Interview with Madil Hardis

We recently had the pleasure of discovering Madil Hardis, and enjoyed interviewing someone creating a form of music that Darkstereo hasn’t yet really covered before. By that, we mean more ethereal and classically-inspired work, both dark and engaging! Read on to learn more about Madil’s upcoming release, wonderful vocals and her passions for both music and film!

Hi Madil, for our readers I’d like to start off by learning a little more about you as a person and a recording artist. I think your music and its production sounds like it is born of much experience, and passion. How long have you been singing for? Was voice your first instrument to learn? What other instruments do you regularly play, or bring in collaborators to assist with? I really adored the Cello work by Michael Hyman on the Natural Darkness video.

Also, are you still located in London? How has life been there? I haven’t been to the UK since around 2005, and no doubt much must have changed! My Father was born in the Isle of Man… and I hope to visit there one day. Do you have a supportive network in London for ethereal and electronic artists? I failed to see much live music all those years ago when I visited, and a lot of the venues seems to be quite… exclusive? We had to be invited in by existing members etc which was unusual compared to the live music scene here in Australia.

While I’ve been singing for a long time now (I started delving into serious study around the age of 15), my venture into writing poetry and lyrics began much earlier. I just recently stumbled upon what you could call my first attempts at proper poetry from when I was 6 or 7 years old. Writing transformed into an obsession that persisted until my mid-teens when music became equally important to me. I started taking vocal and piano lessons and eventually pursued studies in classical singing and performance in Munich/Germany. Since then, my focus has been divided between music (composing, performing, producing) and filmmaking, which has also led to writing music for films. And on occasion, I find myself engaged in contemporary opera performances, too.

When composing, I enjoy merging acoustic and electronic instruments. I tend to use both piano and voice to create a musical framework to expand on. Or sometimes, I’ll spend substantial time working on a handful of sounds and then begin a piece from there. Recording noises and sounds that occur around me or bringing in other instrumentalists can be very inspiring. Especially when it’s cello, double bass, or woodwinds – I find the lower, warmer range and spectrum of these instruments extremely evocative.

Working with Michael Hyman on the cello version of Natural Darkness was a very easy, intuitive process. Michael is an amazing performer. He can get “into the zone” and into the emotional space of a piece of music immediately, and we communicated seamlessly. (Michael is also a wonderful composer, and you can listen to some of his music on Spotify.)

I’ve been living in the UK now for eight years. I have to admit I’m much more part of the local film scene than the music scene. A lot of the musicians I collaborate with live in other countries or parts of the UK. This is probably partly due to the fact that I’m not actively performing with this music project (yet), and mostly work solo. So I can’t really say much about what the electronic or alternative music scene is like here – I mostly frequent Jazz clubs these days (my latest musical love affair).

In trying to become more familiar with your body of work, I recently discovered your Bandcamp page! You have such an interesting breadth of work there, so I wanted to ask if the way you approach your recording process, or ways you chose to release and market your work, has changed much along the way? Also, what has your experience of collaborating by-remote been like? Technology has certainly removed geographical boundaries when it comes to sharing music and working on pieces with fellow artists far away. Does the distance sometimes still become a hinderance though? I’m always curious about other people’s experiences with online jamming, or stem-sharing and the like.

I created the project Madil Hardis almost by accident five years ago. I was mostly focused on filmmaking at the time, but I kept writing music on the side. I also started composing film scores for some of my own movies.

Madil Hardis was (and still is) only about me making the music I want to make at any given time, and about the themes and emotions that I am currently processing.

In previous projects, I often felt confined by the idea of creating something that works for an existing (or aspired) audience. With Madil Hardis, I decided to not care and make the music I enjoy making and listening to. My songs never quite fit a specific genre and I have a large amount of non-lyrical music pieces as well as experimental tracks and songs with a classical song structure.

Madil Hardis has grown slowly but steadily and has become more important to me over time – from a side project to the project that represents me most as an artist today.

I hadn’t really thought much about remote collaboration before 2020, but it became the only way to connect with other musicians during lockdown. It’s since become a vital part of Madil Hardis. It’s interesting to create music together remotely and without really knowing one another. I’ve built some deep connections through collaboration this way, though, and it’s taught me that the depth of a relationship (work or otherwise) is not always determined by proximity and the amount of time spent together. But I do hope that I will get to meet more of my collaborators in person in the near future.

