With great pleasure, we heard the news that Lake of Tears return with a new album, ten years after the release of “Illwill”. That was a warm feeling for us, the fans: a feeling that occurs when a good old friend, whom we haven’t met for ages, appears again. We’re happy that Daniel Brennare, the band’s composer and only remaining founding member, is active again. Daniel released an introspective and personal album, narrating his own journey, the difficult path he had to follow through darkness. Myth of Rock interviewed Daniel, who sincerely shared with us what “Ominous” means for him. However, our conversation expanded to other territories, even Schopenhauer and ancient Greek philosophers, since Daniel was openhearted indeed! Myth of Rock wishes the best of luck to this polite and strong man.
by Alex Nikolaidis
Lake of Tears release a new album after ten years. How would you describe the music of “Ominous”?
I would like to describe it from what I have heard from other people. It’s very varied and dark, but still metal / rock in the base. I already heard that some people cannot listen to it because it’s too dark for them. There’s a sad story in there, so it’s definitely a kind of sad and dark record. What’s most important for me is that those who listen to it, should listen from the beginning to the end, because it’s a whole adventure. You cannot listen to just separate songs; every song depends on the others.
So, is “Ominous” somehow a concept album, a story that unfolds from the first to the last track?
Yes, it’s a kind of concept. I’d rather call it a story, but you can call it a concept as well.
Lake of Tears were always a band that made experimentations with their music. All the albums differ: some of them are heavier and explicitly doom, while others have a more progressive/psychedelic orientation. Is “Ominous” an experimental album as well?
Yes. I think you can say that in every song I have written (maybe not the first ones in the beginning of the 90s) I experiment with new things. I never wanted to write the same song again and again. I always try to find something new at least.
There’s an evident dark and gothic atmosphere in the album. At the same time, some melodies remind me of “Forever Autumn”, while the doom orientation of “Headstones” is also lurking somewhere. How difficult is it to find balance between these different elements?
Usually, I don’t think so much about balance. I just write what I feel like writing. It’s about what comes in life. Every day is a different day. Finding balance is one aspect only and in this record, I must say it was quite difficult. I’ve been working on this for many years and actually I spent quite a lot of time on many small details, much more time than any record before.
What does “Ominous” mean for you? Is it in a way special or unique compared to previous albums of Lake of Tears?
This record is very special for me. Every record I have composed is unique, but this one was “extra special”. It comes from my own story, some really heavy moments in my life. Everything started when I was diagnosed with chronical leukemia. After some years, with all the treatment and pharmaceutical stuff I received, I got really depressed. I was feeling quite down for a very long time. I wanted to find something, some light in the darkness. So, this record was exactly that path for me: to write music, tell a story, try to fit all the pieces together. It was a very therapeutical work. In this way, it’s my most special record so far.
Therefore, did the making of “Ominous” comfort you? Was it a way of overcoming your problems?
In some way, yes. There was something to think about. I’m really grateful for having something like that to hold onto, because I think other people who are in the same situation don’t have that choice probably. They go nuts or kill themselves. It was very good for me to have a goal.
Is “Ominous” a message to people who struggle that they should leave their problems behind through creativity?
This is a nice way to think about it. It was good for me. Of course, if it can be useful to other people as well, I would be very happy. It would mean even more for me.
Actually, this I my personal perception of the album. It’s a story of a man who wants to feel better and survive. That is how I see your music.
That’s nice. Not everybody sees it that way. It’s quite difficult for some people to understand this.
Let’s return to the music now. Are there any evident influences in “Ominous”?
I think there are. Most of my musical influences are in here. But I haven’t really thought so much about them. I’m more used to exploring what’s in the back of my head. I don’t really listen to something and then make my music sound like that. Of course, I use all the available tools because I play for thirty years now. I have composed many songs and riffs. Some bands can be heard in the album and AFM Records refers to them in the press release, like Sisters of Mercy, Pink Floyd and even David Bowie (I’m not really a Bowie fan). I have used musical influences, but not in a very concrete way; they have been mainly in the back of my head. Also, influences that appealed to me for this record are ancient Greeks, like Pythagoras, Plato and Socrates. I found their thoughts very interesting to use them in the record. Even Nikola Tesla, a person of modern times who is quite popular nowadays, has some great ideas about sounds and frequencies that I’ve used. I also must say that Schopenhauer is my greatest inspiration. He’s not a musician, but he has written a lot about musical stuff and I really like his ideas.
So, does your music depict, in a sense, some of Schopenhauer’s logic and ideas?
Maybe not directly. I remember when I read Schopenhauer for the first time. He has written quite a lot about how music, a noble art, can get the human brain to a certain place directly, while science cannot do this. You can learn a lot of things from science, but with music you can cross over into another dimension. These feelings have been very important for me, helping me to find something more inside the music. They were a big comfort, when I was feeling sad: trying to find music, vibrations or frequencies that somehow glowed into my brain with certain waves. Someone may think they’re absurd and not real, but they’ve been very real for me and I really liked that. All this is an interesting territory; it’s on the edge of something normal and something magical or mythical.
Let’s talk about “Ominous” again. Are there other musicians who helped you with the recording process?
Yes. Vesa, a good friend of mine for many years, played the bass. Christian Silver, who works in the studio, played the drums. He’s a very good drummer indeed. Lars played upright bass in the bonus track. The four of us did the recording. There were also Manne and Christian’s son in the studio who were helping, mainly with the recording and other stuff.
The music of Lake of Tears has evolved over the years. The band always gave me a sense of freedom, a sense of defying genres and labels. Was it difficult for you to break the boundaries of a specific genre and make something that probably wouldn’t be appealing to a wider mass audience?
No, it was always very easy for me. I realized this after one or two years I started playing. Of course, everybody wants to be famous, but it was breaking my heart to try writing music that didn’t come from the soul. There are bigger bands who earn enough money, and they can live from it, but I think they had to sell themselves somehow. At least that’s what I hear. Sometimes, I tried to write “hit” songs, but when I go in that direction, I feel there’s something inside myself that breaks a little. For me, it was always easier to write what I really wanted to write. Of course, the most difficult part is always talking with journalists and fans about the record. The music is easy to do, but it’s much harder to explain it to people.
Do you think that some record companies put pressure on artists to sell off and make something more commercial?
For sure! I don’t know if the pressure comes directly from the record company. I would say it’s from the market. Of course, the record company is part of the market. Today, things go so fast. Your name has to be known all the time. When you sign a contract, maybe it says that you have to make a record every second year. As an artist, you have to comply, make touring and other stuff. Maybe it’s good for people who have a lot of ideas to write music. But if people like me would be under such conditions all the time, they wouldn’t know what to write about. They would find stuff just to write something: stuff that isn’t really important for them. In the beginning of the 90s, when we started, things went quite fast. I had so much input, so many ideas! But after a while, I noticed that it was hard to have new ideas for a new record. It was hard to just tell the universe or the world outside “Please, today you have to give me ideas for a new record”! I had to take some time to find exactly what I wanted.
I assume you had absolute freedom from the record company to compose “Ominous”?
Yes, absolute freedom. Of course, there was a budget and I couldn’t record whenever I wanted. But they didn’t say anything about the music. They didn’t intervene in my ideas.
You have said in other interviews, that the bonus track, “In Gloom”, is somehow a separate part. What makes it different compared to the other tracklist?
The main difference is that it’s not part of the story. It didn’t have a place within the story, which ends in the eighth song. I also wanted to sound a bit more different with the stand-up bass and the soundscape of it. When I wrote that song, I felt it was too good to be left out. The guys in the studio agreed that I had to release it. So, I decided to include it as a bonus track.
I think you took the right decision. It’s like a gift for the fans who want to hear something different.
I hope so. But I must tell you that I’ve already heard people sending me messages asking me why it’s not in the LP. It’s very difficult to explain some things because some people always think in another direction. But I think it’s better to have it in the record. I’d feel terrible if I hadn’t released it.
You mentioned the LP version of the album. Are you a fan of vinyls? Do you like the fact that vinyls tend to return to sales of past years?
I grew up with vinyl. There’s something special looking at big things. In that sense, I’m a fan. But I’m a fan of new technology as well. I like music spreading on the internet. This is the future. Sadly, in these modern times, people forget about records. It’s more about songs, new songs and hit songs. Today, for the most music I hear, I don’t even know the songs’ titles and the musicians who play in the band. In the past, I was looking at the LPs and I knew everything. In that way, I really like LPs. But I’m not a collector.
I agree. Somehow, we have lost this originality as fans. We tend to download and forget about the artists.
I understand it totally. I download things too. I think it’s good because music is supposed to be spread. But if we go back to people like Pythagoras, who made the musical system into what it is today, he wouldn’t be happy about the kind of music that’s being spread. He was doing calculations of frequencies and today there’s not much left of this in the music. Today, music is mainly a quick experience, money and image. Of course, there are many bands out there who write different music and may even encompass magical, religious, or deeper thoughts in it. But in many other bands, that way of thinking is very restricted.
Are there future plans for the band (assuming of course that societies will return to normal conditions)?
Right now, I don’t think so much about it. I think it will take quite some time. I just heard a calculation that if vaccination goes on in this tempo, it will take 6 or 7 years until everybody is vaccinated. It would take up to 7 years until things become normal again. So, I’d rather not think about it, because it becomes problematic in my head. I prefer to take time writing music instead.
Why did you name the band “Lake of Tears”? Is there a story/inspiration behind the band’s name?
Not much actually. If I chose a name today, that wouldn’t be “Lake of Tears”! If I found a band of that name, I don’t think I would listen to their records! I still remember the day. We had started getting into that gothic music genre and we wanted to have a name in that direction. We had some ideas and just decided on “Lake of tears”. So, there’s not really a story!
So, it was a matter of choice and nothing more.
It was something with the right vibe. There’s some connection between the name and the band. But as I said, if I did it again today, I would choose something else.
Daniel, thank you about our conversation. It was good to talk about “Ominous”, music in general and your personal perception towards music. It was very insightful. I wish you all the best. Remain strong and I hope that sometime more music will come from you.
I am sure it will! Thank you very much!