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Arcana Interview; Like Statues In The Garden Of Dreaming
Monday, October 15 2007 @ 02:00 AM PDT
Contributed by: Luminatrix

We met Arcana at their hotel lobby, right after their first soundcheck at Le Botanique in Brussels, a few hours before the gig was about to start, and were pleasantly surprised to meet a group of down to earth, warm and very polite people, who were absolutely in tune with the beautiful music they make. The conversation kicked off very soon in a very friendly tone, and the whole atmosphere emphasized the fact that this is a band that functions more or less like a family, all of whose members enjoy eachother's company and have lots of fun together doing what they do. This is kind of how the conversation started with Ia as well:

Heathen Harvest:  That’s the good part of being in a band, right, one of the good parts, that you get to travel a lot.

Ia Bjärgö: We usually try to get an extra day just to see the cities because we always enjoy it, like when we were in Italy, we said we want an extra day so we can see Rome, we had an extra day to see Florence, and so, that is nice. But when we performed in Paris, we came during the night, we performed the same evening and we left.

HH : At la Locomotive

IB: Yes la Locomotive

HH: That was a great live performance!

IB: Oh you were there?

HH: No, I have listened to it.

IB: Good that you said so because we didn’t think so!

HH: We liked it! And everybody else that I’ve talked to that have listened to it all have liked it.

IB: Oh, good. Me and Ann Mari were just talking about that, because when we listen to our own shows we just wait for “oh how did this happen, ooh my god”! We are searching for the mistakes.

HH: And we listen to it and are like “oh my god” but in a different way!

IB: Yeah, good, it’s nice to hear that because we are always searching for our own mistakes, so that’s something.

HH: When you create something it’s always like that, I write sometimes and its like that, I write something and I say, okay, this is finished, and then I read it after a week or so and I find mistakes, correct them, it’s like that all the time. You’re never happy with what you do yourself.

IB: Very rarely! Peter is like that "Ah, this is just crap "and I say “no, you can’t delete it it’s beautiful” and he goes “noooo”!

HH: I think if you ever do a release with the things you have deleted everyone will love it!

IB: Yeah, it is like that, like when we released The New Light, with older and mostly unreleased songs, and they are really really good, they are actually 15 years old, but you can still hear it’s Arcana and it sounds good.

HH: Before I listened to that album I was expecting for something more amateur-like, and when I listened to it I was like “wow”! It was amazing!

IB: It’s one of the first things Peter did, some of those songs.

HH: They’re really good, it’s not like a demo album, it’s like a proper album.

IB: Yeah it is. And some of the songs are actually newer, like Through The Grey Horizon and Wings Of Gabriel, they were made that year and the year earlier.

HH: Through The Grey Horizon is one of my total favourites, I just love that song.

IB: Ah we’re gonna do Wings Of Gabriel tonight. That’s a perfect live song actually.

HH: It’s very powerful.

IB: Yeah, it is, and you sort of get into a trance when you listen to it.

HH: How did you get the inspiration for that song? When I first listened to it it struck me as something “celestial”, not in a christian way, in a more magickal sort of way

IB: It’s Peter who makes all the songs so he has to tell about that, because he is the creator of everything. Because Peter usually sits in the studio by himself and makes the music, and we come down and say “perfect”!

HH: That was one of my questions actually, how does the song get created?

IB: Peter will have the correct words for how to make the music, because he is the mastermind.

HH: The favourite song that was voted by the fans was “Innocent Child” I think?

IB: Innocent Child, yes, on Myspace. Innocent Child got the most votes, and then Closure, Through The Grey Horizon, and Wings Of Gabriel got the same. Innocent Child is a wonderful song and it means so much to me, because Peter made it when I was pregnant with our daughter, so it is a song for our daughter before she was born, and it’s really very precious.

HH: My first question was actually for each one of you, how did you meet, how did you get together, how did each one of you get to be in Arcana – in a few words!

Peter Bjärgö: I started experimenting with this kind of music in 93, and it was a total different line up.

HH: When you had come to Athens it was you and a female singer.

