Melancholic black metal symbiosis SOJOURNER paves the way for another undeniably impressive next chapter with their outstanding new offering, “Perennial”, to be released as an exclusive vinyl edition and digitally on June 4 via Napalm Records. We talked to Emilio and Mike about their newest material and many more in a challenging interview.
CVLT: Hi! Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
Emilio: It’s always been a huge part of my life. I couldn’t imagine not being involved in music in one way or another. My first experience is probably starting out with vocals when I heard Chester Bennington’s voice for the first time. I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
Mike: Absolutely, music has accompanied almost every moment and experience of my life, and I couldn’t imagine life without it. I think my earliest musical experience would be the drives with my parents and they would listen to some of the most beautiful, enchanting 80s rock and pop… a lot of the darker stuff with those ethereal synths, melodies, and vocals.
Is there a specific philosophy or worldview underlying your upcoming EP “Perennial”?
Emilio: Indeed. We need to learn to properly co-exist with nature because without it we are doomed.
What has changed in your sound/music style and in the band since “Empires of Ash” and which were those things that inspired you to write the music and the lyrics for “Perennial”?
Mike: Musically we evolved in terms of better production and focusing the music into more concise and focused song structures as the albums progressed. We started pulling from genres we love more as well such as doom and melodic death. Musically “Perennial” is returning to some of the sparks of “Empires of Ash” while retaining the progression since those early days.
Emilio: The lyrics used to be very fantasy and nature-based. On “Premonitions” I decided to go down a more personal route but with us revisiting aspects of our first album, I really felt it prudent to explore nature once again.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Mike: I think they are one and the same, really. I tend to approach everything from a composing point of view, I haven’t practiced any instruments in the last 15 years because my practice and my improvisation and my composing are all the same process of me sitting down in front of the DAW to create. I create what I want to hear and in creating and recording that, you naturally improve all the time. I tend to compose a nice bedrock of song, then I’ll approach the melodic elements in a more guided improvisational way, though sometimes I’ll start from the melodic lines and work out. There’s no hard and fast rule.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
Mike: I think cultural differences play a huge role in how everyone sees the world, it’s only natural, but I think in the end music is one of those things that can transcend language and cultural barriers. Since I primarily write all the music and Emilio does all the music, there’s no real difference in cultures between the members that drive the creation, but the more cultural influences in a team or a unit the better, it enriches everything.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions?
Mike: I don’t think creativity is a magic gift from the gods that only strikes in the right circumstances. Sure, you can put some mood lighting on and light some incense and make the place have more of an atmosphere, but Mick Gordan said it best when he said (and I’m summarising): “amateurs wait for inspiration to strike, professionals get shit done”. That’s one of the truest statements I’ve ever heard. You just need to sit down and do it, every day, and you only improve by doing. The more chances you give yourself to succeed the more you will succeed… the more you will fail as well, but that’s just how it goes. Distractions like social media are incredibly irritating though, I’ve started distancing myself from being on my phone 24/7 these days, everything takes me 10x longer when I’m scrolling Facebook and chatting every 5 minutes.
Do you have any habits when writing a song?
Emilio: I don’t listen to metal when writing lyrics. I always put on piano and strings music. I feel it really inspires me. I also don’t want to listen to metal because I don’t want inspiration from another vocalist. I really strive for my lyrics to come from me and me alone.
Mike: Musically I like to have a TV show I know incredibly well on silent or almost silent in the background, something like Breaking Bad, Futurama, Brooklyn 99, or Modern Family. I also need coffee. Other than that, it’s just hammering away in every spare moment that I’m not working my day job.
Music has known a solid change once with the evolution and development of technology. How do you see this change given the fact that there where technology appears, the emotion may lose its course?
Mike: I don’t think that’s strictly true, synthesizers are technology and they’re involved in some of the most emotionally affecting songs ever written. Certainly, I think technology has been the most valuable progression in the history of music, the democratization of access to the ability to create has given everyone creative a voice. Some argue that it’s also given a voice to so many that it’s flooded the music industry, but it just means you have to work harder to rise to the top. The internet is also technology, and the internet has meant that there is almost always an audience for literally anything, so I respectfully disagree that technology makes music lose emotion because emotion is in the heart of the creation itself, not the tools that were used to make it.
In the present conditions, some not favorable at all for spiritual development, what role can have the artistic act and creation?
Mike: Art and artistic creation are one of the things that have allowed people to get through this last year, be it new music or any sort of entertainment made during this pandemic, it has been a way for people to keep the human connection and element alive in a time where human contact has been severely limited in person.
Given the current situation and the tragic events that have occurred throughout history, in what condition has humankind, known to have its quilt for such disasters, deserves its place on Earth and the top of evolution?
Emilio: We’ve been responsible for many amazing things but also just as many shortcomings. I don’t think a position in evolution is relevant because that power we’ve acquired is also proving to be our downfall in many aspects. We truly need to change the way we do many things. Otherwise, the result will be devastating.
If you were able to go back in any period of your preference, where would you find yourself?
Emilio: This isn’t a question I’ve ever really asked myself. I think I’ll stick to the era I’m actually in because change is truly possible nowadays… if we choose to take action, that is.
Mike: I’d love to experience the 80s properly, and the 90s again, but honestly I’m happy with where I am. I would be very interested in seeing further into the future of humanity as a spacefaring civilization, but otherwise the here and now are fine.
Lyrics from a song that Jesus would have chosen while on the cross, just to throw them in front of humanity:
Emilio: Maybe “Make them Suffer” by Cannibal Corpse? I have no idea. (laugh)
If your music travels the world, where do you think it will find its fulfillment and inner peace?
Emilio: It already does when the listener enjoys what they’re listening to.
Cover photo: (c) Heike Langhans