Za Frûmi is a « ritualistic fantasy » project as stated on Waerloga Records. Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s work and especially by Orcs, Simon Kölle and Simon Heath provide us with a mysterious epic synth-based music. Here’s an interview with Simon Kölle, responsible of ethnical drumming, concept, melodies, sounds, dialogue and voices of Za Frûmi. This man seems, however, to have eclectic interests and many activities. It seems to me sensible to call him an accomplished artist: involved in several musical projects (Za Frûmi, Musterion, Abnocto), playwright author of 6 plays in Swedish, member of “418” and having an eye on making music for movies.Here’s an occasion to (re)discover the fantastic world of the magus Simon Kölle.
Part I Generalities/News:
Heathen Harvest: The fifth Za Frûmi album “Shrak ishi za Migul” has been issued on Waerloga on 2007. This belong to the Za Frûmi orcish inspired Saga. What have been the reactions towards it?
First of all thank you for the interview. Heathen Harvest is a great site! The reactions have been most of all great. We have our hardcore fans that’s been listening to us since we started and for every new release it seems to be more people getting to into Za Frûmi, but you know, we had not done the “saga” with orcish dialogue in 5-6 years! After shaking off some rust we discussed the project a long time. If we were to do (which we did) another chapter in the saga we thought it should go all the way out. With “Tach – Chapter 2
” (released 2001) we changed a lot in sound and also tried some new tech stuff (back then). It was also the good bye of Donald that was in the band the first one and a half year. I can honestly say that we in no way wanted to make another “Tach” with “Shrak ishi za migul”. We agreed upon making it even more like a radio play but keeping it true to our thing (music and dialogue) with the “Za Frûmi saga”. Making it like a movie if you wish. A movie without moving pictures, one for the mind’s eye. We felt we could do that even more than before because we have another branch with instrumental music (some vocals but no dialogue).With “Shrak ishi za migul” we have reached some new listeners and that’s very nice. In all honestly we probably have lost some too during the years. It would be strange otherwise. Some hardcore Orc fans might have got lost between 2001 and 2007?
On the other hand a group of people (not many, but they are rather loud) seem to favour one of our two branches. Another bunch of people also have a hard time with sound effects. The latter ones should listen to other music. The sound effects are our thing. We love them and think they add something to the music. Normal fantasy inspired music could be good but often the bands are so limited and always do the same thing over and over again. We don’t want to fall into that trap, ever. We could probably do at least 5-6 CDs like “Legends Act 2
”. Maybe the melodies and the sound will be new but otherwise it will be just the same. We don’t want that. Don’t worry though. We will not start making music in another genre or go all Mortiis
anytime soon! That should not be the only way to go about a thing like this. We are staying true to the “world of Za Frûmi”.
To summarize the reactions towards “Shrak ishi za migul” has been overall extremely good! After a month we had ten or so reviews written about the album and they all were awesome. I have also noticed that you don't have to be into the scene many say we are a part of (dark ambient, fantasy, Darkwave or whatever) to enjoy this album. It appeals more to a general audience that enjoys dark atmosphere and imaginations.
When it comes to press in mainstream media they have all blown me away. Top scores in almost every one. In the probably more important so called underground media Za Frûmi has been high on the scores a very long time. If the press really hated the albums, it would make no difference to me, but having it this way is definitely a bonus. Normally we have high scores but now and then we get the lowest possible scores and they don’t bother me. It’s when a band like ours start getting grades in the middle one should be worried.
Later on with “Shrak ishi za migul” we saw some reviews written by people who were all new to even dark ambient. They were sometimes funny to read but in the future I rather want to see less reviews than a bunch of people writing/saying things like:
“This ladies and gentlemen might be the strangest album that ever been reviewed by Joyzine. A mixture that can get the most complexed noise releases appear as enormously straight forward and easy to understand.” --Joyzine, Mikael Mjörnberg, Originally in Swedish
Not that we did not like Joyzine or their review in particular but we have had this “Weird” stamp on us for some time now. It seems like the orcish-inspired albums are the ones (if any) people think is “crazy”. I just believe more people should explore the possibilities of/in music. Staying in a “safe zone” while doing commercial pop is one thing. Then, it’s more than anything about money. It should not be like that in this genre (or similar). At least that’s my view on it. I want many people to listen to our music but not so much that I will sell out.
HH: On Za Frûmi’s Myspace, it’s possible to see a video clip of the Swedish Radio Symphonic Orchestra playing Za Frûmi’s “Interludium I”. How did it come to such an underground music as yours to be played by – I guess – such an important and popular musical formation? Do you consider it as recognition of your art and music by society / classical music community?
Nice that you bring that up. The Swedish Radio Orchestra is really good! In 2001, the Washington Post
wrote that they made the best orchestra concert in the world that year. It all was like destiny actually. I made the melody for “Interludium I” after waking up one morning. I had dreamt it. I was a teen back then and I hummed the melody on my way to a work I had during the summer. I remember thinking that the melody deserved to be recorded and heard by many people. When working (2000) with our first album I came to think about that melody and me and Simon Heath started working with it. The somewhat simplistic song “Interludium I” was born. Donald was in the band back then but did not take part in the creation of the song by reasons I cannot recall.
This spring I heard about a huge “look out” for a song that should be interpreted by the Swedish radio orchestra live on Swedish national TV. My girlfriend Amelie perused me and I gave them “Interludium I”. Later on I learned that most composers sent in a lot of material. I only sent them “Interludium I”. The classical composer Fredrik Högberg
(one of the big names in classical music in Sweden right now) loved “Interludium I” and felt it was a timeless melody which in his own words “don’t get made these days”. I was of course glad to hear that. He had thirty contributions to choose from that had been selected of the thousands of songs that had been sent to Swedish TV. I never saw the whole thing as a competition. I was more than anything intrigued about what they would do with our song. I must admit I was a little tense before the live show. I had turned down to visit the rehearsals. Before it was played live me and Fredrik were interviewed on stage in front of the orchestra (on the side). Fredrik made some strange remarks that the piece reminded him of tractor pulling.
