Heathen Harvest: Can you begin by discussing when and how you began to explore music as a means of creative expression?
Simon Kölle: I began to explore music very early, mostly singing. As a child I sang in a choir. After that I got an interest in drumming. As early as 11 or 12 I sang in melodies on a small pocket recorder. Later on I got a better recorder and I still have that pocket recorder today. Simon Heath has listened to countless melodies and ideas on that recorder. I got into other stuff than music but always had an extreme interest in music. When working with theatre I searched for unique music all the time.
In the 90s I happened to have friends in a couple of black metal bands and also some death metal acts. That was not my scene, I knew it, but I enjoyed the people. I lived in Norway for a while and my best friend was in a famous black metal band. It was therefore nothing special for me to get thoughts about starting a band. I had kept playing the drums and had many ideas.
In 2000 I started Za Frûmi with Simon Heath and Donald Persson (Donald left Za Frûmi in 2001). The project was what I needed. A catalyst that led to where I am today.
HH: Do you have formal training as a musician?
SK: I trained in a choir, singing and theatre music. Also I have some basic training in classical music. Right now I am taking a course in film music here in Stockholm.
HH: Can you give a brief description of each of the musical projects you currently participate in?
- Za Frûmi - fantasy inspired project. 4 CDs released so far and a number of compilations. Released on Waerloga Records.
- Musterion - Solo project, dark ambient, experimental. Debut album "The Black Lodge" released on Horus CyclicDaemon Records .
- Abnocto - Another project with Simon Heath. We made one session of recordings a couple of years ago deep down under Stockholm city. Abnocto is a project inspired by Simon Magus. Releases on a couple of compilations. The full length album will be released on Waerloga records.
- Volstoj - Only made one song with this project. It’s a collaboration between me and Dimitrij Volstoj of Russia. The song we made was released on the "Waerloga compilation vol. 1 - A tribute to Uglakh".
Besides that I have made sounds for a couple of bands during the years.
HH: Za Frumi is a musical project created by Simon Heath and yourself. Can you discuss how Simon Heath and you first starting creating music together?
SK: Yes. We met through our friend Donald Persson. Simon Heath called me and wanted to meet. He had done music since he was a child and played for me maybe over 100 songs. I heard he had something going on but also heard that he lacked something. I could see myself doing music with him. Donald, me and Simon H came up with the idea of making music inspired by the orc. I wanted dialog and Heath had actually done an orc inspired song earlier for his fantasy role-play group. In that song he repeated the word for orc which is "Uruk".
Nowadays we have evolved a lot and don’t focus on the orc exclusively. Therefore the two branches of Za Frûmi. Simon Heath and I work very close together. We listen to everything the other does and help out (when we can) in the solo projects in any way we can. Simon Heath is a master in mixing and mastering. With Musterion I did not want his mix though. I wanted my own sound. Even though that I let him master the CD to refine my sound.
Simon Heath mastered the latest Raison D'etré CD and he does lots of such works. His other great quality is his artistic work with pictures and layout. I help him out with ideas for Atrium Carceri (his solo project released on Cold Meat) and sounds.
HH: Za Frûmi seems specifically dedicated to exploring and revealing a new realm of ambient music that is inspired by J.R.R Tolkien and modern fantasy literature. Can you discuss how Simon Heath and you came to settle upon fantasy literature as a source of inspiration?
SK: Yes we are inspired by Tolkien. He is the creator of the orc. Besides that we don’t feel we are so inspired by Tolkien´s work. We like to create our own world and story. We settled upon fantasy as we both are very interested in fantasy.
HH: What is your personal interest in fantasy literature and how did this interest develop?
SK: Well. I actually don’t read a lot fantasy literature anymore. I read those kinds of books earlier in life. The interest was there very early. I loved old castles, stories my father told me about Siegfried (inspired by the Nibelung ring stories) and later I saw stories everywhere I went. I loved films in that genre too. Many are crap though. Fantasy as a genre is truly filled with garbish!
HH: When you create the music of Za Frumi are you attempting to duplicate and adapt existing themes and stories from fantasy literature or are you intending to tell a new tale culled from existing fantasy literature?
SK: We try to create new stories. Sometimes we are partly inspired by some other stories but mostly only from our own imagination. Me and Simon H might see a picture and get inspired by it. Sometimes we create melodies and compositions for specific themes and sometimes we improvise.
