Interview in Heathen Harvest

by Luminatrix, September 15th, 2007

Heathen Harvest: Tell the readers a bit about how the idea to form the Phragments project was born, and how it finally came about to exist.

Phragments: Since my childhood, I was interested in music, it has been one of the most important things in my life – both as a fan and musician. I played six years of violin, 3 years of bass guitar. In 1995, I discovered Cold Meat Industry and this opened doors to industrial and neo-classical music for me. Around 1998, I started to play around with music on my computer and wanted to do something in the vein of the bands that I liked at that time. The first experiments were released on a demo-tape under a different name in a very small quantity, and actually there were some similarities to what I do now, but the music was much more simple. Around 2001 I started to think about doing something that sounded more professional. So I learned to use some new computer software and created my first songs. The first Phragments song ever was “We failed the new world”. When I finished this song, I was very happy with the results, this was the sound I was looking for – the combination of neo-classical arrangements with industrial sounds and a heavy atmosphere. I chose the name for the project and started my own label Construct.Destroy.Collective. A few months later I released “We are all beasts” the first Phragments EP, followed by “Switzerland Occupied”, a live CD with two concerts from Luzern and Zurich. After I finished songs for my first full-length album, “Homo Homini Lvpvs” was released on CDC in 2005. When I started doing my first concerts, I realized that I wanted some video projections accompanying the music at the concerts. My girlfriend and a longtime partner Sonia, also known as Sonic(k), started creating videos for me, since movie-making is what she does, partially. That’s why I always say Phragments is a duo, not a one-man project. The music is entirely my own, but the video-part of the project is very important for me as well.

HH: How did the collaboration with The Eastern Front come about, and how is it evolving?

P: After releasing “Homo Homini Lvpvs” as a proper CD in my own production, I have fulfilled my dream. When I was halfway through my work on the second full-length album, I knew I wanted another label to release it – I wanted to try something different this time. The process of choosing the right label was difficult, because I didn’t know the criteria how to choose. So I asked a well-known label in the scene and got a negative response because of a full release schedule. So I thought again – what is the main thing I want from a label? Suddenly I realized the most important thing is that the people behind the label are nice and good to work with. I traded CD's from my label with Igor and Tanya from The Eastern Front and I thought – these are definitely the nicest people that I’ve dealt with through the years, very polite and honest. I asked them to release my new album and they agreed, which was fantastic. The cooperation now is great, absolutely no problems involved. We have not discussed the future of our cooperation, but we’ll see what happens. What I definitely do know is that I want to visit Israel at some point in the future and play a concert there.

HH: Is there a “scene” to speak of in your country, which genres does it normally include, and how are things there for you?

P: This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure there is an “industrial scene” here in Slovakia. There are people who are interested in this kind of music, but often they don’t even know of each other. So it’s very hard to organize a concert here for example, without losing a considerable amount of money. There’s a lot of people listening to EBM here, but some of them with a connection to the neo-nazi scene, so I don’t want to have anything in common with that. There has been a good response in the metal scene to my work, which is great. Besides Phragments, there are some new Slovak projects that came out on my label – the mighty dark-ambient Korinth, the experimental Wycroy Crowje and the noisy Deutsche Stereo Klangfahrt. I hope more projects will arise in the near future – this country definitely needs more industrial!

HH: How is your relationship with your fans, and the audience in live performances?

P: I try to have a close relationship with the fans, because there is nothing better than honest feedback directly from the fans. I’m always happy when someone new discovers Phragments. That’s why I keep in contact with many fans, mainly via mail. And then there’s of course the audience. It’s very exciting to see that the people at your concert enjoy the atmosphere you create. Sometimes people don’t get my music at all – this has happened mainly when I was playing at festivals with more danceable acts, for example EBM and power noise.

HH: Which artists have you performed with so far, and where? Is there any particular live experience you would like to share with the readers?

