“Extreme metal is such a new form of music and already it is being pinned down and limited in its scope. I feel that it makes a fine platform for experimentation and with the right attention, may host a variety of sonic dimensions.”
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Vorskaath. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. I hope this finds you well. Nykta is a fantastic album and is in my top 5 of the year (Ed: here’s the review).
Vorskaath: Hi Jason. Doing very well thank you. Thanks for your kind words and review. I am glad that Nykta has communicated something to you in some way.
Jason: To begin, can you tell us what it was that you wanted to achieve with Nykta?
Vorskaath: Something different from what is currently out there. I wanted to fuse elements of other music styles (progressive rock, jazz/rock and electronic soundscapes) into extreme metal to form a new hybrid. Not a disparate collage of sounds but something that is seamless and may stand on its own merits despite being conceived as a hybrid.
Extreme metal is such a new form of music and already it is being pinned down and limited in its scope. I feel that it makes a fine platform for experimentation and with the right attention, may host a variety of sonic dimensions.
Jason: With two EPs in between, Nykta is your first full length release since 2006’s In Monumentum. How long have you been working on Nykta?
Vorskaath: I begun the actual recording in earnest in late 2010 and finished in late 2012 with added last-minute touches early in 2013. Unfortunately, I had to change studio locations and set everything up again 5 times during this period and as one can imagine, such a massive process took a lot of time and some of the steam out of the momentum.
However, I have never been one to concern myself with releasing music regularly to keep others happy. When I have something to say I do; when I do not, I remain silent.
Jason: How did you approach composition for the album? Did you start with an idea or a concept, or ideas for riffs or tracks? How did it develop since writing began?
Vorskaath: The music for Nykta has been written over a very long period of time and I have used a variety of formulae to approach composition. In earlier days I would compile guitar riffs as a starting point that would remain relatively rigid, on top of which I would add all other instruments. By the time I begun recording, I had created my own studio with a variety of instruments and options and the recording process itself became an integral part of the composition. This affected the existing material and created new modi operandi. I would record an idea on any instrument and improvise with all other instruments around it, until I came across interesting paths and themes. Other times, a single part would fuel the arrangement of an entire section.
For example, parts ii, iii and iv of ‘Pharos’ developed entirely as a result of something that came to me in a dream. I woke up in the middle of the night, went into the studio, recorded the part and from the following day had a completely new direction, form and atmosphere to what was previously there.
Jason: Why did you choose to return to the tracks ‘Eclipse, ‘In The Arms of Hades’, and ‘Breath of Pestilence’? Are there any significant changes that you made to them?
Vorskaath: Okay, ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Breath of the Pestilence’ were featured in Necrolatry in 1997. What some people forget is that Necrolatry was nothing more than a rehearsal of Nykta material, that was recorded on a 4-track machine. Since Necrolatry, for good or bad, was so widely circulated, I could not re-record all the tracks and present them as Nykta, so I kept those two and reworked the final song list to replace older material.
All songs have been reworked. As well as new arrangements in the middle of the song (synths, soli, new bass lines), ‘Eclipse’ has a completely new closing section which adds to the introspective directive that is suggested lyrically.
‘Breath of the Pestilence’ has acquired a blues shuffle part and various new instrumental passages and new ideas whilst ‘In the Arms of Hades’ has benefited from a whole new section titled: “Forever Toward the Light” as well as new vocal lines, bass parts and drum parts.
Jason: Does Nykta mark a progression for Zemial? How does it compare to your previous releases?
Vorskaath: Very much so, however each listener will determine that for themselves by examining them.
Jason: Does the album title have any significance in relation to the music?
Vorskaath: Absolutely. Nykta is Greek for “night” (same Indo-European root) and all pieces are connected to this one central theme and symbol.
Jason: What inspires you to write? Is it different for the lyrics and the music? Do you have a different approach to both?
Vorskaath: When Inspiration comes She is all-encompassing. I focus most of my time channelling It for creating music and tend to write lyrics after the music is done, though I do take personal notes for lyrics all the time. I am very much inspired by colours of nature and most of my creative time is in autumn and winter. The grey sea and mountains on a rainy day are huge sources of inspiration, particularly at times of dusk. Add to above various reading materials, personal experiences and music I listen to and you get close to the concoction.
Jason: Does composing by yourself provide any challenge? How do you push yourself to be creative and keep it fresh and inspiring?
Vorskaath: Yes it does. The hardest part in working alone is the lack of a second opinion on things. You have no feedback. There are times of uncertainty where another person could help you get over an obstacle by approaching it another way, or give you a needed confirmation that what you are doing is right. I have none of that until the music is already done. It is all my decisions for better or worse.
