Verena Von Horsten isn’t afraid to show her most personal feelings to her audience. Taking a line from the styles of other art rock songstresses like Kate Bush and Chelsea Wolfe, Verena has used dark, brooding layers of synth as a backdrop to navigate her feelings on a personal tragedy in her life. Luckily for us, she was willing to let us in on her creative process.
In a few words, how would you describe your sound to people?
A lot of rough drums, analoge synthsizers, layered voices, dark, heavy, emotional, avant gardish, lighting up and healing.
How did you first get into making music?
Since very little i had this vision of myself singing on stage and express my feelings. Then at the age of 6 I got a very very cheap synthesizers for kids, which i adored! At the age of 8 i learded how to play the flute, then classical guitars, then i got into singing lessons and piano lessons. I always wanted to sing in bands. A friend asked me to sing in his jazz band. We had 3 rehearsals in wiche i could not sing on fucking word because i was so nervous. So my friend kicked me out of the band. I was so destroyed that i wrote a song about it. This was my first song – i was 14.
I see your music commonly referred to as “synth rock”, a description I think bodes fairly well in describing what your sound is about. What was the allure of the synthesizer? Did you intend it to be used as a replacement for the space usually filled by guitars?
No. I play the electric guitar but I did not think one second of having one in my songs. The synthesizer rather opened a whole new universe to me. Creating all the new sounds on the synth gave me a hugh chance to build a world exactly as i imagine it in my mind. But its not just the synth. I mean I produced and recorded my record all on my one. Which means I could give birth to the whole sound esthetic. This is very important to me. The sound esthetic reflects the vision and the emotion the songs are talking about. So this album gives a esthetic of like rough, dark as well as illuminating. This is where I wanted to go.
What’s the general idea behind the title of your album Alien Angel Super Death?
Alien: That was me, before my brother died. I always felt like an alien in the society. I felt that way because I never talked my truth. I never talked about the abusing relationshio i had with my parents. I never talked about my suicide attempt, I never talked that my mother abandoned me when i was 10 . I generally never talked about my traumas to anybody. Maybe not even to my self. I became detouched to myself and to the people around me. This made me become an alien.
Angel: A methaphor for my brother. He always wanted to fly like a bird. After his suicide I pictured him flying from one galaxy to an other, visiting me and his friends and giving us all the love we needed so much.
Super Death: Death stands for the death of my brother. And with his death he achieved to make me understand that the way i was living is so damaging and destructing that i had to change my life. By changing my life, i began to heal my traumas, talk openly about them, i began do understand that death is just an other step in our being and not the end. I began therefore to understand that our life here on earth has the porpuse to make us heal our wounds and to find a way to live a more humane life on all levels – social, economical, cultural and political. With this change in my life, the alien inside of me died. So not only my brother died but my alien too. So its a big death. It’s a super death.
The album revolves around suicide, specifically driven by your own experience of dealing with it from those close to you. Is there anything you might say about the album’s concept?
Exatcly, the topic is the suicide of my brother Hakon. The concept of the album is how i deal with it and what i learned or where i got after his death.
The whole album begins at one point with the song “The Hymn”. I called it that way because it a hymn about wanting to live. But actually not knowing how to live with such a tragedy. Then the first 5 songs make you fall into a black hole where at the end you nearly end up dying. At the end of this journey or this part of the record you get confronted with the song “The Monster”. It tells the story why i am about to die.
And then comes the big turn around. After nearly dieying i had to decide if i really wanna die or if i want to continue to live.
I choosed life. But I new that my life can’t go on like before. I had to make a change. And this is why the album continues with the net 5 songs that are talking about my healing precess. This process begins with the song “Fire” where i begin to burn all my obstacles, my patterns that destroyed me, even the bad parts of my relationship with my brother. I burned my father, my mother, my alien, my suicide thoughts. By burning them and raising from the ashes I was able to move back up, into a new direction. This leads my to the instrumental song “The Healing”, where you can hear only piano accompanied by wind sounds and hollow lovely ghost rouns. This song fills me up with light every time i listen to it! The last song „The Believer“ is a reflection of where i ended up: In the spiritual believing in that my brother is still alive after his death and that this believe made me understand what it really means to be a human being on this earth. It’s the last and ultimative step into a beginning of a new lived life.
Is there any diffilculty opening yourself and personal tragedies up like this to the public through your art?
