The iconic, active since 1994 electronic pioneers from Sweden, Covenant, are hitting the stage at Death Disco club on 25th March. They are currently on tour, promoting their latest (11th LP) ‘The Blinding Dark’, an astonishing release that, as usual, includes 2-3 classic songs for the band’s quiver. We made a very interesting interview with frontman Eskil Simonsson, all about ‘The Blinding Dark’, its meanings and their purposes in that LP, and he also gave us many interesting hints about the Covenant “world”. No more words from us, Mr. Simonsson in charge!
Hello Covenant, congratulations on ‘The Blinding Dark’ LP, how’s the ongoing tour and the feedback from the audiences, on the new material so far?
Eskil: Hi Last Day Deaf! Thanks for taking the time writing us. I had a very emotionally tough year working on the new album and balance life and the outside world. When I am in the studio I get totally absorbed by the music, like when you are listening to headphones, and one day you have to get back and do practical things. But it’s a wonderful place to be in and be allowed to daydream for weeks.
‘The Blinding Dark’ sounds “heavier” and darker than the previous ‘Leaving Babylon’ LP in 2013. What did in the band’s procedure in making and arranging new music occur? Also, there is a statement that the band now consists of five persons (in studio I suppose), how come?!
Eskil: I think the new album is a reflection of our times. Like artists I think we are, and our purpose to be, just sensitive antennas picking up signals and then process them through our synthezisers. Covenant have grown to a family consisting of our past and present members all contributing to the new album. Our most varied album to date even including a cover version by Lee Hazlewood.
Perfection on sound and arrangements, targeting the state-of the-art musings of the band is what make you unique in the genre. What really pushes or even drive you in such treatment on your art?
Eskil: Joakim (Montelius) is the one who pushes me and the band to strive further. To never look back and not to be content with what we have achieved. If I am left alone too long I tend to do more synthpop stuff! I think one secret of the album is that Joakim has contributed more material than any album since he stopped touring and that explains the more somber and introvert character. I wanted to do a “spiritual” album for long time and both Joakim and me connected very well when we started talking about this album and where to go. But there’s a lot of great new music coming out like the stuff from the label Aufnahme+Widergabe. Great new music has always been our biggest source of inspiration.
Your music is always walking “hand in hand” with the lyrics, always regarded as statements on our times. Relationships, dreams, expectations and anticipations in the mind of the writer, please tell us few things on what is inspiring you in such narrations?
Eskil: Most lyrics are written by Joakim so you would have to ask him. In studio, I am more of a producer putting everything together. Since we have been working together for some decades now so we are very spiritually connected, even when we are apart.
You have stated a few things in your press release on the new LP, that I could only but agree, but share with our readers what hides in the core of ‘The Blinding Dark’, regarding that… ‘‘there is no Berlin wall to defiantly dance on any more…that we live in dark and confusing times…and that (the new LP) is implosive..”.
Eskil: Thanks, yes this time we wanted the tracks to implode, like a black hole sucking the listener into it, rather than explode like a supernova and blind the listener. All different stages in a star’s natural course of life. Stars have long been a metaphor on which we dress our shortcomings and with Master of Science University degree I have also studied the maths and physics behind it.
1994’s ‘Cryotank’ to this year’s ‘The Blinding Dark’. Decades in pioneering, among few other artists, in electronic music that have a special chapter on E.B.M. What was the first glimpse and sparking light that put you behind your machines, and how do you consider the genre nowadays?
Eskil: When we started making music professionally with ‘Cryotank‘ and on we were very inspired by the vibrant techno scene at the time. For us it was like Synth music 2.0 and we made it our credo to combine the beat and energy of techno with the aesthetics of industrial music. I am so happy that underground techno is back in Sweden and there are great underground techno parties again after decade of a lot of mainstream dance.
There’s a song in ‘The Blinding Dark’, ‘A Rider On A White Horse’ that sounds like an electro, space ballad. It seems that you are interested in other forms of music as well as in electronics. Could you share with us some thoughts on that and on music generally?
Eskil: Thanks, it’s one of my favourites on the album and actually a cover of Lee Hazlewood. The idea came from Erica Li a friend in Malmö who also has a band, Lovac, together with our guitarist Andreas Catjar. They sent me an early version and asked me if I wanted to sing! I was so impressed and asked directly if I could make a new version and put it on the Covenant album. Erica has a great voice and fits so well together.
You are currently on tour, what are the audiences going to experience, any surprises maybe..?
Eskil: After months of nightmares in the studio, touring on the other hand is the reward after all the work and our German tour has been great with half of the shows sold out. We brought a really massive lighting show I think it was as a powerful experience for the audience as it was for us on stage. But the tour goes on! This year we will tour North and South America, Europe again and have our first show in Africa, in Dakar in Senegal!
Covenant is an admired and respected name, still gifting us astonishing musings and gaining new fans, but what does the artist gain out of the fans’ appreciation?
Eskil: Thanks but in the studio there is so much self-criticism we don’t feel like stars really. In the end we do the music for ourselves, like an urge or an itch you can’t scratch. We are just very grateful and surprised that so many people care for it as well. It wouldn’t be possible to dedicate the time and effort to produce the music with such care without the support of everyone. Thank you!
Is there any aegis in the band’s universe?
Eskil: Well some! I am big fan of Japanese pop culture and the Shin Megami Tensei or Persona games by Atlus where Aegis is an android that starts showing human-like traits. A common theme but mixing it with our obsession of longevity and teenage angst we are humans but start showing robot-like traits with age, in fact ceasing to live before our time is nigh. Aegis is also the kind of the Greek translation of my name; Eskil means a God’s shield in Norse, the old Nordic language.
Thank you for making music Covenant, we’ll see you at Death Disco club downtown Athens on 25th March; Last words on you.
See you soon and best wishes from the Covenant!
Photo credits: Frank Machalowski (1st one), Chris Ruiz (2nd one)