Interview – Vampire Magazine – December 2005

Vampire Magazine – December 2005

Rahab interviewed by Isaak of Vampire Magazine (The Netherlands)

First of all congratulations with the release of ‘Camera’! How has it been received so far?

Rahab: Thank you very much. The response we have had so far has been extremely good, surpassing any expectations. I’m convinced that less positive reviews and feedback will follow in due time, but until now it’s really nothing but praises and (near) maximum scores. Although it is not a key-drive, it is always nice to hear people are enjoying what we have created, especially after the long and intensive labour. We’re also very pleased ourselves with our beautiful twins

Ordo Draconis is clearly a band that think and compose beyond well-known paths, patterns and metal-dogmas. This is especially unusual for a Dutch band. How do you explain this?

I think every band will probably approach their music in the way they feel most comfortable with. How precisely other bands do so, and if that is very different from Ordo Draconis’ approach I can’t really tell, nor is it any concern really. Fact is that Ordo Draconis’ members are quite open-minded when it comes to musical styles and influences. On top of that, we enjoy (musical) challenges. Basically everything that supports the mood we aim to create or the emotion we want to get across goes. I do not see why we should restrict ourselves to a limited part of the toolbox – sometimes one is in need of a screwdriver, sometimes of a crowbar. The expansion of the toolbox compared to our previous album “The Wing & the Burden” has been one of the reasons for our former vocalist and drummer to leave; clearly they were not feeling comfortable with the more experimental edge that was introduced into Ordo Draconis’ music.

In an earlier interview you’ve mentioned that the Dutch metal scene has not produced much of any significance. Have you seen any progression these last few years and what position do you want Ordo Draconis to have within the Dutch scene and abroad?

Hahaha, wow nice research – since I didn’t remember making such a blunt statement I looked up the interview… and what can I say: it wasn’t me hehehe. It was our keyboard player replying to that one… so death threats should be sent to him! No, but seriously – the interviewer did not mention “Dutch metal scene”, but “your scene” in his question. Mir-h iD interpreted that as the Dutch black metal scene rather than the Dutch metal scene in total – of course he is aware that in other metal subgenres like death and doom metal for instance Dutch bands have done quite a bit of pioneering. Also the interpretation of the word “significance” might have differed a bit between the two of you. I think Mir-h iD is more or less referring to how well known or influential Dutch black metal bands had been until that point rather than commenting on how good their music was, but that is just my interpretation. To be honest, I’m not that much up to date when it comes to the evolution of the Dutch metal scene in general or the Dutch black metal scene in particular. Some new comers that managed to arouse my interest are Carach Angren, Control Human Delete and Dimensional Psychosis. Concerning our position in the scene, it should be clear that with the release of “Camera Obscura” we are aiming at world domination! (are you pondering what I’m pondering?) But seriously, I consider music art – and that view leaves little space for the concept of competition. I do not have a view of Ordo Draconis’ position in the sense of ranking. I do have the impression that we kind of drifted off from boundaries of the conventional subgenres… and I don’t think I really mind. Black metal still is the subgenre we feel closest related to. I hope that with the release of “Camera Obscura” we will be able to reach a lot of metal fans within both the Dutch and the international metal scene.

How is the writing process in the band? Is there hierarchy?

There is not really a hierarchical structure within the band, though people tend to take up roles that suit them best. Mir-h iD, 1337_Misanthrope and yours truly are responsible for composing the Ordo Draconis songs. We work on the basis of consensus as much as we can, and we almost always succeed, but like with any cooperation sometimes small compromises have to be made. Most of the time, we work from a certain concept or a certain idea. This can be both musically and thematically and often combined. The extent to which this offers a structure to the song differs from song to song. Subsequently the three of us work together on how we fill in the idea with small pieces of music that we had composed individually. It’s also during these sessions we try to implement references, small musical jokes and further subtleties in the songs. Finally the actual lyrics to the song are written.

