Jan Roger Pettersen aka Svartsinn has been active in the Norwegian dark ambient scene since late 90’s. We borrow Svartsinn’s words for what dark ambient means to him: “Dark Ambient to me is pure atmosphere, emotions, feelings, deep internal energy—all from a darker origin or perspective of course”. Do you want to learn more about him? Don’t waste your time. Go ahead and read the following lines.
Hi, Jan. Could you please introduce yourself to Last Day Deaf readers and tell us a few things about your musical background?
Jan Roger Pettersen (JR): Hello. Well, my name is Jan Roger Pettersen– 41 years old from Trondheim in Norway. I have always been into music, since a very early age, about 4 years old, when I got my first impressions from music that I can remember. But I really didn’t seriously touch any instruments or “gadgets” all that much until the late 90s when I tried learning bass to be in a friend’s black metal band. I didn’t have the patience for it back then. It all kind of began quite suddenly when I truly discovered dark ambient and took “baby steps” from then on. After that I also found patience to learn the bass guitar and more. So, besides Svartsinn, there has been some black metal and some other projects here and there.
What kind of equipment do you use for creating your distinctive Svartsinn sound?
JR: Without going into too much detail, I use a very small amount of equipment. The music is generally created by using a midi-keyboard with several interesting programs for some unique effects with the addition of some guitar and bass – and a lot of patience tweaking it to my own liking.
Which would you say are the main influences for your creativity?
JR: I see myself as an “Atmosphere Hunter”. When it comes to creating music for Svartsinn for instance, I take inspiration from things that aren’t very pleasant. Anything from personal issues, the general ugliness of the world we live in, humanity or rather the lack thereof but also books, movies, art and sometimes music.
Could you please share with us a few words about each one of your five albums, and in what ways do they differ?
JR: My 3 first albums are ‘Devouring Consciousness’ (2002, Eibon Records), ‘Of Darkness And Re-Creation’ (Cyclic Law, 2003) and ‘Traces Of Nothingness’ (Cyclic Law, 2005). All three are highly personal albums, a sort of trilogy where I make music about some really difficult times in my life. Then there is ‘Elegies for the End’ (Cyclic Law, 2009) which is mostly an album for which I have taken inspiration from certain ugly events or incidents. Also, this was an anniversary album, so I had 9 artist friends remix some of my songs as a bonus. The latest album, ‘The Borrowed World’ (LOKI/PAS, 2013), is 100% inspired by Cormac MacCarthy’s book “The Road”. Probably the best, gloomiest and touching book I have ever read.
Your last recording was a collaboration with Northaunt for ‘The Borrowed World’. Could you please give us some info about this?
JR: It was an idea Hærleif (of Northaunt) and I got after being approached by the nice gentlemen of the LOKI Foundation label when we both were playing the Phobos Festival in Germany. They offered us to release a split vinyl and since both of us had just read and loved Cormac McCarthy’s book “The Road”, we decided to make music inspired by it. “The Road” is a novel set in a post- apocalyptic world where a father and his son journey the wasteland trying to survive and avoid lurking dangers; very dark and gloomy, and very well written.
Three of your albums have been released by Cyclic Law. Were you satisfied with the label promotion? Any plans of releasing music with Cyclic Law in the near future?
JR: I see Cyclic Law as the home of Svartsinn, the main label where I release Svartsinn music. Nevertheless, some collaborations, especially themed projects, unique re-issues and so on, might find their way to other labels. And, yes, the next full Svartsinn album is well underway and will be released by Cyclic Law.
As far as I know, you have also contributed music for films. Could you tell us which they were? Were you satisfied with the result?
JR: I have been fortunate enough to have contributed some songs to movies, documentaries and plays in the past. No blockbusters, quite low-budget and underground but still fun to be a part of. They were the following:
2001: America’s Most Haunted Town, Luminence Films. Documentary.
2002: Jigsaw, Horror Movie. Full Moon Pictures.
2004: America’s Most Haunted Inn’s, Luminence Films. Documentary.
2007: Gimme Skelter, Horror Movie. Exhilarated Despair Productions.
2009: Dozers, Horror Movie, Full Moon Pictures.
I also did some theatre, which was the first time I actually got paid for doing anything with Svartsinn. Those productions were:
2007: Mikael Hetle’s Siste Ord (Michael Hetle’s Last Words) by Edvard Hoem
2007: Tvillingar (Twins) by Agota Kristof
What’s your opinion about the Norwegian dark ambient scene? Could you inform us about some emerging artists from your country?
JR: Hmm… “scene” is a bit of a tricky word. There’s not really a scene to speak about. If we only take into account the dark ambient genre, there are a few artists and a few rare concerts, me being the main person behind them with the help of some friends. These few artists make up several unique and diverse bands of very high quality. Since the “scene” is so small, one should think we who are a part of it should know more about what’s going on in Norway, but I must admit I haven’t heard any new projects emerging during the last few years. Either nothing is going on or people are keeping things in the dark [Laughing]. Hopefully we’ll see some new projects in the future – be it from newcomers or familiars.
Norway is also very famous for its black metal scene. Are you into this genre? If yes, which bands are your favourite ones?
JR: Yes, I am most definitely into Black Metal. I am also part of a BM band myself, which will hopefully release an old demo from 2004 this year. The name of the band is Vandød. Stay tuned for more news on that later [Laughing]. Other than that, I have a lot of favourite BM bands, many from the old scene (Darkthrone, Bathory, Burzum, Emperor, Ulver) and many more recent ones (Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Mare, Svartidauði, Vemod etc.)
Correct me if I am wrong. Since 2013, you haven’t released anything as Svartsinn. Are there any plans of new music within 2016? Is “A Lovecraftian Epilogue: In the Wake of Azathoth” a hint for your new sound direction?
JR: Correct, that’s the latest offering (in addition to the cello version of Vemod). But that is merely a song I made from leftover stems and sounds after the Azathoth collaboration. I think the next album will be quite diverse and, in many ways, a mix of the old sound and the latest – and something in a more new direction perhaps.
A tricky question for you… What does dark ambient mean to you? If somebody unfamiliar with this genre asked you, what would your answer be?
JR: Dark Ambient to me is pure atmosphere, emotions, feelings, deep internal energy – all from a darker origin or perspective of course.
Could you tell us a few things about your other alias, Wasteland Transmissions?
JR: There is not much to tell about it unfortunately. It is an open creative outlet of mine. Not a deeply personal or real-life serious type outlet. It is my sci-fi / space project drawing inspiration from dark and gloomy sci-fi movies, series, comics, books etc. So far I have only made 3-4 songs, two of which made it to compilations by Kalpamantra and can be found on their site or on YouTube. Not sure when I will get around to finishing this album. Hopefully someday I will!
You are going to appear in the ETOR Dark Ambient Fest at Death Disco, taking place between 6-8 May. What should the audience expect?
JR: Well, as usual, I will mix some songs from albums with improvisations -just mixing sounds to create a unique experience. This will give a whole new and different depth to the Svartsinn live set and those who have witnessed it so far have given us some really great feedback on that.