Heathen Harvest: Can you begin by introducing the owners of War Office Propaganda?
Marcin: Hello Malahki, I’m Marcin, 29 years old, living in small city in West Pomerania, Poland. Married, no children. University degree – pedagogy. Besides working in War Office Propaganda my daytime job is tutor, resocialization specialty. War Office Propaganda label is my passion, separation from the dull routine of everyday life.
Robert: Hello, here’s Robert, 41 years old - too old to rock’n’roll too young to die :o), born in Szczecin, West Pomerania, university educated (economy, marketing and management). Currently working as a manager in a huge company, married, two daughters. WOP is the same for me, as for my friend Marcin, escape from day-to-day reality, and opportunity to realize my passions.
HH: What inspired the creation Of War Office Propaganda Records?
M: The beginning of War Office Propaganda can be found along with first self-made release – Scontrum act I. Although it was released without any catalogue number (reissued under the War Office Propaganda label as WOP X in 2004) it can be taken as a very first issue. Second Scontrum, numbered WOP 01 is the first, where the full name and catalogue number was written. The reason of establishing the label was one – tired with incessant looking for serious label I decided to take things in my own hands, and release what I want and when I want with no compromises in artistic independence.
R: Although I wasn’t present at the very beginning of War Office Propaganda myself, the idea in my case was almost the same, to release my music and to give the possibility of promotion to other promising acts and musicians. I did try to start a serious label, but there were many problems at that time, first of all a lack of time and lack of free money, which I could spend on this idea. Only when I came together with Marcin, and we joined efforts did it gain results. Anyway we treat summer 2004 as a second birth of War Office Propaganda. Keeping the original name gave both of us a brand new value and a high status for our joint affair.
HH: Did you have previous experience working with the music industry before you began the label?
M: Me personally, I had no experience of working with any label. Before War Office Propaganda I was involved in the scene as a musician. Actually establishing WOP wasn’t a well thought-out scheme, it was just an urge to get everything that happened with Cold Fusion in my own hands. Later came the idea to promote other acts. I think we are still learning this activity, its maybe easier for us, because we are two, we can discuss every decision even the smallest details in order to avoid defeats.
R: No, not at all. Except some more or less successful attempts with releasing my own music in my so called “labels”. The term “music industry” sounds very strange to me – the first association is with the song of The Smiths – “Paint a Vulgar Picture”... I don’t like that way of working with music and I guess what is going on there is rather far from what we are doing at WOP. If you ask if this experience could help us to run the label, I don’t think so, quite the opposite - our minds are free of marketing poison, ha ha ha...
HH: How and when did you first become introduced to post industrial music such as dark ambient, neofolk, and martial music?
M: Hmm, as with many things in this life we encounter them by chance, and then we realize wether we like them or not. This was the case with me and postindustrial music. My previous experience has prepared me for new music, I’m very curious of new trends and genres, so when the occasion arose to become acquainted with postindustrial music, I did it. It caught my eye (or rather ear ;o) and so it is... I think it was in the mid 90’s when I heard it for the very first time, I remember the Polish band Mussorgski, which made a huge impression on me. Since that time I started looking for inspiration in Cold Meat Industry, Cold Spring and many other record labels.
R: It’s really hard to tell how and when... If only I could remember... It was so long ago, you know, after very bad experiences with establishing the band I dropped the idea of making music for many years, but I didn’t give up looking for interesting sounds everywhere. There wasn’t one moment, I can’t tell you – I heard this band once, and since that time I knew exactly – it’s now!. Everything goes fluently, combining and uniting in my mind. There was a fascination of psychedelic and electronic experimental music of the 70’s like Kraftwerk, Can, Brian Eno, Amon Dull, Volapuk to mention only a few, beautiful 80’s with Throbbing Gristle, Swans, and 4AD groups, everything happened rather gradually, World Serpent, CMI, and no doubt these labels influenced my taste of music in the mid 90’s. This is the beginning of my adventure with dark ambient, neofolk, and martial music...
HH: The first releases of War Office Propaganda were recorded on professional CD-R. Why did you decide to begin the label as a CD-R label as opposed to professional CD recordings?
