Negura Magazine – 2003
Rahab interviewed by Negru of Negura Magazine
01. Salut! How are things going on for you there?
Rahab: Greetings Negru; it’s an honour to be given the opportunity of being featured in your magazine. I hope you’ll excuse me for starting off with this trivial ass-kissing, but fact is that I’m pleased with our presence on these pages – “ideology” and “professionalism” often appear to be mutually exclusive. Only few zines succeed in working their way around this Heissenberg equation, but I consider Negura one that found the formula. For me personally, life has known more joyful days. I feel like in a constant sleeping paralysis right now – every effort to create movement and change remains unrewarded. The worldly body seems unresponsive to the powers of my ego, at least for the time being – so patience is being challenged. I will bother neither you nor your readers with the insignificant details of my personal life (though insignificance is a relative concept in this matter, obviously) and I’m sure I’ll be aroused and released from this bodily captivity again. As for Ordo Draconis, for the time being it is the exception to the aforementioned. Though quite a number of hurdles remain to be taken still, we’re gradually progressing towards the recording of our 2nd album. In that respect, the current situation is quite satisfying. Creativity is finding it’s way to the songs and crystallizes down wonderfully. The process of ripening of the songs however is one that requires time, so I think we’ll record the album somewhere in the middle of ’03. The ambitions we have and the way we translated them into goals and ideas makes me very enthusiastic, though it will be hard to realize all we would like.
02. Could you start by presenting us a bit Ordo Draconis? Not just the usual bio, but maybe why you started the band, how did your achievements influence you… more like the experiences beyond the facts…
Rahab: To start a band was a dream that was born long before Ordo Draconis was actually founded. I think it goes back to ’91 already – Midhir, Bob, Moloch and me have known each other for quite some time. Unfortunately music and playing an instrument is not stimulated here to the extent it is done in Scandinavia and it proved to take 5 more years to actually start a band. The initial motives to start Ordo Draconis? During the early 90’s we discovered the underground scene of doom, death and in particular black metal. The music and the entire mystifying ambience of the scene back then made such an impression on us that we wanted to become a part of it, to contribute to it, to add something special, something good, something personal to it. The years prior to Ordo Draconis’ birth most of us already discovered we got great satisfaction and fulfillment from expressing ourselves through music. Midhir, Bob and myself already played together a number of times. In May ’96 I finally confronted Moloch; that if we were ever going to start a band, it was then. Hence we started looking for other band members who were easily found among our friends. In September ’97 we started off for real, playing cover tracks. The line-up back then consisted of: Moloch (bass/vocals), Bob (guitar), Arco (drums), Midhir (synths) and me, Rahab (guitar). Most of us were new to their instrument at the time, so we started playing cover tracks, to tighten up as a band and to become more skilled at playing. It turned out that Timo, the drummer we started out with, could not keep up with the speed of progress and our ways parted in early ’97. He was instantly replaced by Arco and we started out with composing our own songs. Compared to our current speed of songwriting we were very productive at the time, hahaha. The first 3 songs, that later appeared on the “When the Cycle ends” demo were completed in 2 months. It is funny looking back at those days – we were so highly motivated to create ourselves a name and reputation within the international underground scene and we compensated our lack of skills with a boundless enthusiasm to reach beyond. From the beginning we decided that we would never do things in a crappy way though – we would either make the best effort we could or not make the effort at all. And clearly our approach worked: we received a very good response to our concerts and with 1234 copies spread, I believe, despite the fact it is actually a polished rehearsal, “When the Cycle Ends” is one of the more “successful” Dutch black metal demos. We received some serious interest from record labels in response to the demo, but we decided that we wanted to gain more experience before recording an album for a label. For this reason we recorded the self financed demoMCD “In Speculis Noctis” early 1999. I still believe it’s one of the most professional efforts to be released by an underground band; the album was recorded in the Excess studios, where bands like After Forever and Sinister also recorded their albums. Everything was done “pro” and we were paid in kind: the investment we had made was huge, but we reached break-even in no time, selling 800 copies within 6 weeks. I guess it will not be too difficult to imagine how satisfied we were with our accomplishment. “In Speculis Noctis” received a lot of attention in the international metal press, with excellent reviews and interviews in major magazines like Legacy (GER), Legion (RUS) and Rock Brigade (BR), which is almost unheard for a small underground band like we were. Through a dear friend of mine, we also got in touch with Vrayas Vakyas of Falkenbach, and label owner of Skaldic Art Productions. He had just released the first two albums on his label and showed his sincere interest in a cooperation. In the course of several conversations we established a very good and friendly understanding, resulting in the recruitment of Ordo Draconis for the banner of Skaldic Art. In September 2000 we recorded our debut CD “The Wing & the Burden”, which was released in the course of the next year. I think “The Wing..” was a huge step ahead compared to “In Speculis Noctis”, even tough the progress might seem less striking compared to the progress between the two demos. I do not recount how often I have listened to the album, filled with a great sense of pride. Despite the many aspects we would do differently now, the album did turn out like the adventurous musical trip I had intended it to become, with new elements to be discovered with each hearing. Because of the large amount of details and subtleties in the compositions we had chosen for transparent productions from which the composition profited a lot in my conviction. It was with this release that I first felt I could take myself seriously as a musician, who was able to contribute something decent and substantial to a recording. I do not have a very high estimation of my own playing skills and I had always felt I had more a role as a composer than as a musician, but at least my conception of the balance shifted somewhat with this recording. After the release a rather turbulent period in the life of Ordo Draconis began; Midhir went away to Ireland for 9 months and during this period Moloch and Arco decided to leave the band. It is obvious that this intense phlebotomy had a huge impact on the band and made the remaining members evaluate what to do. We decided to head on and found two new members to team up with permanently: Berry on bass and Tyrann on vocals. Where Berry was quite new to the scene, at least as a musician, Tyrann had already earned his medals as the vocalist of our Luxembourgish label mates Vindsval. Till date we have not found a suitable replacement on drums, so we’re using computer right now. It’s not 100% sure yet if we’ll record the next album with a flesh and bone drummer or with his digital equivalent.