P My first two concerts took place in Switzerland, I played at a gothic festival in the Czech Republic, at the Noxious Art Festival in France. Last year I did a small tour in Germany, with two concerts. That was quite exciting, seeing new places and meeting new people. It’s probably the thing I like most about live performances abroad. I also did some concerts in Bratislava with noise and experimental acts. But the funny thing here in Slovakia is, that I’m too industrial for the gothic scene, which is in the last years moving more towards psychobilly and punk; and I am too “dark” for the noise scene, which tends to be over-intellectualised – the process of making music is more important than the result. And that’s really far from where I stand, musically and philosophically. Of all the concerts, the best experience was probably the Noxious Art Festival in France – it was a fantastic event with a great line-up and atmosphere, very well organized by the mighty Audiotrauma crew. Dark live fest no. 2 inPrague was great as well, the guys from Synapscape were also playing, it was quite breathtaking. I’d definitely like to play more concerts in the future. Next plans include the UK, Germany, Poland and I’d also like to play in the US. Any organizers are very welcome to contact me if they’d like me to play in their country.

HH: Do you have other projects, and if so what are they mainly about?

P: Not long after I started with Phragments, I had a plan to do another project, an analogue rhythmic noise monster – completely different from my main project. But due to the lack of time I cancelled it. Right now there no side projects are planned, but I am open towards collaboration with other musicians, that’s something that I would like to do more frequently in the future. I have recorded a collaborative album with Korinth and right now I’m thinking of a good label to release it on. There is also a collaborative release planned with the Spanish project Verbum, but nothing is sure yet.

HH: What are your main influences (in music as well as literature, cinema etc), which you draw inspiration from for your work?

P: Regarding music, there are a lot of influences, conscious as well as sub-conscious for sure. As I said, I’ve been a huge music fan for 15 years now. I went from doom-metal, through gothic rock, to industrial and neo-classical. I listen to a lot of different styles, it depends mainly on my mood and on the season of the year. But I would say my main musical influences are some of the bands on Cold Meat Industry, which is clearly audible from my work, I think. And the atmospheres of extreme doom-metal are present as well. Regarding literature, I read a lot of fantasy books, it’s my favourite genre. Besides of that, I read some contemporary literature, decadent literature from the end of the 19th century and right now I want to get more into the Cthulhu mythos and H.P. Lovecraft in general. Another big influence is graphic art, sometimes I am inspired by paintings when I create music. I’m also a movie fan, together with Sonia we watch a lot of new and old stuff, so that might be a source of inspiration as well. And let’s not forget scientific literature, mainly psychology of music, since I have a master’s degree in psychology and I teach psychology of music at an art school here in Bratislava.

HH: Have these influences taken a different direction with time, and if so, which?

P: The influences change with time, but I constantly tend to like things from the darker side, the atmosphere being the most important thing.

HH: How do you set up your live performances, and what are the main criteria in choosing the imagery to accompany the music?

P When I play live I use a laptop. But regarding live performances, I have a dream – at some point of time in the future, I’d like to combine two orchestras – a classical one and an “industrial” one with people playing on various industrial devices. But that’s only a dream at the moment.
Since I play from a lap-top, I like to use visual imagery, so that the audience becomes sucked into the atmosphere I try to create. The content of the visuals in fully in the hands of Sonic(k), she always creates videos that suit the music very well and I like them a lot. It’s our common product, the music and the visuals work together and have a big effect on the audience, at least according to the feedback.

HH: Judging from the song titles and the general musical effect, one gets the impression you are trying to interpret history and reality by a metaphysical notion of things. If the metaphysical aspect does indeed exist in your work, tell us a bit about your personal course through it, and how you incorporate it in your music.

P: Firstly I am always trying not to say too much – that’s why the booklets of my releases contain only small amounts of information that might push the listener into a certain direction or give him/her clues. I like the listeners to interpret things for themselves. My music is inspired a lot by history and the human nature in general. The idea of evolution, cycles repeating in history or elsewhere, a vision of humanity voluntarily losing its basic foundations. Man is a wolf to his fellow man. The world is burning and there’s a blurred vision of an end that the majority refuses to see. We’re living in tough times nowadays, but it has always been so. Only the outer side of the shell is different. This may not sound very optimistic, but that doesn’t mean that I am a pessimist. I just try to see the world as it is, no pink or black glasses. In everyday life though, I’m trying to keep being constructive and see a brighter future for myself. One should not end in frustration if it’s not inevitable (such as in a case of a genocide or similar).

HH: Are there any specific historical instances that have served you as incentives to make music, and in your life more generally?

P: Yes, definitely. I was always interested in history and I think you can’t really understand what is going on in the present without knowing what has happened in the past. For example – to be proud of your ancestors / nation / community, you should first know their mistakes and crimes and then integrate them into the overall image in your mind. Then you can be proud of them. In my opinion, this is the only way not to end up in senseless nationalism or totalitarianism. My country has willingly collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War then suffered for forty years under communism. A lot of bad things happened here and therefore we have to be aware of them, not to repeat them in the future. History creates a background or basis for my music, I integrate the ideas and images in my mind into the music making process.

HH: Your new album is entitled “The Burning World” and is a fascinating turn towards assimilating majestic neoclassical with industrial electronics. How did this change come about musically?

P: That is exactly what I intended to do – combine massive orchestral parts with industrial machinery. I am fascinated by the combination of these two contradictory sides of my music, always communicating, always fighting for their ground. When I compare the two albums, “Homo Homini Lvpvs” is more dark-ambient and calm, and “The Burning World” is more wild and emotional.

HH: One gets the feeling while listening to it, of despair as well as a militaristic enthusiasm hidden somewhere in the back. How do you see the situation in the world today, and in what way did that contribute to your new album’s concept?

P: The feeling of despair is clearly present, it is one of the core emotions that I work with. It also has a lot to do with the historical ideas I was talking about earlier. But militaristic enthusiasm? Definitely not. Although my music contains march-drums and apocalyptic atmospheres, I’m not a military enthusiast at all! Although I have to admit, the romantic idea of medieval soldiers and heroic battles is appealing to me, reality is totally different. War is dirty, full of suffering, rape, diseases and rot. War brings out the worst things in man, it is full of traitors and dishonor. I must say I am not too fond of the military enthusiasts in the industrial scene nowadays, honestly I think none of them would be able to live in war. And regarding the world today – it really is burning. No need to say more.

HH: The album starts off quoting Lucifer’s “Non Serviam”, and all the other titles as well assist in creating a post-apocalyptic scenery – “Antichristos”, “Ceremony Of Light”, “La Marche Des Machines”. What do these meanings represent to you, do you view them symbolically, literally or perhaps a little bit of both?

P: Every song has a background, or a “meaning” if you want. To reveal at least some of them : “Non Serviam” is a clear statement towards religion, which in my case is quite negative. To fully apprehend “Antichristos”, you first have to read the lyrics it is about the coming of the antichrist and a just revenge. “La Marche Des Machines” was created to accompany the fantastic futurist movie of the same title made by Eugene Deslaw in 1927. The lyrics are from a letter of Luigi Russolo to Balilla Pratella where he predicts how the music of the future should sound like in a very utopist way. I think industrial music has made Russolo’s dream true.

HH: Wolves are mentioned in two of your albums' titles. Why did you choose them specifically, do they signify for something?

P: Wolves are a very intimate theme for me, they represent many attributes that are of interest to me. The behavior of the wolves in a pack, their behavior towards the man, the symbolic of the wolves that the man has given them. The wolf as an aspect which can be awakened in all of us.

HH: “Community – Identity – Stability” is one of my favorite tracks of yours. Tell us a little bit about the concept behind it.

P: With this song I was trying to musically create the atmosphere of the worlds from the dystopian novels – the verse “community-identity-stability” is actually taken from the novel “Brave new World” by Aldous Huxley, a very accurate vision of our robotic and paranoid society of people behaving like sheep. But people are like that, they need leaders and control, which is terrifying.

HH: Do you have plans for the future at this point, and if so, what are they?

P: Phragments is now in the center of my attention, so I devote a lot of time to the project. I have 5 songs ready for the next album and I’m currently in the process of creating new stuff. There will be vocals in some of the tracks, it’s a nice new experience for me. Some of the new pieces are quite dark-ambient oriented, some are more orchestral-industrial. In the last months I composed music to a theatre play, a monodrama called Hamletmaschine, written by the German author Heiner Muller. It’s a great piece and the music helps to create a really dense atmosphere. I’m planning to release it as soon as I find a suiting label. And then there are the collaborative releases with Korinth and Verbum, I think it will be a nice surprise for the fans.

HH: And finally, would you like to leave the readers with some famous last words? From my side, congratulations for an amazing new album, and thank you so much for taking the time to answer these!

P: Thank you very much for the supporting words, also for the interview and very good questions. Thanks to Heathen Harvest, I wish you a lot of enthusiasm for the future, especially concerning the demise of several industrial magazines in the past year. Last words? No fascism, no communism, no religion.