Ostara: An interview with Richard LeviathanRichard Leviathan and Timothy Jenn formed Ostara after the demise of their previous musical outlet Strength Through Joy. In many respects Strength Through Joy were the Occidental protégé of Death In June's Douglas P. Douglas P. collaborated, produced and issued the entire Strength Through Joy canon via his Twilight Command imprint. Richard Leviathan also collaborated with Douglas P. on the side project KAPO!, a harrowing musical project specifically devoted to his experiences in war torn Croatia. Following the release of the double CD set Salute To Light the provocatively titled Strength Through Joy ceased to exist.
Richard Leviathan and Timothy Jenn resurfaced at the tail end of 1999 as Ostara, a new musical project reflecting their transformation and rebirth. Ostara's first tentative steps featured on the advance promo CD Operation Valkrie, that bridged the gap between the apocalyptic folk of Strength Through Joy and the dark folk-pop of Ostara while maintaining their love of history and the heroic. It wasn't until the release of the full length CD, Secret Homeland that Ostara's new musical direction became clear. Secret Homeland features a stunning collection of dark folk-pop songs peppered with lyrics that are mystical, and spiritual inspired by past events, heroic deeds and historical figures.
This interview with Richard Leviathan was conducted during the nascent stages of Ostara by Keith Smith. It's presented here on Compulsion online as an archive piece that provides an illuminating insight into the ideas and influences that enflame Ostara's Richard Leviathan.
Why did you change your project from Strength Through Joy to Ostara? Will the sound be similiar?
The main reason was a desire to compliment a change in our sound which was more than a simple progression. We felt that we needed a name that was not confined to a particular point in time (and for that matter to the Twentieth Century). 'Ostara' has more perennial, recurring qualities, like the Spring festival after which it is named. At the same time, however, we have not entirely burnt our bridges and our new identity reflects this dialectic.
What was it like working with Death In June's Douglas P.? How did you meet?
We met in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1994 where, by some wyrd coincidence Tim, myself and Douglas were residing. We found out that he had been living there after receiving a reply to our request to send him a demo of Strength Through Joy. Things developed from there. He is a real inspiration to work with and brought a tremendous energy, knowledge, humour and experience to the projects we collaborated on.
If you would recommend any music to someone who loves your music, what would that be (current or older)?
Of older music, the songs of the medieval Troubadours and Minnesanger are very special. Of more modern works, Love's Forever Changes is an album that I can never tire of. Kate Bush, The Doors, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, David Sylvian, Bauhaus and, of course, Death in June are some of our major influences.
I am curious as to your political and historical interests: what political currents do you find interesting? What period of history interests you the most?
I do not consider myself a politically motivated individual to the extent that most political experiments tend to end in disaster or sink into mundanity. I do find the philosophical side of political themes interesting though, particularly in the works of Plato, Juenger and Vico. The two political concepts I find most intruiging are Stirner's Egoist and Juenger's concept of the Anarch, not the anarchist at all, but the mirror of the autocrat, the two being present in every epoch.
Have you read Francis Parker Yockey's Imperium?
I have not read the Yockey book yet - but I have certainly seen references to it. I assume it is still in print? To me the Sacrum Imperium is the spiritual ethos of the Holy Roman Empire, the continuity and decline of the sacred realm within history. You may have heard of Julius Evola - a great inspiration and author of a number of books tracing this theme.
What is your favorite Evola book?
Obviously, Against the Modern World is Evola par excellence but I consider his books to be the continuation of a unified exposition of the primordial Arcanum of tradition.
If you would recommend any books to someone who loves your music, what would they be?
Gustav Meyrink's The Angel at the West Window is one of the great novels of the century. It is based on the life of John Dee.
I am more interested in the stream of history than in any single point in time but certain events stand out: the fall of the Roman Empire, the settlement/conquest of the New World, the English Civil War etc.
I am very fond of Oswald Spengler, especially his short piece Man and Technics which I think you will enjoy.
Yes, I have read Decline of the West, a work of pure majesty.
I recently saw the silent version of The Golem and found it very compelling. What films have you thought were significant?
