Blood and Sun im Interview

Als BLOOD AND SUN im Jahr 2014 ihr ers­tes regu­lä­res Album »White Storms Fall« ver­öf­fent­licht haben, staun­te die Neo­folk-Sze­ne (und nicht nur die) nicht schlecht. Ein so rele­van­tes Album hat­te man lan­ge nicht gehört, die Sze­ne düm­pel­te doch lei­der ein wenig bedeu­tungs- und belang­los vor sich hin. Jeden­falls fal­len mir – mit Aus­nah­me von OF THE WAND AND THE MOON, SONNE HAGAL und DARKWOOD – nicht vie­le Bands ein, die in die­ser Zeit Alben ver­öf­fent­licht haben, die ich auch heu­te noch regel­mä­ßig auf den Plat­ten­spie­ler lege.

Am 28. Febru­ar erscheint nun end­lich der Nach­fol­ger, »Love and Ashes«, auf dem schwe­di­schen Label NORDVIS. Wir haben die Gele­gen­heit genutzt, um mit LUKE TROMICZAK, dem Kopf hin­ter BLOOD AND SUN, zu spre­chen: Über das neue Album, sei­ne krea­ti­ven Ein­flüs­se, Live­au­f­trit­te und noch viel mehr:

»Love and Ashes«, Album­co­ver, Blood and Sun 2020. Erschie­nen bei Nord­vis
Hi Luke! First of all: Thank you for taking some time for us! It‘s been five years sin­ce your last album »White Storms Fall« was released. Could you give us a short sum­ma­ry of what hap­pen­ed sin­ce then?
Sin­ce then I’ve tou­red Euro­pe, I’ve tou­red Cana­da a few times, per­for­med with many of my influ­en­ces, spent time in Nort­hern Cali­for­nia, pain­ted in rural Mexi­co, visi­ted holy sites in Ice­land, and found solace in the trees of New Eng­land. I’ve been through some rough times, some self inflic­ted, some lob­bed against me, and through it all I’ve been lucky enough to find and build on love. This release will coin­ci­de with the two year anni­ver­s­a­ry of a friend’s death from can­cer, my two year anni­ver­s­a­ry of beco­m­ing sober, and five years from mee­ting my part­ner who has stay­ed with me through thick and thin.
So I guess it’s not just ›ano­t­her album‹ for you? But then you real­ly don’t seem to be the run-of-the-mill band in music anyway …
I sup­po­se I’m not a run-of-the-mill band. And yes, »Love and Ashes« is real­ly important to me per­so­nal­ly. I beca­me ena­mo­red with and a part of the under­ground over a deca­de ago: music made, not for mind­less con­sump­ti­on, but with thought and expe­ri­ence intert­wi­ned with it.

Tape tra­ding and mail orders, home record­ing, xero­xed fliers, and hid­den shows beca­me my world. So the indus­try is still for­eign to my way of under­stan­ding music cul­tu­re. This is not to say I kept hard lines of liking gen­res, and in the last few years I’ve been try­ing to fill in rock and roll and folk music histo­ry. That said, I know that working on art and music ful­fills me, and so I would like to release with more regu­la­ri­ty as an exer­cise of will. We’ll see how things pro­gress from here.
How do you wri­te your songs? Sin­ce your last album, you released two sin­gles (one of them a split with BRITTSOMMAR). Did the songs on the new album and the sin­gles deve­lop one after ano­t­her or did you wri­te the songs altog­e­ther and cho­se later when and whe­re to release them?
I wri­te them when I can. »At Rest« came in the fall of 2013, »Cain’s Orchard« and »Laven­der Let­ters« in 2014, and »The Hunt and the Fall« and »The Con­fes­si­on« in the spring of 2016. »Love and Ashes«, howe­ver, was gene­ra­ted from 2014 – 2018 by drawing on expe­ri­en­ces from the last six years.

