World of Ice: A Conversation with Paysage d’Hiver
Paysage d'Hiver is the essence of winter. Cold, menacing, the core of black metal distilled into the purest sound of winter's might. The pet project of the enigmatic Tobias "Wintherr" Möckl, the frigid buzzing of this long-standing project, now closing out its twentieth year, is a difficult beauty. What is at first raw, if even harsh, masks a beauty beneath its whiteout winds. Influenced by "winterwanderings" in his youth, Wintherr's solo efforts paint winter as nostalgia, comfortably resting somewhere between the inhuman transcendence of cold and a projection of his own inner self.
In an interview conducted over the last quarter of 2017, which you can read below, Wintherr opened up about his own philosophies about life, music, and art. Suddenly, this distant character, the cloaked figure at the top of the mountain, is suddenly humanized and (unexpectedly) warm.
Paysage d'Hiver, as far as public knowledge is aware, is closing its twentieth year of existence. Having released hours and hours of music, each a stark statement all its own, does it feel like this project has been around for such a (relatively) immense length of time?
No, it doesn't at all. For me personally, Paysage d'Hiver is quite timeless. It represents a souljourney where time and space doesn't exist. Even though there is no other way possible than being a child of it's time, if it is to be put out into this world where time and space do exist. Which obviously is what happened, is happening and will happen.
As each is a "souljourney," does your soul exist in this icy place, something akin to the frigid Alpine winters?
This icy place, "Paysage d'Hiver", is my innerself. So is "the wanderer" and everything else in it. It's basically a journey within my inner self, through my inner self, towards my inner self. It's a kind of meditation, if you will.
As for why I choose this icy landscape: I always felt very comfortable in snowy winterlandscapes. It represents aspects which are also crucial within this meditation. It has this tranquil atmosphere, it seems like nature is asleep and this opens a door to insight. It almost demands to look inside yourself. The spiritual world gets closer to the world of the "living". It makes it easier to get in contact with the spiritual world. The absence of light also helps with this. From all our 5 physical senses, the eyes occupy about 70% of our resources for that matter. If you see less, you have more resources for other senses. If it is cold, you have less odour in the air. If there is snow, it dampens sounds. Summed up, it automatically gives room for using the 6th, or other non physical senses. I think it is crucial to deal with all these, in human perception usually rather "negative" aspects of inner coldness and darkness, in order to be able to develop.
To which destinations has the Wanderer arrived with each journey? Or are these journeys more formless and abstract?
Each demo/album (or whatever term fits best) is a chapter in the whole journey. So it's not several journeys, but one with different chapters. Each chapter has a specific meaning in my life. What you hear is basically the vibrations of another dimension within myself. It's a mirror image of what I experience on my soullevel, which is private and I don't want to share this publicly.
It wouldn't make much sense, because my personal idea of making those sounds publicly available was always to give other souls the possibility to make their own experiences with it. I am confident, that at least some people feel the depths and connect somehow. Connection through isolationism?
Though you expressed a desire to give people that chance at relating to your music, is making it public ever difficult?
Very. That's why I released the first six tapes all at once. I waited because of personal reasons. After a while I'm able to have a bit more distance which makes it easier to have it available for...well, complete foreigners.
Has your general social isolation (lack of interviews, no live performances, generally self-releasing material) helped maintain this isolation? Does it go further?
Actually having the material released did disturb quite a bit. On one hand I appreciate that people enjoy Paysage d'hiver. On the other hand it makes it quite difficult for me to be able to sink down inside myself and continue the ritual, because I do feel some sort of expectational pressure. If real or not, I don't know.
I mean people always judge new work of an "artist" with what she or he has released before. I used to be not any different, one of the reasons why I started to make music by myself: Artists didn't do what I expected of them. So I had no other choice, than doing it by myself.
Of course, releasing six demos/"albums" all at once took away that possibility, and that was an advantage I of course don't have nowadays.
After Das Tor, I just had to get some distance to be able to have at least some of this pressure released off my shoulders. It worked.
So I try to keep a sane sort of isolation, but it does not go further than that. I don't live in the woods in an old wooden cottage (as some people might expect), but quiet and calm in a medieval house nearby the woods.
Given the cult status you've attained in black metal circles and the uncomfortable feelings you carry, do you feel any regret with having these initially private recordings released? Would you have released them at all if you knew you would develop such an influential presence?
Oh, well, I have no idea of any cult status. I know that there are some people who respect the work of Paysage d'hiver, but I have no idea of how many and to what extent. Sometimes I get some feedback which I appreciate, simply because I'm a very curious and interested person in general.
The most powerful of all the feedbacks I received so far was from a young woman from Italy, who told me that Einsamkeit saved her from committing suicide. This alone made it totally worth it for me personally for having it released.
If I ever really had a goal in having it released, or rather a wish concerning the possible audience, it was for inspiration, or being influential if you will. I think this might be the case for some people.
Even if it was and still is difficult to give a broader audience access to Paysage d'hiver, it just didn't and still doesn't feel right to keep it to myself.
Back in the days, when I made the decision "to go public", I asked myself the question: How would I feel like if something as important for me as for instance the first three Ulver-Albums would've been recorded, but not released?
So maybe, Paysage d'hiver might be as important to a few people as this Ulver-Example was for me (other examples would be possible. Vikingligr Veldi, Hvis lyset tar oss, etc...). Even if it's only six people who would appreciate, having it released would be worth it. Not for self-gaining purposes, but for the experience these people otherwise wouldn't have been able to perceive. That thought answered my question if I should go public or not.
So: No, I don't regret.
That fan story is really powerful. I guess you don't really hear about black metal preventing self destruction... ever. Or any sort of destruction. It's always been such a dark genre, and I don't think people expect reclusive artists within that blanket style to feel that sort of connection to people. Though you retain the isolation which we discussed earlier, do you feel separated from black metal's outward darkness, as well?
Difficult question, as simple as it may seem.
Darkness is a vital part of black metal, but what is darkness? For me personally, the darkness in Black Metal always had to do a lot with archaic energies and the raw aspects of nature on one side, and a way of dealing with the dark aspects of the inner self on the other side. So, something very natural, but also something that is being avoided as much as possible by the majority of the people, because it feels uncomfortable. Understandably, people want to feel comfortable and try to avoid uncomfortable situations as much as possible -- I'm not any different.
Especially in the so called "Western", capitalistic societies, where we are constantly confronted with a view of life of happiness through consuming all sorts of products. What we brand as "developed countries" means "more separated". Which basically is the sense that lies in the word "diabolic".
In my opinion, it is very important to deal with the deeper meanings of whatever feels uncomfortable. Because that's where the things that you should look at lay. The deeper things that yearn for transformation.
Depression, for instance, shows this very clearly. It's something which is generally perceived as something dark, almost normal in these Western / capitalistic societies and the numbers of people suffering from it are increasing. So, just maybe, it's not consuming goods and lifestyles that make us happier.
Everything has a deeper meaning and a deeper sense. So, you can listen [to] what it has to say, instead of pushing it away, because it feels uncomfortable. What I have learned from depression is this: there is something you have to look at, understand and transform. So, from this perspective, depression is not something negative or dark, it is a helping hand. Even if it feels negative, dark and paralysing.
Once you understand things like this example I just gave you, you see that basically everything is neutral. Dualism doesn't exist. But yet we live in a world of polarities, indeed!
So what's the difference between dualism and polarity?
For example: how do you define darkness? By absence of light. How do you define light? By absence of darkness? No. Light IS. You either have light, or you don't. If you don't, then you have darkness.
Another example: health. How do you define health? By absence of disease? You have hundreds of diseases, but only one health. Health just IS. It's perfect in itself. If you are whole, you are healthy, and if something is amiss, then you have a disease or diseases. So, diseases are always a helping hand to bring you back to your inner equilibrium. But, yes, usually they are very unpleasant up to the point of leading to death, because something that is "out of order" is not able to function.