PB:  Yeah, Ida. And Matthias I’ve known for a long time, Stefan too, and Mari I haven’t known for that long a time.

Mari Thim: No, we met Halloween 2001, a Halloween party actually, and I sang a song for Peter.

HH: And you liked her voice and that’s how she got in the band?

PB: Yeah, I was going forward with Arcana and I felt that I needed someone to do the vocals, so we started talking about it and everything sorted out.

HH: So it was the two of you who sort of got the inspiration for the band?

MT: We had already been working with some of the material, like We Rise Above.

PB:  yeah I had some stuff going on.

MT: So I came to the studio.

PB: We said we were gonna give it a try, and We Rise Above was the first time Mari ever sang.

MT: And then Stefan came into the picture.

Stefan Eriksson: Yeah I’ve known Peter for a long time, eight or nine years ago I think.

PB: But we had never worked together even though both of us have been working with music for a long time.

SE: The funny thing is that both Matthias and Peter worked in the same band.

HH: What kind of music were they playing?

Matthias Borgh: Death metal!!

SE: And one in the band, I don’t know which one but I don't think it was one of you cause I didn't know you back then, asked if I wanted to play keyboards in the death metal band!

HH: How does the keyboard fit in a death metal band?

IB: My question as well!

SE: Well, for the intros! And then we kept it up. Ia I had met some years before that.

IB: Yeah but we didn’t really know eachother. I actually listened to Arcana before I met Peter so we got in contact just before that, I wrote to him and we got in contact. We met and I had never thought of actually being a part of Arcana, I was very happy when I got the chance to sing in the choir. And so I joined in 2003.

I played with them one time in Amsterdam because I lived in Holland and then I hadn’t been in touch with Peter for a long time, like 8, 9 years, almost 10 years. And then we got in touch because of this old death metal band.

HH: What was the band called?

MB: It was called Crypt Of Kerberus. Then there was this small label who did some kind of old demo tape album stuff and we were in touch a bit and they came to play in Amsterdam and asked if I wanted to do percussion and I thought it was cool so I played for them, and then I played some more gigs and now last year I’ve moved up to Sweden.

HH: What does Arcana mean to you? Does it signify something and do you have a specific point of view that you want the listeners to perceive it from?

PB: I think my idea with Arcana is kind of introvert, because I’ve never done music for other people, I don’t try to make a statement or anything for others, I do everything for myself and am very very happy that people appreciate it and like it but I only do it because I want to do it. Therefore it’s perhaps both good and bad, because it will change but only when I want it to change, in sound or whatever. I would never change it because someone else wanted to change it, but the problem with it is that it can take a couple of years until I get full inspirations to start working. That’s the negative side of it.

HH: When you feel that it’s honest to do something.

PB: Yeah, I want to keep it as honest as possible, otherwise if it will be too big and almost depending on selling a lot of CDs and making it more commercial, then I wouldn’t be satisfied with it. It’s better for me to just keep it like this.

HH: Release less albums and do what you want.

PB: Yeah.

HH: What inspires you, what are your influences? Either musical or from literature, from the cinema, your life, the way you view the world and things in general?

PB:  Music wise, I would say from the beginning Dead Can Dance is probably one of the biggest influences on the sound. I didn’t actually think that in order to make music it necessarily has rules that you have to keep, you can bring more things into it.   Lyrics for me have always been pretty hard, I’ve had a lot of problems with the lyrics, because I have an abstract idea of how I want it.

HH: For us, the listeners, it’s a very medieval, classical sort of thing. It brings me back to those times, historically, when I listen to it, I think of castles, battles and knights and things like that.

PB: Lots of people talk about getting pictures from the music. I don’t think about that when I do it, I have a sound in my head, something that I really want to create and do. And one rule is also that I want to do music that I myself want to listen to.

HH: Do you have a special procedure that you go through when you write, some sort of ritual or habit?

PB: Number one is being totally by myself. I have a big problem with being around lots of people and stuff . Sometimes I joke with Ia that my studio is just an extension of my boyroom, that I want to go down and play in the studio.

IB: The studio is a life-saver sometimes!

HH: So how do you develop the song after you’ve written it, with the rest of the band?