About the recognition the answer is no. I thought so all along. One of the more anal scenes is the classical music scene. Almost as closed as the dull Swedish Theatre scene. No I am in no way bitter, but just angry on stupid people who sit on chairs not because they are the best but because they can. We don’t need recognition from all people. Of course it rendered some reviews and some people looking into our music but no storm as some people thought would happen around our project. It gave Simon Heath and me some energy though and more than anything some people around us (family and friends) gave us recognition. Overall it was a very interesting experience and I am eager to work with worchestras more.
HH: What are the views of classical music community on such music as Za Frûmi? Aren’t they two distinct worlds: academic classical music and “independent” non academic artists?
The classical music community does not know Za Frûmi rather well. The scenes are as you say two distinct worlds. To say that I and Simon Heath are non academic though should be wrong. I get your point and overall it is probably so. Normally you need some education to master a violin to perfection but to compose is something else. Remember that the classical music scene consist of 95% musicians that not compose themselves. They “only” (which is not easy) play their instrument/s and professional orchestras, do their jobs and go home. A project like Za Frûmi consists of songs we compose and for the most part play ourselves. More like a regular band. And when we go home or on a holiday we live with the projects we are working with. The classical scene is hard to break into and for the most part I don’t care about it at all. I am interested in the possibilities the musicians bring and a few couple of composers and that’s it. To be part of some social group with power has never been either mine or Simon Heath’s goal.
HH: Are you satisfied with the orchestral interpretation of your music?
The end result was good. I like the piece. Simon Heath too. The waltz thing was all Fredrik I should say. So, yes I am.
HH: You’ve a side project of gothic/dark medieval/chamber music called Abnocto. You also released a new album May 2007. How did people react?
For the most part good words about it. Abnocto is no project that stands out as much as Za Frûmi maybe and I think it will take some time for people to find “Simon Magus” but the reactions has been good. Some people (like I) thought that the album was released a bit late. You know, we did it back in 2002. Other than that: thumbs up.
HH: Can you tell us a bit about your other ongoing projects?
No problem. Right now I am working with Simon Heath on our sixth release with Za Frûmi. It will be work with the “Legends” series. Right now we have a little break after a hectic summer but will soon get to work again.I am also doing a song with Musterion for an Old Europa Café
compilation. An homage/celebration of Rodolfo who turns 50 this year. The song I am making is about Stockholm’s underworld. Not like the criminal world but the life underneath the surface. I have some friends who do underground films down in the tunnels beneath Stockholm
(tunnel explorers) so they have helped me out making some interesting trips down there. One of the guys also is a subway train driver so he has keys to some pretty interesting places too. I am using the sound I have gathered for the song. I have enough sounds gathered from down there that I can use them later too. I am also helping Simon Heath with an Atrium Carceri
movie that will be released on Cold Meat industry
. I am Simon’s coach when it comes to scriptwriting and also in general helping out with things like getting some serious and professional actors do act in the movie. Actors Erik Bolin
will play some of the bigger roles. Both of them are professional Swedish film actors and very good friends of mine! Simon Heath will be the director but he wants me to co-direct and of course I help my very good friend out!
Other than that I have gathered ideas and sounds for another Musterion album to be released 2008 on Horus CyclicDaemon
(as always with Horus it will be packed luxuriously) and I actually already have the concept and ideas for a probable Old Europa Café release in May/June 2008, too. Nothing is written in blood on that one but me and Rodolfo has agreed. He is maybe the only one who heard my idea for that album. Maybe after three albums with Musterion I stop making anymore Musterion music? Right now, at least, it feels like that. But who knows? Let’s see whether a third release will be the nail in the coffin or not.
Yeah, and I am also doing some work with texts for a rather special booklet. It’s an old Za Frûmi release on a Portugal based label that should have happened back in 2002/2003 but never happened. The label disappeared and was nowhere to be found. Now it has surfaced with another name and some new work ethics. The album will be released after all these years and we have added some tracks for it. It has two unique tracks made special for that album (made 2002/2003) otherwise it’s only songs that could be found on other albums. It would be wrong to call it “best of” as we plan on doing such an album maybe 2008 or 2009 and because it’s no songs from our latest releases. The package will be special and the album limited to I think 1000 copies. When it will be released exactly I have no clue.
Part II: Past, Future/ Bands’ Evolution/Functioning/Inspiration
HH: I read in another Interview that both yourself and Simon “venture outside into nature where [they] record the sounds, this process is probably one of the most time consuming considering [they] travel all over the country (and others) to record the sounds for the albums.” Do you still work this way? Why this choice to use natural sounds as it is now possible to generate almost any sounds artificially?
Yes we still work that way. I have been doing it for a couple of years now. The passion for recording sounds in the nature will not stop anytime soon. For the upcoming Za Frûmi release we use sounds gathered in nature a lot. Some sounds we have reached a point with where they are hard to make different. Rain is a good example. Rains and thunders are almost over used and even though I like the sound of a “good” rain I need something more than it to make me get goose bumps.
I cannot agree with you totally about making sounds artificially. Okay, you can do it but 90% of the artificial ones are utter crap. Some sounds are though better artificially. The sound of trees in the wind for an example. Next time you are walking in the woods. Stop and listen to it! The sound is awesome (as long as it isn’t being destroyed by sounds from society) but then close your eyes and listen. Maybe the sound is still awesome but if you were not standing in the woods would it be so awesome? Sadly the answer is, if it’s only the wind in the trees happening, no. When you record wind in the trees it sounds like noise. Some people argue about this and point at movies and the sound of trees there. Well, in movies they got the pictures to back it up. To come around this you need something other happening in the sound carpet. In movies they often have codes people not necessary know about. One example is chirping sound (or sometimes even an owl) who indicates night. This is also present in music and instruments due to codes. Everybody knows what a high string means to make an easy point.