The songs touch on lea­ving my home­town, the deaths of clo­se friends, bro­ken hearts in a bur­ning buil­ding, fin­ding love in a snow-swept city, cas­ting thorns at vile sna­kes, com­ing clo­se to dis­so­lu­ti­on in fli­cke­ring fires hal­lu­ci­na­ti­ons and rains of Hum­boldt coun­ty, deli­ri­um tre­mens on the old man’s road, rekind­ling love that was hol­ding on des­pi­te all, by a gol­den thread. »Until the Dawn« is the eldest song, and »Love and Ashes« is the youn­gest but per­fect cap to the tale of the­se years.

Tape tra­ding and mail orders, home record­ing, xero­xed fliers, and hid­den shows beca­me my world. So the indus­try is still for­eign to my way of under­stan­ding music culture.

Your new album was pro­du­ced by Robert ›Bob‹ Fer­ba­che, which is pro­bab­ly known to most of our rea­ders from his work with BLOOD AXIS. How was it like to work with him?
Bob and I have been fast friends sin­ce he mixed and mas­te­red »White Storms Fall«. He sin­ce relo­ca­ted to New Eng­land and more or less reti­red. But in his reti­re­ment he pro­du­ced and had released three or four records this last year. He approa­ched me at a fes­ti­val some time ago and expres­sed inte­rest in working on the next album I wan­ted to record.

To have Bob work on your record is to have a man dedi­ca­ted to rock and roll sin­ce see­ing THE BEATLES live as a child put his years of craf­ting influ­en­ti­al under­ground records behind your visi­on. He builds and works tireless­ly and pati­ent­ly though stern­ly on allowing the pro­jects to blossom and unfold. Co-pro­du­cing many WOVEN HAND and 16 HORSEPOWER albums as well as to, IN GOWING RING, MUNLY, BOBBY BEAUSOLEIL, NON, FIRE + ICE, TARANTELLA, DEVOTCHKA, LILIUM, ITCHY‑O, IAN COOKE,  and most recent­ly, bes­i­des mys­elf,  Brook­lyn based, EVA GOODMAN’s Ghost­ly Dream Folk pro­ject NIGHTTIME’s debut album »Hand in the Dark«.  

We worked in three or four blocks of time each span­ning a few mon­ths. We got the bones laid out for four songs in the sum­mer of 2017, and then picked back up in Febru­a­ry 2018. I wro­te the final song in June 2018 and in the win­ter of 2019 I tra­v­eled to record accom­pany­ing instru­ments. We final­ly had all tracks by March of 2019 and we mixed and mas­te­red until sum­mer sol­sti­ce of 2019.

Bob hel­ped me learn to use his equip­ment and taught me some of his tech­ni­ques. Often he let me steer the ship and then when necessa­ry, as it often was, bring the pro­ject back to cohe­si­on with his expe­ri­en­ced hands.
You men­tio­ned Bob’s work on your first album »White Storms Fall«, which was released on Pesan­ta. Are the­re any plans of reis­suing that album? It’s real­ly hard to get the­se day and the pri­ces that are cal­led for it on Dis­cogs are real­ly, real­ly high.
The­re will be a time when »White Storms Fall« is re-released. Most likely without the same book as befo­re for the sake of get­ting it into people’s hands at a more rea­son­ab­le pri­ce. But with the new album we worked real­ly hard on making sure the lay­out was on par if not bet­ter than the first album. Atten­ti­on to detail and aes­the­tic is some­thing I will not devia­te from.