PB: It differs a lot from song to song, sometimes I have a clear idea about what to do and then I call Matthias and say “I need percussion, come over” and then we record the percussion, and choirs with Stefan and Ia, and the vocal parts with Anne-Mari, but sometimes I want to try and experiment, I don’t have a clear idea, and then its easier to just try some idea myself, because sometimes by chance you end up with something that’s really really good.

HH: What kind of proportion do you use between electronical equipment and physical instruments, normal instruments?

PB: Earlier I was depending a lot more on electronical stuff, but now I would say, I don’t know, perhaps 60-40? Perhaps even more acoustic instruments, I don’t know, somewhere around there. Because I’ve been working for 14 years with this, I started to have demands on the sound and I want to be more precise about how an instrument should sound, and it’s not possible to have those demands if you have a sample, because it sounds like that. It’s better to learn the instrument and then you can do what you want.

HH: So how many instruments do you know how to play?

IB: How many hours do you have?

PB: I’m fairly good at a lot of instruments, I’m not really really good at everything, but I’m managing most instruments.

IB: (addressing Peter) The guitar was your first instrument and that is what you are very good at. When we talk about this record that's just finished, I think you used about probably between 5 and 10 different instruments.

PB: All of us used a lot of instruments.

HH: What is the new album like and when is it going to be released?

PB: It’s probably going to be released early next year because it’s gonna take some time to get everything done.

HH: So you haven’t finished the mastering yet?

PB: The album’s actually done, the recording and the mixing is all done, but we still have some work with the layout and stuff and also, it's not perhaps the best time to release a CD. Either you have it out by November or December at latest, but now it’s too close, so we choose to wait a little.

IB: Since we signed to Kalinkaland Records, Harald really would like a good promotion for this album. And I’m gonna work on the layout, In fact I’m working on it right now.

SE: And of course we were gonna say that it’s the best album ever, it’s a clichι, but it’s really it! I think there’s more work into it now than when we worked on the previous albums.

HH: What’s it like musically?

PB: It’s pretty dynamic I would say, it differs a lot. I think I put a lot of energy in getting the melodies and everything. The percussive part and the rhythms, I wanted it all to have their place and not just have everything in like a mess full of reverb. I wanted everything to be clearer and stronger. The melodies are stronger and I wanted the rhythms to be better and clearer, so it’s like perfecting everything, taking everything a step further.

HH: And you’re doing more vocals.

IB: A lot more vocals this time.

HH: What does "Abrakt" mean?

PB: It’s an anagram but it's something personal.

HH: Cause I looked it up in a Swedish dictionary and didn’t find anything!

I can say it’s not Swedish.

IB: But the thing is, when we talk about the last album, Le Serpent Rouge, that was sort of like a theme album, with the oriental kind of music, so this one is more like a mix of the old sound with the new sound and like I said, it differs a lot between the songs but the mix of the songs makes a great whole of everything, so people who liked the older stuff will love this album, since it’s more in the vein of Inner Pale Sun, though it’s not an “Inner Pale Sun album”. But it’s more in the vein of that kind of style.

SE: I think there’s more input from everything, not just the medieval stuff.

PB: I think that the step I took from The Last Embrace to Inner Pale Sun was a pretty big step and I think this step falls in the same direction which I took there to Inner Pale Sun, and even further. Le Serpent Rouge was a sidetrack.

HH: So you use the previous ones as a base and you step on them to make the next one.

PB: No, I don’t think like that but when I look back I realize that it’s a path and it’s clear to me how I’ve been working, but it’s not on purpose, it’s not like I thought it through, I want to do everything better and better but that’s probably just a force that I have, not from just working in the studio as a musician or as a songwriter. I want to perfect everything and I think everyone works like that, they want to do stuff that are better.

IB: I can’t speak for how Peter makes the music, but I as an outsider (because Peter is making all the music), I can see from the music we listen to at home, I see something in Peter's creativity when he works, that sometimes you get back to the old kind of music you listened to when you were in your teens, like sometimes you love the 80s sounds, with the R8 and the drumming machine, some things like this is a great way you can hear the music that you yourself listened to.

