31 Oct 2021 - Thorsten
What do Sleep Token, 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker), Briqueville have in common with Ghost, Slipknot and Animals As Leaders? Well, the first three are still completely anonymous while the latter three started out trying to remain anonymous but couldn’t keep that up.Well, that might have to do with the level of success Slipknot and Ghost had, but think about the huge success of Sleep Token. So it might have to do with the band’s attitude and choice of who to work with. One must have a really good ability to choose the right people who can keep your secret. 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) have definitely had a good gut feeling on who to trust, because there are still no images of the band and nobody seems to know who is in the band. When we got the opportunity to have an interview with the guys, we of course had to take it!
Earlier this year, 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) released one of the most intriguing records of the year, Noč Na Krayu Svet was a total hit with Thorsten (you can read his review here), because the record was so much more than your average “Black Metal meets Electro”-bastard. There were hints of Krautrock, Psychedelia and much more in the middle of this amalgam released by Sentient Ruin.
So, it was our honor to have an interview with one of the most anonymous, most inventive and most promising bands out there. Interestingly, the band (represented through “PBV” who is responsible for guitars and vocals as well as effects) seems to possess much more humor than what one would expect from a band that is really thoughtful about their music and who wants to push that as much to the foreground as possible.
Why did you choose that name? And even in a different language? Why not in English?
It felt appropriate for the music we wished to create—while also feeling relatable to our internal conversations. The literal character-by-character translation is “Those who have the illness of playing in dreams”. In Russian the word is «Лунат», which is something like “moonwalker”, as according to lore—people sleepwalked or went crazy with a full moon out. It was a narrative accommodating of many factors inclusive and exclusive to language.
夢遊病者 is a pretty unknown band – not unknown in the sense that nobody knows your music – but nobody knows anything about you. What can you tell us about the members of the band and their lives?
KJM is a research engineer, NN is in live sound, and I am a designer by trade.
Is the rumor true – do the members of 夢遊病者 live on different continents?
The three core members reside in Tver, Osaka and the New York Area.
How important is your own anonymity for you?
As important or unimportant as the musical output is to our listeners.
What is the reason behind it?
For the focus to remain on the harvest rather than the sower.
On the other hand, an anonymous act might have a much deeper impact, due to the fact that the music has to completely stand on its own?
That is our humble aim.
Do you agree that music should be music and not a foil onto which somebody can project his or her personal reaction to the musician?
As long as —there is— a reaction, we are honored.
Are there any acts that you wish you would not know what the artist looks like?
There are artists like yourself, Non Serviam from France, Koldovstvo from nobody knows where – is there a resurgence of anonymous bands nowadays?
I believe А.Иконникова is a Moscow-bred, Canadian-based fashion designer. To this point, the internet is but a thin veil in this regard, the removal of which serves little purpose with or without to my previous point. I would imagine my birthday-twin Thomas Forsberg would agree with this notion if he was interviewed today.
Do you think that the rise of social media and with it the rising ability to get to know everything about everyone in a matter of seconds has led to a downfall of real artistry?
I think [musical] artistry is tested by ears and visual artistry tested by eyes and so on, unless one’s synesthetic and it functions on multiple planes. The internet can be a prism, or a filter, an amplifier or a compressor of that stimuli, but in the end, people will make their choice whether that stimulus connects. A synapse is a synapse—whether it’s hidden deep in the ground, or naked for the world to see. If someone wants to create a treasured experience, they are pursuing it consciously I imagine.
On the other side there have always been artists who chose to confuse the audience with many different personalities and incarnations, think of David Bowie. Why not go down that path with 夢遊病者?
I think there is only one David Robert Jones—so to curate a singularity of many forms, is again, but a humbling, honored experience.
What do you think of a band like Daft Punk who were pretty much in the open but who never showed their faces?
Really great basslines and attention to sound synthesis, like digital love or aerodynamic.
