and also our voices. 

You aren’t afraid of the quiet moments, or moving slowly, how does this space of simplicity play into your vision?

Being seven people in the project, sometimes is complicated to achieve balance and things get a little bit messy, because we all want to contribute to the creative process. We like to get intense and powerful in some of our songs, but we like introspection too and some of the themes we address such as death, melancholy or loss are particularly delicate. So there are these moments when we become more careful, or conscious maybe, and we try to slow down and just make something that simply works well and is not as full of melodies and rhythms, kind of more quiet. Silence is an important part in music too and in this kind of songs we try to give more space for simple melodies and silences also. 

Why do you think it’s important to stand up against racism in the music scene?

Entering the music scene is very much like giving someone a speaker. It could be a bigger or smaller one, but is up to us choosing what we say through it. So if we have that responsibility, we should use it to try to make the world a better place.

Starting from our statement and the concept of our band, Vael stands for the defense of every cultural manifestation from every part of the world and every culture, no matter the skin colour, gender or age. We want to break the barriers that separates us and search for what brings us together. So, according to this, we don’t tolerate racism, fascism, or whatever demonstration of discrimination based on the ethnicity, nationality, religion or identity. 

Sadly, in the neofolk scene there’s a bunch of examples of overt racism and white supremacism. We believe that bands like us have to create a scene where everyone is welcomed and united by music, not for other irrelevant reasons which excludes the others.

How do you define “community” and how does that play into your creative vision

We think of community as a gathering of people that supports each other and works together. Each member has his/her own weaknesses and strengths that shape the way the community faces day-to-day challenges. We are, indeed, a little community and what we do is a reflection of how we care for each other and how we have held on together when we have been through difficult situations. This is why our music talks about caring for the others and the world we live in, and the global community we are as living beings experiencing the same things even if those experiences appear in different forms, colours or cultural concepts for each one of us.

There is also another important dimension of community, and it’s the one that we form with the other fellow artists, fans and folks who share our passion for music. The European folk scene is very rich and full of endearing people. Friendly mates willing to give everything to help, collaborative artists and a very supportive public. We had experiences in other musical scenes, and when we met the beautiful people who make up this community we felt very happy and surprised. We cannot conceive our work and our context today without thinking about all of them.

What’s coming next for Vael?

Our plans are to continue exploring the musical possibilities that can be developed, mixing new harmonies and sounds, researching other musical traditions from across the world… just let flow the way we feel and think through the music and keep open minded. We are forced to have a “gap year” due to the unfortunate events of the Covid-19 pandemic that has also changed some of our plans, but we are looking forward to playing in Portugal this fall, and maybe recording a EP with songs that we have recently composed. 

What other bands would you recommend to antifascist neofolk bands?

Here in Spain we have some bands such as Ignitia, an emerging pagan folk band with influences from Wardruna, and Aegri Somnia who mixes traditional work songs and chants from iberian villages —and spanish Civil War songs too— with some metal. Not from Spain but in Spanish we have Emerson Dracon, an Argentinian artist who creates industrial martial neofolk with an antifascist background.

In the global scene, we recommend Rome, since some of us are very fond of Jerome Reuter’s work. Matt Howden with his project Sieben is a very interesting artist too, very talented and full of great ideas and very provocative. We had the opportunity to be part of a Q&A at Castlefest with Waldkauz, Rastaban and La Horde, three bands that one shouldn’t miss, and we were talking about some of the inclusive values that folk music should carry. SeeD is another project formed by very lovely people with a great spirit of union and friendship through nature and tales. We also have Cinder Well, a dark folk band which you have already interviewed, and some other projects where Amelia Baker has been involved, such as Gembrokers and Blackbird Raum, and similar to those ones, we have Mama’s Broke, two women from Canada making “dark” americana music. Lankum is another interesting project, making their own doomy version of irish music.

Finally, we will always recommend Sangre de Muérdago, ‘cause we love their music and all the magic that they create. We had the chance of being together at La Noche de los Candiles in 2018, a really cool festival in southern Spain. They are such wonderful people and one of our most important references in the scene.

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We are putting their two albums below from their Bandcamp. We have also added several of their tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so make sure to follow that as well.

