Interview: Vidar Vaaer (Ildjarn)
We caught up with Ildjarn via email to discuss the sudden release of earlier works, “Son of the Northstar” on Fullmoon Records, and the impetus behind his unusual art form. Taking black metal a step closer to the ambient, Ildjarn has with his self-titled unit and project Sort Vokter shaped metal into an atmospheric, spontaneous and subtly structured art form.
Do you see art as having a goal, or being pure aesthetics? Some would argue that art deliberately communicates an idea(s) or changes the listener through experience, where others claim that art is an experience unrelated to the thoughts and beliefs of the artists?
Well, I don’t know about art, and I don’t give a shit about art no matter what it is. I’m just doing what comes natural, and I’ve never thought about it as art. The things I do are for me, I’ve never done music for no one but me. Still, I think it’s satisfying to know that the truly dedicated out there find something in what I do.
What to you is most inspiring in nature?
To take a walk in the mountains, especially the highlands called Hardanger highlands, Norway (of course).
Do you see anything natural about human society, including its technology?
I try to mingle as little as possible with people and society in general. I find more pleasure in entering my own world.
Do you find it amazing that you seem to have discovered an infinite source of small patterns in your art form?
As I said, about art, others have to decide if what I do is art. About your question, I’m not sure what you mean…
When people say, “does art emulate life, or life emulate art,” do they mean life as human life, or natural life? If so, how could trees/birds/etc. emulate art unless there was a preexisting commonality between art and natural life?
I don’t have a fuckin’ idea.
On the Sort Vokter album Folkloric Necro Metal there is a statement about the drug THC. What does this drug mean to you, and how do you see drug use as fitting in with your beliefs?
I never use drugs, actually I never touch alcohol either. I want my senses to experience things in a natural way. I was the only one on the album not using drugs during the recording process.
You briefly played bass for Emperor; what do you see as the differences in approach between your art and that of Emperor?
Emperor have to make a lot of compromises, being a band, whereas I don’t have to. I’m my own master, I do what I feel like, and I never ask anyone if they like it. If I like it myself, that’s enough. Also, my music is more improvised at times, being the only one in the making of the music.
While many artists consider improvisation a key to perfection of idea, in your case it seems as if perfection is not the goal as much as setting a glimpse of man + nature into music. Do you think there is any truth to this statement?
If you had to name recent bands from the metal or ambient genres that had impressed you, could you list any? If so, what are they?
I really like Biosphere from Norway, it’s the ultimate ambient feeling. I think there’s a lot of crap bands these days, and I really wouldn’t know which ones to mention.
What seems amazing about Biosphere is the way that radically different, small parts are woven together to produce a feeling of immersion that to me most “sounds like” connections between ideas across time. Do any of these concepts influence your music?
I don’t know. It’s hard for me to tell, because I just do what comes natural. It may be that I’ve been influenced, but I wouldn’t know.
Some people view violence as inherently evil. as a naturalist, what do you feel is the role of violence?
It’s natural in nature. It’s not evil in my eyes. Evil is beyond all this, something only one can know oneself. If you stab someone for no reason and laughs about it afterwards, you’re not necessarily evil. You might have had a bad childhood or whatever. As for myself, I despise my own race. I don’tsee this as evil, I just don’t think humans are worthy of living. When I take a walk up in the mountains, I always hope I won’t meet someone. Animals, on the other hand, have my total respect and admiration.
There is a hypothesis that the earth is a living organism, called by some “Gaia.” In this hypothesis creatures are cells in a much larger interactive life form which regulates itself and develops for some reason known only to it. If you were/are a believer in this theory, what would be the role of humans in Gaia?
This is so far from my beliefs that I don’t know how to answer this one.
Let us admit to ourselves, without trying to be considerate, how every higher culture on earth so far has begun. Human beings whose nature was still natural, barbarians in every terrible sense of the word, men of prey who were still in possession of unbroken strength of will and lust for power, hurled themselves upon weaker, more civilized, more peaceful races, perhaps traders or cattle raisers, or upon mellow old cultures whose last vitality was even then flaring up in splendid fireworks of spirit and corruption. In the beginning, the noble caste was always the barbarian caste: their predominance did not lie mainly in physical strength but in strength of the soul–they were more whole human beings (which also means, at every level, “more whole beasts”).
– F.W. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
In death metal and black metal, there is a heritage of both fantasy (metal) and pragmatic, hard-hitting politics of an anarchistic nature (hardcore). Do you feel this is true? If so, where do your beliefs influence your music in terms of these two extremes?