Some parts of the album are very organic while others are extremely digital. Does the band compose in all sorts of ways on all kinds of instruments?

I guess you might say so – the composing band members already have different approaches when it comes to writing their individual parts. For instance 1337_Misanthrope has more of an intuitive jamming approach, while I hear the music before I know how to play it… or even before I’m actually able to play it. The other two guys are multi-instrumentalists; this provides them relatively much freedom when composing; Mir-h iD also plays guitar quite well and manages a bit on drums and bass as well, and 1337_Misanthrope is both an OK drummer and a very good bass-player. For “Camera Obscura” the three of us also started programming music on PC, using music software, samples, softsynths, etc – this offered us quite some additional possibilities. It also proved very useful for the parts sung by the choir; apart from getting some impression of what their parts would sound like – these programs also had options for printing their sheet music.

The lyrics on CD 1 “The Star Chamber reviews” are a concept. Tell us how this came to be. (Was there music first and after that the lyrical concept or the other way around?) Could you explain to our readers the (lyrical) concept of “The Star Chamber Reviews”

Well the concept was kind of like an expanding entity, really haha. In the very, very beginning it just concerned one song. During secondary school I read the play “Lucifer” by the renowned Dutch playwright Joost van de Vondel. I was particularly fascinated by the angle of approach Vondel chose for his play, Lucifer not being the typical villain, but rather an anti-hero drawn into a tragic situation and standing up for his beliefs and values with pride and accepting the consequences of his actions. It’s hard not to sympathize with this character. I proposed to do something with the subject to the other guys. Clearly we had to “ordonize” things a bit and decided to create a song in two parts. The first part would describe the course of events and the second would reflected on these events in a court of law setting, The same musical themes were used in both parts, though in the second part they were slightly reworked – a twist of truth if you want. It is in this second part that we included an excerpt from Vondel’s play. For the sake of nostalgia we even found a former Dutch teacher of ours willing to do the narration, haha. Under this constellation, the song “Mock Trial” was born – in essence it is quite an old song – older than most of the material featured on “The Wing & the Burden”. Now this Vondel-fellow had written another play entitled “Adam in Exile” (“Adam in Ballingschap”), dealing with the fall of man; another fascinating topic and we decided to do a song on this theme (“The Writhing Tongue”) after one on the fall of the angels. Though for the second song we didn’t look that much over Vondel’s aged shoulder. It more and more became a challenge to treat these cliché-subjects – let’s face it in both literature and metal lyrics they have turned up thousands of times – in an innovative way, so they became interesting and fresh again. The most extreme example of this has become “Neuron Gutter, Neutron Star”, which deals with the apocalypse in an industrialized post modern setting. Various elements from the Revelations of St John were picked up, cleaned out, restyled, industrialized, digitalized and made ready for post modern society. It’s is kind of difficult to comment on the complete concept in just a few lines. Basically the actual songs on “The Star Chamber Reviews” deal with Lucifer’s finest or darkest hours according to Christian lore: the fall of the angels, the fall of man and the apocalypse. On a somewhat deeper level, the songs deal with concepts of truth, knowledge and perspective.

Did you plan ‘Camera’ to be this varied and majestic from the beginning or is it just the way it turned out to be.

Well, things kind of evolved, like I already mentioned in the previous question, in particular for the “The Star Chamber Reviews” CD. One song became two; two songs became three. Then we decided we wanted to make a kind of unity, by linking the songs together through interludes and of course the concept should have an intro and an outro. These parts were very suitable for trying something different – experimenting around a bit. I believe also the large time span over which the material has been written has contributed to the variety of the album. Next to that musical tastes and hence our musical influences of the members contributing to the composing cover a broad musical spectrum. And on top of that we enjoy musical challenges – for instance, we did want to do some experiments with a choir. So I wouldn’t really say it was planned like this from the very beginning, but we kind of had it coming.

The album has taken a few years to be written and recorded. I’ve read that it especially took a long time to record all the vocals. Why is that?

It’s true – it was in particular the recording of the choir parts and its preparations that required a lot of time. It was a very educative experience though. First we had to familiarize ourselves with the possibilities and limitations of choir voices. Working with multiple melody lines for the vocals was also quite new to us. We wanted to try out a couple of different things and not stick to some kind of Therion copy. For instance we wanted to try something with Gregorian chant, a part a bit in the vein of the songs from the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff but also a part with more jazz and film music influences – to give a few examples. The communication with the choir was really a clash of cultures, and therefore a very interesting experience! These guys and girls are used to read their lines from paper music and communicate about music in an utterly different way. Clearing things out with respect to what they would be able to sing and preparing the music in such a way that they would be able to work with it also required a lot of time. The actual choir rehearsals were in a relatively short time span before the actual recording. In that sense, despite the long preparations, the choir experiment was still kind of pressure cooked. Considering that for all of the choir members but one it was their first studio experience, I think they have done a more than fine job!

You’ve been to 5 studios to make ‘Camera’ the way it is. That’s a lot. Which studios have you been to and why?

Because we wanted to use different voices for the different characters in the songs of the conceptual “The Star Chamber Reviews” CD, we had to find quite a few good vocalists. Not all of these people, including the choir, were to keen on going all the way to Karlsruhe to record their parts. It was in the Tidal Wave Studio in Karlsruhe that all the instruments were recorded and the mixing was done. All in all “Camera Obscura” came to be in two studios in Gouda, two studios in Karlsruhe and one in Porta Westfalica.

How did you get all those guest musicians to appear and who are they?

Hahaha.. the old-boys network eh! But seriously, we have been around for quite a few years and over the years we got in touch with quite a few people. In a number of cases, special friendships grew and some of these people we approached to make a contribution to “Camera Obscura”. Because at the time of the recording we were without a drummer, we had decided to work with a session musician. A friend of mine, Alboin from the German bands Enid and Geist, got me in touch with Moritz Neuner, who has mistreated or is mistreating the skins in a seemingly endless list of renowned bands including Dornenreich, Abigor, Darkwell and Atrocity. He was very much interested in working with us and liked our avantgardistic approach to our music. After 2 years without a drummer and finally deciding to work with a session drummer ironically enough, two drummers contacted us while we were in the studio recording “Camera Obscura”. One of them was our current drummer Marco – who was playing in Altar before he joined us. The complete list of guest musicians is mentioned in the CD booklets; some of them are mentioned with their own name, others with nicknames, for legal reasons – what really matters to us is that we know who these people are and that their contributions are on the album.

After my review you sent me an email. Though my review was extremely positive, you would have liked it to be more complete. You seem like a perfectionist. Which is good obviously but aren’t you afraid when it comes to making music that thinking things over too much is damaging the emotional impact and honesty?

Let me start by putting straight that I am not trying to tell you how to do your job as a reviewer, nor do I feel the slightest urge to. I do have my personal view of course and there were some elements in your review that struck me; it was clear that you had enjoyed the album a lot – which is of course nice to read as an artist – but somehow the reason why felt a bit missing.. there must have been more than that it was different from what you hear mostly. As a reader who wants to be informed, I would have been interested in that (hadn’t I known all the details already of course, like in this particular case, hehe). Anyway…now for your actual question – which is a fairly interesting one from a rhetorical point of view. What you suggest is that perfectionists (might) think too much, and that thinking too much makes music less honest and reduces emotional impact, right? I guess it is clear by now that we give a lot of thought to what we do musically, and we enjoy that a lot – I don’t think it necessarily leads to rigidity or sterility. For the music we play, we put exactly the right amount of thought into it, hehe. I think we are perfectionists in the sense that we are trying to get the best we possibly can, but we are also realists enough to see in certain aspects the means are restricted and limiting the outcome. I believe things start to go wrong when you are perfectionist in such a way that you stop trying or keep on rejecting results. I do not think that giving something a lot of thought makes it less honest, possibly less intuitive. In my view, certain aspects of the composing for Ordo Draconis can be and are done intuitively, other aspects like conceptualization require more conscious thought. With respect to emotional impact and honesty, I think that the recording and then in particular, the number of takes and the cutting and pasting of parts will be more of a concern than the composing… but in particular when musicians do not have the skills to play what they want to, or when they have so much skill that they try to get the smallest thingings out and the whole thing loses “the feel”.

