Each and every year the Dark Ambient community continues to grow and the unexplored regions of intransigent frequency modulations expand beyond expectation. For a genre of such minimalistic underlying components, I’m continually impressed by the deluge of artist that maximizes their creative efforts with such a massive output. One of those artists – that caught my attention this year – is Hungarian Dark Ambient producer, Blackweald. With a handful of monumental albums already released in 2020, it was only fitting that I reach out to him and find out what creates the power and ingenuity behind this dark force. Please enjoy this very informative interview and then go download some Blackweald, and enjoy!
1. Before we get into Blackweald, tell me a little about your musical background, starting from your earliest memories (if possible).
When I was young, I was into Hungarian hip-hop and punk acts. I was amazed by how much energy one can draw from music, and also realized that there are feelings, atmospheres, thoughts that one cannot properly transfer by just words, but these translate quite well in music.
Then I got into thrash metal by my friends, and later, when I dug deeper and bought a few black metal cassettes, I immediately knew that “This is it!”. It was in the mid-90s, so practically before the widespread usage of the Internet. Since no one around me like this genre, I had to dig deep to find bands on my own, order cassettes, etc.
As I got older, I really got into industrial, dark electro, experimental music, drone, etc., I learned that each genre has its artists that are producing music on the “negative” side of the spectrum. Like, one might hear upbeat electronic music, and think “fuck all this disco crap”, but then upon hearing an aggrotech act, realizes that “techno” can be done with aggressive vocals, eerie melodies, hard-hitting beats, and suddenly, it appeals to him. In the same vein, not all hip-hop artists are playing gangster rap or mumble rap. Or like, I always thought I hated doom metal, but in reality, I just dislike the heavy metal vocal style and the melancholic vibe. If it’s oppressive and harsh like Indian’s For All Purity, I adore it. So I like music regardless of genre, if it has a nasty/primal/negative/… vibe.
Nowadays, my current favorites, Irkallian Oracle, Nocternity, Svartsyn (the black metal one), Triumvir Foul, Kriegsmaschine, Ævangelist, Ghostmane, Converge, etc. This, and a crapload of Hungarian hip-hop artists.
2. It seems like a lot of Dark Ambient musicians come from a metal background (or some other extreme form of music), why do you think this is?
I’d rather think that many people who are into dark music, be it dark ambient, dark electro or various experimental genres, these people are open-minded enough to listen to dark music regardless of genre. They’d eventually stumble upon several metal acts, and if they don’t specifically dislike distorted guitars, they’ll find some of the darkest atmospheres in music.
People who can sit down and enjoy a long, monotone dark ambient album are often the same people who enjoy a two hours long Swans album, or monotone black metal riffing. So I think the “goal” of these artists is very similar, even if the instrumentation is vastly different.
It’s also interesting how the scene building works for different genres (besides labels and press). Metal bands tend to do splits or concerts together, hip-hop artists like to get featured on each other releases. I wondered how it works for Dark Ambient, and quickly learned that it’s compilations and collaborations.
3. Do you remember the moment that motivated you to become a Dark Ambient musician?
As pretentious as it sounds, I wanted to make music that I could not find elsewhere. Stuff I would enjoy listening to. Concepts that I would be interested in.
I’m not saying that what I’m doing is the pinnacle of originality, rather it’s about “I’d love to listen to a space ambient concept album about my favorite cosmonaut” or “damn, I’d love to listen to this or that kind of drone sound.”, etc.
Actually releasing music is also a good motivator to close and seal these compositions. I’m sure most musicians know the “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” feeling. The more hours you are putting either into the mixing or mastering, the more you are seeing diminishing returns, so eventually, it has to stop. When I’m putting stuff out, I never have a “I would not change a single thing in this!” feeling, but I’m okay with that.
Of course releasing music that is selfishly created is contradictory, but hey, that’s what most musicians do.
I’ve been contacted with a few publishers and micro-labels, but so far, I declined these opportunities, to fully keep my independence.
4. Who are some of your influences in the Dark Ambient genre?
Although I have many favorites in the genre (Cryo Chamber Collaborations, Creation VI, Vestigial,…..) , most of the influences on this project are rather from different genres. Let me list a few.
Earth, who pioneered the drone metal genre. Dylan Carlson is my single biggest influence on the drone and minimalist aspect of music and both Earth2 and Hex are all-time favorites of mine.
