Belarus. How much do we even know about this country? Mostly just things we got from media. So, just politics. That's why all the other aspects of this country are pretty unknown to us. That makes Belars a bit exotic. Especially alternative and underground scene. Is there any, how it works? We'll try to give you answers (at least partly) with a little help of Olga Kann since she is active participant.

At the moment the most actual is hers atmospheric epic black metal project Withered Land. Album "The Endless Journey" was released few months ago (on digital platforms) and few days ago we got physical version on CD. With Olga we will talk about this debut album, about her inspiration, how she creates, thinks and as we said, about local scene. So let's start this journey.

Withered Land is not your first project. Since you come from music family, I assume making music came naturaly. But please, tell us, how was your music development?

My family listened to music a lot, but did not play. And, probably, they have always been skeptical about any my undertakings. There was no one who specifically showed or advised what you need to do to become a musician. If I may say so, the street raised me as a musician. Every person you meet in life teaches something. How you can do it and how best not to do it. I have always wanted to create music, not just play in a band, but to carry my own creativity and vision. I am a commander by nature. But from this role, when all responsibility is thrown off on one person, you also get tired sometimes. There was a time when I closed all projects and left all projects for several years. It was such a Buddhist departure from everything. To rethink why you need to move on. But for many years now, music has been the basis of all my activities. I make the arts for albums, shoot videos / photos, I am constantly in the field of musicians. I continue to work on the several projects in completely different genres. So, I get less tired of each of them. And when there is no inspiration for one, there is often inspiration for the other.

So, in what moment and why you decided to form Withered Land? What was your motive?

The idea to form such a project was born a long time ago. But it took time to come to this. I had and still have a lot of ideas that are difficult to implement right away, and in fact, it would be wrong to implement everything at once. Every work needs to mature and I also need to grow with it. Specifically for this project, the preconditions were born out of love for symphonic classical music and for the harsh Nordic sound. And of course, a lot comes from the love of books, films, history. Life is not always the way we would like it to be. But a person always has something that no one can ever take away from him - his dreams. In our fantasies, we can fight dragons, travel through endless universes, do absolutely anything. No one will reproach for this, will not interfere. This genre truly created by dreamers for dreamers, we create our own worlds, where you want to escape in a difficult moment or dive for a greater thrill. However, sometimes it seems to me that there is no such style in which I would not like to create at least one album. I am a broad-spectrum music lover. So I can (or I try) create my own fairy tale where it couldn't be.

In what way was it different from your previous bands and projects?

In all my projects my task is to compose and mainly play bass. But this particular project is much more personal, both in terms of the tasks performed and in purpose. Here I feel quite natural, although this genre is not to say that my favorite or the one in which I know better. But it is quite comfortable to create in it. It does not require rush, it is made by people for people and is not focused on the commercial aspect. This is how I see the life of this genre. Albums are like whole books here, complete works that you create when you have something to say. I really love to write lyrics, in this genre it is of great importance. Like a visual art, everything is interconnected and has meaning. Inner freedom comes alive here. I communicate a lot with one-man projects, these are people who are full immersed in their work. They are brave enough to withstand the burden of criticism on their own, but they are also often ready to help each other, to collaborate. And each of them, like a storyteller, gives not just music, but immerses you in a whole fairy tale.

I would like to use the opportunity to ask you about Belarus scene. I know that there are some great metal concerts and here and there we get some infos about undergroud hardcore/punk scene. But in general, Belarus scene in kind of exotic to us. So please, tell us more about it. I am asking you this so we can understand the atmosphere and environment that you live and create in.

For me, this is also a kind of exotic. We have so many great musicians, but when it comes to getting invited to the band, many don't have the time, energy or motivation. Or they are busy with their own projects. Now the stage, like the whole society, is going through a difficult period. We are back at the time of Stalinist repression. Bands that touch politics in any way are severely persecuted, banned, and members can be arrested. I do not know how this scene will develop in the near future, besides, the pandemic adds to this all the severity. Over the course of several years, a lot has changed, it became sadder than it was before. This is if in general. And if we talk specifically about my projects, I always do something almost without days off. I invite my foreign friends for cooperation remotely. I try to keep myself busy so as not to have time to think about how creepy the world has become.

Black and folk are probably the most popular genres in our country. But it is a pity that many talented projects are falling apart, it is not so easy to play in a full-fledged band here. Although, in my opinion, there is a good groundwork in death metal, a strong skeleton is being formed. And the core-scene deserves a special attention.

Is it hard in Belarus to find perople interested enough for the underground band? Is that the main reason why Withered Land is one-woman project?

