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Ison - Interview

Interview with: Heike Langhans
Conducted by: T.V.

A new musical collaboration named Ison, formed by two highly creative musicians, the magical vocalist and songwriter Heike Langhans and likeminded soul Daniel Änghede, is something most fascinating we heard in the last time in the field of atmospheric, drooney, dark, ambiental, post ock and gothic music. Even though Ison was formed just recently, in the winter of 2015, those already revealed pieces of musical art sparked a big interest in this project from many fans of deep and dark sounds. Ison is inspired by drone, goth and shoegaze, combined with a deep fascination for the astral planes and the universe, so their music was described as cosmic drone. Combining punishing guitars and eerie vocals with lush, ambient soundscapes. With no cellphone reception or windows to tell if it´s day or night, the location is a perfect host for writing atmospheric music in total isolation to the outside world. In this state, Heike, better known as the new singer of Swedish gothic/doom masters Draconian and from her solo project Lorelei, and Daniel, noted as the main force behind electro/shoegaze/goth duo Hearts Of Black Science and member of Crippled Black Phoenix, are ready to launch soon their debut EP entitled Cosmic Drone. We had to ask Heike some questions about this phenomena named Ison and she kindly revealed us many interesting things.

T.V.: Hi Heike! It seems that a really a lot of stuff is going around you lately, but what fascinated me the most are the songs already revealed by Ison. Tell me how this musical collaboration between you and Daniel started?
: Two years ago, I discovered Hearts Of Black Science and started talking to Daniel about doing some sort of collaboration. Daniel sent me a teaser for their latest album and I was amazed at how good it was. Later he asked me if I'd like to do guest vocals on the album and I didn't hesitate. We had no idea our voices would blend so well and we both felt an instant urge to create more music together, but on a platform that gave us creative freedom.
T.V.: And what can you tell me about you guesting on the Hearts Of Black Science's track, "Wolves At The Border"? I think it's a beauty!
Heike: Since the first time I heard Hearts Of Black Science, I imagined doing a song with them, even if it wouldn't be released. They have a beautiful way of combining electronica and synth with guitars and it keeps getting better and better. Most of the new album has already been completed when Daniel asked me to guest, but there was one particular song that was darker and needed some magic. The song ended up having a sort of Bladerunner-esque feel to it, which fits perfectly with all our tastes. It's minimalist, brooding and quite pretty.
T.V.: You two described the musical output by Ison as 'cosmic drone' what will be used also as a title of your first release. Pretty original if you ask me and I wonder how did you came to this description?
Heike: We both seem to harbor a burning need to create music we love to listen to, but can't necessarily get away with doing in our other bands. We have very similar taste, especially in deep, bassy, droney stuff, but also pretty, atmospheric and melancholy music. Throw in my obsession with astronomy/physics and you end up with something along the lines of Cosmic Drone. Perhaps with a bit of a goth and post-rock vibe to it as well.
T.V.: So, I believe that also the name of the project, Ison, is in strong connection with astronomy/physics, as it is the same as the one of the comet discovered in 2012. Am I right, and is there maybe any deeper meaning behind it?
Heike: Correct. Comet Ison really caught my attention, as it was shrouded in quite a bit of mystery and hypothetical speculations that would make most mainstream physicists cringe. I followed Ison since its discovery and watched the live NASA/Slooh broadcast as it flung around the Sun, only to dissipate days later, before it would have passed Earth again. Many amateur astronomers captured images of unidentified objects surrounding Ison, but these images were never addressed and brushed off by the mainstream. Some even believe the comet itself was a craft of sorts. That notion sparked my imagination and the concept of Ison actually being an Icosahedron-shaped space craft became the main inspiration for our artistic vision. Sort of 'taking the story further' in a sense. It's my way of having the memory of such a spectacular event live on through art.
T.V.: If I'm correct your first release will be an EP. Can you already give me some details like it's a release date, where have you recorded and produced it, on which label it will be released and things like that?
Heike: A release date will depend on how quickly we can generate the funds to put out physical copies and we are leaning towards the crowd-funding approach for the EP. We feel it would be nice to engage with our peers in creating our first release, instead of following the generic methods we're used to in our main projects. This project feels more personal and we like to have full control for now. However, once the EP is out, we will surely be looking for a label in order to put out a full-length album. We produced/recorded everything ourselves at CaveSounds Studio in Stenungsund (Sweden), and will have it mastered by Daniel Lidén (A Swarm Of The Sun, The Old Wind) at 'Karl Daniel Lidén Produktion'. If all goes according to plan, it should be out before summer.
T.V.: A lot of bands/artists are using crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for their releases. I want to ask you what do you think about this method as it seems that not only newcomers but as well the established names are using it to gain some money to make it happen...
Heike: From what I gather by talking to artists who are using this method, a few reasons come up: Either they are tired of jumping through industry hoops to put out a record and want to have control, OR they are community-spirited individuals who feel that engaging their fans to help them make records is way of uniting people. If you think about it, it's rewarding to know you helped a band you love make a record, instead of just buying or downloading it. Other than that, newcomers who don't feel they can land a deal right off the bat, have a greater chance of putting their music out there with help from their peers. I personally think it's a beautiful thing, but I have never been able to put a pricetag on what I love doing. So long as I can create the art and present it to those who want it, I'm happy. The days of having to land a deal in order to be 'successful' are dying. Success is being measured differently the more people wake up to collapsing economy.
T.V.: And was there any label who already showed the interest to make a deal with Ison?
Heike: Not yet and we have not even considered a label yet. We'd really like to release the EP by ourselves first and then perhaps label-hunt. If the right label however approached us, it would be very helpful. It feels as if getting on a label isn't the most important thing to us for this project, however we do take this project seriously so it will all depend on their offer.
T.V.: Any plans for a debut album already made?
Heike: For sure. We have so much creative energy between the two of us, we almost have to force ourselves to slow down and fully appreciate what we have done in just 3 months. The EP has different elements of our favorite genres threading throughout and we would like to take a breather afterwards to get some feedback and a feel for which elements work well. This project is very experimental. We're like two nerds in a music-lab, doing whatever the hell we think we can get away with. We sure would like to create an album that appeals to someone other than just us.
T.V.: What are the main points of inspiration for Ison? I think it's pretty obvious that the universe itself is one of those, but there must be yet something else?
Heike: I can speak on behalf of both of us when I say: melancholy, melody, emotion, love and spirituality. And in a more literal sense: bass, drone, eerie sounds, soaring atmosphere and the overall feeling that a simple, beautiful song invokes in oneself. From my side - the lyrical content of Ison is based on a life-long love for the study of the universe and beyond. Though the passages might sound very literal, they are often metaphorical, becoming sort of 'As above, so below' or 'Macro-Micro' theme. So if we're singing about lost satellites in space, we are really singing about ourselves as well.
T.V.: Is Ison meant to play any live shows?
Heike: Definitely. This year is quite a busy one for Daniel with Crippled Black Phoenix and myself with Draconian, but we intend to use every gap we can to play with Ison. It's our child and it wants to play. I'm especially content with the idea of getting to pick up the guitar again after so many years.