Maybe in some ways, collaboration becomes easier when done remotely. It strips everything away but the music itself. It can’t ever replace actual in-person rehearsing, jamming and performing – in my mind, it’s just something else entirely.

I think it is about time we had had a chat about filmmaking and soundtrack creation! Please tell us about projects you’ve worked on, and where our readers can find them? I for one would love to have a look. As far as promoting and sharing music goes, have you found the use of video (and your skills in filmmaking) to be invaluable tools? The amount of work and passion required to create music AND visuals, in a music video sense, is not to be underestimated! Do you often create films, and then work out the accompanying music afterwards? Or is it the other way around depending on the requirements of the project? When did you first start making your own films?

I’ve worked on some outstanding film projects this year. I’d like to mention two films specifically: “By Any Other Name”, directed by Daniel Deville and produced by the Academy Award-winning production company Slick Films: a riveting drama shining a light on the dark world of sex trafficking. It just won Best Screenplay at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. And “Ill Fares The Land”, a film about the migrant crisis and the rise of the far-right, directed by Patrick Ireland. It will shortly be screening at the BIFA-qualifying North East Int. Film Festival. Both films are currently in the festival circuit and can be seen at various film festivals around the globe (you can follow me on Instagram @madilhardis for updates).

Music and film are very much interwoven for me at this point, they inspire each other and are often created together (when it’s my own project). I started making music videos back in Germany a little more than a decade ago, and am still making films now. I’ve not had the time this year to make any films, though – it’s been all soundtracks, and I’m pretty much booked solid until the end of the year. But I’ve made three music videos recently which are going to be released alongside my album.

Let’s chat about your new album, Natural Darkness which is no less than 12 tracks and 6 remixes and alternate versions. I have to say your vocals are truly sublime, and the production on your work is quite wonderful. Dripping delicate piano notes, graceful strings, and by the time Disintegrate comes in we are in a land of light arpeggiated synths! In fact, it isn’t until track 10 that drums become prominent, before we return to a gentle and ethereal land again. Your music is so relaxing, breathing light and dark as though one.

What was your overall concept with this album? Were there any real-life experiences that you drew from as inspiration? How long did the process start from the conception of the release to the final versions of the tracks? What is your plan for the album now, in terms of celebration and distribution? Do you accompany releases with live performances too?

I started the album almost exactly a year ago. The process was slow at first. My aim was to create completely new material for the album, and not use anything I had released before or that I had on file. So I started from scratch. I wanted to create a work that represented me as an artist right this moment. I didn’t set out to make a concept album but it has become one along the way. Looking back on it now, I feel that Natural Darkness encompasses my emotional life over the last 18 months or so. Everything I’ve felt and experienced has flown into the lyrics and music, and it was very much a cathartic experience. I didn’t set out to do that, but I guess I needed to. The themes I explored include loneliness, bereavement, isolation, melancholia, and even suppressed anger and frustration. But also, in equal measure: bliss, wonder, and a deep desire to feel and connect and live. This all very much feels like a closed chapter of my life now, and I’m ready to move on – and share the results with the world.

I’ve made music videos for three of the songs, and interviewed some of my collaborators along the way (all of this can be found on YouTube). There are no live performances planned for Madil Hardis, yet – but maybe that’ll change in the near future.

What is the release date for Natural Darkness? Also, what is next for you musically? It sounds like Natural Darkness is themed around a particular section of your life’s journey, so we’re curious what you are planning to work on next, and what kind of inspiration you think you’ll be drawing on? Is there any advice, or thoughts you’d like to share with other independent musicians who might be reading this?

The album will be released on October 6th. After that, I have a few EPs in the making – all of which will be collaborative. Besides that, my focus for the next year is likely going to be on live performances, both with Madil Hardis and otherwise. But I also have a few singles in the making for spring onwards.

Advice from my end? I’ll give two contradictory bits of advice that I always try to bear in mind when things get a bit more difficult during a project: 1) Planning is everything. Almost every project becomes manageable when it’s divided into tiny little steps. It’s important to get things out of our heads and onto paper. And 2) You can never really be ready for anything, no matter how much you plan ahead. So the most important thing is to start, and start every day all over again, until it’s done.

Pre-save the new album Natural Darkness at:

Website for Natural Darkness:

Madil Hardis on Bandcamp: