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Sun Of The Sleepless

Als een feniks is Sun Of The Sleepless uit de as herrezen met het fantastische album ’To The Elements’ als gevolg. Dit black metal project van Schwadorf – bekend van Empyrium en The Vision Bleak – werd eind jaren negentig opgericht en bracht eerder enkele kortere releases uit, maar komt nu eindelijk met een volledig album. En dat is meteen een knaller! Bovendien gaat de band ook live optreden, zodat we bijzonder welgezind geruime tijd met Schwadorf aan de lijn hingen over al zijn plannen en de wedergeboorte van één van zijn creaties.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

Last Monday you have shot a video clip?
Yes we did, for the song ‘The Owl’. We are actually done with it now. We shot four days and we shot it with a real owl, the big one. It is called eagle owl, the very big one. It was a lot of fun.

And did it behave?
(laughs) It behaved, but we had to feed the owl a lot of young chicken. That’s what he got, a kind of reward I think. Of course there was a trainer, together with the owl. But basically he did almost everything what we wanted. But it was fun having this big owl close to my face for example and on my arm, woeha. But it is an amazing animal. I love them.

It was on your Facebook that you have a special bond with owls…
Yeah absolutely. This is actually what this song is all about. Like a Totum for the Indians. They had these animals to describe a character trade of people and this is how I see it. And looking back I made a lot of songs about animals lately. I had ‘From Wolf To Peacock’ on the last The Vision Bleak record, ‘Phoenix Rise’: another bird. There’s always animals and it is always this Totem kind of look at it. I have some Indian blood maybe or something.

Possible, because your favourite season happens to be Indian Summer…
Yeah exactly, it is my favourite time of the year.

And in the end, animals belong to nature and it is your main inspiration for the music…
Absolutely and the owl.. in Germany a word for the small owl is ‘Kauz’ and ‘Kauz’ also means people that are kind of loners, who are a bit strange, where you don’t know what kind of guy it is and always lonesome, away from the crowd, like a pariah. It is the same meaning. The German word for this ‘Kauz’ means ‘owl’ at the same time. This is very interesting. The owl is also a symbol for wisdom and for foresight and for freedom. He is a great hunter and hunting in silence. All things that I am very close to.

And also a creature of the night…
Of course a creature of the night. These are the last lines of the lyric ‘Forever at night, the owl’.

Oh yes? Maybe it was in my subconscious… but actually when and how did you come to the idea to make a new start with Sun Of The Sleepless?
Basically I wanted to restart the project already, I think two or three years ago, but I had a totally different concept back then. I really wanted to do single songs and release them on a blog page or something like this, because this has always been a project for my creativity, for spontaneous ideas, for trying out stuff. I wanted to continue with this kind of concept, but then after I finished ‘The Unknown’ by The Vision Bleak, whenever I took the guitar in my hands, I played a black metal riff (chuckles). It was crazy! I took the guitar and I played a black metal riff. I got five or six riffs in a very short amount of time and I thought: okay, this is telling me something. So this time I decided to reactivate the project in this way, to go back to the original style why I started this project. Back then, we had Empyrium and Empyrium was getting more calm. So I needed something to find a balance again and I started Sun Of The Sleepless to express the anger and the more aggressive and wild stuff. And I think we are exactly at the same point now, because The Vision Bleak is kind of very settled in its concept, even though the last album was pretty different from what we did before, still I think I need something for this more angry stuff and this wild music. And also I must say: here I do everything completely alone, on my own. I mean, I write almost all the music in Empyrium and I write most of the music in The Vision Bleak, but still I really wanted to do something completely on my own and also sing my own lyrics again. Because this is something I really missed in a way. In The Vision Bleak I write the lyrics, but Tobias sings them, in Empyrium I write most of the lyrics, but Thomas sings them. I really felt the need to sing myself again. Sing and scream, whatever comes out of me. And I enjoyed it as well. This is one of the reasons why the album became what it became. I did not planned to do it, but on the way I really felt how much I missed singing when I did it. I think like three years ago, or maybe longer, five years ago, I really did not feel like screaming anymore. It did not fit me anymore I was thinking, but I was so wrong, you know. Now when I did the screaming, I really felt… you know there is a psychological therapy, it is called ‘the scream therapy’… well, I really felt how this works when you do it from the bottom of your heart. It really relieves you of some burden.

