We invite you to read an interview with Maciej Mehring one of BISCLAVERET members and a head of Zoharum label. We talk about the project, the label, religion and art… Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about your history – how did Bisclaveret come to being, what were its first steps and how did the first releases and live appearances come about?
We’re musically active since 2000. A lot of things happened since then. I’d have to recall all our history to answer this question. Bisclaveret was created as an outlet of our musical and artistic visions, as a junction of our (Radek’s and mine) musical fascinations. Our first materials were self-released on CD-r. It was a different time and different realities – especially in our country. There wasn’t any label profiled for this specific genre of music. Today, things would probably go a little differently. But looking back, I’m happy with this turn of events. I didn’t think that our project would survive the test of time, that we would reach such an audience. At that time, we wanted to create for ourselves and friends. Now we gain friends in different parts of the world.
The name of the project comes from a medieval lay that tells the story of a werewolf. Why this name in particular – does it have anything to do with the dual nature of the werewolf, hiding two opposite sides of himself within the same body, one appertaining to instinct and wildness, the other to civilization and subdued behaviour?
Yes, it’s true. The name is taken from medieval legends. It has special meaning for us in relation to the message of our music. We liked the combination of two opposing elements: the charming sound of the word “Bisclaveret” and its predatory meaning. The werewolf’s history within culture smuggled many symbolic references and has evolved over the centuries. I have always been fascinated by stories of lycanthropy, and also wolves in general – these few which we can see in our wildlife reserves. These “wild beasts” are sometimes more human than humans themselves … But that’s a different story.
You produce a very unique mixture of sound, where many different influences can be discerned – for instance modern classical, dark and experimental ambient, electronic, even some forms of darkwave. What are your influences in terms of genres but also specific projects or musicians?
Thank you for your kind words. As you’ve noticed the music we create, is a resultant of a number of genres. Personally we don’t like to throw ourselves to any musical drawer. We create the music which we like to describe as “bisclaveret music”. Of course, one can always dig, searching for comparisons, similarities, etc., since it is impossible to avoid. We, however, don’t look back. We don’t define our concepts by such criteria. While working on a song we don’t think about whether it will be more neo-classical or more ambient. We focus on creating the proper atmosphere; a musical illustration that interacts with the lyrics – and this is our starting point.
One of the things I find most fascinating about your music are the almost ritualistic vocals and recitations that you include in the tracks. Who among the two of you writes the lyrics and what subjects are they usually inspired by?
Yes, the lyrics are very important in Bisclaveret, they complete the whole thing, interact with the music, giving it another meaning. When I’m working on some particular lyrics, I think about how they will be harmonizing with each other on the album or gig. I try to tell specific stories through the lyrics. Inspirations? They vary. Sometimes these are my own experiences, reflections, thoughts, ideas. It really depends on the particular text or album. For example, on “ephemeros” there’s an exhibition of two worlds: the first is my fascination with angels and Enochian mythology. Second world writes additional meanings into the first one, drawn from my personal thoughts. I like the game of ambiguity, heterogeneity. Everyone – me as well – can read the lyrics in his or her own way. Everyone can look for other sources of inspiration. Man is a complex being. You never know which element will stimulate the pulse.
The titles in many of your albums and tracks evoke an intense feeling of religious agony, having to do with the concept of God and how it affects the individual internally – personally they remind me of Gnosticism, and the kind of revisionist wind it necessarily brought on the traditional frame of Catholicism. Are you religious yourselves, and are your ideas affected by living in a Catholic country?
There’s no denying that the issues of God, divinity and religion take a lot of space in Bisclaveret works. I’d venture to say that they are the core of the debate on other issues, they are the starting point for the reinterpretation of existing meanings and concepts. My beliefs, my own vision of the Absolute or its research are camouflaged in the lyrics. I don’t give a clear answer, because I’m searching for it myself. Gnostic philosophies tend to be inspiring, but it’s only a piecemeal approach to the concepts in the circle of my interests. In all this another important argument is hiding: we, humans, are limited by our own mind. Until we overcome this limitation, until we let the wave of madness carry us away, we won’t find the key to the Absolute. Hence, perhaps, the reason why there is so much possessed madness in Bisclaveret music. I am far from identifying with any religion, especially with any institution of the Church. I’m also not interested in any para-religious organizations, even close to my beliefs. They do not provide answers, they often deceive. You’ll discover the true path to divinity only through personal mystical experience. Poland is quite a unique country where “Pole” should equal “Catholic” – intolerance (mainly religious) is very high. Imposed are the laws, which fit to the guidelines of the Catholic Church. Attempts to push the amendment of the abortion law, etc. That is not right. Fortunately, in everyday’s life it’s not as annoying as it may seem.
What’s your opinion on religion, God, the Devil and everything it entails? Do they still have a place in modern society or are we ready to evolve beyond them?
No religion, especially in institutional form gives the answers or makes an easy way to enlightenment. This is another fetter on our path of development. Faith presented by various churches and religious systems impose a specific way of thinking, teaches automatic and schematic behaviors and any attempt to overcome them are rejected and condemned in advance. I would rather look for the true way to understand the absolute in the writings of mystics from all over the world, from different cultures and communities. Somewhere at the intersection of ideas, passed through the filter of your own thoughts and experiences, you can start your own research. I don’t trust people who impose on me their own will, making me think in their way. This is the biggest fraud we face every day. If you ask me, the idea of God, the Devil in symbolic terms, for me the closest is the Taoist concept moved to the land of Western esoteric tradition. Polish poet Tadeusz Micinski smuggled it perfectly into his works. He understood the Absolute as an unattainable combination of Christ and Lucifer; it’s his peculiar interpretation of the symbol of Baphomet. I’m not interested in the cult of evil in any aspect, it leads nowhere, and seems to become even more grotesque over the years.
