The name was revealed to me one day as I watched light and shadows move on a wall. It literally jumped into my head and I saw it as one word rather than three separate words, as if the concept of a ten horned beast was something that those English words were unable to convey on their own. At first I did not know what the name was or what it meant but it nagged me and would not let me go until I began to work with the current that it contained and began to understand and appreciate it’s meaning. I am interested in tracing things back to their roots, back to the beginning when there was no separation between man, beast and god – when these things were the same. I believe that the books we call “The Bible”, especially the Pentateuch, have echoes and traces of this original and sacred truth. Obviously these texts have been revised and edited so many times to fit in with so many political and social exigencies that it is now barely possible to find the truth but if you look hard, and critically and with your heart as well as your brain things will be revealed. Why did the later Hebrew prophets such as Daniel and Saint John use the imagery of horned beasts to portray earthly power and menace? What is it about horns, horned animals and horned beings that so frightened and upset these people? I believe they were exorcising something from their own history and culture that caused them great distress – the God of the Old Testament is not the kindly, benevolent father or the Good Shepherd, he is a vengeful and baleful storm-god worshipped in mountain-top wildernesses by shaman-prophets. He is a god of massacres, plagues and holocausts. A God of the tophet pit who is appeased by human sacrifice. When Moses spoke with God on the mountain he was marked by horns, when he descended with the Law he found the people worshipping a Golden Calf. The shadow of the horns is long and dark and when YHWH was changed into a God of the Covenant, worshipped in a Temple by a professional caste of priests these former signs and symbols were cast off, demonised and made unclean. Just as archaeologists find more in middens than in palaces I believe that we should look closely at what has been thrown away and discarded if we would find the truth.2.You maintain a blog where in addition to talking about music and literature you discuss hunting and tracking, how did you become so passionate about this subject? Do you actively hunt? How does this part of your life influence TenHornedBeast?
Tracking is a form of literacy and something that I have always done instinctively, although in recent years I have began to hone the skills needed to do it right. For me tracking is a meditation, one that requires physical activity and a heightened awareness of the weather, landscape, local flora and fauna and the behaviour patterns of the quarry. It is fairly easy to spot animal tracks and signs just as it is relatively easy to distinguish a book from a bucket but being able to read the signs, to be able tell how old the sign is, what sex was the animal that made it, what gait the animal used in making the track and what that tells us about that individual animals behaviour at that specific point in time and how that behaviour fits into the wider context of species, habitat and ecosystem is a much bigger task. Learning to track is actually learning to see the world from a non-human perspective and that provides a window onto a deeply ancient mindset that has been lost by almost every modern human in the developed world. I know people who have tracked with the San bushmen in Namibia and even their tracking skills are being lost – several generations ago people could tell which animals were moving through the bush by listening to the various alarm calls of birds, and as every bird species had several different alarm calls for different kinds of predator a bushman who knew that “language” could accurately deduce that a lion or a black mamba was somewhere in the vicinity by listening to which birds were making which calls. Today the bushmen have all but lost this knowledge, obviously they can tell an alarm call when they hear it but they have lost the knowledge to link the specific call to the specific predator behaviour that caused it. I’m sure our Mesolithic ancestors also knew these languages but they have become lost to us through thousands of years of “civilisation”; trying to re-learn them is a slow and painstaking process. No I don’t hunt. The kind of hunting I am interested in requires stalking and tracking skills, or in the case of Persistence Hunting tracking and running skills, but any kind of hunting in the United Kingdom has become a very difficult and expensive pastime. Successive governments have made it increasingly difficult to own a firearm, as a result of high profile crimes such as the Hungerford and Dunblane incidents where deranged gun-nuts ran amok through communities killing people as they went. I think we can all agree that shooting children in a nursery school is wrong but I also feel that the Government have used incidents like this to ratchet up the climate of fear and to justify the erosion of freedoms. So as nobody is allowed to hunt, except on private land at considerable cost, the population of deer in lowland Britain has exploded and they are doing a lot of damage to woodland. My local woods are crawling with roe deer, I see them every time I go into the woods but as there is no natural predator and hunting is prohibited they are condemned to starve to death in the winter by the same people who think hunting is “cruel”. I am not saying any and every kind of hunting is a good thing – I find the kind of “hunting” where fat liquored-up men sit in trees waiting to shoot bears that have been attracted into a killing zone by the smell of peanut-butter abhorrent – but I also find the battery farming of chickens and orange processed cheese abhorrent. Hunting has been demonised by an urbanised and sedentary population who are now totally disengaged from the methods used to produce their food whilst at the same time hanging on to a view of the countryside that is childlike and sentimental, they have lost all sense of where they fit into the wider ecosystem. I hold a contrary view, I feel that reconnecting with these truths can only be a good thing.3.Given that many of your references and pictures from the TenHornedBeast blog are related to nature how far removed are you from the larger urban areas? Is this where you have always lived, or a conscious decision to relocate to a more remote environment?
