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Taphephobia - Interview

Interview with: Ketil Søraker
Conducted by: T.V.

Taphephobia is a Norwegian dark ambient act run by Ketil Søraker, who is not a new name in dark ambient music, this maestro was part of the first line-up of Norways dark ambient act Northaunt. Taphephobia who released since 2007 seven full-length albums has for sure become in those years one of the most important names in dark ambient scene. The first album was House Of Memories (2007), released back then by Nothingness Records, but was recently re-issued by Reverse Alignment. Just some days ago Taphephobia released a new stunning album titled Ghostwood through the renowned label Cyclic Law. The album came out almost four years after the previous one, Escape From The Mundane Self, but in the meantime Taphephobia was featured on many different compilations and did some intriguing collaborations. On the new album, Ghostwood, Taphephobia created a deeply introspective sound that is opting for a slightly cleaner sonic palette than on the previous releases, using less processed sounds and a more natural sounding approach to his guitar work, Ketil Soraker pushes what is now considered as Taphephobia's signature sound. In the vein of his previous Cyclic Law release, Escape From The Mundane Self, we are submerged in a skillful combination of lush ambient guitar passages, sonic abstractions and processed flute. Ghostwood is a most personal hymn to experiencing the solace of the northern forest. Beside the new album, Taphephobia is also featured on a split album titled Monuments, together with dark ambient act Kave, as well released now by Cyclic Law. I talked with Ketil about the new album, things that inspire him, about future plans and many other things, so read this very interesting interview below.

T.V: Hi Ketil! It's been almost five years since you've released your previous album, Escape From The Mundane Self. Even though that you've been quite active by releasing various tracks on different compilations and made some interesting collaborations, I wonder why did you need so much time for a new full-length?
: Hi. The album was recorded between 2012 and 2015, so technically it did not take so much time to record it. Except "Ghost Of Him" that was replacing a track that didn`t make it for the album. That track was finished around March 2016. So it basically took a bit time to release it. Cyclic Law was moving from Canada to Berlin, that was also one of the reasons for the delay. Anyway I don`t think it matters much as the material still feels fresh to me.
T.V.: So, to me, the new album Ghostwood feels a bit less dark and more immersive than your previous releases. How do you feel about it?
Ketil: Yes, I guess so. There are a couple of really dark tracks like “Unwanted Visitors” and “The Other World Doesn`t Exist - Part 1”, but in general this album is not so dark as the previous ones. Ironically 2014 was a pretty rough year in my life, so maybe subconsciously I needed some light. But it is still pretty much melancholic and has a sad atmosphere. Except "Hospital Ward" that is almost a happy one, haha.
T.V.: Haha, yes, it really is a happy one... Beside the new album you have also done a collaborative album with Kave, Monuments. What can you tell me about this release?
Ketil: It was an idea of Bram from Kave to make two really long epic tracks. That sounded good to me, as I really like the music of Kave. This is much more of an epic and more traditional kind of dark ambient than Ghostwood. Bram thought that Monuments would be a fitting name for this release, since we both have a single long track. Two monuments, so to speak.
T.V.: Your approach to make music is somehow unique inside the dark ambient scene, with alternate guitar and now also with flute. Yet on Ghostwood everything feels a bit more natural, less processed...
Ketil: Thanks. On the previous records I mainly used the software Adobe audition, on Ghostwood I also use Ableton live often. So maybe the combination of these two programs makes it sound a bit different. Maybe many years of experience added to the tracks sounding more natural.
T.V.: The new album is titled Ghostwood, and I have a feeling that it must have a deeper meaning?
Ketil: The track itself is very much inspired by the tv-serie Twin Peaks so this is why I decided to choose this title. Ghostwood National Forest was a forest that surrounded the town of Twin Peaks. And I have always been fond of the mystery of the forest. It is easier to express my feelings for nature with music than words.
T.V.: Is Ghostwood in a way a concept album?
Ketil: No, definitively not. I get inspiration from my own life. From what I see around me and from my interests. It`s been like this since the first album in 2007. The title-track is the only one inspired by the serie, at least consciously.
T.V.: The album is like your previous one released by Cyclic Law. It seems that you must be satisfied with the job that Frederic does?
Ketil: Yes, I am absolutely happy with Frederic and Cyclic Law is also one of the more known and respected labels in the genre. And it is also good that he knows good graphic designers like for example Nihil and Dehn Sora. Also I have some friends whose music is released by Cyclic Law - to mention a few: Svartsinn, New Risen Throne, Desiderii Marginis, Sophia,...
T.V.: The front cover artwork for dark ambient albums/releases is a very important thing. The one for Ghostwood is a stunning one as well. I believe that there must be something behind it?
Ketil: I like to give the artist full freedom to make the artwork in his own way. Nihil is a very expressive artist, so if I interfered too much it would be less artistic and strong, I think. But I gave him some ideas about what I wished it to be - like this forest with some ghosts. I wanted it to be mysterious with a cinematic atmosphere. I also preferred to have some colours on the cover because I didn`t see Ghostwood as ultra-dark. About the meaning I would like the listener to speculate what lies behind the artwork. Everyone might see it in their own way. Like a friend of mine says it reminds him of the movie Saw. That would be one of the last thing I see in this artwork.
T.V.: Indeed it's very mysterious and cinematic. Now, if somebody asks you to describe your music, what would you say to him/her that it is?
Ketil: Maybe guitar-based cinematic dark ambient is a fitting description for the newer material. In the past I used to descibe my music as dark drone ambient, but not sure if that says it all in 2018. It`s emotional driven music for dark nights and lonely mornings. I make this music to create an atmosphere, not just to experiment with sounds.
T.V.: Cool and fitting description! Recently Reverse Alignment re-released your debut album, House Of Memories, and I wonder if the re-release is a consequence that the album was sold out or something? Yet I'm interested how do you look now at that very album 10 years after its official release?
Ketil: Yes, it was sold out. That is the main reason. It was Kristian of Reverse Alignment who wanted to re-release it, and came up with the idea to add a bonus-CD with compilation tracks. 10 years after the release I look at House Of Memories as something disturbing and cold. It has a more minimalistic and sullen approach than Taphephobia after 2009. Listening to it now is a bit strange after having not listen to it for years. I guess most artists feel like this about their own earlier materials. And I did not have an own guitar either back then, so I was basically learning how to make sounds and to compose. Anyway, I like it for what it is. It was the best I could do back then.
T.V.: Tell me, how much has your compositional process changed since then?
Ketil: I would not say that it changed a lot, like for example Ulver did. I want to have my signature sound, but I also want to do things a bit different for each release. Today it is easier to make the music sound exactly how I want it to be and to make the music flow, than it used to be in the past. In 2005-2007 making the music flow was a struggle. It is a bit difficult question because when I compose I don`t sit down and think “what should I do different now?”. It`s a very organic process. And obviously I learn new techniques through the years like most people who have been making this kind of music for a long time.
T.V.: I understand. You are active in this music scene for quite a long time, and recently dark ambient scene is having a proper rebirth. Many new bands, labels, a lot of new fans and followers, live shows,... What do you think is the main reason for that and how do you see these things?
Ketil: I honestly don`t know for sure the main reason for this rebirth. I hope it is the quality of the music that makes people being more interested in making zines, labels, organize concerts, be interested in performing live and buying the albums. But I guess it is not so simple, you tell me, hehe. And it is absolutely a positive thing that the music is getting more popular. It is still very underground though. Ask a person on the street and he or she will not know what dark ambient is. I want it to become even bigger, but not commercial. And that probably will never happen.
T.V.: Of course it won't, it's not a genre that has that necessary vibe, it's just for selected people, but it's becoming bigger and bigger. Tell me, which artists/acts actually were responsible that you started with dark ambient, and which acts are your main influences?