"High strings seem ideal to express stress and tautly stretched nerves (like in The Omen). Or, they can evoke weird psychic goings-on (like in Poltergeist or for the theme to The X-Files) (Daiby and Du Bois 518)." --www.cartage.org.lb
There are though deeper levels to this which originates from cultural codes and memories. We in the western world have been spoon fed with a set of rules and tones (melodies) which mean certain things. In the eastern world they have their codes. With Za Frûmi we mix up things. Maybe not to the extent we could but at least to some degree. We work with a lot of different tones, harmonies and instruments. We also dare to try out things not many others or no other do. For an example we have songs with hard hitting military drums, djembe drums and industrial drums which accompanies a small harp or a piano.
To use sounds is a way for us to really get into an environment and an atmosphere. Sometimes you might argue that a sound works against the instruments and if you are not careful it could be the case. If used with care and with a trained ear sounds could lift many pieces! We are always trying the best to open up inner eyes and push the listener out the door. Sometimes we might overdo it but that’s the thing that always can happen when you paint with a big brush. Nature is so vast and I believe that the forces (of nature) are the fundament in one way or the other. Another thing to this is the feeling I think gets involved with a work of art when someone (me and Heath in this particular case) has actually gone beyond the normal things and tried to create a unique work of art. Even now when we work with instrumental (almost) music in the “Legends” series and I do vocals. I try to go into it wholeheartedly and for real. That’s also the beauty with improvisation. You know nature improvises within its boundaries all the time.
I remember when I was a kid and I heard about a band in England that had recorded a sound where they crashed and burned a house. They had (according to the mythological rumour) crashed a car into the building and it caught on fire. All that for just one set of sounds! I was thrilled by it and I actually liked the music more after it. Long time after I learned that the sound had been done by something completely else. I was then old enough to not feel robbed but I started to dream about real sounds.
In the beginning of Za Frûmi we had a not so good work ethic and we actually stole some sounds from other places (even though we did 90% of them) that’s something I now can admit but now we want all sounds to be ours as long as it is possible.
HH: Still in the same interview Simon Heath says “I think I’ve chosen music because I have always been involved in different musical scenes, ranging from pure Classical to Darkwave, ambient, industrial, medieval, black metal and Psychedelic.” You also have a past of many projects and genres? How did you come to create such music? What are your musical educations and experiences?
Yes, Simon Heath is like a music monster! He actually will be released soon on a Danish label with pure electronic experimenting dub music, the project is called Krusseldorf
. Yes, I have done some other genres but not as many as Heath. I have a history as a singer in heavy metal bands (a long time ago) and some good friends from back then now have made it pretty big. One of them (Vicotnik of Dødheimsgard
) share something with me and that is a passion of breaking out and to
expand the music we work with. He in his black metal bands and me with my projects.
How I came to work with Za Frûmi dates back to 2000 when I first met Simon Heath. I had tons of melodies and ideas in my system and I did not know what to do with them. We made something we wanted to hear and the rest is history. My formal education has only to some degree to do with music but I have had a lot of experience. Outside my releases I have been around a lot of musicians and scenes.
HH: You said in a Previous Interview for H.H. “All sound is music” and “many times I feel I want less music and more sounds.” Can we say your artistic orientation is quite similar to Musique Concrète’s? Do you feel making music is transforming “noise objects” into “musical objects”? Or, are the sounds already music? Can we say you try to find a happy medium between natural musicality of sounds and the musical construction you build out of the sounds?
A very good question. In 1948, Pierre Schaeffer
used tape manipulation of natural and mechanical sounds to make a pioneering radio show. His new techniques, known in artistic circles as musique concrète, used tape recorders to create new sounds from old. He used ‘spooling noise’, played tapes backwards or at different speeds, or turned the spools by hand. They also used Reverberation, disguising small blemishes and providing a consistent atmosphere to a completed recording. Echo rooms, plates and springs were commonly used. Most echo springs gave maybe not the best results, although hitting them could often generate interesting sounds. One popular trick involved copying a tape backwards and adding reverb, then playing it forwards to give a reverse echo. Equalizers, preferably of the ‘graphic’ type, were much in vogue for musique concrète. So, as far as that I think almost all recording artists today have something to thank Schaeffer and his pals for. But some today make a more wide interpretation of musique concrète:
“The term is often understood as a practice of simply making music out of "real world" sounds, or sounds other than those made by musical instruments." --Wikipedia
If you see it like that and only that I think we are moving in that direction. The term is though nothing I like to make my own as most people who use it talk about noise. I though want to stress that noise not necessary needs a transformation at all. The intent makes it music as I see it. If you go up on stage with a broken radio with only noise I will call it music. Maybe not the best music but it is music. To say it needs to be transformed is nothing I can stand behind. The sounds of nature are sounds of nature. But put in a context (like an album or show) or presented as music is music. But still I don’t want to call it a transformation (even though I understand it and I might come across as contradictive). It’s always the human/animal/artist that makes the music. It’s all about choices. More often in terms of music - called composing. And after that of course performance. I would not like to
leave out that some instruments of the world needs a very skilled musician/player to master it or even use it. I see the sound of nature or other effects as part of the music. I might not try to play melodies constructed of waves, birds or doors all that often but I see every part of the composition as just that (parts). In the studio and while working on other places I don’t think so much about the terminology or difference between for an example an instrument and a part of the mix/composition. But I feel that the terminology and thinking such things thru are helping me understand my own music better. With understanding come possibilities to go further and beyond.
and his “The art of noise” from 1913 I think have had a lot of importance for the music we hear today. I have had an interest in the futuristic movement since back in the middle of the 1990s. I dare to say that a man like Pierre Schaeffer never would have done what he did without the futurists. Having that said I don’t want to call myself a futurist! Just an acknowledgement.
