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Ainulindale Interview; A Memory In Song
Friday, January 21 2005 @ 09:10 AM PST
Contributed by: Malahki Thorn

Heathen Harvest: Can you discuss how can Ainulindale began? How was the originally conceived of?

Engwar: Ainulindale really started in October 2002 when I decided to work on the adaptation of Tolkien's work to music. But as far as I can remember I had the idea of doing an acoustic based album since 1997 I think. Some ideas that are on The Lay of Leithian are 7 years old...

Who are the current active members of Ainulindale?

EN: I am the only member of Ainulindale. All the musicians on the album are just session musician. Ainulindale is a solo project but I'm very open to work with other artists though.

What instrument do you play on the album and who plays what instruments with you?

EN: I do the guitar and the singing on the album. I had several session musicians. The guy who does the percussions is a very good friend of mine so he'll probably appear in the next albums. The double bass player is also a friend and he wrote the scores for me. The flute, cello, viola, and violin are played by people I didn't know before the recording…

HH: Do you play just one instrument or are you a multi-instrumentalist?

EN: In Ainulindale I only do the guitar and the singing. I can play a bit of bass, piano and drums but nothing very serious… I'd like to learn the cello because it's my favorite instrument. Who knows, maybe one day I'll find time for this…

HH: Can you discuss the musical activities of Ainulindale's members before they began working on Ainulindale?

EN: I played in several metal bands before… I started when I was 14 in a trash/death band but we were very bad musicians just making some noise in a garage… I joined a Black Metal band called Somber Insight when I was 17 and we recorded a demo and a studio album which was never released because the band spilt just after the end of the recording... It's wasn't memorable BM anyway… Then I created a BM band with the drummer of Somber Insight (who is the percussionist on Ainulindale). But unfortunately our project turned out to be too ambitious for us at that time. We wanted to do a kind of neo classical Black Metal (a bit like the first Emperor albums) but after a series of encouraging demos, we kind of felt lost in front of such a hard work to do…

This BM Band (Vehementer Nos) is not completely dead and we might record the album one of these days (half the album is already composed…).

HH: Ainulindale “The Lay of Leithian” was recorded while you were a student at the university studying language and politics. Can you discuss your musical training and the training of the others who contributed to “The Lay of Leithian”?

EN: My musical training is kind of strange. I started the guitar 11 years ago but after 1 year at the classical music school (Le Conservatoire) and decided to focus more on the guitar so I took 5 years of guitar classes with a very good teacher. I learnt the basic things about rock guitar in general. Since then, I've worked by myself…

I know some things about classical music but I can't write scores for examples... But I know things about the guitar and everything related to it.

Has your study of language and politics had any influence in your choice of musical style or composition?

EN: Well not really. The only thing I wanted to do was to have a good level in English so that I can read and understand things in this tongue I love... Politically speaking, I'm studying too modern things to relate it to my music... If I did some hardcore music why not but in Ainulindale's case… (Laughs)

HH: Politics can be a major factor in much post-industrial music from “neofolk” music like Death In June and Blood Axis to the music produced on the opposite side of the spectrum such as noise bands as Militia and Con-Dom. Many left wing extremist politically attack and attempt to censor such bands. What are your feelings around politics and music?

EN: I think that ideologies and politics are 2 different things… Politics is the art of managing peoples so it's very concrete and not necessarily interesting (I like it though) but ideology is something more related to philosophy and therefore much more interesting…

I share many ideas with artists like Blood Axis and I really appreciate what they do. I don't know the noise band you're talking about…

As far as left wing extremists are concerned, being from the Black Metal scene, I'm very aware of these problems because we had some troubles with them… It's a long story but basically I think that everybody has the right to say what he thinks, whatever it is... And this basic idea is often not respected by many people of some so called “left wing groups” who know nothing about politics...

HH: The album J. R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. Tolkien was a highly regarded professor of Genealogy. Do you feel as if your identification with his writing is linked with your own interest in the study of language??

EN: Yes, I think so… Tolkien studied northern Europe languages as well as old English and other fascinating tongues. For my part I studied Latin a bit (The Roman civilization is amazingly interesting...) and now English and Spanish. I think that Language is the best way to try to understand a civilization and I completely share Tolkien's fascination for great ancient peoples…

When did you become aware of the neofolk / neoclassical music scene and how did you first become involved?

EN: I think that I never really got aware of the neofolk scene. I mean, I knew bands like Blood Axis, Death in June or Sopor Aeternus but basically I've always been closer to the metal scene… For Ainulindale, I just wanted to record a calm, acoustic album based on Tolkien's work. It's when I finished the album that I realized that this music belonged to the neofolk scene more than to the metal scene. From then on, I discovered this scene…

HH: The music of Ainulindale “The Lay of Leithian” is lyrically based on J. R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. Can you discuss what inspired you to work with themes inspired from the Silmarillion?

