An Interview with Opium Warlords…
I start this interview by stating that I simply have no words to express how honored and ecstatic I am to interview one of my few idols, a person that I admire his works for a long time and never believed that I would be able to do it so. I’ve also interviewed Kimi Kärki and now, to complete this “dream come true”, I’m interviewing you. I’ll start with some views that you have over life and then we’ll talk about music, but, please, I ask you to introduce yourself to our readers.
I am Sami Albert Hynninen, better known as Albert Witchfinder. I am 38 years old, and living in Lohja, Finland, where I also was born. For thirty years now, I have been operating on the field of all kinds of noises, with groups S.O.P.O., Punisment, KLV, The Candles Burning Blue, Reverend Bizarre, Vaarna, March 15, Orne, Armanenschaft, Werwolf Lodge, The Puritan, Vironsusi, Spiritus Mortis, Azrael Rising, Opium Warlords and Tähtiportti . I have also done some visual ”art”, for bands like Jex Thoth, Furze, Lordamor, Centurions Ghost, Fall of the Idols, and Amorphis, but I am mostly retired from that.
Sami, in my interviews my goal is to talk about the general views in life of the musician I’m talking to, music, of course and the personal interests that you’ve got. First of all, this question will not be about music, but rather about your views on the world. I’ve read on an interview in which you stated that we are living the Kali Yuga and I couldn’t agree more. There’s no respect for anything anymore, for anyone either, bombing infants is considered normal, bombing planes isn’t so shocking and the majority of society, the “mass” simply care about getting what’s trendy, what’s the latest, what you “must own”, no matter if you’re already in debt or not. What are your feelings and thoughts over this and do you believe that there is a solution or are we all doomed?
Consumerism, commercialism, death of spirituality, death of real art, plastic bags and broken bottles in the forests and oceans, animals being used and tortured, rape of the Earth; Kali Yuga!
Unfortunately the only real and lasting solution would be a complete, or nearly complete extinction of the human race from the face of this desecrated globe. I care more about what we are doing to the nature and animals, than what we do to each other, but surely I can’t be happy about the greatest suffering coming to those who did not earn it, meaning the people who still try to live in peace and balance with the nature, and who’s natural resources have been stolen and destroyed by multinational über-companies.
Kali Yuga will always be followed by an apocalypse. But how long will it take until that?
I’ve read once about your problems about being in crowded places, how you react under heavy stress and like alcohol is (or was) your worst enemy mentally and physically. I’ve had the same problems, not with alcohol though, after having a horrendous year, with death of friends and I lost all my will to live. Things have been improving lately, but it is quite hard. Well, how have you been lately? How do you deal with these issues? You mentioned once that you’d very happy to be sober for the rest of your life. How is this going? I ask this because I’m sure there are many people out there that have the same problems, but don’t have the will to talk about it or even don’t think that there are many facing the same thing everyday.
I do my best to avoid intoxicants, and because of this I also avoid all kinds of gigs and happenings, but sometimes my inner turmoil takes over me and I find myself felt down to the inferno again.
The problem is that when I start to drink, I am not able to stop it, and then after the first night I just try to avoid the horrible depression that I know will follow when the drinking ends, so, I often just keep on drinking. Sometimes I end up in all kinds of trouble, and always, finally, in a very bad condition, both physically and mentally, because I do not eat or sleep almost at all. I am what is clinically called dipsomaniac.
Intoxicants for me do not mean ”fun”, but more like a slight break from all the anxiety and horror. The price I have to pay is even greater anxiety and horror; a suicidal state of mind, sadness I cause to others, and guilt and suffering. It has been bit better now for a while, and I drink very rarely, and spend most of my time in complete solitude. Also, nowadays I am able to do some of the studio sessions completely sober, which is a great improvement.
Unfortunately, in order to keep control of my mind – I talk about my mental conditions now – I have to take a heavy daily dose of medication, of few different pills. Because of my problems I have extremely low self-esteem, and I live very lonely life.
