Interview: Mist Over Wormwood

Tucked alongside the Voronezh River in Russia lives a shaman. This particular shaman is also an artist, musician and the driving force behind a small publishing house. With an independent ethos and strong creative flair, the impact of this discovery has been considerable. Deep. Stirring. Personal. Enter our guide, Ord Err, as we walk the paths of old together…

Pariah Child bids you a hearty warm welcome! As the sun sinks lower in the autumnal sky, leaves are falling thick and fast here. Has Winter’s cold grip already taken hold in your land?

Good time of a day, Pariah Child, on behalf of the Status Prod label, Mist over Wormwood, Voronezh land and me personally, Ord Err! In the Voronezh lands, autumn is in full swing. The leaves have already covered us with a golden veil, but the cold fingers of winter have not yet squeezed into an ice hoop. Autumn in Russia is beautiful and inspiring. The rivers are not yet covered with ice, the trees have not lost their luxurious hair, melancholic rains are interspersed with a bright, warm sun, and the autumn smell raises from the depths of the soul something exciting, agonizing, with notes of longing for the outgoing warmth. Of course, winter is approaching, but for now we enjoy the last days of still awake nature…

How and when were you first touched by the spirits, forces and energies in the world around you?

When I was very young, I began to pay attention to the events taking place in my life, which I could not explain logically and, accordingly, understand their nature and regularity. Over the years, these events have increased, and understanding came from a completely different side. The acceptance of myself and the forces around me, communication with them, the exchange of energy came. There is no doom or backbreaking work in this. You talk to them – they talk to you.

Please describe the wider region of Voronezh where you live. Have you discovered inspiring sacred sites in the locality or is the gift to connect carried deep within?

It’s worth starting with the fact that the Voronezh region is at the junction of two tectonic plates, we have practically no earthquakes, but from the point of view of energies, this is not fun at all.

Officially, the city of Voronezh was founded in 1586 as a guard post, although people lived here before, since the 1st Millennium BC. And from that time, they almost continuously fought for territory. With the advent of the sentry post, the situation has improved, but not much.

In 1695 Voronezh became the cradle of the Russian Fleet. The fleet was built heavily and not without losses.

The history of Voronezh from the time of Peter I to the Revolution of 1917 is full of numerous events such as the city being destroyed by fires several times. There was a drought and famine too.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), the front line passed through the centre of the city, residents were killed by invaders, 92% of houses were destroyed. Death was everywhere. The city, literally, was rebuilt on bones.

We live in these energies, with our centuries-old history of death and rebirth. Everywhere there are stories of ghosts, anomalous stars, places as sacred and black as night itself.

The gift of communication is something difficult to describe and comprehend; it is rather another way of obtaining information.

Earlier in this issue, Tony Tears testified to creating and wearing specific masks in different phases of his esoteric journey. What role, if any, do masks play in meditative practice for you?

The mask is a significant element of strength in many cultures and traditions. It serves as an expression of the shaman’s inner potential, a means of union with the spiritual essence depicted on the mask. The mask is a merger with the gods, with all the powerful spirits of this cult. This is a unity with the cult, with the spirit of the mask, an appeal for his help and support.

But, most importantly, the mask is also the main protection. It makes it possible to appear in a modified image, if you need to be invisible. The mask allows you to travel into the world of spirits, and when you return, remain unrecognized by them. This makes it possible to endow yourself with superhuman qualities that cannot be achieved in ordinary life.

The mask should not be worn for fun or decoration though. This is a cult aspect that requires respect and appropriate treatment. That is why images of masks are created. They can be painted, carved from stone, from wood or other natural materials. Such masks can be worn directly on the body, or be located in the house, however, they are the subject of a cult, retaining the ability to protect their owner and the ability to merge with the spirit.

Your ability to craft talismans and amulets is uncanny. An art form almost forgotten. Where do you source these materials? Do you have a sense of the face you will carve from the outset or is each revealed gradually during the process? And do you need specific circumstances, say smells, sounds or lighting, to achieve the optimum results?

Thank you for your kind words. Initially, I cut in stone. For example, I made candlesticks in the ORD album “Sacra Mental Hypno Drone: Rituals, Revelations & Purification” (deluxe edition) myself. There are only 40 of them. Once I was presented with deer antlers, and when I was finishing the candlesticks, I already knew that in future I would cut on the bone and horn. All the material I order in Siberia, where they undergo a special antiseptic treatment, and come completely ready for carving. I cannot say that I know the face that I will cut. It is unfamiliar to me. It appears gradually, tells his story – who he is, where he came from and why. This process does not depend on me. I would say that the faces of the spirits control my hands so that I can manifest them.

