Aethernaeum developed from your solo project into a full operative band. Can you tell a bit more about the early beginnings, going from ‘(winter) solitude’ into a five piece band?
The solo project was not named Winter Solitude – that’s the name of our studio, label and shop –, but simply Alexander Paul Blake. I used this pseudonym for many years in my other band Eden Weint Im Grab, and when I recorded this black metal solo record (‘Die Rückkehr Ins Goldene Zeitalter’) I didn’t have a name for it first, thus I thought Alexander Paul Blake might be a good choice. Afterwards we decided to continue as a real band and I didn’t want to have a full band with that single person’s name. That’s why we changed it to Aethernaeum. But in a musical sense Aethernaeum is a continuation of ‘Die Rückkehr Ins Goldene Zeitalter’ – on a more mature level.
Okay, I meant that winter solitude in a symbolic way hehe. Music-wise, the foundation is blackened metal, but relished with all kinds of other elements. What can we see as main ingredients of the lengthy Aethernaeum compositions?
Well, I’d say it’s a form of black metal, combined with elements from folklore, doom, traditional heavy metal, a little bit of post rock and so on. We try to write long and epic songs, to create a certain atmosphere. It’s a bit like a world of its own, where you can lose yourself in. For us it’s important to keep the compositions interesting with lots of dynamic changes, so they have a kind of natural flow between harsh and calm parts. And beside that we like good melodies and the fact that you can discover new things in the arrangements every time you listen to the songs.
Lyric-wise, the respect for nature, romanticism and spiritualism go hand in hand. Can you tell a bit more about the contents of the lyrics for ‘Naturmystik’?
Well, to be honest with the aspects you mention in the question for me everything is said that needs to be said. I don’t want to explain the lyrics in detail because several interpretations are possible. Some lyrics are very personal to me, but I like to keep the stories behind it private. Other lyrics are more spiritual – about finding your place in this universe, dealing with death and the destruction of this planet. And nature for me is always a kind of a mirror of human aspects. It’s not always about the nature itself, there are more layers in the lyrics than just the obvious one.
After the early days, we had the first album ‘Wanderungen Durch Den Daemmerwald’. Can you tell about your affinity with the Daemmerwald (because it is pretty far from Berlin ) and the charms that really struck you there…
Far from Berlin? Well, we have lots of nature around here hehe. But for me the forest in our lyrics is also a place in the mind, it doesn’t need to be a real place. Wherever your fantasy leads you … As I said, for me nature is not only the actual nature outside, it has much more to it. So the ‘Daemmerwald’, you mentioned, can also be a poetical, spiritual, philosophical or literary place.
Around the release of the debut, Aethernaeum experienced its premiere as a live band. How do you look back at that event at Wave Gotik Treffen?
Oh, that feels long time ago already. I don’t remember many details anymore. My memory sometimes fails, haha. It was a good gig though and the crowd welcomed us warm-hearted and bought lots of things at the merchandise booth afterwards and we had a good time. We also integrated a fire show, which we did only two times so far. Hopefully we’ll be booked again someday.
What happened after the release of ‘Daemmerwald’? What were important happenings in the band existence that showed you are winning some fans for instance? Important gigs as well? Things you look back to with pleasure?
We played some cool gigs at smaller festivals in Germany like Darktroll, Rock For Roots or Barther Metal Open Air and some club shows and the reactions on the album were quite good. But our main focus was to produce the new album, so we spent lots of time in the studio and recorded, arranged and wrote the new songs.
Can you tell about the writing process for the new album ‘Naturmystik’? Do you mostly write in solitude or was the band involved now for the sophomore album?
I always prefer to write songs alone and then pass over the demos to the other guys for some improvements and additional ideas. But the main parts of the songs are already finished in the demo status. I have my studio and am able to record quite professionally. This kind of working has become my way over the ways and I feel most comfortable, when I proceed in solitude first. The only exception is the song ‘Im Zyklus Der Jahreszeiten’, which has been written by our guitar player Marco with additional ideas and lyrics from me. This is the very first Aethernaeum song, which hasn’t been written by me, by the way.
I have read that the recording sessions were long and very laborious. I guess – on top of that – the record was recorded at your own studio? Can you go a bit deeper into that?
Yes, as always we worked in our Winter Solitude studio, where we have all the technical possibilities – and even more important – all the time we need. We can work in intervals and are not dependent on anyone else. It’s true that the ‘Naturmystik’ session took a long time. The songs had been written within a very short time in spring 2014, then the demos remained untouched for about half a year until we had rebuilt our studio. Afterwards it took another half year to record everything with the other guys and also the mixing process took quite a while, since we always have huge piles of corrections to be done, till everyone is satisfied with every little detail. And since it were lots of different tracks this time, there were many small adjustments to be made till it was finally finished.
Can you give us some thoughts on your respect for nature and spirituality, whether it is in your general life or as source of inspiration?
I guess this spirituality – or whatever you might call it – is something that goes through all my life already. It’s a deeper interest in the true nature of things. Asking questions who we really are, where our offspring is, where we go after death etc. I have this deep thirst for knowledge, which is also expressed in my art in many ways. After reading a lot, I believe in reincarnation and thus a kind of life after death. This life on earth in the material world is just a bigger part of a huge journey, in which we gain experiences and knowledge. But I also believe that the whole universe with all its dimensions is so difficult that our brain is not able to understand all of it. My belief is in a constant state of progression, so it’s always difficult to make conclusions, that might be valid for all eternity. That’s why I try to keep the lyrics open for interpretation. Aside from that I’m not a preacher but an artist. And these are only my personal believes, the other guys in the band might think different hehe. Well, nature … I sometimes wonder, if all the beauty is really just an accident of evolution or if there is a conscious energy behind forming it … nature as a form of art is also one of the major subject matters in Aethernaeum, but as a part of questions that go beyond the beauty of nature.