How do you define order? How do you define chaos?
If there would only be chaos, nothing would exist. Chaos is not a lack of order, it's nothingness. Because nothing can exist without order.
A perfect sample of how the cosmic order of things work, are snowflakes. Just look at them. No flake looks the same, but yet they follow a very specific pattern, otherwise we wouldn't be able to perceive them as snowflakes. Same goes for plants, silver fir for example. Each of those trees are clearly identifiable as a silver fir, but yet each of them grows [differently]. Individual. And so it is with everything, us human beings included. We are part of a "higher order", thus clearly identifiable as human and still individual and diverse at the same time. We might know much, but nobody has deciphered this code so far.
This leads me to: everything is energy. Energy is information. What is it that informs a tree, or a snowflake, or a human being to take this or that form? DNA? It's proven that the DNA can be changed by thought, so this can't be it, it's rather another manifestation of the code. There must be some sort of source. Quantum physics is a very interesting topic there.
If the core question of physics is: [w]hat is the physical world made of, what is the smallest part, the Atomos of which everything physical is built upon and you go smaller and smaller and smaller...and discover, that there is ever, endlessly something smaller to discover about the core of the physical world. And then you have found the Atom, only to find out that first of all, there are even smaller parts, no Atom ever touches another atom and that an atom consists of 99.999999.....% well… space… or something we don't know yet. Why even consider to look at the 0.01111111.....% of actual physical material? So the physical world consists of what now? Is it even there, or is it simply an illusion? The smaller you go with the materialistic world, the more it vanishes into nothing...and leaves only energy / information in the end.
Quantum physics has a different approach: that everything is aligned to a higher order. If you have a molecule, the atoms it consists of follow the higher order of the molecule. The molecule follows the order of what it represents. And so on. So it doesn't go into finding the smallest part, it doesn't go down, it goes up. Same thing, different perspective.
So you have smaller parts, that follow the bigger picture. That's order. It's a neutral order. And it's mainly information, which is energy. So if you don't have any energy or information, you have chaos.
(That's what physicists called "morphogenetic field" or by Jung "collective unconsciousness".) For instance, each cell of our body has a measurable amount of energy. Which is around 70 millivolts, if I remember correctly. Researchers have found out, that if this energy drops to 15 millivolts or lower, cells start to mutate and are able to develop what we call cancer. So this is basically a lack of information.
Now this gives a picture of a sort of "hierarchy". The lower plain has no possibility of imagining the higher plain above. If you are a 2D being, you have no imagination of the 3D world. According to Burkhard Heim's theory, there are 12 plains. We are 3D or 4D (time and space) at the most. So we human beings have no possibility to imagine the 5th plain or above. This is where most likely, this "Morphogenetic field" or "information field" is to find.
So maybe, in the end, darkness and light is simply nothing more than information / energy, or the absence of it.
Another thing being perceived as "dark" is Occultism. The meaning of it is: The things that are in the dark, meaning the things you don't have access to, which you are not able to see or perceive, thus, metaphorically speaking: in the dark. The initial idea is to gain knowledge and consciousness, in other words bring light into the things that are in the dark, hidden, not visible, not perceivable. Many things that used to be "occult" in old times are common knowledge nowadays. So occultism isn't something dark per se. I think we just perceive things of the unknown as threatening and fearful and thus as dark and negative. But what do we really fear? Isn't it simply the fear that our view of the world could be shattered by some new knowledge or consciousness? That definitely is fearsome, but also a necessary "evil" to be able to progress.
We tend to have the idea that we are superior in our knowledge nowadays, that we are enlightened. If you think, that we only know not even one millionth about of how the human body really works, I think there is still pretty much in the dark, being "occult" (so nothing "bad" or "evil" about occultism in general. It's neutral). With the other universe, the outer universe, it's not any different. We might know much, but still only a fraction of what is out there to know. So there's still a lot in the dark and a lot to fear.
