‘Prayer,’ says Alain, ‘is when night descends over thought.’ ‘But the mind must meet the night,’ reply the mystics and the existentials. Yes indeed, but not that night that is born under closed eyelids and through the mere will of man – dark, impenetrable night that the mind calls up in order to plunge into it. If it must encounter a night, let it be rather that of despair which remains lucid – polar night, vigil of the mind – whence will arise perhaps that white and virginal brightness which outlines every object in the light of the intelligence. At that degree, equivalence encounters passionate understanding. Then it is no longer even a question of judging at the existential leap. It resumes its place amidst the age-old fresco of human attitudes. For the spectator, if he is conscious, that leap is still absurd. In so far as it thinks it solves the paradox, it reinstates it intact. On this score, it is stirring. On this score, everything resumes its place and the absurd world is reborn in all its splendour and diversity. But it is bad to stop, hard to be satisfied with a single way of seeing, to go without contradictions, perhaps the most subtle of all spiritual forces. The preceding merely defines a way of thinking. But the point is to live.
— Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
We sat down with Varg and his band Body Sculptures composed of Puce Mary, Loke Rahbek, Vit Fana and Erik Enocksson before their performance Ivory Tower at Berlin Atonal.
Varg, you’re going to present two different live acts at Atonal, can you tell us in words how Ivory Tower sounds and resonates compare to your solo act?
Varg — It’s very different from my solo act. Tonight, I’m playing with a new band called Body Sculptures. Ivory Tower is actually the name of the film that will be screened during our performance. We are five people in the band, it’s not the same process, when I work alone I just grab the gear that is the nearest to me and plug it on my kitchen table and I record it. I listen to it, cut some stuff out and I release it. It’s always pure improvisation. Not that we don’t improvise when we play together with the band, on the contrary, it’s a trustful improvisation, we know each other very well, we know where we are going. We actually never met the five of us, we only met in teams. But trust me tonight it will be solid and authentic. This collaboration is really authentic.
Loke Rahbek — Could a collaboration not be authentic?
Varg — Well, we could make it just for the money or the fame… Actually, we make it for the fame.
Puce Mary — Don’t quote me on that!
Because of your spontaneous approach to production, could you say that your music is the reflection of your emotions?
Varg — Of course it is, making music is the only thing that I do. And drinking cocktails. Which often leads to making music… I’m really stressed out and impulsive, and I think I have an Attention Deficit Disorder on top of that. When I have an idea for a project I do it on the same day or the day after. I usually release what I produce shortly after I made it. Sometimes I even record my live shows.
Does music have to be conceptualized to express ideas?
Loke — It doesn’t have to be. Music has to express something, but not necessarily under a concept that is well explained.
Varg — My last album was a tribute album to all my friends who killed themselves or just died because life can be awfully boring up North. The only options we have are either to become hockey players, drug addicts or musicians. Everybody keeps on falling because of drugs… It could be seen as a concept, but it wasn’t really, it just happened that way, I was not trying to make a conceptual album. It’s something that was within me. I don’t know if those people became addicted to drugs because of their environment. I see rich people getting addicted to drugs because they don’t know what to do with their money while others steal in order to buy drugs. I couldn’t say why some people get addicted to drugs to the point of dying. I don’t like drugs… and Loke laughs.
Your album Ursviken is punctuated with some religious or epic melodies. Do you believe in something?
Varg — I don’t have any religious beliefs, not even the slightest. I don’t know if there’s something bigger than us, I don’t know about life and I don’t care. I wake up every morning that’s all I know. I don’t care about anything else, and I don’t care what happens in the future. Me and Abdulla Rashim created something about old Swedish religion, but it was more a concept for our duo. I collect old books, a lot of things that I make are about the books I read, the spiritual aspect probably came from a time when I was reading a lot about religion. I find it interesting, but I don’t care about it.
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately. I’ve been touring a lot, and I find it hard to be focused on a book, I get lost. Poetry is easier and faster to read.
Your last LP comes with a figure (image) and a poem, could you help us understand their meanings?
Varg — I would not say the text I wrote is a poem really, it’s a text I wrote when I was completely drunk. I wrote that I wanted to be buried in the backyard of the house where I grew up. The image is just a scan from a book I was reading at the moment, just stones. The album cover is a picture from my hometown.
What’s the influence of your hometown and country on your music?
Varg — Sweden used to inspire me a lot, but now I find that my hometown is just a place for depression, people get fucked from living there. However, the winters can be a good time for staying in, writing, making music… I moved to Stockholm when I was 18, it’s a really beautiful city. I like walking in the different Islands while listening to music. I listen to a lot of different stuff, right now I mostly listen to Swedish rap music… and Drake! While walking in the city, I often listen to my own music to know if I’m happy with it. Sadly, Stockholm gradually loses its point for me. I don’t see it as the city of romance anymore, it lost its charm.
