It is getting colder, and darker out these days in New Hampshire and the changing of the seasons means the darker and introspective elements of myself come out. Nothing is as dark and as introspective as the music of Kim Larsen and his project Of the Wand and the Moon from Denmark. To wrap up my articles on this brilliant and emotional dark folk project Kim took time out of his busy schedule to answer some in-depth questions in the interview below. He gives us glimpses of what lies behind the music and why he spent 22 years creating a world of such stark, and compelling music that has touched so many people over the years.
I appreciate Kim taking the time to answer my questions knowing how reclusive and private of a person he is. He shows depth, intelligence, humor and care in his answers and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. His new album “Your Love Can’t Hold this Wreath of Sorrow” is out now and it is absolutely required listening (you can purchase the album with the links following the end of the interview).
Hello Kim, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me!
I guess my first question for you, is could you tell us your origin story Of the Wand and the Moon and how it was conceived?
“Hello Ryan, thank you for the questions. It has been a while since I gave any interviews. So please excuse me if some answers might be short.
Somehow it feels like walking in your own thoughts and then someone coming up asking you about something. Caught off guard.
But I’ll do my best.
I used to play in a doom metal band called Saturnus. At the same time, I was very much into music such as Current 93 and playing classical guitar. So, I incorporated this more, apocalyptic folk music into Saturnus (alongside the doom metal). Eventually the more acoustic ideas and compositions became too many to use for that band, and along the way I wanted to have a purer outlet for those ideas. And the other guys didn’t have the same love for this kind of dark/apocalyptic folk music. So, a natural step was to do my own project. In the beginning I hooked up with a female vocal duo that was doing singing in old Norse etc. But we weren’t really on the same page. I wanted something a bit darker, I guess. So, in the end I thought it be easier to just go ahead and do everything myself.”
At one point during an interview, you mentioned the style of music for Of the Wand and the Moon as “loner folk” could give us a more detailed definition of “loner folk” and what it genuinely means to you?
“It was a term that I heard from my co-producer Mikkel who recorded the new album. Guess it was more coined on musicians such as Dave Bixby, Bob Theil, Simon Finn etc etc. People who kind of got lost in time and were rediscovered decades after making some legendary albums. However, I felt somehow it matched pretty well where I had moved on to musically and lyrically. I really feel my music moved in another direction from when I first started out Of The Wand And The Moon. Not sure if you could call it folk nowadays even. Of course, there is some essence from the beginning but…yeah. There’s a lot of jazzy trumpets on the new stuff. And more of a 60s rock/folk band feel over it all, I think. It’s difficult for me to explain the style to be honest.
Anyway, loved that description…”
A common element to your music and lyrics is the concepts of love lost and regained and lost again. I noticed this as a very common theme in most of your discography, what made you want to pursue these themes to begin with?
“Never really planned out that this is the way the lyrics or music should be. Just my nature as a person, I guess. Hard to say what sparked that line of expression. But of course, things happening in my life pushed these thoughts and lyrics. Perhaps just trying to give a little back to the world what the world had to offer me …haha.”
How would you describe your creation process, are there any rituals or interesting things you do to help you write your music and come up with your ideas?
“No rituals really. Just must be in the mood and wanting to pick up the guitar or fumble around on the keyboard or whatever. Sometimes I can think of a line or watch something in a movie which will inspire a quote or a line. But usually just sitting down with the guitar. Compose the music. And then the lyrics will come after. The name Of The Wand And The Moon came into place as I used to do my music at night. And at the beginning I was somewhat into magick, runes etc. hence the “Wand” reference.”
Another element I noticed in your themes is nature and old faiths and such what drew you to these ideas for your music for Of the Wand and the Moon?
“I think this was mostly in the beginning of the band. I would read a lot about runes and magick as it was an interest at the time. Go to the royal/university library in Copenhagen and go through books on rune stones, mythology, and stuff like that. It’s more of a personal and intuitive thing these days. Like seeing signs and runes in building’s shapes for instance. But not really a big topic in the lyrical universe now.”
How important is Denmark to you and your writing process? Does it play a key role in influencing your ideas at all?
“I guess it has a huge role as the winters here are very long and dark. And it takes a big toll on my mood. Not good for my depressions. Probably not good for my production in those months either. But perhaps some work comes out of it after all.”
Another thing I noticed in your albums and music videos is a homage to old black and white films and you directly quote from these films too in some of your songs. What are the names of some of these movies and what do you recommend to our readers?
“Think those movies just somehow made sense to use. I have a nostalgia for those old movies. Love the works of Fritz Lang. So, the movie Spione was an obvious choice to add to some video. And movies like Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Le Feu Follet, Bonjour Tristesse etc. And later movies such as Taxi Driver had a lot of impact on me. I could go on. Anyway, just seemed to fit perfectly with the universe of the music.”