There is a universal order, a universal energy and a universal field of information. All is one but still individual at the same time.
So this is all about consciousness and development.
All being said here and now is where I am at the moment. I will progress and develop, so it might very well be, that I will change my view in the future.
To get back to your question: I don't feel separated from Black Metal's outward darkness. But I am separated from its superficial late night show sort of negativity. I am not a negative person at all.
There have been many discussions about how to exactly define Black Metal. Does it have to be satanic (whatever that means is another topic), is it simply a specific style of music? Or some mixture of both? Heathen? Anti-Christian? Anti-Establishment?
My personal opinion: It's a music style, but not only. It wants something: It wants to deal with darkness. It wants you to deal with darkness or dark topics as a listener or creator and thus plays a vital part as a form of art in our society, which tends to try to ban any dark aspects in order to be "happy". Which is not possible, because darkness is natural and a part of nature of which we are also part of. Black metal gives it a voice and possibility to confront darkness, deal with it and maybe also understand it. Art in general is a very good way of dealing with unpleasant topics, it mirrors the soul. Black metal does this specifically with darkness. I think our society is in need of a different mindset, a different way of how to look at things, because it's important that we all do deal with the dark aspects within ourselves and in our surrounding in order to progress (which is the only thing being constant). It's something natural and simply avoiding it doesn't make it go away. Thus, the more we try to ignore it, the louder it will speak. So maybe black metal is a sort of much needed "health program" for our societies, and maybe this is also why it is so loud! Sound-wise and aesthetic wise.
If you deal with darkness, you will inevitably bring light to it, because you will gain knowledge and become more conscious. So as a consequence, this "concept" of darkness in black metal will die at some point. Unless there is infinite darkness.
I have brought in a lot of light in Paysage d'Hiver up to now. Something like Schattengang will not be possible in the future. Unless I open another very dark gate within myself, which is definitely possible.
What I have learned within the years of getting to know people who are into Black Metal is that they have something in common, which is: To exactly have this intuitive urge to deal with this darkness inside them and in the outside world (which follows the one cosmic principle of "what is inside, is outside and vice versus"), everybody into black metal has something very dark inside of them they have to deal with. And they often come to love it. So another crucial part of black metal is love. Nobody would do it nor listen to it, if it wouldn't be for love for it, a deep connection to it. You can try to be as negative as possible how much you want, it won't change that fact.
I do love black metal. This is the main reason why I am stylistically doing what I am doing with Paysage d'Hiver.
I listen to a lot of other music too, though.
I can certainly see you've spent a lot of time thinking about what shapes your art -- the underlying philosophies, the ontological structures, the values you hold -- but what strikes me the most is still the humanistic element of you holding the well-being of a fan so dear that you feel it fuels your project. Though I guess the public school of thought behind Paysage d'Hiver is more of a cross-section of transcendentalism and post-modernity -- a friend described the music as "the sound of winter melancholy if you put a recording device in a forest" -- the idea of a humanistic drive and eventual inspiration is unexpected. Do you feel, across your clearly defined thoughts on darkness, light, dualism, value, aesthetics, et cetera, that humanism has become this eventuality of your music?
Paysage d'Hiver is about me, myself and I at first place. So it's a totally egocentric view.
The black metal-world I had the possibility to inhale in the early 1990s was a world where only I was able to dive in. It was a world within myself, where only I existed and nobody else had any kind of access. That's the kind of feeling it gave me. Even though, of course, there were other people listening to the same music and most likely quite some of them had a similar feeling how I did. It was something very deep. More than "just" music. So Paysage d'Hiver is my personal vision of black metal (and musically/stylistically also of other music). As I was not satisfied with what directions the bands who invoked this feeling in me took, as nobody seemed to be able to embody my vision or be "true" to it, I just had to do it by myself. My vision was very strong and what I did with Paysage d'Hiver is trying to give life to this vision, and perfect it.