Godflesh, not necessarily musically, but on how mixing different elements of genres can create something very unique. I mean, who would have thought that putting heavy guitars on half-assed hip-hop beats will create such an industrial vibe, that it will pioneer a whole new genre.
Swans’ later period, for their eclecticity, mixing noise rock, folk and ambient, and generally a ritual vibe with their music. Seeing these old people playing a punishing three hours long live show changed my mind regarding metal not being the heaviest music.
Burzum, when Vikernes really brought ambient close together with black metal. Not with his ambient tracks! Just the way he composed his metal tracks and creates an ambient like atmosphere with metal instruments.
For the ritual aspect, my main influences are Aghast, Zero Kama and Forest Silence.
5. You’ve mentioned the Swans several times and also Godflesh – two bands that I love very much. To me, both of these bands are one-of-a-kind, in that their sound is undeniably theirs, and they seem to incorporate so many different genre’s and sounds without loosing their audience or fan base. As a musician, why do you think this is, and what type of impact has that had on you with expanding your musical boundaries?
Both are led by uncompromising individuals and were highly influential back then. I gotta say, considering they are still relevant today, they are both even underrated, although Godflesh is well-known in the metal scene due to their notorious first record. I think both band’s fanbases are built upon the fact that they are meandering in style, at least that’s the case for me. Expecting the unexpected for such a bands new record is part of the thrill.
I feel sorry for bands that are bashed by their own fans when they explore further musically. Be it Mayhem with Grand Declaration of War or Bring Me The Horizon with Amo. Each new genre in music came to life by having outrageous ideas. Eg. Let’s deliberately crank this guitar amp up until it distorts. Such experiments are fine, even if they fail.
As for Blackweald, it only means that I fearlessly try out techniques, often disregarding if even I will later like it. I often let things “just happen” when composing, and go forward with “mistakes”. If I don’t actively hate it, I keep it like that. I have failed experiments (eg. Patricia), and I’m okay with that. Pieces sometimes just put themselves together, maybe in a bad way, time will always tell.
While at this topic, I think listeners who are throwing away music that they don’t love at first sight, are heavily missing out. Many of my favorites are bands or albums that I initially did not get or I thought “yeah, it might be good, but it’s not for me”.
6. There are many styles in the Ambient arena so when you first became a Dark Ambient musician did you do a lot of experimentation until you found the right formula and sound that represented Blackweald?
I think I will never find “the right formula” and I do not even have the intention to do so. I don’t even mind if the sounds end out to be very different to what I initially had in mind.
This is why I like compilation works. I happily took part in 3 of these so far, and really liked the restrictions that the thematic guidelines, song length limit and release deadline had put on me. It knocks me out of my workflow or offers a concept I haven’t even thought of.
7. Please tell us about the name Blackweald. How did you come up with the name and what does it represent?
The name is a foolish play around the name of one of my favorite black metal projects, Hate Forest.
I had the same approach with the name as with the music. Not striving for perfection, just having something that’s good enough.
8. When going in to make an album, do you always have a particular theme in mind, or do you just “see what happens” as you create the music?
I always have a thematic concept in mind, and often a musical one as well. Moreover, when I’m “covering” a real life story, as with “She and the Devil’s Sons” and “Leonov”, I already have the narrative concept in mind.
Eg. with “She and the Devil’s Sons”, the story is given, so I only had to piece together how I would musically represent each part. So I figured, there should be some ominous strings with carriage sounds for the part when she is being taken away (that part is an homage to one of the intro songs of early Carpathian Forest). Then some castle prison ambience for the imprisonment, some female vocals and unearthly growls for the pact her witch-nanny makes with the devil, etc.
Same approach with “Leonov”, I knew I wanted to begin with some heavy industrial sounds, representing Koralev as the “Grand Constructor”; then the lift-off of their spaceship with some propaganda music in the background; long space-ish drones for orbiting Earth; majestic choirs and samples of Leonov speaking during the actual EVA; something frightful when he fails to re-enter the spaceship; rattling machine sounds for the re-entry; and finally some winter ambient as they struggle to keep alive in the taiga, waiting to be rescued.
