(In this post Comrade Aleks presents an interview with Lukáš Kudrna of the Czech doom band Quercus, whose latest album was released this past summer.)
The Czech doom scene is an unexplored and dark segment of the underground. The honorable Dissolving of Prodigy have gone, and such stubborn newcomers as Et Moriemur are a very rare example, so I was very surprised by the fact of a new Quercus release. This project has a thirteen-year-long history, and its last work Postvorta was released in 2007. One way or another Quercus has returned with another piece of avant-garde and enigmatic funeral doom. Lukáš Kudrna, a constant author of Quercus, is ready to tell the story of his new record Sfumato.
Hail Lukas! Quercus was silent for about 7 years. What is the reason for such a long hiatus and returned the band to activity?
Hallo Aleks. I and my brother in doom — we recorded lot of albums with our main band UMBRTKA, almost 10 CDs in 7 years. And then we had a break for a short time with Umbrtka, so we made slower drums and a new album started to rise… Someone said that Quercus is a slowed down Umbrtka.
Oh, yes, I see! Umbrtka looks like an unusual project. What’s this? How would you describe this band?
Yes, it is really weird, we started in 1999 with drums made from garbage box and some poetic form of dark black doom metal industrial.
And finally you have a new Quercus work, Sfumato – how long did you write this stuff? Didn’t you find any place for these images and ideas in the Umbrtka albums?
Quercus is a different kind of dark art than Umbrtka, there is more space for happiness and humor, but still we play mainly black metal.
Quercus always was a duet. How did you start it with Ondrej, and is he still in Quercus after all these years?
Of course we were a duet for a long time, but years ago we met Mikko from Finland. He is very talented musician but now he is back home and his brother Markko arrived in autumn to record the new album with us like an genuine organ player, so I hope that he brought some breath of the land of the thousand lakes.
So Quercus’ new album Sfumato was released by the Russian label MoscowFuneralLeague Records. How did you find MFL Records?
We sent a link with two songs to labels and soon we received offers and the best one was from MFL.
I supposed that Quercus is a kind of non-trivial avant-garde doom band. Maybe because of the claustrophobic atmosphere of your songs, maybe because of the original arrangements. How do you see the band’s individuality?
Thanks for the compliments Aleks. We are loyal followers of bands we have loved for many years and also lots of jazz and classical music. Trying to steal some good passages from doom metal classics, we discovered a new kind of concept and composition. My musical history is poor, I spent a long time moving from playing drums to guitar due to unsuccessful playing of both instruments.
Quercus “Night Bathing”
What kind of meaning do you put in the name of your album “Sfumato”? It’s a painting style, so I wonder if it clearly describes the album’s conception.
I am a painter, so I find a lot of interesting words in my artist work. This means something without borders, lines. Something indefinable. Literally the content of album Sfumato describes feelings from usual life mixed with nonsense parts with sorrowful melancholy and bittersweet moments of everyday life.
Can you tell more about your artistic life as a painter? I should have known this! I still remember the decoration of Quercus’ official page – really tasteful, laconic, and dark.
The official page is very old and we don’t plan any changes now. There is another way on the internet where fans can find us – on Facebook.
Now my life taste is very wild and not focused on art. Sometimes I read in a silent moment a book from Robert Van Gulik or Bohumil Hrabal, now I’m listening to the new At the Gates. Painting is sleeping now because in our new old house it is very cold – around five degrees — and landscape painting outside, which I love, is not possible either because of the really funereal fog around the house. Quercus and Umbrtka are sleeping too for this moment, we must catch a rainbow of doom in some very delicious pub.
Do you execute the art-works for both Umbrtka and Quercus? Have you collaborated with other bands?
I would like to do something for other bands. I hope that some bands will like my art, but the cover art for Quercus’ Sfumato is a very old picture. When I was teenager I saw everything darker, now I have a beautiful daughter and wife so the dark paintings about death are gone. Inside the booklet you can see my present work… in the future I will change the style continually.
What is the Sfumato album about? For example “Barbarian Nostalgia” is an intriguing name, what kind of memories could this song raise in listeners’ minds?
Remembering the times of being young and starting to drink and be in love, have good friends to do all that you need at the moment, like destroying ashbins and feeling yourself closer to God, climbing the trees, swimming in the moonlight. Each song has a self-vision. For example, the last song is about my lovely mother, she loves speaking. Another song is an impression about lots of things in life that go away. “Flute in the Sink” is a bit surreal poem with a romantic content about an un-singing musical instrument, a doomy theme, don’t you think?
Yes, Lukas, it’s pretty doomy! You also use a singing bowl in compositions – how did you come to it?
I like different sources of sound to integrate into metal. Tibetan bowl singing works well in the third song, together with the melancholic conclusion of this song. I use some samples from movies I like as well.
Which samples did you use in your songs?
One sample I used is from a movie I like very much, Kubrick Shining, the part where Dalbert Grady talks with Jack Nicholson about what to do with an untidy wife and child.
You’re from the Czech Republic, and it has a very rich history and cultural legacy. Does it find any reflection in your songs?
I guess that you are right. The cultural legacy you can feel in the background. You must dig the grave of Quercus and you can find six feet deep lots of corpses of Czech writers, composers, and philosophers. My favorite Czech musicians are Leoš Janáček, Dissolving of Prodigy, Plastic People of the Universe, Oldřich Janota, and many others.
What do you think about writing an album based on Kafka stories? It suits Quercus’ atmosphere very well…
Kafka is wonderful genius for me, but for our music and poetry my lyrics and compositions must be enough.
After all… do you have some certain plans for future releases of Quercus?
No, we have not any certain plans for the future, but we will join a great organ player, so you can expect more church organ in the new Quercus…. as was mentioned above.
For fans and music-liking people, I can say that the music is a very special kind of abstract art… you can listen to the music you love in the supermarket or in the woods and you know that it is your heart-filling music. Listen to Arvo Part!!