The Voice of Vinterriket
CoC chats with Christoph Ziegler of Vinterriket
by: Quentin Kalis
Most CoC readers are probably unaware of the existence of dark ambient act Vinterriket, so a brief introduction would not go amiss. Vinterriket was first unleashed with the release of the _Gjennon Takete Skogen_ demo, in May 2000. This was followed by _Det Svake Lys_, a three track EP which contains possibly Vinterriket's strongest moment to date, namely the beautiful sadness of "Nattefrost". In November 2001 this was followed by a second demo, _Sturme der letzen Stille_, a startingly original work rooted in dark ambience but incorporating elements from black metal. brilliant as the Vinterriket's demo releases have not been in vain and has managed to secure a deal with avant-garde specialists Falcata Galia records for a full-length album to be released this winter. In the meantime a fair number of 7" EPs are due for release [see reviews in New Noise]. Until fairly recently I too was unaware of the existence of this extraordinary individual and musician. In order to gain an insight into the workings of such a unique individual I conducted the interview below with Christoph Ziegler, the visionary and sole member of Vinterriket. If you have even the slightest interest in music of a dark ambient nature, then please read on. I hope you enjoy it.

CoC: How did Vinterriket come into being?

Christoph Ziegler: The start of Vinterriket is nothing special, I think -- well, actually, I started Vinterriket back in 1996 due to my eternal love for dark, melancholic, atmospheric and moody music. Way back then the whole project was not that serious. I recorded some stuff, sometimes only parts and fragments for myself. In 1999 the whole thing became more serious and I started to work more professionally on new songs, because I got better equipment and recording possibilities. I am a total nature-lover and the first demo _Gjennom Takete Skogen_ is totally inspired by the dark side of Mother Nature. The songs have been created during my darkest hours of depression, melancholy and loneliness. I must be in the right mood to compose songs, you know. I often walk around in the darkest places of Mother Nature in order to get inspiration and ideas. I am living here in a very small village not far away from the woods. I like this very much, because in a way I am quite a misanthropic person. I hate big masses of people and big towns. I also totally hate big parties and stuff like that. Most of my time I spend alone and only a few very close persons.

CoC: Who or what have served as your influences?

CZ: Vinterriket is only influenced by nature, nothing else! I often make trips to our local, mysterious moors and woods. It's good to relax, to get new inspiration and to feel the strong force of nature. Sure, you get influenced by many things around you, you can even say by all things around you: friends, books, films, landscapes, pictures, etc. But my main source is nature. We have a lot of great dark and powerful places here in our area where you can really feel the energy and might of nature! Of course I prefer dark, melancholic, moody places and landscapes. I really like to walk around in Autumn and Winter through stormy, snowy, misty and cold woods. This is why I love Scandinavia (Sweden/Norway) so much. For me, this is paradise on Earth, nature-wise.

CoC: I understand that you're covering a Graveland song and you have already covered a latter-day Burzum song. Burzum is an obvious influence, but what influence (if any) has Graveland had on Vinterriket?

CZ: There is not much to say about this Graveland cover song. In July 2001 I had recorded this which will be featured on the Graveland tribute to be released by Nawlia Productions as either an intro or outro. It is a great synth-track, I think! I made the cover-song in just two or three days. I like all the Graveland stuff very much, but I think there is no influence from this band on Vinterriket. Graveland and Vinterriket are totally different. Some Graveland stuff sounds similar to other Graveland stuff, but all in all Graveland is a very good band! Therefore I have made this cover "Forge of Souls" from _Following the Voice of Blood_. The Pagan Graveland stuff is better than the black metal Graveland stuff, I think. There was no special reason for the cover song. I was just talking to the guy from Nawlia about this tribute CD and we decided to add Vinterriket...

CoC: English is the predominant language of the music world. However, many bands have eschewed the use of English in favour of their mother tongue. But on your first demo and subsequent EP you have chosen to utilise neither English nor your native German, but Norwegian instead. Why have you chosen this particular language?

CZ: The reason why I used Norwegian titles on the demo tape _Gjennom Takete Skogen_ and on the EP _Det Svake Lys_ is quite simple: I just felt I had to do so! In my eyes Norway has the best nature on the whole Earth. I am totally fascinated by the vast, endless woods, the mysterious and misty fjords, the majestic mountains and the atmosphere up there! You know, Vinterriket is totally influenced by Mother Nature, as I told you before. Therefore I thought that the Norwegian titles would best fit the whole concept on the demo tape. The band picture was taken in Norway, too, and the front cover was drawn by the famous Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen. I do what I want, depending on my current mood. Maybe the some lyrics or titles will be in Swedish, or whatever! All the new song titles and lyrics are entirely written in German. I am a big fan of all the Germanic languages, like German, Swedish and Norwegian. They have a very hard accent, if you know what I mean. When people speak English it sounds like they have ten chewing gums in their mouths! <laughs> I simply do not like it! The German languages are hard-sounding and spread a kind of power and might. It's actually too hard to explain. I hope some might get my point. I also have plans to move to Norway when my studies are over here in Germania. I hope this will happen in 24 months... Now I ask you: why is, for example, Varg Vikernes using German lyrics and titles on his CDs? Right, just because he felt to do so and because he is fascinated by the German language, though being of Norwegian blood. Maybe the use of Norwegian and German titles and texts on my releases could also be regarded as a sign against all the Americanism in our German language and culture! I hate it!