HH: Can we say you’re actually trying to connect the listener to a natural environment through natural sounds?
With the risk of sounding pretentious the answer is: yes. It depends on which song and which project though. More than anything I want to draw the listener to a place. A place in the listener’s imagination. It is ideal to be able to live close to nature and to work in harmony with it. Experiencing, understanding and appreciating nature is a good way to be close to higher powers (Gods you might call them).
HH: Do you use dreams as a source of inspiration? Did occultism, psychoanalysis and your spiritual path help you to use and develop the potential of your dreams and of your imagination?
We live inside a dream and dreams are important to me and yes they many times inspire. With different tools and hard work I have learned to remember and also explore my dreams. I am not (anymore) so interested in shaping dreams. Nowadays I react more and create less (when it comes to dreams). The dream work is something very natural for me and I don’t think about it that much. Last night I had an amazing dream of understanding and it gave me this great feeling. I give that feeling room and will try to remember it to use it sometime.
My imagination is something I worked with since I was a kid. Many people “grow up” and leave much of their imagination behind. I have kept on writing, making music and told countless of stories with the help of my imagination. I was the kid that told the other kids horror stories you know. I love stories, characters and to explore within. Religion and strict closed systems has not been my path so far. I see my dreams and my imagination as two of my best abilities.
HH: What do you want to express with such a music? Only atmospheres, fantasy? Or is there a specific message you try to transmit?
I am trying to create worlds that the listeners can go or dive into. Like a novelist. I don’t like to be pinned down to specific meanings of my work. A good album means different things to different listeners. Hell, I go so far and say even a bad one does! Mark my words though: I am not only into making music for the reason of entertainment only.To speak about a specific message is no good thing I think. Let’s leave it with that.
HH: I read “The visions are more modern ranging from I would say 1400AD-1800AD and the focus is religion in many ways. Visions of enormous Cathedrals and the sadness that Christianity caused are amongst many of the visions from the debut album "Abnocto - Simon Magus".” Can you specify the ideas you express about religion through Abnocto? Are there other themes? In the latest album?
SK: With Abnocto we based our starting point on the explorations of a person. May he be mythological or not. Who knows? The Christian church is a place and sect that intrigues me. Even though Simon Magus might have lived long before the time we later on got inspired of we feel that does not matter. It’s more than anything about visions. We combined some elements which we wanted to express with the music. One element was as mentioned Simon Magus. Another was the way we worked with the album (under the ground). A third element was Christianity in the Swedish middle ages and the time of the Vikings (in Sweden we call it that). As you know we were not Christians in Sweden. We worshiped other gods. Ásatrú
is it called in English, which means “belief in the gods” in Old Norse, the language of ancient Scandinavia. Ásatrú is thousands of years old. Its beginnings are lost in prehistory, but as an organized system, it is older by far than Christianity. Strictly speaking, since Ásatrú is the religion which springs from the specific spiritual beliefs of the Northern Europeans, it is as old as this branch of the human race, which came into being 40.000 years ago.
By the Christians we were called heathens. The song “The witch” is about the men of Christ that came to a village and how they called people heretics and whipped them and killed some. Later the “witch” revenges her killed family. We felt that song should be part of the album even though it had very little to do with Simon Magus. It felt right and we connected that feeling of both defeat and revenge with Simon Magus. I have actually a special relationship to both the old believes and churches (as buildings). I have even taken a university course to explore them. It was called: Middle Age Art and Culture
I have also some interest in Gnosticism
. When we worked day and night with the music we looked at a lot of paintings and before the actual “Studio time” (not much of a studio so far beneath the ground) read up on Simon Magus. Then we decided a set of instruments and went down in the deep (literary) to make the album in record time. It was really like one big flow. Maybe we could have worked more with some tracks and made more variation but I like the roughness. Some instruments might be out of date so to speak but it does not really matter (I think) as the melodies are strong and the feeling are being captured successfully. Judging the Heathen Harvest review of the album you seem to agree.
HH: Can you explain us a bit about this homage to Aleister Crowley? Many people only focus on the scandalous and nefarious reputation of this occultist. But, what do you like in his writings?
It was a compilation album released by Horus CyclicDaemon. I like the mystery in his writings. The hidden meanings that are almost like grand codes. I am not really interested in his scandals all that much. Crowley is more than just a person or a legend. We had songs on that compilation from Abnocto, Za Frûmi, Musterion and Atrium Carceri. The Abnocto song was later on used on the album. That’s actually something not so good as the compilation should consist of material unique for it. It also ended up used yet again and I apologized to Martin Mrskos (the man behind Horus CyclicDaemon) for that. The reason for it was that the Abnocto album was something we had laying around (awaiting mastering and some mixing).With Musterion my track for the compilation had the name “Baphomet : the magus, the jester, the voyager”. That says it all. He was a man with many faces. His writings too have many faces. With Za Frûmi we made a song with the name “Aiwas”.
HH: How would you like this project to evolve? New directions?
I have no idea.
- Za Frûmi
HH: How do you look back at Za Frûmi’s existence from today’s point of view? Regrets? Satisfaction?
