Neofolk in Texas: Interviews with Awen and Gabhar
by Oliver Sheppard
In 1960, American novelist John Steinbeck wrote:
“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox.”
Over the decades, Texas has produced a lot of great music, from thrashy 60s proto-punk in the form of the Zakary Thaks, to a large amount of formative and influential punk and postpunk in the form of bands like The Huns, Stickmen with Rayguns, MDC, the Big Boys, the Dicks, Scratch Acid, and Really Red — on up to World Burns to Death, and over to unique performers like the Reverend Horton Heat and outsider musician Daniel Johnston.
In the 1990s and in the past decade, a few Texas bands began exploring the sonic territory that acts like Current 93, Death in June, Fire + Ice, and others had opened up – a type of music that’s been called both “post-industrial” and “neofolk.” Verdandi, who were one of the first Texas bands to begin playing neofolk, hail from Houston. Awen are from the Dallas area, and Gabhar call Austin home. While Awen will be playing in Europe soon, both bands will be opening for Death in June’s show in Austin, Texas on September 14. American neofolk bands are still fairly rare, although groups like Cult of Youth and King Dude (both of whom have either worked with or have professed an admiration for Awen) and others like Wreathes are making up for America’s heretofore poor showing in the neofolk arena. So, while European acts like Rome, Osewoudt, and Of the Wand and the Moon still dominate, American neofolk — especially neofolk of any decent quality — is still relatively unusual. Given that fact, that Texas is home to at least two of the better US neofolk bands there is all the more remarkable.
An interview with Awen
Awen founder and singer Erin Powell was interviewed by Oliver in December, 2012.
Awen have been together for quite some time – almost ten years to the day, actually. In Texas, this is unusual for a band that makes the sort of music they do. I’ve seen their music described as “heathen post-industrial,” “experimental martial,” and similar terms. Awen have one LP out so far, The Bells at Dawn, and just might be coming out with another one, Grim King of Ghosts, by the end of 2013.
Oliver: Let’s get some basic stuff out of the way first, for those just now getting to know the band: When did Awen form, and where are you all currently based? Who is in Awen right now, and what instruments do they play?
Erin: Awen really came together in 2003 C.E. when Eric K. and I shared the haunted garage apartment in Fort Worth, Texas – incidentally just down the street from one of my favorite museums, The Kimbell. Eric had already been doing his project unitcode:machine for some years and I told him that I had a vision of sound I wanted to pair with some writings of mine, so we began recording in that little strange space. Our first recording was “Initiation & Inspiration”, which was never released. I had previously done some unreleased home recordings on 4 Track tape cassettes in the 1990s with my friend Allen Verden under the moniker From Teeth, Truth and I wanted to elaborate on and expand that work. Actually, the first version of “Ode to a Briton” was recorded under that first rudimentary incarnation with a different singer ‘all those years ago’.
Currently Awen is a North Texas project and consists of myself – vocals and percussion, Katrin – vocals and percussion, Eric Kristoffer – keyboards and electronics, and Per Nilsson – live electronics and studio guru, with occasional gracious contributions from B9 InVid [of Luftwaffe & Et Nihil].
Oliver: The name “Awen” is Druidic or Welsh isn’t it? Who chose it? Can you tell readers what the name means, its history and significance, and then tie that into how you feel it relates to the band’s music?
Erin: Awen is still extant as a modern Welsh word meaning essentially poetic inspiration, but its origins are quite ancient. I am not a linguist and do not speak Welsh, though the origins of all things fascinate me and language is certainly one field in which you can follow one tether to its supposed end and find that tie that binds us now as then. I chose Awen because I felt that it perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to express, or rather channel. It is theorized that poets and artists went through rites to receive their Gifts from the deities. I feel that this is important to consider in our Age.
Oliver: Is there a primary lyricist or songwriter for Awen? Who is it?
Erin: I write the lyrics for Awen with the exception of occasional credited texts from other authors, such as “Empire, Night & The Breaker” in which I adapted a poem by the Australian scapegoat, soldier and poet of the British Empire, Harry “Breaker” Morant. I consider the kismet of that track’s composition and my discovery of the poem synching together rhythmically as a gift from Morant for which I am grateful and hopefully have honored in my adaptation.