In the Za Frûmi saga we discuss the story and then I write a manuscript. “Za shum ushatar Uglak” did not really have much dialog and only in a couple of songs. The dialog on “Tach - Chapter 2” was a bit more complex. On the third (we are working on this CD) the dialog truly required a manuscript and the text is far more complex than the previous two CDs combined. Dark ambient fantasy radio theatre! Of course with serious cinematic music and sounds. In the instrumental CDs it’s a whole other story. On those CDs we think a lot more about composing. We use mostly real instruments but are not afraid to take in some elements that are electronic.
HH: Each Za Frumi album is accompanied by narrative text that clarifies the narrative told by the music. How do Simon Heath and you create and develop these narratives?
SK: The Za Frûmi saga (with dialog) has only a translation in the booklets. Also some text about what happens between the songs. On “Legends Act 1” the short texts are there to give some background to the world of Za Frûmi. It gives a history to the world where the orcs in the saga live.
On “Legends Act 2 – Vampires”, the stories were written by me and they are there to give another dimension to the music. One might only listen to the music and that would be enough. On the other hand many have said the texts help them to get an idea of the scenery and to get inner pictures. It´s all about the inside.
HH: The Za Frumi CD series currently manifests in two series. These series are the Za Frumi Saga and the Za Frumi Legends. Can you discuss these separate series and explain the intent of each?
SK: Za Frûmi saga = Orc inspired music with dialog. We follow a wayward clan of orcs on their dangerous journeys. The third is being made right now and I already love it. On the third CD we have taken in a lot of musicians to help us out. A very good flute player, some female vocalists, actors and friends. Za Frûmi Legends = Two CDs released so far. “Legends Act 1” and “Legends act 2 - Vampires.” This is Za Frûmi without dialog. Only music. We wanted to explore this and not only be an orc band.
HH: Many of the sounds found in the music of Za Frumi are derived from field recordings conducted by Simon Heath and yourself. Can you discuss the process of collecting filed recordings and explain your criteria when you begin a sound collection expedition? Do you hunt for specific sounds or do you simply explore a given environment and collect whatever sounds emerge during the expedition?
SK: True. Almost all sounds are from our field recordings. In the early years of Za Frûmi we could steal some sounds from here and there (even though 90% were made by us) but we stopped with that completely in the middle of the second CD.
Normally we know what we need. A list is made. It could consist of for an example:
- Water sound from a river.
- Small rain
- A wagon passing by
- Horse sounds
- Fighting sounds, etc...
Sometimes the sounds are very hard to collect and sometimes they are very complex. To explore a certain environment could also be great. I can wander for hours in forests, beside a lake or in the mountains. Nature is full of inspiration! I like elements! We work as we were collecting sounds to film. I am a sound junky!
HH: Do you feel as if the music of Za Frumi has an inherit connection to nature and if so is this intentional?
SK: Absolutely! We are as I mentioned inspired by nature. I think many bands could be better with some interesting sounds. Of course from nature. I know many composers feel their music drown in sounds when used in films. Sometimes this is right but many times I feel I want less music and more sounds. I think all sound is music.
HH: Simon Heath and you also collaborate on a musical project titled Abnocto. Can you explain the musical premise of Abnocto and explain how it differs from Za Frumi?
SK: True. As I mentioned we did one session recording underground (60 m). It was a very unique experience. We wanted to create something with only a couple of instruments but not be as boring as most bands limiting themselves to only a few instruments. We also wanted to sing a bit more than normal and also to play keyboards. Okay, keyboards might not sound all that great in general but we used what we got and climbed down a couple of times to get everything down there.
We wanted to create timeless chamber music. Very atmospheric and gothic. We saw visions of great halls, Simon Magus fighting Simon Petrus, devils, witches, demons and Cathedrals. We recorded the songs in the order they appear on the CD except the last song which we made some other time down there. In the middle we suddenly wanted to improvise. We closed our eyes and the first thing we saw would be the start of the song. I saw this huge Chinese garden in front of me. We started to improvise. I remembered the sound of a monk shouting out loud. After the song we put his voice in the mix. Mostly repeating this wonderful shout. When we went up to the surface of the world again the song felt wrong in some strange way. Time went by and we changed our view of the song. I love that song now and we are ready to release it. We are working (slowly) with the booklet.