Regrets is the easy one as I am a man with no regrets at all. I make mistakes no question about it but I have no regrets.I look back on the time with Za Frûmi and remember mostly the good things. It’s actually a bunch of people during the years that have been involved some way or the other in the project. On “Shrak ishi za migul” we used 20+ people to make the voices alone. We also had a flute playing politician, two female singers and some other people in the studio, too. It was also cool to bring back Donald to make some voices. No bad blood there at all. It’s really no easy question this one. From today’s point of view I know we made a couple of mistakes and all that but I don’t really like to summarize Za Frûmi as the project is very much living and breathing. I am very happy that we did not create a new band but made two branches instead. One band could be two things. I like the thought of dualism. A third branch could work but I don’t think that would be such a good idea. It’s hard enough to explain we have two branches! I am most satisfied with the fact that we kept the Za Frûmi flame burning. The music has been used to all sorts of things. We know only of some of them: Fantasy and medieval fairs, gathering, conventions, films (countless of short films and even a couple of documentaries), roleplaying sessions, inspiration to paintings, costumes and poems, interpreted by the Swedish radio orchestra, participated with songs on a bunch of compilations, as intros on concerts, in theatre, music on websites, as beginners guide to + evolving the orcish language and probably more.
The music seems to fit a lot of areas and a lot of different minds. Some reviewers during the year bring up the fact that “probably” only nerds like the music but later on the reviewers state that they have become nerds or that they were wrong. Here are two examples:
“Indeed, Za Frûmi has turned us all into total nerds. Za Frûmi nerds. But with good cause”--Maelstrom Magazine, Issue 21
“This album I thought was made for Tolkien nerds but I was so wrong thinking that. The mix, the master and the SOUNDS are so incredible I find no other word than magnificent!”
I enjoy proving people wrong and opening doors...
The only really bad things we encountered have been people in the industry trying to screw us (and some did in the early years) and in Moscow a bar was opened in our names. A pretty big Russian weekly magazine had an interview with “us” and talking about the bar which had the name of “Viking bar” or something like that. In the bar Russian girls danced naked and so on and so forth. The thing was we never did open a bar in Moscow and we never did that interview. Someone hijacked the Za Frûmi name and mine and Simon Heath’s names. Something you cannot get away with easy in other countries than places like Russia. Fortunate for us the bar closed and the articles that were issued on the net taken away after a while.
HH: While many bands are inspired by Tolkien, you pushed further in using the Orcish language. As far as I know, you’re the only band that did orcish lyrics with Summoning (on Oath Bound). How did this idea of using orcish language come?
I have not researched that but you are probably right. With the exception of some metal acts. There are a couple of bands inspired by the Orcs. One band in particular claims they did not know of us before they started but yet they have something in their debut booklet which I invented. I have nothing against people singing, speaking or acting like Orcs. We did not invent the whole language.
The idea came up after Simon Heath made a little song he played for me early 2000. In the song he repeated the word “Uruk” and maybe some other word. It sounded good and I approached him with an idea of taking this further and actually speak in orcish.
HH: Many samples of natural noises sounded to me especially raw, pure, although really controlled. Do you intentionally research a raw sound? To help the listener diving into your fantasy world?
Thanks. Yes absolutely we research and try all the time. Everything could work and you only know if you try. We have also done a lot of instruments ourselves. Benches and street signs have become drums and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We want the sound raw and pure. When I show people my library of sounds they almost not believe how many sounds we use on for example “Shrak ishi za migul”. Really good sounds in themselves sometimes have to step back in the mix. It’s really important to kill you darlings hard and brutal! And not to cry afterwards.
HH: Your fellow Simon Heath said “Za Frûmi is not just something that you should hear, it is something that you should see before you.” Do you agree? Looking at your covers of your CDs, it seems you make a point of creating beautiful and expressive ones. Can we say that the covers already prepares the listener to “see something” while listening?
Yes I agree with my fellow as you call him. Simon Heath is also the one responsible for the cover artworks. The covers should prepare or hint something. It’s no easy thing and sometimes covers on CDs are really vague. I have nothing against not being crystal clear but the cover should invite and say something about the piece. What the listener see when they listen could maybe have something to do with the cover but I think more in the way that the cover says something about the whole piece. The cover is a closed door with paint on it. When the music starts playing the door opens. Then, you can either stay in the doorpost and listen (nothing wrong with that), or, in the best case, you step inside.I am no fool and I understand that music can be experienced in many ways but Za Frûmi is something I prefer you should see and hear. It’s all about the inside!
HH: Is the visual perception of music the link between your interest for movies and the fact you used dialogs for Za Frûmi Saga? Is role-playing also an inspiration?
As I mentioned earlier I am interested in imagination. Also characters, acting, stories, drama, plots, intrigues and of course music. Role-playing was an inspiration in the very early days. We are not all that inspired by role-play games as it is now. They are often limited in one way or the other. Don’t forget that they are games. As a form role-playing games could be very interesting though and I have done role-playing for 22 years now. We intentionally though does not want to be one of those “music for role-play”-type of bands. Yet again it has to do with limits and the approach you have. We are not making music for the background. If you play it in the background that’s fine, but we do not have that approach. We make music that is best when you listen to it in good headphones. Of course we ourselves do not always listen to the music that way but we want richness in the music and details that you might first discover after several times of listening to a song. Having that said I know for a fact that some of our songs works perfectly in the background and together with moving or not moving pictures.
HH: You’re the responsible for ethnical drumming. What kind of instrument and drumming techniques do you use?
Everything could be a drum really. We use all types of drums and are not afraid to mix them up. Simon Heath is a beat wizard when it comes to working with electronic drums too so we are always getting better and learning more and more stuff. We use percussions ranging from small bells, the tabla, conga, bodrán, bongo, hand drums, Timpani (with some help), djembe to Taiko, military snares, bass drums and a whole bunch of other ones.Add to that all kinds of objects, electronic drums, industrial drums and things that normally not are used as percussions.
