Down in Tasmania, deep in isolation, lives a man that has created his own legacy of black metal and more recently blackwave music. His name is Striborg. Since 1994, this one man band has made some of the most haunting, artistic, depressive and atmospheric music that you'll perhaps ever hear. Inspired by his fascination with forests, darkness, night, misanthropy and death, Striborg and his music has evolved over the years, but his influence is still very much where his roots lay. Now operating under the “blackwave” tag, his most recent album "An Existential Burden" is equally as tormented, mysterious and creative as ever. We had a chat with the man himself, delving into topics such as his change in styles, playing live, and more.
Firstly, what made you decide to go from primarily black metal to the current blackwave/darkwave music you're making today?
As I’ve explained time and time again, I had an epiphany to create blackwave in July of 2017 after hearing some contemporary darkwave music and what it would be like if I took it to the next level, taking on board my years of experience as a black metal band. Essentially mixing the music of darkwave with the vocal style and atmosphere of BM. The only set back was that I had to completely start all over again, purchasing synthesizers and drum machines in order to create the music and learn what sounds they create and how to program them. Having said that I was lucky I already owned a Roland JD-XI so I could start work immediately. I basically used that to create all of ITC and most of Blackwave. Now I have a decent set up in which to create it properly. Many sounds to choose from and can program more complex drum rhythms. I was also was becoming jaded with black metal and mostly creating it out of apathy. My heart was simply not into it anymore. I find darkwave music to be darker and more exciting than what black metal has to offer these days.
Why do you think that so many black metal musicians end up taking this path, not necessarily the style you've chosen, but just changing in general. Is it because playing depressive black metal can take its toll on you mentally? Or is it just limiting you as a musician?
DSBM definitely does have a profound negative impact on your mental health and well being. I was subjected to it for too long as a creator and listener. As you grow older, complications arise, not just within yourself but family too. I certainly don’t want to dwell in such negativity 24/7. To an extent, salvation can be found there but honestly it’s too much. These days I find the genre to be really boring and self indulgent. Getting back to why I think artists change is because, yes it is definitely limited and people have ideas of their own and want to break from tradition to explore something new or different. They have a vision which needs to be expressed in other musical art forms and don’t necessarily want to be associated with what they were creating previously.
What was the most dark or most depressive period for Striborg? Was there a particular album where you were in a really bad place or anything like that?
I could mention a few as I’ve been creating solo work for 25 years now. Instrumental Trans-Communication would be in the top spot as the events leading to the creation of that album as a parent have been the most traumatising to date. My son was in hospital for 2 months, although this is too personal to share why. I nearly had a nervous breakdown and after he came out of hospital it took a month before I could concentrate working on ITC. Although, by this time things had settled down somewhat and I was very excited and focused on creating what I thought to be the first genuine blackwave album. Not that it really matters now. It was just the next album I was working on with a renewed interest in what I was doing. I had more passion than ever to make music.
Are you still quite fond of nature and the essence and inspiration that it gives you as a musician and as a human being?
Absolutely, I live and are surrounded by nature. The full moon nights are glorious and the evening croak of frogs are comforting. These days I draw inspiration from urban settings too, it seems to fit in better with blackwave aesthetic. We were up in Hobart every day for 2 months while my son was in hospital, therefore the evening city environment inspired a mysterious change in what I was doing.
Growing up getting into heavier styles of music, what were some of the bands or artists that you looked up to or perhaps made you want to make music?
I was quite happy listening to pop music in the early 80s at first, following the music program Countdown and TV series Sweet and Sour. Things changed, traumatic things at home and I had a serious bike accident. Pop music was loosing its luster by 85/86 and I was on a heavy metal journey. First, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Metallica, then the hard stuff! Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, Sodom, Possessed and Slayer etc. This music seemed timeless and still is imo. My first extreme metal band I was involved in was Krucifior in 1989. At this point in time grindcore and death metal were at a high point. As for my solo work, 93/94 and the obvious inspiration from Norwegian and Polish black metal.
Your newer direction is still very dark and ambient, much like your previous work. Are you having more fun making this newer music? Or does it still take you to a dark and depressive state when making it?
The atmosphere and feeling are much the same even though it has taken a different musical direction. I do enjoy rehearsing and recording what I’m doing now a lot more than the black metal material, especially as I can practice synth parts to programmed drum beats. I feel more like a one-man band instead of previously imagining the drums while practicing guitar. What I’m working on nowadays still takes me to a very dark mental state, sometimes more so but I feel solace and united by the process, completely immersed and at one with the music. This is something the listener will probably never wholeheartedly feel or understand as much as I do being that it is my state of catharsis.
You've played a few shows here and there more recently, what's that been like for you? Has it been an enjoyable experience and have you had a pretty good reception from those that have seen the shows?
Live performance has been more frequent over the last couple of years and always in a collaborative form. Reception has been good and I’ve enjoyed working with The Australian Art Orchestra, Marco Fusinato and Stephen O’Malley. I would like to do some live solo performances in the future so I have the chance to perform a full set of songs. Wether the opportunity ever arises or not is another story and it has to under the right conditions. My last show with the AAO was not such a great experience, outdoors, during a blazing hot sunny day. No time for a sound check. I was very, very nervous and my hands were shaking on the synths most of the duration of the performance. I did enjoy doing the vocals live though. Three songs proper live with additional experimental excursions so the AAO could have some fun too. I just wish I had the opportunity to perform more often so I could enjoy the experience and add more songs to the repertoire.
Being in Tasmania, is living in isolation something that's very appealing to you? Do you think you'd be a completely different artist if you lived somewhere like Sydney or Melbourne?
Not sure, I guess so. I’ve lived here all my life. Perhaps it’s what makes Striborg so unique or I just make strange music that only a minority of people can appreciate and relate to.
You've collaborated with a few different black metal musicians in the past, are there any artists currently that you'd like to do a project with?
Not really, I never initiate that myself. I prefer working solo but I appreciate and enjoy a collaboration now and then, especially live so I’m not the only one on stage! As I mentioned previously I’m ready to perform as a solo act now. Although it would take some time to work on a live set from absolutely nothing. For example, if someone asked if I could perform tomorrow I could only do an improvised show.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add or mention regarding new music, shows, thoughts you'd like to share?
I’m working on a new album which will be a return to form as far as the blackwave direction goes. An Existential Burden was originally going to be an EP due to a different approach, return of acoustic drums and very doomy and drawn out synth passages to contrast from the previous album. With the addition of the ambient track and a brand new song ‘As Life Fades Away’ it ended up being another full length. Some split releases to work on too and unfortunately the live show in Melbourne, supporting Cult of Occult has been cancelled. No live shows planned...
Discover the discography of Striborg here: https://striborg.bandcamp.com