Totenlieder was born in September 2oo3, out of the ashes of Sorgeist, which was basically my first musical experience in the neo-classical scene. I started this project in August 2ooo, influenced (at the time) by the usual bands to be cited as influences, being mainly the "famous three": Death in June, Sol Invictus & Current 93. Prior to this, I had been involved in the black metal (BM) scene for a few years, but in 2ooo, my interest in metal decreased a lot, as I grew weary of the genre that was ending up in of all the bands cloning another one. Considering that BM was my predominant musical background, the early music was tainted by the imagery and song structure of BM. The day I decided to start my own band, I decided to record a demo. Of course, my knowledge of recording methods was really lacking, and the whole thing ended up in a sloppy self-released demo-tape, under the name of Howitzer, entitled "The Thundering Echoes of Offensive Artillery" (it is said on the tape that it is limited to 30 copies, but in fact, only 5 copies were made because I bored myself after having dubbed these copies).
I afterwards changed the name to Sorgeist because I wanted to get rid of the war aspect of the project in order to concentrate more on music, which at the time slipped from noisy folk to neo-classical / ambient music. Under the name of Sorgeist will have been released two things, namely the 7 inches "Les Roses du Matin" and the debut CD "Détruisez ce qu'ils ont construit, ramenez ce qu'ils ont tué" that should be released very soon.
Throughout the years, I've been working alone on Sorgeist / Totenlieder, by choice and by lack of resources... Here, where I live, competent musicians that share my musical tastes aren't very common, and because of the fact that I've been working alone for three years, I've come to the point that I enjoy the comfort of doing everything from A to Z in the band and working directly with someone else would disrupt my homeostasy.
What made you choose this name?
Totenlieder is a German word that means "Dead Man's Songs", which is what I perceive from the perspective I hold of my own music.
The reason why I chose the German version of the word is because it fits in one word instead of three in English and French.
Until recently, your project was known as Sorgeist. Is there a special reason for this change of name?
Of course there is a reason for the change of name! See, I recorded some things I don't like with Sorgeist, I followed
some directions that I now realise I don't and didn't really like. I just did because the tracks ended up being recorded
quickly, but in the end, now that I think about it, they lack structure and refinement. A few weeks ago, I sat down and
thought about all that has been recorded under the name of Sorgeist and realised that many of the stuff actually sucks.
Of course, all that will ever be heard from Sorgeist will be the 7 inches and the CD, but I have around 5 more full CDs
that were written over the past two years and that I decided to delete because they weren't coherent one with another.
I mean, one could be harsh power electronics while the other album would be neo-classical and another would be darkwave...
Since I have varied tastes, I had tried to do out of Sorgeist something very diverse, but ended up blurring its identity.
I know that nowadays it's a trend to say that "I don't want to label my band with to any genre, my band stands out for
itself and needs not to be labelled", but I think that this is false. Occidental music is made out of 8 notes plus the
flats and the sharps, it's surprising that there are that many genres of music existing, but one way or another, there
has to be similarities with one band to existing music genres! Following that line of thought, the best way to dissociate
myself from my own divergences was to bury Sorgeist, take everything coherent that I had recorded and blend it in a new
project, which is Totenlieder.
The radical change of style really is in fact just me narrowing down of all the styles I touched to during the past 3 years. I did consider having a few different projects, but in the end, I want to concentrate on what I like doing the most, and it is crafting music out of my guitars and violin. I have no interest whatsoever anymore in recording blatant electronic music, and since my writing pattern for Totenlieder is very unique, if I had different projects in which I'd be the leader, it would all end up sounding the same. Anyway, Totenlieder keeps my very occupied nowadays, I wouldn't have the time to deal with another project!
As Sorgeist, you released a 7" on HauRuck!. Are there any releases planned for Totenlieder ?
There is one last release that is expected from Sorgeist, and it should've been out on HauRuck! in March, but due to some delays, it's still not out.
Whereas Sorgeist seemed latent in releases, Totenlieder will be rather productive (at least, in the next few months!). I have spent practically all year long up until two weeks ago in studio, perfecting my recording techniques and in the midst of it, enough tracks to build several releases were recorded. Namely, there is the first CD under the name of Totenlieder, "Souvenirs des temps de jadis" that should be released by the end of the year via a new promising label from Germany (the label was originally was named Agalasta but the name is being re-shaped at this time). At the same time, on Sweet Farewell (my own label), there is one 7 inches planned with Reutoff for the end of the year, as well as a split CD & 10 inches vinyl (to be issued by Old Europa Cafe) with Ô Paradis, due out in Spring of 2oo4.
Basically, that sums it up for what is recorded for release. Of course, there are the compilation appearances that are scheduled, but album-wise, that is what is planned. I'm starting to work on a new album right now, which will be really calm and introspective.
Sorgeist's music was more in melancholic neoclassical vein. What kind of music can we expect to hear from Totenlieder ?
