Interview with Lars from Wallachia

Wallachia (NOR)

Hello Lars, I’m glad I’m talking to you now. Tell me about your new EP, how it’s gonna be called? I’ve heard that the album recording that has been scheduled for June will be cancelled and delayed a few months, unfortunately. The artwork will also be done by Laura Sava?
Hello Miruna, and thanks for inviting me.
Because of the live-plans for August and investments in musical equipment, flights for rehearsals, hotels and anything related, it took its toll on the budget I had already planned for the album recording, and for those reasons I had no choice but to delay the album recording a few months. Even though we’ve already started to do some recordings of guitars, orchestral/keyboard stuff and also had a session with female vocals done last week. The idea of doing an EP prior to the new album came to me since we’re already doing some “test recordings” of the live-material, including some stuff from the upcoming album, and we wanted to do this special EP featuring the entire live line-up as what we do is basically a one-time event (now to begin with, at least). So it’s a 3-track EP that goes under the name “Carpathia Symphonia” and will have a playing time of approx. 22 minutes. The plan is to have it available around the time of our concert in August. As regarding the artwork for the new album, we will this time go back to using photographs taken by my Hungarian friend Tamás Vámosi, just like on our demo/EP & first album. These shots were taken during our trip through Transylvania in July 2014. If it’s gonna be Laura Sava or someone else behind the editing and layout this time around, it’s still not sure. I’ve had a dialogue with Laura, and well knowing that she’s very busy with several bigger illustration jobs, so it depends on what she manages time-wise. And after all she’s purely an artist and don’t really work with design and editing type of work, so we’ll see now in the months ahead.

The ‘WALLACHIA’ project started in 1992, and from 1992 to 1995  Wallachia was a solo project of yours. Tell me more about the solo project, how did the idea for the project take root? what inspired you to start this journey?
I created Wallachia in my early teens and from the very beginning I wanted it to be a one-man band, as first of all there were really no scene for this kind of music up here, and especially to find a drummer was a difficult task. I was heavily inspired by Bathory and Burzum, and how they more or less were fully one-man bands were also a big inspiring factor to me. I kept practicing drums whenever I was able to, and were asking the more experienced musicians in my town about the process of recording in the studio, etc. But in the first couple of years nothing happened apart from me writing the material that would become the demo. In the summer of 1995 I hooked up with Eystein Garberg (now known from Norwegian folk metal band Lumsk) who was in the same situation as me, living 200 km’s away from my town. And we decided to do Wallachia together as a duo; me doing the guitar, bass and vocals, and him doing also guitar as well as keyboard and drum programming. So we bought this 1st generation ’80’s drum machine (which would be perfect for artists like Modern Talking, etc.) from the studio of my mom’s band, and during 4 – 5 weekends in the summer – autumn of 1995 we had completely rehearsed and arranged the demo-songs, and in November we booked ourselves into the studio and recorded the demo over a couple of days. So much thanks to Eystein the whole process with realizing Wallachia went very smooth, and I am very thankful for everything he did with the creation of this band. And it made me realize that I depend on having someone to help me out realizing the recording, as I am basically after all only a guitar player. The early – mid nineties was a blooming time for the underground scene, and it was inspiring to see how people at your own age or a few years older were creating these monumental albums, which they still remain today. And it was the need for saying something, for expressing your soul and thoughts, which in these days one can do in different ways too. But music is for me the most powerful tool of expression, as it hits all the senses, and most of all something you can feel and connect with in a spiritual and emotional way.

