Sapthuran – Interview
Sapthuran – Hearing the woodland’s call…
By Marty Rytkonen
One can simply turn on their computer, visit a few distro lists and become overwhelmed by the glut of self made, 1 member, cult black metal bands, becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of what this musical genre has become. With the affordability of recording gear and the Internet, there is no end to the sea of hopefuls coming up to stake their claim on the dark arts, but their collective output continues to lose its impact. This is why the musical vision wielded by a Patrick Hall and his musical alter ego, Sapthuran, has struck such meaningful chord within this overcrowded scene. Sapthuran sticks to the traditional elements of black metal, but maintains a very organic and atmospheric presence through the use of acoustic drums/guitars and by placing a lot of passion into his compositions. Every release has achieved a unique twist in style from its predecessor, yet the outcome is always vibrant, interesting, and undeniably Sapthuran. This interview transpired earlier this year via the Internet with Patrick. Enjoy.
Patrick, Welcome. For the uninitiated, could you give our readers a glimpse into the history of Sapthuran? What was the muse that led you into the dark arts musically?
Black Metal is a very powerful musical genre… however, I believe that one cannot truly experience Black Metal music in its purest form until he can devote himself to the creation of a musical work that is entirely of his own being (his most profound thoughts, feelings, emotions and instincts) and, when listening to the completed song, know that he has created the very quintessence of what Black Metal music is to him. Before ever attempting to write and record Black Metal music, I assumed that my aforementioned statement was correct and that, consequently, was the reason I began to experiment with written and recorded music (eventually resulting in the creation of Sapthuran) in this particular style. As far as the history goes: the project was originally entitled Enthralled and I used programmed drums. I managed a few small demo recordings. The results of my musical writings and recordings were not satisfying to me, so, I bought an acoustic drum set and, after learning to play it well enough to accommodate my own personal requirements, changed the name to Sapthuran some time in 2003. Also, there have never been any past members of Sapthuran and there will never be any future members save for the possibility of session musicians for live events.
Black metal has always maintained a fantastical façade where its musicians hide behind otherworldly imagery and pseudonyms as if they approach their art from an anonymous viewpoint. It’s almost like they don’t want to sign their own name to their actions or creation. You have never hidden behind such shields, rather putting your name out there for all to see. Would you consider this to be your own form of protest to years of what has become a masquerade? Have the ‘traditions’ and stereotypes of black metal wore out their welcome for you?
Sapthuran IS my pseudonym. Sapthuran is the manifestation of my primal self and the name that I have chosen to represent the mindset that I assume when writing and recording this particular style of Black Metal music. I simply could find no need to choose a name for a band as well as a pseudonym for myself. Why not choose one word to represent both? I feel that a name such as Sapthuran is much more meaningful than most Black Metal band names and pseudonyms because, since it is a word of my own creation, it stands for nothing apart from the music that I create. Sapthuran IS Patrick Hall and Patrick Hall IS Sapthuran. The union between man and beast within. Also, as an interesting side note, about six months to a year after I chose the name, I noticed that my initials (PTH) are right in the middle of the word. I found this to be very meaningful since it was not by any means intentional or planned.
I have always appreciated the raw nerve that the music of Sapthuran strikes. The mixture of hypnotic repetition, colorful dissonance and a strong sense of atmosphere has been in motion since your debut ‘…in Hatred’. Would you agree that your music feels like it’s in a state of de-evolution? Maintaining all the elements you set out with, but in terms of production and overall vision, adopting more of a stripped to the core/simplistic aesthetic? How would you describe your musical journey and is this project where you envisioned it would be creatively when you started out?
As time has passed since the creation of Sapthuran, the music and production might sound progressively simpler or stripped down as you say… yet the atmospheres that you speak of and the overall power and meaning of the music have been, to me, increasing steadily. Sapthuran started as an instinctual drive to create and has thus manifested itself into a force of will that has, beyond any shadow of a doubt, changed my mind and the way I see the world as well as how I coexist with others. I should note that this is definitely a positive change for me and, yes, Sapthuran is right where I hoped it would be at this particular time. Personally, I have achieved substantial results within myself through Sapthuran. As far as how everyone else sees the project, I try to pay them as little mind as possible. Sapthuran is, first and foremost, for myself and my own personal needs. If others enjoy the music or are affected by it in some other positive or negative way, then that is fine with me as well. I have an ultimate goal to fulfill through (and with) Sapthuran… and each consecutive release brings me closer and closer to the final result.
I find it admirable that you have continued Sapthuran as it’s sole member, handling all instruments and writing duties. Is this due to necessity, or are your ideas for this band so specific that you fear outside influence would corrupt your vision? I might add that it’s very refreshing to hear actual drums rather than the staple of a drum machine that seems to cheapen a lot of 1 man underground BM bands. How difficult has it been for you handling all aspects of this band yourself? A burden? Empowering?
Handling all aspects of the band myself has been absolutely empowering and in no way a burden to me. The project was created with the intention of being a project strictly for myself… and so it shall remain. I am a more accomplished and talented musician than I might lead people to believe when they listen to Sapthuran and I have some fairly extensive knowledge of recording and working with sound… so writing and recording all of the material myself has really never been a problem. Everything sounds as it is meant to sound to me. It is both out of necessity and an unwillingness to compromise that I remain the sole member of Sapthuran. Respectable Black Metal ‘fans,’ let alone musicians, are VERY few and far between in this area.
Part of this musical exploration for Sapthuran seems to be reaching out to more traditional elements. As the metal aspect of your sound begins to take on more of a menacing and if I may, ‘cult’, vibe, I feel you have greatly expanded your musical vocabulary by incorporating the acoustic guitar in with the maelstrom. I feel the acoustic interludes/instrumentals on ‘To the Edge of Land’ are very tastefully done and sit well as a contrast alongside the bleaker vision of black metal you create. It’s like you offer a slight glimmer of hope in the darkness for the listener to cling to. Is this something we can expect to develop further as you continue to explore Sapthuran’s existence? Have you ever considered a solely acoustic album?