EN: I've been a Tolkien fan for years now and very early I had the idea to contribute to this world that means so much to me... First I tried to write texts about Tolkien's world in general but my writing was so poor compared to his that I abandoned this idea. The Silmarillion being my favorite book, I decided to work on it. And I remember that 2 tales really stroke me when I first read it: The Lay of Leithian and the story of Turin ...

The Turin tale being very long and complex, I focused on The Tale of Luthien and Beren and in Winter 2002/2003 I started to work on the adaptation of the lyrics.

How did you go about incorporating these themes into the music? Are the lyrics taken directly from the Silmarillion?

EN: The words are taken directly from the Silmarillion but everything has been adapted for the sake of pace and continuity. It was harder than just summarize the story; I had to decide what parts I wanted to focus on, which ones were less interesting...

HH: Were the music compositions directly inspired by the Silmarillion?

EN: Some musical ideas are rather old. I'd say that more than 50% of the music existed before I decided to work on the Silmarillion. The other ideas came directly during the recording process.

HH: Did you first write the music then place the lyrics over the music or was the music written around the lyrics?

EN: It was a bit complicated because some old ideas fitted well with a specific atmosphere but there were entire parts of the story which needed a new central theme. So actually, it's a mix of both processes: sometimes the music came first, and sometimes the lyrics inspired the music…

HH: Is composition a solo effort you undertake alone or do the rest of the band members also participate in composing the songs?

EN: I do it alone. Composing is something deeply personal and I find it hard to share it with some other people. I had a rather clear idea of what I wanted anyway…

HH: You sing on Ainulindale “The Lay of Leithian.” Do you have formal training as a singer? Had you sung for a band before?

EN: I have no classical training but I've been singing for some years now. I used to sing in Vehementer Nos (my former Black Metal band). I'm very found of singers who can change their voices according to the part of the song. Ainulindale is mainly composed of traditional singing but I like whisperings or screams and many different techniques… At the moment, I'm taking a few classical lessons to learn more on respiration techniques, vibrato and this kind of things…

Was Ainulindale “The Lay of Leithian” recorded in a professional recording studio?

EN: No, I recorded it myself on a very poor computer (laughs). I had very little material: My electro-acoustic guitar and a microphone for the singing and the instruments. The sound of the classical instrument was rather bad so I spent hours mixing it (on that same old computer!!). I really did my best to make it sound as good as possible and due to the material I had, I'm rather happy with the result.

HH: How much of the music on Ainulindale “The Lay of Leithian” is recorded from actual instruments and how much is synthesized or sampled from samplers?

EN: Every instrument you hear is real. There is no synth for the simple reason that I hate synths in this kind of music. I think it completely breaks down the atmosphere when you hear that this not a real instrument but a synth… I wanted Ainulindale to be very organic… I wanted the listener to feel the emotion that lies in every instrument.

HH: When Ainulindale “The Lay of Leithian” originally came to Heathen Harvest it arrived as a demo not yet signed with a label. Since that time the album has been released by two separate labels? Can you discuss the evolution of the album from demo to signing with each label?

EN: I sent the demos in October 2003 and Cynfeirdd Records was the first label to reply. They proposed me a 141 copies edition (the eye for eye series) and as I have a great respect for them, I immediately accepted. The CD sold well and a few months later, Thor of Trollmusic contacted me to know whether the CD had already been released (he only had the demo). I told him that the Cynfeirdd version was sold out and so in September 2004, we decided to re-release The Lay of Leithian on Trollmusic. It's now available on Trollmusic. It's a 500 copies edition and the artwork is great. It's my first professional release and I'm very happy with the result. Actually it's the first release of Trollmusic as well and Thor is doing a great job so far…

How does Ainulindale feel the first album “The Lay of Leithian” was received by the neofolk / neoclassical music community? Did the band receive much support or feed back?

EN: The demos were very well received and I had the chance to have great reviews on Heimdallr or on your web page for example. I was very pleased to hear that people liked the record because it was really hard work to complete it…

I received support and kind words from different places like China or Argentina (Twilight Records was interested to release it too but it came after that Thor and I had already agreed on a deal for a re-release).

In general, I've been very happy with the state of mind of the people who take part in this scene. The black metal scene is very complex and there are many internal wars in it. Compared to this, the neofolk scene seems very cool, people are really into it and they do their best to support the movement…

Has the album generated interest beyond Europe ?

EN: As I said before, Twilight records ( Argentina ) was interested to re-release the album. Chaos pro in China told me that he liked the record and that he distributed it. And there was Heathen Harvest in the U.S.

I hope there will be reactions to the re-release but I think a great part of them will come from Europe…

HH: Does Ainulindale plan on a follow up to this stunning debut?