T.V.: Are there any live dates already confirmed for Ison?
Heike: Not yet. It's a tight year with Draconian/Crippled Black Phoenix in terms of shows, so when the storm has settled, we'll find some gaps to put some shows together. For now we will release the material, then work on a full length and perhaps promote that with some shows. Time will tell. It would be nice to see the demographic of where our music is most appreciated after the release (nerd stuff), so we can pin-point where to start performing. Efficiency is a key when time is limited.
T.V.: You were mentionionig that some guests will perform on the debut EP. Can you reveal to our readers who are those guest musicians that will be featured on the debut release?
Heike: We have considered guest musos, but in the end we were happy with what we managed to do on our own. Perhaps our full-length will be a good platform to have some of our friends involved, but for now there's only two cooks in the kitchen.
T.V.: Is there a person/musician that you would really like to work with on any of the future releases?
Heike: A resounding Scott Kelly (Neurosis) fills the room without hesitation. Also Justin Greaves (Crippled Black Phoenix, Iron Monkey) on drums. The latter being much closer within our grasp. We'd also love to have my soul-sister Aleah (Trees Of Eternity) doing some vocals. Her soothing voice would be magical in a spacey, atmospheric environment. In my mind, it's a must.
T.V.: Who is the main author of the songs in Ison? How do you divide the job, who writes the lyrics, who is behind the compositions, etc?
Heike: It's very collaborative, which I love. Guitar-master Daniel will send me a soundscape of riff ideas he had been experimenting with. It's usually spot-on with my own taste and doesn't need much work, other than restructuring. I'll usually want to change a few notes and add some parts or move them around. When we're both happy with the structure and progression, we'll start adding melodies over that. We do this by listening to it together and we both sing what comes naturally, until we look at each other with wide-eyes going 'Ohhhh! That is beautiful!'. It's like a bolt of emotional magic or a light switching on. It's a feeling that inspires confidence in what we're doing. After that I sit and listen to the song and feel what imagery is inspired in my mind and I write lyrics according to that vision and flow of the song. I've never been one to write a bunch of lyrics and then try jam them into a space. I want the music to dictate the lyrical content. It feels more emotionally inspired that way. Daniel is really good with vocal harmonies, so he will add his magic touch as we go along. After that we make suggestions according to what we hear in our heads. We put in a lot of effort with small things like eerie sounds, piano and samples. Things we wouldn't necessarily have time to do if we were having it produced along with someone else. We really nerd out about small things and that is exactly what we want to be able to do with this project.
T.V.: Recently you posted online a cover of Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut". Can we expect any cover songs on the forthcoming EP or perhaps on the album later on?
Heike: There will be no cover on the EP, but we already have a cover in mind for the album. A song that everyone knows, but have never heard in a dark and droney way. When it comes to covers, the possibilities are endless. Some prefer to cover personal-favorite obscure songs and other prefer to do their own spin on a well-known favorite. When I listen to a song, I keep thinking about how will this sound darker and slower? I think we chose a good one.
T.V.: Now, I can't really go past but asking you about your main band Draconian. How do you feel after stepping in the shoes of the legendary Lisa Johansson?
Heike: I am overwhelmed and surprised by the good response I've been getting, especially from those who have had the privilege of hearing the new material. Being a replacement means easily being judged and compared, however I think people understand I'm different in my own way and bring something that still fits well with Draconian's sound. Of course there will be die-hard fans who resist change. I've been a victim of this myself, but I always urge people to give it time and let it grow. Personally I don't feel like I'm filling any shoes, because I'm far too defiant and 'on my own mission' in life to spend time thinking I have a standard to live up to. I know my own weaknesses, as well as my strengths and I live as I learn at my own pace. Lisa is one of my own personal favorite singers, but I'm too different from her to feel a need to compare. I even sometimes feel odd singing older material, because I feel a tremendous respect for it and don't feel it can or should be bettered.
T.V.: And I believe that the next album of Draconian must be one of the most anticipated releases in the whole gothic/doom metal scene. Can you give us some updates, in which stage is it, and can you tease us with some secrets about it? Btw... Turning Season Within is one of my fave albums ever, can you beat it?
Heike: The album is finished, to be released in the summer (Northern Hemisphere). I personally think it's better than the previous release and I've heard two insiders say it's the best thing since Arcane Rain Fell. I suppose it's a matter of opinion, but I can say that this album has more darkness, atmosphere and gothic elements. Some of the melancholy vocal melodies has a way of getting stuck in your head for days, but in a good way. I think fans will be surprised, without feeling like it's different. I can also say that this album veers more toward cosmic metaphors, traveling inward into oneself, as if traveling outward into an unexplored or previously avoided territory that leads to many revelations.
T.V.: As well I can't go past about your own solo project Lorelei. What can you tell me about it?
Heike: Lorelei is the platform I use to channel my dreams, astral learnings, experiences, higher self and emotions. It's the one project where I don't think too much about how it will be received and sometimes it feels like I'm really channeling something trying to communicate through me. As strange as that sounds, I can say that a lot of the content in my solo project does not come directly from my lifetime and yet the amount of emotional attachment it invokes in me, can sometimes leave me quite bewildered. I have no explanation for it, other than that it makes me think twice about reincarnation or channeling. I'm sure I'm not the only one who experiences it either. I love electronic music as much as I love rock/metal, so naturally I have a need to play around with weird and wonderful digital sounds as well. I'm very inspired by some of my old favorites like Diary Of Dreams, :Wumpscut: and Nine Inch Nails. These days I barely have time to do all the creative things I want to, but Lorelei will always be there and I am currently planning on putting together an EP for physical release toward 2016.

