INTERVIEW WITH MORGAN Y. EVANS @ METAL RIOT MAGAZINE
I think with “Phoenix” I wanted to write a hymn to that within us that recognizes the human being in others, so close, so familiar to ourselves that we are willing to sacrifice for something greater than our own selves. That image of man, teeth clenched, fists bleeding and bruised fighting to stay alive, and retain his humanity and inner light in the face of despair is deeply inspiring to me. – Bard Oberon
We’d all like to calculate infinity at times, to muse on the grand nature of things and the purpose to the cosmic wheel, as if it couldn’t be more evident. We are amidst a brilliant array of stars but smother our own inner lights. Prophecy Productions has come through with a new Oberon release Dream Awakening, to coax you out of your shell. After hearing the sweeping neo-folk with plaintive and deeply stirring lyrics from Bard Oberon on this, the first new music from the project in 13 years, one is inclined to stroke Faustian deals in hopes of earning Heavenly forgiveness through good works done with the knowledge gained from the bargain struck. A sense of worth in diving into the challenge of learning to awaken not only a knowledge of self and the soul, but the science of mystical energy that surrounds us at all times.
We talk gnostic poems, Bill Miller, Ebola, 80′s movies, “Phoenix” and more.
Dream Awakening is your fist work in 13 years? What prompted the return? Did it take that long for everything to come together organically? At The Gates chalk up their reunion to a more exciting and forward thinking scene for music right now, especially metal. Do you feel the same or was it more your own reasons or some big to do likeChinese Democracy?
I think I have to attribute the rebirth of Oberon to a synchronistic chain of events rather than some streak of genius on my part. Back in the 90s, as the days of the pre-internet underground scene was coming to an end, I was lucky to be able to establish some strong relationships with people who really cared about what I did. So at one point I started getting requests from them, asking me to bring back Oberon, Prophecy included. At that time, I was still writing music, but not with the intensity or intent that I did when I was releasing albums. So when Prophecy came around and said, we want you to record a certain amount of albums for us, I felt that creative force mounting. Despite the pathos, I’d have to say it was a bit like the story in the gnostic poem, “Hymn of the Pearl”, where a man travels into Egypt in pursuit of a gem, symbolizing the awakening of the soul, but in the process of adapting to life among the Egyptians, he forgets who he is and why he is there, until finally he remembers and attains initiation into the mysteries. So in hindsight it kind of felt like that, as if I had forgotten something really special I had in my life. The music has been my calling ever since I was a kid, and now that Dream Awakening is finally out, I feel as if I’ve come home. To actually see people remember who Oberon was, is humbling. I think Dream Awakening contains some good material and subject matter that isn’t often dealt with in the music world. I think Oberon adds an unusual flavor to the scene, and I am glad to be back! In terms of putting the album together, Dream Awakening was written in the course of several years, but it wasn’t really until I went into the studio to record it that it all came together.
“Phoenix” offered a taste to the public of warm strings, a sense of rebirth and maybe a yearning for the infinite? If so, in what sense? I lovce the line “A sacred sound to carry us over through the gate of summer.” Reminds me of old issues of Hellblazer comics where they would search forAlbion. Are we doomed to be wiped out by the Earth as the Native American White Shell Woman of the Earth ages in reverse and sheds the wear and tear of the world (ie: to purge what humanity has done to her body in recent ages)? Are you singing of a personal striving or rising for greatness or a desire for us as mammals to get our shit together better? This album seems to really be in conversation with the natural world, kind of like Nhor’s latest black metal but much more folk.
As for “Phoenix”, I would say an important part of it is the human journey. With all the insanity, tradegy and despair that goes on in the world it’s incredible sometimes to see so many people pull up their sleeves and risk life and limb for others. I certainly believe in this ambiguous quality called the human spirit. The fight against Ebola is a good example where you have individuals – while governments seem as impotent as ever – who have agreed to place the greater good before their own self interest to fight this terrible virus. So I think with “Phoenix” I wanted to write a hymn to that within us that recognizes the human being in others, so close, so familiar to ourselves that we are willing to sacrifice for something greater than our own selves. That image of man, teeth clenched, fists bleeding and bruised fighting to stay alive, and retain his humanity and inner light in the face of despair is deeply inspiring to me. We can be as spiritual as we want but at the end of the day, it’s about ages coming and going in the grinding of life’s great wheel and the people who live, struggle and lead in times of geat upheaval.
I think the Earth is a conscious being and as a part of it, we are meant to be doing something here, whatever it may be. We are definitely endowed with the means of self destruction, and it seems like rather than fulfilling our natural imperative, we have been devising schemes of suicide and extinction on a grand scale. But when you think about how galaxies collide, pollinate eachother and just the whole evolutionary cycle on a cosmic level, the problems on earth become kind of insignificant. But I think we all have to give some thought to why we are here and what life is, because we might be missing out on some really important stuff if we don’t. Since you mention the Native Americans, I think we – as a global civilization – need to acknowledge the wisdom that comes from those cultures. I’m a fan of Native American singer-songwriter, Bill Miller, and his message of redemption all seem to stem from a love of the earth and the timeless bonds that bind us to our land, our ancestors and the universe itself. We are all brothers and sisters but at one point we forgot and fooled ourselves into thinking we were CEOs, janitors and politicians.
“Empty and Marvelous” starts off an album full of poetry, insights and musings. Did you retreat inward pretty far for the making of this?
I took that title from a chapter heading in the book The Way of Zen by Alan Watts. He was the first thinker in that tradition I came across, and he seemed to have this bohemian air about him and the way he conveyed his teaching that appealed to me and helped put me on the path I’m still walking. I’m not a Buddhist but a lot of the techniques and philosophies of the East have impacted me greatly, both as an artist and a person. The yogic process, from being someone who doesn’t own himself because he is asleep, to becoming a man who is able to live wilfully, was the inspiration for much of what I created for Dream Awakening: the inner search for that marvelous emptiness – the opposite of the empty fullness of many of the idols we tend to create and worship in our world.
I can relate to that, for sure. How has it been working with Prophecy Productions and reaching this point in your relationship? This is kind of like you went a bunch of nice places on some really good dates and now it is getting serious. You were one of Prophecy’s first records.
I think Prophecy did a lot to get my name out there in the early days when it was a small, one-man enterprise. And in the current landscape of the music industry, Prophecy has made a safe harbor for artists who are not merely driven by wanting to appease the masses, but who strive to manifest an artistic vision.
Any lyric from the new album that particularly feels like where you are at right now mentally? A credo or whatnot? Or is that dangerous?
I’ve been working with the themes of Dream Awakening for years, so as the album is finally out, I now feel a need to look at something new. I was going in a certain direction, but then the thing with Russia and the Ukraine happened, we got the Ebola outbreak and Isis, and the world just seemed to explode with insanity. I think art needs to be ambiguous, but at the same time, we are all affected by what ‘s going on and I am sure that whatever I do next will be influenced by that. The world has never been more interconnected and thus at the same time as disjointed, and I believe both culturally, politically and socially, we can see the emergence of humanity as an expression of a more unified mind, which can be both good and bad. A negative side of it is that in all of this the role of the individual, the person who relentlessly follows his or her heart; the man and woman wielding nature’s magic, starts to disappear, as a new type of collectivism builds up around us. It makes me want to look for something more pure and primal than what I see around me in the world. Maybe it’s my viking blood, but that’s where I’m at right now.
What prompted the somber cover art for the release? Also, how mushc thought went into the song structures?
I’ve loved that painting since the day I saw it. It depicts a Hindu myth about a sage who tries to achieve spiritual enlightenment or awakening, so it fit very nicely with the concept of the music. But a part of it was also that it had a very dreamlike quality, which is what drew me to it in the first place. The colors make me feel as if I am looking into a dream which makes the story and the beings in the painting come alive. This aspect of seeing things with the eye of imagination is very important in Oberon. It’s like a reverse sense of euhemerism, where events and things are seen as a representations of the Mysteries, rather than the reverse.
Everything that goes on in my songs is intended, and usually how a song flows and moves is determined by the lyrics and what mood or message I want to get across. Some of the songs took years to write as each part needs to be justified in relation to whatever came before it. There needs to be a connection between the different parts that gradually builds towards a climax.
Do you fear that time spent between releases is less time people will hear your material or know of the music and experience it, or can you not be worried to much about general attention spans and album cycles? Thanks.
I don’t really want to deal with all that. I am lucky to be releasing albums in 2014, but the most important thing is to be creative and keep on working. I’ve been surprised at the number of people who actually remember Oberon from when I put out my first two albums. It means you can be an totally under the radar of most, and still touch people here and there. I mean, once you have that, why ask for more? I’m sure it would be nice to have a house in Mustique, but for me, being true to who I am and where I’m going is more important.
So, you like Back to the Future? “Power of Love” is maybe the best Huey Lewis song.
Looking back at what was around me growing up in the 80s, I am amazed that the world has managed to become so one-dimensional, considering what was going on culturally at the time. The way I see it personally is that the 80s was like a university of the imagination happening all around us. We had Star Wars (both cinematically and geopolitically!), awesome computer games, The Transformers, KISS (The song «I’m a legend tonight» was the first song by them that truly captured my heart back in the early 80s), The NeverEnding story, The Dark Crystal, view-masters, record stores, James Bond, Cold War with walls and nukes and all that stuff – we had so much awesome, exciting, wild and contrasting stuff going on that we should all be like magicians today, shaping the world into a really great, amazing place. We were taught how to be cosmopolites, space explorers, transcendental time traveling geniuses (by imagination at least), bullet repelling warriors, scientific prodigies, the list goes on … and still people fall back into the little slots of convenience and convention just to make it through life without too much upset. Humanity, at least our generation, has a very special flag, and it has Marty, Doc, Rick Dangerous and John Candy on it! Fly it high. Be a magician. Abracadabra!