You are a person that is very interested in religion as well as the Eastern culture. And you have also studied religion on an academic level. I’m also very interested in Buddhism, mysticism, the occult, especially in the Eastern region which I have had the chance to visit and feel the aura, the atmosphere of some places. Could you share with us, in a more detailed way than the simplistic question, what are your main interests, discoveries and the importance of such studies and practices for your life? Especially since you’ve already stated that, for you, your music is spiritual music.
For the last ten years I have been mostly focused on the whole Shambhala/Agharta/Mount Meru/other dimensions/dimensional gateways/watchtowers/advanced ancient cultures/Rex Mundi/Inner Earth UFO -thing of Roerich, Ossendowsky, d’Alveydre, Guénon and several other authors of mysticism, but to fully explore this field, my interest is also on the Hollow Earth, Polar openings, and tunnel systems, and bit shady figures like Raymond Bernard and especially Richard Shaver. I know some of these ideas are just psyched out, but it all fascinates me, and my interested towards some kind of a Hidden Council is very real and serious. If I ever would be able to visit Lhasa or Black Gobi!
During the NEXT ten years I can see myself going deeper in studying the so called Apocalypse/Babalon Working, as it was executed by John Dee and his comerade Edward Kelley, and continued by Aleister Crowley with Victor Neuberg, and finally Jack Parsons with Marjorie Cameron. This idea of trying to open the dimensional gateways can be seen as my future project, but it will demand all my time and force, so I should get rid of all the other work first.
Actually it was someone else who said that my music has spiritual essence in it. I would have not dared to say it myself, as even when the WORK is for me spiritual, I can’t be sure how much of that force is really charged to the results. But I was happy to agree! And, at least for me, it is almost completely spiritual work. The material part; playing, recording, mixing, is there just to serve the spiritual cause and basically copy the spiritual form to a physical form; a record.
Besides these, to many people ”insane” interests, I also have a bit more ”normal” interest in Buddhism and Tao, and some other things, Gnosticism, Lucifer, and so on, but I do not follow any tradition or doctrine. My worldview can be called mystic, or occult, but I do not need those terms. Magic is something that is everywhere, every day; if you just have that free will to open up your senses. I myself live and breath magic.
It is easy to many skeptics to put down this whole idea, but the important thing there is that it really does work. Many things that have happened to me have happened because of this magic.
You do not need any cool looking robes or masks, or some ritual daggers and black candles – even when they may help some people to reach something – or a membership card to some ”secret” society, which probably nowadays has its homesite in the internet – after all the main thing in most of the secret societies is to make their members feel that they belong to something that is not open to everyone. Bit like some groupie thinks she’s more important when she can go to the backstage to suck Axl Rose’s dick. Others must KNOW that the secret society exists. Only after that it is exciting to belong to one hah hah! About the real secret societies we know nothing about. Being a member of such group might even interest me, because I believe that through it I might gain some knowledge unavailable elsewhere.
The work of mysticism has to start from yourself, inside of your mind and body. Those caped guys won’t help you with that! All they can give you is a strange atmosphere, and sort of a study group, which then again is rather necessary if you wish to learn about some of the really complex theories and doctrines of magic I understand nothing about, but more important, at least at first, is to be able to ”step inside” that other world.
I want to underline, that I am NOT any kind of expert in these things! I am just naturally curious person and I only use what works for me. Bit the same way as Austin Osman Spare did. Most of the things he spoke about magic were pure imagination, made up by himself – going as far as telling about how he was initiated by an old witch-woman, who in reality never existed, or studying the pyramids in Egypt, even when he probably never even left England! I am maybe bit more ”academic” in my occult studies than Spare, but he obviously had more strength and talent.
The main thing in his way was an idea of ”as if”. It does not matter WHAT caused something to happen, as long as it did happen. You can say that ”it was as if my spell made it happen”, and it is still as good when it comes to the result. Imagination is VERY important pathway to the world of magic. In his imagination all of those things were real to Spare. But of course imagination is not enough; as all magicians, he was able to USE some of these things, to cause things to happen! That is magic. To control the world, and its gods, instead of kneeling before them. Magic is WORK.
