QuoteReplyTopic: Karda Estra Posted: June 18 2011 at 10:12
KARDA ESTRA is the brainchild of the multi instrumentalist and composer Richard Willeman who is obviously obsessed with the 1800's Gothic Revival and created this Neo Classical - Progressive project to exploit that dark mood that most Progressive Rock followers love so much.
Their main inspiration is so wide that goes from Romanian music from the Carpathian Mountains to Steve Hackett with who he shares that obsession for obscurity.
Your biography has been covered in your ProgArchives profile so let's bypass the
biography details. But which bands were you influenced by and why did you choose
that name ?
I've been influenced by all kind of bands - specifically
heavy rock & prog rock in my teens when I was learning to play the guitar -
Genesis, Hackett, Rush, Black Sabbath etc. I've also been heavily influenced by
19th/20th century classical music - Vaughan Williams, Satie etc. The 60's later
became a huge passion, Beatles, Brian Wilson, Bacharach, Jimmy Webb. Many other
bands too - from Talk Talk to 10cc. I have a great interest in soundtrack music
- I'm especially into Morricone. This has led to an interest in library music by
composers such as Keith Mansfield & Syd Dale. One moment I can be listening
to dark chaotic gothic soundtracks and the next chilled out, lounge music. If
there's a maj7 chord in there, I'm likely to be interested. From Cardiacs to Air
to James Bernard to The Carpenters - if I like the chords and find the
instrumentation/orchestration beautiful, I'm there. Some really good
new bands/musicians appear on Progressive Ears and they're a huge source of
pleasure and inspiration for me. You'll generally see me plugging them on my
The name 'Karda Estra' is a voodoo chant 'Karda Estra,
Karda Nostra' (repeat) from the 1966 Hammer Horror film 'Plague Of The Zombies'.
I'm a fan of Hammer.
This is an archive based interview also intended
for the fans you get well after both you and I have passed away so let's go
straight to your albums. Please give us your long or brief views on your albums,
A Winter In Summertime from 1998
beginning - a gothic concept mini album about a church excavation site and what
lies buried there. This instrumental album is the blueprint for KE where
progressive, classical, soundtrack and experimental music met and I could
indulge my interest in lots of varied instrumentation and harmonic based
Thirteen From The Twenty First from 2000
I expanded upon
the first album and my own soundtrack work and chamber music as well as the
Surrealisms suite (inspired by surrealist art).
Eve from 2001
is inspired by the short novel The Future Eve, written in 1886 by Villiers de
L'Isle Adam. It tells the story of the 'world-famed inventor and master
electrician Professor X', who creates a 'perfect' mate for his disturbed friend
Lord Ewald. The story is full of fantastical descriptions and images - the
android ('Andraiad'), the not yet fully formed human potential or spectre that
would become her soul and the quasi-scientific apparatus of Professor X. The
Future Eve also fondly brought back to mind films like Bride Of Frankenstein
(Universal) and Frankenstein Created Woman (Hammer) which also played a large
part in helping me set the scene. I find these kind of 'morality' plays just as
relevant and chilling today with the ever increasing developments in genetic
engineering and artificial intelligence. Also, when the creation is female, an
added dimension of cruel Pygmalion-like manipulation appears.
here isn't an adaptation of the story of The Future Eve. Instead, I was inspired
to explore the work's atmosphere, tragedy and sense of misguided ambition.
Equilibrium from 2002
This album is a collaboration with Russian
composer Artemiy Artemiev. He provided electro-acoustic soundscapes and I added
my guitars, percussion and keyboards as well as arrangements for female choral
wordless vocals and oboe. Quite different from the rest of the KE discography, a
little more freeform.
Constellations from 2003
is a concept album inspired by six constellations - partly mythical, partly
astronomical and partly put into an semi-autobiographical context. I also
included a cover of Steve Hackett's Twice Around The Sun.
A return to a full gothic concept album, Voivode Dracula is
inspired by five key scenes/characters from Bram Stoker's novel
The Age Of Science And Enlightenment from 2006
major theme of this album is Redemption. I used several sources to convey this -
some of them are also thematic links to previous albums. Here are the more
literal ones: The title of the album and first piece I composed was taken from
'The Werewolf Of Paris' by Guy Endore: 'But there was a strange shame here that
he could not overcome. Oh, the terrible disgrace, the ignominy of it -
possessing a mythical monster in one's own family, in this the age of science
and enlightenment!' The 'Return Of John Deth' pieces were inspired by the
painting 'John Deth' by Edward Burra. My own original 'John Deth' piece appeared
back on the 'Thirteen From The Twenty First' album and I always knew I'd give
him, like all great horror creatures deserve, some sequels. 'The Red Room' was
the second piece I wrote for this album. 'Bones In The Moonlight' was the last
and initially inspired by the rhythmic piano on Paul McCartney's 'Single
Pigeon'. 'Nocturne Macabre' was a challenge to myself - could I write a
quiet piece that actually stays quiet? (I am very fond of cressendos and
generally wide dynamics). The title is my acknowledgement to Saint Saens' 'Dance
Macabre' - a piece that enchanted me as a child and I'm sure it's spirit still
lies in the music I write.
