Soundart from the Cold Lands...
A conversation with Peter Andersson of Raison d'être
Live at Mannheim 2004
Peter, first of all, please tell us some facts about yourself...
I was born 1973-03-20 in a small town called Boxholm in the south-east part of Sweden. Right now I am studying the master level on the programme ‘Cultural, Society and Media production’ at the University in Norrkoping. This programme builds on a broad spectrum of research traditions within the humanities and social sciences. It includes production studies and practical work in film, television, audio installation, radio, computer-based media and museum exhibitions. Besides my music activities and studies I am mostly interested in film, art, Tibetan Buddhism and meditation, in water, in mountains, in life.
Peter, could you tell us something about the underground-music-scene in Sweden in general?
I actually don’t now much about it. Most of it is based around Cold Meat Industry, and then there are some younger generation making noise at home on their computers.
What is the artistic concept behind your main project Raison d’être?
The concept is about the freedom of expression, to use any creative tool in order to make an expression, Music, film, photo, painting, poem or whatever kind of layers. So far I have most been into music making, but I have plans to expand the creative layers to more than music, at least it was the intention when I started raison d’être, and I feel the film layer is quite close now.
From where did you take the name?
The name is taken from a sentence in a book by Carl Gustav Jung, something like this "the individuation is the raison d’être of the self". At the time when I started raison d’être I was reading a lot of Jung literature and his thoughts has inspired both my life and my work. Raison d’être is a very existential term and can be used in a lot of different ways. I think it is a beautiful word and everyone can find his or her own meaning of it.
How would you define your own perspective on the Brian-Eno-term ‘ambient music’?
For me terms like ambient or soundscapes is about the sounds of nature or the environment, sounds that is already there, you don’t even need to record it. At the beach and if you relax and close your eyes and you will enter a new world: listening to sounds from boats, animals, wind etc. creating a tune of the environment. I think it’s very beautiful. Eno thought about mixing recorded sound and environment sounds but from the beginning it was not included to record the ambient sound, as it was already existing by itself. However, to record the ambient sounds also means that other people can listen to it without being in a particular environment, as Eno did on the album ‘On Land’ and some other artists had done several years earlier without label it ambient. For me ambient is a way to create a substitute for a world that exists or may not even exist more than as a thought. Like a wasteland, when I picture it in my mind I try to create the ambient soundtrack for this particular world and then put it a step further by composing a sort of soundtrack for the whole image, with the ambient soundtrack included, with non-ambient sounds mixed or on top of it.
Do you see the possibility of promoting philosophical idea of life via pure sound?
On principle no, not in the music itself as pure sound, but rather in the context where it is played, as I believe that everything is cultural bounded. Meanings and symbols are in almost all cases not global, but Jung talks about the archetypes that are common for us all, so maybe after all there is some way to promote primitive but deep rooted ideas via sound.
How important is the visual presentation (cover etc.) of a musical work for you?
The visual presentation is often the very first contact with a band so it’s important. The artwork for an album should reflect the content of the disc, the music. When viewing the cover and listening to the music it should be like enter a new world, or it should work as key to understand the world painted by the music. The same goes for video backdrops during live performances. Everything must not be shown clear, it can be hidden, like an enigma to solve. Right now I am much into minimalistic art design, I want to move to more pure state of mind, both in my music and with the visuals, they go hand in hand.
On your early recordings (e.g. "Prospectus I") you make heavy use of Christian chorals and chants. Did you see this in the context of a bleak and Gothic vision du monde?
They are still used but to a less extent. I use religious elements in my music not as symbols for religion in itself. These kinds of elements / symbols may connote to things like loneliness and contemplation and that is why I use them. Most people see my music as bleak and gothic visions so if looking at the result of my music guess you are right.
Your side-project Atomine Electrine is more inspired by techno/trance-sounds. What is your connection to the techno-scene?
Actually, I am not much involved into techno/trance, but more into electronic ambient sounds. I have been a fan of cosmic music since I first started listening to music. Artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze was a big inspiration for me when I was young. In the 90’s I started to listen to bands like the Orb, Aphex Twin and Future Sound of London, but that’s the closet I have got to the techno scene even if I don’t consider those bands being techno, more on the verge to techno.
Another of your projects is Bocksholm. What is the concept of that collaboration with Lina Baby Doll of Deutsch Nepal?
This is a quite funny project. Lina and I have so much in common that we were forced to have a project together. We are both grown up in the same small town (3000 inhabitants), Boxholm (the old spelling was Bocksholm), and we both have the same name, Peter Andersson (yes that’s Linas real name too), and we both are making industrial music on the CMI-label. The project is about our childhood in Boxholm, our young experiences and about the fear of the Ironworks and the alcoholics in the town. Most of the sounds we use are sampled in Boxholm, especially in the area around or in the Ironworks, so the music got an Boxholm atmosphere all over.