03. I saw you don’t enjoy talking too much about your personal lives apart Ordo Draconis. But maybe you could explain what the band means for you? How did it influence you as a person? I guess you started the usual way, with the intentions to put into music & band something from inside of you. But have you reached the opposite point, when music & band make you different, draw you into something new?
Rahab: It’s almost impossible to try and start explaining what Ordo Draconis means to me; you might just as well ask what I mean to myself, because Ordo Draconis is part of me. The easiest way to view it is like a musical diary I guess – it represents who I am. My contribution to our songs marks specific elements of my life. This contribution can be found on various levels, like song-concepts, song structures, actual riffs and melodies up to tiny details like specific sounds or samples. It can be derived from a general interests in certain issues and themes, a sense of admiration for artistic expressions by others, up to the impact of very specific events in my personal life. Especially in the case of the latter, not even my fellow band members are aware of the exact ideas behind a piece or idea. The interesting thing is that the same holds for the other contributing members, so the songs become a kind of synergetic blend of our personalities. However, contrary to a diary, where thoughts and emotions are expressed through words, our songs remain subject to interpretation to a much larger extent, also to us though we are involved in the composing. Many aspects put in by the other members will never be completely fathomed by me, at least its origin won’t. Yet, I am able to open myself up to their ideas and to the songs in total and interpret them both in a rational and in an irrational way. I think that, with respect to the influence Ordo Draconis has had on me I could make the distinction between my view on the scene and our contribution to it, my taste in music, my skills as a composer and a musician, and finally my personality. I’ll start with the first – playing in Ordo Draconis has confronted me with a number of aspects of the underground scene and the music industry that were new to me. Apart from that, the underground scene is a dynamic entity itself of course and a lot has changed since the early nineties. I think the (black metal) underground has become more dispersed – the coherence and support of the early nineties has vanished, which is an obvious development for an expanding entity. Maybe you could say the scene had reached its critical mass. Apart from that, the black metal scene has been commercialized – on the one hand I do not have a problem with that, because many bands that are selling well these days have played a pioneer’s role in the scene or have accomplished something worthwhile before growing bigger. On the other hand, with black metal being hyped it has become clearer and clearer that sales are for sale – integrity and idealism have vanished in the policy of many labels and magazines. The key question is: “How can we draw money from this?” In order to make money they must have a product that appeals to the potential buyers, so the appearance should be good. In itself that’s a good thing, but unfortunately, the quality often stops with the appearance resulting in: glossy magazines with a poor content and pages filled with expensive advertisements, and reviews and interviews that have been bought or have been included as a return favour for buying an advertisement. I think not many metal fans, that claim to be rebellious and individualistic in nature, are hardly aware of the extent to which the humbly swallow what is put on their plate by record labels and magazines. I think it’s a current development that can be seen among record labels – competition has increased – the smaller ones are going bankrupt, except for a few specialized ones with a more loyal fan base. My view on the scene has grown more skeptic because of what I have seen while playing in Ordo Draconis. Due to the expansion and the commercialisation the mysticism of the black metal scene as a whole has vanished, many bands are more worried about their image than about their musical accomplishments and the scene has become a breeding pit for childish quarrels. For these reasons my affinity with the black metal scene as a whole has decreased. This does not withstand, it still is the scene I feel closest related to and there enough excellent bands and interesting people around if one knows where to look. As for my taste in music – it has expanded more into other musical genres. To me, music is all about the expression of specific atmospheres and emotions. All means that enhance the transmission of the emotion or atmosphere are intrinsically justified in my view. In that sense there are no principal style barriers. My view on composing music is like my philosophy of life, eclectic in nature. While composing music for Ordo Draconis it became evident that influences from musical styles other than (black) metal were most appropriate in some cases. This sense of musical freedom is crucial for our way of working – we will not use “strange influences” just for the sake of experimenting, yet only in a functional way. I have become more open-minded to music, because of a growing interest in how other band and projects approach the expression and transmission certain feelings. Due to this I’m able to appreciate (functional) experimentalism more these days, and I guess I’m more “trained” to listen to more diverse and complex music. I needs little discussion that our skills as musicians and composers have grown throughout Ordo Draconis’ existence. When comparing the compositions on our first demo to what were doing now… there are worlds in between. I do not mean to say that the songs on “When the Cycle ends” are bad songs. They just represent another stage in our development and terms like good and bad are meaningless in that context. I know quite some people who prefer our first demo