To me my work is part of the Great Work, as it comes to me from some other place, and I put all my spiritual and physical and mental effort in making it real and true. With this I do not mean that only collective reality – where music appears on a record, or played by a band on the stage – would be ”real”, but I meant that I try to transport those ideas I ”receive”, to this world of ours in PURE form. In this purity there is no room for things like commercialism, or lust for fame. I am a slave of my “art”. I do not really mean that I would do art, but my process of doing things is similar to that of artists. Real art is always close to magic and witchcraft.
I do not see myself an entertainer or a servant of the audience, but more like a channeller of something I myself do not always understand, but someone out there maybe can understand.
This is another aspect that, maybe, we share the same view. How and why did you become a vegetarian? Do you feel that this has changed, in any way, your life? What about Veganism, haven’t you thought about becoming “full” vegan? You also are an animal rights defender. Are you a member of any organization? How do you think we could educate people to improve themselves on this subject? Or perhaps at least the kids, as many adults won’t simply give up old habits.
Why it happened? I didn’t want to be part of the forces who exploit and hurt animals, but already the idea of putting pieces of corpses in my mouth is absurd. How it happened? Simply by stopping eating meat. This was very easy for me as I have always had dislike towards it. Has it changed my life? It made me healthier. But I still eat in a wrong way. For me eating is bit like having to go to a toilet. It just IS there as a part of my life. I do like good food, but I like some other things too which are not part of my life.
I would love to be a full vegan, which of course would mean clothing too, but I still sometimes – even though not drinking milk, or eating eggs just like that, or omelets or stuff like that – do eat cheese, or some products that might have some egg or milk in them – if some is offered to me – but basically I avoid them. I also have some leather products; pair of shoes, and belt, and old wallet, but even though I am fan of Judas Priest, I do not prefer leather. If I would have time and energy to really learn to cook my own food, or money to use restaurants, or buy ready to use vegan products, I would leave all the egg and milk products out of my diet. I do not feel good about still using some of them sometimes. But I am very strict about all meat and fish, and also gelatine, and animal based rennets in cheese. Ok, in the end all of those explanations are just excuses, so I still have a long way to go. I just can’t think about that much about food right now, with all the other obstacles in my life.
I am not member of ANY organization, except the Finnish copyright control for composers, lyricists and arrangers, but If I would have a steady income, I would join some animal rights organization and help them with some money every month. I have saved couple of squirrels and birds from death, and I occasionally give the forest animals some food, and always take the plasticbags out of the woods, as animals can get stuck to them and suffogate, so I try to do something, but that is not enough.
I guess one way to reach favorable results, would be to inform people more about the fact that vegetarianism is not just a question of stopping the abuse of animals – as sadly to many people animals are not as important as people – but that it would solve other problems too, such as hunger. Many people do not comprehend that much of the food that has been grown, goes to food of livestock. Also, many people do not really get the fact that we do not NEED to eat animal products. It is all just about that choice! I think that we do not have the right to treat animals in the way we do.
Starting on the musical subject, but still on your personal views, this is, perhaps, one usual question, but I’d love to read your answer on this subject. You’ve been involved with music for many years, many bands and as a fan as well. Do you have any regrets (musically speaking) or is there something that you’d change? And what are your proudest moments with it?
One regret comes to my mind, and that is that I should have played the bass guitars for Crush the Insects again, when we found out there had been some major problems with the recording itself, some unwanted noises, caused by some electricity, or compression. But because of our tight schedule and bad atmosphere – and the fact that I had spend two days doing my best with those bass guitars – I just asked the engineers to try somehow to get rid off those rustles, which ended up the bass sound becoming much less aggressive, and this then again effected the whole mix. I might like to correct few pronounciation errors, and some very minor mixing details on some of the albums I have done too. Otherwise I would not change a thing. Actually I am glad I can’t change anything as those are documents of those times. There is all the struggle and hurry and stress, and poverty.
