Upon the release of Biolume, a trilogy of albums where In Tartarean Chains is but the first piece, I spent several nights talking to Dis Pater about music, culture, the passing of time and much more.
Before focusing on the new album, the last time we talked Funerals From The Astral Sphere had just come out. Almost a decade later, what has changed? How have Midnight Odyssey, Dis Pater and the man behind it all evolved?
I can’t believe it’s been that long. I have a poor grasp of time so to think it really has been nearly a decade is quite surprising. So much has changed since then. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better musically, both in composing and ability, but also theoretically. I think the music of Midnight Odyssey has evolved a bit over that time. There’s been quite a few releases exploring different styles over that period. On personal terms I’ve probably moved house a couple of times and have a family now, so life is keeping me busy outside of the world of music. And of course the world is a very different place now compared to 2011.
Indeed it is, and I’m not sure it’s for the better. Black metal, though, kept on evolving and I am positive it is also thanks to your efforts. While exploring those different styles (I guess you mean Death Comes Crawling, among other things), has the way you work on your music changed?
Black metal has had to keep evolving. I think if everyone was playing the same style as 25 years ago nobody would have any interest anymore. I know I had to evolve. I didn’t want to write Funerals 2.0, that was done and I’ve moved on. Writing both Tempestuous Fall and Death Comes Crawling were great avenues to explore some of my other interests musically. Having tried these styles has actually altered the way I write some passages of music, they rely on very different chord progressions and melodies, even if it’s not obvious it has flowed through to Midnight Odyssey. I’m honoured you think so highly of Funerals From The Astral Sphere, it’s hard to gauge how or if it influences other bands but I’d really like to think at least one of the bands I was influenced by has listened to and liked it.
And what do you mean by “gotten better theoretically”?
Such lazy English — “gotten better” — I mean, I have tried to read more about the development of western music, from its earliest forms of chant and monophonic songs through to the development of polyphony and how calculated it is. It’s helped me to understand why things sound the way they do and why emotions can be tied to specific chords or progressions. I’ve always been able to feel it but not quite understand it.
So should we consider you a music scholar? To what extent does your study go, what kind of sources are you referring to? I mean, if anyone wanted to delve into this topic, what would you suggest?
I’m definitely not a music scholar. I try to learn a little bit at a time, but the problem I have is as soon as a song or composer is mentioned I have to go and listen to it to understand what they are talking about. It makes reading very slow. I have multiple books, a lot out of print now but the Oxford History Of Western Music is great. I think it is quite hard to find an easy read in this topic however.
Moving on to the album now, would you explain the idea behind the trilogy and the concept of this first part? It appears to me that you partially went back to The Crevices Below, with the rising of Cronus from the Tartarus. We’re talking depths and abysses here…
Yes, it does have that underworld theme of The Crevices Below. The main idea of the trilogy is about bioluminescence and the idea that something creates its own light. I’m interested in this both physically but also allegorically as darkness can be both a physical and emotional thing. Organisms in caves or deep ocean create light and survive when most of us think they shouldn’t be able to. They’re quite alien-like. I’ve set the trilogy to three figures of classical mythology, the final two I won’t divulge just yet, but the first is the being banished to the depths of Tartarus, Saturn or Cronus, set in a subterranean world of glow worms, fungi and other organisms that live below ground and emit light. It is about exile, being sent into the darkness and surviving, waiting.
It’s fascinating that you used a fragment from Ovid’s Metamorphoses when “introducing the character” of Cronus. How important is ancient Latin and Greek culture both to Midnight Odyssey and to you as a person? Many concepts and references expressed in your music suggest classic humanistic influences. I’m thinking of “Son Of Phoebus” on Shards Of Silver Fade or the whole Converge, Rivers Of Hell album, how did this interest of yours originate?
