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Interview for the Italian Fanclub
Q.: Let's start with your latest work: "Like a Corpse standing in Desperation". Finally, thanks to this box-set, the pirating on your music has ended.
A.: Well, actually it hasn’t stopped. There are still tons of pirate products flooding the (mostly internet) marketplaces, like for example the “digipak”-versions of all the current SOPOR-albums. All of them are absolutely illegal. But go on ...
Q.: What do you think about people that illegally use your music (as downloading mp3 files or copying your CDs)?
A.: I think it is just very disrespectful ... – and also rather short-sighted. You have to keep in mind that pirates are still criminals, you know, nothing more than thieves ... – they steal other people’s work. They are just like burglars, or looters for that matter, it’s no peccadillo, and to me there is just NO excuse for such behaviour. Period.
Well, you have to understand that I am not talking about burning a CD-R for a friend, or sending someone an mp3-file. OK, strictly speaking all of this might partially be illegal too, but ... hey ... you know, let’s stay reasonable. The “problem”, so to speak, is that music is an immaterial thing, and some people apparently seem to believe that because of this it really cannot be worth too much. Of course, everybody who has a job wants to get paid for the work he or she does ... – well, naturally, that all goes without saying. But when it comes to music, then suddenly the same people, who, just a moment ago had so forcefully insisted on adequate payment for their own work, only shrug in complete ignorance and go: ”it’s only music, why should I pay for it when I can just as well download it for free?” – Well, I can tell you why: because if you continue with this attitude then you are going to die in horrible world, because YOU HAVE MURDERED ALL BEAUTY THAT ONCE LIVED IN IT !!!
It was a only few years ago when I was asked by this (rather ugly) guy -he was a lawyer, by the way- about my “profession”. At this particular moment it was a totally stupid question, as in that situation things were all rather obvious, but anyway I politely gave him an answer, telling him that (if anything) I am an artist ... – to which his reply was: “Oh, is that a profession?!?” – And that attitude is just so bloody typical ... and sadly symptomatic, for that matter.
Q.: Did you ever think of writing an official biography which could stop people speculating about your life/image?
A.: Sorry, but I really do not care about other people’s silly speculations about my life. Besides, one of the very first things I painfully had to learn in Kindergarten already, was that absolutely no-one is going to believe you anyway ... – especially when you are telling the truth. So, there really is not much of a point in bothering about these things.
But, hey ... perhaps I should write a lovely baroque opera about it. That might actually be quite nice ...
Q.: By publishing this wonderful and unique box-set, so greatly made, the work that you've done so well supported by John A. Rivers and Joachim Luetke, your partners in this adventure, is once again strengthened. Could you please tell us about the human and artistic relationship with these two artists that helped SOPOR AETERNUS during the years?
A.: There is not much to tell, really. Besides, I have only collaborated with both of them on just two albums so far. That’s all. But you are right to some degree, because I sometimes also seem to feel and/or believe that I have been working with them for many years now ... – well, it’s just one of those things, I guess ...
Q.: Your label and your producer Alexander Storm have demonstrate over the years a big engagement in promoting your music, your image and in defending your work.
A.: Oh, I am sorry to interrupt you here, but Alex Storm is merely the head of the record-label, NOT my producer, alright. Gosh, that really would be the end of it, if it were otherwise. But, please, go on ...
Q.: What do you think about the work that they've done for you? Do you think that their attention influenced your artistic evolution?
A.: Well, that really is a question of perspective. You have to understand that there is no difference between SOPOR and Anna-Varney, as there has never been any separation between the music/art ... and what some people might refer to as “the private life” ... – even the idea of such a separation would be a silly impossibility anyway. It is all one. It simply CANNOT be any other way!
When you keep in mind that all things are (always) connected, you will see that (especially in this case) the support of one aspect also helps “things” on the other end of the “spectrum”, if you wish. In other words: if there had never been anyone being interested in SOPOR, if no-one had ever helped releasing my music, which -as sad as it may be- is still the only thing for me that makes life worth living (sort of anyway) ... then there would never have been any artistic evolution in the first place ... – because I would have been long dead by now.
Q.: In this box-set there are some of your videos that were filmed between 1992-1994. This is very rare material and it has never been released or even shown anywhere before. Of course, all of your fans have eagerly waited for this. Was this the reason why you eventually decided to include this form of expression in the BOX-set as well?
A.: Hmm ... well ... sort of ... - perhaps. Since Apocalyptic Vision Records knew about the video-material that we had filmed in 1992/94, they asked me, if I could also do a one-track DVD-single for the rarities-BOX. After all, as the term “rarities” already suggests, the plan was to make this BOX as complete as possible. And when I began working on it, I realised that I might just as well do 5 clips instead of only one.