You describe your work as “psychodrama” and emphasize the fact that it contains a large portion of theatricality. And truly when one allows themselves to be immersed in the music, this aspect does prevail, because the music seems to go hand in hand with the characters portrayed in each track.
“Psychodrama” is the most accurate definition of our work, because our message in great degree refers to the inner self, raises issues that arise in our minds, that affect our outlook on life. We dig in the darkest corners of human psyche in order to bring out of them new, sometimes perverse visions. Our music, my vocal interpretations are like a dream of a sick, seemingly insane man, but at the same time this man possesses a great amount of wisdom, knowledge and enlightenment. Sometimes it brings bitter fruit… So it is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
What is the role of theatre in your creative process, and what is your motive in marrying the two? In addition to recording you also do a lot of live performances, where your theatrical notions are more comfortably incorporated. Can you describe a Bisclaveret performance? What are the “extras” that the viewer would witness in comparison to a recording?
Theatre is the most convenient form for Bisclaveret’s message. It derives from ancient rituals, takes a full circle, and has now become the last stand for sacrum, for spiritual communication. Everything is possible here. It’s a creative method which allows you to use elements that would not exist in real world. It’s also a kind of magic formula for us, where everything becomes for a moment, and stops after completion, after the show ends. We try to make every show a story told from beginning to end, using sound, words and images. It’s also to show our inner mysteries to which we invite the audience attending Bisclaveret gigs.
Are you engaged in any other art forms besides music? Apart from music what other influences do you have (in literature, film and so on) that you feel have played a significant part in your work?
Art is of great importance for us in our private lives. It gives us a sense of meaning, affects our sensitivity, stimulates our senses and imagination. It allows us to break away from the dreariness and the prose of life. Often inspires, thrills us, probably like most people as well. Of course we are interested in its various forms: painting, literature, and film. You ask whether art affects our work? Sure it does. One of our albums is the best example, “Les Mannequins” is a musical interpretation of one of the most important texts of Polish writer Bruno Schulz, “Engil Ljssins” was inspired by an Einar Jonsson painting, and you can probably find more themes from various forms of art in our creations, about which even we have no idea. As I mentioned, art gives shape to our personality, so that later, experienced with new sensations, we can create our own artistic expressions.
Besides Bisclaveret you also run the Polish underground label Zoharum together, that specializes in releasing artistic and experimental post-industrial, but also some classic names in the field such as Rapoon, Troum, Hoarfrost and Inner Vision Laboratory. What are the criteria by which you select which artists to release, and why?
Zoharum was originally created for sake of Bisclaveret. In a short time we were noticed on the scene, we started to receive interesting albums from other projects that we liked so much that we wanted to publish it. Slowly the machine developed up to the point where we are today. The main criterion for selection are our musical tastes. We release albums that touch us in some way, where something moves us and brings something fresh to our perception of music. We are only limited by our financial capabilities. Each album is a big investment, and sales are ups and downs in the world of Internet and widespread piracy… but we don’t give up. For the past five years we released more than 40 titles and have plans for another 20 – if we have the opportunity and we have enough strength.
Does running a label and at the same time being an artist that works in the same field ever come into contradiction? Is it difficult to separate the two “mentalities” so to speak, that of label-owner and that of musician? Or does it get easier when you belong in the underground?
Running a label and being a musician has its pros and cons. It’s sometimes helpful, and sometimes this is with a detriment of one of them (a chronic lack of time and the need to sacrifice one thing for the other). On Bisclaveret gigs we’re trying to promote other projects, we invite them to joint performances, and performing with our project on various festivals, we always try to promote albums of other projects on the Zoharum stand etc. There are plenty of dependencies. It’s hard to say clearly, but I think that at this point it brings more benefits after all, despite the permanent lack of time and sharing every minute…
What kind of personal relationship do you have with one another? Are you also friends in real life, or do you just work together running the project and label? Does your personal relationship aid or hinder the creative process?
Both Zoharum and Bisclaveret is a group of friends. We know each other well for years. We talk a lot, not only about music, we simply feel well in eachother’s company. No matter what we decide to do in the future, our relationships are unlikely to change. Business and things like that are of no importance here. Our activity is derived from passion, not from a desire to earn money. The best proof of this is the fact that we have completely different sources of income. This ensures that our relationships are cleaner and free of “uncomfortable issues” and disputes. However, friction always happens, as in any close relationship … but it rather has a constructive influence on our work.
What are your future plans for the label but also for Bisclaveret? Can we anticipate new releases or performances relatively soon?
Slowly working on a new Bisclaveret album. We’d like to release it this year, but no hurry. It slowly matures. We want it to be born in a natural way. We already have a large part of the music and lyrics. Now we are working on the fixation of both elements… Concerts… there are slightly less than in the past, but we already have plans for the next shows. This year we performed in Kalisz, then Bremen. We also met with the organizers of several festivals… We should know more soon.
Many thanks for conducting this interview with us – would you like to address any final words to our readers?
Thank you for an interesting conversation. All the best for Santa Sangre readers, I invite you to our concerts, look out for news from the Zoharum and Bisclaveret camps, support the scene, without your participation we wouldn’t be here, there wouldn’t be new albums, festivals and concerts.