Let’s examine in-depth the small, but very nice, Turkish imprint Wounded Wolf and other side projects with the help of his co-founder Atay Ilgun and Gozde Omay…
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Atay. First of all, how are you?
Atay Ilgun: Hello, thank you very much. We’re doing great except being a bit too overloaded with things to do! We hope you’re fine as well.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you introduce Wounded Wolf to our readers? Why did you call it that? It’s not only music-related, isn’t it?
Atay Ilgun: Wounded Wolf is now a rapidly growing outlet which publishes audio recordings and books. It used to be a more private and boutique operation, since handmade things were the majority and the releases were strictly in-the-house -different projects of ours mostly- but nowadays we work with other great people we’ve met along the way as well.
The name derives from a line from the Neil Jordan movie ‘Company of Wolves’. We didn’t like the movie very much except for its well crafted eerie mood but one sentence rang in Atay’s head for the rest of the night he watched it: ‘Now I’ll tell you a story of a Wounded Wolf’. And perhaps that became a symbol of a life of dedication -but a lonely one- because there was this wolf turning away from humanity and the rest of his pack for the sake of love and one ideal. We think that’s a very romantic and heroic thing, we perhaps want to have that kind of chivalric quality.
Also, our releases used to be focused mostly on music-audio recordings but now we’re moving to text more and more. For example in a few months we’ll launch a new edition series of e-books and accompanying music to go with them, publish a few poetry chapbooks and one short-story book.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you trying to “enucleate” poetry in every objects you produce?What about this process in music?
Atay Ilgun: This actually does change from project to project. We believe there is a poetry, a verve, in everything and everywhere but there are also points where there is total abstraction where everything dissolves into one another, becoming fragments of each other and nothing, without an end or a beginning. And everything is in between these. We could tell you that there is a particular poem in a leaf we’re holding or in the scent we send with an edition of ours and one might say that that is poetry in itself.
So applying this to music could sometimes be encrypted in the melody, the tune itself or could be told by our human language basically. For example in the music of The Hogweed And The Aderyn we hear a poetry that is as deep as the universe while the actual lyrics tend to be very very simple.
Chain D.L.K.: Turkish music is mostly associated with its long-lasting tradition. Is the “shadows” of traditional music an important aspect of the music you choose for Wounded Wolf or not?
Atay Ilgun: We do admire traditional music and we are heavily influenced by it in our music but traditionalism is not something we particularly seek to present with our editions, we also want to vanguard things.
When it comes to traditional music of Turkey, we must say we’re highly influenced by it, especially in the fields where it differentiates from Western traditions. For example, we’re huge fans of Erkan Ogur which is a Turkish musician most widely known for an instrument he uses, Kopuz. Kopuz actually means ‘instrument’ in old Anatolian languages (and still has linguistic variations, for example it’s called Komuz in various locations) but now it became a name for a specifically sized Baglama (saz) with 3 strings. It’s been revived after studying various texts and miniatures after he actually discovered one that is almost 150 years old.
Also we quite love Hesperion XXI’s work on 14th Century music like ‘Istanbul’, ‘La Sublime Porte – Voix d’Istanbul 1430 – 1750’ and great bards like Asik Veysel.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re also involved in the project The Hogweed and Aderyn. Could you tell us something about that?
Atay Ilgun: The Hogweed And The Aderyn is basically a musical project of ours which we define as a universe folklore, we love that term since it literally could be anything. More down to earth, it’s some sort of a highly eclectic music made with instruments collected from all around the world while drawing inspiration from ancient Turkish bards to English folk music to possibly every music which has a land as its source -we have stars-. Also it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it’s produced unlike any other folk music out there.
We had two EPs released on our label -simply entitled I and II- and had them released in the Reverb Worship of England as well (in a combined form). Now we are working on our first full length release and it is almost complete.
Chain D.L.K.: It’s somehow difficult to label music. Would you define it ethnic chill-out music or is there something more behind the poetry you you put in music?
Atay Ilgun: Actually there would be three terms we would like to use if we were going to define:
Firstly, the term ‘folk’; we basically feel the urge to use it for everything regardless of whether it has a particular country or traditional roots. Sometimes we play a verse about stars, we actually do stare at them and feel like it’s suddenly the folklore of stars.