Your main label is Cold Meat Industry, a label that coined a certain style of Post-Industrial music. How strong is the influence of label-boss Roger Karmanik on the music of ‘his’ bands?
I would say that we are free to do what we want, but if Roger dislike the music he will probably not want to release it on CD. Normally it’s not a problem. Roger have signed bands that he likes not only for the music in itself but what kind of people there are behind the music. He actually prefers to work with good people that do not perfect music before working with assholes that do fantastic music. Only a few times he has rejected new material from pretty established bands. And he never say how he would like the sound to be, the artists produce their own music without any interference from other interests.
Your music is eventually inspired by films. Could you comment on this? Do you sample from your favourite movies?
I believe many things inspire my music, actually everything I have experienced may play a role. But film or any kind of images or even real sights are able to visualise my ideas. For example, if the word Wasteland inspires me I try to picture it in my head and then I got certain mind images that may rely on what I have seen in real life, or on film or in images. More often people say that my music would fit very well as film music. I have been asked several times to make music for films but at the end the film productions have been cancelled. Nowadays I never sample from films, I may have done it a few times in my earliest years as music creator, but I prefer to do as much sounds as I can by myself.
At your live-shows you show films of abandoned places. What is the idea behind that? Where are the pictures shot? And who did it?
The idea is simply to create images for audience that goes along with the music. Martin Pels who is responsible for many of the images on the CMI sleeves shot the images for my recent two backdrops in Argentine and Brasilia. One backdrop is of an old abandoned graveyard and the other backdrop is at an old harbour with rusty abandoned ships.
Do you plan to publish an audiovisual work (DVD) in the near future?
Yes, I have been thinking about a raison d’être DVD. I have got such plans for a while but I haven’t had any time, maybe later this year I can start working on such things, at least I hope so. But I do work on other audiovisual works that is part of my studies at the university, this will result in a DVD in the future. Right now I am working on a poetic, artistic and existentialistic short film about abandoned places and residual energy to be recorded at different locations in Poland and Czech Republic. I will compose a special soundtrack, but it will be under the name Peter Andersson not as raison d’être.
Is there a certain difference between performing in Germany than playing live in Sweden, Russia, Italy etc.? What are the audiences like?
Russia and Italy is quite similar, they are very nice and warm as audience. Germans are a bit more restrained but not as much as Swedish audience. Worst is English audience, they are even crappy, seems like they want to leave the building even if they enjoy the music. Else it the same type of audience, most young people but sometimes really old ones, I have met people that are over 70 years old. Most of them are dressed in black, but far from all. It’s often more differences from performance to performance in the same country that between countries.
You are regularly playing live at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig, Germany. What do you think about this event?
I am not that found of Wave-Gotik-Treffen, it’s a lot of shit bands, but it’s a nice place to meet a lot of people as they are coming from everywhere, even from United States. CMI usually have their own stage so that’s good, I don’t want to blend with goth bands.
The industrial/ritual-music-scene in Germany suffers from ideological prejudices. A lot of concerts are criticised by leftist extremists for ‘promoting rightwing politics’. In Raison d’être nothing of that sort can be found. But you performed at several occasions together with some of the attacked bands, e.g. at the "Heilige Feuer"-festival in St. Petersburg. What is your opinion about that?
I am not interested in politics, at least in combination with music as I see it more as an aesthetic expression. On the other hand I have to face the fact that some artists and audience may have a political agenda and that it may cause trouble sometime. But it has not caused any trouble so far and I am friends with most of the bands even if I don’t agree on their political standpoint.
Do you listen to Industrial and neofolk music yourself? What are your musical favourites?
I have listen to industrial music since the early 80’s, but I am not much into neofolk. In the industrial field I enjoy old bands like TG, SPK, Lustmord but right now I listen most to Organum, Ora and Troum. But I have to say that I don’t buy or even listen to much music anymore. And I do listen to other artits, not only industrial ones.
Besides your music you are a student of media-design (?). Are you able to live on the royalties of your music?
I can not survive on my royalties, but if I played live often and sold a lot of merchandise, maybe I could live on my music. But on the other hand I don’t want to turn my music to a commercial spectacle. In the first place I do music because I need to, not to make money on it, on the other hand I want to be free, to have money so I don’t need to work 9-5. So right now I am surviving on some royalty money and contributions for studying at the university.
What may the future bring for your creative work? What are your current plans?
Right now I have some new albums to be released by my side projects Necrophorus and Stratvm Terror. In early summer I will start composing new material for an Atomine Elektrine album, it was almost 10 years ago so it’s about time now, and after that there will be a new raison d’être album. I will also continue making movies, I want to do a DVD for raison d’être. All these plans are yet only undeveloped ideas so I can’t say much more about them. I guess, in future, I will work more on music in combination with film, it’s a rather new area for me and I am very excited about it.
This interview was conducted by Marcus Stiglegger via Email.