Cecilia Bjärgö – Arcana


Interview by Miriam Cadoni

I must thank a dear friend of mind that some years ago introduced me to this particular musical genre [ the neoclassical/ambient genre] and consequently make me adore some of its important acts such Dark Sancuary, Dead Can Dance, Die Verbannten Kinder Evas & Dargaard. Today I’ve the pleasure to speak about Sweden’s Arcana, that along the mentioned bands, represents one of the  most expert ensamble since their long career (their first release is to date is in 1996). In particular, I’ve contacted Cecilia Bjärgö, one of the singers and Peter‘s wife [the mastermind behind Arcana], for an interesting interview about their latest album “As Bright as a Thousand Suns” and some updates.
Dear Cecilia, first of all thanks so much for this interview! I hope that everything is ok with your personal life and work…

Hi Miriam=) I am fine, thank you. I am in the middle of changing apartment though, and that takes its time. Dust everywhere, cardboard boxes everywhere, stuff everywhere… and I am having such a hard time throwing away things;)

Although you entered the band only in 2003, maybe after Peter (Bjärgö) you are the right person to ask you some biographical infos about the band, so what you can share with us about the band’s biography?

This is a question we often get, and to be honest, it is one of the most tiresome since we have answered it hundred of times;) But no problems, here we go. Arcana started out as Peter’s own project back in 1994, so next year we celebrate 20 years. In the beginning there were only Peter, but the soon added Ida Bengtsson to the project and the first era began. First label was Cold Meat Industry and Peter stayed there until 2003 when he decided to leave. By that time, Arcana had changed from a duo to a quartet, with members Peter, Ann-Mari Thim, Stefan Eriksson and myself. And soon also Mattias Borgh came to join us on percussion. The new label was our own: Erebus Odora. We only released a few albums and only three with Arcana, and then we moved on to Cyclic Law. And that is something we never regretted. Since 2010 we are a band of six members. Núria Luis and Sergio Gamez Martinez from Catalonia have been fantastic to add to the band. Since they started we have been able to perform completely live on stage. And we are a family, and when we travel we have so much fun. We have the same kind of humour, a true respect for each other and we just love hanging out.

In 2012, Arcana has released its seventh album “As Bright as a Thousand Suns” through Cyclic Law. What you can tell us about its genesis? For what I know it this latest album have had a long gestation because the last album, which I recall at the moment, was out on 2008 with “Raspail”.

Well, four years is not that long in the eyes of Arcana😉 But yes, a lot happened in between and Arcana became less of a priority. Peter started out many other bands and he was also on tour and recorded others. But during the years, he always created new songs. So when the thoughts of a new album came clearer we sat down and listened to many songs that he made over the years and we chose several of them. Sad to say, we had a hard ware crash and 13 songs disappeared. But a few were recovered and we had more than half of the album done. We had a nice time recording the album. We do it in a long process: Peter makes all the songs, Ann-Mari and I record our single vocals together, Mattias do the percussion with Peter, Núria and Sergio record their parts in Catalonia and send to us, and then we meet to record harmonies, choirs and so on. We are happy with the result. It is a strong album and we hope you all think so too.

As Arcana‘s tradition wants [see for ex “Lizabeth” EP with the album “Cantar de Procella”] “As Bright as a Thousand Suns” was introduced by “Emerald” EP. First of all I would like to satisfy a personal curiosity – why the full-length is always “introduced” by an EP? Well, dear Cecilia I’m not complaining LOL; because myself too I enjoy quite a lot to collect these rarities but it happens often times in the Arcana discography.

Peter started that a long time ago, and before this one Peter and I sat down and discussed if we should go back to the old tradition. And that is why “Emerald” came to life. One song represents the full length and the other two are exclusive. “A Cage” is an older song but we had to redo the vocals. “Precious Stone” is a new song and Ann-Mari and I were so sick when recording it, that we had to redo that one as well later;)

Instead talking about artworks, we already aware that you are an estimated and well-known graphic artist. Let’s start from the beginning: how’s born this passion of the graphic arts? And what’s your main inspiration?

Thank you very much for this kind compliment. I got my first computer late, back in 1999, and I started to play in Photoshop early. One who taught me the first things are Gustaf Hildebrand, our close friend and also label buddy. Then when I got to know Peter, he taught me some more. Later on I ended up, 31 years of age, in school learning graphic art. I made my first cover for Sophia back in “2001: Aus Der Welt”. And then it has just continued and I love it. I would love to work with other bands more, so when Ann-Mari asked me to do the layout and promo shots for Angelic Foe, I said yes immediately. Now I am working on a future Arcana release;)

Now referred to the latest Arcana‘s cover albums of “Emerald” and “As Bright as a Thousand Suns” – what you can unveil about its creation?

Peter and I also wanted to stick to the old tradition of the layout with “Emerald”; a picture in a frame of some kind. So I made the cover with dark red, something never used for Arcana before, and with a photo from Visby in Sweden. Frédéric Arbour of Cyclic Law wanted to go with the Arcana view on environment as well, so “Emerald” is made out of recycled paper.

