Today marks the beginning of Faerieworlds, a three-day arts and music festival in Eugene, Oregon that embraces the mythic and the fantastic in ways that many of us in the Pagan community would find familiar. A transformational space where each of us is encouraged to embrace the numinous in our own way, our own context. A chance to “live our legend.” As I said last year, this event taps into a blossoming re-enchantment of the world, one that is very in line with modern Paganism, but is not exclusively so.
The stones at the center of Faerieworlds’ realm, before the event is underway.
“Events like Faerieworlds tap into a deep cultural hunger for romanticism, for a re-enchantment of the world that has long been denied by both secular and religious institutions in the West. I don’t think the recent fantasy boom is happening in a vacuum, nor do I think it is any coincidence that a growing number of people are opting out of traditional forms of religion altogether while still holding onto religious beliefs. While Faerieworlds, or Burning Man for that matter, aren’t explicitly “Pagan” they tap into a primal need for festival, for gathering to honor the numinous, the changing seasons, each other, and our own creativity. I think that these events, especially as we weather hard times, will continue to grow in importance. There is a vital roots-up form of small-p “paganism” emerging here that is very compatible with our more formal adoption of Pagan religion.”
“This webseries aims to explain this remarkable and important phenomenon while retaining the artistic sensibility and inspired creativity from which these festivals have been birthed in the first place. Our goal is to promote coherency and cohesion among those in the culture while building a bridge of understanding with those outside it–to support growth and expansion while preserving the magic and integrity of this potent movement.”
As in previous years, there are number of Pagan musicians involved, including Sharon Knight and SJ Tucker, and this year they are joined by the shamanic sounds of Soriah with Ashkelon Sain, the Persian world-fusion of Niyaz feat. Azam Ali, and, of course, festival headliner Donovan. Those elements, along with the performers, artists, vendors, and costumed participants, create a atmosphere that I feel is unique, one not even duplicated at the many explicitly Pagan events I’ve attended over the years. It’s a focused burst of creative energy that changes you if you’re open to the experience.
This year, I’m not only attending as a journalist, I also work for the producers of Faerieworlds, and I’m hoping to use that access to capture some images, impressions, and interviews that will enlighten and enrich. I would like to give a glimpse of the magic happening in my own backyard, in hopes that perhaps you’ll join me here someday, or even be inspired to create that pluralistic, transformational, fusion in your own backyard. Expect updates throughout this weekend!
Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!
“This is the voice I used before I had language, or before I was fascinated by religion. This is the voice that preceded my Pagan identity (or any identity for that matter), and this is the voice which has come to inform so much of who I am. This is the voice of my soul, and I share it with you when the Moon is most full.”
Bishop is hoping to raise $10,000 dollars in one month, and says that “this is not a time to throw our money away, clearly, but it can still be a time to invest in something that stirs our heart.” For those interested in donating, Bishop has arranged a number of nice “perks” for those who donate, even if only a dollar. I certainly hope that Teo succeeds in his goal, not just for his sake, but as a model for other Pagan musicians to use, creating a community of support for our bards and artists. Teo Bishop is one of our rising leaders and thinkers, someone who I’m proud to call a friend. This addition to his writing at Patheos, and newly-launched contributions to HuffPo’s Religion section, should be one that enriches us all.
Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.
“Today, June 5, I and Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary invite our allies to focus on Wisconsin, using the Goddess atop the State Capitol as a beacon to rouse the forces of truth and justice. For today is vote on the recall of Scott Walker, the union-busting governor who was the focus of protests and a sit-in in the Capitol in January of 2011, at the same time as the Arab Spring. Republicans are spending millions to defend him. Democrats—not so much. But this election isn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, it’s a test of whether or not massive amounts of money can determine who gets into office or who stays. Generally the answer to that is ‘yes’—whoever spends the most wins the race. Money is one form of energy, and most of us don’t have a lot of it. But we have other forms of energy—let’s see what we can do!”
