Friday, March 30, 2012

"We are cosmic trigger points": An Interview with Wymond Miles

This February saw the release of Wymond Miles' Earth Has Doors on Sacred Bones. Miles is the guitarist for the wonderful garage jangle pop-band Fresh & Onlys, but his first solo EP is an entirely different beast. It's meditative and slightly droney, fusing folk, prog, and pop into a hypnotic 4 song masterpiece. The themes and atmosphere call upon hermetic and esoteric themes, but there is also something deeply personal. Miles plays almost all the instruments, and you can hear that there is at something at stake, some inner daemon he is trying to get a hold or make sense of. It is my favorite recording this year, and I am eager to hear the full length album by Miles out in June. Miles was kind enough to answer a few questions over email.

You can buy Earth Has Doors here, and listen to the first track "Hidden Things Are Asking You To Find Them" here:
Wymond Miles - Hidden Things Are Asking You To Find Them by sacredbones

Why do think there is a such a resurgence of occult and esoteric themes in underground music these days?

Really the whole cultural zeitgeist around us is ripe with occult themes these days--highest tv ratings for a super bowl and Madonna performs this (quasi?) Masonic rite before our eyes! The symbols are there, the fascination is there, we just lack the wisdom to really do much with it. Our desire for it is emerging from our unconscious, it wants to be reconciled and integrated. It's all just exploited in the usual solar-rightbrain-mechanistic-smother-the-puppy sort of way. Perhaps the underground has developed a better sense of how to treat occult themes with respect in a more lunar, integrative way that holds the mystery intact.

How do esoteric themes in your music relate to your own life?

I think the question in reverse might apply more directly to me, meaning the esoteric themes that I'm drawn to may permeate the music I make. I don't try and write something that's deep, literate or full of riddles to unravel, it's all written very quickly. I do try and sculpt sounds that hope to enliven certain concepts or symbols that my words are hopelessly clumsy at. But in no way was I ever trying to make some quasi-gnostic/crowley/bhagavadgita/rosenkruez rock opera! I just wanted to make a ferocious and beautiful rock n' roll record.

That said I do try and view the world from an Anthroposophical perspective. Rudolf Steiner really became an anchor for me in meaningful inquiry into more esoteric matters. I have a son and I haven't found anything more philosophically sound in childhood education and development than Waldorf schools. The realm of Steiner is so vast and dense. But what's most important to me is for every far out clairvoyant insight he has there's a very practical application for it in such diverse places like agriculture, eduction, art, medicine, finance, you name it. I suppose rather, the invert is more true I guess, meaning every practical aspect of Anthroposophy is informed by a broader spiritual foundation.      
There has always been a tension within esoteric circles on the distinction between magic and mysticism. How do you make sense of that distinction for yourself and your music?

These kind of distinctions lead down intellectual rabbit holes very quickly that tend to make me very weary of esoteric social circles. Mysticism was my route in--the feeling of union with something transcendent--wow, yeah, I'd like to dip my cup. I used to think like most, of magic as trickery. Then I got into Crowley's distinction of magick--occult forces that are used to influence the physical world--but even then I didn't understand it and was more drawn to it aesthetically. I lazily thought of magic(k) as a lower ego route somehow, that you didn't need all the rituals to tap into some cosmic attunement.

Is the goal of making of music an initiatory practice, or is music a vehicle towards another kind of transformation?

At it's best yes it's absolutely an initiatory practice, a person is called to it from the unknown. While sculpting what's asking to come through you, you're being changed. We are cosmic trigger points, archetypal targets. It can also be wildly therapeutic, letting the sub/unconscious come forward. However music is so buried in commodity/status symbolism it's hard to get out of the way and let it get you. Instead copies of a copy are made, irony abounds, and things feel hollow. 

Was Earth Has Doors a project that had been gestating for a long time, or was a sudden flash of inspiration?