over our debut full length – fortunately I also know people with preferences the other way around. One thing is sure though, composing songs like we did back then was a lot less time intensive, hahaha. It was more like, making a number of ideas fit together within a certain frame back then. Nowadays the compositions are much more subtle, the connection to the concept and the lyrics worked out more intensively and much more attention is given to the arrangements. Composing consists of a lot more talking now. Our increased musical skills provide us more freedom for expressing what we want. Finally, Ordo Draconis has influenced my personality, because on a personal level I draw a reflection from the music I compose. It is like writing in a diary again – writing down the words is capturing the thoughts and emotions, which works confronting in a way. While writing, the ideas are being processed and put into a perspective frame. I think the composing of music works on a more abstract level and deals more with pure emotion and feeling then with its rationalization, but the basic principle is the same. In that sense Ordo Draconis’ music in general, and my contribution in specific has worked like a kind of mirror to me.
04. It seems there have been a lot of changes on the band lately. Could you tell us what happened? Have the things cool down now?
Rahab: Well I mentioned the changes in the line-up already in your second question. It was April of this year that Arco and Moloch parted ways with Ordo Draconis. We parted in a good understanding by the way, we even played a farewell gig for them. Especially Moloch could no longer relate to the musical directions in which we were heading. Arco’s reasons for parting have remained more obscure – he told he lacked motivation to do a good job. I think he had difficulty coping with the complexity of the songs and the new songs demanded some rather difficult drum work, which was giving him a hard time. Apart from that, circumstances had been rather demotivating on him; Arco had been giving his very best in supporting the band and beyond througb sales and lay-out activities and was frustrated in his work through outside forces. This summer Moloch and Arco teamed up again to form a new band, in which Bob also participates, by the name of Weltbrant. They play a rawer more typical kind of death/black metal if I should believe the sounds, with influences from the early black metal bands and a bit or rock roll feel to it alike Carpathian Forest. Of course with their departure, Moloch and Arco left a huge vacancy in more than one sense; we had basically started out together and we had been playing together for over 5 years going through the entire development of the band together. Of course such an event is not taken lightly. It was a hard decision for them to make, but I agree that it probably had become inevitable. The time directly afterwards was very hard, Midhir being in Ireland and Berry still being a session member. Midhir and Bob and myself had some intensive e-mail communication in which we decided to continue and ask Berry to team up as a permanent member. The guys from Vindsval had become friends of hours after playing some gigs together and doing some heavy partying. After he had heard the sad news, Tyrann from Vindsval offered us his services. His enthusiasm was so boundless, and his qualities as a front man and vocalist are of such a high standard that we decided to ask him in despite the large distance he lives away (about 500 kilometers). Apart from his motivation and musical and qualities as well as qualities as a front man – for we were very well aware that a front man like Moloch would not be easily replaced – Tyrann has a splendid character that fits right in with the other band members, so we get along just fine. Next to that Tyrann’s view on music are more in league with Ordo’s remaining members than Moloch’s. We played him some new songs when he visited us recently, and he was highly impressed… so no problems in that field. The position of drummer is still vacant, and considering the rhythmic experiments we have incorporated into the new songs, it will be difficult to start working with a real life drummer again. We are programming the drums for the time being – maybe we’ll record them for the next album in this manner as well. In studio drums are digitally corrected and sampled anyway. One thing is certain though, our new drummer will have to be an open-minded person and he shouldn’t be scared of some bits and bytes, hahaha.
05. Are you now also ready to do some live gigs? Have you played live a lot in the past? How do you experience a live performance?
Rahab: At the moment we aren’t prepared to get on stage again. Because we are fully focussing on preparing for the recording of our second album right now, arranging things for playing live does not get much attention. The drums of the “old” songs still need to be programmed. I have to admit I’d like to do some gigs again – it has been such a long time by now and though I am not really the stage maniac within the band, I enjoyed the last number of gigs we did quite a lot. In the past we did quiet a few gigs, I think a little over 40 or so, including some in Belgium and Germany. To me concerts are events that are to be taken individually, with a chaotic character in the sense that it is practically impossible to predict how they will develop in their course. If the bridge between us, the band, and the audience can be crossed it can be a magnificent and intense event – if not it can be dreadful. Though some audience is pleasant, the amount of people present is not decisive for making the gig “a success”, nor is the sound quality or even how well we played the songs. It simply seems the magical potential is there or it isn’t… though it will always requite hard labour “to make it happen”. I think the way I experience a live performance is reflected in the way I am on stage: introverted yet intensely experiencing, which is indicative for me as a person I guess.
