The German ritual-formation :Golgatha:, founded in 2004 during the making of the debut-CD “Waste Land”, follows the path of creating concept soundtracks for mythological and spiritual subjects and can be described as ‘aural mythology’. A stylistic variety of percussive, ambient and folk-elements is employed to fulfil this mission creating a trancelike, cinematic atmosphere. The permanent members of :Golgatha: are Christoph D., S. Marleni, and Sorakey. After two acclaimed albums on the French label Athanor :Golgatha: signed with CMI for “Tales of Transgression and Sacrifice” (2007), a song cycle inspired by the writings of Georges Bataille. In 2008 the monumental opus ‘Sang Graal’ followed, a neoclassical joint effort together with Dawn & Dusk Entwined.
Heathen Harvest: Since ‚Waste Land’ was published in 2005 on limited CDr, :Golgatha: has been a fast rising star in the alternative music sky. Has this been a surprise for you?
Chris D.: Well, the road to :Golgatha: for me was long and stony, much longer than it seems. In fact it took me very long to finally record the music which is now know as ‘Waste Land’. I have been experimenting with music in one way or the other from the beginning of the 1990s, so 2005 was pretty late to start for me personally. It developed very fast when Marleni joined :Golgatha: with his 15 years of experience in rock- and folk-music – live and in the studio. Together we grew. And I think Sorakey’s voice was another factor important to the special ritual-folk sound we are known for today.
HH: Due to the name :Golgatha: is sometimes taken for a Christian folk band. Does that bother you?
CD: :Golgatha: is definitely not a Christian band. We chose the name for its symbolic meaning only. I personally see :Golgatha: as a pantheistic project, influenced by animistic and shamanistic traditions, but not promoting them through the music. We can live with a partly Christian audience as well as long as it does not abuse our music for organized religious contexts. I think a more pagan focussed audience might have more sensibility for our spiritual tendencies. But we totally reject the strong Catholic tendencies you can see within the so-called neo-folk scene, which goes as far as praising the pope etc. We reject Catholicism like all other totalitarian (political) belief systems.
HH: Do you see yourself in the context of neo-folk music?
CD: In Germany the genre neo-folk was coined by bands like Forseti, Orplid, etc. We have no problem with these people, but we do not have a lot in common. Just the sound of acoustic guitar strings is not enough. :Golgatha: is ritual folk as we have always labelled ourselves. We use mainly English language to reach an international audience. Our music and concept does not focus on any national identity thing… If you discover some world music there – this is intended.
HH: Some people have compared your live performances to early Death in June, Sol Invictus and Current 93…
CD: I like these bands and they somehow influenced everyone involved in :Golgatha: (especially Death in June and Sol Invictus). But we do not plan to simply carry their heritage. If you actually compare one of our albums with these classics you will find some minor influences – that’s all. Our first live performance at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen at Leipzig in 2007 was a nice incident and we tried to make it something special. Very ritualistic. It worked out okay I guess. You can see a video on MySpace. Our show with Sol Invictus on Easter Saturday 2008 was great because we worked really well as a band together. And to perform with Patrick Leagas of Sixth Comm at Halle/Germany (December 2008) was simply a great honour. Patrick likes our work, and we have a lot of respect for his art.
HH: Now you are returning to your beginning once more to your starting point. CMI will release a re-issue of ‘Waste Land’. In which way will that differ from the original?
CD: To be honest: very much. We planned to do just a re-mastering of the original material with bonus tracks but realized that this might be a kind of disappointment for fans of our recent work. The first CD was appreciated probably by different people than the many who bought our CMI-albums. So we tried to re-invent the whole album ‘Waste Land’, which had still some very fresh points to it. Our grail-album ‘Sang Graal’ contains remixes of two ‘Waste Land’-tracks, so we left the originals untouched. Yet some other tracks are totally reshaped and sound much stronger than before. Also we added some acoustic material which I was not able to do back in 2005. ‘Waste Land’ is the old material done the way we do it now…
HH: Some purists might be disappointed by a radical re-working…
CD: (smiling) These purists already have the CDr I suppose and can enjoy the re-issue like a more complete reincarnation, a kind of ‘final cut’.
HH: Did you change the artwork as well?
CD: The artwork from back then is still very important. It was made of photos I took on the island of Crete, the cradle of European culture. In late summer this island is a true waste land – flooded by burning hot, white sunlight. The climate is very similar to Palestine actually. Combined with the cultural clash-context of this album, all these elements add to each other. The new version will contain more photos done back then.
HH: While ‘Kydos’ and ‘Seven Pillars’ are more abstract and intellectual, ‘Waste Land’ and ‘Sang Graal’ seem more passionate in their access to the main concept…
CD: That may be true. When I was doing ‘Waste Land’, which was very much a solo effort back then, it was inspired by T.S. Eliot’s epic poem and reflected my feelings about a dying world ridden by war and destruction, a true Kali Yuga as the Hindi would say. ‘Waste Land’ is the most pessimistic of our albums so far. Really dark and true to the metaphorical meaning of the band name :Golgatha: as a place of execution and pain. On the heroic trilogy ‘Kydos’ and ‘Seven Pillars’ (and ‘Icarus e.p.’) I started with the concept and developed texts and music based on the content. So the content dictated the form. The choice to ask Patrick Leagas and Tony Wakeford for collaboration was also lead by the respective content.
