How did you come up with the name Aenima (as in Latin “anima” means “soul”) and do you think it’s still valid?
Rune: Ever since the beginning, we wanted to make a point of leaving the materialistic world behind and try to do something more spiritual, trying to find a bit of our souls in what we could put across, and we always tried to have special moments when composing, when rehearsing, so we always tried to get inspiration from things other than Reason. That has a been a constant throughout time, even though we had our share of problems, because Aenima is the name of a Tool album, but actually we have this name since 1996, so it wasn’t something really planned. But yes, it’s still valid.
Over the course of your existence, you’ve already released two-full lengths, one EP and a picture-disc. Please share your opinion, memories and occasional trivia regarding each one.
Rune:Revolutions was a long, long time ago and we’re now working with a new sound engineer who’s a fan of the album and he’s always asking me how did we record it; and I’ve come to the conclusion that I forgot almost everything about it. It’s a strange album. I actually love it, but I don’t like the way it came out, so that’s why I have an ongoing project of rerecording it – or remixing it, if you will – one of these days (or whenever it’s possible), because I think it’s a very interesting body of work that, unfortunately, ended up coming across poorly.
Never Fragile is a transitional work – which is actually quite fitting, since we’re always in a transitional state ourselves – a bit more upbeat, aggressive and sort of “happier”, in comparison. It’s not my favorite in any way, but it has a great track in it called Rapture, which is a song that we still open our shows with.
Sentient is an album that I still like a lot, as I feel it’s still a very “complete” record in itself and it’s also quite melodic. We had a pretty rough time recording it because, as usual, we also recorded it during the summer – except for Revolutions, which was recorded in deep winter – and as you might know, the summer in Portugal is unbearable, but as far as the composing process goes and the feeling inherent in it, I’m still very happy with it.
Puppet Circus was a one-off that contains a song from one of the three Sentient sessions, which altogether compile a total of 26 songs; some of this earlier material ended-up on Never Fragile, but there was also a lot of leftover songs that were never used, so Puppet Circus was one of those and also one of the best from the lot. We had the invitation from [f.e.v.e.r.] to do it and we thought it was a nice idea, so that’s how it came about. I think the disc came out great, in a really gorgeous package and I still think of it as a really interesting piece.
How was it like to work with Simbiose, Equilibrium Music and, lately, Middle Pillar and what were the main differences you found throughout the course of these transitions?
Rune: Simbiose was a big problem. We always had issues and we used to fight a lot, so it all ended-up in misery and anger between us.
As far as Equilibrium Music, they’ve always been very supportive. They were also aware that our relationship would be sort of transitional and we’re glad about the work they’ve done during that moment in time.
Regarding Middle Pillar, it’s a new experience of us. It’s an overseas label and unfortunately we’ve never met in person, so our contact is always by the phone or through the Internet, so it gets a bit impersonal in that sense. They actually took us to the next level and they’re a quite capable entity in terms of promotion, so we’re very happy with the work they’ve done for Sentient around the globe – which is also a bit ironic, as the market is getting thinner each day and it’s getting increasingly difficult to sell a record. We’ll be working with them for the next one – since our deal was for two albums – so only the future will tell if we’ll be working together or not.
What can you tell me about your upcoming full-length so far and are you happy with the outcome of things?
Rune: We don’t have a title for it yet and we’ve been in a recording process that has taken us over four months now, but we’ve been doing things rather relaxed this time. We also have a new studio that we’ve put together in our hometown (Almada), so part of the new material has been recorded there. All in all we have 16 new tracks, which are perhaps more experimental and varied than those on Sentient and I guess they sort of “stretch” further in terms of references. We had a lot of guest musicians working with us in different kind of instruments, like for instance José Castro, which is a friend of ours that has released an album years ago in the psychedelic area (with touches from Peter Gabriel’s work) and he’s been playing the Indian banjo and mandolin. We also had another friend, Flor, recording the flute, as well as a string quartet, but we also hope to have a brass quintet and a violinist on the record, who’s a totally far-out guy.
