Interview with Gabriele Giustini for Audioglobe

1) First Of all I'd like to ask you what kind of thematics characterized the album... is there maybe a clear will to discover the fragile of our existence in a title like "Winds Devouring Men"?

Iskandar Hasnawi:
Yes, that was more ore less the idea: winds and the erosion of temples and other human constructions; winds making human works disappear. They become a metaphoric incarnation of time devouring civilisations. Both the title of the album and the themes of the text keep to that idea, but make it more concrete; this is where the metaphor becomes interesting and new; it restores all its meaning to that image. Of course, fragility is one aspect of the journey evoked in the lyrics, but the emphasis is on the destructive and at the same time regenerative power of the winds. The episodes that are related in the text merely reveal the influence and the effects of the winds. Their symbolic relevance is what is really interesting: in the phrase "Winds Devouring Men" the subject and the verb are more important than the object.

2) Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the whole album I've noticed a tension, a sense of hopelessness, really deep in respect to your previous release The Umbersun (that was singular in its apocalyptical aesthetic)...Which is the reason of that sense of solitude?

Iskandar Hasnawi:
The Officium depicted a world inhabited by an angry god, an incarnation of resentment. This new trilogy shows a world without god (even if customary deities are present), where man is the toy of circumstantial forces beyond his understanding: time, the elements, war; a tragic world.

3) Your stylistic balance between symphonic, medieval and ambient-industrial drifts express, in my opinion, an individual way to express the different sides of music & emotions (besides the definitions: gothic, medieval, etc..). Would you like to explain me how is born (and what kind of evolutions have faced) the majesty of your approach?

Renaud Tschirner:
We have always pursued maximum diversity of expression. There is no point in sticking to conventions of any kind, in our opinion, except regarding the norms we choose ourselves in order to stay focused. This is necessary for coherence or unity, especially since two composers (with often diverging views) collaborate. The foundation of the project in 1993 was connected to a sort of re-evaluation of violence in music; also including a kind of synthesis of the complete Western symphonic tradition; this is what we have done so far, notably in the Officium cycle. The current cycle goes beyond that, of course; on the one hand we are turning to other traditions than the Western one, and on the other, to a more contemporary dimension, regarding both serious and popular music.
However, it would be wrong to believe that our music shows "medieval drifts": except for one instrument (the psaltery), there are no medieval elements on this album, and there certainly weren't any at all on the previous ones. Anyway, whenever we use unconventional instruments, they are decontextualized. I want this to be clear: we are ideologically opposed to the attitude of bands that identify with a sort of lost golden age they believe to be resuscitating in music, such as those that term themselves "neo-folk" bands. They submit to a questionable ideology we totally reject; a despicable, abject exploitation of outrageous beliefs in aesthetically immature projects.

4) "Vision" or "Dreams" are words that usually appear in the new album, in some way these can be considered like answers to the obscurity world of today? (I'm referring in particular to the approach of songs like the title track or "Under War-Broken Trees")

Iskandar Hasnawi:
We are all children of our age... it is quite likely that all the forces at work today are also at work in my text; maybe the feeling that we are living in a period of catastrophes. But history is a history of catastrophes, so these forces pervade all literature. They have become themes in writing, topoi. It is for everyone to interpret them in his very own way; what is really important is their transformation into a literary form. The theme of vision and of the power of dreams as a structuring agent appears quite obvious to me in a text describing a world without centre. John Donne's fifth Holy Sonnet (Holy Meditations, V), shows the reorganisation of European humanity, having been decentralized through the discoveries of new continents: "You which [...] / Have found new sphears, and of new lands can write" (lines 5 and 6). These verses, just like some fragments by other poets (St John Perse or Pound for example), are part of the origin of my own poem.

5) My curiosity...I'd like to know what kind of role have had the lesson of composers like Dead Can Dance and Richard Wagner in the evolution of your musical attitude...

Renaud Tschirner:
Honestly, Wagner is boring. I can hardly stand sitting through an entire opera. He introduced many new ideas into the Western musical tradition, and his merit lies in that specifically. But on a non-technical level - on a purely musical or emotional level - his operas are failures. You can notice excellent bits an pieces strewn across his endless works, but on the whole, there is too much pathos both in the musical and the textual dimension; everything is pompous, pretentious, rhetorical, ostentatious. And he was not really a master of melody (this can be noticed in his vocal parts); his shorter pieces, his Lieder for example, are far more interesting. Richard Strauss is a much more suitable model for the mastery of complexity and immediate limpidity. In the long line of Western composers Strauss is the first one whose orchestral works I nearly completely admire; there have been several other, nearly as important composers since (notably Penderecki or Scelsi), but I can't go much further back. I'm not trying to debase his predecessors at all, I am only saying that regarding the blending of subtlety and exuberance, Strauss is capital. Please understand that we are strictly talking about orchestral works here; take Chopin for example: his mastery lies elsewhere; namely in piano music. Debussy, also very important in orchestral matters, is also still more interesting for his piano works; similar distinctions apply to many other composers. There might be revolutionary ideas in their orchestral works, but Strauss was the first one using them consistently.
As far as Dead Can Dance are concerned, we appreciate them of course, but I would not call them a role model. Their way of writing music is fundamentally different from ours, their sound too. Our music has always been dramatic and complex, both harmonically and structurally; theirs was primarily concerned with readability, even when they integrated exotic or unconventional elements. I think that for anyone familiar with our albums, this fundamental difference is obvious. In addition to that, our sound is not clinical like theirs - you can notice this major difference in production quality especially on our new album. But anyway... one must never forget the role Dead Can Dance played in the development of popular music. There have not been many bands with the same kind of approach; the fact that they used a contemporary and at the same time archaic instrumentation in popular music at a time when everything evolved around electronic sounds must never be forgotten. I believe that we are indebted to this very approach - it is for this particular reason that we stated our respect for them in the credits of our first album. In this regard they were pioneers, we are not.