Plague Haus was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with modern day Renaissance Man, Michael Idehall: occultist, musician, artist, writer and publisher are just a few of the hats he wears.
The following interview was conducted via email in July, 2015.
PH: Let me begin by saying “thank you” for agreeing to the interview. Having someone you admire agree to answer a few questions is always exciting, as well as a bit intimidating. By my count, you’re a musician, a visual artist working in multiple mediums, and a publisher, as well as being a published author yourself. Definitely a modern day polymath, is there anything I’m missing?
MI: I have worked a bit with contemporary installation art in a quite technology-oriented way during my years in the university. Last year I became the artistic director for Gothenburg’s only sound art gallery called “Ljudkonstgalleriet” (meaning literally “The sound art gallery”) where I directed artists in their work and helped them with technological solutions for artistic problems. I have always regarded myself as an art engineer of sorts. Art is the technology that I use to manifest my ideas and technology is quite often the medium that delivers my art into the world.
PH: I’d like to begin with music. If the internet is to be believed, you’ve been involved in several different projects over the years, as well as having several releases under your own name. The earliest was a project called “Lowfood”. I’ll admit I haven’t heard anything by this one, can you elaborate?
MI: I started making music using the Amiga 500 in the 90’ies and during the first 15 years or so I had a wide variety of monikers. In the summers I went to music festivals and sold CD-Rs of my different projects. I remember one festival in particular where I think I sold albums from as many as three different musical projects simultaneously. There was music inspired by the German digital hardcore movement headed by Atari Teenage Riot, there was a neo-classical/goth-project inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and old b/w movies, and I also had a naive and humorous synthpop project where I made a mix of chip tunes and analogue-sounding Dadaist electro. Lowfood was a project that was born in 2001 when I started attending the University of Brighton in the UK. This project was a bridge between my high school years and the next six years where I would more and more go into the realms of insanely complex IDM. This artistic development was in tune with the times I think, but it also worked very well as a sandbox for everything that I was taught at university.
PH: I can completely relate to that, and from a purely selfish perspective, it makes keeping up with your work a little easier for a fanboy like me. So besides the above mentioned split, you currently have six full-lengths under your belt as Michael Idehall.
While there’s a definite esoteric undercurrent to everything you release, there seems to me to be those works that are more accessible, for lack of a better word, and those more intended for specific ritual uses. Your first album “SOL” and last year’s “Deep Code” both have more traditional song structures. Those two were recently released by Ant-Zen on a single CD. And then the more arcane albums, Three Bulls for Three Golden Queens, EGON and the beautiful LP/CD “The House of Flames” released last year in a hardback book on Ajna. Once again, my opinions, but the digital only “Svartkonster” falls somewhere in between or at least blurs the lines. Could you give me your take on each release.
MI: SOL: This was my first album ever released and it was also my first serious attempt at using my voice as an intelligible part of the music. Most of the music was made on hardware (synths, fx-boxes, circuit bent things), and I also used some field recordings. I wanted to start making music that was accessible and perhaps even enjoyable, but which housed a palpable magical presence. In order to achieve this I allowed my body, my mind, and my machines to become sorcerous conduits for external forces. It was a method for me to try to unravel the connections between mythological time, the transmission of technological magic, and the origins of humankind from a magical perspective.
Deep Code: From the perspective of both the production and the themes of the lyrics, this album was a natural continuation of the methods and subjects that I started using during the recording of SOL. The exception is the magico-political song Lucifer which discusses the strenuous task of living a magical life in a completely disenchanted capitalist society.
Svartkonster: Last winter I was asked to create a “mixtape” of my favorite music for the music blog Repartiseraren, but I was not really in the mood for that, but I wanted to contribute in some way, so I proposed that I instead create a mix of some of my unreleased material and other wild things that were grumbling in the unkept parts of my hard drive. I really enjoyed the experience, and hope that I will be asked to do another mix in the future. Thomas of Beläten came through for me, as always, when I suggested that we could make a digital release of the mix.