Coming from the metal scene, what did you find in electronic music?
Varg — Electronic music is really easy to make, I’m not saying that in a disrespectful way. When you have a band, you have to depend on so many other people. Electronic music is something you can do all the time, everywhere. I just cannot write the lyrics for a track and wait for the guitarist to come to create a riff and then wait for the drummer… If I cannot put my idea into action right now it loses its sense. This is also why I have a hard time releasing a vinyl record. It’s such a long process, having it mastered, printed, and then approving the test press… I don’t even listen to test presses anymore, I ask my friends, because when it comes I already left it such a long time ago. It’s not my emotions anymore, the feeling is over. When it’s old enough, maybe I can listen to it again and remember the feelings I had while recording it.
I made a lot of music on my iPhone. It’s so easy. It’s good for my impulsive sense. If I want, I can make an album right now in the fucking bathroom, that’s electronic music. I won’t tell you which ones, but two tracks on my last albums were made with my iPhone. I’m even playing with it live. Tonight I’ll bring it, I’ll play on the main stage at Atonal with my iPhone. I’m not kidding. There will be an iPhone on the stage, an iPhone 4, an old one.
Puce Mary — It’s basically analog.
Varg — Oh yeah the iPhone 4 sounds definitely better than the 6.
Is the final product more important than the technique?
Varg — Yes of course. I don’t give a shit about what instruments people use or how they make music. What is important is what I’m holding in my hand when I buy a record. The nice packaging, the music, I love that. I like physical things and for me music is physical. It seems paradoxal, but music is supposed to be played loud and then it becomes physical.
Analog instruments seem to have an important place in your projects, what is the relationship you have to them?
Varg — I just like to buy synths. I don’t care what other people use, but I use the tools that I like to create music. I don’t have a studio, all my gear is lying around in my apartment.
Loke — I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has this relationship to gear. His house is crazy, synths are everywhere in the mess. You want to sit down on the couch and you just sit on one of them accidentally. I would ask where the 909 is and he would find it wrapped in a latex costume in the closet. It’s insane. But in one way it’s right. They are functional tools, they are not museum pieces. Sometimes he will just sit there making a track on his iPad right next this massive modular synthesizer. It’s totally true that ultimately you don’t care about what tools you use, in the end, it’s just about the music, who cares if you used an 8000 Euro synth to do it? Ultimately the point is making music. It’s not about the technological process, it’s about the emotional process. You see people putting so much money into equipment and they still make bullshit. And it seems that it’s only in music that we do that. I mean did anyone ever asked Picasso what brand of paint he used?
Varg — It got to a point where people wouldn’t talk about my music anymore, but just about my gear. I got so fucking tired of it. People are literally masturbating over gear, I feel like I have silicone tits. You give me a compliment about them, but they’re not really mine. Of course we still like to talk about gear between us, Erik, for example, has a nice modular system, he also has a small Eurorack system for when we perform live, it’s the best I ever tried. And it’s nice to talk about it with him to know how he made it and how he did to make it sound that way. However the gear question has become so out of hand, people think they need it, but you don’t need fucking anything. You just need ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fucking hippie. I love consumption, I love buying things.
Some new material is coming at the end of the summer, could you tell us more?
Varg — With this band, we are working on some stuff that should be out in the next months on Posh Isolation. I’m releasing a box of 6 tapes on Posh Isolation as well. I love tapes, they are simple, beautiful, come in a nice package… especially when there’s six of them! I have another LP coming out on Northern Electronics. We have a new LP with Ulwehdar. And a double EP with D.Å.R.F.D.H.S. And a 7 inch… That’s what I’m allowed to say right now (smile).
We’ve been following you on Instagram, could you elaborate on your (lovely) hashtags: #penthouseelectronics #foreverholidays #russiancocaine?
Varg — I just love hashtags. It’s like contemporary poetry. I’m serious, I love it. It’s funny I just realized the use of it recently, I never used to look for stuff. Penthouse Electronics is a new music genre, me and Christian invented this music for catwalks and champagne drinking.
The last question for you Loke, what is your idea behind Posh Isolation?
Loke — It’s one of these things that changed along the way. When we started it, I didn’t think it was going to be a label really. We just wanted to put out one of our records. And then we did another one and another one… It’s a community based in Copenhagen that is now expanding to Stockholm. It’s basically a working space, you can come and do something and it changes with whatever you put into it. It’s like building a monument, all the different little bricks are of different colors and shapes, but in the end it makes one whole thing. It’s too early to say what the monument is going to look like, but for sure it will be gorgeous. I think it’s a space where music can be about music and art, and not about business or the industry. Sitting in a studio, sitting in the basement dubbing cassette tapes is all isolation. I guess it’s posh now as well. And maybe less isolated. Any name changes connotation, now Posh Isolation means all the stuff that has been put into it over the past six years. In the end, it’s just a name.
©Gabrielle / Eliptik