06. You are label mates with Obsidian Gate’s. What do you think about their music? I think they’re quite close to your own style, yet while you’re a bit more open in your musical approach, Obsidian Gates are more close to what’s Black Metal.
Rahab: I am afraid I have some news in this matter, for Obsidian Gate or no longer on Skaldic Art. They have recently recorded three new songs for a MCD, which has been released in a limited edition of 300 copies by the guys themselves. It’s a truly awesome piece; their best so far without doubt! As for the musical resemblance, what can I say; of course there is some resemblance: in both bands the keyboards take up a prominent role. On the other hand, Obsidian Gate’s music is much faster and like you say, it’s closer to “conventional” black metal – if I can use this term in relation to their music. Their new stuff is a little more progressive by the way – probably the reason why I like it better, together with the very good production. I like their music, but I do not really think it is that close to ours – guitars are more important in our compositions and our influences and songs are more diverse.
07. I also noticed you’re truly open-minded when it comes to your music. As open-minded is not the best way to describe Black Metal, I’m curious on what you consider Black Metal to be, and on how you see the relation between your music and Black Metal.
Rahab: Hmmmm it kind of surprises me that you already noticed that we are that open-minded when it concerns our music on “The Wing & the Burden”. What can I say… wait till you hear our second full length “Camera Obscura”, hahaha – I think it will turn out much more progressive; even a bit avant-garde probably. Well as for the whole “labeling-business”, I am not too much into this pigeonholing. Some time ago I read the term “post black metal”, which appealed to me a lot… And by the way – you don’t think black metal is open minded? I think it is one of the wonderful things about black metal: that it is hardly defined by its music, so in that sense yes, I do believe it is open minded at least when you compare it to death or doom metal for instance. It ranges from Dimmu Borgir to Abruptum, from Mysticum to Obtained Enslavement, from Beherit to Emperor to mention just a few dimensions. Are you able to define black metal in musical terms? I’m sure I could find a counter-example to almost any definition. Because it is so hard to define black metal and opinions differ, I can hardly comment on how our music is related to black metal, I just know how I experience it. Anyway, I already had so many (senseless) discussions on what black metal is or should be and how I should or shouldn’t label my own music… or even funnier people telling how we should change in order to become a black metal band. Like I mentioned before, black metal is the musical genre I feel closest related to, the scene I have followed most intensively; my CD-collection mainly consists of CDs in this genre – but when composing music one of the last things on my mind is: “Is this black metal or not?” As an artist it’s completely irrelevant – we compose and play our music primarily for egocentric purposes, to give expression to specific emotions and atmospheres. Anything that helps transmitting those is intrinsically legitimate, so basically there are no fundamental superposed restrictions except for the ones intrinsic to our personalities. In that sense we are open minded indeed, and “true” in the only sense that matters, namely true to ourselves… I wonder how many “true” black metal bands can say the same thing. In the mean time, for the sake of frame of reference, let’s stick to “post black metal”.
08. What’s the experience of creating music for you? How do you know which parts fit and which don’t fit with your music? How about patterns, rhythms, repetitions… how do they work to create an Ordo Draconis track?
Rahab: The composing of music gives me a huge high – it’s a wonderful ecstatic sensation, feeling how pieces fall together, and sensing the synergy between the individual parts. Maybe it sounds a bit awkward but it’s something really intimate. Bob Midhir and myself are the ones involved in composing. We compose our pieces individually and combine them altogether. All three of us have our own way of composing the pieces… and if you know our ways of working and our styles, one could easily recognise who contributed what. Me personally, I do not use an instrument when composing most of the time – I hear the music before playing it. Sometimes I play around with a theme in my mind for ages before I play it for the first time. It works like a mixing desk with various tracks, I can hear the parts individually and mix them together. It required some practice, and it may sound a bit awkward, but anyway it’s a lot cheaper than an actual mixing desk, haha. Our music has many secrets….. even for me. It’s like my diary in a way… or maybe better, it’s like our diaries combined and encrypted to a form that nobody knows or is able to reveal the complete meaning… but everyone can listen to it and experience it in his or her personal way…and some people even enjoy it, haha. There are soo many ideas surrounding the songs. I recall all the situations of when I came up with the parts I contributed… That’s how the songs became “charged” and meaningful to me. There are memories from childhood, things related to my family – they are all there put into the songs… and to a large extent not even my fellow band members know. To tell you the truth, thinking about how to construct the songs, to give them meaning often requires much more time than composing the musical themes themselves… The three of us decide together what parts we will use for the songs. The criterion is simple: we just know if we want to put a part in or not. Sometimes some negotiating skills are practiced, hehe; well sometimes a bit of explaining helps to understand how a part could serve the song or how it translates (an aspect of) the theme into music. When composing together, concessions are inevitable I believe, but we almost always succeed in finding a compromise, with which we can all enjoy the composition. For Ordo Draconis the synergy of our individual input coming together definitely outweighs the aspect of doing concessions. Like I already mentioned in my answer to the previous question, all musical means are justified when translating emotion and atmosphere into music. So in that sense we don’t have an explicit restriction in style or influence with respect to what parts we can or can’t use. As for song structures, repetitions and patterns -it’s difficult to explain that – I would need to do it on a track to track basis. Especially for the tracks on the new album, for which the concept and also the structure was worked out in some detail before composing the actual music, patterns and repetitions are closely related to the concept. For some tracks this was done on basis of a story line, for others the concept was more basic and worked out through the music. Of course I can’t give away the secret to creating an Ordo Draconis-track, hehe – before you know everyone starts producing Ordo-songs. Nah, seriously, there is no rigid formula to our songs. We start out with an idea, like “it could be interesting to try and do something with this and this and that.” If we agree, then we work out the idea, but it can take many shapes.