Are those two ways, in your opinion, just another way of diminishing the importance of one’s creative output?
Without making any assumptions—it probably plays into the theatrics of their live show, which goes hand in hand with their music. If their fans are receptive to this, it might be not diminishing and an amplifier.
In short – do you want to de-humanize your music?
I imagine that varies day-to-day; improvisation plays a dominant role on some compositions and not on others. Sometimes that organic element of energy and spontaneous choice can also feel dehumanizing in a way, as though you’re guided by elements within and outside of instinct. If catharsis is the aim or focus is the aim—both can have humanizing and dehumanizing affects…
With your choice of staying more or less anonymous you also refrain from any form of regular media advertisement – why?
Do you remember when you were young, and you went into a record store for a mad, wild hunt but you weren’t sure of what? If this feeling is close to you—the curiosity you feel is what we are after. The search field is simply the ruffling of pages from that Metal Maniacs you stole from your local pharmacy back in the day. People simply tell us to Send Back Their Stamps through the Bandcamp mail form, and we oblige them with handwritten notes back through the postal system. This “process” puts ownership on the listener, maybe they imagined it, or made it themselves. It’s more kindred, friends with blank faces.
Does your wish for anonymity also reflect in your music? Because apart from very, very few exceptions like Orville Peck or aforementioned Daft Punk I cannot think of an artist in a popular music genre who tries to avoid being seen. And your music is in a way also anything but popular mainstream stuff.
One of the music critics we love appears on our record, so does one of our first “fans”, who is now a close friend; so does a musical hero of ours. The anonymity does not stop or block this exchange, it naturally amplifies it. A club everyone has a ticket to but doesn’t know where it is.
What I like a lot about your music is the clear stance on not making any compromises – how difficult is that within your band?
Thank you so much, that is very kind! Everyone has a say, no idea is a “bad” idea. There is a serendipitous quality to it—the hardest part is making sure you are consciously tuned in to the proper channel—kind of like Blackmore and his Bulgarian Shortwave Radio in his hat/head.
How would you describe your own style of music?
In a recent conversation “Contrast Metal” was anecdotally donned, and we had a nice laugh—but man, honestly call it how you like—what did they call The Stooges back in the day? Maybe Osterberg would call it Psych Punk? Contrast implies something visual, so as long as there are other physical and emotional categories at play, I’m all for it. Speaking of old record stores, that’s probably the next step in the raking of memory—being able to smell the dish of the album as you listen.
Let’s assume your music has one foot within the realm of metal – are there any other metal bands/artists that influence your own music? Artists or bands from other genres? Other influences?
We love it all man, the philosophy behind Cryptae is quite genius, subversion at its most genuine, in that same psychological vein the music of Andrzej Korzyński, especially Possession and Diabeł—Andrzej Żuławski, his films are more visceral than any Metal I have heard in recent time. Erlend Apneseth Trio – the Salika, Molika album from 2019 is from another planet. Asparez, making a [heavy metal no less!] record during a time of supreme political turmoil; Moor Jewelry, True Opera because it would be too obvious to say we collectively love starkweather, the sons of Piggy in regard to Philly, Raed Yassin – Archeophony and White Boy Scream – Bakunawa exist on a singular plane of influence for us. Viisikko – IIII ! wędrowcy~tułacze~zbiegi and Univers Zero are spiritual radiation forces for sure.
How do you write the music?
It’s case by case, but usually there are ideas that are exchanged through Dropbox with timestamps, tempos, what-have-you. Sometimes it starts with a riff, sometimes with a beat, in the end it becomes a maximalist exercise in reduction. We use some remote tools as well as video chat and Cubase live; whatever serves a mode of clarity for any given part. In the case of some of the previous work, we were able to track live together.