PB: I think something that really inspired me was sort of a nostalgia, I was rediscovering a lot of stuff from my childhood, like old books and old music, it was a journey going through that old stuff I had almost forgotten about.

HH: The new album must be really amazing, you’ve intrigued my curiosity to a great degree!

SE: Not to brag but it’s the best sound we ever had. Very good stuff!

HH: I was asking Ia earlier and she referred me to you, about Wings Of Gabriel, what was the inspiration behind that? Cause when I first listened to it I got a very metaphysical feeling, almost magickal, and I was wondering.

PB: That was the first step to experimenting with more percussive parts, and more Arabic drum sounding stuff, because I wanted to try it out, I've been waiting a long long time to try it out, so one day I just decided to see how I could do it, so I just threw myself in a situation where I was gonna do one song to see how it would sound.

IB: (addressing Peter) The thing is that you bought a whole bunch of new instruments, and that was actually the first because you started out learning the instruments and that’s how you started it, because you got these instruments.

HH: My next question is very different. I’ve read in your Myspace profile that although you’re not a political band you are very active as regards the environment and environmental protection, and I wanted you to tell me a little bit about that. How do you see it, how are you active, etc.

PB: I think it’s probably mostly Ia and I, we’re not trying to force ideas upon other people, but I would say that 90% of the lyrics is about that, environmental stuff.

HH: It doesn’t show on the first listen, it needs a more introspective approach to get that.

IB: We’ve got children and we think about the next generation and how it will be, and we sort of get distressed when it comes to thinking about where the world is heading. You cannot do that much but you have to try.

PB: I don’t consider that to think about environmental problems is being political, I mean, we don’t take political sides but this is something that everyone should be aware of. For us it’s very important, but that’s from my point of view, I don’t speak for everyone else, I know that you (the rest of the band) think about it too, though I don’t speak for you as a political activist or something, but that’s how I see it, and I can speak for Ia too.

HH: Are you vegetarians?

IB: Me and Peter are.

SE: I used to be.

MT: I’m actually thinking about becoming one someday.

HH: I became one about two and a half years ago, I think. Nothing changes, in your health and stuff like that, there’s no change.

IB: For us it was a moral thing, we weren't considering our own health, it was more of a moral aspect of trying to do something for the animals. We know that it won't be any better just because me and Peter stopped eating meat, because we let our kids eat meat, it's up to them when they grow up, but one of my daughters has become a vegetarian as well and she’s only 12 years old.

HH: But you don’t force your kids towards that.

IB: No, it’s up to each and every one of them as an individual to think for themselves how they want to live their life, we’re part of the Animal Rights in Sweden and think a lot about that kind of stuff, so that is also one thing that is in the back of the head when you think about it.

HH: How are things in Sweden as regards the environment?

PB: I think we consider ourselves being pretty aware and stuff, but I’m not so sure that things are as good. It’s probably better than a lot of other places.

HH: In Greece it’s horrible, there’s no legislation to protect the animals, nothing.

Sweden is a really clean country, there's fresh air everywhere.

IB: We have recycling everywhere.

MT: We do, but not every household separates their garbage, so it’s not forced on every household yet to do that.

IB: We recycle at home, we have the tin cans in one bin, the plastic in one, the leftovers in another. We are very formal when it comes to that, if we have glass we put it in the glass disposal. We try to think about it, not 100% because it's not possible, but we try to do it, and as I talked to one of the girls from Holland who were with us just now, she was asking about how the animals are in Sweden, I said we don’t have any stray dogs on the streets.

HH: You don’t?

IB: No, nowhere. We have stray cats of course, that is all over, but still there are so many people taking care of even the stray cats, they give them food, and so people are very aware of the animals.

HH: That’s very advanced. In Greece you can run over an animal and just go away, nothing happens.

PB: That’s commiting a crime in Sweden.

HH: I think an EU policy should exist, that EU countries should be obligated to follow. If that doesn’t happen countries like ours are never going to keep up.

IB: We’re trying to teach the kids as well how to act in society and in the community, how they should act towards animals, how they should act towards other people.

