Interview with Lethe’s Tor-Helge Skei

Lethe’s When Dreams Become Nightmares is one of the best albums of 2014 so far. Forward thinking and original, and weaving an atmosphere that’s warm and dreamy, yet very dark, it’s a very good album from the collaboration between Anna Murphy and Tor-Helge Skei. Tor has taken some time to answer questions about Lethe and their debut album for Swirls of Noise:

With Anna singing with folk metal band Eluveitie and Tor being the founding member of the black metal-turned experimental electronic band Manes, it didn’t on paper seem like the most logical collaboration. How did the project come about?

THS: kind of by chance, actually.. i was thinking about doing a bunch of cover versions, remixes, perhaps compile an album worth of such songs.. and i wrote a little about that on my blog.. Anna heard about it, thought it sounded interesting, and emailed me.. and we quickly discovered that we had quite similar musical tastes, and ideas about how to make music, so we formed lethe pretty quickly after she initially got in touch..

When Dreams become nightmares is an album which pushes the envelope in a lot of ways, and it’s really refreshing to hear something so different. How important was this when writing for Lethe?

THS: both very important, and not important at all 🙂 we both like quite varied styles of music, so we kind of automatically came to the conclusion that with lethe, we should ignore all artificial separation of genres and stuff.. so we just did whatever came to our mind when composing for the album, let our imagination run free.. it wasn’t a conscious decision to make anything different or special or anything, the music just turned out that way, all by itself 🙂

The album sounds to be influenced by the likes of the 3rd and the mortal, The Gathering, Ulver and a touch of Atrox, all bands who were really experimental and different. Is this accurate, and who else would you call the influences?

THS: i can only speak for myself, but i’m very seldom inspired by other music.. but of course, i can’t avoid being subconsciously influenced.. not that i care much, either.. since we don’t see the need to stay safely and comfortably in the middle of some genre or style, we don’t think much about that at all.. if we get an idea, and we think “wow!” for some reason or another.. that’s enough for us to use it.. doesn’t matter if it’s ‘wrong’ style or anything.. the bands you mentioned are all somewhat ‘different’, and that makes them interesting, but we’re not directly influenced by them, i think..

The music on the album does have an ethereal dreamy quality to it, all while sounding dark and twisted, so the title of the album is perfect. How did you manage to develop such a great atmosphere on the album?

THS: i think it’s utterly important to not think at all when making music.. not consider if this or that is acceptable, or expected, or ‘the right thing to do’.. both me and anna is similar in that way, that we come up with things that appeal to us personally, no matter what the reason for that is.. 

What lyrical themes are there running through the album?

THS: the title gives it away, somewhat, but there are layers and layers of interpretations and personal experiences in there too.. it can be about your mind, and your imaginary control of that mind.. and what happens when you lose control and insight and connection with that.. quite personal, quite negative.. or it can be ‘just’ an interesting (?) story we are telling 🙂

Do you have a favourite song from the release? 

THS: not directly.. but there are songs that fits better with my personal musical taste than others, but none that really stands out from the rest.. it depends on my mood and state of mind.. perhaps ‘you’, because it was the first song we made together..

There are a lot of samples throughout the album, what made you decide to use so many, and how are they significant? 

THS: i have always used tons and tons of samples in all the music i make.. i dont’t see much difference between a sample, or a riff, or a melody line, or a snare drum hit, or whatever.. it’s ingredients, raw material you can treat and tweak.. but using ‘real’ samples, meaning stuff taken from documentries, monologues, speeches, etc, adds a lot of ‘reality’ to the music and lyrical concept, i think..

The album sounds very warm and vibrant, and exceptionally so on the vinyl release. How do each of you feel about the resurgence of the format, especially in the era of digital media, and  with the current problem of illegal downloading?

THS: the more abstract and digital things become, the more i prefer physical and ‘real’ things, so vinyl is good! 🙂 i don’t have a player myself, so i don’t listen to vinyl at all, but anyway, for a proper release, i prefer the vinyl format.. it’s more concrete, and a ‘real thing’..

Obviously you’re both busy with other projects, with Anna in Eluveitie and her solo band, and you with Manes, but is there a chance that Lethe can become a live project in the future?

THS: it’s not completely out of the question.. and we just recently got talking with someone about doing a gig or two.. but there are things that makes it quite difficult.. not impossible.. distance between us makes it hard to try things, and rehearse, and we both have a bunch of other things going on, so finding time is problematic.. so, we’ll see.. maybe..

Lethe are on Debemur Morti productions, same as Manes. They’re a record label that really pushes experimental bands, and those who sound different.How is working with a label that are prepared to take on artists like that?

THS: it’s sooo much better than working with labels and people with their ‘traditional thinking’.. i have said it many times now, that i hate all kinds of rules and ‘laws’.. i don’t like following them, i dislike other bands/artists following them.. i like things on the edge, or preferable way beyond the edge of what’s called acceptable.. so, a label that respects and encourages that kind of attitudes is almost a must for lethe (and manes)..

What have you been listening to lately, and are there any more recent artists you’ve discovered that have really impressed you? 

THS: hmm.. actually i don’t listen that much to music.. and when i do, it’s not only because of the music itself, but because what it does to my mind/head 🙂 .. shpongle is always really awesome when doing software development, gets the brain going.. same thing with jega.. with metal, i like extreme stuff (which doesn’t really mean fast, or technical, or ‘dark’ or anything like that!), triptykon, .. yesterday was an old-burzum day, hehe..

If you could get anyone to collaborate on a Lethe release who would you choose?

THS: oh, there’s a bunch of artists/bands/people i’d love to cooperate with! tricky, dälek, david eugene edwards, mike patton, varg vikernes, shpongle, kari rueslåtten, tom g warrior… and tons more..

And finally, where do you go from here for the next album? With the boundary pushing nature of this debut, do you continue in the same vein of When Dreams Become Nightmares, or start again from scratch?

THS: i guess we’ll just continue like we did for this album.. it’s not very interesting to repeat ourselves, so i guess the next album will be a little bit different.. the ideas we’re working on at the moment is perhaps a bit heavier, perhaps even a little darker.. but we have no idea how they will turn out in the end.. things change all the time, and so does the songs..

Thanks for the time, do you have anything else you’d like to add?

THS: thanks yourself! check out the album, and also, visit our facebook page (facebook.com/LetheProjects) from time to time.. we regularly post ‘unreleased’ stuff there, non-album songs, etc.. 

Lethe

When Dreams become Nightmares was released by Debemur Morti Productions on January 17th 2014

 

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