Northaunt needs no particular introduction. Hailing from Trondheim, Norway, the project has been at the forefront of the Scandinavian scene since its creation at the dawn of the 21st century, similarly to its peers Svartsinn and Kammarheit. After a few very well-received releases, the project seemed to have abruptly ceased all activity in 2007. Having learned through some personal connections that the artist behind Northaunt, Hærleif Langås, was visiting this year’s Denovali Swingfest in Essen, Germany (as was I), I decided to try to hook up for a chat with him and poke around a little. The resulting conversation is the first interview given by Hærleif in almost five years!
First and foremost, what’s the current status of Northaunt? You haven’t published any new material in a while now.
Indeed, the last album was released in 2006. Everything’s been in almost complete standstill since. I’ve been making progress very, very slowly on the new album, which will probably be the last Northaunt full-length, since it’s taking so long. I’ve been making music for other projects too, but it’s very difficult these days.
You had your debut album re-released last year, remastered and with a completely new layout. How did this come about? Are you happy with the final result?
It wasn’t my idea, really. Indiestate wanted to do it, they set up a cooperation with Cyclic Law and Ewers Tonkunst and got it released. I did some remastering and tried to make it as good as possible. Some of the artwork has been carried over from the original release, but some bits are new as well, especially in the photography department, which is something I do a lot these days. I’m satisfied, all in all.
When you look back at these ten-or-so years you’ve spent under the Northaunt alias, are you satisfied with what you’ve accomplished? Is there anything you regret or just weren’t able to do as desired?
No, I’m happy with what I’ve done. I wish I could’ve made more music, that’s all.
What are the reasons for your not having done that?
It’s always something on the personal level. On one hand, there’s a lack of money; on the other, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and my working conditions aren’t quite ideal. Personal problems get thrown into the mix occasionally as well. All this makes it quite difficult to work. Creativity is the only thing that’s never lacking, so it’s very irritating not to be able to make music. I honestly want to make music all the time, but it’s a long way to my studio too. It’s difficult to get things done with all these different factors.
Other than your alter egos such as The Human Voice and Therradaemon, you’ve recently been involved in a project called Mulm. Would you care to present it in detail?
Mulm is a very interesting project. It’s been very good for me on a personal level as well, since I had all those problems getting my own stuff finished; especially Northaunt, as I have very high demands for Northaunt material. In Mulm, I’m simply one out of four members, which makes it a lot easier on me personally. It is a cooperative project, but we do individual track parts on our own; sometimes I’m in charge of guitar sounds, sometimes basic drones, and so on. It all started with an old friend of mine, Kjetil – also an ex-member of Northaunt – wanting to do a collaboration with me and two other guys from other projects. We composed our first song and were almost surprised to see how satisfactory the results were. Everyone else thought it was good too, so we talked about the possibility of doing a full-length together and decided to go for it.
So it’s really a full cooperation between you guys, not just a compilation of individually contributed material? You work on all songs together?
Yes, and that’s the best thing about it. With four people, it’s probably the biggest ambient band around! [laughs] But it’s working, it’s definitely something unique. It’s been a great experience for everyone involved, really, as we’re all used to working on our own all the time, so it’s a new kind of positive impulse for all of us. To me, it’s one big happy story, unlike some.
The CD is being released on Cyclic Law in January. Have you finalised all the details concerning it? I’m sure the readers wouldn’t mind if you revealed any!
Indeed, the CD is due by January at the latest. The name of the album is “The End Of Greatness”. It was the idea of another member, so don’t expect me to explain it well, but it’s an astronomy-related term from a theory that explains the organisation of the universe. There’s essentially a border up to which you can see the organisation of the universe according to known principles; after that, everything seems completely random. End of Greatness is the name of that border or limit. You’re better off googling it, though. [laughs] I think it’s a good title, partly because of its double meaning.
You also have a collaboration with Svartsinn coming up, if I’m not mistaken. Jan Roger told me in a recent interview that you were doing a joint release. Any update on this from your part?
Yes, it’s a split-LP we’re planning to release on Loki Foundation. We both read the book “The Road” by Cormack McCarthy simultaneously and liked it a lot; it’s very atmospheric and a very, very good book overall. About that time, the guys from Loki asked the two of us to do a joint release for their series of split-LPs with various artists; we wanted to make a conceptual release out of it, and they agreed, so that’s the background.
Any release date on the horizon?
No, I’m afraid the composing process is going very slowly for this one as well, so there’s no set release date so far, but I’m trying to work on it as much as possible and get it finished in the near future. It’s difficult to work with so many things going on simultaneously.
One thing that’s always impressed me is how close-knit the Scandinavian dark ambient community seems to be. It seems to have all the qualities of an actual scene.
Maybe I can’t see it the right way because I’m in the middle of it, but to me, it’s just a bunch of friends making music. It’s not big enough to be a proper scene. It almost feels like an accident that there’s three or four of us in Trondheim, just enough so that we can hang out and discuss music. There really isn’t much else, however. It’s pretty small-scale.
You’ve obviously come to Denovali Swingfest for a reason. What are your musical preferences and background?
As you’ve just said, there’s a good reason I’m here. I don’t go to a lot of festivals, anywhere, as I don’t really like mainstream music; this festival is a pretty good example of what I do like, though. Ambient music, dark or otherwise, is my first pick, but I also enjoy the doom/drone bands, as well as dark jazz. This festival is a mix of all these, so it’s a perfect festival to me. Bohren & Der Club Of Gore is one of my favourite bands, and I’m a big fan of Thomas Köner too.
You used to perform live with Northaunt extensively back in the day. What does playing live mean to you and how is it different from what one can hear on your albums? Do you enjoy playing live, or do you prefer working in the studio?
I don’t really play live anymore, and I don’t intend to either. Playing live has somehow never been enjoyable for me, although I’ve had some great times, especially on the 2007 Russian tour with Kammarheit and Svartsinn – we had a huge turnout for the genre we play. I like to travel and meet people who’ve heard my music, but at the moment, it’s too much frustrating work that needs to be done in order to prepare the concept, and the same goes for the equipment, which can be a pain in the arse.
There isn’t much financial interest in it anyway, is there?
There’s no financial interest at all! It’s all about travelling and trying to put on a good show, but I don’t think that all that is enough to cut it anymore, especially since all of my music is studio-made, and it’s a very long process to convert it into something you can perform with live. It takes different equipment, you need to rehearse more etc. It’s too difficult for me to do, at least for the moment.
As the final question, what’s the one thing you’d like to be remembered for as an artist?
I just hope that people will attach my music to occasions when they used it; remember the occasion as a whole, not just the music itself.