I've practically eliminated all the neo-classical stuff from my recordings... What is to be expected is simply neo-folk
with a weird touch, but at the same time with a lot of emotions that carry visions of sadness and nostalgia.
There was only one gig, in December 2oo2, which took place with Instincts. I did enjoy very much playing live, and the response was really great, but I believe that for the moment, until I can get a firm line-up for live action, there won't be any shows.
What can one expect from a Totenlieder performance? Is there a chance of seeing you on stage in Europe one day?
I do hope to one day be able to perform in Europe, but finding reliable people in my town that share the same passion for the same musical tastes I have seems like a hopeless dream. There are some people who do appreciate neo-folk, but none of them are musicians, so I'm pretty helpless...
On your website, you announce several split releases with Reutoff and Ô Paradis. Can you tell us a bit more about these future collaborations?
The split with Reutoff is becoming more concrete day by day. I've just received Reutoff's track, and it is really great. Since it is one of the last steps before the master leaves for the pressing plant, we can practically consider this as done.
As you mentioned split with Ô Paradis that is planned, and for this one I am really ecstatic. I recorded the whole thing this summer, and I really surprised myself with the tracks that were recorded... It's very eclectic and very moving, at least in my opinion! I can't wait to hear Demian's part... He is truly a great musician and singer. My vision is that Ô Paradis will be something very influential in the future.
Are there any other artists with who you will or would like to collaborate?
I didn't ask myself that question until you asked it, so I'll say the first one that came in mind : Novy Svet.
These records will be released on your own label, Sweet Farewell. What motivated this choice to set up your own structure?
Sweet Farewell is a label that was started in early 2oo3, along with my spouse with the intent to release music that
is to our liking. For the moment, we concentrate on neo / dark - folkish bands, because that is what we like best, and
honestly, we feel very comfortable within this wonderful realm. At the same time as signing some artists, we thought
it would be a good idea to release some of my own recordings. After all, it's great to release your own stuff... You
decide who will be distributing it, who will be reviewing it. Since I know my priorities, I can do what's in my best
interest! Also, this way, if there are some delays with my own albums, there are only two persons to blame!
Actually, it just happens that the Tribute is released first, but originally, the split with Reutoff was planned first, it's just that the Tribute was put together quicker than the 7 inches (keep in mind Reutoff are very solicited, therefore very busy!) The reason why we chose to release an album in tribute to Current 93 is that, basically, we saw that there had been one for Death In June, there had been one for Sol Invictus, but no one seemed to be going to do one for Current 93. I was myself expecting one to be crafted somewhere but as I tried to look around to see if something was coming, I noticed that in fact nothing was coming! It was hard for me to conceive that DIJ and Sol would have a Tribute, but not C.93, especially since I feel more attached to C.93 than DIJ or Sol... I felt like it was the time that something was made to acknowledge Mr. Tibet's works.
Amongst the artists featuring on this tribute, there are some familiar names as well as quite a few unknown projects. How did you chose the participants ?
There were two phases in order to gather participants. First, we made up a list of who we thought would be the most interesting bands to figure on the Tribute. We contacted them and waited for an answer. A few of them never answered, a few of them didn't have enough time or interest and a few of them agreed to participate and submit a track.
Then, there was the second phase, where we advertised the making of the Tribute and it was bands who saw that the Tribute was being realised, so they contacted us because they were interested in participating.
Were you not submerged by applicants ? I imagine there must have been some difficult choices to make amongst all the songs submitted. What guided your choice for the definitive tracklist ?
Yes, indeed, we received a lot of submissions! We did have a hard time choosing which tracks would not make it to the final cut. The choice was guided by the artistic display of the bands. Identical reproductions are not interesting, espescially when we talk about C.93 being covered! We went more for cover where we could recognise the covering band. Basically, we wanted to hear how bands can turn a C.93 track into theirs. Of course, some bands did a really nice job, but we had not enough time on a cd to put them all, so afterwards, personal choice kicked in I guess!
I've noticed that neither of your projects feature on this tribute. Is there a particular reason for this ?
Nasty question! But I'll give you the honest truth! The simple reason is that Helene (my spouse) did not like the track enough to include it on the Tribute, but after a while, she gave in. See, we are two to run the label, so we both had to agree on the tracks... But, since I really wanted Pancreatic Aardvark's track on the Tribute and she didn't, I traded my own track versus theirs (which is in my opinion amongst the top 3 on this tribute CD). The track that I had recorded was Anti-Christ & BarCodes in a totally different way, but I guess it will be never heard!!!
Tribute albums are usually associated with 'dead' artists/bands. Don't you think you are burying David Tibet a bit too early ?
Was DIJ buried when "Heilige Tod!" was released? Was Sol buried when "Sol Veritas Lux" was released? I don't really think so. The albums that DIJ have issued afterwards were pretty strong (aside from All Pigs Must Die), as well as Sol Invictus' albums... Acknowledging the works of influential artists is not qualifying them as dead, it's just a way for the bands to say: "We recognise the fact that you have been a great influence to us, here is how you did influence us". It has nothing to do with burying him! In fact, I think that the past few C.93 albums have been pretty strong, in spite of the fact that they are getting more and more minimalist. C.93 has a lot of good years to come!