No, I’ve always lived here – other than several years I spent at university when I was younger. My mother has been doing some research into our family history, which she has traced back to 1826 – the interesting thing is for the last 183 years my family have lived within about 5 miles of where I live now. The Germans call this Heimat. I live in the valley of the river Wear, in north-east England. The largest urban areas are Newcastle, which is about 25 miles away and Middlesborough, which is about 20 miles in the other direction. I live on the edge of a small town, the woods are literally outside my back door but these are not woods as a North American or a Scandinavian might think of them – we have very, very little ancient woodland left in the UK and what little we have is a patchwork of small areas hemmed in by fields, roads and houses. I flew over France last year and it was amazing to see how much forest is left there, all the way from Paris down the valley of the Rhone you see huge expanses of wooded hills and uplands. That has gone from Britain – we are small island with a large population, we were the first country in the world to experience both the agrarian and the industrial revolutions and that has come at the cost of our wild places, very few of which are really “wild”. My local woods are a mixture of native broadleaf - oak, ash and beech and planted conifers, mainly spruce and larch. It is not the natural, primeval woodland that our ancestors would have known but it’s all we’ve got left. The paradox is that as people have become more urbanised and sedated by TV, Wii’s and broadband they now go to the woods less than they did a generation or two ago – this has allowed the woods to become wilder and less managed, and for the animals that live in them to expand and re-populate. There are otters in the river now whereas when I was a kid in the 1970s nobody would have believed they would have come back. Last weekend I flushed out a brown hare that was as big as a labrador! Personally I would love to retreat even further away into the hills but you need to strike a balance between isolation and the need to earn a living.4.How does TenHornedBeast record its songs? Do you have a preference between digital and analog recording technology?
All my songs are recorded digitally. I can not imagine going back to using analog technology, I did that in the early years of Endvra because that was all we had – it was slow, laborious and did not allow for any fine control of the sounds. I’m not a musical purist at all, I don’t get excited about amps, guitars, vinyl or any of that bullshit that supposedly enhances the authenticity of the music. All that matters to me is the end product – the way I get to that end product is matterless, I am prepared to throw out any aspect of the work if it doesn’t fit and to spend as long as it takes to get it right but in doing so I want to be able to work quickly, easily and to have as much control over what’s going on as possible. If other people want to record to tape and splice things by hand let them.5.How long does a typical TenHornedBeast track take from conception to recording to mixing? Have your refined and improved this process over the years?
Some songs take a very long time. Because I record at home and work alone I don’t have to worry about studio time or fitting around other peoples schedules, this means I can work on as many or as few pieces as I want. Sometimes, if the muse takes me, I’ll complete a piece very quickly other times I will spend months or years revising and tweaking a track, recording many different versions until I am happy that I have caught its essence. The songs on the “Hunts & Wars” album, which I have just “finished” have been in existence since 2005, being worked and re-worked. The process is unrefinable – I know what I want but I don’t always know how to get it, or having got “it” I find that actually I now want something else. I have in the past spent months recording and mixing a piece only to wake up the next day and scrap it all, I’m not interested in just releasing things, it has to be right and I have to be happy with it.6.On several of your releases you have utilised runic imagery within the artwork of TenHornedBeast. Do these images have any significant meaning?
I have used an inverted Algiz rune on the split CD with Marzuraan and on the remix CD there is a sigil composed of a bindrune and several skulls, the bindrune is two inverted Algiz runes and an Sowilo rune. I find the runes fascinating for many reasons, firstly I took my degree in medieval literature and I am interested in the language and literature of Northern Europe, but secondly I am interested in the layers of meaning and symbolism that have clung to the runes over the years, including the use they were put to in the twentieth century. The runes are like waves, or starlight – they have been travelling for a long time and although the original idea that generated them may no longer exist they continue to resonate with that energy, and other energies that have adhered to them as they travelled. So when I use an inverted Algiz rune I am well aware that it was used by the Allgemeine and Waffen SS to denote death and that the Sowilo rune is as much a symbol of the Hitlerjugend as it is a representation of divine wisdom earthing through the fulguration of a lightning bolt. I think at their most pure the runes are an ur-source of inspiration and symbolic meaning that goes back into the deeps of our ancient northern European past and those who look within themselves will find that they carry them already encoded in their being – just as Havamal tells us Odin hung on a tree and won the runes by sacrificing himself to himself. One of my favourite pieces of rune lore is the myth that the runes reflect the angular, branching shapes of trees; from a palaeographic perspective this is probably erroneous but I can see why the link happened and whilst it is probably true that the futharks that we know today are adapted from Latin and Etruscan alphabets I think that it is also true that at their earliest incarnation the proto-runes were symbolic representations of those things people saw about them – trees, the horns of aurochs, lightning, the sun, serpents, spears, axe-heads, women.7.Cold Spring Records is set to issue a CD of remixes from “The Sacred Truth”, called “My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth”, how does this differ from the original album? How did the idea of remix album come about?
The idea came about because Cold Spring asked me to consider remixing some of the tracks. When I was first asked I didn’t want to do it because I was already sick of that material and had started to work on other tracks with a different tone and character but when I considered again I saw that within some of the pieces were other sounds, other constructs that were buried way down in the mix that I could bring to the fore. The track on “My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth” are not straight “remixes”, rather they are re-recordings or even totally new tracks using sounds from the earlier pieces. During the recording of “The Sacred Truth” some of the pieces grew into monsters and became difficult to control, for instance the track “In The Teeth Of The Wolf” just expanded into a very complex and difficult piece that took months to mix down – in the end I was happy with the final version but there were so many things buried in the mix that when I stripped them away and opened the track up so that the two duelling lead guitars could be heard I realised that by contracting and deconstructing the pieces something new could be made, so “In The Teeth Of The Wolf” was taken to bits and rebuilt into “Fenris Wolf”.8.What can we expect from the new full length album, “Hunts & Wars”?
Something quite different from the material on “The Sacred Truth” and “My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth”. If I was a synaesthetic I would describe “The Sacred Truth” in very earthy and telluric terms, it reminds me of blacks and browns and very deep shades where as “Hunts & Wars” – to me at least – is much more epic and golden. With “Hunts & Wars” I was influenced to a large extent by the writings of Lord Dunsany and Robert E Howard, the phrase Hunts & Wars is taken from Howard’s poem “Cimmeria”, where he describes a dream-memory of a land of dark wooded hills. I tried to capture the grandeur and sense of scale of these writers in the music and I also set out to allow the music to be much more “progressive” and structured – I used a lot of percussion, gongs, drums and bass and whilst a lot of the music has ambient textures it is not a dark-ambient album. I “finished” the album in early January 2009 – you never really finish recording anything but at least I came to a point where I felt that any further work would do more harm than good. This will be released on Cold Spring Records.9.How do you regard the current ease of recording and releasing albums compared to times past? Do you feel this has been better for artists to express themselves or just created a glut of records?
Regardless of what I feel there actually is a glut of records, you don’t need to be Columbo to work out that increased access to recording technology and the ease by which people can duplicate CD-r has lead to a lot of music being “released” and that a lot of this music is not just in limited editions it is also of limited merit. The worst culprits are the so-called Noise and Drone artists, this is probably the easiest music to do badly and a lot of people are doing it very badly - however the best always rise to the surface and those with creativity, passion and something interesting to say will make their mark and get their music released on quality labels using professional formats – the rest can carry on releasing 200 CD-r’s a year in editions of anything from 3 to 15 units. You know who you a