name, Henryk, sounds Polish. Do you really have some Slavic
roots? Please tell a little about yourself...
It's true, Henryk
is certainly one of the most common Polish names but has a very
rare spelling for Germany. My origin is German. I guess my father,
driven out from Silesia after WWII, has brought this name from
the Eastern parts of Europe.
Also, the second
member of DARKWOOD has a quite Russian name - Nadja. Would you
be so kind as to introduce her too?
For Nadja, it's
true. She has Ukranian ancestors and speaks Russian and German.
I have to mention that she is not really a member since DARKWOOD
is rather a project than a band. Apart from that, I very much
appreciate her work and help since the beginning. For the recordings,
she helps me out with Cello. For the live performances, she
is absolutely essential. In the future, there will be more people
contributing since I stopped moving from town to town all the
time and have basically concentrated my work in Dresden.
Is Dresden your
home town or you settled there under another circumstances?
I originally come
from Finsterwalde. I have been living in Leipzig for quite a
few years and was thinking about returning there. But all my
friends had spread all over the country already. For personal
reasons I chose Dresden then.
from ordinary listener to performer is very interesting phase
in a musician's coming into being. How could it happen with
you personally? When did you feel it's the time? Which motives
and emotions had driven you?
I think I started
making music and practicing drums and guitar when being in the
army - somehow inspired by the atmosphere of foggy night watches,
pine woods and the experience of comradeship. In those times,
I was still used to listen to the music of the Eighties which
basically means listening to electronic music or this post-punk
kind of stuff. I was then playing in several projects and bands
with a style I would simply refer to as 'Independent music'.
I later realized that there are some groups which developed
a style playing exactly the kind of music we were used to listen
to in 'working and holiday camps' of the former system. As everybody
knows, the influence came from England which is rather amazing.
Later I started recording my own songs which somehow naturally
turned out to be Neofolk or Neue Volksmusik with all the influences
described later in this interview. But I also never denied my
fascination for electronic sounds or soundscapes.
As it seems,
in Stigmata we never appealed to the theme of military service,
so if you do not mind I would like to ask some additional questions
regarding this topic. Is there universal military obligation
in Bundesrepublik? Which troops you were in? How long? What
do you think about that time in general? Had you collided there
with the phenomenon we call "dedovshchina"? It can
too much words to describe this in English, but it's basic manifestation
is the humiliation of "old" (i.e. more than 1 year
in army) soldiers against younger recruits.
There is a universal
military obligation, although you can refuse and join an alternative
civil service which is quite common. That's all I can tell.
I did serve in the NVA (Nationalnaja Narodnaja Armija) in the
former DDR. I was in the air force for about one and a half
year leading the MIG 21 by radar from the ground. As I said
before, I basically remember the positive things like comradeship,
physical training or military techniques. For the 'dedovshchina',
I have heard many stories. Fortunately, I did not experience
it. We have celebrated some ceremonies where nobody got hurt
when entering the next 'half-year level'. Only when joining
those rituals you could expect an honourable treatment. But
I am sure that also some really serious things happened and
soldiers were pushed into suicide. Especially the harsh reality
of the soldiers of the Russian army here was notorious.
By the way, is
suicide a solution? Talking not about particular situation,
but in general?
I do not consider
suicide as a solution. Some people commit suicide for honour.
With my Prussian soul I can understand that. But to solve a
particular problem in your life, you have to struggle - as it
reads in "Ferocity" (on "Talons"): "Still
alive - and life is a weapon".
Have you any
"secular" professions or DARKWOOD is your main devotion,
job and source of means?
I have a 'secular'
profession in the field of Chemistry which is very interesting.
Although my main devotion and purpose in life is music.
Many, maybe most
of the new names in the German neo-folk scene originate from
Eastern Germany. We already touched this theme with Stephan
of Eis&Licht, and now I would like to know your opinion
about such thing - why in former DDR lands are those bands born
mostly? Folk is a very "social" music, maybe for Eastern
Germans it's a way to express their nostalgia for social fundamentals
of state and life itself?
I agree that folk
is a very social music. I am not sure whether the bands or musicians
want to express their nostalgia for social fundamentals but
I am sure that we subconsciously reflect the social structures
we grew up with. Inner values, ideas and attitudes in general
have been very important. Life was defined as a fight for ideals.
Also symbols played a very important role. The current system
with its emptiness which only leaves greed for money or suppression
and diversion by taking drugs or 'having fun' strikes people
with dissatisfaction. The new icon America turned out to be
a chaotic and misanthropic economical structure which leaves
the individualism behind although it propagates individualism.
The American dream does not exist. And I warn all people who
might have a glance to the other side of the ocean - forget
about it and rely on your social relationships, your experiences,
personal attitudes and culture.
Additionally we grew up in a state with dictated Atheism far
off Christianity. So, the way was open to rediscover paganism
or Northern mythology.
And of course it is said that all Eastern European folks especially
like and are good in playing beautiful melancholic but passionate
How much effect
this stylish enthusiasm in Northern mythology has on DARKWOOD?
