WOLFRAM: Inexhaustible Passion


Serbian alternative/electronic/post-metal Wolfram will remember 2015 by the release of their debut full-length album “Music of the Heathen.” The great nine-song record was released in May, and about it we asked the band to answer our questions and introduce us to their world.

Define the mission of Wolfram.

We’re all just avid music lovers so all our efforts revolve around that inexhaustible passion. However, in time we’ve ascertained that there is more to Wolfram than just being a talented group of individuals who are diligent enough to make some songs for personal pleasure. We want to delve deep in every single aspect of this medium, including the business side of it. Just like any other vocation, it requires a lot of planning, calculation, logistics, training, perseverance, and, of course, people.

Besides us five who readily grab our instruments to compose and perform, we’ve managed to gather a lot of skilled individuals who are willing to contribute to the whole picture, both on- and off-stage; and help create an audio-visual experience which will hopefully captivate and inspire a myriad of listeners/viewers all around the world. Plus, there is always room for growth. Always. That is why it is our mission to make a huge, branded, sophisticated machine that goes beyond the boundaries of “Wolfram” alone. So far we have managed to make our own music festival, we organize gigs and concerts both for us and other artists, we tend to support the local and regional cultural community, we collaborate with a lot of talented people in order to promote each other’s trade and we generally strive to spread our impatient and curious tentacles wherever music as a medium allows us to.

The only problem we currently have to deal with is primarily of geographical nature. Our land of origin makes it pretty hard for us to do decent business in this niche/genre, even though we have garnered a substantial underground following over the past few years. Still, we are convinced that if we get the chance to export ourselves to the rest of the Europe, things will start to flourish even more.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your album “Music of the Heathen” and the themes it captures.

Simply put, this album has a lot of naturalist, pagan themes. It is spiritual, but in a more down-to-Earth manner. We started with post-rock/sludge motifs, switched to implementing electronic beats and samples, then headed towards slow and sexy stoner riffs, dwelled a bit in the ethno/oriental vibes (turned out to be Spanish the most) and so on. That heavy and proggy post-rock/sludge + electronica period is what kind of defines the Music of the Heathen era to us.

Still, bottom line is we do not always limit ourselves to just one approach to making songs, instead we also try to tastefully combine many influences (we want all our songs and albums to differ from one another). We strive for both simplicity and complexity, all in good grace of music. This is because She is supposed to be about constant exploration, not just figuring out one pattern and sticking to it for the rest of your life. That would just be dull.

Music of the Heathen

What is the message you are trying to give with “Music of the Heathen”?

Oh, boy… Personally, we prefer not to talk about that kind of stuff, since we’re still not entirely sure what message we deliberately wanted to convey to listeners, at least lyrically. Beginnings tend to be hectic, so you kind of skip the conceptual side of it all. Not entirely, of course, but just enough for this question to leave us devoid of the right words a bit.

We all just wanted to get the album out as quickly as possible with the material we had, even though it took us four years. However, we don’t want to burst any bubbles – of course there was a unified inspiration during the process of making Music of the Heathen, a concept which ties these nine songs together. We are all nature-worshipers, and just like any other human being, we intuitively reflect on our fragility compared to Her, but over time, we realized that this is just a façade – something ‘deep and meaningful’ you tell people to gently get them off your back when they ask you this question.

In fact, this album is definitely much more than just a collage of our regular mind-numbing perplexities of life. It is our sanctuary, our therapy, our “haven of sounds”. It is about the raw sensation we get when we play that music live, how it truly makes us feel powerful, defiant – godly, even – and out of place with reality. It is one beautiful form of escapism, a drug like no other with rather pleasing side effects; and we want to share it with everyone else.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Every rehearsal, when we have something that could potentially be gold, we place at least a mobile phone or an ambience microphone in the middle of the room to record everything, just so that it would give us a hint of that newly developed idea. A lot of ideas naturally went down the drain, some of them were finished in an instant, some were simply forgotten, while some were re-visited giving birth to completely different songs in comparison to what was initially anticipated, or we simply toss them back into hibernation again.

However, when enough solid material has been articulated, then we switch to outside help with more sophisticated guns and record simultaneously everything we have so far, instrument by instrument. This gives us a complete frame of reference as to how the songs currently are and how they are supposed to be structured, if need be. It is never the same when you play your songs live and when you just listen to them on your speakers, so it is always good to distinguish the two, because it can give you more insight to how the songs affect you. There is a lot of trial and error in this process, but it is inevitable if you want to create something powerful and appealing.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Well, it has to be. There were a lot of candidate tracks, but not all of them were released on the MOTH album. Those that were chosen had to weave a concise story altogether. Since less can be more, we had to go through the process of elimination in order for this approximately 1-hour journey to have its, as you call it, dynamic flow. In fact, we are very proud how we’ve accomplished that. Even when you see the track-list, you will notice that the album is arranged in an orderly, somewhat symmetrical form. We immediately cast you into the wildfire, but guide you out relaxed, rehabilitated and hardened, if you allow us that honour, of course.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

We didn’t have the means to waltz inside a studio and wait for the magic to happen. This was all done “guerrilla” style. Drums were recorded in one studio, guitars in the other, vocals/percussions/acoustic guitars were later done independently at home and everything was patched up together in another home. What is gratifying is the fact that we learned so much from this seemingly improvised experience, but, truth be told, we are not entirely satisfied with the music production. The music and the emotion itself is awesome and it even sounds incredibly better live, but the technical side of it all lacks that world-class standard; and that is something we wish to correct with our next album. We’ve always been a bit stubborn, but that is because we want everything to be perfect. Learn from your mistakes, folks…

How long “Music of the Heathen” was in the making?

