A thirteen years long creative exile, and a revived desire to sing about the human journey towards knowledge: Oberon's awakening lands on our pages!
Article by Riccardo Coppola - Publish on: 03/10/14
Hi Bard Oberon, we are really proud of exchanging some words with you. You have just published, with Prophecy Productions, your new album "Dream Awakening". There has been a hiatus of thirteen years between your previous album and this one: what expectations have you got for the new record?
Thank you so much, Riccardo! The world is an unpredictable place, so I keep my expectations moderate. But it's great to be able to release no less than four (two regular albums and one double album) CDs in 2014. A lot of the reviews the album's getting are really good, and it seems like reawakening Oberon was the right decision at the right time. But most of all, this process has rekindled the creative flame for me. Dream Awakening was written over a long period of time, so looking forward to what comes next is really exciting, as everything will be very fresh and new.
Were these thirteen years a sort of creative exile, in which you collected experiences and suggestions to convey in your music? Have your experiments with Future Whirl helped you to enrich the sound of Oberon?
Absolutely! That period was a very creative time in my life. I spent those years traveling, learning, training and teaching, and that surely had an impact on Oberon as it is today. The symbol of Future Whirl was the sun, and the music had a brighter and more mellow vibe to it, compared to the albums that came before it. So in some ways it was a polar opposite to Oberon. Back then I wanted to write simple acoustic songs about the transcient state of life, a topic I am still very much interested in, but in a different and hopefully more mature way. I think I have said elsewhere that the Future Whirl period provided me with the right questions, but no answers. You can't understand life properly unless you are ready to embrace both the dark and the light aspects of it. So as a reflection of that, now that Oberon rises again, I feel that it is more complete, allowing these opposing forces that were earlier segregated into their own little "worlds" to coexist in pensive harmony.
Your first recordings (the ones published in the demo "Through Time & Space") just turned twenty. What do you think of them today, after all these years? Has your approach to music changed? If yes, to what extent?
I think Through Time and Space is awesome. I am a better singer now, and I may be a better musician, but those songs are dead on as an expression what went on the heart and mind of the 17 year old Bard Oberon. The lyrics are very pathos filled, but they are very honest too. As young kids we tend to overdramatize our problems and to put it metaphorically I would paint my musical images with very broad, yet shallow strokes. But it works. I love those songs. Today I don't worry about unreciprocated love, I don't deal with depression or anything like that. I think my songwriting has become more existential, with more, I dare say, gnostic overtones. It's about that search for something deeper that doesn't have so much to do with every day life as it is about life and death as transcendental realities. But I also have to say that even if that is the case, writing music is more fun now. I got more rock and roll spirit in my songs than before because I also want to celebrate my roots, and make music that makes me nod my head and get the energy going, hence the inclusion of songs such as "I Can Touch The Sun With My Heart" or "Escape" on Dream Awakening. We change all the time, and just as life is a very serious thing, we also need that realease of fun and playfulness, or we will just end up bitter and sad as life slips away, stupidly bound by our own self importance!
Are there some bands of the last decades that you have followed with attention, and that influenced your sound?
As a kid I listened to Sweet, Kiss, Judas Priest, WASP and stuff like that, and as the decade progressed I got into heavier stuff like "Master of Puppets" and the whole American Thrash scene. In the 90s I listened a lot to classical music as well as bands I came across or befriended in the underground scene such as Into The Abyss, Blooding Mask, Equinox Ov The Gods, Dark Side Cowboys, Death In June, Fields of the Nephilim, Schistosoma, Memorandum, Dead Can Dance, the Apocalyptic Vision groups and so on and all of these artists influence me in one way or another. But whatever the source of inspiration, the music usually comes out uniquely Oberon. Now as the autumn is here, I have a feeling I will be diving into my collection of classical records, too. One of my favorite composers is the Russian Vyacheslav Artyomov who created a lot of beautiful and deep music perfect for dark, stormy autumn nights.
The sound of "Dream Awakening" plants his roots in folk, but I heard some elements of modern prog. How would you describe your music? What did you add in your last songs? Is there some other element you would like to introduce in the future?
My tastes are very varied, and I've been in love with all kinds of music ranging from Roxy Music to Sade, Guns n' Roses, Carcass, Godflesh, Current 93, Caul, SPK, Smashing Pumpkins, George Harrison, Kris Kristofferson... there's a vast array of music, and I feel that as I get older, I have quite an expansive musical vocabulary to draw from, all depending on what I want to say with a particular song. I think the main challenge for me are the lyrics, because while the whole Future Whirl and Dream Awakening era had a specific focus, I am eager to move forward and explore new things. I think the human condition will always be the core topic in my writing, but being human is such a multifaceted experience that there is really no end to its scope. But it has to feel relevant to my life's journey, and it has to have a certain revelatory nature.
Can you tell me something about the concept of the album? What is the story you want to tell with your songs?
The songs on the album talk about many things: natural magic, the dualism of the darkness and the light, the separation of man and nature, ecstasy, dreams of things beyond this world ... But all of that ultimately ties into the journey towards the individual's understanding that we must seek real freedom for ourselves.
"Phoenix" seems to be a pivotal track for the album: what does the figure of the phoenix represent in the concept, and in your imagery? Can we see it as a metaphore for the "resurrection" of Oberon?
Phoenix is a hymn to everything that is decent about the human being. "We shall face the force of time's grinding teeth..." No matter how bleak the conditions are in this world, no matter what the adversity is, people tend to find a way, even when that means the end of everything they hold dear, to do what is right and good. Every day people risk their lives and limbs in the service of others, because of that very human spark inside. You see it in all ages and times, on battlefields, in science and in society in general, whether it's a whistleblower risking his way of life for the truth, the few incredibly brave people who risk their lives in the fight against Ebola, the person who will give his life to save someone else. The list goes on. There is a reason why we keep pushing forward in this world, a reason beyond the mere need to reproduce and gratify our egos - something that binds us together, something in ourselves that immediately recognizes it's counterpart in others. This is a mystical thing to me, so although all my songs have several layers of meaning, this is a point I think is important to get across.
In the artwork, that I found really refined, stands out the presence of a crescent moon. Why did you choose this symbol?
For me, the crescent moon represents "something hidden coming into view". By that I mean a dawning of knowledge and wisdom that comes from living with the intent to trasncend the barriers that have been built around us. Realization might be about several different things, but it is a process that occurs in all people, whether that is just the accumulation of experience by aging, or by consciously seeking deeper wisdom, hopefully the latter!
Your history as a musician seems to be tightly bound to Phophecy productions: your first works (that have also been republished in recent times) figure between the first publications of the label. What do you think about being part of this large musical family? Are there some label mates you find particularly congenial to your musical vision?
Oberon's journey is like that of the solitary wanderer. It's been like this all my life and for all the time I have made records. Martin Koller called me sometime back in 1996 and asked me if I wanted to sign to Prophecy. Back then he had released records by Empyrium and Nox Mortis, and maybe Penitent, and Oberon became the fourth album to come out on his label that he ran out of a small office in the town of Wittlich. I went to visit him there, and I quickly noticed that he had a passion for his work that was a bit different from what I had seen in the underground before. On our way to lunch one day, we stopped by a record store in a shopping center. He went in there and quickly scanned the racks for Prophecy records, making sure any albums stacked in the back made it to the front so people would see them. I guess he was what has been described as a "Record Man" - look it up! He took his job very seriously, and in hindsight, I wish I would have taken that more to heart, as Oberon was too deeply rooted in the sometimes self limiting underground D.I.Y. mentality, and other psychodramas that artists sometimes like to get lost in. Martin had a drive for higher goals, bussineswise, and that episode at the record store stayed with me in my own business dealings not related to music. We parted ways not long after Oberon came out, and in the years that followed we moved in different directions, but I always thought in the back of my mind that Prophecy would be the ideal label for Oberon due to the company's very eclectic profile. I am glad to be back, and to have an environment where I can find understanding for my artistic vision, and that can serve as a platform for me as I take on the murky world of alternative music.
What are you planning for the future? Will you bring your music in tour, or will you give a follower to "Dream Awakening" soon?
I am hoping to have a new album ready next year, although it is too early to say. The live thing keeps coming up, and I have been wanting to put together a band, but due to the nature of Oberon as a "one man band" it hasn't been a priority. Also I think more people buy my records in Germany and Italy than in Norway, so there would be quite a bit of logistics to settle. But if I get any requests I am happy to consider them. I would love to do select shows in special places with a special feeling, like old churches, museums and the like... let's make it happen.
That was the last one, Bard Oberon. Would you please leave a message for our readers and for your Italian listeners?
Stay true, find out what makes you happy and pursue it with all of your being! Thank you, Riccardo for giving me the space to share my thoughts with your audience. I think Oberon has always had a lot of friends in Italy who understand intuitively the atmosphere of the music. Truly, Italy holds some very personal and special memories for me that will remain in my heart forever.