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Weeping guitars, weeping vocals and an otherwise very melancholic atmosphere. The music is somewhat light, but still very emotional gothic/doom....
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This music means too much to me to let some-one else reproduce it.

Interview with Until Death Overtakes Me.
The Belgian Stijn van Cauter is probably one of the most talented and most active individuals in the underground Doom-metal and music scene. Creating music in a host of one-person projects such as: The Ethereal, Until Death overtakes me, Fall of the grey winged one, I Dream No More, Organium, Dreams Of Dying Stars, Tear Your Soul Apart, In The Mist, Cold Aeon and more. He has also been known to help out Pantheïst when playing live and recently decided to re-enforce upcoming Belgian doom band In Somnis. Next to this he also runS his own record label, has a home studio where various Belgian bands can record and maintains a small selection of websites decided to extreme funeral music. More then enough reason for Doom-metal.com to have a chat with Stijn about the meaning of music in his life.

 

What drives you two write and record music?

 

"My first answer would be something along the lines of: 'I write music and record music to get rid of the negativity inside myself, it's a way of transfering this negativity into something that's positive, something that makes me forget about reality, that creates another world'. But I guess there's much more to it that even i haven't yet discovered.


But it's not just the writing and recording, the arranging, the entire process of an idea evolving into a concept and this concept then slowly developing into music, but also being able afterwards to listen to this music and enjoy it, I mostly forget about the time and effort I put into creating the music when I listen to it myself, and make it feel like it wasn't written by myself. The only thing from the past that is left inside the music is the mood, the emotions I put into this music when I was writing it as well as the images I had in my mind while creating this music and when I listen to it these come back to, supported by the music itself, and that's a great experience."


How would you describe your own music if you had too?

 

"In short it's a medium to show/remember certain emotions, dreams, fears and such. But if I have to use genres to describe music I'd definatley use 'ambient', 'empty', 'useless' and 'funeral'. As for content', i'll go for 'emotional', 'nihilistic', 'minimalistic', 'hopeless', and this goes for most of my projects."


You have a lot of different projects going on, how do you deicide which music fits within which project?

 

"At the moment I start writing a certain track or start working on an idea or concept, I usually know for which project this is, although on several occasions I have tracks that might fit in more than one project. When I start a completely new concept it's mostly not immediately clear for which project(s) it's ment. When the concept evolves I see which direction it takes or might take and start either dividing it in parts for the different projects (when I want to try out several different approaches of putting this concept into music) or simply decide on which project I'll use (and thus, which musical approach) to create the music and atmosphere for this concept. This decision depends partially on the kind of concept (roughly: hatefull material for 'The Ethereal', utter sadness for 'Until Death Overtakes Me', more undefined stuff might end up on a 'Beyond Black Void' or 'Fall Of The Grey-Winged One' album, etc.), but also on my mood at the moment when the concept evolves to it's near-completed stadium, this can entirely change the atmosphere and also the music and the project."


Most people see Until Death Overtakes Me as your main project. This is also the only one of your projects to date that has an actual release with a 3rd party record label. Do your projects for you have some sort of ranking order or are they all equally important for you?

 

"I usually say that all of them are equally important (the fact that UDOM is the only one with a release on a bigger label doesn't make any difference to me), but there are some projects which solely exist for the sake of experimentation, like for instance 'Organium' and 'Tear Your Soul Apart'. But there's quite a difference when it comes the amount of music I have written or still have in mind for my projects, for instance 'Dreams Of Dying Stars' and 'Fall Of The Grey-Winged One' have a lot of material coming up, then there's 'Until Death Overtakes Me' and 'Beyond Black Void'. On the other hand, 'Organium' and 'I Dream No More' are slow moving projects. There's no real order when it comes to importance despite the fact it may seem that way because some projects are not as active as others."


You recently have been heard saying you would never record an album again like ‘Prelude to Monolith’, can I ask what is the reason for this?

 

It's rather 'never release' than 'never record'. This has a lot to do with the fact that I think there has been too much promotion for this album. I can understand that to Firebox this is an item they have to sell the earn their investment into the release back and they have done a good job so far when it comes to promotion. But now I'm convinced that 'Prelude To Monolith' should never have been release on a label as big as Firebox. More and more I start to feel very uncomfortable about the fact that I gave some one else so much control about an important period of time in UDOM's history. I'm getting really fed up with the amounts of comments I get on my music. All the people saying 'you have to do it that way', why can't they simply understand that everything on this album is as I wanted it? But that's nothing compared to the simply close-minded and plain stupid comments by some. Although most reviews on this album have been very very positive, only a few give me the impression that they actually understand the music. I don't care about reviews. I means more to me if people understand what I'm trying to say with my music. Perhaps it's my fault as well, but I'm not going to change my music, so the only reason is never to release an album like 'Prelude To Monolith' again, which means: not on a label the size of Firebox, even if they can manage to sell 2000 or so copies of it. The next 'Until Death Overtakes Me' album, 'Symphony III - Monolith' will very probably be released by myself on 500 copies. This music means too much to me to let some-one else reproduce it. I have to be in total control.


