After listening to Kosmogyr’s “Eviternity” several times, I decided that it’s impossible this to be a debut album – flawless, complete, epic and intense. Seemed to me that those guys are either very talented or know pretty well their job and potentially have been working together for ages. Or everything all together. So I invited Ivan (vocals and drum programming) and Xander (guitars and bass) to tell me their secrets about making such strong record in times when the scene is abundant of any types of bands and piles of records are released every day. Of course, we will be talking about the band, the music and the life in general too.
Great to have you guys on Blessed Altar Zine! Thank you for taking time for this interview. So, first of all, how was Kosmogyr born and why did you choose the black metal style?
Ivan: Thanks! It’s our pleasure to be here. As for our humble origins, I’d had it in my head to work on a dedicated black metal project for some time, but hadn’t been able to find the right opportunity or the right creative partner or partners for this particular idea. Xander and I were at a dinner this one time — it was a huge dinner with my wife’s whole extended family, and we’d invited Xander to join as he’s a good friend to the both of us — and after I mentioned this all to him, he was down to give it a shot. We stuck with it, and all this time later, here we are.
I’d known Xander for a few years already through the music scene in Shanghai, but until Kosmogyr, we hadn’t had the chance to work on anything together.
Xander: I don’t actually listen to much black metal, but Ivan likes it a lot. I thought I could do something for my friend, and while doing so, I was able to blend the stuff I like into our black metal. In the end, I’m happy with what I wrote for us.
Ivan: Me too. Xander crushed it.
What does actually the name Kosmogyr mean?
Ivan: I don’t think that’s something we will ever actively divulge. It’s just our name.
And what does Kosmogyr mean and stand for?
Ivan: Kosmogyr is about the musical vision that we both wanted to bring into the world, and hopefully giving people something that will resonate with them in some way. For me, the catharsis of black metal is its most powerful element and this what I’m hoping to share with our listeners. There is a certain philosophy behind the music, the lyrics, and the artwork, but it’s not something that we would like to state explicitly. As individuals, we have our own opinions on various issues, but speaking strictly about music itself, we see it as responding to a different type of communicative goal — though we did release “Quiescent” as part of the Crushing Intolerance Vol. 5 compilation by Black Metal Alliance, a choice which absolutely should be read as an intentional ideological statement.
How hard is to overcome the distance between two continents and to record music as a duo band?
Ivan: For us, the structure of the project made sense. We started Kosmogyr while I was living in Shanghai, but even then, we largely approached it as a back-and-forth exercise. Kosmogyr was never the sort of band where we’d book a jam room for a couple hours and see what came out of it. Our songwriting is very purposeful, and though it’s not a fast process, it works well enough for us.
Doesn’t this mean that everybody can record music whenever and wherever in the way he/she want?
Ivan: Absolutely, and I hope more people do.
Xander: Yes, I think so. But still, I have to say that recording, mixing, and mastering are not easy even with modern technologies — otherwise, there would be so many great producers out there. Making music is fun for everyone, but decent songwriting and professional production is another topic.
So what is your recipe for standing out?
Ivan: We’re just doing what feels right. Xander writes killer riffs.
Tell us more about your fantastic full-length debut “Eviternity”. Were there any particluar influences or stories to write and record that album?
Ivan: I’ve been racking my brain to try and come up with something cool or funny to share, but I’m drawing a blank. I guess we’re just not very interesting.
Is the eternity so evil that it became eviternity?
Xander: Haha! That’s a great idea, but it’s just an old word that meant “eternal existence” when it came to my mind.
There is serious attention to detail in “Eviternity”. Is there anything you would make a compromise with?
Xander: Yes, Ivan doesn’t like a certain instrument, so I can’t use its sound in the album, that was a compromise. I’m joking, but making music together is about compromising. We both did much to accomplish a great goal.
Ivan: Xander really likes synths. But I wanted Kosmogyr to be savage!
In all seriousness, though, the only compromise for me was having to accept that this record would need programmed drums. I’m a drummer, but not the sort who can handle music like this, and so we had no choice but to program the drumming. Otherwise, there weren’t many moments where Xander and I weren’t able to easily come to an agreement about something, or where we weren’t on the same page from the beginning. Ours has so far been a very smooth collaborative process.
The lyrics in the album are intelligent and very much metaphore, not the usual stuff for black metal album…What are your suggestions behind the lyrics?
Xander: The lyrics look vague at first glance, but there’s always a theme behind every song, as well as the music itself. The lyrics are sort of like cutscenes, various snippets of the whole picture, as opposed to giving you everything at once. I hope our listeners can see what we saw when writing the lyrics and find their own stories.
Ivan: I’d rather not state outright where the lyrics for each song are coming from, in terms my own storytelling intentions. Of course, they’re not about nothing — we had ideas in mind, messages we wanted to communicate, stories we wanted to tell — but we want everyone to have the opportunity to approach each song on their own personal terms.
What are your main musical influences? Any bands or styles?