Ah that is also the title from the first song: ‘The Burden’…
Indeed. It is actually a cover version. Not many people noticed that, but it is a cover. It is very different from the original by Loreena McKennitt, from her album ‘The Mask And Mirror’, the last song. I gave it a different title. I had a kind of obsession with this song and with its lyrics. The lyrics are actually written by Shakespeare. It is a very beautiful piece of music.

Is that the only song, inspired by old time writers, because it says here in the info sheet that the album has poetic lyrics from romantic writers of the ages?
I think that has always been my kind of writing. It is always poetry inspired and I have always been inspired by the great romantic writers, like Shelley and Byron from the classic English school or Goethe or Eichendorff. My name Schwadorf, the pseudonym, comes very close to Eichendorff, a very famous German romantic poet. I have always been very inspired by his writings, because I feel that they did what I do with most of the music, that they create a kind of sceneries with their words, as I do with the music – and also with the words of course – a kind of look at nature, absorb it… it is like with the Totem and the animal; the same way you can look at the scenery in nature. You can use it as a symbol for your inner feelings. Something very classic romantic. This is where Sun Of The Sleepless is very much inspired by.

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But in the beginning when you founded it, it was inspired by the first wave of black metal, isn’t it? Bands like Emperor and Burzum in the beginning… but you have much more slower parts and atmospheric parts… a real personal touch…
I think I am very inspired by these bands, but I am mostly inspired by their atmosphere. What I do… of course I can only do what comes out of me. What comes out of me nowadays is like the combination of the last twenty-five years of music of course (chuckles). All has kind of inspired me, but what I really wanted to do is creating something that is so intense and so pure and so atmospheric as the same kind of mysticism. Like the first record of Emperor and the MCD which I really adore. Burzum, the first three, four records and Ulver of course, the first three records which were absolutely magic. I really wanted to create something in that vein. Not do a retro album, not do the same that they did again. That does not make any sense to me, you know, but rather inspired by them and make something of your own. It is the only way that you can create art, everything else is just a copycat of something. Of course, nowadays there’s a lot of retro going on. Sounding exactly the same like bands from the seventies… or now it is the eighties wave where a lot of bands do the synth wave… You can do it in two ways: you can do your own stuff or you can be a copy of something and being a copy is boring in my opinion.

But you have to be talented enough to do that. You have to have the capabilities to be original and not everybody has that gift…
I think it has a lot to do – not with talent – but with being self-confident. This is for me the point. I think many people are not self-confident enough to do something that is risky. Because when you copy something that has been successful before, it is a safe place to be. When you do a one-to-one Darkthrone copy, people would say: yeah it is great, like Darkthrone! But this is not my kind of approach. I always did something that was in between: with Empyrium or with The Vision Bleak or now with Sun Of The Sleepless. When people understand what it is, they appreciate it a lot and I can see that I have a lot of fans that really appreciate what I do. And on the other hand I have people who say: about Empyrium for instance, it is calm and romantic gay shit, but I don’t care, because this is my personal expression, what I am and I am self-confident enough to do what I want and show it to everybody. Being a copy is kind of lacking self-confidence.

We saw that sign already with your first Sun Of The Sleepless releases: you did a very daring version of a Darkthrone song…
(laughs) Very daring yeah…

I think it was not appreciated amongst the so-called ‘true’ blackies…
No, no. Probably not. But I found at this time – and I still think - it is very interesting to take a song and make complete new arrangements. That is really a cover version in the end. What I wanted to do is making this monotony of the original song even more obvious and the atmospheric of the song more obvious. Stripping off the metal and only leave the atmosphere, because this is how I hear Darkthrone, or at least old Darkthrone. Nowadays they are of course much more a real metal band. Maybe that’s the wrong expression, but you get what I am saying… This atmosphere was my main thing, not the spikes and bullet belts and do aaaargh (chuckles). I liked that as well, absolutely fine, but everybody enjoys and hears things a little bit different. That is a matter of taste. When two people drink the same whiskey, one person will say: I don’t like it, it is totally hot and the second will say: mmm it is very sweet. Tastes are different and also the way people absorb music. This is the way I always absorbed Norwegian black metal music, why I love it so much.

