Set up in early 2005 by Sathorys Elenorth, Der Blaue Reiter this year released its sixth full length album “United, Yet Divided”. Originally set up as a duo, Lady Nott left the band after the fourth full length and got replaced by Cecilia Bjärgo (Arcana, Sophia). The Catalan – Swedish duo joined hands together with Dark Vinyl Records to unleash their most intimate, accomplished… and political album to date. It also is an artistic fusion between different influences such as martial, ambient, neo-folk and ‘chanson’. I got in touch with both protagonists to get more info about this great work.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Even if “United, Yet Divided” is Der Blaue Reiter’s sixth album to date, I can imagine it always is something particular. How do you look back at the composing process of the album and the ‘chemistry’ between Sathorys and Cecilia?
Sathorys: Even when we are talking about the sixth album of the band, for us, this one and in many ways means an important point in the Der Blaue Reiter’s history because somehow we needed something new to show for this new chapter. So for quite a long time we were focused on this music goal and finally we are glad to show this new step impregnated with new sonorities made with analogue synths, cinematic percussions, but also another chapter from the human history from the point of view of the Der Blaue Reiter concept.
Of course there’s a perfect chemistry between Cecilia and me and it’s so easy to work with her because she is in my opinion one of the most professional musicians inside this scene and we’re glad to share this music adventure together.
Cecilia: From the beginning on, it has been very smooth working with Sathorys. We communicate well and we give each other ideas that will be carried out into the process. Sathorys is a musical genius and virtuous and I couldn’t be more proud and honored, working with him. For the process, he always use working names for the songs, and other I use that title to spin off the lyrics. Sometimes I have my own view and he is happy to adapt it. Even being in two different countries, the working process always go great.
Q: Der Blaue Reiter always has liked to work around concepts and it’s not that different for “United, Yet Divided” on, which the themes and lyrics are essential to seize the dystopian vision of our world in between 1945 and 1990. Tell us a bit more about the concept and the different subjects you’ve chosen? What did you try to express?
Cecilia: The thoughts of the Cold War came even before that album, so I had ideas for lyrics a long time before. That era, the Cold War era, is fascinating. It was the truth of Europe when I was born 50 years ago. I experienced the fall of the Berlin wall through television. I have friends who was there in real life. The lyrics and music is not taking a political side, we are not looking for any discussions about what was right or wrong. All lyrics are based upon facts and historical sources. When it comes to the subjects we chose, as you put it: it was in a chronological order of events that made a mark in history. From start we also planned to have lyrics for the Cuba crisis, the independent Sweden and the fall of the Romanian leader Ceausescu. But an album can’t be too long, hehe, and the instrumental songs need titles. So the lyrics are saved in my computer.
Q: History never has been that present in an album of Der Blaue Reiter, which I can imagine also reveals a real fascination for these different historic subjects. How do you prepare these subjects and how do you finally manage to transpose all the ideas into sound?
Sathorys: I’m agree with you, Der Blaue Reiter is not only music, for us the concept of each album is the most important part of all the composition process. For this reason before each new album we like to think about what we want to communicate to our audience with each song, and how we can show it across our music. In this last album Cecilia was the person behind the concept inspired in the Cold War, and then I made the music following all her ideas until finally music and concept were one and this new chapter came.
Cecilia: Being a history teacher, I am fascinated about certain times and eras. The last album had The Great War as kind of a theme and now it was time for another one. Since Sathorys make all the music, which he sends to me and I can make an input on what to evolve or reduce, I will handle the lyrics. I often write about anything, all the time. So for this album I had almost every lyric done before the music. Of course it had to be changed a bit, in order to be transposed into the music. I had to narrow down a bit of history, hehe. But the concept was remained and in the end, we are both very happy with the outcome.
Q: The song “Death To The Tyrant” has something special as it deals about Spain and the years under the Caudillo regime. How do you (Sath) as a Spanish (or should I say Catalonian?) citizen look back at these years of totalitarianism and how do you see your ‘country’ today?
Sathorys: I consider myself a Catalan citizen, not for anything related to sophisticated or radical political ideas, that is because I love my language, my culture and my traditions. But I have family and close friends outside of Catalonia and I also respect their ideas. That is the meaning of democracy, right? As well as respect and freedom. But we can’t forget the sad past of Spain during the Franco’s dictatorship where many innocent people died… For this reason we decided to add this song like a memorandum of all this victims and their families.
And secondly, the current situation of Spain becomes every day worse, in a supposed democracy where we lose our rights to express, or decide, our own future and the right wing is rising in many parts of the country and conquering an important part of the power. So we’ll see what happens. But to be honest, I’m not enthusiastic about our near future…
Q: Back to the album, which according to me sounds as the offspring between numerous influences. There’s an interesting duality between epic/bombastic arrangements and refined neo-classic like passages, but still a work that sounds more ‘intimate’ and into ‘chanson’. I don’t want to compare you with bands such as Rome and Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, but I think there’s a similar and interesting evolution in the global sound approach. How do you perceive this evolution and the impact of Cecilia?
Sathorys: Of course is true that Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio or for example Predella Avant were two of my main influences when I decided to create Der Blaue Reiter. I respect both bands and they are part of my music heart nowadays, but sometimes it is difficult for me to understand when some people or zines compare their music with Der Blaue Reiter. Because in my opinion Der Blaue Reiter have a very different sonority even when both are using spoken word as vocal way.
After six albums Der Blaue Reiter have a very personal mixture between cinematic ambiences and powerful atmosphere, which is very different compared to the mentioned bands. It is not better, but sure different in many ways as music concept, instruments we are using, different clothes, different kind of performances…
The impact of Cecilia was so important in this natural evolution because now the lyrics and the music speak the same language and we add different kind of influences inside the band, something fabulous in my opinion.
Q: The album is also available as a vinyl edition. I noticed more and more artists are getting back to the vinyl format. How do you see this ‘move back’ and the global evolution over the years –from cassette and vinyl formats towards CD towards streaming etc? I’m afraid the music business became a bit dystopian as well, don’t you think?
Sathorys: In my opinion this return to the past was something necessary to save the music business. With Spotify and the digital era lot of labels decided to invest less in their releases because they were losing a lot of money when an important part of the customers prefer to pay ten euros a month to have all music with only a click on their computer or cell phone.
The vinyl is the most romantic representation of the music, with a special sonority and reason to pay some money to buy a copy in a nice collector’s edition. I don’t know if that’s good or not for the music because at the end all is pure business, but if you ask me, I prefer a vinyl than an MP3.
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