Music by Stijn Van Cauter
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Interview with Parat (interviewer : Petr)

Stijn, which band introduced you personally first to the term "funeral doom metal"? I mean that perhaps someone told you that the music is no longer doom, but it is funeral doom

The one band that made me realise there was another kind of doom was Thergothon. I don't recall if this was the first funeral doom band I heard, but it was a revelation of sorts. This was shortly after releasing my first UDOM album I believe, which got me in touch with various people in the doom scene, and some of them told me my music was funeral doom, so I began exploring that genre.

Did Belgium have a strong doom metal underground in the past? I can recall just PANTHEIST but Kostas moved the band to England some time ago. Then I know two albums by the project WIJLEN WIJ, which you were also part of. And then MARCHE FUNEBRE... and probably nothing more. But your discography is full of various names, I wonder if in Belgium there is the situation where many bands and projects contain the same people over and over

I never had much contact with other bands or artists, but in my experience the underground scene in Belgium back then (late 1990's to mid 2000's, when I visited the occasional live show or metal festival) was mostly made up of black metal bands. I don't really follow the scene any longer, so I can't say how things are these days. We indeed have Marche Funebre (and Monads), which appears to be quite active with live shows - and that's what you need before you can really talk of a scene. But those are the only names I can think of right away.

Describe your beginnings in metal underground. Did UNTIL DEATH OVERTAKES ME (UDOM) stand already at the beginning of everything?

I listened to a lot of black metal and darkwave and whatever hybrid forms existed, gradually I also got into more experimental stuff such as ambient, old gothic and some industrial/noise. From somewhere around 1997 I began playing guitar and creating things myself. Inevitably I tried to merge all the sounds and genres I liked, but I had no idea back then what the end result might be like (turns out there was no end result as things are still evolving to this day).
The music I made was fairly dark, as I felt rather miserable then and the music was a way to do something constructive with those feelings. It started off as long epics of raw black metal with some acoustic guitars, but things gradually slowed down and I began adding in synths. It definitely felt like doom metal to me at the point where I released something for the first time on the internet. This release brought me in contact with the community centred around the website, which introduced me to funeral doom. In a short amount of time I then discovered a wide variety of extreme doom. No doubt this influenced my own sound in some way, but I felt kind of at home within the funeral doom classification.
I don't know if UDOM can still be called funeral doom now, and I don't care as much about genres. I kept experimenting so parts of my sound have always been in flux.

That UDOM became a one man project, this resulted from the situation? Did you play any concert under this name?

I found a few people at first, but we never seemed to get past planning and theorizing at the pub. Those people were more into black metal. It felt I would be better off in full control of the music, so that there was no need to try to plan rehearsals around multiple people's schedules.
UDOM played live several times, first with Kostas (keyboards) and Frederic (bass) from Pantheist, then two times with Kostas again and Marc (bass) from Esoteric. The first time with that last set-up was in London. The plan was it would be just Kostas and myself, but Marc borrowed a bass guitar from one of the other bands playing that evening and joined up.
Not much preparation and planning needed to go into any of those performances. If I remember correctly, none of these live shows were planned well ahead of time, it all just happened - the members were present because their band(s) played at the same venue. It worked out okay and was quite fun.

How would you describe and compare yourself as a doom metal enthusiast ten years ago and now? Many of your projects are things of the past, as well as the Nulll Records label, you also let UDOM dormant for some time and then returned with the album "AnteMortem". Then releases followed each year. This year's one is called "Missing".

I'm not really into doom metal or any metal any longer, though I still appreciate doom and black. Gradually I had less and less time to listen to music or stay in touch with other people. I occasionally hear some doom metal but I'm really not up to date to what the various bands I used to listen to are doing these days. There's just no time.
I needed a break at one point, and this lack of time was one of the reasons. I focussed on other things for several years, but music was still in the back of my head. When the time felt right to start making music again I was prepared, so I was creating new things right away as if the break never happened.
Early on (15 years ago now or so) I played with Pantheist as session musician for a while, then with In Somnis. In a short amount of time, we did a fair amount of live shows. I was also active within internet metal communities. A lot of time was spent on things not directly related to my music, and that included the label. The situation seemed to get worse and I appeared to unable to change it or take control of it. What I really wanted was to have the creative part be the centre of my life, and have everything else revolve around that. I'm not quite there yet, but things are very different now. As a result I'm far more relaxed, and I feel this has a positive influence on my music. I might have spent 4-5 years without making any music, but it helped in the end.

Why did it lost sense to continue with Nulll Records? Were the energy and time you devoted this label replaced with other projects, or perhaps things outside the metal sphere?