Can we see the last song literally, because the band has risen from the ashes?
Yeah absolutely. That was another thing that happened more subconsciously. I did not really plan to write a song called ‘Phoenix Rise’, but actually I wrote the last part of the song before and I knew when I finished it: this is the end of the record, because it is so epic. It is a grand finale and I really wanted this to be the end of the record and I really wanted to use this poem. The four last lines are from a poem by Tolkien. I wanted to use this since the nineties and now I found a place for it. It came into my mind again and it really fits for ending the album and to the theme of the phoenix, the bird that dies and rises anew into something else. It is exactly what Sun Of The Sleepless did with this album.

And it is also a kind of reference to nature: it always dies and comes back…
Exactly. It is a conclusion that I made a longer time ago, but it is still fascinating me: the eternal circle of life and death in everything. If you understand that, the phoenix is a very natural symbol. Also for creation. If you want to create, you often have to destroy before to create. Get rid of something, get rid of old and destroy to come to a new point and this is something where a lot of people, also in their normal lives, have problems with. With change. Letting loose of old stuff to come to a new place. It is actually also what the first song, ‘Motions’ is about. It is about that everything is always in constant motion, in constant movement and this is something that is really fishy to me. When I see somebody that I haven’t seen in twenty years and he is still at exactly the same spot. I mean not the same person as character, but he is at the same spot where nothing has evolved. He has the same thoughts. You should always recheck with yourself what you think. You should be able to confess that what you thought ten years ago as being right, is wrong now. This is the nature of evolution and the nature of nature.

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That is true. As you said, some people stay at the same job even though they hate it…
They do it for the rest of their life, this is something they are missing out, but it is also something that you need to be daring for. And it can be such a relief! If there is something that burns in you for a long time already and finally you have the guts to say: I don’t want it anymore, it was a mistake and going on. This is something that is very important for someone as a person and very important in all forms of art, because if you do not have this kind of mindset, you end up like – I hope I will be forgiven for saying that – AC/DC. For me this band… they did not make a record in the last thirty or forty years. Well, it would not be my kind of thing like that.

They hold on to the same riffs, the same outfits, the same movements on stage…
Exactly. It is funny, because they are self ironic about this as well. I once read an interview with Angus Young where somebody said: ‘You did ten records with three chords’ and Angus said: ‘No, you are wrong. It was thirteen records.’ (laughs)

Well, if they can sell out arenas with their three chords, they are not stupid to cash the money and run…
It is a typical sign of our times in a way. I just talk about that with Tobias not long ago. All the old bands like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Metallica or Depeche Mode for example, they sell out the stadia like crazy and the younger bands, they are having less and less audience. Also this is kind of safe thinking. When I go to AC/DC I know what I am getting. It is a kind of problem in the industry I think. Everybody wants it the safe way.

And the strange thing is: the magazine sells more with Metallica on the cover for the thousandth time. There are so many people just stepping in circles inside the routine…
Absolutely. It is very weird nowadays, because when I came into metal in the late eighties, it was totally different. Of course you had big bands, but there were always new bands breaking through. Paradise Lost, Sepultura, Kreator,… all these bands became very big in the late eighties and they stayed big and then death metal broke through, then black metal. There was always new stuff coming. Now it is more like there is new stuff coming, but they say: no, let’s listen to some Motörhead. Maybe it is because the scene grows older. To a certain extent I am listening again to the old nineties Norwegian black metal stuff as well. Back to the stuff I listened to when I was a kid, it is nostalgic.

As long as there are youngsters into metal as well, it is no problem…
Haha, we have to teach them. For example in the live line-up of Sun Of The Sleepless we have also a pretty young guy. Actually two pretty young guys. They are totally into Facebook and things like that. It works for them.

