July 9, 2024

Click Interview with Ulvtharm: ‘Only My Imagination Is The Limit When It Comes To Sound Design’

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Swedish artist Jouni Heikki Ollila aka Jouni Ulvtharm is a name that will for sure make ring a bell. He got involved with the legendary EBM duo Pouppée Fabrikk and the Dark-Ambient project MZ.412. He got also involved with other bands like Mr. Jones Machine, Project-X, Teleskop, Burg ao. By the end of last year he released the official debut-album of Ulvtharm entitled “Wrēkō”. This work released by Cyclic Law stands for a great, retro-like sounding production mixing Dark-Ambient and Industrial music. The atmospheres hanging over the work create an imaginary horror scape. The work has been accomplished by an impressive sound canvas resulting in a sophisticated production. “Wrēkō” is for sure one of the best albums in its genre from the past year.

(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: You’ve been involved with that much bands and projects dealing with very different music genres. So how do you explain the need to already start with a ‘new’ project like Ulvtharm? What does Ulvtharm stand for -and especially in comparison or addition to other projects? 

Jouni: I always have the need to create music, in any shape or form. Ulvtharm is really a derivative of demos that I initially made for the MZ.412 “Svartmyrkr”-album, but it did not fit the sound and mood so I put these aside. Once I listened back on the demos, I found a message in the music that needed to be shared, and this is want sparked the idea to make a solo project as ULVTHARM.

Q: I think to have read about the origins of Ulvtharm it all started when you were living in Malaysia, right? Tell us a bit more about it and in which way did it have an influence/impact on the music and the album you composed? 

Jouni: Yes, the Ulvtharm recordings were started in Malaysia, however only as demos. I did not start re-recording everything until I moved back to Sweden in 2019/2020, and at that time the world was hit with the pandemic. It was a particularly dark period in my life, it exposed the darker side of my psyche, and I think it heavily influenced the impending doom and end-of-times themes on the album.

Q: I think it’s interesting to see how different places and different cultures can have an influence on artists. It all looks like a very personal mental process. What’s your experience and perception? And are there specific places you would like to stay and/or visit to get inspiration? 

Jouni: For me, moving back to Sweden has helped a lot with inspiration; in these parts of the world, we spend the majority our days surrounded by darkness with very little sunlight in the autumn and winter. This helps to spawn new ideas and draw energy from the cold void; it’s refreshing and helps me focus on the music that needs to be done, especially when doing Dark-Ambient and Industrial music.

Q: “Wrēkō” sounds like a very personal and even intimate work. Can we speak about a conceptual work or what is it all about? What have been the different stages in the writing and production of “Wrēkō”?

Jouni: “Wrēkō” is indeed very personal, it is a revenge on my own self, on my ego, for not taking these creative steps earlier. It is the Alpha and Omega.

Q: The dark atmospheres recovering this album but also the global sound treatments and production have a very explicit retro-like feeling, reminding me to early 80s artists dealing with Industrial/Dark-Ambient music. Tell us a bit more about the ‘sound’ properly speaking and what equipment and gear did you use? 

Jouni: I use a lot of hardware instruments and synthesizers when composing; for me it is only natural since this is the way I have been making music since the 80’s. My eurorack modular system plays a very important role on the album; many of the electronic buzzing and harsher passages are made on that system. For me, the modular synthesizer is key when creating heavy drones and Dark-Ambient passages, only my imagination is the limit when it comes to sound design. Also, there is a lot of acoustic instruments and field recordings heavily treated by both my modular system and effect pedals, a wide array of soundscapes which are then later puzzled together in my computer which serves as an advanced multitrack recorder.

Q: I’m always fascinated when an artist is involved with that much projects/bands and music genres. How do you switch from one project till the other and where does this eclectic side comes from? Are there specific genres you still want to explore? 

Jouni: This is a cyclical thing really depending on the state of my mind and from where I draw my influences. As an example, after making the Ulvtharm album my ideas were completely depleted, and I needed to feed my mind other influences to cater to the urge to compose new materials. At this point, it was natural to change genre; my artistic and creative senses need different input depending on the music I need to make. It was easy for me to move to Burg, to start working on the “Pendulum Swing” album which had sensory inputs like popular science, sci-fi books and movies. I switched my mind to these new influences and started my musical journey on a completely different project. I have found over the years that I cannot walk in the same shoes musically; I need to make these changes else I will quickly get bored and there will be no music made at all.

author avatar
Inferno Sound Diaries
I have been working for over 30 years with Side-line as the main reviewer. My taste is eclectic, uncoventional and I prefer to look for the pearls, even if the bands are completely unknown, thus staying loyal to the Side-Line philosophy of nurturing new talents.

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