EN:  I definitely want to do another Ainulindale album. But it was such a fight to do this one that I won't start anything serious in the months to come. I do have a few ideas but for the next album, I'd like to do more ambitious things like working with a choir for example or have more classical instruments…

My studies take me a lot of time so maybe in one and a half years, when I have finished my career at the university, I'll start s the second album…

HH: Will future Ainulindale also focus upon themes inspired by the writings of J. R. Tolkien?

EN: Yes, definitely. Ainulindale is dedicated to Tolkien's world and there is enough material in the Silmarillion to do thousands of records (laugh). As I said, I might work on the story of Turin but nothing certain yet…

HH: Has Ainulindale played live? If not would you like to or do you plan on any live performances?

EN: No, Ainulindale never played live… I don't know… I'm quite shy a person and I'm very perfectionist so if ever Ainulindale play live, it will have to be a big thing with real instruments and I clearly have no time and means for this now… I don't want to do a poor version of the album…

HH: Are there artists in the neofolk / neoclassical music scene that you would like to collaborate or work with in the future?

EN: The best that could happen to Ainulindale is that I meet someone who is interested by the same things and would like to take part in the adventure… A classical musician would be great… But I can't give you any names of a specific artist I'd like to work with…

Working with people from other spheres like theater or dance or movies would be great as well… Wait and see…

Are there any musicians that have had a direct influence on Ainulindale or have directly inspired the music of Ainulindale?

EN: The most direct influences come from albums like “where at night…” of Empyrium or “Kvelsfanger” by Ulver. I really like some Sopor Aeternus album as well (Dead Lovers Sarabande mainly) and classical music of course (Beethoven, Wagner, Dvorak, Rachmaninov…)

The vocal delivery within the songs of Ainulindale feels very sincere and authentic. The singer's voice tends to inspire feelings of strength and masculinity while also embodying certain sensitivity. How did you come about developing your singing technique?

EN: I didn't want to do a typical classical type of singing because it often lacks sensitivity… But on the other hand, the vocals had to be powerful when necessary. I tried to adapt the vocal technique to the different parts. For example when Thingol (Elven king and father of Luthien) speaks, his voice is very strong and powerful but when Beren sings, I wanted it to be sweeter, to show that his attitude is more complex…

HH: What kind of music do the band members listen to when at home?

EN: I listen to a lot of different things. It goes from Black and Death Metal (early Emperor and Satyricon albums, Arcturus, Ulver, Morbid Angel, Behemoth, Zyklon, Thorns, Dødheimsgard...…) to classical metal (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeth) or even prog metal (Opeth, Green Carnation, Dream Theater) and Doom metal (Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride). I also love things like Blood Axis or Sopor Aeternus and some classical stuff as I said before…

I also love Pink Floyd or even some Led Zeppelin or Queen stuff and other “classic” rock band.

Many different things but there is one thing in common in these bands, it's the degree of passion and sincerity they put in their music. That's probably the most important thing for me. It has to be dark or melancholic and sincere….

Can you briefly discuss the theme or story that you are telling through the story of the Silmarillion and the “The Lay of Leithian”?

EN: The Lay of Leithian is the story of Beren, a mortal man from the noblest house of men, who fells in love with Luthien, Daughter of Thingol, and Elven king of Doriath.

Thingol refuses to let his daughter marry a mortal so he proposes this to Beren: “Bring back a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown and my daughter is yours.” This is the beginning of the tale and I tell every people who hasn't read The Lay of Leithian to do it because it really is a fantastic piece of writing (like the Silmarillion in general by the way).

Can you choose some songs from the album “The Lay of Leithian” and share with us some of the meaning behind the songs and lyrics?

EN: It's a bit hard to choose a song because the whole album tells a story… For example, song 2 is the First Meeting between Beren and Luthien that's why the music is rather light and clear. You can hear for the first time the “love” theme that will come up later in song 8 when they finally get married… The track Ainulindale is also important (track 6) because it's a turning point: Beren gets the Silmaril but is he going to survive the wrath of Morgoth?? The last song (which theme had been heard in the intro) is also calm and slightly sad because it deals with the choice of Luthien to join Beren in Death or to stay alone in Middle-Earth…

It's really hard to pick up a song from this record because they are all related to each other of course lyrically speaking but also musically…

Is there any thing you would like to share with Heathen Harvest readers in parting?

EN: I would like to tell every Tolkien fan or just neofolk/classical music fans to listen to some extracts of the record because they might find it interesting. I'm sure that many of your readers have the same passion as I have for some eternal themes that are featured in The Lay of Leithian and I hope that some of them will appreciate this little contribution of mine to this great world…

And thank you Malahki for your support. You've been here from the very beginning and won't forget it…


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