09. Ordo Draconis, as a name takes me more into something like Medieval orders (Templar’s especially), into occult and magic symbolism. What does it mean for you? Are you into the fascinating world of such religious and spiritual gatherings?
Rahab: Funny enough, the week you sent me the interview I had finally been doing some reading on the Knight Templars again. There is a lot of intriguing mystery surrounding them and there termination, their Gnostic views interest me much as well as subjects that are put in relation to the Knight Templars like the Skull of Sidon, the Grail, the Prieure de Sion and the Cathars As for our band name, Midhir has written the following lines to answer the returning question on its meaning: Ordo Draconis is a Latin phrase which, as anyone might imagine, translates into English as ‘The Order of the Dragon’ (although draco could also denote a serpent). We’ve allowed the band name to be sufficiently elusive and open to interpretation, not to let any description bridle our creativity, except for that very part of the concept which embodies our imaginative freedom. Various interpretations of the symbolic significance of the dragon are possible, and I’ll try to indicate a few of them. Let me first bring into play the way the dragon is included as one of the animal symbols used in alchemy. The widespread and parallel use of animal symbolism by autonomous alchemists brought Carl Jung to his theory of the collective unconscious, so perhaps in that sense the dragon would be a universal archetype deeply embedded in the human mind. Alchemy often situates the dragon at both the beginning, which marks the potentiality of darkness, and, in winged form, at the end of the moulding process (mind over matter). And so alchemical writings often present the Ouroborus dragon or serpent, which bites itself in the tail when the cycle becomes full circle. With this in mind, I would like to say that there is an interesting duality of polarities contained within the band name. Down from the Mesopotamian creation myth (presumably even earlier), the dragon often embodies the primal waters of chaos (even as the biblical primal chaos has been depersonified, we can still retrace its origins to a dragon like Tiamat). Creation entails the potential of preceding chaos, such as when Marduk slays Tiamat, and, roughly, so does revolution. Now then, the first component of the band name would be as ambivalent in Latin as it is in modern English: ordo is not only a word for order in the sense of a religious organization or a privileged class, but also order as opposed to chaos. It’s this cyclic alternation of order and chaos (perhaps we may speak of the antagonism, in the muscular sense of the biceps and triceps, between them), that’s crucial to progress and knowledge. As such, the name, both on a macrocosmic and microcosmic level, refers to how growth and progress may issue from the breaking down of order and tradition. I should hasten to add that among the potentialities I therefore include the aspect of opposition, the destructive aspect, that has been typically attributed to the dragon. I say this from an ideological point of view, but perhaps we can also find that in myth. Think of the dragon of which the teeth would grow to be the indigenous people of Thebes, or of Fafnir, of which the blood would render its vanquisher Sigurd or Siegfried nearly invincible. Similarly, but also in many other ways, the name refers to the creative process of the artist. It’s also about breaking with conventions, still using the raw material (the potential of chaos) but manipulating and transcending it like the winged dragon of alchemy. I would use the term ‘potential of chaos’ in a wide frame of reference, including among others the amorphous material that is our perception of reality, and the interior reality of our subconscious processed and channelled into our work. In heraldic signs the dragon is often the emblem of sovereignty, and likewise we assert our wilfulness and our high esteem of freedom in this destructive and creative process of writing. Come to think of it, we may see in the myths of dragonslayers the inability of man to come to grips with unsafe parts of his nature, those which he feels uncomfortable about and decides to sort out the easy way, which is slaying. As those internal parts are ‘externalized’ (can’t find the right word) in the shape of the dragon and placed at the periphery of existence, the hero prevails in myth, but would such a repression really be the solution in actual life? All in all, Ordo Draconis denotes the organic relationship between aspects like progress, knowledge, opposition, and sovereignty. Enough about that now. A sketch of the significance of a dragon should by analogy be of dragonlike proportion, ha, ha. Another way of explaining the band name may have to do with the Dutch expression: ‘ergens de draak mee steken’ (= to mock something). However, the real reason for this band name is basically because it sounds so good. Seriously, like my view on the band name would probably suggest, we haven’t really set ourselves to a clearly defined concept, although that in itself does imply this concept of unrestrained liberty to do as we think fit. We ourselves are the only limits (which are therefore not fixed). I honestly think it’s better to let the process speak for itself, as the true traveller is not intent on arriving.
