"In mirrors digged up from the earth I see myself / Lambent upon my childhood fields in wounds" (Inmost Nigredo)
Fan homage to one of the best dark rock bands ever: In Solitude.
As well as to related artistic manifestations.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Art as an endless exploration: an interview with Gottfrid Åhman

Gottfrid Åhman; 2021
We are beyond delighted to bring you an interview with an artist whose music has meant and means so much to many of us: he has been one of In Solitude's founding members and wrote with them some of the most powerful melodic passages and some of the most memorable atmospheric moments of their music; he has been involved in some of the most putrid death metal with Invidious (and produced the ferocious Degial); he has conjured tunes of dark rock with No Future, made some captivating solo music, too; he has performed live with the schizo-rockers Reveal!, and more recently, he has been making some peculiar and striking music in the form of PÅGÅ, once again with his brother Pelle, who has been member with him of most of the aforementioned bands: we are talking of course of Gottfrid Åhman, who has been so kind to answer some questions for all of us about his past and present activities, his inspirations, his creative process and more.
He is also a talented video maker and has directed the fascinating music video for Shaam Larein's song "Aurora" as well as her official live videos; he has also created some otherworldly visuals for his own music, for No Future videos, and for PÅGÅ's songs "Enter" and "Olili": we didn't forget this and in the interview you'll also find some parts which discuss this side of his artistic production.

Throughout all the years this site has been active (since 2013, formerly as Fuck yeah, In Solitude) there have been countless times where we have listened, watched and praised his music and art so we are extremely glad and honored to have had the chance to discuss all this with him, we hope you will enjoy this as much as we did and we want to say a big thank you to Gottfrid for the interesting answers he gave us, offering us an intriguing way to look at his art from his own perspective.

U.M. : From directing music videos, to writing new music, from collaborating with other bands to composing the soundtrack to "Spillkråkan", it looks like you've been keeping busy - and obviously at Unearthed Mirrors we're extremely intrigued and excited about your recent activities! Let's begin then with a more general question, regarding your approach to art and your sources of inspiration: would you say you're equally inspired and influenced both by music/sounds and movies/visuals, or does one of these sources usually have more impact and leaves a more lasting impression on you than the other?

G.Å. : I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it like that. Both mediums I find endlessly fascinating and setting them apart they have quite different qualities and abilities I admire “them” for but music and how it works on us seems to me a greater mystery. I go through periods when it’s hard for me to listen through a whole album, or even a song, when every sound becomes like a creative trigger. Good or bad doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s the same with movies. I guess time will tell what pieces will “last”, but I keep coming back to both music and films I discovered in my childhood though most of my intake of music and film I think is in a process of searching more than recreational, if you will.

Still from the music video for Shaam Larein's song "Aurora"
Directed by Gottfrid Åhman
U.M. : Speaking of your experiences as director: you are behind the evocatively haunting video for Shaam Larein's "Aurora", as well as her live videos. When you are working on videos, do you prefer to have a pre-established script/plot that can be more or less loosely followed, or do you rather leave as much room as possible to improvisation and to the mood of the moment among you, the musicians, the location, and so forth?

G.Å. : It’s been different from time to time though improvisation no matter what scenario plays a big part in the making. Making Aurora was my first time doing video work for someone else. I had been obsessing over this scene from The Silence (Bergman) for a couple of weeks, of the boy on the train staring out the window at rows of tanks passing by. It got my mind spinning and evoked a series of ideas, images and how to execute them, that I didn’t feel I had a place for yet. I was playing around with these ideas in my head when Shaam said she looked for someone to do a video for her, I got curious and when I got the song I realized I had a place for them to develop. I had a few pictures in my head, sort of a beginning-middle-end thing, which I then did my best to tie together in the filming and editing process in a more improvised manner. The No Future videos have all been about capturing a certain mood and have grown out of improvisation/play, not too unlike the music making process of the band. Night travels, exploring woods, abandoned houses etc. We also made a video for every song (a couple of which was just video loops) for our Stockholm performance in 2016 which was a different and interesting challenge, to cut it in a way where it would work fine despite tempo changes and not playing after a metronome.

U.M. : If you were given the chance to write the score to one movie of your choice, what would it be?