Oliver: As far as the sound of Awen goes, I have previously (and perhaps lazily) referred to you all as “neofolk” when in reality I guess it’s more experimental martial (?). Is this correct? Where do you all think you fit in the grand taxonomy/scheme of things? Martial industrial? Experimental? Neofolk-Martial hybrid? How would you describe your music to someone that had never heard you all before, and what musical points of reference would you give them as being in the same ballpark (Current 93, etc)?
Erin: As much as I love taxonomy, I am not sure where we fit! I rather feel that is for listeners to decide. Our sound has changed from earlier studio recordings, particularly in the live performance field, as I wanted to express a kind of Muscular Paganism – as opposed to the neutered variety of Neo-Pagans one sees represented in over abundance; the “Harm None” crowd. I think the time has come for aggressive expression and defense of Pagan ethos.
It is difficult to describe our sound to those that ask and are unfamiliar, and I usually describe it as a mix of modern and primitive, which causes more confusion! Of course I recognize that we fall into the Neofolk / Martial Industrial camp, and I am fine with that as I love the work of many original artists recognized as being in that field (Death In June, Current 93, Blood Axis, The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud, etc.).
Oliver: In fact, what are Awen’s primary influences? I would guess Current 93 and the late 80s/early 90s era of Sol Invictus and Death in June and others, when all members of each were appearing all over each others’ LPs. But — am I wrong? Who are the biggest guiding lights, musically, for Awen?
Erin: Those bands were all influential for me when I first discovered them circa 1993 C.E. via mixtapes that a then-girlfriend was receiving from her older friend in another part of the States. When I heard these bands, it opened a door for me. It was possible to marry esoteric subject matter and spoken poetry with abstract and traditional sounds to this kind of ominous effect! It is my hope that future historians will recognize the work of those artists as being amongst the most culturally important, though largely ignored in their own time, and award them their due laurels.
Again, I am always drawn to the origins of things and pioneers. Wendy/Walter Carlos for example – what a genius! The soundtrack work for The Shining is amazing.
Oliver: What are some influences on Awen that folks might be very surprised to know are in the mix? For example, do any members feel they are trying to bring an element to the sound that others might find surprising, or novel — or even perhaps “heretical”?
Erin: Many people seem to be surprised to find that I am a big New Wave fan. There was a true Renaissance that occurred in the late 1970s into the 1980s that manifested artistically most perfectly in early electronic and New Wave music. Bands like Japan, Ultravox, Gary Numan — I love that stark Spirit of the Age. Katrin’s favorite band is Depeche Mode and as for ‘heresy’ – she hates David Tibet’s voice! Eric and Per (a fellow lover of New Wave with an enviable record collection, many purchased in their year of issue!) are active in the EBM field and its offshoots, but I know their palettes appreciate a wide range of electronic music – from its origins to last week’s issues!
Oliver: Being one of only a few bands in Texas that are trying to play this style of music — and having been sticking stubbornly to it for as long as you have — I have to ask, what keeps you going? What sort of steely willed stubbornness or endurance is able to keep Awen its own thing, seemingly immune to the prevailing and passing trends in Dallas (if not the country)? I ask this in part because Awen are often booked onto bills with bands that sound nothing like you guys — bands often several years your junior, in fact — and so it is hard to find a perfectly matched bill for you to be on with others who are “on the same page” musically — because so few are! Surely this must get tiresome? What keeps you all going against the grain? What is it in the music that makes you think is worth sticking it out, in other words? I have to say that this is one of the most impressive aspects of Awen — the refusal to compromise the sound in any way.
Erin: Well, we were never subject to outside musical trend influence really. The project is a vehicle for the expression of a communion with the ancient and eternal, and that is what every recording and performance attempts to convey. From the beginning I tried not to write from personal and emotional first hand experience – the opposite of most advice given to writers! I tend to choose abstract concepts or historical subjects instead. I think this has an insulating effect, and it is exercised in sincerity. I did not intend for Awen to be a “gigging band” either, but the requests in appreciation drew us out into that field. That is one of the reasons our performances are so few and far between, as it is difficult to be paired with another aesthetically similar project. If we played with a “Rock N Roll” band, and we have, it is awkward at best. The best pairing was with Luftwaffe, but unfortunately the physical distance makes more frequent shows logistically difficult. We have played several shows with Steel Hook Prostheses and they are always great to share a stage with. The Noise scene has been incredibly supportive of us as well.