10. I think Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendul describes an intriguing hypothesis on the role and function of such organizations (orders) in more recent times. What are your views on the matter?
Rahab: Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum” deals with an intriguing and to many frightening concept. Let me start off my comments with a a quote from the book: “Above her head was the only stable place in the cosmos, the only refuge from the damnation of the panta rei, and she guessed it was the Pendulum’s business, not hers. A moment later the couple went off – he, trained on some textbook that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awesomeness of their encounter – their first and last encounter — with the One, the EnSoph, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?” In my view, the above excerpt combines two of the central notions within Eco’s masterwork: the enigma of the absolute on one hand and human ‘stupidity’ on the other. It describes the Pendulum and its connection to the single unmoving virtual point, the pivot around which the universe can move. At the same time Eco refers to the human blindness for the absolute, despite (or maybe even due to) its crystal clarity. The networks of mystic orders play a somewhat peculiar role with respect to this relation between the infinite absolute and finite humanity. Like the main characters in Eco’s novel, people have been searching for this great answer to the question of ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’. In my view this longing manifests itself in a quest for certainty and control. This means finding as well as creating patterns, whether it be laws of nature, moral codes, or aesthetic conventions. Human life would be impossible without such this sense of structure. So patterns is what we seek and what we create at the same time. However these two mechanisms are inseparable since they are essentially the same. We create our reality by searching for it and for us the distinction between truth and artefact (mental construct) is hard or maybe even impossible to make. Eco points out the terrible consequences of this human ‘fallacy’: Within the novel, the search for the grand truth is set in contemporary time. Three scholarly book editors try to reconstruct the great secret of the Knight’s Templars. This all starts out as a joke but soon they end up entangled in a web of myth, created by their own delusive/deluded minds. This self constructed ‘truth’ has an overwhelming influence on people; it affects their actions, perceptions, and reasoning ability and it starts to live a life on its own. In this way we create explanations and insights that blind us from seeing “the real truth”. Even though the main characters of Foucault’s Pendulum are all gifted with great reasoning ability (or at least extensive knowledge), they nonetheless lose touch with reality. This is illustrated in the following excerpt: “…these are now people lost in a maze: some choose one path, some another; some shout for help, and there’s no telling if the replies they hear are other (lost) voices or the echo of their own…” As for the mystic orders, they are presented as mystifiers of truth. They are the ‘fallible’, or actually even the “demonic” creators and catalysts of this delusive ‘truth’ that permeates our reality. Not a very positive conception you would think. However, the mystic orders play a far more important and in a way more reverend role. For still, in the eyes of “ordinary” man, they are the keepers of absolute truth; a truth for some reason not accessible to us. Perhaps because the power unleashed by this absolute knowledge would be beyond our might to control it? Not according to Eco. The key development in his novel is the revelation of the secret, where it turns out to be entirely empty. The ultimate mystery is the secret, which hides nothing but only pretends to do so. In my interpretation of the book, it is exactly the nothingness behind this mystery, which ìs the pivot of the pendulum: the absolute turning point of the universe. When there would be something ‘real’ to hide, it would not be constant; for then the secret would be revealed and its contents would be subjected to the corruption of material existence. So in fact, there is a twofold movement within the functionality of the mystic order. On one hand they are the creators of the veil; hiders of truth, but on the other hand they are the unaware keepers of this one virtual point, symbolised by the virtual extension of the pendulum’s anchor point. The pendulum itself stands out as a symbol of pure and sensible clarity. While the ‘believers’ seek the secret truths of the universe believed to be known only to the privileged cognoscenti/templars/masons the pendulum simply hangs in place demonstrating the earth’s rotation to anyone who cares to look and think without prejudice. As the pendulum is a material necessity to indicate the absoluteness of its own virtual pivot. So the mystic orders, or more in general the human creation of mystified truth is necessary to be able to experience the clarity of the infinite: “I have understood. And the certainty that there is nothing to understand should be my peace, my triumph.” This is the only constant truth and it is not hidden but searching for it in the wrong way makes one blind. Let me close off with a quote from the philosopher Kierkegaard in this respect: ‘The truth is a trap: you can not get it without it getting you; you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you.’.. though one by Nietzsche might be equally appropriate.
11. Symbolism is something you often associate with your creation… How would you describe the function of the symbol? Are you familiar with C. G. Jung theory on the matter?