The problem artistically with these narrative concepts, is that you lock yourself into many things. Sure, you have room to experiment sound-wise, but the album or single has to represent the story. You cannot just skip parts of it, or add something that does not fit there narratively. Still, it’s a lot of fun to work on these.
For the rest of my material, even when there isn’t a real-life story behind the concept, it’s still the thematic concept that comes first, which immediately makes the musical concept clear for me as well.
9. Do you use physical equipment or computer-based VST’s (or a combination of both), when producing and recording your music?
It’s mostly digital equipment, although I sometimes use my acoustic and electric guitars. A good chunk of it is audio manipulation of misc. samples.
Eg. Under the Moon of the Dead Pig was made solely from samples (namely FreshFabrik, Keep of Kalessin, Hate Forest, Sunn O))), Shahmen, Zero Kama, Korn, Johan Johansson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Tsatthoggua, Prodigy, Wolvennest, Zombie Girl). Not a single original sound was used on that album, but I also did not use any VSTs. Just cutting, looping, pitch-shifting, stretching, filtering, etc. Then there is the opposite side, like “I Saw the Devil”, where I played most of the tunes myself on synth, and manipulated those.
I have to note that I pretty much work in a “no budget” way, hence the lo-fi production. I have an old PC and a broken midi controller. I don’t even have a proper sound card, just an integrated one. I’m often recording on my phone. I’m using two headphones, a 30$ one and a 3$ one. I’m just using what I have.
Any art has two components, idea and execution. I’m not short on ideas, so I have to work on getting the execution part right. I’m trying to focus on getting the craft right, and not focusing too much on the tools themselves.
10. Do you have any other musical projects that you are currently working on or is Blackweald an exclusive endeavor?
I’m doing vocals and playing guitar in a black/death metal cover band. This purely “analog” way of playing music is a perfect companion to the (currently) mostly digital nature of BlackWeald.
Besides music, I also like to write short horror stories, but as a non-native speaker of English, it’s quite a struggle.
11. As for Blackweald, what can we expect to hear in the future?
Right now I have 8 albums worth of concepts ready to be executed. Ranging from Lovecraftian, Dark Souls themed, sci-fi, about the rural life in my country, setting a novel of a friend of mine to ambient, etc.
Just the concepts and ideas for sounds, nothing recorded yet. I rarely work on projects in parallel, I rather finish any current work before jumping on the next one.
In the last few months, I’m working on a quite massive project, an extremely long, 10+ hours concept album. I often feel like it’s overburdening me, so as an exception to the above stated, Pure was born while working on this project. I just had to take a break from it, and fortunately, Pure came quite spontaneous and got shaped quite quickly.
12. I appreciate this wonderful opportunity to conduct this interview! Do you have any final thoughts for those that will be reading this?
Thank you for your questions and thank you for your work in the DA/DS scene with continuous reviews and interviews.
There is so much music out there nowadays, even in niche genres like this, that it’s hard to get the attention of people.
I’d also like to thank all the people who listened to any of my output, supported me on Bandcamp, or sent me encouraging messages on social media. It means a lot!
Feel free to follow me on Bandcamp/Facebook/Twitter:
Finally, I’d like to recommend a few albums to the readers. I guess most of you are quite familiar with Dark Ambient, so I’d rather recommend mostly outside of this genre:
⁃ Grave Upheaval – Untitled (2013): Although traditional metal instruments are used on this album, I’d rather consider it as a “power ambient” akin to Sunn O)))
⁃ Inferno – Gnosis Kardias (2017): Can you imagine black metal without distorted guitars? This is it! Amazing mystic atmosphere and temple-like vibe.
⁃ Walknut – Graveforests and Their Shadows (2007): Unmatched desolate feeling. The guitars sound rather like synth.
⁃ Slagmaur- Thill Smitts Terror (2017): Classic fairytales twisted into slow-paced avantgarde black metal.
⁃ Pagan Megalith – Túlvég (2017): Acoustic black metal music with ritual vibe.
⁃ Dälek – Absence (2007): If Godflesh would truly play hip-hop with a competent MC.
⁃ Control Alt Deus - Made Of Fire (2008): A short-lived aggrotech project, great melodies with visceral atmosphere.
⁃ Moor Mother – Offering (2020): A very talented experimental artist, just emerging in the last few years.
Finally, let me recommend a few dark ambient artists from my area: Abandoned Shelter, ∆ø∆ and Remete.