HH: Will the ‘heroic trilogy’ be re-issued as well?
CD: Yes, but not now. It is too soon. When time has come the trilogy will be issued on a fully loaded double-CD-set with thick booklet on CMI. But this will not happen before 2011.
HH: There is another release coming up on a Chinese label called MidNight records called ‘Cycles’. As I understand this is another reinvention of older material?
CD: That is not easy. In 2007 German photographer Birthe Klementowski published a private photo set limited to 10 copies which contained CDr with 5 exclusive tracks of our music. This sold out immediately and people keep asking for this. When MidNight records asked us if they may publish our music in China we agreed under the condition that it will be a more professional version of the original ‘Circles’-project with some more music. Thus ‘Cycles’ was born. The original tracks were re-mastered and re-built with overdubs. Then two tracks were added, both never published before. One is an epic ten minutes short story called ‘The enemy inside’ which was originally composed for an Eternal Soul compilation that never happened. The other one is back from the ‘Waste Land’-sessions and very dark-ambient. In fact ‘Cycles’ is our most ambient release to date, with only short glimpses of acoustic harmony. But very spiritual. Like the images by Birthe are deeply spiritual and close to an animistic worship of nature. The CD will contain a 12-pages booklet with her photo art and 50 minutes of our music. The material is on the way to the label and publication planned for April 2009.
HH: On your MySpace-page we can listen to two new tracks very focussed on ritual drums, dulcimer and ecstatic female voice. They reminded me of a mixture of Dead Can Dance and Mother Destruction… What is to expect from the next album?
CD: Thanks for this comparison – we actually like both very much. But hopefully you also see ourselves in the songs as well…? The next album ‘Nihil’ (due 2010) will very much focus on song structures – meaning folk songs and percussion driven ritual tracks. The ambient parts will be reduced compared to earlier work. This way was the logical path to choose when we found ourselves on stage. We saw what worked, what we felt good with and what people responded to. :Golgatha: is not solipsistic but very much a means of communication to like-minded people.
HH: ‘Nihil’ very much sounds like the earlier concepts, focussing on nihilism?
CD: Well, yes, the basic idea is the nihilism of the lat 19th century, but the album will also be about the overcoming of nihilism – the rising above… So this will definitely contain some very lively elements.
HH: ‘Tales of Transgression & sacrifice’ also contained some of these aspects as well…
CD: Yes, absolutely. ‘Tales’ was our most intimate and elaborate work so far – very complex and emotional in my eyes. It also had some true love-songs like ‘Garden of Love’ and ‘Flesh of the Orchid’. ‘Sang Graal’ was more the soundtrack for an imaginary movie…
HH: Some people criticised that ‘Tales’ did not follow one specific style but mixed ritual, folk and ambient parts…
CD: Yes, I know, and I don’t share or understand that critique. We never proclaimed to follow one certain genre. It depends on the topic anyway. For me it all flows into one. And by the way: Take a Dead Can Dance album like ‘Towards the Within’ or a Coil album like ‘Horse Rotorvator’… Did these artists ever follow a certain genre? Is that necessary? Did anyone criticise Death in June for mixing electro and folk on ‘Nada!’? I suppose this ‘critique’ comes especially from music-‘users’ always searching for a specific ‘product’ suiting their poor tastes. This came up with the idea of music as a product to consume and to throw away afterwards – internet-download decadence. Like: ‘Buy the hits and fuck the rest…’ I never do that. People being really into this kind of serious spiritual music would never just want some files on their laptop and listen to them on inferior equipment… Buy the CD, enjoy the artwork and let the sounds flood your room… The sacred gift of music.
HH: Was ‘Tales’ a conscious turn away from the Athanor-era?
CD: No, not really conscious, it just happened. And it definitely was the influence of Sorakey as a brilliant singer who changed the concept a bit towards a more ritual and harmonic tendency. Originally it was planned to be a musical essay on George Bataille – which is still there – but it became much more complex and associative during the recording sessions. So ‘Tales’ is more inspired by Bataille and Birthe Klementowski’s artwork alike. It is our best and most typical work to date.
HH: Will you work with Dawn & Dusk Entwined again?
CD: I hope so. To be honest: The collaboration on ‘Sang Graal’ was perfect. We seem to be very close in our vision du monde and approach towards music, it fitted perfectly. I guess we both have the wish to collaborate again. And I hope it will be on ‘Nihil’. We also have several more guests on ‘Nihil’, but you will see…
HH: What else is happening?
CD: We would love to do more live performances, especially abroad. So if anyone is interested, get in touch. I am personally very much interested in the medium film and would like to do a video-anthology with selected songs, with our live videos as bonus material. We already have some material which I have shot during my visit to Colombia last year. But times are rough, and we never know when this will happen. But our main focus is on ‘Nihil’ which will hopefully appeal to many people out there with a sensibility for the spiritual and philosophical.
Contact & Information
This interview was conducted by Maria Nicoli for :Ikonen: Magazine. This is the official and exclusive English transcription for the Heathen Harvest Webzine.