'Talos' was inspired by one of the lifespan
lengthening project names in Robert Silverberg's novel 'Shadrach In The
Furnace.' Talos was the cybernetic one. I not only used this as a link to 'The
Future Eve', but also because I noticed that the other two projects 'Avatar' and
'Pheonix' were also titles of pieces I had written and liked the idea of this
'Carmilla' was inspired by the vampire short story by
Sheridan Le Fanu. 'Am I Dreaming You? Are You Dreaming Me?' was inspired by a
line in Robert Silverberg's 'Son Of Man.' The narration (spoken by Ileesha,
Helen, Caron and Zoe) are quotes from Sheridan Le Fanu's story 'Green Tea'. The
title for 'Second Star' was inspired by lyrics in the Kate Bush song 'In Search
Of Peter Pan', who was in turn partially quoting J.M. Barrie: 'When, When I am a
man, I will be an astronaut, And find Peter Pan, Second Star on the right,
Straight on 'till morning.'
The Last Of The Libertine from
'The Last Of The Libertine' harks back to my first KE album 'A
Winter In Summertime' in as much as I came up with a story outline. This time I
imagined a man who sold his soul in exchange to be able to live a life of
excess. Now we find him at the end of his life and full of regret. This regret
is not from some moralistic standpoint however. The regret is that the good
times are coming to an end.
I prefer this story to be open to
interpretation. I can't set it in stone much more than the above summary as my
own framework was more a series of impressions that I ran with, rather than a
fixed narrative. I can give some hints to the titles though: 'Paper Cuts' came
about as I was originally looking at some scissor cut silhouette art as possible
CD cover artwork. It dawned on me that the phrase 'Paper Cuts' was the perfect
phrase to introduce a contract signed in blood.
'Life Drawing.' I needed
a phrase that encompassed the Libertine's outlook and I decided to corrupt the
art of studying the naked form. 'Atom Of Warmth' is a phrase I have used from
Robert Silverberg's novel 'A Time Of Changes': 'Not a syllable of kindness. Not
a shred of sympathy. Not an atom of warmth.' 'Morning Wraiths' was a phrase I
used for the endless lovers I could imagine disappearing like ghosts in the
morning light. 'Halcyon Years' is the old Libertine's nostalgic look back. 'The
Last Of The Libertine' is ... the title track! 'Black Sun' - taken from the
title of the Joan Miro painting 'The Black Sun.' A phrase I used to describe a
lifetime being lived entirely at night. 'Terra Nova' or 'New Earth'. An
Weird Tales from 2009
This album is put together like a
cross between an old fantastic fiction pulp magazine and an anthology horror
1. The Whitstable Host. I wanted a host to open the proceedings,
rather like in an Amicus portmanteau horror film. I've been looking for an
excuse for years to do a piece dedicated to the wonderful actor Peter Cushing -
watercolourist, vegetarian, beheader of evil Karnsteins... and with this album,
I've given him the starring role as master of ceremonies. 2. Skulls In The
Stars. Inspired by the Solomon Kane stories of Robert E. Howard which were
originally published in the magazine Weird Tales. 3. The Eye Of Silence -
inspired by the painting of the same name by Max Ernst. 4. Green Dog Trumpet -
inspired by the first picture story in the book of the same name by Ian Miller.
Green Dog Trumpet is a giant dog creature with a box shaped body and huge
trumpet on top. I remember buying this way back in around 1980(?) from WHSmith's
in Mansfield on the way back from Saturday morning art class and it was a firm
favourite of mine back then, full of strange, bizarre, gothic paintings to
illustrate wordless stories.
5. The White Rose. A misguided and almost
fatal love theme. Inspired by the Sheridan Le Fanu short story The Room in the
Dragon Volant. 6. The Atom Age Sense Of Impermanence. The title is taken from a
line in the novel Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman: 'He was a for-the moment
person, a present-tense man, just right for the atom age sense of impermanence.'
