1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the musical project since the recording and release of the new album?
Honestly, now I’m taking a well deserved rest. Before I start thinking about the next material, I need to reset, clear my head and breathe for a moment. In the nearest future, there will be more activities related to the album that has just been released. In the meantime I will try to gather some new inspirations.
2.Recently you have released a new album musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
In my personal opinion, it is simply better. It’s definitely bolder. I didn’t limit myself at all and during the recordings, I was doing exactly what I felt like doing at the moment. Hence the strange noises, breaths, yelps, shrieks, screams and growls you can hear on the album. The same happened in terms of instruments. I decided that I can use more heavy electric guitars and bass, so I did it. This album is the product of pure artistic freedom. New material is significantly darker than previous ones. Even the melancholic ballads have these elements of disturbing darkness lurking somewhere beneath the surface.
3.Musically you started out playing metal before going into more of a folk direction, do you feel in the modern era both of the genres show a lot in common?
Contrary to appearances, folk is a genre of music very close to metal, only given in a more delicate form ;) The atmosphere, emotional commitment, authenticity - there is more what connects these genres than what divides them. In metal, genuineness is very important, and it is hard to find anything more real than the authentic traditional melodies that laid the foundations for all modern music. Whatever genre we are talking about - when we go far back enough, we always end up in the same sources. There are also more direct links – nowadays you can often see metal musicians playing in folk projects, incorporating some of the elements from folk to metal, and metal elements to folk. I immediately thought about Einar Selvik and his projects with Ivar Bjornson, but they weren't the first - there were other folk-ish projects that also remained in the circle of interest of heavy music listeners. People who listen to metal are usually the ones who can appreciate good music of other genres as well. Metalheads are now more open to other sounds, and folk has finally begun to be served in a form that is not kitsch. New emerging projects show that folk has these dark, mysterious regions where you can find things often more poignant, dark and painful than on the most aggressive metal album.
4.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you explore with the newer music and also how would you describe your progress as a songwriter over the years?
The lyrics on the new album cover sensitive topics like depression, suicide, exclusion, environmental catastrophe… They present the hopelessness of existence in the series of pictures illustrating many different incarnations of void and emptiness. They also remind us that even in the face of inevitable destruction, there are things worth fighting for, important here and now. I felt I needed to finally speak up, to boldly present my point of view and share these dark visions with the world. Compared to the previous albums, this one is definitely more direct. I decided to write shorter lyrics that are more to the point. There are also more references to current events, as there are things happening in the world that just cannot be ignored. What stays the same is my focus on nature as the main topic of all the lyrics. I will always speak the language of wildlife and use nature as my main source of metaphors. There is nothing more important to me.
5.So far the main lyrical theme has been nature, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in this topic has evolved over the years?
What I can say without any doubt is that it will never change and nature will always be in the center of Ols’ lyrics. If you are a thinking, feeling, sensitive being, you simply cannot remain indifferent to nature. There you can find a reflection of every possible mental state, every human experience. In the eyes of a sensitive human being, nature is one great metaphor that everyone can interpret individually. The contact with nature gives us the opportunity to think about our lives in a broader context. Picturing yourself against the background of the cosmos can be either overwhelming or bringing a sense of relief – surely it always evokes special emotions, a certain existential anxiety – and in my opinion all dark art is built based on these feelings. On my new album, I explored the darker side of these experiences. I don’t know if I can say that my relation with nature has evolved through the years. Every contact with nature is and always has been a source of inspiration for me. I love wandering through the Carpathian forests, listening to the rhythm of my own steps and my heartbeat, pounding like a ritual shamanic drum, slowly drawing me into some kind of trance and letting my mind soar freely. Once I reach such a state, I usually start to hum something. The scraps of melodies just appear in my head. Sometimes there are some words, sometimes just a sound. That’s how my best ideas came to life. Always brought to me by nature itself.
6.In one interview you also mentioned that you have done a lot of reading, what are some of the genres that you have read the most and also what impact does it have on your as a songwriter?
Honestly, it’s a hard question, as I read pretty much everything. I have an extensive collection of books that includes basically every existing genre. However, when I think about the direct source of inspiration, nothing comes to mind. I have never written a song based on any book. It doesn’t mean that I don’t take any inspiration from what I read. I do, but it’s usually not the main story that inspires me but some of the side elements. Sometimes it's the sheer atmosphere, an image I see in my mind while reading. Sometimes one beautiful phrase can stimulate my creative imagination and become the starting point of a song. The literature definitely has an impact on what I am creating, but I like to think that I have my own distinctive style and I don’t derive any direct inspiration from anybody else’s work.
