Terra Sancta: Interview 2002

Originally intended to be published Spectrum Magazine Issue 6# which was cancelled before publication

Eventually published in Goth Nation (Australia) Issue 2# 2003 and Degenerate Magazine (Finland) Issue 3# 2003

INTRODUCTION:

If you were to excavate down through the layers of underground music within Australia, you will discover artists and projects toiling away in relative obscurity, particularly with reference to those who are involved with dark ambient type genres.  As was the case with Australia dark ambient project Isomer, who have recently issues their debut CD on cult German label Tesco Organisation, similarly sole member Greg Good of Terra Sancta looked abroad for label interest, subsequently being snapped up by premier American label Malignant Records to issue their debut full length.  Read on to discover more about another great Australian export within the dark ambient genre.

Terra Sancta have been around for a relatively short amount of time (since 2000 I believe) and will only be known by a small number of people at the moment, however can you please introduce yourself, likewise giving some background information as to how you came to form the dark ambient project Terra Sancta?

I bought my first synth in 1996. At the time I listened mainly to metal, but also to ambient music. Often when listening to metal intros/outros etc I used to think that it would be cool if there was music that was all like this, something that incorporated these two extremes in music styles. I guess I had a vague Godflesh meets Brian Eno sort of idea. When I heard that the bass player from Emperor had quit the band to work on a synth project I was very curious and tracked down the CMI ‘And Even Wolves…’ compilation, and that’s how I discovered industrial/dark ambient music.

I played around with various styles for a while, but it wasn’t until 1999 that I began to work seriously on the concept that became Terra Sancta, culminating in my demo CD “Anno Domini 2000”.

Where did you derive your project name from and how do you believe that it represents (if at all) both your own personality and the music that you create?

Terra Sancta translates literally as “sacred earth”. It is a historical term for the ‘holy land’ of Israel/Palestine. I thought it was an interesting name as it refers to a place of such reverence for three religions, but also a place of perpetual conflict. Musically, Terra Sancta reflects this spiritual aura as well as the darker undercurrents. However I don’t intend to make any political or religious statement with this music, and I look at the project name and song names more as metaphors.

Your first recording was a three track mini cdr/ demo “anno domini” that whilst obviously influenced by the dark ambient sounds associated with a number of Cold Meat Industry artists, managed to retain its own personality and flair.  How did you approach the writing and recording process when setting about making your first recordings and do you think you were successful in achieving the results you initially intended?

I wanted to create something that mixed beautiful sounds like choirs and strings with darker drones and industrial sounds. My CMI influence was fairly obvious, but hopefully it does have its own sound and style. I am happy with it as a first body of work.

What response did you receive from the release of the mini cdr/ demo “anno domini” and how widely available was it made?

I made 20 copies which got sent to a few labels, magazines and friends. I really had no idea what the response would be like but it was overwhelmingly positive. Two labels showed interest in releasing it but as it has turned out it became a self release.

Jumping forward 2 years from the release of the mini cdr/ demo “anno domini”, you have now re-recorded these tracks, had them professionally mastered and released the recording yourself as an official MCD.  How has the response been to the new and improved version?

One thing I wasn’t happy about with the demo version was the overall sound quality. So after I finished the recording of my second CD I felt that my techniques had improved enough that I should redo the demo. I reworked the tracks and got it mastered by Phil Easter, so it sounds great now.

I got 500 copies printed up and am in the process of trying to get rid of them. Interest is slowly catching on and I have some good distribution now, but it takes a while to get noticed without any sort of label promotion etc.

After having had the pleasure of hearing an advance copy of your debut full length “aeon”, a definite progression of the sound can be detected.  Whilst your MCD has a relative level of musical structure due to the use of sampled instruments, your debut CD differs in that it is slightly more minimalist musically and takes a deeper and more sweeping dark ambient sound.  How do you personally view the differences between the recordings and why did you choose to take this stylistic shift in musical approach?

