About Me

Interview with Harakiri For The Sky

With their latest album "Mӕre" having finally been released last month, Austria's blackgaze pioneers Harakiri For The Sky perfectly capture the beauty of paralysis and despair and release this fifth studio album right in time for their 10th band anniversary. This album is a must have release for 2021 as it is so captivating! 
Metal Imperium caught up with M.S., a few days before the release of the album, and he told us all about the band’s thoughts and plans for this insane year of 2021.

M.I. – Hello! How are you?

Great! Thank you! 

M.I. - So congratulations on the new album! It is awesome!

Thank you!

M.I. - How happy are you with it?

Well, I'm pretty happy because we worked on it pretty long and it was ready one year ago and we had to always delay the release because of the pandemic. So, we wanted to bring it out in September, then in January and now we had to switch it again to February. So, it is a very big relief that we can finally bring it out. 

M.I. - The album will be released this coming Friday… how nervous are you?

Now we had enough time to prepare for it, so now I'm not nervous anymore, just relieved.

M.I. - In the meantime, you have probably listened to it many times. Have you discovered something you’d do differently now?

No, to be honest no. I'm quite happy with it, we had enough time and we changed a few things beforehand but now we’re all very happy with it.

M.I. - Harakiri is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. It must be extremely painful. Why have you decided to use it as name for the band? It sounds good but is awful!

Yes, it's not something that I would like to experience. It was the idea of our singer, it was something to do with a dream of his. Suicide is a very important topic for him and he had this dream like falling off a cliff, while stabbing himself and then started to fly, I think. If I got this right, the way he explained it to me and that's how he came up with the name as far as I know. So, I thought there was a nice metaphor for many things that he works up in his lyrics also. 

M.I. - The band plays a unique mixture of black metal and post rock. Was this your intention all along or did it just turn out like this?

Well, of course we were listening to some atmospheric black metal bands back in the day when we started the band and we wanted to do something similar. It's this kind of melancholic atmosphere but with harsh music and, then, everything that we liked in music or that we listened to had some kind of influence, so we just wrote what came to our minds. That's the overall sound but there were no specific bands that we wanted to sound like, no specific influences, I think it's a mix of all the things that surround us and that we like. 

M.I. - Ever since its conception in 2011, the band has drawn fans and critics deeper and deeper into the depths of melancholy, self-hate and anger. Would you say you are misanthropes? These days seem to be great for misanthropes due to the social distancing…

I don't know if we are misanthropes per se, because we wouldn't say that we have a general negative attitude against all humans. We just made a lot of experiences and that's something that's important to work up in music, because it's when something is uncomfortable and you had bad experiences, then you cannot just swallow it down, you need to let it out. Music is a great filter and it's a personal catharsis that we deal with those things, but it's not that we hate humanity in general. I mean, of course, with all that's happening, you're right, it's hard to find positive things but it's more just dealing with the personal bad things that happened.

M.I. - “Maere” was recorded during the spring quarantine of 2020... is this the reason why there is a feeling of abandonment that permeates the ten songs?

I got this question asked quite often and it was already finished before the pandemic started, before the first lockdown started, so there was no direct influence of this separation from other people. The whole music and the lyrics were written already before all this started, but this definitely also had an impact on us and I'm sure you will be able to hear it on the next album, but it had no influence on this album.

M.I. - Your previous release “Arson” reached #29 in the German and #62 in the Austrian charts. How does this make you feel? Did you ever expect to achieve such “fame”? Does this put extra pressure on you for this album?

Not really! Those are just numbers, it can be just luck, you know? Maybe it was a week with not many releases! I don't dive into that topic too much, I think you shouldn't get pressured by sales numbers and just do the music that you want to do. If you start to get influenced by that and only try to write music that maybe sells better, then you're doing something wrong, so it had not really an impact in general. There is, of course, a bit of pressure because we want to create a great album and it's not getting easier after having released four albums previously, because we don't want it to sound the same or repeat ourselves, but it has nothing to do with the sales or the charts’ positions, you know? 

M.I. - “Maere” is a malicious folk entity that creeps up on sleeping people's chests during the night and instils breathlessness and anxiety. Tell us more about this folk entity. Why have you chosen it?

We looked for a word or a synonym that describes the overall mood of the album and the lyrics. Yes, many of the situations that our lyrics are dealing with have a nightmarish approach and we all know this feeling of waking up with this hard feeling on our chest. We thought that would be a good title for the album because it kinda describes a well-known feeling to us.

M.I. – J.J. has said the duo has evolved as musicians and songwriters… how so? Where does all the creativity come from? What inspires you?

I think you naturally mature! I mean, when we started, we were 21 and 23 years old, pretty much kids still and now we're around 30. I think it's natural that we're mature and that also when we're doing something for a longer time, like writing musical lyrics, you get more elaborated. For example, the lyrics are not so direct in the approach and also contain more metaphors, that gets a bit poetic! The same with the music, the songwriting gets a bit more mature and we are not shy to let other influences from non metal genres happen too. Also, the way we work together... we’ve known each other for a long time now, we understand each other as musicians and everything gets a bit easier to combine his work with my work. So, I think that's what he meant by this.

M.I. - And where do does all the creativity come from? What inspires you both?

Good question! Pretty much everything around, as I said, we use our music a lot as a personal catharsis to write something off our chest that is bothering us or makes us feel angry or sad, it's a good filter for us, you know? This is some kind of self therapy, so we try to take bad memories and channel them into something creative as music.

M.I. - Do you think it is as therapeutical as doing sessions with a psychologist or a psychiatrist? It's cheaper but...

Yeah and it's also a very different approach because you learn to deal it by yourself and, if you go to a psychiatrist, there's someone sitting there that gets paid by the hour and has some treatment, has to listen to people's problems every hour from another person, you know? That's also a thing that might not be helpful to everyone and I'm sure not every psychiatrist is a good one. And if they can help you, If you deal with your own problems and you write it down or try to translate it into music, I think it's  a nice way to learn to help yourself in a way and I think that's a good thing.

M.I. - Whenever you come across an idea for a song or riff, do you immediately write it down? Do you have a special notebook for that?

Well, later I know from J.J. that he always has his little book with him and when he has some lyric ideas, he usually writes it down right away or just talks it into his phone with the recording function. When i have an idea for a melody or for a riff, for example, sometimes it happens even at night… I just wake up and have something in my head and then I go to my computer and record it, so if I fall asleep again I might forget it. So, I try to write things down or even if it's only little ideas and then maybe review them later. If it's a good thing or if I can make a song out of it, I try to work on that.

M.I. - Most of your album covers feature some kind of animal… why?

I don't know! We just kept this kind of topic because we liked it, you know, using the aesthetics of the animals but with some connection to the music and lyrics. There's no particular reason for that, it's just something we kind of silently agreed upon, because we just liked how it looks, then it's mostly purely aesthetic.

M.I. – Yeah, but are you animal lovers, vegan or vegetarian? 

No, we are neither vegan nor vegetarian but we both like animals very much. 

M.I. - This cover reveals a “sheep” taking off its mask and turning into a wolf. Is that it? What’s its connection to the album?

Yeah, that's one way to interpret it. It can be just like the self skinning of an animal or the wolf in the sheep's clothing, you know? It's up to everyone by themselves to interpret what is behind it and I think it's a bit of the beauty of it, if you can make your own conclusions. But, of course, you can interpret it also that way, it's not always easy to show your true self, what bothers you and it is hard to bring this to the light of the day, if you know what I mean! 

M.I. - The band seems to have a strong penchant for strong and single words, hence the album titles. Do you think a title with one word may have a greater impact than a title with many? How do you choose them?

Our name is already pretty long, so we try to work with quite strong short words for the effort, for the album title. Yes, it's a thing that we do on purpose and that we will probably do for every album, as it has happened until now.

M.I. - “Maere" features some friends of the band, such as Alcest's frontman Neige, the anonymous voice of Gaerea, and, as session drummer, Kerim “Krimh“ Lechner (Septicflesh, live-Behemoth). How did the idea of inviting these artists come up?

Krimh already played on the last album, he’s just a fantastic drummer! As we are just a two-man band and he is a friend of ours and he does a fantastic job, we just tried it out the last album and it worked great, so we proceeded like that and I think we will do so in the future as well. With Neige as a guest vocalista... I mean, we were always big Alcest fans since before we started the band even and, over the years, we played festivals together, so we got to know him in person too and we became friends. It was an idea for a long time and we wanted to feature him and he agreed when we asked him. And we are very glad that worked out with Gaerea, they’re from Portugal too, right?

M.I. – Yes, yes! 