Despite appalling reviews, I really liked Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, a simple plot that is very well worked. I liked Lost Highway for the same reason. Syberberg's Hitler: a Film from Germany is the best cinematic vision of the Third Reich I have seen. I also enjoyed Fight Club immensely.
As Strength Through Joy, you performed a great song in San Francisco with a line in it that went, "The Lion's mane is turning gray...", or something to that effect. I thought the song was very moving, but I have been unable to find it on any of the Strength Through Joy CDs - what is it called, and does it appear anywhere?
The song we performed was the musical version of the Blond Beast [from STJ's The Force of Truth and Lies album] and may be featured on the next Ostara release. You are not the first person to point it out.
I think the KAPO! material (a collaboration between Death In June's Douglas P. and Richard Leviathan) was a masterpiece. Are there any plans to do more in that direction?
Not that I know of. As much as I would welcome the opportunity to follow this up, I think it stands very well on its own. The time in which it was conceived and all that has happened since then (I refer in part to the Balkan Wars) does not really elicit a second album.
Where are you living now?
I currently live near London, just outside the immediate vicinity in Twickenham, Middlesex, a pleasant corner of the Beautiful South! Timothy Jenn lives in North Germany, close to the Teutoberg Wald. Occasionally our paths do cross!
What are your feelings about the other World Serpent bands?
There are some very good new artists on WSD. I am not familiar with the entire repertoire but there is a wide diversity of styles which defines the general genre with which people are familiar. Some of the earliest releases go back over two decades which makes for an interesting archive. Certainly a unique esoteric tradition has been forged over time by the likes of Death in June, Current 93, Boyd Rice, Coil etc.
Since March of this year, Ostara have decided to leave WSD and pursue new frontiers, a practical decision based on a general evaluation of circumstances and the belief that staying too long in one place can narrow one's perspective!
How did you learn music? Did you teach yourself, or did you train under teachers?
I have always had a singing voice that led to my reluctant participation in school musicals, but I have had no formal training in any musical respect. I taught myself to play guitar about five years ago and I find playing keyboards and some forms of percussion comes quite naturally. Singing is often the hardest part to master.
Are their particular individuals who have influenced your artistic approach? Who are they?
This is a difficult one because I don't think Ostara is really consciously influenced by anyone. Of course there are the immediate associations within the WSD/Tesco context but I would say that the most significant influences come from things I have a natural affinity for, be they books, films, places, legends, paintings or compositions. These evoke the more subtle nuances within the unconscious stream of inspiration.
Is there a spiritual tradition or teacher you have learned from?
Not so much a teacher as a host of different mentors. This corresponds to various authors I have read, especially those whose work seems to qualify my own innate beliefs or ideas. I also admire some figures of history whose eminence is framed and forged by deeds - Frederick II Hohenstaufen for example. Among the living there are individuals I respect and admire but this does not imply any master-apprentice status.
There is no 'teacher' as such, only the ordeals of life that are reflected in any apprehension of the thoughts and actions of others. I am particularly drawn to the wider aspects of what Evola called the primordial tradition, the spiritual principles of nobility that reflect the purer, higher and more refined elements of being.
Are there any magical or Occult practices that you find valuable?
Nothing on a formal level. I think our present world is so removed from the occult or esoteric practices of earlier cultures that the endeavor to re-enact these traditions becomes quite artificial. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly re-current forces in the world that can be apprehended on an intuitive level, whether in dreams or in conscious revelations of experience. This is the realm in which the will and the idea, the sign and the signified, the self and the soul, the mortal and the divine, the past and the present, exist in a precarious state of unity. Being in tune with this correspondence is the true essence of what we call magick.
Just a side note - I get very irritated when people describe the music I like as "goth" - does this label annoy you? Do you see your work fitting into a genre?
Well, I actually quite like the term 'gothic' to the extent that it is based on an aesthetic style that is central to the cultural identity of the European soul, another word for the Faustian spirit. The problem lies with the stereotypical image that always goes with the name, that dark, gloomy, vampiristic state of ennui which lacks the heroic dimension that would otherwise make the description more complete and remove the pejorative connotations of what has become a debased idea. Of course, I don't see this happening in the near future!
I share your enjoyment of Der Blutharsch - all the material I have heard from them has been very powerful. It's a good thing that Albin is doing more of this material.