M&R: The reason was very simple. We had no money to produce professional CD's. In our plans CD-R as a medium was temporary, our goal was to release pressed CD's and also vinyl records, which we will come to offer soon, we hope. We decided to risk a little at the beginning, we knew that CD-R's are not so high in listener’s estimation, but we counted on two things – first was to release music which will defend itself, and second – make CD-Rs as professional as possible. It succeed, because very fast we became known for our high quality interesting music. Now we accomplish our objectives – excellent, professional releases for very reasonable price.
HH: War Office Propaganda has begun to release professionally recorded CD's as well. Are you planning on changing to professional CD or do you plan on offering a mix?
M&R: Yes, factory pressed CDs and vinyl are the only media we are going to release. Slowly all CD-R releases are running out and we will not re-press them. Except the Scontrum series – this will be released until the final Act X on CD-R to keep with the beginning spirit of War Office Propaganda. Definitely we decided to quit CD-R's, but we still like to promote some new projects and bands, that’s why we started exclusive distribution of CD-R releases on a brand new label ProDisti. Strictly limited to 55 copies, hand numbered CD-R's in professional digipacks, maybe it’s not cheap, but definitely worth to having! When we come to a final agreement we will start distribution. So we don’t say no to CDR at all, but we’d like to focus now on full professional CDs. We are about to change the factory which delivers digipacks to us. They are still quite good, but we’d like to offer much better quality for the same reasonable price.
HH: Can you discuss the some of the obstacles and rewards of starting your own label and business?
M: The first and most important problem is the unbelievably greedy fiscal policy in our country. Actually what we do is a non-profit activity, but non-profit for us the owners. We pay so much in hidden taxes, duties, charges and other mysterious payments... It’s quite irritating, because before we earn anything, we have to share it with the tax office. This system perfectly shows which kind of “democracy” we are living in...
R: OK, but there are bright moments, when we realize almost all our ideas, when we finish great releases we feel a huge satisfaction. When we get positive feedback, this is the real prize. Although we have no huge profit, this job is very rewarding. This allows us to look ahead and work even harder.
HH: War Office Propaganda has introduced Post Industrial music listeners to many new bands from around the world. Did you originally intend that War Office Propaganda would remain dedicated to working with both recognized and emerging artists?
M&R: One of our main goals is to promote lesser known artists. Our fundamental criteria are music and consequence in representing the artistic vision. If a young act can express itself as an experienced and mature band, why shouldn’t we show it to a wider audience? Everyday something new is happening in music, we are very curious what this is, and we’d like to watch these movements. Not all changes are good in our opinion, not all news is worth to mentioning, but we’d like to be inside of some interesting musical places. Our publishing style and taste is rather stabilized, but we are still open to new ideas. We don’t want to be focused on one or two acts, we want to release young acts which will keep the scene alive.
HH: What are your criteria when evaluating a new artist to work with?
M: The most important thing is music itself. Then we used to talk to artists asking them to introduce themselves and tell us more about their inspirations, about the urge of continuing and developing their visions. We like to work with artists that we know, first we’d like to talk to them about many different things, just to check, you know if we are talking on the same waves.
R: We are rather reserved about artists who have no vision, what would they like to do on next album. The urge of making music has to be on the artist’s side. We don’t want to put any pressure on them. We don’t want to create any puppets on our strings. Of course we give some advice sometimes, but if they don’t share our views, then we try to find other better ways of cooperation. But it is only when the music is really interesting.
HH: Can you discuss some of the musicians you have worked with and how you came to work together?
M: All musicians who have worked with us can be described by simple words but with very huge meaning – full professionalism. Debutants are very enthusiastic; we really like to help them in developing, in promotion. For me personally the one who has helped me a lot is Reinhard Hopfe from Stahlwerk 9. The breaking point was when Reinhard agreed to take part on Scontrum act III. I was deeply honored with his participation on this release.
R: Yes, we’d like to thank to Reinhard for his willingness to cooperate, and his professional attitude. We really appreciate this. I like to work with both - young musicians like [haven], Lingua Fungi, and mature musicians like Out Of Sight. There’s always something I can learn from these contacts. We have very nice relations with all the “Gloria Victis...” participants, this will come to fruition soon on our new releases, and many new acts are sending their demos, many well known acts contact us, hereby we’d like to thank them all.
HH: Now that the label has become established with a number of memorable and collectable releases do you feel as if you have achieved your original goals?
