„The darkening and depressing evolution of our society is reflected within the music.“

Empusae ist das Projekt von Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe. Seit über 20 Jahren arrangiert der belgische Sound-Künstler, der auch in zahlreichen anderen Projekten wie Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Tzolk’in und Onus aktiv ist, akustische und elektronische Klänge zu komplexen, intensiven  und rituellen Klanglandschaften aus dunkler Melancholie, die lange nachwirken. Empusaes einzigartiges Gespür, Klänge und Melodien in imaginäre Bilder zu verwandeln, wird durch die wunderschönen Visuals der Künstlerin Christel Morvan beeindruckend sichtbar gemacht.

Beides macht Empusae zu einem emotionalen Gesamtkunstwerk, das die Kontraste zwischen dunkler Schönheit und Verfall, Licht und Schatten, Natur und Urbanität, Angst und Vertrauen, Trostlosigkeit und Hoffnung miteinander verwebt. Das verbindende Element ist die überwältigende Atmosphäre und Dunkelheit.

In unserem Interview blickt der Künstler zurück auf die letzte Dekade und spricht über den Sound von Empusae,  die Zusammenarbeit mit anderen Künstler*innen, die Bedeutung von Natur für das musikalische Schaffen, seine aktuellste Veröffentlichung Oeuvres au Noir, über (visuelle) Dunkelheit und verblassende Sehkraft – und die damit verbundenen Ängste, Hoffnungen, Träume und Wünsche. Vielen Dank Nicolas!

What is the sound of the past decade? How could one describe the last ten years musically?

Foto: Luc Luyten

I can’t speak about mainstream music as I really have no idea what is happening and I don’t really feel the urge to know. As for the more underground music, the thing that struck me the most is the crossing of styles, less boundaries within the genres of music, especially in the dark scene.

On the other hand I personally have been following certain labels and specific tendencies of the dark scene, like Dark Ambient and Postrock. I think the last decade has been very inspiring for this kind of music, the darkening and depressing evolution of our society is reflected within the music. Which results in deeper and darker musical beauty, horror and tragedy.     

What influenced your personal taste in music and art during the last decade?
The last decade has been very challenging and confronting on a personal level as well as the feeling of the downwards spiral of society and humanity. Because of that I’ve been searching for more comforting music, which for me results in darker, more melancholic and evocative music and art in general. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I have the impression that this kind of music reflects this world more than ever.

What songs or albums of the past decade would you recommend listening to at the moment, and why?
At the moment, I would recommend “Hoor mij, God” by Monnik (digital album on bandcamp) because it has this aspect I mentioned before, of border-crossing several genres. It gives me a feeling of unity and symbiosis, which eases the pain of our more and more divided society. Another one is “Structures and Downfall” by Peter Bjärgö. It is the ultimate album for me to be comforted, dream and escape from reality. Beauty, darkness and melancholy are the perfect ingredients for me to be able to do that. Also his lyrics are very deep and honest, and sometimes very recognisable on a personal level.

What do you love so much about music? What are you looking for in music? What are the boundaries that you look to explore with your music?
What I love and also what I’m searching for in music is the ability to escape and dream away from the harsh reality of life. Just like reading a book or watching a movie or even playing a video game. But it doesn’t necessarily has to be escapism, it can also be a way to enjoy life as such. I’m trying to reach the scene with my own music, on a personal level by the process of creating as well as trying to share these feelings and emotions with other people.

If you had to describe the music of Empusae in terms of not music … what would you say?
In terms of colours I would describe it as saturated colours, slightly dissimulated by darkness. Main colour would be ultramarine. With occasional rays of warming sun beams. In terms of odours it would be the smell of woods, pines, moist of nature, mixed with metal, stone rubble, smoke.

What is sound to you?
A source of pleasure. A source of pain. An element of creation. An element of destruction. A pathway between worlds.

How does your music/sound reflect your personality?
I’m not sure my music reflects my personality, it merely reflects my creativity, my imagination, what attracts me or repulses me. It’s also a way to confront my demons, a way to either accept them, to control or repulse and even exorcise them. It has a therapeutic effect on me. I imagine it could be a way to be able to be in control somehow, of things I actually can’t control in reality.

