MP3: Tobias Hellkvist & Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words - White/Grey/Black

Tobias Hellkvist & Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words - White/Grey/Black

The original concept for this netrelease was modest. Tobias Hellkvist and Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words are two sides of the same coin; both operate within the vast realm of drone, yet both are also quite distinctive and totally within their own spheres of sound and emotion. I figured: why not get the two together for a split netrelease, something to promote their new records -- for Tobias, that would be "Sides" and for Dead Letters aka Thomas Ekelund, that would be the forthcoming "Lost in reflections". A song from each, perhaps even an original composition if they were feeling generous, that would have been enough. Different, but completary. Yin and yang, even. But no, the concept immediately took on new life. The idea of previously released material was instantly nixed and then the idea of a collaborative track came about - something to tie the two sides together. And then, unbeknown to me, the collaboration became the project; a three-part epic spanning twenty-five minutes. The result of which I give to you today as a free download.

I am always proud of every netrelease as I take great pains to ensure the It's a Trap! name is not lent out lightly, yet this breaks new ground as it is of my own initiation. I couldn't be prouder. So please, if you like what you hear, spread the word and support the artists. Their names and their work deserves to be known and appreciated.

As much of the actual planning and composition happened behind the scenes, I asked Tobias and Thomas a few questions to gain more insight into their approach and the music itself. Read on...

Tobias, had you every heard DLSODW before this? What did you think of the idea to work on a piece together?

TH: I had heard a few songs online, but not a whole album. When I later listened some more, I discovered that he was generally darker than me, which was interesting when being asked to do a collaboration. Mixing two different personal sounds into something new really felt like something I wanted to try out. So, when you asked me about this, I was totally stoked from the beginning. I'm glad you had me in mind!

Thomas, this isn't your first long-distance collaboration, is it? How you approach a project like that, especially with someone you don't really know?

TE: That's correct, Avi. I've had quite a few long distance projects in the past. Right now it's only one though, Dead Violets, together with two Americans, Jeffrey Surak and Bethany Moore. The process has varied a lot, but with Dead Violets we usually discuss ideas and themes, then either Jeff or I get the ball rolling with a basic track or a collection of sounds for the other to mangle into some sort of structure. It's not really a big problem, with all the modern technology at hand to do it like this.

Tobias, did you guys throw around a bunch of ideas before settling on the one long-form piece? Whose initial concept was that or did it evolve as you went along?

TH: I think it was Thomas who came up with an idea to link our sounds to colours, where mine was white and his was black. By mixing it up in the middle, sending tracks back and forth, the idea was to end up with a grey piece which reflected both our sounds. I think it worked really well. With inputs and comments on pieces along the way, we formed a new sound that I really couldn't imagine from the start.

Thomas, how well do you think your individual music styles complemented each other? Was it ever a struggle to get pieces to fit?

TE: The concept of white/grey/black was something I had been pondering for a while. Partly because it ties in with my ongoing obsession with balance, and partly because of the ambiguous symbolism of Black and White.

In traditional Western culture they represent death and life, the negative and the positive, the carnal and the divine, impurity and purity, whereas Eastern culture look at them the opposite way. Both black and white are also very significant in alchemy, where black symbolizes purification and white symbolizes enlightenment. In additive color systems white is the sum total, where as in subtractive color systems black occupies that position in the gamut.

I originally intended to use this concept myself, but when this collaboration arose I thought it would fit perfectly. To an untrained ear I am sure Tobias and my music can be lumped together under the ambient/drone umbrella, but it's quite obvious to the more experienced listener that we inhabit quite different sides of the spectra. In my ears Tobias makes very calm and uplifting music, white music if you will, where as I have always focused on unsettling and morose atmospheres, i.e. black music. The grey part of the suite, the middle, the balance is the result of trying to meld our two styles into one.

Tobias, I always like to think I learn something from every music encounter, both good and bad. What do you think you can take away from this experience?

TH: Since this was my first musical collaboration of this type, I felt that whatever happens, I'll get a new experience. And that can never be a bad thing, no matter if the result is amazing or horrible. In this case, I learned that being open-minded expands your boundaries and that could lead you into places you've never been musically. Somewhere, you'll put your own stamp on it, unaware of how it's done. That's cool. So I will definitely do something like this again, if the opportunity appears.

Thomas, likewise, did you experience any self-discovery during the course of the project? How do you think it turned out compared to what you expected?

TE: I have to confess that I am not very good at collaborating. Most of the time it just fizzles out, but in this case everything fell in to place right away and things turned out a lot better than I could've imagined. It's too soon to say whether I take any new self-discoveries with me from this experience or not, but if nothing else, I had the opportunity to work with Tobias and make a solid piece of music to share with the world.

Any last words from either of you? What else can we look forward to from you guys?

TH: I'm always working on new material, we'll just have to wait and see what happens with it. I have started to put together a new, quite laidback album. I guess it could be finished in a couple of months. Since I'm unsigned, I'm hoping to find interested labels to release it. Also, me and my friend Ola has been writing songs together for over a year now, and we're in the middle of rehearsing and putting a band together. Hopefully, we'll be playing shows sometime next year. This is a rock/pop project and it's new to us both, so we're quite excited! I also want to thank you Avi, for putting this together!

TE: I've got quite a bit of stuff going on right now. My new 7"+LP set "Lost in reflections" will finally hit the stores during November. It's a co-release between iDEAL, Fang Bomb, Release The Bats and When Skies Are Grey.

I am also doing a cassette with Teeth entitled "Black Hole Heart" on Klorofyll Kassetter which probably will be released in November, too.

The coming year most of my artistic focus will be on the above mentioned Dead Violets ( We have a couple of releases planned. First up is a cassette entitled "St. Vitus Dance" on Fukk Tapes Lets Erase. That will be followed by a 7" and a new long player during next year. If things go according to plans, we're going to do a European tour this spring and a US tour in the fall.

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Tobias Hellkvist & Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words - White/Grey/Black