T.V.: I think that I figured it out what kind of music fascinates you most, but still, can you say some words about your all time favorite albums or releases?
Heike: Dark, droney, brooding, hypnotic, atmospheric or emotional music will always bring me tremendous comfort and joy (some irony in there). I enjoy different elements of varied genres from one end of the spectrum to the other, so it's hard to pin-point a specific album or artist I perceive as a favorite. If I have to however choose albums that, as a whole, impressed me from start to finish (with replay value), I'd say: Wovenhand - Consider The Birds, Neurosis - The Eye Of Every Storm, Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way To Blue, Ufomammut - Eve, Pink Floyd - The Final Cut, Type O Negative - October Rust, Tool - Lateralus and Agents Of Oblivion's self-titled album. I wouldn't consider all those my most listened to artists, but definitely a fraction of albums that I keep returning to over time. There's simply too much good music out there to even scratch the surface of such a question.
T.V.: And what about your personal life outside the music business? What are your other interests in life and what fascinates you most?
Heike: I spend a lot of time researching subjects that seem shrouded in mystery for a reason. I love to understand all the possibilities of how things work, in this dimension and all the others - past, present and future (or in a circular fashion, as I have come to believe). My love for Astronomy and Quantum Physics has unfolded over the years into a love for discovering truth and potential in general, whether near or far, hidden or obvious. Being aware of infinite awareness, I find this 3-D reality limiting and far less inspiring (personally) than the potentials of the dynamics of other dimensions. If that seems a bit 'far-out' for most, I can understand and say that it explains why I often vent frustration about the world and its destructive rulers/inhabitants. So I tend to keep myself as busy as possible, so I don't get bored or suicidal. Creativity and Activism has been a great tool for that. I enjoy drawing, doing digital art/editing, cooking, gaming, collecting minerals (crystals), meditation, handcrafting items, befriending everyone's pets and soon I will start doing woodcarving as well. I'm too restless to settle for just one of those. At the moment I'm in a gaming phase again, so my World Of Warcraft account is active again after 4 years. Goodbye humanity!
T.V.: Ok, I think that this would be everything from my side, but is there something that you would like to say at the end of this interview?
Heike: Firstly, thank you for the opportunity, support and interest. It's greatly appreciated. The same goes for anyone having taken the time to read this. Ison salutes you. Keep an eye out for our upcoming teasers and our call-to-action on how to help us release the EP. We want to involve our peers and spread the contributionist spirit as much as possible. /End of transmission.

Ison links: Facebook

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