TBKfTGQ: The topic of finding the appropriate music for magical workings is one that any serious initiate can talk about for a long time. Since I am a musician I can make my own, and as a magical gift to all my peers, I decided to start releasing the pieces which were composed for the projects of my lodge and my own personal workings. TBKfTGQ presents three ritual pieces intended for use with the three tunnels going across the astral realm to the sun sphere.
EGON: I suffer from an unsound appreciation of wild weather and when the quite forceful storm Egon hit Gothenburg, I seized the opportunity to compose a meditational piece with the storm. The song contains both a score based on a spectral analysis of field recordings and the field recordings themselves. In my mind it is like have a storm in a box, which you can open in your temple when ever you feel the urge.
The House of Flames: When Ajna approached me about a collaboration, I immediately told them that I would like to do something extraordinary, something slightly daft. They liked the idea, and the following 18 moths I poured out material from my dream diary, magical diary and arranged them all in a sort of narrative. My intention was to create a contextual magical machine, which could be approached in both graphical art, poetry and music. Of course I also greatly benefit from being forced to disassemble, analyze, and synthesize my own experiences.
PH: When you create, is it with a specific intent in mind, or more of a “see what happens” approach?
MI: My specific intent is usually to see what happens when I try to realize my ideas. Not seldomly my ideas are a mishmash of the conceptual, the technical, and the magical, and the only certain thing is that when creating something, I will arrive at an unexpected destination.
PH: You recently teamed up with Jonas Lindgren of Æther (and several other projects) on Amalthea. To me that project is a bit harsher, a bit colder maybe, than most things I’ve heard from either of you. How did that collaboration come about?
MI: Gothenburg is a holy city, a nexus of ancient lines of power that permeate the earth. At least, that is what I have come to believe. This city calls people to her, and she creates living networks of beings. Jonas and I both answered the call, and we found ourselves in a situation that only a mutual effort would resolve. Since then, we have aligned our energies at even intervals in order to open up the particular gateway that our congress unlocks.
PH: I can see that. When I look at my own music collection, the amount of artists in and around the Gothenburg area is pretty astounding, and I don’t believe in coincidence. Is there camaraderie amongst the many experimental musicians there? Well, not only “experimental”, there seems to be quite a bit of cross-pollination between genres as well.
MI: Definitely. I think that most people who try to do something seriously interesting in Gothenburg knows each other, or at least of each other. Many of us are forced to arrange concerts and exhibitions as well as being performers and artists, which results in a local crossbreeding.
PH: Are there any other projects you’re involved with on a musical level you’d care to talk about?
MI: I have a industrial pop project with Thomas Ekelund called Lōtophagoi (material soon to be released), an audio/video project together with Olle Huge called Sönderbyggd (only live concert/installation), a blackmetal/opera/electronics project with Åsa Nordgren and Serpent Noir from Greece called Ophis (still looking for someone not freaked out by our music).
PH: This is fanatic news on all points! I guess no ever accuses you of be lazy? While we’re on the subject of Serpent Noir, you contributed art and did the layout for their latest release, “Erotomysticism”. How did that collaboration come about?
MI: I bought one of their tapes, we worked together on Ophis, and two things lead to a forth.
PH: Tell me more about Ophis, please! I was unaware of this project.
MI: Last June, Åsa and I went to Pireaus to record an album with Serpent Noir head man Yiannis. We stayed in the city for a week recording things, and the Åsa and I went around Crete for a week recording music in Roman grave caves, mountain chapels, and martyr catacombs.
PH: This sounds wonderful! Hopefully someone will be willing to release it soon. There has to be a few fearless labels out there. Now if we could, I’d like to delve into your fine art activities. I know you paint as I’ve seen a few, but is that the only medium you work in?
MI: I work with clay, plaster, papier-mâché, found objects, tin, latex etc. etc. Mostly I work with a combination of techniques and materials, and my pieces often blur the borders between painting, assemblage, and sculpture.
PH: You recently had a gallery showing. Was that your first? Was it well received?
