Obscure Sphinx, a five-piece band from Warsaw, Poland, is recognized for their dark, ambiguous sound and doomy, mysterious concepts transferred through their unique 8-string guitar tones and 6-string bass rhythms. They came back last winter with their second most wicked creation ”Void Mother” to prove that they still have many creepily charming stories to tell. We got the chance to chat with Aleksander “Olo” Łukomski (guitars) about their beginning, what influenced their music and where do they go from here.
Before we get to talk about the music, can you tell us a bit about your personal lives before the band and how the five of you got together?
Hi! We were all and are still slaves of the system, working our daily jobs in handcuffs just to make money that we need only to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like. And then we met somewhere in a cold coal mine… But honestly, the band was started by Mateusz our drummer and his brother Bartek, somewhere in 2008 I suppose, then Blady the bassist joined the club, later on Yony the second guitarist and finally Zosia the singer. I joined the band after the first CD to replace Bartek who left the band. Previously everyone was involved in other bands, most of us have played rock and roll for more than 10 to 20 years.
As unique your first album was, the second one seemed way different and more musically complex to my ears, with more dark and doomy inspiration in the tracks. Can you tell us about the influences leading to that change, and how your composition process differed from the first and second record?
For Obscure Sphinx it has always been a mixture of just jamming together and writing some bits and pieces at home. So the music that comes out is basically parts of all of us transformed into notes. I don’t want to sound cocky, but probably the fact of me joining the band had the influence on a slight sound change. Especially due to the fact that I try to be as creative and potent as I can, so my mission was to inherit the vibe of current OS music but spice it and juice it up my way. But what you hear is not a preconceived idea of how the album should sound like in full. We don’t discuss it, that’s not how art works. We play along with music, listen to it and as it starts to shape, we sculpt. We add images, ideas, words and the sculpture starts to take shape.
The cover photo of “Void Mother” is one of the iconic things about the album. I heard that you chose it before you started recording. How much did this painting influence your ideas and recording process?
Well it’s actually not a painting—it’s the actual sculpture of a doll. But let me get back to the beginning. We always work with a lot of puzzles in the beginning, before we see the full picture. We like to influence ourselves with things outside music, like art, etc. And of course we think about the cover during the writing process, so that it influences the music too. One time I encountered this artist Klaudia Gaugier—she is a phenomenal sculpture artist—I found her on Facebook accidentally, and noticed a doll with a moth on her eyes. The moth has always been one of the main graphical motifs for the band due to our name. So this looked like a really cool thing to do for our cover. I contacted the artist and she was hesitant at the beginning. She is very personal with every doll she makes. At first she said no. Especially that the doll we wanted to use was designed for something else completely and Klaudia captured certain emotions in her. But then, she agreed to cooperate with us and she decided to make a new doll “Void Mother” just for the purpose of the album—and she sculpted her while listening to our songs. So that this time this doll captures the emotions from this certain piece of music and words. So you can say that the influence was back and forth with the cover concept and the music.
As one of the few bands playing this mix of experimental music, do you feel over the past few years this kind of music succeeded in getting more attention and support in Poland and in the whole of Europe generally, since when you started playing?
We get some credit for being different—having a female singer, 8 string guitars, long sludgy songs. People are interested in how that actually sounds, and the media is interested because this makes great headlines. Still this art is very difficult, so we don’t dream about getting mainstream, but we start to gather more and more of some dark souls that find peace in listening to our music.
It always seems to be challenging to transfer the emotions and aura behind this kind of music into live action. How difficult was it, in your case especially, to play for the bigger crowds in “Summer Breeze” and “Brutal Assault”? And do you have any special rituals to prepare for live performances?
Well to be honest it’s not really that hard. I mean of course we have to practice a lot to deliver the greatest performance we can, but we do what we love here. We were born for it, and standing there on the stage feels like nothing else in the world. You feel the energy when you are playing for 50 people in a small crowded club and you feel the energy when you play for 5,000 people on some festival. And we take part in this ritual; it’s not like we play the songs for the crowd only. Many times we feel this much harder than anything else—we cry, get sad, get really ecstatic.
I believe you are still enjoying the creative freedom of supporting the band by yourself without a record label on your back. How hard was it to make it so far on your own, and do you plan to continue directing this journey? Or are you looking for some help through the process?
Creative freedom is really great, but the road to success is really hard. It’s almost impossible to break through for metal bands these days. Only a few make it and they are really great, but tens of thousands of other bands still play in the garage. Having the support of a bigger company is also not something you are graced with for no reason—it doesn’t work like ‘oh you play great music, let me invest some money in you’. Not anymore. So we have no other choice but to sail that boat on our own and do it as best as we can. On the other hand we need a bigger partner and we are open to that, but we are looking only for really big labels/booking agencies as many of the smaller ones can’t provide more than what we are capable of right now. So it’s either go big or go home. 😀
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming music projects? New music in the making maybe?
After the European Decimation Tour, we will start to write the new album. So next year is going to be dedicated to that mostly—except maybe one more euro-tour and some festivals and off shows. So expect the new album hopefully in 2015.