(Comrade Aleks presents this in-depth interview with Tommy Eriksson of the Swedish band Saturnalia Temple. Music is included, of course)
Swedish bloody dark and heavy doom outfit Saturnalia Temple produced their second full-length album in 2015; it’s name is To The Other. If you think that you know something about the occult because you previously heard a few songs about goats, rituals, and naked chicks, then just forget it. I wouldn’t like to continue this game of associations and assumptions, because Saturnalia Temple’s high priest Tommie tells it better.
Hail Tommie! First of all, thanks for the time you found for this interview! What’s Saturnalia Temple status at the current moment?
We are entering the dark part of the year, especially here in Sweden, and we have done some great festivals during the summer, the Sonnenwende in Abtenau, Navajo Calling in Parma, Metal Magic, Geggan, and Chaos Descends. We played London some weeks ago with Cult of Fire and Skan, which was also amazing. We are not booking any more gigs this autumn really, except possibly one very special night in Sweden with some brothers, check our pages for news about that.
Saturnalia Temple’s second album To the Other was released in February 2015 by Listenable Records — almost four years after the Aion of Drakon album. How do you see your achievements on the new record?
It feels very satisfactory and inspiring. The long process of creating To The Other was more intense than the other recordings. It was even more introverted and apocalyptic than ever before. I did not know in my conscious mind how this album would sound. But there was no question that it would be the most apocalyptic and powerful work that I have ever done. From the point of view of achievements, I think this record was a triumph over many tribulations.
Is it important for you if listeners understand you or do not? I mean… a message of Saturnalia Temple — do you have a concrete one or do you see it as a universal language that is open to interpretations?
The question of understanding is interesting. Some thinkers believe that you can never understand another person. But then again there are experiences that reach beyond logic and into things that are hard to explain. I personally do not have one simple idea that I want others to “get”. Since I am an esoteric artist, my creations exist on several levels, and several interpretations can be made. And then any other person who comes across my work will make their own interpretations. And that is fine with me, of course.
You can still, I believe, come to similar interpretations as I worked with, and you may experience something that is not totally unlike what I did when creating the music and lyrics. Whether this happens or not, I cannot control. Better than understanding is experiencing. I want the listeners to have a strong experience.
The new songs have a pretty crude sound; some of the tracks sound even primordial, primitive. What kind of feelings and ideas did you want to put into the album? How do you see the role of these cyclic hypnotic riffs in your music?
I think we have always worked with a rather crude and basic soundscape. I loath most modern productions since it takes away all personality and soul, but choosing such a sound kind of makes you think there was none to begin with. I find it interesting that so many artists have such a passive and unaware attitude toward how their work is done. I mean, just because there are certain main ideas of what is “good”, “professional”, “high quality”, and “popular”, these ideas are already overly represented, so why adhere to them?
All musical creators who have reached anywhere interesting have breached these very laws; look at the old blues musicians, who basically sang and played things that were not allowed, and most people probably thought it sounded dangerous. Important to note here, is that I am not preaching a specific way of production. I am not saying “primitive sounds are necessarily good”. What I am saying here is that nobody should be afraid of allowing the production to sound personal, alive, “imperfect” (which is perfection in art, I mean, otherwise computers would make our paintings) and to truly reflect the people who stand behind it.
Musically speaking, I want to spread a state of mind and consciousness rather than to entertain. And what we do reflects that. Saturnalia Temple is more about otherworldly aspects, and the music more of a vibration than a product.
I view time cyclically, and riffs too.
Saturnalia Temple – Black Sea of Power
Saturnalia Temple is usually mentioned as a doom outfit, but subjectively some of your songs have black metal atmosphere – what are your genre preferences in thinking about musical influences?
Genres were made so that record sellers would know where to put their records. It’s really too bad if the creators of music think in genre terms when creating. I sure don’t. And I don’t listen to music in that way either. But I suppose that labels need to say something (even if people with one click can hear for themselves….).
Just a note about this: When our album was released, Listenable Records felt the need to name some bands they thought would help buyers to find us — be advised that those bands that were mentioned were NEVER our influences in any way, and never will be. My influences are obvious, and are not from the last 15-20 years.
Tommie, can you tell a story of one particular song from the To The Other album?
I worked on the album as a whole, I did not finish one song at a time. So that is very hard. I can say though, that when recording “March of Gha’agsheblah”, that riff never stopped. I just kept playing it on and on. I think I need to record a longer version.
I see your point. But anyway… what are Zazelsorath and Gha’agsheblah?
Gha’agsheblah is a sphere of the Qliphotic tree of the esoteric system of the Qabalah. It is a very interesting sphere, and it is not easy to access it, and even harder to handle it. I mean, lots of bands try to name their records and songs with all kind of magical names, without really having had any proper experience, work, or control of these forces. To me that is either useless or dangerous. I write only from personal experience and thus I gain a lot from it. ZazelSorath basically are the spirits of Saturn and the Sun respectively.
By the way, Saturnalia was a celebration in ancient Rome connected mostly with agriculture symbolism. What attracted you to it and how has it been reflected in your songs? Which elements of Saturnalia do you evoke in your music?
The Saturnalia, or the feast of Saturn in ancient Rome, was a very interesting liminal type of ceremony and celebration. Laws were changed to allow things previously banned, masters became slaves, slaves became masters, and so forth. It embodies the concept of upside-downness. This you can find in the Tantra as well as Viparita Karani, which is both a yoga posture and a concept of Left Hand Path initiation. We view the Saturnalia as a LHP concept of spiritual revolution and initiation. Saturnalia Temple is a temple where LHP initiation takes place and where things are turned upside-down.
It’s really interesting — how do you see the possible influence of Saturnalia Temple on the spiritual revolution of listeners? Is it a way like meditation or is it a motivator of searching for knowledge?