But I haven't decided yet, if there's a label interested I might as well let somebody else release it. I can always ignore any comments or any press that it might receive, this also depends on the album. 'Prelude to Monolith' is a 'strange' album for me, sometimes I really like, sometimes I don't and those moments when I don't like are very often influenced by any press it receives. I have no explanation for that.


Your life seems to revolve around music and you play a multitude of instruments. What is your fascination with music and playing music?

 

"Yes, at this very moment music is the only thing that gives some meaning to this life. This didn't just suddenly happen, I kind of evolved to this. When I started playing guitar several years ago I didn't plan to start a band, I didn't know that eventually playing guitar (or keyboard or bass...) would manage to bring myself at ease, to forget about the world around me. The way my life and myself have evolved also resulted in me needing more and more of something that was capable of keeping me sane in this world, something that allowed me to express feelings without being judged or misunderstood. Playing and writing music is the only way I can think of to properly express myself and to get rid of the ever growing amount of negativity within me. This resulted in creating more and more music that was capable of draining everything that was harmfull to myself from me. At the moment I have reached almost the maximum of involvement with music. Most of my days are spent entirely working on my music (not only physically), not that I feel the need to do something else, but a day only has a limited number of hours and one can do only so much in one day and still I feel I need more and at the same time I'm getting more and more frustrated about the fact that I cannot create all the music i want to create. I'm kind of wondering how this will evolve. One thing is for sure: I'd either be in a coffin, jail or a mental institute if I didn't buy my guitar several years ago.


I know you have strong visions about humanity and the state the world is in these days. Can you explain a little of that to me and if and how it influences your song writing?

 

"In short: I'm convinced that the human nature is plain repulsive and that they are aware of it (on a certain level, that is), but instead of working on this and improving it, it gains more and more importance in their life and society and they actually do everything they can to show of this ugliness, as if it were a way of measuring their succes in life and society. Since almost all of them are like this no-one will ever complain, but for those that see and understand this and notice how it keeps on evolving, it's just disgusting. It's hard to explain what it feels like exactly to be surrounded by beings that represent everything you hate and at the same time they make showing this off their purpose in life. Continuous loathe and frustration is what I feel.


I think (but who am I to say such things) that the reason for their behaviour lies in the fact that they actually have a 'human' nature, but it collides with the -still present- animal instincts. Those two characterstics don't work together to improve themselves and evolve into a new lifeform (humans), but the 'human' nature mutated the animal instincts and turned them into beast-like instincts. In fact I believe that the 'human nature' is a mutation of the animal instinct, which is truly natural, unlike humans. The bad thing is that humans are both capable of dominating and destroying this planet, like a cancer, and they're doing it. The best example of this behaviour is of course their society. It seems like everything now I based on one principle: everybody has to act like a repulsive whore to fit in. You have to sell everything about yourself to be considered a worthy member of their society, and it seems that over the past few years this principle has become a lot more important to them, and it just keeps on evolving, keeps on getting more and more important, most of the things they create are items that in one way or another support this behaviour. Next to that, childeren are from a very young age exposed to this behaviour, are teached the 'right' morals, the 'right' way of life. It becomes an automatism and I don't think there are a lot of people who actually know what they are doing. But I can't understand how this society was able to evolve in such a way. Perhaps a result of the materialistic nature of it, people always needing more money, more power, more control over others. Ah well, I'm confident that it will end in massive self-destruction.


I have the feeling your music often reflects your inner self. Is music a way for you to somehow put your emotions and feelings into something more "physical"?

 

"Yeah, the 'physical' aspect is quite important, I listen to my own music very often. It's a way to see what things I expressed through music and how I put them into music. This being able to afterwards relive these emotions means more to me than the amount of emotions others may see in this music or may be evoken by listening to this music.


You have been known to help out Pantheist live, how did you get in touch with them and did you enjoy working with them?

 

"Around the time I was finishing the recordings for 'Symphony II - Absence Of Life', Kostas from Pantheist contacted me asking where I recorded my music, since they were looking for a place to record their music. So they ended up recording their demo in my home studio. Pantheist played great music and it was good to know there's still extreme doom being made in Belgium, we simply stayed in touch and when Kostas announced that he was looking for a second guitar player for a possible live gig I said i was interested.


I really enjoyed working with them, it was the first time I played in a 'real' band, I never rehearsed anything with 'Until Death Overtakes Me' and then I felt that playing in a band I really something i needed as well, next to my solo-projects. Also the fact that I like their music made it very enjoyable for me to play this kind of music. The first live gig, at the 'Dutch Doom Day' gave me an amazing feeling, I never tHought that playing live could be so rewarding. But the new tracks they started playing live, weren't really my thing, the first tracks felt very natural to play for me, but the new stuff didn't go as well, so I knew that eventually I'd stop playing for Pantheist."


You recently joined In Somnis. What can you tell me about them and why you joined them?

 

"I noticed they were looking for a bass player for quite a long time and eventually I contacted them. I knew that the kind of music they played had a lot in common with my first ideas of how 'Until Death Overtakes Me' was going to sound like (but 'In Somnis' plays a lot faster) and since 'Until Death Overtakes Me' never grew out to be a band, I now do play in a 'real' band that plays music I really enjoy. As soon as I was no longer playing for 'Pantheist', I contacted 'In Somnis' to say I'd have more time and could start rehearsing with them. Combining both the rehearsals for 'Pantheist' and 'In Somnis' would've been near impossible since both take place quite far from where I live.


Musical wise, 'In Somnis' plays a mix of doom/death and more melodic doom metal with a lot of piano, keyboards and flute. So far we've done three rehearsals together and one gig, the results of this were very positive and i feel that the music really suits me. Right now we're recording a demo wich should be released later this summer."


As I understand it you always do your own artwork for your cds, how important is the visual aspect for you?

 

"The artwork of the album always has to represent the entire concept of the album in only 2 or 3 pictures. The fact that I do the artwork myself is more important to me than the artwork itself I guess. I don't think I'd be able to put what I see in my mind into somebody else's mind. Also I do think that an album is incomplete without at least somekind of visual aspect. Next to that, several of my tracks are based on 'images' I have in my mind and this artwork is, next to the music, another way of showing those."


What are some of the current bands you are into yourself at the moment (and why)?

 

"'Voice Transmissions With The Deceased', a ambient/funeral doom band from Chile. Minimalistic and very long and dark tracks. Especially the minimalism (and also the extreme slowness) of the music is what keeps me listening to this over and over again.


'Torture Wheel', Funeral/drone doom. With the exception of Catacombs/Hierophant there's no doom from the USA that really interests me. For some reason they all seems to lack something compared to most extreme doom bands coming from Europe, especially from Finland and the UK. But Torture Wheel is different, it's probably one of the darkest acts I've heard so far. Next to that it's also very heavy, perhaps not as slow as most stuff I mostly listen to, since I has some faster parts.


'Uncertainty Principle' : started as a noise/doom band, quite experimental stuff, but very extreme and original. The sound is now a lot heavier, the tracks are slow. Somewhat a mix between funeral doom, ambient and noise.

 

'Wormphlegm' This is some amazing music. Extremely tortured, repetitive, ugly and painfull. I only heard one track (their demo), but it's definately one of the best things I've heard in a long time.


What and who are some of your main influences?

 

"Musical wise there are no influences. Everything comes from experimentation while trying to create the sounds that are in my head. Through this experimentation and searching I managed to create several other projects and all these just keep on evolving as I try to find new ways to create music. As for the content, everything is based on personal experiences, on images, visions, dreams, emotions."


When you started The Ethereal you more or less hid the fact that this was one of your projects, claiming to just be a session vocalist. Can I ask why you did this?

 

"When I started this project i was confident that it could be as big as 'Until Death Overtakes Me'. The problem I had is that many, if not all people who know 'Until Death Overtakes Me', automatically think that my other projects are 'just' side-projects and have a similar sound. So people who liked UDOM would probably check out the other projects, while others probably couldn't care less about them, this is not the ideal situation if I wanted to create a project that had to be as big as UDOM.


The only option was to make sure there are no connections between UDOM and The Ethereal, so I said it was a project by somebody else and I was only session vocalist. At that time I was about to start my own label and The Ethereal would have been the first band on that label. So everything was prepared to promote The Ethereal as band that had nothing to do with me or UDOM, but by the time the demo was finished I actually couldn't care less if people like this project or not, so I didn't continue the promotion I had in mind and I no longer continued to say that The Ethereal was a band (neither did I say it was a solo project). Some comments from some people showed already they suspected it was another solo project and eventually I just placed it on my website with my other projects."


How come you decided to discontinue The Ethereal’s ‘From Funeral Skies’?

