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INTERVIEW with Alaric Stille of the electronic project Cult of Coil

Cult of Coil is a Riga-based experimental electronic music project started in 2021 by Alaric Stille, devoted to blending deep rhythmic oscillations with an ethereal atmosphere. Influenced by works of :wumpscut:, Diary of Dreams and Das Ich, Cult of Coil is a mission to explore the darkest and most dystopic realms of the genre, putting existentialist philosophy into sound, creating music from raw materials of the absurd in order to confront the unknown.

  1. When and how did you get started making music seriously, and have you had any formal training?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): Sometime around 1997 or so, when I discovered such thing as tracker music (now more commonly referred to as chiptune, albeit it’s a bit different) and realised that you can make music with just a computer. I’ve had some formal training playing piano in childhood, but that’s about it, I’m mostly self-taught.

  1. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as a music maker and producer, and the transition towards your own style?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): I’ve started by dissecting favourite tracker music pieces, which was a pretty simple tasks, because the MOD files it used were basically MIDIs and samples lumped together, and tried to figure out what makes them sound good. I also spent some years playing bass guitar in a multiple underground bands, playing different styles. Over the years, I accumulated some things that I like and that work for me. Developing my own style was a matter of putting those together and developing the intestinal fortitude to get my music out before the world.

  1. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember, and who are you listening to now?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille):  Apollo 440, The Prodigy and Rammstein were the major early influences, not to mention many obscure artists from the tracker music scene. Nowadays, it would be :wumpscut:, Diary of Dreams and Das Ich. As for listening, my typical playlist is fairly diverse, with tracks ranging from classical music to Frank Sinatra, to aggrotech like Hocico to old-school death metal (such as Death).

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with people?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): The ambience, perhaps. At least, that what seems one of the most important things when I make a track, it has to have strong ambience to it.

  1. What do you think separates you from the crowd of electronic music makers emerging right now?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille):  Not to be humble-bragging, honestly – I don’t consider myself superior to any other music producer out there. I just try to put things that brew up in my head into sound, because that’s just what I love to do. But to answer your question, perhaps it would be the mix of danceable rhythms with otherworldly ambience.

  1. What is your process when composing a song? Where do start, and what usually comes into your head first – the tune, the rhythm or the vibe and atmosphere?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille):  It’s the general vibe of the track. Then I work to figure out a chord progression that would sound accordingly. Next comes the rhythm, usually it’s pretty basic at this point, mostly a less-boring version of a metronome. Afterwards comes the tune, but somehow I can’t capture those without and instrument and hand, I need to play it first in order to write it down, and having at least a basic rhythm in place helps this process. In the end, I often rework the drum and percussion parts into something more interesting and possibly intricate.

  1. How strict are you with genres? Have you ever been tempted to work with other genres that are outside of your preferred style?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): When writing music, my only rule is “if it sounds right, it’s good”. Sometimes I specifically listen to music outside of my usual preference, to try to gain a fresh perspective on things. The future release that I’m currently working on, for example, will feature some trap music inspired drum parts.

  1. Are there any key ingredients that you always try to infuse into all of your production work, regardless of the song at hand?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): Typically reverb effects, subtle background sounds and a strong low-end.

  1. How much do current popular songs from the radio or club scene influence your music, creative approach and/or production decisions? Is it something you pay attention to, or do you only follow your own template?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): I can’t say those have any effect on my tracks. I just do what I do, the best way I can.

  1. If you were forced to make a choice, which would you ultimately prefer – performing in front of a live audience, or creating music within a studio setting, and why?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille):  Performing live is fantastic, but it’s the studio where I feel at home the most. Probably this has something to do with my introverted nature.

  1. What were some of the main challenges, difficulties you faced when starting out making music, and which are the difficulties you are facing now, if any?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): When I was starting out, it was the lack of resources and information – there weren’t a thousand of tutorials just a google search away, quality samples were hard to come by and I lacked the money for proper equipment. Now, the only difficulty not having as much time as I would love to spend on making music. Sometimes other things and responsibilities just get in the way.

