Dark Fortress

Interview with V.Santura (guitars) - April 2005/ questions & translation  by Twilightheart


Greetings from the snow-covered foothills of the Alps to you in Landshut and thanks for taking a  little of your time to give Sheol magazine an interview.

Oh well, despite all the snow, I`ve had a real load of work lately. This is also the reason why I only NOW have the time to answer your questions. Sorry about this. Meanwhile outside the sun is shining and the birdies are twittering,  it won`t snow again for a few months, so we have  exactly the right scenery at the moment . ..

But let`s talk about the band right away! How was it like appearing as the support act for Dissection? Did you have the feeling you can keep pace with a band like this? (I´m not talking about the music, as tastes are different, I´m talking about popularity in this case.)  . Did you have any contact with the other bands (Dissection or also Watain) before or after the gigs?  Maybe you have celebrated wild parties together? ;-) Or did you even become friends or plan any joint projects ?

Well, Dissection at the moment are probably the band of the hour, the fans had to wait for this band`s return for  more than 7 years, therefore their popularity is of course gigantic at the moment. It was obvious right from the beginning that we are only support at these two concerts of course. The audience’s reactions at least were rather good on Saturday, on Sunday it was a little calmer, but also during Dissection`s gig. Actually we hardly had any contact with the other bands at the two concerts, partly because of separate backstage rooms etc. So the question about parties or possible joint projects is therefore superfluous.

Do you already have an idea whether you maybe have become better known after "Stab wounds"  in wider areas? Because the album is really a hammer blow, so I hope your label has expanded the promotion a little? (I remember for example there was almost no advertising for "Profane Genocidal Creations" in any magazines ... or maybe in the wrong ones ... at least in the ones I buy there haven`t been any ads . )

I think that "Stab Wounds" has brought us a large step forward. We have been able to grow enormously since the two previous albums in every case and we are very satisfied with the album.  Black Attakk promoted us considerably at first, considering advertisements etc.  I think, however,  that they couldn't fully exploit our potential: allegedly the album did sell rather well at the beginning  but only a few months after the release it´s already very difficult to get the album in the shops or elsewhere, due to problems with the distribution (although this probably is not the distributor’s (“Soul Food”) fault). Besides this,  the label had planned a tour for the beginning of this year for further promoting of the album, but it turned out to be empty promises . I´m simply annoyed by those  missed chances, and at the moment absolutely nothing is happening. Even though “Profane...” wasn´t promoted well in Germany, Red Stream had been working more on an international level. "Stab Wounds", however, doesn’t  e.g. exist in Scandinavia at all, which is very unfortunate since we have received some very enthusiastic reactions to "Stab Wounds" from various musicians in Scandinavia.

As Azathoth isn`t answering these questions at the moment, I cannot ask about the inspiration for his work  of course (he has written all lyrics if I am correctly informed). Oh well, that´s the reason for this substitute question -  how are you yourself integrated into the  songwriting process and how does this process normally develop within the band? (And where do you yourself take the inspiration from for this kind of music and all work related to it?)

Yes, Azathoth writes all the lyrics. All the lyrics for "Stab Wounds" were already finished before we even started with the songwriting for the album, that´s why it is that the lyrics were the inspiration for the music.
For me personally different things can inspire me to create music. My ideas partly come  by chance without  a warning, ... sounds can be inspiring... or just feelings, atmospheres. Primarily we try to express our dark, negative side to be able to focus on our  emotions such as rage, mourning, despair etc. At the moment  I am working out the scaffolding for the songs all alone by myself, at home, or I do it in co-work with Asvargr, as at the moment actually we don`t have the time for writing songs together at band rehearsals. At the moment I am working a lot in Hamburg, Seraph (Drums) and Draug (bass) are  busy with their studies, that`s why we have restricted the band activities to rehearsing the live sets. But during the next couple of weeks we will be arranging a lot together and will “put some flesh to the skeletons of the songs”.

You are a trained sound technician and therefore you have done almost all the production of the last album on your own. How satisfied have the other  members of the band been with your work? Wasn't this quite a big responsibility?

