Why We Do What We Do: Heather Wasteland

heather

Heather Wasteland (Χερσόνησος, 3-bass Heretical Folk Art horde created by Cimmerian metalheads in neo-medieval metal way) was founded in the spring of 2001. The group’s distinctive features were their two-bass line-up with a drummer, as well as an intended refuse to use guitars.

H.W. existed until the spring of 2002, having managed to play only 2 gigs. Their debut 12-minute performance created a furor owing to the music itself and the unrestrained energy at the stage that moved the bored crowd. The group became a discovery of the festival, and a concert photo of the raging front man was published in a very conservative newspaper. So, the group remained memorable long after the show.

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Any initiative has its reason, the reason that we even do not try to comprehend in most cases. Therefore, the subject of the essay “Why We Do What We Do” is both simple, and extremely complicated.

Any captivating pursuit gives us delight, furnishes the clue to cognition of the inner world and the world around, shows the true value of this pursuit in our life and shows our role at least in our own artificially created Universe. Moreover, certainly, often we do such kind of things in defiance of common sense, material wealth and established public opinion. More often, it is just the other way round, when a person considers his delight to be a senseless whim, just because it does not give any financial benefit. It is no secret that a desire to remain a part of a human herd is also inherent in the human being, as well as a desire to stand out from the crowd.

I remember well a senior companion from the late 80’s trying to convince me that my interest in hard music would pass away soon. Really, sooner or later the majority of my schoolmates lost their interest in this, and the only reason why was their attitude to this or that musical style as a freak of fashion with its utilitarian function to win the favor of their get-together environment. “Tough guys” made tape-recording of something extreme just to be treated as “ones of the gang”, trading records with other “cool kids on the block”. They also recorded different compilations of metal ballads for girls, because in this case they got more chances to engage a pleasant girl for a slow dance (knowing about her musical preferences).

In school days, I had not many friends. Music was my best friend, and, thanks to my elder brother, there was an opportunity to find the music suitable for any mood. Music became a kind of the mirror reflecting my emotions, and this feeling could be compared to empathy.

The musical fashion changed, but in 30 years nothing changed in this matter for me. My interest in the mentioned subject did not disappear. On the contrary, my horizons of perception just extended. I was not a fan of jazz, avant-garde, classics or folk music, but hard music showed me their elements, and I found many things very interesting. Perception of new elements bordered upon a peculiar brainstorming and sometimes I shared my ideas with some friends or different band mates. Phrases like “it doesn’t work that way”, “that will not do” and “what’s the use of it?” In 5 – 10 years, I found the incarnation of such ideas in foreign groups and sincerely rejoiced that the Muse, soaring in the Noosphere, shared these ideas with those who did not wave away from them, but embodied them in their sound sceneries.

I gathered my first group together with my college mate in 1990. We had unbearably infernal instruments, and no one of us knew for sure how and what to play, and, of course, we were constantly expelled from all rehearsal rooms. Among others, we had such rehearsal rooms as an event hall in a bachelorette-type hostel, a school radio room, someone’s garage or a usual flat in an apartment building. The reasons for our exiles were fabulous: some normal people complained to the hostel manager about the fact that “janitors gave permission to the funeral command to rehearse some marches full of grief, and some impressionable young mothers (living in the hostel) lost their ability to breast-feed their babies”. From a school radio room we were expelled upon the pretext that someone of us (as may be supposed) could be involved in an impudent night theft of four loaves of bread from the school cafeteria. However, I suspect, the exile was caused by the other fact: in the radio room, early in the morning, we found an unfinished bottle of vodka and a body of a dead-drunk gentleman (a boyfriend of this educational institution’s employee). “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” (c)

At the outset of my musical career, suddenly having turned into a newcomer with some ambitions, I did not gain worldly goods and love of crowned fair ladies, but occupied special attention of the local hoodlums and vigilant neighbors suspecting me of being a drug addict, a representative of non-standard gender identity, a supporter of misanthropic ideology and an adherent of a dangerous religious cult. My long hair, t-shirts showing unfriendly and ugly faces of different monsters, as well as an electric guitar, became a kind of a peculiar catalyst increasing the aggressive or benevolent attitude of people around towards my modest personality. Therefore, this process of cognition of the world turned into the most fascinating quest which could result in bodily injuries, a visit of a district police officer or, on the contrary, heart to heart conversations with those who were capable to estimate my persistence to overcome some thorny paths.

It has been said, that those who do not manage to become musicians, become musical critics. For the first time I was found amidst musical journalists at the beginning of the 90’s. In the beginning I dealt with D.I.Y. underground ‘zines, then with some central city newspapers, and finally with glossy magazines of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The more professional my style became, the farther I avoided my music, devoting my spare time to writing the articles and reviews.

The cause was not my journalistic activity, but affaire d’amour, marriage bonds and parental cares for own children, as well as some obligations to the groups I ran as a manager and a kind of fear of… solfeggio (Rudiments of Music) which struck me, when my (ex-)wife tried to give me solfeggio lessons. Just as I attempted to realize my own music from a point of the musical theory, it resulted in a way of “the centipede effect” from a well-known anecdote. A centipede was asked in what sequence it puts legs after stepping with, for example, the 39th leg. After that, the centipede was lost in thoughts and forgot how to go at all. Trying to analyze my own music, I ceased the way of feeling it without analysis. I understand that this is absolute nonsense for the majority of musicians, but it became my reality to be dragged on almost for 15 years. The way of in-depth scrutiny killed a visionary in me. At first, I ceased to play, because the new music (previously sounding in my thoughts and dreams) ceased to sound in my mind. Then I ceased to play my old music.

Oh, well, I dedicated all this time not only to my ex-wife and my children, but also to musical journalism, poetic translations of songs and promotion of friendly bands. One’s money cannot buy such experience. For the sake of this, it was worth changing the kind of activity. All these years, listening to my close friends’ music, I did not envy, but felt a kind of Tantalus’ torments. I managed to help almost all my close friends to find labels and release their albums translating their lyrics for CD booklets, interviewing them for glossy magazines. I knew how to promote a band, and I was eager to play my music, but was not ready to do it again.

Nevertheless, at the turn of 2013, I declared my management activities terminated. Right there, as fate willed it, I was involved in the organization of the Ukrainian mini-tour of Newton Schner Jr., a piano player (LEBENSESSENZ, Brazil) also known due to his activity with some black metal bands. Midnight conversations concerning the music and life convinced me that I met a spiritual brother who was able estimate my music I was still able to play, and understand my problems with “solfeggio phobia” in the best way possible.

Then the series of extremely unpleasant events took place in my life. All these things indicated that one of the very few things, which I could not doubt, was the music. Namely, the music showed that I did not just exist, but did live in spite of all circumstances. Then HEATHER WASTELAND’s reunion followed. Household disorders, ex-wife’s office romance, divorce, my health issues, living apart from my children, outrageous lie, false friends, treachery, my father’s road traffic death, my close friend’s murder, my mother’s tragic death. None of the above disappeared from my life, but the music brought back my visionary-like attitude to life, to the world, and to my music opening the gates to other dimension, when creative process began. In the late evening, after hours, after home scandals, in the dead of night, after all awful tragedies.

During recording in the studio we had everything but a flood: the sound card’s failure, a new sound card purchasing with protracted delays because of economic sanctions imposed by the international community, 3-month winter blackout because of a terrorist attack (we had electric energy for 2 – 4 hours per day), and even a fire – our sound engineer did not perish only thanks to a sudden visit of his friend. Yeah, for some reasons, the studio computers were buggy and had their glitches only during our EP mixing. In addition, I would like to mention that the metronome went finally mad during the shooting of our video for “Under the Red Wolfish Moon”.

By the way, when I was writing this essay, I was informed that a box with our debut EP, which was sent from the factory, was handed over to an unknown addressee by mistake, but this addressee was found by our representative just by a lucky accident.

There is no need to look for mystic reasons in all of these events. Nevertheless, even our sound engineer, an atheist and a skeptic, cannot explain the reasons of all the glitches at his studio and at his place namely with our recording.

It is somewhat ironic but I realized the value of own creativity (at least for myself personally and for those who treated my music as something important in their life) only after HEATHER WASTELAND’s reunion as a three-bass Heretical Folk Art horde created by Cimmerian metalheads. I cannot but just do what I do. Even if it sounds grandiloquently, I would like to affirm that I have always been more interested in a role of the music in my artificially created Universe instead of my role in the global musical Universe. It is the reason why I do what I do. Moreover, it is the reason why we do what we do as HEATHER WASTELAND. At least it concerns those heretics who are ready to look at this world with not blinkered eyes of a visionary – for the sake of a touch to the Sacral and the Unknown. Following this Way is more important than longing for the Journey’s end. Vita brevis, Ars longa!

