Peer Lebrecht (vocals) from Voyna, Golden Apes, Dust Of Basement
Peer Lebrecht, known from projects like GOLDEN APES and DUST OF BASEMENT, decided to take another step in his artistic efforts and formed a brand new project, VOYNA. The debut album, ‘Cinvat Bridge’ that is scheduled to be out on 15th of March 2021, is a complex and yet delicate sonic matter comprising of deep, thought-provoking lyrics and intense, inspiring music. I had a chance to ask Peer some questions - about the new album, but also his inspirations and intellectual background that shed a bit of light on the album’s content.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: First of all, congratulations on your new work - it’s really captivating, indeed! The album is scheduled to be out on 15th of March - how you, yourself would summarize what’s on it? What’s the aesthetics, the effect you wanted to achieve the moods or thought you wanted to provoke in your listeners?
Peer: Thank you so much for your kind words and… Heaven, what an opener! It´s Friday night, 3am and I honestly think about how to summarize something that kept me in its grip for the last 12 months. What is on it? Verities, lies, reflections, absorptions, words and noise… something important and something quite relieving… at least for me. But words like “provoke” or “achieve” suggest a concept or at least a scheme and I have to confess there was none of it at all. When I started to pin down the first rough ideas back in autumn 2019. I didn’t even know if they will ever find their way into the daylight. I was always used to have people around while making music, loved those kinds of creative dialogues, the creating as a result of an inspiring reciprocity and so it was terra incognita for me to be on your own suddenly, to deal with nothing but your own ideas and demons.
Hedin at the therapist… But yes, I liked it. Suddenly there were no band-related limitations anymore, no compromises and no door locked… no place not to go to if curiosity is asking for. And I think this became quite important to me - to leave whenever wherever I wanted to. Maybe this is the albums DNA; snapshots from the landscapes a wandering mind is crossing. No planned route, no map or staff of Jacob, just wanderlust and homesickness, previsions and memories…
RoD: Is the title - ‘Cinvat Bridge’ - in any way related to the concept of a bridge from Zoroastrianism? What does it actually stand for in your album? Does it have a religious or rather metaphorical meaning? Would you say you are a spiritual or rather a rational person yourself? Is there any philosophy you’d say is closest to you?
Peer: It is related to it in every way, yes. But as you assumed already, I took it gently from its religious only surroundings and treated it more as a general allegory. I’m quite careful with gardening in the complexity of religions and philosophies just for the sake of a teasing exotic patina on the things I do. (But judge not, that ye be not judged!) No, despite my deep interest in the events that eventually took place some 3,500 years ago in Bactria, I just liked the simple idea of a crossing point between contrarieties.
May it be the land of the living and the land of the dead or just more profane things like the sea and the desert, the night and the day, the heavens and the vales… What is right in the middle of that passage? From which side do we enter? I like the idea of turning your head to the left or to the right and perform a volte-face then. Am I a spiritual person? Let’s say I’m an interested one, open-minded and addicted to the finding of intersections, the things that keep everything connected, linked and in balance. I’m not stuck to any specific philosophy or conceptual mind-set, no, just curious and restless…
RoD: Do you have a song on the album that you are particularly proud of? That has a special meaning to you?
Peer: That’s really tricky. There’s a box left of me right now and in there are a handful of just arrived copies of the ‘Cinvat Bridge’ and looking at its back I really struggle with an answer. I’m proud of all what is on there and of course every single one of all the 70 minutes has a special meaning to me. But let me adjust some parameters and see what happens… (…a dog barks in the backyard… a flock of wild geese is crossing the sky… a man is sitting at the footboard of a hospital bed somewhere in Kaliningrad… a train enters the main station in La Paz… a woman is scooping water from a river in the Shenyang province… the dog is tired now… a gentle quaking of the earth makes a book shelf tremble in that little house near Surabaya… a boat finally arrives in the harbour of Kavali after a few days on the open stormy sea… geese have a break at an unprepared field of wheat, quite close to that oak tree, in whose shadow we…).
Okay, I’m back.
a) ‘Swarmlands’ - for this was the first demo-track that found its way on the final album later and it was the first song we recorded in the studio.
b) ‘Bones’ - for it is a very personal song, accompanying some sky-shifting changes in the life of the protagonist.
c) ‘The Fractal King’ - for the things Hedin was told by his therapist.
RoD: You mentioned that the idea for VOYNA started during the recording on ‘Kasbek’ with GOLDEN APES in 2019. You even organized a crowdfunding to have the album released. Could you tell me a bit more about the origins of the project? You played in DUST OF BASEMENT up till 2006 and still play in GOLDEN APES. Both projects are important and built quite a significant history of dark independent music - what part of your artistic inspirations does VOYNA represent?
Peer: Yes, looking back it’s hard to pinpoint that exact moment when VOYNA was born. But the end 0f 2019 was a fork in the road related to many aspects. There were many internal struggles and troubles while making ‘Kasbek’, cracks that led to the departure of people close to my heart in the end. But I never stopped working on new ideas even when the dress for album was already tailored and so I faced the situation that I wanted to work on new songs but I knew that the band would be the wrong setting for it. There were a lot of things that went wrong during the creative process, things connected to hassle and frustration and somehow I needed this healing act of making music with joy and enthusiasm again. So, I set up everything I needed for recording at home and started to write. But even then, there was no intention to do some solo stuff yet, let alone to make an album of it. I think the idea grew simultaneously with the pile of new songs that came alive, with the delight I rediscovered in their making.
