Winds (2002)

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

If I give a real thought to this issue, I believe there are indeed very few bands to fascinate me. Perhaps these days have brought me an answer closer to the heart and maybe just the most appropriate one for the mood I am in: WINDS. Although the album really pleased me in February, I must confess I wasn't so excited and enthusiast about it. Well, I guess it took some full months to realize "Reflection of the I" is a masterpiece and the only reference I could use right now, coming deep inside my heart from, would be the maximum one! This sample of Innovative Emotional Dark Progressive Metal hit me just inside my soul so that I do my best to be coherent and lucid as needed in order to enter WINDS world, having as guiding light the person who actually set the "foundations" for this band, somewhere around 1998.

Ciao, Andy and let's hope I found you in a state of mind closer to what we may call it "discussion". Do you think that your music description might be a little pompous? Do you think I wasn't sane enough to describe your band/music in such terms?

"There are two things I seem to read in the press about this release. One is that it's an album you need time with in order to fully understand and appreciate, and two, that many people, having listened to it for a while, are now viewing it as a masterpiece and even their favorite album of the year. It's a demanding album for sure, and I'm not saying this to proclaim ourselves as being better than anyone else, but I think the bottom line is that this is an album that either speaks to you in the most profound way a piece of music ever could, or completely the opposite for those who don't understand it. There is no doubt that it takes time to get into this music, and many will probably never see the greatness in it, as they don't take the time to explore it carefully enough. So in a way we've accomplished what we wanted, to create something that doesn't necessarily have a lot of followers with a short attention span, but rather having built a foundation for something that will last for a long time. I think our followers are probably more dedicated than the average metal fan, which is something we appreciate very much."

Last time we talked, I guess it was in the Winter, right after you released the album...., tell me what happened in between?

"There has been a lot going on. We've been working on new material almost since immediately after we recorded the album a year and a half ago, so we have material ready now for yet another album, and we've even recorded drums for it this summer. And I'm telling you this is going to be incredible, far superior to anything we've ever done, and that should speak volumes since Reflections... has received top scores in almost all reviews. We are still working on arrangements for the new album, there will be 12 tracks in total, and I anticipate a release sometime in the fall of 2003. We always think long term with WINDS, that's just how we do it, but we're not in a hurry and we like to take our time ensuring that the result will be no less than phenomenal."

And now, entering WINDS dimension.... or in other words, let's explore the universe of one planet where the explosion has just happened (Travis Smith' cover!) or maybe it is about your musical reflection spread out in the fourth cardinal points, guided by the symbolic force of artistic wings: Andy, Jan Axel, Carl and Lars. Where from does WINDS come? From which "inside" or insight?

"I can't even describe WINDS as what it is beyond us writing as honest and deeply profound music from our minds and souls that we can. The concept is that of everything and nothing at all, imperative and irrelevant all at the same time. It is just a small voice in the universe, something that cannot be described in words. It's a search for perfection, something beautiful beyond time and space. It's darkness and light, and everything in between."

If we talk about WINDS music, we notice classical elements and neo-classic right in harmony with symphonic waves and acoustic parts, guitar solos or jazz shadows. And all is sheltered by a Dark Progressive background of an exquisite beauty while Metal is solely the only palpable mark which can be scanned by my ears. Why did we have to wait so long for WINDS to open a dimension and direction for a new style in today's music?

"I think you just said everything we could ever hope to hear, and it's very humbling that you think we've opened a new dimension in music. We appreciate hearing that very much, and we feel we've worked very hard to deliver something out of the ordinary, so it's even more rewarding when we're reassured of that fact. I don't know why it happened when it did, it was more or less just a coincidence I think, but WINDS has now become an important part of our lives, and we feel we owe it to ourselves to keep exploring this even further as we continue to develop and grow as musicians."

Perhaps because the piano, violin, cello (in fact the entire philharmonic orchestra...) seems not to be quite enough...here come Lars' and Drajevolitch' voices to surround the entire atmosphere into a mysterious aura so that what WINDS emanates is just a measurement of stunning rhythms created by Jan Axel's battery. I have a curiosity, why does the voice of ESPERANZA, MICRONIQUE or SOUL SELECTOR feature only as a guest presence? He participated in this very album, as well as in "Of Entity and Mind" MCD. There can be only four cardinal points...right? I find his input as far as WINDS music is regarded at least as serious as of any other member...or maybe this is an outside view...can you comment it?