Q.: Did you rediscover your passion for videos?
A.: Actually, yes ... in a way I believe I did. I mean, I had totally stopped as much as even think about that entire subject for years. Back then we just filmed the raw material on VHS-tape, but never really did anything with it. Much like myself it was merely gathering dust along with the rest of my stuff. Maybe it was because of depression or whatever, but I began to develop a growing dislike for the entire images, thought the whole idea was stupid anyway, and really saw no point in working on it. When I eventually -well, 13 years later- dug out that old tape again to see if I would be able to produce a clip for the “Corpse”-BOX, using only the material I already had, I was kind of surprised to discover that I really enjoyed doing it. Admittedly, I also embraced the fact that this kind of occupation kept me from having to work on the new SOPOR album .... – but that is a whole different story.
Q.: Can we expect other visual works from you in the future?
A.: Oh, you better shouldn’t expect anything at all ... ever ... – it saves you from getting disappointed in the end.
Q.: Was this never before published material altered in any way for its publication? Have the demos and the videos undergone any modifications compared to their initial condition, or is it all like it was in the beginning, without any changes?
A.: Well, obviously the videos had to be edited ... and therefore created, and the demos had undergone digital re-mastering, to make things sound as good as possible ... – but all this without adulterating the material.
Q.: In the liner-notes of the three CDs you speak about the possibility of re-recording "Voyager", as you have already done with the demo-tape of "Es reiten die Toten so schnell". How close is this possibility?
A.: There are quite a few new albums that I want to do first, before I even think about re-recording old stuff.
Q.: We have some questions about a few tracks of yours. Could you satisfy our curiosity?
A.: Oh, don’t count on it.
Q.: "Extract from: the voices of the Dead" - In this song, it seems like you wanted to explore the disturbing world of "Metafony" or "Psicofony" ,the registration of Dead's voices on mag tape that are played in rewind. Do you think in this form of "Dialogue with the Dead"? Is there a special reason for which you have chosen this kind of ritual for contacting the spirits? Is there a reason why you have chosen an extract from Poe's "The Conqueror Worm" for the lyrics?
A.: Actually, it was all improvised. We had completed the EP (“Flowers in Formaldehyde”) quicker than I had thought ... – well, mainly because I had thrown out an entire track (very unusual for me), as I seriously started hating everything about it (always a sign that something is awfully wrong with it) – so we had a bit of studio-time left. I had this lovely drumming going on ... and on top of it I was screaming some Greek lamentation about the voices of the dead. I wanted to record it properly, but John had already removed the microphones (I could have slapped him for this, if I had this sort of tendency). But the clock was ticking, and as I felt it would be pointless being too much of a bitch about it, I just shrugged, re-interpreted the whole thing, gave it a slightly different direction and used what I had already recorded instead ... – Poe.
Q.: "The Goat" - Here you have re-arranged a well-known sonata of Chopin, the funeral march from opera n°35. Which is the resemblance that you've felt between the lyrics and Chopin's music? What did you feel first: the need to re-arrange the sonata or the need to write the lyrics?
A.: Oh, I don’t know. Of course, like everyone else, I have known Chopin’s “Funeral March” for ages ... – well, at least the popular bits of it. Naturally I was most intrigued from the very moment I first heard it, after all it IS an utterly beautiful piece of music. A few years ago an acquaintance of mine played the entire piece to me ... but when I eventually heard it in completeness for the first time (after already having completed the missing parts in my imagination), I was rather disappointed when I was finally confronted with how the piece really continued. I mean, it begins so beautifully dark ... and than changes into ... ah, well, never mind ... let’s just say it didn’t do anything for me that day. To make it worse, I had to listen to it being played on piano, which certainly made matters worse, since I am not particularly fond of that instrument. I remember my reaction was something like: “Hmm, yeah ... it’s OK. But just imagine it being played by a lovely funeral-brass-ensemble”, to which my acquaintance hopelessly replied: “No, Varney, it’s a piano piece!” – ... and that was the end of our conversation.
When I wrote the lyrics for “The Goat” I didn’t have any particular piece of music in my mind ... – that all came later when I was working on “Song from the inverted Womb”. But at the time I thought it would be too much of a cheap rip off to actually use an extract from Chopin, so I totally stopped working on it.
Q.: By listening to your first albums we realise that your vocal style has evolved during the years. What is the reason of this change? Have you studied more deeply the art of singing, is this just a matter of the quality of the process of recording, or is it simply due to a personal evolution?
