1. Hi HELSOTT! Here we go with the serious conversation. When did you start writing/producing music – and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started writing drum parts and lyrics when I was 16 years old. Iron Maiden, Pantera, White Zombie, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Amon Amarth, Suicidal Tendencies…etc
2. What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Slaves and Gods album, Woven album, Honour Thy Valkyrie the song, touring Paganfest, and Touring Europe for the first time.
3. What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
Time and Money.
4. What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Lyrics or a melody.
5. How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Pretty strictly, especially since we started using backing tracks instead of a live keyboard player. There is always room to improvise and spice up a section live as long as we stay within the key and close to the grid.
6. How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
A 3 way marriage. You need all three to make a good song.
7. Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
I have given up on that concept. When someone understands the process behind making good music it is refreshing and usually fun to interact with them and get their opinions. But mostly, people just like what they like. They usually don’t break it down or deduce anything. If it has a good beat and their friends like it then it’s all gravy. The other side of that is a good gimmick. If it looks cool then it doesn’t really matter what the music sounds like. It’s all gravy.
8. In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
I think cultural differences play a big part in the sound or flavor of a group.
9. The relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly – has become increasingly important. How do you see this relationship yourself and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
Music is the soundtrack to life. You can and should apply music to any activity to see how it enhances it. I am a huge John Williams fan and a fan of movie soundtracks in general. To me a good soundtrack can make or break a movie.
10. There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
I always stand on the side of art and physical presentation. Unfortunately it has become cost efficient to go digital and with no money in the underground metal scene to be had, it is a understandable option.
11. What changes would you like to see to the music industry to allow you to make a living from your music?
That is the million dollar question. If I knew the answer to that I would have more albums and tours under my belt by now. I think we as a metal community need to come to terms with the sad reality of the situation and grow together from it. By that I mean that I would like to see more people at shows. I would like to see less keyboard warriors. I feel like the music industry has failed us and technology has failed us and trapped the music scene into utter complacency. It is our job to understand this and pull ourselves out. I would like to see more local bands selling tickets and doing the work that it takes to get their local scene thriving. You get the same few bands that will sell tickets and then those are the only bands you see at the bigger shows. While the same few bands that bitch about “pay to play” set up in the real dive bars that no one even knows about. This doesn’t do anything for the scene. A promoter and venue put their neck on the lines to pay for a touring package(The real bands you want to see) to come through your town. If the local bands and keyboard warriors are too jaded to go out and support the show then the show flops. The promoter loses money, the venue loses money, and you bet your ass the touring band wont be thrilled about returning to your city. If we put real value back into the live experience of an underground metal show then we can afford to keep producing music that gets stolen. This is a generalization as I know there are several cities that have good scenes going on. But I think we can stop pointing the finger at the “industry”. We all get it by now… Let’s do what we can do to stick together for these bands and help them to stay motivated to keep making music under these circumstances.
12. The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I am lucky enough not to think about any of that while I write. I clear my head and write what I want when I want and whatever is going on politically, socially or otherwise does not effect how I write.
13. Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What’s your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?
Monetarily new music has very little value. Music is life and as the population grows so will people who create music. I don’t think the abundance of music devalues anything. The ease of access to free music devalues it in a way.
14. How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
Less greed in the industry.
15. Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
Depends on the song. A song can do so many things. You could be as boring to watch as Opeth but write amazing music like Opeth does and grasp an audience. On the flip side of that you could write the worst songs and have a great gimmick or just a ton of energy on the stage and grasp an audience. I believe in interacting with the crowd but if you are focused on an instrument and a mic then it can be very difficult to try to interact with anyone. This is the power of having a front man. Someone who’s job is to interact with the audience and just sing their asses off. If the crowd is into the performance it will make the musicians job a lot easier.
16. Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What’s your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
Having a good PR campaign is important if your goal is to reach a greater audience than your local scene. A local unsigned band can pay for a good PR campaign and then all of the sudden look like they are a bigger band to those who don’t know how the system works.
17. Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
I’ll give you 3… Malphas from Philly, Dark Visions of Terror from California, and Sicocis from Las Vegas.
18. Thank you for your time!
Thank you for your attention to Helsott!