“Just when you thought our stellar line up was complete, we are happy to announce that Sharon Knight of the gothic tribal rock band Pandemonaeon will be performing on the Faerieworlds main stage. Based in San Francisco, Sharon’s musical foundations are solidly based in her Celtic heritage from which she has evolved her uniquely rich and powerful personal style. The music of Sharon Knight combines a love of antiquity and romance with an affinity for the haunting and melancholy, adds a hearty dash of feistiness, reminding us that we can all see the world through the eyes of enchantment.”
Knight joins an amazing lineup this year, including the Persian tribal-fusion band Niyaz, long-time Pagan favorite SJ Tucker, shamanic throat-singing from Soriah with Ashkelon Sain, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Donovan. So if you’re in the Pacific Northwest this July, don’t miss out on what should be a legendary year for this faerie festival! [In the interests of full disclosure, I work for the company that produces Faerieworlds, though I do not decide who's booked on their main stage, so I'm just as pleased as anyone to see Sharon Knight joining the lineup.]
[The following is a guest post from Sharon Knight. Sharon Knight is a nationally touring musician in the mythic-Celtic vein, and also front person for gothic-tribal-folk-metal band Pandemonaeon. With her partner Winter and Anaar of Tombo Studio, they produce Hexenfest, a festival dedicated to magick and Paganism in music and the arts. She has a lifelong fascination for the places where magick and the arts intersect. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be found at http://www.sharonknight.net, http://www.pandemonaeon.net.]
San Francisco, DNA Lounge April 17th
There has been an interesting fusion of Paganism and music developing over the last 15+ years, which has recently begun finding its way to American shores. This phenomenon is called Folk Metal and as you can probably guess, it combines folk music styles and instrumentation with hard rock and metal. Folk Metal originated in Europe and in many cases endeavors to revive the ancestral traditions of European Pagan culture. Nature, Paganism, mythology, history, and ancestral homage feature prominently in the lyrical themes of folk metal bands. For my part, I am smitten.
I recently went to see several of these bands perform at the aptly named Paganfest, in San Francisco on Aprl 17th. Five bands played – Huntress, Hysteria, Alestorm, Arkona, and Turisas. I missed the first two – despite Huntress’s claims that they draw much of their inspiration from witchcraft, I find their take on witchcraft too sensationalistic. However I fully enjoyed the three main acts. Arkona is always outstanding and are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands. They describe their music as Slavic Pagan Metal. Founded by a husband and wife team on guitar and vocals, Akona’s power lies in the ferocity of front person Masha Scream, a petite dynamo wrapped in leather and wolf pelts, who brings to mind Joan of Arc and delivers medieval sounding anthems drawn from Russian mythology and folklore. Also, they have a bagpiper.
Alestorm is just plain fun. Not a lot of deep tradition here, but they deliver what they promise – “Bacon Powered Pirate Core”. What more could you ask for in an evening’s entertainment? Also describing themselves as Scottish Pirate Metal, they sing of the simple things in life – wenching, drinking and questing, with traditional Celtic melodies perfectly suited to the sentiment.
Though I went to Paganfest for Arkona, Turisas stole the show. I jumped up and down for the entirety of their set. Which is saying something, since jumping is not in any way an activity I am compelled to. Looking like something that stepped out of a Mad Max movie, Turisas delivered a sonic assault that was relentless and powerful, yet also melodic, sophisticated, and thoroughly engaging. These lads are here to be bad-ass, make no mistake – they describe their music as Battle Metal. And indeed their songs are tailored to rally the berserker in us all. Their front man (Mathias Nygard) is grandiose and over-the-top, yet somehow doesn’t come across as pretentious, and their lead instrumentalist (Ollie Vanska) is one of the best violinists I’ve heard. Like so many great metal bands, Turisas hails from Finland.
In short, Paganfest was an evening of Viking warriors and battle goddesses, modern day berserkers come to slay us with song instead of swords. It roused the fierce pride of the tribe, and helped to shake off some of the apathy our world is plagued with. This was music fulfilling one of its highest purposes – waking the ancestral songs that sing in our blood, with ancient melodies and tribal rhythms that have lain dormant in our DNA for generations. This music compels us to rise, and fight to preserve what our ancestors died for – a welcome change from the usual trite sentiments in modern music.
Metal isn’t everyone’s thing, and it isn’t the only style of music I like. But I am very excited to see this level of musical discipline applied to Pagan themes, and I wish it happened more often. Our traditions deserve to be represented in the arts, and I hope this is a trend that continues across an ever-increasing range of musical styles and cultures.
[ Sharon Knight is a musician and artist exploring the fantastical, mythic, epic, and archetypal. She is passionate about the arts as a vehicle to bring us into ever deepening awareness of the mystery and magick all around us. She is fond of preserving folk traditions and bringing new life to them with modern interpretations. She performs as a solo artist/duet with partner Winter, and as a front person for gothic-tribal-folk-metal band Pandemonaeon. She can be found at http://www.sharonknight.net and http://www.pandemonaeon.net.]
The other day I was part of a discussion online regarding the further marginalization of Halloween. The tone of the discussion was one of sadness that we are losing ground on preserving the one mainstream holiday that seems most in keeping with Pagan traditions. We have fought so hard to shed light on the true origins of Halloween and still we are faced with those who would whitewash it even further, stripping it of any meaning and making it no more that another excuse for mindless recreation.
It was this article that initiated the discussion, in the Rockford Spirituality section of the Examiner. (East Coast based).
The article cites examples such as Life Church in Roscoe, IL, which holds an annual Harvest Festival on Halloween Night, complete with Christian music, carnival rides, games, free candy, and guest lecturers inviting you to begin your spiritual journey with the church.
Do I share in the sadness expressed by my Pagan kin over this?
The short answer is no. While I can understand the sentiment that changing the dates of Halloween is demeaning to the recognition of Halloween as a sacred tradition, Halloween and Samhain have never really felt like the same thing to me. Admittedly, I have found it heartening that any remnants at all of a pagan custom have survived in the mainstream culture, but ultimately candy and costumes without any of the accompanying lore misses the mark.
For those seeking mindless entertainment, Halloween as celebrated by the masses will always be there for them, and it doesn’t really matter what day it’s on or what groups are trying to diminish its meaning further. Let them have the candy, crass commercialism, and general spectacle. These were never the folks that Samhain was meant for anyway.
I am not worried about losing our customs because there are still many people in this world seeking more meaning in their lives, not less. There comes a time when we realize the preciousness of life and no longer want to be distracted, but engaged. This is the sort of mindset that raised our Pagan traditions from the rubble of forgotten history and into a living tradition, and from what I see everywhere, this yearning for meaning is growing, not diminishing.
So take heart friends. This is nothing more than business as usual. Christians have been whitewashing our holidays for 2,000 years and still our traditions survive.
Lest I seem to be taking a situation lightly that is dear to some, let me say this – it is nice to feel that mainstream society is contributing to the overall flavor of a holiday that is sacred to us, if only in small things such as décor. It is fun to see our communities decked out with ghosts and goblins and various things that remind us that the veils are thinning. If we are saddened by these things diminishing, perhaps it is time to get involved. Host an “All Hallows Eve Festival” in your community. Why let the Christians have all the redefining fun? Have the proceeds benefit the community at large to gain visibility among non-Pagans. If Halloween is to be scheduled for the first Saturday of the month, celebrate all month, starting with Halloween and commencing with Samhain. If others are taking actions that diminish something dear to us, we must then take actions that emphasizes what is dear to us. We can’t change others’ behavior but we can put our own views out in to the world as well. As Scoop Nitzger used to say, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own”.
There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
Religion Dispatches is featuring an article on Burning Man from Jay Michaelson entitled “Burning Man in the Age of Rick Perry.” In it Michaelson says that “a dogmatic religionist cannot abide the inspiration of another. Unless it is within the same religious system, it is damned, or confused, or pagan, or worse. Thus the dogmatist is only left with data which confirm her existing categories of thought. All contradictory data is removed from consideration. Whereas, any religious/spiritual progressive must be inspired precisely by the plurality of revelatory experiences.”
“Mr Justice Wyn Williams refused to give King Arthur permission to launch a judicial review action – ruling at a High Court hearing in London that there was insufficient evidence to show that the Ministry of Justice might have acted unreasonably. The judge heard that the cremated remains of more than 40 bodies – thought to be at least 5,000 years old – were removed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008 and ministers gave researchers from Sheffield University permission to keep the bones until 2015.”
