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Lake Of Tears - Interview


The Swedish band, Lake Of Tears, is one of those acts that doesn't need a special introduction. Everybody who was ever into gothic or dark metal knows it. It's one of the most influential bands inside the genre, and until now, Lake Of Tears released nine albums, of which some are monuments of gothic metal. The band, masterminded by the visionary artist Daniel Brennare, was always trying to experiment, even if they were not pleasing everybody. Lake Of Tears was in a long-time hiatus for ten years, mainly due to Daniels's illness. He has been diagnosed with chronic leukaemia. Lake Of Tears returned this year as a one-man band in a glorious manner with the darkest and most melancholic album in career - Ominous. The album, rooted in illness and depression, in days of grey. These moments, burdensome and overwhelming, are dissected and then reassembled into a linear story. Interwoven in sound, word, and vision, with thought-out precision. What everything about the new album, his illness, past albums, future projects, and yet much more, Daniel told me in this in-depth is a must to read for every fan of the band and everybody who fancies dark music.

Interview with: Daniel Brennare
Conducted and edited by: Tomaz

Tomaz: Hi Daniel. It's very nice to see Lake Of Tears return after ten years with the fantastic new album Ominous. The obvious first question is about what kept you off the scene for so many years?

Daniel: Oh, there were so many things, and ten years is such a long period. So much has happened in this time. Two main reasons are, there has not been a band for some years and also my illness.

Tomaz: Yes, I was reading that you were struggling with quite a severe illness and how it's with this now?
Daniel: I don't know what to say. It's ok these days, it'll never go away, but at least it's under control.

Tomaz: I'm glad to hear that. A couple of months ago you released a great comeback album named Ominous. I wonder how are you satisfied with it, and what about the response from fans and the media?
Daniel: Yeah, I'm satisfied with it. I don't think that it could have been any better, of course, small details here and there, but I got through what I wanted to do. I built this story that came out as I wanted it to be, and it tells the story that I wanted to tell. The reaction has been great. After so many years of being off, it was overwhelming. I was away for ten years, and you can never know how people will react. I think that everything from reviews to all the messages I've got has been great.

Tomaz: Yes, I've read many positive reviews, and I was also very impressed by the album. I guess it was quite a difference to record and compose this album since Lake Of Tears seems to be now a one-man band?
Daniel: It was different in many ways. When I started writing these songs we were still playing together, and some things were done in the old way as a band. Still, most of it in the last five years was done by myself. I had some input from some friends. I still have some good friends in the music business with who I can discuss things. Another difference is that this album is more personal than anything I did before. The story within it is a span of many years, and this is also a different thing, perhaps one of the reasons that it took such a long time. I couldn't finish it before I came to a certain state in my mind. So, this was pretty different for me to do it like this.

Tomaz: Did you play and record all the instruments by yourself?
Daniel: No. I played guitars, keyboards and did the vocals. A friend of mine named Vesa played the bass, and Christian, the guy who is the technician in the studio, is also a good drummer, so he played the drums. The guy named Lars played the upright bass on the bonus track "In Gloom".

Tomaz: But I guess that the compositions were done mainly by yourself? You mentioned that the writing process started years ago when you were still a full band.
Daniel: I have written every song actually, except for maybe one or two, where some external persons helped me with a couple of things. Also when we were still a full band, I've written all the material, or at least around 99% of it.

Tomaz: So we can easily say that this album was in the making for ten years?
Daniel: Yeah, I think even more. I got my illness around 13 or 14 years ago. When I was in the hospital I had a vision, maybe vision is not the right word, but the initial idea of this came already back then.