I think the sound of "Stab Wounds" is o.k., in contrast to "Profane ..."  we have achieved the most important aim, which is the atmosphere, to maintain the intensity of the songs. I think "Stab Wounds" is also our best album  with regard to the technical production  and I am convinced that we can do even better in the area of technical production with the coming album "Séance" , since the pre-productions of the new songs already sound pretty massive in the raw state.
Of course the responsibility is enormous, but I have enjoyed taking it on myself since I know better than any external person, what the important aspect in our music is and what we want to sound like as a band. Of course, it isn´t 100 % perfect, but as I said before:  I think that the cold and depressive atmosphere of the songs is supported mainly by this cold and slightly sharp sound.  Of course as a "producer"  I have to make decisions and you can`t always satisfy everybody,  and you can easily slip into the role of a dictator. In the end all of us feel quite satisfied with "Stab Wounds" , and that has never been the case before in the history of our band anyway.

Your album before last was even a little more “doom” style than "Stab wounds" .  "Stab wounds"  is rather straight Black-/ Death-Metal instead.  It is actually only the lyrics which distinguish it from BM. How did this musical change develop?

It doesn`t matter to me which style people think we belong to, but I personally consider us to be a Black Metal band, even if we can live without all this "Hail Satan" cliché-nonsense.  I think "Profane ..." was a little more epic in style and we tried to pack far too many different ideas into the single songs. In my opinion we have partly lost the thread.
We wanted to make an unified album with “Stab Wounds”  which is nevertheless full of variations.
We´ve attempted to actually produce a completely fluent album and we´ve tried to avoid aprupt breaks in the atmosphere, so that the album  has the effect of being more intensive all in all. I think there`s quite a decisive difference between this and our former work, and this is because in contrast to the old songs which were largely put together from jam sessions, “Stab wounds” has been properly composed. The songs are not just a collection of riffs, but they follow a particular theme. From a style-point-of –view I at least don´t see any break in style with “Profane…”, we´ve just become much more consequential when it comes to the creation of a gloomy cold atmosphere, and we´ve deliberately avoided “nice sounding” melodies.

Of course as a big fan of Naglfar I also have to ask, how well you and Jens (former member of Naglfar) cooperated with each other for the song “Rest in oblivion”? How did you get together? Whose idea was it originally?

Most of us are great Naglfar fans and we got to know the guys in 2003 at the Party San festival. We get on very well and we all have great respect for each other`s music. It was Azathoth’s idea and he asked Jens, who said yes right away. Jens’ voice fits absolutely perfectly to this part of the song and it was a big honour for us. Of course this working together wasn`t really a big thing, I sent him a playback tape with the drums and guide guitars and he sent us back his vocal recordings. He already had our pre-production tape and so he had a good idea of what we were looking for. And by the way Jens shared the vocals with Adimiron of “Angst” who also has an excellent voice.

Did Travis Smith produce the cover for you free of charge, because he wanted to support you? … or did you have to hand over a load of money for it (because I know that he already produced other covers for more well known bands like Opeth , so I imagine in normal circumstances he´s not particularly cheap)?

What!?! Free!? How great! That would be cool. Haha! The dude has his price of course, although in this case Black Attakk didn´t have to be stingy and they agreed to pay the whole cost of the cover.

What can you already tell us about the work on your next album? (I´ve had some conflicting information. It was supposed to be called “The crawling chaos”, but now I´ve noticed on your website that it´s going to be called “Séance”.) What made you chose this title? What can your fans expect? Will it be a concept album once again?

Where the hell did you get the information about „The crawling chaos“ from? Actually it´s a misunderstanding. Me and Seraph are involved in another project called “Noneuclid”. All the music in this project was written by Morian who is a classical composer actually , all be it with a passion for extreme Metal. So “Noneuclid”s debut will be called “The crawling chaos”, but it has nothing to do with Dark Fortress except for the incestial relationships between bands. And just so you know this whole thing has already been mastered and it´s incredibly good. We can`t wait to unleash it upon the masses.
But let´s talk about Dark Fortress again. “Séance” is the correct and official title of the new album. It is not a concept album in regard to a continuous story being told. But just like “Stab wounds” it is about one specific theme. It´s about death and what might come after death, which you cannot fathom being human, as long as you`re alive. I don´t wanna tell you more about it yet, except the fact that the album is gonna be sounding even more gloomy and mean than “Stab wounds”. But at the same time it will be “brought to live” by an occult, mystic and horror-like flair. 7 out of 8 songs are fully composed and in the next few weeks we will use the time to arrange and rehearse everything properly. Thus in August we will be prepared to enter the recording studio.

Let me put a bit of a off-topic question: Ain´t it a strange feeling, if you as a BM band have to enter the stage in the afternoon when the weather is wonderful (endless sunshine) like at last years Summerbreeze festival? By the way, how did you make it to the festival? You haven`t been on the original billing if I´m correctly informed.