I can’t think of a one particular proudest moment, as each project I do is the most important thing to me at that time, but I guess I am quite proud that I was finally able to finish We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky, Taste My Sword Of Understanding and Azrael Rising’s Anti-Gravity. All of these three were under production the same time, for five years, and as I was already burntout because of other things, and basically just in a very bad shape, there were many moments when I felt that I wouldn’t be able to go through that, and it all would become and end for me.
I knew that I would have never again been able to do music if those albums would have not been finished. And now they all are! But I still feel the burden and burnout. Now I have to go through Spiritus Mortis and The Puritan, and maybe after them I will feel bit easier and lighter to breath. But of course I will be doing everything I can with those projects too! They mean everything to me.
Now in 2014, you’ve already released two albums that, in my humble opinion, are amazing, one with Opium Warlords and one with Azrael Rising, “Taste My Sword of Understanding” and “Anti-Gravity”. I am aware that this is the kind of question that you find it a bit (or very much) boring, but there are always new listeners and new readers to get to know your material. Please, tell us about both bands and these releases, what were the main goals with both albums, if you feel that you managed to reach them. Anything that you’d like to tell us.
First of all, Anti-Gravity’s instrumental parts, with exception of couple of percussions and synthesizer spices, were not composed and played by me, so when I started to work on the lyrics and the vocals parts, I at first listened to the music, and thought about what it itself needs; what kind of lyrical themes it brings to me. Then I just waited for some elements to come to me, and continued from that on.
After the writing process, when recording the vocal parts, it was very much about a purification for me. I really vomited out some extremely negative and dark energy out of myself; to cleanse myself, and same time to charge the record with this force. Black Metal record HAS to be evil, otherwise it is not Black Metal, and I can tell you that Anti-Gravity is a real deal on this level! I am possessed by some unwanted things, which also cause many surreal fears to my life, and some of that is now in that album.
Taste My Sword Of Understanding, is like the two Opium Warlords albums before it, and all the albums that will come after it; it is all about doing the things just like they have to be done, without ANY expectations of some specific genre, or what the audience might want to hear. The profile of this album was right from the start less violent and hostile than its predecessors. It is quite smooth and nice sounding work, and intentionally so; there was right here a spot for this kind of album in the continuation of Opium Warlords.
I am not just producing a singular album, but an entity and continuation of several albums, basically ALL the albums Opium Warlords will ever do. I have more than ten albums already composed and just waiting on the line to be recorded, but it will take a lot of time. I hope I will live long enough to record all that I have at the moment composed. And that there will be some kind of infrastructure of record business still when it is about the time to put out the final Opium Warlords album.
About your other bands, I really loved Armanenschaft’s “Psychedelic Winter”, will there ever be a new release for this band? I wanted to know the same about Spiritus Mortis and Vironsusi, if you are working on new music for these bands. One more thing, and that you might answer or not, but, your vocal work in Orne is outstanding, it may sound like I’m an ass-kisser, but I’m not, it’s my opinion, I truly believe that you’re one of the best vocalists out there and I’ve been stating this for the last twelve years on the websites I’ve worked on, but, back to the question, do you want to or do you feel like recording another album with Orne in the future?
There has been some talk every now and then about some sessions with Armanenschaft, and we were also asked to play a gig in a charity gig for saving the wolves here in Finland, but unfortunately we were not able to get the thing together, and now for last few years there has not been much talk about anything, as there is so many other things to do. Armanenschaft is very special thing for us, and Psychedelic Winter is one of my own favourite albums of projects I have been in, so IF we would do something together again, it would mean that the material should be very special, and exactly in the right form and mood for Armanenschaft.
With Spiritus Mortis I will do one more album. The instruments have been recorded, with exception of some guitars, and actually right now I am working on the lyrics. The vocals will be recorded later this year, I hope, and the album will come out through Svart Records some sunny day. After this album I will do few more recordings with Spiritus Mortis, for a compilation album, with some new material, but when this will happen, I do not know, as I am always so busy with many things.