Tomaz: The album has a story, it's a concept if I get it right, and I want to know more about it.
Daniel: What can I say? I take it as a description of my illness, of my case of leukaemia, and the following depression that came because of it. I wanted to turn it around in some way, to make something positive out of this negativity. That's the main base for the story. It's about illness and depression that is symbolized best by the two Ominous brothers. Ominous one is the physical illness, and the Ominous two is the depression. These are the main parts of the story but it was hard to make a story out of this concept. I thought about it a lot, and if I've done it totally free and without any musical boundaries. I think it would be more like art music because those feelings are very nonlinear. They pop up on certain days, then it goes back. I tried to make a linear psychological story that could be easy to understand in this cosmic journey.

Tomaz: The two Ominous brothers you are talking about, must be the depicted gloomy creatures on the cover artwork of the album, right?  Who's the author of the artwork?
Daniel: Yes! His name is Vladimir Chebakov, and he did the cover and all the booklet art. I don't know if you've seen the rest of the artwork? There's a picture for every song in it for the whole story. I had these ideas almost 13 years ago and did some sketches back then. I've found some of those and sent them to him. We discussed it through Google translate, and I remember when I got the first idea from him for the cover that it was amazing. It was good cooperation, and it came out to be a very cool artwork.

Tomaz: I find Ominous as the gloomiest and darkest album ever released by Lake Of Tears. Is this only because of your illness, or are there also some other influences that came in the meantime?
Daniel: The main influence for this dark side must have been the illness. I don't know if I thought of making it so dark. I just wanted to go with the flow, to make the words and music out of my emotions. It's quite a dark story, and I don't remember these times as good ones. It was not a very pleasant state to be. I must at the same time say that while working on this record for so many years, I learned a lot about certain things, like how to work with the orchestral stuff, so there were also good moments. I took these steps from where I was feeling all abandoned and started with this almost blank paper which one day turned into such a story. The story itself gives you energy, and it almost puts a smile on your face. I've lived with a very gloomy story, and at the same time, it was also giving some hope to me.

Tomaz: Exactly, it has some warmth inside, even though it's a dark and sometimes cold album. Mainly because of your voice and melodies.
Daniel: Yeah, and also these two Ominous brothers, who are terrible creatures, I wanted to turn them around. I want to make them be my friends, so to say. I think that this "Ominous One" song is almost a little bit of a love song from this perspective. It's a combination of these emotions.

Tomaz: Now, if we go ten years back in time. At the time when the album Illwill was released. The album got quite a messy response back then. Nevertheless, that album has a lot of anger in it, and I wonder if that was a consequence of all the things that happened?
Daniel: Yes, it comes from the same phase, but Illwill is more direct. There are two main things in Illwill. The first one is connected with the day when I got my diagnosis. It will always stick with me, so there's some kind of anger and desperation in there. But there's also the will to live, like screaming it out. It was done after I came out from the hospital, and I heard a lot of people who had cancer saying that when you come out of it, you start to live again. I was feeling alive, and I just wanted to live and scream, so it's a combination thereof both anger and will to live. That album is much more direct, and it's not dealing with such deep emotions as Ominous.


Tomaz: For me, as a long-time fan of Lake Of Tears, Illwill was a surprising album. I never expected that you'll drive the band into some kind of speed metal waters, with only one song, "House Of The Setting Sun", that keeps connection with your usual melancholic stuff...
Daniel: It's pretty much different, I can agree with that, but I felt that it was what we wanted to do at that time. A lot of people now, ten years after its release, find it much better as they did when it came out, and some think that it is one of the best albums we ever released. Now when I look back at it, I guess that I can say that there are some records which you must learn to listen to, they have to grow into you, and maybe that's the case with Illwill. It's good to hear what people think, especially if you make music for such a long time. You can compare how people think at the moment when it comes out, with what they think, let's say five or ten years after. Many people change their minds.

Tomaz: I agree, the only problem is that today there's so much music out, and it's difficult to get properly into one album.
Daniel: I know. I've talked with reporters who have to listen to 150 to 200 albums almost every month. That's also one strange thing for me, and one of the reasons why I was waiting for ten years. The music business has changed a lot since the last time I was around. I don't know if I like it, but that's how it is.

