– Hello and first of all, thanks for taking the time. How is everything going right now with SATURNALIA TEMPLE? What are you currently up to?
The autumn has arrived, and we have done some really intense festivals during the summer, the Sonnenwende in Abtenau, Navajo Calling in Parma, Metal Magic, Geggan and Chaos Descends. We only have one more gig left really, this weekend in London at the Boston Music Rooms with Cult of Fire, before it is time to take a step into the shadows again for some creative contemplation.
– You released your sophomore album a while ago, so, how does it feel now that everything is done?
It feels very focused and inspiring. The process leading up to To The Other was very different from the other recordings. This time, it was even more introverted and void-like than ever before. I practically had no idea whatsoever how this album would sound. I only knew, and felt, that it would be the most powerful and intense composition and production that I have ever done. And when I opened the gate and allowed the creativity to flow, it appeared in this form.
– When I reviewed the album I started my review saying someting like «not happy with having released with THE TOWER’s debut album «Hic Abundant Leones» one of the best, if not the best, album of 2014, Tommie is now releasing with SATURNALIA TEMPLE an album that will make it to a lot of «best of the year» lists in 2015 but, what are your thoguhts on the final outcome of «To the Other»?
The album became just like I wanted it to be.
– Digging into this new «To the Other», as everything else in SATURNALIA TEMPLE, the album’s title is really inspiring and, as your lyrics, open to different interpretations. What does the title of the album refer to?
The concept of the Other is a very interesting one from many perspectives. To me, the weight is on the concept of The Other within spiritual, magical and psychological structures. But what is beautiful with this concept is that all the interepretations, be they philosophical (Hüsserl, Hegel etc) or post-colonial or other, it still carries a similar meaning, within each specific discourse. The Other is hence, that which is not the given norm. It is what is outside, rejected, a minority. As night compared to day, death compared to life. It is the shadow. The Qliphoth in the Qabalah. It is darkness compared to light.
– In fact I think everything in SATURNALIA TEMPLE work as a whole; lyrics, titles, artwork, music… Is this sense of wholeness your vision of your music?
I am interested in many aspects of expression. All that is Saturnalia Temple will be coloured by the same brush, but that does not mean I have to do it all myself. I am glad to hear you find it consistent and coherent.
– The cover artwork was crafted by Manuel Tinnemans. How was the process like? Is his idea or did he follow some guidelines? This time, as with your previous record, the cover fits the music perfectly.
When I work with artists, I always have some kind of idea what I want. But often, I prefer to, beyond my first vision, give free hands to the artist. And since we only work with artists that I really respect, the art often surpasses even my wildest expectations. With Manuel, there has been some really interesting results, it is always a very exhilarating experience to see what he has done from my basic ideas. Both times, I was swept off my feet.
– The first song that was released is the opening track, «Zazel Sorath», two terms associated to Saturn, as well as the band’s name. I think it fits perfectly as opener, since it also contains different music elements we can find throughout the whole album. Do you think this song can serve as some kind of introduction of the band and of this album?
– It also caught my attention songs like «March of Gha’agsheblah», with eastern elements, something you have done previously even though without western instrumentation. In non-musical terms you also seem to be inspired by the eastern philosphy and culture, am I wrong?
I am very inspired by the great Asian traditions and systems. I studied history of religion with focus on Tantrism, and I also studied a year of Indology and Sanskrit at the University of Stockholm, as well as several special courses on South Asia, Central Asia etc. I think you mean the solo here. That was not consciously, since when I improvise (all solos are improvised and never the same twice) I just stop thinking and allow the spiritual immanence to take over, so it is not to try any effect….it just happened.
– Musically here we can find Metal, Rock, Blues, I would even dare say some Jazz vibe in some structures. What different kinds of music do you take inspiration from (maybe not in a really conscious way)?
