Heathen Harvest: Can you discuss how Dornenreich came into being and who the founding members are?
Jochen Stock: The actual creative birth of Dornenreich was in July 1996 when I met Valnes for the very first time. Back then we had a bass-player with us, but he left the band only a few months later. So, the founding members are the two of us - and we have been around for ten years now.
HH: Who are the current active members of Dornenreich?
JS: I am an active member and Valnes is one, too.
HH: Can you please discuss any musical experience the members of Dornenreich had before starting the band?
JS: As far as I know Valnes never played in any other band, though he had already been singing for several years before we founded Dornenreich. When it comes to my former musical experience I can tell you that I was educated in playing classical guitar for six years and that I played with some drummers before we established Dornenreich.
HH: What was the initial musical vision that brought Dornenreich together and how has this vision evolved?
JS: Back in 1996 we shared a common fascination with the mystic and emotional depth of bands such as Ulver, Emperor, Empyrium, Abigor and Summoning. We were very young back then and simply wanted to create intense, passionate and within it's core - timeless and archaic music and lyrics according to our youthful urge to express our inner selves.
These were very adventurous times for us, especially after our former drummer Gilvan had joined Dornenreich in April 1997, for the addition of live-drums to our guitars set free a special creative energy. I will never forget our first rehearsal with Gilvan. To me - that was a magical experience, indeed. So, to refer back to your question, the yearning for individually emotional and timeless artistic expression has been a central impetus for us from the very beginning of Dornenreich up to our current attempts to communicate our most authentic feelings, thoughts, dreams, fears and hopes due to the inner and the outer world.
HH: What originally drew you to the "Black Metal" scene and creating "Black Metal Music"?
JS: That's a very subjective topic to me, thus I just can speak about my personal bonds with this special music. So, personally I have always been fascinated with the ambiguous or even contradictory nature of this genre.
That is, the combination of fierce, ugly and dark elements such as the vocals, the extremely distorted electric guitars and the passionate drumming with elements of elevation and beauty such as the actually sung vocals, the acoustic guitars and synths affected me in an archaic way. In my perception and vision Black Metal is based on contradictory elements that build one common expression which - to me - is sort of a metaphor for the duality of this world and even an attempt to transcend this duality due to the fact that both sides and all the elements are essential to the final result.
HH: You formed Dornenreich when you were fairly young. Can you discuss some of the challenges and obstacles you have overcome throughout the years as a musician?
JS: According to the fact that we have never consisted of many members each playing one instrument, it has always been a challenge to keep up the detailed and varied artistic vision via playing more than one instrument and trying to do justice to numerous creative areas.
Furthermore our strong will to create something authentic and individual brought us adventurous challenges and obstacles for sure, that is, for instance the use of our mother tongue German and our focus on minimalist artwork.
Anyway - today I appreciate very much and especially the fact that we have already had the vision to release our first album "Nicht um zu sterben" offering an unconditionally subtle cover, although we were only sixteen years old back then and in spite of the fact that many stores refused the sale of "this album without an apt metal-cover" (as some put it) and that we have always felt deep bonds with our mother tongue in order to get across authentic and often ambiguous meanings one can hardly hint on in a foreign language - in my opinion.
HH: Dornenreich gained a cult following rather quickly due to the originality of the bands music and aesthetic. Was Dornenreich prepared for the popularity that your music has experienced and how has this popularity influenced you as an artist and person?
JS: Actually I do not experience that we are that popular nowadays. (Perhaps it is different situation in Germany, but in here I do not deem us to be quite well known). For sure I know that there are some people out there to whom Dornenreich means a lot indeed, but that is an extent - receiving some letters and being in touch with some interested people - that is just supportive and encouraging.
HH: The metal scene often reflects the personal spiritual convictions of the artist involved as many bands pursue visions of Nordic mythology or glorifying Satanism. Did you feel particularly drawn to the freedom of expression granted by the metal genre?