And what is the very special, distinguishing feature of DARKWOOD
against a background of other bands?
The influence of
Northern mythology on particular songs is not too strong. I
have a general interest in mythology. Paganism is like a basis,
since paganism to me is a tolerant philosophy of life which
stands for the keeping of old values, a sound relation to nature,
a strong conscience rather than moaning and waiting for deliverance.
To me, the Gods stand for archetypes of personal traits. In
life, one has to strive for his own rising above himself (not
necessarily above others!).
For the second part of the question, this is hard to say for
myself. Maybe it is the use of several languages and several
styles of music to promote ideas and ideals to people across
borders rather than to make purely traditional music in my native
If I ask you
to put in a scale of ranks the most important values, which
you do recognize - how would this hierarchy look?
Creation - Sincerity
- Comradeship - Tradition - Tolerance. Do not take the ranking
to serious. Important is a sound mixture of all of them.
In general, which
components of the German neo-folk success could you mark out?
maybe it is a bit premature to speak about the success?
I have just remembered the pretty limited editions of the most
known bands releases
are right. But who knows whether it would be suitable to involve
as many people as possible. So it stays a platform for people
who decided to go a different way and live an 'unconventional'
life. We recognize each other, we meet each other, exchange
knowledge and we improve. Apart from that, the 'scenes' in Germany
are mixed to a certain degree so that you also reach a lot of
people who are usually listening to Goth music, Industrial or
There are also a
number of labels and bands showing primary intention rather
to produce collection items than to concentrate efforts in popularization
of their music. And it does work very well for some of them.
But at the same time it becomes hard to make out what does overwhelming
the scene, musicians and especially listeners - real idealism
At the beginning,
the limitations were certainly meant to establish a separation
and also to provide little handsome works of art for collectors
and music lovers. Fetishism is no problem as longs as there
is some idealism left and some attention was paid to the music
and the message. After that it becomes 'pop art'. And once something
became fashy, all the fashy people gather. But what really pisses
me off is that also the greedy people gather and start their
usury, see e-bay.
By which criteria
would you appreciate the DARKWOOD's progress?
Apart from the positive
effects mentioned before, I will try to increase the number
of live appearances in foreign countries above zero. It is hard
to reach many foreign people through mailorders due to the prices
and post services...
Maybe you have
a statistic where in your country such kind of music has more
success? As you have an own label, you should know...
We do have our own
label Heidenvolk for our releases but I cannot give you a statistic
about the destination of our albums. The CDs are going trough
distributors. But when being at concerts or according to the
reactions from people I have the impression that there is no
difference between East and West Germany.
Your first albums
were distributed by WSD, but now your main distributor seems
to be TESCO. Are DARKWOOD a part of this mysterious conspiracy
forcing artists to run away from WSD?...
I could speculate
about a couple of reasons which - I am sure - are different
for different bands and I think enough has been said already.
I can only tell my reasons: I find it much more convenient to
work with a mailorder within Germany, then they have the same
feeling for punctuality, and finally I became more interested
in the projects and styles around TESCO than around WSD.
about the main releases of DARKWOOD, I would like to remember
the extremely limited 7" vinyl "Talons" with
a song in Russian. For me, this track sounds as some old romance
between XIX and XX century, but it lasts longer than a romance
may last and also has more modern words/themes. Though I must
admit that accent does not allow to understand all the words
clearly. So please explain which literary source(s) you had
used? And how did the idea itself come to your mind?
As mentioned before
I like the way Eastern folks perform and enjoy music. I always
liked those typical fast Russian songs with accordion and a
chorus. Well, the song is slow and has no accordion in it, but
somehow I had this Russian-like melody in my head and wrote
some lyrics in German. They did not really fit and I asked Nadja
to translate them into Russian. I don't know how it sounds to
a native Russian speaker but to me it was simply touching so
that I also did contribute some backing vocals. There was no
other source for the lyrics but a short romance in my life as
Ah, my Slavic
mentality was absolutely convinced everything happens here,
especially after the words "
all (thoughts?) are drunken
And, by the way, last year there was a rumour
about your possible live performance in Russia. If something
of that kind was discussed indeed, what did prevent you from
After several people
have found out that the West is dead quite some years ago, we
necessarily have to turn our faces to the East. Its cultural
values and ways of living will prove to be superior. I am not
talking about political situations, they are far off from being
optimal. It is the way people spend their live and how they
value personal believe, culture and family what impresses me
and has caught me.
The rumour is true. The concert was planned in a collaboration
with bands of the Stateart label. Marco is a friend of mine
and we were crazy about playing in Russia one day. The general
idea was to perform the more industrial-like DARKWOOD songs
with a lot of drums. For some reasons, his life became very
busy and/or problematic in the last couple of months. The matter
is postponed - not dropped.
Have you any
peculiar interest in things around Russia we could give some
additional attention to?
I would actually
be interested in what you think - coming from Belorussia - about
the previous period of being one huge political state of many
different cultures. How did it affect the everyday life and
what is different now that you are independent? Would I - not
being able to distinguish the different accents - see huge differences
when crossing borders?
For me, independence
is a very loose philosophical concept. If to apply it exclusively
to the creation of relatively sovereign Belorussian state out
of the Soviet Empire, I hardly can say which principal things
had been changed in our lives because of the "independence"
and not because of more material economical, financial and political
well, now we got own "national"
political and business "elite", as vain, greedy and
dull as elsewhere, and our country may forward it's sportsmen
to Olympic games and international championships with own flag
and hymn. Surely, there are more possibilities for people to
be noticed and highly promoted in such not a great state as
In a very popular 80ies song they sung: "My address is
not a home and a street, my address is the Soviet Union".
The common language, culture, organisational principles, institutions,
money, etc. covered all the Empire, so you really could feel
yourself at home in every its part and place - the feeling,
the spirit which is gone forever, squeezed out by national arrogance
and intolerance. The miraculous myth of the brotherhood of nations
was turned inside out: in former outlining districts of the
USSR now it's more fashionable and profitable to propagate the
conception of the eternal oppression of nations in Russian Empire.
That's sad enough.
Obviously, you'll notice certain differences from state to state,
not huge but nevertheless - emblems, flags colourings, signs
and inscriptions alphabets, cops' uniforms, local currencies
exchange values and so on - but the language problem is not
too actual, anywhere you'll find a lot of people speaking Russian
or understanding it at least. The problem are the borders themselves.
If your family roots and branches reach different nooks of ex-USSR
- now to visit them is not as easy and free as it was just 10
years ago. The only thing which can patch up everything is,
of course, the money, this universal criteria of individual
freedom. During Soviet time we had this truth slightly forgotten
Well, I become too sentimental, when start to remember (and
maybe to idealize) the epoch of my happy childhood. Let's return
to DARKWOOD. All your 3 CD are parts of a Triptychon work. As
every trilogy, they should have some common personages, plot
lines, idea, etc. Could you describe this work in such light?
The three CDs turned
out to be a trilogy, both in a musical and topical sense. I
called it Triptychon since the three CDs taken together somehow
reminded me of a particular painting by Otto Dix called "Der
Krieg". Originally, a Triptychon is a religious painting
adding three pictures, sometimes in a different time scale,
to an altar. The first CD "In the Fields" deals with
the pain of war on all sides in a very direct way but in a very
melancholic, quiet, and desperate vein. Whilst recording the
second CD "Heimat & Jugend" I have been living
in Belgium and the United States for a while - always being
confronted with all the prejudices and memories about Germans
you could be confronted with in one nation that suffered so
much, and in the other which 'conquered' nearly without paying
blood and arising from the battlefields being the leading ideological
and economical force after WWII. Taken the United States, it
was necessary to deal with their role after the war a bit more,
especially mentioning their major influence on the European
and German self-confidence. "Morgenthau" and "In
Ruinen" are two examples. Especially in Germany it is nearly
impossible to feel proud of our culture or history. So the CD
entitled "Flammende Welt" - which means 'World in
Flames' and 'The Inner Enthusiastic World' at the same time
- shall invoke a strong feeling for our cultural and historical
heritage regardless of any anti-German propaganda. By chance,
the CD after releasing reached first people on 11th September,
a new starting point of devotion and submission to the American
omnipotence and infallibility. Now, everybody seems to be backing
up America in a war against Afghanistan although they cannot
even give a single reliable proof for the guilty parts. It is
another strategic war for economical reasons after the one in
As the result,
it seems there will only a few countries remain soon free from
the presence of American army or their barefaced military advisers.
The recent "victims" behave as off-handed conquers
now. Personally, I was always sure the awful spectacle presented
on 11th September has the same value and meaning as the provocation
which started the WWII in 1939...
Actually, this is
a really good comparison. There is no excuse for the American
aggression politics. I wouldn't call it war against terror,
I would call it terror.
I am curious about the development of Russia. Will they remain
one of the last islands or will they sooner or later fully join
the American way and obey the American domination for economical
After the Tryptichon,
what do you await to be accomplished?
or describing cause and result of the events of the 19th century
I will now rather go into a direction of giving new strength
to the listeners by showing different paths. Let's call it motivation.
Musically, I like to experiment but I will certainly stick to
the acoustic minimal or orchestral sound. There are no particular
publications planned, though I have a couple of things in mind.
Time will tell...
At this point I
want to thank Vladimir Sivchik for this interview, for giving
me the opportunity to reach some people in Belorussia and other
Russian speaking countries, and for the work he spent on the
Thanks. It was the
pleasure to talk with you. Hear you
"In the Fields", CD
"Heimat & Jugend", CD
"Flammende Welt", CD
"MM", World Serpent Compilation
"Immortal Legends", BLACK Compilation
"Fidelis Legio", NEK/OKTAGON Compilation