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The Protagonist

Beauty in Darkness

Immagine articolo Fucine MuteYou should know Magnus Sundström aka “The Protagonist“: artist is an abused term these days, but this could be the only description. His album “A Rebours” is considered as a work transcending “both spiritually and musically the mediocricity that distinguishes most of what passes for industrial music these days”, as exactly was written on the press release.

Look for him.

Fabrizio Garau (FG): “A Rebours”, the title of your album, comes from a novel by Joris Karl Huysmans.
“Des Esseintes” — the name of your side project — is the name of the protagonist in this story.
Can you tell us why are you so attracted by this book?

Magnus Sundström (MS): Well, it has some similarities with myself; especially the alienation from society and fondness of art, music and literature. I have created an artificial world of my own, although at the moment I prefer to interact with other people. Des Esseintes is a fascinating character with an extraordinary vision. He is a person of high standards and pride, something I find rather rare today. Every now and then des Esseintes is reminded of the beast within, and his twisted mind has its own and interesting ways of dealing with the issues.

FG: In this book, Jean Floressas Des Esseintes starts with nihilism and ends (maybe) with religion. Do you perceive these two aspects in your album?

MS: Well, the album is not thematically linked to the story, it’s more like a homage to the essence of it. You could say that it’s my own “A Rebours”, where I pay tribute to my favourite authors, artists and composers while exploring my inner self. Like des Esseintes I’m searching for something while consuming other people’s visions, be it nihilism, catholicism or any other “ism” for that matter.

FG: It seems that your music has a cathartic effect. If so, what are you personally trying to exorcise?

MS: I think I have the same problems as anyone else, but the difference lies in the ways i perceive and try to solve them. All of us have our own demons, you just need to identify and deal with them in a proper manor. I might be something of a borderline case, as I tend to see things in black or white. When I compose I reassemble a certain emotion or event in my mind, and putting it to music can be rather cathartic. This is how it has to be, even though it can be quite painful at times.

FG: In “A Rebours” we find an inspiring musical interpretation of “Imitation”, a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe. Both Poe and Des Esseintes were considered as loners or outsiders by the society. Do you have a particular interest in these kind of eccentric figures?

MS: The main reason is that I consider myself being among those loners and outsiders too. I really don’t fit in anywhere, and I’m often called eccentric. It could be our mutual interest in the morbid and deranged, as well as the fact that our creativity makes us long for solitude.

FG: Just another “literary” question suggested by your music: what does the word “decadence” mean to you?

MS: Decadence for me is when the only limit concerning the way you live is the imagination. Like taking a bath in a tub filled with beluga caviar or lighting a cigar with a $100 bill. To do what you want without thinking of the consequences, live like every hour is the last.

FG: The name of your project is taken from a Dead Can Dance song. Please, can you tell us your relationship with that song and in general with Dead can Dance?

MS: That statement is not entirely correct, but of course the Dead Can Dance song helped me to define my project. After all, des Esseintes is The Protagonist of “A Rebours”. I wanted to make people think, and The Protagonist can be interpreted in many different ways. Most important was to emphasize the epic qualities of my music. And of course I was very influenced by Dead Can Dance at the time. Before I was introduced to their music, my own songs had been very electronic and harsh. I was completely overwhelmed by their interpretation of classical music, and suddenly sombre orchestral symphonies appeared in my own head. I believe the song “The Protagonist” was their first step toward the within, leaving the traditional boundaries of rock music. It has a special place in my heart.

FG: Dead Can Dance wrote an album titled “Spleen et Ideal”. Like this band, it seems that you are interested to play with opposites: you mix industrial and classical music. Why are you looking for this “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”?

MS: There has to be evil for good to exist. And there has to be a balance between them. There certainly is beauty in darkness, and I believe that opposites and contradiction is a necessity in my life and work. Since my music is a reflection of my delusional senses, it’s only natural that both sides are explored. Darkness is ever present.

FG: Personally I’m waiting for the next album of “The Protagonist”. Could you please tell me something about it?

Immagine articolo Fucine MuteMS: I have been working since 1997 on the follow up to “A Rebours”, but I have no need to rush things. The creative process is for me alone, but eventually it will evolve into something concrete. A while ago, I recorded some spoken word which will be put to music when the time is right. Among the guest artists you will find Jonathan Grieve from Contrastate interpreting William Blake. A really nice recording! The music has become darker and more powerful. Some of it you will also find on the upcoming EP with pieces I wrote for the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden’s “Romeo & Juliet”. It will hopefully be out before the end of the year.

FG: You founded a record label: “Fin de Siècle Media“. What’s the concept be’ind this label?

MS: The idea is just to present music which I’m personally intrigued by. There has been two thematic seven-inches with myself and one split ten-inch so far, and I will continue to collaborate with friends and other people with similar visions. It’s not a commercial project, it’s just another vessel for my creative output. I don’t market the label, because I think that people who are really interested will find out about it somehow. Expect at least one release every three months from August.

All photos by John Gripenholm

Once known as third EYE, the protagonist of this band, Magnus Sundström, churned out industrial anthems in the vein of old school acts like SPK and Test Dept. Harmonious streaks from the Dark Ages subsequently made their way into the compositions, so by the time the change of name was a reality, The Protagonist emerged as a full-fledged contender among bands subscribing to a neo-classical idiom. What we have is not a political spokesman, but a proclaimer of the beauty in darkness.



www.coldmeat.se (2 full mp3)


A Rebours (Cold Meat Industry 1998, CD)

various compilations (see official website)

As “Des Esseintes”

Muse / Succubus (Fin de Siècle Media 2000, 7″)

split with Negru Voda (Fin de Siècle Media 2001, 10″)

split with Magmax (Formosan Rec 2001, LP)

On / Off (Fin de Siècle Media 2002, 7″)

Film / theater work

Romeo & Juliet
Royal Dramatic Theatre]

Dog is Watching

La Glorificación Del Icono Traumático
Visual Beast Films]

Visual Beast Films]


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