I don’t think these combine. As for my own music, my intention is to capture the feelings I have, call it evil or whatever, and in order to do this the music has to be capable of doing this.
What was the impetus for you to switch to keyboards on Landscapes, and what prompted the unusual decision to forego harmonic depth for a trueness to the form you established with guitars?
I’ve had these overwhelming feelings towards Norwegian nature for many years, so I just had to record some stuff. The two discs are composed and recorded during two nights only, and it’s 90% improvised. The feelings expressed here are a bit different from that of my metal releases, but also some of my metal tunes, I think, capture some of the same feelings, even though they’re expressed differently.
In your process of creation, what is the seed of the songwriting process? In other words, what is the first piece of any song around which you build the rest?
I’ve usually had the song inside my head, and then I first record the drums.
It’s very difficult to record the guitars first, because then you don’t have the same feeling of rhythm. All my stuff is recorded on a 4-tracker, so it was tricky to get the mike in the right place, but I don’t think that my music could have been made in a studio. I have to be alone when I make my music. I’ve also done all engineering and production myself. The 4-tracker is now destroyed, so I can never make any more Ildjarn music. The sound would not be the one I’m after.
Ancient Hindu mythos used the Age of Kali (a goddess of death, destruction, absorption) to characterize an age of great instability and apocalyptic outcome. How far away do you think the Age of Kali is?
It’s coming very soon, and I’ll welcome it with all my heart.
Are you familiar with Godflesh – Streetcleaner? It seems to have some similar aspirations in songwriting, and some stuff that is vestigial from the former generation of metal.
I can’t really compare my stuff with other bands. I don’t care about other bands, so I’m not capable of doing a comparison.
Nidhogg listened a lot to Industrial many years ago, and he had all Godflesh recordings. I discovered some elements of aggression in them, but I don’t think I’ve been influenced by them. I was at a concert in Kristiansand, Norway, many years ago, Godflesh being the headliner. Nidhogg, of course, had to drag me along. Actually I was bored the whole time. I’ve never liked gigs, they just don’t give me that feeling I get when listening to music all by myself.
In the newspapers today, in America, the following snippet of text appeared in an article entitled “survey finds few in U.S. understand science.” What do you think is the intent of this article?
The scientific validity of astrology — the belief that an alignment of the planets can affect events on Earth — is rejected by 60 percent of Americans, as is the idea that some numbers are lucky while others are not. But 43 percent say they still read the astrology charts at least occasionally in the newspaper.
Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed believe in the theory of global warming, that the planet is being heated by an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Of those surveyed, 86 percent said global warming is a serious or “somewhat serious” problem. (Source)
I think people are too stupid and ignorant to really understand this topic.
Who is your favorite world leader from all of history? Would you ever aspire to a leadership role?
Leaders appear just because people are so weak, stupid and follow in each other’s footsteps. I’m my own leader, in my own world. I don’t have any interest in leading anyone.
Your misanthropy is legendary. What is it about humans that makes them detestable in contrast to ideologically silent plants and animals?
Humans are weak, always have to act contrary to what they really want, and they have also destroyed an entire planet. In short, they don’t live in allegiance with themselves and I will always hate my own race.
What do you think of vegetarians and recycling? Some say they are sell-outs for picking intermediate steps when much more radical action is required.
I’m a vegan myself. I became vegan when I was 17, I’m now 30. I never touch anything with milk in it, meat, fish, whatever. I respect animals, and consider them worthy of life. Humans, on the other hand… I think my misanthropy is to a large extent a result of the disrespect towards animals seen among filth of the human race. Still, of course I hate them for other reasons as well. I’m not one of those who hate just because of a bad childhood. I had the perfect childhood, being very often on my own, exploring. I also had many friends being a child, but at some time I realized that friendship actually doesn’t exist. Sure, you can respect someone, but friendship? I don’t think so. About recycling, I’m careful about littering, but it’s just because of the animals. I actually don’t care about the planet, animals are in hell, anyway. I confess that I’m a bit confused as to how I should explain this. Anyway, I follow my conscience, which is my guiding star through life and, eventually, death.
If you could change one aspect of your artistic career, what would it be?
I never regret anything. What’s done is done, it’s a part of the process. I’ve also never progressed in any way with my music, I think, and that’s important in it. The feelings have always been the same.
Do you think there is a “purpose,” or ongoing overall goal, to the process of life?
We’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully I’ll be dead in a few years time (5 years, tops), and I really look forward to it. Although I find great pleasure in observing nature, I welcome death even more.
Are there any theories or mythos of the creation of the universe to which you subscribe?