Specifically, this project was not originally conceived as a full-fledged band. In Withered Land I take a break from people, I do not expect anything from anyone and I am not disappointed. And people are not disappointed with me and my temper, haha. If we talk about other projects, then maybe yes. It's basically hard to find anything here, haha. We have a poorly developed typographic sphere, in order to print discs / T-shirts, and even at a good cost, you have to try hard in search. Also with musical instruments, amplifiers and accessories. Much has to be ordered from abroad. There is no such concept as a manager, a producer; development of industry is late for many years. It is not surprising why many people quit this business or play for themselves at home for their own pleasure. There are enough musicians, but the overwhelming majority lacks faith in what they are doing. And for various, economic, family, psychological reasons, they leave the business sooner or later.

But everything suits me. In my life, there are enough people who are nearby (or a little further, hehe).

Do you wish and is there any possibility or needs (for live performance for example) to turn it into full line up band? I know Alexander did vocals for this release but I don’t know if he is regular or session member?

The only thing stopping me from turning the band into a live line-up is the pandemic and the lack of concerts, hehe. Well, also the workload with other projects may impose some restrictions. But in general, I don't see any problems with putting together a live line-up for Withered Land. Alexander is always ready to join live performances, we play with him in several projects and he is ready for any activity. I also have fellow guitarists who are generally tired of being active, but they never mind going on tour. So, like many others, I am waiting for the planet to return to normal.

What are advantages and disadvantages of having one-woman project?

As I noted above, there are probably only advantages in this. I do not worry about the difficulties of interaction; I completely make decisions and freely create at a leisurely pace what I want. When I need help, I can always get it. In addition, I myself actively help others; this is a common thing.

Now let’s talk about your first album “The Endless Journey”. It’s atmospheric epic black metal conceptual release. I understood that your lyrics are about nature, people, inner struggle, changes and development of both, humans and nature. Where do you get inspiration from? Please tell us more about that.

It always seemed to me that the devastated land is what just surrounds me. A metaphorically scorched earth, ready at the same time to be reborn in order to then wither again.

In my lyrics, I try to convey the dualistic nature of a character or location. Try to show both the beautiful side and the unpleasant side. On the debut album, all 5 songs are 5 separate stages of the protagonist's military journey. And in each of the songs there is a certain unexpected twist. I really fell in love with this character, this lonely, noble, but suffering horseman. For me it was difficult to make such a final that turned out to be. But, I am already working on continuing his story. I'm not sure if this will be on the next album. But the continuation will be for sure.

In this album the emphasis was on everything - on music, on visuals, on lyrics. It's a whole story with a cinematic performance. If you close your eyes and listen to the material, then through the eyes of the hero you will be able to carry yourself from the beginning to the end of the journey. It's the story of a warrior about the merciless battles, his difficult struggle and longing for home's shores. It's a gloomy narration about the esoterical experiencing death and return from other side. A story of a bitter defeat and emptiness inside, but with some hope yet. To some extent, this is a story about karma. When someone reaping death, immersing the hands in more and more blood, he shouldn't expect nothing but blood in return.

In all, I am very impressed by the story of the heroes who lost, but fought bravely, who did not retreat, even knowing that they were doomed to failure in advance.

In the future, I would really like to finish a concept album about Hannibal Barka, I was very inspired by the works of Titus Livy and some other historical literature. In general, I read a lot of different historical literature, war novels and the collective images of warriors come from there. The withered land is all that wars leave behind, at first, it is watered with blood, then it dries up. And it will take many years for everything to return to normal (maybe). And for sure, I also inspired by nature. Belarus is a country of a thousand lakes. There are also beautiful forests here and breathtaking nature overall. It is a pity that there are no epic mountain ranges, otherwise I would disappear in the mountains for days on end. But in general, our nature is wonderful, authentic.

How hard it is to do arrangements almost all by yourself? How long was this album prepared?

In principle, not difficult, I like to do arrangements. This is painstaking work. The background to the creation of the album is much longer than its creation itself. It took a long time to make up my mind and realize that the time had come to bring the matter to the end. I was gaining experience and waiting for special inspiration. It's always difficult to get started, but the more you do something, the better you get, just like in any matter. It is important not to stop at what has already been achieved, to constantly comprehend new things. Asking questions and comprehending the answers.

How the fans and how the critics reacted to “The Endless Journey”?

Mostly positive, there were a lot of kind words, and a lot of pre-orders. For a debut album, this is quite pleasant. My big greetings and respect to everyone who liked the material of the project. I don't pay much attention to criticism now, it is useful sometimes, but the time resource is limited and I try to use it as productively as possible and create something new.

Since we’re near the end of this interview tell us what happens next for Withered Land? In what way can in envolve, by style or theme?

I've been working on new material for a long time. Songs and ideas have accumulated for several albums ahead. As I said earlier, there will be a continuation of "The Endless Journey", and of course, there will be a new concept too. I am also looking forward to the denouement of the virus story to give concert life to this project too. There will be many new songs ahead, new invited members, and some relic instruments.

We’ve reached the and. Plese feel free to mention everything you think it’s important and we missed to mention it and send message to our readers…

Many thanks to the webzine, to everyone for their interest, who support the project and are interested in its fate. Special thanks to my friends from Evolucija band. I invite you to join the endless journey that has already begun.