Rahab: I guess Midhir already somewhat anticipated on this question in his answer to the question on our band name. Let me start by answering the last question. I am somewhat familiar with Jung’s theories on the collective unconscious and his “archetypes” (“symbols” or “unconscious images of the human instincts”), yet everything but an expert. What I have read on his theories seems interesting, though I think that in his enthusiasm for proving his point, his examples are sometimes a little far-fetched and I have the impression that he pushes his ideas beyond the field on which they are applicable. I must admit, I had and to some extent still have difficulty accepting the idea of an inherited imprint on the human psyche. I don’t have a problem with the idea, that fundamental drives (i.e. instincts) and resulting elemental behaviour patterns are genetically determined and have been passed on for many generations. Next to that, it seems likely that there is an inherited component in the human capacity to learn in a structural sense, so that all humans approach a particular “new experience” in a same way. What I am not convinced of, or rather stronger, what I refuse to believe at this point, is that archetypes (e.g. “the self”, “the mother”, “the hero”, “the demon”) are “charged” at the moment we are born. Charged in the sense that an archetype would carry any meaning. The seed might be present in the sense that instincts are present as well structures to learn, to conceptualize and to add meaning to specific concepts. Scientifically it is very difficult to determine to what extent archetypes are really inherited rather than generated (or charged) by socially and culturally determined processes. And it would probably require unethical experiments (like for instance letting a child grow up in absence of any mother figure, his or anyone else’s). Of course it is striking that certain symbols and structures turn up in many (separated) cultures. Then again, many concepts are so “likely” to be present in different societies, since they are inherent to human life and advanced social structures that it seems obvious these concepts become part of many or all cultures. Inheritance could still be the case then, but of socio-cultural nature rather than of a genetic one (or whatever way aspects of the psyche is passed on). This socio-cultural nature does not withspeak that these concepts and their symbols and images are unconscious; in this matter it is ironic to notice to what extent Christian concepts and morals detemine the way “satanists” think and behave. The Christian roots in society are so strong and deep that we often even aren’t aware they are there. Anyway, socio-cultural values and concepts, both conscious and unconscious are not present at birth, but learnt either consciously or unconsciously and this contradicts Jung’s views, who says the archetypes are “already” present in the human psyche. What I have read could not convince me of his view on this aspect. Symbols are meant to express or to refer to a concept, an aspect or an element of reality in a condensed and often metaphoric way. As for the function of symbols, I think that two relevant aspects can be distinguished. On the one hand there is the “general familiarity” with the concept of the symbol; symbols for which this aspect is most important are the more “functional”symbols, like the red cross on an ambulance, the aesculape on a doctor’s car. On the other hand there is the “personal charge” given to a symbol; symbols for which this is the most relevant aspect are the more “personal”symbols, like a self designed tribal tattoo for instance. Often a division this clear can not be made, like with the pentagram I wear for instance; of course it is known for being a “satanic symbol”. To me however is represents certain values that are (in my perception) symbolized by the morningstar, that are very valuable to me as a person. Obviously, with symbols becoming more personal, it becomes less clear what their meaning is, at least without additional elucidation. In that sense symbols become more like focal points to the expresser rather than indicators to the perceiver(s); what does it mean to me and what do I stand for is more important than what do I want to get across. For me the pith and relevance of symbols lies somewhere else than for Jung – pretty much analogously to our views on life: Jung tried to reveal the meaning of life, where I prefer to give (charge) it (with) meaning. I guess my approach is more egocentric and less fatalistic, though funny enough the consequences in practical terms needn’t be very big – both views will lead to a quest for meaning.
12. You[r] album The Wing & The Burden was released on Skaldic Art. How are your relations with them? Are you satisfied with their work? Will your new materials released on the same label?
Rahab: Skaldic Art is run by Vratyas Vakyas from Falkenbach. Since Ordo Draconis joined Skaldic Art in early 2000, we have developed a special friendship. The large part of our understanding is non-professional. I think Vratyas has done a lot to help Ordo Draconis, without imposing any artistical restrictions on us. He’s not the kind of person who takes the easy way and he really believes in that bands he has under his banner. Skaldic Art is a small label, and obviously this implies restrictions. It is not a label that can send its bands on large tours, do major advertising campaigns or has its records sold in every record shop. However the bands on Skaldic Art are treated fair, getting fair studio budgets and decent royalty rates. Vratyas is an honest person who has pride in what he does and tries to do what he believes is the best, both in the interest of the bands and Skaldic Art. It is most likely that “Camera Obscura” will be released on Skaldic Art.
13. What would you say is the role and meaning of a label now? Hammerheart Records seems to be now one of the most important label in the Extreme Metal scene. What does this mean for the whole Dutch Scene? Does it have an impact even for an outside band such as yours?
