We have no idea who’s the person behind the Black Swan project (okay, that’s not entirely true anymore), but that’s maybe for the best. Since the beginning of this decade we get our yearly fair share of haunting drones from New York and we should not question their origins. Each record has been thoroughly examined, secretly looking for a fatal fault. Something that could stop this madness of being so consumedly drawn to these dreamlike horror scenes. As a listener you play the main part in Black Swan’s epic imaginary soundtracks, which could be your first and last role ever as it could easily eat you alive. The drone king’s last album ‘Tone Poetry’ came out in January 2014, and it was our faithful companion throughout the whole year. It even turned out to be our #1 favourite album of last year. We’re still in the process of digesting it, however we’re very much looking forward to the next trip into the abysmal dismay. Which might or might not happen… Although he does not give too many interviews, let alone do special guest mixes, we got both of them. Loosen your seat belts for some drone poetry.
Black Swan. Why did you choose this name for your project?
The name seemed fitting, given the presentation and mood of the project.
Not much information is known about you, you don’t even give too many interviews. Why did you choose the way of anonymity? Do you think you will ever reveal your identity?
I like to separate myself from the music I create. It’s also kind of fun to be a sort of ‘shadow’.
You recently posted a photo of yourself on Facebook. Was that a difficult decision to make? How do you feel about this after years trying to keep yourself in this ‘shadow’?
I kind of regret it.
Do you keep in touch with other musicians or do you appreciate your solitude on all levels and try not to get drawn into the usual paths of music industry?
Sure. I do love solitude, but I keep in touch with some great musicians, some creators of ambient and drone and others within different genres of music.
How did you get in touch with music? When did you start experimenting with your own music for the first time?
I’d say since birth. My father was an avid stereophile and home recording junkie. He actually had to put a lock on the stereo cabinet, as I used to get my little hands in there and play around, breaking his needles, scratching his records etc. Experimentation began when I had received my very first piece of gear, a Fisher Price cassette player in 1982 or 83, that I wanted to explore recording sound. Also, watching the reels on my father’s open reel deck was pretty fascinating, which is something I still love to see and utilize in the music I make.
What is that fascinates you most about ambient drone music?
I’ve done film work in the past and had always relied on ambient music to write and score. There’s something magical about it, which allows you to escape into some fueled inspiration. I appreciate long mechanical hums, like that of an air conditioner or refrigerator, while most people find that annoying. I’m a big fan of that and find it comforting.
Throughout these last four years you released six albums on your own label Ethereal Symphony, ‘Tone Poetry’ being the latest one from February 2014. Considering the amount and quality of the music it feels like you must be working on them constantly. Since the music you are producing is not the most easily digestible sound material, how do you achieve to get a break, get some headspace between your releases?
This past year, 2014, had been filled with much change and loss. Tons of it. ‘Tone Poetry’ was recorded and released during one of the most difficult points of my life and deals with change and loss. A lot of emotion went into that release, both positive and negative, though mostly negative. Ironically enough, it did turn out to be my favorite Black Swan album, in the end.
Where do you get so much inspiration in such a short period of time?
There is always music being created in my head, some is born of small melodies or just natural noises- a motor, a tone, wind, etc. Between thoughts and music, I never hear silence, which does get pretty frustrating at times.
Could you imagine releasing music on other labels or do you think that would compromise your independence and your individual concept?
Absolutely, I’d love to do a release on a label like Miasmah or Infraction some day, as they’re my most favorite. But I really do love dealing with those who support the music on a first hand basis. I’ve formed some really solid friendships with some of them – really like-minded, talented people that I probably would never know if I hadn’t recorded at all.
You often emphasize the symphonic features of your music. How much do you work with actual instruments? Have you got a small ensemble together for yourself or everything is recorded separately? How should we imagine the recording process?
I’m musically illiterate. As much as I would love to pick up a cello and go to town, it’s virtually impossible right now. I cannot read music, whatsoever, as much as I would like to. When it comes to physical instruments, it’s all experimental. I’ve used many different types on the albums, strings, guitar, piano, etc, recording their sound based on what I want to hear coming from them. I am looking into forming some sort of ensemble to work with on future records, if any are to even come. The recording process isn’t easy to describe, other than that it’s a stressful mess, most of the time :), colliding the worlds of both analog and digital, physical and virtual across the board.
Your music is highly cinematic, it would be a perfect match for films. Have you ever thought about producing music for moving images? If so, which filmmaker would you like to work with and why?
I would love to, some day. I’ve had a nice amount of independent filmmakers asking how they’d go about gaining permission to use Black Swan music in their own work, to which I am all about granting. I think it’s important for creatives and artists to use the things that inspire them in any way they can in their final pieces. Plus, I like seeing how they’ve interpreted the music into a creation of their own. It’s a huge thrill and honor.
When you are not working on your own project what other types of music do you enjoy? Could you name a few artists, albums, tracks that made a big impression on you these last years?
I’ve been spinning lots of newer music this past year from bands outside of the drone circle who I haven’t heard before, as well as new groups emerging. My ultimate favorite release of 2014, which has been played numerous times on a daily basis since I’ve first heard it, would be the debut release of Kiasmos. It’s just incredibly beautiful in every way. I’ve been a big fan of Ólafur Arnalds for a while now and I think his collaboration with Janus is amazing. Some other groups recently discovered over the past few years include Wooden Shjips, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, Edit Select and Moshimoss, to name a few. Mica Levi did an awesome job with the score for ‘Under The Skin’, which I absolutely love, as well as the film itself. As a life long fan of (Waters era) Pink Floyd, I really took a special liking to ‘The Endless River‘.
If you could choose one piece, what music would you like to be played on your own funeral?
That would be what I am listening to now, hands down: Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No.3, which is probably my own favorite piece of music ever recorded by anyone.
What are you working on right now, what’s next for the bleeding hearts?
I’ve actually been on hiatus since the release of ‘Tone Poetry’ and have no real desire to record. As far as new music, I haven’t recorded in nearly a year, but that could change tomorrow, who knows. [It has recently changed as you can hear a demo piece here – ed.] I would like to focus on getting the last four albums pressed to vinyl, as they seem to be in extremely high demand. I want to make that happen. I am looking into starting some sort of crowd-funding campaign to do so.
What is your favourite album cover?
That’s a tough question… I would say either Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’, ‘The Wall’, Grateful Dead’s ‘Aoxomoxoa’, ELO’s ‘Out of the Blue’ or Mica Levi’s score for ‘Under The Skin’.
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