NACHTLIEDER (EN)

Hello, thanks for taking your time, how are you holding up?

Jai Ma! Thanks for having me. I’m doing very well actually. Some adaptations to this new way of life in a pandemic have been straining, but for me as an individual it also brought some positive changes. Me, my family and my closest friends are ok, so it’s all good.

-First off; where did the need of forming the project sprout from? What does “Nachtlieder” mean (literally and not)?

It was a long time ago so I don’t quite remember… I started writing songs in 2008, simply because I felt that I wanted and needed to. Nachtlieder literally means songs of night in German. I associate the nighttime with melancholy and calm, but also twisted dreams and nightmares. It suited the project when I started it and I think it still does.

-Prior to NACHTLIEDER you played in WICKED. What did this experience teach you that was relevant for your present/future?

I’ve been in several other bands than Wicked though that was the only metal one. What I’ve learned is way I like to work in a band I guess. I take music very seriously. I want to create things, challenge myself, finish my work and manifest it in some form. I gladly goof around with nice people, but I guess I think that kind of thing is better suitable outside of the rehearsal place.

-One-woman bands are more common every day. Are there any other that you like? Or any women artists playing extreme Metal that have inspired you in any way?

There are several and I’ll probably forget too many if I try to namedrop! If I have to mention one though it would be V-kaos project Mother of the Hydra, since her album Contradiction after several years out still is one of my favorite Black Metal releases. Back in the days when gigs was a thing V-kaos played live guitars for Asagraum.

In my teens I listened a lot to Bolt Trower with Jo Bench on bass, Opera IX with Cadaveria on vocals and Astarte with Tristessa (R. I. P.). Their influence on me today is nonexistent, but at the time I they were definitely sources of inspiration to play music.

-And in general, what are your main musical and non-musical inspirations?

Inspiration as in an impulse to create I get from my instrument when I’m jamming. It’s very rarely I go about during the day and suddenly feel like playing guitar. It’s more a habit that I know I need to do every day. Some times something rises from my practice and I need to do something with it. Most times not, but then again I’ve also learned to just let things go when I play. Having to document every single thing that feels good when riffing would just eat up the time from practice. I’m thinking, if I played this once, I’ll come up with something just as good another time as well.

I’ve been dancing Odissi, one of the classical dances of India, for a few years now. From that a big, big interest in Indian classical music has risen and I’ve studied it quite a lot. When I play music now I draw a lot of influence from raga music and the way it’s supposed to be performed. Thankfully, translating it to Black Metal all of the rules in it don’t need to be followed so rigorously, haha.

-It seems like nature plays an important role in your music too, and I believe your newest EP “Views from the North Vol. 1” (2020) proves it. In what way are you inspired by your geography? And what’s nature in the context of NACHTLIEDER (a natural space, a Symbol, the Womb…)?

Yes, it does which the latest EP shows. Most of the songs are actually very old, but I haven’t felt like they fitted on previous releases. There is definitely some traditional nature romanticism there, like in the song Nachtlieder. You know, the same way that many Black Metal bands use nature as a reference of ”return to the old ways” and ”mankind’s true spirit” etc. But mostly in my lyrics references to the outside landscape is a way of describing the inner landscape. In Avgrunden for example I specifically pictured misty autumn weather and the roaring waters in Geargevaggí, a valley in the mountains near my birth town Kiruna. But the song itself is about reaching desperate levels of anxiety at the bottom of a deep depression. The lyrics are in Swedish but there’s an English translation in the video description in my YouTube channel.

-In fact this opus was released via Nigredo Records. You’ve worked with many different labels. Finding a label for each album can’t end up being a little bit energy-draining?

Not really, the opportunities have just sort of presented themselves actually. I think I’ve been lucky in this regard. Unmerciful Death was a good place to release my first album and I, Voidhanger did an absolutely excellent work with The Female of the Species. Working with Katia from Nigredo on Lynx and Views from the North has been something completely different though. She really puts in a great deal of personal care into her releases, she understands Nachtlieder and she also contributes to the releases in her own way. I have nothing but praise to give Nigredo and I hope to stay with them for possible future releases. Katia is also running the label Hooked on Metal, for the fans of more old school metal music.

-Each of your releases is slightly different and the progress is obvious. How do you prepare yourself facing the creation of new material? Do you study?

I study music and art from different angles all the time and I think each album manifests whatever artistic ideas I’ve been into, simply because it’s what I’ve been practicing at the time. The Female of the Species and Lynx also had more or less clear themes. Once I started to sketch them out I purposely searched more literature on the subjects. It makes it easier for me to write lyrics. I’ve gathered material for a new album and this one is quite different since it’s the first time I’ve been writing lyrics without intensive study of other literature. It will be exciting to see if I still feel good about it in a few months.

-In your music there’s always this contrast between aggression and calm. Is it conflict or balance?

Thanks for noticing, it’s intentional. I strive for these kinds of artistic balances. But sometimes balance can be reached through a conflict between two expressions, it depends on what the song is aiming for, haha.

-But the common thread I’d dare say is this sad, melancholic yet beautiful sound/feeling. This reminds me about a quote by Kenneth Anger that goes “I have found the definition of the beautiful. It is something intense and sad […] so that I can scarcely conceive a type of beauty which has nothing to do with sorrow.” How is sorrow part of beauty or vice versa? Does sadness have a bad reputation socially?