Your latest release Oeuvres Au Noir is dark, melancholic, intimate – with some hopeful and healing light. What is Oeuvres Au Noir about?

Artwork: Christel Morvan, Nesisart

I’d rather not unveil too much about this release. Let’s say the inspiration has been found in mysticism, dark alchemy and magic. I wrote a song, many years ago, called „Dark alchemy“, which in a way has the same vibes as the two songs „Asok“ and „Obsidian“ on Oeuvres au Noir. This wasn’t intended. Anyway, the interpretations are personal for each individual, like most of my music. Let the music be a soundtrack for your imagination. You also have the artwork and titles as additional material to trigger your mind.

If you look back – how do you feel your sound/music has changed over the last years?
It did change and evolve within the years, and on the other hand it didn’t. The styles and techniques may have evolved but the essence and deep core of the project still remains the same as 25 years ago.

What impact have your surroundings on your music? How important is nature for you? Which role does nature play in your life and your art?
Nature, especially forests, has always been one of the main muses for Empusae. I feel a strong attraction to trees, as long as I can remember. I have this regular urge to do what the Japanese call Forest Bathing. It cleanses my mind, refills me with energy and inspiration, makes me forget my demons and strengthens me against them or helps me make peace with them. It is as essential and vital to me as music and both are connected. I can’t explain why.

How does the visual aspect and Christel Morvan’s beautiful art relate and reflect your music?

Artwork: Christel Morvan, Nesisart

Her art is a very strong inspiration to my music. My music does the same for her art. We and our respective art are our mutual muses. One can’t exist without the other. Both are Empusae. She reveals aspects of my creations that were sometimes hidden so deep that I didn’t realise it was there. She translates my music directly into visuals. Each time I am stunned and shocked by how closely and intimately she understands my work. We have a similar mind in terms of art, but distinctively in our own domain.    

In the last few years you have worked with many artists and projects, such as Lamia Vox, This Morn ‚Omina, Ah Cama-Sotz, Colin H. van Eeckhout or Peter Bjärgö. How did these collaborations come about and what do you find particularly fascinating about working with other artists and projects?
Most of them are personal friends, some of them even very close friends. I usually make the first step for collaboration, because I feel the urge to do something artistic together when attracted to someone’s art. It is very enriching and intimate to create something together with somebody whom your admire, as a person and/or as an artist. I’m trying to find other aspects of life which I could compare it to, but I can’t think of anything similar. It is unique. I treasure it and will continue to give in to those impulses as long as I’ll be able to create.

You have made music in the dark electronic music scene a long time. How do you see the last decade? What has changed over the years and what excites you about the future?
On a personal level, I feel my music gets more therapeutic within time. The style, form and techniques are becoming more genuine to my inner self, closer to the source so to say.

Foto: Bart Verhelst

I feel more liberated compared to let’s say 20 or 10 years ago because I feel less restricted by certain styles of music I was influenced by, certain elements I felt HAD to be implemented into the music. I lost those bounds several years ago, creating more instinctively.

What excites me for the future is dual. I am excited by the idea of being able to go into any artistic direction possible and to have many potential collaborations. I know that I still have a lot of things to express and a lot of inspiration at hand. On the other hand, it scares the hell out of me to eventually lose my sight completely and lose the ability to create in a way similar to how I always have done. So far, I could adapt to my disability (visual impairment) but I don’t know how it will be in a few years, when I’ll go completely blind eventually. But deep inside, I think I know I will find a way.

What are your hopes, dreams, and what do you wish for?
My hope would obviously be not to go completely blind. Or maybe that would be the thing I wish for :-) Anyway, besides that, I’m really thrilled to continue to compose for Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio. Working on Tomas’ music has a very healthy effect on my mind. I can’t explain why, but it helps me so much. It’s a quite different approach to what I do with Empusae but the effect is beneficial in a similar way.

I’m thrilled to start working again with an artist I collaborated with about 10 years ago. That will be the next project I work on after finishing the ORE album. I have other vague plans for working together with other artists (not only musicians) but time will tell if those will happen. The idea of starting to create for Empusae when the stars are right is very satisfying, as I can feel it will slowly emerge the upcoming months.


Empusae:        Webseite               Bandcamp               Facebook           

Christel Morvan:        Webseite                Facebook


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