Generally sunshine is not really the ideal scenery for a Dark Fortress concert, but it shouldn`t hold us back from letting ourselves fall into the music completely. Ironically it was raining during the gigs of the bands before and after our appearance, but during our gig the clowds dissapeared and the sun broke through. At least that was an advantage for us, because people didn`t stay in their tents.
Spontaniously we had been replaced to Menhir in the billing. The Summerbreeze festival organizers knew that we`d love to play, so we were the first ones who were contacted then.

At which summer festivals do you play this year? Maybe even abroad? And which is your favourite festival?

So far “Walpurgis Metal Days” (near Passau in Germany), “Devil Open Air” in Austria and “Barther Metal Open Air” are confirmed. Unfortunately in 2005 we won´t play at any of the very big festivals. But the chances ain`t bad for 2006. We would love to play at the Party San once again, which has been great for us back in 2003. I liked the “Kaltenbach Open Air” in Austria last year a lot, too, there have been good bands and a fantastic location among the mountains on a glade.

What are your best and worst tour experiences? Or the funniest ones, or whatever!

We haven`t really been touring so far, so there hardly are any delicate anecdotes to tell. The best memories we have of Party San 2003, and of the "Stab Wounds" release parties with Lord Belial and Sanguis. The lousiest concert ever we experienced just one week ago in Annaberg-Buchholz ((= a German city in the Ore Mountains)). The organizers were cool, there really was nothing to complain about. But we never before in life had such little success in convincing the audience with our music. That`s why of course (regarding to the live qualities of our gig) we had the worst gig since years. It has been a little desaster. The MOST negative experience was, however, the cancelled release party for "Profane Genocidal Creations”, as we had to cancel our gig half an hour before, due to an emergency concerning the health of one band member.

Why actually is Corpse Paint on stage so important for you? (By the way, who´s painting it before the gigs? Each one putting it onto one’s own face? ) Don´t you think that the MUSIC should be the most important fact? Ain`t extraordinary outfits taking the attention of the audience away from your musical performance? Some “evil” people even point out, that Corpse Paint reminds of Clowns Paint. What`s your opinion about all this?

I don't think that the Corpse Paint takes away any of the attention for the music. The music is always in the foreground, but by visual effects you can strenghthen the intention of the music even more. The Corpse Paint even provides some kind of anonymity for oneself on stage = a frosty distance (in respect to the music). And at the same time you create a certain indivituality, being different from the rest by changing your looks in a creative way. By the way we all do our Corpse Paint ourselfes. We are even thinking about working even more intensely with visual effects after the release of “Séance”. Personally I think a live gig should offer more than the music only (music only, that`s what you have by listening to our CD). And as the live sound is always worse (maybe louder) than the sound on CD, you should offer a special live show as a band. Okay, there have always been those “Clown jokes” or “Panda jokes” (and in the beginning they have been funny), but as a band you anyway always are a reason for criticism. You just can´t live up to everybody`s expectations. But that would be boring anyway and definitely not the sense of our music.

 But to a different matter!  Why have you chosen an English band name actually? (As we all know “Dark Fortress” has the same meaning as “Dimmu Borgir”, if you translate it.) Why didn`t you chose a German name for you as a German band? I mean, you can`t use the argumentation, an English name would make you more successful internationally,  since the Scandinavian bands with for instance Swedish band names (Naglfar etc.) are very successful, especially in the BM scene.

Well, we`re existing since 1994 and back then no fool knew the meaning or translation of “Dimmu Borgir”, because in 1994 no one cared for Dimmu Borgir. Although I respect "Dimmu Borgir" as musicians, I can`t say that they had any influence on the band name we chose or on our musical development, even if  some people suppose so after taking a superficial look at our music. Okay, nowadays I don`t consider “Dark Fortress” being a very original name, but meanwhile it´s much too late for changing the band name, even though Azathoth probably would have 5 better names in mind after thinking about it for 10 minutes. But why chose a German band name when not having German lyrics?! In my opinion German lyrics (with some exceptions) sound quite terrible, when the lyrics are growled or screamed. Okay, that`s really a matter of taste, but as long as it doesn´t match with our taste, we won´t do it.

That`s been all for now. Once again thanks that you have “sacrificed” some of  your precious time for a couple of answers.

V.Santura on stage:


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