Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Till Stilla Falla is a remarkable début (Ed: Jason’s review is here). It’s a different beast altogether from the bands that the members of the band are also involved with. What was it that you wanted to achieve when you started Stilla that set it apart from your other bands?
Andreas: Good day, and gratitude for understanding our work. When Stilla was birthed by me (A. Vidhall, bass) and P. Stille (guitars, keys) in late 2011, it was with the ambition to revisit the ambience and atmospheres we grew up with, channeled mainly (but not only) through the works of Black Metal created in Norway between 1991 and 1997 (circa). The harrowing, ugly-yet-beautiful, cold emanations of that period. As the material forming Till Stilla Falla was mature for recording, we found ourselves working with A. Pettersson (vocals) and J. Marklund (drums), who, with the same musical background, understood exactly what we wanted to express musically. Creating this album was a response to a yearning that we all had felt for a long time, thus the formation of Stilla, from project ideal to band actuality, came completely natural.
Jason: In terms of musical expression, are there limitations with your other bands that prompted Stilla’s formation and the writing of the album?
Andreas: I think you can hear similar influences in the works of for example Bergraven, Lönndom and De Arma – though definitely not in Deranged, my “main” occupation. I wouldn’t say limitations, but when working within a musical project, in solitude or in a group, you get into certain patterns of thinking and acting suitable for that context, you choose musical and aesthetic paths and create arcs of development, which should perhaps not be broken off too frivolously (though there are great examples of exactly that; Ulver and Manes spring to mind). But the important thing is to see Stilla as a group effort filling a different purpose than our other projects, rather than looking for flaws or absences in them; without any of the four of us, Till Stilla Falla would have become completely different in the end, and the band’s identity would not be the same. In Bergraven for example, Pär Stille is the demiurge; anyone involved answers to his Will. Stilla is the result of our collective Wills.
Jason: Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did that take shape as the tracks were being developed?
Andreas: What we did have when Stilla was initiated was, as mentioned, an ideal, a vision of creating a certain atmosphere. However, the actual music grew organically, entwined with the visions of what we yearned to create; compared to the earliest versions some songs on the album have evolved immensely. Some have not. But there was no master plan behind the album, rather a string of situations, reactions and ideas.
Jason: How long have you been working on the material for the album? Are there riffs or tracks on it that have been around since before Stilla was formed or is it all new material?
Andreas: The concept of Stilla grew simultaneously as the first songs on the album were written, and this was in the autumn of 2011. The current, completed formation of Stilla wasn’t made definite until the album was recorded. Some elements and ideas may have lingered on from earlier experiments, but that is irrelevant.
Jason: Can you tell us about the album title, what it means, and how it relates to the music and lyrics of the album?
Andreas: The album title, lifted from the closing piece, means somewhat literally “To fall/descend into stillness/silence”. What that entails is difficult to fully describe, it holds many symbolical levels, all of them quite personal to the author of that particular lyric (who isn’t I). To reach a different plane of consciousness, mentality or existence (physical, spiritual…). An aloof and proud silence, a higher level. The urge to leave. But that is only how I interpret the words, written (and sung) by Pär.
Jason: What are the lyrical themes? Is there a conceptual link across the album?
Andreas: There is no conceptual unity, nor hardly a thematic one; the different songs cover different themes – trailing ghosts, end-of-time visions, dreams of disintegration, the continual movement of the seasons… however, they were written in relation to the evolving songs, putting words on and interpreting the atmospheres created.
Jason: There are a number of bands for whom English isn’t their first language yet choose to write in English. Why do you choose to write lyrics in Swedish?
Andreas: Few ESL song writers reach any higher artistic levels in their lyrics, compared to native speakers – there are simply things too close to the person, the soul or what you may call it, to be expressed in a foreign language, regardless how well versed you are in it. Of course, we could sing in English and let the daunting listeners understand (or at least give them a fair chance to) the words, but it would deplete them too much of the different levels of meaning invested in them. I personally have only written lyrics in English before, and it was a release to leave language barriers behind and create more freely. As mentioned above, the words were in many cases created from the music, or in deep connection to it, so non-speakers of the Germanic languages should still be able to “understand” the lyrics, despite not understanding the actual meaning of them.
Jason: How were the tracks for the album composed? Were they developed in the studio or in rehearsals? Did you all collaborate on the tracks or do you work individually and bring your ideas together?
