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The debut release from Austrian solo project Selenite took Comrade Aleks somewhat by surprise with its unexpectedly richly spiritual approach to Funeral Doom - leading him to this deeper conversation with band founder Stefan Traunmüller.

Interview with Selenite.
"Very often solo bands tagged as "Funeral" tend towards minimalistic - or simplistic, if you prefer - approaches. I was ready to skip Selenite's debut album 'Mahasamadhi', but the title and artwork (both indicating Hindu/Buddhist spiritual traditions) drew my attention, and I was rewarded with an amazing aesthetic experience.

Stefan Traunmüller is the man behind Selenite, and his background has little in common with Doom: including melodic Black/Gothic project Golden Dawn, Pagan Black act Rauhnåcht, atmospheric Black/Ambient band The Negative Bias and symphonic Black Metal outfit Wallachia. Despite being labeled as Funeral, 'Mahasamadhi' demonstrates majestic ceremonial Death/Doom, with the addition of mantras and episodic operatic vocals. I'm really glad we've done this interview with Stefan as it sheds some light not only on Selenite's story but also on questions of music's very nature."

Talking to Aleks today, 's Stefan Traunmüller.

Hello Stefan! Your solo project Selenite now has its debut album 'Mahasamadhi' released. What's your next step concerning Selenite?

I plan to include more mantras in the songs to come but I am not sure how the overall sound will be. When I reduce it to the foundation, you have classic Doom like Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus, I could walk this path with the help of the opera singer I used on the last two songs of Mahasamadhi. On the other hand there is the Doom/Death path with growls, and there is the possibility to include more meditative synth pads. I hope I will find the right mix that satisfies me and brings an intense listening that hypnotizes the listener.

There are a lot of opportunities ahead for Selenite! Did you think about extending the line-up to a full band to play your Doom mantras live?

Yes I thought about it, of course. With the right people at the right time, it might be a good idea. But I am very selective as far as musicians or band members are concerned. They need to share the same vision, have some discipline and personal maturity. The music could sound a bit differently live but that needs a lot of work and rehearsals. When one guy is lazy or sloppy on the instrument or unable to feel the groove, the ship is already sinking. There is a reason why the good live bands usually have a stable line-up and studio projects with hired session musicians often disappoint on stage. But I never say never, in case a booker of a Doom festival should ask me, I will carefully think about it.

You're involved in bunch of different extreme Metal projects, but it seems you never played Doom in any form before Selenite. What's the story behind this project?

When I started with music in 1992, Doom had the same importance and inspiration for me as Black Metal. By that time, not only the second wave of Black Metal took me by storm, but also bands like My Dying Bride, Tiamat, the first The Gathering album and the unique obscure Unholy from Finland. Above all I was influenced by Bathory, both by the Viking era and the early albums. As a consequence, the first demo of my band Golden Dawn had Doom and Black influences at almost the same time. Later I played more tremolo picking and fast melodic stuff and never really got back to those Doom roots. In 2015 I played on the Dark Bombastic Evening festival in Romania (with Wallachia) and watched the show of Skepticism. The atmosphere of their live performance really struck me. On the other hand I met a bunch of people there, who seemed very soulless to me, as if they had buried their souls. So I went home and composed 'Requiem For A Soul', the first song of Selenite. At first I wanted to do real Funeral Doom, but towards the end of the album you can hear more Doom/Death influence.

Selenite - 'Final Reckoning' (2019):

It's said that you started Selenite in 2015: did it take all four years to shape this sound and the direction it moves in?

Actually yes, I worked really slowly and took long breaks between the production of the songs. The actual writing process happens fast, when I am in the mood, but the finishing of a song, especially concerning the final sound and the vocals, can take months and even years.

Do you see any connection between your other bands and Selenite? I see only some vague binding between Selenite's title and the vampiric themes of some of your bands.

