TONY WAKEFORD VOR TRÚ INTERVIEW
This interview was published at the end of 1996 in Vor Trú, PO Box 961, Payson, Arizona 85547, USA, which is produced by and for the Asatrú Alliance of Independent Kindreds. Subscriptions are: North America first class mail – $18 for 4 issues; European Airmail – $26 for 4 issues; Australia & New Zealand Airmail – $28 for 4 issues. Please make all payments in US funds to Vor Trú in cash, by cheque, or by money order.
How did your worldview change during the interval between Crisis and the formation of Death in June? Obviously there was a considerable shift in focus.
A tidal wave of cynicism took me from Crisis to the rocky shores of Death in June, although it could also be seen as an ‘out of the frying pan, and into the fire’ type experience. As you no doubt know, Crisis had a very far-Left agenda, and both Douglas and myself were involved in Marxist groups – in my case, the wacky International Socialists. Two of the least pleasant people on the planet are party apparatchiks and rock promoters. For our sins, and because of the time period in which Crisis existed, the ‘benefit gig’ reigned supreme. This allowed for a strange genetic mutation, whereby the apratchnik also became a promoter – even bright eyed and bushy-tailed youthful idealism didn’t stand a chance. In my case it all ended in a reaction against that whole culture, or should I say anti-culture, and all the delusions underpinning it. Certainly you could never have had Death in June without the education that Crisis gave us, and even if it was on a subconscious level, DIJ was very much a reaction against that whole period and ideology.
Prior to the formation of Sol Invictus you were also involved with Above The Ruins.
It’s a period of the past I try not to dwell on. Some of the recordings are okay, if dated, but my main reservations are because I allowed control of it to slip out of my hands. This is no one’s fault but my own, and there’s no one to blame but myself. A lot of the material has since turned up on releases and labels I have no connection with and want no connection with, but as long as it’s seen as an historical document then it’s fine by me. It’s a bit like an old photo. It’s me – then.
Did Sol Invictus retain a lot of Death in June’s initial fanbase, or do you think you’ve attracted a different audience?
It would be churlish and pointless to pretend that DIJ didn’t help a lot. I was a founding member with Douglas, so it’s obvious there’s going to be interest from that quarter. There are people who like Death in June and not Sol Invictus and vice-versa, but most people see us as part of the same genre.
How are you different?
I’ve probably moved in more of a Classical direction, which has meant using more people on my recordings and playing live. I suppose in one sense Douglas has remained more pure and I more compromised in that I need to use more musicians. Also, his interest in the aesthetics and imagery of a particular historical period is different from mine.
Does it bother you that people still interpret your music in terms of politics?
How people interpret what I do is up to them. I don’t consider what I’m doing political – at least not in the ‘party political’ sense. If you want politically committed music that sloganises then it would be better to listen to the Redskins or Skrewdriver. I’ve never been overly keen on art that subordinates itself to any party line – but to each his own. That’s just my opinion. On the other hand, it would be silly not to recognise that people see a certain political dimension in what I do. On a personal level I reject egalitarianism and liberalism, so this is bound to come out, if not overtly. Nevertheless, I reject them both on aesthetic and spiritual grounds, rather than political ones.
There’s definitely a point at which the two become inseparable. A metapolitical dimension.
To the voyeur and listener, perhaps. If you see everything in terms of a historical worldview, then I could be viewed as part of this or that tendency, but then so could everyone else. But I don’t feel like a part of any uniform ideology. I don’t subscribe to any dogmatic mindsets or ‘isms,’ be they presently vanquished or victorious, because I can’t reduce any individual to the ‘class,’ the ‘Race,’ or ‘humanity.’ I would undoubtedly sell a lot more records if I did!
How did paganism first enter into your songwriting?
Well, after Crisis and the rejection of its world-view, I dabbled in many different highways and byways, one of which was magic. A friend at the time gave me a leaflet on Odinism and I started getting interested in the runes. I found I had an immediate attraction to the Algiz rune even before I knew what it actually stood for – I even started wearing an Algiz pendant, despite the fact that I kept getting mistaken for a member of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament! That whole period was less like learning something new than uncovering something that had always been buried inside me. There are many things from that time that I’ve left by the wayside, but the basic feelings have remained. It was certainly much more prevalent in my songwriting then, and In The Rain is definitely much more personal – I make no apologies for that. If what you’re looking for is a pagan Cliff Richards – the equivalent of a Christian evangelical singer, then I’m definitely not for you!
