Sonne Hagal

One of the more interesting groups to have come from Germany in recent years must be Sonne Hagal. They gained my support with some convincing live performances. Their releases have been quite varied, from traditional folk music to electronic experiments. Sonne Hagal’s singer tells us more about the band…

Can you introduce Sonne Hagal and yourself in a few words?

Sonne Hagal was ‘founded’ something in the early 90ies. At this time all of our todays members played in different bands with a musical spectrum from Hardcore & Punkrock to Classic music and Wave. Two musicians (our synthplayer and I) realized very soon that we had the same interests and musical preferences. We decided to work together and create a kind of music that had nothing in common with our today’s music style. We did pure electronic music, supported by sounds made of human bones, scrap metal and all other (im)possible sound sources. We had no interest in making real ‘songs’. What we did were extremely long sessions, partly improvised, partly with a solid structure. During our first live shows we used huge ‘fog machines’ or played in total darkness.
But slowly our musical style changed and when we were joined by our violinist and bassist the sound developed to the music you can hear today.

Sonne Hagal live

We prefer to not introduce ourselves. We are not hiding behind our music or behind pseudonyms but we don’t think there’s any advantage that the listeners could have, while knowing more about us.

Do you see Sonne Hagal as a real band, or is it your solo project with guest musicians?

Sonne Hagal is indeed a real band and no one-person-project. The truth is, that none of our songs would sound the ways he does if not all of our musicians would have worked the way they do. Sometimes it isn’t easy to work together as there are different views on how a text could be set to music. But we think good music needs some inspiration from different sides to find the best way to express the words or thoughts.
That’s why we love to collaborate from time to time with different musicians.

When and why did you decide that you wanted to create music? And why did you choose the name Sonne Hagal?

Sonne Hagal liveWe all make music in bands as long as we can think back. It was just a question of time until we found us and felt that we are on the same wavelength. I can’t remember the first rehearsal but I can remember that we didn’t need many words to make ourselves understood by each other. There was a certain energy, and it still is. And we try to catch that energy and transform it into music.
The first name of our band was a Latin one and based on witch-magic things. But runic themes became more and more present in our daily life and soon we decided to give the band a new name.
We have chosen ‘Sonne Hagal’ to give the listener an idea of what we are mainly interested in: runes and northern mysteries. This could explain the word ‘Hagal’.
But to avoid a restriction only to runic themes we were looking for an antagonist and we found the sun ‘Sonne’. We think it is of greatest importance to balance the things. And if you see Hagal as destructor and chaos or in a more abstract way as death itself, you could see Sonne standing for life, beauty or rebirth.

Why this interest in runes and paganism? Can ancient religions and philosophies still teach us something in 2004?

Surely we all can learn a lot from ancient religions or philosophies! The main thing is: There isn’t only ONE truth!
If you have a closer look at ancient pantheons you’ll find a number of gods, not only one. And you will find man in harmony with the laws of nature. And you will find holiness not only in special buildings (like churches) but anywhere between heaven and earth.
I think we can learn to see ourselves as a part of nature: nothing special or better than any other life form around.
The runes can teach us that everything has two sides. Nothing is only good or evil and nothing is only that what you see on the first view on the surface.
What we can learn is to overcome borders – physical and spiritual borders.

Your first record (Sinnreger) was released by the then rather small Eis & Licht. How did this release happen?

The release of the ‘Sinnreger’ 10″ came into being by pure accident. We were working on some new songs and never thought about releasing them on vinyl but to give them to close friends (just like on the two tapes before) for free. So we sent that stuff to friends of ours around here in Germany and accidentally Gero M. of Eis & Licht got to hear these songs.
We didn?t know about this occurrence and were enormously surprised when we got the offering to release these songs on Eis & Licht.

The Sonne Hagal records can perhaps be divided in two sorts: the neo-folk releases and the more experimental pieces, like the Starkadr 7″ or the Nerthus split lp. Haven’t you considered to make those under another name?

No, never. Both styles do belong to Sonne Hagal and both styles are elemental parts of our artistic understanding. We never lost our lust for musical experiments and from the first day of our musical collaboration we tried to avoid to be limited to one special style. If we feel a song needs a rather electronic atmosphere to underline its spirit or weird message we use electronics. We think samplers and synthesizers have equal rights to violin or guitar. We would only limit our artistic possibilities if we give up these instruments.
As I said we love to see anything in a certain duality and we love to express this also within our musical work!