I knew the guys from the band for like four years now because my girlfriend was studying back then in Portugal and, whenever I was there, I met up with the guys and they were showing me around in Porto, for example. When their album came out, I really enjoyed the voice and I thought it would accompany the voice of our singer very well, you know? To have them both in the song! Yeah, I'm really happy it worked out, it's also great to work with friends.

M.I. - How did you decide to do a Placebo cover ‘Song To Say Goodbye‘? Are you fans? Have you believe you have done it justice?

Yes, of course, otherwise I wouldn't have done it. I'm a longtime fan of Placebo! I had three different songs that I wanted to cover but this song especially has also a lot of meaning to our singer so it was pretty obvious for us to do it. I think Placebo, in general, makes music that is quite comparable in what regards the moods of our music, so the melodies just fit very well, if we interpret it in our way and the lyrics fit well, so I hope we've done it justice. We just tried to interpret it in our way, so we tried to make the best out of it and I hoped it worked.

M.I. - The band has a policy of covering bands that don’t play black metal. Why is this? Do you think playing a song in the same musical style doesn’t make sense? If you were to cover one BM song, which one would it be? Why? Is there any other song you’d like to cover?

I think that's kind of boring because then you cannot change so much in your style. I think it's way more interesting if the melodies work and the lyrics fits the overall topic. There is so much interesting music outside of black metal, that maybe other people who listen to black metal don't know yet, so it is also great if you can make other people know music that you would usually not listen to. I think it's a way more interesting approach and that's why we decided to do it like this.

M.I. - What’s your personal favourite song of this album? Why?

That's a tough question! It actually changes a lot. I At the moment, because we have been rehearsing it, and it's a lot of fun to play live, it's “Us Against December Skies”. 

M.I. - This is the band’s fifth album which is released in the year that you celebrate your 10th anniversary. In order to celebrate both milestones, Harakiri for the Sky were supposed to do an extensive European headline tour. What are the plans now? 

Well, we plan to do it next year, in the beginning of next year… but nobody knows anything right now, how it will be then. We thought that by now we could play concerts already but everything is still a completely shut everywhere in the world. I cannot really make any predictions but I hope that, by the beginning of next year, we can play again, but it's tough to say nobody as knows when it will be possible, when everything will go back to normal.

M.I. - You are supposed to play in Vagos Metal Fest here in Portugal this year as well. The band has also a tour planned with Gaerea and Schammasch which has been postponed to 2022. What are the expectations?

It's hard to say because everything changes every week. I just know that, in Portugal, the situation got much worse and with a lot of deaths per week and nobody knows if we can even visit the country during summer or if we have to be vaccinated already. Here everything is super slow with the vaccination, and I really hope that it can happen somehow.

M.I. - The band has been with AOP Records ever since the first release… have you ever been “seduced” by another label? Why do you stick to AOP?

The owner of AOP became a great friend over the years, he's put much effort and we can trust him to move with everything practically. He does a great job! For example, all the additions, the way we want them, he doesn't interfere with our creativity, so there was never an issue and we are really happy with working with him. There were, of course, other labels that approached us as well but we never saw any reason to change because we are very happy with ours.

M.I. - The Austrian Black Metal scene is awesome. I think of Summoning, Dornenreich that started off as BM, Ellende… how do bands get along? Do you help each other out?

There are many young bands also and then those few like Summoning, but we're not really involved in the scene. You know, the Summoning guys are much older than us and we don't even know them personally. I think they're also not people who go to a lot of concerts. We've never been so much involved in the whole scene, we don’t go to metal bars and clubs and whatever, so I can't really say anything about it except that there are a few young bands that are really promising like Ellende, for example.

M.I. - Considering the number of years of activity, the band’s been very creative: 5 albums already. You say you think about music all the time. Is the band your fulltime job?

By now we are full-time musicians. Of course, sometimes when there are less concerts, we have some little jobs on the side and do something so that we have regular money coming in. But our main focus is on the band, that's our main work. So that's why the pandemic is also hitting very hard and it's tough to come by but it's not really possible to have a 40-hour job when we play 80 concerts a year... no boss would put up with that!

M.I. - MS, many thanks for your time to answer my questions. All the best for yourself and the band. Hope touring will be possible soon so that you can come and play in Portugal! Final words you’d like to share?

I want to thank you as well for the interview! It was really nice talking to you. Yes, I really hope we can come back to Portugal simply because I love that country and I've always liked being there, so I'm really looking forward to that! 

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca