Ogen mastermind Hartagga sat down to answer some questions from us about "Black Metal Unbound," his influences, and all those black metal stereotypes. We want to thank Hartagga, as well as Lorenzo at Kolony Records, for making this possible.
First and foremost, we would like to thank to you for taking the time out of your schedule to answer some questions for us. We greatly appreciate it.
It's a pleasure for me and I'm indeed the one who has to be grateful for the interview!
Growing up, what prompted you to become a musician? And with such a wide variety of talents, which instrument are you most happy playing?
Well, basically I'm a guitar player or, at least, that's the instrument I'm most trained in. I firstly decided to become a musician on the wake of one of my major musical influence which has always been classic heavy metal (Iron Maiden on top of the list), then opening my mind to each and evey kind of metal-related styles and other stuff outside of heavy music too, like, for instance, soundtracks, weird electronic music, etc.
What bands and albums were your major influences before and during the recording of the album?
I'd say many bands from the early 90's Norwegian black metal scene, like Emperor, In the woods, Ulver, Enslaved (which I happen to very much like even in their new approach to black metal) and even some stuff from neighbouring Sweden, like Bathory, mainly from the epic period.
How does the recording process work, with you being the one true member of the band? Does it help the writing process to be the sole input? Has there been any thought into expanding the line-up to a full band?
I already extended the line-up in order to be able to take the stage, shaping a full band made of musicians that I know I can rely upon; nonetheless Ogen still remains a solo project; with me being the sole input songwriting-wise, I do not only feel that the songs are really focused, coherent and tight as far as the overall mood is concerned, but I also take great pleasure from being totally free of any limitation or musical compromise that you can't avoid being in a proper band. So it's real fun!
When you set out to create unbound black metal, what did that entail for you? What about the black metal genre did you seek to unleash?
The title 'Black Metal Unbound' was chosen as a kind of testament to the genre ever-changing and ever-developing nature, which may apparently seem to be in contrast with the very musical foundations of black metal. But it's a matter of fact that black metal itself and black metal musicians very often tried to push further their musical quest. On my part I tried to express my own approach to this extreme kind of metal, basically relying on not so obvious (or, at least, I hope so!) guitar harmonic solutions and interesting arrangements and song structures.
We are always interested in the artwork of our favorite albums. Can you give us a little insight into the album cover for “Black Metal Unbound”?
It's a very simple yet ominous photo made by a Russian guy, that the label purchased for the release of the EP. It's an image that fits very well the musical and lyrical content of the album. Simple, evocative, beautiful.
All of the tracks on the album have very interesting names. Were there particular meanings behind the titles, such as Black Tusk Retaliation, As A Leaden Sun Shineth Upon, and Shattered Earth Volcano?
All the tracks deal with extreme nature environments, telling stories that take place on the mountains and talk of the perennial struggle between man and nature itself. I tried to express the sense of wonder and frailty that a man could feel standing in front of such natural spectacles as an erupting volcano or a pale sun reverberating itself on winter snow.
The production work on the album is very crisp, very clean. What made you decide to go with more polished production, as opposed to the traditional raw sound?
Actually we made some decisions that were intended to recreate the vibe of 90's albums, such as recording the drums on tape, with the drums being the only instrument tracked into a professional studio. All the guitars, bass lines and vocals were made by home-recording and all has been made in record time, in order to capture the freshness of the very composition sessions. The very good mixing and mastering duties were handled by super skilled producer Daniele Mandelli, who previously worked with Italian bands like Forgotten Tomb, Tragodia and Dark Horizon, to mention just a few.
Describe your lyrical influences. Where do you take your inspiration from?
My main lyrical influence is the nature of mountains, forests and woods that you can find on the Alps, near where I live and which I always felt a great deal of awe for. This particular environment is the perfect theatre to set haunting stories into.
Black metal musicians are always lumped into the same stereotypes; Satan worshippers, church burners, etc. What are your feelings on those stereotypes, and in particular, the scenario of burning churches?
I always cared about the music and never felt any interest in the stereotypes you mentioned. That's the same feeling that I have for every metal genre. I love music and I look at it as a neverending inspiration and source of innerself expression. I can't understand why you have to destroy something that you dislike or does not represent your belief system. And that applies to everything, art, religion, architecture, research... so I totally distance myself from that kind of scenario which I of course condemn. As a human being I 'feed' myself with all the artistic wonders mankind created through the ages, be it ancient pagan remains, northern stavechurches or egyptian pyramides, since I'm a true lover of art and, even more important, I wholeheartedly support freedom of expression and respect points of view differing from my own.
The metal scene in Italy isn’t widely known, with very few bands making a splash in the US. So, what is it like to be a metal artist in Italy, and more specifically, a black metal artist?
Actually there are thousands of bands, even in the most extreme fields of metal. What I think Italy lacks the most is a proper musician-friendly culture, both in the way overall 'popular' music is perceived and the kind of feedback you get from the medias, which are always into huge superstars, and don't care about up and coming bands, new trends and innovative approaches to music.
What are your plans for the future of Ogen? Are there any plans to take this project on a broad tour of Europe or other continents?
Well, a broad tour of Europe or other continents would be great but it's still very far from becoming reality. I'd love to give Ogen's followers some new tracks, even some free-download tunes in the future, in order to feed their interest in the band, maybe acoustic renditions of songs that were on the EP, or new tracks as well, but that's something I have to discuss with the label of course.
Thank you again for allowing us to ask these questions. We appreciate the time, and wish you the best of luck with the album, and future efforts.
Thank you so much for all your support and interest! Stay tuned!