- Hi Dan, thank you for agreeing to talk with us at Being With Life. Hope you’re doing well. Could you start by introducing yourself a little bit and telling us a bit about your life? I know this is quite vague but I’d like to give you the freedom to introduce yourself in the way you feel most appropriate.
Hey Andy, I’m a 34-year-old musician and graphic designer from the south-east of England, now living in the north-west with my wife and daughters. I play guitar for British Black Metal band Winterfylleth, as well as composing music for my other musical project Wolcensmen which is more folk-orientated. I’ve always been naturally drawn to rebellion – sometimes in the unproductive sense, but mostly in a positive, well-meaning sense, I’d like to think. I’ve always questioned authority and the prevailing habits and narratives of society, and this has led to self-propelled leaps of faith into vegetarianism, veganism, various forms of spiritual and esoteric study, a move to self-employment and the choice to homeschool my children.
2. So your solo project “Wolcensmen” is termed as being heathen folk. Away
from folk music are there any other genres that connect you to spiritual
realms where your limited physical experience feels as if it has almost
I would say that both Black Metal and ambient synth/electronic music are capable of propelling me into a more spiritual state-of-mind. This goes to the heart of the why Black Metal, Folk and Ambient music have such a close relationship; one which would perplex a lot of people, given that they’re sonically very different from one another. I’m a strong believer in the idea that music captures some of the unseen essence of its maker, so a Black Metal musician who wanders alone in the woods and then returns home to compose or record distorted guitar riffs somehow, often and maybe unwittingly, infuses the atmosphere and feeling of those woods into the music we as listeners hear.
3. You have spoken about escapism being a big part of your music. Did Burzum
have an influence on you to go down this route? and what other artists got
you invested in this kind of art?
Yes, Burzum was and is an enormous influence. Hvis lyset tar oss is, for me,
the ultimate in Black Metal escapism and has cast its spell over me since
I first heard it nearly 20 years ago. Other artists that had a similar effect
on me (though rarely to quite the same extent) are: Summoning, Isengard,
Ulver, Empyrium, Ildjarn and early-Satyricon. These, and others, have produced
recordings where one can be in no doubt whatsoever that its composer(s) had
recently soaked in the atmosphere of moss-covered forest floors under the
light of the moon, and infused their musical creation with the magic of those
After discovering these bands I, and friends, would regularly spend our weekends seeking out the same kind of experiences away from modernity and I owe a lot of who I am as a person to those formative years. It is probably difficult for anyone reading this, who has no knowledge or interest in Black Metal, to understand how such a seemingly abrasive form of music can inspire such peace and harmony. As such, it’s quite a subjective thing, born of very specific circumstances. There’s an awful lot more that could be said on this but I don’t know if this is the time or place.
4. Timelessness is also something you have spoken about. It’s an interesting
topic and something we at Being With Life emphasise also. We urge our readers
to let go of the concept of time, past and future so they can truly be here
in the present moment. Can you remember the point in your life when you
experienced music or other artwork for the first time that allowed you to surrender to
the present moment and instead of doing, be at peace with simply being?
I think I’d echo my previous answer and say that it was when I first heard Hvis lyset tar oss by Burzum. I used to fall asleep to it most nights. Occasionally I’d forget to set the auto-off function on my stereo and would wake up halfway through the last song, Tomhet. It is still one of the most dreamlike songs I’ve ever heard. Another album I had similar experiences with is Nightshade Forests by Summoning (which is actually a mini-album, to be accurate). The common factor in both of these is that they have a very musty, ancient atmosphere to them. They also have very repetitive melodies and patterns which can only serve to take one into a mental state more conducive with simply ‘being’.
Visual artwork has never had the same affect on me, because when I stare at a painting I’m immediately compelled to wonder about the techniques of the artist rather than simply merging with it. Music and the natural world are the only way for me to be content, with no questions, wants or concerns. My wife has commented that I become instantly, observably contented when walking in the woods and I think there’s a very primal, spiritual reason for that.
5. I can definitely relate with you on taking the alternative paths in life that others disregard as being too extreme or weird. That obviously comes along with the metal head thing but I’m also a freelance videographer and have learnt the basics of graphic design at university so it’s interesting to see the similarities between us. Although I generally see alternative explorations as being positive I also fell into some traps along the way when it came to being stereotyped. Although I went against the grain with my decisions, the people I then attracted all started to feel a bit too similar so in my early years of exploring extreme music in particular I would disregard almost all other genres that weren’t metal. This came from the social pressure of living up to the metal head label I had given myself. Did you find this to be a part of your journey? and what are your thoughts on labeling people and genres?
No, my experience has been quite different from that – with regards to feeling pressured to stay ‘loyal’ to metal, I mean. I feel like I’ve always been caught ‘between two worlds’ (to borrow from the title of the album by ‘I’), in that at the time I was first introduced to Black Metal I was also getting heavily into Hardcore/Punk. I felt no need to choose one or the other and for many years was simultaneously fond of both, and didn’t look like a metalhead at all. I was once on tour with a Hardcore band I used to play in, in Sweden, and met the ex-session bassist from Immortal outside a bar. He was insanely drunk but I felt compelled to tell him that I was a fan of Immortal. He must have seen this guy with a skinhead and trainers and thought I was taking the piss… which is probably why he then tried to pick a fight with me.
I’m, again, torn about labels and genres. On one hand I’m a living example of someone who defied the stereotypes of what someone into a certain type of music should look or act like; on the other hand, I’m quite protective over the integrity and conventions of genres such as Black Metal. Ultimately, I don’t care what or who people are – as long as their relationship with a genre of music is genuine.
6. You raise an interesting point about being an artist and getting distracted
by the way the art has been created instead of fully immersing yourself
within it. I sometimes have this problem with both music and film, being a
musician and a filmmaker but when the artist has done a really good job it
won’t even come into my mind. I would say that being a a great artist requires
being an invisible creator, in essence like nature is and I definitely think
that Wolcensmen achieves that. Do you have a particular routine and set of
methods that allows you to create immersive music or do these things change
quite a lot?
Well, thank you. I’m so glad you feel that Wolcensmen has so far achieved that. The last thing I’d want people to be thinking when listening to my music is the technicality of its production – that would interfere with the escapism! I self-produced the album, and studied an instructional book in order to do so. I’m quite amazed at how impressed people are with the sound of the album – not because I don’t think it sounds good; although I hear flaws that most people hopefully don’t. I’ve always had a very strong and definite idea of the atmosphere I wished to capture on the album, so my only method is to hold very closely to this vision and measure everything I create up against that perennial yardstick. If a melody, song or mix measures up, success! If not, back to the drawing board. It’s as simple as that. Everything must be honed and critiqued.
7. What got you interested in English Heritage? and how important is this
aspect when it comes to Wolcensmen?
That’s a bit of a mystery, to be honest. I’m half English, half Dutch, born and raised in England. Like most among my generation, I wasn’t raised with any real emphasis on my heritage, and it wasn’t until my 20s that I discovered an interest in the history of my country. I can’t quite say what triggered it, but I can say that it played a part in the formation of Wolcensmen. I found myself one night in a Dublin bar, enjoying the music of an Irish folk act (of which there are thousands). I wondered why there wasn’t such a strong folk music tradition in England and – combined with my love of dark folk music created by bands who otherwise made atmospheric metal – was inspired to do something about it.
I think that English culture is a victim of its own pervasiveness. It is a culture which has become the default western ‘Anglo’ culture, and has somehow almost become invisible as a result. English culture is so generic that it’s not seen as something exotic or worthy of attention, but this is far from the truth. A bit of study into the ancient history of England; it’s language, religion and mythology, brings to life a deeply rich and unique heritage which is as deserving of attention as any of the World’s wonderful cultures.
8. Have you ever made any electronic music and if not would you consider
doing so in the future?
I haven’t, other than the synth parts present in almost all Wolcensmen recordings. And yes, I’d love to have a go at making electronic music, should I ever find the free time. If I ever do, it will be melodic and ambient as opposed to dance, industrial or ‘noise’. For me, synth sounds have a unique potential to carry the listener away from their mundane reality and that’s the sort of thing I’d be interested in doing. For now I’m quite content working those ideas into Wolcensmen in a way that fits.
9. How would you describe a genuine relationship between a musician and the
music they write?
That seems quite an abstract question, but I’ll do my best to get to the heart of it: I think every musician should have a strong vision of the kind of mood they want to bring the listener of their music into, and that in composing that music every decision and experiment should be in service to that vision. Even when someone claims not to be serving any kind of goal or vision, and insists that they are writing freely, without prejudice, it’s unavoidable that the character and mood of that person is infused within the music. You really can’t detach a music from it’s creator – as much as some people might wish that not to be the case.
10. You mentioned earlier that you have gone down the vegetarian and vegan path.
What would you say was the prominent reason you decided to go down this road?
and do you think this way of life has a spiritual significance?
Yes, I haven’t eaten meat since I was 15. I’ve been on and off ‘plant based’ over the years since then also. But I want to make it clear that I have no interest in pushing my dietary choice on anyone, and I don’t have any problem with meat-eaters whatsoever. In fact, I wouldn’t usually want to discuss it because it’s largely irrelevant to my music. Basically, I have a problem with Western man’s relationship to our food (and everything else we consume); this is compounded in meat-eaters because so few give any thought to the process that results in that shrink-wrapped slab of meat arriving in their fridge. But irrespective of meat, few people consider how over-processed sugary, oily foods affect them or the environment. I could probably sum up my perspective best like this: I have less of a problem with the person who hunts and prepares their own meat than I do the vegan who lives on Tesco Soya Ice Cream and Mexican avocados.
I think, for me, spirituality is about judging one’s own worth (not about being judged by some deity called ‘Jehovah’). None of us are perfect but so long as we seek to improve ourselves and the world around us, we are acting in a spiritual way. That’s the mentality that drove my dietary choice, but the same mentality might drive others to different conclusions.
11. Seen as though English culture is often thought of as unworthy of attention,
which part of it do you think should be focused on more in order to give it a
stronger presence and importance to the mainstream?
Good question. I would say that the pre-Industrial, pre-Imperial era of England is what its current population (and the world at large) need reminding of. It’s easy to frame England as this Imperial, Capitalist monster, but it was once so much more noble, spiritual and unblighted by industry and overpopulation. A book called ‘The Real Middle-Earth’ by Brian Bates is an excellent introduction to this era of England – when, for example, the incoming Angles, Saxons and Jutes actually steered clear of the great stone structures the Romans had left in favour of wooded settlements. This very mystical aspect of England is sadly overlooked and I hope to help in its rediscovery.
12. Which spiritual teachings/messages have resonated with you the most in your
The idea that all actions of have consequences, seen or unseen. And not only for others but for the future prospects of oneself. I reject the Judeo-Christian idea that we are born sinners, bound to commit bad deeds in life, but that so long as we repent at the end, or every Sunday, we can ultimately find a path to paradise. The pre-Christian, Heathen worldview is far more ruthless and meaningful than this: all actions contribute to both the quality of society and the worth of our individual soul. This concept therefore demands that we act right at all times regardless of who’s watching or offering to alleviate our ‘sins’. Modern people (and Christians) mock the idealised way some of us view the ancient world, but there’s no doubt in my mind that society was more just and decent prior to the arrival of Christianity and the way it placed professional ‘holy men’ between a people and the consequences of their actions.
13. Would you say that judgement is an unavoidable aspect of life that one can’t
abstain from completely, including the judgement of ourselves or do you think
it’s something that we can become free from entirely?
But isn’t judgement a healthy thing, for the most part? Obviously to judge someone for the sole purpose of making oneself seem superior, to gain control over them, is ignoble (and usually betrays a sense of insecurity); but we can’t improve – on an individual or societal level, or even preserve the greatness we have – unless we’re capable and willing to discriminate between good and bad. In other words, to judge the actions of ourselves and those around us. It’s the basis for all reward and punishment, and without it all peace, trust, truth and civilisation would crumble. I have no problem with the concept of judgement, and I think that the ‘New Age’ community, for example discredits itself by trying to do away with it. I think there’s a balance to be struck, between spirit and matter, order and chaos, law and lawlessness. People flock to the extremes, but our human condition thrives best in a state of balance.
Thanks again for chatting with us at Being With Life. Any final words before
you sign off? Or recommendations for our readers?
Thanks for the stimulating questions. I’d just say: embrace the journey, and thrive in the knowledge that there’s always new knowledge to uncover. What a dull existence it would be to have all the right answers from day one. Wæs þu hæl.
Dan’s Book Recommendation on English History
“The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages”
by Brian Bates
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