Interview: The Answer Lies In The Black Void
We didn’t want to focus on a specific form of doom but explore all the different dynamics and emotions that can be found in the genre.
The Answer Lies In The Black Void is the new project from Martina Horváth and Jason Köhnen and their debut album Forlorn is a sublime and doom laden listen packed full of sorrowful heaviness born out of their shared passion for doom. Gavin Brown caught up with both Martina and Jason to hear all about The Answer Lies In The Black Void and Forlorn as well as their other project Mansur and talked to them individually about their vast array of other musical endeavours.
E&D: Your new album Forlorn is out now. How did the creation of the album go?
Jason: So far we’ve had amazing reactions regarding the ‘Mina’ single release and ‘Become Undone’ videoclip premieres. The album’s creation was a natural process. Obviously we work together in our other project Mansur, so we understand each others musical talents and capacities. We created the album via the internet, ping-ponging the ideas back and forth. I think the album was written, composed, produced, mix and mastered in about 3 months. The album was seemingly waiting to be written.
E&D: How did this project come together in the first place?
Jason: We have been working together for the past years in our other project Mansur, which is a more eclectic mix of arabesque and electronic music, also more transcendental. We are both passionate lovers of doom metal, and at one point we decided to translate the energy and emotions we were putting into Mansur into a more darker and heavier sounding project. Martina, the witch that she is, was sending gentle signals that she was dreaming to start a doom project. Hence, The Answer Lies In The Black Void.
E&D: Did you always want to explore the similarities of feminine/masculine and light/dark with Forlorn?
Jason: It came natural to the project. We discuss these topics on a regular basis. Nearly all the great ancient mysteries that interest us deal with dualistic energies, light and dark, and the incredible power of this magical connection between man and woman. The union of two attracting opposites is what shapes our music. There is probably no better way to kick off a project with this a starting point.
E&D: There is a huge doom influence in the music of The Answer Lies In The Black Void, was doom a massive influence when it comes to this music?
Jason: Absolutely, we both come from different angles when it comes to doom metal. Mine comes from the more classic, traditional and funeral doom, while Martina’s doom metal palette in- cludes stoner/sludge/black doom metal fusion and also the later generation and more atmospheric doom sound. We used the best of all worlds to create our own vibe. The common denominator was atmosphere, we didn’t want to focus on a specific form of doom but explore all the different dynamics and emotions that can be found in the genre, anything that feels good to do, no rules.
E&D: What are your favourite doom albums ever made and what is it about them that makes them so special?
Jason: Cathedral – Forest Of Equilibrium / Saint Vitus – V. Cathedral’s Forest Of Equilibrium is as tragic as a doom album can get. For me there isn’t another doom album that comes close to the melancholy and utter tragedy as this, for me its an inspirational masterpiece. Saint Vitus’ V is just a classic, Chandler’s fuzz and Wino’s voice make the best ingredients for fuzzy doom. For the rest I’m a huge fan of the more classic doom: Witchfinder General, The Obsessed, Count Raven, Penance, Solitude Aeturnus, Winter, Revelation, Paul Chain.
Martina: Hmm, it’s not easy to choose. I think my three favourite doom albums are My Dying Bride – The Dreadful Hours, The Trees Of Eternity – Hour Of The Nightingale and Draconian – Sovran, then of the more eclectic but still doom metal bands I would say Crowbar – Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form, Katatonia – Discouraged Ones, Neurosis – A Sun That Never Sets and YOB – The Great Cessation.
E&D: What is about finding the beauty in the dark side of life and music that attracts you to it?
Martina: There’s beauty in both sides. The light and the dark are intrinsically intertwined. I think the dark needs more exploring as the shadows of our psyche is what gets to know ourselves and the universe inside and outside of us. For me, this music is like a heavy, warm blanket that cover you and hide you while gently caressing you and help you to become one with your pain. They help you to feel it, live it in its purest form, see the beautiful ache of your fate, learn everything you need from it and then let it go through you and let it leave you. I think that these experiences make you stronger, wiser. The knowledge of yourself, your knowledge of the universe become more clear by every ordeal, but only if you accept your fate with its dreadful hours and with it’s light and you learn to love what’s yours. This music helps me to concentrate on the necessity of my trials and help me keep growing.