No, I have my own thoughts. Too fuckin’ weird to mention, too extensive. (I’m afraid I’ll get “mouse disease” from this interview.)
I have seen statements attributed to you which say, in effect, that you record on a whim with a portable recorder. Is this still true? Do you have any plans for further musical releases?
This is described above. I used the same 4-tracker that was used for the Emperor demo, but I arranged the sound differently. I will make no new music, but I feel that some of my songs are redundant, so I’ll maybe release an album with what I regard as my best songs.
What is the history behind the Son of the Northstar CD that full moon productions is selling as a full-length?
It was intended to be released 6-7 years ago. I actually sent the guys a DAT with a couple of songs to be released as a 7″ EP. I didn’t know anything about this until a week ago. In the writing moment I actually don’t have any copy myself. It’s a possibility that Fullmoon will release the CD I mentioned above.
What aspects of the metal underground would you change, if possible, and how would you change them?
I know only of a very few people dedicated to the underground, so I don’t know.
Scientists believe they have identified an “expansive force” which separates galaxies from one another with ever-increasing speed, as a counterpart to the gravity which is drawing the universe toward compaction. Does it seem natural that such a dualistic force would exist?
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a burst of light from an exploding star located much farther from Earth than any previously seen – a supernova blast in the early Universe that is casting light on a mystery of truly cosmic scale. This stellar explosion is extraordinary not only because of its tremendous distance — 10 billion light-years from our planet — but also because it greatly bolsters the case for the existence of a mysterious form of “dark energy” pervading the cosmos. (Source)
We would never know. It’s only after death that we’ll know the true meaning, if any.
Which thinkers, writers, artists and musicians have most influenced your learning?
Musicwise, I’ve listened to black metal since 1983, but I don’t know how much it has influenced me. I don’t care about thinkers, writers etc. I don’t need them.
If you could become a state of mind for eternity, which state of mind would it be?
My biggest fear is to live for eternity, either in mind or as something else.
Who was “Nidhogg” of the Ildjarn-Nidhogg split? By reputation, it is someone from the industrial/ambient band Dagda Mor (apologies for incorrect spelling); how did you meet this person and using what principles did you achieve collaboration?
We’ve known each other for 13 years, through music and ideas. It’s not the same Nidhogg as the one you mentioned, that’s just a bad copy.
Will those who appreciate your music be hearing more from Ildjarn, Sort Vokter or your other side projects? If so, please let us know by names which ones are to be ongoing.
The only thing would be the “Hardanger highlands” CD; it’s already recorded, but we haven’t thought of releasing it yet. It was finished in 1997, and it actually took us 3 years to do it. It’s kind of like “Landscapes”, only at least 10 times better.
This sounds amazing. I liked Landscapes and found its moments of intensity to be revealing of something spirited in existence itself. Can I ask who “we” are? Is this less improvised? Does improvisation bring out ideas hidden within the subconscious, or does it force them to be created through lack of time? It seems like a natural method to use stress to induce variation.
“We” are me and Nidhogg. The recording is one hour, and it took a lot of mental energy to do it. It’s not improvised at all. The compositions are exactly that; compositions, whereas “Landscapes” was more or less improvised during two nights. As I’ve said, being two in the process of making music, there have to be some compromises, and we’ve done all of them. The result, however, we both find pleasing, although some people may believe Ildjarn has become a fuckin pussy, after hearing it. What’s important in this respect is to understand that it’s all about nature. And I admit, I’m totally engulfed in Norwegian nature. It’s a hymn to this grand nature, and the music has nothing to do with love in the ordinary sense. We plan to release it before I enter the kingdom of death, but we don’t know exactly when.
For reviews of Ildjarn’s music, please check here.
But it is the will of the individual that sets in motion the whole mechanism, in that it urges the intellect, in accordance with the interest, i.e., the man’s individual aims, to produce for its present representations those closely related thereto logically, analogically or by proximity in space and time. But here the will’s activity is so direct that we often are not clearly conscious thereof. It is so rapid that at times we are not even conscious of the occasions for a representation that is thus brought about. Here it seems as though something quite unconnected with anything else has entered our consciousness. That this, however, cannot occur, is, as I have said, precisely the root of the principle of sufficient reason, and has been discussed more fully in the above-quoted chapted of my chief work. Every picture or image that is suddenly presented to our imagination, also every judgement that does not follow its previously existing ground or reason, must be produced by an act of will which has a motive, although such motive is often not perceived because it is insignificant, and the act of will is frequently not noticed because its fulfilment is so easy that this and the wish are simultaneous.
– Arthur Schopenhauer, The Fourfold Root