The second would be ‘magic’. We believe this is a must for a higher state of art. We are not sure if we actually do have that kind of quality or if there is a higher state after all, but if you ask us there is nothing beyond something that is magical, we just feel that way.
And lastly, ‘life’. When a piece of art brims with life it’s almost like witnessing a new universe being born. That quality makes you look at one particular painting first among many others when you walk into a room in a gallery.
Chain D.L.K.: Tracks like “Sacred Alchemy” remind me of some ethereal gothic stuff such as Ataraxia. Do you think such a comparison would fit or not?
Atay Ilgun: Actually, musically speaking that track is inspired by a book; Alchemy & Mysticism: The Hermetic Museum by Alexander Roob, which is a fantastic book about medieval cosmology, alchemy and esoteric art of Romantic Era while the lyrics are simple pastoral verses.
We didn’t know Ataraxia before but we really did like what we’ve heard, a few of their simply structured, stripped down tracks are really good. And a comparison like that perhaps could fit since we both do have ethereal and archaic elements in our music. And actually this very stripped form of folky music – like a guitar and a flute only- is the direction we probably will lean towards on our next album, after the full length release.
Chain D.L.K.: Some stuff I’ve listened to on your sampler sounds more related to that kind of narrative ambient, which is becoming more and more popular: Ashberry’s “And They Came In The Form Of Rain”, Aokigahata’s II A, Baleybridge’s “We Still Got More Time” or Moon Eyes Lids’ “Preview” are remarkable epitomes of this branch of ambient. Are there some literary, philosophical, conceptual or cultural references a typical follower of ambient music could misunderstand or ignore?
Atay Ilgun: We think there is more than just method to making-creating sounds, and on most of our more experimental albums one can observe that. It’s not music or recordings done for the sake of making music. For example, Aokigahara -which is an album of Atay and Alper Yildirim’s-, is a conceptual album about a woodland in Mount Fuji famous for its association with daemons in Japanese Mythology and numerous suicides take place there (and especially interesting are the objects the leavers leave behind – photographs, instruments…). The album does it through an unspoken narrative as it studies the relationship between land and man as day develops. So we guess we can say it’s highly based on cultural and conceptual grounds and is aimed for a higher ground rather than just music, perhaps to alter reality in the environment it’s played in.
Baylebridge, is a solo project of Atay which studies the concept of time and memory. It’s last release, ‘Saril Bana’ studies that subject matter via various field and ukulele recordings done during a trip around Europe with Gozde.
Lastly, the second piece of work Treefingers Op.II, An Endless End deals with the matter of ‘end’ and is derived from a maddening thought of whatever happens happens because everything will be oblivion one day. Each star in the entire universe will diminish and burn out once their fuel (hydrogen) is entirely gone and it will be complete nothingness and darkness. There actually is a small essay written about that subject that comes packaged along with the record.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you tell us more about other projects of your roster? Any forthcoming releases?
Atay Ilgun: Ashberry -which also happens to be the reason behind Wounded Wolf Press’s birth- is a project of Atay’s which focuses on the nature of wooden instruments and studies them through improvisational records which take place in one night only, until daybreak. They are later on adorned with various field recordings which have a particular personal importance. There are two EPs (Resin & Rahtree) so far and the last one will be released in a month.
And as we’ve told earlier, Aokigahara is a one time project between Atay & Alper Yildirim and Baylebridge. It is a highly self-indulgent project of Atay.
As far as upcoming releases and publications goes:
Music wise, the most important thing is we are quite busy nowadays working on the The Hogweed And Aderyn’s first full length release. Really many great musicians in Turkey have come together to help us out on this. We are planning to make few copies of it as CD while another label -which we are still looking for – will release it on vinyl, hopefully. Another will release it on cassette format and Reverb Worship again will press it as CD. Also, Ashberry’s final installment -of the trilogy-, ‘Rowan’ will come out next month. Gozde is working on a solo record under the pseudonym ‘Kiss of an Owl’, we are planning a split 7” with The Hare and the Moon, lastly another 7” will come from a project of Atay & Matthew Anderson called Blush.