"He will also continue to work with us in the future, but to a lesser degree because of his shifted priority towards further development of his own projects. WINDS is not and was never his main focus, and I respect that completely as his musical interests lie elsewhere. He will still remain a very close friend. As far as creative input he was never as involved as the other members are, so it was per his own request and under a mutual agreement that he was only credited as a guest. I would agree entirely with your view apart from this, and in my eyes he is a very important part of WINDS, one that won't fade away but will remain the same."

It was a rumor, some time ago, that you desired for WINDS' vocals to be featured by Mike/OPETH. What stopped you? In fact, was it just a rumor or not, what is the true part? I even understood that, at live performance, you gave him a CD with your music, but it seems like something went differently...

"This was not a rumor, as it was actually true. But to clarify, I invited him to do a guest performance, I never intended him to be the main singer in WINDS. I wrote to him before we recorded Reflections... and he emailed me back saying he was too busy to do it at the time, because Opeth was going on tour. About a year later he emailed me asking if the album was out, and that he wanted to hear it, but I haven't heard anything more from him since then."

Let us begin with all required introductions of your team: the first of all is the one with whom you settled the band, Jan Axel von Blomberg, well known as Hellhammer and perhaps the best drummer worldwide at this time. I might exaggerate...but I am sure you'll correct me, won't you? His activity in bands like THE KOVENANT, MAYHEM or ARCTURUS finally the brought him two Grammy awards and quite a fame. How is it to work with him?

"He's the nicest person you could ever know, very courteous, easy to work with, very professional, very creative, and also an excellent drummer as you point out. We also have many things in common, for example an interest for cooking and a passion for food, so there's always something to talk about with him."

Lars Eric is a very gifted musician and an exceptional vocalist. His work was awarded with a Grammy for the Industrial project SENSA ANIMA. I know you quite liked him much from the times he performed in JACK IN THE BOX. I understood he faced some divergences regarding his participation in KHOLD...therefore Lars is concentrated even more on WINDS. Why did you choose for him to join you? Moreover, the bass parts, on this album, belong to him as well, am I right? How so?

"To start with the latter, he took over the bass after WINDS was transformed from a project to a band. Carl, Lars and myself were all potential replacements for the bass instrument, but in the end we decided to let Lars have the job since first of all he is the most rooted bass player among the three of us, and secondly because he also did a lot of work with the string arrangements, so it made sense to have him arrange the bass parts to best fit in with the rest of the music. As far as his involvement in Khold, that was something I never understood, as I can't imagine that being a band that had much to offer him on a musical level, no offence to the guys from Khold. He's not involved with either of those bands anymore, but you will see him in a few other projects that might come as a surprise to many."

The last one in line was Carl Augustus Tidemann a fine guitar player very famous due to his alliances and kind of partnerships with bands such as TRITONUS, FLEURETY or ARCTURUS. How does he regard your music from is certain point of view namely a Progressive Metal disciple? Why him and not somebody else? For example...why not Satyr?

"While we're making apologies, no offence to Satyr either, but Carl is about 100 times as good of a guitar player as Satyr will ever be. Carl also has a far stronger musical personality than any other guitarist in any black metal band, period. It's very evident that aside from myself, Carl is the most influential person in the developing of new WINDS material. There were always progressive elements there even before Carl became an active contributor in the songwriting, but this was a natural and logical path for WINDS to take the step to the next level. Carl and I compliment each other very well musically, him being very progressive minded and myself being very classical minded. Because that is in one way what WINDS is, a mix between the classical and the progressive."

On the first material also featured other two musicians but later on you fired them both. Weren't they at your technical level...or you are perhaps a little too egoistical and conceited?

"I'm sure I can be both arrogant and self-important at times, but when asking myself honestly at the time, what is best for WINDS, and if you ask any other member of WINDS if we were better served without their involvement, you will not get any objections from anyone. That has nothing to do with the quality or lack thereof in those musicians, as this was a practical decision made by the rest of the band after the first recording. Lars had expressed a desire to take over the bass duties, and Carl wanted to do all the guitars. Jan Axel and myself didn't have any objections to that, and it also works much better with fewer people involved, as that only improves the efficiency of communication between the involved members. At the time when these guys were involved WINDS was only in the project stage, and so nobody were really fired per say, we just decided not to include them, and we didn't invite them to the next recording session."

How can you explain and comment the fact that a band with no name received so fast Roberto's (AVANTGARDE) offer? Do you think he balanced more your names (of course, the fame behind) or/and the music itself as well had a strong argument?

"I don't really know, as I didn't have any established communication with Roberto at the time. I think it might have been a combination, because Jan Axel presented him with the material, and when he realized he really liked it too, I'm sure that was what made him decide. Jan Axel called me up and said that he had taken care of finding a label, so then it was settled and we signed the deal pretty much as they offered it."

As far as license for America was concerned...things were perhaps clearer. Andreas told me (in an interview included as well in this issue of "Kogaionon") he was contacted by Roberto specifically for an agreement between labels and , in the same time, you contacted him as you has just moved from Europe, right beside him, at two or three blocks away. How does it seem and actually is the relationship you have with The End Records?.........have you noticed how many things I managed to know??? (Of course..., my vanity speak for itself! ha, ha!)

"You are extremely well informed I must say, but that only makes it more pleasant as you seem to take a special interest in your work. I like it when interviewers do research, and don't just ask the same questions to everyone. Anyway, this was pretty accurate, although this time I do have to correct you on a few details. Andreas at The End was actually the one who got in touch with me, as he saw I had an address very close to his. So he sent me an email, and we arranged a meeting. I had not heard much about his label before, but he gave me a pretty good idea, and I played our material for him. Meanwhile I had been talking with Roberto about finding a label in the US who could concentrate on the release there, and we'd been over a few options but not found anything we felt confident about. So after Andreas expressed interest in releasing our album, I mentioned this to Avantgarde, and then they got in touch between the two of them, and made an agreement. Instead of a licensing deal, The End bought the rights to the US. I have a very close relationship with The End now and we could not ask for a better label in the US. Andreas and I have also become personal friends, and I've helped out a few times by doing things for his label."

If we came here, to your leaving Europe, can you tell me which were the reasons determining you to move away from Norway?

"Those were mainly due to personal reasons not related to WINDS in any way. It was a choice that I made based on a situation I was in, where I had the choice to either stay or go, and I decided to go."

And now...let's talk about you: attracted to classical music...have studied piano in your childhood and thus became a very talented (naturally gifted as well) musician. Keyboard seems to be the perfect instrument for you to communicate with the realm of music and I must say that lyrics harmoniously tie as an ideal perfect bridge these two worlds. Where this irresistible love for music and passion for instruments comes from? Definitely from your childhood...but which are the inner motivations?

"This is a difficult question to answer since most of the time I'm not conscious of where the inspiration comes from. More than anything I'm just inspired to write music, being on one instrument or another. I just started my musical training on piano since this was a tradition in my family, but I don't view myself as an instrumentalist that much. I just write music, with passion."

Tell me, would you like to be a writer more than you actually already are? I wonder which might be the source of such huge desire to compose lyrics. Moreover, can you speak about a split personality?

"I have sometimes had a desire to become a writer, but this is very challenging to me, much more so than the music is, even though I always feel I have room for a lot of evolvement in both. The difference is that music comes to me fast most of the time, but lyrics do, more often than not, take a lot of effort. Sometimes it's very difficult to write, and I was very impressed with myself that I actually managed to complete the lyrics for the album. It's not always about a means to and end for me, but the process during which something is created. I must also say I was totally blown away after taking a step back and reading through everything, by how well those lyrics turned out. It's definitely the best thing I've ever written. It was also funny how I came up with the titles for the songs. All the lyrics were written, but none of the songs had names yet. One morning during the time while we were in the studio, I just woke up and started writing frantically, and I wrote down a lot of names on a piece of paper. Somehow it all made sense. I wrote the 11 song titles right there and then, and they remained unaltered on the finished version of the album. I don't think I've ever told this story before, so there's something unique you can view as a reward for your extensive preparation."

AGE OF SILENCE is a different project that, until one of those days, was kept pretty secret...top secret I'd say. I understood you still didn't agree to speak about it but what if I trick you and ask you why did you choose for Jan Axel in this project as well?

"Basically he says everything I do he will participate on. And I said, well at least you have to hear the material first, but he said no, if you wrote it then I know it's good. So that was a pretty good vote of confidence right there, I must say. The reason why I've kept this very secret is because many of the involvements have not yet been confirmed, and they still aren't, but very soon now it will be revealed."

You signed with a label, which I assume it is more or less yours. Vocals are to be performed by somebody who didn't play for quite some time now...but who is a strong name...a famous one. Don't you think it is time for more details?

"I'm sure it won't hurt if I reveal that I've signed this project to The End for two albums, solely based on the material I presented to Andreas at an early demo stage."

A real fusion of styles, from Thrash, Rock and Electronic to Jazz or classical music shall definitely mark a whole new experience for you. I need to know, what is the difference between WINDS and this new band?

"This project will be a lot heavier than WINDS, and also more basic, not as multi-layer arranged, but more focused on different expressions between the tracks. There will be artificial sounds and elements that are not featured in WINDS, and there won't be any live strings or any typically classically inspired themes as there are in WINDS. There will be more sporadic mixing of different elements from different genres."

I do wish for all good luck as far as AGE OF SILENCE is concerned and I tell you now...I cannot wait for the moment to write about the debut album. Back to WINDS...Let's see..., the coincidence upon the data of releasing albums besides ex/present ARCTURUS members plainly conducts to a situation of a permanent comparison between each other. Do you think we might get paranoiac and affirm there is a competition between? What do you think of ARCTURUS' musical approach? Have you ever imagined how it would be to perform live besides them? I guess Jan Axel would keep his place while the other three would have to step up on stage. Do you believe there is any connection between both bands? And since we are here...when do you plan for a WINDS live performance?

"I have pretty much dismissed any similarities between WINDS and ARCTURUS except for nominal parallels in the mood of the music. If some want to insist on this similarity then that's fine by me, but the musicians who played and wrote the music for those respective bands strongly disagree with that point of view. There is no competition, if anything the coincided release date was decided upon so that each band could help the other by creating more exposure. Two great releases on the same day headlines were featured everywhere, so I believe this had its desired effect. But it was a coincidence that both albums were finished almost at the same time. ARCTURUS won't play live as far as I know, I've even been told directly from members that the band has called it quits, but then I've heard people say the opposite, so maybe this is a publicity thing as well. I don't think we should exclude anything at this point as far as a new ARCTURUS release, but a live show with them is unthinkable. WINDS might do shows in the future sometime, but there are no plans yet, and there probably won't be for a while."

Maybe I am wrong...but you seem to be a very organic band. So, why do you use natural instruments, couldn't you replace, for example, the sound of a violin with some keyboard effects?

"We use organic instruments because there is just more expression in a real instrument. It simply sounds better for what we are trying to do."

I understood three of you are married and one even has children. How is your life when we don't speak about music?

"You really know a lot don't you. Yes its true, Carl, Jan Axel and myself are married. We're all really busy in our personal lives as well. Everyone works because there is no way you can live from the music unless your band sells hundreds of thousands of albums. We don't even come close to that, obviously. One can only hope."

Normality usually executes on personality because of the routine. Do you think or actually find music as an "escape", an oasis of meaningful realms which are considered, for and by some, abnormal? There are other ways to fight routine like drugs, alcohol...what about you?

"Most of us drink very little alcohol, and we don't do drugs at all. None of us do. Music is in a way an escape but it's also something we love to do, so not only is it an escape but in fact one of the main things we do. If we could make a living doing it, we would, but it's impossible. I think we still consider this to be what we do though, and other jobs are just to pay the bills, at least that's how I feel."

The photos prove that only Lars cut his hair. Do you think there is a soon change of your look?

"Carl cut his hair recently too, and Lars grew his out since then but just cut it again now. We're not really that concerned with who has long hair and who has short hair though, as the music will sound the same regardless."

You actually started to work pretty hard for WINDS third chapter and I have a feeling the new tracks might be more Dark, complex and meditative. Am I wrong?

"I think there's a rougher edge to the new WINDS material for sure, and it's definitely the darkest material we've done so far. But by that I don't mean that we're moving any closer to black metal or death metal or anything like that, I'm just talking about the atmosphere and the mood in the music. I feel very strongly about the new material, as do the other members of the band. I always say that it's our goal to improve by each release, and that's something we feel we will do with this one, even though Reflections is a work that we're really proud of and satisfied with. But over time we're still developing as musicians, we're better now than we were a year and a half ago, and we have a lot more to offer still I can assure you."

Do you expect or intend for this new album to be released at a bigger label such as Nuclear Blast or Century Media? Up to my expectations...you should have received so far many more offers and even more advantageous.

"Strangely enough it seems the awareness of WINDS among bigger labels is relatively low. These two labels you mention would probably not be ideal candidates for WINDS, as we would want to look more towards labels with a less commercial and a more artistic focus. But we are looking for a new label in Europe right now, which was something we were even encouraged to do by Roberto, as we're now at a point where an underground budget can only take WINDS so far, and we'd like to go beyond that."

Andy, our journey inside WINDS galaxy must have an end. You were a nice and patient guide and I hope for this material to open the eyes of all skeptical ones. I do appreciate you agreed for the interview, especially since my questions are so "inquisitorial" and I wish you for the best! Yet no so soon...the ending part...as I have one little...tiny question: if the golden fish would agree to make three desires come true, which would they be?

"If these wishes should be related to WINDS, one would be that we find a dependable label we can work with and develop a long-term relationship with for the future. Also that we'll keep on receiving great response by press and media is something I hope for, and if we could get to the point where we'd be able to live from the music, then my wishes have come true."

October, 2002.