Well, as i said, i had to begin to open up, other wise I would have died like my brother. But i admit it was very hard in the beginning. Fear came over me, especially when giving a concert and talking about all this. I already had this picture on my mind that people would walk away when i begin to talk about personal traumas. But let me tell you this: It was the complete opposite! People were touched and emotional nurrited by my words. They did not walk away they wanted more! Seeing this made me realize that we all have deep traumas that are untouched, unspoken and there are craving to be seen. People are craving for emotional comfort, compassion. They want to share their feelings, their normaly just too afraid of doing so.
So we had big big moments at concerts, where i cried and poeple started crying with me. They gave and give me so much healing because of this connection. My audiance made me loose my fear of opening up completly.
And i realized that we all need to learn to open up in order to expand our understanding of emotion, what they want to tell us and in order to expand.
Good damed, that was a hard one. More then working on the music. There was a period where I could not work on any lyrics because i emediately begun to cray… So I had to work with a lot of brakes between the actual work. And at one point i decided to let the words come to me rather than surching for them. This means i applied a technic that is known as automatical writing. Its actually a technic writers use to find storys or sentences.
So I sad down, played the music and just opend my mouth. Whatever came out, came out. I recorded it and listen to it afterwards. By listning to it, i even realized things i did not get in the beginning. It was like a inner Verena is talking to me and i just have to open my mouth so her words can come out and tell me what she wanted to tell me – but her comes the reality check: Some sentences in the songs might appear bizarre to some people, because gramatically they are not correct. But psychologically they make absolute sence.
Now that the album’s been out for a little while, has it changed the way you see it all?
Not regarding the message of the album, no. I mean suicide is – raryl known!- one of the biggest reason why people die. More people die of suicide then people in war and accident included or people starving. So think about that: if it is under the leading reasons why people die, why is still such a hidden topic?
And this brings me to the subcect i discovered by sharing my music with my audiance and by talking with people about their life:
The soul of all of us is fraguterd. Nobody, absolutely nobody is completly undwounded. Everyone has at least one big trauma that influences their life in a bad way. I am really sorry to say that, but most uf us human just dont get, that we are wounded. So they act the way they were raised, they give on the trauma to their children, and they give the same and other traumas on to their kids.. And so it goes on and on. Traumas lead to so many things. It leads to unhappy relationships, it leads to accept your unhappy with your job, it leads to wanting more and more in life, it leads to a political system where a man like trump wins the election, it leads to war, it leads to society that punishes poor poeple, let the children be uneducated, social and racial unfairness..
Not healing our trauma provides a world, where it can be very hard to survive. In the best case you get along but you still fight. In the worst case you die.
I wish a society where mental health comes first in each and everyone life. Not only by healing the traumas by getting help. But by being empowered by school, by society, by politician who implemnts laws so we have instruments, money and time to heal and by poeple accepting that to heal means bulding a humane society.
Do you have any favourite songs on the album; any you feel best express the theme?
Well, as the album is a journey with a side A that leads down to hell, wheraas side B brings you up to heavan, i’d say for side A i prefer most “Sakrament der Büffelherde”. Especially when i perform the song live. Then there is a part within the song, where everything come down and just my voice is heard. Then i detache from the microphone and keep singing “For you”. I keep repeting it over and over again and by doing so i go off stage, into the audiance, touching people, huging them and singin into their face “for you”.
For side B i love “The Healing” most, as a said. It brings up all the beauty i gained beside the terror of loosing my brother. Everytime i hear it, i admit i have to cray, but it’s such a liberating craying and everytime i feel my brother staying just next to me holding my hand.
What advice would you give to other artists, particulary when it comes to making music about such personal topics?
Every artist has something special to give to poeple. Many artist just haven’t found it because they are concentrated into success or affirmation or even pain. I’d give the advice to make it as personal as possible. To do so you have to stop to be afraid of your own feelings, especially your own shadows. To open up is not just talking about what you have been through. Its more about what you have learned when you confronted yourself with yourself.
Any confirmed plan for the future?
Not really confiremd yet, but as i can see the future – hahaha- i’d say i gonna produce my next record in iceland. There is where i feel the pure power of nature. Its a feeling i have inside me and which i want to express in my next record. With some help i think iceland is able to inspire me in that way. The rest of the futer: Open, but not unknown.
Final words for the road?
Forgive, forgive, forgive. Love yourself, express yourseld as good as you can.
But most of all: love yourself.