Book wise; We’ll publish two poetry chapbooks of Atay. ‘Enûma Eliš’ (‘when in the heights….’) , a vaguely flowing poem sequence of 20 pages which studies Atay’s obsession with the birth of life, cosmology, death and nature. We believe admirers of poets like Omar Khayyam, W.B Sebald would enjoy this very much, it’s like the TV Show ‘Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman’, Omar Khayyam and William Blake infused. Another one is called ‘Tell me of Stems and Stones’ and is a short sequence of abstract fragment poems written in one day during a trip near the Aegean Sea, probably a bit inspired by Matsuo Basho.
Extracts from ‘Enûma Eliš’
Those flowers want to be there and there too
Like the rock, once sprouted, desired to be two
Now hears a song, a bird sing a dirge silently
Pensive against stone; this all is only temporary
Being a dot on a butterfly’s wing
Shedding on a half-remembered dream
Forgive my please and questions that reach so far
I just never saw an existence as beautiful as you are
We are the way this universe dreams and thinks
Words of eternal beauty which nature speaks
On a hillock besides an oak, I laid me down
With happiness stretched across the nightly hills
Extracts from ‘Tell me of Stems and Stones’
Beyond the pasture
To the wildest gale, rocks bend
Lines of pines, resin fluxing
Accustoming our star sinking
Etch with their needles
Veins of earth drip
The last one of Atay’s books is ‘A TRYST’, and is an impressionistic poems collection rendered as typographical studies, or “typoetry” as we call it half mockingly. It gathers many subjects such as cosmology, nature and animals in different sections.
Extracts from ‘A TRYST’
Mixed with skorn, the scents of
Dried grass, dormant.
Seeking the rain of spring
Which this year fell short.
I long for a shore, glittering
Among the towers of my mind,
the salt and lichen
The days of the sun.
The whirr of the river, the snow underbrush
In fluvial a tune of agelessness and one
Note slurring among soft pebbles
and limpid water.
And there is nobody missing.
For all of the books, there will be special editions. For example for ‘Enûma Eliš’ -with the help of Serdar Bilici- there will be a special edition of 100 copies which are all hand-stitched and come with a uniquely cyanotype printed covers, accompanied with a unique typographical print.
For The Hogweed And The Aderyn, we will gather all the un-used words, poems, notes, essays and photographs (written by ourselves and a few friends) and put them in one book that we will publish.
Lastly, probably the most important, we are making a book for a great friend of ours, James Vella of the FatCat Records and Yndi Halda. He has this great collection of short stories entitled ‘Devourings’. This is one of our highest priority projects that we truly are extremely hyped and proud of. In our mind, its otherworldly quality conjures up Graham Greene’s Mexican texts to the prose of Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges.
Chain D.L.K.: Speaking of The Hogweed and Aderyn, is there any one song/poem that you particularly like for some reason?
Atay Ilgun: Yes, of course. There have been many songs and poems which we like and have actually influenced the project. Here are a few:
Jack Rose – Moon In The Gutter
Fleet Foxes – Blue Ridge Mountains
Montserrat Figueras, Ferran Savall et al. – Noumi, noumi yaldatii
Robbie Basho – Blue Crystal Fire
Carlo Domeniconi – Koyunbaba
Erkan Ogur – Daglar
Bruno Coulais – Book of Kells
Phaedra – Death Will Come
Espers – Children of Stone
Karmate – Ey Asiye
Asik Veysel – Yüce Dag Basinda Kar Var
Storm Corrosion – Ljudet Innan
The False Beards – Marie Celeste On Down
Telling the Bees – Worship Of Trees
Starless and Bible Black – If You Fall I’ll Fall With You
Brenna Maccrimmon – Yagmur Yagar Tas Üstüne
Mike Bruno + the Black Magic Family Band – Sunny Noon Tide
Jean Ritchie – One I Love
Zülfü Livaneli – Ince Memed Türküsü
Still Light – A Remedy
Kate Bush – Jig of Life
Hespèrion XXI – Der Makam-I ‘uzzâl Usules Devr-I Kebir – Mss. Dimitri Cantemir
Spring in Pamirs ?????? (Arranged by Li Datong ???
Autumn Yearning by the Dresser ????
Six Organs Of Admittance – Hollow Light, Severed Sun
Lau Nau – Painovoimaa, valoa
Davy Graham – She Moved Through The Fair
Sleepy Sun – Rigamaroo
Enchanted Hunters – Bohemian Queen
Emmanuelle Parrenin – Liturgie
Sah Ismail Hatayi – Eksiklik Kendi Özümde
George Herbert – Virtue George Herbert
John Keats – Ode to the Nightingale
Rumi – All through eternity
Anonymus – Dur Dagi
R.S Thomas – A Marriage
William Blake – Auguries of Innocence
Matsuo Basho – A Cicada Shell
William Butler Yeats – When You Are Old
Omar Khayyam – Rubaiyat
And many others that are possibly slipping our mind right now…
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the fil rouge which joins all musical projects of Wounded Wolf together?
Atay Ilgun: That could be the magic and the life it brims. Of course those are very wide and broad terms but thinking of Van Gogh’s ‘Wheat Field with Cypresses’ for example conjures a very specific idea of how a piece of art could brim with life and magical beauty, at least for us.
So, despite of the genre or art form, whether it’s art-rock, folk or more textural-ambient music, poetry, fiction, we feel what connects every Wounded Wolf Press publication or musical release is this feeling of ‘life’, ‘being alive’ or the magic of being conscious. This of course doesn’t mean that they study these as subjects matter but rather they have this vibe of nature, emotion and liveliness. Also we like to think that the releases-publications themselves feel like they do breathe and seem to have a very strong sense of soul.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you planning any label showcases?
Atay Ilgun: Yes actually, there are a few live appearances and exhibitions ahead. Firstly one of our projects Aokigahara, The Black Sea of Trees will be played live in Istanbul in one of the most prestigious halls in Turkey as a part of the Istanbul Industrial Festival among bands from all over the world and it really will be a spectacular visual-audio show.
Later on, we’ll continue with the project The Hogweed And The Aderyn and we will play a couple of live shows as part of our exhibitions which will take place in Ankara.
Also, since we never had time to put together a full band we never had time to find new musicians and rehearse with new people and be able to play frequently -or tour-, but now we actually are interested in playing live and opening exhibitions because all the people involved with the band and the press are much more connected.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you discover bands or musicians for Wounded Wolf? Have you scouted them or do they normally send music by their own initiative?
Atay Ilgun: Actually, we never do scout any artists but we get many many e-mails. The sad thing here is that, Wounded Wolf Press actually started as a more private-press where Atay could release-publish his own and his friends’ works. That was because around that time Atay felt there were really good things going on around him and more people might enjoy hearing those things. So it was never really a label or a publishing house. You could just send a demo of your own literature work. But as we progressed we got overwhelmed with applications and we made great friends, realized how great it could be if we could help out whoever contacted us. But then again, even before we could put that into action we realized this thing has no guarantee of financial return and is extremely time-consuming. So we stuck with a few of the closest friends. We released and will go on publishing and releasing more work by us and them in a few months.
For example we just released an album called Strongheart for a friend of mine, Matthew Anderson from U.S, which is an amazingly talented singer-songwriter. He basically is like Orson Welles, he plays the drums, produces, sings, writes. And the music has a truly magical vibe to it, full of tenderness and grace, idyllically melancholic.
Another one is Holy Ring of Chalk by Lost Trail which is a couple from the U.S (Zachary Corsa & Denny Wilkerson Corsa) which made a textural-drone album written and recorded to tape recorders, deep in the woods in Clover. Which again is a true experience when you listen from beginning to the end, it’s like the twisted folk music of a haunted woodland.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the importance of CD packages for Wounded Wolf? Do you plan them with involved artists or do they prefer to trust you on this aspect?
Atay Ilgun: The packaging for us has a vital quality. It is important enough that it needs to satisfy our ideals or needs of giving music a more tangible ground where it can inhabit and serve as a spiritual, gestural vessel from one to another while creating a sense of gift. Two joining into one, a tryst, you might say.
When we actually do decide to create something for someone else, we of course do have a small chat about the packaging with the artist. But the thing is that mostly the artists do rely on our decisions since our packagings were the main attractions to the artists in the beginning. I mean we always do have a small chat but somehow we never needed more than a few sentences before they fell in love with the initial thing we suggested, even before a discussion. It’s more like communicating via the language of art.
