(Comrade Aleks interviews Peter Svensson of the Swedish doom band Void Moon.)
Void Moon rises again, radiating its mournful and dark shine for those who prefer slow and low doom metal. Their second full-length Deathwatch released by Sun & Moon Records in March 2016 has a deeper concept behind it, so it’s not just a collection of true doom dirges but also the result of considered and rigorous work. Void Moon bass guitarist Peter Svensson was on tour with Goatess when I sent him the request about an interview, but answered pretty soon on my recall — much appreciated.
Hi Peter! Thanks for the time you found for this interview; I bet that you’re busy with the Goatess tour now. So how does it go? It is your first tour with the band, right?
Hi there! Yes, it’s my first tour with Goatess. The tour is going really well. Tonight we play our first show in Switzerland. The response so far has been really good and people seem to enjoy the new songs a lot too.
Where have you already played and what kind of feedback did you receive with the band?
So far we have played in Denmark, Holland, Germany, and France. After that we will go to Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Hungary. The response has been very good so far.
Peter, you joined Goatess just a few months ago; did you join in time with your ideas for Purgatory Under New Management or was it already finished at that moment?
No, it was already recorded when I joined.
How did you get in the band? And how do you plan to collaborate with Goatess when the tour is over?
I had been in contract with Chritus before, and when the possibility to join Goatess arose I took it. I had my audition in December and they asked me to join directly. I am a member of the band and after the tour we will start working on new songs.
How much time did you have to study Goatess songs and what was the most difficult part of it?
Very little I guess. The first gigs I did with them were in February in Finland after just two rehearsals. So I have been practicing a lot at home. Well, the most difficult for me was to get into the groove of their sound. I am more familiar with straight-ahead metal rhythms. Goatess has a great groove thanks to Kenta and Niklas, and I have tried my best to maintain that while still adding my own style.
Your main band Void Moon released the second album Deathwatch on March 28th. Did you have time to play a few shows to support the release?
Unfortunately, no. Due to family commitments we could not book any gigs during the spring. Hopefully we will be out playing in the summer.
How do live shows of both bands differ? What sort of doom brings more fun?
I try to rock out as much as possible in both bands, haha. The Void Moon songs are a bit more complex so I need to focus more on the playing. But I enjoy playing in both bands equally. I love to play live.
Four years lay between On the Blackest of Nights and Deathwatch. What did you do during this period?
We played some shows and released the Where the Sleeper Lies Awake 7”. We also got a new drummer. So we have been busy. We worked on the album on and off for the last 2 years.
Is it long or not? How long, for example, did you work over Blackest of Nights?
We spent 4 months recording On the Blackest of Nights, so I think two years was a bit too long.
Did you have certain plans when you entered the studio to work over Deathwatch? What kind of sound and emotions did you carry with you?
I wanted to make an album with a heavier guitar sound than the first album. I wanted it to be more majestic but very dynamic as well. I am very happy how it turned out. During writing and production I felt that if this would be my last album ever, I would still be pleased.
What makes you think so? I’m meaning, what are the strongest sides of this material from your point of view? What did you achieve with it?
Exactly, in some ways I feel like I have said all I need to say and also that the songs in Deathwatch are exactly the kind of songs I want to write. That being said, I have begun working on new Void Moon songs already. At the moment I am collecting ideas and themes.
Both of Void Moon’s albums have remarkable and impressive artworks. How did you work with their creators on the conception?
The first cover was painted by me. I had the basic idea and painted in between recording sessions. The idea was based on the lyrics for the title track, ”On the Blackest of Nights”. Included is also the tree and statue from the first and second demo. The new cover was painted by Swedish artist Cecilia Landgren. See the next answer for more background on the cover and lyrics.
The new album was released by Sun & Moon Records. Is it significant to have a label behind the band? How much time and effort do you put into promoting Void Moon by yourself?
We really wanted to have a label that appreciated our music and did not just see it as a product to sell. We have done a lot of promotion by ourselves over the years and we are still doing that even though we have a label.
Does the album have a general lyrical topic? And how did you discuss it with the other members? Is it something important for all of Void Moon or not?
We all think it is important to say something with our music, but since I write the lyrics the basic ideas come from me and my views on life and death, humanity and nature.
There are a few themes running through this album with the main theme being relations; in short, a kind of extrovert-themed album. The relations we touch upon include our relation with nature, with modern society, to those close to us, and in general, the world around us.
