"For me music is intensely personal, mostly because much of what I label as music is not really music at all, but sonic expressions and as such rejected by most people around me" Cthulberg.
Cthulberg, probably the most elusive man in the norwegian music scene, carries a breath taking number of projects to his name. From legendary live concerts to obscure sound experiments in derelict factories, Cthulberg is maybe best described as a legend, a sound wizard and maybe most of all a creative genius - both with regards to his music as well as his surreal art. With his genuine, and at times maybe autistic fascination for sound, he has has left so many of us, puzzled and amazed over his vast talents and fascinating, and at times brutal, inspirations.
In this interview Cthulberg shares some of his wonderous thoughts on sound and music in general, taking us back to when it all started back in 1990. In his own words he describes some of the process in putting together this exceptionally complex music, and reveals some of his future plans.
In addition to all this, he gave us a free download (!), with some tracks never released. We actually almost fainted when presented with this material. It's pure gold. From the mysterious Vhulhva to C.C.D.D. Metacübin, and the more well known Atropine and Pogrom Synod to name a few.
If Cthulberg is a new name to you, I could not dream up a better introduction.
Q: You have been involved in several projects in the Norwegian scene such as the late (?) Atropine, Mauled By Sloths, Epilektrician, Pogrom Synod, Anstalt and more. Do you see any consistency between the various projects?
A: First off; Atropine is never late (!) – in fact we’re planning our 20th anniversary which is to be marked with an evening of concerts of various projects we’ve been involved in over the years. Should be nice. I would advise to start checking with us again as 2012 approaches. Anyway, to the question. All of the projects you listed above have one common denominator; they are all based in electronic music roots. Some may be “industrial” or harsh and some again may be more pleasantly inclined. To me there is no either or, we take inspiration from any source and incorporate it with most genres. Making something to conform with someone elses preconceived ideas of what EBM should be, for instance, would be creative suicide more or less. With all of these, if you view them against each other, Atropine can be seen to relate to Epilektrician even if it is hard to find a way to link Atropine with MBS – you’d have to do that via Epilektrician. Then it all makes sense. Also it should be taken into consideration that Alx is not involved directly in programming Epilektrician while Iz-Holo is not a creative member of Atropine/Pogrom Synod – while I make an effort in all these projects, leaving my dirty fingerprints all over the place.
Q: In many of these projects you have been a vocalist, where do you find inspiration for your style of writing? We are in awe of your. lyrics.
A: Thank you! Well, initially I looked to the convoluted way mister Ogre of Skinny Puppy writes. Much of the lyrics are time-based and gives alternate meanings depending on how you choose to read them. Later on, in Pogrom Synod, I’ve been working with confrontative writing – perhaps inspired by Whitehouse/Sutcliffe Jugend/Intrinsic Action. I never meant for any of the lyrics to make sense at all, but somehow they do. I am still able to find new meaning in some of the lyrics, which had escaped me even after years of listening, recording and performing. Other than that I am always reading a lot. The Penguin edition of L’Autréamont’s “Maldoror and Poems” is a huge source of inspiration as is books such as Stokoe’s “Cows” which is thoroughly disgusting. Science-fiction, horror, Dadaist poetry, the pataphysical, lettrism, phonetic literature etc. etc. Words are extremely important to me.
Q: Epi is pretty hard to define in terms of genre, how would you explain to the readers what kind of landscape and tradition Epi is in?
A: Epilektrician is heavily based around various percussive elements and the rhythmical, with strict ways in which the time-signatures are applied to the project. Some sounds and loops which seem to have no time-signature to speak of are forced to have one to blend it with the rest of the sound material. I’m deliberately attempting to bridge some gaps between genres making it hard to gauge – and that again makes it impossible to get record deals as people usually don’t understand what the hell we are doing. There are elements of IDM/Braindance, “industrial”, musique brut, NDW and EBM but also throughput of less obvious personal interests such as easy-listening and noise. As far as I am concerned there is no limit to the kind of sound-sources used, but for the most part Epilektrician stays within certain parameters, making it distinct and possibly even self-consistent.
Q: You are also a an accomplished visual artist with a distinctive style, how does this inform your music?I am thinking of tracks like "Vasarely vs Stapleton".