M: Our main goal is to release our beloved music. And we do this, so we can say we have achieved our goal. We started with CDRs, but now we offer pressed CDs. Maybe some readers will wonder why we mention this fact so often and say “big deal”, but in a country where the total cost of producing one CD is equal two or three monthly salaries, believe me, it is a big deal :o)
R: From the other side, we don’t feel we have achieved everything; we are at the beginning of our way. We have not accomplished all that what we’d like to yet. Almost everyday we have a lot of ideas which we discuss. We like to do something special, some beautiful collectors’ releases; we don’t want to create cheap effects but special settings for special music, to give our listeners something extraordinary made with passion. Currently we are working on our next title – “Triumvire”. This three-way split (Stahlwerk 9, Cold Fusion, Rukkanor) will be released in beautiful wooden box with gold embroidered velour, gold printings and golden CD. Everything will be 660 copies in three colors (black, red and grey) – only 220 of each color. This is our next goal - to release some of our records in an unconventional way.
HH: War Office Propaganda has become widely known amidst martial industrial music fans for the coveted Scontrum CD-R series. Can you discuss the Scontrum series and how it was conceived?
M: Scontrum series was created as a way to promote my own act – Cold Fusion, Scontrum act I is a split with Schwadron. Originally made in 36 copies only, due to the unbelievable interest we re-printed in 369 copies. Every act of Scontrum is a three-way split, three bands, three tracks by each band. This idea will be continued until the last volume – 9th. Besides the martial character it’s a game with numbers.
R: We have never expected such a positive opinion, that’s why Scontrum was very limited at the beginning. We really had the dilemma if we should answer the hundreds of inquiries - “sorry, it’s sold out” or shall we re-press it. Finally we did it and since this moment War Office Propaganda has become widely known.
HH: How did you go about inviting artist to work on the Scontrum series?
M: The hardest was to find artists for the first parts of Scontrum. I wrote hundreds of mails to almost everyone and I was refused hundreds of times. No one wanted to participate in the 36 copies of the original CDR, admittedly in hand made wooden cover, but still CDR. The more I’d like to thank to Schwadron and Stahlwerk 9. Actually the third volume of Scontrum with Stahlwerk 9 has built the good reputation of this series. Now we have no problems with finding acts who would like to participate.
R: Yes, and we still keep our policy – to mix new projects with the well known, act VI will play Rasthof Dachau and Asmorod. We are still looking for the third act, we’d like this split to be coherent.
HH: Can you discuss some of the musicians who will be participating in the future chapters of the Scontrum CD-R series?
M&R: As we mentioned for sure Rasthof Dachau and Asmorod on act VI. Rest is the ‘song of the future’. We talk to many projects but we’d like to decide the final shape, so this is too early to talk about it.
HH: Do you foresee War Office Propaganda releasing similiar limited edition series in the future?
M&R: Yes, we have thought about this, but we decided to treat Scontrum as a priority. Making the hand made wooden cover is really time consuming and we don’t want to start another one. It’s easy to create more series, but the problem is to keep them alive and interesting. Certainly we will start some new series after Scontrum’s end, but it’s too early to talk about the concept.
HH: Many releases in the discography of War Office Propaganda share themes concerning historical and wartime events. Indeed the name of the label itself is militaristic. Can you discuss the militaristic aesthetic that is emerging in post industrial music and share your thoughts about it?
M: The military aesthetic in postindustrial music is in my opinion something invented. Military contents are used basically to express some thoughts about totalitarians, oppression, and death. It is connected to an extremely huge intensity of emotions, which are the result of WWII for example. The enormity of the crime, war damage, and contempt for human beings was so big, that echoes of these years will be received for many more years.
I have talked to my grandmother who was sent into exile, she spent 6 years in Siberia and buried all her family there. Emotions were so huge, that when she related what happened 60 years ago she had tears in her eyes.
R: Yes, we have a very similar point of view. You know many propaganda and patriotic songs tells us what an honour it is to be a soldier, how sweet is to die for your country. I don’t think that there is something sweet in dying no matter what you are dying for. I have talked to WWII heroes many times, especially pilots, because aviation is also my passion. They told me how they felt, permanent mortal fear, this is something different than what is written in patriotic books...
And yes, military accents can be easily found in my music, but I don’t think that Rukkanor is a martial industrial act. Actually I don’t want to be classified at all, and especially as a military act, the spectre of mixed styles and genres in my music is quite wide, and it will be even wider...
HH: Many of War Office Propaganda’s releases have focused upon historical events. What is your personal interest in history and particularly how it relates to music?
M: My interest in history is restricted to “catching” emotions, unforgettable experiences,
As a musician I don’t want to describe concrete events. Like on my recent album “Occupatria” I’d like to show the atmosphere of danger, uncertainty, fear in an occupied country or city. Totalitarian coercion, lack of freedom. I can’t imagine myself living in such a country, but in a matter of fact Poland was occupied until 1989. There was no freedom in this country, I was a child, my parents remember it better. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want me to go and stand guard near the Russian soldiers memorial. This was theirs mutiny against communistic orders. I understood it many years later. But this is the history I have been living in, and this is what I’d like to express in my music.
R: History is everywhere in my life. I always had two history lessons. The lies which teachers try to sell me in school, and the true history which I learned in my home. My parents and grandparents risked a lot telling the truth in times when Poland was under communistic rule. Since I remember my home was the oasis of truth in the world of lies. People wrote poems, music, books and went to prison for these “crimes” and many people lost their lives in tragic events. I never forget my home town Szczecin in December 1970 when I was escaping with my grandparents through the park and bullets hit trees above our heads. Many people died, like the brother of my friend, who was in the army and refused to obey orders. He didn’t want to shoot tat demonstrators, hence he was executed. I will always remember such people. They change the world somehow. In some cases I would like to honour them and thank them for what they did. In some cases I’d like to share my emotions, in others to present my vision of a specific event. My way of creating music is based on my imagination; I don’t restrict myself in any way. What I do is just writing music - my personal vision of the world around me. So the next album – titled “Despartica” is about the urge of independence in general, as a reason for uprisings (I don’t mean Poland only) and surely an album about tragic events in Szczecin in December 1970 is in my plans, a symphonic music with choirs, some ideas I have started to record already.
HH: Do you feel as if the last century of warfare and political polarity in Europe has influenced post industrial music and musicians directly?
M&R: We think so! What was happened in the 20th century shaped us, people who have lived in this time, in these political systems. Let’s take Poland as a example. One of the results of WWII was that Poland lost independence again for 44 years… Until 1989 it was a communistic country ruled by puppets on the strings of Moscow, everything was poor and grey, this was our childhood. After opening borders we got the chance to see what we lost through all these years. We lived in another reality, created by communists. Now we get the chance to communicate, to express our feelings and emotions, it is normal that we want to make up for the lost time. We think that you will be hearing a lot from Eastern Europe during the next years. And of course events of the 20th century are so inspiring…
HH: When an artist creates music inspired by historical wartime events that involved or impacted their nation or ethnic ancestors do you feel as if the artist should remain neutral to the historical event or do you feel art and music should reflect the true feelings and opinions of the musician?
M&R: Answering this question we have to realize, that we are all historical characters. History happens everywhere, not only on the first pages of newspapers. This what we are and who we are is the result of our experiences; our private history puts final shape to our behavior. It is not possible to act without conclusions coming from the past. It is impossible to be neutral in relations with our own history. The problem is one – in transposing these feeling to the music, everyone has to answer for the questions - are these “smuggled” contents moral or not? Are artists fully conscious about what they want to tell? How determined is an artist to defend his point of view? Because this is what is really appreciated is sincerity of expression.
HH: War Office Propaganda mostly releases music in the vein of dark ambient, neofolk and martial toned music. Can you discuss your personal interest in these genres?
M: What we are releasing doesn’t determine our interest. Of course there’s no possibility to not listen to genres we are releasing :o) Besides dark ambient, neofolk and military I listen to a lot of other artists like Pink Floyd and Portishead. I listen to what I like, this is what has some influence on me, this is what makes me more open for new fields of music which I can use in the music of Cold Fusion.
R: I listen to so much different music, that these genres which you have mentioned are just fragments of all of my musical interests. But as we are involved in these genres to some extent professionally we listen to them a lot. Personally I like this kind of music very much because of its beneficial influence on my imagination. It is great that there is still a lot to tell by sound. Anyway I listen to music about 10-12 hours a day, so I think I couldn’t stand one genre so long :o)
HH: War Office Propaganda often presents releases in collectable and innovative packaging. Can you discuss the labels emphasis on elaborate packaging and how it relates to the identity of the label?
