OPIUM WARLORDS (Eng.)

– Hi, thanks for your time. What are you currently up to? How is everything doing right now with OPIUM WARLORDS?

Hello Tania! Thank you for this opportunity to be here.

At the moment I have to concentrate in this promotion of “Pussy”. After three years of being far from the public eye it feels bit strange.

In the meantime, I am also trying to get one other album, “Anti-gravity”, by a black metal band called Azrael Rising – in which I am lyricist, vocalist, visual artist and co-producer – finally mastered and released. Besides that, I am drawing a logo for one Swedish band, and doing some writing, and such things. There is always something to do.

When I am done with all the “Pussy”-responsibilities, I am going to continue mixing the next Opium Warlords record, a double LP, titled “Taste My Sword Of Understanding”.

 

– First off, I would like you to tell us what prompted you forming this solo project.

It was in the end of 2008. I had come to a dead end with various things. I was very seriously depressed, but I thought, that I should at least TRY to get one more album recorded, before it would be too late, so I booked a studio, and after that tried to find a label to pay the bills, and luckily succeeded in this.

Basically Opium Warlords was something I HAD to do, in order to survive with the conditions and situations I was in, but same time it dragged me even deeper into the darkness, and I literally sacrificed my health for this project.

I had to do it completely alone, just with the recording engineer, as there really was hurry. I felt that my time on this Earth was running out. Also, I was in a bit paranoid state and did not want to tell anybody about these sessions. They were done in a complete secrecy, and even the record label did not know what they would get, and only the label manager there knew that I was in the studio.

For me it was not, and still is not about doing a “solo project”. Each person who has something to do with these records, is for that time a member of the band, even if they are not playing any of the instruments. On “Pussy” I actually had two other musicians with me – who appear on “Taste My Sword of Understanding” as well – and one additional vocalist on “Lament For the Builders of Khara Khoto”, which was recorded in separate sessions.

For me, it really does not matter who plays what, but as only I know exactly how everything should be – and this vision is very detailed and complete – it would take too much time – and money, which I do not have – to have some other people playing guitars, or bass, or certain percussions in the studio. And this would demand some rehearsing too, and I strongly dislike playing the same songs again and again, so also because of that, it is better, that I take care of most of the instruments myself – it is faster and easier, and everything is difficult enough already without any extra.

However, there certainly IS this solitary aspect too, but it is not connected to any intentional wish to do specially a solo thing. It has more to do with the fact, that because I can’t cope too well with the human world, I have to live a life of almost complete recluse, and for the same reasons I also have to work as much alone as possible.

I can’t do any real live gigs anymore, and it is hard for me to connect with anyone. I am very thankful for having these musicians and sound engineers, with whom I CAN work, close to me now. I love them, and without them nothing would happen, so in that sense this can’t be called a solo project either.

Opium Warlords is the only way I can work fully, and even when having some other musicians on the board, I do the arrangements for the instruments myself. Not because I love to control other people, but because my only aspiration is to have my inner vision recorded as closely according its pure form as possible.

Now I want to point out that this does not mean, that each note and beat should be “right”. They are not all “right” in that original vision either, and I like to have that “life” there; naturally formed and unexpected noises and mistakes. This way the soul of the music is truly represented!

There are some intentional “noise”-elements in my playing as well, when they are needed to fulfil the artistic entity. My guitar playing has more to do with Thurston Moore, than any of the hypertechnical heavy metal, and my production ideals are quite lo-fi too.

Even as a listener of music I prefer works which have not been killed by Pro Tools and autotuners.

 

– Why did you pick the name of «Opium Warlords»? I guess it has something to do with East Asian cultures, and a part of history rough and dark, which can fit your music and overall vibe of your project. Would you mind to elaborate on this?

When I found this name, from an autobiography of the late Dee Dee Ramone, I did not know that it is an actual term, used when talking about these Eastern drug lords. I thought it was just something made up by Dee Dee, and maybe it was, but same time it had these more serious connotations.

I was actually little bit saddened to find out about this other usage of the term. Same time it was, as you said there, fitting for this band, which deals with pretty dark matters anyway.