One thing that I often try to do with Sapthuran is subtly shift the atmosphere from ‘light’ to ‘dark’ (so to speak) throughout the individual songs and the albums as a whole. The smallest things can change the mood of a song… but sometimes, as in the case of the ‘To the Edge of Land’ album, it is more obvious when you hear a stark contrast between classical guitars and Black Metal tracks. And yes, I have considered a solely acoustic album… but I’m doubting that it will actually happen. It may though. We’ll have to see what the future brings.
Continuing onward into the depths of Sapthuran’s journey, the title ‘…in Hatred’ effectively mirrored the intensity of that album. ‘To the Edge of Land’ was also a reflection, embracing more of a woodland spirit as the album embodied nature samples and the folk elements explored by your inclusion of acoustic passages. What has changed in you as you continue onward beneath the banner of black metal? It seems as though more pagan metal elements have entered the mix. To what degree would you say the spiritual side of paganism has affected your life? With this ideology become more a part of Sapthuran as you progress?
It seems as if I have changed over the years since I began writing and recording Black Metal… but a few weeks ago, I ended up reading over some very old lyrics that I wrote before Sapthuran ever existed when I was quite young (13, 14…) and realized that I have not really changed at all. I’ve matured, yes, but the basic foundations of what Sapthuran stands for have always been the same. I would not say that a ‘Pagan’ ideology would become MORE of a part of Sapthuran as time passes, but I will say that the music and lyrics of Sapthuran will become increasingly more in-depth and complex. But it will always be the same basic subject matter.
Having always maintained Sapthuran as your sole musical vision, your recent involvement in 2 split releases must find you having to give up a bit of control of your music and how it’s presented. Has this compromise been worth the effort? Have you noticed your involvement in the splits with Leviathan and Hills of Sefiroth helping bring more attention to the band?
I am pleased with both of those split releases, yes. Sapthuran and Leviathan are very, very different in my opinion… while Sapthuran and Hills of Sefiroth seem to share a lot more similarities… mainly lyrically and in the overall message apart from the music itself. I like the idea of both. I feel that recording splits, EP’s, etc. are beneficial because it allows a musician to present certain fragments of concepts or ideas rather than presenting the full elaborate story as I always do with full length albums. And yes, I’ve received more attention, positive and negative, (and I am content with both) from each of these splits.
I honestly feel that that the Leviathan release in particular (I haven’t heard the other release yet) features some of the best Leviathan material he’s done to date, and that says a lot since I’ve often maintained that he was more about quantity than overall quality. This leads me to wonder about your thoughts on the current state of US black metal. I feel it has definitely evolved into a good place, but there seems to be more focus on quantity over quality (ie: Xasthur and Leviathan). Would you agree with this? Will there come a time that you look at all you have created with Sapthuran and decide that you have done all you can within the black metal framework you have so skillfully explored over the years?
I think the quality over quantity idea in US Black Metal stems from the fact that many of the more popular projects are masterminded by one musician (Xasthur, Leviathan, Judas Iscariot). It’s very easy to record a lot of material when you don’t have to argue things out with multiple band members who each have their own ideas and visions for the project. I see this as a double-edged sword. And yes, there will come a time when I feel that Sapthuran has served its final purpose… but Sapthuran will never explore territory outside of simple, regular Black Metal. The project will end. No one has to worry about Sapthuran turning into a Dark/Ambient or Drone project. Ever.
How deeply would you consider your connection to the black metal underground? Are you an active participant, or do you prefer the more isolated approach/maybe feel a bit different than the standard rhetoric currently out there?
I’m not sure what being an active participant entails… so I would assume that I fit into the isolationist category that you mentioned. I have a small but very strong circle of friends who share very similar beliefs here in Kentucky. That’s about it. It seems that people across the river in Cincinnati find us to be fairly insane… something that I find somewhat amusing. Of course I have various email and regular mail contacts as well which I do keep up with… but, again, not very many. One thing I cannot stand, and I think my reply to this question might be the place for me to talk about it, is these idiotic Myspace Black Metal ‘fans’ and bands. Now, I DO have a Sapthuran Myspace page and I DO believe that Myspace is a useful and helpful tool. But… most of these people… make me sick. I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m talking about. I simply cannot believe so many of the things I see on there and what so many people will call Black Metal and what so many people think Black Metal is.
Could you tell us a bit more about your recent self released promo/demo, ‘Call of Wolf’? How does this compare to the rest of your catalog and how will this material fit in with your next full-length release coming out in 2007? Any new twists or surprises?
I am very pleased with the ‘Call of Wolf’ demo. The entire idea was very sporadic and improvised. I had the three tracks written but never recorded and, over a span of… one or two days I believe it was… I recorded the three tracks without any solid idea of what I wanted to do with them. I never really intended to release them officially, but I ended up feeling passionate enough about the tracks to construct a simple DIY demo release since they were not suitable for an album or anything else. I was surprised that it actually sold quite well and all of the copies disappeared very quickly. The tracks will also appear on the new upcoming Sapthuran full length, ‘The Wanderer’ which is due out on Wraith Productions in 2007. No, there aren’t really any new obvious twists or surprises, but I feel that every Sapthuran releases possesses a lot of subtle differences and originalities… this one included. It’s hard to explain.
Thanks a lot Patrick for taking the time to answer these questions. The last word is yours! Feel free to plug your wares.
Thank you for the interest and the excellent interview. I appreciate it. Regards to those who matter.
~ by martyworm on January 2, 2009.