I remember playing some of the demos to Thommy (Hein) in the studio then and he was quite taken by them and just said: Let’s do an album with it. It’s going to be great, believe me… Maybe this was the moment when VOYNA was born, its first reflection on the surface of the water… And when it comes to my artistic playgrounds, I have to make clear that DUST OF BASEMENT was never more than a musical side-line for me, some kind of cameo so to say. It was never my creative homeland and it was never intended to be that from the very beginning. I don’t want to miss that time but finally I’m just a negligible extra in their biography. And the GOLDEN APES were and will always be the place I come from and the place I belong to. That’s why it was never an “instead of“-situation and for that reason I decided to separate band and VOYNA as distinctive as possible, mentally and personal.
RoD: The sound of VOYNA is very deep, profound and yet energetic. You once mentioned the artists you admire are DAVID BOWIE, THE CURE or JOY DIVISION. Would you say they are still your source of inspiration or your taste changed somehow? What gives you the drive, the ideas to create new songs?
Peer: The musical visions and ideas of artists you admire will never leave you completely. Because they shaped you, cleared ways and set the settings for your artistic perception. As cheesy as it sounds but you’ll always remember your first great love. All three names you mentioned above were an essential part of my musical socialization, companions and pointsmen and so they became part of my definition of music. Of course, there are still shadows of them on the things I do and I never felt the need to change that. On the contrary - there’s even one song on the album that is my musical bow to Bowie (seems it was made for that!), who is the only artist I constantly worshipped for almost 30 years now and certainly for a few more years to come.
And now back to philosophy - where do ideas come from? I think the most effective inspirations are those you do not even realize. All the perceptions, all the input of your senses, which enter the climes of your subconscious and grow, decay, collide, permute, combine, oscillate and speak to you through dreams, memories and familiar noises from the inside of your temples. I think there’s no specific “ideas only” gateway you can open or close according to requirements. The house featuring in ‘Provenance’ I actually found months after the song was written. This is what I mean…
RoD: The artists who accompany you on ‘Cinvat Bridge’ are Denis Ivanov from BRANDENBURG and Marita Volodina from STRIDULUM. How did you meet and what made you invite them to create the album together?
Peer: Yes, and I’m so proud and happy that they became part of ‘Cinvat Bridge’. (And we should make sure not to forget Thommy Hein now, the guy who played most of the guitars and produced and mixed the whole thing!) I know Denis for quite a while now. I immediately fell in love with the sound and music of BRANDENBURG and it was more than a need and a pleasure to invite them to our (Dark Spring) festival back in 2016. Since then, the two of us have a very close friendship and aside of that, I think he’s a brilliant artist and musician. I knew that I want to have him on the album from the very beginning and it was pure joy to listen to the things he did to my songs. I’m quite sure that this is not the last time we will do something musically together. (A decent teaser…)
STRIDULUM is a fascinating young band from Poland, currently working on their debut album and I’m quite sure that they will grab a lot of attention in the near future. I met Marita some years ago at the Castle Party in Bolkow and we kept contact throughout the whole time. When I first listened to songs of STRIDULUM I felt this strong pull they exerted on me with their aesthetic of lightness and beauty and when the song ‘Ocean’ slowly came alive her stunning and special voice was already in it. So, it was no decision, it was a necessity…
RoD: “First we feel. Then we fall.” In the booklet you used the quote from James Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake’ - the work that is said to be the internal mirror for the artist, exceptionally difficult, multi-layered and metaphorical text. A bit like a puzzle or a riddle. In what context can we understand it as far as your music is concerned?
Peer: I dare to let this question unanswered as far as you are close to an answer already. Everyone who read or will read the book may guess the meaning in this context. So, let’s something over for the curios. A way a lone a last a loved a long the…
RoD: In what way is literature or films or art in general reflected in your music?
Peer: Books were and will always be around me. And if you are familiar with the biography of the GOLDEN APES you know that their influence can be essential. So yes, there’s a lot of literature in the music too. May it be adopted ways of thinking; may it be certain ways of dealing with language or just the inspiring sound a single word can make - there will always be literature as long as we think in letters. (…used to rest from wars and love. Skin on bark, dreams of resin. Amber memories…) Browsed through the lyrics for a moment and yes, there are reflections…
RoD: Now, changing the subject a bit - with no concerts and general isolation we are all deprived of not only human contact but also contact with music. Do you miss concerts?
Peer: A fact: If there’s something I was NOT during the last 12 months, than it was being deprived from music! Quite the contrary to be honest. Sometimes I even think that this forced slowing down and turning away from the distracting outside (aside from all tragedies and calamities) offered an unexpected chance to focus on some essential things again, a moment of rest for the pendulum before it moves on to the next apex. But sorry, I was thinking out loud… Of course, I miss concerts, yes. The playing as much as the attending. It’s doubtlessly irreplaceable to experience music in the second it’s being born, to see, hear and feel it with every little cell of your body. But equally I miss all the things which accompany it. The travelling, other places, the talking, other faces…
RoD: Are you planning any concert with VOYNA? Are there any future plans with either of your projects you’d like to share at this point?
Peer: I confess: I’d love to. There are no specific plans in my head now (and unfortunately there’s no urgent need for this now) but in the same way I denied it in the beginning it starts to tease me now. Let’s see what comes… When it comes to my next musical steps, I just can say that there are two handful of ideas ready now to become the next GOLDEN APES album and I’m quite certain we will start with it anytime soon. And there’s still one other thing resting in two heads now for a while and I think it’s time to give it a proper shape at last. There are still too much white spots on the map… (…a therapist nods in agreement…)
RoD: Thank you very much for your time, all the best!