Earth Has Doors is a theme I've been working on for several years. The name just came to me, I wrote the music for the song itself awhile back but just wrote the lyrics last year, I knew it had to be an invocation of some sort. All the songs on that EP were written as flashes of sudden inspiration, I didn't change a word (for better or worse) although I was tempted too, I just wanted to respect how they arrived with all their beauty and flaws. The instrumental "As the Orchard is with Rain" was improvised on the spot with my friend Diego playing viola. It's a little out of tune and sea sick but is so unique in the vibe it gives out, I treated the whole thing with several tape delay effects after the fact just to sit it in the right kind of swampy womb. The other songs had a few more acoustic based versions kicking around but I thought the tunes were cool and deserved a more committed approach, so I redid the others. Before I could move on I had to get these tunes off my chest. The psychic weight of them were burying me. I stopped writing and recording after this batch of maybe 12 tunes I wrote during the gestation of my Saturn return. Just blank, and indifferent to writing. I had my nourishment musically with my other band the Fresh & Onlys. The second I knew these songs would have an outlet everything came back. Saturn demanded I see this work through. Which leads me to...  

Will this turn into a full length any time soon?

 The LP is due out in early June. The LP was written just last year and is totally distinct from the EP. Earth Has Doors was written in my 20's and is very cosmic in a sense, but who I am also very hidden in it. This record was written by someone else, a grown man in his 30's who is more assured of his place in life after all the fuck ups of his 20's. Thematically the record is very different, more grounded. The veil is lifted. Musically it's more stripped back as well. I wrote it all very quickly as well, so certain themes (desire/erotic, death/loss, rebellion/protest) are prevalent throughout. It's very Dionysian/Promethean in spirit in contrast to the EP.

What are you listening to now?

Kind of heavy stuff since returning from SXSW, not sure why. I've been listening to so much dreamy jangle pop the past year--Dwight Twilley, Julian Cope, Go-Betweens--constantly. There's this blatant goth band called Soror Dolorosa that I've been obsessed with the past couple weeks, this record they made is very minimal, but huge, straight up Sisters Of Mercy/Fields of Nephilim thing. I want the melodies to be stronger but the sound and approach is so up my alley. My friend and incredible bassist Greer has her band called the Mallard here in SF who just put out a grit n' grime record on Castleface that's been glued to my turntable.  There's this italian composer Luciano Cilio who's record got reissued fairly recently, titled The Absent Universe. It's a very reflective, human pondering the numinous kind of work. I've been writing some music inspired by his kind of minimal explorations. 

Why do you think that more and more underground music is opting for melody over noise?

Wasn't aware noise was abandoned by the underground. I can however speak to the wonders of melody. Melody is not very subjective, a mood is implied by the sequence and rhythm of notes played. Therefore it's very direct and becomes "pop". Pop music is the language we can all relate to, it builds community and speaks quite direct and succinctly. It's the new folk/punk/post blah. It's available for everybody to participate, create, and critique.

Noise on the other hand is so abstract and subjective. When you ask about melody I know exactly what you mean and can speak directly to it, noise however just begs more questions and debate. In my mind the moment I plug in an electric guitar and here the tubes saturate notes a racket of noise has begun and I'm just trying to ride the beast!

And finally, what are you reading?

Some Waldorf child development books, this one The Way of a Child by A.C. Harwood has been very insightful, it's got chapters like: "The child's relation to the threefold organism" and "the threefold powers of the soul." You know, a parenting book speaking my language! Always have some Pierre Teilhard de Chardin close to my bed to reflect on before I sleep. This poem "Frost At Midnight" by Samuel Coleridge has been on my mind, very lunar. I was pretty deep into Yeats and Emerson this past year while working on the new record. Speaking of which, last year I read Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and it totally blew me away.It elucidates society's assumptions on monogamy and sex and cites tons of compounding evidence that contradicts the status-quo on sexual behavior. It's a really fun read.  Finally picked up a copy of Jodorowsky's Way of the Tarot that my occultist buddy King Khan has been pushing my way for over a year now!

No comments: