Nachtlieder interview (02/2016)
|Conducted by:||Bad English (e-mail)|
We had the opportunity to chat with Nachtlieder mastermind Dagny Susanne. She talked to us in detail, not only about her latest album, but life in general. Thanks to Bad English who took the time to write down the questions for this very informative interview.
Bad English: Hi. Thank you for doing this interview with us at Metal Storm.
Dagny Susanne: Thanks!
Bad English: Can you introduce yourself and your band, Nachtlieder?
Dagny Susanne: My name is Dagny Susanne and I'm the sole member of this black metal project that I started in 2008. I suck at describing my own music so I usually say it's standard '90s-influenced black. My first album was a little bit more laid back with some pinches of avant-garde. But the new one, The Female of the Species, is a lot more aggressive. A lot of people say it sounds like Marduk; I totally understand that reference.
Bad English: Let's start from the beginning: how did you first start listening to metal?
Dagny Susanne: I never had any friends who were metal fans growing up so I found everything using the Internet. I was looking for heavy and rough music in online forums and downloaded stuff using Napster with a modem. Kids today probably don't remember, it could take a whole evening just to get half a song down so lets just say my discovery was very slow… Why didn't I buy any albums? Because there was no fucking record store where I lived.
Bad English: In one of your Facebook posts you mentioned you're from Kiruna. How did spending your childhood so far north inspire you as a musician and artist?
Dagny Susanne: Back then it didn't inspire me at all; it was too familiar I guess. But it has certainly affected me in some ways, both good and bad. On one hand there were no genre groups in this small town, if you were interested in music you spent time with other people who were interested in music, no matter what genre. It gives you a broader perspective on things which I believe is always good. On the other hand, if you had a special interest in for example metal then opportunities were limited. The city is kind of isolated; Luleå is the biggest town in the region and it is three hours away. When I lived in Kiruna my only goal was to leave. I wanted to go to gigs, meet musicians and form a band. But when I moved to Gothenburg I only partly succeeded. I'm very happy where I am now, but considering how I create music now I might as well have stayed, a bigger city didn't help at all.
Now I'm kind of nostalgic thinking about Kiruna. It's certainly a beautiful and serene place. I can't say that it inspires my music directly, but being there inspires me to work. In the winter you can take a walk in to the city on a saturday and not meet a single person until you reach the center. Needless to say I like that. It makes you be able to clear your head and put you in a good state of mind, ready to create something. And I definitely don't want to talk down on this city anymore. One would believe that nothing happens in such a small town, but it's actually a really great place to live if you're interested in culture. I was psyched to see they're even planning a new festival now, Kiruna Winter Metal. I really believe it could draw a lot of people from abroad, people who want to listen to some great metal bands and experience the arctic winter. I'm sure as hell gonna be there!
Bad English: Do you agree with the assertion that cold winters and dark winter days are the reason why Scandinavian and Finnish metal is so unique, dark and cold?
Dagny Susanne: No, because the famous bands are from the damn south, they don't know what darkness and cold is! Joke aside, the musicologist in me believes that the bands have influenced each other and that the sound was a matter of circumstance. You can also see that the difference between the Norwiegan, Swedish and Finnish scenes are also huge, for example. But sure, that the bands wanted to portray the extreme conditions that can exist here in their music and succeeding in doing so, it's an appealing thought. I hope it is that way.
Bad English: I have said that to understand Norwegian black metal, one needs to live one year in Norrland to see total darkness in winter and total sunlight in summer. Would you agree with this?
Dagny Susanne: Depends on what bands we're talking about of course. But yeah, I agree. In the south it's like there are no contrasts in the seasons, everything is just kind of a blurred mess of everything throughout the year… You're from the north too I understand, you also know that the contrasts of midnight sun and arctic darkness goes through your whole body. And the contrasting changes between the seasons comes very rapidly, just as the contrasting changes in black metal music. To me there's definitely a clear connection. Maybe growing up in Kiruna did affect my view on music more than I first thought…
Bad English: It's quite unusual to see a one-woman black metal band; the only other one-woman band I can think of is Myrkur. Why do you think we have so few women in black metal?
Dagny Susanne: I get that question over and over and frankly I'm getting sick of answering it. Because I don't know. But ok, I'll try to summarize my ideas: girls and boys don't have the same networks because of conscious and subconscious difference in social sex, from the day we're born we're not encouraged to do the same things and this includes the music we "should" listen to and perform and the instruments we "should" play. Also, see Bourdieu's Habitus.
Bad English: Speaking of women in metal, what are your thoughts on so-called ''female-fronted metal,'' which some have begun to label a separate genre?
Dagny Susanne: Yeah it's been an established term for quite some years now, hasn't it? It doesn't make any sense, I'm sure everyone understands why. Like the term "female vocals" you often see used instead of "clean vocals" when the singer is not male, how stupid is that? When I say Nachtlieder is a female-fronted metal band with female vocals, which it is, you wouldn't exactly associate it with my kind of music…
Bad English: Nacthlieder is German for "night songs," unless I'm mistaken? Was this the original intention behind the band's name? If so, why?
Dagny Susanne: Yeah, that's pretty much the literary translation. I actually don't remember the original intention, but I like how it has grown together with the music I have created over the years. Melancholic, dark and nostalgic, and also a bit twisted at times. Like we become at night when we don't get enough sleep.
Bad English: Guessing from the band's name, as a musician, does your inspiration come in the night?
Dagny Susanne: Not really, my inspiration comes from my instrument and what I'm playing at the moment. You know, that magical moment when you find that "something" while jamming, that's my inspiration. I did like to write at night back when I was studying and was able to do so. Like so many others I love the calm and relaxed feeling in the middle of the night. I kind of miss it. Since I started working in 2011 I've gone to bed at like 9 in the evening every night, I'm not exactly living a rock star life. I remember writing the lyrics for "Nightfall" at night though. Some rows were inspired by, or rather stolen from, the first part in the Schoenberg opera Pierrot Lunaire, Mondestrunken. "Moondrunk." Thet's pretty much how I felt that night, staying up way too late and getting dizzy. So yeah, maybe the night still inspires me a little.
Bad English: In your interview with Transcending Obscurity, you said that your latest album was inspired by book The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates. Do you read a lot, and is literature your biggest inspiration for music?
Dagny Susanne: I used to work in a public library and after that I got kind of fed up with reading fiction. It was over a year ago I finished a novel the last time. But I do appreciate good literature and I think it's necessary to read in order to write lyrics. Literature doesn't influence my music at all, but has almost a 100% influence on my lyrics. When I write I usually start with really small text fragments, then I come up with what the text should be about and I always, always need help somewhere to finish it up. See how other writers have portrayed the same thing and see if I can find something there. Because why invent the wheel twice? Except on my first album, I have no idea what I was doing half of the time, there's so much gibberish in those lyrics!
Bad English: According to your Facebook, you're looking for musicians for live gigs. How big are the chances that we'll see it happen, and would that mean gigs in small Göteborg pubs or around the country, maybe Europe?
Dagny Susanne: I want to play live some time, but I can count the metal musicians in my network on one hand. And that's including me and my drummer! First of all I need to get to know reliable people who might be interested in participating. I haven't even begun to think about what I could do with a live band, plans will be made when I have the possibility to follow them through. I don't dare speculating about when it's gonna happen.
Bad English: Is it hard to compose all the tracks and write the parts for all instruments as just one person?
Dagny Susanne: Simple question with a simple answer: No. It's what I love to do and it can get challenging some times. Quite often actually, I like to challenge myself. But I would never describe it as difficult.
Bad English: The undying question: what are your thoughts about Spotify, illegal downloads, and the good side and dark side of the internet?
Dagny Susanne: Heh yeah, it's undying alright… But I basically think it's awesome. I'm a huge Spotify fan. They really came at the right time when I had become too lazy to download music. I used to be on The Pirate Bay, but there was never any seeders for the torrents I wanted! Now that I'm grown up and have a job I buy a lot of albums because I want to support artists and labels. Plus I appreciate albums as artifacts, I have always bought CD's even though I used to download the music first to see what it was. But if the albums I buy are on Spotify I almost exclusively listen to them there anyway, so I guess bands kind of get double support from me. What a good fan I am, haha.
The big trouble for us artists concerning illegal downloading is that we can't keep track of our listeners. Sure, I'd be making music even if I had no listeners, but knowing that there are people out there who appreciate what you do is a huge boost. I think people who can afford it should prioritize paying for their music consumption, but lets face it, there are people who truly can't. But being a part of marketing by for example being active on social media is also a way of supporting a band. Share their Bandcamp link on Facebook every time you listen to the album, or whatever. Even just a like or a comment on YouTube can mean a lot for a small band. What makes me sad though is when albums leak before the release date, like The Female Of The Species did. It doesn't harm anybody but it's just really disrespectful, especially towards the hard working labels.
Bad English: How far would Nachtlieder go if you had formed this band in the pre-internet era? Somehow I think online sites helped you promote the new album. (I picked it up when I saw your band on Metal Storm; otherwise I would not have known about it - sorry, one man cannot know all...)
Dagny Susanne: Pre-internet it's really difficult to see how I would have discovered metal in the first place, so Nachtlieder wouldn't have existed at all. But today, doesn't basically all marketing happen online? I feel like blogs and social media is where most of my listeners come from when I look at visitor stats. But I do feel like I'm missing out on a lot not playing live at the moment. Metal festivals for example are a good place where I personally find more bands. Without the Internet I suppose I would have been more dependent on live gigs.
Bad English: Do you have any ideas for songs with Swedish lyrics?
Dagny Susanne: Not at the moment but I'll see what happens. I'm not exactly a poet so I feel like I always repeat myself in english. Switching language might be a way to get around it, haha. I was supposed to participate on one of Asbel's "The Dark, the Withered" releases were he collaborates with female vocalists and my plan was to write swedish lyrics for that song, but it seems like the album never happened so the idea is on hold at the moment.
Bad English: What makes black metal as a genre - is it the guitar style or lyrics?
Dagny Susanne: I wrote my bachelor thesis in musicology about the black metal music style, trying to identify the elements that define the music. The most interesting thing I found was that certain intervals were used both in chord progressions and melodies, I called them "black notes," hehe (minor third, perfect fifth, minor sixth, major seventh if anyone is interested. I didn't want to call this the harmonic minor scale because the notes were mostly played in these intervals, not in the form of a scale, and notes not in harmonic minor were often included in riffs). Writing that thesis is one of the best things I've done in my life; I still use the knowledge I found there all the time. Some people think that black metal that is not about satanism should be called "dark" metal instead; I definitely don't agree. Lyrical content is always subjective - what is about satanism for one person means something else for another, and vice versa. And how much of the lyrical content would we count? Is Mayhem black metal based on the lyrics? Immortal definitely is not. No, that definition doesn't work, black metal is a music style.
Bad English: I am a homebody; I have a mental need to be at home as much as possible. Would you be able to cope with 300 days on the road, away from home?
Dagny Susanne: I don't think it would be any trouble. The only thing I really need is my guitar; I have a mental need to play music. As long as I got the practical details down being on the road for a long time would probably be fine. But who is gonna water my plants, feed my cat, pay my bills, make sure my apartment is ok and could I really get off work for that long..?
Bad English: I have read positive feedback for the newest album. Are you happy with it?
Dagny Susanne: With the album? Oh yeah. Considering how little planning there was around everything but the music I almost can't believe it turned out so good. I did the photoshoot, that ended up as the cover image, with Septikphoto over a year before booking the studio and the concept didn't exist at all. But it worked perfectly. I'm also very happy that I recorded with Tore Stjerna after all. Recording in Necromorbus Studio wasn't planned at all, I more or less contacted him by accident when I sent out my booking-inquiry spams, haha. He was really able to lift the details in the music that I didn't think of highlighting myself. The production is perfect for the music on this album and it certainly wouldn't have been the same if I had done it with someone else.
But of course there are some things on the album that I felt could have been better. A few of the songs were right on the border of being thrown away and I'm still not sure if I like them or not. But I don't like working too much on things, I'm just thinking "ok, it's finished, I'll make better songs next time." But luckily I kept them, because there are a lot of people who have appreciated these songs very much. And there wouldn't be any point in making music if you didn't feel you could improve.
Bad English: Do you have any plans for the future at the moment?
Dagny Susanne: Always. Not plans maybe, but ideas. Currently I have three separate paths for an upcoming release, plus a fourth that I yet have no music for. One of them contains older previously unreleased material that is very different from what have been on my releases so far, the other three are more in the vein of today's Nachtlieder but in contrast to The Female Of The Species very mellow. I'm not sure which one I will follow through with first though. I'm gonna start making arrangements for a few fragments that I have and I guess I'll see where I end up. And of course it's the live thing too. We'll see if I can find some people for it!
Bad English: I want to say good luck and thanks again. Do you have any words for our readers?
Dagny Susanne: Thanks for doing the interview and thanks to the readers for reading!
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