“…this is not high fidelity art. This is rock’n’roll.”
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Hyperion (Ed: reviewed here).
LXIV: The pleasure is ours. Massive amounts of corporeal, as well as metaphysical blood, sweat and tears, have been poured in to this album, so naturally we are very pleased when people receive it with great enthusiasm.
Jason: To begin, where does the band name come from and what does it mean?
LXIV: The name ‘Woland’ originates from the classic Soviet satire ‘Master and Margarithe’, written by Bulgagov in the early 20th century. The story depicts Woland’s and his strange court’s somewhat surreal mishaps in the urban Soviet Union.
As the novel depicts a somewhat unorthodox and joyful picture of the Old Hob, likewise do we with our music and how it relates to the classic, somewhat dogmatic mindset of black metal.
Jason: Can you tell us about the album and what you wanted to achieve with it?
LXIV: The making of this album was in many ways an extremely long and tedious process. Parts got rewritten and rerecorded all the time. Due to many personal and work related problems, there were many delays, holdups and standstills. Some of us got married, lost their jobs, had family, had other projects, had to move etc. In short, life happened, big time. And after a delay, we’d realize that some parts we had already done needed reworking, rearranging, rerecording, rewriting.. And then we’d start again.
But as a result the album sounds stronger and better than we imagined at the start of this long run. Listening now to the first rough cuts from 2011, it was well worth the wait and work.
Jason: Can you tell us about the album title, Hyperion? Where did it come from? What does it mean? And is it thematically linked to the music?
LXIV: The name ‘Hyperion’ originates from Greek and is translated literally as ‘The High One’. Without diving too deep into the symbolism, one can find many reasons why we chose the name of an ancient titan who fathered the sun, as the title of our debut album.
Jason: Is there a theme that underpins the album?
LXIV: Calling the standard lyrical themes of black metal ‘infantile’ would be the understatement of the century. I, nor W have no interest in any kind of contribution nor affiliation of the scene as it is today.
I’d say ‘apotheosis’ is a perfect description in many ways for the lyrical themes of the album. I’d say there is a pretty clear juxtaposition between our lyrical themes compared to canonised themes of black metal, without going to deep into this matter.
I rather bask in the sun than embrace the night.
Jason: You state on your website that the music is influenced by “some of the modern world’s most prominent philosophers and writers as well as inspired by mythology with its gods and heroes”. Who are the most significant of them? And how are they manifest in your music?
LXIV: If we discuss our influences in literature, the works of Milton, Blake, Shakespeare and Bulgagov come to mind. They manifest in our music trough the lyrical themes and sometimes through direct quotes of some passages.
Names like Nietzsche and LaVey have been thrown around also, but I personally find these types of claims a little troublesome. They easily become some sort of a gimmick, especially in the media. That’s not what these types of statements are about. I grew up reading Dante, Milton, Shakespeare and the likes. It’s only natural that their works influence my works. As would anyone else’s influences influence their’s.
So yes, Woland is a collective with somewhat ‘mature’ tastes, come literature and ways of thinking, but the fact remains that we are a black metal band. We are not a group of renaissance minds. We play somewhat simple music with shitloads of volume and 100kWatts of lights on the ceiling. It’s not about philosophy. It’s about music. High fidelity art and literature can and will elevate your soul, but this is not high fidelity art. This is rock’n’roll.
Jason: How did you approach writing the album? Did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound or did that evolve as writing and recording was underway?
LXIV: The responsibilities considering writing the album were pretty straightforward. I handled everything considering writing, recording and mixing the album while our vocalist W took up lyrics and artwork. Of course, we also helped one another by offering massive amounts of criticism, enough to crush anyone’s moral spine at least twice. I remember several times screaming at him over the phone, threatening I’d delete every god dam file from my computer if things wouldn’t come together soon. As I said, it was a pretty rough session.
From the start we had a pretty clear vision what the album would sound like. Challenges arose when we noticed we’re able to push those set boundaries further. Then the problem was really about ‘letting go’ at the right time. Trying to not lose the big picture.
Someone said that albums are never finished, they’re merely abandoned. I think that describes our writing process quite well.
Jason: ‘Honey in the Lion’ is a short but very interesting piece that stands out as very different to the rest of the album. What’s its significance? What does it represent?
LXIV: ‘Honey in the Lion’ is actually the single oldest melody on the whole album. I wrote it over a decade ago, and it’s been stuck in my head since. When W stated, and I agreed upon, that we’d need a “breather” between the colossi like ‘Extacy & Rapture’ and ‘Live Forever’, I figured that perhaps the time was ripe to finally put that little melody to some use.
The track is performed by my most talented friend, Risto Tiihonen, who also performs the piano solo in ‘Live Forever’. Of course, as the theme has been so long with me, ‘Honey in the Lion’ holds a very special place in the album.
As a side note, ‘Extacy & Rapture’, ‘Honey in the Lion’ and ‘Live Forever’ include some thought out fades and passages that are present only when listening the CD / LP as a whole. Let’s call that a polite nod from my half to the people who still at this day and age, find time to listen albums as a whole.
Jason: Hyperion features flamenco guitar and jazz piano. Why did you choose to incorporate these styles into your music and the album in particular?
LXIV: Short answer would be: they’re there because they make the album so much stronger. And that really is the only meaningful reason there is.
Jason: The album also features additional vocal performances from Geir Bratland of Dimmu Borgir, Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns of Finntroll and Janica Lönn of Black Sun Aeon. How did you come to work with these musicians? When you were writing, did you have these performers in mind? And did you know who would perform on which track?
There really wasn’t any magical vision behind the process and it came together naturally. W wants a female vocal passage on ‘Conquer All’, we know Janica who’s up to do it. Why not? I noticed that I really need to have a diversive acoustic solo in Living Water, and my friend Kimmo Laaksonen is a talented classical guitarist. Was there really any option not to do these types of guest appearances?
But to sum it up, first there was a need. Then it was just a matter of finding somebody to fit the need.
Jason: The album was recorded in your own studio. Did this give the band any advantages for the writing and recording of Hyperion?
LXIV: To work for unlimited hours in your own studio is both a blessing and a curse. In that situation, you truly are your own worst enemy. Our greatest advantage was that we had unlimited time to shape and mould the album as we saw fit. The most difficult aspect of the whole recording process on the other hand was that we had unlimited time to shape and mould the album as we saw fit.
In the end it worked out for us, but I seriously doubt I ever want to do a similar project under these circumstances.
Jason: Can you tell us about the artwork and how it relates to the music? Who is responsible for the artwork? And how much freedom did you give him/her in its design?
LXIV: As our beloved W is a graphic designer by profession it was natural to let him handle the artwork of Woland including album artwork, promotional material, videos, live installations etc. It’s been clear from the start that visuals, both artwork and live shows, are a major part of Woland. As W has both the taste and talent considering aesthetics, it was a simple choice.
Jason: Any plans to tour in support of Hyperion?
LXIV: We have some big acts under negotiations but nothing I can confirm at the moment. Sadly, our mini-tour with Shining (Swe) got cancelled due to Niklas’s back problems, and we’re working out for the new dates as I’m typing this.
Next up is Blastfest, Bergen on the 20th February. We also have some festivals lined up for summer and hopefully a tour in the final quarter.
It looks like it’s gonna be a hasty year.
Jason: Will we be seeing you in the UK?
LXIV: If our Damager can’t get us to UK for Hyperion, it’s clearly not meant to be so. We are in extremely good hands.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
LXIV: Thank you for the interview.
“Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib, Gesang, der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang”