by Niklas Göransson
Diving deep into waters unknown: Nubivagant is the new solo venture by Italian multi-instrumentalist and black metal veteran Omega. He discusses the demonic nature of art, as well as the pressing need for authenticity in music.
– Ever since my teenage years, I’ve been obsessed with music. I had a band before I even knew what to do with a single instrument. I always felt a desire to create and release records – to leave something behind. Music changed my life, and a few musicians truly inspired me with their revolutionary views and hard-as-stone songs. Some albums had a profound impact on my youth, my worldview, and my thoughts. It’s plain to see that music can teach us something; it leaves a huge mark. NUBIVAGANT is the dark world of a visionary soul trying to discover treasures hidden within its subconscious. I’ve had this project in mind for six or seven years now, but it wasn’t until recently I had the balls to make it work properly in my head.
NUBIVAGANT’s debut album, “Roaring Eye”, is scheduled for release by Amor Fati Productions on September 30. Omega is primarily known from a number of bands such as BLUT AUS NORD, CHAOS INVOCATION, FIDES INVERSA, FROSTMOON ECLIPSE, and so on. He also has two projects in which he’s the main songwriter and performs all instruments – DARVAZA and DEATHROW.
– I knew from the very beginning that it would sound different. My first proper test was “The Silver Chalice” with DARVAZA, which combined monotonous riffing with clean vocals. The song worked very well and its atmosphere was insane, but this band already has a proper soul and shape and so didn’t feel like the right vessel to develop in this direction. So, whilst NUBIVAGANT was born from a rib of DARVAZA, it has evolved into a totally different beast. “Roaring Eye” offers six songs, forty-something minutes of atmospheric, monotonous, and mesmerising black metal: very simple, primitive, and repetitive. I don’t like writing overly complex music and prefer stirring atmosphere over showcases of technical skill. To be honest, the biggest challenge for me was figuring out how to get into the right frame of mind to sing properly. The other two bands are all about rage, aggression, and violence, which is not the case with NUBIVAGANT. To properly focus on the melodies, I had to calm down and let the music flow harmoniously within me – instead of being absorbed by anger and destruction, trying to spit my lungs out to express myself in this rude way.
At first, I thought to myself that it was an interesting choice to begin a black metal album with clean vocals. Ten or so minutes later, I realised that this is the main voice. It works surprisingly well, actually. When I heard the instrumental track five songs in, it dawned on me how much this hypnotic droning dictates the music’s atmosphere.
– Obviously I’m aware that this album won’t please everyone, and I find that quite reasonable. “Roaring Eye” merges several musical elements black metal purists usually don’t like. The funny thing is that when it comes to music, I’m mostly a purist too. Not that I always want to hear the same old formula, but the stuff I usually like tends to be pretty generic black metal music. I’ve always appreciated clean vocals though, as well as those who tried to infuse them into black metal. How can one remember the likes of VED BUENS ENDE, BORKNAGAR, and URFAUST without falling in love with them? However, I wasn’t trying to compose a hybrid of bands we already know, but something more radical and ‘extreme’. Hazardous move? Creeping risk? Or maybe a record that will change the world? I don’t think so, but it’s not up to me to say.
Omega says that he’d been trying for years to find modern bands playing this type of music, but, after failing to find any, decided to make it himself.
– I wanted to see if I could pull it off, and I believe I did; it would be up to the listener to pass final judgement on this though. I simply wanted to go further and do something different and challenging, and why not disturbing too? What I really tried to avoid was making a DARVAZA II or DEATHROW II, if you know what I mean? Sure, it’s still me composing and playing everything, so maybe someone could find minor similarities in the guitarwork or drumming style, but I’m sure the general aura of NUBIVAGANT is totally different.
Do you have any musical training?
– No, I never learned the proper way of handling any instrument, never took a single lesson or whatever; I’m completely self-taught. I know nothing about notes, scales, or technical stuff in general. I learned to play instruments by ear, or through watching what others were doing at shows. I don’t really like instruments and rarely feel the need to play them. I don’t rehearse on a weekly basis, only when I feel like it. I’m not a passionate person who watches video-lessons online or informs himself about the latest models of drumkits and guitars. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’m not especially skilled, I’m able to do only what I need to: black metal. I’m not interested in anything else. I’ve never felt the desire to become a good musician, learning difficult stuff, and practising a lot to be perfect. I use my instruments as weapons of expressing myself, and that’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last twenty-five years.
Preparing for this conversation, I noticed from past interviews that Omega doesn’t appear to be especially fond of talking about himself. Despite several decades as an active musician, he’s not very comfortable being the centre of attention.