Vironsusi was a one-off -session, that came together “just like that”, in one special moment during the recording of Crush the Insects. I am very happy that it finally got released, as I like it very much, and have good memories of it! Years ago I had some plans of doing some Finnish Black Metal with that name, but then I decided that I can’t use it with any other content.
I am happy that many people have liked my very little effort to the two Orne albums, but that band is not something that would be in my mind in daily basis. Orne is completely Kimi’s thing and I do not know what plans he has for it. I was out of it already before the first album, by my own choice, so I did those recordings of the debut album more as a ”hired-hand”, and after those sessions ”that was it”, but then when Kimi was working on the second album, and could not really find the right person to do the vocals, I thought that I would not like to be the element which ruins the album just because of being away, absent. And IF I WOULD be able to help Kimi somehow to make the album what he wants it to be I would also do it.
To be honest I was not at first as excited with the material of the second album, as I was with that of the first, but in the end we got it together in a nice way. Still, if I would be ever again asked to do vocals for Orne, I guess the material would have to be bit different from the second album; more ”progressive” and complex, with surpriring time changes and all kinds of strange things going on. That could excite me again, and I would be happy to sing on that kind of an album! But then again Kimi might already have a new vocalist
This is a question that I feel compelled to ask musicians because, for me (and for many others as well), music is so important that it’s a part of my life. An utterly important part of my life, I must admit. It actually merges with life. Obviously it comes to a moment that without music, life becomes a bit meaningless. How important is music for you, as a listener and not as a musician and how do you feel when you get to know that the music you’ve created, you’ve crafted, helped people to go through terrible phases of their lives. I myself have told some musicians about this and now I tell you how important your music was to my life. In a hard period, I used to keep on listening to “Crush the Insects” on repeat mode and going through the journey created by the atmosphere of the album and the lyrics. It helped me to simply don’t fully give up on life at that particular terrible year.
This may sound strange, but as listening to music has been part of my life ”always”, at least since I was three, and already when I was 8 I was in a very active way trying to find new things, from past and present – so that I was aware of many 60’s and 70’s bands already in a quite young age, as well as of course keeping up with the current music – it has become like an air I breath; I do not THINK so much about it.
It is always here with me at home, but I would not necessarily concider myself as a “music fan”, as I see some other people to be. It is a thing that I do, and something I need in my life, but I am much more passionate about quality movies and literature. Music comes after them as a ”hobby”. But I do increase my record collection constantly, and it has music from a very wide spectrum. I also read biographies of musicians, and gather all kinds of information all the time. It is very easy for me to remember all kind of an important music tirivia hah hah.
Like I said, it is like the air; necessary. But not something I feel extra focused in every moment. It is bit like with someone who repairs cars for his job, and “has to” read some car magazines because of that, but same time also enjoys doing it. My father was one of them.
I do not own any of these new portable digital gadgets to listen to music, and my phone is so old that it does not have those possibilities either, and I really enjoy to be without music when I am out of my home, but when I am here, and I am not watching movies or some good tv-series, or reading, I usually have some record playing.
When I was younger I used to really LISTEN to the albums, and just read the lyrics and watch the sleeves, and go into their worlds, but nowadays I am so busy, that very often the music is there when I work, almost in background, but I still sometimes get those special feelings of music, especially when having a bath and trying to relax, and letting music to take me to some other place, or when finding something new to me, like I have now done with magnificent Danish band Iceage, which I have been listening to almost every day for the last three weeks, or Pyrrhon, which I just found yesterday. Sometimes some bands take time to really open up; latest on this field has been an older band Oxbow! Amazing music!
There is some real magic in music, and to produce it is true alchemy! It is VERY hard to control the soundwaves. Actually you can’t do it. You can only try to get close to it. It is bit like fire. You can control it, but when it burns its form is free from your control. Quite many people, during all of these years, have told me how some songs I have written have helped them through hard times, and naturally that is the best possible feedback one can get. It does not get much deeper than that. In the same way some songs have helped me through this life.