Musically, I was inspired a long time ago. Growing up with all kinds of great music probably shaped my outlook on songs and production. Also with composing songs, I don’t think at all, I just play until it feels right, and then I have a song. I am more inspired by the spirit and soul in bands and artists than what they are actually doing in composition and production. I mean I have been hugely inspired by Killing Joke, Allman Brothers Band, Rory Gallagher, Black Oak Arkansas and much more. But you don’t really hear that do you? I mean, To The Other has more to do with what I personally have gone through, and my own inner experiences than any other person or band. And I am glad to know that it is so. It means that no matter if this album is any good musically, it is at least a true creation of my spirit and soul, and at least gave me a very fruitful outlet and process to live through. And that is enough for me.
– Then the closing track, «Void», feels to me like a way of creating or closing a circle, as I think it can take us back to your debut album, specially to the title track, «Aion of Drakon». Even though, naturally, there are differences between your two albums, there are somehow links to the past. I guess this is just a natural evolution?
I prefer to view time cyclically, so perhaps it is an ode to that?
– In fact overall it feels like the most important in your music are the vibes, the energies it channels. It seems like you don’t allow any rationality interfere with your creativity and just let go. There’s no thoughts, just feelings, and I think this way you manage to create a certain trance inducing feeling. Is this kind of feeling someting you want your music to convey?
You are right of course. I would say that is a feeling that I am attracted to in art and music. And that is what we want to experience. And to do that we must play it. And by doing that, and allowing others to take part. We convey it. And we want that.
– «To the Other» it also feels like a (dark) trip where we can experience different emotions. What emotions do you think you are channeling or expressing on the album?
Personal experiences. That are elevated to a cosmical level where they can through music become universal and thus also become relevant to other individuals.
– The atmospheres are really powerful. You don’t use any effects, just some delay I think, but your playing style and your way of recording does for a kind of effects sound. This I think is a trademark of the band. Do you consciously approach your playing in a certain way or just let everything flow?
Yes, you are right. Although quite a few people have assumed that we use alot of effects, even synthesizers according to some, we use very little. I have a fuzz/wah pedal and some delay, for the new album also an octave effect for Snow of Reason, but that’s it. I prefer to have delay on the vocals, but nothing else. I think we have a very special, quirky way of playing our music, that makes it seem strange or “effected”, actually that is quite a compliment haha. I mean, just playing it like some robot, or polishing it in a computed is laughable to us. Character is all. Perfection is imperfection.
– Comparing «To the Other» to «Aion of Drakon» I think this new opus is darker/heavier, even less melodic maybe and even more hypnotic. The hypnotic element I think is something that has always defined the band. What do you think is the key to create this overall hypnotic sounds and ambiences?
I agree that TTO became a lot harsher and darker. Those where the energies that flowed this time. We never thought: Aha! Lets play hypnotic. It just came naturally. I mean, if you refrain from seeing music as entertainment, or creating it to please others/sell records/fit in a genre etc – the entire process has more to do with what feels good to you. If I like a sound or tonal structure, I want keep playing it. So that’s what we are doing. Some songs, we experimented with have several ideas in one song, and that can be good sometimes. But I feel pretty certain that we’re not gonna do much of that again. I feel that one idea per song is the ultimate.
– In fact you have recorded and produced the album by yourself at your own studios, Sitra Ahra, in the forests outside Uppsala. I guess that special environment, in solitude and in contact with nature may also be inspiring? What kind of effect does this have on the recording and production?
I much prefer to work and record in my own atmosphere, in my own energies. It limits the input of unwanted influences, it adds focus. It is also easier to keep ones unique sound and spiritual vibration if you control the room where recording takes place, rather than step into a “professional” environment where band after band comes after each other. I am not against public studios at all, but for Saturnalia Temple, Sitra Ahra Studio fits best.
– I know you don’t like to talk or reveal abou your lyrics, but I can help asking a couple of things about this subject. I feel like your lyrics get less direct with the years, we could even say they are open to interpretation. Is something you look for to let each listener make their own perceptions?
