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SMM:Context - Interview with Svarte Greiner

March 2, 2011

SMM:Context - Interview with Svarte Greiner

Svarte Greiner is a dark ambient project by Erik K Skodvin. He is also one half of the Norwegian duo Deaf Center which was formed in 2005 in Oslo, Norway. He currently lives and works in Berlin. He labels his music as “acoustic doom”. He utilizes both field recordings and computer generated sounds when producing his music. His debut album, Knive, was released in 2006. His second album, Kappe, in 2009. Svarte Greiner is also a founder of Miasmah Recordings.

Svarte Greiner – Halves by ghostly

1. You record under many aliases. Please tell us what they are and why you feel the need for the different aliases.

First and foremost I record under the Svarte Greiner alias. Deaf Center was started a bit before though, which I record with long time friend Otto A. Totland. Additionally, I put out a record under my own name, Erik K Skodvin, last year. I had some other aliases a long time ago, but they were put into eternal sleep since about 5-6 years now. Deaf Center was the initial alias I was gonna use since abandoning my older more electronica based personalities, but ended up getting Otto involved. So I found out I then needed a proper solo alias which is where Svarte Greiner comes from. I wanted Svarte Greiner to divert from the Deaf Center sound so I wouldn’t end up having two projects sounding exactly the same. Though I guess there is similarities with everything I end up doing no matter how much I try to split them. I do have a pretty vast taste in music even if it might not seem like it, so there’s still a lot I want to try out. They’ll probably all end up being slightly on the darker side with a lot of melancholy in them though, as it seems like I can’t really make any sun-drenched sounding stuff. The reason for the sudden release of an album under my own name was kind of a spontaneous decision that also had a lot to do with the move to Berlin and having access to Nils Frahm’s studio for a week, playing around with instruments I wasn’t used to. I was also thinking it’s good not to mix it with Svarte Greiner as I want to keep the possibility of doing something crazy live with my Svarte Greiner alias while still being able to play slightly more available sounding things under Erik K Skodvin. This will probably end up confusing me even more, but it’s done now, so we’ll see how this evolves. Summed up, Deaf Center is the project I have with Otto. Svarte Greiner is my usual solo outing, exploring darkly sounding atmospheres (Svarte Greiner is norwegian for black branches) while Erik K Skodvin is, as far as I know right now, my way of going a bit more available and spacious sounds.

2. You recently released the new Deaf Center album, Owl Splinters (amazing album by the way), after 6 years of silence under that alias. Why the long period of time in between albums? What do you make of the swell of excitement around Deaf Center amongst the experimental electronic scene?

Thank you. The long period has so many different factors its almost hard to get into, but like mentioned in a previous interview – after Pale Ravine sometime I got my first electric guitar + effect pedals and started experimenting more with live instrumentation which was something I really had not tried at all before. With this happening + I moved to using different sound editing/sequencing programs, it was harder for me and Otto to exchange files back and forth like we did in the past. Otto was always playing around with synth and piano, but I never tried working properly with a live instrument until then which was so exciting. Also, at the same time I was exposed to so much new and interesting musical styles I never knew before, that I just ended falling into a long experimentation process, putting Deaf Center on the shelf. When I moved to Berlin one and a half year ago, things changed quite a bit. I was getting to hang more with like-minded artists and people with studios. It just seemed like the time was right to try get another Deaf Center record out when Nils Frahm had such a wicked studio and wanted to work with us as he was a fan of our previous releases. Otto traveled down here and we did a long weekend improvised recording session which ended up like the new album. It’s so fun seeing that people are excited about the new album and haven’t forgotten about us after the long period of silence. Looks like an exciting year ahead!

3. Your music and visual aesthetic strikes us as equally important. You also seem very committed to the sound you explore regardless of the alias you use. A lot of modern composers, producers, and musicians jump from style to style where you seem to have been committed to your “sound.”

I think it’s definitely a very personal thing for me. And like I said earlier, no matter what style of music I would try to make it would probably end up sounding a lot like me. This can be a good thing or it can end up trapping me in. Hopefully, I can still manage to expand my artistic widths without loosing the personal touch to it. This is quite important for me also, as like you say—there are so many artists out there that kind of loose themselves in the amount of different sounds and styles out there. Being able to try new paths without loosing your old one is something I’m trying to archive.

For me, this is the music and art which is closest to my heart. And if I can make a living from conjuring up and releasing various surreal and darkly beautiful items, I definitely have come a long way to where I want to be.

4. Can you tell us some of the major influences in your work?

I get influenced from a lot of things, but nothing helps like a specially atmospheric night walking around the city or in the forest. Listening to all the sounds and watching how the lights change around. I’m in general very inspired by lights, shadow and atmosphere. I love filmmakers like David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick & David Cronenberg + any weird and crazy type of horror movie. Some influential musicians that have shaped me through time are Future Sound of London (from earlier times), Volcano the Bear, Slowdive & Gultskra Artikler.

5. Tell us about your label Miasmah. Who does the artwork and imagery? Why did you start your own label?

Miasmah is my longest going project as of now, as I originally started it in 1999 as a way for me to put out my music and graphic experimentations. It quickly turned into a mp3 label where I was releasing lots of different artists as well as myself. Most people know Miasmah maybe from when it started as proper record label in 2006. The reason for this step up was that I had been working on this compilation for a while, gathering my favorite artists working within the fields of experimental dark theatrical and cinematic music (now known as V/A – Silva). At the point i was releasing music on Type Records and was good friends with John (Xela). He was at the time working at a manchester based distribution company and told me that they could handle all the production,distribution, and promotion if I’d like to release it on CD. I thought, well why the hell not. Not thinking about the consequences this action made, being that I had started a proper record label without thinking about it, as they suddenly asked me when the next record was coming. Looking back, this has been both a blessing and a curse, as I hate working with any type of money related issues. The curation part has always been great fun though and as long as I have people to help me with the more demanding financial and distribution issues, I hope to keep going a good while more.

I do all design for the label myself, as Miasmah has also been since the start, my graphic and art alias. I have no musical education but rather graphic design background, so i wanted this incorporated into the label. Although after a while, running the label I found out sometimes I have to loosen the bonds a bit, having other visual artists presented at times. I still want to keep a red line through the releases though, so I’m still on design duties for all releases with most of the output coming with my artwork as well. I can tell you I’ve been doing graphics and covers for countless other record label up through the last 10-12 years now which has been great fun, but maybe not the most financially viable thing. : )

In 2011, Miasmah is still working to output the most interesting, weird, beautiful and shadow filled music you can find. I want to try keep pushing it forward without loosing the identity built up through the years.

6. What are your plans for 2011 and beyond?

I had not that many plans for 2011 when 2010 was closing in on end, but now it’s looking like it’s gonna be quite the busy year. First off, I changed distribution and production with my label Miasmah and have now a much busier year ahead of me with quite more releases than usual. Very exciting stuff coming this year I can say with everything from new fresh talent to followup albums by Miasmah oldtimers. I’ll be playing a nice bunch of Deaf Center and Svarte Greiner gigs, though no huge tours planned so far. First on the list as far as gigs right now is going to New York to play at Unsound festival in early April, which I’m very excited about. Other than that it’s looking like I’m gonna be involved in some art projects and the likes, so I’m crossing fingers for a good year.