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Semen Datura

Met hun derde album, genaamd 'Einsamkeit', laat Semen Datura de majestueuze, uitgesponnen zijde van Duitse black metal weerklinken. De combinatie van grootse passages, gecontrasteerd tegen felle blasts, met hieraan samengeklonken teksten van een welluidend, vaak ook poëtisch karakter, is niet aan mijn aandacht ontsnapt. Het werd dan ook maar eens tijd om Conrath von Auerswald (vocalen/gitaar) eens per email aan de tand te voelen.

Door: Martin | Archiveer onder black metal

Let's start with something very striking about your new album, 'Einsamkeit'. The booklet contains a very long statement. Can you explain why you felt the need to include this?
The booklet is our personal mouthpiece. Unfiltered and especially dedicated to the listener. There are some things beside the music and lyrics and we felt after a decade of existence it's necessary to give a statement. If you see the ocean of grey masses and meaningless “followers” you know the reason for a cultural downfall. In generally I don't like the term “elite” but the ruling elite of today's world is definitely NOT the intellectual elite. If you just write lyrics because you like the lyrics of a other band – it means nothing. If you just play riffs because you like the riffs of an other guitarist – it means nothing. It's okay, but it means nothing. It's okay for teenagers or people who just start playing an instrument or a problem. But an adult person should have an own intention for the things they do. To keep it simple: The booklet is our chance to give people who are interested a deeper view into “how we see things” and so we used this possibility.

Well, let's discuss the music now. 'Einsamkeit' is your third album, but unfortunately it has been my very first introduction to the band. Can you please explain me how this album relates to the previous two?
Between our releases years passed. So the relations are subtle. The new album 'EINSAMKEIT' stands totally for its own. An result of the development, the life and the situations in the last four years. It were the darkest years of my life so far and it was very impressing to see how the easiness of youth flows away. How friends left, families broke, hope dies and future became just another word for “bleakness”. Besides this we had different line-ups on each release. Nakhar (bass) and me are the only constant. We started as an “ordinary” band of three friends. Many things changed since 1997. Now SD is more a personal expression of myself than a band.

Your interpretation of black metal sounds very mature. What have been the main influences, both musical and non-musical?
The search for balance. I felt that there is a permanent trying to fill the emptiness with something. With music, with journeys, with reading, girls... and so on. But it's impossible to fill your whole time with these things. It's a journey without end because a normal person feels “luck” by doing nothing, by relaxing. To be permanently restless makes the emptiness even bigger and also it's very energy-sapping. It brings you to the psychological edges. Our music is a part (or a result) of this search for balance. And so I do things that are inspiring for my, which are curative. Which speaks to me. It's for example the music of Godspeed You Black Emperor or WOVENHAND. That are movies like 'Antichrist' of Lars von Trier or journeys to impressive Cities like Budapest or London. To do such things is healing for a period but I want to learn to find this satisfaction by doing nothing to be just by myself. To be in solitude without the feeling of isolation. But this needs a strong background... And the modern world (in my region) is permanent ignoring and isolating you in a obvious way. All my friends can confirm this in different situations. There is a closing circle to our statement in the booklet.

The technical level on the album is certainly laudable; there is also room for the rhythm section to come to justice. Can you elaborate on that?
If you are just a three-piece it's necessary to give also room for the bass-guitar and the drums. That are equivalent parts of our music. The music works also in the session room with just one guitar, one drum and one bass. It's very reduced but in the same way it's very real. I'm a bit fed up from all this unreal overproduced stuff. It's important for us to recognise ourselves in our music and not just the money somebody invested in a studio.

The drummer that played on 'Einsamkeit', Axt, is no longer part of the band. You play with a session drummer now. Please explain the situation.
Axt left the band because he moved to another town and so it's not possible for him to continue. It's unfortunate because I like his style. On the other hand I think he will in generally focus on other styles than metal and so there was more than one reason to left the band. In the session room we play actually with a drumcomputer. We programmed all relevant songs to practice vocals, guitars and bass from time to time. Also we have an agreement with a drummer for potentially concerts in 2010. You see, we are prepared. Time will show if there is any serious interest of organizers to see SD live.