However, my point was NOT to exploit the actual concept, or have any of shock value, or to disrespect the victims of these warlords. Neither did I want to utilize the reference to the whole drug thing. It had more to do with the amusement I felt, when thinking about something so frightening – the “opium warlords” in their cars, patrolling on the streets of New York – that even a tough guy like Dee Dee avoided it. Same time it was my humble tribute to him and the whole Ramones.

It took several years before Opium Warlords truly became reality, but I had been planning to start it for the first time already around 2004, and the second time 2006. The band that finally came to be in 2009 was very different from these earlier ideas, and plans. Basically I just took this old name I had had in my mind for all these years, and placed it to this new project.

 

– In fact you have always been interested in the East Asian cultures and Tibet for instance. Moreover I’ve read you are lately quite interested in occultism, is this connected to your interest in Buddhism?

I have been interested in spiritual things and occultism since my earliest childhood, and this interest has become deeper and deeper throughout my life.

I am into esoteric matters generally, but you were quite right about certain and specific Oriental interests of mine. Some aspects of Buddhism come quite close to my thinking, but even more I am interested in Bön religion, which was there in Tibet before the orthodox Buddhism came. What especially excites me in this religion, is the dimension, or realm of Olmo Lung Ring, which to me is a clear reference to Shambhala.

Most, if not all, of the religions in the world share the same roots. For example the idea of Paradise in Christianity can be traced back to religious mythology of Egypt, and even from there, further in history, to the spirituality in Central Asia, but these older forms had completely different aspects to the whole “fall of man”. Only in Christianity there is the sexual concept of the original SIN in Paradise.

I believe, or actually think, that this Paradise is strictly connected to the idea and mythology of what is known as Shambhala or Agharta, and that the King of the World – a lineage of superhuman entities – residing there, is the archetypical “God”, but also connected to the idea of the Divine King of Bön.

These are the subjects closest to me on the field of esoterica, and in life generally. Obviously they also have straight connections to Opium Warlords too. On “Pussy” there are references to Sxi-Meru, and Khara Khoto, and on “Sword” there is much more about these things, but it is not necessary for the listener to recognise these references. They are just floating there along with the music.

My library of Shambhala, and subterranean things, is ever growing and one might say that I am searching for this Olmo Lung Ring, and its Divine King of the World.

I have also studied a little bit Gnosticism of Nag Hammadi, which I am partially reflecting to the aforementioned things, and to the idea of Lucifer being the true God, demonised throughout political and cultural history and placed into the shadow of a lower entity, the creator “god” of the Old Testament. For me Jesus was a true prophet of this Bringer of Light, and maybe also one of those who came from Shambhala.

I used to be interested in the western ceremonial magic too, but I do not need any rituals anymore. They seem to me bit artificial and pompous, and instead of helping one’s mind to focus into the spiritual nucleus, the attention can easily become directed to the customs and accessories, and roleplays themselves, and I do not care about any status or rank in any of scales, which can be found in most of the societies of ceremonial magic.

But this is just how I personally feel it. I don’t mean to dismiss any practising magicians. There most certainly is great beauty in some of the rituals, and I still have strong respect for Abra-Melin, Crowley and Spare, but all I really need myself, is some silence, and lots of solitude and the other world is with me.

Occultism as a whole category, or idea, is so wide, and multiple, that inside of it can be found some similarities to more defined traditions like Buddhism, especially when it comes to the idea of enlightenment, but I do not necessarily have any need to combine or compare Buddhism and occultism, and obviously there does not exist one particular way of occultism.

It is a concept describing several different ways to deal with knowledge which is either naturally hidden, because of its complicated and hard to reach quality, or intentionally hidden, by men, for whatever motives, like a hunger for might, or hope to protect people from dangerous things, often connected with occult arts.

Because occultism is so varied and large category, I am able to say that I am occultist. There is room for me. But when it comes to any of these strictly defined religions, even those to which I have these spiritual connections, I cannot belong to any of them.

Art, for me, is completely connected to the esoteric idea of the Holy Work. The way I work is spiritual work, and banishment of the demons, and concentration to the light and darkness. It is a process of purification and interaction with the substance of this whole Earth; its vibrations. There is a lot of magickal relevance to me in the inspiration I experience, and the purgatory I go through because of it, on daily basis.

 

– And what’s the meaning behind the cover artwork?