M&R: We put big emphasis on our collectors editions, they really are hand made, original and extremely time consuming, very sophisticated boxes. When we create them, we know that they have to be functional, not oversized. It is no problem to invent unconventional packaging in the size 50 by 50 cm. We know, that they have to find room on a shelf :o) As for the second question we don’t use refined marketing methods. We just do it, when we have an idea :o), but on the other hand there is a very huge demand on such a collectors versions. People want to have something special, that gives the feeling of being in contact with something extraordinary.
HH: Many War Office Propaganda releases are created as limited editions. Do you ascribe to the collectors ideal of producing small batches or are you just trying to match the buying capacity of your audience?
M&R: No, it’s not the question of demand and supply. Many people are asking about our releases, which are sold out, and will never be re-printed. We are sorry, but we can’t help them. Limited editions are something special, certainly they are for collectors, but we’d like to keep the right balance between limited / unlimited productions. We know we could sell much more titles, but we don’t re-press them, due to many different reasons. Sometimes it is an artist’s demand, sometimes something else. There are neither rigid rules nor restriction policy. Many things we do, because we just want to do it this way without any reason, or we have some feeling that would be nice to do. As we said, it’s not calculated in questions of demand and supply.
HH: War Office Propaganda recently released one of the most accomplished neofolk / dark ambient / martial music compilations ever titled “Gloria Victis Vae Victis.” Can you discuss the release explaining its theme and what you intended to accomplish with “Gloria Victis Vae Victis”?
M&R: This is a very important record for WOP. We just wanted to present our identity as a label. First - these 20 tracks are a mosaic of our musical interests, many different styles. Second thing is that “Gloria…” is a unique mix of well known acts and debutants, this is our policy, to release both of them. We wanted to give a sign that we exist, that many well known acts have trusted to us, and we feel we didn’t disappoint them, even the opposite, everyone was satisfied with taking part on this compilation. This means a lot to us.
HH: The price of War Office Propaganda CDs and CD-R’s has always been very reasonable. Is it important for you to keep the music you promote affordable?
M&R: We have adjusted our prices to this level because we are very interested in making our releases accessible. Of course the price is important, but the problem is also in promotion, at this moment our records are available mainly through the internet and in a few very good music shops, but we know it is not so easy for many people to find our music. We are trying our best to improve this.
HH: The post industrial music scene in Poland and Eastern Europe seems to be rapidly maturing right now. Can you share your impressions of the post industrial community as you have experienced it in Poland and abroad?
M&R: Yes, indeed! We feel the same; maybe it is hard to judge that this is what’s going on in the postindustrial scene now in Poland, because we are totally inside these changes. We are focused on War Office Propaganda and with no doubt this label is already one of the most dynamic and important labels in this part of Europe. Soon we will make our activity wider – organize gigs, exhibitions, starting web- and paper zines. Many labels and artists have finished rather chaotic periods of searching for their identity. They have found it and are now developing it. This is what make them ( and us among them ) more mature.
HH: How important has the internet been for the growth and prosperity of War Office Propaganda?
M&R: Oh, yes, this is a most important tool. Most of tour contacts and business things we do through the internet. The communication is much easier and faster, but it doesn’t give the possibility of personal contact. Anyway it makes for a funny situation, that one day we meet people we know only from emails, and there is a very big pleasure to talk to them “live” :o)
We go for to many gigs as possible; this is the only opportunity to get in touch with artists, fans, customers. The internet doesn’t give this possibility to drink and talk about life in general :o) until dawn... But it offers contact with different people around the world, you know, there’s so many places, that we will never visit personally…
HH: War Office Propaganda releases are carried by a large number of respectable mail order shops. Do you feel as if the international post industrial community has embraced your label?
M&R: Yes we get this feeling; actually it has become a fact. Our records are in almost all the biggest labels and distros, every week we start new contacts. More reviews, interviews with us and our artists. All this shows our position in the postindustrial community, and of course this means that our activity is noticed. This is very good promotion for young artists, we realize that when debutants release there record on WOP, then they are no longer unknown. Many contacts with well known artists, very nice almost family relations with labels and distros owners ( hello Max ! :o) - everything like this is just evidence of this, that we are an integral part of the postindustrial scene. We are not of marginal importance anymore. Of course, this is kind of a challenge, and we don’t want to abuse this trust.
HH: Both of the owners of War Office Propaganda are also musicians. Can you introduce each of the owners’ musical projects?