If these are primarily personal impulses, why write songs about them?
Isn’t that what most songs are? You write about what you feel – the personal. Unless of course you’re some party hack writing about the glories of the Five Year Plan, Hail Stalin!, and the fifty per cent wheat harvest increase. I sing about what moves me to write, which is personal by nature.
So it’s an instinctual process.
Absolutely. One Classically trained musician I worked with said when I mentioned actually learning the basics of composing – don’t! I would lose the outlook that made me different. Because I’m not versed in theory I don’t think about what I can or can’t do, I just do it. I try and be as instinctive as possible, and not just in music. The world ethos today seems bent on trying to remove and indoctrinating us away from the instinctive as much as it can. Those who can either think or feel – or joy of joys, do both – know that there is something very wrong with the world which goes above and beyond whatever political hook you choose to hang your hat on. There’s just a feeling in the bones, in the blood, that something’s rotten at the heart of things. This underlying feeling is the basis of what I do, and a personal sense of doom, of pessimism.
The newer albums in particular seem especially melancholic.
Well, I’m not so sure that melancholy should be seen as a negative emotion. To me, many Americans (tourists, anyway) seem to have an almost unquenchable child-like optimism which is totally at odds with reality, not to mention a complete inability to appreciate irony. I admit that I’ve become increasingly cynical as the clock ticks by – the only truly happy person is the village idiot. That said, my misanthropy’s not total. There are still a few people worth caring about, and the more the world decays and becomes engulfed in mediocrity and brutality, the more they and what they create stands out. The darker the sky, the brighter the stars!
Has the Götterdämmerung come and gone, or can the values of the past be resurrected? At this point, is the ‘West’ even worth saving?
With the victory of liberal capitalism, I think a Götterdämmerung is less and less likely. As T.S. Elliot said, “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” As for the West, I’m not so sure it’s worth saving. I am Euro-centric and Europe is the cultural soil in which I’m rooted. The post-war ‘West’ was really little more than an anti-Communist bloc which provided an alibi for the American domination of Europe. In terms of realpolitik, it also involved parts of Asia and a number of dodgy South American dictatorships renowned for their appalling uniforms and national anthems, not to mention an ahead-of-their-time fondness for genital piercing. Now this broad alliance seems triumphant, thanks to MTV and Oprah.
Christian universalism has certainly contributed to that climate as well.
Undoubtedly, and with the emergence of fundamentalism, worryingly so. Nevertheless, I think liberalism – which to my blinkered way of thinking is just Christianity without God – presently has more sway, and is of course anything but liberal in the genuine sense of the word. But Christianity and its ‘one size fits all’ mentality has certainly sown some unpleasant seeds that have grown to fruition and are in desperate need of scything. I find the idea that there is a universal code that suits the whole of mankind regardless of a people’s specific cultural and spiritual values so poisonous and Fascistic (in the pejorative sense of the word) as to be almost breathtaking. The beauty in the world is in its diversity and in respecting that diversity. A garden with just one flower isn’t a garden at all. I’m slipping dangerously into hippie clichés here, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead.
A lot of people would argue that by opposing cultural homogenisation you’d have to be advocating some form of separatism.
No, not at all – if by separatism you mean paranoid armed camps on a perpetual war footing. I’m more interested in seeing the peoples, cultures, and regions of the world moving away from American cultural and economic imperialism, globalisation, and the neurosis of political correctness, and moving towards respect and diversity. When I say ‘American’ I mean those in power and those promoting the whole McCoke ethos – not individual Americans, many of whom are as pissed off with it all as anyone. I certainly see no future in the Balkanisation of culture, which knee-jerk nationalism eventually leads to.
How involved are you with Asatru/Odinism now? Is ritual something you’re concerned with?
One of my very closest friends is a big cheese, numero uno, and ace face in Odinism, and considering the magazine that this interview is for, I should probably say that every hour is spent shoulder to the sunwheel – but it’s not. With me it’s a very personal thing, which can of course be used as an excuse for doing nothing. I’m not involved in ritual at the moment, although there are certainly elements of that in the songwriting process.