Hm, I can't really find any vampiric themes. Ah, maybe you mean Wallachia, that's the band of Lars Stavdal, I worked as producer and did some bass and keyboards. My themes have always been shamanism and philosophic aspects of life and death. And also nature, as well as obscure sagas of my home area in Rauhnacht. Honestly I almost never start with any lyrical theme, I want to let the music speak on its own and most of the time I have everything ready as instrumental when I start to think about the lyrics.

Are you meaning that the music came first in the case of Selenite, too? That sounds strange - as you know 'Mahasamadhi' has an original concept for a Doom album), so I was sure you must be motivated by its lyrical content first.

Yes, music was first. Very often I already hear in my mind the vocals while composing the riffs, but rather as a melody with some key words that fit to the rhythm and the mood of the part. For my other band Rauhnacht it happened that I fully composed a song and I walked through a forest listening to the main part again and again in my mind, asking myself what words the choir that I heard would sing. The choir in my mind "answered" with the first line of lyrics. Often I only know one or two words that for sure will be part of the final lyrics and I build the rest around them. I think it is quite exciting to let the music speak. Sometimes I just write down the words that come without thinking and with no regard to a certain meaning. But this only works in English, although my English is really far from perfect.

Concept-wise 'Mahasamadhi' deals with questions of spirituality, the term itself means to "consciously leave one's body" as the final and highest purpose of Hindu or Buddhist practices. What made you turn to this topic? It has little in common with things you did before.

I am on a spiritual path and in the last couple of years I started to practice a very introspective meditative form of Yoga. Some of my friends follow a Hindu path very strictly and their way of thinking and also living their spirituality influenced me. I read the Bhagavad Gita and started to accept reincarnation. I would describe a spiritual path in this sense as the process of non-identification with any material aspect including the own thoughts and the body in order to find the true self and the connection to a higher consciousness. After all this is no contradiction to shamanism or hermetic concepts that I dealt with earlier. Ultimately there is no contradiction at all, because it is our own ego that divides and perceives polarity.

Why did you come to the combination of that kind of message with Funeral/slow Death/Doom? Samadhi in itself means clarity of one's mind, but this genre is distorted and very down to earth.

Good point. I also produce Ambient and music for meditation, which is for sure the classic approach to this topic. I think I don't like to answer your question by talking about genres. Let's talk about meditation and the connection to a distorted sound and typical Doom riffing. One aspect of meditation is that you carefully perceive the inner and outer world without interpreting or focusing. Sounds, thoughts, the pain from the unusual sitting, everything is accepted without evaluating. Suddenly, one can perceive the void, the silence between all sounds, the collapse of subject and object, perceiver and perceived. Think of the sound of a stream, the murmuring of the water. This can perfectly lead into deep meditation, everything is filled by this sound and you go into the details that are never the same like no water drop is like the next one, at the same time you hear the stream in its entirety. The sound of high gain guitars has a bit of the same effect, especially with Black Metal tremolo riffing. But I think that chords with long feedback and repetitive song structures in Doom Metal can also have this meditative effect. With pads and choirs I can set a counterpoint to the "down to earth" effect. This is also a good reference to spiritual exercises where you try to be grounded and connected with above at the same time.

But you probably heard about the tritone dissonance which is the basis of Doom riffs, just like it was set by Black Sabbath many years ago. It was named "diabolus in musica" back in the 18th century and, as in opposition, I could pose a theory of music's healing power which manifests when it's played with different frequencies. Like healing vibrations of 528Hz, and so on: so on a higher plane the trance inflicted by circulating Doom riffs isn't the same as a trance born of inner focus or focus on ambient music.

I know about diabolus in musica, 432 Hz music, also about solfeggio frequencies and things like binaural beats and silent subliminals. All this is very interesting and effective, because in the end the whole universe is vibration, so vibration in terms of music can do a lot. By the way, there are rumors that the Nazi regime finally was the institution that fixed the rule of c = 440 Hz in modern music, because they knew that this music is unless 432 Hz more destructive and brings disharmony. So, in case anyone reading this is interested in healing music, I have done a lot of this frequency stuff with binaural beats for different healing purpose. The problem with this is, when you make music with for example a 528 Hz tone, this tone will go through the whole song and the chord progressions that you can use on top are limited. Every musical modulation changes the root key. So, yes, you are right, Selenite is no specific healing music and no "trance music" like music with binaural beats for example. Nevertheless, I think that I am not the only one to recognize a certain trance effect in some Black Metal and Dungeon Synth music, also without this specific frequency stuff. Maybe this simply comes through the intention of the musicians to transport this feeling?

Binaural beats make use of an interesting phenomenon of the human brain. When you penetrate the left ear with a certain frequency and the right ear with another frequency that is quite close to the first one, the brain will not be able to perceive both frequencies but will interpret both sounds as the frequency that lies in the middle of both. So, 295 Hz left and 305 Hz right will sound like 300 Hz. And now the interesting point: The brain also perceives the 10 Hz difference (it sounds like a pulsating modulation) and the brain waves will adjust to this 10 Hz vibration. 10 Hz brain waves are called alpha waves, the brain produces those waves when entering into meditation. After some minutes, the binaural beat could lower the difference between the two frequencies, so that the brain produces theta waves and enters a state of deep meditation. Binaural beats work best with headphones.

Selenite - 'Channeling Chants From Beyond' (2019):

There are some mantras which sound quite ritualistic: in the composition 'Channeling Chants From Beyond', for example. Did you use some real spiritual chants or did you find some common-sounding chants intuitively?

It is a real mantra. I also sing in a mantra chanting group from time to time, so I know a little bit of this matter. It is said that Sanskrit is an original language, whose meaning is still affecting the consciousness directly, even though one might not understand the meaning. So, back to the frequency discussion: According to Hindu philosophies, mantras also work without specific musical vibrations, simply through the 'word vibration' of Sanskrit.

As I understand you recorded these five compositions in your own studio. Was it one session or did you add to 'Mahasamadhi' whenever you felt it the right time?

Whenever I felt right time. The song order on the album is the order of songwriting. The first three songs were finished in 2016, then I took a longer break. My mantra chants inspired me to the fourth song in 2018, by that time I also met the opera singer who appears on the final two songs.

Oh, yes, that's Austria - you just go and meet opera singers at every corner! If I remember correctly Visceral Evisceration had a lady from opera on their album too. Well, didn't you think to promote Selenite further out from the Metal underground?

Visceral Evisceration, wow, you dived deep into the underground of forgotten bands. Antonia, the opera singer, is a quite remarkable person. Actually she is from Germany and sang Wagner at Bayreuth. But she got burnt out from the music business and also went through a quite heavy disease. Now she totally left the opera scene and is into triathlon with serious ambition. She has always been Metal fan, for example she really adores Bruce Dickinson. So I hope to work more with her in the future. Back to your question, needless to say, high efforts for promotion are necessary in today's scene to make something bigger. I think that Séance Records have a good network and distribution, any bigger attention would come with things like video, more action on social media and of course live performances. I don't have resources and motivation for all that right now. I sit in my studio and produce my music, that's what I love. Of course it feels good to get a record released and some positive resonance, but think of the word release as soon as an album is released (actually as soon as the final master is done), I am free from it and I already have my next projects in mind.

Stefan, you live in Austria and Séance Records are based in Australia, a curious coincidence. How did you find these blasphemers?

I knew them from the release of the Golden Dawn / The Negative Bias split. Actually they are more into Black Metal, but both Suzanne and Adrien told me that they are also a lot into Doom personally. When I remember correctly, they are good friends of Mournful Congregation. They are very dedicated and release only what they like, which is really more important for me than being just an impersonal number on a bigger label.

Thank you Stefan, for this deep interview and for the album as well! I hope we'll hear some news from Selenite soon. How would you like to resume our conversation?

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to express myself very deeply! And I thank everyone who is open to get to know me through my music. That's what it is, very personal feelings are transported through the music and some related souls will recognize and appreciate that. When only a handful of people feel similar as I felt while composing, the aim is reached.

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Visit the Selenite bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-01-06 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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