Andreas: So far, the guitars and structures have mainly been created by Pär Stille, on his own, and then developed collectively, each musician adding their individual lines/patterns. The band is separated by about a thousand miles (guitars and bass in the south, vocals, drums and studio in the north), so you can see what implications that has for our modus operandi.
Jason: Is there a philosophy or an ideology that drives the material, both musically and lyrically? And how does it manifest itself in your compositions?
Andreas: I think this has been covered in earlier responses. We strive to create atmospheres and visions that resonate with our own aesthetic ideals. I cannot say for the others, but I find myself returning to, and expressing in my lyrics, a combination of baseline nihilism (the drive from the turbulent, and at the heart of it all meaningless, chaos and warfare of existence towards silence and closure) and a deep fascination for and exploration of the cyclical nature of everything, the eternal death and rebirth of the micro- and macrocosmos. Ideologies are for slaves.
Jason: Can you tell us about the album cover and what is represents? Does it relate to the music in any way?
Andreas: Practically and spiritually, that was where the album was created, and Stilla came into proper being; that old black lodge was the womb of the band, the fifth member. Its rusted irons, decaying walls and dark chambers spoke to us deeply during the time we spent in it.
Jason: How did you come to work with Nordvis Records? And why did you choose to work with them for the release of your material?
Andreas: Since the owner of the label is the vocalist of Stilla, it was a collaboration that came very naturally. It was a conscious decision to keep it, so to speak, “within the family”, rather than working with an external force with its own ideas and demands. We will retain this independence as far as it is possible.
Jason: Some argue that the true spirit of black metal has become diluted and dulled because, thanks to the internet and social networking sites, anyone can access the music and imitate the style. Do you agree? And if so, do you think black metal can ever retain the potency it once had?
Andreas: In certain ways, the possibility of immediate access to all kinds of cultural artefacts is both a blessing and a curse. However I think that it is much more of the former than the latter. As for black metal, I see no issue with a wider distribution of the culture. If you’re terribly upset by the fact that “anyone” can download the entire discographies of the Black Legion and Ildjarn in a wink, rather than painstakingly hunting down cassette bootlegs, then maybe you should consider not caring so much about the business of others. Some bandwagon-jumpers are completely into obscure Eastern bloc NSBM or the latest Bone Awl-rip off for a year of their lives, before moving on to the next trend, who cares? Those who are true to the ideals of black metal – whatever you consider them to be; I suppose Watainism and elitistic Bathory-worship is the latest “true” interpretation; I am sure many would deem Stilla a very untrue band, and I hope so! – will remain true, and those who aren’t so serious about it will be washed away by time. (Can’t believe we are still debating the essence of being true, 20 years after the day Burzum killed Mayhem: stop – obsessing – about – what – others – do!).
As for the potency of black metal: I did not know it was gone. There has always been shitty, trend-hopping bands, and there has always been strong, insular and supreme bands driven only by their own will. Trends in specific sounds and styles come and go; the intelligent listeners and musicians understand this and follow their own paths, as it has always been.
(Writing this, I return to the conclusion once again: there is no need to write another word about the nature of black metal. We should all remain silent.)
Jason: Bands are consistently referencing the early days of black metal in their music and their approach. What is so potent about this era that keeps bands returning to it for inspiration? And how far do you think that a band working within the genre can go?
Andreas: Simply because, if we look at the Norwegian scene from say 1991-97, that was where the highest art of black metal was created (though it seems that this era is not that fashionable to refer to this day; I guess the 80’s is a better point of reference for the modern state of black metal).
It’s obvious that the “Norwegian sound”, if there ever was one specific Norwegian sound, has been used and molested for many many years, to the point of ridicule – even more so after the wave of outsider exotism/fetishism, “let’s make another documentary about these insane Scandinavians and their diabolical music” bullshit – that perhaps it would be a good idea to bury it forever. There are too many necrophiles studying the tones and textures of those early 90’s albums, desperately trying to resuscitate by copying. They, as with so many musicians everywhere, have simply not understood that the original Black Metal template was based on originality. It is the difference between artistic necrophilia and necromancy.
Jason: How do you see Stilla developing in future? How will you face up to the challenge of that “difficult” second album?
Andreas: The second album is in the womb as we speak; delivery in the very beginning of autumn this year. The music so far does hint at some progression, into slightly different spheres than Till Stilla Falla, but the heart, backbone and spirit remains.
Jason: What does the future hold for Stilla? Is there music in the pipeline? Any plans for shows?
Andreas: A second album, as mentioned. Live performances have been discussed.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Andreas: Thank you.