Interview by Parisa Eshrati
Upon relocating from her hometown in Belgium to the woods of Oregon, multi-instrumentalist HULDER was able to harness her self-power and execute a fully realized vision for a one-woman black metal band. Through the ritualistic processes of connecting with nature and medieval Flemish traditions, HULDER's music offers a means to process the harsh realities of life through folklore and fantasy, all while staying rooted in a true, unfiltered black metal sound. In our interview, we discuss the workings behind the latest album, Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry, and what fans can look forward to in the future.
In your new album, Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry, you dabble between the harsh realities of life with themes of fantasy. Tell us about your music as a means to integrate these worlds together, and how folklore can be used as a way to explore the human experience.
I have always been interested in the realms that the mind traverses when immersed in a book or folk tale. Growing up, I was surrounded by all sorts of stories that had been handed down for generations, and this has had a lasting impression on me. I find it important to note that the meshing of fantasy and reality is, of course, not a new practice. Human beings used to utilize fantasy and tales of inconceivable triumph as a means to cope with their very existence. The fact that much of this information and practice has been lost in the world of technology is a shame, and I like to think of my music as a meager means to defy this erosion of tradition.
The album deals heavily on ‘realizations of self-power’, so I’m curious to hear you expand on this theme and what the ultimate outcome of these realizations have been for you. Additionally, what does self-power mean for you in terms of harnessing and executing your vision as a one-woman band?
This theme was a heavy influence on me in 2018 when Hulder came to be. I made the move to Oregon and decided to begin creating music on my own instead of looking for others to collaborate with. The decision to do so was on account of the fact that I had spent a number of years writing and performing music alongside others and was never quite satisfied with the direction that some of those projects ended up taking. While they served their purpose, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to work with some of those people, I knew that I needed to move forward and craft the music and imagery that I had envisioned. The realization of self-power that I experienced in harnessing creative control of my own band is something that I had never doubted but it felt right when it was achieved. There have been countless one-person projects within all genres and it can be done by anyone who wishes to take the time to hone in their craft.
In the music video for “Upon Frigid Winds”, you’re seen foraging in the mountains. I imagine this is a very integral part of your life, as you grew up in rural farm areas and maintained these traditions upon moving to Oregon. Tell us more about the importance of maintaining this very intimate ritual, and how it translates to the ritualistic nature of your songwriting and music.
Maintaining a strong relationship with nature is something that I feel is very important. We are only a few generations away from a time when there was no choice but to live a more symbiotic and self-sufficient lifestyle. I find it unfortunate that this knowledge and way of life has been systematically weeded out of our communities and the understanding of the idea that we are no more than animals is something that most do not grasp. This ties back into the idea of self-power, a bit. The ritualistic nature of foraging, fishing, hunting, etc. is similar to the experience of creating. One must have an innate understanding of their surroundings and intentions when doing such an activity. I wish for my lifestyle to influence my artwork and I intend on continuing and deepening this connection with all future endeavors that my music undergoes.
According to ancient folklore, hulders are forest creatures estranged from humanity. I want to connect this idea to keeping an air of mystery to your persona. Though "The Inquisitor" isn’t necessarily an alter ego, it certainly creates some distinctions. What is your connection to hulders in this sense of creating a deliberate distance? And how do you balance portraying personal themes in your music while also building this enigma?
The name seemed very fitting when I began writing music and thinking about what name to operate under. Being that the “Hulder” is a complex forest dwelling creature (to skim the surface), the name seemed to embody the intentions of the music and visuals. “The Inquisitor” is a moniker that was only utilized for my time in a previous band and this has caused some confusion for people along the way. I do not wish to mesh the two concepts or influences in any way. As far as balancing themes that exist within my personal life and crafting the idea of Hulder, I find this to be rather simple. The most intriguing lore has always been that which is steeped in bits of truth.
You’ve stated in previous interviews that the concept for Hulder had been in your mind for years, then started the project upon moving to Oregon. Was there a specific moment where you realized the vision was complete and ready to execute? What were the barriers to starting this project, and how did you ultimately overcome them?
I moved to Oregon in the fall of 2018, and due to my reclusive nature I did not have nor seek out many acquaintances. Since I had just spent some time living in Southern California, the rain and cold was very inspiring as it reminded me of my upbringing in Belgium. There were no real barriers that had stopped me from creating the music that I had envisioned prior, but the change in scenery and winter of isolation was very motivating for me.
I really appreciate how your grandmother has been a great influence on you, as she was an antiques dealer who dealt in medieval wares. What were some of the visual aspects that you were drawn to as a child when seeing these artifacts? And how do you think specifically the extreme intricacies of medieval art, if at all, have inspired your sound?
I would often go “picking” with her, and I distinctly remember the smell and ambiance of the many dark and musty old buildings and farmhouses we would rummage through. Oftentimes death had left these places vacant, and full of stories that would never be told, thus leaving the imagination to roam. Unfortunately, I believe I took the abundance of medieval wares for granted as I was fairly young at the time, but my personal collection grows as I age. I recall having an affinity for the macabre from as far back as I can remember, and I still cherish our outings to castles and cathedrals to look at the many depictions of decapitations and various scenes of torture. There is an unending longing for my hometown that plays a big part in the melancholic and nostalgic aspects of Hulder's sound.
Tell us about the location on the cover of this album. If I’m not mistaken, the cover to the last demo was taken at the Abbey of Tongerlo. Do you have specific locations in mind to mirror your various releases?
All of the photography for “Godslastering…” was captured by my good friend, Liana Rakijian, and each image was very intentional. The image on the cover of the album was captured next to the lake where I pick my blackberries for the year, the photograph inside of the lyric booklet was taken in the cemetery across from where I lived at the time, and the poster inside the LP shows a small creek that I frequent while camping and mushroom hunting in the Tillamook Forest. While earlier works have been based heavily on my memories, I felt that the album’s imagery should display my current focus and surroundings.
Who are some of your favorite Flemish composers? What are the distinct properties of Flemish music that you’ve been inspired by?
I am not sure about their exact origins, thus not Flemish per se, but Alexander Agricola and Daniel Danielis are some classical Belgian composers that come to mind and I thoroughly enjoy them. My grandfather, who recently passed, introduced me to classical music as well as opera and theatre which he was heavily involved with. Many of my favorite compositions were veiled in sadness due to the circumstances that were prevalent in those times.
What else is in store for you for the rest of the year? Any tentative tour plans?
As for the rest of this year, I am going to place a strong focus on live performances. The first live performance in support of the album was to be at Metal Mean Festival in Belgium but, unfortunately, that plan was foiled by a last-minute change in international travel restrictions. I will be announcing a handful of US performances in October, November and December soon. Talks have begun for some touring in 2022 but plans and announcements are yet to be made.