There are specific meanings for the presence of each element and detail that can be found in my works. I never do anything “just for the sake of it”. There is something behind every aspect, but instead of revealing the meanings the visual, compositional or textual elements have, for ME, I rather wish to raise questions in the minds of the audience. It is more relevant, and more effective too.

It is very important for our mental and spiritual progress, to have questions, and locked doors around us, but it is also important to find the answers, the keys to the locks. I want to inspire people to reach wonderful things through their own inner processes of finding these answers.

When there is a seed of a question planted inside the one who receives these works, the works themselves become deeply connected to the listener’ s inner world. When there is a question inside of you, the subject of the question is also inside of you.

We all have our own understanding for what the words and symbols mean. Basically we can NEVER really share these meanings, or be sure about what someone else means with some gesture or sentence. When we understand and accept this fact, the whole world around us, and the lives we are living, becomes inspiring and full of wonder. There is a myriad of worlds in our collective world, as many as there are people. Each of us carry a world of its own, inside our bodies and minds. I am not myself that interested to get too close to the most of them, but I still perceive their existence.

An idea of fundamental truth is always bound to each person’s own inner world, and should not be tried to force to the worlds of the other people. I only give questions. The answer is inside of you if you just let it enter your consciousness.

 

– You have played in several bands as REVEREND BIZARRE among others but, what does OPIUM WARLORDS provide you other bands couldn’t?

Each band I have played in has had its own soul. My work with these bands has also represented different sides of me.

There have been different limitations, based on genre or some other stylistic or spiritual definition, but with Opium Warlords I pour everything I have inside of me to these records. It does not have ANY boundaries. It represents everything I am.

In The Puritan and March 15 there were not much other aspects but cold and dark, almost emotionless world. With RB it was based on one particular genre, Doom Metal, but there was also certain warmth and joy in it. Armanenschaft and Azrael Rising were very aggressive and “mental” projects. The Candles Burning Blue was three different worlds connected together, to become one rather sophisticated entity.

Bands like The Puritan and RB were already mostly serving my musical visions, and I had very strict control over them, writing and arranging most of the material, but I still also paid some attention to what the other members felt and thought, and same time I also wanted to keep certain aspects of my life outside of them. With Opium Warlords I can go where ever I want, in very total and extreme form.

In some ways I continue from where my early band KLV ended, but with more serious tone. I have returned to purest possible form of musical work I have ever experienced. Because of this, it may at first appear difficult or demanding to listen to, but deep inside it can touch everybody!

 

– You have a new album coming out soon, your sophomore relese. This record is entitled «We Meditate under the Pussy in the Sky». What are your expectations on this opus? Anyway it seems like this project is just for yourself.

It is very personal, but quite contrary to this personal and private quality of it, I think it is for everyone! It goes so deep into psyche of my own, the very core which is quite same in each of us, that it becomes almost abstract, and because of this abstraction it is also open to whatever conclusion. It touches something that we all share, the most basic and archaic elements of humanity, and inhumanity.

I do not have ANY expectations. I am aware that most of the people won’t even give this record a chance, and that obviously makes me sad, but I do think that if this chance is given, quite many could find something interesting in this work.

I have prepared myself for quite cruel reviews and feedback, but same time I do hope that this record finds some friends, already because if no one will like it, it will be very hard for me to go on with the coming records. I do not have money to produce them on my own. I need the label behind me, and the label naturally needs audience for its releases.

 

– The album’s title has caught my attention. What’s the main idea behind it and behind the whole album?

There isn’t one particular main idea, but several different ideas and stimulations, but if I have to condense all of them to just one element, it would be to make the audience become awaken, mentally and spiritually – to not remain in a state of laziness and “sleep”. I want to wake up the listener and make her or him able to reach a new kind of awareness.

I guess this music hardly works when played in the background. It demands some concentration, and mind that is open, for everything really. Being aware, awake and open is the key to this work, but as I said I rather raise questions than give answers.

 

– I’ve read during these last years you’ve been through different experiences and had to struggle with different things. How have these experiences affected this new effort?

Very profoundly and thoroughly. This is a documentation of life that is constant struggle, full of violent, psychic and physical attacks, mental and bodily wounds, but also silence and positive, soothing inner void, which is essential and necessary to conquer all the problems and obstacles. I wish my life would change, but I do not think it will. Still I do what I can, to reach little bit closer to something else than this anxiety and restlessness.