7.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
With pleasure! I am very proud of this artwork. The new album ends some era, so after 3 records with my face on the cover I decided to go for a different layout. I knew immediately that the artist I would ask for the cooperation had to be Vječnost. I don't remember how Vječnost and I came across each other in the depths of the Internet, or who first liked the profile of the other. The important thing is that years ago we saw something in each other that brought us together. Until now, my albums weren't quite right for being illustrated by Enisa, but this one finally sounds like nothing else would fit here. I didn't give her any guidelines, she didn't even hear the material (when we started talking, most of it wasn't recorded). I just sent her lyrics with a short description of the content of the album and I was absolutely sure it would be enough. I was right. When I got the cover design, what I saw there was myself while creating this album. In some magical way, Enisa managed to capture exactly what I had in my mind when I was writing "Pustkowia". The minimalistic graphics illustrating the individual songs also look exactly as they should. I am very proud to have the drawings of an artist whose works totally resonate with me illustrating my new album. Enisa did a fantastic job.
8.With this project you record everything by yourself, do you have any experience working with other musicians?
As a child and a teenager, I was a part of multiple bands – from instrumental ensembles in the school of music, through church choirs, to rock cover bands, so from a very young age I had a lot of experience in terms of cooperation with other musicians. The problem started when I felt the need to create something original. I tried my luck with several bands, but I think I’ve never found the right people who could truly share my vision of music, so all these attempts ended at a very early stage and we’ve never managed to produce anything worth mentioning. After several failures like that, I decided that the only option for me is to do everything myself and that’s how Ols was born. Over the years, I’ve met more people who understand my ideas, so on my albums you can sometimes hear someone else than only me. On the new album, I invited my friend, Mateusz Kujawa of the band Jarun, to sing and growl in “Jad”. As for now, this kind of cooperation with other musicians is enough for me. I would definitely like to have some guest appearances on Ols’ albums in the future, but I don’t plan to transform Ols into a band at any point. I feel the best with Ols being a one-woman project.
9.Are you open to taking your music to the live stage?
Not really. I did some serious thinking about this, and in the end I decided that it’s just not for me. Not in the current circumstances, for sure. I don’t have befriended musicians who could instantly form a band, so it would require recruiting the group of strangers, starting regular rehearsals… Even if we stop right there, it already seems too much for me – I am a rather solitary creature and meeting new people is always a challenge. The sheer casting for the band would be emotionally draining. Being dependent on other people is also something I truly hate. I prefer to do everything on my own. Working alone doesn’t create any pressure – I write, compose and record when I feel like it. Trying to introduce some structured plan into my free artistic expression would be painful. And when I try to think about live gigs, what I feel is mostly panic. It would be a great logistic challenge and a lot of stress. There are people who feel in their element when on stage. I’m most definitely not one of them. I don’t think I need it at all. I don’t say I would never do it. Maybe one day I will find a group of musicians with whom all this enterprise wouldn’t feel so scary. But as for now, playing live with all its side activities seems like the last thing I would like to do.
10.The last couple of albums where released through 'Pagan Records', how would you compare working with them to other labels that you have been a part of in the past?
Pagan Records is the first label I work with. I released my first two albums myself. That was, among others, motivated by the fact that the labels offering me cooperation back then actually didn’t have anything to offer. Pagan Records, with its established position on the underground music stage certainly gives me the opportunity to reach places I wouldn’t be able to reach on my own.
11.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your newer music by fans of metal, ritual and folk music?
So far, I’ve been receiving really positive feedback, coming both from metal and folk circles. People seem to like the darker version of Ols. The new material is very diverse, so fans of many different music styles can find something they like there. As far as I can say, my audience is varied. There are obviously open-minded metalheads, people interested in neofolk and ritual music, but also fans of medieval songs, goths and a lot of people fond of dark, depressive stuff of all kinds, without specified favourite music genre. There are also many nature lovers who usually listen to much lighter music, but feel linked to my work because of its deep connection with nature. On the new album, my metal inspirations come to the surface, there are heavier guitars and bass lines, growls, shrieks, more dynamic parts. On the other hand, there are melancholic ballads and slow ambient fragments. Ols has never been easy to label under any specific music genre, but I think it can be appreciated by any person who is into dark, atmospheric, emotional music.