As a band Wallachia is bounded to Romania, to romanian culture, from the band name to songs.  How’s that?  I guess you’ve been asked before why Romania history instead of Norse mythology? The lyrics are written by you, if yes what influenced you? books, history?
My fascination with Romanian history, myths and culture began as a child who was at first embracing the whole Dracula myth – the purely vampiric legend as we know from Bram Stoker’s novel. I was approx. ten – eleven years when I first got into those things. Remembering very well how I used to look at those Christopher Lee Dracula movies covers when dropping by the video rental stores, and that first moment of watching those movies with an equally mixed feeling of dread and fascination. From then on to be told from a Dutch kid that lived in our neighborhood that Dracula was not only a myth but a real historical figure; something I would be able to further investigate on my own later. At our local library I came across a Danish book about the morbid characters of medieval times, such as Elizabeth Bathory, Gilles De Rais, and most of all the extensive chapter about Vlad Tepes. And this was the actual source that made me create Wallachia, embracing these legends and captivating a gloomy majestic atmosphere to go along the dramatic descriptions of Wallachian and Transylvanian nature, the Fagaras mountains, the thick Carpathain forests, river streams. A song like Fullmåne over Fagaras was purely inspired by this book’s description of the nature and the myths, whereas a song like Arges – Raul Doamnei was on the other hand inspired by the Bram Stoker’s Dracula movie from director Francis Ford Coppola, which came out to the cinemas in those times. As a teenager you are very receptive of fantasy, mythology and the mind is perhaps more imaginative in that sense, and the first songs I wrote were like a mix of inspirations from books, movies, history and mythology, as well as also some were of a more personal nature and stance of rebellion against things that still are relevant for me to speak out about. I’m still fascinated with these topics of history and mythology, and it was really exciting to travel to places like Sighisoara, Fagaras, Déva, etc. and to touch upon the feeling of actually standing inside these buildings, castles and ruins of places you only had read about and hardly seen any images of (in pre-internet times). Although my lyrics have become more like a personal and internal source of inspiration rather than an exterior one. I guess that the mythology and history from other civilizations can appear more inspiring and trigger a deeper sense of imagination rather than the one we are standing in the middle of and don’t really see with the same outside perspective. Those far away lands seems more enchanting and mystic. And Transylvania sure have its aura of mystique, not only for me, but from other Scandinavian bands who were fascinated the same way. We are taught the Norse mythology subjects in school, and there’s some fascinating legends there too, of course, and even nowadays here in my town they are still making archeological discoveries from the viking era – a millennia back in time. Grave sites of kings, weapons, jewelry, parts of ships, etc.

The album Shunya it’s way different compared to From behind the light? Why did you changed your style? How was Shunyareceived by the public?
Well, from my point of view we haven’t changed our style, but rather evolved the sound naturally over the years. And it’s a 13-year gap from the debut until our latest effort “Shunya”, and also we have done the “Ceremony of Ascension” album in 2009, which makes this transition in a pure audial sound even more natural. We didn’t take away or change any elements in our musial sound, but rather added to what was already there, and that’s the biggest difference from the debut album and up to what we’re doing now. Even on the 1st album I would say that the music was quite eclectic, but that became even more evident on the 2nd album – our most experimental one up to date, as also having Stefan coming into the band and recording process and adding some of his own touches with the keyboards and effects, which are partly more ethnic and Eastern influenced in sound. The biggest change, or rather improvement, is perhaps the way that I do the vocals nowadays; purely without any effects/harmonizer as to how we did on the early stuff. It’s much more raw and primal, and closer to my original intention now since from the 2nd album. And everything we do is basically what we instinctually feel evolves the sound. Now with the upcoming album I think we have songs that are more close to the 1st album than to the other two, so it’s like a natural circle of evolution within the so-called frames you set for yourself. Shunya is our most well received album until now, as first of all it’s more cohesive sound- and music-wise compared to the previous album. Those who embrace it seems to get beneath the feelings I put into the songs, and I’m happy that people see the total picture of the album – meaning the music, lyrics and artwork as a full-bodied entity.

