Isolation stands for songs of melancholy and despair. This German duo started with raw and chaotic depressive black metal, but later introduced many other elements, even a hint of post-metal creating an original blend of vibrating doom/black metal. Johannes Schmid shared all the essential informations about the band.
You were formed relatively not a long time ago, more exactly in 2004. Did you have any experience, any other bands you played in prior the forming of Isolation?
Yes, we all had played in other bands before, but in none of them we could express ourselves as in Isolation. I think it was good to gain some musical skills and experience, but musicwise they have no connection to or effect on Isolation and will therefore not be mentioned.
What were the reasons to set up a band? Was this as a hobby-thing, or you had serious motivations to make this kind of music? What do you think people are starting bands?
As I just mentioned we couldn’t play the style of music we wanted to play in our former bands and so Isolation was formed. Actually where we are from, we are pretty much the only ones into this rather obscure music and it was kinda natural for us to start working on our visions. People probably start bands for a lot of different reasons and alot of these are pretty idiotic to me. Especially those kind of people who just sit in their rehearsal room drinking beer and just talking like “man, we are gonna be sooo big” and think they are cool just because they are in a band, instead working hard on their music and improve their skills.
Why we – humans- are trying at times to create something, or to achieve something besides our material values?
When you see humanity as a whole the span of life of a single human being is so little that it is close to nothing. When we’ll die and our children and grandchildren are dead no one will remember us and we plunge into the grey dust of all those who existed before us. I guess most people are so scared of this that they deperately trying to find a way to cope with this. The average low life human seeks salvation in religions or other ideologies and is willingly accepting all kind of answer, not caring how ridiculous they possibly are as long as they have something to believe in. Others try to form themselves a monument with what they create hoping that it will live on after they have perished. I guess this would be the main motivation for creating something. Personally for me it is just a certain need to express myself, I can’t really tell why, but there are so many ideas in my head that just want to get out.
Isolation seems more a real band with gigs and rehearsals, not one more x-rated bedroom project. Many people say black metal is not stage music, and many bands refuse to play live? What’s your standpoint?
It is pretty difficult to achieve the necessary atmosphere for our music in a crowded room and so I can understand everyone who says black metal is not live-music. But we chose to try it nonetheless.
You recently played some gigs with bands like Nuit Noire, Hypothermia and Zahrim. Quite a good assembly for a show! I have seen only some interesting pictures taken on the gig. Can you tell us how the feeling of it was, what was the crowd’s reaction? I ask these because it seemed a special gig – saying this judging by the pictures.
Yes, this was quite a memorable weekend. You have probably seen the pictures from Belgium, actually there were pretty little people, 15 maybe. The club was a bit too big for this, but it is a lot better to have a small crowd of people who can relate to the music than having lots of drunk idiots.
You say you play dark, melancholical and haunting Black Metal. This is to avoid the tag “depressive black metal”, or do you think that you don not belong to the DBM scene? What do you think is the difference between Isolation’s music/sound and the other depressive/suicidal BM bands?
I’d go so far to not call us “Black-Metal” at all, but I actually don’t want to waste my time on thinking about terms and genres. Also I don’t care about any kind of scene. I am thankful for being in contact with a lot of interesting people and bands worldwide, but I don’t see myself or Isolation as part of anything, especially no local scene. Well, what seperates us from similar depressive BM bands? Everything about Isolation is purely personal and not meant to fit into the measures of some scene or genre. Also I try to avoid all the cliches and I don’t want to glorify depression and suicide, these dark feeling and thoughts are a part of my life and will always be. I have accepted this, but I am not proud of it and I don’t think you should be, if you know what I mean. I would not recommend to anyone who is happy, that he should try to be a bit more depressed, because it is so very cool. That is total bullshit. It is just the way I am and I don’t want to make some kind of ideology of it.
Isolation stands for songs of melancholy and despair. But these feelings do characterize you in the everyday life? Does your music reflects the man you are, or its just an escape from daily tension? Do you feel often irritated or frustrated in this chaotic existence?
Most people who meet me in everyday life would probably never guess that I play in such a band and this is the way I want it to be. I am not depressed 24 hours a day and if was I couldn’t even play in a band and write music, and furthermore that wouldn’t be a life worth living. Instead I am trying to find my peace with this existance and Isolation is a kind of catharsis of feelings I just need to get out of my head. Without wanting to repeat myself, but it is just not cool to be depressed and I am really trying not to be and in most parts of my everyday life this is working pretty well, but a certain melancholy and despair are rooted deep in my soul.
On your site it is written that the self-titled debut will be released in winter 2007. Its 2008 and the CD it’s still not out? Why is this so?