This piece of music evolved as a hybrid of two favourite themes of mine -
Dracula (in this case, an alternate history) and the painting 'John Deth' by
7. Island Universes. 'Island Universes' are perhaps better
known as Galaxies - 'vast systems of billions of stars that populate the
Universe'. I hoped to try and evoke some of the emptiness, beauty and drama of
space. I've always loved a lot of 'space music', especially sci-fi soundtracks,
but I was especially inspired to write this after listening to the Chappell
library music recordings Experiments In Space by Robert Farnon. 8. There Is No
Finished World - Inspired to a degree by the surrealist painter Andre Masson's
'automatic drawing' technique and his painting There Is No Finished World ....
so, a spot of 'automatic composing', if you will. Masson described automatic
drawing as: 'physically, you must make a void in yourself: the automatic drawing
taking it's source in the unconscious must appear as an unforseen birth. The
first graphic apparitions on the paper are pure gesture, rhythm, incantation,
and as a result, pure scrawl. This is the first phase. In the second phase,
the image that was latent reclaims it's rights.' I decided to make a simple two
finger guitar chord the 'pencil' and the timing of 5/4 the 'canvas.' I then
recorded a stream of consciousness set of these two finger chords bouncing
around the neck of the guitar for my first phase. The second phase was seeing
what I could do melodically with these sequences ... which also included
adjusting a few bars to 3/4.
New Worlds from 2011
If 'The Last
Of The Libertine' is my mondo-gothic album (heavily influenced by Italian
soundtracks and UK library / lounge music), then 'New Worlds' is my mondo -
sci-fi album. It also marked several experiments - a focus on shorter tracks,
more collaborations and a release as a download (including free 256k option) as
opposed to a CD release.
How would you describe your musical development
and style from A Winter In Summertime to New Worlds ? How would you describe
your music ?
It's been a journey and experiment in how I can mix all my
interests composing (chords / harmony first, other elements supporting this) as
well as instrumentation and arrangements - from modern to multiple classical
players. To then use them while being inspired by musical and non-musical
influences (art, film, literature etc - usually quite fantastical) hopefully
makes it sound uniquely personal and 'me'.
I've recently been calling my
music 'futurist nostalgia' - I think there's quite a lot of looking back mixed
in with quite a lot of experimentation. It seems to sum up this musical
crossroads where I add lots of elements into the melting part.
started out before the internet really took off with file sharing, Youtube and
all the social media. How would you compare the scenes before and after the big
bang, so to speak ?
I think more people know about me now. Many
distributors & labels I have worked with have either gone under or are
finding it tough though. I decided to release 'New Worlds' as a download only
because of the problems with CD distribution now and I'm also extremely busy in
my day job (community musician working with people with disabilities), so I
simply didn't have the time to devote promoting a traditional CD release. 'New
Worlds' is getting about fine with the free download and pay what you want
Looking back on your career; what was your best and
worst experiences ?
Many years ago, I had several very close shaves with
getting major recording deals, soundtrack projects and the like but they didn't
materialise for one reason or another. They would have been the major
disappointments because, no matter what you may think of the 'business', you do
hope the most people possible will get the chance to hear what you've been
The best parts are from the indie labels and distributors
who I have worked with who've got my work out there anyhow, despite my music
being unfashionable and they've have helped me connect with like minded
listeners. I feel lucky in this respect.
Besides of your new album
and the promo work associated with it, what is your current status, your plans
for the rest of this year and beyond ?
All that's left in the can are two
cover versions - Steve Hackett's 'Tigermoth' & Pink Floyd's 'It Would Be So
Nice' that should appear on Mellow Records compilations at some time. I have had
one exciting offer of a collaboration track/album which I'm waiting for and
looking forward to. Apart from that, I have no plans. Certainly not for another
album or anything like that - I can't see me making another Karda Estra album
for a very long time - if at all. I quite like doing the acoustic Youtube videos
so maybe another one of those next or something else - maybe a one-off tune.
Recently I've had some requests to make the Land Of Ghosts rarities compilations
and old Lives & Times albums available as a download so I'll have a look at
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to
Yes, it's time for me to stop rambling now!!! Apologies
for some of the cut & pastes in the album descriptions - some of them are
quite a while ago for me to remember what I did in detail! And thank you Torodd
for asking me these questions and your interest in Karda Estra - it's very much
Big fan, too! Richard sounds a bit worn out. I'm saddened for I so look forward to his music and videos. Some of the most beautiful and haunting music on Earth! Thanks for the interview! Hope you find new inspiration and some major PR breakthrough/connection soon, Richard!
Drew Fisher, Prog Is Alive and Well in the 21st Century, Second Cloud on the Left Farm
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