“Stillborn are dreams and nothingness holds their bony hands” – Interview w/ The Fall

Mostly known among fans outside of Poland as the live bassist for the phenomenal Mgła, The Fall (fka Shellshocked) as a mutli-instrumentalist has had a rather prolific career with his various musical outputs among the Polish undergound scene. From pure malevolent schizophrenic madness to melodic triumph and melancholy of nature, sometimes even strikes with nasty attitudes of street punks, his executions of Black Metal and its subgenres has constantly been proven as exceptional, despite to some degrees got overshadowed by his role as Mgła‘s live member. In light of the release of Hadal, the latest full length of his solo project Over the Voids…, it’s an honor of us as we had a great conversation with him over the making of this particular album, other projects he participates in (including Medico Peste and Owls Woods Graves), together with his musical/literary influences and Krakow scene as a whole.

Interviewed by Aymparch

Aymparch: Greetings The Fall! Thanks again for accepting this interview. We hope you are doing fine during this global pandemic. How’s the current situation in Poland? How did the covid-19 crisis impact you as a musician and your local scene? Has everything started to get better?

The Fall: Today is ninth August and situation is actually getting worst during last days. We are still allowed to make some smaller shows under specific regulations, but the Autumn doesn’t seem to be drawn in bright colors.

It impacted us a lot, we had to stop tour with Mgła and abruptly return from Colombia to Poland which was quite a journey. We also had to postpone basically all our shows in 2020.

AP. Despite the forced-cancelling and postponing of shows and festivals, Black Metal, especially Polish BM, has been offering huge amount of awesome releases this year (as always), including two projects you participated in: Medico Peste’s ב: The Black Bile and Over the Voids…’s second full length Hadal. The former has been released for a while and the general receptions from fans are mostly positive. How do you feel about this album personally? Are you satisfied with the results?

The Fall: I’m not sure If I want to talk about it in details. Over the Voids… is a therapeutical band to me, it exists only because I want to throw something out of me. Watching the release and focusing on it for me is like watching a video of me puking and crying at the very same time. Not the biggest pleasure one can imagine.

AP. Since you guys’ 2017 ep Herzogian Darkness, MP’s music has been under gradual changes and has shifted to a soundscape that resembles pure hypnotic and schizophrenia evil. In my opinion, Black Bile provides an experience and atmosphere that requires a holistic listen: this almost film-ish feeling was conjured by the intertwining of aggressive, furious dissonances and many slower and even psychedelic passages. How did you guys work through this album, were every material written with a clear plot that serves to the whole album’s theme? Also, did the collaboration with Inside Flesh contribute to the songwriting process?

music video in collaboration with Inside Flesh

The Fall: No, cooperation with IF was only focused on image and video. Black Bile was being written and recorded quite slowly. The vision of how it should be like was clear from very beginning but it took us time to find proper means for that. We very much focused on the vocals arrangement and recording, took us over 24 hours of constant studio work to record vocal itself.

AP. Among all those projects you are a part of, Over the Voids… is no doubt my personal favorite. I will never forget how the main riff from Ghosts Lay Eggs amazed me when it came out, absolutely brilliant and fresh songwriting, and I’m still mesmerized every time revisiting that album. Both musically and lyrically, OTV set itself apart from your other projects with a rather epic and poetic approach. Since it’s your one-man project, I’m assuming the contents created under OTV is much more personal and self-reflexive, is that correct? What’s your initial motivation when started this project?

The Fall: Thank you. Yes, it is a personal thing. My internal motivation is fear of death and that’s what all the OtV is about. My musical motivation is my deep sentiment to music I was listening to when I was younger – mid 90s black metal, dungeon synth and acoustic folk. There is a lot of small cassette shop nostalgia and teenage anger in OtV.

AP. The lyrical theme of OtV’s debut intrigues me a lot. I’d even venture to say that those are some of the best English texts ever written in Black Metal. There’re some lines indicating the same nihilist philosophy that’s prominent in Mgła’s songs, while others almost have a folktale vibe (like in Ghosts Lay Eggs and Prophet of the Winter) and often times concerning “the Dreams of Death/Nothingness”. You also included a Latin hymn in the last song, was it an excerpt from certain church sermons? And generally speaking, what did you try to archive or portrait through this album lyrically? Are there any authors or real life events that inspired you to do so?

The Fall: The Latin part is a quote from the Bible : “Never again will they hunger, and never will they thirst; nor will the sun beat down upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd.” Except one word was change to add a different meaning for that. You are a clever guy so I bet you can guess which word was that.

I was always deeply inspired by the folk and mythology, I have been studying comparative religion for some time and that was one of my main interest. Speaking of philosophical element I think OtV is more existential than nihilist, but that is just my perspective. Bruno Schulz is the writer that inspires me most, but I’m not sure if this is clearly visible in OtV.

Bruno Schulz, “Self-portrait”, 1920-22, cliché-verre.

AP. OtV’s second full length titled Hadal will soon to be released via Nordvis Produktion this August. The initial meaning of the title “Hadal”, if Google’s info is correct, stands for the realm of Hades — the Greek underworld. However, judging from the song titles listed on Metal Archives and the first impression of the premiere track Corridors inside a glacier, this album doesn’t quite seem to me as trying to depict or worship the unfathomable nature of Hell. Comparing to the last album, the premiere track has a rather more ethereal and misty productions: the riffs and melodies seem to shift towards a more atmosphere-centered approach, while the music video seems to concentrate upon the withering of nature. So can you share some insights regarding the theme of this album and its writing process? Was its concept responsible for those changes of sound and productions in general?