A.: Yes, the latter. Though, obviously, the quality of recording has notably increased as well. When we were doing the early demo-tracks and stuff, it was simply forbidden(!) to even think of varying the vocal expression. Just like you were only allowed to sing each song ONCE, and that had to be it then! No rehearsals, no repeats! It was only that one moment of recording that counted. Thank goodness all this has changed by now. Though still there are no rehearsals when it comes to the vocal parts. The only time I do sing the lyrics is when I am actually recording them.
Q.: The Music that you create, passing through the collaboration with the Ensemble of Shadows, how does it get "imprinted" in our material world? On which instruments do you fix the things that you perceive? Piano, keyboards or do you use other equipment?
A.: No, I only have a cheap keyboard, that’s all. Which is totally ridiculous, if you think about it. I mean, I am producing my own albums ... professionally, you know ... and still I am working with less equipment than any old hobby-musician would do these days. Well, if that isn’t underground, I don’t know what is. Gosh, it’s kind of sad, really ... and also painfully limiting, if you consider the costs of renting a proper recording-studio, as this process of working totally omits all kinds of time-consuming experimentation. You see, when I go to the studio everything is already completed ... – well, in THEORY that is. Music and lyrics are written and arranged, everything has its place and time, the guest-musicians are hired, etc. ... but I haven’t “really” heard the material. All I have is a theory, a worked-out plan ... and an ideal of perfect in my head that keeps haunting me. So, you might be able to imagine that being in the studio recording an album can be quite a revelation ... – this way or another.
Q.: Do you want to talk to us about the relation that you have with the study of music and of the instruments?
A.: Hmm, no ... – there is nothing to tell anyway. I am all self-taught, you know. I just do it. Period. A poor musical illiterate who never practises ... – a shame and a bad example.
Q.: The love for E. A. Poe, a vocal style over the top, the will to keep privacy about your person and a vision of life and death as a "state of mind": that's what the critics and the audience say about you. They also say that you have something that associates you with Mr. Doctor's "Devil Doll". Do you know this Italian cult band?
A.: Not really. The first time I read their name was when my label sent me a copy of a SOPOR review written by the (Spanish, I believe) online-magazine ProgVisions. They also compared the music to what DEVIL DOLL seems to be doing, of which I had never even heard the name before. So, made semi-curious, I asked an acquaintance of mine if he could perhaps try to download some of their music for me (see, here we go again!), as apparently their CDs are not properly distributed (at least I couldn’t find them anywhere back then). But all he came up with was a poor excerpt of one single track entitled “Eliogabalus” (or at least something like this), which he seemed to like a lot, after all it had piano in it ... – his favourite instrument.
Q.: Do you like their music?
A.: Well, as I said, I only heard a fraction of one single track. But ... yes ... it was OK.
Q.: Would you agree with the claim that you two have something in common? Something like that special way of singing or simply your will to keep your privacy?
A.: Maybe ... – I do not really know.
Q.: During your career we have noticed a very intense interest in "body art". How do you explain your choice of decorating your body with piercings etc.? Is it for an ritualistic reason, for the reason that it is related to a specific culture, or is it simply due to an aesthetic reasons?
A.: “Body Art” ??? Oh, dear. Sorry, but you are absolutely mistaken. I am not really interested in decorating my prison ... – I am desperately trying to come to terms with it. That’s a difference, you know.
Q.: Are there any philosophers, painters or writers (except for E. A. Poe for whom you often showed your appreciation) that, more than others, affect your way of seeing life or influence your art?
A.: Hmm ... – no-one in particular ... at least no-one I can think of at the moment.
Q.: In our previous interview you told us that you've never been to Italy, even if we have seen that you don't dislike our arts (Caravaggio first of all and other photos of a few monuments related to death as the ones of "Santa Maria in Concezione" and "Santa Maria del Popolo"). Could you explain to us why you do have this taste for our art and our "sense of Death"? Are there other Italian artists (painters, musicians, writers) that you like?
A.: Places and nationalities are mere coincidences, they are generally of no real importance to me, as they are all interchangeable. It is BEAUTY that I am interested in, this is what attracts me ... – and it is above all BEAUTY that I am trying to create.
But I cannot explain it, it’s just the way I am. Sorry.
Q.: Now, you have your "usual space" to express your thoughts or to say something to your Italian fans that love you and support you since your first works.
A.: Thank you.
We're at the end now...
We'd like to thank you for your attention, this honours us everyday. We wish you of heart all the best, we respect you and we carry with us our love and admiration for each of your works, past, present and future. Hoping to be able to listen to you again, we send to you our greetings.
Adrian Stassi and the Italian Fan Club
(have also partecipated: Emanuele "Black Eternity" Telli(co-founder of Sopor
Aeternus' Italian FanClub),dAni/Alvo,Unnamed Project,MyDionysiacLife et