Taken from www.obscura-magazine.de
This is another interview with R.N. Taylor, though I am unsure of the date at this moment. Obscura's web site is not functioning at the moment apparently it will no longer be the publication that it used to be, though you can still view the interview posted here.
1. Please introduce the band, yourself and the other band mates to our readers.
Our band is called Changes. In our first incarnation, in the winter of 1968-69, the band consisted of my cousin Nicholas Tesluk and myself Robert Taylor. It began with the two of us composing a few songs for our own enjoyment and to share with our circle of intimate friends in Chicago.
Sometime in 1971 a lady who worked at the same advertising agency joined our efforts for a short time. She contributed nothing to our composing and was quite difficult to get along with. We dropped her participation early on. I was working as a copyrighter and art director mostly creating television commercials and print media. It was one of the ten largest ad agencies in America. I worked on many multi-million dollar accounts; Canon Cameras, International Harvester machinery and other concerns.
By 1971 we began performing locally at various coffee-house and folk music establishments in the Chicago area. Eventually we began to do concerts at various college and university campuses, and also played as minstrels at some of the first Renaissance Fairies in our area.
Around 1973 I moved to the state of New Mexico. I lived there for approximately a year, at which time I met and fell in love with Karen, my wife of over 25 years. At the end of that year Karen and I left New Mexico and moved to Chicago. Karen liked the music Nicholas and I were writing and eventually we worked her into our group contributing vocals as well as playing auto-harp. This was in effect our second incarnation as a group. A year or two later another lady joined our group and played in it for approximately a year and half. Nicholas got married at the end of this period and moved to Colorado. So the group went dormant once again.
During Nicholas early residence in Colorado he teamed up with a friend Mark Andrews and they formed a band called Phase - Two. Phase Two did some large concerts in their area and had a 7 inch record which they released. Eventually Mark moved to New York and the group disbanded.
For about the next 18 years we did nothing with the music and didn't play together at all. We pretty much put it all behind us and moved on with our respective lives and growing families.
Nicholas who had done calligraphy for various projects we jointly pursued took up oil painting and began to write his own lyrics for melodies he had composed. At the same time I dabbled in calligraphy in his absence. I had always done the fine art part of our projects. Also, I began to compose music to go with my lyric poems. So each of us on our own sort of made up for other one in the time we were separate. I had a number of one-man exhibits of my art and Nicholas also showed lots of his fine art in juried shows and such.
About seven years ago I decided, for some unknown reason to publish a small chapbook of poems and send them to friends in place of a Yule greeting card. I had all this poetry I had written after Changes second incarnation ended. I sent these to friends and colleagues without any goal in mind except to share it with them. Before I knew it reviews for a number of small magazines began to appear. This was a booklet of Haiku poems. So that inspired me to put together similar chap books of poems. Next was one with selected prose poems another followed which was lyric poems that had been written for Changes music. Finally published one which was ballad poems. Around that period I sent these to a new friend I had made, Michael Moynihan. He inquired as to if I had any demo tapes of the music that had gone with the poems. I did have some of it on tape and dubbed it and sent it to him. He was very enthusiastic and suggested that he might like to release the material on CD. I had my doubts since all of the music was very crudely recorded on an old open reel-to-reel two-track Sony recorder. He suggested that we could re-master it, bring up the gain and so forth, which we did.
As a result of the release of the Fire Of Life CD and the 7-inch promo vinyl record jointly issued by Storm in the U.S. and Cthulhu in Europe, we began to receive wonderful reviews. To date we have had no negative reviews concerning the CD. That inspired us to convene about a year later at Absinthe Studio in Colorado where in three days we finished 13 ballads and one CD-length recording of "Legends" which will be our next release. It was the first time we had played together in 18 years. All things considered it came out very well. Much of the credit goes to Bob Ferbrache who was our engineer and consultant on these more recent endeavors, as well as to Michael Moynihan who was on hand the whole time we were recording giving his input and suggestions. He also contributed vocals to a re-make of "Twilight Of the West" which we did during that session. So our next release will be the CD "Legends". We are working on the final computer layouts for the liner notes booklet. The cover will be a painting by Nicholas. He did most of the graphics and Karen has been putting it all together with a computer. I have one colored ink drawing ( which was originally conceived as a record Album cover back in the early 1970s ) which will be on the inside of the jewel case in the disc slot. I wrote the liner notes and the entire lyrics are a facsimile of the original hand calligraphy which Nicholas did back when we wrote it. It all looks very beautiful as it comes together. The line-up is just Nicholas and myself. I am hoping to interest Karen in contributing to some of our future material if I can. So this is our third incarnation as a group.
Following the "Legends" CD will be the thirteen song collection which will be titled "Orphan In The Storm". After that we should have all the parts mixed and completed for another long single ballad CD titled "The Ballad Of Robert De Bruce" I am hoping to have Michael Moynihan contributing some vocals as well as Bodhran ( Irish drum ) and Annabele Lee ( formerly of Amber Asylum, and presently of a member of Blood-Axis and Waldteufel ) add violin. There may also be others involved in the project as well. I think it may be our Opus CD. Beyond that I can foresee one more possible CD made up of material we have not done yet, and possibly a few songs off of the "Fire Of life" CD being redone in a new way. As for anything else, only time will tell.
Several weeks ago Nicholas and I were tentatively discussing going on the road and performing some concerts, mainly in Europe in 2000. That is still extremely tentative and contingent on many factors. It might be a good way to go out and bring this present Changes incarnation to a finale.
As for saying something more about myself - I was very active in what is known as the revolutionary or para-military Right in America throughout the 1960s. Nicholas and I encountered the Process Church of the Final Judgement at the time Changes first formed. Our first public performances were conducted at a Process coffee-house chapter in Chicago. Through the mid 1970s up till the present, Karen and I have both been seminal figures in the emergence of the Pagan movement in general and the Religion of Asatru in particular. Over the past decade I have done a lot of graphic art and writing for the deep underground magazines in America and have done magazine interviews in excess of 200,000 words over the past several years. That sums it up.
2. Did you, Nicholas or your wife Karen write any new material for changes? Can we expect any stylistic developments on the next album?
Yes, Nicholas and I have written new material both independent of one another and in collaboration. And we continue to do so. As for stylistic developments, the next CD Legends will continue the same type of approach as was heard on the Fire Of Life CD. Pretty bare bones approach; guitar and vocals. Orphan in the Storm will have some tracks which are fully orchestrated. We have already done a new mix of Icarus with vox and other sounds. This is true of other tracks in that collection as well. The Robert De Bruce Ballad will probably have the greatest number of participants of anything we have done previous.
Most recently I have taken up the Celtic harp. Karen has built a bowed psaltery and we have been getting together other instruments in the hope of either adding these to the Changes music or doing new material.
3. What information could you give us on your side-project "Soul Of Steel"
The reason I started the Soul Of Steel project was that I had a lot of poetry and other ideas that had very little relationship with the folk music of Changes, outside of the fact that I am a member of Changes also. It has a harder edge to it's themes. It deals more strongly in it's social philosophy. Even though Changes predated Death In June, Sol Invictus and a hoard of more recent groups engaged in the Uber-folk or apocalyptic folk music, the majority of Changes is not political, or social philosophy. Neither Nicholas or nor myself ever had any heavy agenda in our music. We never sat down and said: ? Well, lets write a song based on Oswald Spengler or Let's write an anti genetic engineering song. If "Twilight Of the West" or "Icarus" were inspired by Spengler or others, it was after the fact. I would read some thing like The Decline of The West and then think about it a lot. The song that would follow was simply what had moved me or inspired me at the time I wrote it. None of it was calculated in anyway. It simply reflected what was going on inside of me at the time. With the music of Changes we simply found a vehicle for self-expression. Whatever inspired us, made us angry or melancholy inspired the music. We never formed Changes to be a "Right-Wing" band. A recent article in a U.S. magazine epitomized us erroneously as a Right-Wing band. This was no doubt relative to my personal affiliations with the Revolutionary-Right in my youth and early adulthood. Most of Changes ballads is concerned with love and things like that. Both Nicholas and I have always approached our music as artists - not as ideologues of any persuasion.
So Soul of Steel is my way of presenting this other material without directly dragging anyone else into the picture or being responsible in any way for it So far SOS has done one track for the WARCOM compilation "Men Among Mice" called "Faust". I also have another track scheduled to be used on WARCOM's next composition titled: "Plan Eight From Outer Space". The track I did for that compilation is satirical and comedic. It has already been aired on one radio station here in the U.S. - I doubt that any of the collaborators or members of Changes ( beside myself ) would want to be directly associated with it. And for the public record they are not. It is absolutely my undertaking. I'll wait till it is issued before commenting further on it. I already have about two-thirds of an album done of SOS material. Since it is a side project I have not pursued it with the same energy as I have with the Changes band. I'm sure it will appeal to a smaller number of people since it is largely composed of spoken arts and poetry - and as such it is less accessible than simple ballads would be to most people.
I have for a long time worked in a sort of multi-media manner. Usually I will write a song about something, and then may paint or draw a picture related to the same theme, and then perhaps a spoken piece or non-lyric poem, and then an essay or story. I have plans for a book which will expand on the theme of the death of the west. Much of what will be in a book presently being edited, composed of interviews I've done, will parallel individual stories I have written both fiction and no-fiction. Nicholas and I wrote a song called Dèjá Vu I have a long essay on that same subject in the current issue of Cyber Psycho a.o.d. - perhaps I'll one day write a short story utilizing that same general theme or a drama. Exploring it in a different medium and hoping to epitomize my concepts or thoughts better in that medium. There are more ways than one to skin a cat!