E&D: What has the reaction to The Answer Lies In The Black Void been like so far?
Martina: Very good. The listeners seem to grasp the emotions we are trying to convey, we strongly believe that similarly experienced emotions link people with each other, that’s probably the reason why music can connect in such an abstract emotional way.
E&D: Have you got plans to make new music together in the future?
Martina: Absolutely, the journey has just started.
E&D: Have you got any plans at the moment to take the music of The Answer Lies In The Black Void to the live arena?
Martina: It all depends on Covid and all the restrictions. We don’t plan to get vaccinated, so we’ll see what the powers that be dictate regarding freedoms in the months and years to come.
E&D: Your other project Mansur have just released a live improv album Minotavrvs, how was the experience of making that recording and can you tell us a bit about the album?
Martina: The Minotavrvs album is about the sensation of mystical energies. No words are needed, only basic sounds are there to paint the form of the misunderstood mythical creature. During recording I entered another world. I imagined myself in a dark, misty maze covered with vines and herbs and with the Minotaur standing there. I was singing to him to ease his pain and calm his ferocious instincts and to ease my own fear.
E&D: How has Minotavrvs been received so far?
Martina: Mansur is being received really well. It’s a niche and quite unique project, so I know this project will need to age like wine. Mansur is a medium for escapism and musical transcendentalism, I’m not too concerned about success, the purpose for making this music is to disappear into other worlds.
E&D: Have you got plans to make a new Mansur studio album, the follow up to your debut album Karma at all?
Martina: Yes, the third and fourth album are already done except a few vocal recordings and I am working on the sixth album already, so no shortage of Mansur material for the coming years.
E&D: With so many other projects on the go, is it a difficult task to fit it all in?
Martina: No, once you know how to tap into the source you just let it come naturally.
We spoke to Jason about his other musical projects Celestial Season and Bong-Ra amongst others to see what else he has been working on.
E&D: You also play in Celestial Season, how has the band’s latest album The Secret Teachings been received so far?
Jason: Pretty amazing actually. Releasing that album was a win/win from the go. I mean we teamed up after 25 years to make a worthy tribute to Solar Lovers and a thanks for the longstanding support from fans, so basically the whole process was incredibly fun and pure. The great press and reaction were a bonus on an al- ready successful mission.
E&D: Have Celestial Season got any new music planned for the future?
Jason: Yes, we have 1 x LP and 2x EPs ready. We plan to release the following album in 2022. We composed around 16 songs in 3 months. 25 years of boiling creativity finally found its output.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights in your time with Celestial Season so far?
Jason: For me is getting back together with the guys and girls. 25 years passed by like a second. You realise how quick time passes and how life moves along relentlessly, but in that quarter century the energies remained the same only the maturity and life challenges had made making music so much more pleasurable.
E&D: How has the last Bong-Ra album Antediluvian been received and how did the making of the album go?
Jason: Antediluvian has really got incredible reactions, I wasn’t expecting so many reviews stating that this was such a unique and progressive doom record. For my first solo attempt at a doom record it was humbling to hear that the concept had in mind came to fruition and was so we understood by press and listeners.
E&D: Have you got any plans at all to release more music as Bong-Ra?
Jason: Yes, I have nearly finished the follow up to Antediluvian, it will be entitled Hyperborea and Tartarus Records will be releasing it, Expected release date spring 2022.
E&D: What was it that made you want to explore the heavier side of electronic music?
Jason: Doom metal…hahaha. Once you grow up with heaviness its fucking hard to do otherwise. Heavy means intensity for me. Music needs to slap you in the face and kick you in the balls.
E&D: Did you enjoy bringing metal influences into breakcore and electronic music as Bong-Ra?
Jason: I did in the past, but I have stopped producing this kind of electronic music. That chapter is closed and I achieved the creative goals I gave myself. I might dabble a bit in the future for a project or remix, but not in the way I used to release records or compose electronic music like I used too.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights of making music and playing live as Bong-Ra?
Jason: Glastonbury, John Peel stage, prime time on Saturday..I think 2008. Don’t know how many people were there but I was shitting myself. Meeting John Peel on several occasions. Playing with artists from so many genres and eras. It was a good ride that period.
E&D: What was your first experience of hearing and then creating jungle/breakcore and the harder side of electronic music?