  1. What was your first hardware/software set-up like? Has your setup evolved since then, and what for you is the most important piece of gear in your recording and production process right now?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): My first set-up consisted of a computer (an old i386-based DEC with whooping 100Mhz processor and 4 megs of RAM) and FastTracker II software. Now it’s a Macbook Pro, Nektar keyboard, all the usual jazz like monitors and mixer, and of course my favourite pair of Audio-Technica studio headphones. In the studio, most of the work is done in Logic, with final mixing and mastering being done in iZotope Ozone, with Sonarworks SoundID working in the background removing the slight coloration from the monitors. For live performances, I use Ableton Live mostly.

  1. Which aspect of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): It’s the independence and creative freedom. I do what I want to and how I want to. I’ve got no manager making decisions on how my next track should sound and what kind of music I should be making.

But that freedom comes at a price: you’re on your own. It’s up to you to manage all aspects of being an artist, and honestly, it can be overwhelming sometimes, being you own manager, promoter, songwriter, publisher, everything in one.

  1. Has the idea of adding vocals to any of your tracks ever crossed your mind at any one moment, or do you feel vocals may compromise your musical vision?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): Yes, I’m currently playing with the idea of adding some vocals, but at the moment there are no certain plans of releasing a track with vocals. However, I’m open to ideas and collaboration, so if someone reading this feels like singing over darkwave-styled music, feel free to reach out!

  1. In general, do you consider Internet and all the social media platforms as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with this new technology at hand?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): To be honest, for years I have underestimated the impact social media has. In this time and age, it’s one of the most important tools in building a career in almost any creative industry. The market is oversaturated as never before and people are reluctant to go and look for new music, so they often rely on curators and influencers to find the right tracks for them. Endorsement by one can get you heard by the audience who just might enjoy what you offer. My personal relationship with new technology is, well, a love/hate one. On the hand, it’s easier then ever before to get your music out there. On the other, it led to heavy oversaturation, unless your marketing game is on top, you’re likely to be just another drop in the ocean.

  1. If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille):  Atmospheric, dark, ethereal

  1. Could you tell us something about the concept and intention of your latest release?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille):  Latest release, the double-sided single “WMD” is about something that changed the world in a most profound way, namely the Manhattan project. Side A is about the creation of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer’s infamous quote and realisation that it is the point of no return. Side B is about the subsequent bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, seeking to highlight the horror, havoc and death war brings upon ordinary civilian people.

  1. Do you have a favorite track among your releases, which maybe has an interesting backstory and/or message that is very important to you on a personal level?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): That would be the track Drifting Away, form the eponymous EP. It’s about an acute realisation and acceptance of one’s mortality, inspired by a near-death experience I had a long time ago. It’s something that is hard to describe in words, it was like drifting away to a dark and empty, yet oddly comfortable place, while the worlds slows down to a stop, and all worries and troubles dissolving, leaving you with a complete peace of mind… And then suddenly you’re yanked back to life, seeing everything differently than before but being unable to pinpoint what exactly has changed. But one thing for sure, life became brighter and richer afterwards. Perhaps the old adage is true, we have to (nearly) lose something, to fully realise it’s value.

  1. Does the idea of collaborations on an album ever cross your mind, and if so, who most would you like to collaborate with?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): I’ve thought about it on and off, but it was never high on the list of priorities. But again, I’m open to suggestions and offers.

  1. Do you have a specific vision or goal that you would like to achieve in the near future?

Cult of Coil (Alaric Stille): That would be finishing the full-length album I’m working on right now, it’s about 2/3rds ready, but still much to do. It will be a mix of different styles, with a few electro-house styled tracks, then some melodic darkwave and an ambient experiment. It will like be release sometime this September.


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