The­re is no par­ti­cu­lar set date for a re-release. I know the­re are still copies some­whe­re, but it shame­ful­ly never got pro­per Euro­pean dis­tri­bu­ti­on. I will work to rec­ti­fy this in the next year: a loo­se goal of this sum­mer 2020.
Spea­king of »White Storms Fall«: To many peop­le, me inclu­ded, this album is pro­bab­ly one of the most rele­vant and beloved neo­folk albums in the last deca­de, along the side of OF THE WAND AND THE MOON’s »The Lone Descent«. What dou you per­so­nal­ly think of the album today?
»White Storms Fall« was a magi­cal album to work on. I had finis­hed my under­gra­dua­te stu­dies, had been accep­ted to grad-school, and recei­ved a grant, which let me stay on in Min­ne­so­ta ano­t­her year. I had been making nar­ra­ti­ve figu­ra­ti­ve work which in aca­de­mic cir­cles is immedia­te­ly con­si­de­red reac­tion­a­ry, and nai­ve. The des­kil­ling of the 60s and Cle­ment Greenburg’s cri­ti­cal wri­ting about pain­ting still loo­ms hea­vy in the fine art world. I fought tooth and nail to work the way I did and bes­ted some of the facul­ty of the school in recei­ving the grant. It was a tri­um­phant moment. This offe­red me the time to work on lar­ge pain­tings and, as it would hap­pen, meet Adam of Pesan­ta and start working on »White Storms Fall«.

We worked real­ly hard on that album. I had a tireless engi­neer who worked count­less hours in exchan­ge for a lar­ge pain­ting. Thank­ful­ly we were pret­ty well rehe­ar­sed and the tracking came tog­e­ther in a few mon­ths time.

»White Storms Fall« is a dedi­ca­ti­on to wil­ling my way out of whe­re I was from, and a sonic tri­bu­te to much of the music that influ­en­ced me. OF THE WAND AND THE MOON of cour­se being one. I’m glad it was recei­ved well by fans of the genre.
Given the huge respect the peop­le have towards your last album, the­re are also high expec­ta­ti­ons to the hew one, I guess. Did you feel any pres­su­re for wri­ting and releasing the album?
Yes abso­lute­ly. It was a call to grow. What does the next album look like? What chan­ges in your song­wri­ting when you lea­ve the soil you grew up on? How do you make a record when peop­le you work with are scat­te­red across the coun­try? In »White Storms Fall« ever­ything play­ed all at once on every song: punk rock with cel­lo and a ham­me­red dul­ci­mer. So with that in mind, how do I arran­ge for the next record to bring more dyna­mism? Spe­ci­fi­cal­ly what should chan­ge with my gui­tar play­ing? But the grea­ter con­cern was, how will this be released? How do I make sure it gets to tho­se who will appre­cia­te it? Of cour­se, even now I don’t know how it will be recei­ved, but I am incredi­b­ly gra­te­ful and exci­ted to get it out there.
»Land­s­cape« Blood and Sun
When your new label, Nord­vis, talks about BLOOD AND SUN, they use the term »Luke Tro­mic­zak and friends«. Would you descri­be the band like that? Is BLOOD AND SUN your pro­ject or could it also exist without you (not that I wish for it!)?
BLOOD AND SUN from the begin­ning was my pro­ject. I’ve had the utmost plea­su­re of having some excep­tio­nal­ly talen­ted peop­le help it along but it‘s a revol­ving door. It makes it easier for me to tra­vel alo­ne when necessa­ry and keep the artis­tic aim of the pro­ject as clo­se to my visi­on as pos­si­ble.

If someo­ne wan­ted to per­form one of my my songs at my fun­e­ral that would be a wel­co­me par­ting gift, but no one in their right mind would want to car­ry BLOOD AND SUN and no one can usurp the pro­ject as I brea­the. But I should also men­ti­on they should play some other tunes as well in case of my unti­me­ly ending. 
That’s an inte­res­ting thought. Which songs would you actual­ly choo­se yourself for your funeral?
For my fun­e­ral ide­al­ly I’d like 40 minu­tes of ren­di­ti­ons of Raf­fi songs sung by a sopra­no accom­pa­nied by a slight­ly out of tune pia­no … The recep­ti­on fol­lowing would be cate­red with bolo­gna sand­wi­ches, decaff­ein­a­ted cof­fee, and ancho­vies labe­led as »dehy­dra­ted her­ring.»