From an Imagined Past: An Interview With April of Her Prime

The quiet simplicity of April of Her Prime is what first stood out to me, a dark folk act born out of the solitary world of solo ambient music. Their distinct sound is born out of complex and conflicting philosophies, the instinct to destroy and to build up anew, and is always created from the instinct to experiment and challenge. Their four albums should be on every neofolk fan list, even if it pushes at the bounds of where dense, melodic ambient music hits the neofolk canon.

We interviewed Italian musician Michele Catapano of April of Her Prime about his musical process, where the inspiration comes from, and what drives the spirit of artistic rebellion.

 

How did April of Her Prime come together? How did you first conceive of the project.

Well, about 3 years ago some profound changes had a certain impact on my, so to speak, “self consciousness,” and this is how one day I ran into classic neofolk. I was truly captivated by the simplicity and yet the depth and intimacy that few acoustic guitar chords could express. Shortly after I realized that I couldn’t have found a more direct, genuine and at the same time “not – easy listening” way to express myself through a song. This is how April of Her Prime was born, picking the name of the project from a verse of Shakespeare’s Sonnet III, which says much more than anything else…

 

Is it an entirely solo project? How do you record it? What instruments are you using?

April of Her Prime is and always will be a solo project. In fact, it is born essentially because of my solo artistic experience, I didn’t find any musician to share the project with. Maybe it is way too personal and if someone else had come across, I would have been tyrannical, ahahah. 

There’s still place for a band, but not under the “April…” name. Plus, the project is almost no cost. I only use a handheld recorder, some (light) pc editing and just the right (or wrong, it depends on the point of view) mood. 

As April of Her Prime, I go entirely acoustic: guitar, drum, sometimes a flute and the singing of the birds, the music of the streams flowing under a dome of dancing leaves. 

My ambient works are a bit different, and though they are part of the same “Weltanschauung,” they still have a different nature, so I prefer to distinguish them from April of Her Prime, using simply the line “from April of Her Prime’s Michele Catapano.” On this, I go mostly with electric guitar (as in “Radio Hiraeth”) and heavily distorted and edited sounds and samples (as you can hear in “De Inferis”, for example), but I also made an entirely acoustic short play named “Haikustic.” Besides the instrumental and technical aspects, the real difference is “ontological”, in a way.  

 

The songs feel almost like an ambient collage. What is the inspiration behind it

The main inspiration for my music in general comes from a deeply, cosmic pessimistic view, very keen to the one expressed by poet Giacomo Leopardi, a man who has been truly significative to my life on many levels (despite the fact that he’s actually dead… or maybe exactly because of it). The entire life and work of Carmelo Bene have been really decisive, too. 

The point is: man is not the great thing he always thinks he is – or I’d better say “he had always thought,” because the COVID emergency seems, at least, to teach him a lesson. Of course this is a tragedy – lots of people are dying or even left to die in America because someone decided they’re no more useful than others or because they don’t have the money, and I myself cannot reach my beloved ones because of the quarantine, but what I say is: once for all, let man learn from his mistakes and misconceptions…

On a more personal level, I think nostalgia for a different time and a different life, one that may have never actually existed anyway, plays the most important part. And solitude surely does a lot, too… haha. 

Speaking of the style, I just love ambient music. I think Basinski, Hecker, and the whole work of David Tibet at first, just to name a few, or the more industrial Nocturnal Emissions and Coil, Cabaret Voltaire, Ulver, but also Boards of Canada and black metal acts, especially Agalloch, or the solo works of Steven Von Till and Scott Kelly, or even the Italian psychedelic and prog scene… It is a really wide wing of artists that I tend to define “ambient”, across the genres, that have an influence on me at any level. It’s hard to give you a more precise answer, haha. 

 

Why do you choose to mostly not do vocals?

First, I don’t like my voice very much, and second, I usually don’t have anything to say that’s not already been said by others before me – in movies, documentaries, poems and so on – or that you can’t reach just by listening to the music, in which case if you can’t, well, it’s just how the things go and it’s exactly what my music is about, after all.

 

 

Why is it important to be an antifascist artist?

The answer here is very simple (yet the implications are not): art can be too personal to be explicitly political, but it’s never entirely apolitical. 