The next album will be more merciful and calm, but it is just one work, and there will be some very disturbed works coming after that. But also many beautiful things!

To give a sonic, textual and visual form to the mental disturbance is one way to cope with it. I have to vomit some of the blackness out of my system, and hopefully by doing so I will also help some others, who have to wrestle with similar kind of demons.

 

– In fact on this new record we can find plenty different soundscapes and an overall agonic atmosphere. Maybe your thoughts and feelings have helped shaping them?

Yes, I believe that this is exactly how it has been. This record is a view to one possible world, but each listener can and should walk through this landscape according to her or his own experiences and inner guidance. Even when it is all based on my experiences, it is open for all the other experiences as well.

 

– Exploring this a bit further, would you mind to tell us how does the songwriting process use to be like in this project?

The way I work is quite similar in all the projects I have been involved in. I never just sit down and try to force something to be born. I could do it, but it would not be “real”. I wait until something comes to me.

Composing music is very natural process and I see myself more as a medium between two worlds, than conscious and intentional artist. I follow the vision I get. Usually I “hear” – actually it is not real hearing, but more like consciousness of the composition; I KNOW everything in a quite much finished form in my head, or it may also come through playing some instrument. Some chords or some half-accidental melody, or even just a rhythm brings the full composition, or elements of it to my mind.

After this starts the more conscious part of the process; putting everything together, arranging things and so on. This may last a long time, even several years, until everything is as it should be. It is like walking in the dark, trying to find by the touch the way out. I know when I am in the right destination; when I have reached the natural form of the sometimes quite blurred sonic vision I got, but sometimes during the journey itself I am lost for a while, not knowing where to go. Those are the periods of heavy depression and anxiety.

When I start recording, I already know exactly how the things have to be. There can be some white areas in the map, but all the basic structures and arrangements are already there. No room for messing around or jamming! To get the production how I want it, is hard and difficult work, basically impossible, but I usually come so close to what I was reaching for, that in most cases any outsider would not notice the things that keep bothering me, even if I would point them out. Writing and playing is much easier.

 

– Anyway «We Meditate under the Pussy in the Sky» it’s not all darkness, as it’s full of contrasts, providing almost opposite emotions. Could you say is a portrait of your inner self?

Yes. It is light and darkness I have to deal with, but as I have kept saying here, I truly believe it can also reflect light and darkness inside of you!

 

– OPIUM WARLORDS sounds really introvert and introspective, which I think are terms that can easily be associated with art but, what’s your music for you? A scape route? A way to channel your views? An artistic form?

It is something I have to do in order not to collapse completely. All this material inside of me, some pieces dating back as far as twenty years, are a heavy burden, and I really feel like being a slave of all this gargantuan amount of material. If I could not get any of this stuff out of me, I would break down mentally and physically, in a way from where there is no return.

Even now, my health always collapses somewhere during these processes, because of the ultimate stress and exhaustion when taking care of almost everything by myself, but so far I have been able to, at least partially, recover. At the moment I am once again in the middle of such recovery.

Both of these two Opium Warlords album sessions have ended up with me falling to physical seizures, kind of a heart conditions, and also mentally to the state of psychosis and paranoia and so on. It is a hard trip, bit like a shamanistic journey into the dimensions “above and below”, but if I would not keep doing it, I would not have ANY hope to someday find some kind of peace of mind.

It is not about my wish to express something or channel some thoughts and views, and interact with the world, but something I do not have any options for; it has to be done, no matter how deep it takes me to the darkness and pain.

My music is for me like walking straight to the fire!

 

– It seems to be quite introspective and, therefore, really personally, also it has a really singular sound so, does OPIUM WARLORDS have any limit?

No it does not, and because of this I can’t take anyone else there with me. There can be these other persons helping me out, but I can’t really take them into the nucleus of the whole thing. It would be very selfish and almost sadistic to force anyone to go there with me.

 

– Some time ago I read you stated with this project you «wanted to achieve peace of mind getting rid of the ideas you had inside since the 90’s». Could you say you are getting this already?

