Susanne Sinmara, an Austrian living in London, is the editor in chief of the web-zine Destructive Music, dealing in Black Metal, Doom, Folk and other styles of music. She also plays drums in a couple of bands. Besides this she has been active in the contemporary pagan scenes, as well as thriving to be as self-sufficient as possible, growing her own food and studying farming and animal husbandry. Always interesting to have a conversation with a fascinating person.
Hello Susanne! How’s the autumn weather in London?
Hello! It’s getting rather cold and wet, after a very dry September – no more blackberries to forage in the forest, but there’ll be other fruits and plants I can forage. My plants in my garden are quite happy about the rain though!
I know you are working on being self-sustaining when it comes to basic living, growing your own food and making your own daily products out of the many things you farm. Still, living in the urban area of London, one needs to work in order to pay the rent (and to avoid collecting the awkward unemployment check)?
Ah, indeed – having all these little projects going, drumming and travelling to other countries isn’t cheap. I’m working in an office – nothing special, but it pays the bills. I’ve been lucky enough to have a good education and the skills for a decently paid office job, although the ultimate goal is buying a small farm with my boyfriend.
Are you determined to live one day at your own farm, free from the treadmills of modern society, or do you think this is most likely just another individual utopia, at least in England?
The way I see it, farming, self sufficiency and going back to basics is the future. The current Western market system isn’t working, it’s collapsing, and I certainly don’t want to be caught up in that. Us Westerners have been living in such luxury, and the rest of the world wants to have their share of that – but imagine Asia and Africa all trying to have the same lifestyle as we have. Can’t blame them for this, of course. The earth doesn’t have the resources to cope with such a high demand. Chandran Nair wrote a great book about this topic, Consumptionistics.
We want to breed goats, sheep and pigs, and have a permaculture on our farm. There’s so much to learn! I’ve been raised on home grown vegetables and fruit, and have experience in growing my own veg and fruit to a certain extent for quite some time. Baking bread by hand, learning how to preserve and ferment vegetables, how to make cheese, make mead, sew clothes, work leather – all things I learnt and regularly do. Saves a lot of money as well. The one thing I do want to keep doing is drumming and making music, so I will need to keep the internet…
Being originally from Austria, did you find it difficult at first to adjust to the societal ways of the UK? And have you become one with the English character, or do you feel like your Austrian personality will never completely understand the British ways of mind?
There were a few hiccups in the beginning – moving from a fairly rural area into London was quite a culture shock. I missed the mountains around me. London is different to the rest of the UK – no one cares what you do, how you look like, and if something happens on the tube, people just look away. The famous British stiff upper lip! The countryside is like Austria – people greet you when you’re walking in the forest, and it’s generally more friendly. Austria has its advantages and disadvantages – the people can be very backwards, especially in the rural areas. The metal scene is pretty good though! Austrians and British people have fairly similar characteristics: the black humour, the constant moaning. These days I feel half a Londoner, half Austrian. I enjoy going back to Austria, going hiking in the alps. I miss skiing, haven’t raced down a ski slope for 10 years!
If I’ve understood correctly, you find solace and strength in the ways and customs of old, like many people interested in Black Metal and Folk music often do. You also visit Pagan Festivals. How do the English Pagan communities differ from Austrian ones?
In a way old customs fascinate me, and to a certain extent I celebrate some customs and fests – winter and summer solstice, Samhain, summer harvest and so on – however we live in the here and now, and not in the past. We learn from the past, and we move on. Mankind is ever changing and expanding, sadly mostly to the worse these days. This one of the reasons why I want to buy a small farm and live as self sufficient as possible, and do my little bit to help nature. I dabbled with the London Pagan scene a little bit and met some interesting characters, but generally found it too closed and narrow minded. As with all scenes there’s a lot of posing and bitching. Back in Austria I had a few pagan friends and we celebrated together a few times, but we were all too diverse to really get on with each other. I’m really not into the ‘waving hands into the air and sing songs’ Wiccan rituals. Each to their own.
Do you practice certain kind of Pagan-customs, or are you eclectic in that sense? Do you feel a sort of a Pan-European Paganism could triumph over the modern hypocritical so-called Christian values, or do you think local Paganism will just turn into nationalism and the quarrelling will continue on that level as well?