Tomaz: There's a lot of garbage but also a lot of good music that is often overlooked. Since Lake Of Tears is now more or less a one-man band, I wonder if there's a possibility to see you playing live when and if this will be even possible?
Daniel: I've been thinking a lot about it because many people have asked me this. I'm not sure. At first, I thought that there should be no more Lake Of Tears after this album and no more live shows, but I have some moments when I think about a nice stage set-up, of a mixture between music concert and theatre. I have some ideas, but I don't think positively about it. Let's say that if it happens, it will be a nice surprise.

Tomaz: It would be a pity if Lake Of Tears will cease to exists after this album...
Daniel: Well, actually my mind said that also. Since I did this record after so many years it's already old in my mind. So, I've been thinking about some kind of continuation because I found something new in this style of writing which is not so much chorus-based but more like a cinematic story. I would like to continue that in some way. I have some ideas and would like to make it because this one, the Ominous album, even if it ends on a more positive note than it begins, I would like to continue the story, and hopefully, I will make it.

Tomaz: In the past you had some problems with record labels, but it seems that now you are ok with your current label AFM Records, who released the last two albums of yours. How are you satisfied with them in general?
Daniel: I can only compare the labels with which I have been on. I must say that so far AFM Records is the best one regarding support and stuff like that. Sometimes I wonder if AFM isn't too much into heavy metal and similar things, and Lake Of Tears must be a little bit odd on that one. But I must say that I like the guys and we had good discussions, so I think it's the best label for me so far.

Tomaz: You almost always had in your music some kind of 70s psychedelic elements mixed with gothic rock, doom metal, and yet much more. Each album had one element more fronted than the other. Is this also a reflection of your life events, or is connected with your growth as a musician?
Daniel: I would like to think that it's a reflection of my life events, at least for me it is. Looking back on those albums I remember those periods, about what was happening with the band, and what was happening in my life. I always try to write honestly about what is happening to me, and about the things that I've experienced. It's not always so straightforward, it's written from some kind of a mystical perspective, and I must say that's the biggest influence. Life is changing, and of course, you also hear new bands, new music, that changes also, and we are all like a product of our time. You mentioned the 70s music. Especially the music from the late 70s was the one to which I started listening with a more mature mind and trying to understand it. That music will always be there, and that's one of the reasons for the 70s influence, but of course, there's also development.

Tomaz: So, how do you see and feel the difference between making music today and when you started in the early 90s?
Daniel: Oh, today I know much much more about the notes, scales, the technical stuff, and other things that come in. Sometimes it gets a little bit annoying because I remember the first time when I picked up the guitar I could play only one note on E string, and my mind was thinking, "oh, this sounds like if it's raining outside". It was more like a spiritual thing back then, while today everything is much more technical, mostly because I know how stuff works, and I think about more things. But I try to keep it flowing to make the manifestation of the sound short and not think too much about it. It has changed a lot because in the beginning I almost didn't know how to play my guitar. Also today I'm not a virtuoso guitarist in any way, but I play it for so many years, and I know what I'm doing. When I look back at the 90s, I remember me, and the whole band, that we were practicing much more, and today I very seldom pick up the guitar to play.

Tomaz: Even though you made back them some of the most influential albums like it is Greater Art, Headstones, Forever Autumn, and Crimson Cosmos, to name just a few. Those are by many considered as proper cult albums inside the genre.
Daniel: It's cool to hear you say that because it's nothing you can imagine when you start to play music. It feels kind of strange sometimes when people tell me that they are influential, and I guess I must be one of the lucky ones to be able to write such memorable songs or whatever you can call it. It's a nice feeling.

Tomaz: You always had the right instinct for the right melodies and captivating song structures...
Daniel: Today, when I look back at it I would, of course, like to change much of it, but I realize that's in the past.