You’ve also reworked a number of traditional European folk songs, which would seem to bring in another timeless dimension.
Ezra Pound said that artists are antennae. I consider myself a European artist (even if no one else does) and hope that I’m sensitive enough to pick up on and put forward certain elements of that cultural tradition. We cannot and should not try and mimic and pastiche the past, which is what reactionaries try and do. We should be bringing the best elements of tradition into the future.
Are you worried about seeming anachronistic?
I’m far too old-fashioned to worry about that, you young pup! I am anachronistic, and if anyone wants to follow my zimmer frame into the setting sun, they’re certainly welcome. I do still have my own teeth though. Bloody cheek!
How has your music changed over the years?
I hope it’s gotten better, although there are certainly some who’d argue the point – bastards! On the other hand, I’m fully aware that my voice is an acquired taste (to say the least), but I think it’s improved over time. Recently I’ve definitely moved in what would be termed a neo-Classical direction. I actually listen to very little contemporary music. This sounds snobbish, I know, but it’s not meant to. I spend a reasonable amount of time in the studio so I’m aware of much of the stuff that’s released, and whether they used this or that sample or keyboard, etc., etc. I just find it more enjoyable listening to music that’s somewhat removed from all of that. This has had an effect, obviously. Also, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of English and French Classical musicians. They’re professional, well-mannered, and not egotistical – which makes for a refreshing change! In the past, I’ve seldom been so lucky. My opinion of those involved in contemporary music, like many involved in the occult, isn’t terribly high. The Classical tradition, on the other hand, is a major strand and reference point in European culture. And while I certainly wouldn’t have the temerity to suggest that I’m a part of it, every tradition needs an avant-garde to keep it alive and moving. I use elements of traditional European Classical and folk music, because these are elements of what and who I am.
It must be difficult incorporating the more complex instrumentation into your live shows.
Yes, and I’m not so sure if it can still be done. I hope to take nine people on tour in Germany in September and it’s a daunting task. Still, little is achieved by playing safe…
How did the Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) collaborations come about?
It started life in a pub, as so many fine things do. We were working on a Current 93 project at the time and the idea came up over lunch. I have varied tastes in music and I like Steve very much, although I must say I admire him more for his abilities in the field of fine art than for his music. It was good working with him though, as I’m very traditional in the way that I work – too traditional I think – and Steve, of course, is not!
What other sorts of music do you find inspiring?
Without sounding sycophantic, I’d have to say that Douglas has produced a number of songs that are breathtaking. For me, Wagner, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and, to some people’s surprise and/or horror, Miles Davis – they’ve all produced music that’s moved me to transcend time and place. As a bit of a Romantic and a Francophile I also enjoy the works of Satie and Debussey. There are many others, but the list is ever changing.
Why has the music press in England refused to acknowledge groups like Sol Invictus and Death in June? You seem to sell enough records.
Firstly, the music industry is one of the most shallow and corrupt in existence. Most journalists are just there to promote what’s fashionable for that particular five minutes, a life-span that’s getting shorter all the time. As we’re not a part of any specific fashion we simply don’t fit in. Also, we don’t have vast amounts of coke to shovel up their noses, which likewise seems to be a hindrance. Of course what we are perceived to represent is persona non grata.
I imagine you’ve had problems with certain imagery as well. The runes in particular seem to make certain people (not to mention certain governments) especially uncomfortable.
On the whole I haven’t had much of a problem. Recently I’ve used the runes sparingly, simply because it became fashionable and that’s typically when I move on. Of course on a personal level they’re still very important to me – too important to use as the musical version of Christmas tree decorations. I do gather from friends abroad that paranoia in Germany can get pretty weird on the subject – to some people any interest in the runes seems tantamount to invading Poland. I do hear from the occasional crank, which probably just means I’m doing something right! If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s the pointlessness of trying to argue rationally with obsessed conspiracy theorists, be they of the Left or be they of the Right. I just smile and stroke my Luger…
What should Tony Wakeford be remembered for?
It would be nice if a few of his songs were deemed worthy of being remembered and also, perhaps, that he tried and succeeded in being kind to his friends and cruel to his enemies!
Dated: 30 December 1996