HH: You also sing. You even used the throat singing technique of Tibetan monks on “Tach” track. Do you use other specific techniques? Have special educations, training?
I was a singer as a child and early teen with a clear and beautiful voice. I even sang in choirs but a couple of years I did almost no singing. I got back to it working with Za Frûmi. About the techniques... Well I cheat and throw myself out there. I tried to mimic throat singing and it worked out ok. The voice is something I love to work with. On the upcoming Za Frûmi album I use the voice in a number of strange ways and with (counting) probably ten different styles. My education is not extremely formal but it’s a couple of years in choirs and I have also got three years (a couple of times per week) of voice training with different coaches. I went on a theatre school and there we had some work with speech, singing and the voice in general. The years as a metal singer in my teens might have helped me too, I don’t know.
HH: You’re inspired by Tolkien world and by the natural sounds you record in the nature. Are there other inspiration sources? Other books? Fantasy? How do you combine all of ‘em?
Tolkien is not anyone we turn to for inspiration that much actually. The language of the Orcs and probably the description of them and some other races he has written good things about but that’s really it. We are not so much working with clear inspiration from any specific place, book or film etcetera. We though get inspired by pictures, art and as you say sounds in the nature. Many times we do music of a special place, person or scene. Other times we are more improvisational and have a few frames we work inside. Inspiration for us is something we don’t think much about. We don’t try to mimic any specific musician or composer that’s for sure. Sometimes (which might sound strange) we are inspired by our own work already released (or not released). More than anything we are inspired by our talks we have. In them we might take up different works, show painting, texts, beats, melodies, instrument or anything really. Dreams should be mentioned too.It’s all about ideas. One thing leads to another. You get an idea, you try it out or talk about it, you get another idea, you write it out—you don’t know if those two things are going to live in the end, you just keep getting ideas and working with them. Then a little bit more and little bit more comes, and an album starts to emerge. It’s the ideas that tell you everything. In the beginning the ideas were one theme, and then it divided into two branches, then themes in the branch. Then I’m thinking of those themes and bringing in more ideas with the help of Simon Heath. So it’s the ideas that are talking and the ideas that you try to stay completely true to.
Inspiration is in my book a good word but when journalist’s asks many musicians about inspiration they tend to get boring and name drop or be very vague. I might fall into the latter category to some extend but at least I try. Many who listen to music use references. “This sounds like a little bit like” this or that. I do it too from time to time but I don’t want to support that kind of listening when it comes to Za Frûmi.David Lynch once said this about ideas: “If you get an idea that you are in love with and you stay true to that, you can't go wrong”.The fact is that we use ourselves as main source for what we want to accomplish. We don't listen to other bands and think: "We should sound like this", or "I wish I could sound like that".
HH: Why this interest for vampires?
SK: Vampires are exploited I know but they keep being inspiration for art. I dislike many interpretations of vampires. Especially when they are nothing but monsters or in bad TV-series. It’s funny actually because I was thinking of this the other day. Many movies and stories about vampires are utter bullshit (actually most are) but still I like the vampire a lot and also watch many vampire movies. Several things intrigue me with the vampire. It’s hard to say exactly what interest me the most.
HH: What will be the close future of Za Frûmi? Will you release rather an album for Vampire or Saga series? Or would you prefer concentrating on one of your other projects?
When we talked prior to this interview I said I might break some news. Here I go. You are the first we tell this: The album / release we work on is not one CD but two. Legends act 3 & 4.
The details are not 100% clear at this point so that’s all I am going to say.
HH: Wow! Great news!
- Film Music
HH: On a 2006 interview for Heathen Harvest, you told you were “taking a course in film music here in Stockholm”. Why film music? Do you have specific projects of music for movies? Or is it to improve your skills for Za Frûmi? Or just for the sake of curiosity?
Yes I did take a course in film music at the university and I got the best grades. Film music interests me a lot. I want to work as a film music composer. Maybe I could pursue it more maybe not but that’s another thing. In Sweden the film music scene is extremely small and plain stupid. Often the composers are not even mentioned in the credits. Many of the composers here come from classical music or are working with rock bands normally. It’s hard to evolve here and I wanted to learn the lingo foremost and also get some new ideas. I have no planned project working with music to a film. I am open to serious suggestions though. We are also keeping an eye open towards the video game industry.
HH: Logically with your interests, I know you toy with the idea of making music for film. How is the situation now? Are you in contact with directors? Do you have some projects currently or some planned for future?
As I mentioned earlier our music have been used in short films, documentaries and stuff like that but nothing big. I am in no immediate contact with any director about making film or for that matter theatre music. Nice that you check up on me though. I could need a push!
HH: I guess you’re still busy with theatre. How is it going on? Do the people interested in your plays also get interested in your music, or are both worlds rather hermetic?
They are rather different yes. I am not all that active in the theatre world anymore. I don’t have the time to be directing or even writing a play right now. I have some ideas though and want to get back up in the saddle soon.
HH: Reversing a former question: do you think the experience in music in return helped you in developing plays, playwright? Or does the inspiration rather come from visual to musical?
Good and unexpected question. More often the ideas go from visual to musical. But when I work with theatre I like to improvise with the help of music. I also normally listen to music while writing. I am listening to music writing these answers too. I have written a bunch of plays but the clear majority was written some time ago.
Part III: Ideas, Conceptions, Personal Questions
HH: What kind of music are you listening to at the moment? Are you interested in (post-) industrial music, metal and subgenres labelled as gothic? Does this inspire you?
No more talk about inspiration. I listen to all sorts of music really and I keep myself updated pretty well in several genres. Industrial music is sadly often a bore for me. They sound so alike. I have to admit though that some bands are good. Metal music is such a wide term but I listen to some of it yes. I am pretty tired of endless guitar solos and boring drums that always sound the same. I have countless of albums and am very interested in music in general. Dark explorations into music are often the ones I like the best.