Recently I wrote and recorded what is best described as a revolutionary song titled "Waiting for the Fall". If you hear the song and then go and read the revolutionary rants I wrote that appear in The EXIT collection - you will become aware that they form a cohesive concept together. If you see the paintings I did that were exhibited at Adam Parfrey's Cult Rapture Show you will be confronted with basically the same concepts again in another medium. As an artist expressing myself is paramount to making life worth living. For this reason I believe in absolute freedom of expression. Any government that attempts to curtail artistic expression is a enemy of the human spirit. It is also inevitably planting the seeds of it's own destruction. When tyranny raises it's gnarly head, it is the artist who is always in the vanguard of revolt. Tyrannies create Alexander Solzhenitsyns? Dostoyevskys?, Jack Londons? Thomas Paines. Not the other way around. Artists are seldom interested in becoming revolutionaries or politicians - it is conditions and events that compel them in that direction and force them into that role. In a just and good society there are no revolutionaries. Only youthful rebels and common criminals.
6. The music of Changes moved me to transcend time and place - my imagination led me back to the flair of the Haight Ashbury at the end of the 1960s ( although I was never there at the time, of course.) Do you feel comfortable with such Hippie-Woodstock connections that might arise in the mind of the listener? Although you are not an admirer of Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkle or Bob Dylan, or are you? Do you yourself have feelings of nostalgia when listening to ? Fire Of life ? Was the world a better place when you were young? And were you familiar with the Hippie milieu in those times?
Well I'm glad to hear that the Changes music does in fact help one to transcend time and place. In that sense it is psychedelic ( which is to say conscious expanding. ) It probably goes with the territory. Much of the music we did was in fact inspired by the era in which we lived. It would be stranger if there were no such influences at play. Some artists have a way of incorporating or being the vessel of the Ziet Giest as it unfolds within their respective lives and time. I think this holds true for the music Nicholas and I created to a certain extent. It also is present in many other of our collective activities.
Real folk music is a product of real folk. In other words the common rural people. Those who you mentioned and most of their counterparts in that scene were urban people - who had never really been migrant farmers, workingmen, railroad or riverboat crewmen and such. They simply stole the medium and ran away with it and put it to their own nefarious purposes. They were generally communists and leftists of one stripe or another. And they were not really very creative or artistic in their own right. Joan Baez was the darling of the left. Without a strong leftist movement behind her no one would probably know here name today. As the left lost it's direction and any sense of purpose - Joan couldn't sell many records anymore. She kept trying - but even big wealthy record companies will only produce somebodies work if there are some sort of sales. I think her contracts ran out and no-one was interested in her work anymore. Her day in the sun was done.
Just as these urban pretenders stole the basic medium, there was also a lot of plagiaristic activities. Simon and Garfunkels big hit "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" was an old Protestant church hymnal regurgitated. Their other big hit "The Boxer" was simply the old Irish folk song Kildera Mountain slowed down in tempo. Then their all time big hit "Songs Of Silence" was cribbed from one of the works of the Southern novelist Thomas Wolf. I was reading either ? Look Homeward Angel or Of Time and The River or one of his epic novels, and there I found scattered across several pages all the lyrics to that song. So if there was anything appealing about the music of some of these people it was derivative of the sources. Art Garfunkel had a nice pure sounding voice which still has some appeal to older people as they sip their cocktails or gin and sodas I'm sure. Paul Simon's resurrected solo career seems to be based on using backgrounds of various native street musicians and such. His Graceland album and another he did with back-up by Brazilian street musicians comes across to me as simple exploitation of these people. I really wonder how much was payed out in royalties to these third-world people. Did he throw them a handful of coins and leave with the goods? So many of these so-called folk singers of the sixties were little more than musical vampires sucking the souls of real folk of the past and simple Third World musicians. Just a long legacy of derivative thievery. Even Bob Dylan mostly rehashed the ideas and lines of Jack Kerouac. Kerouac was the real "mystery tramp" the one who really traveled the highways and by-ways - not Bobby Zimmerman the dry goods store owners son. Most of the so-called folk singers of that era were little more than media phonies. No callouses on their hands or feet. No muscle fiber in their arms or legs. No depth of perception. No breadth of understanding.
The folk music of Changes is absolutely European in nature. It comes from the folk soul of our own folk which resides within us. I think that is why are greatest acceptance and popularity to date has been in Europe among real Europeans. You?ll find no stolen Delta Blues rifts. No Brazilian drum sections, no world beats. If we use any drumming it will be Euro- martial music. And we won´t have to plagiarize it from anywhere because it already is present in our own genetic soul-scape. So it`s original in that sense. I could sit down at an instrument and work out any number of Medieval melodies every day. It?s all there inside. Basically we never set out to sound like anyone else or some era. It was entirely natural and personal.
I personally find performers like Eric Clapton to be really pathetic on the one hand and embarrassing on the other. This is little more than a new version of a minstrel show in which white people with black painted faces mimic Negroes. One must ask themselves if people like this have a soul of their own or are empty vessels who feed on the cultures and souls of other peoples. Most of these people whom they are mimicking must view such culture vampires with a certain disdain and repugnance.