Ivan: In terms of my entire music listening spectrum, black metal is just a tiny sliver, but a lot of my favorite black metal bands are contemporary ones. Krallice’s first three albums, for example, are masterpieces of modern black metal. We get asked this question a lot, and while I’m under no delusions that our music is ground-breakingly original, it’s always hard to answer as there weren’t many points at which we were consciously reaching to one band or another for concrete influence.
What do you do in the regular life besides writing great music?
Ivan: Well, thanks! As for me, I write about other people’s music for Invisible Oranges and AntiHero Magazine, and I’m also massively into tabletop gaming — D&D and things like that. As a jobbyjob, I’m a freelance copywriter, editor and illustrator.
Xander: I am a VP of a startup B2B background music company and own a company doing video and sound production for movies, shows and video games. I also do sound engineering for some live music venues as well as mixing and mastering for other musicians and bands in my spare time.
Are there any other projects you are working on?
Xander: I’ve had a melodic death band for the past 10 years, but we’re not able to play these days because our drummer left the band a few years ago. We are still looking for a good one, but it seems like Shanghai doesn’t have any drummers who can handle fast double kicks anymore… I also have some other projects including electronic music, post-rock, and easy listening.
Ivan: At the moment, it’s just Kosmogyr for me. I tried finding some bands to join when I first moved to Prague, but so far I haven’t had much luck finding a good fit.
What is coming next from Kosmogyr? What are your plans?
Xander: We’re planning a second album, but I want to check out the feedback for Eviternity before making the next move.
Would you change your style or musical direction?
Xander: I don’t think so. I can use many musical elements, but I would like keep the essence of black metal. I can start another project if I want to change the style or musical direction, but Kosmogyr is good enough so far.
Ivan: We’ll see how things go this year. While I’d never want to write the same album twice, I do like the aesthetic we’re currently working with. It’s important in any case for any creative person to grow and progress, but it’s also OK to do that within a certain set of constraints or limitations.
What is the success for you?
Xander: Success for me consists of earning the support of fans who truly understand and appreciate our work.
Ivan: I’m exceedingly happy with the way our project has been received. We’ve been given a physical release on CD from the awesome people at Flowing Downward, which is great — not something I was expecting at all when we started working on this. All in all, I’m quite humbled with how people have been responding to our music. If something I’ve created can positively affect even one other person, that’s success.
How do you see the metal scene currently? The trends, the bands, the digitalization? Is the future safe?
Ivan: As a music writer, I’m in a very fortunate position where I’m able to get my hands on lots of new music from so many talented and creative people — so I’d say that the future of metal is in very capable hands, at least as far as the music is concerned. Last year was teeming with incredible releases, and so far 2018 is on track to match it. It’s a neverending struggle to try and keep up with all the amazing new records.
As an industry, the music business has seen better days. I read an interview the other week with Misha Mansoor of Periphery in which he explained just how dire things have become. If a band of Periphery’s stature can’t get by on music alone, the economic future for metal is not promising.
It’s a blessing that there are still so many labels willing to take chances on newer bands like us, but for the vast majority of people on all sides of the equation — not just musicians, but labels, venues, journalists, photographers, video directors, visual artists — metal is a passion project. It’s not going to sustain you as a career unto itself.
Xander: I think black metal fans are more loyal to the genre, but the situation of other genres is not optimistic as far as I can see. I love how digitalization is bringing more opportunities for small bands. After all, what people love is music — let the big bands earn ticket money, let the small bands make music.
Just because both of you are coming from different continents – how do you see the world today, the global picture, the politics, religion, wars…?
Ivan: Man, this question could fill an entire interview on its own. To keep things on metal, for now, I’m very happy to see the bigoted side of the metal community finally beginning to get its comeuppance, and I hope that this is a movement that will only continue to grow. There’s a lot of poison in the discourse right now, and I think that toppling popular thought leaders and removing their platforms will go a great way towards delegitimizing their points of view.
Yes, metal is supposed to be dangerous, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing about it is more important than ensuring everyone is allowed to enjoy its purgative and therapeutic aspects. When you send out a message that seeks to target or repress an already-marginalized group, all you’re doing is taking away somebody’s potential lifeline. Each one of us is well aware of the healing and empowering effect metal can have on a person who needs it, and to deny certain people access to that is an act of malice.
As an artist, picking the low-hanging fruit of a message of bigotry as some sort of excuse for shock value is a lazy route towards garbage art. There are a million more creatively challenging and rewarding ways to be incendiary or provocative if that’s your goal, and you should hold yourself to a higher standard.
If all this causes some people to think that I’m not “trve cvlt” or whatever, that’s fine. I don’t need that sort of validation.
Xander: I support Ivan’s take because he’s such an open-minded guy. As for me, I am basically irreligious but believe in idealism.
Is there anything that you would like to add or to address to our readers?
Ivan: If you’ve bought our album or even told a friend about us, know that your support means the world to us.
Thank you very much once again for your time and this interview. We’ll be looking closely on Kosmogyr. Wishing all the best to you and “Eviternity”, and much success in your future plans!
Interview by Count Vlad