Karsten Hamre is a multifaceted arstist who’s currently running a lot of musical and figurative projects. His band Penitent debuted on Cold Meat Industry and the following eight albums came out on Prophecy Productions, Draenor Productions, Memento Mori, Counter Attack Productions and Beyond Prod. His latest one is entitled “Deserted Dreams” and after the almost metal “Songs Of Despair” he moved back to his older sound. Let’s try to find out more.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s start by talking about your musical and artistic projects. I read that you started Penitent mainly as a vehicle to express your poems. Why did you decide to use music instead of writing books?
Penitent: I founded Penitent in order to have a formation to where my poems could be expressed in a different manner than through books. By having the combination of music and poetry there was the possibility to build upon the atmsphere within the written words, thus enhancing their feelings and emotions. I can’t say that I would never release a book or something, as that might happen, all I am saying is just that I don’t think it will be done in a normal manner, much rather in a special packaging, maybe enclosed to a CD with music.
Chain D.L.K.: On the latest CD “Deserted Dreams” there aren’t any lyrics. What made you decide to focus your efforts on music only? Is this part of the process of changing that made you move back to your older sonorities?
Penitent: When starting the work on “Deserted Dreams” I wanted to go back to older sonorities, and in order to do so in a proper way I wanted to fully concentrate on the sounds, and therefore there are no lyrics and vocals on the album. Although for the live shows vocals have been added, which is an idea that turned out pretty well and that added an extra element.
Chain D.L.K.: Have lyrics always concentrated on the dark side of life? What has been the main reason to focus your attention on these subjects?
Penitent: My lyrics haven’t always been revolving around dark themes. When I write lyrics I do not plan in advance on what the content should be, I rather let the words flow free, and when the text has been reworked a few times it often ends up with a darker theme. It just happens to be that way.
Chain D.L.K.: Your artistic vein isn’t represented only by Penitent, you have got also a lot of other musical projects such as Arcane Art, Defraktor, Dense Vision Shrine, The Flux Komplex and Veiled Allusions. How do you decide what kind of music to produce with each of them? Were they born because of a different reason or are they different aspects of the same flame that forced you to express yourself?
Penitent: So far it hasn’t been hard to keep the music seperated from each other and to know which project to use different compositions for. Normally when I create the sounds, I do not decide in advance for what project it should be used, I just create and then later on, when a track is done, it becomes clear to me if it is for Penitent, Veiled Allusions, Defraktor etc. Each project is in one way different aspects of the flame that is burning inside, and which keeps me creating music.
Chain D.L.K.: Few times with Penitent you had collaborators. Since your music is such a personal thing, did they share your way of working or were they more like people who helped you with the process?
Penitent: At any given time there were collaborators involved, they did share the same ideas as me. Although unfortunately a couple of the collaborators in the past did not agree with the direction I was going into with Penitent at that time, so our paths seperated.
Chain D.L.K.: On “Songs of Despair” you had Bernt Sunde helping you and it has been the most different album you ever did. You also had songs that were almost black metal on that one. Can you tell me more about this album and about these different sound you wanted to explore?
Penitent: I guess one could say that “Songs of Despair” is the most strange/weird and experimental album that Penitent has done. Much of it was due to the collaboration with Bernt Sunde. The metal parts were heavily influenced by his work. When working on “Songs of Despair” we just wanted to do something that Penitent hadn’t done before. So for me it was a big experiment we did, and it is up to the others to judge if it was a good experiment or not, if the result is worth listening to or not.
Chain D.L.K.: The last time I wrote you, you told me that you’re not using midi any more and that now you are into samples, etc. Did you ever feel like technical stuff was limiting your way of creating your music or do you think technology could help you reach a different process in improvisation?
Penitent: When working with a lot of technical equipment one accepts the risk of getting to stuck and concentrated on minor details, how certain knobs etc work, instead of being fully concentrated on the sounds. Nowadays I just work with audio recordings, samples etc in order to just concentrate fully on the soundscapes. Then the equipment I use becomes secondary. I just use what I strictly need in order to get the result I am looking for, or feel like achieving.
Chain D.L.K.: With Penitent you did eight albums with several labels. Have you ever had problems with them? Support is really important for a musician, do you feel they have always been well supported? What do you think of the “new” Cold Meat?
Penitent: There were some disagreements with some of the labels I have worked with throughout the years. It goes back to having different ideas and wishes when it comes to how and where to promote the albums etc. Support is, as far as I see, really important, and I must say that some labels haven’t been that supportive and understanding of the wishes of the artist. When it comes to the “new” Cold Meat I must admit a lot of the music isn’t my cup of tea. Though they still do have some good artists on the label, especially Coph Nia, In Slaughter Natives, O. R. E. and so on.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s move back to “Deserted Dreams”. Even if it hasn’t got any lyrics, by reading the track titles in a row it gives me the idea of a voyage. It’s like they are different steps in the same path. Am I right? What kind of image did you want to create?
Penitent: The order of the tracks was chosen specifically in order to have different steps of a journey. I don’t want to say too much about what images I wanted to create. People should rather sit back and listen to the album themselves and that way let the music inspire them towards their own individual imagery. One should use the music as a catalyst.
Chain D.L.K.: Why do you think people shoud share dreams? Is this something that could help people support each other? What kind of dreams should be shared? What do you file as a dream? A vision of life, a simple vision or what?
Penitent: Some dreams should be shared and some are better kept to yourself. The sort of dreams that should be shared are more like those dealing with what we want for one’s own life, the goals one wants to achieve/reach in life, as those dreams can be supported by the people around you, and that way one could be closer to making the dreams come true. Then the dreams will become reality.
Chain D.L.K.: What are you preparing for Penitent’s future and what about your other projects?
Penitent: For Penitent I am getting ready to expand the line-up with a keyboard player and a drummer, in order to create a line up that will function even better live than it did before. Also I will be working on new visuals for future Penitent shows, but also for future live shows with Dense Vision Shrine and Defraktor. When it comes to Defraktor I am still taking things easy and slowly and considering the options I am offered for the first album release. Meanwhile I’ll continue to perform live with Defraktor, and perhaps make a special release limited to 300 copies or something. I’ll know more about that during summer.
Chain D.L.K.: Something more you’d like to add?
Penitent: Thanks a lot for this interview and I hope people will enjoy my musical direction (s).
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]