Heathen Harvest: What drew you originally to expressing yourself artistically through music?
Peter Bjärgö: I have always been interested in music, ever since a small child. I got my first guitar when I was 9 years old, and from that time I have been making music. I think we all have different ways in expressing ourselves, and I do it via my music.
HH: When did you discover the post industrial music scene and what inspired you to participate in it?
PB: Just around 1994, when I started out Arcana. I had listened to metal before that, but the closest to the alternative stage was Dead Can Dance. And Dead can Dance is the reason I started.
HH: Before you began Sophia your musical efforts were concentrated on your long term neoclassical music project called Arcana. Can you discuss how Sophia was conceived and what inspired this new musical direction?
PB: Well, Arcana is quite a serious project and I needed to feel that I could experiment with my music more. So I started Sophia, just for the reason to make music with no pressure, to make experimental music the way I wanted to. I had always been a fan of In Slaughter Natives and I guess that influenced me a bit.
HH: You are now balancing two very active musical projects as well as your family and studio engineering work. Do feel ever feel spread thin between your multiple commitments?
PB: Of course I do. I have a lot of projects and a lot to do, and sometimes it gets too much. Then I have to put something aside. It is hard to find time for everything, but I try to manage it. I also have a part-time job outside of the "music business,” so much to do and too little time.
HH: Around the time your musical project Sophia debuted you also began Erebus Odora Recording Studio. What motivated the beginning of Erebus and how has this venture worked out?
PB: I have always had the thoughts of releasing my own music. I think that it is every musicians dream. Last year I finally came to the conclusion that it was time to do it fulltime. It is so great to be a part of the process from the first steps to the final release. We do it all by ourselves, and we will continue to do so.
HH: Can you share with us some of the artists that you have worked with at Erebus since opening the studio?
PB: Well, a part from my own projects I have a lot of different bands in my studio. I have recorded, mixed or/and mastered bands like Karjalan Sissit, Markus Pesonen, Suicide Blitz, Meanwhile, Gustaf Hildebrand, Sub Luna, Microman, In Slaughter Natives, Wolfbrigade and LOADS of others.
HH: Sophia has evolved from the original sound that the band debuted with, what began as deeply orchestrated neoclassical music with martial tones has evolved into a neoclassical and post industrial hybrid with much more electronic and aggressive elements. Can you discuss the bands musical evolution?
PB: I got tired of the whole thing with the military sound. It was not the image that was interested but the industrial music. I try to experiment as much as possible with Sophia. That is one reason I have this project. I do not feel that I have to stay in one genre or one particular style. I explore new ways in making music and I try not to get stuck within one style. Some people like it, and some not. But if I am going to make music, I must do it the way I like it. And I do!
HH: Sophia began as a solo project if I am correct. With the release of “Destruction of the World” you joined in musical collaboration with Stefan Eriksson. Can you tell us about Stefan and how you came about working together?
PB: Stefan is a guy that is even more shattered in different projects and has even less time to make music than I have, but still he manages to work things out. And he is a great and very funny guy to be with :)
I have known Stefan for many years now, and when he became a part of Arcana I felt it would be nice to work with him in Sophia also. I am still the one that is making most of the music and I do the planning of the release, but we work great together with all of our ideas.
HH: What inspired you to expand the band beyond yourself?
PB: I have had people around me from the start. In the beginning I performed with Per Åhlund and later with my wife Ia. I still work most of the time by myself, but Stefan and I work great together so why not:)
HH: How does collaboration occur between you and Stefan Eriksson? Who plays what role in composition and production?
PB: As I said before. I make most of the music, recordings and so on. Stefan makes a few songs, some rhythms and we work from there. He is a man of MILLION ideas, and that is very helpful.
HH: Do you foresee yourself and Stefan Eriksson collaborating on future Sophia projects?
PB: Yes, I do. As long as it feels good and we still get ideas we will continue to make music together. If the music would get in the wrong direction, then I might get back to the original "me.”
HH: How do you feel Stefan’s contribution and participation has affected Sophia’s sound and direction?
PB: Stefan comes from a quite different side of the music scene, even though he has been interested in industrial music even longer than me. Stefan is great in working out rhythms and he is making it in a different style than me, and that affects the music. But in a good way. We get different kinds of songs.
HH: How do you go about creating a new album? Can you discuss what is involved in the creative process for you?
PB: Sometime I have a theme, and then I do researches on it and try to get the whole lot of it inside the music. Sometimes it just goes on by it self, the music. I start with something, and it just floats on.
HH: What kinds of research do you undertake when making a release such as Herbstwerk that seems to addressing specific historical events?
PB: Herbstwerk was an album that I had a feeling of how it would sound. I didn't have a "red thread" through it all. I didn't do any research at that time, it all just floated on as I mentioned in the last question.
HH: You have released three full length albums under the banner of Sophia. Can you discuss the major theme of each album if one exists? Can you explain what inspired the subject matter and art presentation of each release?
PB: Well, I have released 4 full length albums, Sigillum Militum, Herbstwerk, Spite and Deconstruction of the world.
- Sigillum Militum: It was made for live performances at the beginning. The theme was more of the templars, and the cover was a mark of the templars.
- Herbstwerk: To mix classical music with industrial influences. To show my feelings around the unfairness of the world. My wife made the cover to this album.
- Spite: This is the album of misanthropy am very aware of what the world is coming to. How the animals are threatened, the starvation, and greed of the world. I keep on making Sophia music with those thoughts. I and Gustaf Hildebrand were taking photos in Eskilstuna where we live and we took these photos of the trains and industrial site of Eskilstuna. My wife then made a great layout. I am very pleased with the result.
- Deconstruction of the World: Again especially with the cruelty against animals. I do not support the "meat market" and how they kill and hurt defenseless animals. Also the music was very much an experiment, to see how it is to work with Stefan.
This time my wife mixed the buildings in front of my studio with trees and forests. Great layout...I am especially delighted with Mr. Bananajesus;)
HH: The first album “Herbstwerk” seemed to be focused upon one of the world wars. “Spite” and “Destruction of the World” seem to be focused upon equally dark themes of murder, hate, and prejudice. What inspires such dark subject matter?
PB: (A quick note: Herbstwerk is the second album). I think that we all need to be more aware of the problems around the world. I have a daughter who will grow up with all these terrible things happening around the world, War, greed, poverty, starvation.....I want to show my point of view and to let people know where I stand. I do what I can as a "small" person in the world, but we all need to do something and not just sit and watch the "deconstruction" of the world.
HH: Do you see Sophia as an outlet in which you exercise personal feelings and explore personal thoughts and ideologies or is it more of an academic palate?
PB: This is my thoughts and feelings, my way of playing with music, and showing my point of views.....mix it all...
HH: Focusing on “Herbstwerk” for a moment; do you ever feel that creating music and art that is inspired by world wars and regional conflicts might reawaken ghosts laid to rest? These ghosts I mention being the pain and racial / national collective memories of these conflicts?
PB: In fact, Herbstwerk does not show anything about any world war, but shows the idiotic side of war. It is a hard question. If you bring up a subject of this sensitive matter in an intelligent way then it is good, but most neoclassical-industrial projects don't do this so the genre itself gets a bad reputation .
HH: Sophia has had a distinctly “martial industrial” sound since the bands beginning. What drew you to explore music driven by such dominating percussion and dramatic orchestration?
PB: I have always been fascinated by classical music, and then very dramatic pieces. Wagner, Pärt, Schnittke, and others have had a big influence on me. Drums have also been one of my favorite instruments, so I wanted to use them more. The military sound fits well within the industrial music, even though I have my self grown to be quite tired of it.
HH: Is the musical presentation of Sophia meant to be narrative? Does this narrative extend through each album?
PB: I can’t say that I have a theme or a narrative side of the records. I have a feeling and I've got ideas, and that maybe turns out narrative to the listeners.
HH: The title of the latest Sophia release “Destruction of the World” is based upon the theme of apocalyptic destruction. Can you discuss the title and what inspired it? Do you see the world as self destructing?
PB: When you look at the TV or read the newspaper, you see only war, greed, hate, and destruction. I get very depressed and feel that maybe it is time to "deconstruct" the world and start fresh again. And yes, absolutely! I see it is as self destructing, just watch the environmental destruction, people know it is there, and people know that the world will not survive it, and still we do nothing about it.
HH: How do politics and current world events factor into the music of Sophia? Do you ever use the band as a platform to share personal reflections on the state of things?
PB: Yes, that is how it is. As I have said in the past questions, the thing that happens all around the world has an important part in the music.
HH: One of the strongest lyrical lines on “the Destruction of the World” is the passage “I will not feed your machine.” Can you discuss this sentence and its personal meaning for you and Stefan?
PB: It has to do with my thoughts about not take part of all the things that is negative to the world. The pollution, the cruelty against animals (I am a vegetarian), the corruption in the politics. I wrote this lyric but Stefan has the same point of view.
HH: The song titles on “Destruction of the World” are very telling of the tone of album with names like “The End of the Age”, “Humanicide,” ”Soiled,” and “Contrition” can you discuss a few of the songs and what they mean for you?
PB: Once again, I have to say the same as before. It has to do with the society and the world it self. Unperturbed, for example, is about me not being a part of society that I do not fit into this world. I am not a person that willingly adjusts myself in silence in the society, I am not someone that keeps my mouth closed when I am not satisfied with how it works. People of today just happily live their lives without arguing with fear of what will happen if they do.
HH: Do you see Sophia as the means to a dialogue about issues society would rather ignore?
PB: What I bring up to the surface is nothing new to society, but I think it is important.
HH: News released before “Destruction of the World” spoke of difficulties during the production and mastering of the album. What kind of problems did you face? Did it feel like a force was working against you?
PB: Yes, it was a disaster. I had several hardware crashes, the album did not get mastered correctly at first, and we changed computers more than one time, to friends and other studios computers. When we were about to burn the master, no computer program would accept it. It was a terrible time. But finally after a loooong time, it was done. And yes, we felt many times that this was a cursed album... and maybe still do....he he!
HH: You are based in Sweden. Are you native to Sweden and what has drawn you to making Sweden your home?
PB: Yes, I live in Sweden and I was born here. But my parents are actually from Finland, so I am Finnish by blood. I have lived here in Eskilstuna all my life, except from two different occasions when I lived in Karlstad and Stockholm. I like Sweden because of the nature, the air is very fresh, the water is clean, and we got the four seasons that it supposed to be. Snow in the winter, sun in the spring, a green summer, and a beautiful red autumn. And now I have a family and my relatives live here also. Sweden and Eskilstuna is my home!
HH: Sweden has always been perceived globally as a very politically neutral country. Sophia on the other hand seems to be very opinionated and direct. Have you found that the music of Sophia has been easily accepted by your fellow country men and women?
PB: The people where I live or the people in Sweden do not know what Sophia is. And those who know what it is either likes it or feels nothing. the industrial scene in Sweden is very small, and I think most of the people don’t see a message in music, they just listen. And if it doesn't fancy their taste in music, then they don’t bother listening to it again. The same with political statements. Swedes have a hard time being aware of what’s happening around them. But now, after the disaster of the Tsunami in Asia, I have noticed a BIG difference in the people here in Sweden. They are helping out, everyone.....I have actually gotten my hopes up for mankind again:)
HH: On the latest release “Destruction of the World” you included a video clip. Is it your intention to expand Sophia into a broader multimedia experience?
PB: That would be fantastic, but I can’t say that I am very good at it. I did not make this video my self, I got help from Haerleif from Northaunt with it. But I must say that an idea of making more videos has really been planted in my head...
HH: Every Sophia release has had incredibly detailed and elaborate packaging filled with photographs and text. Is packaging and presentation an important factor to Sophia?
PB: Yes, it is, very much. I think that a CD shouldn’t just be good music, it has to look good as well. The first album was an experiment. I just used the temple’s mark and nothing more. With Aus Der Welt Ia (my wife), made the front cover, and it fitted well. The same with Herbstwerk that we have had a lot of positive reaction on. With Seduction of Madness I wanted to get the psychological deceases out in the open, and allot of photos and allot of text became a great layout. The same with Spite, an album where I have taken all the photos myself here in Eskilstuna. On the latest album, we have mixed photos from Eskilstunas industrial area with the forest. Great result. But one of my favorites must be Death, dumb and blind...
HH: How has Sophia been received in the post industrial music arena? I know I loved Sophia’s music from the first album. Have you had any critics?
PB: It has gone much better than I thought. But of course there have been critics. Some people think that it is too much In Slaughter Natives influenced, a few people even thought it was "right-wing" music, but they know now that I take a very strong step from that type of politics. They know now that it is nothing of a kind. I do not want to be associated with the rightwing!!!
HH: Sophia has played live. Has this been successful and how well does your recorded material translates into a live performance?
PB: Sometimes very good, and sometimes not so good. It is hard to get everything to work fine with this kind of music. If I want to make a good live show I have to focus on the more harsh songs, and not the orchestral songs. And the harsh songs are more fun live:)
HH: It is common knowledge that a number of artists and musicians working within the post industrial music arena have come under attack by extreme leftist censors that interpret music with “martial” tones as promoting Fascism. Has Sophia had any such encounters? What are your feelings on people attempting to silence artists?
PB: As I said before, I am not a part of any rightwing political side. I am against it in all my thoughts. But we do live in a democratic society and everyone has got their right to speak their mind. And as I also said before, yes, some people have thought that I was promoting fascism and stuff, but believe me, I DO NOT. I think it is wrong if some politicians try to stop people from expressing themselves via music, we all have the right to do so. But I do not support this type of thoughts.
HH: Sophia really does not promote a direct spiritual or religious message of any kind. Many neofolk and some neoclassical bands often promote Nordic traditions or other esoteric values through their music. Has it been intentional to keep Sophia free of any such influence?
PB: I have always thought that the type of music that promotes the Nordic mythology is quite boring. From the basic, Sophia is just a project for me to experiment with harsher music, with nothing political or religious in the back, just my thoughts of the world.
HH: Can you tell us what is ahead in the future of Sophia? Do you have any concrete plans now that “Destruction of the World” is completed and released?
PB: Sophia is on ice at the moment. But I have plans for a full length in the same vein as Death, dumb and blind. But that will be much later this year, or maybe next. Thanks for listening to Sophia and thank you for this interview. I hope I have answered with satisfaction.
Erebus Odora / Peter Bjärgö
Gamla Tullgatan 1
632 20 Eskilstuna