Technically, four long years. It took us a lot to place the pieces together and imagine what it would look like in whole. We ditched our previous bands and started fresh in 2011, so we didn’t want to rush, because it is a delicate process to successfully articulate so many different and demanding ideas. We don’t play punk music, there is so much more at stake than just riffing and attitude. Plus, there are five of us and no song is finished until everyone is satisfied with the outcome. If we have disagreements and conflicts, (which is natural, this is in fact a marriage of people), than we strive to avoid compromises and search for a third solution – one which will please us all. This takes time, but the results are rewarding. Luckily, we’ve grown so accustomed to each other, so the second album will definitely come out sooner.

Wolfram live

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

This is a tough one, because we are all influenced by a rather wide range of artists… There are tons of small homages in the entire album, some of them are beautifully hidden, while some are blatantly placed in front of your face. Every song naturally has parts which were influenced by some other artist’s or band’s approach to making music, but all of them have our distinctive mark, nevertheless. As film director Jim Jarmusch said, you cannot invent something out of nothing, so you might as well “steal” whatever resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination and make your own version of that experience.

In MOTH’s case, we have electronic moments which remind us of the Knife, Trentemøller and Björk, it has Tool’s dark atmosphere, Deftones’ unorthodox approach to metal music, Pink Floyd’s psychedelia, Massive Attack’s mellow trip hop beats, Fink’s beautiful acoustic guitar play, dropped guitar tunings of System of a Down, Mastodon, and other lo-fi bands, catchy harmonized pop vocal lines, narratives, dubs, chants, etc. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Consciously or unconsciously, we melded everything as much as we tastefully could and gave it our own signature.

What is your view on technology in music?

Let’s face it, you cannot go against its tide. It is something that should be embraced, since its purpose is to make things easier and accessible. Take, for instance, music production – sure, we do not yet have the financial means to thoroughly record, mix and master our tracks or albums in a professional studio, but technology has enabled us to accomplish almost the same results at the comfort of our very own home. With a help of a few credible tutorials and skilled associates, we have managed to learn more than any enthusiast could fathom a decade ago; and we will continue pursuing an enviable level of expertise via information and technology. It is a tool that should be utilized accordingly.

Also, vinyl may be popular again, which is excellent, but record sales no longer determine the success of a band. We think this is an advantage, because once again live concerts hold sway over a band’s credibility and reputation. That is why we are supporters of free music sharing. Everyone these days can manage to download your tracks online without paying you a penny, so you might as well hand it out to them free of charge and kindly ask for their financial support should they deem your work worthy.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Of course! As mentioned before, we’re already on it. Considering that we hail from Serbia, things are currently at a tedious stalemate here and we want to trigger a cultural re-awakening, because it is simply goddamn time. Not just the music, but every form of art and social criteria. We have loads of relic bands and names that still reign the scene, but they haven’t managed to change their musical approach for up to 30 years (with a few exceptions). 30 years! On top of it all, a lot of them still have the gall to claim that young people are inert and unimaginative, despite the fact that they haven’t moved from the spotlight for decades with their un-evolving sound. We don’t mean to be disrespectful, but that is not a healthy succession. We want to restore it.

Certain things have to be disinfected here in the Balkans, so that a fertile ground will be left for new names to emerge and grow again. We do not necessarily desire to lead the way, but we, along with some other bands that meet the global musical standards, have definitely inspired many to follow our independent footsteps. By making an example of ourselves, we wish to teach others how to elbow their own way, too, amidst this deadlock. Still, it may take us years to collectively jolt this sleeping giant and turn the currently passive audience’s attention to us, but you have to start from somewhere, right? That is why we want to affirm ourselves also beyond our country’s borderlines and prove that change can come both from the inside and the outside.

Wolfram live

What are your plans for the future?

If we only think about our long-term goals, we will lose track of all the necessary details which make up the bigger picture, so we primarily focus on our weekly/monthly tasks. However, this next year should be all about playing live, as well as organizing concerts and festivals, booking mini-tours, and finding ways to present ourselves to a foreign audience. We are also in the process of finishing the candidate tracks for our sophomore album, making more music videos is simply a must, and more and more people (booking, PR, live sound engineering, lighting, etc.) are joining in to sincerely help us with this venture, so organization and communication is of the essence. Ultimately, we just want to play in front of thousands upon thousands of people, but to get there, we need to reach those short-term goals first, one step at a time.

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