Heathen Harvest: Can you begin by defining the distinction between Dense Vision Shrine and Penitent?
Karsten Hamre: The first and probably most important difference lies in the music. Penitent has been more closely linked to Dark wave and gothic, to more synthesized sounds. Dense Vision Shrine is more dark ambient, and far more dark and bleak than Penitent has ever been. Also the musical structure of these two projects is quite different. Penitent is base more on melodies and the use of instruments, or so it has been, while Dense Vision Shrine's music is more painting with sounds. One could also say that Dense Vision Shrine has a more minimalist approach to things, and moving at a very slow pace.
HH: Can you explain how Dense Vision Shrine began and who is involved in the band?
KH: It began in October 2001, when I was asked to mix some music for a fashion/performance show. For this show I created a couple of tracks and due to the good response after this show I decided to do some more, and eventually I came up with the name Dense Vision Shrine, as the project needed a name, as the music did not fit with any of the other stuff I had done previous to that date. Dense Vision Shrine is only me.
HH: The music of Dense Vision Shrine is extremely dark and mournful. Do these musical themes reflect a personal dimension of the composer? On the other hand, are they abstract musings?
KH: Though I have had my moments of darkness and misery, the dark and mournful nature of the music is not a direct reflection of how my life is. They are rather some inspirational sources I have. I guess one could say it is more abstract musings.
HH: Your most recent release "Litanies of Desire" has a very gothic image of the crucifixion of Jesus. Is it the intent of Dense Vision Shrine to communicate a sense of gothic religiosity to the music?
KH: It's not my intention to communicate some sort of gothic religiousness through the music. I am more about transmitting certain atmospheres, and it will be up to the listener to draw his/her conclusions about what the musing represent to them personally. The choice of the imagery of the design is chosen simply because I felt it fit well with the overall atmosphere, and of course that I have for a long time been quite fascinated by graveyard statues. These specific images were something I came across when looking through some old negatives of mine. The photos is something I took at a cemetary in Milan, during a travel I made there in the mid ninetees.
HH: "Litanies of Desire" has a very somber feel throughout the compositions. It communicated to me the feeling of a requiem or another kind of musical exploration of death and mourning. Did you compose the music with any such thoughts?
KH: I have for a long time wanted to create some sort of a requiem, but I didn't have any conscious thoughts about that when I were creating the music for "Litanies of Desire". Though it just as may be, that this influence was happening more on a subconscious level.
HH: The music on "Litanies of Desire" is a combination of dark ambient and neoclassical themes. Can you explain your musical exploration of this pairing of elements?
KH: I have never thought of this, as I haven't seen things this way, meaning the part regarding neo classical themes. In any case, when I work with music I try to not focus so much on each single element, rather the whole, and in that way keep an open mind of what I can mix together. I do not have any boundaries or restraints against what elements to mix together. I feel it is better this way.
HH: The Dense Vision Shrine website describes Dense Vision Shrine as a multi-media endeavor. Can you tell us about the multi-media dimensions of Dense Vision Shrine?
KH: The multi-media dimension is related to the stage appearances. As you know when performing this sort of music on a stage it might not be stimulating enough with just the sounds. At least I wish to also stimulate an audience also in the visual way, and that is something I do by using video slide shows projected on a big screen when performing.
HH: The Dense Vision Shrine website also posts a rebuttal to the argument that multi-media is not a valid artistic category. Can you explain the challenges Dense Vision Shrine has faced as a multi-media project?
KH: This is more a statement made due to the fact that there are still many people with a more old fashion state of mind. These people seem not to want to accept the fact that there are new artistic forms emerging and developing. I guess this is also something people working with contemporary art are facing when discussing/talking with conservative art people, the kind that is deeply rooted in traditional painting and other more traditional art forms.
HH: The Dense Vision Shrine website has a photographic gallery. The photograph gallery presents pictures of churches and religious iconography along with portraits of girls bleeding from the mouth. This combining of religious imagery and dark themes seems common to DVS. Can you explore this theme of religion and darkness?
KH: Yeah! What to say about this? It's not like I am trying to send a specific message to people by this combination imagery. I believe it is more triggered by the fact that the religion, no matter which, have a dark side, which they too often seem to be ashamed of or trying to hide it. The only fascination I have when it comes to religion is the iconography and their statues, as they have a high artistic value as far as I see it. By combining this with dark themes I do also find it easier to evoke feelings in the beholder. Everybody probably have some sense of dark attraction within.
HH: Can you tell us about your plans and ambitions for the future of Dense Vision Shrines?
KH: First and foremost it will be to do some multi-media or audio visual shows, some sort of stage presentation of the music along with video slideshows. These video slideshows are made from my own photos. After that it will be to start working on a new album. I would like to work on sounds for films or TV programs (I presume documentaries would be the best choice then), but I would also like to do my own experimental film.
HH: Do you have anything you would like to say to the Heathen Harvest audience in parting?
KH: Thanks a lot for this interview and I sincerely hope you enjoy the new album. If it should get too dark, remember you can always light a candle.