I am very satisfied with the way “Aeon” turned out, as I have really found my niche with this album. It was a conscious effort to create a deeper, darker sort of brooding ambience. I have done away with sampled melodies and vocal samples are used more sparingly and subtly. A lot of the sounds have been sampled myself and synth is used just to complement some parts, rather than being the main sound source.

Do you find the composition process difficult? Likewise when commencing the composition of a track do you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve or do they tend to evolve on their own accord as you progress? Additionally is Terra Sancta your first endeavour at creating or playing  musical compositions?

The hardest thing about the composition process is getting the time to sit down and do it. The process itself comes fairly naturally once I have gotten my mind into ‘the zone’. I usually have a general idea of what I want before I start, but since the process involves a lot of auditioning and treatment of sounds you can’t fully predict the final result.

Before Terra Sancta became a defined project I recorded a few other pieces of music covering a variety of styles, but these were just part of an experimental, formative phase. Some of it is still quite listenable and who knows, maybe it will find itself reworked as part of a soundtrack or something, but it wouldn’t be under the name Terra Sancta.

What equipment and production processes do you utilise is creating your dark ambient atmospheres and has this altered at all over time?

I have a couple of synths and sound modules, but most of the sound manipulation and song construction is software-based. I use synths less now and try to get my own samples as raw materials, but there will always be a place for synths, vocal samples etc.

But all this equipment is damn expensive, and there is always another piece of hardware or a software plug-in that you want to buy, so this better start paying soon!

Unlike the power electronics or neo-folk scenes that can be said to contain a political aspect (implied or otherwise), dark ambient music alternately tends to inhabit a bleak spiritual sphere without the political angle.  Are there any concepts you utilise as inspiration for the music of Terra Sancta or otherwise are inherent within the atmospheres you create?

Yes I agree with this comment. There are no particular messages behind Terra Sancta, but at the same time I hope it invokes a response in the listener. The music is loosely based around a concept of this earthly wasteland that we are part of and the sadness and beauty that resonates from it. The first track I wrote ‘desert earth’ sums it up: deserts conjure up contrasting images, harsh barren wastelands, or places of lonely spiritual journeys. Terra Sancta is a world of deserts.

I guess that such themes and images are important in initiating the creative process, but once started the sounds themselves are what drive it.

Given the premier American label Malignant Records holds the honour of releasing your official full length debut “aeon”, how did this signing come about and was there a great deal of interest from other labels?

I just sent a CDR to Jason and he wrote back with great enthusiasm wanting to release it. This was a pleasant surprise as I didn’t hear anything from him when I sent my “Anno Domini” demo to him a couple of years earlier. Obviously he likes the progression of the music. Only a couple of other people have heard it so far, but the reaction has been good.

As Terra Sancta can be viewed in context of a small but growing Australian scene of dark ambient artists, how do you view this within the global scene?  Do you care to mention any other Australian projects you may be aware of?

Australia has always had a small but significant contingent of artists working in peripheral forms of music, and a few have made a name for themselves on the international scene. We are home to one of the premier labels – Dorobo Records, which I am a great fan of, especially Alan Lamb’s wire music. I am in contact with David Tonkin whose dark industrial project Isomer has just released a CD on Tesco. I don’t have a great knowledge of this music scene, but I know there are other people doing similar things.

Apart from your debut full length that is to be soon issued on Malignant Records, do you have any other Terra Sancta recordings in the pipeline?

Most of the sounds for the next album have been collected but the actual recording process won’t begin until the new year, so I guess it’s a bit premature to say much more than that at this point.

Also I am aware that you operate a side project under the name of Gun Metal Grey, with the one track from the project I have heard indicating a death industrial type sound.  What information would you like to provide on this side project and how do you views its importance when considered against Terra Sancta?

This is a project I have played around with for a couple of years. It has a noisier more industrial sound. There are several half-recorded tracks lying around and I hope to finish the first album sometime in 2003. For now Terra Sancta is my main project, but how far I go with Gun Metal Grey will depend on the response to it and how much time I can dedicate to it. I have lots of other musical ideas, but if and when I can work on them also depends on finding the time.

Finally, are there any further comments you would like to add? 

Thank you for your time!

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