Christian Kolf has been in a whole bunch of bands, with none more important than the work he’s produced with Owl and Valborg. 2017 saw Valborg release Endstrand to much acclaim (especially here at Last Rites). In 2018 he switched gears and released both the Orion Fenix EP and Nights in Distortion full length as Owl, both of which also received acclaim (um… especially here at Last Rites). Owl is his duo with Patrick Schroeder, who plays live shows with Klabautamann, another project Christian was previously involved with. 2018 also saw the release of the first Absolutum EP, a project Kolf is in with, among other people, Jan Buckard of Valborg.
In a sense, the bands on Zeitgeister seem more of a collective than a group of bands. All link to the others. Each project creates a unique style of music yet there is so much crossover with the members it’s safe to say that the entire label could go on tour together and not risk renting more than one tour bus.
Last Rites sat down to chat with Mr. Kolf to discuss his various projects, Zeitgeister as a family, and the tragic loss of Owl bassist René Marquis.
First, all of the Zeitgeister Music bands share traits because most of them share people. Woburn House was the sludge/doom band; Klabautamann is the black metal band; Ekpyrosis the masked vigilante; etc. Where do you see Owl fitting into the puzzling whole of Zeitgeister?
Never thought about that. Obviously it started as death metal band and then it started to change. I never wanted to repeat myself with this project. When I did the first album, I had the feeling that I said everything what I could say, at this time. It’s still developing, changing and growing. But I am not afraid to go backwards. Maybe I will do a death metal record again. I’ll never know. It’s not very smart to work like that, but in the end, I guess I am the one who spends most of the time with Owl and its music, so I have to be happy.
Owl released two records in 2018, the Orion Fenix EP and Nights in Distortion album. Talk a little about how each came about, and how they relate to each other.
I started to work on Nights In Distortion around 2014 and it was a very long, painful, and complicated process. The album was completely finished in 2017, but then I had to wait one year for the label to release it. I wrote Orion Fenix on one evening in December 2017 and it was more like a wellness holiday for me. Big emotions and a lot of fun. Auré Pereira of Flatcurve produced it and it’s always a pleasure to work with him.
Owl’s two threads of doom metal and synth-heavy ambient music are more intertwined on Nights in Distortion than ever before. Was it always a plan to keep merging these styles, or did it come naturally?
It just came naturally. There was a certain vibe going on with this record, when I wrote the songs it was clear that I was going to be more atmospheric, melodic, or emotional. When I started to write those songs, it was spring, and I was in a place of change, I felt good in a way and I wrote this music, which gave me a feeling of freedom in the first place. I remember when I wrote “Transparent Monument,” and I felt so cool because of the chorus I had written, it really made me happy.
René Marquis, who played bass on Nights in Distortion, passed away earlier this year. Did his death influence the completion of the album in any way, and do you think the loss will have a lasting influence on the band’s future music?
No, the album was already finished when René died. His loss is an influence on my life, and the life of my friends who knew him. It was sad that he had to go too soon. The album was already filled with tragic memories and then this happened on top of it. But it’s also an album that is about “going on until the bitter end, never give up.” Everything is shit, but don’t be a sad loser. All I can say, that we dearly miss him and that he was a very talented musician and instrument builder.
Every metal band gets asked their biggest metal influences, but what influences you in the ambient and darkwave realms?
I can only say which bands influence me for the ambient side in Owl: GAS, the project of Wolfang Voigt and the Kompakt Label from Cologne, Germany. I listened to this nature ambient techno since 2004 or something. Since my teenage years I was interested in atmospheric, ambient stuff. It all started with Red Harvest and old Anathema. They were the ones who put 10-minute ambient tracks on their debut albums. Beside GAS I like Vatican Shadow, Oneohtrix Point Never, Boards of Canada, the more easy listening stuff of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Ambient music gives me a strong feeling of life. I enjoy it to run around, at a sunny day, listen to that kind of music and look into the sky.
You’re of course involved in other projects under the Zeitgeister banner. Tell us a little about what is coming up for Valborg or Absolutum.
Valborg will release their seventh album in 2019 via Prophecy Productions. It’s more brutal, more space, more escalation. With Absolutum, we have 4 new songs ready, at the end of November we will record the vocals and a new tape will be released in 2019 via The Crawling Chaos Records.
Thanks to Christian for taking the time for answering our questions, and for everyone involved in the Zeitgeister family for continuing to allow their creative branches to keep growing. A whole heap of amazing, just-weird-enough music can be uncovered at their collective Bandcamp page.