“All along the Town knew they would lose this battle if we could just get it to trial so they have attempted to bury us under legal motions to break us financially and have spent somewhere between 100 to 150 thousand dollars to do so. I am sad to report that unless we get significant help in this final stages, they might succeed. Donations so far have helped but we have had to hire a new attorney at about three times the cost as our original attorney. She is much more experienced and worth the expense but has informed me that the rest of our case will cost us an approximate additional 10 thousand dollars which simply is impossible for us to come up with ourselves at this stage.
Our priestesses have stepped forward to the point of tens of thousands so far but now we are all broke. Please, this case is important, a milestone for minority religion rights. If this can be done to us, a legally incorporated religious charitable organization with full IRS 501 c3 recognition, it literally can be done to any minority religious group. A victory, which is fairly well assured if we can finish the battle, is especially important when political groups are pushing back against non Christians, clean air and water and the basic concept of taking care of each other and our common planet home.”
Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!
Pagan Japan Relief Project Reaches Finish Line: The initiative started by Peter Dybing for the Pagan community to raise 30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has almost reached its conclusion! As of this writing, there is less than 1,400 dollars left to raise, and the hope is that this goal will be reached by the end of the weekend.
“When disaster strikes, it means that the Earth is finding Her own balance. But it is our job to feel compassion, lend aid, and support our fellow creatures that they may survive this terrible time and regain wholeness. And while we do this, let us also remember that it is this life that matters – the next will take care of itself. So as we come to the aid of our fellow beings on Mother Earth, let us live as though each day is our last, and let every day be a blessing.” - Rev. Kirk Thomas ADF Archdruid
“There are two ways you can take a talk about Paganism and the future. One is what is going to be the future of Paganism, the other is how is Paganism going to deal with the broader future, that is breathing down our necks at this point. I will be talking about both. We are moving into a future that a lot of people are going to find very challenging, especially if they have bought into the attitude, that “Our ancestors were stupid. We are smart, and we are going to go zooming off to the stars. We know the truth, and no one else has ever done so.”
Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for more updates from the conference.
“Our Pagan Heart is an independent film, being shot over the course of a year. It follows a village outside of time (neither truly Norse nor quite Mad Max) over the nine sabbats followed by my Druid group. We added the ritual for Fallen Warriors at Remebrance Day (Veterans Day) because so many of us are military, ex-military or base rats. Each 10-12 minute episode not only tries to show the reason for the sabbat, but also to explore one of the nine virtues of Celtic-Norse tradition.
As the villagers face challenges ranging from the death of their only healer, to a radical change in leadership and the resulting change in priorities, we see the heart of our faith. What does it mean to live these virtues, these beliefs, the result of believing in ever-present, personally committed Gods who touch every aspect of your life. There are real struggles for meaning, real questioning of their faith in the face of devastating loss.”
“This week I joined a group of my fellow musicians to create a music video in support of the protesters in Madison, Wisconsin. The song, “Madison”, was written by my friend Mark Vickness of Glass House, and spoken word artist PC Munoz. It was produced start to finish at EMB Studios, the studio Winter and I share with Paul Nordin. I was proud and honored to be a part of this project and thought I’d share it with you all here. Enjoy and may it bring you hope and good cheer!”
Thanks to Sharon for sharing this with the Pagan community. For more on Pagan participation in the Wisconsin labor protests, click here.
“Ed Francis is doing better & has begun speech, physical, and occupational rehabilitation at a hospital in St. Louis. Please continue to send healing to him & support to his partner Linda & other caregivers. Share words of encouragement for his rehab at this Healing page. Thanks much!”
“If everything is holy – imbued with divine power – how do we relate to that holiness? We pay attention. We find connection. We give back. One definition of sacred is “set apart and dedicated to a deity.” How do Heathens act in ways that are dedicated to Thor or Ing? How do Thelemites act in concert with the energy of Nuit? How do Celtic Reconstructionists honor the ever abundant cauldron of the Dagda? I could go on, but the implications of these questions should be clear: we bring everything in our lives into alignment with our worship and our practice. We can give food to the hungry as an act of devotion to the Dagda. We can offer protection to the weak, in Thor’s honor. And we can remember: Nuit is everywhere, the circumference of all that lives.”