Oliver: What are the themes Awen tackles in its subject matter that you find the most powerful, or the most important — the most significant? Why are these themes so important or inspirational to you all? What drives you to express them in the format of song?
Erin: I find history evocative and feel compelled to express it, especially historic sites of importance. I have written many songs after travelling and being inspired by standing in certain locations and knowing something of their history. Some sites have directly inspired a song. For example, Cerne Abbas inspired “Helith’s Hill” and Berlin’s Museuminsel inspired “Unter den Linden”, whereas others had a broader influence (Externsteine, Stonehenge, Wayland’s Smithy, the Tower of London, etc.).
Oliver: Specifically, a song like “Bonds of Blood”: It’s probably my favorite to see live, as I’m a fan of martial drumming and that song has it in spades, along with a very stirring and militaristic edge I find to be strangely galvanizing. But as far as the lyrics and overall sonic impact of the song — what meaning is Awen trying to convey with that track?
Erin: Quite simply that you are your ancestor. Every person is a product of their lineage quite literally via DNA and in a broader sense culturally. One can never break free of this, as an individual, for better or worse! More people should look into their origins and find greater understanding in the world that surrounds them.
Oliver: What is the full array of instrumentation that Awen employs? The LP lists “human skull scraping”! So, a human skull is one instrument, I suppose! I know you all use non-traditional — and yet, ultimately, very traditional, when one thinks long-term — instruments. Some of the instruments I am not so sure of the names of. What lead you to seek these instruments out, and what aspect does each one brings to the sound?
Erin: We have used an antique human skull and a human tibia. I will try to list them, but I am sure I will forget many: Portable Air Raid Siren, Tibetan singing bowl (sounded in live performances with a Model 24 grenade – deactivated!), starter pistols firing blank cartridges, bull’s horn, floor toms, frame drums of differing size and age, my grandfather’s vintage SS Stewart and Gibson guitars, our antique pump organ, shruti box, Oak “bones” (percussive device), stones, chains, steel plates, Broom branches, crystal and water ‘ringing’, various field recordings taken by me in various locations, and many physical keyboards and VST plug ins. Each ‘instrument’ serves its purpose depending on what we are trying to achieve. Many times we have taken a recording of breath or an abstract vocalization and edited that for background texture as well.
Oliver: Do you feel that Awen make “songs” in the conventional sense, or do you feel that what you produce are more akin to incantatory rites, ritualistic odes, paeans, summonings, and the like? I can certainly get a sense of ritual release from several of Awen’s live pieces, and in that sense they do not seem like “songs” in the sense that Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” is also a song. Does this aspect of the band tie into any occult or esoteric beliefs held by band members?
Erin: No. I am not a ‘songwriter’ per se. I am reluctant to call myself a musician even, and prefer recording artist. I work with musicians and songwriters and have even produced categorical ‘songs’ in the process, but I feel most of our work is halfway or more in the door of soundscape and rite rather than song. I think it is challenging and interesting to hear sounds that are not easily identified or categorized immediately. This sparks the listener’s imagination, allowing us to convey more abstract subject matter. To listen to “New Music” on commercial radio today is to hear everything you’ve heard before only lacking inspiration and insultingly sold as new. The fact that in the year 2012 C.E. new generations of white musicians are still ripping off Delta Blues – which is rightfully black American folk music, and gracing the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with accolades is reprehensible, and that others do not see this amazes me.
Oliver: What beliefs do members of Awen hold, esoteric — or exoteric? Why do you hold them and how does it relate to your music?
Erin: It would suffice to say that it comes from the Heart.