That issue is reflected in the beautiful video for ‘Heimreise (Ein Requiem)’!. Please tell us a bit about the location and the making of…
We were in an area called Siegerland in Germany, about an hour from Cologne. This is the place of residence of our video producer Rainer ZIPP Fränzen, who also did our previous videos and worked with bands like Dimmu Borgir, Faun or Leaves’ Eyes. He is a big idealist and always tries to get the best out of our little budget and spends a lot of his free time. We are very thankful for this. We had a team of about ten people working hard for two days in the nature. Rainer also used a crane and an underwater camera to film the scenes and I think the result speaks for itself. We are very proud and think the images are a good representation of what Aethernaeum is all about.
What do you prefer so far: studio work or live gigs?
I am more of a studio guy and if I had the choice, I would rather stop playing live than writing new songs. I love the creative side of music, if song-writing, lyric writing, mixing and mastering or creating artworks – that’s why I always have new projects in mind. I have to be honest, playing on huge stages can be fun as well, but I don’t like everything around – like travelling, waiting, carrying heavy boxes, organisational things, having stress – not that much. The hour on stage is mostly worth it, because you really get a rush of adrenaline and I know that concerts are important for our fans, but yeah, for me the albums are the main part of our art.
You also play in Eden Weint In Grab. What are the plans with that band and how did you actually get involved?
How I got involved? Well I established Eden Weint Im Grab as a solo project in 2004 and did the first three albums alone (laughs). Afterwards it developed into a real band – an equal development as with Aethernaeum. At the moment we’ve finished the song-writing for the seventh Eden Weint Im Grab album and are in the process of arranging some parts and I hope we will start recording still this year, so that we are able to release the new album some time in 2016. But there is no concrete schedule at the moment. Fortunately there is no pressure from our label Einheit Produktionen, so we can always take the time we need. What I can say is, that it’s not going to be a third part of ‘Geysterstunde’, but a concept album of its own.
How do you look back at your solo album nowadays, in comparison with the current Aethernaeum sound?
I think it’s the first step, which was necessary to develop the Aethernaeum sound and I guess it sounds like the same band, but on a different stage of maturity. At that time I tried to make a typical black metal album – of the atmospheric kind of course – with a very raw, natural sound. I would have been able to make a better production even at that time, but I wanted to keep it as simple and traditional consciously to gain this very special feeling. With the first Aethernaeum album ‘Wanderungen Durch Den Daemmerwald’ the cello had been added as extra element and we also tried to make the sound as good as possible, which was the main difference, I think. I rarely listen to my own albums later, but nevertheless in my opinion ‘Die Rückkehr Ins Goldene Zeitalter’ still is a good album and it is exactly, what I wanted to do at that time.
What should you mention as bands that once had a huge influence on you? And what music do you like to listen to today?
I like to listen to all kinds of music. It’s not limited to a specific genre. I grew up with metal, but nowadays I also like electronic music, indie, rock, pop, prog, classical music, avantgarde etc. For the first steps of Aethernaeum/Alexander Paul Blake bands like early In The Woods…, Burzum, Agalloch, Empyrium, Dornenreich, Negura Bunget, Wolves In The Throne Room or Emperor have been an influences and I still like these bands, but it’s not like I’m listening to their albums all the time – maybe in special moments.
Is their a (sort of) myth or legend from the era you are coming from that you ever used in your lyrics?
No, not at all. I’m not so much into local myths. Aethernaeum is more about my own fantasy and spirituality. What I used as an inspiration for the ‘Die Rückkehr Ins Goldene Zeitalter’ album was Thoreaus novel “Walden” and on a more subconscious level there is a lot of Romanticism in the lyrics, but that’s it.
Good plans for 2016, because a tour with Dornenreich (and Velnias) is coming up in March… Well, I guess you look forward to that. Can you tell us about your affinity with Dornenreich?
Of course we look forward to this, since it’s our first nightliner tour and I personally have been following the art of Dornenreich since their ‘Her Von Welken Nächten’ album and also know the guys personally for some years. They are very nice, so I guess it’s going to be a good tour on a personal and professional level – and of course also for the fans, since as often as we’ve been compared with Dornenreich already, I guess, they could love both bands.
Since the tour covers German speaking countries, I still hope there will be touring abroad in 2016 as well. Can we hope for that?
We don’t know. We’d love to, but we don’t have a booker or agent outside Germany, so it’s always hard for us to get shows. We are a small band on a small label and thus always have to hope for the hand of fate that opens new doors for us, since we can’t open many of the bigger doors on our own.
To occlude, let us round off with few words about the artwork and the truly beautiful artbook…
Since we got lots of positive reactions on the artbook for ‘Wanderungen Durch Den Daemmerwald’, we wanted to do something like that again. We worked with a guy called Lars Newald now for the second time. He’s a German photographer, not well-known unfortunately, even though also Empyrium recently used some of his pictures. But his works have a great atmosphere that fits perfectly to Aethernaeum. He sent me a huge pile of pictures and I chose the most suitable for the artwork, layouted them and edited them as well. I like the idea of bigger work of art, which consists of music, poetry and visual art to form something bigger than just music. And I like holding a high quality artbook in my hand while listening to the album instead of listening to an MP3 only. I’m glad that many fans appreciate this.
If there is something to want to add, feel free to do so…
Please check out our “Heimreise” video here. And if you like it there are many possibilities online checking out the rest of our music. We’re glad for any kind of support. Thanks for the interview. Was fun answering your questions!