.:.WE ARE DUST.:.
An Interview with Kim Larsen of :Of the Wand and the Moon:
by David Tonkin
Lee Hazlewood saw his death coming. Leading up to his passing in 2006, terminal cancer allowed him to settle his affairs, release one last album (Cake or Death), and choose his own epitaph: ‘Didn’t he ramble’. The epitaph referred to Hazlewood’s tendency to drift lonesome-like through his life, both figuratively and physically. As far as I know, there is no reason why Kim Larsen won’t live a long and healthy life, so thankfully he does not have that in common with the man who once described his music as ‘not normal’.
But I think there are many similarities between :Of the Wand and the Moon: and the output from the heavily mustachioed cowboy psychedelic. There are equal parts warmth and desolation, love and resentment, pain and comfort. The musical similarities are also increasingly explicit, and just as Hazlewood enjoyed writing, producing, and recording with many luminaries of the day, Larsen records frequently with his own friends and accomplices.
In the lead-up to the OPERATION EQUINOX tour of North America—during which he will perform both as :Of the Wand and the Moon: and with Thomas Bøjden as Vril Jäger—Larsen spoke with us about music from the sixties and seventies, the union of loneliness and collaboration, radical left-wing folk singers, and facial hair.
Heathen Harvest: Thanks for speaking with us, Kim. It’s always a pleasure talking with you. So, it’s been eighteen years now?! I believe that’s about how old :Of the Wand and the Moon: is now, correct? That means the project is now in the last of its rebellious teenage years and should hopefully start taking greater responsibility for the demands on your time. It’s clearly kept you busy with live gigs the last few years. How do you find live performance these days?
Kim Larsen: Thank you for taking the time, David. Yeah, it’s getting older and older. I think it started way earlier for me when I heard the Thunder Perfect Mind album with Current 93. I was writing Michael Cashmore-inspired stuff back in 1994. Some songs eventually ended up on the Solanaceae album in 2009. So yeah, it has been some years.
I still find it a bit weird performing live—a somewhat strange experience. Of course, when you see other bands perform—Death in June or Sunn O))), for instance—they take me away and it is magickal. But when you’re involved yourself, it can be hard to step out of yourself.
I have recently found a great promoter in Swamp Bookings, so there will be a lot of shows this year—at least in Europe. In the past, almost all the shows have been on request, which was nice but also very time-consuming as they have almost always been one-offs.
HH: I’ve not heard any of your Vril Jäger material with Thomas Bøjden. Will the Operation Equinox tour be the project’s first live performance? How does the project differ from your respective work?
KL: The debut album has been sent for pressing, and I guess it will be out at the end of March on my label Heidrunar Myrkrunar and distributed via Tesco Distribution. The first live shows will be in the United States for the Operation Equinox tour, yes. The first European performance will be at Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig in May.
Vril Jäger was supposed to be the project of John Murphy, Thomas Bøjden, and myself. Thomas and I always thought it was a shame that John didn’t perform and release more of his Shining Vril project, so we thought it could have been an ideal collaboration. We might have done some concerts with Vril Jäger, Shining Vril, Die Weisse Rose, and my Les Chasseurs de la Nuit. Hence the name: Vril from Shining Vril, Jäger (‘hunter’) taken from Les Chasseurs de la Nuit and written in German as Die Weisse Rose.
Unfortunately, John died on us last year before we could get together and record. I still have some drum recordings with John from The Lone Descent sessions that we might try and edit to make a Vril Jäger track in the future. The music is some kind of martial industrial with power noise and dark ambient leanings, plus various conspiracy samples and weird stuff. We are very happy with the outcome of the debut album and the music to come.
HH: I’ve enjoyed the changing sound of :Of the Wand and the Moon: over the years, culminating in your last full-length album ‘The Lone Descent’. It’s a far cry from the more “traditional” neofolk of the first couple of albums, and clearly an opportunity for you to air your appreciation for dark 60s/70s music. I think that influence has always been there, but it’s in full stride on ‘The Lone Descent’. What is it that attracts you to people like Lee Hazlewood and his ilk? I wonder if the broad experimentation on ‘Sonnenheim’ also has more in common with early psychedelia than with industrial music per se.
KL: The 60s/70s influence has always been with me, I think. My father had a big record collection and this was, of course, also the first stuff I heard as a child. The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and With the Beatles were among the records that I listened a lot to and also the collaboration of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Je’ T’aime 7”, etc. I think that Merseybeat bass has followed me since then.