I also like horror, black metal (most of all the ones that try to break out), film music and more than anything I like music that touches me. I try to listen to the music and the production more than anything else.
HH: How do you consider others Tolkien inspired projects such as Summoning?
Not heard all that much to be honest. What I have heard has been ok. I like the fact that they are trying to do something in their otherwise often boring music genre. Most other Tolkien inspired projects are often focused on the light side of Tolkien or trying to mimic film composers.
HH: What do you think of artists who went further, who only record natural sounds without even combining ‘em? Minimalist?
I am no big fan of minimalism. I think the artists that only record natural sounds without even combining them are sound technicians more than musicians. But they are making music. I am in favour of combining, mixing and trying to evolve.
HH: How is Swedish artistic life? Do you sometimes go to concerts, events, artistic performances, movie festivals? Are you in contact with other artists? Is it important for you to be part of an artistic community?
Sweden is a small country with 9 million people. We have some rather talented people here and as we more than anything focus on the unique styles of music and the darker bands there are several. Even in the darkest music the bands sadly though go closer and closer to each other. I don’t mean you have to invent the world every time you do music though. The scenes here are rather closed and people are narrow-minded. Za Frûmi for an example was placed among death metal and jazz in record stores. They could not label it but did not ask us. We therefore have almost zero distribution in Sweden. When it comes to the artists they are often nice but it’s more the system here that’s the problem. Small labels cannot really reach their customers and have to go through internet sales and stuff like that.The big theatres don’t take in new talent almost at all. It isn’t at all enough to be good. The grass is in many ways more green on the other side of the fence.
I don’t go to all that many concerts anymore but it happens. Events I attend from time to time. Performances and movie festivals I like a lot and Stockholm film festival is something I every year visits as much as I have time! I am looking forward to it as it is only a month away. I am in contact with other artists in Sweden, sure. I am also in contact with artists in other countries. It isn’t really important for me to be part of any community, no. For Simon Heath it’s even less important than for me, this says a lot of how much he doesn’t care about such things.
HH: What is (are) your main activity(ies)? How do you combine working and making music? Simon Heath said you’re a “workaholic”. Is it true? A passion? A necessity? What do you get out of artistic activity?
My main activity is the one in front of me. Some projects take all my focus and others (like courses) are not as demanding. You could maybe claim that I am a workaholic but to hear me say it will not happen. I think I don’t do enough. Always trying more and will not stop. Maybe not trying to start up more new projects, but I don’t want to limit myself and be a one trick pony. I have passion for what I do, yes. A necessity for sure.Artist activities for me are ways to express ideas. Sounds simple maybe but I want to share and get kicks of it. I also like the artistic process. I think the way is as holy as the goal, or the seraphim.
Other than the stuff you probably already knows (it sounds like I do a hell of a lot but that’s only when you talk about it all at once) about I have went back to the university and studies theatre science and I also do some jobs writing. I have put my own novel (part autobiography) on ice right now but will take it up as soon as I can. I am also a teacher/instructor in historical fencing (not only trying to mimic the way they fenced but trying to evolve the styles) three times a week. I have some plans to have a job as drama teacher to fall back upon and will within a year or so probably get a proper education and then start to teach grownups and people in their late teens. I cannot see myself teaching for full time.
I combine my activities as good as I can. Sometimes I need to prioritize but in the end it normally works out good. It’s a fine line though. I think it’s better to do one thing well than 100 not so good. So, when I feel the passion is lacking because of time I prioritize. I am a person when it comes to work or art who always makes deadlines! I have never in my writing career (more than 50 jobs) missed a deadline.
HH: Can you earn a living with all your artistic activities?
It all depends on the way I would choose to live. With my earnings from the music I most of all reinvest in gear and other stuff. I need something to fall back upon because I don’t want to take the easy way out and sell out. I am though sick of working dead end jobs and stopped doing that in the end of the 90s. I am happy that some people want to hire me from time to time and people support the musical projects by actually buying CDs. Support me = buy the albums or the merchandize.
HH: Theatre, musical projects… How are you able to deal with so many activities?
Writing takes a lot of time too. I have many activities that’s true but that’s a way of living. I rather have a week that’s stacked than anything else. As I have touched before the balance is very important. When I don’t do my artistic projects, I do things around them or fence, watching a lot of movies, answering long interviews from Heathen Harvest, practice, read (sadly I don’t find enough time to read literature right now), play GO and I follow the progression of mixed martial arts very closely. I have been interested in martial arts since I was a kid. My father is a judoka and I have studied some different arts too. On the academy (right now) we have all kinds of martial artists of pretty high class. A krav maga instructor (a self-defense and military hand-to-hand combat system developed in Israel), one of the best in the world in escrima, knife fighters, boxers and a whole bunch of others who once was great in other sports. I am also taking time to study. This autumn I will write about theatre and film music.
To deal with a lot of activities I need some time to relax and get down to earth. I have some methods but the last couple of years I have been sloppy and for that I have paid a price. My body cannot live the way I once did so I need to have moments of rest, train and eat good foods. I am not eating anything that isn’t minimal in fat. I am also taking walks in the nature.I am trying to live a healthy life. I am though eating meat. Simon Heath doesn’t. Since a couple of years back he is a vegetarian.
HH: Do you feel concerned with learning new things, improving in your art, discovering new artistic areas?
I always try to push the envelope but to just do something for the sake of it is nothing I support. To chase experimentation just for the sake of not doing what everybody else are doing is easy and a trap some people tend to fall into. I try new things all the time but I am not abandoning stuff either. The things I do happen to (not always) to be other than mainstream.