A lot of time and money went into the label, so much that it simply wasn't possible to keep doing it. Originally, I saw the label as a way to promote all my works under a single name. Once I started releasing materials by other bands, I had to invest more and more time into it, which of course affected my own projects.

So let us summarize and please give me a list of projects and bands in which you participate and which are now alive.

I have 10 side-projects now, but some I might not release anything new for, and a few haven't released material yet. There will inevitably be short-lived projects. I have no big plans and just try to experiment with sounds and see what happens. I'll list those projects that seem most likely to persist longer.
Aeonic Dirge : space ambient, a bit of a replacement of one of my old inactive projects. Calm and long tracks.<>br Arcane Voidsplitter : space drone/funeral doom. Long drawn-out tracks. This is one of those I'm having the most fun with. I have a release coming up late 2018 or perhaps early 2019.
Inframonolithium : out of my side-projects, this one seems to be getting the most attention. It's raw funeral doom. I have two short releases out.
Nachtwald Weitstrider : more ambient, but nature-themed. Some of the songs for this project are loosely based on UDOM material.
The rest are variations of ambient, there's a project with a more poetic feel to it, one that's more jazzy, etc. I also have two projects with a sound that's close to black metal. One of these is yet to release something however - perhaps late 2019. Then there's a drone and an industrial project.

You make recordings in quick succession, is it thanks to the fact that you have your own studio and do not need to go anywhere? Do other bands record there as well?

Studio is a big word - it's just a computer now. But I've simplified a lot of stuff so I'm fairly efficient. Also, I've been working with music for 20 years. One builds up a list of tricks and experiences that makes the work easier or faster over such a period of time. On average I do spend more than 8 hours a day working on something or other.
Early on, I wanted to have a proper studio - I had a bit of equipment and a couple bands recorded demos here. In the end though, it was yet another thing that took time away from working on my own projects.

Practically every record labels says that record something is one thing, but then promote and sell it is another thing and no less challenging. In my judgement, UDOM was fine the position in the total underground and you are interested just in creating music and anything else is marginal. Or am I wrong? If not, how this goes together with the operation of a label that requires some financial means from the owner who then hopes for their return, if we are not talking about 50 copy releases.

Promotion these days is mostly a matter of money and time (I have neither). When I put my very first tracks online, there were several MP3 sites where indie bands could upload their stuff. If you had original music, you'd easily attract listeners. Such sites no longer exist - they've almost all turned into some kind of pyramid scheme where those with the biggest advertising budgets rise to the top and get shown on the front page. Small genres simply get lost in all the mainstream stuff pretty much ever since the big labels got wind of internet promotion.
Uploading your music to sites is no longer sufficient to be heard. Vastly more people are creating music these days, and if you want to rise about the crowd, you have to invest in proper promotion.
Little of the music I create is really intended to be heard by many - I upload it to make it available, but I rarely care if it gets listened to. By the time I'm done uploading something, I'm already shifting my attention to the next thing I want to create. On top of that, only very little of the music I create these days is probably of interest to labels unless they really don't mind the risk of investing in something that's not guaranteed to have any returns (or their purpose is not to generate profits but to promote underground music). Finally, physical CD sales are down in general and there are just that many more bands and releases, yet the number of listeners and their budgets for buying releases haven't changed all that much, so you need ways to convince people to buy your stuff instead of that of another band.
I don't care much about promotion in general except for the form where people get to listen to the music. Hence I provide near everything I do for free. People can listen to it, and if they like it, they can support me. That worked out well in the past, these days not so much.

We have raised the issue of the Belgian doom underground. Its strength perhaps has never been great in comparison with other countries. The scene of which countries did you admire the most? Because of music, integrity, everything that you perhaps missed at home.

The UK has always felt like an important pillar to the early days of doom to me. Many of those bands are still active. But I didn't really see myself as part of a scene - I try to avoid people as much as possible, didn't see many live shows, etc.
You don't expect a scene to stop or start at the borders of a country, but one thing I did notice while playing for Pantheist (we rehearsed in the Netherlands, where the drummer lived), and while doing a fair bit of live shows there with Pantheist and In Somnis. There's a more open mentality there, compared to Belgium, or to Flanders in particular, where people seem to have a misplaced high opinion of themselves, which filters through into whatever is passed off as local culture over here. Metal has always been seen as childish and ridiculous. People forming a small band and doing some rehearsals were seen as strange folk, weirdos, etc. In the Netherlands, I felt there was more support. People didn't look at the fact it was metal, or whether the music was loud and offensive, or whether the band members wore all black, etc. They were making music, it's productivity of a sort, perhaps even art. People came to metal shows not only because they liked the music, but just to see the whole of it, experience the motivation. In Belgium, I got the impression that people saw metal gigs as places of crime by default. Anyway, that was 15 years ago or so.

I would guess MY DYING BRIDE as your inspiratory model, given the fact you were inspired by one of their songs as for the name for the band.

It was good to have their music to listen to at that point in life where I discovered them (and other bands). Musically I think we're quite far apart, but it connected with me on some level back then. The music helped. The phrase 'til death overtake me… worded perfectly what I sometimes felt then. Seeing what I was trying to achieve with my music, it also seemed like a perfect fit as a band name.

Funeral doom metal is notorious for the words such as despair, nihilism, emotions, minimalism, emptiness, ambient… which words would you add further to the list?

For UDOM, most of those terms fit in the past, perhaps not so much today. Balance and contrast have always been things I used often in my music. The list will be different for various people - it depends on what they look for in music.
Nihilism is still there, but no longer with the negative connotation. I believe that the nature of reality is nihilistic, but since we live within reality, are encompassed by it, it serves as a reference for everything. If reality is nihilistic, then nihilism can't be negative of positive.
Other than that I try to create calm music, with subtle flows, a coming and going of ideas and emotions. The end result is neutral, things are in balance, have reverted to their original state. The music, like reality, has no purpose beyond just being there, to show what is possible and what can persist in a stable state, and then it's time to move onto the next thing.

Is it still true for you that making funeral doom is connected with venting own negative emotions and transferring them into “positive" ones via music?

In a sense, but it's no longer as important as it used to be. Most of the music I create these days has no such purpose. Sometimes I just want to explore an idea or emotion, other times there's no underlying concept and it's music (or sound) for the sake of itself.
One thing that hasn't lost in power, even after doing this for so long is the feeling that comes with creating something new, something that didn't exist before. I can't really put it into words, but it gives a sense of purpose to life. I'm adding to the whole of reality, exploring its possibilities through art. It's profound, yet - ultimately - pointless.

Creating such a dark, slow, depressive music means immersion in your own world, escape from reality? Is there anything that you would like to escape from permanently - something you would never want to exist in your life?

I suppose in the early days of UDOM, it helped dealing with reality, though I don't remember much of those days. Life was pointless and that was not acceptable. This conflict became music.
Now, it's still a form of escapism, but much broader. There's nothing in reality that really stands out (good or bad) to me. Everything is bland, and without purpose, including myself. The music, and my other creative works are a way to push such thoughts to the background, to briefly create beauty and colour where there's nothing otherwise. It's the closest things to having an actual purpose in existence.

And what kind of job/everyday reality do you wake up in the morning? Playing doom metal is certainly not what you make your living from

There's no money to be made with this kind of music. I've a part-time job, though lately it doesn't even amount to a full day worth of work a week. Financially, this is problematic, but there's no balance. It takes a full-time job for a single person to be able to live here, and with a full-time job, I'd have no time for music. I've done it for a while and it wears me out and numbs me. Having to interact with people that only see you as a tool to be exploited the entire day through is tiring. There's no job security or no potential for growth since it's all temp work and the tasks themselves feel so pointless. The biggest (and only) advantage is that since several years I get to do most of it from home.
It's something I end up thinking about often enough, but I see no solution. What's the point to it all if I have to give up my music just to survive?
First thing I do when I wake up is feed the cats. Not much later I'm already behind the computer for the rest of the day. There's no planning, but I do keep track of the various things I'm working on. Generally I just pick what seems most fun and continue working on that, or I start something new.

So what is “Missing" about? Do you uncover topics that you have not addressed in your work yet? In the past, UDOM produced long conceptual sagas divided into several recordings. But almost ten years have passed since the last one.

Missing is about people who have gone, and not knowing what happened to them. About searching without knowing whether the search is already pointless. Finally, missing is about being lost oneself, to be the one that's missing, even if one doesn't know it yet. Lost in a world that doesn't care enough about you to realise you've gone. You move about it and no one notices you. A world that's lost in a reality that doesn't care about it, either.
I've also tried to create a bridge between the old material and the new (and future) stuff. Both Antemortem and Missing have a few things that have been written many years ago, that I never got to release or that ended up getting cancelled. In a way they also serve as a proper ending to the three symphony-titled albums I did, as those were part of a larger whole that never got completed. At the same time they serve as the start of a new set of ideas that will likely be continued over future releases.

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