A short preamble has to be stated before everything else. LOUD! Magazine asked me, a couple of weeks ago, to interview This Gift Is A Curse. I ended up talking with Jonas A. Holmberg, the band’s frontman, and to my good surprise, he had a bit more to stay than the usual boring, tedious blah-blah about the ‘creative process’. I’ve done hundreds of interviews already and each and every time the same conclusion arises in my mind: no matter how good your questions are, if the interviewed doesn’t give a fuck about what you’re saying, then the outcome will be pure manure. Period.
Jonas is one of these rare cases of a guy who truly cares about the question you ask. He wants to inform you, to stream his mind in a verbose-witty way, to let you know how his deviant brain operates in the background. So I felt that I needed to know even more about what he experience to give birth to this “Swinelord” concept that lives in “All Hail The Swinelord”, the new This Gift Is A Curse LP, released in October by Season Of Mist. His years of turmoil, of depressive wandering, his knowledge about an array of things from linguistics to Gnosticism.
This second talk can be read separetely from the first, which is now print-published in Portuguese and it is a good prelude to their upcoming gigs with Implore: November 26 [Stairway Club, Cascais] and November 27 [Trebaruna, Viseu]; maybe they will arrange another one for the 25 in time, by the way.
I found very intriguing that the “Swinelord” is an entity built by you to represent the darkness and the depression you faced two years ago, where most of the album lyrics were penned down. Sometimes, depression can turn you into a catatonic human being, but in your case it fueled your urge to create and overcome through art. How did you avoid the temptation of being stagnant and watching time passing by?
Well first of all: I’ve always been a very restless soul. It´s just not me sitting down and waiting to die when things f*ck themselves up. Although I went through different stages of my depression and part of that was living a very decadent and destructive life for maybe a year. This was also a part of a process of killing my Self. Not killing myself – but the Self. I was so fed up with what I had become by taking, what I thought, was rational and grown up decision which led me into a path that kind of fucked up my whole personal life. I quit school, quit being vegan, never slept, drank a lot and laid in the gutter etc. But on the other hand, I also read a lot, mostly “not-so-academically-correct” books with alternative ways of understanding the physical world. My previous studies at the university (sociology and psychology) combined with occultism, various esoteric literature, demonology and practical magic guides was just my imaginative way to get rid of myself. I took everything I thought defined myself and ritually burdened (symbolically) it to ashes and later rose from that.
Was it easier for you to write in that state of internal turmoil? Considering that you are now in a much better period, do you think about where will you find a creative impetus the next time you step into the studio?
There will always be things to write about that will suit the work I´m doing with THIS GIFT IS A CURSE. I have a lot of “stuff” in me that have to come out. I don´t know who or what I would be without the art I´m involved with around this band. To me, it´s lifesaving.
You have a deep knowledge not only about your degree in sociology and behavioral science, of course, but you have interest in Gnosticism or gothic demonology as well. You mention that you created your own language to express yourself, thanks to all these subjects, which, citing Throbbing Gristle’s P. Orridge, is the way to obtain freedom – create your own code. But don’t you fear to become hermetic in the process? Is not your goal to communicate with whom listen to you or is this a self-centered exercise?
I tried to write down the process I’d experienced. It was hard to grasp because many things that linguistically made sense to me at the time of despair now felt somewhat distant and estrange to me. So how does one describe utter chaos? I dressed my text in certain symbolism that I thought my sense to my situation. I changed my language and thereby how I would describe the world from now on. I chose my way of telling this story, maybe someone else would tell the same experience totally different. This is the point I want to make; depression as a phenomenon it´s nothing new. This was my irrational, alternative and subjective way of describing a personal event in my life. When nothing made sense I created an “ideal world” that actually did make sense in all the chaos I had created. This by bringing in unconventional elements to describe what I understood my situation is. It was like fighting fire with fire, or rather fighting fire by becoming fire yourself. This, of course, is something I have come to understand much later because when I was in it – I was in it deep. So a “code”. Yes, I guess there are some similarities to that. I made my own world to become free of the old. All of this is of course highly symbolic of course. Hermetic? Well, I guess I always been a ‘weirdo’ to some and I know most of the time people have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to these things. I have accepted that and I can still smile and adapted. This is what it is to be a member of society, you can´t be too weird without the risk of being ostracized. Music is a universal language. I think all art is, if one enters it with an “open mind”. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are because the work itself always seem to get a life of its own in every person or group. I like this because there can be invisible entities that will act as a “fifth column” within the artistic context. This always goes unnoticed to most, of course.
Your lyrical work seems to focus itself partially on the conflict between what is real and what is not real, what is logical and what is not understandable. I remember a brilliant quote from The Endless Blockade: “Man understands religion like a dog understands electricity”. Do you think the human being is still in a phase of his evolution where he cannot understand higher grounds above known science? Can the next ‘Age Of Enlightenment’ happen when the individual scratches beyond pure science?
As I have come to understand knowledge and what we perceive as true/false is that it is always is connected to time, place and culture – which in its turn is connected to politics and government. Religion is also a part of this man-made entity or system of illogical traps, all entwined with the everlasting conflict of religion vs. religiosity. I believe there is no such thing as objective truth – it is at its “best” an interpersonal experience. But also this is socially constructed. This is a big and complicated question to say the least. I guess the evolution, in all aspects, is an ongoing process and what it will lead I do not dear to guess. I don’t know if I even care? What does the individual want? What ‘enlightenment’ is one seeking? Does anyone care? Most people come off as very ignorant to me and just want to be safe in their “little bubble”. On the other hand: who really want true enlightenment and thereby comprehend this “reality” we all “agreed” to share without wanting to kill him- or herself. Humans are death and the purest form of wasted potential. The irony of what we as human beings have accomplished until now is like the ultimate dualistic – and practical joke ever…
Regarding language: are you influenced in any way by post-modern writers’ attitude, where to be fragmentary and innovative (i.e., creating new words and/or changing words meaning) is extremely important?
I wrote my bachelor thesis in sociology about text analytics in media so I´m a real language geek or rather a linguistic geek. The thing is that I´m so impatient most of the time I don´t even get my own spelling right. I can be really fast in thought and just spit stuff out and there by be really sloppy at times. But I like when people get things wrong. Spelling and allusions in text as well as drawing things in the wrong proportions or made up angles. It gives the text and old structures new life. This is how I always done art – by taking things, killing it, ripping is apart and make it into something new. I like to take stuff that are meaningless and unwanted to most and then bend it into something else. Or just hide things in what seems meaningless. I’ve always seen the art I´m involved as antagonism and opposition towards what is perceived as normal and “beautiful”. That is why I´m quite surprised most of the times when people say the like our music or my artworks. I think I have a pretty twisted and neurotic view of these things most of the time. I identify myself as everyone’s” enemy of good taste”. I’m driven by a lot of hate. About post-modern writers: I really like Paul Auster.
By the end of the month, you’ll play once again here in Portugal. What people can expect from This Gift Is A Curse and what are you expecting from us?
When we did our longest to tour up to date with HEXIS in 2012; the Portugal-Spain part of that trip kind of saved the whole tour. We had played some pretty lousy shows in a cold and rainy U.K, as well as losing a lot of money with all the ferry trips and long roads. The moral was pretty low at this point but when entering your part of Europe everything just opened up. It was really warm weather and the audiences at the shows as well as all the people we met were just great. I still consider those shows to be some of the best we ever done with this band. This time we will play a lot of songs from the new record. It will be dark and painful and reek of tar. You can just be yourself as we evocate the Swinelord that will lead you into the heart of darkness. Follow or flee, it´s up to you…