The reason why the scenery for this vision is mainly winter, forests and mountains is simply because I always felt a strong connection to it, also when I was a child. And emotionally I always connected black metal with this scenery. I had many walks in the winterly mountain-forests with this music in my "walkman" (someone still remembers?) back in the days.
"The sound of winter melancholy if you put a recording device in a forest" describes it quite well. I would only be more precise about the recording device: A shitty tape recorder. Not possible to put up a whole studio in this environment without killing the atmosphere you actually try to capture. Paysage d'hiver is being made "out there", the perfect environment to have this very intimate and meditative moment with you, yourself and you. And of course with yourself too.
The humanistic part lies in the decision I made to have it available to a broader audience: If Paysage d'Hiver has a positive effect, even if it is only one or two people, this decision to have it released, is totally worth it.
I mean, why else should I release something that personal? For pure narcissism and/or greed? That's not who I am. Both, the ego and money, are insanely overrated (another topic). It's not what life is about. And Paysage d'Hiver is about life. My life. My innerself. But definitely not in a narcissistic way. I am not separated, even though I quite often feel like it. I do have a connection with everything. Thus "Humanistic" doesn't quite grasp it, because it's not only about human beings, but basically everything that "is": It's about life.
Sure the reactions of people towards Paysage d'Hiver have an influence on me, I can't avoid that. But it's not what fuels my "project".
You mentioned the idea of winter and solitary wanderings in the snow as a child fueling what would eventually become the icy focus of Paysage d'Hiver in your adult life. Though the project appears to be something more zen and meditative in the way you explain it, does that nostalgic feel still make its way through when writing, recording, and ultimately revisiting these works?
Oh yes, absolutely. These are still very intense memories, very much alive. It's this whole atmosphere, the pictures, smells, sounds, feelings...hard to explain, but I think everyone who has experienced it, will know exactly what I mean.
It's not only nostalgic -- I still go outside in the snow if it's possible.
The sound is certainly nostalgic, a constant hearkening back to the project's public impetus. Always raw, uncompromising, atmospheric. This year has certainly had that "early Paysage d'Hiver" feel, if just for the volume of releases. Though "Schnee (III)", in at least one of its forms, had been made public through your MySpace page a decade or so ago, it's been eighteen years since Paysage d'Hiver released more than one demo, album, or song within a year's time, and the amount of splits is unprecedented as your only split releases prior to 2017 were with Lunar Aurora and Vinterriket. What led to this happening? Was it intended? Could you tell me a little more about the split with Nordlicht?
The split LP with Nordlicht was actually planned for many years and the songs featured were composed for this specific purpose. Somehow, both Nimosh and I just had too much stuff going on in our lives, so this release didn't really make any progress.
It really got a kick when I was asked to do a split release with Drudkh. For me, I thought it to be a bit strange to have "Schnee (lV)" released before "Schnee (lll)". Thus it was quite natural to finally push this release.
To answer your question: No it wasn't planned that way. It was kind of logical due to the aforementioned reason.
About the "Schnee"-theme:
I like observing one aspect from different angles. Theoretically, you have 360° of possible angles to observe or experience something. Usually, people focus on something specific and therefore usually only get to know 1° or even less of the full spectrum. It's what we have been taught, to focus on something as narrow and into a specific detail as much as possible. The one who's best in it gets a reward. It's quite narrow; of course, if you want to focus on something, it has to be narrow. A world full of specialists. But to get the wider picture and really understand things, a wider perspective is actually mandatory. Or have several different approaches from different angles at least.
So, with the Schnee-theme, it's an attempt to look at this one specific "thing" from different angles. Which also includes different time periods. "Schnee (l)" was recorded in 1999 or 2000, "Schnee (lV) was recorded in 2016.
The plan is to have all Schnee-songs released as one album on CD-format (and maybe tape). So, to have the vinyl format for the splits, but the CD format (and probably the tape format) for the summary of all these different perspectives.
Of course, to be able to have this summary, the "Schnee"-cycle has to come to an end. It's very much possible that this is the case now. I'm not 100% sure yet, though.
