Legacy of Hypnos 69

Photo: Margot Kumeling

Nick: Hey Steve. How are you doing these days? How’s summer in Belgium?

Steve: Fine, thank you. Summer’s been very busy. I’m reading a lot of books these days.

Nick: Hypnos 69 has released a brand new album this year and I would love if you’d tell us something about it. How did the creation process go, and how are you guys in general satisfied with “Legacy”?

Steve: Well, for the first time ever, we’ve recorded and produced the album entirely ourselves and we’re very happy with the result. Dave has build his own recording studio, and has done a great job keeping it all together. I’ve been writing quite some time before we actually started to record, so we really had ‘carte blanche’ in the recording process. We’ve been trying lots of things in the studio, changed a lot of layers, structures, lyrics … Really nice to have so much time to complete a work, I really feel that this album is more coherent in its entirety than its predecessors. Lyrics, music and concept are one, as I had in mind before I started working on it.

Nick: As I always like to make my own theories about the bands’ albums, I’ve got one about this album as well. Its title, “Legacy”, tells me that you wanted (from a musical standpoint) to create an album that is an homage to the bands from way back in the 60′s and 70′s. Did I fail on this one?

Steve: You’re halfway there. The thing I have about making an album is to put as much relevant allegories and clues in it as possible. ‘Legacy’ therefore applies to more than one meaning. It does refers to an ancestral legacy of ancient wisdom, hidden and passed through by occult, Gnostic or alchemical societies. But it indeed also refers allegorically to some of the psychedelic and progressive bands of the era you mentioned.

Nick: At the other side, the music goes along with a conceptual story about Isaac Newton’s writings concerning the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. Would you gives us closer insights to your interpretation?

Steve: What most people don’t know is that Isaac Newton besides a scientist also was an alchemist and a Hermeticist. He studied the works of Hermes Trismegistus, who is the representation of the Egyptian god Thoth and had a great influence on the Western Esoteric tradition in religion and philosophy. The phrase ‘as Above, so Below’ is probably the most important concept of Hermeticism. The cover of the album illustrates the oldest reference to Hermeticism: the concept of the Snake and the Apple of Eden. The Serpent stands for wisdom: even in today’s society you’ll find a serpent in the symbol used by doctors and pharmacists and it has been like that for thousands of years. Eating the Apple stands for choosing for awareness. For more information I’d like to refer to Hermetic or Gnostic literature, since this is really too much to explain in 10 lines.

Nick: That conceptual story of the album itself is accompanied well by the artwork. What is the artwork supposed to mean? Also, how much in your opinion should artwork complete a full “image” of an album?

Steve: The artwork is the finishing touch of the ‘package’. Without it, it would be like a book without a cover and pictures. Also, the Art Nouveau-like style of the Malleus Art Lab is very well suited for our music since it has comparable structures to the art movement.

Nick: I have to say that you did hell of a good job with the new album and I find it interesting in every way. How is it when the time comes to create something new? Is there more focused creative energy in the writing process or are you always surrounded by inspiration?

Steve: Inspiration is a difficult issue. Ideas are something so fragile, that they easily tend to get lost or forgotten, because at the time you have them, you’re either not able to record them or write them down, or don’t seem to be interesting enough at a certain point. I try to collect as much ideas as possible and keep them somewhere safe, so when the time comes to write, I am prepared. I always take my time to write. I lock myself in a room with my piano and guitar, and don’t do anything else until I have worked something out. This is the basic structure, chords and melodies, which later on when I present it to the rest of the band, can be altered in various ways. And this is what makes the sound of Hypnos 69.

Nick: I don’t know if it only happens with me, but I have a feeling that in some way your music is somehow “layered”, meaning that those progressive elements are hidden in comparison with other elements that build structure. Does that make any sense to you?

Steve: It makes sense. The hidden layers can be somehow compared to musical ‘figures of speech’, metaphors or allegories. The basic elements and additional layers are written complementary.

Photo: Margot Kumeling

Nick: What can you tell us about the band’s name? I, myself, know there’s at least one band that’s just called Hypnos, and there’s also that number in your band’s name. Is that because you tend to make an equilibrium in your music or is it because, perhaps, you wanted to avoid generic names or something?

Steve: ‘Hypnos’ is the name of the personification of Sleep in Greek mythology. ‘69’ is not just the number 6 and 9. It is in fact the symbol (69), that stands for the second transformation in Alchemy. Carl Gustav Jung wrote about it: “A further breaking down of the artificial structures of the psyche by total immersion in the unconscious and rejected parts of our minds. Unconscious process in which our conscious minds let go of control to allow the surfacing of buried material. It opens the floodgates and generates new energy from the once held back waters. Experienced as the flow, and the bliss of being actively engaged in creative acts without personal hang ups.” This more or less describes how we function as a band, when we do jam sessions.

Nick: Hypnos 69 was originally formed in 1994, but your first album was released in 2001. Why did it take that long to record “Timeline Traveller”? What was it like in the 90′s?

Steve: We started as a jam band, playing Black Sabbath tunes. It took a while ‘til we were ready to make a ‘real’ album. Call it study time or so.