HH: What is your relationship to the Waerloga label which has released all the Za Frumi alums to date?
SK: I have some money invested in Waerloga records and the label releases Za Frûmi and will also release Abnocto. Waerloga records also has released the Belgium based band Encryption (2 CDs) and a compilation.
HH: You recently released a new solo project titled “Musterion.” Can you discuss what inspired you to begin work on Musterion?
SK: Oh. I began the work a couple of years ago and I wanted to make something new in the genre of dark ambient. It’s hard to say exactly what inspired me to begin. I wanted to capture dark themes with the help of sounds, absurdism, surrealism, cut ups, electronics, acoustic instruments and more. I knew I did not want something boring that sounds like noise all the time. I wanted a cinematic touch with variation.
HH: “Musterion” is deeply rooted in occultism as it tells the vague narrative of an agent who travels through exotic lands and other spiritual worlds. What is your personal interest in occultism? Do you consider yourself an occult practitioner?
SK: I would have to say both yes and no on this question. In one way my music makes me an occult practitioner. I have been interested in occultism for some 20 years or so. I used to tell the future to my teachers when I was in third grade. I also by some reason conducted séances with my young friends. As I got older I started to read about occultism in different forms. My grandma gave me books on different subjects. At the age of 14 I started to read about Psycho-Analysis and books I could find among my mothers many books. She is a psychologist.
After that my interest in the occult stopped. I never joined any society or order. I found cabbala pretty interesting, heathen cults, orders, Magick, Voodoo and Sumerian rites too. The world is unfathomable. And so are we, and so is every being that exists in this world.
HH: The Musterion web site states that the music of Musterion is inspired by film directors such as David Lynch. Do you see a connection between the mediums of film and music?
SK: Not automatically. I tend to see things in pictures and sounds. If I see only a picture I often can hear what sounds that might fit it. If I hear music and relax I often (not always! Too much rubbish pop music around!) see pictures in my minds eye.
David Lynch obviously inspired me a lot with the work "The Black Lodge". Agent Cooper is his idea... Hell, the place called The Black Lodge is his and Mark Frost’s idea in the first place. But the CD is not some kind of continuation of Twin Peaks in music! Dale Cooper gave me inspiration and I needed a main character. Someone that was not the listener who walks through the album. David Lynch is also a master film director and I like a lot of what he has done.
When talking about film I could mention something I learned yesterday. One of my duel fencing students is a journalist writing about films. Earlier in an interview he gave Za Frûmi CDs to John Malkovich (who liked Za Frûmi very much!) and Susan Sarandon (who thought Za Frûmi was too dark for her taste). Yesterday he told me about his time in Italy. He met up with the famous composer Ennio Morricone there (His music has been in 555 films! Known for his work with Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill) and many more). Ennio also listened to Za Frûmi and seemed to like it. He wanted to hear more so he took a CD. I would be very happy working with music for a film. Any filmmakers reading this? he he.
HH: The debut Musterion album has been promoted by a short film trailer . Do you feel as if the Musterion – Black Lodge trailer explores the untapped potential for underground music and film to become unified in a new multimedia platform?
SK: Nah. I would not take it that far. Though I see as you say an "untapped potential”, absolutely. The trailer consists of some old things I recorded back in 1999. A project called "Tulpa". Raison Detré did the original score for that film. I also had permission to use songs by Mogwai. A huge argument in the editing room led to me parting ways with the photographer / editor. Many scenes were never shot. I thought the film could be made anyway but I did not want it to be my debut so I cancelled it. Some money was invested in the project and of course also sweat, blood and tears. I think Peter of Raison Detré will release (maybe already released some of the songs?) the score for “Tulpa.”
HH: Musterion – Black Lodge was also inspired by the infamous writing of William S. Burroughs. Can you discuss how the literary works of Burroughs have inspired and influenced the music of Musterion and you personally as artist?
SK: The good old Bill! He has inspired me with his life and his works. Maybe the most of all the beats. With Musterion I wanted music that I have not found in almost any other dark ambient, dark wave or other project. I wanted to use Burroughs and Gyson´s "Cut up" and "fold-ins" method. The word is an instrument of social control, “a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system” (Ticket 49). Composition allows chance and noise to upset the rigid social order of the info sphere, according to Burroughs. That’s something I took into Musterion to some degree. Besides the method I also used or "saw" Agent Cooper in a 50s train station somewhere in the USA. That’s one of the last stops for the agent before being "released". Breakthrough in Grey Room! Towers open fire!
