Interview with Peter Bjärgö
To begin with, I’d like you to introduce Arcana and why did you come up with this moniker in the first place?
I started out with Arcana about ten years ago. I was quite tired of playing Metal and wanted to make something different. I sent a demo that I recorded in my own living room to Karmanik and he really liked it. So in 1996 the first album was released, called Dark Age of Reason. Since then, I have released four full-length albums (with Arcana) on Cold Meat Industry, but from now on I will release my own stuff on my own label, Erebus Odora.
Your latest recording, Inner Pale Sun, marks the end of your collaboration with Cold Meat Industry and has also received quite mixed reviews in the press. How do you still hold it in relation with your previous works and what did cause the rupture between you and Karmanik back in July this year? Give me your impression on some of the projects he has under his wings.
I have read only good reviews on Inner Pale Sun and that feels very good. I guess the difference between this album and the previous is that I have developed a lot and I wanted to make music that I liked myself. I am very satisfied with this album and I wanted to go on without any intrusion from labels. I am going to release my own CDs and perhaps even others on Erebus Odora.
I have had many nice years on Cold Meat Industry, but it was time to move on. Cold Meat Industry has been more into Noise and harsh Industrial lately and that is not exactly what I need with Arcana. I like a lot of the bands on Cold Meat Industry: In Slaughter Natives (Jouni and I are close friends and I think he is very talented), Sephiroth (Ulf Söderberg, another close friend and great musician), Institut (Lirim makes the best in Noise and Industrial), Lithivm and Karjalan Sissit (Gustaf Hildebrand and Make Pesonen are friends from Eskilstuna and we do spend a lot of time together; two talented persons).
This year Arcana celebrates 10 years of existence; looking back in your inner rearview mirror, what are the most pleasurable and unsatisfying memories you gather till this day? Do you think you’d do everything as equal, or do you hold any regrets towards anything? On the matter of Repentance, do you think it’s valid to feel atonement, or rather more well-founded to learn from your faults in order to avoid them in the future?
I guess the good responses I have received over the years are mainly good memories. I have met a lot of nice people and friends for life – people I wouldn’t have met without the music. I can’t think of any bad memories, no… sorry. We all do mistakes, but that is just something you do when you are in progress; you learn from your mistakes, we all do.
Your partner in the earliest releases was Ida Bengtsson and she parted ways with Arcana for some time now. Since she had a somewhat prominent role, what happened that made her head off the union between you two and, in contrast, how’s it like working with Ann-Marie Thim and Stefan Eriksson? Will this line-up be maintained for ensuing works, or is it just a one-off try-out?
Ida Bengtsson did not leave Arcana, we just grew apart as musical partners. She was still in school and I moved along with my projects. Ann-Marie and Stefan are the ones I work with right now and that is good. I still make all the music myself and Stefan is helping out on the live performances, but he did contribute on the Inner Pale Sun album. Ann-Marie and I work great together; her voice fits perfectly.
I read that your main instrument was the guitar and that you’ve been playing it since your late childhood. Hasn’t the thought of forming a Rock or Metal project ever crossed your mind (and if you enjoy this kind of music, what bands do you find interesting and for what reason)? Also, Karmanik once said that this instrument was mostly shun by the majority of artists within the scene you mainly belong to, so might this have perhaps something to do with your option of avoiding any experiences in the mentioned styles, or is this merely a twist of fate? Do you believe in the concept of Coincidence?
I have had a lot of Metal projects. I released my first Metal album in 1993 and I played guitar in a Death Metal band called Crypt of Kerberos. I still listen to some Metal, but not much. I do enjoy Bolt Thrower, Bathory and Slayer as best bands in the genre. I use acoustic instruments with Arcana; I use them in the studio every time I record and I have used them on stage as well. Besides the piano, the guitar is the instrument I use the most. I guess sometimes I believe in the concept you referred, but not always. Sometimes it feels like things happen for a purpose…
Grabbing this line of thought, I’d like you to tell me what’s your personal outlook on the concepts of Religion, Society and Industrialisation. Since no planet lasts forever, how do you look upon the possibility of ourselves being the main illness of this system, as we constantly set off from an area to another after fully exploiting its resources? Furthermore, do you agree with the concept of Overpopulation and the unlikelihood of Man living in harmony with his ecosystem?
We are the ones that are destroying the planet and we can’t blame the Earth itself. I am trying to think of the recycling and things around it. We all have to do our share to keep the planet living, but at the same time, we do need industrialism, factories and stuff. People need work, but then it is up to them to make it a safe place and safe for the environment too. It is not the workers that increase pollution levels, but the employers that want to make more money – that is the biggest problem.