Through that, one garners a strong belief in one’s self and one’s choices which is very positive. In addition, through such isolation, what I produce remains consistently outside of and uninfluenced by current trends. I value that a lot.
I don’t really push myself to be creative. I think that wouldn’t work. There are three main steps I primarily use to channel creativity and keep things fresh and inspiring as you say. First, I remain open to external inspiration. When it arrives in the form of a nice day or evening for example, I ensure that I am surrounded by the tools that I use to create with – my studio. Then, through exposition to various musical vocabularies, I tend to let things flow.
Jason: You started out on guitar but your forte is drums and percussion. Does your drumming inform your guitar, bass and keyboard work, or vice versa?
Vorskaath: Actually, all instruments I play influence each other. A good percussion theme will fuel bass lines and guitar lines, or interesting vocal rhythms. A guitar line with the right effect will provide the setting as will the synthesizer. I will build on top of that and support it accordingly with drums and bass. In Nykta I felt it was time to push the drums forward to the leading role, as I have traditionally left them behind in Zemial but otherwise, I try to write parts to reflect a balanced composition to the best of my playing abilities.
Jason: As a one-man band, there must be countless challenges that you face working by yourself. How do you stay on top of it all?
Vorskaath: I deeply love what I do – that is how.
Though it means that I spend a lot of time alone, I would not change it in this life. Being alone with inspiration as my only guest is divinity in itself; touching that is enough to fuel me ever onwards. There are massive challenges, particularly for Nykta, which was very ambitious in terms of production. I did all the engineering and production on my own and aside from the very practical difficulty of running back and forth between takes, I had to play several roles all at once and learn new tricks along the way. Not to mention having to sharpen all my performance skills (you can clearly hear they are far from perfect) and manage to improvise on a new level as set by Nykta. There were times when summoning the spirit to keep going was hard faced with all this alone.
But that is a musician’s journey; always a challenge, always something asking you to break your limits and become different and better to who you were before. Something to challenge who you are and what you know. I like it that way and plan to stay on that small edge of music, where fewer people go and where sales and fame mean nothing.
Jason: You’ve been making music under the Zemial name since 1989. For you, how has the band developed in that time?
Vorskaath: One could well say that this “band” today is another band altogether. Of course, what has actually happened is that a large chunk of life has gone through my sense in that time. My music changes as I do.
Jason: Do you ever listen back to your older albums? What’s your view of them now?
Vorskaath: No I don’t. I can still enjoy thinking of Zemial from Face of the Conqueror onwards, but not before.
Jason: How did you find your way into black metal? And what was it about black metal that you found so appealing?
Vorskaath: Teenage boy comes across Under the Sign of the Black Mark, The Return, Blood Fire Death, Emperor’s Return, Morbid Tales, Apocalyptic Raids. What more is there to say?
What did I find so appealing? The darkness.
Jason: What’s your opinion of the black metal of the twenty first century?
Vorskaath: I have stopped following black metal as a genre since the mid-late 90’s. That is because I found it to be recycling itself and becoming one of the few ‘music’ styles where ‘musicians’ work more on their image than their instrument.
I still feel the same about it. No thank you.
Jason: What’s your opinion of the internet and its impact on the music scene? Do you think that because of the ease of making music available, the internet has affected the quality of music?
Vorskaath: It has made things easier for sure, but has also infused music with a massive amount of rubbish.
Many pros, many cons.
Jason: Will you be playing live in support of Nykta? If so, will we be seeing you in the UK?
Vorskaath: Yes I do intend to and I am currently approaching players for the formation of a live band. If I did play Nykta live it would be in mid-2014 or so. I would love to return to the UK at that time and hope that interested promoters will get in touch.
At present I am occupied with a follow up of Nykta and that remains my priority above all else concerning this band. The release of our back-catalogue in deluxe editions via HHR Records is also planned.
Jason: What does the future hold for Zemial? Is there more music in the pipeline?
Vorskaath: Yes there is. I am already recording early ideas and shuffling through my files of ideas composed over the years. I want to push the limits again, this time adding new elements in terms of group improvisation and production. So aside from doing everything myself, I will have a couple of other musicians (as a feature) improvising live with me in the studio and I will add more elements on top of that when and where needed. The first steps have been taken.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Vorskaath: Thanks to you and the many listeners and fans of Zemial who have named Nykta one of the important albums of 2013.
To those people it is a pleasure to offer music from within.