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Interview with Templər - "When art triggers discomfort or shock, it forces us to pay attention"

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

by Stina Isabel Gavrilin

You guessed it folks, another BFTV is approaching fast and hits the club HALL with full force on Friday the 13th with a very special live act lined up. Playing in Estonia for the first time ever, Templər​ is the solo project of Thomas Chalandon, half of the duos Imperial Black Unit and ATT Corp. He aims to deliver rhythmic noise infused harsh techno tracks, slow and blistering sounds using a mix of nowadays instruments and old school industrial methods. In anticipation, he spoke to us about the project, his influences, passions and how he defines art and music.

Templər is a project that revolves heavily around themes of revolt, oppression, the malice of man, and the continuous dystopian state of the world. Do you approach these topics from an angle of never-ending doom or rather of faith and hope?

Indeed, my project delves deeply into these recurring themes, which can either directly relate to general subjects or specific human behaviours that anyone can relate to based on their own difficult experiences. My intention is to encourage to introspect, to point out the dark realities of our world, and ultimately to create deeper reflection. While it should not eat you from inside of course. I believe that art is here to provoke questioning and critical thinking. Using shock strategy really gets people thinking about stuff they wouldn't usually. We should not avoid reality. It’s too easy.

When I dive into these topics, I do it with a sense of hope and faith. I mean, if it was a total lost cause, talking about it would be pointless. The first and most important step in fixing problems is just admitting they exist and having real talks about them.

What kind of musical background do you hail from, what shaped you in your youth?

Fortunately, my parents are very open-minded and music enthusiasts. They could appreciate every genre of music, and I grew up listening to incredibly talented artists spanning various genres.

As a kid, my mother was in charge of a media library, and I have memories of spending hours there after school, listening to CDs while doing my homework. It's where I stumbled upon many new genres that weren't part of our usual home playlist. I remember discovering 80s and 90s hip-hop, French rap and later, electronic music with artists like The Prodigy, Squarepusher, Sexy Sushi, The Hacker, Tangerine Dream.. I lived in a small village without internet access, so that was my only gateway to new sounds. Then when I got internet I discovered Mondkopf who literally brought me to what I love now. Listening to his albums, live acts or dj sets made me discover techno but also industrial music. Then the path was already set up. From Mondkopf to Emptyset, Pan Sonic and Ancient Methods. From Ancient Methods to Sonar/Klinik and Hands. Then 20 years old me went to my first Maschinenfest which is something that changed me forever (on top it’s where I met my actual best friend and best band mate ever, Incendie, with whom I created ATT Corp).

What is it that drew you to power noise and its forerunners, Esplendor Geométrico, whom you’ve spoken highly of time and again?

Esplendor Geometrico has something very particular that I cannot find anywhere else noisically speaking. Of course the industrial noise sonorities are amazing but what makes me go crazy about it (and I hate apology) is the state of mental trance they bring me to. When you look at the main construction of their tracks it’s basically super minimalistic. It’s often a very repetitive main rhythmic pattern with a lot of evolving noisy sounds. And this pattern can go for 10 minutes without a change. I don’t know how to describe it but each of those patterns are so efficient that it really bring me in a state where I really lose myself into an infinite loop. Finally my brain stops overthinking, finally.

It’s completely different but for example when I go cycling, hiking or running I reach this same state of mind where my brain disconnects because it gets stuck in a loop (left, right, left, right, left, right and so on…).

Listening to Esplendor Geometrico makes me feel the same effect. It literally stops everything in my head (thoughts, spatio-temporal reference) but it doesn’t stop my emotions. What else should I need?

Is it a necessity for music to be uncomfortable?

To quote one of my favorite sayings, 'He who meditates lives in darkness; he who does not meditate lives in blindness. We only have the choice of black.' This quote resonates with me because it highlights the importance of introspection and critical thinking.

Music has been an integral part of my education and personal development and It has served as a catalyst for me to reflect on the world around me and question my own beliefs and opinions. In essence, it forms a profound connection with both intellectual and spiritual growth. One of my favorite musical projects is Test Dept because they have played a significant role in both my musical and political education.

Also I firmly believe that art, in all its forms, exists to provoke thought and challenge our perspectives. It serves as a means to ask questions that we may not have considered in our everyday lives. When art triggers discomfort or shock, it forces us to pay attention and engage with the message. Ultimately, art is a powerful tool for prompting self-reflection and generating meaningful output.

Artists like SPK, who employ shock strategies to make people think, exemplify this role of art. I want to clarify that I'm discussing their artistic output and intention here, and not necessarily endorsing or condoning all of their artistic choices.

Is there an emphasized importance for you in including more unconventional ethnic cultural traditions and sounds from different parts of the world in your creations?