Another theme running through the album is the never-ending subject of life and death. Linking these two themes is the death of somebody close to you, as described in the title track “Deathwatch”. The cover painting as well as the song were inspired by Edward Munch’s painting “The Sick Child”.
The final main theme of the album is nature and, more specifically, the relationship between man and nature. The band photo was taken at Häglinge cemetery, which is a 1500-year-old burial site close to our hometown. The environment and atmosphere there clearly connects death with nature.
The album begins with “Rivers of the Moon”, which describes our lives as rivers and how they are independent but still connected to others. The moon in the title originates in William Blake’s “Island in the Moon” and can also be connected to (Void) Moon. The theme of rivers was inspired by Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha”. The second song, “Where the Sleeper Lies Awake”, continues the moon theme, showing the moon as a watcher and the intellectual reflective aspect of viewing the world. This song draws inspiration from alchemy showing the moon as the opposite as well as the reflection of the sun, the sun being the source of mundane everyday life.
After that comes “Assassin of an Age”, continuing on the theme of watching modern society, as it is about a man who eventually gets fed up with the stress and noise of our current world. It is based on Ray Bradbury’s excellent short story “The Murderer”. “Cathedral Parkway” follows and we find the main character abandoned and hurt, from love? From abuse? Or from the need to fit in? It is open for interpretation. The next song is “Of Such is the Desert Born”, describing the majesty and magic of nature, showing how small man is compared to the timeless wonders of nature, and in this particular case the desert. It is based on “Sand” by Algernon Blackwood.
“Out of the Well” is the black sheep among the songs on the album, theme-wise, since it is more or less based on Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”, which has no particular underlying theme in this context. “Lacus Doloris” is an instrumental piece named after the lake of sorrow on the moon and is a short prelude to “Deathwatch”. The album ends with “Garden of Sorrow”, which is a soft song with a plea to be freed from the bonds of society and mankind in order to return to nature for peace and serenity.
True to say I didn’t expect such care for the songs’ lyrics, much appreciated! Do you always care for the texts of the songs you write or listen to?
I always think that you should put a lot of effort into the lyrics. This doesn’t mean that the lyrics have to be deep or difficult. The lyrics should serve the intention of the song. A song that conveys a raw emotion doesn’t need a lot of difficult words or obscure references. On the other hand, I usually try to give the lyrics several meanings even if they are based on a certain book or so.
Peter I get your point about society, but you know it looks a bit strange from the outside. You know — Sweden is one of most prosperous countries, so what kind of problems do you see in your surroundings?
For me it is not about wealth. It has more to do with how our society interacts with the environment and what values are important in our society.
Can you pick out some local influences in Void Moon’s music and lyrics? How much of Sweden is in Void Moon?
I cannot name any specific influences but I think we have a certain melancholy that is present in a lot of Swedish music and art. For me it has more to do with a realistic, sombre view on life than just self-pity or something like that. Combined with our nature themes I would say that we are pretty close to what I would call the ”Swedish spirit”.
But I bet that Finns can challenge this statement! You know that there’re a lot of doom bands in Finland, probably more than in Sweden…
Yes, there are a lot of great bands coming from Finland. For me music is not about nationalistic competition, great music is always great music independent of origin.
Did you meet any difficulties during the record session of Deathwatch? How smooth was it?
Everything was recorded and mixed in my studio, except for John Cobbett’s solos, which he recorded in the States. This gave us all the possibilities to get the sound we wanted and no fixed deadline on recording. So it was pretty relaxed and we could get a very good end result. The only issue I would say is that it took longer time than needed, and on the next record we will set more deadlines for ourselves.
The States? What do you mean?
John Cobbett from Hammers of Misfortune (ex-Slough Feg, etc.) recorded solos for the track ”Rivers of the Moon”, and these solos were recorded at a studio in San Francisco. For me, it was a dream come true to work with John since I’ve been a huge Hammers fan for many years.
By the way, how does process of composing songs differ between Goatess and Void Moon?
In Void Moon I have the basic song ideas and present them to the other guys, we then work on the songs together. In Goatess the songs are created in jam sessions with the whole band. So the processes are quite different but that also makes it more fun.
Thanks for your patience Peter, that’s all for today. Let’s finish the interview with some information about Void Moon’s plans for 2016, if you do not mind.
Thank you very much for well-researched questions! It’s always a pleasure to answer questions like yours. For Void Moon we are looking for gigs to support the new album. We have also started working on new songs. I have a basic concept for the coming album and hopefully it’s not going to take four years to have a new album out.