Interview by Sage.
Claudio Ordog Alcara is a name that has long been synonymous with one of the longest-running black metal bands in Italian history, Frostmoon Eclipse. Though he’s been known to participate with other artists, such as Greece’s own Hellenic black metal masters Macabre Omen, as well as Handful of Hate, Frostmoon Eclipse has unquestionably contained his most solid offerings to date.
However, as we get older perhaps our hearts slow a bit and, inevitably, most of us find ourselves drawn towards a softer side of music. With that said, there is his relatively new solo project Stroszek that, until now, has worked exclusively with the now sadly defunct God is Myth Records. Stroszek departs completely from the black metal sound found on Frostmoon Eclipse records and instead focuses on Claudio’s love of the dark textures that are inherently found in American folk music. Described as “country folk” by Claudio, the music is actually a strange mix of folk and mildly progressive-influenced rock. He is particularly influenced by Townes Van Zandt and also cites interests in Tom Rush and others. Shortly his first album outside of God is Myth will be released, “Sound Graveyard Bound”, on Canada’s Hypnotic Dirge Records, a record that is sure to continue Claudio’s legacy of beautiful, dark and emotional folk-tinged rock.
Heathen Harvest: Hello Claudio, and thank you for accepting this interview! First of all, many will already recognize you as the guitarist for the black metal project Frostmoon Eclipse, so can you tell us what side of your background led to the formation of Stroszek? What influences did you have that led you towards playing two very different styles of music?
Claudio Alcara: Hello Sage, and thank you very much for this space. Well, as some of you may know, with Frostmoon Eclipse in 2005 we did an all acoustic album, “Dead And Forever Gone”… I was already into singers/songwriters like Tom Waits or Nick Drake, so that came in a natural way. …then of course it was impossible to turn Frostmoon Eclipse into a country folk band out of the blue, but still some acoustic songs kept coming to me, hence the whole Stroszek-thing came to life.
HH: God is Myth was a long-time supporter of your work under Stroszek, and even after their demise, owner Todd Paulson is still working with you, only this time through his own project Canis Dirus (with Rob Hames of Ars Magna Recordings) where you recently performed guest guitar on “We stand Paralyzed by an Unhurried Mist”. How did this come about and have you and Todd remained close after the conclusion of God is Myth?
CA: Todd and Rob are two close friends and really cool guys, it was great to meet them personally during our USA tour with Frostmoon Eclipse, so I was really happy when I was asked to play on the new Canis Dirus album. …so yes, I am still in contact with the two of them, and I wish to play also on their further albums (so guys, if you’re reading this, count me in, ahah!). …it was so damn sad that God Is Myth stopped, because Todd has a great music taste and he put out some really cool stuff (maybe not mine, of course…). …as far as I know, Ars Magna is still going.
HH: How did you come to work with Nick Skog / Hypnotic Dirge Records for the upcoming full-length? Do you view your partnership with a new label as the beginning of a new era for Stroszek?
CA: Ah man, you have to ask Nick …maybe “Sound Graveyard Bound” won’t sell and he’ll kick me out, who knows …I knew some of the bands he released, and most of all I liked his attitude towards music in general. Now that I got to know him better, I have to say that it’s a real pleasure to work with him. If half the people in the music scene would have half his dedication, this world would be a far better place.
HH: Tell us a bit about the theme of the upcoming album. Will there be any changes in the musical direction you’ve taken?
CA: I think this one picks up where “Life Failures Made Music” left… maybe there are some more guitar solos and we have a track with a female vocalist. …other than that, I think the old style is still there…
HH: A unique aspect of your music is that your vocal recordings are buried into the mix of the album. Is this a conscious decision?
CA: Well, as you may have noticed, I am not much of a singer… I am first and foremost a guitar player but, if I have to do, I do. …but I think that just the first album “Songs Of Remorse” has very low vocals, but not lower as Mogway or stuff like that… both “Life Failures Made Music” and its little brother “The Wild Hunt” have pretty “normal sounding” vocals. Anyway you will definitely hear everything on “Sound Graveyard Bound”.
HH: Your track titles hint that your lyrics tend to shy away from introverted subjects and veer more towards a ‘short story’ style of writing. Can you take us a little deeper into what your lyrics typically speak about?
CA: Most of them are true stories which really happened to me, but told in a really distorted way. Other time is just words I enjoy sayin’. On “Sound Graveyard Bound” anyway, all the words are a single long verse, or at least that’s the feeling I get.
HH: I’ve noticed many artists mentioning Cormac McCarthy as a major literary influence on their work in the past few years, including yourself. Why do you feel that he is so representative of melancholic music in general? The bleakness of his writing?
CA: I think you can’t get darker than Cormac McCarthy, there’s definitely a connection between his books and some kind of music … I would recommend everyone to read “Suttree”, but maybe my favourite book by him is “All The Pretty Horses”. I read almost all of his stuff, so the list may turn endless, better I stop here. Also Bukowski is a big influence on me, and I would like to do some kind of concept about Cioran someday…
HH: Have you ever considered playing a Stroszek set live to open for a Frostmoon Eclipse set, since Frostmoon Eclipse plays live occasionally?
CA: I don’t think the two bands would fit at all… not that I don’t want to be thrown some kind of shit though…
HH: I know that Stroszek is considered your solo project, but you play with a few other people including Davide Gorrini whom has been the bassist for Frostmoon Eclipse for a few years now. Were you friends with him before he came on to help with either project? Likewise, can you tell us more about “Richard”?
CA: He can play almost every instrument… he plays bass in a grindcore band called Entropic Degrade Behind Philogeny, and some years ago was playing bass in a stoner band called Mexican Mud which released a very cool demo, but then they split up. But it was when I heard his recording on drums with another stoner/rock band that I heard how groovy he was, so it was natural to ask him to join. I know him since 1994, when he recorded drums for a demo with another grindcore band called Necrobestiality. …Yes, Davide joined Frostmoon Eclipse in 2007 to replace our bass player Gherardo Giannarelli, which recorded our first 4 albums… Funny enough, it was me and Gherardo which first had a talk to start an acoustic band, but he retired from music even before the very first Stroszek rehearsal…
HH: The music of Stroszek sounds very ‘old’ in texture. Like you’re listening to it from a memory rather than a modern thought. Is this presence particularly important to the sound of Stroszek for you?
CA: This is the best thing I could ever hope to hear, you 100% caught the feeling. …so thank you very much, that’s exactly what I had in mind.
HH: Can you explain to us how Stroszek, the film by Werner Herzog, relates to you as a person?
CA: “Stroszek” is a movie I could easily recommend to everyone (like almost all other Herzog’s movies and BOOKS… yes, he wrote just a couple, but definitely worth checking, trust me). Bruno Stroszek is a total loser which is lead to the bitter end by his own dreams, and that exactly what’s happening to me… He migrates from Germany to Minnesota, where we played with Frostmoon Eclipse in 2008, being there was really strange to me, almost felt like I was in the movie… I think you should give it a try.
HH: After this, what can we expect from Stroszek in the future?
CA: To say it with Leonard Cohen: “I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder”… so let’s keep it simple and think step by step… otherwise, you can always check our website …see you!