– I don’t like doing interviews, no, nor do I enjoy being in the spotlight. I’m not special and have no designs of changing the world with my art; I just want to be myself and do what I love to do. The music I create and record speaks for itself. In my opinion, there is no need to explain too many details about your work. On the contrary, the listener needs to form his own understanding – especially if your lyrics are open to multiple interpretations, as mine are. When you give too much away to the listener, you’re limiting his view and that feels terribly wrong to me. I also have to say that ‘average’ interviews are oftentimes boring and all look the same. Nowadays, anyone can easily find music online and research whatever they want to know. Twenty years ago, interviews and reviews had an entirely different value, because it was difficult to keep up to date. Nor was it possible to buy every single record that triggered your interest. Everything is easier now, and sometimes there’s even too much information. It seems bands want to share every single detail with you, and I find that ridiculous.
One plausible explanation could be that musicians wish to arouse some interest in their work from readers who were previously unfamiliar with the project.
– Yes, I understand that most bands out there are more interested in sales than creating sincere art coming from the heart. Perhaps that’s why I have a regular job, which allows me to make music how and when I want to and with no need of pleasing anyone else. Nowadays, everybody is into business since day one; they talk about ‘careers’ and sales as if they are a corporation, call paying to join tours ‘investments for the future’, and so on. It seems that everyone needs to make a living out of it now, that simply creating music is no longer the main pleasure. Too many are hungering for fame or a sure spot in the scene – wanting to step up in just a few years and skip the underground circuit, the DIY shows or tours, and simply enjoying the genuine music, friendship, and good company. They do promotion stuff like there’s no tomorrow, printing stupid gadgets and writing statements so people understand that they’re on the good side of everything. I have neither understanding nor tolerance for any of it, I’m a backwards grumpy old man and all of this makes me puke. That’s probably why I listen mostly to music made by people I already know and trust. Integrity is essential for me. Of course, I don’t know everyone, so I try to give bands an honest chance. That said, it’s not uncommon that after sharing backstage time together with some disappointing individuals, the first thing I do once I’m home is to throw all their records in the bin and forget all about them. I suppose this sounds extreme and intolerant, even arrogant, but that’s how I am.
Can you elaborate on your thoughts about investing money into building up a band?
– Art is demonic, it rips you apart… it doesn’t depend on business, on sales, on stupid lyric videos, or on forcing promotion at any cost: begging for or even buying features in mags, placing ads, or giving interviews to anyone offering them. I understand someone who ‘wants’ to be creative and put ideas together to create something, but when your way of spreading your art is paying a label to release your album, shelling out cash for a spot on a tour or festival, and spending money on anything you have in mind, I don’t think you can call yourself an artist. If no one out there is requesting your presence, you really should ask yourself why. If your music is ignored, there’s most likely a reason for this, don’t you think? Once a label did its job, whatever happens next lies in the hands of fate. If it’s going good… nice! But if not, then you have all the time in the world to improve yourself – if you want it bad enough. Nonetheless, your art going unnoticed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worthy, because it still has worth for you.
So, ‘success’ in the sense of commercial prosperity should be separated from art?
– I hate how this general American way of conceiving life, the ‘winner or loser’ mentality, has been seeping into music, because it destroys everything. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want everyone around to record something. Art can’t be for anyone and probably shouldn’t. A creative process is something you feel inside, something you need to spit out at any cost. Call it an inner voice, call it a beckoning from the gods or whatever you want – but it can’t be in each one of us. However, I’m sick of seeing musicians kneel down because of bad reviews, or their albums being poorly received by the media. An artist must follow his inner flame, the internal voice, no matter what. Fuck turning it into a job and earning an income. Fuck schedules, fuck rules, fuck trends, fuck deadlines… wasn’t black metal supposed to be about freedom? You want to fight the world but get trapped in the music business? I seriously cannot understand that. Sure, many people around did one-fourth of what I’ve done, and they’ve reaped huge ‘success’. But what exactly does it mean? I’m not a slave of the music business, since art is what counts the most for me. Looking back now, I feel I did the right thing and made the right choices. I always did what I felt was correct and dignified. Never wanted to be a rockstar, never will be.
The body of work Omega leaves behind will be substantial; since 1995, he’s recorded around thirty albums as well as countless EPs and splits. Despite this, he shows no signs of slowing down – quite the opposite.
– What I’m doing is done mostly for myself, for my inner demons, and this unstoppable pulse I have to create stuff and lay down ideas. I’m here to write music, nothing else. It’s not my person that needs to be remembered, but what I played, recorded, and performed. Producing music is not having our names painted on stone walls inside a pyramid, or to have our gloriously victorious battles written in the history books, but it remains just as well as more important things in human history. It’s definitely clear we’re leaving something behind for the ones coming after us. For this reason, I think music should be pure: drawn from the depths of one’s heart. I’ll be writing sincere music as long as the flame burns and I feel the inner spark. Once it’s over, I will disappear in silence – exactly the same way I came into this world.