CoC: On your second demo, some additional elements such as clean male vocals, guitars and drums were used. I understand that you have scrapped the use of these elements in upcoming releases. Why were they incorporated in the first place? Do you plan to use them again in future release?

CZ: Some of the new, upcoming stuff is ambient, some is in more of a black metal vein. The material on the upcoming _Herbstnebel_ 7" EP is in the vein of _Sturme der letzten Stille_ (more black metal), the split with Manifesto and the split with Northaunt is ambient and the _Kalte_ 7" EP is in the Burzum _Filosofem_ / _Hvis Lyset Tar Oss_ vein. I just do what I like! Maybe some future stuff will be more industrial, more experimental, I do not know. Concerning _Sturme der letzten Stille_: you know, principally I make music only for myself. I make the music I like and this depends in which mood I am. I just felt like including guitars, drums, vocals, etc. Be sure that the next stuff will again be different. I hate bands doing the same on every album. I like individuality, progression and originality. Therefore I always try to explore new musical horizons and realms. I am sure that every Vinterriket release will sound different in the future. If people like my music, OK, if not I really don't care, because I make music for myself and not for others! Vinterriket should always be dark, atmospheric and moody, and it doesn't matter which style. Just that these parameters should be fulfilled!

CoC: Could you tell us a bit more about your record label, Neodawn Productions? Apart from releasing Vinterriket material, what is its purpose and aims? Now that Vinterriket has an album coming out later this year on Falcata Galia Records will Neodawn Productions now cease to exist?

CZ: The story of Neodawn Productions is closely connected to Vinterriket. Because Vinterriket was totally unknown in the beginning, I thought it would be the best to release the first demo tape myself. Therefore I founded Neodawn Productions and released the demo in a limited edition of only 100 copies just to check the reactions and the response from the underground scene. And from this point on Neodawn was born! There is no special goal concerning Neodawn. I am supporting a few bands, which are worth the support, nothing more. I am also running a little distribution, by the way. People can send promo stuff for a possible distribution/release, why not! But the possibility of a release is limited: I just release what I get in my hands and what I like 1000%. When I release something I stand absolutely behind the music/attitude of the band. It should be possible to identify oneself with the music. I mean, it is possible that I'll get an offer from a band and that I am immediately fascinated by their music. Then the possibility is very high that I'll release it if the conditions are good. I'll release -no- stuff just for making a fast buck because most of the people like it even though I don't like it that much. The most important thing is that I am fascinated by the music. Neodawn is a hobby, nothing more. Neodawn will not cease to exist with the CD release of Vinterriket on Falcata Galia! There are still plans to release more Vinterriket stuff before and after the CD: for example, a split 7" EP in early 2003 with Swedish ambient act Fjelltrone.

CoC: Will the upcoming debut CD feature entirely new material or will it be reworkings of songs from the demos?

CZ: The material on the upcoming CD will be 100% new and never released tracks. No re-works or remixes, etc. Sound-wise the stuff will be only ambient: dark, sinister, symphonic, moody, orchestral and atmospheric synth-soundscapes. The album will be a concept based upon different parts dealing with the "Nightfall".

CoC: I understand that Morfeus [Limbonic Art] did the cover for the _Sturme der letzen Stille_ demo. How did that come about?

CZ: Mmmh, no special story: I was/am fascinated by the drawings he did for Odium and Limbonic Art and I thought that a picture by him would fit demo #2 perfectly. I was talking to him on a gig here in Germany some years ago about his drawings etc., and when the release of demo #2 came closer I decided to contact him and ask about a cover. He agreed immediately and now you can see the result! I am of the opinion that it looks great! It fits, because on demo #2 I have used some astral elements besides the nature-themes, and also themes of the dark abyss of the human soul. But the basis is still Nature!

CoC: On your web page, I see there are plans to make a video of "Nattefrost" from the EP. What is the video going to be like? Considering the nature of "Nattefrost", I imagine it to be a montage of evocative scenes highlighting the beauty of nature...

CZ: Yeah, there are plans to make this video clip. Nox Infandus Records wants to do this. It was supposed to be done this Winter, but because of last Winter being shitty in Norway, they couldn't film the best scenes and clips. Everything in the clip will be -really- dark, made out of the following elements: majestic endless and vast woods, mysterious landscapes, maybe fog, full moon, night, and maybe some old castle ruins. No persons, no "human things" like houses in the video. At least this is what is planned. But I have no idea about the final result yet! We have to make the storyboard first, which will be done this year. Then, let's wait until the next Winter. <laughs> I really hope that this will turn out fine!

CoC: What are Vinterriket’s plans for 2003?

CZ: Okay, these are the plans for 2002 and 2003: Summer sees the release of a split 7" with Manifesto (Swe). This will be followed by another split EP, this time with Northaunt (Nor). This will be followed by the _Herbstnebel_ 7" EP. Winter 2003 will see the release of a third split EP with Fjelltrone. All will be available in a limited edition of 500 copies each. Summer 2002 will also see the release of the _Kalte_ 7" EP. Winter 2002/2003 will see the release of Vinterriket's debut full-length on Falcata Galia Records _...und die Nacht kam schweren Schrittes_. I'll also participate on some compilations on different labels. None of the tracks to be used are new.

CoC: The floor is yours! Any last words?

CZ: Thanx for giving me the opportunity to tell your readers all this stuff. All readers should check out all the Vinterriket releases and the other releases on Neodawn Prod. Germanic Hails!

(article submitted 1/9/2002)

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