In an ever-growing crowd of bass-heavy goth-techno acts, The Haxan Cloak stands out. Sure, the bass is as sweltering and impassive as the best of ’em, and the rhythms frequently recall a candle-lit basement séance, but The Haxan Cloak’s Bobby Krlic ensures that every track is soaked in his own personal intent. He’ll take you through pensive, violin-drawn forests, bludgeon your senses with industrial rhythms, and kick you out of the car in the middle of the night and forcing you to find your way home. But it’s fun! The Haxan Cloak has both widened its scope and sharpened its focus over the past couple years, most fully realized on the recent release of Excavation, and I had a chance to talk with Mr. Krlic about where he came from and where he’s headed.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning… when did The Haxan Cloak begin? Was it always just yourself? At what point did it turn from you trying things out and making music into “The Haxan Cloak”?
Well, I’ve always made music. I played guitar from being about six years-old, and from around twelve onwards I wrote my own songs and played in bands and stuff like that. I made a lot of electronic music as a teenager, and I went on to study music and visual art at university. This really turned me on to thinking conceptually about creating things
which I had never really considered before.

Was it hard making electronic music on your own at first? I feel like, if you want to pick up a guitar and learn it, anyone can do that, but if you hear electronic music and think “I want to make that”, it’s practically impossible to figure out what gear to buy on your own… did you luck into picking up the right hardware and software, or did you have someone guiding you a bit at first?
Oh yeah, it was really hard. I guess I got into DJing first; my parents bought me some turntables and stuff, and then there was a point where I thought, “I want to know how to make the music I’m playing here”, and I remember on the inside cover of one of my LPs (I don’t remember which one) there was a picture of an 808, so I asked my dad what it was and he explained it to me. My mother at the time was friends with a guy who produced music and had a studio in his house, so she took me ’round one day and he showed me Reason and Cubase and he hooked me up with a copy. My parents bought my a second-hand iMac, and then I just kind of experimented and taught myself stuff. It was funny, because in those days we didn’t have YouTube, so there were no tutorials or anything like that, which kind of made it way more exciting and mysterious.

Are you glad you had to figure it out yourself, instead of being guided by a tutorial? Or did it just add hours of trial-and-error to the process?
I mean, it was incredibly frustrating, but I think that’s important. Learning the guitar is frustration, but it’s through those challenges that you feel accomplishment, and most importantly, you feel progression. I’m also incredibly stubborn. If I buy a piece of equipment, I throw the manual away. I like to figure things out the way that I want to use them as much as I can.

So what did your earliest stuff sound like? Was it “techno”, or something a bit off the grid?
Some of it was techno, some of it was just… well, probably completely shit. Haha. I was really into Autechre and Skam and things like that at the time, so I was trying to figure out how they made those rhythms and texures and edits. I went to as many live shows of that kind of music as I could at the time.

Did you have friends into the same sort of music?
Luckily, yeah I did. There was a really tight bunch of us and we all discovered it at the same time. I really vividly remember my friend Rob, he had an older brother, Chris (who I’m still very good friends with to this day). I was at Rob’s house one day and Chris came home with one of his friends and he had the Gantz Graf DVD by Autechre. We came down and were just like, “What the fuck is this?” Totally mind-blowing. So yeah, we all kind of starting researching and bringing different CDs and stuff ’round to each other’s houses to check out. We’d all come out of this scene of playing in punk bands together and stuff like that, so it seemed to make a lot of sense to then listen to Autechre and Russell Haswell and stuff.

Were your friends doing their own electronic projects too, or were you the only one actively making it?
Yeah they were, but I felt like I was the only one who was really taking it seriously.
I was probably quite precocious after I’d been making it for like a year or something. I was already sending demos to labels and I was sixteen/seventeen years-old. I listen back to it now and go, “What was I thinking?”

So at what point did The Haxan Cloak begin?
So that began at university. In my final year, I was conducting some research experiments.
I had the woofer from a speaker, and I was playing sine tones through it while placing different objects on top of the cone, and just looking at what effect different frequencies had on different objects, and then I really started to think about and realise the ‘physicality’ that sound possesses. That got me interested in a lot of deep ‘drone’ music like Om and SunnO))) and things like that. It just gradually progressed from these odd, tonal experiments into me buying a cheap violin and putting it in there, and then a cello, and just really seeing what textures I could exploit out of different instruments.