JS: I think so, yes. Especially with Norwegian Black Metal ten years ago I was inspired and affected by the experience that every band had its unique sound and a wide horizon as for various and innovative instrumentation and arrangements. And even when it comes to the mysterious, spiritual, philosophical and mythological contents of bands such as Ulver, Emperor, Ved Buends Ende, Kvist and The 3rd and the Mortal I felt challenged and free to deal with archaic topics in a personal way.
HH: Can you please relay the Dornenreich discography along with release dates and label designations?
- May 1997: "Mein Flügelschlag" (Demo)
- February 1998: "Nicht um zu sterben" (CCP) (CD)
- June 1999: "Bitter ists, dem Tod zu dienen" (CCP) (CD)
- February 2001: "Her von welken Nächten" (Prophecy) (CD)
- November 2005: "Hexenwind" (Prophecy) (CD)
HH: Can you discuss what occurred for Dornenreich between the release of "Bitter ists dem Tod zu dienen (1999) and "Her von welken Nächten (2001)" and discuss how you feel the band matured between these two albums?
JS: In summer Valnes and I had our final examinations at school and consequently we felt even more free to really dive into artistic expression then - and that's what we did. A further truly motivating experience was the contact with Prophecy Productions and their enthusiasm and vision. Thus, I deem these both changes - having more time and freedom as well as the supportive devotion of our label Prophecy - to be the main causes why the artistic vision of "Her von welken Nächten" seems to be even wider and even more intense than on our former releases.
HH: The vocals of Dornenreich are often a regularly discussed aspect of the bands music. You deliver vocals in a variety of voices and styles that blend into a very unique and theatrical vocal style. It often feels as if the vocals are coming from a very raw and primal part of your being. Can you please discuss your vocal style and how you discover the different voices and what you are striving to communicate through the various styles?
JS: As I experience it our vocals try to get across all the meanings, moods and emotions of the music and the lyrics as authentic, vivid and pictorial as possible. The fact that we use German means in this very case that we gain a very high level of identification with the contents and therefore the lyrics simply lead you to their essence, that is, their urge to expression. Doubtlessly this process is a demanding and rather exhausting one.
HH: The lyrics of Dornenreich's first three albums are all written and sung in German and they do not have English translations. Do you feel as if your first three albums are accessible and understandable to non German speaking peoples?
JS: Personally I think that certain basic emotions and moods of the words are accessible and understandable even in foreign countries and cultures based on other languages. Besides it is a widespread opinion that music itself is some kind of "subliminal collective tongue" of all beings. By the way - I adore listening to bands singing in their mother tongue and I appreciate the special intimate and authentic vibes that are transported via the use of the tongue the singer(s) grew up with.
HH: German is your native tongue and I have read that you use your own version of the language when writing for Dornenreich. Can you explain how you adapt the German language for Dornenreich? Do you feel directly inspired or influenced by a particular literary tradition?
JS: My approach does not differ that much with the actual use of German, but I have always been deeply impressed and thus influenced by the approach of expressionistic writers such as Georg Trakl, Else Lasker-Schüler and Gottfried Benn who created very individual and poetic texts rich in most ambiguous symbols by means of an unconditionally free use of all the elements of verbal expression. Furthermore I love the soulful approach of romantic writers such as Tieck, Novalis and Eichendorff and one can find certain references to them in the lyrics of Dornenreich for sure.
HH: You have mentioned in past interviews that your lyrics preserve hidden meanings and dual purposes that would not be apparent when translated. Can you summarize how you manipulate language poetically by giving an example?
JS: In general these "hidden meanings" refer back to subtle nuances of the sound of single words in context with the music, because as for the sound and the emotional connotation it makes a difference whether I sing "fog" or "Nebel", "monster" or "Scheusal". Moreover this word "Scheusal" is a very good example for dual purposes within single words: "scheu" means "shy" in German and when you listen to "The Witch’s Burning Gaze" one can hear that I stress the syllables "Scheu" and "sal" in a totally different way. For instance there is a hidden scream in the background of the syllable "sal" whereas the "Scheu" is sung in a fragile way.
However - meanwhile I am of the opinion that one can gain more via translations than one can lose, primarily because of the fact that I am always keen on using simple archaic words (- although the complete constructions tend to be most ambiguous and poetic -) that can be translated easily. Therefore interested people are able to read the English translations of the "Hexenwind" lyrics at dornenreich.com yet. Translations of former lyrics will follow.