HH: Despite the evolving sound, I think there have been common themes over the years. ‘Solitude’ features prominently, for example, yet you clearly draw strength from it, and you work frequently with multiple collaborators. ‘Emptiness’ and all it entails is also a common motif. It sounds like a bittersweet relationship, as in your lyrics for ‘Hold my Hand’: ’emptiness is rock ‘n’ roll’. Do you prefer time spent alone?
KL: I guess I’m what you would call an introverted person by nature. I always have been. The process of composing music is a lonely one for me, for the most part. I do work with a lot of people on the recordings and live. There, I mostly leave it up to the musicians to add what sounds good. With me having the last say, of course! (laughs)
HH: I enjoyed what you did with your Les Chasseurs de la Nuit project. There are brief elements of harsh noise, and the series of ‘They are Everywhere’ videos had you fingering your nose at everyone. Is it a project you plan to do something with again?
KL: Actually, I have just finished a 7” (Nebelwerfer) and an album (Nebel Leben). I just received the master of the album from Robert Ferbrache, and that too will be sent to the pressing plant. The 7” should be out around the same time as the Vril Jäger by the end of March. I think maybe the music has become a little less crazy. However, there are some really funny moments still—at least for me.
HH: You’ve labeled your guitar in runes with ‘this machine kills politics’, presumably in reference to Woody Guthrie’s ‘This machine kills fascists’. Was the statement intended to negate Guthrie’s aggressively political statement? Or perhaps to dismiss the tired old left/right arguments? I’ve never seen anything overtly ‘political’ in your music at all—quite the opposite, in fact.
KL: I really liked the slogan on Guthrie’s guitar and guess my ‘this machine kills politics’ was just a statement against the endless tiresome political discussions and accusations. I find nothing more boring than politics—or sports. These days, my guitar wears the statement ‘this machine kills time’. I think it was at the Runes & Men festival in Germany when someone asked me about the runes on my guitar. Douglas P. was there and talked about how Billy Bragg had at one point donated a lot of instruments and guitars for prisoner inmates, which had the stenciled message ‘This machine kills time’. I found that even more perfect.
HH: I’ve mentioned before how :Of the Wand and the Moon: has been the perfect accompaniment to the best and worst of my life. ‘Nighttime Nightrhymes’ was my and my wife’s honeymoon soundtrack, and the ‘Shall Love Fall from View’ EP provided solace during a very dark time a couple of years ago (with the help of a whiskey bottle). There’s a brutal honesty in much of your music; is it a difficult process? In his recent interview with Heathen Harvest, Douglas P. suggested his creative processes are often just downright unpleasant, and you’ve quoted Ovid in the ‘Sonnenheim’ booklet: ‘Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim.’ (‘Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.’)
KL: Thank you for the kind words. I think :Emptiness:Emptiness:Emptiness:, The Lone Descent, and Shall Love Fall from View were particularly hard to record for various reasons. At the time of writing and recording, I thought The Lone Descent could very well have been the last thing I ever did. It was a troublesome time for me.
I guess when you write the music, you are alone, but when you start recording, there is another person in the room and you are confronted with your intimate thoughts, fears, and personal hardships. That can be very direct and uncomfortable.
But there are also very beautiful moments when recording, like when my friend Bo Rande (Blue Foundation, etc.) plays the trumpet and omnichord on The Lone Descent. That was pure bliss for me—just sitting there listening to his playing. I was so thankful for his participation.
Or the immense amount of Beach Boys-style vocal tracks that Lorenzo Woodrose (Baby Woodrose) laid down for ‘We Are Dust’. Or having Andreas Ritter (Forseti) and John van der Lieth (Sonne Hagal) joining me in the studio, back in the days of the Sonnenheim sessions.
When you don’t really have a lot written down and things just happen there—in that moment in time—that is truly magickal and wonderful to be part of. People just come in and add to your dream, your work… and add even more amazing stuff that you didn’t think possible.
HH: Your music references the runes less frequently in recent years, at least in explicit terms, but do they still inform your work in any conscious way? I’ve known people who will use galdr or other techniques before a live gig as a sort of consecration of the stage, for example. Do you apply them in a similarly explicit ‘magickal’ sense, or do you internalise them?
KL: The use of runes has always been a very personal thing. I have probably been more occupied with this in the past than I am now. I guess I also wanted to break away from the usual themes of ‘neofolk’ albums on The Lone Descent and tried to take it to a new place with no rules. However, the runes are still meaningful to me.
HH: And to matters serious: whatever happened to that epic beard you had a few years ago? It really was an impressive growth of hair.
KL: (laughs) Thank you! Well, the beard is on its way back, so no worries.
HH: Thanks for your time Kim, and all the very best for Operation Equinox.
KL: Thank you, David. I’m looking forward to being back in the United States soon.