Interview for Metalfan
1. If I look back in time I remember very well a particular issue of a Romanian magazine, which I still possess. In between all those metal album reviews was also your debut album, Lecons de Tenebres. Have you found a reasonable explanation for the inclusion of your music to the rock/metal area?
R. Tschirner: A reasonable one? I don’t know… At that time the scene of violent and oppressive music was booming and people were a great deal more curious than today. This can easily be seen if you compare the releases of violent music of the late 80s and early 90s to the mass of today’s copycats. Originality was the leading idea.
2. Latin always gives a religious, sombre touch to music. Why did you choose to use it and why do you still do? Have you ever considered Elend music to be religious?
We used Latin on the 3 albums of the Officium, which takes over certain norms of Roman Catholic liturgy; Latin was one of the elements we used to establish this reference. But I don’t see how our music could be understood as religious.
3. Was any thematic connection between the trilogy Officium Tenebrarum and John Milton’s masterpiece, Paradise Lost? If the answer is yes, I would like you to give us more details about it.
The connection is to the biblical fall of the angels. Milton, to whose work the lyrics of only our first album refer, was the first writer to focus on the figure of Satan as the archetypal rebel. That was the central influence for a concept that otherwise has not much in common with Paradise Lost.
4. When the second part of the trilogy was released – and I am talking about Les Tenebres du Dehors – your music was labeled as luciferian. What is luciferian music anyway? Does it have more to do with the lyrical concept?
“Luciferian music” means nothing, but it is a catchy phrase. The music market needs such labeling. You won’t find anybody claiming this term for themselves, so I guess it was a clever invention – marketing-wise, I mean.
5. 9 people out of 10 still consider Les Tenebres du Dehors your best release ever. What, in your opinion, made this album have such a major impact?
This impact was on one specific part of the audience: those who like metal best. We used the classical strings sections in a way that reminds the listener of guitars playing metal riffs. This effect was intended, of course, and since no one had tried this before in such a combination, it hit the nerve of a community that was craving for it. The same audience will state that its favorite “classical” pieces are Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (the fast sections, mind you). Does this tell you that metal has invented nothing in principle? Our job is to show that violence can be expressed differently and in very diverse ways, as can be heard on all our albums.
6. Revolt, desolation, hate, anger, frustration. Everything so visual. Every time I listen to Les Tenebres du Dehors, I consider it the perfect soundtrack of the end of the world. Soundtrack of the apocalypse. Was that your intention?
I have trouble imagining such a thing as the end of the world. And in retrospect, I can’t consider this album as an isolated piece with a particular intention that would differ from the other two.
7. Weeping Nights. The first 3 tracks, the only new ones, prove to be very bleak and mournful. We’re just passengers through this world and nobody managed to become friends with time. Is it fair? How would you like to be remembered?
I don’t care much about being remembered or not. I just do not want to spend my life waiting for death.
8. Was Music For Nations the best choice you could have made? I think you were the only band of that kind on Music For Nations’ roster.
Like many others, they really wanted us. And despite the lamentable outcome of the Umbersun episode, they were the only intelligent choice we could have made at that point.
9. The marriage with them ended after only one album. Why did this happen?
At some point they decided to drop the album, for reasons we still don’t exactly know. Maybe they had to concentrate on other more attractive releases. There was an incredible amount of interviews and reviews for the first time for us, but I think I saw only one advertisement for the album. Their distributors didn’t seem to know how to market such a thing. As far as I can overlook the reviews, only one or two were negative. And this coming from reviewers we had never been in contact with before – unlike what seems to be the standard procedure today: the promotion department sees to it that a particular album will be reviewed by a friend or by someone who is likely to acclaim it.
10. More than 20 musicians were invited on The Umbersun. Is it difficult to record such an album?
We had worked with ensembles before, although not in a recording studio. Dominique Brethes, the engineer, had the experience we were lacking, however, and his knowledge is responsible for a great deal of the basis for our further musical work. He was also the one who brought us in contact with Peter Broadbent’s choir.
11. The outcome was very aggressive. Where do you get all this anger?
This is a question I am really not able to answer. We just followed our initial intention of releasing a musical maelstrom into utmost despair and death. It luckily went according to our plan.