"Schnee (lll)" was the first song for Paysage d'Hiver that I recorded with a PC-based system. Everything before that was recorded on an 8-tracker, so this was quite a difficult step for me. With an 8-tracker, you don't have a big screen, so no optical diversion is possible. With a computer, you constantly have this diversion. As the optics/eyes are the one of the human senses which demands the most room in brain-processing of all the senses (about 70% of all the 5 senses), it is much more difficult to really focus on the inner self. I think this is quite crucial for a lot of music nowadays. I mean, technical innovations revolutionized music in general -- there would be no Black Metal as we know it without it, there would be no distorted guitars, there would be no electrical instruments available at all.
Working with a computer makes things a lot easier, but, on the other hand, it also makes certain things more difficult. With this song, I had to deal with a new surrounding. The 8-tracker was dying, so I was forced to look for an alternative. As I already had experience with computer based recording, this was the natural decision.
This answer is probably not what you were referring to, but this was the most profound difference at that time.
Aside from visual distraction and new surrounding, what other difficulties did you face when adapting the Paysage d'Hiver sound to this new technology? You had self-effacingly described your music as having a "shitty tape recorder" sound, so I can infer that the death of your 8-track recording device must have posed a great problem. There must have been more than a few challenges in intentionally re-creating the signature, very lo-fi sound aesthetic with this sudden increase in processing power.
The difficulty really is the screen. It wasn't the first time for me to work with a computer with recording, so I already had experience with this surrounding. With Paysage d'Hiver, it was just much more difficult to bring the innerself together with the technology. Simply because Paysage d'Hiver is so much based on an inside view.
I mean, you can still record with 8 tracks on a computer, even if you have theoretically unlimited tracks at hand. And the other surrounding, like instruments and effects didn't change.
I think the result on "Schnee (lll)" is quite the same as in older songs. Das Tor was quite bigger productionwise. More tracks, more programming of simple automations like fades, for instance. I am very satisfied with the result. Very much like the old recordings, but slightly better. With the 8-tracker, everything was handmade. No automations where possible. I spent hours and hours of mixing just to get the perfect mixdown, especially with these rather long songs. If you make a mistake in the end of a song, you have to start all over again. Or even the whole album, like Kerker with all the ambient in the background.
Nowadays, people might laugh about my methods back then. Automation was just not available on that level!
It was such a relief to have the possibility for automations. That was really the biggest gain compared to the 8-tracker. So, even though the screen can really mess with how you create music, I wouldn't want to go back.
For the lo-fi-aesthetic, it's just really about the vision.
With "Schnee (lV)", I'm not that happy. I was under pressure timewise so I didn't have time to find a distance to the whole thing. I got lost in the mix and that's also how it sounds. I did not find the balance I wanted to have between listenable and freezing cold "white noise". I think the song is one of the best Paysage d'Hiver tracks, but the "production" could be....well...colder. More "lo-fi", if you want. For me: more winter-atmosphere. The Paysage d'hiver-sound has so many disturbing frequencies, if you try to pull them all out of the mix, you end up with...nothing.
Isn't this "metal" in general? Distorted guitars are meant to be disturbing. Initially that was the whole idea, wasn't it? How does that co-op with a "nice production"?
Raw and dirty it has to be! That's my vision. Because there is so much energy and magic in this disturbing distorted sound. It triggers your own imagination. Like in a blizzard, where you can't really see anything but a blur. You are forced, to use other senses than your eyes.
The same as with winterly-mountain-forests, I was fascinated of the sound of distorted guitars, as a kid. Just the sound itself, not necessarily the music-style of Heavy Metal. This sound was and still is pure magic for me.
I want to have this magic as pure as possible, because it's the essence. When producing, the tendency is to take the magic away. The price to be paid for being listenable.
It's difficult to find the right balance between being listenable and this magic of the sound of distortion.
You can easily destroy an actually really good record with the wrong production.
So, going to a studio was not an option for me, because I wanted to have control of the sound.
In producing music, there are certain optimums that have shown to be the way to go. The problem is: It might be nice for your ears, but as these production-knowledges are global, everything kind of sounds the same in the end. My vision was to have a distinctive sound. To have something unique. Something that you will remember, as a whole. This includes the way it sounds. The sound is a consciously used tool to paint the picture I want to bring to life. If you have a global way of how to produce things, basically it means that you have to leave that path and do something "wrong" to have a unique sound.
Fine with me if it isn't as pleasant for the ears as it could be.
Paysage d'Hiver is meant to invoke something in the inner self, because that's where it comes from. Use your imagination, be yourself, get to know yourself, follow your path!
You can compare it to movies and books. Which of both has the bigger possibility of invoking pictures within yourself? Well, a movie usually is much more sex to your eyes than an alignment of black letters on white paper, which is something very abstract. It's your mind translating this abstract black and white into whole worlds and universes which no movie will ever be able to capture. And that is what a "bad" production can do. Doesn't necessarily, but also not every book does that. So the sound of Paysage d'Hiver is more like a book, invoking these "pictures" in your mind, compared to a movie, which will never be able to have the same depth as a book, even if it appears sexier to your senses.
Imagine Paysage d'Hiver with a "high-end-Dimmu-Style-production". Wouldn't work. Same music. Same riffs and melodies. Not possible.
I wonder how newer Dimmu Borgir would sound with a Paysage d'hiver-like-"production"... I guess you would only be able to hear a third of what's actually going on, but it would definitely be much more intense emotionally and atmospherically, I'm sure. Because it would trigger your imagination far more with its harshness.
But maybe that's just me. Otherwise everybody would have a Paysage d'Hiver-sort-of-"production". On the other hand, every iconic band has a distinctive sound. Of course, this can also be the vocals, certain kind of riffing, etc, but the production is a vital part of the overall experience and in my opinion this has still not the attention it deserves. Distorted guitars should stay distorted/harsh, otherwise you can just as well do something else…
Do you feel more black metal artists could benefit from the lo-fi aesthetic, production, and sound?
Yes, I think so. Something like Urgehal's Rise of the Monument, or Old Wainds/Nav's We Are the North, for example: Very raw, dirty and extreme. This transports a lot more of the grim and cold emotions than any "good" production. Of course, it should still be listenable. If you really can't hear what's going on anymore, it doesn't make much sense either of course.
As someone who has so staunchly held onto the raw, lo-fi tenets of black metal, why do you think so many bands have opted for clarity and polished production over the years?
I can only speculate about that.
The longer you are active as a musician, the more you automatically get to know about audio production. This is inevitable. You also become more professional, your ears are more trained and thus your whole appearance towards music changes and enhances. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it more difficult to do things deliberately "bad". You just always want the maximum possible for your music, your baby. It's just very difficult to destroy it deliberately, even for black metallers, as it seems. [laughs].
But maybe it's just because people are getting older and thus shift into their comfort zone.
Or maybe it's because they want to sell more albums?
Or maybe it's very simple: they just like polished productions. A matter of taste.
Is there any advice you would want to offer to anyone who might want to venture into creating black metal of their own?
I don't mean this in any religious way, but as in an extreme form of passion, but I guess this goes for anything you do and want to be successful in (personally or commercially).
Have a strong vision of what exactly you want to describe with your music. Music is picturesque, the clearer your vision is, the more precise you will be with the atmosphere you create.
It's not only about music. The whole appearance is important: texts, artwork, logo, name, production, the sound of the distortion used, vocals and the melodies/riffs are all equally important.
It helps to find your very own and unique way if you think about these things before you even start with writing the first note. It helps if you have a clearly drawn picture in your mind you can dive into for creating music.
For me, it was very clear to have a winter-concept already way before I had any name for the project. I always connected black metal mainly to Winter, that's the simple reason. I had a very strong vision of black metal and only got disappointed by the black metallers back in the time, so I had no other choice than transfer my vision into reality by myself.
Follow Paysage d'Hiver on Bandcamp.