The Fall: Hadal doesn’t refer directly to Hades. It is a term to describe the deepest depth of the sea, dark trenches where there is barely any light and life, and that what the album is about. Humanity still know about surface of Mars than places like Marianna’s Trench. Ocean floor is soundless, dark and mysterious. Not deprived of life forms, but can you imagine animals that live there?

AP. It seems to me that “Owls” is one reoccurring imagery in your music: it appears in OtV’s debut’s lyrics, while it’s also one prominent element of the paranormal tales conjured in your another project Owls Woods Graves. I’m curious about if there’re any symbolic meanings behind your usages of Owls in your music, how does it relate to each project’s theme and concept? 

The Fall:It is kind of coincidence. I was once in Finland in Turku castle. Somewhere on  a wall there was this weird sentence taken from some old Finnish poet. Something like “and then they slept in owlets eyes” intrigued me very much and was an impulse for some lyrics on the album. I still have no idea what was it about.

Or maybe I had too much Twin Peaks as a teenager?

AP. Owls Woods Graves definitely stands out from the rest of your projects, or even from Polish black metal in general: the punk elements are extremely dominant in this project, especially in its debut full length released last year: from some juicy hardcore riffs to some classic punk-ish choirs (like in Do you deny the evil? and Butcher’s Tears), meanwhile all of these are pretty balanced with some freezing and sometimes melancholic Black Metal melodies. So why do you guys choose this specific approach? Concerning Medico Peste also did a cover of Bauhaus’ Stigmata Martyr in your last ep, what are some other acts outside of Black Metal that influenced you as a musician? Also, can you recommend some Polish punk/hardcore to our readers?

The Fall: I dont know why, we just wanted to play stuff we like. Most of music that influences me is not black metal, and not even metal. Coil, William Basinski, Prurient are huge influence on me. During last year I listened to a lot of bands like Choir Boy and Black Marble, which I really like. Still – black metal music is my grammar and my main language.

From polish punk music I would definitely recommend Siekiera, Smar SW, Post Regiment, Armia (album Legenda), Trupia Czaszka, Castet…. Quite a lot of stuff.

AP. If my researches were correct, the speaking fragment using in the beginning of This Spirit Follows Me Till the End of My Journey was taken from Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, which is quite surprising. I’ve always been fascinated by the literary world of obscure imagination created in the works of authors like Schulz and Kafka (and Polish Nobel Prize Winners Szymborska and Tokarczuk). So which part of the book does that excerpt came from? Does literature (or Polish literature) serve as one primal inspiration for your music and lyrics in Over the Voids… and Owls Woods Graves? *On a side note, some of my friends told me about Leśmian during a conversation about Polish literatures, I’m wondering if you have read or been inspired by his works (its quite annoying this there are not many good translations of his poems in English).

The Fall: Bruno Schulz is my favorite polish writer. I honestly never read anything that was as immersive and well written in polish language. There is really good translation by Madelline Levine if you want to read it in English. The intro refers to a scene, where an older dude is breeding exotic birds in his attic. It describes those birds are weird, evil and soulless looking. Like something on the brink of living and dead.

Of course I know Leśmian, but not my favourite author. I never asked Nihil about it, but I’m pretty sure he was some inspiration for Furia’s lyrics. They have very similar vibe sometimes.

“They were immense bunches of feathers stuffed any which way like an old carcass. It was impossible to discern the head on many of them since this cudgel-shaped part of the body bore no signs of a soul.” – The aforementioned quote from Schulz’s Noc Wielkiego Sezonu, Translated from Polish by Madeline G. Levine in 2018.

AP. Well let’s talk about Krakow’s underground scene. It seems like the artists over there always stick together and frequently collaborate and experiment with all sorts of genres. Aside from these three projects discussed in this interview, you have been participated as session or live musician in many other great projects, like Mgła, Odraza, W~T~Z, and even did the drum in Armagedda’s latest full length (how did that happen though, really amazing). So how does collaborating with other projects influence you as a musician? And what do you think of Krakow’s underground scene in general?

The Fall: I really like living here, but I’m originally from much smaller and calmer city. Kraków has this sort of old European city vibe, like Prague or Budapest. Cracked, grey walls, squeaky doors and labyrinths of old, forgotten yards that look abandoned since 50s. Black metal scene here is very interesting, and I like it from some small deceased bands I remember from highschool to a giant of Mgła. Feels good to be a part of this.

AP. It occurs to me (correct me if I’m wrong) after Furia’s last two albums there have been increasing numbers of Polish bands using Polish languages for their music, while all of your current projects still focusing on English. Is there any preference? Why not use your mother tongue instead?

The Fall: Good question. And I dont think there is this one, simple answer. Polish is not that very melodic, sentences and words are quite long and they dont have this simple, drummy groove like English. Also – I grew up listening to English singing bands, so it feels natural for me. I would honestly love to record in polish but it would be really hard for me.

AP. As an end note and a tradition of our fanzine, can you tell our readers your favorite alcohol? Again, thanks for your time and patience for accepting this interview, please stay safe and healthy out there. Are there anything you wanna say to our Chinese readers?

The Fall:Beer is my drink of choice. If I have to drink one before going to sleep I would choose sort of hazy IPA beer, If I have to drink for a party I would go for some cheap lager beer. When in Poland – definitely Łomża jasne pełne.

Really hope to visit China one day. Stay safe guys wherever you are.

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