They recently recognised Druidism as a religion in the UK, which is fantastic, and a step forward, however Paganism will always be a niche-religion due to the many sub-groups. It’s more an umbrella term anyway. I’m curious how spirituality will evolve over the next decades, it’s hard to predict of course.
Being involved in the world of Black Metal have you had your “Satanic” phase at some point, or have you been strictly into Paganism since you started to question the modern ways? Or are you perhaps constantly fascinated by the idea of Christianity’s Adversarial Angel?
I’ve never been interested in Satanism, never been interested in any kind of structured organised religion – be it magickal orders, Wicca or other organised religions. I find it much more beneficial to work on my own – obviously group dynamics have a much different dynamics for magickal purposes, but if you’re not working with people that are pretty much like yourself, you get energies in the group dynamics that I wouldn’t want. I draw my energy from nature and am eternally grateful for what nature and earth gives me. This also means I try to give back as much as possible and care for the environment.
Trees, forests, plants, stones – if that makes me a bloody hippie, then so be it. As a human you can’t just take take take, you have to give as well to keep the balance. Peter Carroll’s Liber Kaos is a book that influenced me and has opened my eyes. I’d consider myself a chaos magickian, albeit not quite what the common description is. Like with music I don’t limit myself to one system – I pick and chose what works best for me. Runes, Buddhism, Hinduism, North American Indians, Germanic teachings, Egyptology, Crowley, Shamanism, Chakras, healing stones and herbs, all that and more have influenced me in one way or another. In the end all you need is your mind. Willpower, Discipline and an open, yet sceptic mind. There’s so much knowledge out there!
Have you always been into metal, or did you have your punk- or goth-periods at some point growing up (perhaps still have)? What other styles of music interest you and give you the right feelings?
My father had a 50ies jukebox with Suzie Quatro, Deep Purple, The Sweet and so on, that got me interested in rock as a tiny kid, moving on to glam rock/metal when I was 10. Then I got into punk in my early teens, moved on to black metal in 1991/1992 when I was 14 (as well as being a massive Manowar fan). Up until I was 21 I didn’t like any electronic music, until a friend introduced me to EBM, and started to explore the goth side – Industrial, goth rock, dark wave, 80ies. Then in my early 30ies I discovered folk and neofolk, as well as world music – Indian music, north European folk etc. Every music genre has some good acts, even hip hop or rap. It’s silly to limit yourself to one particular kind of music, why would anybody do that? Open your mind.
Besides being the editor in chief of a busy webzine, you also play in a couple of bands. How do you find time for all of this?
It helps having good organisational skills, a diary and commitment. I cram an hour of working out every morning after I get up (at 5.45am…) into each day, and I sleep 7 ½ hours for a good nights rest. I give myself some time to unwind by watching documentaries, reading and long walks in the forest.
You share your daily life with a talented musician, with quite similar tastes and ways of life, am I correct? Do you give each other musical ideas and inspirations, or do you keep your own projects at different rooms of the flat so to speak?
Indeed, we’re both drummers in several bands, although the musical spectrum varies quite a bit – mine is raw black metal, atmospheric black metal and a folk/shamanic influenced extreme metal band (think Dordeduh, Halo Manash, Wardruna, Primordial), and he is doing atmospheric post black metal, 70ies psychedelic rock/doom, death metal and sea shanties. We don’t really influence each other, but it’s a constant back and forwards with bands we discover to check out. The second bedroom is full of drum equipment, percussion instruments and other instruments.
He does influence my cooking though, only if someone appreciates the food I make I’m able to be creative in the kitchen! We try new foods from all over the world and I love to concoct new dishes.
As this year is at it’s autumn months, do you already have big plans for the year 2015, or do you take your days one at a time?
The only big thing I planned for next year is a 2 week trip to Iceland, hopefully exploring South Iceland by bicycle. Then there are a few gigs lined up for Mørktår and hopefully Thurs too. I try to go to some festivals abroad too, Sommersonnwend in Austria (summer solstice festival in the Salzburg alps). Generally I prefer not to plan too much ahead and be spontaneous, because it’ll never go as planned anyway. Just enjoy the ride, life’s too short to worry. As a Buddhist once told me: ‘If there’s something in your life that worries you, but you can’t do anything about it, just drop it like stone’.
Thank you for this awesome little chat, please let us know where to find you and your work!
The Destructive Music website is www.destructive-music.com
Mørktår is www.facebook.com/morktarofficial