Interview with Jan Carleklev of November Commandment and Sanctum
Interviewed by Shari Lloyd and Linda LaFianza
Transcribed by Trish Patterson
November Commandment (NovCom) (1998 - 1993) had a loyal following among Christian industrialists and electronica fans worldwide in their heyday. Never too concerned with money or fame, this notoriety was earned primarily in the U.S. through a cut on the rare Blonde Vinyl 1992 compilation, Slava Complilation - Voice of the People, and Internet word-of-mouth. As we learned while interviewing NovCom's creator, Jan Carleklev. at Cornerstone Festival this summer, Carleklev's creative interests have taken a different direction from the dark, pure industrial machinations of six years ago to more melodic, although still very dark, territory, through another group called Sanctum.
But it was as November Commandment that Carleklev was invited to travel to central Illinois from Sweden early last July concurrent with the re-release of all three November Commandment recording projects, Complete Structure (1988), Dark Dawn (1991), and Exile Statement (1993) on a single CD called A Motorised Mind. According to Don Hill, a member of Jesus People USA, sponsors of Cornerstone, "Nov*Com had always been on the cutting edge of the EBM scene. To me they represent Christians sharing their thoughts, ideas and faith in a culturallyrelevant way."
It was another event in what is becoming an annual Cornerstone festival phenomenon. Importing the best industrial artists Christendom has to offer, they brought a group in from Sweden for a nostalgic revival show of a genre most folks haven't even discovered yet. English is not Carleklev's first language, and although his near mastery easily outstripped the Tollbooth publisher's grasp of Swedish, the conversation flow was often impeded by definitions of terms.
Tollbooth: NovCom is just one of your projects? You have others as well?
Tollbooth: What are those?
Carleklev: NovCom hasn't played that much since 1994. I think this is the last time we play with NovCom.
Tollbooth: Oh, so you're going to stop after this?
Carleklev: Actually, I think we'll have to stop. Back in 1993 we released a mini CD/EP, after that we felt very limited? We were stuck in a certain style of music. I really felt that I wanted to go over the borders and explore many different music styles, that was impossible. I started to do music for theater plays and dance performances, and after one theater play was created, I got the idea to try to use that music on stage by myself together with my members. I think that's what started Sanctum. At that point, NovCom became the second band and then just faded out.
Tollbooth: So why have you revived NovCom for this tour?
Carleklev: It's Don Hill (a member of Jesus People, USA, sponsors of Cornerstone Festival), I think. I have known him through e-mail for two years. We have talked about music and NovCom/Sanctum and my other projects, so I think it's because of him. And I also think it's a compilation called Slava Complilation - Voice of the People. Everybody here I have talked to has heard us through that compilation. Back home in Sweden and Europe, we never get that much attention so we have a really hard time to come out and play and we never get the chance to do a full-length album.
Tollbooth: This interest in NovCom, has that changed your idea on shelving the band? Do you think you might do more with it with this new interest from fans?
Carleklev: It's hard. The four of us came us here and I notice that the people actually like it, but I don't think there will be anymore in the future. It feels for me quite old, and it's something I've left behind.
Tollbooth: Then Sanctum is now your main interest artistically with music.
Carleklev: Yes, I think so, but it's almost the same thing there now. We live in different cities. Actually, the cellist, Marika is her name, is studying in Scotland now, so it's difficult to rehearse or record. I hope this won't force any problem because I really like Sanctum and what we have created so far with it.
Tollbooth: How would you describe the sound of Sanctum?
Carleklev: It's hard to tell because our main purpose with Sanctum is to do just what we want to do, so actually it could be just anything. But I feel that we have found a certain sound. I'm working right now for a new album and I think it's going to be more orchestral in its structure? The tunes are longer and like classic and modern orchestral music. But to describe it? I think it's harsh sounds together with the more beautiful and light sounds. I'm very attracted to combining these two elements to make the contrast bigger. But it's hard to say it's industrial. I think we are called an industrial band because our record label is an industrial record label. And I have noticed that here in the U.S. you have a different view on what's industrial compared to back in Europe. Here you can say that Circle of Dust is industrial, and we won't call it industrial.
Tollbooth: So what would you call that?
Carleklev: Oh, more like electro with some guitar, but that's just a matter of classification.
Tollbooth: And you're moving either further away from that classification into something else?
Tollbooth: What is your third project?
Carleklev: Yes, I have many projects so we could go on forever. ParcaPace it's finished now. It's one tune 50 minutes long. I worked with it for two years, I think. The original idea is from an exhibition with a photographer. I made some soundscapes and music and one of the guys in Metal Destruction asked me if I shouldn't release that. I listened to it two years ago. I didn't feel quite ready, so I started to re-arrange and after a while it became something complete. This is the result. So, that's a project, and it's finished. Then I have a more dance-oriented project, like the last tune I taped over there, but I haven't released anything yet. It's under construction, you could say. I could go on forever.
Yes, I really like to work with other people, with other media. I've done a couple of dance performance music for this, and this spring I made a dance performance, That's not actually a project, but I tried to work that feel in as much as possible. Of course, it's so refreshing or great to work with other people and try to combine media.