Can you tell us something about the upcoming Sonne Hagal releases in the near future? I believe there are quite a few plans for 2004?

Yes, you?re right. There are several plans for this year.
We will very soon re-release our ‘Helfahrt’ Cd on Eis & Licht in a different cover with photos from Peter Bengtsen from Denmark. Furthermore we will release a 7″ vinyl single on Eis & Licht, on which we were supported by Ian Read and Matt Howden.
Another 7″ single is going to be released on Divine Comedy. This edition will be a picture-disc with pictures from Peter Bengtsen again.
We contributed an exclusive song for a new Italian magazine named ‘Tea party with Odin’ which is going to be released with a mini-split-cd Sonne Hagal-Wertham.
And not at least we are currently working on our next fulltime album.

Some of your releases have been on limited vinyl. Why these small pressings? Are you a musical collector yourself?

I have a couple of records but I am not sure if this means, that I am a collector. I use to buy records to listen to the music, not to have them as a museum-artefact.
The limitation of our records is mainly a result of calculations by the responsible label.

I thought Helfahrt was a very good and mature album. Are you satisfied with the reactions of press and public?

Thank you.
Yes, as far as a musician can be satisfied with his own work and the reactions to it, I am satisfied. The complete Lp/Cd edition was sold out within weeks and I still get mails with new inquiries. That’s why we decided to re-release it.
What really means a lot to me is the direct reaction of the listeners. If I read a positive or negative review, I am angry or glad ? but only for a while. But if somebody has bought the album and writes me about his feelings while listening to the music it means much more to me. And the reactions were really great!

Is there a Sonne Hagal song of which you are particularly proud?

No, there isn’t. Normally I like our newest songs most and older songs vanish a little in my consciousness. But then I rediscover them and can’t figure out, which song I like most.
Every song has its own history and its own meaning to me.

Can you tell something about your creative process? How do you usually write songs?

Well, to describe creativity or inspiration isn’t easy. Especially as there are many ways to create new songs. Sometimes I read just one line of a poem or find even a single word in a whole novel that inspires me to write a complete story. If I wrote a text it can happen that I don’t find a melody to set these lyrics to music. Then I store this text somewhere for weeks or months or years until suddenly a melody comes in my mind that fits perfectly to this text and touches my heart.
But also the other way around is possible: I create a melody somewhere on a walk or in the car or in the recording studio, but I can’t find lyrics, that are congruous with the special feeling I have towards this melody. In that case I save this melody and wait until fitting lyrics are found.
But the greatest experience is to have this special creative lightning in my head. From somewhere suddenly a melody and lyrics appear, and I can’t write as fast as the new thoughts come into my mind. I had this occasion a couple of times very early in the morning. I use to get up at 4 a.m. and sometimes I have to hurry to save the text and melody somewhere as they are sometimes gone as soon as they came to me…
Another thing is setting poems to music. I love English poems and sometimes I read a poem and it simply already has an own melody inside that I can feel and just have to try to find the right expression on my guitar.

You have done a few collaborations and covers in the past. Is there someone with whom you really would like to work together? And is there a song you’d wish to cover?

Yes, we did four cover versions until now: the first was on our first cassette the song ‘Raven Chorus’, then ‘Sonnenwende’ on our 10″ SINNREGER, then ‘Wolfszeit’ on the TEMPUS ARBORUM compilation and ‘Death Of The Corn’on v/a ‘THE BELLS SHALL SOUND FOREVER?’
Sometimes we were misunderstood and suspected to try to become famous or something while covering famous songs. This isn’t the case!
The truth is, that these songs deeply touched our heart and we want to show our deepest respect towards the artists that wrote such wonderful music!
If you ask me with whom I want to work together, there’s only one answer: The Residents.
I do appreciate their work very much. They make music for a long time and are able to re-invent themselves on every record while keeping their own style. They seem to have unending creativity, no artistic limits and a fantastic humor. That explains my wish for another cover version: I would like to cover one of their first songs named ‘Constantinople’.
If you don’t know the song I would suggest to hear it and have a look to the related video clip to catch its complete genius!

How did you experience the performance in Halle in December?

The evening in Halle was fantastic. We were really glad to have the possibility again to be on stage with Andreas Ritter, Uwe Nolte and Ian Read. We are all in close contact and will surely work together in the future.
If you refer to discussions that the audience was too loud during the live shows I can’t say anything concerning to our own show. I didn’t hear much of the audience’s talking as we had a really good but loud sound on stage.
I experienced the evening very relaxed and in a good mood. I met a couple of old friends, got nice reviews of our performance and had truely profound talks with Ian about runes, linguistics and musical things. Uwe Nolte and Stephan Pockrandt did a really good job organizing this evening.

Sonne Hagal live

I heard that you will play live in Delft on February 27 (with Sieben). What can we expect from that?

We plan to have more than one hour of music with songs from our first 10″ to newest unreleased tracks. We will present some ‘typical neo-folk’ songs as well as electronic based experimental songs. We will definitely be supported by Andreas Ritter who is going to sing and play drums, accordeon and melodica. Also Matt will join us on stage for one or two songs.

How is your (musical) relation with Andreas Ritter – Forseti?

Andreas is one of my closest friends. We plan together a lot of musical activities as well as things in private. We met for the first time on the forbidden music festival in Bucha in Germany and loved and respected each other?s work and music very soon. From there we phoned and met regularly and joined each other for studio recordings as well as on stage.
The cover version of ‘Wolfszeit’ that we contributed to ‘TEMPUS ARBORUM’ was originally a present for Andreas that we recorded during the ‘HELFAHRT’ studio session. But with his agreement we released it on this compilation when we were asked to contribute a second song.
Musically we have quite different views. Andreas’ music is purely made without electronic instruments. And he sings only in German, whereas I love English language and electronic equipment.

Do you feel you’re part of a (German neo-folk) scene? What do you think of the controversial image of the neo-folk scene?

These questions are completely without any relevance for us.

Where do you live? Does the environment inspire your music?

Sonne Hagal liveThat’s an interesting question. I live in Berlin and people are often very surprised if they hear that I live in such a quite chaotic and crowded city. And on the one hand they are right. Berlin is loud, hectic and anything else than magic or inspiring. But this city offers me great chances to meet interesting and important people. It’s a city that offers me possibilities and not limits!
On the other hand I love nature, silence and sacred places outside. That’s why I leave the city every weekend and drive to the beautyful countryside of Brandenburg that surrounds Berlin. Here we have our rehearsal room on the real estate of a very small village. We have a beautiful view on the landscape around with its woods and floodplains; we can see the evening fog creeping in and can enjoy the alsmost perfect silence around. I need this balance between those two extremes. Living in only one of these worlds would be too boring for me.

Any plans to do more with the Sonne Hagal website?

Yes, of course. I am currently working on a new layout. Through a computer crash I lost the old website’s matrix and I use this occasion to renew the site. But surely it will again be presented in a very simple style. With our website I only want to present some information about releases, live shows and some interesting or related links. Therefore the website needn’t to be very luxurious. Perhaps I offer an online guestbook again. The first one was provided by a organisation named ‘cultUR’ and went offline when the organisation dissolved. I don’t want any advertisement on our website that’s why I am looking for a guestbook script without advertisement. If somebody could help me ? I would be very thankful. Please contact me!

Which albums would you certainly bring with you to a desert island?

If you want to know, which of my records is my favorite one, I couldn’t answer your question. Each and any record and cd I own means something special to me and I can’t figure out the most worthwhile.
But if I should understand your question word by word I would surely prefer a record made of chocolate or any other eatable material…

Do you have strange musical tastes which we would not expect from you?

What musical taste you expect me to have? And what means strange?

What do you do when you’re not making music?

Well, this is a question that I am usually avoid to answer but to not leave you in total darkness I could say that I generally have to do with medicine.

What would you do if you won a million Euro?

Oh, a question very easy to answer. I would immediately found my own label and recording studio. I already have a name for my label, so what I just need is the million…

And perhaps some final thoughts?

I invite all readers to visit our live show in Delft. Surely it will be a wonderful evening.

Sonne Hagal discography