M: Cold Fusion was born in 2002 along with the “Elisabeth Bukez” album. As I mentioned before, I played in many bands, getting more experienced, but so many changes in these bands lead to this moment, when I decided to do music alone by myself. Cold Fusion is the expression of my different interests, that’s why all the records are different from each other. The last album is “Occupatria”, the new will be called “Simmetria”, it will be released probably in end of 2006, start of 2007, but already now I can say that the music will be different than the music on “Occupatria”. I was responsible for the music in my other project – Hotel de Prusse, but the music is very close to Cold Fusion, so there was no sense to keep it as a separate band. Music of Hotel de Prusse will be heard on the newest Cold Fusion, and it will include live guitars, bass, drums and Robert’s vocals :o)
R: Well, there was a period in my life, when I was doing lots of music, I always had many ideas. After few years of taking a break in musician’s activity one day I realized that if I think seriously about releasing my music, there’s need to get sorted out – some unrecorded notes, some songs from the 90’s, some new sounds. One day I decided to gather them into one “book-of-light”– Ruakh-a-Noor (simplified version – Rukkanor) where light has the meaning of spirituality and emotions. I dropped the other projects and other recordings when I had this feeling that I’m wasting my time (although I still willingly take part as a guest in different bands now I do it hardly ever, very seldom). This was in 2004, and since that time Rukkanor is my only musical project. It will always combine the new ideas with some echoes and reminiscences from the past. I think I will not create so many side-projects anymore, rather by mixing different styles I will try to create some new pages in my Book of Light.
HH: How were these musical projects conceived and what inspired each of the projects creation?
M: It was the possibility to give shape to my ideas. There’s nothing to hide that computers and home recording was the main reason. One day it was possible to record everything at home, mix it and master. This is the main thing if we are talking about possibilities. Inspirations? I’m involved in music since the beginning of the 90’s and to answer this question I have to remind myself of where I got my first guitar from :o) maybe it is a continuation of my family tradition? My family was involved in music too, so maybe I thought once that I should try it also, and that’s it?
R: I’d like to create some emotions in the listener. This is the seed of all my musical activity. This is the most important thing for me, because I remember when I heard music for the first time consciously, I was fascinated that music can cause the desire to jump, dance, sing, shout, laugh, cry, and more – and everything at the same time :o) What a power! When I was young I played drums in some local cold wave bands, then keyboards as a guest musician, wrote some songs until the moment, when I bought some decent equipment and started to record because I wanted to say something with my music, not only because I could record sounds at my home…
HH: Can you discuss the theme, title and other relevant information for each release by Rukkanor and Cold Fusion?
- 2002 Cold Fusion - “Elisabeth Bukez" – this is my debut album. The title is the name of one of the last ‘witch”. She was burned in Slupsk, my wife’s hometown hundreds of years ago.
- 2003 Krepulec/Cold Fusion - "Parabellum" is the split , short strong and with unambiguous military title, hence Parabellum.
- 2004 V-1 - "Prince De La Mort"/Cold Fusion - "Libertine" – next split,this time about rejection of moral and religious norms.
- 2004 Cold Fusion / Schwadron - "Scontrum act I" this it the beginningof Scontrum series, artwork is based on my hometown’s Bialogard’s pictures.
- 2004 Stahlwerk 9/Cold Fusion/Krepulec - "Scontrum act III" – history of polish submarines during WWI, my story telling about ORP Orzel brave escape from Gdansk harbout to England.
- 2004 Cold Fusion/Rukkanor - "Wunderwaffe" Split dedicated to all civilian victims of Wunderwaffe – V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets.
- 2005 Cold Fusion – “Report” is musical report from battlefield, my vision of information in the war time.
- 2005 Cold Fusion - 63 Days part IV – devoted to Warsaw Uprising 1944.
- 2005 Cold Fusion – Occupatria – desribed below.
Besides official discography I have two unpublished albums – ORP Orzel – continuing saga of this brave Polish submarine and “New Apocalypse” which is some kind of supplement of "Report”
R: My discography is not so big, just two full-length albums “Requiem fro K-141 Kursk” from 2004 and “Deora” from 2005, which are discussed in the following part of this interview, two splits (Wunderwaffe with Cold Fusion and Scontrum act IV with Marching Runes and Ghosts of Breslau – both released in 2004) and some single tracks on two compilations. Because “Requiem for K-141 Kursk” CDR was very peculiar and hermetic album which I explain in the next question, I rather treat “Deora” as my full-length debut album. I know that listeners compare these two recordings but honestly there’s nothing to compare :o). I never explain titles; I rely on the intelligence and imagination of my listeners. Titles always have some hidden meanings, a dose of irony, some kind of riddle or simply they are what they are :o).
