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15 Questions to Gustaf Hildebrand

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello there! I’m just fine, thanks. I’m in my livingroom, in front of my extremely messy desk, somewhere in Sweden.


What’s on your schedule right now?

Not too much at the moment, dabbling with some new material and trying to revise my studio setup with some new hardware and gadgets.


You’re music has almost unanimously been described as “dark”. What do you personally associate with it?
Funny you should mention that. To people who usually don’t listen to this kind of music I often end up describing it as “space rumblings” or “ruin sounds” or some other similarly strange term which does little to enlighten the person who’s asking. If it’s dark or not is a subject I leave entirely to the listener to decide, though describing it as upbeat or cheery would be a bit of an exaggeration, I suppose. Personally I associate it a lot with the feelings of awe and wonder, be it about the incomprehensible unkowns of space or more earthly things like ruminating over how lovely ruins and abandoned places can look.


Another aspect of your work seems to be “the void” (also very much present on “Starscape”). What is so fascinating about it?
Yes, I find it extraordinarily fascinating in the sense that this planet is surrounded by an expanse of nothingness which is really beyond our capability to grasp in terms of its massiveness. Gives you something to think about, and it certainly serves as fuel for the imagination. It’s a kind of escapism really, a desire to leave this reality behind and journey out into the great unkown to strange and wonderous places where no one has ever been before. I doubt that I’ll ever be able to do this, but the concept itself serves as a great source of inspiration.


“Primordial Resonace” has just been released on cyclic law. In comparison with many other similarly orientated works, it is remarkably concise, a feat it shares with its predecessor. Is it important to you that your albums can be listened to in one continous session?
Thanks! Yes, I think it’s very important to keep the listener’s interest throughout the duration of the album. I find that records which have some sort of theme (even if it happens to be  relatively abstract)  are a lot more captivating than those which are just a “random” collection of songs. Not that the latter is automatically bad, of course, but I find that a consistent theme, mood or other form of common denominator really helps to accent the music, hence I try to do this myself.


What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
In general I’d say that astronomy has played a big part in shaping my music, but it’s far from the only thing. Not so much the astrophysical aspect of it though, more in a sense of attempting to convey what might be out there in terms of unknown places and things. When it comes to strictly musical influences, Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien soundtrack, Lustmord and few other classical composers come to mind, such as Arvo Pärt and Zbigniew Preisner. I’m not sure what manner of movement I would be a part of, perhaps the history books will tell of the great Cyclic Law Ambient-Wave out of Scandinavia during the early 21st century?


How would you describe or characterise your composing process?
I usually start out with a very basic sound structure which I then build upon with all sorts of different sounds to see what fits, there’s quite a lot of experimentation going on at this stage as to what goes together and what doesn’t. Sometimes nothing seems to work, other times you stumble upon something which you think sounds fantastic. It has a degree of uncertainty to it which I enjoy.


How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Depends on what kind of music you’re creating. Music doesn’t necessarily have to be rigidly composed and structured to sound good, though maybe Kraftwerk would disagree with me on this.


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
I like to think that a good live performance is when you catch the audience’s attention and hopefully don’t bore them. Music like mine tends to go best with some manner of backdrop video, adding an interesting visual element to the music. It’s heavily computerised music, but I do like to use at least some manner of “analouge” equipment on stage, be it banging on big oil drums or using a bass guitar connected to an effects pod.


What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

Ever since man first banged two stones together in a rythmical fashion there has been people who claim that there is a crisis in the music scene. I guess people who are into different genres define their crisises differently, I know that many see commercialism as the big devil while others may have a hard time finding audiences to play for.


Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such thing as genuinely “new” music. What do you tell them? Is “new” an important aspect of what you want your pieces to be?

Saying that there shouldn’t be any new albums recorded is a bit like saying that you should abolish science because we’ve discovered everything there is to discover – a pretty strange argument. Of course I want my music to sound interesting and thought-provoking, but I wouldn’t say that for it to sound “new” is the number one priority I have when composing. Perhaps someone should record an album of Moldavian Fusion-Polka to satisfy this desire for completely new music, if that hasn’t been done before.


Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a poltical/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?

I’ll never include any political references in my material, but music is a very powerful medium and should not be underestimated when it comes to conveying messages, be they political, social or otherwise. Personally, I prefer when issues like these are kept out of music. If I wanted politics and social commentary I’d go watch CNN or the latest government-scrutinising documentary.


You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?

All of my favourite bands, decadence and perhaps some alcohol.


A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?

I think it’s very easy to dismiss something as “not qualifying as music”, especially if it’s on the extreme experimental end of the spectrum such as noise and similar styles. It’s a statement which says more about the person who utters it than the audio he or she is trying to describe. All I really ask is that you should keep an open mind, what constitutes good and bad music is completely subjective, however. I don’t expect everyone to like everything, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically dismiss a certain style as not being music.


Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

I have no idea! A couple of decades from now when I look back on my discography I might be able to say that I liked a certain album better than another, but right now I really can’t say.


Discography:
Starscape (Cyclic Law) 2004
Primordial Resonance (Cyclic Law) 2006
Out of the Darkling Light Into the Bright Shadows/with Peter Bjargo (Erebusodora) 2006

Homepage:
Gustaf Hildebrand

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