HH: Musterion – Black Lodge also invokes remembrance of H.P Lovecraft’s writings which often saw mundane characters cast in strange worlds influenced by archaic gods and lost religions. How have you been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft?
SK: Yang-Tul came to me in a dream. Lynch and Burroughs too. In "The dream quest of unknown Kadath" Lovecraft explain a dream logic I like a lot! Even though the trio: Lovecraft - Burroughs - Lynch only vaguely could be put in the same cup of tea, I felt they all had something to offer Musterion. The stories the three tell are not alike nor the way they tell them either. As you know I love the mythical side of things. Fantasy, dreams, occultism, rites, cults, surrealism, mystery, inner worlds and sometimes irony. These 9 things exist more or less in Musterion and also Lovecraft - Burroughs - Lynch. Characters cast in strange worlds and hunted was something I wanted in "The Black Lodge". Dale Cooper is thrown into different bodies and always need to be on the run. On the road...
HH: Musterion – Black Lodge is published by Horus CyclicDaemon Records based in the Czech Republic. How did you come about establishing a working relationship with Horus CyclicDaemon?
SK: Martin Mrskos of Horus CyclicDaemon (HCD) and I started talking via email. My music was released on some of his compilations. Martin was the only one I wanted to release the Musterion debut. For the second album I think I will do a more normal release on some other label. Then I might come back to Horus CyclicDaemon! A very good label.
HH: Horus CyclicDaemon has an established reputation of releasing quality music with exemplary packaging. Did the emphasis that Horus CyclicDaemon places on packaging and presentation influence your decision to work with the label?
SK: Of course. Horus CyclicDaemon means class. Martin has a background in publishing books so he likes to use different paper on each release and so on.
HH: How much input and influence did you have concerning the packaging and presentation that accompanied Musterion – The Black Lodge?
SK: The artwork was made by ideas from me and Simon Heath, Amelie Sarlin, Aron Öhgren and Carolin Terzian also helped me out. Martin had great ideas too along the way! Martin wants to have exclusive releases and suggested an envelope and A5 booklet. I could not say no to such a unique offer!
HH: Previous to pursuing music you established a career as a play write and worked within the Avant Garde theatre community. Can you share some of your history and experiences as a play write and Avant Garde theatre participant?
SK: I have a three year education in theatre. After school I toured around (mostly Sweden) with my group. Many people came up to me after my plays and told me they never thought that theatre could be like this. I don’t want to say all of my plays were all that avant garde but I know for a fact that what I did back then was new here in Sweden. I took inspiration from music, film, physical theatre, absurdism and surrealism. I have written 6 plays in total. All in Swedish. Some of the titles translate better than others but here they are:
- The eyes - my garden
- Is the sky falling down?
- Beat - myth and reality
- The day of wrath
- Yes-men (puppets) - Or the art of clinging to a so called reality
The themes in these plays varied, but there is a clear red thread to be found.
HH: Do you feel as if your experience with theatre has helped develop your style and work as a musician? If so can you explain how?
SK: Absolutely. With the Za Frûmi saga the connection is obvious of course. I want to stress though that I never worked with fantasy in theatre. At least not fantasy in the vein of Tolkien. My plays are many times more dreamlike and suggestive but no orcs could be found lurking around! he he
I think my experiences with theatre can be heard in my music. I like stories. Sometimes vague stories and other times stories clear as a mountain stream. In the theatre scene I learned to work under a lot of press and stress. I also learned to combine elements without ending up with just a messy postmodern soup. The most important thing I learned was to reflect about the meaning of a piece. I spent countless of hours thinking about why I should release Musterion. What can "The Black Lodge" offer people that doesn’t already exist?
It’s not pop and I am not making any real money so why actually do something I can stand for in 10 years. I don’t think you can find another Musterion in the store close to you. That’s the case with to many bands and acts. It’s actually sad. I don’t mean everyone should pursue the new and try to be avant garde all the time. But bands and acts could at least refine their own sound and do their own thing. I am truly fed up with all the bands that try to sound the way they are supposed to sound.
