Schammasch - Interview II
With two weeks to go til Schammasch's monumental performance at Roadburn Festival, we’ll dive deep into ‘Triangle’ and the cosmos of Schammasch with the second part of the interview, where mastermind C.S.R. talks about the various elements woven into 'Triangle', life and death and everything in between.
(If you haven't already, read part I of the interview here.)
The Metal Phenomenon: 'Triangle' is a massive, very dense oeuvre with many metaphors, references, topics and layers musically and thematically. I’d like to pick up a few of them.
Numbers: Three is a very powerful number in many religions and philosophies, and obviously comes through in every aspect of 'Triangle'. It is Schammasch's third album, and consists three records or parts. Do you believe in numerology?
C.S.R:I can draw a lot of inspiration and ideas out of numerology. That's what makes it interesting to me, it's not really a question of belief I think. It helps me understanding myself and my surroundings and discovering patterns in things.
TMP: The classical drama also very often consists of three acts and 'Triangle' definitely has an arc of suspense in my opinion. Did you consider dramaturgy when creating the concept, when putting the different pieces together? How does one create an enticing arc of suspense over three records?
C.S.R: That's something which happened on a very natural basis. It was a logical process of growth and I didn't really have to give the concept too much explicit thought or planning, I just had to follow the inspirations.
TMP: Words: When listening to 'Triangle' both very focused as well as when e.g. going for a walk I noticed that separate words or thematic word families stand out and stick with you either through repetition or intonation. Too few bands use words, language, intonation as part of the music itself. What do you think about these aspects? What do words, texts, their tone, sound mean to you?
C.S.R: I see the use of words mainly as an instrument, just like the guitar or the drums. When writing lyrics, I focus a lot on the tonal and visual character of the words. It's important to me that certain words and moments in the vocals stick out. They are all about creating visions in the listeners’ heads. There are certain key words, as you discovered, I happen to use again and again, because of their meanings to myself and the visual power they have. "Heart" is also one of them for example. Sometimes I would absolutely choose a specific word because of its sound aesthetic, the picture it creates in my head, rather than its actual meaning.
Schammasch (Photo by Ester Segarra)
TMP: Languages: While English is the main language of the lyrics, there are also Latin and French parts and even a Hindu mantra. Each language has its own character, its own texture and magic to it. What do the different languages mean to you?
C.S.R: As you beautifully pointed out already, every language has its own character and aesthetics. One aspect of the band's core idea is building and laying bare connections in assumed different directions/ideologies. Using different languages from time to time is therefore just a logical step to me, it's a tool for giving contrast moments. Latin for example works great for creating liturgical vibes. The fact that you have Latin as well as Sanskrit in there gives a hint of the idea of connection beyond titles or directions, it supports the motto of choosing elements for their true spirit only, without considering their names and titles. This helps building up the ability to see the true nature of things, their essence beyond the earthly veils.
TMP: A lot of 'Triangle' moves between two poles: The intellectual and spiritual aspects, the development of humans, a transformation and journey of the mind. Opposite to that are the often tribal drum rhythms, (shamanic) chants and hypnotizing riffs and soundscapes that speak to a more archaic part in us. The mind/spirit and the body/the flesh. How do you see these two poles in our existence, our lives, in art, in music?
C.S.R: That is very true indeed. I see them as the two main powers of the human being. The intellect for awareness, the spirit for sensitivity, purity and connection. These qualities enable self-reflection as well as intelligence. 'Metaflesh' especially deals with the balance of both those poles, pointing out the necessity of both of them. I think this formula is also easily translatable to everyday life, if you imagine how equally important social interaction and mind activities are to what we daily face, and, on the other hand, what happens if we get too absorbed by the mind and the intellect; we lose our connection to life itself and instead unconsciously live on a grey surface of comfort, insensibility and consumption.
TMP: Two other poles are life and death, life after death. What are your thoughts on these?
C.S.R: Life and death are two sides of one coin. I see life/being as a cosmic stream of energy which is in a constant fluid form/in constant change. Death is one of the transforming aspects of this in energy, which is expressed thoroughly in 'The Process of Dying'. Death is not end, but transformation in the greater scheme.
TMP: Space: Triangle is dynamic, takes its listeners on a journey, it moves from the nether regions to above the stars textually as well as musically. It creates a space through which one wanders, it seems. What are your thoughts on space? How it is created, experienced?
C.S.R: When I think about space and visualize its meanings I often have that picture of infinite repetition in mind, like the Mandelbrot fractals for example. I imagine physical space as something infinite, which repeats itself unlimitedly with difference only to be found in size. Imagine planets and stars all just being single cell-like entities which together form something like a DNA stream which everything organic bears within itself. This imagination is without end. I think the spiritual space is a reflection of the physical space and vice versa.
TMP: Inspiration: What do you get inspired by? How do you transport and transform the various aspects so that they become a coherent unity that is not a random collection of thoughts, riffs, images, text lines?
C.S.R: Nowadays I don't listen to much music anymore and if so then it's usually not metal music, so it's hard to tell where the musical inspirations come from. I think they derive from what I would call "spiritual dimensions", the same kind of energy which might be called cosmic or divine. The will and need to create and express in order to reflect, in order to connect. Sometimes it can also be more direct things like certain moods, feelings, art etc.
I write music in a very organic way, it grows from a root rather than being a collection of formerly standalone parts. That might also be the reason why Triangle has pretty much an organic vibe throughout the whole time.
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Read part III of the interview here.