HH: Rukkanor’s album Requiem for K-141 KYPCK was themed around the crash and subsequent disablement of a Russian nuclear submarine. Ultimately the submarine accident took the lives of the crew aboard the damaged ship. Did you have a personal interest in this event and if so can you share some of thoughts on this event?
R: No I had no personal interest in this event. The idea of making music and dedication to the crew was born when I read a shocking letter from the depth – not all members died after the explosions, there were a few who survived, and one of the members wrote this letter to his wife. They were dying for a long time in the darkness. It seemed cruel and absurd how easy the army government has sacrificed their lives to keep the secret of a weapon, then they lied and deceived the families of the crew… besides, it’s also a story about the rise and fall of some national pride, it is the story of lost hope and despair. The music I judge today very severely, it is very naïve sometimes, but I decided to keep the original recordings from many years ago, I didn’t want to re-record this album again. This had to be the same impression, the same emotions. What is important, this album contains samples of the original voices of the crew from the submarine, these were very hard to get, First I wrote to some radio and TV stations because they used these samples also in some documentary broadcast and films about this disaster. No one wanted to talk to me about this. They answered - find another theme. When I almost gave up I got one answer from a very nice and helpful guy who wanted to stay anonymous and you know a friend of his friend of his friend had these recordings. I lost them a few years ago when I moved to another town, the only samples and voices are these on “Requiem…” – this was also one of the reasons why I didn’t re-recorded this album and kept it as it was. Two tracks were added later onand we decided to release it in War Office Propaganda in 2004.
HH: Cold Fusion’s most recent release is titled “Occupatria.” Does this title refer to the occupation of Poland?
M: Yes it is. “Occupatria” is a story about people living in a totalitarian system, with no chance to live their own life, no possibility to behave naturally, not free to go about, imprisoned in a political system. This is my artistic vision determined by my partial experience of how people could live without something so basic like freedom.
HH: Rukkanor’s most recent album “Deora” is themed around matters of religious warfare and religious intolerance. Can you discuss what role religion and spirituality play in your personal lives?
M: I behave myself according to my own moral code. I’m not religious, I’m not a believer, and I have no tendency to persuade someone to change thier beliefs. I don’t like it if someone wants to persuade me. My opinion is my opinion and I don’t want to impose my ideas on someone.
R: I don’t like the word – religion and I don’t like everything that is hidden beneath this word either. I don’t like to talk about religion as well. You don’t have to be a keen observer to see that it exerts huge influence on almost everything that is going on nowadays and what happened in past years, centuries. And in my opinion, it’s a much more harmful influence than beneficial. Every kind of religion and all its institutional forms are very far from my personal beliefs and my own spirituality. I think that it is reasonable to quote the motto from “Deora” – “People fight with one another over which god to show their obedience to. Gods wage wars against one another for people who are supposed to obey them. However, both of the wars are pursued by humans at the expense of humans. Gods demand that humans declare firmly whether they are in favor of this or the other side and they do not tolerate unclear situations. In this way they introduce pathetic, alternative nature of choice into our daily lives and deprive the existence of this pleasant ambiguity, which is one of the finest appeals of life...“ This is the point of “Deora” and I leave all the rest to the listener’s imagination and their feeling of spirituality, no matter what they believe in, if they’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or agnostic, just whoever they are...
HH: Do you feel as if music and art is a medium capable of exploring religion and spirituality?
M: Those two things are intertwined. Musicians compose hymns for their gods, painters paint mystical inspired paintings, its not possible to make art somehow ‘clean’, separated from religion and spirituality. For me is evident to put my spirituality into my compositions.
R: Every kind of creativity touches somehow at least on one of these spheres. The art can be described as a channel, or some particular way to express the artist’s spirituality. But it lays not only in the artist, spirituality lays in the listener, viewer, reader. It’s a bridge of emotions and feelings between them. It’s a life in itself, to see the spirituality in everything that surrounds us, and the art is an expression of this. And with no doubt art explores religion, just look at the frescoes of the Sixth Chapel by Michelangelo, The Last Supper of Leonardo for example, after hundreds of years they still make a huge impression even if as I said before, my own spirituality is far from any kind of religion.
