V. Santura is a name that many within the more progressive and black metal scene will have seen pop up regularly. Having been a member of both Triptykon and Dark Fortress for many years and running his own studio as well, Santura has slowly but surely built a name for himself within the metal scene. Prior to the release of Dark Fortress’ latest album, our senior editor (and fellow audio engineer) had the opportunity to chat with Victor about his inspiration when writing music, how he ended up working with Obscura and a few other audio engineering topics.
How do you feel the response has been to the music you’ve released so far?
I’m very very happy with the response that we’ve received so far and I’m quite surprised how much attention it’s been getting. I checked the other day how many clicks and listens we were getting on Spotify and Youtube and we were at over 100k combined which is pretty amazing. So far, I’ve seen very few negative comments as well and the rest have been all positive. So yes, I’m very happy with how the response has been.
In comparison to previous albums, how different was the process behind this album to previous ones?
Production wise, it was the same as last time as I did all the recording, mixing and mastering. The writing is always a bit different as you often have different inspirations and feelings that you want to convey. In the past, I always had to work really hard to get ideas for new songs but with this album I got a lot of inspiration from nowhere in 2015 where I wrote about two thirds of the album. It was a very good feeling and the music was coming out very naturally. It just took very long until we finally finished the record and started recording it though.
I got a lot of new gear for the studio as well which resulted in things sounding a little bit different. I got an Engl fireball which was amazing and pretty much the sound I have always been looking for. I still use the same guitar though.
Inspiration is always sort of a thing that you have that you want to express. I would say that nature is a common one and with this album that was very prominent. There’s a picture which I want to express when I write music which is like you are in the arctic with the eternal ice and night sky above you. There’s also the stars above you and It’s super cold. In a way, it’s a very beautiful picture whilst also being a bit hostile. I’d class it as “sparkling darkness” which is something I want to express with our music. I’ve been on a lot of trips to the high Alps and other winter environments which definitely had an influence on the songwriting.
You’ve been working with Obscura for a number of years now. How did you end up working with them?
I’m actually working on some live mixing of them right now! I’ve produced all their albums aside from Retribution which I did almost all the lead vocals on. I’ve known Steffan (Kummerer) since he was 17 years old and is from the same town as me. We used to rehearse in the same place and as a result I’ve known him for pretty much the entirety of his career.
Does it ever get difficult to schedule everything that you do, or is it all thoroughly planned out?
I always have to make time schedules as a lot of what I do involves months of forward planning. I’m tending to do a lot more mixing only these days as recording schedules can get moved around due to bands occasionally not being ready to record. That way, I always have one or two things in the pipeline and I don’t end up sitting around for a month doing nothing. I’m actually starting another band, my third band, soon called Rootbrain with some friends in Finland and we’ll be hopefully releasing some music and playing a few shows soon. I have high hopes for that band as it’s more kind of Black Grunge style and is very cool stuff.
What is something all new bands should learn to do on the road?
That’s a good question and something that might not seem that obvious. Practicing their instruments is one that may seem obvious but I know some bands that don’t which can lead to poor performance. I think probably one of the main ones is attitude. You should treat the people who are with in a respectful manner and not be an asshole. I think that’s probably a very important thing.
What would you like to see less of in the music scene?
Interesting question! [laughs]
I could say that I would like to less shitty music that is boring but that is very much in the eye of the beholder. I think if the people who created it really love it, then I guess it might be legit. I guess the conclusion of that is that I want to see less music that is created as a product and more that is made with passion and for the right reasons. Making it just to fulfil a certain goal or making it to be a product and not art is what I want to see less of.
What are the bands plans for the next few months?
We’ll be doing a lot of touring and are playing a few release shows and potentially a European tour in the autumn. If the visa’s get approved, we’ll be coming to America for the first time in our career which will be really exciting. We’re hoping to do some more tours and a few festival shows as well which should be good.
Stabwounds, an album you regarded as “the prime Dark Fortress album”, was re-released last year. How was the response for that?
It was very important to me that the album was available again as it’s not been available at all for a couple of years. It is kind of our breakthrough album and has a big personal meaning for me so it was very important to make it available again for people to listen to and buy. Of course, the response for that was not as big as it is for this new album but that’s how it’s supposed to be.
What’s a question you wish someone asked you?
I would like some more questions about audio engineering as that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to and I love talking about that. I totally understand, however, that more people are interested in the music as opposed to the technology behind how it’s made.
Well, you’re talking to a fellow audio engineer. What would you say is your preferred audio interface to use?
I’ve been using my RME fireface which I’ve had for many years now and I’m ok with it. I’ve been doing a lot of research for the perfect interface and there isn’t one on the market for way I want it at the moment. It would be an interface that allows me to record 32 tracks simultaneously at 96kHz with built in processors that give no latency monitoring with effects. That doesn’t really exist so that’s why I have an analogue desk to monitor 100% latency free. That desk is an old Soundcraft Ghost which I purely use only for monitoring. I invested a lot of money in good preamps and microphones which is what I have now.
If you had to live with only one microphone, which one would you pick?
I would probably go with something like an AKG C414 even though it’s barely my favourite mic for any source, but you can use it on basically anything and it doesn’t suck. It’s a good all-round mic and you put it on basically anything and get some decent results. It’s of course, not the best mic but it never sucks so I would probably pick this one. The sound never sucks, but sometimes there is a better mic. I use it a lot as a snare bottom mic and it sounds really good on that.
What’s your opinion on modelling amplifiers?
I had a phase where I was working with an Axe FX all the time as it was so easy to use. I got away from that again when I started getting good preamps and proper cabinets and realised I got the best sound with a good cabinet with a vintage 30. I get better results than those, although I appreciate what Kemper has been doing in the live situation. It’s very useful there and makes a lot of sense to use that, but it doesn’t make sense in a studio situation where you have the time to try different mic positions. If I have the real stuff, then why would I simulate it?
What’s your opinion on the robotic microphone mover?
This is something I’ve still not checked out and I was talking about that 10 years ago and was craving. It was then finally invented and a friend of mine emailed me about it. I think theoretically it’s a brilliant invention and it would be fantastic for microphasing. I don’t know why I didn’t get it yet. Possibly, I think I got lazy and use the fredman technique for all rhythm guitars and keep the amp in the control room for tweaking. I think it would be a really cool thing to try out and get.
Tea or Coffee?
Coffee. I like coffee and sparkling mineral water which I’m having just now actually.