HH: Poetry and lyricism seems to be a very important aspect of Dornenreich. Can you explain your personal relationship to poetry and lyricism and discuss how you first came to express your feelings with words?
JS: Apart from the writers I mentioned above I also appreciate the simple, pure and still deeply poetic literary voice of writers such as Hermann Hesse, Khalil Gibran, John O'Donohue, Fouque and many others.
Concerning my development I have to hint on the fact that I attended a speech-oriented school and that even my mother has always written and read passionately, so I came in direct contact with poetry very early. But one of my first memories of really expressing myself poetically is me sitting in school in 1997 and writing the central phrases of "Schlaflos Träumend"(a song of our debut-album "Nicht um zu sterben"). By the way - the first phrases of this text were written by Valnes.
HH: When did you begin to explore the connection between verse and music?
JS: Actively, that is, in Dornenreich my special interest in the mutual support of musical and lyrical expression began when working on the Demo yet, but as for the fact that I grew up with radio plays I think I have become a rather sensitive listner concerning word, sound and music by and by.
HH: Nature and nature mysticism is an apparent theme into he work of Dornenreich. Can you explain how your creativity and the natural environment are related?
JS: In my perception the landscapes of my home country Tirol are quite similar to Scandinavian ones. For instance in Tirol one finds the Alps and even vast forests, that is, archaic strengths are very near - especially in Winter and that influences me a lot of course.
Moreover I appreciate the fact that Tirol is rich in mystic, legend-breathing and - thus - inspiring places. Actually we are grasping an acoustic guitar and play in free nature now and again, which is a deeply satisfying experience every time. When playing my wooden guitar in the midst of the woods I receive certain profound vibes. Perhaps the woods resonate because of the same source material. Anyway - it is a spiritual way of totally coming home from time to time.
HH: Do you feel as if nature can teach man something about himself and if so what is there to be learned?
JS: Absolutely. The cycles of nature, which take place in front of our very eyes offer pure wisdom. Nature is build upon contrasts such as day and night or Winter and Summer. In Summer everything flourishes and in Winter nature is getting rid of obsolete parts, reduces itself due to the bigger cycle, whereas mankind is keen on growing and growing and growing according to "divine" economic principles. And that is the point. The pendulum can't stay on one side only. The profound principle of nature is balance - and it will claim and reestablish this balance with or without mankind.
HH: Do you live in a rural or country environment? How important is it for you to live in proximity to a natural uncorrupted environment?
JS: I live in a small town just a few kilometers off the main town of Tirol called Innsbruck. My home town appears to be medieval when it comes to the buildings and the remains of ancient walls, however there is everything available what even a futuristic man could long for. But to me it is enormously important that the forests and the mountains are visible and can easily be reached by busses. Sometimes I feel the sudden urge to breathe free in the forests - and in no time I am able to be there. That is privilege and a gift doubtlessly. I am aware of that and I try to honour it via my artistic expression.
HH: You have described the music of Dornenreich as capturing fleeting impressions of archaic universal principles and human experiences. How do you discover or come to understand the archaic and universal principles or impressions that you share through the music of Dornenreich?
JS: I think that one can hardly answer this question in an absolute way, because every single human being is influenced by its highly individual way to perceive, its social circumstances and all the secret areas a man is based on. Of course - I read a lot of philosophical literature and I live in a natural environment-, but the deeper ground of my special awareness of archaic experiences is to be founded deep within my self, where no word can follow.
HH: Do you ever feel challenged sharing the sensitive aspects of your masculinity and spirit through Dornenreich seeing that the metal genre is so dominated by aggressive masculine stereo types?
JS: Listening to Dornenreich superficially it is true that we use well known elements such us distorted guitars, hard drumming and even screams, but these elements are just symbols of deeper and more original forces. To give an example: the distorted guitar-sound reminds me of water and the drums symbolize a pulse on "Hexenwind".
Surely - "Hexenwind" is individual, free and bursting with - in this very case - more psychic than physical energy and therefore it stands for what "Metal" has always meant to me - which is far off anything the current "Metal-Scene" seems to present.