I know that certain people do get magical or spiritual experiences from listening to our music, and from experiencing us live. I have met several, where this really seems to have taken place. This is highly interesting, and miles from the tepid entertainment industry that we never want to be part of. There are a lot of people who are open, and I think we can be some substance and magical sustenance in a sea of superficial and cynical artists who play their silly games and then when they have some material success despise their audience and finally themselves. Anyone can see that the typical rockstar trip is completely useless. But, on the other hand, the paths of the bard, the poet, and the magician are roads that lead to the palace of wisdom and the house of initiation.
photo by Photophobia Art
And how do you see the band’s live performances from a ritualistic point of view? What is the character of connection between artist and listeners?
What characterizes a ritual are not robes, altars, daggers, candles, or incense, etc. What characterizes a ritual is that one leaves the world of the profane and enters into the area of the holy (or unholy). A successful ritual must encompass a contact with The Other in some part, be it one’s unconscious, the astral plane, another person, etc. It can be done in any way possible — I mean, Alan Bennet used a piece of a chandelier. I can use anything I have in my pocket, or nothing at all.
So, our live performances ARE rituals because I know how to make it one. But I see many bands with all the supposed important artifacts around, but no rituals. When this happens a lot, the energy will go out of the scene, and some will rise to some rock theatre repetition for money – level, and others will change to what is currently popular. Thankfully, we never were part of any scene.
You have played in a bunch of bands since the early ’90s. What is the most significant experience for you?
I always prefer the present. The only time to look back is when you have died. But yeah sure, I have been in bands since the late eighties, began with heavy metal, thrash, and then death and black metal. I have always been into the extreme of music, metal, ritual-ambient, industrial, classic, jazz, blues, whatever is powerful and spiritual.
Saturnalia Temple – Crowned With Seven
Tommie, you’re a member of the Swedish order Dragon Rouge, and its name is tightly connected to most of us with Therion. What are the general aims of this organization?
Dragon Rouge has nothing, or very little, to do with the band Therion, or his new project LLO. He is a member and has a band, that’s about it. And yeah, he enlisted Thomas to write lyrics. Same for me basically — I am an old key member of Dragon Rouge, and I have a band, too. But what we express in our bands is something that we personally stand for. The order is the order, and that is not present in the music scene. But I can understand that from the outside, it would seem as if the order is out there playing music, but we draw a line to keep the magical circles sovereign. I suggest anyone interested read the webpage.
How were you involved in the order? How does it help you in music composing?
I joined when I was 16, to explore magic and spirituality. This is exactly what you do in Dragon Rouge, so my path has been very successful in that regard. It is tremendously helpful to be a magical or spiritually inclined person when working with music, art, and literature. I mean, your esoteric practice forces you to work with yourself and you gain access to parts of the mind, body, and soul that is impossible to reach otherwise.
To experience the universe from a magical and spiritual perspective, and working with this for a long time, really creates a need to express yourself. And then you don’t feel the need to express things like “wow a beautiful girl”, “I am really evil”, or ramble about things from books. Instead, you have been inspired by things that very very few people ever encounter, and it is hard work to implement that into your life. It takes years and years to do this. The problem is that very few people would ever understand you, but then again we are all humans, and humans have similarities. So, even if I live my life a bit differently, my emotions and reactions are still quite similar to most people, only that I react to different things, and I am probably more disciplined mentally and emotionally than some.
I find this whole ego attitude in Satanism, LHP, and magic to be laughable. To be more precise, people who think the map is the place are way misled. You have to separate your lower-self, ego, and use it as a tool. Not allow it to take over. Otherwise you are crossing the Holy Mountain horizontally, haha, to give a nod to ol Jodorowsky. I mention this because the way the occult is presented generally in the music scene is like some fetishistic ego boost.
So to conclude, I find my magical work to be my main inspiration.
Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to ask. By the way, can you say if there’s a little musical scene with bands who have Dragon Rouge behind them?
Serious magical work attracts serious and creative people. I am not surprised that people in Dragon Rouge are expressing themselves so well. I would not view it as a scene, since the types of expression are different.
You’re also an occult writer and you published a book in Swedish entitled Mörk Magi. What is it about?
It was written more then 15 years ago as an introduction to Dark Magic and Left Hand Path work. Then, around 1999-2000, there was a very limited number of worthwhile books on the subject. These days, the market is flooded, but not that many more good books heh. Or well, to be fair, there is some really good stuff out there. But you need to have your wits about you to catch the gems. I find it very flattering that so many of the books released in recent years are extremely influenced by Thomas Karlsson’s Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic book (which I translated into English). They say imitation is the greatest accolade….
How do you see the character of energies you transfer through Saturnalia Temple’s songs? Is it positive or negative, or neutral?
How do you see life, positive, negative or neutral?
Roughly saying, as a lesson with some experience we gain from it. So I still wonder what do you put into your music and lyrics?
Let me clarify: Saturnalia Temple is not a spiritual one-trick pony, meaning that we go out and do the same show with the same energy every night. We are a dynamic organism that changes. One live ritual may be very hostile almost, while another may be ecstatic and joyful, yet another may be void-like and cold, etc. There are many variations in what may come forth at our live appearances. I can assure you that the participants (since I don’t like to see the attendants as passive) will never have the same experience twice. Unless they are only focused on the music or exact songs we play, in which case, someone who is not open to the other energies may come to think it was similar.
Thanks for your patience Tommie, that’s my last question for today. Do you have few more words for our readers?
Thank you for a very well-made interview that forced me to go in depth with a lot of topics. That is rewarding. We have a European tour coming up in late Feb / early March! The tour will be called Black Sea of Power Tour, and a video of that song is currently being created! See you out there!