Aenima are often pigeonholed under the Dark Wave, Ambient and Gothic Rock tags, as well as being referred to as a concoction of bands like Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and even Pink Floyd. Are you at all concerned with this sort of comparisons or do you actually welcome them as sort of reference points for the uninitiated listener? And grabbing the issue here, tell me about what inspires you to write (not only music, but lyrics as well).
Rune: This is a good question. We try not to pigeonhole ourselves, but if the listener needs references, I wouldn’t be ashamed of those you mentioned. Sometimes when someone asks me what Aenima sounds like, I say it’s a Rock version of Dead Can Dance, which means that now I’m the one pigeonholing ourselves (laughs). But when we’re creating music, we never think of concrete influences, so everything that comes out is as pure as that.
Inspiration-wise, I guess that we’ve always been inspired by Nature, loneliness, vastness and solitude since day one (although never in a negative, depressive sense) and we’ve always sort of tried to create music in order to illustrate those pictures in our minds.
Something that people used to look upon often as perhaps the greatest strength of the band was the inimitable and otherworldly voice of Carmen (former vocalist), so what drove her to leave the project and was her departure a permanent decision from day one?
Rune: Carmen is, indeed, a reference. We learned a lot together and I still love all her work with us, but her departure was indeed definitive. We had reached a sort of “breaking point” at the time and I think it had something more to do with external influences than the band itself, so that’s when we figured that our cooperation wouldn’t go anywhere else. I guess she also felt a bit tired and that’s why she decided to leave. I remember that we also thought twice about whether we should continue without her, but eventually we’re still here and since then we’ve found Susana, with whom we’re totally happy with and we feel very positive about our future together. Carmen is still friends with us – even if in a different way now – and we’re happy that she’s still going on. I also heard her project, Ava Inferi, about the time when they were having lots of trouble with their mastering, but it’s not really my style and that was probably part of the difference, because while we were heading towards something more atmospheric and melodic, they were leaning towards something darker and experimental. It’s not my cup of tea.
Your shows have always been something to behold. Obviously, you put a lot of effort in individual performances, instead of playing a handful of shows in a row just for the sake of it, so tell me about your outlook regarding live shows and playing live and what were your most memorable performances to date and why?
Rune: As you said, we try to get the live experience to its zenith and the idea is always to enthral the audience to feel that they’re part of something special, so in that respect, quality is very much preferred over quantity. We will always try to top ourselves by playing in different locations and magical places, in order to attain that special atmosphere every time we can. We’re now playing this very short tour, so to warm-up for what will come next and that’s why this isn’t our main concern at the moment – but as soon as we have the album out, we’ll start thinking in a different way, again.
The most memorable show we’ve played so far was definitely the one at the Planetarium, in Lisbon; not only was it so far removed from what’s been done until that point, but it was also very demanding in terms of organization and options, so that’s probably why it was such a huge success.
Do you prefer a studio, a live setting, or are they just as important?
Rune: They’re just as important: two different aspects from the same reality. In the studio, you’re allowed to search, experiment and go beyond everything you had done, while live it’s more difficult to take risks. We’ve actually tried risking more in the last few shows, by improvising and making it more interactive, but the studio might be more suitable for us. It can be a very boring experience sometimes, but when you’re trying to expand your universe to reach that perfect sound through experimentation, it’s definitely a nice feeling. When playing live, you always have that feel of sharing something with the audience and, eventually, it might be where we prefer to be at (speaking, at least, for myself).
Time for a word association sort of game. Please address your thoughts on each of the following words: reverie, seclusion, love/hate, death, religion, ghosts and art.
Rune:Reverie: an essential part of what we are, what we do and what inspires us.
Seclusion: bliss, vastness, isolation and solitude.
Love/hate: passion; part of the same gut feelings, which are confuse but necessary for everything.
Death: a necessary outcome? A necessary part of life.
Religion: lost faith.