12. Could you please tell me what projects were you involved in during the 5 years hiatus between The Umbersun and Winds Devouring Men?
Apart from the common work with Ensemble Orphique, various stuff. Iskandar Hasnawi concentrated on his solo project, while I played jazz, mostly, recorded a lot of my own music and participated in concerts and recordings with Korova and others.
13. If I look at the booklets of your albums, Elend seems to be a 3 man band, since Sebastien Roland is always present. Tell me a few things about him. What is his level of implication in this concept?
Essential on the musical level. He is a sound-engineer with excellent ears. We wouldn’t be able to produce our albums without him. At one point there needs to be some kind of a separation of powers. It is impossible to coordinate such a project all by oneself. We met him at the studio where we recorded the Elend debut album. He was working there as a keyboard technician and sound-engineer. We stayed in contact through the recording of the second album and he finally joined the project in 1997.
14. 2003 brought you a new contract and to us a new album and the promise of at least another 4. Was the Prophecy Productions’ the only offer you received?
No, but they were the fastest and most efficient (after Holy Records). Since we didn’t really want to collaborate with a big company anymore, they seemed the ideal solution.
15. Your relationship with Holy Records was always friendly and it still is. Why haven’t you choose to edit The Winds Cycle under their signature too?
Well, we have: Holy Records are our License partners for the French territory on the albums of the new cycle. Prophecy do the rest of Europe.
16. Compared to any of the albums from The Officium Tenebrarum, Winds Devouring Men is more personal and introspective. It seems like a voyage through a smaller and intimate universe. Is this the proper continuation of your previous works of art or are we talking about a new Elend?
It’s probably both. It is still pretty close to what we did in the 90s, despite the obvious differences in structure and orchestration.
17. Stylistically, although I am sure you hate your music being categorized, where does Elend stand right now?
At a point of no return.
18. I will now ask you something that has been on my mind for quite some time: Why do most of the reviewers consider your new albums “exotic”?
Because they aren’t used to modes of expression that transcend the mainstream.
19. Sunwar the Dead is evidently more aggressive than the previous effort. Why did you choose to express all that fury without using aggressive vocals? After all, in the past, that was your trademark.
This is exactly the reason why. It would have been wrong to reduce them to a mere gimmick. We had to break with the screams in order to create surprise... but does that mean that we’ll never use aggressive vocals again?
20. Percussion has a crucial role in the Sunwar the Dead concept. It also gives the album a more modern, experimental touch. Where is Elend’s music heading?
Towards absolute disruption.
21. When I think of all those fading, repeating images in your booklets (I refer to the latest two albums) and your passion for using musical and lyrical leitmotivs, a particular word occurs to me: obsessive. Where does obsession stand in your creation?
I guess that it must be some sort of fundamental value. We wouldn’t be able to achieve this work without it.
22. What shall we expect from the third part of the Winds Cycle? I know that you are right in the middle of creating it and it will be out this year.
As you have probably heard in the meantime, we have had to postpone the release. That is a little annoying because the album is complete. There have been a couple of problems in mixing it, however, due to the fact that we are the first to attempt to master such a dense and rich orchestration with the necessary violence. We have to invent constantly and need more breaks than expected in order to keep the focus where it has to be.
23. Some people say that good music is an issue of the past. I guess they are trying to underline that Beethoven died, so did Mozart and certainly so did Bach (to pick only three examples). Do they make good music these days? Could you recommend me some albums worth listening and worth re-listening?
It is evident bullshit to say that good music is an issue of the past, but as things are looking right now, it is certainly not the main issue of the present either.
24. In the end, right before the thanks and goodbye part, I would like to propose a little quiz to you. Our readers seem to appreciate it. Here we go:
•Richard Wagner or Giuseppe Verdi?
Wagner, but only because Verdi is far more unacceptable.
• Mortal or immortal?
Both: Tears Laid in Earth and Battles in the North.
• French wine or Austrian beer?
• North or south?
• Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen?
• Archangel Gabriel or Lucifer?
Never heard about those people.
• Pablo Picasso or Amedeo Modigliani?
Modigliani. Picasso has no coherence.
• Ingmar Bergman or Jean Luc Godard?
25. Thank you very much. Maybe a thought for our readers?
I’d like to thank everybody for their ongoing support and interest. I really enjoyed your interview.