Heike Langhans – Draconian

Interview by Miriam C.

By reading these words it feels like to be thrown in a parallel dimension, I’m not trying to mess around with anybody but every time I re-read this interview (I’ve lost the count of it) I feel like a part of myself literally departing me and get ready for a travel in the astral maelstrom. What shock me the most about this interview it’s how Heike uses a refined style and the same time a straight-forward one, seldom in my career as a interviewer I’ve met an artist prone to provide profound, sincere and predictable replies. If you enjoyed “Sovran”, you know what to expect from Draconian.

Hi dear Heike, welcome back to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you? The last time we talked together was in 2012 and at the time you had just joined Draconian so… a lot of water passed under the bridge, how is life treating you right now?

Blessings for having me back. I’m as good as one can be in this messed up world. I’m just grateful to be alive, healthy and creative. I’ve come to learn how to navigate this dimensional test that gets harder and harder. With each accomplishment, comes another set of obstacles to be overcome, but I embrace it, knowing that we are not here to just end up accepting some mundane, soul-destroying routine. Life really is what YOU make of it. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, life is treating me as decent as I allow it to.

“Sovran” is the 6th album released by Draconian and we should consider it a sort of debut for you. After so much struggle and effort, how does it feel to finally get appreciated by so many people?

It feels nothing short of satisfying. Mostly because I’ve been so frustrated for years, feeling like I had zero to show for my efforts. The appreciation thing is a glorious bonus and I certainly don’t take it for granted. I had my prejudice regarding how replacement vocalists are criticized by the opinionated self-proclaimed veterans, so I was pleasantly surprised (baffled even) at the positive the response. I was told not to read reviews or comments, but I’m a very community-spirited person and did it anyway. I readied myself for a total bashing, but true Draconian fans are so endearing, it’s heart-warming.

In which manner did the relocation to Sweden influence you in this new Draconian album and, personally, was it hard to get used to a new reality?

The hardest part about relocating was the bureaucratic bullsh*t paperwork and all the waiting. The most important thing I learned and carried with me into the making of the album, is to always just go with the flow. I used to have this need for control of every situation but these days I just accept the situation and act accordingly.

As for a new reality, that is something I constantly look forward to. I am a person who cannot get stuck in one situation for too long. This is a gift in the sense that I adapt quickly to any given situation but a curse in the sense that I tornado my way through life, leaving many sentimental parts of me behind, which ultimately affects me on the deepest inner levels.

I see moving to Sweden as a step in the right direction in one way but I cannot say for sure that this is where I’d ever ‘settle down’. I see too many potential political disasters I’d like to escape, so eventually I’ll end up off-grid in some forest, being a crazy cat lady growing her own herbs and talking to birds. True story.

Would you like to share some info about “Sovran” and its genesis? Also, I was curious to know which was your role in the composition session; I mean was everything ready when you, at the time, joined Draconian or should we consider you having an active role?

I feel as if “Sovran” was far more collaborative than previous Draconian releases. I can’t know for sure exactly how previous albums were constructed but I did have more of the proverbial hand in the cookie jar. I think this is because I also like to write and compose music instead of singing melodies already constructed. I need to feel emotionally connected to what I sing and the guys do appreciate that kind of input. Being able to sit in studio with Johan Ericson and say “Hey, what about some old-school goth guitars in that part” , is like totally checked off my bucket-list.

Going into this, I expected to just be handed instructions (and dreaded the idea) but I was happy to find this was not the case. Johan, Anders and myself spent some time in studio brainstorming, moving things around and recording ideas. I’d like to see even more of this for the coming releases, especially now that the stranger danger aspect is out of the way.

It’s a Draconian tradition to use a lot of classic literature references such as Milton, Byron, Blake – how was your approach during your lyrics’ composition?

The profound poetry and Victorian-style menacing mindfulness is definitely representative of Anders and his personality. It was quite a challenge for a more straight-forward writer as myself but we both appreciate each other’s respective talent and do our best to make it fit together. There were certainly times I could not grasp the poetic paradox in his writing and would constantly ask him what he meant by it. The generation gap surely plays some role in this but it has not affected my own writing style.

