Half Visible Presence
Would it be fair to say that there’s something elusive and intuitive about your music that a listener cannot actually hear but only feel, and that the phrase Half Visible Presence, apart from being the name of your band, is also a reference to that visceral, immaterial side of your music, that is, in a way, also only half visible?
T.v.D.: The moniker Half Visible Presence and the music indeed need to fit one another, and with each track, I won’t rest until I have created that typical Half Visible Presence atmosphere, which I find hard to describe myself. There are many instrumental and vocal layers that an average listener probably won’t perceive, other than as a vague feeling or atmosphere. But the creation of such layers in the background is a process that happens naturally. It is just the way I record. I work with simple organic material ˗ instruments and capturing equipment ˗ so I can’t avoid a lo-fi dusty sound with layers deeply intertwined, even if I wanted to. Needless to say, this is the way I want it to be done. I refuse to resort to fancy material.
This MLP is apparently a conceptual work portraying loss, liberation, and retaliation as the three different perspectives on death. Could you please elaborate on each word, each of those three perspectives?
T.v.D.: Without wanting to give away too much of the actual meaning of the lyrics, I can provide you with some hints in the right direction. But the thing is that these lyrics are very personal, so their true meaning is for me alone. Let everyone just interpret them in their own way. That’s the beauty of art I guess. There should be an element of mystery and elusiveness to it. With the texts of José Luís Peixoto at hand, and with the themes I had portrayed to write about, I was able to reconstruct his texts in a way that would suit my themes. It was an interesting process, and so was the result. Anyway, you can find a hint towards the right perspective already in the booklet itself. Firstly, there’s loss, with the living speaking unto the dead ˗ this one is easy, it is basically a way of paying last respects to someone I had very high regard for. Secondly, liberation, with death speaking unto the dead ˗ a serene way of dealing with inevitability. Pure contemplation. And lastly, retaliation, with the dead speaking unto the living – a vague one for the outsider… Only I will ever know the true meaning of it. Or not. Time will tell.
Interesting to hear you say that since loss and liberation are indeed the words that anyone can relate and associate with death in one way or another, unlike retaliation whose death connotations are susceptible to different interpretations. What makes that retaliation aspect so tricky in your opinion?
T.v.D.: The word retaliation might indeed not be immediately contextualized with death, and perhaps that is also why you will find that the song Retaliation sounds quite different from the other two songs on the MLP. It is much more vitriolic, more black metal oriented. The theme and the lyrics suit the music like a glove though. Regarding your question, I never intended to convey different aspects of death, even though loss and liberation could very well fit that category. I have merely conveyed three personal perspectives on death, out of the infinite possibilities. Having said that, if retaliation should result in death, what is there so tricky about it?
What made you think that a scapular would be a suitable embodiment of those three interpretations of death, with their different meanings?
T.v.D.: You are really dissecting profoundly into this matter. Well, I won’t go into it too deeply, but the title of the work embraces these three perspectives in a way that the scapular is an artefact of religious devotion, and in that sense, it totally makes sense for me to use it. If death can be worshipped religiously, may Half Visible Presence be an altar for that.
Going back to José Luís Peixoto and his texts you used as a basis for the lyrics, did you commission those texts from him, or had they already been written before you had even gotten in touch? If the former is the case, why didn’t you want him to write the actual lyrics for the songs instead of those textual guidelines, and spare yourself writing the lyrics by yourself afterwards?
T.v.D.: These texts had already been written by José Luís Peixoto long before I started Half Visible Presence. He became a professional writer somewhere around 2000, and I believe these texts were some of his older writings. I was in contact with him regarding one of his books which I had translated into Dutch, and we started speaking about metal, bands, etc. I was very familiar with his gloomy writings, in which death is a recurring theme, so I asked if he happened to have some unused texts on the subject matter that I could use for my project. He was very enthusiastic about it and soon sent me a whole bunch of exclusive texts for me to choose from. But again, Half Visible Presence is a very personal journey, so in the end it would only make sense for me to write the lyrics myself.
Someone somewhere nicely observed that Half Visible Presence remains shrouded in the mysticism of its own, adorned by melancholy, morbidity, and foul scourge. Do you feel that your music indeed incarnates a different kind of mysticism, that is deeply personal and thus quite singular and unrepeatable?
T.v.D.: It’s indeed very personal, so by that alone it should be different from anything else. The whole process of creating this MLP was one of its kind, and it could never be done again in the same way and with the same outcome.
Speaking of mysticism, Half Visible Presence is visually represented by a sigil or something that at least looks like one. What exactly is the significance behind that image and do you like to think that some of the mysticism of your music resides within the lines of that triangle, that the visual and the music represent the very same energies?
T.v.D.: The logo is a weird one, I know. But it suits everything I try to encompass. Inside the triangle there are flames… It’s all flames actually, and within them there are the letters Half Visible Presence somewhere, and an ever watchful, eradicating eye on top. The triangle was a natural choice, not only because flames grow in a triangular shape upwards, but it is also a very powerful symbol with great meaning to me personally. The triangle can be seen and used as a power source, a means for the invocation of darkness. Therefore I feel the need to include it in many things I do. It is a recurring factor as such. Also, in the triangle of the logo, you can half visibly read the text Tenebrae ˗ Per Sapientia ˗ In Morte.
Does the wintry landscape in the background of the cover have any deeper meaning or is its value merely aesthetic?
T.v.D.: It is very aesthetic, as is anything that I used in the layout, but ever so meaningful too. When I saw this landscape I just knew I had to use it. It breeds the very essence of this MLP. Winter is death. The end of the cycle, as so serenely depicted through this scenery. Death encompasses so many aspects, it’s cold and cruel, but at the same time welcoming and almost desirable and warm, just like the cover painting.
Do you perhaps remember the mood you were in while writing the acoustic intro to Liberation? Were you morose or upbeat or completely emotionally indifferent?
T.v.D.: It was just one of those moments that I felt the need to grab my acoustic guitar, and before I knew it I started to go in this direction. I immediately knew where it was going, the atmosphere grabbed me, and didn’t let go until the intro was composed.
What was the inspiration behind the string arrangements in the second half of that song?
T.v.D.: This was a piece that I wanted to use for a long time, since 1999 I believe. It was just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity and channeling it into the current meant-to-be. I always linked this piece to death in the same way the cover is linked to it. In that sense, the violin part is for me a perfect soundtrack for the cover.
Given your involvement in many different bands of which Israthoum is probably the most established one, do you see Half Visible Presence evolving into the one that would eventually demand all your time, focus, and energy?
T.v.D.: As a matter of fact, that moment has arrived already. Half Visible Presence is by now my main focus, band-wise. Still, it is not a band in the orthodox sense, as I do everything by myself. So, no rehearsals, no concerts, etc. Also, I am not that much in a hurry to keep the flame alive, as normally a band should or would. Nonetheless, I have already started working on the next release and am well on my way to finishing what would hopefully be the first full-length. Besides Half Visible Presence, I have been doing some contributions here and there, and perhaps Merihem would be a good one to mention right now, as we have just released our first album Incendiary Darkness through I, Voidhanger Records.
Do you feel that the damage contributes to one’s maturity much more than age, and that the same can be said for the maturity and depth of artistic expression? Are anxiety and unease more conducive to a serious and sincere artistic work in your opinion?
T.v.D.: I’d say age contributes to both damage and maturity at the same time. Then of course artistic expression gets more profound with increased maturity and knowledge. Anxiety and unease are but thresholds thrown upon one’s path as life’s thread unravels. Just the sort of annoyances that if not killing you will make you stronger.
Do you believe that people don’t look for the meaning of life as much as they look for the experience of being alive?
T.v.D.: No, I believe it is exactly the opposite. People get too stuck and waste too much energy figuring out the meaning of life, while life, or the experience of being alive, just passes them by. Just move on! There is no meaning of life. And if there is, who cares? When was the answer to that question, or the question itself, ever useful to me?
Would you subscribe to the notion that the main problem with the world is that intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence? Do you feel that the decline of modern civilisation is very much the aftermath of the aforementioned?
T.v.D.: Intelligence might certainly be taken as a curse in that sense. The expression ignorance is bliss have crossed my mind so very often, but it is mankind itself that will eventually cause its own demise. The gap between the self-aware, intelligent elite and the stupified, ignorant mass will grow ever larger, and the proportion between both as well. Just like Huxley’s Brave New World so well prophesized. It will end in a self-consuming abhorrence if this process is not abruptly halted by some deus ex machina phenomenon.
How often do you remind yourself that you must die and does the awareness and consciousness of your own mortality help you stay grounded?
T.v.D.: I remind myself daily of this, trust me. Death is my ultimate fascination, to say the least, but I have to retain myself for it not to become too much of an obsession. Not sure if the consciousness of my own mortality helps me to stay grounded as such. The truth is that, in one way, the realization of my mortality never stopped being an utterly surreal thing. On the other hand, it does give me serenity like nothing else does. Is that staying grounded? I tend to believe it’s exactly the contrary. Getting tired of this ground, to be honest…
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