Tomaz: Let's get back to more recent times. I noticed that on your last two albums, Illwill and Ominous, the title of the album is written with much bigger letters than the name of the band. What is the reason for that?
Daniel: I don't know, but I think it's some kind of an anarchistic punk part that lives within me. Everybody is doing it in a certain way, you take a look at all the records, and you see the band logo being always the same and the biggest thing up there. I think that I wanted to make something different. We also changed our logo a little bit after a couple of records. I think that Pink Floyd was the inspiration to change our logo. I got bored with the same logo all the time, and then for Illwill I took another step and tried to make it more like a unity with the record itself because the band name was not so important anymore. I must admit that I got quite a lot of critics because of that. Many said that if they wouldn't know that it's a Lake Of Tears album, they will think that the bands' name is Illwill and the record name is Lake Of Tears. I think it's quite fun, you must experiment, at least I must experiment with what I can. For the new album, we had some discussion with the record label, and they didn't want it like this because it's not the best selling argument, so that's why I added the "by" word, and now it's written, "by Lake Of Tears". I guess it's a little bit easier to see what's the bands' name and what is the album title.

Tomaz: On the new album Ominous there's no-hit or a standout song, it's all melted together into this sonic story of yours. But, if you had to choose one song, which means the most to you, which one would that be?
Daniel: Oh, I cannot do that because they come from the same place, they are emotions from different days, different times, so it's difficult to pick one. That's also the reason why I didn't want to make any singles before the album release. I knew that it will be judged differently if they are not all together. These songs need each other to work properly. Nevertheless, the easiest one to say would be "In Gloom" because that one is a bonus track and not a part of the story, it's an extra song. I like that song, and I couldn't exclude it from the album.

Tomaz: The album has an interesting structure. It starts with "At The Destination", which is an upbeat track with some danceable rhythmic lines, and only then comes all the darkness. How it came that you've chosen such a structural concept?
Daniel: I don't like to think much about genres and structures because that's hindering creativity, but I did think a lot about this one. I wanted it to be flowing, to be like a story, I didn't want to make many refrains and choruses which could take away the focus from the whole story. It's kind of an experiment also in that way. I wanted to make it all fit together, to flow nicely, and it was clear to me early in the process that "At The Destination" needs to be the opener. I needed some kind of an energetic start in a way, but at the same time, the main reason for that song is to take you somewhere, to put on the headphones, and enter the story. For me, it was something that clicked with my emotional state. I wanted to feel it somewhere out in the space. So, the main reason for "At The Destination" is to get the pulse up, but also to take you to someplace where you can listen to the rest of the story.

Tomaz: In the promo sheet that came from the label, it's written that the album is mainly influenced by David Bowie's "Space Oddity", The Sisters Of Mercy, and Pink Floyd. What are your thoughts about this saying, and how much of an influence did these artists had on you?
Daniel: I must say that David Bowie isn't such a big influence but of course a lot of people made parallels with him, especially with "Space Oddity", because it's the same kind of concept going on in space, but apart from that it's not. There's a phrase in the third song that comes from Bowie but in general, David Bowie is not a big influence to me. I must say that Pink Floyd has been a big influence for many years, and you can hear quite a lot of Pink Floyd in there, and in some songs also The Sisters Of Mercy, because this gothic rock style is always influential for me, at least for many years.

Tomaz: In the past you did some very interesting cover songs. One of the most noticeable was the one of Status Quo. Do you plan to make any more cover songs in the future?
Daniel: I'm not making any plans in that regard, but there are songs which I think are forgotten or lost and should be made again. We will see, I have not made any concrete plans about it. The most interesting thing for me right now would be to make some new orchestral versions of the old Lake Of Tears songs. It's just an idea for now, but it's an interesting project which I think I will do.

