The first of our two part mix series in collaboration with the London based festival of post-digital culture, Alpha-ville 2011.
Svarte Greiner is a dark ambient project by Erik K Skodvin. He is also one half of the Norwegian duo Deaf Center which was formed in 2005 in Oslo, Norway. He currently lives and works in Berlin. He labels his music as “acoustic doom” and utilizes both field recordings and computer generated sounds when producing his music. His debut album, Knive, was released in 2006, his second Kappe, in 2009. Svarte Greiner is also a founder of Miasmah Recordings.
Erik has recorded an exclusive collaborative mix of several rare and unreleased tracks that he’s made with new music that he’s currently into. The mix features tracks Marsen Jules, Bellman, Kanding Ray, Kreng and Erik Skodvin. It’s exceptional deep and requires you some serious head space for full appreciation.
For those of us not in the know, please can you introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from and what you’re currently up to?
My name is Erik Knive Skodvin, I come from Norway but I´m currently based in Berlin, Germany. I like to experiment with instruments, effects, sounds and atmospheres. I also run the record label Miasmah. Currently I´m about to start working on a new album as I´m finally getting a proper studio together. I´m also preparing some new Miasmah releases, with a new album by Simon Scott up first. I´ll also be playing various live shows later this year both as Svarte Greiner & Deaf Center (with Otto Totland).
When you were in your teenage years, how did you go about learning and experiencing new forms of music?
I come from a background of computernerding and found my way into music through something called the demoscene, where you´d have a musician, coder (programmer) & graphician creating realtime visual experimentations (demos) together that originally was meant to show what could be done with a computers hardware. I was exposed to a lot of great electronic music through this. I guess I was about 15 when I made my first musical tests, which was on tracker based software such as Fast Tracker and the likes.
What 3 things influenced you the most in your earlier years of producing music? How have these developed over the years to the present?
That’s hard to answer as my method has changed almost completely since back then. Although if I am to pinpoint something, I would say that ambient music, with all it´s washed landscapes and sound details is something that has been with me all since the start. This started out as being more background for beat production and such, but has developed into full attention (though maybe in a different style) in later years.
Your music creates incredibly dark atmospheres; sounds contained within conjure up visions of derelict environments and post apocalyptic scenarios. What stemmed you to experiment with such a mixed and alternative palette of sounds?
The atmosphere and melancholy of certain Horror and mystery films have definitely been an inspiration for my sound. Although I may make dark music, I always try to include a sense of melancholy and beauty to it. I like making my own soundtracks, which in sense could include different parts and scenery. Some dark, some not quite as dark.
Who are your musical heroes?
I don´t really have specific “Heroes”. Rather musicians and bands I admire and love. My earlier comes a lot from Warp artists such as Autechre, Aphex Twin & Boards of Canada. Though I still can listen to these, I have moved quite in a different direction the last 7-8 years. Some of my alltime favorite musicians is such varied artists as Vincent Gallo, David Darling, Volcano the Bear, Deathprod, Mats Gustafson, Slowdive ++. Though the closest musical hero I could have would probably be Angelo Badalementi of David Lynch fame.
Your music has been described as ‘Acoustic Doom’ – What’s your opinion of this?
This was a term invented by Type boss John Xela, and I think it fits to my Knive album, though in general this is also just one of many genre definitions. I don´t think I have ever made a purely acoustic track really.
The name ‘Svarte Greiner’ is Norwegian for black branches. Why did you choose this name and what’s the significance behind it?
The name came up in a word game I used to have with a friend, from whom almost all my titles & names come from. When I saw the name I thought it fits perfectly. I guess it is very abstract for non-Norwegians but I know a lot of Norwegians really like the name, and I even think I got more attention for this project in Norway because of it. There´s no other significance behind it other than that it creates an image in your head when you first see it, and maybe it even makes it easier for some to understand and listen to the music.
Is your music a direct reflection of what’s going on inside your head?
My music is a reflection of my feelings and what I want to get out. What goes on in my head is another thing.
What is your notion/reasoning and inspiration for creating eerie soundscapes?
Does it have to be a reason? I simply do what I enjoy doing. If that be making eerie soundscapes one day or melancholic piano music the next.
I’m going to assume that you spend a majority of time recording sounds to be used in your compositions. How do you go about collecting and recording sounds?
I used to go field recording a lot earlier, but the last years I´ve mostly conjured up sounds using a guitar and sometimes a cello or violin. It´s funny how many people think I´m a cellist, as I really don´t know much about cello other than getting weird sounds out of it. This also goes for the guitar, which can produce sounds that sound like pretty much anything. I´m open for getting sounds out of just about anything though. And I like it if I can make it sound different from how it´s supposed to.
You’ve released music under an array of monikers for your personal projects; Svarte Greiner, Erik Skodvin, Solitaire Abread and Xhale. Why do you have so many aliases and what are their current statuses? Do you vary timbral elements for each name?
Xhale & Solitaire Albread was aliases I had when I was a teenager and into my 20ies. I haven’t made anything under them for atleast 8 years, and have no intend to do so either. I record under Svarte Greiner, my own name & Deaf Center for the last 7 years now.
I can’t help from asking, but does cult film director Chris Cunningham use the track ‘Bleeding Lights’ in his live audiovisual performances? Did he approach you before he started to use the track or were you unaware of this?
I had no idea about this? That sounds completely nuts really. Bleeding lights is also only available on a 100 copy tour cdr I did. Why the hell would he want to use that for his live show, and are you sure it is this track?
What environments do you prefer to create and write music in?
Preferably somewhere atmospherical with lots of light sources. This usually differs from when I actually make music though. Some of my darkest music have been made mid-day, mid-summer while in a heatwave.
In what environments do you think your music can be best experienced and be fully taken into account?
That´s very individual, though I would guess sometime in the evening/night time or maybe while taking a walk in the forest during autumn. This is maybe my favorite time to listen to music.
When performing live how do you translate a true rendition of your recorded work to a live crowd? What’s your live set up?
As I am not a classically trained musician, can´t read notes or properly play anything, I base my liveshows usually on pure improvisation around Guitar, Cello or any instrument available, run through reverbs, delays and loopers. What I really love about playing live is the ability to surprise myself. I would find it very dull to go completely prepared and play the same set every time. Sometimes I bring some backing sounds here and there, but that also depends on where I´m playing and what setting it is. I also like playing depending on the setting and usually go from very quiet to very loud through my set.
Apart from music, you also work as a freelance graphic designer, what projects are you most proud of and that have pushed the boundaries of your creativity?
I think the Pale Ravine cover art is maybe what I´m most proud of. I actually made a whole series of images for it as I had this project as my final exam at graphic design school. Otherwise I think Gultskra Artikler´s “Kasha iz Topora“ album (Miasmah, 2007) artwork is one of my favorites which really pushed me into working very hands on collage based. On top of this, perhaps the Kappe album was the most enjoyable to work on. I made my studio completely into something that would resemble a scene from a horror film, and had a whole day of photoshooting with help from some friends. I had it set up with lights on during the night as kind of an installation, and some people in the studiocommunity saw it and told me they had nightmares about it.
Please can you expand on your inspiration behind the mix you have recorded for Alpha-ville and IA. Why is it called ‘Night Window’ and what was the reasoning behind the track list?
I was asked to send either an unreleased track, make a mix or send something that could be used as promotion for the gig. I decided to do a little in-between so I mixed in a combination of several rare and unreleased tracks I’ve made together with new music I really like and feel fits the mood.
What can we expect from your performance at Alpha-ville festival?
I´m gonna bring a bigmasked net that i´ll hang up and project visuals on. This was originally tried for a couple of performances some years ago to really great effect. Originally concived by a light designer to work with my livesets, it was put on hold for a while as there was no money to progress on it. I´ve had this net laying around for some years now and want to try it out again to see if it still works. It calls for a completely dark room for best effect which im told will be possible at the venue. You´ll just have to come see for yourself. Hopfully it´ll be a special experience. I´ll also be getting a Cello for the performance, so i´ll be playing with both this and the guitar, producing strange sounds and atmospheres around the visuals.
What artists and musicians are you looking forward to see at Alpha-ville?
It´s a really great program I have to say. Would love to catch almost all of it. Especially looking forward to Andy Stott, Jacaszek and Pantha Du Prince. I would’ve loved to see Emtyset and Kangding Ray also, though I think this is playing on a day I´m not there.
Are you an evangelist of modern day technology, social media and digital culture?
Modern day technology is more of a necessary evil if you ask me, though im using it quite a lot nomatter. It´s almost like a drug. I can catch myself sitting infront of the computer, supposedly working, but realizing I don´t get anything done. Rather just sit there aimlessly browsing around.
How have advances in technology enabled you as a producer to progress your music further?
It´s gone quite the opposite way for me. I started out only using computers and now I´m only using the computer to layer what I record using instrumentation. Though of course I use a bit technology too, like effect pedals and sometimes channel things through ableton live. I by no means use this in an advanced way though, and I like to use the computer as little as possible when making music. My music might sound very processed at times, which is also true, but most of it comes just through using some effect pedals and maybe some pitching here and there.
What are you up to for the rest of the year and in 2012?
Playing shows, watching shows, making new music and hopefully finding some inspirational new sounds out there to release on my label.
Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers?
Candle Light Dinner Actress.
1. Svarte Greiner – Sound Excerpt (From Video Installation “Interval 2″ by Suki Chan, 2007)
2. Svarte Greiner – Forest In A Circle (From Raggsokk 7” Type, 2006)
3. Implodes – Wendy (Kranky 2011)
4. Svarte Greiner/Jenny Hval – I’m Dreaming (Unreleased, 2007)
5. Marsen Jules – Kunderas Dream (Oktaf, 2011)
6. Masami Akita, Mats Gustafsson, Jim O’ Rourke – Two bird (Editions Mego, 2011)
7. Svarte Greiner – Sound excerpt 2 (From Video Installation “Interval 2” by Suki Chan, 2007)
8. Bellman – Andrew (Svarte Greiner Remix) (C+C records, 2009)
9. Kangding Ray – La Belle (Raster-Noton, 2011)
10. Svarte Greiner – Unused Track From Dance Performance, The Thief, 2009
11. Kreng – Balkop (From Grimoire, Miasmah, 2011)
12. Zero Wait Station – Track From “Evocative” (Self Released 2011)
13. Svarte Greiner – B3 (From Penpals Forever & Ever, Digitalis, 2010)
14. Erik Skodvin – Unreleased/Unfinished Filmscore Track, 2007.