12.Where do you see yourself heading into as a musician in the future?
It’s hard to say, as things around Ols tend to happen spontaneously ;) I have some initial ideas for the new material, but they need some time to take their final shape. At this moment, I think that I might lean further in the direction of neofolk and incorporate some solutions known from the neofolk scene into my music. I remember, however, that when I began to work on “Pustkowia” my initial concept was completely different from what I finally decided to do, so the ideas I have right now will probably evolve over time. I will do whatever I might feel like doing at the given moment. That’s how Ols works – it is the genuine, authentic record of my emotions and as such it cannot be a subject of calculated planning.
13.What are some of the bands or musical styles that you are currently listening to nowadays?
My answer to this question will always include the name of the band I listen to all the time, my biggest inspiration ever, Agalloch. You can always hear them in Ols, if you know where to look. The latest record of ex- Agalloch John Haughm also had a big impact on “Pustkowia”
In every Ols’ work, there is always some hint of Katatonia as well, as this band literally saved my life at a particular moment in my past, and they will always have a special place in my heart.
The big inspiration for my latest materials and the band I listen to a lot recently is Gaahls Wyrd. For real, everything Gaahl touches turns to pure gold.
As for freshly released albums, the newest Strigoi was cool and I truly enjoyed listening to them.
Recently I also feel the need to listen to more women, as for years I have slightly neglected them. In my playlist you can often find the newest Darkher and the last album by Lili Refrain. As the darkest times of the year approaches, for unknown reasons, I always feel like listening more to Tenhi, Of the Wand and The Moon, Sol Invictus, Current 93 etc. , so this kind of music is recently taking over my playlists.
14.You have also mentioned an interest in Slavic Paganism, how did you get interested in the past and also do you have an interest in Pagan cultures or mythologies from other countries?
I am interested in folklore, because there you can find the roots of everything that shaped our culture and all contemporary genres of art. I like reading old legends, and I enjoy learning about scientific studies on ethnography, old beliefs, traditions and art. Thanks to them, you can understand yourself better - we are not as detached from the past as we might think. If you analyze your own imagination from the perspective of humanity's past, suddenly it turns out that a lot of images that you have in your own head come in a straight line from old beliefs, from folk wisdom repeated in the oldest European fairy tales. In this respect, folklore is fascinating. Due to the culture in which I grew up, I am closest to Slavic folklore. I also know a lot about Nordic folklore, which in many respects is very similar to Slavic. However, I do not feel the slightest need to reconstruct them in my art. I see culture as living, evolving. There is no room for anachronisms here. We live here and now and there we create our own piece of history and our own art - it's good to be aware that there is a tradition of many centuries behind it, but what we create today should not be a copy of what has already been done.
As for paganism, I believe that natural phenomena themselves are powerful and extraordinary enough that they do not need to be called gods to be admired. The oldest religion is the magic of nature itself. The miracles people search for in religions happen continuously in the cosmos, in the nature that surrounds us, in our own bodies, and in every atom that builds the fabric of the universe. The admiration of the forces of nature is something that connects me with paganism, but religion and organized worship seem unnecessary to me.
I have never been drawn to having a collective spiritual experience. In my opinion, the deepest sensations are always experienced in solitude. For me, there is nothing closer to a religious experience than a personal contact with nature. It doesn't matter if we're talking about wandering through Carpathian wilderness, observing the starry sky, or rejoicing at the sight of a sprouting plant. That's my religion. I don't pray to nature though, because the universe just exists and all religious practices seem to have zero impact on its existence. I am an atheist, but a spiritual atheist, delighted with the beauty of all the phenomena you don't have to believe in, phenomena that can be scientifically proven, that really undeniably exist. Why make up more, since everything is there?..
I believe that everyone has the right to choose their own path, but it so happens that mine leads as far as possible from all human communities, religions and cults.
15.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
First of all, I would like to thank all the people who listen to my music, especially those who decided to reach out to me and share their thoughts – your feedback is truly appreciated! I am glad that my art can have an impact on somebody else's life and each time someone shares their story with me, I feel that what I'm doing makes sense.
I would also like to invite people who don't know Ols to explore my world. It may seem strange, but there are a lot of interesting things in there ;)
Finally, I want to thank you for this opportunity to say a few words. It was a pleasure!