Honestly not really. I don’t do this in a particular way or anything. I just have been influenced by any type of music including non-western ones thanks to my parents. Also I had the chance to grow up with a lot of very close friends with origins from different countries. And as I’m curious I always searched a lot about those countries and their culture (Armenia, Benin, Morocco, Romania, Ukraine, Iran…). It’s fascinating how incredible those countries are (historically, musically, artistically). It is so pretentious to follow influences from the western culture only, there is so much more to discover than this. I love to use and blend all of this in my music. I do it with samples mainly on my last albums but my music is also a lot influenced by non traditional western rhythms. Sticking to western influences would be just boring.

You’ve incorporated various holy and mythical concepts into your music. What impelled you to dedicate a track to the Sumerian goddess of beer?

I am of course fascinated by mythology and history. But I used this thematic because I was working in a craft beer bar at that time. Craft beer is one of my passions also. And I find it pretty interesting that they were a goddess of beer in ancient Mesopotamia. The "Hymn of Ninkasi" is an authentic archaeological relic inscribed on a stone tablet, and it essentially lays out guidelines for the proper consumption of beer. (See? It’s not only about dystopia ;) ).

Most of my tracks have a connection with a societal problem but some of them are just screenshots of life moments.

There are quite a few Japanese references on your latest album, H.A.C.E. What’s your relationship with Japan and its culture?

I never had the chance to go there yet but I am reading a lot about it since quite a long time now. I’ve always been interested in its history. Not the anime, manga, Nintendo side but its history. From ancient times to Japanese movies and literature (do I need to mention the food?). But also it’s particular actual social codes. Japan is a really special and fascinating country.

You’re a pretty big literature fan. What can music convey for you that words cannot? Could any kind of music become a thoughtcrime?

Wow that's a deep question.

My vision of music is deeply connected to literature, through music I’m looking for knowledge or questionings. Same goes for literature. So in my opinion words can convey as much as music. And it is also why I pay a lot of attention to track or album titles. Because in a few words you have to describe a whole vision, idea or feeling. When I started music I was even more introverted than now so producing music was my only way to externalise my feelings.. Now thanks to the help of close friends I learned how to open up and talk. I have to say that writing those words to answer your questions kind of feels good to me, it helps me to externalise some words that are not clear enough in my sound. Words are good, and kick drums too.

Regarding thoughtcrime, I believe it all starts with intent. Any type of music can become a thoughtcrime if it promotes harmful ideas. Using controversial codes with the aim of discrediting it is acceptable in my opinion. This has been extensively used. Controversies are also part of industrial music and we all know debates about certain legendary bands or projects. My personal point of view is that as long as, in one way or another, it is proven that those codes are used in order to discredit them. It is not a thoughtcrime. However, playing on confusion is. Because it just promotes harmful ideas.

Another great passion of yours besides music is mountaineering. To what extent does that inspire you creatively?

Mountaineering is obviously inspiring me as a person so I guess artistically as well. I cannot separate the artist from its art. Same goes for myself. Templer is not directly impacted by mountains but I have a side project which is completely inspired by it. Lets go back on Templer, I will try to explain you how it influences my person.

I climb because, at times, albeit rarely, I find myself going through challenging periods. During such moments, negative and dark thoughts tend to creep in, making me lose objectivity as I become overwhelmed by my emotions. Hyperactivity, hypersensitivity... hyper everything. That's when I choose to ascend that hostile mountain. First, I hike, then I climb. Fear sets in, I'm fucking scared of that gap but as I persevere and eventually reach the summit, I turn my head to look behind me. It's in that moment, upon reaching the peak, that I witness reality transforming. The upper world. The dark clouds give way to the blue sky, allowing me to set my emotions aside and regain my objectivity. It's then that I realise my deepest desire is to descend safely and savor life once more. So, this is kind of related to the first question because thanks to mountaineering, I find hope and faith. For myself and my problems but also for world’s problems. It just sets up my positivity again.

As the upcoming show in HALL will be your Tallinn debut, how familiar are you with the city and venue?

Damn I’m so happy that I am finally visiting Tallinn. I always loved playing in eastern Europe and Baltic countries have really something special and fascinating to me. I am looking forward to it. Plus I follow Beats From The Vault since quite some time and many friends told me how it is there. It's funny because Fade (Statiqbloom) actually told me I would love to play there one week before you contacted me. Life is well made sometimes. I prepared a special live for this one where I will play some tracks from my last albums but also some new stuff. I’m excited to play for the first time in Tallinn. It will be a pleasure to discover Estonia and spend time with people there. Thanks a lot for your nice questions, its a pleasure to answer to a nice interview like this one.

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