There will be some special packaging and the layout and some other stuff just took longer that we thought. The CD was released during the time I took to answer this interview though. Now looking back I think it really was worth the wait and we are totally satisfied with this release.
Did the songs on this debut were re-recorded, or are just out-takes from the previous materials? If they are re-recorded, were there any other changes in the structure/sound of the tracks?
The songs have all been released before, so this is not a “debut album”, but rather a debut for Isolation on CD, because these were only availabe on Tape and CDr before. The tracks itself were not changed, just the order on the CD and the intros from “A Prayer for the World to end” are now seperate tracks. Also this time all the lyrics are printed.
You will soon take part in a future split release. Why the get-together of bands in the underground for a split is release is a so frequent method? What do you think are the benefits of a split?
In our case we just wanted to do something together with a band, Austere, we are befriended with and like their music. Generally besides friendship and shared ideologies another aspect is to reach more people than with just your own band on a release, I guess.
Tell me about your musical background. How did you started listening to BM. What were the first influences, and so on.
When I first got in contact with metal I started with Thrash like Sepultura and Slayer and step by step I was searching for more extreme music and push the limits further and further, so I got into Death-Metal and later into Black-Metal and other extreme forms of music. At first there were popular bands like Darkthrone, Carpathian Forest or Dark Funeral, but I was more and more searching for obscure and unique artists and still am today. I never really had much friends who were into this kind of music and so I had figure out stuff on my own.
You lately stated Mono, Isis, Ulver and Leonard Cohen as an influence. This will have an effect on the future Isolation releases? I think those artists are pretty close in mood to your music, only the presentation/sound may differ.
I take it as a compliment that you think of us being close in mood to the mentioned bands because they are very important for me personally. But I also think that they all have a certain atmosphere that is unique in a way but in this very dark and melancholic. Although we started with Black-Metal, from the beginning we were looking for a more personal and unique approach, so yes, I think and I hope that our future material will be more and more influenced by such great artists rather than just Black-Metal.
Is there maybe any track which would you like to cover from these artists?
I don’t have the right skills as a musician to cover a band like Mono. Isis or Ulver would be maybe possible, but I see no need for this, because we’d probably just play one of their songs without changing it. I have thought a lot of times about a Leonard Cohen cover, maybe I’ll try sometime when it feels right to me. Some songs of choice for me would be “Teachers”, “Dress Rehearsal Rag” or “Last years man”... or probably so many other two from the first three albums.
Bethlehem is maybe the strongest influence (or at least was in the past) for Isolation. At least this is my opinion. The first 3 albums were fantastic I think. Do you like their latest offerings? What do you think about this new line-up with almost rock-icons like Kvarforth and Herr Morbid?
Yes, you are right for the influece and I think you are also right, that this is more a thing of the past. To put in other words, Bethleme heavily influenced the fundament we built Isolation upon, but we are seeking new ways to let our sound grow now. Their later material didn’t interested me too much although it is unargueable good. Yeah, I have kinda mixed feeling about this all-star-lineup, we will have to wait until that album is out, before I can say anything else.
You stated once that your first demo is “very raw, chaotic and fucked up.". I think that actually that first material of yours is balanced. Maybe its furious, but beyond there’s a balance between the uncontrolled anger and melody. There’s also detectable a kind of passion on those songs.
Maybe balanced in between anger and melody. When I said raw, I meant the sound and it has a very low quality productions compared to later works also chaotic would fit the mix. But also our musicianship is very chaotic and far from being “tight”, the anger really is uncontrolled and so are our instruments in parts. But from the overall atmosphere it is pretty fucked up in that kind of way that it is torn between uncontrolled rage and total despair. Also there is plenty of passion in these songs for sure. Looking back now I would do everything different today, but “Striding on the Path of Nihil” feels to me like something I have lost my grip upon, maybe even like an artifact from rather distant times or a caption from the way I felt back than. Although there are lot of beginner’s faults on this recording and it was very far from where we wanted and still want to go as a band, it has a very strong and absorbing atmosphere, some archaic power that we banned on the recording without really knowing how we did it.
The piano track on the “Striding…” release reminded me of French artist Yann Tiersen’s compositions, the minimal approach and the mood is also similar. Correct me if I am wrong.
I must admit that I had not heard of Yann Tiersen before you mentioned him to me. You are right, his music is comparable to the piano tracks, but I don’t think he was an influence (I liked his work, though!). The piano-tracks were not written by me, but by a former girlfriend of our drummer.
Can we expect any more compositions like this in the future? Any non-metallic influences would you like to introduce?
I don’t think there will be any more piano tracks, but there will be more clean and/or acoustic guitars in the future. I have so many non-metallic influences, I don’t know where to start.
What is your preferred music format? Tape, CD, Vinyl? Do you see mp3 format as an advantage or as a curse regarding its effect on the scene?
I like all these formats, in the end it is the music that counts anyway. I hope we can have one of our releases also on vinyl in the future, that is kind of one of my “childhood-dreams”. For Depressive Black Metal and Ambient tapes are a good choice in my oppinion, because when I listen to that music, I will take the time and listen to the complete recording and won’t skip through the songs like you could on a CD anyway. As for mp3 it allows a lot of inferior bands to get their material heard without having to put the effort in making a demo, but then again it makes it alot easier to get to know new bands, that are cool. Also, this is a developement not to be stopped anyhow, so I am trying to use the advantages and avoid the disadvantages.
Nachtmystium signed with Century Media, Shining and Forgotten Tomb started being huge names. There are already black metal super-projects running outthere. Black metal musicians (?) became cool rock-icons. Black metal bands are regularly winning Grammy awards and other fancy prizes, while real legend like Ozzy refused a British award for being the best heavy metal band in the world, expressing his dislike towards “decorations”. Everything is so different now. How this affects your view upon the black metal scene?
It is probably not only bands like Shining trying to be some kind of rockstars but also the plenty of “fans” willingly uplifting them on that kind of status. This comes just naturally when a “subculture” (if I may call it so) gets bigger: The gap between the bands and fans grows bigger and bigger with the amount of people that just consume and so “stars” are born. One will have to accept that Black-Metal is just another style of music. Maybe all that is just another reason why I don’t care about also that scene bullshit anyway.
Would you sign to a major label if they would offer you a deal?
I have no idea, at the moment the question seems kinda irrelevant to me. Obviously I don’t want to make my music just another capitalist product, but who knows what things would look like, if Isolation got so big one day that an underground label couldn’t handle it any more? I don’t think this will ever happen, but also it would be stupid to state “We will forever be underground” when you are not even close to being in the situation of having to decide on stuff like this anyway.
On a global scale, which country is producing the best Black Metal? We had Norway in the early and mid-90s. Now that has changed. We have French necromantics, Finland and Germany has also many frosty BM bands, USA and Sweden is also strong lately, and even countries like Australia, Russia, Ukraine seems to produce great bands. What are your preferred bands in the scene in this moment?
National scenes are not very important to me and especially with the internet and globalization it will more and more lose its overall importance in my oppinion. But I am quite impressed by Australian BM these days. Preferred bands are difficult, obviously then bands I work or am in contact with and a couple of others, but I am not into “lists”.
You recently started a tape label – Choirs Of Delusion – though this already existed as a mailorder distribution. Why tapes? Can we expect releases on other formats too in the future? Like vinyl, or CD? Feel free to present your label please.
Choirs of Delusion was started because I was running to the post office a lot anyway to distribute the Isolation stuff we selfreleased or received as royalities, so I thought why not also sell some other records I like myself and support artists I favor and/or know. So I started to get some records and step by step everything got bigger. This is very important to me because I don’t want to force any thing, it is just better to do the best job you can and let things evolve naturally than planning too much. So as CoD got a little bigger I thought it would be cool to do some nice tape releases of music I love. My first two are KILTE / FUNERAL MOURNING – Emission Through Selfinfliction Split MC and BOSSE 3 MC. I am very proud of both releases and I tried to make them better then just some home-xeroxed covers. For the future there probably won’t be too many releases since I am doing this all by myself, but I will just see how things turn out. The next tape will be TRISTE – Audial Suicide! If some day CoD will be big enough to pay a CD release, I might do it.
What kind of music/bands do you intend to release?
I want to release dark and atmospheric music, I don’t care about genre apart from that. What I do not want to release is uninspired standard black metal clones. Since I do this in my spare time and don’t earn money with it, I want to release music that fits my own taste and also I will only work with people I like on a personal level too.
Do you have a normal job, or do you study? What about the other members of the band?
I study, but I am taking a break at the moment. The others do similar stuff.
Is there any goal would you like to achieve with Isolation? Can you imagine your life without the band? Are there any side-project ideas in your mind?
I don’t have a real goal for Isolation besides playing good music and being able to have it released. I am really happy about the opportunity to have CD releases and I hope to have maybe an LP in the future, what the next step will be for us, I can’t tell yet.
Thanks for doing this interview. I wish you good luck! Last words are yours:
Thank you Robert for creating this interview! You truly asked some interesting questions and I hope my answers will suit these a bit. I wish you all best for COBS and all other projects.
by Robert Sun