MI: It was not my first exhibit. You can check out an overview here michaelidehall.wordpress.com.
The gallery owner did not do any marketing for my opening/exhibition and there was a lot of other things going on in town that weekend, so pretty much no one came.
Also, the gallery closed to the public after my opening and people had to phone the owner up if the wanted a viewing, so it was a disaster basically.
PH: I’m very sorry to hear that. Are there plans for any future shows?
MI: There are always plans! Plans within plans, but behind them, I suspect, is the Emperor.
PH: At some point I’d read that you do commissioned work. Is that still the case, and where would be the best place to contact you if they were interested?
MI: I sent off a commission to the US just a few weeks ago, and I love doing them. It gives me a chance to connect to a certain individual’s destiny (in the context of the Draconian initiation, this word describes a projection of intent and the sum of ones magical actions rather than anything predetermined) and really create something unique for a another person. Often I uncover material while creating commissions which is appropriate for a wider audience as well. Pyramidox vel Heb Á Qual is a good example of this. It originated in a commission for a book with an accompanying talismanic sculpture. When the commission had been delivered I removed all the parts that where private and reshaped the material to be more general. The customer got an extremely exclusive transmission, and everyone else that was interested got a fresh perspective on a classic grimoire.
Commissions can be ordered from my email if the customer just wants me on the case, or from firstname.lastname@example.org if they have other wishes when it comes to who executes the commission. We also do spell workings, channelings and different traditional crafts within BLZBZ depending on the customers needs (the previous message was brought to you by Belzebez.se).
PH: Haha! Belzebez will always be welcomed here, and that’s a wonderful segue into my next question. I’m going to assume not all readers are familiar with the Left-Hand Path initiatory order founded by Thomas Karlsson, the Dragon Rouge. Belzebez is described as “A Mouth of the Dragon”. Does it serve as a sort of publishing arm of the DR?
MI: Belzebez is a mystery even to us who tend to her. She appears to be a veritable mouth of the Dragon and all we do is assist in the manifestation of this prophetic mouthpiece from beyond the veils of mundane reality. As far as I am aware, Dragon Rouge har no official publishing house, although Ouroboros (www.ouroborosproduktion.net) has published some of the most defining works of the Draconian current.
PH: Which brings me to my next question about you as a publisher, editor and author. You mentioned Pyramidox vel Heb Á Qual above, and we touched on The House of Flames, what other books have you been involved with, either as an author or in another capacity?
MI: My first book was called Xobop Ong-Djab and was made in one unique copy. Then I made The Image & The Cross, which was published in 11 copies. After that I wrote Pyramidox.. I think…
I translated and did the layout for our Karlsson book and of course Feral Transmissions 1 and 2. My latest book is called Suzugoi Craft and has only been bound in one unique volume as of yet. This excludes all my unique personal transmissions of course.
PH: Most authors want to reach as wide an audience as possible. It’s hard to even wrap my head around an edition of one, and lucky are the recipients of those. I’m probably brainwashed into the consumer mindset. Of course in days of yore, editions of one were the norm. Do you still feel the same satisfaction writing a book that only one other person might see as you would a larger edition?
MI: I would like to make larger editions, but most of the books I publish are bound by hand and therefore quite costly. It is all a matter of budget. If the figures ever become black, I will make larger editions.
PH: I believe it was on the Belzebez Tumblr site I read there would be an extremely limited edition of “The House of Flames” available in the near future. Are there any other publishing in the works?
MI: ALSHRAMDAM by Sara van der Meer will be along shortly. That book marks the beginning of a new era of publishing as far as the Draconian current is concerned. I have never read anything like it.
PH: I will definitely be looking forward to that. Michael, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to this interview. It seems you have many irons in the fire, so I do appreciate you letting me encroach on your time. The closing comments are all yours!
MI: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak my mind. This interview symbolises something very important to me, it constitutes a new connection within the body of the Dragon.
All artworks and photos used by permission, © Michael Idehall 2015.