Heathen Harvest: Shrouded by Fog is Leviathan's second release. Leviathan demonstrates a musical maturity on Shrouded In Fog that seems to exceed most bands second albums. Do you have musical experience prior to Leviathan?
Dan H.: Very little. Leviathan as a project has been building up for some time but I have no formal musical training beyond being self-taught. It can be something of a cliche but I really don't want knowledge of musical structures to infect Leviathan. Interesting sounds are more important than musical scales.
HH: Leviathan has defined itself as a musical vehicle for listeners to journey within themselves. As a musician, has it always been your aim to leave the music open to interpretation as opposed to defining the listening experience?
DH: Yes, very much so. I value the input of listeners and feel that any creative artwork lives fully only once it is being consumed by others. Anything that's made solely to be viewed or experienced in one way isn't interesting to me. Much of the music created for Leviathan has a thematic or narrative intent but this doesn't mean there is only one "correct" way of regarding the music. I would like people listening to Leviathan to be more involved in the music than that. Thankfully, it seems that many are.
HH: The songs and art presentation of Leviathan communicate a shrouded memory of lands lost to time and things hidden. The sense is one of finding a mid point between the outside and inside, between memory and reality, life and death. How has Leviathan come to reflect these themes?
DH: Boundaries are interesting and powerful places, to use the ideas of boundaries provides an instant source of ideas. Why this is so and why Leviathan feeds off it so readily, I don't know. A shadowy image or a muffled sound leads more easily to an allowance for intepretation and I think that in many ways the interpretations can feed off each other.
HH: Leviathan's website describes Leviathan as "ritual death musick." When listening to the music death seems to be but a crossed threshold. Can you describe further the meaning of ritual death musick?
DH: That's possibly out-of-date. The actual Leviathan website should be updated but problems with the provider for that area are preventing this. I imagine that this site will be scrapped and something new devised. Ritual Death Musick is a phrase that came to mind during the creation of Throne of Bones - a record very much about rites and death, literal and figurative - but possibly isn't so well related to Shrouded by Fog which is, as you mention, about boundaries, thresholds and travelling between. "Sonick Transgression" maybe be a better phrase for Shrouded by Fog
HH: Leviathan uses themes in their music and website that invoke a magical or esoteric impression. Leviathan also states that the band is not "Satanic" or occult oriented by traditional definition. What exactly are the esoteric foundations of the music?
DH: The idea of the between, of boundaries and borders, is central. Being between places geographically or between states of existence beyond that. As mention on the website's statement, the sense of the inner is a major part of the ideas within Leviathan. The landscapes and places that exist with one's mind and imagination are as, if not more, important to the narrative works of Leviathan. Even Machinery of Hell, which could be thought of as more overtly "Satanic", is more about the vast chambers of Limbo - Limbo itself as a processing area, a machinery, of Hell. Gods and other such powers only interest me as another way of seeing into the human mind, human beliefs, not as an end in themselves. Leviathan's music is as much a voyage through the mindstate I was in when making the music as it is across shadowy moors and through dank caverns. Each interpretation is valid and correct.
HH: The Leviathan website references the use of hypnotic and self-ritual means in order to explore inner worlds. Is Leviathan meant to act as a means or guide in these explorations?
DH: Both. I hope to make Leviathan's music narrative and "leading" in a way but with enough open-ness to allow the listener to follow their own path. Listening back to the records, I can often hear sub-sounds that I didn't put in, that I know aren't there, but that are formed purely from my listening to the music at that specific time. I hope that this comes across to the listener - that they can add their own influence to the music, just as they are influenced by it.
HH: Do you employ self-ritual techniques to induce inspiration or during recording sessions?
DH: To degrees, yes. Creating the music puts me in a different mindset and, it seems, feeds upon its own creation. I find that the preparation has to be less conscious than is possibly intimated by "self-ritual" - watching a particular cloudscape pass by can be as useful as any ritualistic means.
HH: Leviathan has a very dark vein that runs through its music, song titles, website text etc. The emphasis is on death, loneliness, shadows, secrets, burial grounds etc. What has inspired this dark emphasis in the music?
DH: For Shrouded by Fog, the inspiration is very much coloured by my city of Edinburgh - a place built quite literally on the dead (years ago, in the medieval city, an outbreak of plague led to large parts of the poorer population being locked into their hovels and built over, left to rot in darkness. There are tours through this "undead city" nowadays and spiritual manifestations of various forms aren't uncommon). Not being Scottish personally, I can tune very much into the darker side of this normally friendly place. Ornate graveyards are at every turn, alleyways lead into darkness and the city itself fades very quickly into quite harsh countryside.
The artwork for Shrouded by Fog is a photograph of Edinburgh Castle, untreated apart from a green filter. More generally, the darkness comes mostly from within myself. It is very inspiring for me to conjure up a very dark and bleak outlook - it intrigues me to investigate the contradictions between a creative, almost positive, state of mind that still feeds on very negative emotions and feelings. Most of The Sea-Witch's Lament was written at one sitting, in a very black frame of mind and yet it is, to my mind, the most delicate of the tracks on Shrouded by Fog. I find it hard to imagine how I wrote such a piece of music sometimes.
HH: Gaendaal is listed as sole composer and producer of Shrouded by Fog. Is Gaendaal the sole member of Leviathan?
DH: Yes. Others have their influences on the themes of the music, as is inevitable and useful, but the actual writing and performance is solely myself. I use very little prepared samples or sounds, I can think of only a few drum sounds, and prefer to be involved in the mechanics of sound creation.
HH: Why has Gaendaal chosen to work alone if this is the case?
DH: Frankly, it's easier. I can write when I wish to, how I wish to, without having to incorporate someone else ideals. Neither would I want to inflict my own creative preferences onto another.
HH: Has Gaendaal considered collaborating with other artists or should we expect Leviathan to remain a solo project?
DH: As Leviathan? No. I won't rule out some kind of collaboration but, if that happens, it won't be as Leviathan. A number of split releases with like-minded projects are a future possibility, however.
HH: Leviathan is at the top of the dark ambient music genre right now. Did you expect such success from Leviathan in the beginning?
DH: It's very kind of you to say so, although I'd be forced to disagree. Once Leviathan reaches the vastness of sound of Sleep Research Facility or the eerie levels of Endvra then...possibly. We all have our idols. However, to answer your question, no it wasn't expected at all. The music is made for me and I enjoy listening to it. Other people also seem to enjoy it, which is good.
HH: Lastly, can you give us any rumors of what the future hold for fans of Leviathan?
DH: As mentioned above, a number of split releases (the first is with Edinburgh's Grimbergen) are planned for differing areas of the future. I believe that Monkeyhouse are planning on re-releasing Throne of Bones and Shrouded by Fog as a single-disc edition. A name change is also very likely due to the large numbers of other projects using Leviathan - the main candidate now is LVTHN or some arrangement thereof. I hope to record something of a fuller nature sometime this year. A few tracks are starting to form themselves. After that, who knows? Who knows...