Of the Wand the Moon has been lumped into the neo-folk scene for many years now, what is your take on the scene and how has your experiences been with the musicians and bands you played with over the years?
“I am really grateful for all the experiences and the friendships from the scene. Also, people I was a fan of became friends. Had very magickal moments along the way for sure. But I don’t really want to get stuck. And repeat and repeat. Things will inevitably change…the way of life.”
Where do you see the dark folk scene going now in 2021? Nighttime Nightrhymes came out back in 1999. Has there been a huge shift in interest since then from your personal perspective?
“I don’t really sit and ponder about where things are changing regarding music. Maybe some young people will come along and pick up the torch and blow our minds. Who knows…?
All I know is that I’m always striving to make my own music better. For me. In my own little world. Whether or not people will like it.”
What was the main influences and feelings you were going through in the writing process of “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow”?
“The usual, I think. The pain of lost love. The pain of having to move along alone. Nostalgia. Solitude. Memories. All the good things in life haha…”
There is an almost romantic urbanism found throughout the album, prior Of the Wand the Moon albums had a distinct nature/pastoral feel while the new album is the complete opposite. What made you want to go in this direction?
“I just wanted to open up the universe of the music to not get stuck in the old ways. To be honest I think I am somehow going back in time to when I was in my teens. The memories and the sounds I was exposed to then. As a kid I would go with my friends to these abandoned sites, run down areas where I grew up. Where nature took over the concrete and what have you. Music wise there is a straight line from my father’s record collection as well, I think. The bass sound. The tic tac bass is the sound of the records my father had and that I was listening to when I was very young. The “Je t’aime moi non plus” single with Serge Gainsbourg (with “Jane B” on the B side). The Beatles “Rubber Soul” and “Help”. The trumpet fetish I think came from watching an ancient Danish crime series called “En by i provinsen”. The intro theme had some trumpet that stuck with me I think. My father was also a big fan of jazz. Miles Davis and such. I would also sometimes record the music and dialogue from movies off the TV on my cassette tape recorder when I was a kid. Like “Escape From New York”, “The Warriors” etc. A lot of these things made a big impact on me.
I am curious about your reasoning for writing the songs “Fall From View” and “Williamsburg Bridge” they seem to be almost jarring to the flow of the album in a completely good way. What message were you trying to convey in those tracks?
“Williamsburg Bridge was a kind of intro to Nothing For Me Here. And the title was a homage to a night walk with a good friend of mine, Luke, over that same bridge when I visited New York years ago. Again, perhaps some reconnection with imagery of my childhood memories, movies, and such. And all the sudden, seeing/being in it myself in some strange way these many years after. “Fall From View” was a somewhat purging/cleansing of depressive thoughts. Not sure how to otherwise put it.”
The trumpet plays a huge part in a lot of the songs in the new album (it seemed to be used sparingly in “The Lone Descent”) what about this instrument? Because to me it fits perfectly in the mood and feel of the new album.
“I met Bo Rande the trumpet player many years ago, watching him play for the band Blue Foundation. Which he is still playing in. I asked him to play on “The Lone Descent” album and he agreed. While he recorded the stuff for that album, I was in such an awe of his playing, his technique, that I said to myself, “the next album I will do he has to have more songs to play on.” So made room on the new songs for him to throw in a solo or a part. Can’t praise him enough. At the recording sessions, everything he recorded we could use. Was just a matter of choosing. So wonderful.”
What is the overall message you want listeners to feel and understand about “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” what should we pay attention to or be aware of in the listening experience?
“I just hope people will enjoy the music. There is no message as such I want to pass on.
It’s a painting I painted. Just enjoy it for what it is.”
Out of all the Of the Wand and the Moon albums you created, which one would you say is your most favorite album as well as your least favorite?
“The new album is my favourite. I don’t have a least favourite. They all had their place in time.
I really don’t listen to my old stuff. Apart from playing it live. When it’s done it’s done for me, and I’m off to another place trying to do something new.”
What are some of your interests outside of music? Are there any surprising aspects of you (Kim Larsen) that fans would be interested to know?
“Haha…don’t really know what would be interesting. I love taking rides on my bicycle around Copenhagen in the summertime (which is too short). Sometimes taking rides to places or streets I haven’t been down before. Discovering new areas of the city and surroundings.”
How would you describe your music to someone who may not be familiar with Of the Wand and the Moon?
“It’s really difficult for me as I’m not a music journalist. Perhaps, melancholic music that were inspired by 60s soundtracks and acts such as Lee Hazlewood, Serge Gainsbourg, The Beatles, loner folk and of course my starting point of the dark folk/neofolk/whatever genre. Apart from that I don’t know…”
And finally, do you have any closing words for our readers?
“Love is made of dreams and dreams are made of hope and hope will smother dreams and dreams will smother love! But remember…the tears are free!”