SE: I work at a school and even there we’re separating everything, and the kids are learning to separate all the stuff.

PB: I think the whole issue is changing the culture a bit, because earlier it was like animal rights extremists or environmental extremists going “blah blah blah” but now people are really starting to respect nature and the environment, because they understand that this is something we should be concerned about.

This is actually something that we teach children in early grades in school, in Sweden. You talk about it during class, about how to help the environment.

MT: I think it’s a very modern theme now, with the Live Earth concerts and making people aware that it’s hip to be green now. So we’re trendy!

HH: It’s one of the few trends I like!

IB:  We’re trying to buy all the fair trade goods just to help out.

HH: What’s your relationship with your fanbase? How do you feel that so many people in so many countries adore you?

SE: Strange!

PB: It’s very surreal, because we have our work and our families and our regular lives.

IB: I think I’m the one being in contact with fans, because I have, like we said, Myspace and there are a lot of people there.

HH: So you have no official promotion or manager?

PB: No, we never needed one, because I think that Arcana, though I can’t speak for the future 100%, is sort of in a narrow scene, and I don’t think that we need a lot of management or bureaucracy, because we like to keep things as easy as possible. There’s no problem with that, it's alright.

SE: Even for the promotion of the songs, we have taken it all upon ourselves, making the layouts, the homepages, the booking, everything.

HH: So you are completely “home-made”!

SE:  And we are like 5 people having really lots of fun, and suddenly there is a lot of people who are like “Oh, we like you, we love you!” and we are like “oh”!

PB: It’s surrealistic.

MT: There’s really hundreds of people that listens to Arcana.

IB: For myself, the first time that I actually felt this was when we went to Russia, three years ago, and we performed in St Petersburg. There for the first time we actually felt the closeness. People would come to us and would be like “Oh, my god!” and we were actually scared because we’re not used to that! And then in Italy Peter was standing in the corner for 30 minutes because the people wouldn't let him go!

PB: They pushed their girlfriends towards me to take pictures and I was like, “okay”!

HH: You had quite a rock-star experience!

PB:  But I have a really hard time, being a normal person, I have a lot of problems with that, I’m just an ordinary guy from my point of view.

IB: In our own city people don’t know about us.

PB: I’m really really quiet about it.

IB: And we want to keep it that way.

MT: But I think more and more people know about us now, especially since we performed there.

SE: Yeah, we made one performance in Eskilstuna.

IB: Yeah but the audience was our friends! But still, we like to keep it calm in Sweden.

SE: The strangest part was when we were in Holland, I stepped out of the car and somebody went “Stefan!!” and I was like “what the hell is this?”. I mean, my mom calls for me in that way!

IB: But the thing is that we really enjoy going to different countries and meeting people, we are not like "sitting backstage and don’t want to speak to the people", we go out and we like to speak to the audience.

PB: It’s great to be in contact with the people that actually buy your albums and to get feedback, but it is surrealistic to realize that people actually know everything about the albums etc.

IB: (addressing Peter) I think there was some time when I called you and said “Peter, we got an e-mail from the Philippines! How on earth did we get an album on the Philippines? I have to call him just to see!”.  And Peter did an interview for a Chinese magazine a few years ago. So it’s really surreal.

HH: The next one is the typical question, whether you have a favourite album or a favourite song and why.

MT: “My Cold Sea” is one of my favourite ones now, but I think maybe if you ask this question again after the next album is released you will get a different answer.

HH: Do you have any plans for the future for Arcana, besides releasing the album? Any live gigs etc?

PB: We’ve been talking about perhaps doing some live gigs to follow up on the album, in the next year.

HH: You also have a tour with Tyrant now.

PB: Yes, in November.

HH: So how do you reconcile these two?

PB: It’s perfect for me to have so totally different projects going on, because in that way I can put 100% focus on Arcana with Arcana, and then I can do something totally different, instead of trying to get different genres into eachother. Now I can separate everything, so if I want to do extreme music I do Sophia or something like Tyrant, and if I want to do beautiful music I do it with Arcana.