Oliver: Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman has claimed he can barely remember any individual live show he’s played; he goes into a kind of trance during the show and can only operate on vague senses of feeling and emotion during the performance, after which he switches back to his normal self. And he’s said at the most powerful he feels the live music becomes a group conjuration of sorts. Have you ever had experiences like this with Awen, and what are some of the more powerful effects you’ve witnessed from the music Awen has played in a live environment? Be specific! They can be effects you’ve felt on you, or that you have seen occur days later, to others, etc.
Erin: Indeed there is an aura onstage during a performance, a palpable feeling of ‘otherness’. I have been told by audience members in attendence that this has been felt and some have been made uncomfortable and had to leave. One person told me they were on Acid and we terrified them so that they had to leave the building. When I reviewed the live video of this same performance at the Dead Audio Festival, which can be seen on Youtube, I was surprised to hear a loud amplified soughing and howling moan after our song “Tree of Sacrifice” and during the intro to “Bonds of Blood” which was NOT produced by us and was not in any backing track! I still do not know what that was. At another show an attendant stated that his Mother-In-Law, a purported Wiccan Witch, felt compelled to leave as she stated we were conjuring uncomfortably dark forces in her opinion! During a recent performance in Dallas we performed an invocation of Cernunnos followed by a rendition of “Hymn to Pan”, during which earthquakes were recorded in the immediate area. Coincidence, perhaps!
Oliver: Are there any political, or non-political, thoughts that go into the writing of Awen’s music? Aside from this, is there any particular worldview that guides you personally? Any certain code, or any sort of philosophy you find especially persuasive? What is it, and why?
Erin: Aside from the rather abstract notion that all thought and actions are by necessity political, there is no political agenda at work within Awen. I do identify myself as Heathen, so that naturally comes through strongly in the work.
Oliver: What are your 5 favorite movies, and why (briefly)?
Erin: I do love cinema and it is very difficult to narrow down 5 favorite films, but the 5 below have had a great effect on me.
1. The Virgin Spring by Ingmar Bergman
2. A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick
3. The Wicker Man by Robin Hardy
4. Blood of a Poet by Jean Cocteau
5. The Man Who Would Be King by John Huston
Oliver: Who are your 5 favorite writers or artists, and why (briefly)?
1. William Shakespeare (no list of authors writing in my mother tongue would be possible without his inclusion – and yes, I do believe he existed and wrote the works attributed to him and that his bones now rest in a church in Stratford-on-Avon which unfortunately and unbelievably is in a state of disrepair as I understand it!)
2. Robert Graves (a wonderful poet, historian, pagan tradition and occult researcher, novelist and messenger of the horrors of war)
3. H.L. Mencken (a ferocious wit, cynic and fellow autodidact whom I greatly admire)
4. Mark Twain (likewise a ferocious wit with an intimidating aptitude for recollection and story telling whom I feel was in the continuation of an ancient Bardic tradition)
5. Albrecht Duerer (an amazing draftsman and artist in general who inspired me at an early age)
Oliver: Now for my favorite question: If you were stranded on a desert island, and had only 5 LPs to take with you, what 5 LPs would those be?
Erin: Assuming I had the necessary equipment and power supply, etc… 1. Richard Wagner – Der Ring des Nibelungen 2. Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony no. 9 3. Carl Orff – Carmina Burana 4. J.S. Bach – Goldberg Variations 5. Japan – Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Oliver: Are there plans for any upcoming Awen releases? What is the status of the band? Where can folks go to get Awen’s stuff and do you have other projects in the works?
Erin: Yes, we have been working on a new album for the past 2 years, Grim King of the Ghosts. I hope to have this completed in 2013 C.E. Our items can be purchased through Tesco Distribution: USA: www.tesco-distro.com Europe: www.tesco-germany.com and Speakerfire in the US: www.speakerfire.com – Thank you!
[Note: Members of Awen also run the small label/distro Triskele, which has a webstore here.]
An interview with Gabhar
Gabhar members Gregory and Melanie Elliott, and Megan K were interviewed by Oliver in December, 2012.
Gabhar are a neofolk band from Austin, Texas. Anything else you may want to know about them is probably in the interview below.
