Taken from www.fluxeuropa.com
This interview with R.N. Taylor was conducted by e-mail between February and April of 1997 for
FluxEuropa magazine. It is one of the more widely publicized interviews regarding Changes on the internet.
ROBERT TAYLOR of Changes has a zest for life which has manifested itself in a wide range of pursuits and experiences. In addition to his involvement in music, he is an artist, poet and writer, besides having worked at many different 'day jobs'. He is also a keen family man and a prolific reader with interests ranging from anthropology and astronomy to literature and tattooing. In his younger days he also belonged to a Chicago street gang, hung out with 'outlaw biker gangs', and experimented with psychoactive drugs.
In the early 60s he was associated with the Minutemen, a radical paramilitary group which took its inspiration from the 'armed libertarianism' of the American Revolutionaries and foreshadowed the rise of the present-day militias. He has also been and still is a key figure in the Odinist revival. As a man of letters and action, he follows the way of the warrior-poet, the ideal of our 'barbarian' ancestors. His brand of streetwise experience, homespun charm and intellect makes him an engaging personality who always has something interesting to say, particularly with regard to the nature of modern society, his critique of which has been central to his artistic motivation...
FLUXEUROPA: What are the main sources of inspiration for your music?
TAYLOR: The primary source is the Muse. I do not mean 'The Muse' in a metaphorical sense to describe inspiration in a poetic manner, but in a literal sense - a spiritual guide whose touch bestows the gift of inspiration, a Goddess concerned with poetry and muse-ic. My views are similar to the views of the poet Robert Graves, who believed in a Muse and felt that she was the source of all poetry and poetic inspiration. All traditional, archaic cultures seem to have viewed it in the same light. My reason for this belief has been personal visions and experiences. As for subject matter it has ranged over narratives of my own personal experiences and feelings to a re-telling of various legends and myths inimitable to Western culture and civilisation. I try to employ these cultural icons and myths with some message that applies to the present world and situations that confront us now or will in the near future. Another recurring theme in our songs is the rapid decline and quality of life in this civilisation.
Has your approach developed or changed between Changes' two incarnations?
Nothing has as yet greatly changed in our approach to writing music and lyrics. As for the more recent recordings we have included instrumentation other than acoustic guitars - synthesisers, percussion etc - but the sound is not all that different, just enhanced I think. If anything changes in our music it will be in the sense that it projects more strongly, whereas we used to have a more plaintive and melancholic sound. In our re-incarnatory recording secession we went in with a determination, boldness and resolve to do the line-up we agreed on in three days. And we did it. I've never felt quite as confident in recording music as I now do today. No trepidation or hesitation.
FLUXEUROPA: You describe your mandalic art as neither representational nor abstract, but conceptual. Is there a connection between this and Ezra Pound's interest in ideograms and Imagism?
TAYLOR: Yes, It is conceptual and thereby presentational. It presents concepts. I read Pound's thoughts on the subject of Chinese and Japanese Characters and ideograms, as well as Ernest Fenollosa's The Chinese Written Character As A Medium For Poetry in my youth. It may have subconsciously served as a part of my concept, though I never thought of that connection before. One direct influence was the various sacred books such as the books of Lindisfarne, Durrow and Kells, Mezo-American Codexes, diagrammatical pages and parchments of the alchemists etc. Certainly Jung's work on mandalas was another source of inspiration. The making of mandalic art is an attempt to find one's way back to the centre of things; it is a yearning for totality and completeness. I was struck by the fact that others were doing similar mandalic type art independent of my own. This was the case with a group of artists termed the San Fransisco Visionaries. What we had in common was that most of us began in advertisement and poster art during the hay-day of the psychedelic era. We had, like many of that era, cleansed our gates of perception by use of psychedelics and had viewed the world anew - a world that appeared infinite, to paraphrase Blake. The first pattern poems I encountered were being done by a very fine poet, Robert Dougherty, who created poems that took the shape of the subject they described. This was all done with a type-writer. Some years later I began doing similar typographical experiments with hand calligraphy and stipple pen technique.
FLUXEUROPA: 'Changes' have been a theme of your cultural output: what strikes you most about the changes that have occurred in your own life and the times you've lived through?
TAYLOR: The technological progress paralleled with the declining quality of life in all other pertinent areas: spiritual, political, economic and artistic. Technological advancements create a mirage of "true progress". Life in the large urban areas of the western world is beginning to resemble the sort of technological slum you see in movies like Blade Runner. There are so many abject changes that it would be wearisome to list them all. We seem to be at a point where all that is wrong with the modern world is beginning to gain momentum and snowball in its effects.