There’s a lot there, so I hope you’ll read the entire essay, and use it to spark discussions on your blogs, social networks, and within your communities. As modern Pagans start to act within the world in an increasingly prominent and public manner, how our theologies drive and inspire our actions is something that we’ll need to hold close to our thoughts.
Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a new series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!
“The following are a list of videos taken during the ADF Memorial Service for Isaac Bonewits. A full-length version of the entire rite will be available from the ADF Store soon. The videos below are roughly in order to fit the ADF Order of Ritual, except that the one entitled ‘Ritual’ is a compilation of a variety of ritual scenes.”
“The ordination rite of Rev. Michael J Dangler at Summerland in 2010. The rite was done during the ADF Unity Rite, and just as he is called forward, the heavens opened up into a downpour. Just as he was proclaimed by Rev. Kirk Thomas (Archdruid of ADF) as a Priest, the rains stopped.”
Despite the ubiquity of video today, it’s still rather rare to see modern Pagans capture their rites and rituals on video, so it’s a real treat to see an ADF ordination shared with the public. Congratulations to Rev. Dangler on his ordination.
Strowling Towards StrowlerFest: A new music and culture festival in St. Louis, Missouri, StrowlerFest, named after a bit of old thieving slang for traveling vagabonds and entertainers, is featuring a veritable who’s who of established Pagan and Pagan-friendly bands.
“Tricky Pixie – (Saturday night) – Gypsy Celtic Folk Rock for Naughty Punk Faeries, Traveling Fates – (Sunday night) – A genre hopping musical ride skirting the edges of Alt-Rock, Americana, Jazz, Folk-Hop, and Mythpunk, DreamTrybe – (Saturday night) – The original headlining inspiration for the Festival of Pagan Music that Doesn’t Suck – re-united specifically for StrowlerFest 2010, Wendy Rule – (Friday and Saturday) – Dark, sensual, sonic theater – our very special guest from Australia, Sharon Knight – (Friday and Saturday) – Music, Myth, and Magick, Big Bad Gina – (Friday and Sunday) – Funky Goddess Folk Fusion, Heather Dale – (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) – Celtic music for the 21st century, GB Mojo – (Friday) a duo of solo artists, they combine rootsy soul-folk and piano rock moxie, urban wit and ancient wisdom, Alexander James Adams – (Friday and Sunday) – the Faerie Tale Minstrel Himself; heir to the legacy of Heather Alexander, Louise Cloutier – (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) – virtuoso vocal instigator, also offering holistic voice lessons throughout the weekend…”
“True Alternatives media is pleased to announce that the first shooting day of it’s new Pagan-themed comedy “Dark of Moon” has been set. It’s september 2nd, 2010. On that day, the lights will glow, and tape will roll, setting into motion 22 days of shooting spread over 5 weeks.
“Dark of Moon” is a dialogue driven comedy in the tradition of Woody Allen and Kevin Smith, and the first film to feature 100% realistic Pagan characters. It’s being directed by Taliesin Govannon (who also wrote the script), a Wiccan with 23 years experience in the Craft and modern Paganism. The film is set to feature the music of legendary Pagan musician Gwydion Pendderwen, amongst others.”
Green Egg Goes Free: Legendary Pagan magazine Green Egg,once a print journal and now online-only, as decided to go completely free instead of offering subscriptions to access their content.
“ALL OF THE CONTENT ON GREEN EGG IS NOW COMPLETELY FREE!!!! You will need to register only if you would like to comment on the Forum. We have been hard at work revamping our website, with Forum registration having just been made active again. Please check back often to see the new content and pages we’re adding!”