And of course I am aware of the fact that every single human being is based on both animus and anima, but the anima still seems to be too suppressed nowadays, which results in aggression, violence and the over-emphasis of the left half of the brain, the pigheaded and cold ratio. It's a all about balance and the very effective picture of "the pendulum". As a result of this I try to bring in both sides of my natural energies - the animus and the anima.
HH: Do you prescribe to a definable spiritual tradition such as heathenism or paganism?
JS: No, but nevertheless I am interested in many different spiritual ways to approach life. I don't confess to any religion, but I consider myself to be a religious being. However - I have to add in here that a Celtic paganism seems to be the most respectful, integrated and wise approach of inner and outer life to me.
HH: Dornenreich has developed a high level of compositional skill and song writing. Who is responsible for the songwriting and musical compositions?
JS: Thank you. The two of us are responsible for it, although most of the basic structures and melodies of "Hexenwind" rely on me.
HH: How much of the string orchestration on "Her von welken Nächten" is sampled and how much is true acoustic performances?
JS: That is quite difficult to tell apart. Actually every line that seems to be a "good string sample" was played by the two musicians (viola/cello) who spent two days with us in the studio. Naturally we were not able to record all the orchestral layers of the "louder" songs by means of track-by-track-accumulation of these two musicians, so we have used synths as effects and layers, too.
HH: Dornenreich's most recent album "Hexenwind" has been a long time coming. Originally "Hexenwind" was described as a separate band and a double CD was being discussed. Can you discuss the evolution of "Hexenwind" from conception to completion and clarify the status of the album? Did Dornenreich change character with the release of "Hexenwind" or should the album be considered a continuation of the Dornenreich?
JS: Well, the first Demo for "Hexenwind" was recorded in August 2001 and it offered the rough versions of all the basic themes of the final Album, but our will to keep up with our strong visions, which grew year by year in more details and nuances, led us into a quite difficult and lost situation. After we had ended the second studio-session for "Hexenwind" in August 2002 without the intended results we decided to finish the recordings in our own studio, which had to be built, yet.
So, during the years 2003 and 2004 we chased our vision in a perfectionist's way, which - of course - tends to be pathological, for one can only be total in this world, never perfect. Finally in late Winter 2004 we focused on the tracks that appear on the record now for they share a special common flair and they comprise a strong common vision that gets across the idea of a more spiritual, introverted and subtle exploration of the basic themes of our last album "Her von welken Nächten" and the song "Reime faucht der Märchensarg" of our second album "Bitter ists, dem Tod zu dienen". In September 2005 Markus Stock (Empyrium/The Vision Bleak/Studio E) mixed the album with me.
HH: "Hexenwind" is noticeably more melodic and less guitar dominated than previous Dornenreich albums. Do you feel as if the maturation of Dornenreich parallels growth in your personal and spiritual lives?
JS: In my eyes and in my heart every single album of Dornenreich reflects best our stadium of development during that specific period. Both the music and the lyrics have always paralleled a certain maturation of us as persons, yes. Dornenreich has always meant to be an authentic expression, so our first album "Nicht um zu sterben" consequently sounds much more youthful and physically urging than "Hexenwind" does, because during the last years we made a lot of experiences that led us to deeper areas of spirituality and life itself.
HH: "Hexenwind" is often discussed as being inspired by fantasy. In the west fantasy is often dismissed as childish obsession. What is your meaning when using this word to describe the music and aesthetic of "Hexenwind"?
JS: Primarily I mean the deeper root of fantasy which is imagination. To me that is the profound ability to create. First one dreams or thinks than comes the word and finally one acts in the outer world. But the core of the actual "graspable" creation is the invisible imagination, which I also use as some kind of synonym for a creative and open consciousness, which is triggered, invited and challenged by the repetitive and minimalist character of certain basic themes of the music on "Hexenwind". It has nothing to do with a glorification of escapism.
HH: "Hexenwind" also contains strong elements of European folklore. What is your interest in folklore and folktales? Do you feel particularly inspired by the lore of a specific region or nation?