I am not a child of the black metal scene so I am not familiar with your earliest releases. ‘Camera’ has some references to black metal but it’s way beyond. Do you want to break with that scene? Do you think it has bled to death?

We do not think in terms of being part of a particular scene – we simply do our thing and that is that. If I were to appoint a metal subgenre to which our music is related to closest, then that would be black metal, not in the least because it is relatively undefined in terms of music. If other people believe that, what we are doing nowadays has nothing to do with black metal anymore, then that’s also fine with me. I think on our previous releases our music could be characterized as black metal more easily. However, I think it is important to offer people some indication of what you sound like as a band, and it is therefore that we decided to label the music “post-black metal”; to indicate our black metal roots, but to also make clear that people shouldn’t expect something like Darkthrone or Cradle of Filth for that matter. No, I don’t think that black metal has bled to death at all – despite a mighty legion of poor copycats active in the black metal scene, there is still a lot of interesting stuff coming out… fortunately!

When doing research after your band I noticed the press is enthusiastic but a lot of fans/listeners call Ordo Draconis arrogant and pretentious. How do you react to this and how did this come?

Hmmm I’m curious for your sources – I do check the internet every now and then (I assume that’s where you got your info from) and I don’t really have the general impression that we’re viewed as being arrogant. Don’t think it would make too much sense either – so in that sense I’m a bit surprised I guess. I’d like to hear what grounds people would have to state we’re arrogant. Possibly it is simply based on a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding of the context in which we made a certain statement – like with your question on the Dutch scene… Personally, I would say we’re ambitious and self-convinced, or better: self-aware, rather than pretentious and/or arrogant…. But other people may think differently…I don’t know.

Tell us about Ordo Draconis and Opus Magnum Productions. Are you their only signing?

Yes we are the only band on Opus Magnum. Opus Magnum Productions is a small underground label run by a rather mysterious Hermes. Our previous album “The Wing & the Burden” had been released through Skaldic Art Productions, the label from Vratyas Vakyas from Falkenbach. However, this label does no longer exist. When it became clear that “Camera Obscura” was not going to be released through Skaldic Art we started looking for other options. Then Opus Magnum came into the picture. Especially the label’s views on art and philosophy resembled our own strikingly closely and though quite some time went by before the mystical marriage between label and band was concluded, there had been an instant click. For the time being I’m convinced we’re on the right label. I think Opus Magnum’s policy is quite different from most labels – we have really all the (artistic) freedom we could ask for, in every aspect, and we have influence on how things are done with respect to our album, but on the other hand the label is demanding when it comes to commitment. And it makes sense I guess: why should a label believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself? Why should a label invest a lot, if you’re not willing to work your ass of yourself to reach your own goals? And on the other hand, if you work your ass off – you should also be permitted to say a few words on how things are to be done. I hoped you liked this interview. Do you have anything to add?

Yes, I’ve enjoyed this interview a lot – thank you very much! Well if your readers got ’till here, I think I’ve taken enough of their time. Let me finish off with the following: People interested in knowing a bit more about Ordo Draconis and our latest record, please check out our homepage: www.ordodraconis.com – there are a couple of mp3’s from the new album on the site. “Camera Obscura” can be directly purchased from us for 20 euros (inc p&p) – feel free to get in touch (rahab@ordodraconis.com). Finally, after Portugal, we also plan to do a number of concerts in the Netherlands in support of the new album, so I hope to see you all there!