But real­ly? If I could have a few trus­ted musi­ci­ans do ren­di­ti­ons of the­se songs as a con­cert sur­roun­ding my death that would be an honor I’d show up for. In no par­ti­cu­lar order:

1. If It Be Your Will – Leo­nard Cohen
2. Dirt in the ground – Tom Waits
3. The See­ker – Fire and Ice
4. Way­fa­ring Stran­ger – Trad
5. Hope the­res someo­ne – Ant­o­ny and the John­sons
6. In a robe of fire – Of The Wand And The Moon
7. 60 hor­ses in my herd – Mon­go­li­an Tra­di­tio­nal
8. Her­ja Father – Blood Axis
9. The Skye Boat Song – Scot­tish Trad

The recep­ti­on fol­lowing would be cate­red with bolo­gna sand­wi­ches, decaff­ein­a­ted cof­fee, and ancho­vies labe­led as »dehy­dra­ted herring.«

Whe­re do you take your inspi­ra­ti­on for your music from? Is it most­ly other bands/music? Or also lite­ra­tu­re, the arts and nature?
Well of cour­se the­re are inspi­ra­ti­ons from music — after all it’s a lan­guage with incredi­ble cul­tu­ral sub­t­le­ty. Soni­cal­ly, my music cer­tain­ly shares com­mo­na­li­ties with friend­ly con­tem­pora­ries. The­ma­ti­cal­ly, it wrest­les bet­ween the mythic influ­ence I see play out in life, the tapes­try of the sea­sons, and per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ces.

I hope it does­n’t rest too hea­vi­ly on any one of tho­se poles. I think it oscil­la­tes bet­ween the tem­po­ral, per­so­nal, mythic, and ima­gi­na­ry. Other things that influ­ence my artis­tic helm are defi­ni­te­ly film, lite­ra­tu­re, and phi­lo­so­phy.  
Can you name the most important ones for us? Or may­be even sug­gest some­thing? In times of the inter­net there’s pret­ty much ever­ything avail­ab­le, but it’s some­ti­mes hard to choo­se. So recom­men­da­ti­ons are always welcome!
You will now expe­ri­ence a ran­ting list – I hope it’s wel­co­me:
»Carl Jung: The Earth Has A Soul Edi­ted« by Mer­edith Sabi­ni, »Gods and Myths of Nort­hern Euro­pe« by H.R Ellis David­son, »Songs Dance and Cus­toms of peasant Poland« by Sula Benet, »Socie­ty Must be Defen­ded – Lec­tures« by Michel Fou­cault, »The Eld­ritch World« by Nigel Pen­nick, »The Man who Plan­ted Trees« by Jean Gio­no, »The Kind­red of the Kib­bo Kift« by Ana­bel­la Pol­len, and »Bali: Atlas Kebu­da­ja­an (Cults and Cus­toms)«. The »Fox­fire« book seri­es, which is a prac­ti­cal jour­nal of rural Appa­la­chi­an living. Neil Gaiman’s »Ame­ri­can Gods« I think is a must read for anyo­ne living in North Ame­ri­ca who is inte­res­ted in the Old Gods whoms ante­ce­dents ori­gi­na­ted from else­whe­re in the world. 

Pod­casts worth men­tio­ning: »Weird Stu­dies«, »Bru­te Nor­se«, »The Fair Folk«, Dan Carlin’s »Hard­core Histo­ry« (any and all, but espe­cial­ly »Step­pe Sto­ries« and »The Wrath of the Khans«)! 

Radio­lab, spe­ci­fi­cal­ly the spe­ci­fic epi­so­de »From Tree to Shi­ning Tree«, Paul Sta­mets on the Joe Rogan Expe­ri­ence, and »Mushrooms as Medi­ci­ne« with Paul Sta­mets at Expo­nen­ti­al Medi­ci­ne on You­tube.

I haven’t been kee­ping up with cine­ma as much as I’d like, but some standouts are »Syn­ec­do­che N.Y.«, »Jacob’s Lad­der«, »Angel Heart«, »La Vie Nou­vel­le«, »Un Lac«, »Melan­cho­lia«, »The Turin Hor­se«, »Moon­light«, »Satan Don’t Deli­ver Us From Evil«, »The Grand Buda­pest Hotel«, »Good Time«, »Vic­to­ria« (2015), »Taso­ga­re Saka­ba« (Twi­light Saloon), and »Embrace the Ser­pent«. Most recent­ly, »Mid­som­mar«, »The Light House«, and »Para­si­te« were all worth the pop­corn.

Also, the B.B.C. mini­se­ries based on Ter­ry Pratchett’s »The Hog Father« has been on year­ly repeat around Yule. Death has a gre­at mono­lo­gue about holi­day tra­di­ti­ons in that.
Do you plan to tour with the new album? Any tours in Euro­pe plan­ned maybe?
I’ve been tou­ring this past year – small enga­ge­ments across the U.S. and Cana­da. They have been a real tre­at. I will tour on this record, but it pro­bab­ly won’t be stan­dard. I’d rather play for small groups of fans than have a care­er-buil­ding ope­ning slot. This art is serious to me, to a fault. It’s not just enter­tain­ment to be jost­led about in the con­su­mer mar­ket. I don’t want to enter­tain tou­rists. So yes, if you want to see me per­form, plea­se get in touch. 

Also, the B.B.C. mini­se­ries based on Ter­ry Pratchett’s »The Hog Father« has been on year­ly repeat around Yule. Death has a gre­at mono­lo­gue about holi­day tra­di­ti­ons in that.

Last ques­ti­on: What was your favo­ri­te place to play live until today? I can ima­gi­ne you play­ing all sorts of venues, but play­ing at open air fes­ti­vals some­whe­re in the woods or the moun­tains (like »House of the Holy«, »L‘homme sau­va­ge« or »Mėnuo Juo­dar­a­gis«) seems to be the per­fect sur­roun­ding to me.
From big fes­ti­vals to small invi­te-only house par­ties, I enjoy any oppor­tu­ni­ty to play for friends. Play­ing lar­ger fes­ti­vals in Ger­ma­ny whe­re – to my sur­pri­se – peop­le sing my songs back to me, or small rehe­ar­sal spaces in Cana­da whe­re peop­le cram them­sel­ves in like sar­di­nes to see the per­for­mance, is incredi­b­ly flat­te­ring. It is also an honor being invi­ted into people’s homes to per­form for their neigh­bors, fami­ly, and friends. I’ve had expe­ri­en­ces across Euro­pe, the United Sta­tes, and Cana­da like the­se. I’d like to see more of the world bes­i­des so hope­ful­ly the­re will be more oppor­tu­nities on the hori­zon.

Out­door fes­ti­vals away from the bust­le of the city, with a mind to slow down for a few days and cele­bra­te natu­re, and the old spi­rits, is always pre­fer­red. But hands down my favo­ri­te per­for­mance was play­ing to a room of for­ty peop­le. It was popu­la­ted by fel­low artists and friends, with a six cour­se meal of tra­di­tio­nal Eas­tern Euro­pean food, and an offe­ring table set to Frigg, Frau Hol­le, and the atten­de­es‹ loved ones who had pas­sed to the other side. I car­ri­ed offe­rings from that night across the coun­try and buried them in the moun­tains not far from New York. It was a night that would be hard to repli­ca­te, but I hope for oppor­tu­nities to share in that spi­rit again.
Thank you for taking your time, Luke! Hope to see you soon in Europe!
Thanks for the thought­ful ques­ti­ons! I hope to meet you on your side of the pond as well!

For more infor­ma­ti­on on Blood and Sun: 

Nord­vis / Band­camp / Offi­cial Home­page / Insta­gram

Geschrieben von Matthias

Matthias lebt und arbeitet in Berlin. Der leidenschaftliche Musiksammler führt Interviews und schreibt Reviews aus den Bereichen Black Metal, Neofolk, Industrial und allen angrenzenden Bereichen für den Eibenreiter.