This might just be the most interesting interview question I’ve ever got. I can really feel that quote. When we experience something beautiful we intensively long to join with it, maybe forever. No matter what the subject of beauty may be, a flower, music, a person, we know that the experience of beauty will end since flowers wither, music ends and best case scenario a person ultimately dies or we die away from them. That’s probably where the sorrow comes, the feeling of distance and inevitable loss.

Is beauty a part of sorrow? I think so. If the sorrow is expressed somehow and it resonates with someone, there is that brief joining between two individuals. That’s beautiful.

I feel like sadness is becoming more and more acceptable to talk about. Especially now with so many people experiencing isolation there are more discussions about mental health issues, but also regular everyday sadness. It’s natural part of life and it can be dealt with without the anger and bitterness so many people, including myself, express instead of ventilating their sorrow.

-I’d like to dwell a little bit on some of your lyrical ideas. Your sophomore was obviously influenced by Satanic feminism. This is something that it’s still present in your work even if not in a very obvious way I believe.  What of this “concept” resonates with you? Have you read Per Faxneld’s work?

I think I must have been one of the first people getting my hands on Faxneld’s thesis when it was approved! I did gather a lot of ideas from that book even if it didn’t directly influence the lyrics of The Female of the Species. I took the title from Joyce Carol Oates book with the same name. It’s a representation of women and violence. Which in a way may be a challenge of the female archetype, but I still wouldn’t call that work directly feminist. I think it’s the same with the themes in my music. I’ve seen many people call it feminist. I guess I understand why and I can’t say it’s a faulty interpretation, but it’s nothing that I do intentionally. I make my art for the sake of art, not to make any kind of statement. If people find it inspiring and empowering though, or want to discuss it from different angles, that’s absolutely great. There is no better praise you can get than learning your music has an actual impact on someone’s life!

-How much of an Arquetype on individualism is it?

Nachtlieder is all about individualism. ALL about it. The song Lynx is probably the best example. The predator in the shadows who is quietly observing the loud wolves. Then there’s another character on that album. The hunter who is protecting his sheep from the wolves, but instead ends up killing the lynx in the song Eyes Ablaze. Holy shit what a good metaphor, I didn’t realize that myself until just now.

-In fact Black Metal has always advocated for liberation and individualism, so it’s very ironic that there are still nowadays a lot of bigoted behaviors in the BM “community”. Are these kind of attitudes  that are based on traditional ideas that annul one’s individuality, compatible with this rebellious spirit BM is meant to be about?

This irony is something that bothers me with a lot of Black Metal purists. Still, if there were not a set of ”rules” set by the scene in how to behave etc., would this still be a subculture/genre? But to answer the question, no, I don’t find it compatible and this may be a contributing factor to why I’ve never really felt at home in the Black Metal scene.

– Women in art and in masculinized spaces have always been made invisible, that’s why there’s not just less women metal musicians (even though there are tons of them), but less women in any artistic field. Because women artists have to face more obstacles, they have to fight against sexualization, invisibilization, infantilization, etc. The simple fact of putting albums out and recording/writing music is an empowering tool, not just for your but for other women too. How do you take advantage of this tool/position?

I don’t. The people that need me and my work will have to put in an effort to find me and come to me. And they are most welcome. I think I’m over all a quite demanding artist, haha. I’m always so anti everything when it comes to what you’re supposed to do with your platforms and how. That mindset is not good for ”business” and sometimes it makes me question why the hell I’ve been working so hard with and spent so much money on this project since I barely reach any people. But I know that the few who follow my work at least are the right people since they managed to climb the Nachtlieder threshold, and that feels good.

-And of course we women aren’t just judged by our gender only, but by our ethnicity, age, etc. Have you noticed if you  reading/hearing less bullshit about NACHTLIEDER now that you’re older and have three albums out?

Oh yes. Thankfully I’ve always been spared from hateful trolls, but post the release of Lynx I haven’t seen anything negative or sexist been written about me anywhere. I think it’s because of said reason. Nachtlieder has grown invulnerable.

-In fact gender stereotypes seem to be firmly screwed in the genre. What do you think is the reason behind this? Maybe that it tends to be a very nostalgic “world”? And what would be the first steps to make in order to revert this? As we are all part of this; from musicians to writers, from promoters to fans.

I don’t think gender stereotypes are either more nor less present in metal subculture than in the rest of society. It’s a matter for all of society to deal with or things will never change. I used to be very active reading feminist theory and debating issues and strategies etc etc, but just thinking about that now makes me tired. I’ve learned what kind of people to stay away from to avoid bullshit and they avoid me as well. It’s a sustainable way of living for me at the moment.

-And finally, what are now your near-future plans in these uncertain times?

I recently lost my job due to financial effects of the pandemic at the company I worked for. It’s no big deal for me, we’re privileged to have a good safety net for these things in Sweden once you’ve entered the system. Until I’m forced to start looking for new jobs I’m spending my time dancing Odissi, writing music (98% not metal) and resting (which it’s been to little of for me the last couple of years). I’m also really excited to have started rehearsing the new Nachtlieder material together with Vittra, the eminent drummer of Gothenburg Black Metal band Illmara. It’s great, I can’t remember when I last felt so motivated to work on this project! Due to my unemployment situation I’m not exactly prioritizing funding a new album right now, but we’ll see where it lands and I’ll find a solution whenever the time comes. It’s not like we’re in a rush.

– That’s all from our side, thanks again for your time. If you’d like to add some final words, feel free to do it.

Thank you so much for letting me participate and thanks for your work in supporting music! Take care of yourselves and each other.

Tania Giménez

tania@queensofsteel.com

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