Oliver: I’ll start with the basics: What does the name “Gabhar” mean, how do you pronounce it, and what significance does it have for the band? How does its meaning tie into the meaning of the band’s music?
Greg: ‘Gabhar’ means ‘goat’ in Scottish Gaelic. It is pronounced ‘Gahvar,’ the ‘bh’ letter combination having a ‘v’ sound in that language. When Melanie and I started the band we kind of just thought the word for “goat” in our ancestral language would be good because we are both Capricorns (not that we follow or even believe in astrology at all). But as the band and ideas have progressed, it has taken on a bit of a larger meaning. The goat is an animal that, at least to me, represents full virility, life, and the tenaciousness to survive in whatever conditions, against the odds. A lot of Gabhar songs are about surviving and even triumphing in this wretched world, so the name matches our content quite strongly. Note that I have wild goats in mind here, an animal I have had a close relationship with, in my wilderness excursions — not necessarily the domesticated version, though they are beautiful animals as well.
Oliver: When did Gabhar start, where are you located, who is currently in the band, and what instruments do they play?
Greg: Melanie and I started Gabhar in Austin, Texas (where we still reside) in 2007 and we played a lot of shows that year with a bass player and a varied additional lineup. Life’s problems, and the lack of reliable people to play with, and a dissatisfaction with the ‘music biz’ took over, and we pretty much dropped out as an active band for a few years, though I never stopped writing songs. Then we met Megan Keith during a survivalist workshop/discussion group I was hosting, and found out that we had similar musickal and other tastes in common and that she was interested in doing what I’d always wanted someone to do in the band: play percussion. So now we have awakened from hibernation with the lineup of myself, Gregory Elliott, on vocals, acoustic guitar, and Appalachian dulcimer; Megan Keith on toms, boudhran, vocals, and melodic; and Melanie Elliott on vocals as well.
Oliver: As far as Gabhar’s sound — what is the ultimate goal in songwriting for you all? Last I saw, you all had a floor tom set up, an acoustic guitar — and I actually can’t remember what else! I know this might have changed slightly. Why do you prefer “old fashioned” acoustic instruments instead of synths, drum machines, etc.?
Gabhar (unison): Our goal is nothing less than to stir the human soul to face the modern world with a renewed nobility that has been lost in our times. We call ourselves, somewhat jokingly, ‘post-apocalyptic folk’, but we are all fairly serious about the fact that civilization is on a downward spiral and that its collapse is imminent and desirable. We are not really neo-luddites or anything, but we do feel it is better to not rely on anything electronic for our sound because electricity has not been around very long, and it is highly probable that its use will be severely limited in the times to come.
Every member of Gabhar feels a close tie to nature. Similarly, we feel an aversion to civilization. We want to be a musickal group that can still spread our intention in even the worst of times, and we will still be playing when ‘electronica’ has become a faint memory. But, yes, so far we only have acoustic stringed instruments, toms, melodica, and voice; though we would perhaps like to add another member, of the right character, to add some other acoustic instrument to our sound.
Oliver: There was a song I saw you all perform, about farming, the nation’s dependence on it, and how socially the days of the small farmer are going away, replaced by larger agribusiness conglomerates. What song was this, and can you explain the story behind it, and why you feel it’s a significant story to tell?
Greg: That song is called ‘Food of The Gods’ (not really any connection to the Terrence McKenna book). A fellow — I forget his name now, but he runs the Chaos Ex Machina netlabel out of Poland I believe — asked us to submit something for one of his compilations where the theme was agriculture or ‘Landwirtschaft’ in German (which is more literally translated as ‘land stewardship’ — imagine how different our view of agriculture might be if our word for it had such powerful connotations.). That is the name of the compilation. I had not written a song about this topic before, but was excited to do so. Of course, in expected post-apocalyptic form, the song that came out is basically about how farming and the myths of farming are going away and the human race will pretty much disappear because of it.
I am from rural Tennessee and grew up in a farming family and community. I have seen how much farmers have had to struggle against corporate farming and the resulting government skullduggery that also affects the farming lifestyle. Writing this song, and incorporating my grandfather’s cow call ‘sook, sook, sook’ into it was a happy way to connect with this part of where I come from, but saddening in how that lifestyle is almost all gone. It is something people need to think about because subsistence farming is a very real source of our food supply. Hunting and gathering in the wild is another, but corporate farming is destroying both of those possibilities. When our food supply is gone, we are gone.