For the first time in Romania as a band on stage. Why don’t you play in the geographical romanian region Wallachia?
At least I get to visit and travel through Wallachia itself this year, and I am looking much forward to that.
It all comes down to the booking and the location being set in Transylvania, as it’s the first time we’ve been able to confirm yes to play a show. When Doru proposed the idea for us to play at DBE, I had to ask the guys if they were up for the job and finally realize a Wallachia live show. So within a week’s time I had gotten a yes from all the guys that help me out; with Stefan and Paal already being a part of the whole studio process, then to also have Grolig and Thomas stepping in was a great relief to me.

It will be the only concert for this year?
It’s the only booking we have confirmed so far at least, so we’ll see what happens ahead. At the moment we are set to do this one and only event before starting the full work on recording the new album.

What can you tell me about your personal view on black metal? Is it different now than 20 years ago?
When I first got into black metal music in the early nineties, it was like for many else at that time coming from a death metal background and discovering a new creation taking shape from the same foundations. And I’m into this form of music nowadays for the same reasons as back when I first got into it. The rebellious aspects of the music appeals to me the same, as that’s the whole basis of black metal in the first place. Rebellion, opposition, the quest for truth and individual liberty; to be free from doctrinal rules and totalitarian ways of thinking and being bound to live by – such as we see in religious governed states even now in our time and age, unfortunately. Black metal as a music genre has evolved over the years, for good and bad, and some might say it has been dilluted and not have the same aura of mystique any more. Maybe much thanks to how it became more accessible with the growth of the internet as a medium, and how some pushed into more of a purely “Disneyland” entertainment thing rather than the more obscure artistic form it originates from. But that’s basically the same fate all subcultures have shared at one point or another. Death Metal, too, reached a peak where it got mainstream and nearly died out by the middle of the nineties, only to get even more extreme and be revived stronger than ever, and one can say the same about black metal too. Many of the great bands are the ones who have always been doing it, when it was totally underground to begin with, when it got big and popular, and through the hard times when it nearly died out, and they are still here doing it for the right reasons, for personal satisfaction most of all. A lot of my favorite bands come from the early – mid nineties, but also bands I have discovered the past 5 – 10 years have an equal high impact on me, so I’m just happy to see that there’s possible to still create and surprise when there’s so many bands and releases out there. As I have grown older and have a broader perspective of the world and society, of myself as person too, one grows a larger sense of understanding, empathy and tolerance, naturally. And at the same time the rebellious flame and anger towards injustice, abusive power, corruption, totalitarianism – the opposition and repulsion towards such things grow even stronger and thus also more important to speak up against. And that’s why black metal as an artform hold great importance to me. The freedom of speech, equality and individuality are the most important aspects in our lives, I think.

What do you love so much about music? How would you describe your musical progress over the years?
As a child I grew up with music being an important thing in my family, as my mother was vocalist in a 60’s styled pop-rock band. And from her I got the same emotional connection with music, I think. At an early age I just knew that I wanted to play guitar more than anything else, and finally for my 13th birthday I got myself an electric guitar and amplifier, and from then on it has been no turning away from music. My cousin who is one year older than me, got me into a lot of the metal stuff, basically from I was age 7 – 8, and I was 12 years of age when I got into the more extreme bands at that time. Getting into the more extreme stuff only opened up more doors and allowed a lot more dynamics come into my (musical) life, to have a larger spectrum of connection and expression. I have always liked music that have a sense of sadness and melancholy to it, a more reflective, realistic and meditative quality. There are songs for any situations in life, and some times we need music as a way of being understood, finding tranquility with ourselves, and also to have music that is uplifting and motivating, a sense of feeling that nothing can break us. It’s both the pure physical connection and also the intellectual and emotional connection with music that are important, and especially when all those are combined. There are a few artists that really manages to move us in such a way that we feel they are speaking directly to us, and that’s the most amazing feeling and experience with music. I simply need music every day.

Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you. Do you have some words for Romanian fans?
Thanks for the interview and the pleasure was all mine. I want to thank the Romanian fans and friends, and hope to see some of you at DBE in August. And I look much forward to visit your beautiful country again.


Photo credits go to Miluta Flueras.

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