A: Well, the “Vasarely versus…” series of tracks (which is up to its sixth incarnation now) started out as a track programmed by Iz-Holo called The Vasarely Splicer. The sounds therein are especially well-wrought so I took it upon myself to expand it further. It’s been remixed and reprogrammed many, many times and always it manages to become something else entirely. The seventh installment will hopefully be ready for the 12inch MLP on EtchWear which we are currently working on getting released. Visual arts has always been important to me as well, but so far most of the effort has been made towards making the covers of the MBS CD’s look as freaked out as the music within. With Epilektrician there is no such need, but creative photography is something we do dabble with on occasion. Art and music is closely linked, as it should be.
Q: Is there a link between the creative world and your everyday life with a family and a job? Or are these very seperate spheres for you.
A: Sometimes there is a link, but for the most part the two are kept strictly separate. For me music is intensely personal, mostly because much of what I label as music is not really music at all, but sonic expressions and as such rejected by most people around me (even Alx and Iz-Holo). On average I listen to at least 7-9 hours of music every day and I never tire of it. My job at a general hospital as a digital archivist is an important source of inspiration as well, but usually not directly applied to the music. Again there is the wealth of specific and technical language which is a treasure trove begging to be altered and manipulated into unheard words and sentences. Come to think of it, regarding links to real life. On the track [irrigate and suture] – which was named by Gird_09 btw!! – there is an extended close harmonic sample of a recording of a long dead cat of mine called Oscar, purring. It’s one of those rare occurrences where I use familiar sounds other than my own voice to make music.
Q: With regards to "much of what I label as music is not really music at all, but sonic expressions and as such rejected by most people around me". Does this mean you want people to translate those sonic expressions the same way you do as in a form of communication, or does that mean the understanding and appreciation from others is unimportant to you?
A: Hmm, that’s a really good question to which there is no easy answer. As Epilektrician I try to insert a lot of random elements into the overall soundscape, some of which may be extremely abrasive. If I then proceed to blend that properly into more accessible forms of musical expression it may be that people’s tolerance of music which is difficult gets higher. An extremely good example of someone doing this way before me is Holger Hiller, who managed to take dischordant chaos and compress it into a form which made it edible for a large audience and in the process ending up as a main remixer for Mute. Whereas MBS is directed more or less solely for people with special interest in afflicted musics, Epilektrician is attempting to make a more listenable experience arise from very divergent forms of sound, mainly the rhythms employed make it more musically oriented. Other people’s opinions about our projects matters a lot of course, but I would never let “you should make some gabber kinda sonic ultra terror” or “why don’t you try making commercial music” type statements dictate what I do, as generally speaking I am taken where the sounds lead me and believe me, I find sonic beauty in the oddest of places. As for the communicative element, I guess that there is no real message we’re trying to convey. With Atropine this is somewhat different, but Epilektrician has to make do with pure sound. Mostly, I try to make each track distinct and different from the previous/next, an entity of its own basically. Even when remixing or reproducing older material.
Q: How would you describe the music scene in Norway today? I know you are a hermit so to speak, but from a musical point of view, is there a positive or negative development in the Norwegian music scene in the sub culture genre? Does this inform Mauled By Sloths and Epi in any way?
A: Like you say, I tend to work in a vacuum. That makes things reach me very slowly, but eventually I pick up on things. I had a much better grasp of the Norwegian experimental music scene in the 90’s simply because I was much more active in the execution of my own music with concerts and so on. I follow the Twilight Luggage label though, which is brilliant and carries a lot of artists I have much respect for. As far as pointing out positive/negative aspects of the underground in Norway today, I’m hard pressed to be a qualified judge of that. One thing I like though is that a few of the real old-timers seem to be refurbishing their projects again, such as Anstalt and Industrial Heads, while it is good news for all the rest of us that Kant Kino managed to land a deal with Alfa Matrix, even though the Endzeit Bunker stuff really is not my cup of tea on a daily basis. Being a person who plays around with sound to experiment, I am not usually influenced by the music directly, but I do get inspired when someone manages to do something important – like Batcheeba issuing music on Inner-X. That’s awesome and admirable to say the least and I am really honoured to be even a miniscule part of that recording.
Q: With regards to you first musical experiments, how were they carried out and how would you say they inform your later creative efforts?