Tomaz: How much important is it for a musician like you to stay in touch with fans through social media? You have cult followers behind you in certain fan groups. These days it's much easier to have this kind of contact, to publish news,... What does this even mean to you?
Daniel: In a way, it's much easier to have contact with fans, it's much more direct. When we started it was a handwritten letter for that kind of thing, and of course, this has changed a lot. I must say that I'm not good at social media stuff. Sometimes I think to write down a lot of stuff, but when it comes to the actual writing, I don't want to do it anymore because you see every day on Facebook how all these bands are posting stuff all the time, and I'm getting bored of it. Many of them are in the same situation as I am, almost 50 years old, gotten sick in some way, and you read about this every day. I don't want to put anybody down, and communicating is not my strength. I'm not a marketing guy, and I wouldn't feel right to write about all the reviews and about the things that I'm doing all the time. Still, sometimes you need to do it, you need to give something to people who are following you, but I must admit that I'm not good at it.

Tomaz: So you consider yourself more as an introvertive person?
Daniel: Yes, I'm getting more and more introvert every year. I think it's nice to see that after ten years there's still a lot of people following Lake Of Tears, it's quite an amazing thing not to be forgotten. Many bands in the size of Lake Of Tears have been completely forgotten in even fewer years but not Lake Of Tears, and that's good for me.

Tomaz: In a way, I'm more surprised that Lake Of Tears is not even bigger. For me it could be in the same category as Paradise Lost, Tiamat or Moonspell, to name a few. The name is embedded in the history of dark metal music and will never be forgotten...
Daniel: Yes of course, but it's because we are different bands, we had different labels,... I thought about that a lot in the past, but I don't think much about it anymore. The music and emotions are the number one.

Tomaz: Which one of your past albums do you think is the most representative or the most important Lake Of Tears album?
Daniel: It's hard to say because for me they are like the book of my life, so they represent different periods of my life. Ok, I think that the most popular one must be Forever Autumn, that one made the biggest impression worldwide if I think about all the letters and stuff that I got from people.

Tomaz: I remember perfectly when your debut album Greater Art came out. The promotional banner with the album cover was inside every metal magazine back then. It had such an interesting and strange mystical cover with that swan on it that I needed to check it out.
Daniel: If I would have to name one album that is not that much representative for Lake Of Tears it would be Greater Art and The Neonai perhaps, but that's me. It was very rough, and we couldn't play so well back then. That's also one of the reasons why I want to make more flowing albums. Today the music business consists mostly of songs, you need to have two or three good songs, and the rest just to fill up the album. In a way, I wanted to go back to that "whole" album thing, to the thing with which I grew up in the 70s and 80s.

Tomaz: You haven't done any music video for the songs on the new album, there are two lyric videos instead. Do you think that the lyric video can be a substitute for a normal video?
Daniel: It can be, of course. but I think that in this case is mostly about the budget. If I had a big budget for it then I would like to make a video. I even had an idea to make the whole record into one long video, because I think that would be the most proper thing for this kind of record. But then we started to talk about a lot of money. It's not so much money in this business for a band of the size like is Lake Of Tears.

Tomaz: I guess that the Covid-19 pandemic didn't have much of an impact on Lake Of Tears, since you don't play live shows anymore?
Daniel: Not really, we haven't played live for many years and as I said I'm getting more and more introvert and secluded every year, so the Covid hasn't affected me much. I met fewer people these days. Since I have this illness it is bad to read every day in the magazines about new records of the patients being hospitalized, and when I have to go to the hospital it simply feels weird.

Tomaz: But do you in any way miss live shows?
Daniel: Sometimes I do. I miss some parts of that. Playing live for me was never really comfortable. It always took so much energy away from me just to think about it, especially in the last 10 or 15 years, when we started to do more weekend shows. You don't get anymore that natural flow and it feels like you are starting it over all the time. For me, the recording studio is a much more comfortable environment. I never felt very theatrical and I don't like people looking at me when I'm at the center of the stage. I would prefer to be standing somewhere behind it.

