Johan Levin is active under the Desiderii Marginis moniker since 1993. His dark-ambient music project got signed on Cold Meat Industry and became one of the numerous ambassadors from the ‘Karmanik’-label roster. Desiderii Marginis’s newest opus entitled “Vita Arkivet” has been released on Cyclic Law and reveals a familiar dark sound, but still a very intimate atmosphere. Time for a chat with Johan Levin.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: You’re not the kind of artist releasing a new album/production every single year. I should think you need a break after each new work to get new inspiration and reflect about your next creation, patiently collecting sounds etc. How is it really all about and how do you proceed?
Johan: – Well that depends… If I already have clearly defined ideas or sketches for the next project I may very well get started on that right away after finishing something, since I rarely work on more than one project at a time. But of course, due to a lot of practical reasons it makes sense to take a little break after completing an album. You get requests to perform with your new material, to do interviews such as this one, you have to manage a lot of orders and promote the new release in all kinds of ways. So yes, there are normally different kinds of activities requiring your attention. However, after a while things calm down and you feel compelled to begin the creative process anew.
Q: What can you tell us about the background, creation and eventually concept of “Vita Arkivet”?
Johan: About a year and half ago a family member was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, and the prospect was very bad already from the start and he did pass away in the beginning of December 2018. So obviously death, not as a distant prospect, but as a certainty, has been not only in my mind, but also those closest to me for quite some time. Music is a way for me to ventilate and process things so it was pretty much inevitable that it would influence my work at this time.
Q: That probably explains why I experienced “Vita Arkivet” as one of your darkest-, but still most intimate works to date; a bit like penetrating the secret universe of someone. In which way do you see your music –and more especially this album, as a mirror of your soul/state of being?
Johan: My music and my own person and mind are inseperable and always have been. To somehow detach myself from my music and create with a sense of distance has never been my intention, or my wish for that matter. What I do is an extension and an expression of myself and what’s preoccupying me at a certain time, it’s another way for me to process things.
Q: You’ve always used a mix of equipment (analog, digital) and different kinds of sound/noise sources. How did the writing of the new work happened?
Johan: I wanted to take and use the most classical and iconic elements of dark ambient, but also the most sincere ones, to come up with something that had a very strong sense of honesty, melancholy and intimacy -to go back to the roots of the genre and try to bring about some of the old magic that it can so well convey, given the proper attention. For this album I felt the hallmark ambient elements, the choirs, church bells and cathedral reverbs felt more appropriate than ever.
Q: “Vita Arkivet” was originally meant as a digital release only, but finally got a CD- and vinyl pressing as well. I can imagine it’s important for you as an artist to get your work released as a physical format, but what’s your perception about this evolution in music business?
Johan: In the end it is of course the listeners who decide in which format they prefer to listen to music. Thats said, a physical release I think reveals a certain confidence in the work present, and perhaps it suggests a bit more thoughtfulness. The artwork, liner notes etc can also function to enhance and elaborate the subject matter of the work and its context. Making a record is a bit of a gamble financially and putting it out there shows that you mean business, and I think most people aknowledge that.
Q: You started composing ‘dark-ambient’ music during the early 90s. How do you see the evolution of this music throughout the years and your own evolution as musician?
Johan: Personally I think I have grown immensely both in terms of how I begin preparations for a new album and how I eventually realise it. I’m enjoying that process as much as I ever did, but nowdays I feel that I have a clearer sense of direction and a better grasp of my own creativity. As for the evolution of the genre as a whole it is my impression that it has both widened and become more compartmentalized. There exists a clearer definition of what dark-ambient is and certain sub-genres have evolved out of it, which I guess is a natural development when any artistic movement grows.