For example, as I’ve said before, there is a book which is in preparation by James Vella of the -already legendary- FatCat Records and Yndi Halda. We had long e-mails on how the book should be -from the most important aspects of it to the smallest details- discussed the cover, talked to many people about doing it and lastly found the perfect solution for everything and it seems like it really is going to be satisfying for both sides, we feel it has been really communicative, creative and fun.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the very first remarkable example of integration between poetry and music which is close to the policy of Wounded Wolf that comes to your mind?
Atay Ilgun: We think that would be artists like Nick Drake, who were simply poets with an instrument. That of course is a long tradition all over the world. Bards, wandering minstrels… For example in Turkey there were poets known as ‘fonds’ who were traveling with their instrument telling their poetry. They were called ‘fonds – in love’ due their constant state of being in love with nature, god and perhaps a they were also a bit of melancholic and lonely. For example Asik (fond – in love) Veysel was one of the most famous one among them.
We mean these artists don’t use their words to go along as a secondary element to an already written piece of music but create words which can stand as poetry alone without the musi. We think that is the ultimate integration. Turkish bards like Karacaoglan, Pir Sultan Abdal, Erkan Ogur and Asik Veysel are perfect examples for this tradition. For example a late piece by Erkan Ogur ‘Eksiklik Kendi Özümde’ (What is missing is in my essence) is a remarkable work, it’s a style of work called as ‘havalandirma’ in ancient Turkey which means ‘to get in the air’ and is to musicalize a written poem.
Chain D.L.K.: Any poetical verse by some known or unknown poet about the relation between poetry and music which might sound particularly “illuminating”?
Atay Ilgun: We are not sure if these fragments we could think of apply to the relation between poetry and music but they sure do illuminate our thoughts on music, poetry and the moments when they interact as much as possible. Most of them are by our most heroized poet, probably the greatest ever lived, Charles Baudelaire. Especially his romantic dream, longing for eternity ‘Le goût de l’infini’ has been very influential to us. We think one can sense this particular feeling and longing underneath most of our music. We hope we didn’t forget another favorite of ours and thank you for this great interview!
”It is at once by way of poetry and through poetry, as with music, that the soul glimpses splendours from beyond the tomb; and when an exquisite poem brings one’s eyes to the point of tears, those tears are not evidence of an excess of joy, they are witness far more to an exacerbated melancholy, a disposition of the nerves, a nature exiled among imperfect things, which would like to possess, without delay, a paradise revealed on this very same earth.”
– Charles Baudelaire, from “Notes nouvelles sur Edgar Poe III,” IV
”Which one of us has not dreamed, on ambitious days, of the miracle of a poetic prose: musical, without rhythm or rhyme; adaptable enough and discordant enough to conform to the lyrical movements of the soul, the waves of revery, the jolts of consciousness?”
– Charles Baudelaire, from “Dédicace, À Arsene Houssaye”
”There is in a word, in a verb, something sacred which forbids us from using it recklessly. To handle a language cunningly is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.”
– Charles Baudelaire, from ”Theophile Gautier”
”And that ‘world’ gave off a strange music,
like the wind, or the flowing river,
or the grain, tossed and turned with a rhythmic
motion, by the winnower.”
– Charles Baudelaire, from ”A Rotting Carcase”
”But the green paradise of childhood’s thrill,
the games, the songs, the kisses, and the flowers,
the violin making music behind the hill,
and the wine glass, under the trees, in twilight hours,
But the green paradise of childhood’s thrill”
– Charles Baudelaire, from ”Moesta et Errabunda”
”The Poet is a kinsman in the clouds
Who scoffs at archers, loves a stormy day;
But on the ground, among the hooting crowds,
He cannot walk, his wings are in the way.”
– Charles Baudelaire, from”L’Albatros” [The Albatross] (translated by James McGowan, Oxford University Press, 1993)
“Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”
”Poetry begins, I dare say, with a savage beating of the drum in a jungle.”
– T.S Eliot
visit Wounded Wolf on the web at: www.woundedwolfpress.co.uk