Did that end up on your first self-released CD-r?

Your follow-up EP pretty prominently works beats and rhythms into your music… was that just another side of what you wanted to do?
Yeah, definitely. I mean at that time, I hadn’t released anything. I knew the record was coming out, but not for a while, and I wanted to experiment with a more electronic kind of take on it. I wanted to kind of immediately have people question the identity of The Haxan Cloak, because they’re both very different-sounding things, but they have common threads (I think).

I noticed that too. So do you play all the violin parts yourself? It certainly sounds like the work of a studied player, and not someone just picking up a violin on a lark…
Ha, well thanks for that! But yeah, they’re played by me, and I taught myself. I listen to a lot of classical music, so I think I had a good idea of what kinds of things I wanted to get from the violin. You know, not like when you first start having lessons and you do “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or something, haha.

I don’t hear much violin on your Tri Angle release… are you done with that, or will it come back? Are there any other instruments you plan on taking up, in order to integrate into The Haxan Cloak?
There’s violin and cello on there, they’re just a lot more subtle to what was going on before. I’m definitely not done with it; I have such a love for strings, and live instruments. I plan on expanding the sounds even more, yeah.

Pardon my ignorance, but does The Haxan Cloak perform live?
Not ignorance at all! Yeah, I play live. It’s me solo most of the time, but I did do some shows early on with my friend Liam from Trencher drumming with me.

Do you integrate live instrumentation, or is it all coming from hardware?
At the moment, it’s all hardware, no computers though! But that will be changing very soon.

Care to reveal what you’ll be changing?
Well, I would like to expand The Haxan Cloak into an ensemble at some point, but I don’t know when that will happen. In the near future I will definitely be playing guitar and violin live, though.

To talk about the new record, Excavation… this one seems more atmospheric and heavier than what you’ve done before. Can we expect more of this, or will the next record sound different?
I’ve only really just begun to think about the possibility of another record. It definitely won’t sound the same, but it will be very heavy. Very, very heavy.

I feel like that sort of dark, foreboding heaviness is shared by other artists like Emptyset and Demdike Stare who are also putting out great records these days… are you familiar with them on a personal level? Is there any sort of camaraderie, or are they just separate people that you are only aware of, just like any other random electronic artist?
There’s definite camaraderie, yeah. Miles from Demdike is great, and I’m friends with Joe and Tom from Raime. Andy Stott, also. If we all play a festival together, it’s great.

Do you listen to their records? Do they affect the music you make, either by being like “I don’t want to do what they are doing exactly” or “their music makes me strive to step my game up”, anything like that?
I listen to their music, yeah, and I think they’re all amazingly talented, wonderful people, but it doesn’t really affect the way I view my own music. I think I used to think like that when I was younger.

Like, you never heard a Demdike or Andy Stott track where you’re like “fuck, I was gonna do something similar but now I can’t because they just did it!”?
I think you have to assure yourself that you have your own voice and your own uniqueness.
I think I’d hear it and go, “Fuck, that’s great. I’m going to do it how Haxan Cloak would do it!” But not in an egotistical way at all, I hope it doesn’t come across like that. What I mean is, well, it’s similar to how sometimes I’ll read about an artist for ages, but not check out their stuff, and I’ll get this really amazing, romantic idea in my head of what the music is going to sound like and then I listen to it, and it doesn’t fulfill what I expected it to. So I think the music I make always tends to fill that void for me, if that makes sense.

That totally makes sense. Do you ever come up with an idea for a track, and then think “this is great, but this isn’t appropriate for The Haxan Cloak?”
Absolutely, all the time. but it’s cool because you’re always learning stuff. Like, there’ll be certain elements of what I made that I can probably take away and work into a Haxan track.

I guess to wrap it up… if you could offer advice for someone who wants to start making electronic music, what would it be? Is there anything in particular they should not do?
Just to remember that music comes from your brain, not from a program. Just because you buy a Jaguar you’re not going to sound like J Mascis, and just because you buy Reaktor it doesn’t mean you’re going to sound like your electronic heroes. My advice would be try and find out how to express yourself and your individuality – and stay away from YouTube tutorials!