Who will be with you at the gigs? We have Eviga from Dornenreich and…
Yes, it is actually Vincent, the drummer from Paris, who played the last The Vision Bleak tour with Pain. Then Eviga from Dornenreich playing guitar, then me doing guitar and vocals, the other younger guy coming from Germany, from a band called Mosaic. It is a very cool underground black metal band. They are also very inspired by Empyrium and also Sun Of The Sleepless, that is the reason we came in touch, he will play bass and then we have Sebastian, the drummer of Helrunar. He will actually play guitar, because he is a brilliant guitar player. He was really glad that I asked him to play guitar and not drums (chuckles). Because they always ask him to play drums. In The Vision Bleak, usually he is our drummer, live drummer and of course in Helrunar, but the last Helrunar album I did with them he played all the drums, all the guitars and all the bass. He is such an amazing musician. And a humble guy! Nobody knows it that he is doing everything. We will be with three guitars, so hopefully it will be a wall of sound. Because I think this music needs to be a wall of emotions and a wall of sound. Very layered.

I am so eagerly looking forward to it!
I am just rehearsing on a daily basis now, for me and at the end of next week, the guys will come over for the rehearsals. It is very challenging, because we have the Vision Bleak extra show with the classical musicians, Thomas Helm as extra singer and someone who plays the timpali, so we have to rehearse with them and also with Sun Of The Sleepless.

In October another show is planned at the Samhain Festival…
Yes, in Gotha in Germany. It is a Samhain celebration festival, which is actually organized by the live bass player, who I told you is playing in this underground black metal band Mosaic. It is a very beautiful small festival, two hundred people max capacity and it is done with a lot of attention. Every attendee of the concert gets a tape sampler and you get an amulet. Very beautiful!

Are you planning to do a bit more gigs in future with Sun Of The Sleepless?
Absolutely! I really hope that we will do two tours next year. I want to do one tour in Springtime. Not fixed yet, but I had a lot of talks to other bands… and then there will be hopefully another tour in Autumn, together with Helrunar. They are doing a new album next year and I think it will be a cool match, those two bands. Maybe a third band with us and a bit bigger tour.

That will be amazing! Can you tell the reason why you chose the title ‘To The Elements’?
Of course the lyrics deal a lot with nature and I think the concept of the elements is very close to the concept of living. I feel there is parts of the elements in the music, like fire which is a symbol for passion, and the air which is like the ethereal element and airy vocals, and the earth for the forest grounds, the woody feelings, you know and of course the flowing kind of movement of the water. I think it is all in the music and it should be in all good music. I really love the concept of the four elements. That’s what holds together the world. I like that the title is emphasized by the cover artwork. It has something very solent, a kind of celebrating, light a candle for it. A kind of celebration, that is what I really wanted to express with the title and with the cover artwork. There is a lot of symbolism in the cover artwork, with this one candle that’s burning. It is very symbolic for this project and the candle, the fire is always a symbol for passion and for being aflame for something. This is what the title and the cover kind of means to me.

Aha, I have written down that it was a celebration of elements of nature, so I felt it correct…
You got it! Also a celebration of living, you know.

That’s precious, because we only have one life and we should make the best of it…
Absolutely. That’s why I said earlier: it is all about moving. Of course also looking back from time to time, as in ‘Where In My Childhood Lived A Witch’ which is a little bit like looking back to my own childhood. I am having kids myself now and I am still absolutely fascinated by the way children can create realities. They are able to create a reality with their minds. This is something that we lose when we are grown up. People want us to lose it, of course, because this is what people makes kind of free. They can create their reality with their own mind, they are free and this is what this song is about. To not lose that, it is very important to keep the fantasy, always.

As a creator and as a musician, when you create things, then you go a little bit back into that pureness of childhood then…
Exactly. It is very much the same state of mind when creating. When I look at my son when he is running around in the garden for example, I see how he is creating his own reality at that moment. Very close to what an artist does. That reality only exists in your mind, but it is a freedom we should cherish.

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