HH: So, if I summarize: your interests range from natural sounds, music, till role-playing, theatre, movies. In a way, it seems to me there’s a common point: you’re “building bridges” between visual and audio, you combine both, in order to depict as precisely as possible the content of your imagination. Do you agree with that?
Yes that’s a good analysis. Sometimes I am though not only trying to paint the imagination picture but letting my improvisation guide me.
HH: By analogy with the legendary superstition from some American Indians fearing the first cameras: do you think, in a way, you “capture the soul of the forest and nature by recording samples from it”, as the photographer “captured the soul of the photographed person”?
Oh, you know. If I only could catch the soul. I can only catch a fragment of the soul of the nature. I am highlighting what we all can or should be able hear if we listened on the right place at the right time.
HH: Relatively to what you said about Abnocto: what do you think about Christianity and big religions in general?
I understand that many people are born into systems. Some are indoctrinated and others choose themselves. My personal opinions on all the big religions are not that important. I have my path and that’s none of the big religions.
I support self-indulgence. I seek for personal truth and freedom, simplicity and efficiency. It’s merging your soul with life’s fabric. A system of representation. We create our own damnations and rewards. I do have moral values that originate from Christianity but that do not make me Christian. Many say I have values that are close to Satanism. Maybe that’s the case? For me it isn’t all that important and I am not a follower of any religious sect. I am a guest in many closed societies though and that suits me.
HH: You spoke about your spiritual experiences. How do you see spirituality? As a rigid belief system one’s agrees with or not, such as religions? Or as some tools, some methods that allow to discover and transform your self?
Spirituality is many things and has many definitions. I might have used the word sometime but actually it could be a moral aspect of life, something to do with the intellect, a state of being, an ideal or simply a quality. I see words as what they are and could be: many things. To say I am a spiritual man would be simple and really doesn’t say anything about anything. If I leave the interpretation of words (words might be the secret of magic) behind here you could say I have been transformed two times. The first time was with the help of forces outside my body and the other time by things inside my body. Both of the times a huge transformation occurred. The first time I was doing everything right and really tried to go outside both my “box” and myself. I was a successful student and I learned the art of adapting to one's own energy. I used many techniques and was very serious in my dealings and my path. During the years I more and more forgot about the initial “idea” and goal with my journey. I also “forgot” about many other things. Different states collided and my early experimentations caught up with me. I once was lost but then I found. Maybe not an amazing grace but the world of the flesh. I drifted away and even though I was clear as a bell on the outside I was a mess on the inside. Before I was transformed for the first time I did not know enough. Some years after the transformation I had knew many things and had seen more than enough of many worlds. I left my path and for that I paid a great and brutal price two years ago. My body gave me hell from the inside. My sickness helped me through a second transformation and a third life if you will. I am still Simon Kölle but I am now straightened out and have control... I could easily get away with the word “again” but I don’t like to see it that way.
HH: Do you see a spiritual goal outside of this world? Do you believe in any kind of god? Supernatural phenomena? Other entities?
The word “world” could be many things. My goal is one on the inside and the outside. I for sure believe in gods. There is no differentiation between "natural" and "supernatural". You are the star of your own (hopefully) moving picture.
HH: You’re deeply into art. I guess it must be really fulfilling. But are there moments where you feel fed up? If yes, what do you do during these moments to “escape reality”?
I don’t take myself too seriously. I think that when you’re too occupied with something, it becomes a bit silly. I just don’t want to take myself too seriously and put myself in the middle of everything. And basically I do what I want without caring about rules, values or traditions in any scene really. I think the mystery is for the better. I am in no way fulfilled or satisfied. If I take the words more lightly I feel fed up sometimes when I have a hard time with my balance.I never escape reality. Escapism is acting poorly. Sometimes I though need to get away into something else. On those occasions I normally do ordinary things and being a normal guy. When I am truly inspired I am not “visiting” a world and I am definitely not escaping into another reality or world (to use your words). Instead I am as into that world as I am into the world of taking a shower, going out for a walk, talking to friends, watching movies, eat, shit, sleep or whatever you call normal in this so called world. By telling yourself and everybody else what “this world” is you have created rules. When many with their will or with actions break away, from that they call the normal world, they only visit another place. They take a trip. By such limitations you will not travel far as your strings are too attached.
HH: You already underlined the importance of nature as an inspiration source. But, what kind of relation you’ve personally with nature?
I am not as much a nature man as it may come across here. Don’t get me wrong. I love unspoiled nature and not only vast post card environments. I like both rough nature and such more or less created by man. I am not wandering countless of days in the wild though and right now I am not climbing any mountains. I really enjoy northern Sweden but it’s bugs I could be without. In the winter I don’t really like to ski very far. I am more a visitor (not tourist!) than a romantic wild life man.
HH: You once said: “The world is unfathomable. And so are we, and so is every being that exists in this world.” Is it something you want to express through your art? Mystery rather than a god or supernatural beings?
Yes something like that. As I said earlier the natural is not different from the supernatural. Mystery and the unknown is what I love. As I state in my manifest: With my art I am not trying to get the unknown known.
HH: What is the main idea, the main message that you’d like to transmit people reading this interview?
You tell me.
HH: If there’s anything you want to add, feel free: this space if for you!
With the music of Za Frûmi, Abnocto and Musterion, the creativity is boundless sincerity, yet disciplined: articulated through the music, artwork and text.
We train and study so our ideas (as much as possible) adapt to music and not the other way around. It’s all about obeying, to be pliable, to respond passively to psychic impulses as if it did not exist during the moment of creation - by which I mean it does not offer any resistance. Spontaneity and discipline are the basic aspects of both mine and Simon Heath’s work and they require a methodical key.
HH: Thank you very much!
Thank you. If you are not fed up at this point you can get back to me in a year or so and follow up. Making that a Heathen Harvest trilogy. Thanks for the support