Society today is not as good as it was ten years ago; we are getting more and more into each other with bigger cities and more differences within it. In Sweden, the richer are getting richer and the poorer are getting poorer. We have had a lot of trouble with gangs and mob related criminality, but I guess this happens everywhere, although this is not what I want for our children to grow up with.
Religion is nothing for me, as I have never been religious and I guess I never will be. I know that some people think that Arcana is so spiritual and sounds religious and I think that is good. People should have their own opinion about the music, but my own feelings are not religious in any way.
“Less is More” is a theory that many latch on to and it’s evident you use it in several Arcana hymns (even if in a subconscious way). Do you agree with this inkling? What is Wholesomeness for you and do you think this conception is interlinked with Uprightness (equally in personal and musical perspectives)?
I guess I agree with the expression, indeed. Some people just make everything worse when putting on more and more stuff into their music. I think in my case everything is made of a balance between the production of a song yet sticking it to the basic melody. My earlier songs were often a little bit over exaggerated when it comes to the timpani lines and the strings’ orchestration, but if we talk about how to build a song, musically, then I guess I’m still kind of minimalist.
Regarding Sophia, could you enlighten me about its genesis? And in the vein of the first question, what does it lie behind the name? I read that the accomplishment of the latest Deconstruction of the World material was rather troublesome and almost a test to your endurance; how did the whole process develop and what are your views on it after a couple of months? Give me also a foretaste on your upcoming plans for this one and what was the cause of your move from Cold Meat Industry to Cyclic Law?
Sophia was a project that I started to make music for in a different vein from Arcana, in order to explore new styles into music, as with Arcana I felt a bit stuck, so I began to change a bit, sound-wise. The name Sophia came from different things, mainly from the Dead Can Dance Song of Sophia song, but also from the red wine Sophia (a wine I really like). Yes, the latest Sophia record was a disaster to make: hardware crashes, samples disappearing and masters that refused to be burned in the right way – name a problem and it was there. But after a very long time, the album was finally sent to Frédéric, of Cyclic Law. Ia made the layout and Frédéric made the necessary changes. I am very satisfied with it so far (especially after all this trouble), so I really hope it will do fine; now we just have to wait for the result, because we are very curious. I decided to release this album before I made the decision to leave Cold Meat Industry, so that had nothing to do with the label’s change. Frédéric and I are good friends; I made the suggestion to him and he happened to like the idea.
A few months ago you announced your marriage with Ia and at the same time you came to a decision to change your surname from Pettersson to Bjärgö. Why did you settle on to do this and, on the matter at stake, how did the wedding go? In passing, is Ia involved, musically, in any way? To wrap this one up, how would you describe yourself?
Yes, me and Ia got married in August. The wedding was very nice and we had a lot of friends there. We did not get married in a church, because none of us is a religious person. We got married in the house of the Order of the Odd Fellows; a very nice house. Our families, children friends (from both Sweden and other countries) and colleagues from Cold Meat Industry were there (indeed, a really nice day and evening).
I decided to change my name into Ia’s surname, because I have no relations to the name Pettersson and Bjärgö is a very unusual name, since Ia’s family is the only one in the whole world having it. Ia is not involved in the music more than when we go on stage; she is the choir behind me and Ann-Marie, plus she is responsible for all of my websites. We have started to make music together, but that is just in its initial phase. When there is more time, we will proceed with this project.
How do I describe myself? That is difficult. Some people have this idea of me as a romantic, medieval man living in a castle while playing my music, but no, I am not such a person (still romantic when it comes to my wife and my music). I enjoy sitting in the studio making music and spending time with my family, my wife, our daughter and her older three daughters. I also like drinking beer with my friends and I like good movies; in addition, I am a true animal friend, as our three cats are always a priority. Well, I am like every other guy, as you see…
Feel free to add something important regarding yourself and your projects, as well as your upcoming plans for the near future.
The main plan for the nearest future is to collect all the material for the upcoming tenth Arcana’s anniversary old demos and new songs will be mixed and mastered and hopefully some live performances will be part of the release (still uncertain), to be released on my own label. I will take a leave from Sophia for a while, just to concentrate on Arcana, but next year I hope to release another Sophia album, while at the same time trying to push my own label (Erebus Odora) further, as I’m already in contact with some bands as we speak.
Me and Ia just came back from our wedding trip to Prague, and now it is time to get back to our normal life again. Thanks for the interview as well.