What I write is digested lyricism based on long time spiritual experiences. It takes time to be able to go through initiatory processes and then be able to express it in a lyrical manner. I mean, I don’t understand the purpose of lyrics that are mainly repeating what has been written in books about esotericism, perhaps it is a need to show that: “Hey I can read magical books.” I do not feel the need to express that.
– All of them have esoteric references and inspirations, so those who aren’t initiates would get a different meaning, but maybe they won’t get what you are actually saying. Do you mind about this? This way I guess some people would take your music as entertainment and will get just a part of what SATURNALIA TEMPLE really is.
I don’t mind at all that people will have different interpretations of my lyrics. On the opposite, that can be quite interesting. I mean, as soon as I write a lyric and someone else is allowed to read it, I have released it into the world and can no longer control where it goes, or what anyone thinks about it. That is the beauty with lyrics.
– For instance, and forgive me if I’m wrong, in this album there’s a lot of Left Hand Path and of the Qliphotic Qabalah. Are these the currents or systems you have worked most with?
You are right. And yes, one of them.
– All this about «To the Other»; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
To The Other.
– One of your first releases was the 4-way split «On the Powers of the Sphinx», based on the series by Eliphas Lévi. A really singular idea for a Metal release I think, and a really interesting concept. Who’s idea was to do that split?
It was Tyler from Ajna Offensive who came up with the idea and invited us. I really love the fact when a release like that is so genuine and comes from a place of spirit and soul. Rare.
– Have you ever thought about doing again something like that? In fact you had the band SHADOWSEEDS, purely and strictly dealing with magic and based on certain workings. Is this band defunct now?
I have not done anything with Shadowseeds for more than 10 years, it may be 10 years before we do anything again with it. And to me ST deals purely with magic and workings, just that I keep the workings to myself.
– You are also a writer of occult and occult fiction. How much of this facet do you bring to your music?
Not much consciously. But perhaps I have gotten better at expressing myself, and keeping it simple by all the writing I have done.
– And you also have your solo experimental project LAPIS NIGER. Would you mind to tell a little bit what’s your activity with this project right now?
Lapis Niger did a performance at Sonnenwende in the alps, and more is planned. I am also planning to release a new record. The new material will of course be different. But the vibrations and mystical atmosphere will be the same.
– But you also have your own label and publishing house, called Lapis Niger Productions. Could you please elaborate a little bit on what are some of the releases you are doing?
Well, I hoped to have some time to sell shirts and perhaps repress the Melek Taus album. But I was wrong. I have been so incredibly busy the last years, so I had to remove the articles from the webstore. I will bring the shirts for the gigs with Lapis Niger. I may still repress the album, possibly on vinyl, but time shall tell.
– As I said earlier SATURNALIA TEMPLE is a band dealing mostly with magical concepts, and these days, where a lot of bands deal with occult themes (I won’t talk about if they’re true to it or not), it has always felt shocking to me that a lot of bands practise meditation or rituals live, even in their promo pictures, as well as setting their altars in front of the audience. Magical workings and even altars have always felt like something really personal to me, probably you could even loose the focus so it could deminish the effect of the working. Do you have any thoughts on this? Is it more imagery than anything maybe? Or certain music also serves as a way to connect with certain energies and empower your rituals?
I don’t really know, or care, what others do in this regard. I agree that there has been a formidable explosion in occult bands the last years, compared to when we started. I don’t really mind it. And as I have said before, fake or not, what you play may become real. And the opposite. A real practitioner who takes his magical work out on the worlds stages unprepared, may find himself caught in the act suddenly. It is not easy to do real rituals live, like you say. But it is of course possible. Also, some magical traditions embrace the ecstatic and include intoxicated states, while others do not. And some types of rituals is best done alone, while others can be done in large groups.
– And finally, what are your near-future plans?
We are just about to begin work on a second video from TTO. We are also planning a short european tour in late February. If you want to book us, feel free to contact us via our webpage or on facebook.
– 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 for a very well planned, well written and interesting interview!