Ketil: Raison d'être and Aghast were the main reasons back in the late 90s. Other music that inspired me through the years are Robert Rich, Hammock, Ulver, Thomas Koner, Canaan, Angelo Badalamenti; Bohren & Der Club Of Gore and the list goes on and on.
T.V.: In the dark ambient genre, maybe more than anywhere else, collaborations between different artists are very popular, also you were involved in some of them. But, if'll have unlimited options, with which artists, living or dead, would you like to make something together?
Ketil: David Lynch would be the ultimate artist to work with. Either make ambient music for his movies, or work with him with music.
T.V.: So I guess you are a big fan of him! Tell me what do you think about his new Twin Peaks series?
Ketil: To be honest with you I haven`t watched it yet. A big shame I know, but I will get the DVD soon. I am a bit nervous, I hope it is as good as I assume.
T.V.: And I must also be honest that I also haven't yet, but will soon, very soon. Nevertheless, a lot of dark ambient artists are inspired by films and TV series. Are you also, can you name some that gave you the inspiration for the music you do?
Ketil: Here are some of the movies that inspired me - Twin Peaks obviosly, All Lynch movies, except Dune, Donnie Darko, The Limits of Control, Stalker, Last Days, A Clockwork Orange, Lost Boys and Naked Lunch to mention a few. Lately Super Dark Times,... I really enjoyed that movie.
T.V.: Ok, interesting and good titles you mentioned! Tell me, is Taphephobia also a live act? If so, have you any live activities scheduled for the near future?
Ketil: I usually play one concert in a year, so I am not so active when it comes to performing. No live activities scheduled for the near future yet. I would like to play more, but I also just enjoy creating music at home.
T.V.: Taphephobia was also featured on many different dark ambient themed compilations, including the one released by Terra Relicta. How important do you think is for an artist like you to be featured on these kind of releases?
Ketil: I think it`s very important important for self-promotion. But that is not my main motivation for making tracks for compilations. I like deadlines, I like to create exclusive tracks for compilations. It is a challenge and it is enjoyable.
T.V.: Are you beside being involved in Taphephobia active also in any other band or project?
Ketil: It is mainly Taphephobia for now. My other projects are Aural Whiteout and the band Mulm which are not active anymore. I hope that Mulm will raise from the ashes though. Mulm is featuring members of Taphephobia, Northaunt and Avsky.
T.V.: That would be interesting! Now I think it's time to finally ask you how did you came up with the name Taphephobia? It's a pretty dark name and I know that it means fear of being buried alive. Do you have such a fear, or thinking about such things a lot?
Ketil: I was looking around on the net and that term was very fitting for the style of music I was doing in 2004. The music was a bit claustrophobic and it had that horror feeling. That kind of fear or phobia is not something I fear and think about often because I don`t think it is a big chance for this to happen. But it would be damn horrible for sure. It is like the last thing you want to happen to you after your death.
T.V.: And beside the new album that is just released, what can we expect from Taphephobia in the future? Will we have to wait another four years for a new full-length?
Ketil: No, I don`t think so. I have around 25 minutes of new music now. So it looks promising.
T.V.: Ok, I will take you for a word. Before we finish this interview tell me what is spining right now in your music player? And do you have any personal recommendations to our readers regarding any new albums/bands that you've discovered lately?
Ketil: At the moment I am spinning Skinny Puppy - Brap: Back & Forth Series 3 & 4. It is a compilation. When it comes to newer music worth mentioning I will say Forndom. I love what Wardruna is doing, so it's great to hear something similar to that. Check out the album Dauðra Dura from 2016! I also like Northumbria a lot, very atmospheric music and you all should check their album Markland.
T.V.: Thank you for your and interesting answers! Is there anything that you would like to say to fans of dark ambient and our readers at the end?
Ketil: Thanks for the great questions Tomaz! I just want to thank people that support the dark ambient scene. And hope that fans of the scene will check out and enjoy my new album Ghostwood! Cheers!

Taphephobia links: Official website, Facebook