HH: Are there any musicians you can name who inspired you to begin creating industrial music?
M: I can’t mention musicians or groups, who inspired me to make industrial music; I think it is rather coincidence. Music, people, events everything what was around me inspired me to do that, I don’t even think I did it with some special plan, on purpose, it just happened. What I record now is all the result of this and what I have been listening to for so many years, from jazz to ballads, and postindustrial of course.
R: As far as I remember I always have been interesting in music of different genres and I created music some years ago, but I really cannot say which particular group or musician inspired me to do that, travelling through different styles I can’t mention one who is responsible for my industrial interest. There are a dozens who made a strong impression on me some time ago – Pink Floyd, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, later Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Swans, ah, really, there are too many, and I’m sorry I’m not able to mention them all...
HH: What are your impressions of how people have embraced your music?
M: Surprising! When I read reviews of my records I realize, that every listener has his own opinion and impression. This shows exactly, that when I give my album to the listener I loose the control, I can’t suggest how to listen to it, it is not mine anymore. This is a very big advantage of the creativity process. I’m very glad if my music is liked and has positive opinions, if not, then there’s no problem either.
R: They are very positive. Well, my music is for an audience who listens to different kinds of music, from dark ambient, ethnic, through folk, ethereal, to jazz, synth, electronic, you know, music that needs some research and digging out. Music that is not offered in markets, commercial radio and TV. When I get positive feedback, reviews, e-mails, I’m very happy that listeners know what I tried to tell them and this gives me new motivation for doing all the things better and better. I don’t get it as a mission to save the world by music. It’s just very nice that there are a few people who like what I’m doing.
HH: Both of you are musicians and label owners in addition to having families. Do you find it hard managing so many responsibilities?
M: Yes it is very hard to manage so many things. The label, music, it takes a lot of time, and it sometimes happens that we are working very long and neglect our families. This is not an office job from 9 to 5. We work until the late night or dawn even... But this is our passion and our families understand this.
R: Yes, it is. As a husband and father of two daughters I find it very hard. It’s a permanent lack of time. First of all we have our daytime jobs – I’m a manager, which takes a lot of time, then we work on our label, so the working day is very long. But somehow we have to manage anyway, and we do. We offer the best service in our label, all our friends who collaborate with us can confirm that. I guess it’s a question of excellent organization. There is time for working, for music, and there is time reserved for our families and private lives.
HH: What artistic interests do you pursue aside from music?
M: I have made a choice long time ago. There is only music for me, nothing else. I tried many times something else, but music delivers to me the most beautiful feeling, and I decided to focus all my energy and attention on music.
R: Actually music absorbs all my free time. I try to write some screenplays for comic books, maybe I will find enough time to finish it some day, but I don’t know when...
I write short stories for my daughters, where they are main heroes, they love to listen when I read, I have thought of publishing them, but the only problem is permanent lack of time. Oh, yes, I love my daughters and this is also some kind of art to bring them up well :o)
HH: What are your plans and dreams for the future for War Office Propaganda and your various musical projects?
M: I don’t hide that my dream is to concentrate on music and label activity. To earn money which would allow me to quit my current job, there are material dreams :o) as a musician I wish myself the possibility to record new interesting albums.
R: Our releasing schedule is filled up with very interesting titles already, we mentioned “Triumvire” but I’d like to present our newest idea – we’re going to release a compilation which will gather impressions about hometowns of participants. We are focused on 19th and first half of 20th century. This will be a book with photos from these times, more details soon :o), As for long distance plans and dreams - working in War Office Propaganda label gives me a lot of satisfaction, this is definitely what I would like to do with my life. My personal dream is to quit my current daytime job and work full time on our label. Unfortunately this activity doesn’t give profits yet, it is still kind of expensive and is a time consuming hobby. So I don’t know if and when it will be possible, we are waiting for this moment and working hard to make it real. For now it is still some kind of dream…
HH: Lastly, is there anything you would like to share in parting?
M&R: We’d like to thank you for such an interesting interview. Our friends know much more about us now, we are little bit closer in relation with them. Thank you so much. We would like to give thanks to all who believe in us, especially Reinhard Hopfe from Stahlwerk 9 and Max Presch from Steinklang Industries. Without their help some things couldn’t be possible. We thank our families for support and patience, and all our friends and fans for keeping us alive. Thank you very much indeed and see you some day on our gig maybe!