I have a love for Greek and Latin texts but also for art where allegories and references to mythology are abundant. I personally can relate to these stories a lot more than Germanic or Celtic (which are my origins). I think through the Catholic and Orthodox Churches a lot of what we have today was kept over from those days past. But reading the likes of Ovid, Homer or even Marcus Aurelius, you realise how much of it is relevant today. Humanity hasn’t really changed much and for all those who think we are more morally or culturally advanced than we were in the past, I tend to disagree. It’s the essence of Midnight Odyssey that is to express lyrically universal concepts that can’t be framed into a particular time period, something that could resonate with someone in the past or the future. Being an extension of myself, it guides my everyday thinking and living.
I find it extremely interesting that so many artists today, whatever their “area of work”, still draw inspiration from authors and concepts which are several thousands years old. I agree, humanity hasn’t changed, and Greek and Latin authors sort of analyzed us humans so deeply and completely that their teachings kept their meaning till today. How did you first get in contact with their literature, was it at school?
I can’t quite remember when it started. I was always fascinated by ancient Egypt and Greece since I was really young, so maybe it might have been through some other more popular method like a television series or movie. I did modern history in high school but maintained an interest in ancient history and archaeology.
About Midnight Odyssey essence: do you have a specific goal set for your project? Or better: is there something you want Midnight Odyssey to achieve or become that it hasn’t yet? An album you want to create but the time isn’t right yet, some concepts you haven’t fully developed as of today, anything.
I think the one thing I really want Midnight Odyssey to be is a true extension of my own being, regardless of musical direction. If I stay true to myself and write what I want to write, not what others want me to write, then I will be happy. I would really like to break genre rules and hop from one style to another if I can keep it within the same essence. I want to do several all-ambient albums, different styles of metal and in time you will see that the reason for splitting Biolume into parts is because each disc is musically different.
So should we assume that Midnight Odyssey will at some point in time turn, at least temporarily, into an ambient project? This brings me to discuss your several other bands and monickers. You’ve had quite a few now, both on your own and with other people. Will you ever reactivate one of those? Or are you planning to give birth to new ones?
At some point there will be an ambient album, but I like to keep my options open. I have ended some of the older projects. I felt at the time they were different enough from Midnight Odyssey to be worthy of their own name, but over time, I wanted to incorporate those sounds into Midnight Odyssey. It didn’t make sense anymore to have so many solo projects. I won’t rule out creating any more, but like Death Comes Crawling, they would have to be noticeably different from Midnight Odyssey to be worthy of having their own existence.
In Tartarean Chains is the first Midnight Odyssey album coming with an artwork which was not painted by you. Why?
It was a decision that wasn’t easy for me initially, but after you spend so many months writing and recording music, the energy to then get up and do a painting or two almost doesn’t exist. In the end it was something I could let go of to allow me to focus writing on more music. In truth it would frustrate me because I’m not trained to paint. I’m learning as I get older to just remove the sources of frustration in your life.
How did you pick Elijah Tamu for the art then? Will the other two artworks be created by him as well?
Elijah has done some work for I, Voidhanger Records so we talked early on about doing artwork for this trilogy. So yes, the plan is to have him do the covers for all three Biolume releases. He has been incredible to work with.
When are we to expect the other two chapters? If I am not mistaken you said they would be out in about one year or so, is that still the schedule?
Part 2 will be out in mid 2020 and part 3 in 2021. Part 2 is about 70% done, so hopefully if there aren’t too many delays it should remain on schedule!
You mainly work alone. I understand now the reason in Midnight Odyssey is that you consider it an extension of yourself, but what about other bands? Even when you do cooperate, for example with Thomas from Aeon Winds in Dissvarth, it is always from a distance. I assume you are not the rehearsal-room type of guy. Have you always been some kind of a “music loner”?
Yes, Dissvarth is a collaboration between Svarthen and myself and we work quite well over email and chats to get what we want. Once Biolume is done there will be another album from us, but I need the time to focus on my work first. My rehearsal space is my home studio. I can work in rehearsal rooms but for my music it’s easier to be isolated from everyone else and be enclosed in my little bubble. It makes for a great mind space and helps to create the atmosphere I need to be creative.