Oliver: What bands or performers exert the largest inlfuence on Gabhar’s sound and message? And, aside from bands, what philosophers (if any) have had an impact on Gabhar’s songwriting?
Gabhar (unison): There are really too many to list as we have a deep love of most bands that get lumped into the neofolk genre and its precursors, so most of them have had some kind of impact on our sound from the more martial versions to the airy, nature-loving acts. We are not ashamed to admit this influence, either, because we believe that neofolk, dark folk, apocalyptic folk, heathen folk, or whatever you want to call it, is, and should be, growing as a vibrant culture all over the world and we are proud to be a part of that community. [The philosophers part of this question is better answered in the following questions about spirituality and politics.]
Oliver: Who are your current favorite neofolk artists (or any artists you’d care to name), and why?
Greg: Werkraum is a personal favorite and I listen to them at least once a week. Osewoudt is one of my favorite recent discoveries. Why? They give me a feeling of victory amidst days of often feeling downtrodden. It is really that simple.
Megan: Andreas Ritter and Forseti is a favorite. Erde is one of my desert island albums. Though my German is lacking, the beauty, authenticity, and maybe a sense of urgency to the lyrics still show through.
Melanie: I have been really into Birch Book lately. I find B’eirth’s soothing vocals worthy of aspiration, which is odd because I was never really into folk, having come from more of a goth-industrial background. However, there is something very genuine in dark folk music that is not present in other genres toward which I used to gravitate.
Oliver: What are your feelings on spirituality? Either pagan/heathen spirituality, spirituality in general, or any beliefs you all might have as individual members. What are they and do they inform your music and/or worldview? How?
Greg: My own ancestral Celtic spirituality is at the forefront of my thinking and feeling in such matters, and I make many references to such in my songs, particularly Ogham lore. However, I think that everyone should explore their own heritage from the standpoint of where they come from before the Abrahamic religions pretty much destroyed all true human experiences of the sacred. Therefore, I support all honest efforts to revive pagan and heathen worldviews and practices and will refer to many of those traditions in song as well as my Celtic lineage.
Melanie: I don’t really look to the past to define my future when it comes to spirituality. I consider myself an atheist, but I find religion and spirituality to be two different things. When I look at religion I see the blind leading the blind and the mighty leading the weak. Spirituality, on the other hand, can be a personal journey toward self-actualization and inner strength.
Megan: I personally am an Asatruar, a reconstructionist Norse religion. Even though I am very personal with my beliefs, they inform nearly everything I do.
Gabhar (unison): We each have a different view of spirituality, but we bring it all together in our musick, which can be spiritually uplifting in its own right.
Oliver: One of my fave questions: If you were stranded on a deserted island, and could have 5 — and only 5 — LPs with you, what 5 LPs would those be, and why?
Greg: I would rather not deal with a record player in such a context as there would probably be a lot of sand that would get in its workings and I would not have it for long anyway, plus it would be too heavy to carry and there would be no electricity. So I would rather choose to take the members of Sol Invictus, Changes, DI6, Blood Axis, and Paul Roland with me so we could all just play together and I could learn their songs as all of those old folks die off and I am left with that experience, continuing their legacy to the sounds of waves crashing and the taste of salty fish and coconut in my mouth.
Melanie: Madonna’s “True Blue” on repeat.
Megan: Forseti – Erde, Crimpshrine – Duct Tape Soup, Antonine Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Death In June’s The Guilty Have No Pride, Brighter Death Now – Pain in Progress.
Oliver: What was Stella Natura like? [An outdoor neofolk fest in California in 2012.] The high points of the experience? Low points? What bands there impressed you the most?
Greg: Stella was proof that a certain kind of ancestral roots culture is coming to the fore, slowly and in small numbers to be sure, but perhaps that is for the best. I don’t get out much, so it was good to go out to a beautiful environment to make connections and hear some great musick. The high point for me was seeing Changes and then getting to have a spontaneous and very long conversation with Robert Taylor about damn near everything. The low point was that it was very dry and dusty out there, and my wife couldn’t go because she was pregnant. Of course I was there mainly to see Blood Axis and Changes, and they did not disappoint. I was glad to see Menace Ruine, a fave of recent years — such a small duet with such a large sound. Novemthree, Tukankantajat, and Pyhä Kuolema, were all nice discoveries and Sangre De Muerdago around the fire was a crowning moment of my life, though very sadly I had to go to bed just before they were finished because of complete and utter exhaustion.
Megan: Stella was a really transcendental experience. I almost don’t want to talk about it for fear of spoiling my memories. Of course the location was amazing. Seeing the opening ritual with Arktau Eos against the backdrop of wilderness and mountains was intoxicating. I also chose to break my six year abstinence from alcohol at the festival, so the wine was intoxicating too. Many new friends made, and distant friends met face to face, Stella was a real display of the wondrous camaraderie our small scene can accomplish. I was proud to see that everyone was respectful of each other, and also to our surroundings. My most anticipated acts were Blood Axis and Sangre de Muerdago. Experiencing a special moment in the dark woods with Sangre is something I won’t forget. My low points would only be the altitude and my body’s resistance to camping that gave me some aches and pains and the lack of the full Gabhar tribe.
Oliver: Is there a political philosophy that any members of Gabhar find especially appealing? What philosophy is it, and why? Or, if not a political philosophy, any kind of moral code or worldview that you think is most apt or correct?
Greg: I am actually very interested in politics from a normative-theoretical standpoint (i.e. how should humans organize themselves rather than how they in fact do). I have read and been influenced by anarchist, socialist, fascist thinkers from the right and left to everything in between, everyone from Bakhunin to Mussolini, from Evola to Chomsky, from Nietzsche to Starhawk, from Lenin to Southgate. As I grow older, though, I have decided two things. First, the best political thought actually comes from ancient myth and sacred philosophy. I have been working on a translation of the Dao De Jing, and find it a far superior political (and life in general) treatise than anything devised by modern thinkers. As I try to really engage with that work, notions from my own culture’s history, laws, struggles, and stories, especially Arthurian legends, though also Plato and Cicero, constantly come to mind, so it is from these wells where my ‘politics’ spring more than anything else. Our sense of the sacred must come first. Without that, politics is doomed to dangerous triteness. Second, environmental concerns should trump any perceived disparity between right and left, because without a healthy world to live in, politics won’t even exist, for the polis (people) will not be here to develop systems of organization.
Megan: To add on to what Greg said, I’m neither left nor right. The most dire of issues have always surpassed that paradigm. There seems to be a trend of people expecting you to hop into a strictly defined political container. Fuck sectarianism, I am a veritable political Frankenstein.
Melanie: I am an anarchist; I do what I want (kind of an inside joke). In all seriousness, I can’t really top what Megan said, and I agree with it completely.
Gabhar (unison): Our songs do address topics such as the overlap of sacrality and human ordering, critique of materialist consumerism, and environmental issues, though we try to do this in an uplifting and inspiring way rather than being preachy about it.
Oliver: Any plans to record or play out again soon? Where can folks go to keep up with the latest news regarding Gabhar?
Gabhar (unison): We find recording to be quite a chore, and that is why we don’t have many recordings out there yet, but we really do want to have an album out. We’re working on it. We have no definite shows planned per se, but after Melanie gives birth, we are planning to have a bonfire party behind our house where we will play some songs around the fire with friends. Some live appearances are in the works for 2013, and for all of our anti-civilization talk, the best way to find news about us is by searching Gabhar on Facebook, haha.
Oliver: Thanks so much, guys and gals!
Gabhar: Thank you Oliver, for all of your work, through the written word and the planning of gatherings, to help our culture grow and thrive.
Note: Probably the best place currently to go and keep up to date with Gabhar is at their Facebook page, here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gabhar/137079639690525 Gabhar’s February performance at the Spider House venue in Austin in February is available as a free download.
The better photos of Awen in this interview are by quoth09.