JS: Fairytales and lore interest me that much because they offer a clear yet - to me - poetic tongue, archaic themes and a striking combination of fantastic elements combined with "real" places. Especially here in Tirol one can find countless mysterious places such as the "Devil's Desk" or the "Devil's Mill" near Innsbruck - and these places work deeply inspiring on my mind. I adore lore of all different cultures but of course I am most familiar with Alpine tales.
HH: Is "Hexenwind" intended to be sincere or is it simply a musical Fairy tale?
JS: It's sincere, definitely. However, all the basic messages are veiled in metaphors and symbols out of fairy sources such as the "which", the "forest" and even the "wind". The essence is sincere and timeless - as it is in fairytales, too.
HH: You have spoken in the past of the importance of understanding transitoriness and individuality. The subject of transitoriness seems to have been previously expressed in relation to death and loss. Have you experienced death and loss in your personal life and if so how did this event influence you spiritually and creatively?
JS: During the last four year I have been forced to say farewell to beloved people that influenced all the areas of my life profoundly, yes. Looking back today I feel that I live even more total now, because at the point where one is shaked and shaped by painful experiences one's existence starts to get deeper and wider, even if the exact opposite - the entire destruction - seems to happen at first within one's inner self. But now I have even grown into the darkest areas of life authentically - and that's a gift to me, for even the beautiful areas and experiences got even more beautiful that way.
Nevertheless - I am conscious of the fact that it is only a very thin line between "courage to live" and "desperation" that we are all walking on. We consist of light and the absence of light - and that's what darkness is actually: absence of light.
HH: The image of the "witch" is a strong theme on "Hexenwind" and the bands has mentioned the image as a symbol of duality. Can you discuss your understanding of the witch and what you wanted to communicate about this subject musically?
JS: In the term "witch" contradictory and actually dualistic qualities collide in a truly pictorial and archaic way. On the one hand there is this image of a dark creature of fairytales, legends and dreams where on the other a "witch" is sort of a slightly mysterious synonym for a historically authentic woman being familiar with the cycles and secrets of nature and life itself.
So, the term "witch" - as I experience it - communicates similiar basic ideas that the music does according to its instrumentation: contradictory forces, elements and areas (Southern acoustic guitars and Northern cold of distorted guitars) build a common round wholeness that is most vivid and far more "truthful".
HH: "Hexenwind" has traces of neofolk music that can be gleaned from the album. Do you feel as if Dornenreich has been directly inspired or influenced by neofolk music?
JS: To certain degree one is inspired by everything one faces in life, I think. Anyway - I appreciate Tenhi and Empyrium very much and the tour together with :Of the Wand and the Moon: and Tenhi was immensely enriching not only as for artistic expression but also personally. Besides certain songs of Current 93 mean a lot to me.
HH: Do you think neofolk and metal music share any similarities and do you see a hybridization of the genres occurring?
JS: Personally I am not that much into both genres these days, so I am lacking a solid overview. All I can state here is that I am fascinated with the unique moods some neofolk bands / ensembles get across to me.
HH: Many neofolk bands are often founded by musicians exiting the metal music scene in search of new creative territory. Can you foresee Dornenreich becoming increasingly folk oriented?
JS: According to the fact that we are trying to trust in our intuition I want to leave it up to the very moment of flowing creativity to decide which artistic appearance is apt for honest expression.
HH: How has your audience responded to the new "Hexenwind" album? Do you feel as if your established fans are embracing the bands more reflective and sensitive performance?
JS: The reactions have been passionate so far, that is, passionately positive and negative; but only few people are indifferent concerning "Hexenwind". Could one long for a better reception?
HH: What other forms of artistic expression do the members of Dornenreich pursue when not creating music?
JS: Personally I am very interested in radio plays, film, literature and painting but even countless other things and beings and moods in nature stun and enchant me. Moreover I love to be a part of Angizia bringing something very special to bizarre and bittersweet life.
HH: Is there any thing you would like to share with Heathen Harvest readers in parting?
JS: We share related souls. To know and feel that - that is it. Thank you very much for your interested and inspiring questions. It was an honour to answer them.