Jason: I heard M-Beat ‘Incredible’ on BBC in 1993 I think and was blown away by this new sound, especially these electronic rhythms. I stopped Celestial Season the next day and started Bong-Ra.
E&D: You’ve been involved in so making so much music from Voodoom to Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave to The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. How does it feel to have been involved in making all that music and to have such a varied back catalogue of material?
Jason: It came pretty natural. I love adventures in music, there are so many universes to discover. Its been quite some amazing journeys.
E&D: What other music are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Jason: The Lovecraft Sextet, a solo dark jazz project. The debut just got released on Denovali and is being well received. Roadburn just premiered the second single, which is always a great honour.
E&D: How are your biggest influences as an artist?
Jason: There’s too many. It also depends in which phase of life I’m in. Coltrane is always a steady one no matter which path I’m on. I think my inspiration comes less from music but more from thinkers/philosophers/occultists/teachers: Krishnamurti, Marcus Aurelius, Manly P Hall, Blavatsky, Seneca to name a few.
E&D: What have been some of your most memorable experiences in music so far?
Jason: Everything. They have all contributed to the complete whole of my musical life so far. I cherish all the ups and downs.
We also spoke to Martina about her work with Thy Catafalque and other projects and influences.
E&D: How was the experience of working on the new Thy Catafalque album Vadak?
Martina: It’s always exciting to work with Tamás. His way of composing music is very unique, so you never know what you’re going to get. I got three songs this time. A folk metal song ‘Köszöntsd a Hajnalt/Greet the Dawn’, It took me 10 years back to the times when I was doing folk metal. Lots of memories came to my mind especially when I heard the reed pipe. It reminded me of Andrei Oltean’s playing of ‘E-An-Na’ who I was touring with later on in 2017. Turned out it’s him who plays in the song. Tamás hired him via Fiverr and he did not know that we know each other. I say there are no coincidences. The right musicians find each other when it’s time. The album title song ‘Vadak’ is like when a wild animal is running through forests and streams, night skies full of stars. I was happy to participate in this journey even just for a little part. The last song he gave me is ‘Zúzmara/Rime ice’ is a very intimate and fragile ballad without any manner- isms. Absolutely pure, very private so I tried to handled it on the same way. I enjoyed recording it very much. I think I recorded it only once and left it with all its little imperfections. I’ve let it breathe, let it live. The outcome reminds me a lot of Lisa Hannigan’s Amhrán ‘Na Farraige ‘from Song of the Sea.
E&D: How has that album been received so far?
Martina: Very good. The whole album carries a heavier vibe than the previous two. It’s closer to the original metal roots of TC but still very eclectic so I guess everybody can find something interesting in it.
E&D: Will you be working with Thy Catafalque again on music in the future?
Martina: Yes, but of course it’s up to the new material. I already got a song from Tamás. As far as I know this will be the only song on the next album with female vocals.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights from working with Thy Catafalque?
Martina: The friendship of Tamás. The Embersólyom video shoot and the clip itself. It was a cool experience that I never forget and the most important outcome is that Jason found me seeing this certain videoclip. This is how he contacted me back in 2019 regarding Mansur. Fun fact: Kátai is the honorary godfather of The Answer Lies In The Black Void! Of course I have to mention the ‘Mezolit- Mesék a Thy Catafalque-ról’ concert that took place in Hungary, last month at Fekete Zaj Festival. 25 Hungarian musicians came together to perform 15 TC songs under the full moon. It was massive.
E&D: Have you got plans for more music by any of your other projects SallyAnne and Nulah?
Martina: I feel content with my present musical projects at the moment. Nothing is written in stone, circumstances and people can change. If this happens then I might have future plans with these two projects too but not right now.
E&D: Who are your biggest influences as a vocalist?
Martina: Mick Moss, Anneke van Giersbergen from her early The Gathering years, Azam Ali, Vas, Peter Steele, Maynard James Keenan, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Anna Von Hausswolff, Márta Sebestyén, and any traditional folk singer from all around the world, Corey Taylor, Serj Tankian, Chris Cornell and Devin Townsend.
E&D: What have been some of your most memorable experiences in music so far?
Martina: Every experience in music is memorable for me. I consider myself lucky to have the chance to be conscious about the meaning/the goal of my life since I was 4 years old. I think it’s a gift.