When there were a large number of artefacts, we created the workshop Mist over Wormwood together with Darina Voinova, the co-owner of our Status Prod, label.. Darina is responsible for the design and planetary matching of faces, as well as the creation of jewelry that has a practical and esoteric meaning; I am responsible for the carvings. This creative workshop is now an integral part of the label.

A month ago, to coincide with the Autumn Equinox, you held an exhibition of striking paintings. Named “Spirits Who Wear Masks” the recurring theme of faces was present again. Some skeletal, others ghostly and all rather impressionistic. Over what length of period were they created? Would you elaborate on these visions given form in this body of work and any accompanying themes buried within?

All paintings were created this year, in a fairly short period. In fact, they were created in the same way as amulets. It’s just a different form of display. The picture is a container of the spirit for communication, an amulet for daily help. The spirit manifests itself in the process of work, sometimes others appear behind one face, and then the picture displays many faces. It was not easy to have time to display them all, but I think I did a good job with this task. An exhibition of my works took place in one of the oldest galleries in our city on the day of the Autumn Equinox. Within the framework of the exhibition, I conducted three performances: “Revitalizing the Mask,” “Meditation with Spirits” and “Letting go” – a musical act, revitalizing and revealing each picture, combining a sound canvas with an artistic canvas. The fusion of sound and visual images breathed life into each of more than 40 paintings and miniatures, manifesting its essence, making the viewer see, hear and feel.

During the exhibition, people wanted to buy my paintings in private collections. Therefore, after its completion, I put my paintings up for sale. So, now I am releasing not only music albums, but also my own paintings under the ORD brand.

Can you describe the emotions you channelled at the installation or how the intimate audience reacted to the experience?

As an ORD artist and ORD musician, each performance was a ritual, creating a space outside of place and time, where each external image served as a reflection of the internal, and hidden desires taking on their physical form. Without which the physical body can neither exist nor move, the beginning of a dialogue with the Spirits, the manifestation of the essence of the Mask.

The audience reacted in different ways: someone looked for their images and found them, someone else simply fell into a state of trance, and for others, sounds and images showed the intimate that is usually hidden in the most secret corners of the soul. So the reactions were different, yet no one remained indifferent.

ORD resides at the very core of your being. Ritual sounds, shamanic rhythms and traditional instrumentation blend to create an otherworldly impression. Time out of time. In a bid to better understand your roots, how, where and when did this musical journey begin?

I have come a long way from gothic, through martial to ambient. This is a long, necessary, but difficult path to overcome oneself, experience and spiritual maturation. ORD is a kind of cleansing, a withdrawal into oneself, an opportunity to show the world what am I, of what I am. Of course, the ritual part was always with me, but did not find such full expression in music. When I began to collect musical instruments, from Tibetan singing bowls, bells, overtone flutes to Yakut ritual instruments, when I began to order a variety of modular synthesizers and other noise boxes, then that ORD, which you can see now, was born. Of course, I change, like everything around me and my music with me, but as you very accurately said, ORD is the very core of my being, this is me.

For some eighteenth months now, “Sacra Mental Hypno Drone” has resounded in my home. Early in the morning. Late at night. Often on repeat. Its magnetic pull difficult to describe. Given that it was your first opus, what framework, if any, did you apply in order to achieve maximum impact?

Thank you, I am pleased that you are so hooked on this album. Hope your family doesn’t mind!

If only you knew in what conditions and how this album was created! It was an impulse of the soul, which I tried to express with the help of everything that came to hand and whenever I could, I extracted sounds and recorded them. In the middle of working on the album, I had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital, but even there I was recording sounds and writing poetry, which was very frightening for the staff. Of course, I continued working on the album as soon as I got home. I was carried away and couldn’t think of anything else.

Two versions exist. The second, considerably more limited than the first, contains another disc amongst other bespoke artefacts. Can the primary album be fully understood and appreciated without the latter?

The second version is deeper, even more intimate and fuller. Of course, handmade ritual artefacts: ashes of a ritual fire, stone candlesticks, pine needles are elements of spiritual cleansing, an opportunity to make your journey into the depths of consciousness, understand your essence, understand where to expect help from. The limited edition bonus disc “Rituals & Purification” was written by me at the hospital and is an addition and explanation to the first disc. Now that the limited edition is completely sold out and I’m looking forward to release “Rituals & Purification” as a separate edition in the future.

Ironically enough and quite by chance, it appears that I have been exclusively listening to “Purification’ rather the “Revelation” session that precedes it! Why I was drawn to the omega disc in the first place I cannot say. But given the cyclic nature of these inner journeys do you think my inverse experience of the double album matters?

Apparently, you need more Purification than Revelation. Literally. This is how the world works – we have what we want most, what we need. The wave of liberation and transition to another level of yourself turned out to be more in tune with you now. It makes no difference which path you go; the main thing is that this path leads you to yourself.

Belatedly beginning at the beginning, my impressions are now quite different. Whilst the first movement carries a solemn air, the intensity after the second narration was unexpected! Each consecutive “Revelation” comes in comparable waves. Meditative trances mingle with a medley of arcane instruments Some spells more hypnotic than others. Presence is strong. At the fore and all around. By the fourth piece, it feels like the ritual has moved outside. The flames licking the night sky. If indeed we left the temple at all. Come the fifth and final stage, the wind is howling, the mountains vibrate and it feels like the world will come crashing down to engulf life itself. Would you care to comment on the structure of the compositions and where they were executed?

I recorded sounds at rituals, supplemented and expanded with live musical instruments, and we can say that the structure of the compositions corresponds to the structure of the rituals conducted, but it largely depended on what I played live in the studio.

Often printed lyrics are excluded. But you went a step further to present the beautiful Russian texts in English. Why was it important to reach out to the audience with a glimmer of meaning?

It was important for me to convey the meaning, I wanted the audience to be able to penetrate, immerse themselves and think over. Agree or disagree with me. Much can only be thought about by reading. Then the meaning of what is heard can change, be supplemented by something, or, conversely, purged of what the imagination had attributed to it. All this action is a search for truth, and each has its own process and the truth is also its own. My path can be described with the words that you can read in each edition. Maybe we are going the same way.

Returning to the familiar slopes of “Purification” and the lungful of air being released again and again to the beating drum, there is a palpable freedom of spirit. Restless or rallying. The bells and tambourines coaxing, enticing, encouraging flight through the forest then high above its leafy roof. The shamanic call from below exhilarating. Hear us! See us! What did you feel?

I felt inspiration and decline, a surge of energy and complete disappointment, a rise and fall of the soul. A state of mind that cannot be described in words. How impossible it is to describe in words what the shaman feels during the ritual. You know your path, but until you understand how to go through it, you fall and get up, rejoice and grieve, but you move. Lack of movement is death.

Why were the second, third and fourth movements not directly acknowledged on the double album? Are they some form of earthy post script to the rite of purification?

As I mentioned previously, during the recording of the first album, I had a heart attack. It hurt my health, but it also gave an impetus to the development of my creativity, so I left the hospital with new texts and new ideas.

And in the end, instead of one album, it turned out to be two. It would be strange to release two albums in a row, so we decided to add the songs as a bonus to the deluxe edition of the first untitled album to keep the intrigue. In the future, as I said, we are going to release “Rituals & Purification” as a standalone release.

One of my favourite sequences of the album is a whispered passage set against raging fire and a gentle rhythmic pulse that punctuates the flames. It is particularly potent.  Awe-inspiring. Any comments?

Perhaps you mean just that very personal moment of my experience of the process of purification, the transition to a new level? Cleansing is not as deliverance, but as a moment of salvation. The moment, when any person, whoever he is, feels the essence of life.

This was the fourth album released by the fledgling Status Prod. It remains the most daring in aesthetic presentation. Explain the motivation to remove your creations from common industry and instead invest so much personal handicraft to the finished article?

For those who want to dive deeper into the ritual, follow the same path as me, perhaps it might be interesting to have not only the disc, but also those items that I used during the ritual. By the same principle, the album “Live Fire Meditation” was released with this personal touch. Each handcrafted investment is designed to complement the musical component. Conduct your ritual and draw your own conclusions. For those who like music, but are not interested in the ritual aspect, we made a regular edition that does not involve such investments.

What sacrifices were made to shape and share the forty signature stone candle holders?

The album artwork was, of course, colossal. For several months I carved the candlesticks, then we performed rituals and then spent a month just packing. It wasn’t easy, but the result is worth it. Any creativity is a difficult job, but it brings the deepest sense of satisfaction.

Given the dual format of the album, as soundtrack and art piece suitable for meditation, what level of feedback have you received to date? How much of that comes from inside Russia and beyond?

At first, this album was not very popular, and this is perfectly understandable. A debut by a new and unknown musician released in a luxury edition. But, over time, almost everyone began to order it. Almost a year ago, we gave you the last copy of this edition and took it off sale as sold out, yet orders still continue to come…

The feedback we have begun to receive, only now, has come from completely different people and mainly from abroad. I am very pleased that the audience likes what I do and this, of course, inspires me in my work.

From the outside looking in, 2017 seemed to have been a pivotal year in the development of Status Prod. The roster has been expanding with two or three handcrafted albums presented annually. What was the agreed premise of providing a home to other artists such as Lemna and When The Moon Is In Her Second Quarter? What more can you share about these shadowy entities?

Until 2016, the label was an auxiliary platform for the implementation of our own creative experiments, and since 2017 we decided to approach the work of the label more seriously. At the same time, we began to look for and release third-party musicians. As in any work, there are overlaps and difficulties and several releases never saw the light of day, but the work with the others was quite productive. For example, the leader of the Lemna project was so immersed in creative experiments that he closed the project. So, there will be no more Lemna albums, unfortunately, and now we only have a very small number of copies of this author. WTMIIHSQ, on the other hand, is preparing a new album with me as a guest musician, which will be released very soon. The WTMIIHSQ project is anonymous and even we did not know these ghostly entities for a long time, and I, perhaps, will keep them incognito.

But, in general, we are always open for cooperation with musicians in the genre of dark-ambient, ritual, death-industrial, black-industrial, atmospheric black metal, anything that coincides with the label’s theme.

Hladna was unknown to me yet their back catalogue appears colossal. How did that particular collaborative session happen with ORD? Did you lure this icon out of hermitage for the occasion? Having listened to the session many times, I’m curious to hear any memories you recall from in or around it…

With Koloyar Dreved, the leader of Hladna, we had known each other for a long time in absentia, but met in person shortly before the performance. The idea of a collaborative session came up suddenly, almost before the performance, so the whole session is improvisation. Koloyar took the lead throughout the performance and carried out the ritual, I was more likely an assistant, but this performance, surely, had not to be only heard, but also seen. The audience was in complete trance during the whole session. Then when everyone came to their senses, they did not let us go for a long time, asking questions to delve into the essence of what had just happened to them. Of course, it was a wonderful experience, which I hope Koloyar and I will repeat it again.

Status Prod. has a distinctly customised sound and style. What are your aspirations for the years ahead if indeed you plan so?

The label has a lot of plans, really. However, the situation in the world is making its own adjustments. Let me tell an open secret: in 2020, the pandemic greatly affected the work of all labels, regardless of their focus and standing. The plans have already had to be adjusted, but we will fix the situation. Now there are plans for three new releases in 2021, not only Russian, but also foreign musicians. We are superstitious people, so we will not name names or guess the exact dates. We will, of course, make an announcement in advance when the time is right…

ORD remains very much at its core. Whilst I have not yet absorbed all albums or even approached them chronologically, do you sense any arcs of development, shift in direction or intensification of specific elements over these three or four years? For example, “Avalokiteśvara is an intrinsically gentler journey than “Sacral Mental Hypno Drone” albeit undoubtedly created by the same hand…

Yes, of course I do. Life flows, changes and I move with this flow. New stories appear and I try to voice them. This is how albums are born. On the “Kamadarshana” EP, for example, you probably noticed that tribal elements appeared there. I have something else to pleasantly surprise you musically. But, in general, it will be the same ORD, with its own handwriting and its own unchanging rituals.

My copy of your stunning new album came with a cutting of lavender. Its fragrance lingered on my fingers and around my nostrils during that first sitting. Even now, I can recall its aroma. Would you share some reflections on its symbolic significance?

Surely! When we created “Mist over Wormwood,” we already knew that we would use in our work everything that nature gives us. Lavender is the symbol of the Mist, in this case. Thick, sticky, pre-dawn fog, passing through which you gain clarity and purity. Since we make our amulets only from natural materials and in strict planetary conformity, we attach a corresponding plant to each product. It is both a ritual and a kind of signature of our workshop.

That brings us full circle to Mist Over Wormwood. The poetic name given to a sacred place where we experience the unknown. Also a virtual rallying point to reflect upon and celebrate the Wheel of the Year. That ethos has underpinned this very discussion and the life you lead. How significant is this wider community or movement as a gateway?

Of course, Mist over Wormwood is a reflection of the lifestyle that we adhere to. When you enter the ritual of being, you can no longer not be there. We adhere to shamanic rituals, nevertheless, and the Wheel of the Year, in this case, is just a word that names the main milestones of the year so that it is clear what they mean. Some sort of symbol of paganism in the modern world. MoW is a way of broadcasting to the world the way we are going. And a workshop. We make not only amulets, talismans, amulets from bone, horn, stone, but also dream eaters, ritual candles and just jewelry from natural minerals. We write texts and articles, maintain our own lunar calendar, make rituals. So our interests are very broad.

Thank you kindly, Alexey, for taking the time to cast perspective on your many activities. They have stirred forgotten memories and enriched my life. The parting words are yours…

Thanks Danny. I am very pleased to talk to you. I’m glad that I could to tell my story and I hope it was interesting for you. Take care of yourself in any circumstances and look for positive aspects even there, where, it seems, they can no longer be found.

Danny Angus (October 2020 / January 2021)

This interview was originally conducted as part of a previously unpublished series. To be continued…

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