Instead, I adjusted some of my own lines to flow better personally but within the given theme. I suppose the reason it ended up working out quite well, is because we understand and respect each other’s differences. This is key in working with someone on the same project when you are two strong-willed individuals. As for “Dishearten”, I wrote an entire lyric and presented it to Anders, without thinking it was worthy, but somehow it struck a nerve and he was happy to include it on the album.

Being the newcomer in the band, which were the challenges that you have faced? Did you feel any pressure/expectations?

It’s no secret that I have been more hard on myself than anyone else ever would have been. I am my own worse critic, so nothing anyone could say or expect of me could make it any harder. Singing live has been the biggest challenge for me, for a variety of reasons. I have a very fragile, emotional voice that is not easy to push over live sound circumstances. On a meta-physical level, I’ve always been very sensitive to EMP, electronics and energy. I feel extremely off-balance in and around large groups of people and electronics. I’ve been close to tipping over sideways on stage on many occasions. It also didn’t help that I was practically without voice on my very first show with the band. I beat myself up about that for months on end but later heard from many singers that they have endured far more embarrassing situations. It comes with the territory and it’s how you deal with it afterward that matters. People can judge you all they like, but if they are not able to get up there and do it themselves, well then, it says more about their judgment than our actions.

Other than that, I get the sense there are some unnecessary pressures when you are a female in a metal band. I can’t put my finger on it, but it seems as if there are expectations (by viewers) of being some perfect poster-girl who floats around like an angel of darkness. Well f**k that, sorry. I’m so far away from this. I’m just a space nerd gamer stoner dudette. I’m not skinny and I’ll never be. I’m not perfect and I don’t strive to be. I won’t be posing for any sexy metal calendars or prancing around in my sponsored outfits and jewelry. Draconian often gets lunged into the ‘female fronted metal’ box, understandably for having Gothic nuances within the Beauty and the Beast notion, but personally I don’t feel like a typical example of a female Metal singer. I kinda feel more like one of the guys. And as being in a band who likes to play slower music, I often feel like the odd one out at these female fronted festivals. Never the less, I enjoy the atmosphere and communal spirit of these festivals.

“Rivers Between Us” features the participation of Crippled Black Phoenix‘s front-man Daniel Änghede. What can you tell us about this particular song and how was this collaboration born?

This song always stood out as ‘something different’ on the album. We listened to it over and over and still felt like it was missing something to make it even more unique compared to other tracks on the album. We had been flirting with the idea of having guest vocals on this album and as it so happens, I was already working with Daniel in one of his other musical projects, Hearts of Black Science. Anders came up with the suggestion of having Daniel sing on “Rivers Between Us” and considering how well our vocals had been flowing together in other songs, it was a no-brainer. Many of us in the band are Crippled Black Phoenix fans ourselves, so we saw this as a personal treat, regardless of how it would be received by fans. Luckily, it has been one of the most popular tracks on the album. For me, it’s that damn lovely solo by Johan that is the cherry on the cake and I’m glad we dared to do something different.

Believe me, I really love the cover album, so I was wondering if you can share with us more insight about its creation If we should contextualize it both from a visual and lyrical point of view, how should we read (interpret) into it?

The theme of this album relies heavily on the notion that the only one true Sovran (King, Majesty, Ruler of the All) is the governing principles or force of creation in the universe itself. Nothing can escape the principles which forms or destroys matter and so when we think of ‘God’ (however redundant that man-made word is in a cosmic sense), we think only of that which rules everything in existence. It could be the frequency of love itself or the language of mathematics itself. We are simply not aware and evolved enough to have a definite answer.