A: In the summer of 1990, on the very same location where Union Scene in Drammen is today, there was a derelict factory which had been standing empty for many years. A lot of the tools and machinery was still present, so we brought a tape-recorder and some horns etc., and started to record. Live. No reharsing. Completely improvised stuff. We called the project C.C.D.D. Psilocübin on a whim and I guess we got like 90 minutes on tape during three different sessions. Of the three people on those recordings I am the last to still make music. One of them was also a prominent contributor to Wulh’ouah (the precursor to MBS) for a couple of years and I still use samples from his taped contributions for just about anything, so yeah I am still highly influenced by that early effort. C.C.D.D. Metacübin surfaced in 1994 for the first edition of Tarjei Krogh’s Psychoactivated series of compilation CDs, but then it was completely programmed and based around various samples we’d recorded on DAT. Even before all that I used to prepare my fathers piano with various objects to get weird noises from it and those sounds are still with me on occasion and what with him being a professional hornist I’ve had free access to a lot of strange wind instruments to explore.
Q: What is next in line for Epi?
A: I’m still sampling as much as time allows to be able to start programming Epilektrician’s “Central Stasis Volume”, which is a massive cut-up/montage/mash-up project featuring around a thousand artists. This will eventually be self-released (as usual) with some help from Thee Brad Miller getting it out on the dubyadubyadubya I hope. The physical edition of this will be very limited. I’m sad (and glad) to say that this project keeps demanding more and more. Currently looking at around 3000 samples which will be triggered a total of close to 50000 times over the course of an hour. Things keep changing though, and I cannot really predict how it will turn out as so far the entire project is lodged within my brain with no means of escape until all the samples are prepared and I can start sequencing them. I’m really looking forward to this, even if it really is a nightmare assignment, because quite simply it will be a completely unrepeatable audio experiment. I’ll never again have the resolve to focus my activity like this again I think, and regardless of how it turns out I will have the satisfaction of having inflicted this enormous misdeed upon the (musical) world :D. Alx will be mastering it when it is done, as I want a real computer and a professional musician to handle it. Usually I do everything myself, but this project has taken so much of my time that it needs proper treatment.Second, we’ve got an agreement to release a 12inch vinyl mini-album on the Oslo label EtchWear. We’re still working on that, our chief problem being converting the music into a valid concert format. We’ve also recently participated on EtchWear’s “Conspiracy #2” 12inch single with lots of other great artists and the unique artwork of OEP.
Thirdly, there’s the issue of “Symmyriad” which is another of my concepts for Epilektrician. I’ve been working on and off on the sounds for it since last year and recently discovered that I needed more time to complete it than first thought. Symmyriad is all to do with high energy particle physics (HEP) and draws heavy influence from that alien world of unpronounceable words and incomprehensible mathematics. So far it looks like it will be from 15-20 tracks of various experiments of which five are currently at the demo stage and more or less ready to be completed and mastered.
We thank Cthulberg so much for taking the time to talk with us, and we are sitting on needles waiting for what comes next!
"Crossection" a Mordisco/SutureSelf compilation:
01: Atropine - The Second Culling [Ancient Versions]
Two old demos of 2nd Culling joined together. 1997
02: Anstalt - Strüch 9
From The Re-Incarnation Of The Sun compilation. 1994
03: C.C.D.D. Metacübin - Formaline Fetish [Vocal Mix]
From Psychoactivated - Phase 1. 1994
04: Wake - Nival Transition
Secret project. 1995
05: Mauled By Sloths - Robert Miles' Last Record
From "Blurts". 2002.
06: D/A Ailment - Infusoria
From "Emit". 1997
07: Atropine - Lost Faith
From "Angels Pass By Open Sewers" cassette. 1996
08: Epilektrician - Collider Phenomenology Of Gauge-Higgs Unification Scenarios In Warped Extra Dimensions [ext. remix]
Outtake from "Symmyriad. 2010
09: Macrohelion - Permafrost
Secret project. 1994
10: Die Pleite - Flesh
Pre-Anstalt song. First track made. 1992.
11: Vhulhva - The Bilious Imperative
From "Bilious Oats" cassette. 1997
12: Pogrom Synod - Blindside
From "Syphilosophy". 2008
Red Fog A: "Atropine live at Betong 2001"
Atropine Wrinkler: "Cthulberg @ OSF 2000"
Please follow these links for more: