The band itself is shrouded in mystery – a group of shamens conjuring a dark, ambient drone from ancient rituals and pre-Christian Magick and their latest album ‘The Garden of the forking ways’ is a quite astounding achievement pressed on blood-red vinyl (333 copies) and dressed in a silk-screened jacket that is quite beautiful to behold. The band’s name is Cultus Sabbati and as a result of the mystery that surrounds them a long pre-amble is both unnecesary and rather difficult. Instead we are proud to present this interview to you so that Cultus Sabbati themselves can reveal what they consider relevant to a greater understanding of their art and we hope that this will encourage you to explore this most unique of band’s music further having gleaned some insight into the thought process that goes into making music as thought-provoking and engrossing as this.
The name Cultus Sabbati, and indeed the presentation of the music, all links you into the realm of folk-lore and pre-Christian Pagan Magic ‚ do you see the music as an extension of these rituals and if so, in what way?
We create all of our music in the context of actual ritual practice. The recorded material is the sonic by product of our ritual magickal experimentation. Our influences come from a very specific occult tradition; one that is more based in common folk traditions than it is in western esoterism. Its draws heavily on the pre Christian cunning craft practices of European folk magick.
‘The garden of the forking ways’‚ is a curious title ‚ can you explain what it means to you? Is it connected with the philosophy of “where the spirits so will it, a path shall be found”?
The title itself is actually taken from a comic book by Neil Gaiman called the Sandman. The term Garden of Forking Ways is used to represent a place where all decision is made, the residence of the Fates.
Drone music seems to be very much about trying to sculpt a feeling or mood from chaotic elements; when you composed “the garden…” did you have specific images or thoughts in mind for each track? How long did it take to write and record the album? …And where was it recorded?
We have learned to incorporate the entire process of recording into our actual ritual practice, so that the process is part of the ritual itself. The material is only pre written in parts and other sections are all improvised, the narrative theme of each piece is decided in advance based on the purpose of the ritual itself. All of the material on our albums comes out of this ritual practice. Once we have documented a new piece we then take the material into a more traditional studio setting for mixing and mastering.
This is your second release (not including the track you issued through facebook), I think, the first being “Auraeon” how do you feel you’ve developed your sound over the two releases?
We actually have done about a half dozen releases so far. Most of those were very limited editions on cassette and cd-r. We put out a one sided grey vinyl release of 50 and a 7 inch single. Those are all long gone but sometimes turn up on ebay (and various file sharing sites).
As for our sound, it is something that has evolved dramatically over the past few years. The sound is really something that has to do with the shared ideas about magick that we hold. Each of us comes from other music projects that are more fulltime. Cultus Sabbati grew out of a collective effort to
explore music as a form of ritual magick on a practical level.
What sort of instrumentation do you employ? Is the album created using traditional instruments or are there a variety of electronics and synthcomponents used?
Guitar, electronics, vocals. We don’t use keyboards ever. We tend to push the signal very hard and try not to clean things up or round off the more harsh frequencies once we reach the mixing process. The electronics are all home-made except for guitar pedals.
When reviewing an album by the band Skullflower I drew an allegory that the difference between drone and conventional music is rather like the difference between reading a book and watching a movie; the one lays everything before you and requires no interaction, the other demands
imagination and interpretation to get the most from it. Would you say that that is an accurate description of this style of music?
In general experimental music of any type tends to challenge people more. It’s a process of learning for the listener, to meet the demand that the record places on the listener. A lot of metal music still relies heavily on very traditional concepts about what music is or should be. Bands spending hours making sure everything is “in tune” or is played in the “correct” time signature or whatever. Fans hear so much of that kind of traditional approach to making music that when they are exposed to something outside of that way of thinking it can be revelatory. Of course, it can also make someone recoil in horror and just turn it off.
Both records have been released in very limited quantities and in very special packaging, you clearly go to a lot of trouble to present your work as a complete piece of art…
What specifically appealed to you about a vinyl release for the latest album?
All three of us really dig the culture that has developed around handmade releases. Bands that sell merch that they have made themselves seem more honest somehow, more in touch with the process of creating. Packaging is everything in a world where any music can be downloaded for free. If you expect fans to buy something you have made you better be offering them something they cannot download. With Garden of Forking Ways we knew we wanted this to be something exceptional. The covers were screened by Screwball Press and the whole package came together really nicely. We designed everything ourselves and Rococo did a really great job making our ideas come out in the end.
Are there plans to continue Cultus Sabbati into the future?
We will continue to work on new material. The response to Garden has been really astounding and we are already talking about a new full length. In the meantime other material that we already have may find its way out into the light of day.