Or look like they should to belong to whatever scene they try to belong to. In black metal it’s almost as absurd as with pop, rock and other mainstream styles. Black metal was the movement that said: "*censored* you all! We are free to do what we want and we do it with pure individualism, freedom and aggression". My friend Yusaf (Mr. Fixit) in Dödheimsgaard (among other bands) said it so well one day when we talked about this: -"we rebelled against the mainstream, establishment and hated the idea of pop music. Now we are pop music to many people and a majority of bm acts try to look and sound the same". Trends do not harm anyone and to inspire each other is not bad in my mind. But when the trends tend to repeat themselves over and over again they most of all limit people. That is bad for the musical and artistic output.
HH: The Musterion web site explains that you spent two years working with a spiritual guide. Can you discuss the spiritual aspect of your personal life? What kind of guide did you choose to work with and what kind of results did this spiritual work produce?
SK: I know "Spiritual guide" might sound new age. I am no big follower of new age to say the least. But a spiritual guide I had. I did not really choose my guide and maybe he did not choose me either. My guide is dead now. I will not discuss too much about what exactly the work was focused on. I don’t go around feeling particularly holy even though I think everyone is holy. In my personal life I try to be as open as I can for new ideas and paths. After the work with the guide I could (still do) value things different than before. For some years I chased new information and tried to go deeper into myself. I understood after a while that this period of my life is like a test. I am a boxer constantly in a match. This does not mean I am paranoid. Even though a healthy paranoia could be good.
The results are many but one has to do with the self. I, like many others, needed to see myself in a different light. Also see my life and childhood in another way that was not my own. One might say my spiritual guide made me see myself. Both Jerzy Grotowski and Antonin Artuad spoke about being impeccable and devoted. That’s something I work towards too. I also learned to go back to the mysterious primitive forces of my being! Nowadays I like and enjoy things that work. In fiction, thought and fantasy I enjoy things that don’t work though. Extreme exaggerations in media and life are something I have a hard time with. Therefore I like for an example MMA (Mixed martial arts), knife fighting, duel fencing and diversity! But that’s the physical side (mostly). I also understand that underneath forms there can sometimes be inner enlightenment. It’s not always the goal to be best. For me that’s hard to say as I was once a very competitive person.
To be honest when it comes to "spirituality" it often is an empty ideality, an assertion without basis that we believe to be very beautiful because it is encrusted with literary concepts and poetic expressions, but never goes beyond that. My guide gave me some tools to work with. I have later on used some of these tools and some I have not.
HH: You worked closely as a play write with the actor Erik Bolin. Can you offer readers a brief introduction to who Erik Bolin is and what your working relationship with him was?
SK: Erik is one of my best friends. We studied theatre together and we help each other in defining many things about art and theatre. After a couple of years during which we worked very closely Erik went on and studied acting 4 more years. Right now he works as an actor in one of the biggest theatres in Sweden. He is somewhat a freelance. His acting style and also in appearance he resembles (according to many people) Klaus Kinski!
HH: Erik Bolin and you formed a cultural society name “418.” Can you explain the premise and function of this society?
SK: Yes. 418 is still existing even though its sleeping. Mostly we were a theatre group working with dark physical theatre. We joined together photographers, actors, directors, writers, artists, painter, poets and thinkers. The society had gatherings, readings, improvisations, work shops and much more. Erik and I were the leaders. The other 2 founders (beside me and Erik) should be mentioned though: Lina Waleij and Anne-Marie Flink.
HH: Can you share what the future holds for Za Frumi, Waerloga Records, and your other artistic endeavors?
SK: The future seems to be very bright. With Za Frûmi I and Simon Heath are working on the third CD. "Shrak ishi za migul" will be its name. It means: Gathering in the mist. It will be released this year. Abnocto will also be released this year. I have said that many years but now I truly think so! I want to start working on a new CD for Musterion but need a record label first. Contact me if you have ideas on a fitting label. Waerloga records will make a better mail-order and web page soon. More mp3s will be put on the site. Acts and labels that could fit in the mail order should contact Waerloga. Waerloga records will also take in new acts.
HH: Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share?
SK: I would like to thank you for this interview. Thanks also to the readers who read all my ramblings!