Ghosts: invisibility. We actually have a song that’s due to come out on the next record, entitled Almost a Ghost.
Ghosts: it seems that, sometimes, to be or not to be in a certain place, is exactly the same thing.
Art: a cathartic process; a mean to communicate.
And speaking of ghosts and the supernatural, I remember you once lived a quite “otherworldly” experience in the studio when recording your debut. How was it like and were you also in similar situations throughout your life?
Rune: The best thing is that was the studio we have recently acquired, so we are now one with the ghosts (laughs). It was something more strange than otherworldly, because everything seemed to go wrong and sometimes you can attribute this kind of situations to outside forces, or simply to faith. At this point in time, I’m not so sure as to what I believe in; I’m getting older, but I’m also getting more and more confused and I’m searching even more now than ever.
Personally, what do you believe in?
Rune: I believe in passion and being passionate about the things that somehow make me tick. I also believe in Nature, spirits and some universal essence that bonds us to the Earth. I’ve been having a struggle with the concept of Faith throughout the last couple of years and I started thinking that I should have a faith, or that I should be able to have a faith – whatever that might be – in the sense of having the ability to believe in something other than reason, and sometimes I don’t find it so easy. My upbringing has been very scientific, I think, so sometimes it can be quite difficult to let go of everything and just believe in a faith.
Susana: I believe in the strength we all have inside ourselves, that sort of unchangeable, unique aspect, and I also believe that there’s a universe within ourselves that can be manifested in many ways; you don’t necessarily recognize it on someone, but I think that’s the beauty of it: the ability to surprise each other.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your musical background.
Susana: I always enjoyed singing and I always loved drawing, writing and dancing, but most of all, Music is what’s most dear to me. I’m a classically trained singer, more specifically a lyrical soprano, and I had singing lessons – and studied – at Lisbon’s Conservatoire for four years, but before I joined through an audition, I was attending classes at the Music Amateurs’ Academy for one year. Those four years were really hard work for me – especially the first two – because before I was able to sing properly, I used to sing in a lower register, so only after spending sometime in the Conservatoire’s choir was I able to find my voice and I remember thinking “I can do this, I want to learn more”.
How did you hook up with Aenima and what’s your opinion on the band’s catalogue so far? Do you have a favourite album or song?
Susana: it was very curious (smiles). I was working and I got a call from Carla Simões (a very good friend of mine who also happens to be a lyrical singer) and she told me about Aenima and that they were looking for a new singer. Eventually we ended-up meeting sometime last year and it was… amazing, because… I felt like I knew them from before and that I belonged with them. I didn’t know the music beforehand, so when I got home and started listening to it, I felt completely amazed and I just couldn’t believe I would be singing it.
My favourite album must be Revolutions, but as far as a song is concerned, that’s a bit difficult to point out, because I like so many…
Rune: I remember Carla telling me that she had a singer crazy enough to take the challenge, so it was love at first sight (laughs).
Apart from this sonority, what other sorts of music are you a fan of and would you like to do something else musically in the future (maybe on a completely different level?
Susana: I like classical music, avant-garde Gothic Rock (like Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees), Folk and I also like Metal (Samael, in particular, and their Passage album), but on the aspect of doing something different in the future, I can say that I’m opened to the idea, but it’s not really something I’m thinking for the time being.
To wrap things up, I hope you enjoyed this conversation and let me know about your future plans, but feel free to say something else you find appropriate.
Rune: All I have to say is that it was a pleasure doing this interview and to be at The Lodge for the first time so thank you very much for having us: it feels great to be back. Right now we’re completely focused on the new album and a management project for an European tour – in a more complete level – so we can be able to get in touch with more souls out there and get the message across.
Susana: Above all, I think it’s important to address that we’re a bunch of friends doing the music that we love and we want to able to give the fruit of what we do to our audience. These latest recordings have also been a new experience for me, as I’ve never been in a studio setting before and it’s been a very long, but fruitful learning process.