Another question that is not so unusual, but, as I really enjoy your lyrical work, I’d like to ask you what inspires you when you create music. Is this something that “just pops in your mind”, the subject, I mean and then you work on it, or do you feel you need to be in a special mood to create them?
Basically everything I do just comes out of “somewhere”. I could say that I am receiving all of this material from something outside of me, but it is not necessary to try to specify this process. All I can say is that I do not wait for any special moments, or sit down to try to push something out of me; it just happens. I do not have any spare time or vacations. I am always “at work” as ideas come to me all the time. I write text ideas down, and save the music into my mind, and then maybe later they become part of some song.
Of course when working for something like Azrael Rising or Spiritus Mortis it is different, because the music has not come from my mind, and there is a certain tradition, and history and genre I have to keep in my mind in order to do justice for the band, but even there I still want the ideas to come naturally. When I start to work with the ideas that I already have, new ones approach, and this way the lyrics come together. Part of the process is just intentional work, but most of it comes “out of the blue”.
My life, which is all I have, is the source of my inspiration, but of course everything I see and hear and taste and smell and feel is also part of my life, even when I am much more in my own world than the human world, or anything outside of me.
This is the part where I always ask a few things about the man behind the music, nothing too intrusive, of course. I think we’ve covered a lot of this on the past questions, but, if we didn’t and we could get to know a few more aspects in a more detailed way, that would be highly appreciated. Well, outside the music word, what are your main passions, what do you enjoy doing, be it about anything you’d like to share with us.
This sounds pathetic but I do not enjoy too many things, and pleasures, and comforts and such things do not have much room in my life; it is more about DOING things, but now I am trying to change it. I have to, in order to be able to be here. I am very unhappy person, and I do not hang around with people or have any real hobbies. As I mentioned, I like good movies, not any of this brainless commercial shit that reigns the whole world of cinema these days, but quality stuff, and I have always at least one book that I am reading, and I read some magazines occasionally. I am also all the time “studying” something, so I am not just reading for the fun.
Mostly my life is centered in my own work, and also the work connected to it that I have to do, like answering emails, and doing these interviews and so on. I do love nature and animals and I like to walk alone in the woods, and sit by the lake, and I also enjoy the rare occasions of going to sauna.
Even when I am aware of all the problems I have with intoxicants, I sometimes enjoy that brief moment of joy I get after couple of drinks, when sitting in the ”no man’s land” of some restaurant or club or pub, but sadly I am not able to stick to that, and go home, and it gets worse after a while.
I also enjoy that part of making records when I am getting everything together on my own, in solitude, before entering the studio. I like to arrange the music, and do that finishing touch to it. Sometimes I get these flashes of pure euphoria! They do not last long, but it is like being connected to something transcendental. Those can come out of something I have myself done, or some specific experience, or some great work of art I see, being a drawing or painting, or a song, a poem, or a book, or, as it often is, a movie. These moments help me to cope with long periods of depression, and other things I have to deal with.
I am also happy that I have this home of mine where I can be completely alone, as no-one ever visits me, and I really do not get phone calls anymore, except sometimes from some unstable people I do not even know, who try to reach me; because of them I do not answer phone calls anymore at all, with exception of the rare ones from my mother or someone like that, a loved one.
What I enjoy the most is view from my balcony; what seems like endless mountains of forest, is actually islands in the lake, and forests in the horizon. This is the greatest possession I have. A view to a vision land that doest not really exist. And still it does.
And we reach the end of this interview. I hope that you have enjoyed answering it as much as I liked coming up with the questions. I also would like to wish you all the best in your personal and professional lives and good luck with your future plans. It was indeed a pleasure to interview you. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Many thanks for fresh questions! This was easy one, and I am glad about it. All the best to you and the readers.
August 24, 2014