On the album artwork, the eye represents this governing force, always aware and ever-present. The vortex or black hole in the eye, represents the recycling of matter and energy into reality, which is represented by the trees or natural elements in the picture. The eye is also crying stars or stardust, which can be interpreted in many different ways. Personally, I imagined this as the melancholy toward what these creations have become but with the knowing that eventually, it will all be recycled back into a different, or perhaps better state of existence. Like emotional Entropy on a cosmic scale. Which is paradoxical, because emotion is not a factor in creation matter. It is however a factor in how we, the creations, create our own reality. Deep stuff, man.

Besides being the singer in Draconian, you play in two different musical projects called LOR3L3I and ISON. Would you like to introduce LOR3L3I a bit and do you have any updates about a new release?

Before I joined Draconian, I was off in my own world doing LOR3L3I. I can only describe it as a platform to create what needs to come out of me. Calling it a solo project, would not do it justice, because in some weird multi-dimensional way, I do not feel like I’m doing it on my own. I am a lucid dreamer or astral experiencer and some of the themes of these songs, would come to me as vivid encounters outside of this reality. I sometimes wake up with words in my head that I have no idea how they could ever fit to my lifetime or frame of reference. I feel deeply connected to them, with no relation to my current life. So this project will always be with me, until I pass on or until whatever explainable communication from hell knows where, ends.

I’m in a continuum of creating music, but sometimes I feel that these songs are so personal, that I become vulnerable upon releasing them to the ears of others. I can’t always explain it to people and this has made me reluctant to just pump out music. I do however plan to release something this year. I have many distractions in my life and the personal journey often seems to take back seat, but I have already put together a few songs for an album in 2016. I just need a little kick in the ass.

ISON, instead, sees you and Daniel Änghede collaborating together in a whole different musical dimension. If you should introduce ISON to a new listener, which words would you use?

ISON is a product of two people with a taste for dark, bassy, atmospheric and noisy music. With a dash of melody and a love for the cosmos. It’s a fusion of all the music genres we don’t get away with doing in our ‘main bands’, but really love to listen to. Mostly Post-Rock, Black Metal, Shoegaze, Drone, Stoner Doom and some Electronic vibes. I still cannot come up with one label for what ISON is, but it is droney and cosmic, hence our debut EP title “Cosmic Drone”. I’ve seen some refer to it as ‘Black-Gaze’, but to me that just sounds kinda hipster. Mind you, we’re hipster approved. Meh.

Back in 2015, ISON published (and it’s already sold out) its debut EP called “Cosmic Drone”. Would you like to spend a couple of words about its creation and more importantly, what have you got up your sleeve next?

I think this project reflects more of my own soul and preferred range of singing, so I’m quite excited about doing our next release. We are about to drop a vinyl release of “Cosmic Drone” via Sound Devastation Records in the coming weeks and toying with the idea of doing a second print of the CD. Since the release was DIY with very little finance or promotion, we did not expect to sell everything so fast. With this in mind, we won’t underestimate the power of the listening community in the future.

Here at the ISON base, our second EP is already in the works. It was exactly one year ago we started with the first one, so we are eager to keep the momentum. Some of the new songs already have my heart soaring and my mind far our in outer-space. I literally cannot wait to get back in our studio. It’s located inside a power-plant in a mountain, with no cellphone reception or wi-fi. The perfect, undisturbed setting for escaping the world to create art.

What are the next plans for Draconian in terms of touring and promotion?

Far as I know, we have an EU tour coming up in Feb/March, as well as a bunch of shows all over the map – Greece, Israel, Ukraine, Romania with talks of UK, Portugal and the Andromeda Galaxy. For the love of all things, we need to play Mexico, so someone please make that happen. One major thing to look out for in the coming week or so, is our music video for “Stellar Tombs” by Bowen Staines. It’s going to be epic. Quite a nice way to kick of the year, I’d say. There are also some murmurs about an EP later this year, but I have to give you generic evasive answers until we get the green light, heh. It will be a busy year for Draconian so let’s hope the ongoing Apocalypse doesn´t f**k it up.

 

 

Links

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twitter.com/draconianhorde

draconian.se