While there are an increasingly large number of Pagan artists and musicians performing and releasing albums today, works that are consistently excellent and engaging, that transcend the preconceived notions of what “Pagan music” is, are still frustratingly rare. When I was just beginning the journey towards what would become A Darker Shade of Pagan, one of the few bands that really stood out for me were Pandemonaeon. They had just released their debut self-titled album in 2001, and I remember being thrilled at the sound of songs like “Black Snake”, which merged a post-Dead Can Dance aesthetic with a slinky goth-rock atmosphere. Better still, at least from my perspective at the time, they were openly Pagan. As to why that particularly thrilled me, you’ll have to remember that there wasn’t a whole lot of sonic diversity in the music marketed to Pagans back then. Folk (and filk) singing Pagan troubadours and trobairitz still dominated the scene, with only an occasional Inkubus Sukkubus to liven things up.
Shortly after their promising debut, Pandemonaeon seemed to disappear. There was a live album in 2003, but after that the band went into a long hibernation, with lead singer Sharon Knight going on to release a second solo album, and collaborate with T. Thorn Coyle on two well-received albums of Pagan chants. In the interim, the music industry, and the boundaries of what is “Pagan” music have changed, sometimes radically. In this climate, Pandemonaeon finally returns this month with their second album “Dangerous Beauty”, sporting a more assured, powerful, and at times metal-tinged sound. It marks not so much a come-back for the band as it does a whole new beginning. Not only is “Dangerous Beauty” a great “Pagan” album, it’s a great album period. I was lucky enough to recently interview Sharon Knight about Pandemonaeon, their new album, being a Pagan musician, and making it as a musician in today’s world.
Winter & Sharon of Pandemonaeon
You were working as a musician, and had released a solo album, “Incantation”, before the first Pandemonaeon album came out in 2001. Up to that point your sound was more rooted in Celtic Folk, what made you decide to explore the somewhat darker sonic territory of this project?
Incantation came about as a direct expression of my introduction to Paganism, and I was very interested in exploring my Celtic roots at that time. By the time Winter and I recorded the first Pandemonaeon album I had been captivated by belly dance and was listening to a lot of Middle Eastern music. We also had fallen in love with Dead Can Dance’s music and found ourselves musing on how powerful it would be to mix that type of dark ethereal sound with hard rock. The Underworld has always been a rich source of inspiration for us, so it was inevitable that our music would find a darker expression.
Could you quickly explain the name? Why “Pan” “Demon” “Aeon”? Also, how did the members for the band come together? Was it an organic process, or was there a certain drive to form a band?
Pandemonaeon is a term coined by Chaos magician Peter Carroll. He describes the Pandemonaeon as a new aeon of magickal thinking, and Chaos magic itself offers up the idea that it isn’t our beliefs that are true, but the act of believing that makes magic work. Although I don’t see this as the whole picture, this was a powerful idea to us at the time of choosing a band name. We were happy to lend our art to a vision of a world wherein magick users devote their practices to consciously shaping their lives rather than falling into dogmatic habits. 10 years later this still rings true enough that the name feels honest.
There was definitely a drive to form a band, and it hasn’t been a particularly organic process. We’ve gone through a lot of band members looking for the right people! I am extremely happy with our current lineup, however.
It’s been no big secret that you’re a Pagan, and you’ve produced ritual chants and songs with T. Thorn Coyle, a good friend of yours. Do you feel like most of your fans are Pagans? How do you feel about the Pagan label when it comes to the music you make and the albums you release?
It does seem that most, if not all, of our fans are Pagans. That is certainly the community in which we are best known. As far as the Pagan label, I have mixed feelings about it. I am all for writing some music that is specifically Pagan, such as the chant CDs with Thorn. I am very proud to be contributing to the building of our Pagan culture via music. It is a movement that I believe in as being quite relevant to the times we are living in. However, since Paganism is known as a religious movement, I sometimes feel concerned that the Pagan label will alienate some listeners who might enjoy the music for what it is but who don’t identify as Pagan themselves. I feel that music transcends religion, and it would be a shame for our music to get pigeon holed as “religious music”. It is music written by Pagans, but it is for anyone who has ever been moved by dark myth and legend.
Let’s talk a bit about Pandemonaeon’s sound. What were the big influences? You cite Dead Can Dance and a “Loreena McKennitt in the underworld”aesthetic, but there’s also obvious hard rock and metal influences in the work. How would you describe it?