As for “As Bright as a Thousand Suns” I wanted to make something lighter, and not just dark art. I took a lot of photos in Switzerland when we ere there performing with Sophia a few years back and I wanted to use some of them. And then I also used photos from our vacation in Visby in Sweden, which is a fantastic medieval place on the biggest island in Sweden. The cover of the album is from Switzerland, taken one early foggy morning when I strolled the streets alone while Peter were sleeping.

Reading the complete discography, despite Arcana‘s glorious and long story, what really misses is a live DVD. Any plains for recording one?

Hehe, we get that question very often. Of course, it has crossed out minds and we have started to collect all recordings. The problem is that we are never satisfied with our live performances. We hope that one day, we will be, and then we will have a DVD for the fans that are not able to see us.

In 2012 Arcana line up expands adding two more musicians, that are Sergio Gamez Martinez & Nuria Luiz, already known for being the main core of the Spanish Ethereal Folk band Narsilion (and more projects like Der Blaue Reiter, Heura & Ordo Funebris). First of all: can we consider both Nuria and Sergio part of the official line up? Also, logistically how you organize everything? Because for what I remember they live in Spain and Arcana has its headquarters in Sweden. In addiction to that, how’s born this collaboration?

We first met in Romania back in 2009 and we immediately became good friends. We did a little surprise show in the end of our gig and invited them on stage to do “Hymn of Absolute Deceit” with us. We loved the feeling of having a real violin on stage: so we started to discuss the possibility to include them live on stage. We had our first gig in Holland in 2010 and since then we are consider them full time members of Arcana. They visit us once a year and we see each other on concerts. They rehearse in Catalonia and we here in Sweden. When we meet all together, we record our rehearsals so that we can continue without any problems in between our meetings.

Correlated to the previous question and according to the Narsilion profile, you were part of the Narsilion Live 2011 line up. Again, how’s born this (let’s call it mutual exchange/help) collaboration? And how was touring with them?

Since we are good friends it is nice to help eachother out and also to collaborate. We did three shows together and I was also part of one song on their latest album. It was really nice, and if they continue with Narsilion in the future, I sure hope we can continue to collaborate in some kind of way. I have the biggest admiration of their musicality and they are my Catalonian family. We will always in some way be connected!

Ann-Mari Thim, the other Arcana singer and collague, has lately published her first album from her project Angelic Foe. Never thought about release/compose a solo album?

The thoughts have crossed my mind, but I am no good in writing music. I write lyrics, I sing, but I need music to it;) Being able to collaborate with others has been great. I am singing on one song of In Slaughter Natives and one for Tribes of Medusa. And I hope that when I finally learn how to work in Logic, I might be able to do something for myself!

Now a more in-depth question – since you are really close to you Peter [being your husband], what are main differences that you can notice between Arcana, Sophia and the Bjärgö/Hildebrand project? Also is still active the Sophia project??

Arcana is Peter’s nursing child. He has been the father of the band for 19 years. His footprints are there, and it is truly his own music. We are companions with Peter for the band, but it is HIS music. Sophia is harsher, darker and more painful in both music and lyrics in many ways. People tend to think that Sophia is a martial industrial band, but that was a long time ago. Today, it is more minimalistic and you can really tell the different between most of the albums. Yes, it still exists. We have made a few gigs the last few years, and in May we will perform in Paris again with Sophia. I am also part of Sophia😉 Bjärgö/Hildebrand was made a collaboration making occult kind of music. At one time, they were both parts of a small gentleman’s club here in Eskilstuna along with some other friends. And the music was made for their meetings. I say no more;)

Cecilia, what you can tell about this “Benefit for Animals in Need” compilation? Also does the song “Chant III” will be released in an Arcana album in the foreseeable future?

We are very concerned about the animals around the world, and when the hurricane Sandy stormed over New York a friend of ours (Tommy of Tribes of Medusa) asked us to participate in the compilation he was putting on. We accepted at ones, since we wanted to donate what we could to the animal shelters in the area. We have been asked why we don’t help out in other areas, such as starvation and people who flee from wars. We would love to, but right now the animals are a priority. They are helpless and cannot survive as people. They do not cause themselves harm, like people do. But we do help other areas; we all donate money to different help organisations. And we try to do what we can to help the environment. Peter and I are vegetarians and Núria and Sergio are vegans, and all of us together with Ann-Mari and Mattias we by organic food and check the backgrounds of the products. The Swedish lifestyle includes recycling and using a small amount of electricity and water. We do our best. “Chant III” will be part of a release later on. More information will come soon;)

Wrapping up, what are the next Arcana dates that the fans don’t have to miss out? What will are next projects for Arcana?

We are performing in Italy on April 27th at the Villa Festival. We are also performing two weeks later in Paris at the Cyclic Law 10th anniversary celebration. Then we also perform with Sophia, Peter and I. We don’t know yet about more gigs so far. We are three teachers in the band, so it is difficult to take time off from work. So we need to focus on special dates.

Well, my dear, we are at the end of the interview. I really thank you for everything and the patience that you have had with me [at the end I fulfilled a promise, isn’it?]. Please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again!

Thank you so much for listening to us. We truly appreciate it and without you out there, we would be nothing. We hope you are patient with us, when years pass and nothing is happening. Believe me, we are still here and Peter is still making music. And we hope to see you all in Italy next month. Best wishes and thank you for this interview=)


Credit  Photo

Cecilia Bjärgö single photo taken by Ann-Mari Thim


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