 

"At the moment I received the questions for this interview I would've said 'The exact reason for this will be explained later, right now I'll only say that it will be available again later this year.' since it wasn't 100% sure yet.


So what will happen is this: The demo, 'From Funeral Skies' will be re-released later this year by the new sub-label of 'Rage Of Achilles', called 'Totentroll'. The entire album will be re-recorded and will receive a professional mastering and there will be one extra track in addition to the three tracks on the original version. In the future, there will be another 'The Ethereal' album, also to be released on Totentroll. So it seems that The Ethereal has a chance to become as big as UDOM after all."


You went on tour with Skepticism and Pantheist recently. How was that experience for you?

 

"It was a great experience. I never would have thought that I'd play live UDOM, next to that I saw Skepticism live (several times) which is quite important since there are only a few bands I'd really like to see live (Skepticism, Pink Floyd, Esoteric f.i.). And also important was the fact that UDOM played for the same public that came to see Skepticism, I think that these people are more likely to like or understand and appreciate UDOM as well. It was also the first time I played my own music with other musicians (Kostas - Keyboards and Frederic - Bass). That felt great. Overall I was very satisfied with the performance. In the early days of UDOM some-one said to me: 'wouldn't it be great if UDOM could play live one day with Skepticism'. I said that something like that would never happen. Eventually he never saw any of the gigs with Skepticism... ah well..."


You said the crowd probably understood it better. How did the crowd react to your very extreme form of funeral music?

 

"Better than expected. Mostly I remember people listening with a lot of attention and -so it seemed- respect, which is quite important. But in most cases this is what I heard afterwards, since I don't remember the crowd, there was just the music and the feeling it gave me while I was playing. But I got quite some positive comments after the gigs as well as very positive gig reviews (except for that one reviewer who said all bands were 'My Dying Bride' rip-offs and also felt it nessecary to ridicule the UDOM bandname. I think people who's minds are clearly clouded by listening to too much shallow dutch gothic/doom should not even attempt to understand this kind of music, let alone have opinions about it)."


Can you also tell us a little about the record label you recently started, NULLL records and your own studio?

 

"NULLL Records is a small CDr label, I'll focus on bringing music that has something in common with Funeral Doom, but not the 'usual' funeral doom, I'm more interested in the original and very extreme kinds of funeral music: ambient/funeral, drone/funeral, noise/funeral and so on. Next to that I might also release dark ambient, drone and noise. And anything else I think might fit in the NULLL concept. Recently I released Solicide's debut album and there's a split coming up with 'Torture Wheel' and 'Uncertainty Principle' and an album of dark ambient genious 'Aidan Baker'. There's not much to be told about 'Templa Libitina', my home studio, it's just some equipment, microphones, instruments and a pile of audiocables placed at strategic places in my room. But I can record some stuff with it and some people seem to like the sound of 'Templa Libitina' and next to that it's also bloody cheap to record here. So, I called it a 'studio'. Perhaps one day I can afford some professional equipment so I can lift the home studio from semi-professional/amateur status to a semi-professional/professional status."


You also have your own extensive website dedicated to dark ambient and alike funeral music. Can you tell me a little about that?

 

"From the moment I had an internet connection I mostly used it to get to know more bands, and after a very short time I found a great amount of bands, bands you'd never hear on radio, or never see featured in any music magazine, still they were much better than anything I had heard before. There were also a few zines promoting underground bands, but no zines that covered all the genres I liked at the same time. I felt I had to make something (in the first place for myself) where I could catalogue these bands. Later I started a dark ambient forum and as a logic evolution I started the 'EverDarkGreen' zine, which was a dark ambient zine in the first place, but evolved quickly to become a ambient/funeral/noise/drone/electronic zine. Some of these genres have things in common, on the other hand it may seems strange to combine these, but it like it this way. The website has a bandlist divided in several genres, there are some review-alike texts I've written and there are some interviews coming soon and there's also the forum.


Everything can be reached at http://www20.brinkster.com/everdarkgreen."


I would like to end with a very clichee thing to do in an web interview; I’ll put forward a few words and would like your first thoughts on them:

 

Misanthropic

"The art of hate."


Minimalism

"Another art form, but it's just art and nothing more, nothing less (if that's even possible)."


God

"Death-time-emptiness. 3 pillars of reality, much more than any god, invented by mankind will ever be."


Nature

"There are no words. Except for those carved in flesh. It speaks through me."


Music

"I almost said something positive here, until i reminded myself of the fact that 90% of all music these days serves a rather repulsive purpose i can't identify myself with."

 

Thank you for the interview, it's been great talking to you!




Visit the Until Death Overtakes Me bandpage.

Interviewed on 2003-08-20 by Aldo.
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