FLUXEUROPA: Seeing Ezra Pound was an interesting brush with history. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
TAYLOR: My meeting with Pound was the result of having seen a mention in the newspaper that he would be receiving a literary award and giving a poetry reading. It was right after he had been released from St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the pre-Civil War insane asylum in which he had been committed after his arrest by the Allies after World War Two. I was in my early teens and just beginning to study poetry. The occasion was rather formal. I somehow managed to get in the door of the hall and stood in the rear listening to his reading. Though he was getting old at this time, and his voice lilted and quaked somewhat uncertainly - he still had a fire and intensity in his poetic rhapsodising. It was almost like hearing Mark Twain speak.
After he had finished his reading and received the award after testimonials by others, I made my way up to the front quickly, waiting my chance to catch his attention. When I did, I spoke with him briefly telling him how much I admired his work and personal sacrifices. I asked him for advice on what was best to study and read for my own goal of becoming a poet. Ever the teacher, his eyes lit up and he rattled off a list of things including the Greek and Latin classics and Calvacanti. I thanked him, wished him the best and he placed his hand on my shoulder and shook my hand. He seemed somewhat amused, no doubt by my youthfulness and attendant interests in poetry. That was all there was to it.
At the time I pretty much found his Cantos unintelligible. I just didn't have the background to understand most of it. I had read his Imagist and Troubadour poetry as well as his Confucian translations. The Imagist poems of Pound, Doolittle, Flint etc led me to studying Japanese haiku and other short forms. I wrote thousands of such poems in my teens and early adulthood. It culminated in my Palm Of The Hand Poems which I self-published about four years ago. The Troubadour poetry probably had some influence on the love and chivalry type ballads I composed years later.
I can't think of a better beginning book for the would-be writer, musician, or poet than Pound's ABC Of Reading. That is a marvellous little manual to be sure. I still go back to it from time to time. With each reading I come away with something more than I had the previous time. It's one of my perennial favourites.
FLUXEUROPA: You are widely read in literature and philosophy, but which writers do you read for pleasure?
TAYLOR: I spend the minimum of my reading time for entertainment. This also includes things like novels and short stories. I have been reading for information for so long that it is difficult to approach books without analysing them for style, plot etc. Those I do read for pleasure include Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinean essayist, short story writer and poet. Usually he'll have a poem on a theme that he has also used in a story or essay. I think he is one of the real heirs to Poe, Stevenson, Chesterton and other writers of imagination. I have read most of the novels and short stories of Angela Carter. I read a lot of poetry for pleasure; the classics, and Romantics, as well as modern poets like Kathleen Raine, Godfried Ben, Naruda, Eliot, Octavio Paz, Kazanzakis, Pound and Ungaretti. I've also read what is available in English translation of Ernst Jünger, Celine, and Camus. In the past four or five years I've been reading a lot of Prose Noir for entertainment: Chandler, Hammet, and recently James Elroy - writers who capture the true grit and grime of the modern urban reality. I like the irony and black humour that Prose Noir exhibits. I'm presently reading Rear Window And Other Stories by Cornell Woolrich. Sometimes I read travel and adventure books for entertainment, stuff like Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Richard Burton, Heyardhal and such.
FLUXEUROPA: You seem to share a parallel interest to our own in the symbiosis of tradition and futurism: could you elaborate on this?
TAYLOR: I very much share this parallel interest, belief, and goal. I perceive that we as a culture, and as individuals, exist within a continuum. Life moves ever on. There is no turning back the clock. Quaint anachronisms only serve as a diversion or avoidance of our responsibility to the present reality. But, nevertheless, archaic ethics, instincts and folkways are the necessary factors' that will keep us from falling victims to a soulless technology. Perennial wisdom provides us with the necessary guidelines and wisdom which have proven efficacious to our survival as a genotype. They are the most valuable baggage we can carry with us as human beings. Disregard, ignore or be ignorant of who we are, what we are, and why we are, and our destination will soon be the dustbin of history. We will have forfeited any justification for our existence as a people, culture or civilisation. Those who forget the past forfeit the future. They become isolated atoms careening in a void of uncertainty; the perfect denizen of the New World Order. A convenient, compliant and interchangeable work unit.
Conversely, time moves forward and we as a people must keep pace with its demands. Each age and era has its own priorities, problems and aspirations. Perennial wisdom must be employed and applied so that we have a firm foundation for the future. Once we have achieved that, we can then do as Pound so succinctly wrote: "Make It New".
FLUXEUROPA: If things do get worse before they get better, do you think hi-tech will survive impending social collapse?
TAYLOR: Indeed, things will get worse before they get better. As for the survival of hi-tech, I would think it would not be immediately affected. If we survey the social, economic and political sphere of say a world city like New York, decline and decay and decadence pervade - yet tech continues on, behind steel doors, electronic security systems, and private in-house police forces. If anything will bring the curtain down on hi-tech it would be a population of miscreants incapable of making it function, a lack of educational know-how, an inability to repair and improve on things, or a world wide disgenics in the human race reaching a point of no return: an inverse ratio of problem makers to problem solvers.
The hi-tech world will continue as long as the engineers and people in high tech are able to re-locate to more hospitable and safe areas. As for instance, the American economy and work-force has lost most of its electronic industry to Japan and the Orient, and the West has become more and more dependent or reliant for its hi-tech on these others parts of the world. As long as there are places like Japan producing the hardware and know-how I think we will continue to see the advancement of hi-tech and its presence world wide, even though areas of the West will turn into virtual blight areas and urban war zones. It will make for a very paradoxical world I am sure. The sort of world that William Gibson has proposed in his novels such as Neuromancer.
Hi-tech in any given field may well reach a point of diminishing returns, such as in the present approach to space exploration. There may be a ceiling to what can be done with computers. We haven't reached that point yet. As a result we tend to view progress in these fields as an open-ended continuum of possibilities. Also, complexity begets vulnerability. Hi-technics may reach a level of such complexity that it can be brought to a stand-still by a very small number people who elect to sabotage it.
FLUXEUROPA: What attracted you to Odinsism/Asatru?
TAYLOR: First and foremost was my father's influence on me in my youth. He was very much a heathen and very anti-Christian. His heathenism was not something a neat label could be attached too. But all of the essence of his thinking and feelings was conversant with what is formally known today as Odinism/Asatru. I encountered various occult and Satanic groups in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, who shared my disapproval of Christianity. Most of these groups and their theologies seemed very nihilistic and subjective to me. They were elitist cults that obviously would never affect anything beyond their small number of adherents. By the mid-1970s a neo-pagan movement began to form. Both Karen (my wife) and I had a hand in its formative stages in the Mid-Western region of the United States. But, we were looking for something more than witchcraft (Wicca) with its heavy post-hippie influences and its growing feminist and multi-cultural slant, so we formed what became The Northernway, a seminal Odinist group of the 1970s. This went on for about four years and then there was a schism which occurred. We took the larger part of the Northernway group and founded first The House Of the Wulfings, then the Wulfing Kindred which became an active part of the original Asatru Free Assembly.
After the demise of the AFA, we along with the Arizona Kindred led by Valgard Murray, The Vinland Kindred and Thor's Hammer Kindred founded and established the Asatru Alliance, with which we have been very active over the past eight years. Members of the Wulfings have taken a very active part in the production and contents of Vor Tru, the official publication of the Alliance. We also work closely with Steve McNallen and the new Asatru Folk Assembly. Both Karen and I have been active in the Odinist/Asatru movement for over twenty years now. Our Kindred has played host to several national Althings and we continue to contribute all we can to the movement on many different levels.
FLUXEUROPA: Odinsim/Asatru upholds the heroic ethos: How relevant is that today and is it applicable to all sectors of society?
TAYLOR: The heroic and the courageous are indeed applicable to any age or era. Courage is something that never grows useless or old, either as a concept or an action. There are of course many types and many permutations of the concept of courage, and courageous action under duress. It may be so little a matter as having the courage to meet each day with fortitude and resolve (as opposed to leading a life of quiet desperation in the face of reality). It can be a case of facing one's death or fighting against overwhelming odds. Likewise it may be the courage to face reality full front without wavering from what one knows or feels to be right and what must rightly be done. It can be the courageous candour of speaking one's mind when one does not go along with some prescribed party line or PC thought control. It can be all of these things and many others, dependent upon the circumstances.
Physical courage of course is the prototype. It is the primary type of courage of which other types of courage are but facets. The very first of Odin's Noble virtues is that of courage. A person can break a lot of rules or not be a perfect human being - but through courage can redeem themselves in the final analysis. Never before has our world cried out more desperately for courage than it does today in this age of mediocrity and cowardice. Without courage one cannot ever be totally complete as a human being. Cowardliness is the one unforgivable flaw in a person. Without courage one can never find truth or justice - one can never grasp the Grail, one can never elicit respect or honour in the eyes of others, one can never be at peace with oneself. Courage is the way of the warrior, and ever has it been so.