Tomaz: Before you mentioned that you plan to do orchestral versions of some of Lake Of Tears songs. Can we expect any kind of a release with those soon?
Daniel: I hope so. I thought that I would have done more until now, but you know, it goes back and forth. I have done some songs that I have on Soundcloud, mostly some ideas for now. You must understand that it has been only about two or three years since I started getting into this orchestral stuff. I found it by accident so to say and it fascinated me. So, I learned a lot about the instruments, how they fit into the whole and how they should sound together. I'm still learning a lot, but yeah, that's my main motivation at the moment and the main musical goal is to make this into some kind of a release. There are a lot of Lake Of Tears songs, so I have a starting point. I don't want to make it based only on old songs, but I think that's a good start. The subject will be autumn, which is suitable for Lake Of Tears. So yes, that's the main thing that I'm focusing on right now and I find it very interesting. I also have a side project named DJVL, and we have some nice ideas there as well. We might have soon a demo out, a couple of songs coming, and hopefully, we'll have a full album, maybe not this year, but who knows. I have some ideas, and I feel motivated to continue writing music. I also have in the back of my head some kind of a continuation of Ominous.

Tomaz: I wanted to ask you more about this project of yours, DJVL. I haven't heard any music of it yet, I don't even know if anything was available until now? Tell me a little bit more about it, what kind of music are you guys doing?
Daniel: DJVL name means devil in Sweden, but it's because of our names, Daniel, Jussi, Vesa, and we are looking for the fourth person Lars, that's why we called our first demo L. If you would have asked me two or three months ago I would say that you can expect something from us this summer, but more likely it will happen in autumn. For sure there will be at least a couple more songs. It will be demos done by ourselves at home, just to keep the creative juice flowing. I think it's important to make some kind of a manifestation. Otherwise, I can't think about things for another ten years. It's nice to have some other people involved since I don't have the Lake Of Tears band anymore. It's nice to have some other people to discuss things with and to make music together. So, you can expect at least some songs this autumn. The concept there is much easier in some ways, DJVL is much more flowing, there's not so much thought behind it as in Ominous record. Of course, there's some thought, and we have some kind of a concept also there, like new world order, we against them, hidden critics stuff,... If you ask people who heard DJVL they will tell that it's similar to Lake Of Tears, and they recognize that it's me writing some music. At the same time, I want to make DJVL a joint effort so we can write music together and because of that I can't say exactly what the style will be, we are neither interested in making it a certain style. I don't know, there's a little bit of everything, from The Doors to Pink Floyd, a mixture of many styles but it's quite dark. It's not some kind of happy stuff, it's still written mostly in minor scales. It's also quite epic from time to time, more Pink Floyd-ish.

Tomaz: I'm looking forward to it. Tell me, are you still in contact with past members of Lake Of Tears?
Daniel: I must say that I have more contact with some of them now than I had before. Mikael lives pretty close and we discuss things, not much music-related these days but he's the one that I'm talking with the most. We have been friends since we were nine or ten years old, so he'll be always there in some way. I see Johan and Fredrik from time to time. I don't know where Magnus is based.

Tomaz: Ok Daniel. I must thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions. I wish you a lot of health and that your musical creativity keeps going on. But is there anything that you would like to add at the end of this interview?
Daniel: Oh, always this tricky question at the end, haha. I would like to thank you for the interview. Thanks to all the people who have been listening to my music. No matter how cliche it might sound, this is like the water of life for me when people feel emotions because of the stuff that I've been writing for many years. This is such an amazing feeling, so thank you all for this.

Lake Of Tears links: Official website, Facebook, YouTube, Bandcamp

Discography:
- Demo 1 [Demo] (1993)
- Greater Art (1994)
- Headstones (1995)
- Lady Rosenred [EP] (1997)
- A Crimson Cosmos (1997)
- Forever Autumn (1999)
- Sorcerers [Single] (2002)
- The Neonai (2002)
- Greatest Tears Vol. I [Compilation] (2004)
- Greatest Tears Vol. II [Compilation] (2004)
- Black Brick Road (2004)
- Moons and Mushrooms (2007)
- Illwill (2011)
- By The Black Sea [Live Album] (2014)
- Ominous (2021)