HH: So are you going to do anymore live gigs with Arcana after Brussels?

PB: Yeah, not this year, but somewhere in the next year, we’re talking about doing perhaps like a mini-tour or something, just to follow up on the album.

After the release of the album it’s one of our plans to make a tour, not a big one, but a small one.

HH: You’ve never made a tour before I think.

PB: We’ve just been doing one or two gigs, up to five.

MT: (addressing Peter) But actually now I’m getting curious, I want to know which song is your favourite one.

PB: With Arcana, as it is now it’s probably one of the new ones. I’ve been listening to Abrakt for too long now, so I’m a bit fed up with it, but it’s a very special song for me, because I was in a special mood that day, and it has something deeper than just an ordinary song for me.

SE: I think “We Rise Above” and “Innocent Child”, and from the new one the last song we are going to perform this evening, “Outside Your World”, from the new album.

I would say the same as Stefan, the last song we will play tonight, I really like that one, cause it's also the first album I recorded anything for, and this song I really like since it’s one of the songs that got stuck in my head. It’s a cool song.

I would say, right now, “Lost In Time” is one of my favourites actually. A lot of people talk about “Dark Age Of Reason”, I understand why, because for me it means so much, it was the first time I discovered it, though musically it is not the best, but it means a lot to me. When it comes to a song it’s “Lost In Time” right now, that means a lot.

PB: I managed to do a lot with feelings on that album but production-wise it’s really bad.

IB: But you’ve always had a great production.

PB: I think I can’t enjoy my own music as anyone else because I think about the production and how I made it and all the work behind it and I can’t just sit down and relax and listen to it, it’s impossible for me.

HH: So that was all, do you have any messages for the readers, any famous last words?

IB: It would be lovely to come to Greece!

PB: Absolutely, then we can combine it with some sort of vacation.

HH: It’s a very narrow, small scene in Athens, just very few people.

PB: In our hometown there’s no scene at all.

IB: Exactly, in Sweden we have one club in Stockholm that sometimes plays this kind of music.

HH: One would expect that with Cold Meat Industry and everything the scene would be bigger in Sweden.

IB: No, Cold Meat Industry is very small in Sweden. We can see that the main fanbase is around Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, France and Greece.

MT: If you go to Finland Cold Meat Industry is classified as a “cult” company.

HH: In Greece it’s also like that, it’s like a cult that very few people know of, that are part of a clique. It has some sort of “metaphysical” sense to it.

MB: I think we mainly know about the greek black metal scene.

IB: The thing is that Peter, Matthias and me are old metalheads, so it was metal from the start for me and them, and even though I had never made music I was always listening to metal, so we are more into that scene when it comes to what kind of music we listen to, but the industrial scene is more because we have been into it.

HH: Well you’re not really industrial, there’s nothing industrial in your music.

PB: No, I never considered Arcana being industrial. We somehow turned to be industrial just because we were signed to Cold Meat, while the music is melodic and totally different.

IB: I have a problem saying that it’s neoclassical, because it sounds so pretentious. I don’t consider it neoclassical because it’s hard to describe it to people that don’t listen to it. They say “what is Arcana, how does it sound”, we say “It sounds like a soundtrack from a movie” and that is the closest we can come to, but still it doesn’t constitute an answer.

PB: I think Kalinkaland is going to be a great record label, because it suits Arcana well.

HH: It’s based in Germany I think?

IB: Yes, and the thing is that some of the bands are acoustic, trobadour music, some are rock and some are other types of music.

HH: So you don’t feel like you will be pigeonholed into a specific genre.

PB: I’ve always said that it’s like 4AD in a miniature, it’s great.

IA: And Harald– the owner- is a very nice person and he has told Peter “do whatever you like with Arcana and I will release whatever you do”, so there’s no pressure that we have to do this or that, or keep it this way or that, and that is a good thing because as Peter said earlier if you have people around you telling you what you should do then you don’t have the emotions to do it.

HH: That’s just about it, we’re finished, thanks a lot for sitting with us and for answering all the questions, and I’m looking forward to the gig!!

(Interview Conducted in Person by Luminatrix on
September 29, 2007)


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