Robert Taylor interview for The Warden Post
For this week, we at The Warden Post had the great honour to interview one of the Godfathers of Neofolk and the Frontman of Changes, a cult band which paved the way for artists like Sol Invictus, Death in June and many others.
Mr Taylor, let me first welcome you at The Warden Post and congratulate you on the Role as an Editor of the Howling section which has a focus on Neofolk contemporary events, new prospective artists and the importance of music in the raging Culture war.
Can you share some important experience from the days when you founded Changes and how you impacted the musical scene at that crucial period for Western culture?
Changes began in the winter of 1969-70. It was a tumultuous time for me personally and the anti-climax to the 1960s.
Originally Nicholas Tesluk and I began doing music and composing mostly for our own amusement. We did share the music with family and friends. At some point someone we knew mentioned that there were auditions at a local coffee house on the such and such day of the week and we decided to go audition. We passed the audition and played for the weekend. It was our first paid job. Prior to that, we had done a number of performances for free at the local coffee house of the Process Church of the Final Judgment.
Overall, those who listened to us probably did not cognate what we were singing about. I think they simply related to the music just as music. During this period we played at many coffee houses, bars and college and university campuses. Folk music at this time was largely preempted by leftists. I suppose we were the first ostensibly “to the right” folk band.
As for our actual effect on later Neofolk groups, I think it was largely non-existent. What we did share in common with Death in June, Sol Invictus and other bands of that genre were the reasons of which we had arrived at doing such music: distaste for the pop culture of the time, and a feeling of impending doom for western civilization. Our motto which we used on our business cards and elsewhere was “To relearn, to relive, to renew that which we have lost….” During this period Nicholas developed his signature style of guitar with rich Baroque arpeggios and Renaissance techniques. I likewise was steeped in the poetry of the Romantic period, from which I drew some inspiration for lyrics. In our first incarnation, lasting roughly between 1969 and 1975, I exclusively wrote the lyrics and Nicholas composed the melodies. I think we worked well as a team, and his also being my cousin and longtime friend probably helped in that sense. Then Nicholas moved to Colorado and Changes was laid to rest as a project. He took up with another musician, Mark Andrews, and they formed Phase II, a project somewhat different than the music of Changes. Phase II has several albums which have been released by Tesco in Germany. Both Nicholas and I had married and formed families. Then in the early ‘90s, I sent a chapbook of my lyric poems to my friend Michael Moynihan (of Blood Axis) and he asked if I had any demo tapes of the music that went with the words. We ended up re-mastering and digitalizing as well as we could from old reel-to-reel analogue tapes, and Michael released a seven-inch vinyl record and then the CD Fire of Life. From there we went back into the studio and produced both Legends and also Orphan in the Storm in about three days while working with Robert Ferbrache (a brilliant engineer, musician, and member of Blood Axis).
In the time that Nicholas and I were living a great distance from one another, each of us took up the other’s primary task. He began to compose lyrics and I began to compose melodies. Today we use a mix of the two. I also have a forthcoming solo album which will come out I hope in the near future.
Sometime in the mid-‘90s, we returned to performing—our first performance being at Treffin Wave Goth in Leipzig, Germany at the festival held there annually. Those in attendance all said we sounded just like we had in our old recordings. From there we went on to many more performances in America as well as Europe.
We continue to create music and new albums. Currently released has been Psychonautika, a concept album. It comes replete with all of the packaging in 3-D using a method called ChromaDepth. It’s vinyl and comes complete with a 16-page liner booklet and 3-D glasses. So not only do we continue to issue music, but we continue to innovate. Another album, The Ballad of Robert de Bruce, is ready and will probably be released in 2018, Nicholas and I are still busy creating new material as well.
Do you think that Neofolk can establish itself as a dominant cultural movement, considering the fact that we lack the institutional and financial power in order to propel to the mainstream and thus create a counterbalance to the Cultural distortion manifested at its strongest through the debauchery of Pop Music, the vulgarity of the Hip Hop and the Nihilism of the Indie genres?
I have learned to never say never, but I think it is unlikely for a number of reasons.
Most of what begins as “underground” music, be it hip-hop, grunge, techno, etc., gets usurped by big act pop culture. They are always looking for new things to infuse in order to keep it sounding new and exciting. So you had people like Madonna using techno elements in her music while techno itself was still a small cult. This is common. I also recognize rap elements within country pop which is undermining and replacing classic Country Western music, if you can believe that. So that is how such cult music makes its entry point by the borrowings of big-name attractions. Once the ear of the listener is trained to respond to watered down versions, then the cult music surfaces in the pop genre.
I think this is sort of how it works. The qualifying difference with Neofolk is, firstly, it is not underground. I would epitomize it as überground, which is to say, not below pop culture but instead above it, on a higher level of sophistication and intent. In all my travels, performing and engaging with those who come out to hear us, I am stricken by the fact that the people are of a much higher calibre than the mass of consumers at large. Those who follow the Neofolk culture are generally well read and tend to pursue spiritual quests, read philosophy and history and disdain pop culture. They are a different breed altogether. Such people will always be the minority in that sense. Then there are the overall themes of Neofolk which run antithetical to what the big pop music producers want to promote. Their main goal is to promote dehumanization, vulgarity, and self-destructiveness. This is of course not the case with Neofolk. In order for pop culture to even be aware of the Neofolk culture—and that’s what it is: a culture that transcends being merely music. It is refined and intelligent. It is poetic and melodic. It is for making finer ways of thinking rather than the lesser ways of pop culture—they must make an intellectual and/or spiritual leap in order to grasp what we offer.
In the sense of Neofolk, there is great comradeship. It is not competitive as pop culture is. It is not a dog-eat-dog affair. Most all of us get along, participate in one another’s projects, promote one another and so forth. There is little remuneration in Neofolk, so money is not a big competitive issue. Plus, the level of sophistication and intelligence helps to preclude all those negative sides of things.
If I have any misgivings about the state of Neofolk, it is that few of its performers have gone beyond simply composing single songs. A few have grander visions (such as Blood Axis with their Born Again CD; Sol Invictus, having done some great theme albums like Cupid and Death; and Tony Wakeford’s L’Orchestre Noir which approaches a chamber music level). One thing that Changes tried to do from the start when we composed Legends, a six-part ballad, was to revive something of the bardic tradition which transcended simply short ballads as such. We went on to doing The Ballad of Robert de Bruce, which is another long single piece. Few others have attempted anything like that as yet. I was hoping we could lead the way in that regard. Black metal, conversely, has had some groups like Ulver who have taken that genre to a classical level. Presently, Nicholas and I are working on a cantata. So we have always been striving to broaden and make new what we do. Another artist who did something along the same lines was Robin Williamson in his “Five Denials on Merlin’s Grave.” He truly captures something of the bardic tradition with that piece. If Neofolk just continues with what they are doing, which is single short ballads, it will begin to pale and loop around in doing the same thing over and again. That is the challenge that Neofolk is faced with. It must grow beyond where it began. Nicholas and I are already discussing ways in which to do so as well as to make the packaging more innovative, and the 3-D record we have just released is a hard act to follow in that regard!
In the main, our songs have striven to be poetic and melodic. Pop music is little more than extended commercial jingles, little different than advertising music.
Can you share some of the original concepts and beliefs that forged you as an artist?
A deep and continuing study of our culture and people. Like all creative individuals, I strive to express myself, my ideas, my loves and hates. I enjoy the creative process above all else. In a sense, art is almost like a religion. One sacrifice for it if they are truly an artist.
As for writers and books and music and such, I would have to say, Nietzsche, Spengler, Wagner and so many others—it would be difficult to draw up a comprehensive list. In my own home, I have a library of around 10,000 books, and I do indeed read and study daily. So there are so many possible influences in that regard.
In the main, I find my own inspiration as a poet. I do write a lot of poetry besides lyrics. Both Nicholas and I are fine artists and graphic artists as well as composers.
If you had to choose a philosopher or a writer which influenced your songwriting, who would that be?
Many, as I pointed out: Jünger, Evola, Pound, Eliot and many more.
What kind of music do you prefer to listen in your leisure time, while you create and in times of meditation and contemplation?
Neo-Folk, of course, but also classical and symphonic music. I like Vangelis as background music to creating. I like traditional folk music. For meditation and contemplation, simply silence.
For the end, we would like to ask you: What would you say to all those artists out there struggling with their work knowing that they are the Vessel of truth in an age of decay and degeneracy?
Follow your star and never ever surrender. With our combined will and efforts, we may just turn the tide.