Chain D.L.K.: Tor, there’s a lot of people that have come in contact with your work thanks to your collaboration/friendship with Tony Wakeford, but despite your many ties to that post-industrial, post-dark world your music is considerably different. How did you get in touch with those people and have you ever happened to feel you were out of place in that scene?
Tor Lundvall: I first became aware of bands like Coil, Current 93 and Sol Invictus around 1987-88. Up to that point, I was listening to synth-pop and ambient music mostly. There was something unique, mysterious and even a bit ominous about these acts that initially grabbed my attention. I first contacted Tony in 1991 after picking up “Sol Veritas Lux” at a local record store. I had liked what I heard and sent him some samples of my artwork, along with a cassette of some early demos (rather horrid ones in retrospect!). Tony responded and asked if I’d be interested in doing the artwork for the forthcoming Sol Invictus “King & Queen” CD. I said yes and our friendship / collaborations developed from there. I’ve always felt that I was a bit of an outsider in that crowd, as my music is more ambient in nature. At the same time, I’m very fond and proud of my musical collaboration with Tony on “Autumn Calls”. I don’t think this album would have been as organic or dynamic had I collaborated with anyone else.
Chain D.L.K.: That’s the point: you’re an outsider in that scene and yet you’re known and respected, but don’t you think that you could reach a broader audience if you were exposed to different a listeners base? The ambient, synth-pop element is still there and I’ve played this to some friends listening to electronic, experimental music, or interested in labels like Kranky records or even into Jay Jay Johanson and they immediately were captured…
Tor Lundvall: I think my audience has become more diverse in recent years, certainly more than it was when I was with World Serpent. I’m grateful to have a following and I enjoy hearing from people interested in my work, however I’m usually too preoccupied with my painting and music so I don’t focus on promotion very much. I depend on word of mouth, radio play or the occasional insightful reviews to do that for me.
Chain D.L.K.: You brother runs a mastering studio or is a sound engineer while your dad was (or still is?) involved with Blue Note: it would seem he has had an influenced on both of you, hasn’t he?
Tor Lundvall: My dad was a big creative influence on the both of us. Because of his many years in the music business, we were exposed to a wide variety of music from an early age. My dad always encouraged my brother and I to trust our instincts and to follow our own creative paths. He’s 74 now and still working. I doubt he’ll ever retire.
Chain D.L.K.: I imagine they appreciate your music since you’re somehow “accessible” to a lot of music listeners, but have they ever commented on the melancholic/depressive after-taste of your musical/visual works? Have you ever had your dad or brother asking you something like “hey Tor… is everything ok?” or “what’s wrong?!”…
Tor Lundvall: There’s certainly a sense of melancholy to my work, however I don’t personally associate melancholy with depression. With art and music it all depends on the perspective of the individual listener / viewer. Suffices to say, my family knows me well enough not to be concerned by my artistic expressions.
Chain D.L.K.: Tor what would you like to transmit with your music and painting? What kind of feelings/emotions? I ask that because some people say that when playing or painting an artist always tries to recreate that personal fascination he experienced in front of the music/painting by someone else…
Tor Lundvall: I’ve certainly experienced feelings of fascination and greatness from the work of artists or musicians I admire, however I’m usually so involved in the creative process that I’m not thinking in these terms, at least not consciously. My work flows so naturally and instinctively that I give little thought to what kind of feelings or emotions it transmits. If my music and painting transmits anything I hope it’s a sense of quiet solitude which allows the listener or viewer to crawl into a private world of their own for a while.
Chain D.L.K.: Based on what you just said, one may think your work is centered around “solitude”, “uniqueness” or similar emotions. But on the other hand your collaborations and the fact you’re considered part of a scene may give the opposite impression. How important is the “sharing” for someone like yourself?
Tor Lundvall: I once told a fellow musician that I’d still be painting and recording if my only audience were the birds and insects outside my bedroom window. My work is created in solitude, so sharing it with others is not my first priority. I’m fairly selfish when it comes to my music and art. While I’m glad that others get something from it, it’s something I do for myself. I have no interest in pandering to a scene or being part of any movement, however being labeled is inevitable I suppose.
Chain D.L.K.: I know it may sound stupid and a bit naive, but the autumnal/wintering atmosphere of your paintings and the fact you have a scandinavian name (and I guess origin) makes it tempting to ask you if you feel there’s some kind of force/inheritance coming from the past and bringing you to those images?
Tor Lundvall: It’s not a naive question. While Nature is the primary guiding force behind my work, I’m certain that my ancestry plays a significant role as well. I’m part Swedish (on my father’s side) and there’s plenty of creativity in that bloodline. My great grandfather invented the spring clothespin among other things. I’m also descended from John Ericsson who designed the USS Monitor which was an ironclad warship used during the American Civil War. Although my imagery always makes sense on an instinctive level, sometimes I’ll say to myself “how did I come up with that?”. Something must be transmitting itself through the genes!
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve noticed that differently from many artists the majority of your human subjects are dressed, I’ve not seen that many naked shapes (except from many trees). Your music is both cold but at the same time it can give the idea of a intrauterine recession. What part has sexuality played into your figurative and aural works?
Tor Lundvall: I haven’t given much thought to sexuality in my paintings before. Sexuality certainly plays a role, however it’s highly subdued and perhaps manifests itself in shapes and formations in the landscape rather than the figures themselves. There’s a strong relationship between my figures and their surroundings, so I’m sure the sexual aspect is strongest in that respect. I’m inclined to say that sexuality is virtually non-existent in my music, however perhaps there’s something there that I’m not consciously aware of.
Chain D.L.K.: In a chaotic, nervous and violent age like this your art and music move unanimously into the opposite direction. Are you the imperturbable individual and artist you seem to be or do you think a change of style might be in the works (I’m thinking of early and late Rothko, Mirò, etc… and of the violent turn they took)?
Tor Lundvall: I’m a much more imperturbable artist than a person. The ugliness, indifference and hostility of the outside world never contaminates my work, even during those rare times when I’ve tried to react to it artistically. It would take a drastic and unfortunate turn of events for my work to shift violently or become otherwise poisoned. I try to buffer myself as much as possible from the insanity of the outside world. I live my life in relative solitude, however I enjoy my own company and I rarely feel alone, especially in Nature. The only time I experience feelings of genuine loneliness is in the company of others. America is a hostile place for an artist. It’s difficult finding individuals who value anything else besides money, flexing their egos, trying to outshine others with a naive sense of confidence and no talent, ad nauseam. My rage and disgust is greatest in this respect and my work is the only place I’m truly sheltered from it.
Chain D.L.K.: The obvious last question is: where are you headed as a visual artist or as a musician… What has changed from your early days?
Tor Lundvall: The atmosphere of my painting and music has remained relatively constant over the years, with the exception of some of my earliest recordings which were more pop oriented. Perhaps the one thing that has changed the most since the early days are the themes regarding failed relationships and the melancholy from lost love. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve come to terms with these feelings and am no longer bothered by them. Romantic themes will most likely resurface in my work from time to time, however they are no longer the primary focus they once were.
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[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]