I have taken few steps towards it, but it will take at least ten more years, before I will feel really some kind of a freedom. It is a long road ahead of me.

 

– All this about «We Meditate under the Pussy in the Sky» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?

I probably could not describe it at all, but maybe “trip”, “through”, “purgatory” would come the closest.

 

– I’ve read you wrote material for 3 albums, the other two will come out next year. Could you already tell us something about them? And what about the fourth record? As I read you have started that one too, entitled «Droner».

Well, actually I recorded material for three 12” records, one being “Pussy”, and the remaining two are the coming “Taste My Sword of Understanding”, but I have also started the production of the fourth OW release, which is this “Droner”.

When it comes to WRITING, I have composed about twelve records worth of material which has not been recorded yet. Basically I have about 15 to 19 more releases already inside of me, but some of them are only on an idea level. Then again, most of them are completely ready to be recorded and released; full song lists, cover arts thought about, and all, only some lyrics missing. I want to have them “fresh”.

“Sword” will be maybe little bit easier to swallow for the listener, but how could I tell? Maybe it is harder than the two already released works. “Droner” then again goes to very minimal musical structures. It consists of two long tracks called “Year of 584 Days” and “Samael Lilith”. I feel that this work might find me some new audience, as it is very simple and clear body of work.

After “Droner” I will probably do one more single 12” LP and after that again a double LP, but this is all dependent on my health and other obligations.

 

– And will they come out via Svart Records? Which, by the way, this has been your first time working with this label. How is everything going with them so far?

Yes, they will, or at least they should come out through Svart Records, but this is not actually the first time I work with them. I have been close to them since the very beginning of the label, doing some little jobs and hanging around, and of course they have also released several of Reverend Bizarre vinyls, and will continue doing so. I have supervised each of those closely, also doing some additional graphic design and such.

Also, I have got one special 7” out via Svart, and my work with Spiritus Mortis will also be released by them, so I already knew how the things would be when Opium Warlords was signed to them. I know the guys quite well, and I feel I can trust them. I truly hope Opium Warlords can continue working with them, but it is of course based on will we find enough audience. At least they have done the best they could to spread the word.

 

– And finally, what are your near-future plans? I guess you may be working on the fourth album, as I said earlier, but do you also have plans with some of your other bands? I’ve also read you have turned down all requests for live shows. What’s the reason behind this?

To answer the last part of the question first; the reasons behind turning down, quite exiciting requests for live shows, are based on my fragile health, but also the fact that I would not have time to get a live act together anyway, and I do not have that much interest for that either. However, I would not be myself if I had not any plans at all, so yes, I have thought about few possible “shows”.

I have never really enjoyed playing live. It is not because it would be difficult or anything like that, but I just don’t care about being there in front of people, and because of my increasing troubles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it would be very hard, to cope with all the stress caused by worrying about the gear, and all the other technical things, and basically everything that could go wrong. It really would be unbearable for me, at least now. It is already demanding for me to handle with this little surrounding world here at home.

It is also actually bit dangerous for me to play live. I have ended up in very extreme mental states, even psychosis on stage twice. Each of these states cause some permanent changes to my brains, especially emotions, and I do not feel I have much left, so I have to be bit more careful now. Because of already this, I am retired from live performances

Now, the near-future plans: I appear on one artbook, along with two other artists. We should get it finished during the rest of this year, and the beginning of 2013. I also have few other graphic projects going on soon. Then there is that Azrael Rising album, and one compilation too, and in 2013 I will do one more album with Spiritus Mortis, and one EP/ compilation as well, but that will be actual much later, maybe in 2014.

I wish to get The Puritan’s album, which was started in 2006, and has been on a hiatus since 2008, finally finished and released somewhere in the future too. And yes, more Opium Warlords releases will hopefully be coming out too. I have also plans for one spoken word album, and enhanced version of the March 15 EP on 2014. Lots of things waiting to be done.

I might also appear as a vocalist in few other projects. But I try to learn to take things bit more easy now, because if I keep burning out like this, there is no way I can go on.

 

– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.

Thank you! This was an interesting interview. All I can say is that I hope people will check out my records and really give them some time to open up. That would make me very happy. All the best to you and all the readers!

 

Tania Giménez

tania@queensofsteel.com

 

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