What is very clear from the beginning of your last record – that the members of 夢遊病者 want to give us music that needs to be discovered, needs to be explored. I had many different images in my head when listening to the record – from an ancient Zoroastrian ritual to some form of Western movie, from a Sci-Fi-setting to something similar to a mountain environment. How “open” do you want to keep your music? Or do you have a real clear-cut image or vision in your collective mind?
Everything you describe above sounds fantastic, and it is what you see when you hear the album, so thank you first-of-all, and second-of-all this is the beauty of interpretive listening, each person forms their own vision. The forming of that vision is totally open for each—and the fact that it forms, is incredibly humbling.
What kind of music do you listen to? In general? When trying to assemble the new songs/parts?
Each of us have their respective “rituals” or lack-thereof; personally, I am constantly taking notes. Things I notice out in the world, I record it whether with my phone or notation, slowly the image starts to form. A lot of times it’s very spontaneous, other times it’s something from memory, some sort of theme or sound from a film I remember. A year and a half ago when I was still commuting to work I would record the city or specific places at different times of the day and then listen back. Some of this creation is very environment-based in a sense.
Are you guys familiar with German Krautrock, because I hear quite some Krautrock in some of your arrangements?
Amon Düül II – Yeti is a superb album, Can - Ege Bamyasi as well, Guru Guru, Neu! I can go on forever. Conny Plank was a genius. “The Potential of Noise” is an incredible but soul-crushing documentary by his son if you have not seen it…
Do you consider yourselves musical globetrotters?
Not as much as we would like, especially during this difficult time in the world unfortunately.
Some people refer to you as an Avantgarde band. Is that a term you can live with?
As I mentioned earlier, the labels are for people that find the need to impart labels. If it makes them excited and comfortably calm to call us Avantgarde, great!
Isn’t Avantgarde by now a hollow term as it doesn’t really refer to a specific genre anymore? In former times, it was used for acts like John Cage and others, then it became used way too much?
That’s probably more a question back to those reviewers on the intention of the label. It’s probably like asking what is more avant-garde Malevich’s “Black Square”, Turner’s ”Rain, Steam and Speed” or D.F. Kostromitin’s “The Emperor’s Bath”? Not sure if there is an answer…
You usually release your records on Sentient Ruin – a perfect basis for your music?
We have a close relationship with the heads of the label—they are very supportive of what we make from the auditory aspect to the visual aspect, so we are very thankful to them!
Is there any plan of you to perform live? Or would the Covid19-version of a concert aka a live stream or the streaming of a pre-recorded gig be more to your liking?
There is no plan as of right now. With so much going on outside of our control it’s difficult to even assess that reality. Logistically, from a musical POV it would be complex to assemble all of the folks as well…
A few years ago you released a split with Sutekh Hexen – can you explain how that came to be? And what does this combination of numbers mean?
We became acquainted through a respect of each other’s work—the label arranged contact for us and we spoke for quite a long time about the collaboration effort in regard to the art. We both curated tracks for the release taking the other bands’ sound into consideration of flow. There are a lot of conceptual elements at play, and the multicultural aspect in every regard was the driving force behind the choices. The Numbers are a location related to the release.
What is next to come from your band?
Our next album is currently being mastered entitled “Skopofoboexoskelett”. We also just completed work on a long form track for a compilation. Quite excited to present both.
Now we come to a quickfire round:
Southern Asia or the Southern US? Southern Yugoslavia.
Marvel or DC? Image.
Summer or Winter? High Summer.
Mountains or Seaside? Both.
Coffee or Tea? Depends on the day!
Vinyl or streaming? Vinyl if available, streaming if all that’s available.
Asian philosophy or Western philosophy? Both.
Candlelight or neon lights? Blacklight.
Wine or beer? Pepsi 1893 Ginger Cola 364 Days, 1 day—Ararat Brandy, Ultimat and 3 cases of Baltika.
Introspective or extrovert nature? Depends on the day. Usually, the former.
Spontaneity or clearly planned? Calculated impulsiveness.
Thank you so much for doing this!
Thank you so much!!!