But this doesn’t mean, as much as I can say, that a right wing person is also a right wing artist, I mean someone that produces right wing art or propaganda: it all depends on the social and cultural context in which the work of art is born. Art is made by the artist, but it always expresses the nuances of the “system” or “the actual state of things”, that can be left or right. 

In times like these, I think it’s better to avoid a great number of wannabe-rebels dressed in military code, fucking around with drumsticks and trumpets…

Anyway, generally speaking, as philosopher Antonio Gramsci understood and Carmelo Bene expressed, all art is always the art of the bourgeoisie, so it’s good to “fly away” from it, in a certain sense. 

That’s why, along with other reasons, I don’t see myself as an artist and, for what concerns me, that’s exactly where my antifascism takes place: a refusal of the state of things (or the State, with capital S), of violence even in its “soft” and “intellectual” form, from social life to political philosophy or theory (and so a refusal of, let’s say, the Anthropocene). I’m an anarchist. The triumph of weakness, that’s it. 

 

Why do you think it’s important to stand up to fascism in the music scene?

Fascism grows where ignorance lies, and pop culture is just the fertile soil for ignorance to put its seeds. Think about the right wing meme culture on the Internet… And the effect it had on elections, even here in Italy, where fake news ruled the country for a couple of years, recently. It’s important to fight fascism because it spreads so easily, and art is always the strongest (and… sneaky!) way to do so. But, speaking in the terms of antifascist philosopher Benedetto Croce, there’s no ideology in art and, if so, there’s no art at all, it’s just propaganda. And this is even more true in the case of fascist “art”. In my personal experience, I noticed that, luckly, fascist “art” often boycotts itself: it’s so kitch and ridiculous (like some modern “futurists” i saw around) that no one takes it seriously – not even right wing voters, most of the times…

Anyway, it is a good thing to express clearly one’s distance and repulsion from fascism or racism in art, especially in the neofolk scene (which we all know is problematic) like Einar Selvik from Wardruna, a very successful band, did.  Music in general, that is so easily and largely fruited by anyone, has the weakest skill of defense against fascism and yet grants it the strongest spread – all who have something to do with music, on any level, should defend it.

 

How do folk traditions play into your project?
I’m not a traditionalist, it’s a bunch of bullshit. Most of the so called “traditions” shouted out loud by the right are usually totally made up and fake: from the magical meaning of the runes in nazism, to the supposed “oratores – bellatores -laboratores” historical social system according to Dumézil. And anyway, that’s not true that what once was shall ever be or it is right for it to be (I mean… slavery or antisemitism should be pretty explicative). 

But folk culture, in particular the magic culture of the countryside in Lucania (my homeland), are, I would say, essential to my project. Speaking of which, the work of anthropologists like Ernesto De Martino or the film maker documentarist Luigi Di Gianni are almost vital, in that sense (if you’re interested in such pictures, I recommend you my YouTube channel Oktober Equus Industries where I put some of my songs’ music videos).

A long, forgotten story of deep respect for Mother Nature, that can evolve almost in a Lovecraftian sense of sublime reverence to Her in some cases, and of absence. Yes, I would summarize the whole Lucanian existence as an aesthetic of Absence. My work as a tribute to Absence. 

 

What’s Coming Next for You?

Something’s coming. I’m collecting some ideas and things I already recorded but that need something additional to them, I’m waiting for the right time to come… Anyway, stay tuned!

 

What other artists/bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk bands?

Well, let’s start from a great classic, first of all: ROME, of course. Then I’d suggest DEAES, great band, and Nathan Gray for sure (“Nthn Gry” in particular, in my opinion, is pure gold, everybody should have it). A great post-punk band of the past, sadly almost unknown for what I can see, is And Also The Trees, which I think can fit pretty well the taste of neofolk fans in general. 

Last but not least, especially for the Italian readers, I strongly recommend the whole “Folk” series edited by the label Fonit Cetra in the 70s, a collection of traditional and rural Italian folk tunes (re)discovered and re-arranged by Italian folk musicians like Canzoniere Internazionale, Rosa Balistreri and expecially the singer and ethnomusicologist Caterina Bueno, a real heroine. 

The work of Matteo Salvatore is also a real treasure anyone interested in pure, sensitive music should discover, especially the fans of acoustic strums. His music was our own “blues”, in a certain way. Beautiful.