1.Hello. Thanks for having the interview. The new CD Sunwar The Dead has been released. What was the overall reception of this album so far?
R. Tschirner: It seems as if our albums were rather well received in principle. I am always a bit startled by that, because the music of Elend is obviously a little different from the norm and therefore not that easily accessible.
2.Could you tell us something more about the recording process of the new album? What was completely different this time, what not, who contributed where etc?
The main difference is the number of participants: we had planned to use a line-up similar to that of Winds Devouring Men at first, that is, only a few session musicians. But for an adequate rendering the music of the new album called for a much bigger ensemble. So we partly fell back on the constellation initially planned for another project of ours: a complete orchestra. The access to professional instrumentalists has become a lot easier since we met our solo violinist David Kempf a few years ago. He is familiar with recordings of serious music and knows many other open-minded young professional musicians. It is also through him that we became acquainted with Esteri Rémond. This privileged situation enabled us to complete the recordings with less money than would normally be needed, but it was a severe effort, nevertheless. Beside budget problems such an enterprise involves a very careful planning of the recording schedule. But excepting these restrictions, working with professional musicians is simpler than trying to master all by oneself. Since our studios are limited in size we recorded the ensemble work at the Studio des Moines, owned by friends. But not the entire album was recorded with the full personnel. Some pieces were done with all instrumentalists, others section by section, depending on the precision of instrumental tones we needed to obtain in view of the final mix. For certain parts we had all the strings play the same line when we needed very harsh and powerful rhythmic effect. All the solo instrumental parts, the choirs and the solo voices were recorded separately at the Fall studios.
3.The album is very Neo-classical but Elend seems one of the few neoclassical bands that gets more attention from the metal scene than from the neo-classical or neofolk scene. How come? Does this have everything to do with the release of Leçons de Ténèbres on a French metal label ?
The fact that a metal label was interested in Elend is not that absurd. When we started the project, there were elements in our music that obviously appealed to the metal scene much more than to other communities. There seems to have been a certain curiosity for innovation in the domain of dark and violent music, which made music eluding the instrumental norms of metal no hindrance to the listener, as long as it carried elements this particular public was familiar with. The crucial point is that Elendís main concern has always been violence in music, and most audiences do not appreciate that. But those were the early nineties Ė the situation has changed a lot in the last couple of years. Besides, I believe that there is a problem of definition; Sunwar the Dead is certainly not neo-classical music. The cycle of albums we released in the nineties was neo-classical (in its most accurate sense, as opposed to the common usurpation of this term by many others) and post-Romantic in expression; very dense orchestration, with many references to the Western learned tradition up to Richard Strauss. The music of Sunwar the Dead goes far beyond in experimentation and the blending of contrasting elements. Whereas our early albums were built around the expression of violence by the most obvious combination of density and the visceral, guttural unleashing of tempo, orchestral mass and bestial screaming, the new cycle incorporates other traditions and uses violence more subtly, where it is least expected. As to the neo-folk scene, we couldnít care less for its concerns and have expressed our disgust about it several times. We reject any connections to the ideology inherent to this type of approach to music.
4.Do you have any musical influences or idols yourself? Whatís the creative process like for yourself?
Although there are artists we appreciate, I donít think that we have role-models. And our musical influences are so widespread that it doesnít make much sense to discuss them. As far as I can overlook the creative process, I have to say that writing music is for me a sort of craftsmanship, but this does not necessarily apply to Iskandar Hasnawi.
5.On previous albums like Winds Devouring Men Elend already incorporated industrial sounds, but this influences seem to have been replaced again by more complex arrangements. Was this a conscious choice to do so?
Yes. Every album has its own needs. We try not to repeat ourselves.
6.What does the title of the record stand for?
The metaphor is by Iskandar Hasnawi, and I am afraid I will not be able to answer this in a satisfying manner: the reason he chose this very image is that he must have felt that no other rendering could express his vision more adequately. However, I think that the connotations of destructive violence are obvious.
7.Could you tell something more about the concept behind Elend albums? The thematical cycles and their influence on the lyrics or music?
A lyrical concept enables the composer to stay focused. It can channel the music, be secondary to musical logic, or both can evolve simultaneously. What matters is the coherence of the result. The lyrics on the albums of the new cycle are all based on a poem by Iskandar Hasnawi originally not intended to be set to music. It is the tale of an errancy in a chaotic, tragic world.
8.This is the second part of the cycle of five albums, how does this record relate to the previous and the releases in the future?
The peaks of violence and intensity have not yet been reached, but I would prefer not to say too much about the future releases. There is still a lot of experimentation to be done. As to the cohesion between the albums, the Cycle of the Winds should not be seen as a course of events with a linear kind of plot; the narrative structure is rather loose, but nevertheless quite comprehensible: of the albums released so far Winds Devouring Men was an intimate album about waiting and dreaming, an inner odyssey opposed to the external unbridling of elemental forces. Sunwar the Dead is an epic album about a world dominated by violence, where chaos is an attractive, not yet a structuring force.
9.Can we ever expect to see Elend perform live in the (near) future? Would be great on a night with acts like Rosa Crux etc!
We are not opposed to live performances, but unfortunately, I canít see how we would manage to set up such a thing. In order to perform this music in public satisfactorily, we would need quite a long period of preparation for rehearsing with so many participants, and the budget for such a venture would be immense. We donít have much spare time at our disposal beside the studio work, and the fact that one part of the participants lives in France and the other part in Austria makes such an undertaking quite difficult for a longer period of time. But we still hope for a day where a few performances in selected halls with excellent acoustics will be possible.
10.Has it become less difficult to achieve your goals with Elend than in the past? Do you notice much progress in the development of success, artistically and commercially with Elend?
11.What can we Expect from Elend in the near future?
Part three of the new cycle will hopefully be released in early 2006.
12.What do you think about the relation record company Ė mp3 downloading and what will happen with this the coming years?
Iím no professional market researcher. It seems obvious to me, however, that CD sales in the current quantities will be very unrealistic in the future. We are probably moving toward a system divided between entertainment products that wonít really need a material sound-carrier and independent productions destined to a much smaller market, even smaller than it is nowadays.
13.What is your opinion on the current scene? What do you consider exciting developments and what not?
Regarding metal, I have to say that after the boom of the extreme scene (which is the only one I find worthy of discussion) in the nineties things look bleak. The Death/Grind scene only copies what was done miles better by the pioneers. The only individuals that have managed to develop something really original lately (which they started far back in the nineties, however) are the members of Meshuggah Ė particularly Fredrik Thordendal. As for the rest: Morbid Angel, provided that David Vincent is back again. Strapping Young Lad; before Devin Townsend lost himself in too many projects that repeat the same ideas over and over. The Dillinger Escape Plan; but their best work is the mini-CD with Mike Patton. Real innovators like Mestema, Korova or Proton Burst have completely ceased their activities. For those that are merely rooted in metal, only Beyond Dawn are still able to reinvent themselves with every album.
14.Imagine this. You are left alone on a desert island. What records would you take with you? Any literature?
Sometimes I think that we really are alone on a desert island. All we have is the music in our heads.
15.Would you like to say any last words to the Dutch readers?
I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have supported us by purchasing Elendís recordings over the years, to those who read what we have to say. Thanks a lot for the interview.