Rahab: It depends on what you mean by the role of labels. In my view, for bands labels serve three basic purposes, namely providing money for recording and touring, distributing records and promoting a bands and their music. With the improved possibilities for making good sounding home-recordings, maybe the first purpose has become less important, at least for underground acts. In the ideal situation, a label has no impact whatsoever on “the art” of the bands – but well in an indirect sense that’s almost impossible. The bit I have seen of the music industry during the last number of years has given me mixed feeling towards labels. As artists we do have the ambition to reach people, preferably as many as possible. Record labels have the “means” to reach people…but almost inevitably you enter the game of commerce then. No matter how strong the ideals of a label (initially) might be, in the end it’s about money and for most labels bands become “investments”. Just like on the stock or any market, labels aim for the highest profit with smallest investment. For the continuity of the label it is important to make profit, this should be obvious. The strategy to make profit differs from label to label, but also between bands on one label. Consequence of this “investment-approach” is that the “commercial” value and the “artistic” value of bands grow even wider apart. Hypes and “formulas” turn mediocre bands famous, because such bands are interesting investments for labels. At the moment the formula in the Netherlands is rather simple by the way: find a girl with a cute face, get her a dress, make sure she doesn’t sing out of tune all the time, write a dozen of simple catchy songs on a rainy afternoon, get your drinking lads to pick up an instrument to play them and you can be sure of a record deal in no time….the rest is trivial. Wearing gay clothes with the entire band appears to be an additional advantage though. Of course I’m exaggerating (a bit), but the bottom line should be clear. To a large extent it is the way it works, and some awareness of the process is healthy I think. The general audience swallows whatever “the big record labels” put in front of their faces, while there are often much better treats around, at least from an artistic point of view. The bigger record labels can afford to buy the exposure – not only advertisements or songs on samplers, but nowadays interviews and reviews are sold too in many magazines: bands only get interviews or good reviews when advertisements or songs on the sampler are bought. It makes one think doesn’t it? Looking at the current development among labels I think you can see a polarization: the separation between “big labels” and “underground labels” is becoming more pronounced. The “medium labels” are disappearing – they quit or go bankrupt. I think it might have something to do with the availability of music on the internet. The underground labels don’t suffer from it, because of the limited investments, the limited editions and the hardcore of underground fanatics. The big labels generally have bigger acts and reach a larger more mainstream audience – people tend to buy CDs from bands they are already familiar with more easily. And for new signings these labels can buy the exposure to obtain a sense of “familiarity”. I don’t think Hammerheart has a major influence on the Dutch scene – I haven’t noticed it anyway. They have some, but not extraordinary many Dutch signings. For a band as Ordo Draconis, their influence is negligible. Hammerheart is a good example of a label that started out with a sense of idealism and developed in a commercial way, signing “names” because they guarantee sales. These guys from Desekrator for instance must have laughed their heads of, seeing they could get such crap officially released.
14. What are your plans for the future? What would you like to be your contribution to the musical evolution of the genre?
Rahab: At the moment our future plans are a 100% focused on realising “Camera Obscura”. The basis of the 7 songs that will be featured is practically finished, what remains to be done is additional arranging, and composing the intro, outro and interludes. The way it looks at the moment, the album will be partly recorded at home, partly in the studio where we rehearse and partly at a studio in Germany, where Secrets of the Moon, Obsidian Gate, Vindsval and Rivendell recorded their latest efforts. Hagalaz from Vindsval is behind the mixing desk, and having heard some of the aforementioned released I can assure you he’s quite a wizard! Unfortunately the songs on “Camera Obscura” only have preliminary titles at the moment, so it’s little use giving them at this stage. The first three songs on the album will form a conceptual trilogy and will be connected through interludes. In general, I think the new material and particularly the songs we have composed recently are more progressive than the ones on “The Wing & the Burden”, at some points maybe even a little avantgarde. The range of influences has grown bigger and the more intensive use of computers and music software have extended the possibilities to work out a certain idea. The use of “non typical” rhythms and samples has worked well for the songs I think. However I wish and can assure that we didn’t hopelessly lost ourselves in senseless experimenting, I can even assure you that “Camera Obscura” will sound a lot heavier than its predecessor. Though I am still happy with and proud of our debut full length we did learn about things that could and should improve. Obviously not everything has changed with our (natural) progression, in some cases the references to our debut are even quite strong. For instance, like with the “Danse Macabre”-piece by Saent-Saens on our debut, we have taken a classical piece and incorporated into one of our songs. We have chosen a splendid piece by Schubert this time, and the approach and way of incorporating has been entirely different. What would we like to be our contribution to the evolution of the musical genre? Even answering the question seems to be pretentious. I think I would have to split my awnser up in two parts. We do want and believe we have something to contribute to “the genre”. However, the evolution of the genre is fully subordinate to the evolution of Ordo Draconis as an entity. We want to develop and fulfill our own musical aspirations – what impact that has on the evolution of the scene is not really something that’s on our minds. If we can help the genre to evolve, that’s great, but what’s most important is, that the means with which we would do so are ours; that the music remains “our own”, that it is artistically integer and meaningful to us. So basically I would like our evolution to be our contribution to the evolution to the genre, hehe.
15. I guess that sums up everything! Anything to add in the end…?
Rahab: Well, I guess I have been demanding enough on you, your readers and you printing expenses. I wish to thank you for this great interview, I had a good time replying. Best of luck with your activities in the scene, Negru!