Interview: The Haxan Cloak
Bobby Krlic’s first album for Tri Angle is a mystery, in this life and the next
Words Nick Johnstone
Photography Huw Nesbitt
Heaven, hell, resurrection, nothingness or something altogether different; Bobby Krlic lets himself get whittled down to a handful of alternatives before his PR training kicks in.
“My last album was about the dying of the character, and this record is the next step. It starts at the point where the last one finished, so you could literally play them back-to-back, but it goes in a different direction. I can’t say much more.”
Krlic’s second full-length as The Haxan Cloak might be shrouded in secrecy, but past performance suggests the album won’t exactly escort you lovingly to the pearly gates.
Due for release in early 2013 through the revered Tri Angle label, these are eight tracks that Krlic, a man with a passion for the “bleaker aspects of life”, describes as “exceptionally personal”.
Last year’s eponymous debut, created in his parents’ Wakefield shed using strings, mics and a laptop, bulged with bloody-minded conviction; prickles of distortion, glissando screeches and quivering arcs of resonance heaping dread upon listeners by the shovelful, like Royston Vasey devoid of comedy.
True to its drone credentials, the album relied heavily on textural ingenuity, and a mix for FACT that coincided with its release (on Aurora Borealis) was the perfect manifesto for Krlic’s aesthetic. It lurched from death metal to glitch, mercilessly cattle-prodding downloaders stuck in the indolence of the internet age.
Today, Krlic is ensconced with a long-term girlfriend in Stoke Newington. By day, he makes corporate production music to keep the wolf from the door. Given what lurks under the guise of The Haxan Cloak, he is unexpectedly affable.
“I’m not a miserable or dark person,” he insists. “My personal life is very happy, but I do think you can find comfort in discomfort. Through music, I explore that spectrum. If people don’t like it, that’s not my fault.
“When I toured with Liars, I thought, ‘Do I just play stuff to get people moving?’ Or, ‘Even if there are only 10 people left by the end, do I play what I want to play so at least I’ve challenged them?’ There’s definitely an oversaturation of music at the moment. It’s like a whirlwind the amount of stuff coming out, and it’s a bleak prospect being tossed into that sea.”
Krlic is better positioned than most, though. Unlike your average laptop aficionado, he is an actual musician. Playing strings from an early age, he studied music and visual arts at Brighton University and now engages in musical activities way beyond the reach of most.
Take, for example, his lofty commission for next February’s Spitalfields Festival — a piece of sound art responding to the renaissance work of John Dowland — or his thrice-yearly music classes for young offenders in Benjamin Britten’s windswept homeland of Aldeburgh in Suffolk.
The latter project led to a week in Snape Maltings studios, packed to the rafters with orchestral instruments of every kind, where Krlic — “a kid in a sweet shop” — entertained himself for an entire day with just the resonances from an eight-foot gong, taking samples for the forthcoming Tri Angle release.
But don’t take this man for a boff who delights merely in the arcane. His last album, released on metal-leaning label Aurora Borealis, earned him parallels with Sunn O))) and Ben Frost. Yet live audiences glimpsed electronica that justified as many references to brooding techno labels such as Modern Love or Blackest Ever Black.
“I’d like to imagine I’m more a composer than a producer,” he says, “but I’ve got a lot of dance music tendencies. People say, ‘I bet you just sit in and listen to Penderecki and Shostakovich all day,’ yet I’ve always been into rap, techno, and so on. At uni, all I wanted to do was make techno.”
Krlic promises these glimmers will burn far brighter on the new full-length, which he says has been a difficult one to make:
“The act of bearing the soul is a strange thing. I felt a lot of pressure early after signing with Tri Angle — mentally, I didn’t think I needed to make a record. I thought it was done six months ago, then I took a month off, went back and said, ‘No, I’ve made the record everyone wants me to make… So I revised it.”
The result, says Krlic, is “the most personal thing I could possibly express” — a thing unlikely to let you rest in peace.