In October of 2014, the band was reunited with their original line-up, but also recruited a 3rd bassist. H.W.’s music is marked by the uncommon approach to folk metal, and interest in obscure or “forbidden” topics of pre-christian and medieval periods of European history, often in the esoteric context. On Samhain of 2016 H.W. digitally released their debut instrumental EP “Under The Red Wolfish Moon”

The digipak CD release is scheduled on Yule of 2016. All EP tracks are already included in several CD- and digital compilations. The first official video “Tre Sverd” turned in a good score of views at Youtube and other social medias, and exceeded 10 thousand views in total over three months. The video is also included in a DVD-compilation of Terroraiser Magazine (Ukraine).

At certain stages of the musical formation, in spite of their various musical preferences, the heretics of Heather Wasteland came in touch with the technical death metal classics, as well as with progressive metal and even jazz. Although an average fan will hardly find any influences of these styles in Heather Wasteland’s music, it found a reflection in some heretical views on the idea of experimental “Cimmerian folk metal”, which would incorporate neofolk and medieval elements. Due to this precise “heretical” reason, the group describes their style as “Heretical Folk Art.”

AR (one of the band’s founders, the composer of “Under The Red Wolfish Moon”) says that Evol, Cruachan, early In the Woods, Bathory (of Viking period), and Burzum (of ambient period) were sources of his inspiration, and the band concept was influenced by Ancient Rites.

EP track titles have their thematic reference to different periods of time and different places of Western Europe. If you take a look at it through the lens of the little-known historical facts concerning Cimmeria-Taurida, no contradictions will be found, because archaeological, linguistic and cultural heritage of Celts, Normans, Greeks, Goths, Genoeses are still alive on the shores of Πόντορ Ἄξενορ. Ley lines, Opuk’s runic stone, the ruins of the Genoa fortresses, the Crimean Gothia’s Celtic place names and some little-known artifacts, which are associated with taboo subjects of history, enable us to draw some logically relevant analogies with the better known subjects.

AR: “Sometimes the closely spaced subjects may be considered from a far distance only, and, having called the Muses, the heretics of Heather Wasteland have left the rocks of the Inhospitable Sea and set out on the travels through the space and time.

Having cut the rising blood-red waves of Hafrsfjord by the steel of our strings, we will behold the faces of Úlfhéðnars in the sea foam…. Driven by the Red Moon’s ghostly shining we will turn into those whom the Dark Ages’ autos-da-fe are very glad… but neither their flame, nor the Runemeisters’ Wolf-Hooks are destined to chain us. We will disappear in the centuries to return to other place. Let the riot of carnival colours on the gray quays of the Venetian channels will become such incarnation! Though, what kind of faces is hidden under our masks? It is doubtful that you will discern them – these bright-colour costumes of jugglers will suddenly turn to shapeless garments, and the actors themselves, having just begun to juggle with their torches, vanish in the night. In your mind’s eye some visions will appear… Though, no!… These fires are neither the ones of Walpurgis night of the Dark Ages, nor the Inquisition’s autos-da-fe. Those are the forgotten fires of the Vernal Equinox of the barbarous Caledonia, this high one is a Summer Solstice flame of the Wicker Man… and his uninvited guests writhe in the death throes in his belly… Yeah! Let there shine the Red Wolfish Moon again!”

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All parts of string, wind and keyboard instruments are played using a 6-string bass with a midi pick-up through a guitar synth. Studio arrangements of all tracks are identical to their concert versions. In the spring of 2016 H.W. recorded a neo-medieval cover of the song “Personal Energy” for the official international tribute CD of PESTILENCE (the Netherlands, jazz/death metal). A chorus of growling trolls was recorded by Ind (GRENOUER, TARTHARIA).
Currently the band is an international project, and it is not an instrumental project anymore. The forthcoming album is almost recorded, and participation of some legendary singers is already confirmed, although the band is still keeping in secrecy their names.
In September of 2016 the band parted company with Alexander and Andrey due to the inability to keep on the full-grown joint concert activity and divergence of views towards the band conception. Nevertheless, the joint studio work on the 1st full-length album is carried out with the same line-up. The rest of the band’s line-up is working on the new material and looking for two bass players for the concert activity.

Heather Wasteland is:
Anatoliy Polovnikov – drums
Sergey AR Pavlov – 4-string bass
Andrey “SLN” Anikushin – 5-string bass
Alexander Vetrogon – 6-string bass

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