FLUXEUROPA: Despite it's now unique superpower status, the social fabric of America seems to be falling apart. What future scenario do you envisage?
TAYLOR: There is a growing tendency towards a dictatorship. The Federal Government of the U.S. has for decades abused the rights which are guaranteed to Americans' under the constitution. Chief among these are: freedom of speech, the right to bear arms; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom of peaceful assembly. In addition many of us have for so long a time felt an excessive taxation without representation.
A good definition of slavery is when one person or group of persons can confiscate the fruits of another person's labour. A feeling of powerlessness at the grass roots level has taken hold of the majority of American working people. A convoluted justice system lurks in wait for any so audacious as to complain of their plight in the face of such abuses.
As a result there is an ever widening and growing predilection for the average man to think in terms of an impending revolution. I overhear people talking in such terms everywhere I go these days. The para-military Militias are growing very fast. Investigators and other watch-dogs claim that they only encompass about ten thousand people at present. That may basically be true, but most of these ten thousand people have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers, cousins and good friends who will no doubt join right in when the die is cast. This does not include the vast numbers of basically "sick of it all" types who will only need a little direction and encouragement to come out fighting. America is full of dissident people and is fast becoming a nation of armed camps.
As Victor Hugo wrote: "More powerful than the sound of marching armies, is an idea whose time has come." Once these revolutionary feelings are set into motion there will be no turning back of the tide which will ensue.
America's current period and the actions beginning to evolve very closely parallel the pre-revolution war days of 200 years ago here. The scientific compound for tyranny is 10% action and 90% bluff. After both sides have become aware of this, it can be expected that the Feds will decide to use that 10% in any up-coming confrontations.
Things are escalating every day. In a sense small isolated revolutions are beginning to occur. Solitary and group defiance and a "ready to die for my rights" attitude is becoming prevalent. Too many years of corrupt and abusive power has forced honest citizens out of the coward's corner - with a vengeance.
FLUXEUROPA: In the 1960s you were associated with the Minutemen which foreshadowed today's Militias. Where did the later evolve from and how did they grow so quickly?
TAYLOR: The Minutemen were essentially a grass-roots phenomenon. Sometime in the late 1950s, at the heightening of the cold-war, such guerrilla bands began to form and organise, independent of one another. Articles began to appear in gun magazines about such groups preparing for Communist invasion, Leftist take-over of the U.S. government etc. It was a result of a growing feeling that the U.S. government was no longer willing or capable of protecting its national boundaries and people, a lack of confidence in the powers of government and a drift toward a one-world government. It had a very libertarian slant to it all. As a result of these groups learning of the existence of one another, coalitions began to form among them, lines of communications were established and they began to share information with one another.
Robert Bolivar DePugh was a Missouri businessman who belonged to one such local group of Minutemen. He was in his early thirties and was a successful businessman with a veterinary supply company. As result of his affluence and abilities he ended up organising this scattered and indigenous movement into a national organisation.
The destruction of the Minuteman organisation became one of the top ten priorities of the federal government as laid out in the infamous "Ruether memorandum". This was memorandum written by Walter Ruether head of the CIO union. He had a long history and association with the Communist Party here and in Russia, going back to his youth. The degree of government harassment and efforts to destroy the Minutemen Organisation culminated in a plan to kill myself and others in a Black Panther style raid. Fortunately we had pre-warning of this move and scattered from our national headquarters. Before doing so I sent out letters to various local groups suggesting that they set-up local, independent groups under the names of posse and vigilance committees etc. This was the Feds' greatest fear: that the organisation would become scattered with no central headquarters that they could watch, monitor or infiltrate. Now instead of watching the hub of one large group, they had the task of watching and finding hundreds of low-profile autonomous groups. This spread their resources beyond capacity and made them very ineffective in monitoring what was afoot at the grass-roots level.
Much of the training materials, ideas, and tactics pioneered by the Minutemen set the stage. Meanwhile, the Federal Government, through their injustices and abuses of the citizens, has done most of the recruiting and provided the inspiration for an even larger number of citizens to support, join and organise into the present day Militia movement. The greatest impetus for growth is the essentially unhappy world that the PC types and their government counterparts have created. Right beneath the surface of the empty-headed consumerism of TV-land is a growing resentment, disquiet, and uncertainty. Under present circumstances it can only grow more pronounced and widespread.
FLUXEUROPA: Thank you.
Edited: 21 May 1997