G.Å. : I’m afraid I can’t answer that one. But while working on Stellar Vermin from The Evil Year I often accompanied my listening with Man Ray’s Emak Bakia. One time I accidentally played the film with the sound on along with the song and I thought it sounded fantastic. I decided to contact Paul Mercer who made it (in 2005) and with his permission I put it in the mix. So maybe my answer would be Emak Bakia/w Stellar Vermin. I also remember working on the song Enter to Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren.

U.M. : You and Pelle have officially made public your collaboration named PÅGÅ just last month, however this sounds more like something that might have been brewing behind the curtains for a while before manifesting itself to the outside world: is that correct? If so, is there any particular reason that brought you to eventually make it happen now (if you can, and want to share it with us)?

G.Å. : As I remember it we had talked/fantasized about doing music/records which would be more instrumental/experimental and not so genre defined for a couple of years before finally coming to grips with what that could be. It can’t be denied artists like Coil, Scott Walker/Walker Brothers, Egisto Macchi, Igor Wakhevitch, Brion Gysin (and many others) played a part in it, mostly in sticking to the idea of using art/music as tools of exploration rather than tools of expression if that makes sense. But anyway, in late 2016 me and Pelle spent a night playing each other all kinds of songs and sketches we individually had been working on during the year. In this soup of sounds there were a few pieces that seemed to carry some kind of thread or a mood maybe and it was something about the juxta-positioning of the pieces, with their different production qualities, that we found really intriguing. We could also see a story or at least a musical narrative playing out, and that night we more or less had a track order done. Then it took us about four years to get the sounds right. Many factors were at play in why it needed all this time. One of the biggest being living quite a distance from each other for a couple of years which made things a little trickier. We worked until it was done and it happened to take four years this time.

U.M. : Nature and wild landscapes appear to be very relevant in your music and videos: how much role does the surroundings play in your creative process, do you feel like you can be creative regardless of external factors, or is the contact with wilderness more or less needed to trigger your inspiration?

G.Å. : My surroundings sure play a part in my creative process, forests and cities the same. I wouldn’t say I find the contact with wilderness creatively triggering but it’s a part of my life I couldn’t do without. I have often found existence overwhelmingly triggering and the wilderness (or nature if you like) definitely gives me a break from it, a clearer mind and perspective as well as getting in contact with the notorious gut feeling. I very much use the means at hand when creating, and living by the woods I guess it’s only natural the work consists of a lot of “wild” material. In the end I think the external factors are just as important and influential as the inner, whether you like it or not.

Still from PÅGÅ's video for their song "Enter"
By Gottfrid Åhman
U.M. : With In Solitude, fire appeared to be the main element, recurring often in the band's lyrics and imagery. In your more recent works, there seems to have been a shift towards the element of water: more directly, for example, and literally, in your song "Trembling Waters", but also in PÅGÅ's video for "Enter", albeit more indirectly, one can notice certain references to the water element and symbolism, such as scenes that look like particles floating in some fluids, images of a lake, as well as the scene of the opening in the wall - which sort of recalls a uterine passage into the womb / feminine principle - once again associated with water symbolism. Do you think this might reflect a similar shift in your creative approach, as in from a more all-consuming/scorching experience of creativity to a more, let's say, encompassing/immersive one?

G.Å. : You’re right, I would like to add earth to that as well. I think you might be right in that it also reflects a creative shift though not that it has been conscious thing, but like you I can see what you mean in hindsight. I’ve just tried to find the right words to sounds I like and sometimes the other way around. There’s so many ways of talking of these things, one could say it’s a reflection of personal interest and growth or maybe the sounds we found happened to have more of a watery character demanding these words and symbols. I don’t know, I do have an analytical mind but I very rarely let it in in the creative process.

U.M. : Do you ever miss playing live, or is it something that in this moment of your life doesn't feel particularly relevant?

G.Å. : I do and I hope I will get to it soon.

U.M. : Are you currently working on something? (If you are but can't mention what it is, that's absolutely understandable of course).

G.Å. : PÅGÅ are currently working on a physical release of the recordings we made for Hounds of Pamir/Hong Kong Community Radio early in March. I can’t give you a date at this moment but I think I dare to promise you it won’t take four years. There are other things in the work as well but too early to tell where it’s going at the moment.

...And we certainly will make sure not to miss these next developments whenever they manifest!
Recommended official links:

Gottfrid's YouTube Channel - SoundCloud
PÅGÅ on: Bandcamp - Svart Records