And what was David Tibet's reaction to this tribute ?
Originally, Mr. Tibet was reluctant when I asked him what his thoughts were regarding this, because he felt that most
Tributes end up being a waste and that the bands who would end up covering his tracks should concentrate on their own
projects. All I did was point out to him that it was a way for the bands to thank C.93 for the way the band has touched
them, influenced them. After all, Mr. Tibet himself has recorded many cover tracks in his career...
All in all, we've been in contact for a few months, and in the end he even contributed to the Tribute by providing us with a painting from Louis Wain, so I guess that in spite of his apprehensions, he still must be curious to hear it!
We are currently in discussion with a few artists for future releases, and we can't really divulge them at this time. One that can be revealed though is the 2nd album from the Flemish band Weihan (whose 1rst CD 'Galder' will be soon released on Cynfeirdd) that should be released around Summer of 2oo3.
Recently there has been an emergence of interesting new projects from Canada. Would you like to present the burgeoning Canadian 'scene' ?
Honestly, I don't really regard Canada as a prolific scene. There is Frederic Arbour of Instincts, which I consider a dedicated artist to the ambient / folkish scene, but aside from that, if there are some other bands, they are pretty low-profile. I mean, there are some projects like Iszoloscope that were featured on Ant-Zen, but I don't feel attached to the scene they belong to at all... Of course, we can't pass by Godspeed you black emperor! which used to be an interesting band, but now it is falling, because most of the members of GYBE! are all working on other projects, which just basically copy GYBE! since that's all they can do. So we end up having 1o musicians from GYBE! all cloning themselves because they had one successful band.
I've noticed that in Canada, this particular musical scene seems to turn around two musical projects/labels run by Francophones. Is this just a coincidence, or is there a particular attraction to this music in 'La Belle Province' ?
It might be coincidental or not... My thoughts are that it is part coincidence, part historical pre-disposition. The coincidental part can be left out, but what I mean by historical is that neo-folk usually deals with European Heritage. French-Canadians are closer to their European roots than Canadians themselves who only feel attached to U.K., which is in my opinion, a bit aside of Europe. Therefore, English-speaking Canadians might feel less appealed by the European flavour, which neo-folk offers and that explains why French speakers from Canada are prominent in the scene.
At the same time, Sweet Farewell and Cyclic Law are very different one another. For some weird reason, ambient / darkwave
has been strongly tied with the folkish scene while they basically have no obvious reason to be connected. Sweet Farewell
deals only with folk music whereas Cyclic Law seems to be more taken by the ambient scene, which is good in a way because
it completes itself. Honestly, I hope there won't be a big uprise of labels in Quebec, because that's what killed the black
metal scene we used to have here. After the first label was born, quickly a few other ones emerged and they all ended up
competing against one another... I don't wish to witness this anymore!!
Yes indeed! See, it's kind of ironic, in a twisted way... Early colonial reports from English observants targeted
Quebeckers as people who would be quickly be assimilated, only in a few years: Durham wrote this in 1839, and we are
still there! Almost 2oo years later, it seems like this identity of ours, that originally was supposed to be suppressed,
is turning out to be one of our best ways to resist a cultural invasion. I think that as a society, Quebec has really
strong feelings against the U.S. and overall tries its best to resist the cultural invasion of the U.S.
But there have been some breaches: the Hollywoodian ideal is what a lot of kids try to achieve, Hip-Hop is way too popular, the youth is appealed by the trends from South... What saddens me is that it really is the youth who will cause the downfall of it all and allow the expansion of the U.S. I mean, we won't be able to resist forever...
What draws you to European culture and traditions? And, as an 'outsider', what is your vision of Europe ?
The biggest appeal to me is the Pagan aspect of it all, and in a way, I don't feel like an outsider that much... The way of life of any Quebecker is more akin to the way Occidental Europeans live than the way Americans live. The Anti-American feelings are really strong here, even though I'm really close to the border. Being strongly atheistic, I am very drawn towards the pre-christian version of Europe and am very interested and intrigued by its Pagan-era.
A last question: what albums are you listening to at the moment and what are you reading ?
Here are the albums that I've listened to the most in the past month:
1. Novy Svet - Cuori di Petrolio
2. Kraftwerk - Tour de France
3. Current 93 - Imperium
4. Samael - Ceremony of Opposites
5. Der Blutharsch - The Track of the Hunted
Currently, I'm not reading anything, but here's what I read in the past two weeks:
England's Hidden Reverse - David Keenan
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bible: The Devil's Book - Jos Rogiers
The last words are for you... Is there anything you would like to add ?
Thanks a lot for your interest in my activities. It has been really appreciated! Anyone interested in my activities can visit Sweet Farewell's site at www.sweetfarewell.cjb.net and Totenlieder's at totenlieder.cjb.net.