Nick: Your second album, named “Promise of a New Moon” presented the public with a proggier sound and also introduced new member, Steven Marx on saxophones. There’s also a southern rock-ish approach present on the album. What can you tell about this album?

Steve: Well, the ‘Promise’-album is kind of a misfit in our discography. We recorded a dozen songs and just picked out the ones we liked. We had in mind not to do a concept album, but just an album with independent songs. Apart from the introduction of the saxophone and some tunes, I don’t really like the album, since there’s no balance in it.

Nick: “The Intrigue of Perception” pushed the limits once again, as this time there are notable influences of a bit modern sound / music. It’s kinda evident that you got in touch with alternative rock. What are your notes on this album?

Steve: With the ‘Intrigue’-album we tried to create a cinematic atmosphere within the concept of the mind. Much influences of William Blake on this record.

Nick: In 2006, you decided to re-record your debut album “Timeline Traveller”. What did this second version of the album bring, except the obvious involvement of Steven Marx?

Steve: Actually, the album just got re-mastered and we used a new cover where Steven got credited, although he wasn’t featured on the record.

Nick: Speaking of Steven Marx joining the band, how have the introduction of new band member opened or expanded your approaches?

Steve: Although he wasn’t a part of the band in the ‘90s, I have the feeling that he’s always been a member of Hypnos 69. To me, he adds the final touch to a unique combination in sound.

Nick: With “The Eclectic Measure”, it seems like you’ve put yourselves down on the ground, bringing a calmer atmosphere. Could we actually say that “The Eclectic Measure” is an album that has pulled Hypnos 69 to the surface?

Steve: To be honest, to me ‘The Eclectic Measure’ is our first real album. It has a clear concept, related musical structures and lyrics and is overall really coherent. It also is our most successful record up to date, receiving many good critics from very different corners in the contemporary music scene.

Nick: I must tell that you that I do not find it to be characteristic to have vocals in this music style. Not that I blame you because of it, you do it very well. But what I want to know is, exactly how important are vocals/lyrics to you? The majority of your songs are pretty lengthy and there is more time devoted to instrumentation or jamming.

Steve: Lyrics do bring a message, although I believe that music has the interesting ability to express more than words. Vocals always came secondary in the band. I’m a musician and composer first, seconds a vocalist.

Nick: How would you describe Hypnos 69’s music on your own? I do not ask for generic labels. If there’s a word that fits well to your music, what that would be?

Steve: ‘Musical allegories’. The music embodies the initial meaning of the songs.

Nick: You played in 2009 at the DUNAjam festival in Sardinia, I could see few live videos from it on YouTube and it looks amazing. What was your experience of playing there like? Surrounded by pure nature, beautiful horizon,… Seems like a real paradise on earth.

Steve: Duna Jam was really an entire new experience. We’ve played beach festivals before, but nothing can compare to this. The open space, the vast beach, cliffs and ocean really adds to the happening. While playing we saw the Sun set, and the Moon rise. It was almost like a religious experience.

Nick: You also played as a support for Opeth. Would you mind telling us something more about this? Opeth is one of my favorite bands, and I always ask other bands if they have had any connection with these Swedes and what it was like.

Steve: We met them in the kitchen, but it was crowded in there, so there wasn’t time for a chat. Seem nice guys though.

Nick: Speaking of playing live, is there any venue around the world that you dream of playing at? Or maybe a festival?

Steve: I’d love to play in a Gothic Cathedral, extraordinary atmosphere. I’m not a festival minded guy, it’s too crowded, and the sound is usually bad. I also don’t like the venues to be too big, because you easily lose contact with your audience when the stage is too high or too far away.

Nick: Let’s talk a bit about your musical background and influences. Which bands or musicians have influenced you Which work you praise mostly?

Steve: I’m influenced by lots of artists, from Neil Young to Mozart, from Coltrane to Slayer. My very first guitar-riff was Black Sabbaths ‘Iron Man’.

To me, the most imposing work ever written is undoubtedly Mozart’s ‘Requiem’.

Nick: You are one of the rare bands on today’s musical scene that succeeds in making a blend of progressive, psychedelic and space rock elements. The other bands I can recall of in this moment are Oresund Space Collective and a band from Sweden, My Brother The Wind whose debut album appeared about a month ago or so. Have you checked these bands out? Also, are there any other bands today that you really like and praise?

Steve: We’ve shared the stage with Oresund Space Collective, were really nice guys! Haven’t checked My Brother The Wind, but I surely will. Likeminded bands that I prefer are Anekdoten, Siena Root, Colour Haze, Motorpsycho,…

Nick: What have you been listening to recently?

Steve: Been listening a lot to Bach’s ‘Mattheus Passion’, I like the new Joanna Newsom triple album and I have Pentagram’s ‘First Daze Here’ in the CD-player.

Nick: Is there anything you would like to add, that I didn’t ask and you’d like to tell?

Steve: For more information on Hypnos 69, please check out the website or your local record store. More about the album concept, check out the Esoteric section in your library or in any decent bookstore.

Nick: Thanks for the interview, Steve. I hope you enjoyed answering some questions for Prog Sphere. See you around!

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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