According to the info on your MySpace Axt is a jazz drummer. He does play quite a decent blastbeat for a jazz musician. Where did he get those skills?
He's not a “hardcore-jazz-musician”. He is just influenced by different styles like jazz, drum'n'bass or samba, playing cajon and so on... I think most drummers, that play some years, try to develop their skills in different styles. Before he joined SEMEN DATURA he played in a local metal influenced rockband and so it was no problem. Okay, the blasts were a bit difficult in the beginning but he's talented and we jammed a lot. If you are a enthusiastic drummer it's just a question of time and will to get skills like blastbeat or doublebass-figures. In my opinion its an enrichment to have different influences because nothing is as boring as stagnation.

In all honesty there is one minor point of criticism I have: the vocals have been processed rather heavily and I have the impression (an opinion of course; feel free to disagree) that less effect-laden vocals would have worked at least just as well, if not better. Why this choice then?
Hmm, are there many effects? My voice sounds really a bit strange sometimes. It's me, haha. No, we had enough time to go very deep into the production and so it would be tragic to be not satisfied with the result. By the way, I think the whole production is very naturally and there are only effects to underline the “deeper” meaning. But if I listen the album next time I will try to analyze the aspect you told. It's always good to get constructive criticism because we are still hungry to develop the expression.

band image

The production of 'Einsamkeit' is quite straightforward and relatively simple, but very effective. Where did you record it and how did the whole recording process take place?
The recordings took place in our own project studio. The mastering was done by MZ at PAX-Studio located in Sardinia. ATMF gave us the contact to the guy and it was a great input. Our ambition was to reflect the original sound of the band... very real and handmade. It's a question of personal identification with our own work. On this album we didn't need so much things like triggering or duplicated guitars. The drumsound is really from our drumset... you can hear the wood, its birch.

Since the majority of your lyrics are written in German, I suppose many of our readers will not be able to understand them. Would you be so kind to elaborate on the lyrical themes you explore on 'Einsamkeit'.
The lyrics are mostly about terms like melancholia, depression or solitude. If I wrote the lyrics I lived in a village surrounded by wide fields and forests. Nature is able to amplify moods. And so the description of nature is used as the description of inner situations. A kind of mirror. Sometimes we felt that one single word is able to express more than many sentences. Reduced to the essence because the album is an extract, the core of our continuum.

Vineta appears to be a recurring theme for Semen Datura. Is there a reason behind this?
Vineta was a sunken island of the Baltic Sea. A bit similar to the saga of Atlantis. It was high developed and reasons for the downfall were self-indulgence, greed and selfishness. But we are no storytellers. We tried to set a relation between this myth or history to our present day realities. More in a psychological or sometimes analytical way. The question is: “What are the reasons for this “depressive mood” we feel in our modern world” On our last album 'Vineta' are some titles like 'Fall' or 'Nothing is Elite' who deals explicit with the connection between Vineta and today. But on the actual album the theme is not in the foreground. 'EINSAMKEIT' is more about inner conflicts and processing of psychological pressures. It was essential to do this because situations became so overwhelming that there was no place for a “concept” in a conventional sense.

Has the fact that you are from East Germany had any significant influence on how Semen Datura has developed?
Maybe. I think to live in a post-communistic country makes some things a bit strange. I mean most people changed their conception of the world radically in a very short time. What is the meaning of “truth” if all your teachers were declared as liars from one day to another? In my childhood we had to wave a flag if the Russian tanks drove through the village and today the children visit McDonalds everyday. On the other hand it's interesting to see this changes happen in such a compressed way. So yes, I think it's an influence.

You have stated in another interview that you do not take playing live for granted; the atmosphere of a live concert does not per se combine very well with the intention of your music. Does this mean we cannot expect you to perform live at all or are there exceptions, and if yes, please explain what, and when, we can expect to see you on stage.
It means that we will try to select the concerts we play. If there is an organizer really interested in the band we make all happen to perform live. It's no question of money or something. It's a question of respect and enthusiasm. What you can expect? More a kind of ritual performance than a rock-show. I would like to perform behind a screen on which Lars von Triers 'Antichrist' is playing. But that's just a spontaneous idea...

Any closing comments?
Thank you for the interest and best regards.

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