As far as influences, definitely Dead Can Dance, since Pandemonaeon arose from imagining how DCD’s music would sound infused with hard rock. I don’t know that I’d say Loreena McKennitt was an influence so much as we recognized her as a kindred spirit when we heard her. Her melodic sense and song structure is familiar, something I imagine comes with the discipline of studying traditional Celtic music. And her tendency to mix other world music influences and rock throughout her songs is a theme that resonates with us as well. We’ve been influenced by Middle Eastern, Scandinavian, and Celtic folk music as well as classic and modern rock and more recently, folk metal and some of the more beautiful epic metal such as Nightwish.
We’ve been describing our music as “Gothic Tribal Folk Metal” or just “Folk Metal”. We don’t sound like any other folk metal band I have heard, but since we combine folk music themes with hard rock/metal guitar and “beauty and the beast” vocals we may be able to get away with it. We use the word Gothic due to the similarities with Dead Can Dance, who were embraced by the Goth community, and also the dark ethereal spirituality of the music invokes what I think of as a Goth aesthetic. I think of myself as a Goth in the dark spiritual sense but not in the 80’s synth-pop sense. So am I a true Goth? I’m sure there’d be those who say no. But, as a band you are expected to describe your music somehow so for now our genre is Gothic Tribal Folk Metal.
The other half of Pandemonaeon would be your partner Winter. How did the two of you meet and come to collaborate?
We met at Harbin Hot Springs at the Ancient Ways Festival, and immediately knew we had a destiny together. That sounds cliché too I suppose, but it’s true. Still feels true almost 20 years later.
It’s been nearly a decade between albums. How did your newly released follow-up “Dangerous Beauty” come about? Also, perhaps you could comment on how you perceive the changes in the music industry between the two releases. Is putting out “Dangerous Beauty” a very difference experience for you than releasing the debut?
We got burned out on Pandemonaeon for a while and felt the need to put some distance between us and some disappointments associated with the project. It’s interesting you mention the changes in the music industry between Dangerous Beauty and our debut, as the radical changes in the music industry are a big part of why we put things on hold. Within a year of forming the band we were offered a recording contract with Warner Brothers, at the time the Holy Grail for any musician. It fizzled out to nothing as the music industry became unstable, and with all the fear about pirating, etc. we just weren’t sure what our next steps should be. There wasn’t yet the infrastructure for releasing indie music online as there is now with Bandcamp, Nimbit, indie access to iTunes, etc.
But now this infrastructure does exist, and indies are doing rather well without record labels, which is very exciting for us. Also the Gothic Tribal Fusion belly dance movement, the Folk Metal movement, and the Pagan movement all made it seem like the climate may be right for Pandemonaeon. Ultimately though, Dangerous Beauty came about because this music is such a core part of our souls that turning it off left us feeling depressed and shut down much of the time. The sonic landscapes we traverse as part of this project give us a sense of destiny, and I think anytime the feeling of destiny presents itself to you, it is worth following. As the saying goes, “If you wonder what you can do to change the world, do what makes you feel alive, for what the world needs most are people who are alive”. Pandemonaeon makes us feel alive.
How would you contrast your sound on your debut with “Dangerous Beauty”? How do you feel Pandemonaeon as an entity has grown or changed?
We are definitely much more influenced by metal now! And I think our sense of identity is stronger. One would hope so after 10 years!
Are you planning to tour with the new album? What’s it like playing live with a band as opposed to a solo artist?
I would love to tour with this project. Unfortunately, to realize this vision requires 7 people, and taking 7 people on the road can be difficult. Still, we plan to play live as far and wide as circumstances will allow. I love solo gigs for their intimacy, but I love playing with a full band for the sheer epicness of sound you can get, for the camaraderie of working with a group to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Finally, what are your plans for the future? Will there be more Pandemonaeon in years to come? What about in your solo career?
There will definitely be more Pandemonaeon. It’s too much a part of who we are. We have a music video in the planning stage; also finding our way onto some tours with the funding to bring the whole band along is a high priority for us. I’ll keep putting out solo albums as well, as I enjoy both, and my solo project is easy and cost effective to tour with.