Tollbooth: Where are you going from here, as far as new things? Working with other artist?
Carleklev: Working with Sanctum I feel very much attracted to the orchestra music, so I think that's where we're heading. On the other hand, I really want to combine that with the harsh and noisy sounds to get a new rich sound.
Tollbooth: Why would you put those two together?
Carleklev: I like it. It gives me the feeling I want to bring?
Tollbooth: What is your artistic background? Do you have training in composing?
Carleklev: No, the only thing I've done is play the oboe and some drums. I have no theory music. So, actually I really would like to have that, but not so far.
Tollbooth: Are you creating all those sounds? You're not writing scores for orchestras? Are you synthesizing together all of these sounds?
Carleklev: Every orchestral sound I made, so it's either synthesizer or CDC's with ready orchestra sound like strings or samples, but I never use loops in the orchestra sounds. So, it's not just recorded samples, it's just one sound. When it comes to the more experimental sounds and the harsher sounds, there I create everything myself in different ways.
Tollbooth: How long does it take you to compose a piece?
Carleklev: It depends. I think I'm very self-critical, so it takes a very long time. This 50-minute tune took two years, but on the other hand, I worked with Sanctum and other stuff during that period. It's hard to say. I really have to first find the ground, to find something to hold onto.
Tollbooth: So, a theme or something?
NovComm: Or a beat. Then I start to work and I often need some time to rest from it then go back. Sometime I have to start over at the beginning. But it's hard to say. That could take two weeks or one day or something. Sometimes it's shorter, but that's not too often. Most often it takes like long time.
Tollbooth: Where does your faith reflect in your music and affect it?
Carleklev: Oh that's a hard one. Actually, I don't think that way. Do you mean do I bring a certain message or?.
Tollbooth: Does what you believe come out in your music or affect it in some way?
Carleklev: I think when I play music I try to express myself, but I don't know if I do. But of course, it's reflecting me as a person and what I'm thinking about and my beliefs. But it is music and compared to lyrics, it's easier to find these elements, so when it comes to music it's hard to say that I try to express my beliefs. It's more like trying to get the listener something to feel, I think. I think the listener should create something of its own of it, and in Sanctum we have someone who writes the lyrics and that process becomes more clear what we're trying to bring with our music.
Tollbooth: Who writes your lyrics?
Carleklev: Hakan (Paulsson) and Lena Robert.
Tollbooth: Do they consult with you for the lyrics? Which comes first--the lyrics or the music?
Carleklev: The music, in general.
Tollbooth: And they're Christians as well.
Carleklev: No, Hakan is Christian, but Lena describes herself as a seeker. She believes in good and evil, but she doesn't say that she's actually a Christian.
Tollbooth: Does that create in tension in your group at all?
Carleklev: No, none at all.
Tollbooth: You said something earlier about how you wanted your audiences to feel something? What is it that you want them to feel through your music?
Carleklev: Like I said before, I think it's up to the listener. You might think I'm making it too easy for myself. I'm a Christian and I believe in God, but I have no intention with my music of spreading any kind of word, except or that I strive to channel your experience and your thoughts about life in general and because of that include my beliefs and faith in God. I think it's there, but I have no intention of comparing it to... I saw Wedding Party last night and I feel that I couldn't do something like they do. I completely understand it and think, "Yeah, do that."
Tollbooth: Were they preaching or evangelizing in their set, that sort of thing, and you don't think that's your role?
Carleklev: No. Of course, I'm creating music that I feel can be the way that I can bring a certain message with it. When I'm in a band like Sanctum, yes, we have a message with our lyrics, and the same goes here. Of course, we discuss our lyrics in the band so everyone agrees with it. Because I shouldn't go on stage and try to spread anything that I don't agree with, so we have an understanding. I don't want to go in and try to preach. If I don't agree with it, we just skip it, and if they don't agree with my music, we skip it. So, that's how things go in Sanctum.
Tollbooth: We're certainly familiar with lifestyle evangelism, where you are simply yourself and you are a Christian and it gets the Word out, so perhaps that's the sort of thing you're doing. You are what you are, and there's one more person out there pointing the way. In a way, that is best suited for them.
Carleklev: We often play with bands that aren't Christians and there would be no point, I don't think that's just my personal opinion, to try to bang the Bible on their heads. I just think it's more important to show how we are and how we feel and how we live our lives than trying to, like I said, to bang the Bible on their heads.
Tollbooth: Did the Internet help you at all with your music, and connecting with your fans?
Carleklev: I think so. We have a home site and quite a lot of visitors. I try to get involved. I have a person who takes care of the programming. I try to write some, I call it visions, I write about music and some personal experiences. I also have questions and answers where they can write questions. I often get questions about our lyrics and if we are Christian. So, I try to keep involved with that, but it's hard to get the time but it's really great. I hope that people enjoy it. But, like I said before, about 5,000 people have visited us. I think it's fun and seems that those who visit enjoy it. Also, the e-mail thing is very important to me.
Tollbooth: Why is it important to you?
Carleklev: Like to
communicate, I like come over here and tour. If I wasn't able
to e-mail, I wouldn't be able to do something thing like this, I think.
November Commandment's A
Motorised Mind is available from City