Yes, they are a good live act as well.
Douglas P. recommended Beyond the Sun a CD by the late Billy MacKenzie (formerly of the Associates) in an interview recently. I went to some lengths to get a copy and thought it was very good indeed. Is there any CD out there that you like and are listening to that we may not have come across that you'd like to plug?
I have not come across this record but it sounds intriguing. There are not many new releases that inspire me at present. I think contemporary music is in a generally depressed state so I can't put my finger on anything right now - sorry!
I see that you performed with Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus last year. Have you worked with him before? Have you listened to his current work with L'Orchestre Noir? What is your take on that?
No, we had not performed with Tony Wakeford before. I have heard Eros and Death and I like his forays into classical motifs. It is an example of the continuing importance of traditional forms of musical arrangement. A lot of pop bands use live strings rather gratuitously, so any attempt to cultivate a more sincere 'neoclassical' orientation is commendable.
What is your take on sex? Does your sexuality inform your art, and if so, how?
The erotic and the aesthetic are very closely related. The same energy or libido that drives sexuality also drives artistic creation. I don't mean this so much in the Freudian sense (i.e. sublimation) because there is more to it than that. Central as it is to life, the sexual dimension of being is often seen as something distinct and exclusive, whereas I prefer to see it as a fundamental expression of the totality of existence, the harmony and unity of body and soul. The attraction of the feminine (the Muse/Ostara?) not only compliments the masculine spirit but also validates their intrinsic differences.
The spirit of perfection towards which the soul strives to realise the divine image and essence of being.
The culmination, if not the consummation, of the above. (Mishima achieved both in the act of suicide.)
A religion of exiles transformed into the Logos of Imperium (i.e. The Holy Roman Empire). I love the cathedrals, art and literature of much of the Christian world and have a certain affinity for the mystical side of the faith. I see no absolute contradiction between Christianity and what preceded it, despite some of the obvious differences between them.
The cult of heroism transformed into the industrialisation of death. Political idolatry infused with a demonic will to power and a Manichean simplification of truth. The last attempt at a spiritual revision of society in the epoch of total nihilism.
The silent conversation between the mind and the mystery of truth.
The descent of our civilisation into a technocratic shopping mall. But Hell exists wherever humanity happens to exist.
The transfiguration of the self through which the singular nature acquires something universal. This can take many forms, but the cult of the hero as a human paragon has degenerated into the ephemeral celebrities of popular culture.
What are your thoughts about the war in the Balkans?
Actually these have been etched into a piece I wrote for the next Blood Axis album, Ultimacy. I called this Trojan Plains because the last two wars in that region were the culmination of centuries of conflict over which the 'international community' sought to impose the ethical and political framework of Western democratic principles. While this was certainly justified in the case of Kosovo, the ethnic divisions that have emerged from the last decade will persist for years, just as they had only been kept under the lid by Tito after the Second World War. The iron curtain between East and West goes back to the schism within Christianity a thousand years ago and the emergence of Russia as a kind of new Byzantium. (This explains the hostility of the Greeks to the Nato campaign.) It also explains the Western orientation of Catholic countries like Croatia and Slovenia. The disturbing fact about these wars is that the policy of 'ethnic cleansing' (prosecuted mainly by the Serbs) has actually suceeded, separating the ethnic populations of Yugloslavia, a brutal form of national self-determination that shows how war sometimes acts as a kind of birth pang for the forging of nations. Of course, had the Serbian regime not pursued a policy of expansion, a prolonged war may have been avoided. But as Kosovo and parts of Croatia and Bosnia were populated by Serbs, Milosevic could claim that he was merely defending his own people. Finally, these wars prove that, in some circumstances, ethnic communities do not exist in a state of harmony and will always put their own interests first.
War in general?
In general, a terrible phenomenon, the substance of which only a soldier who has seen conflict can comment on. War is a part of civilisation as well as its capacity for barbarism. Today, there are more subtle means of conquest (principally by economic expansion) and the affluent West now sees war as a kind of police measure to be used as a last resort against aggressive dictatorships. While it is wrong to glorify war, it is impossible to ignore its fundamental role in the historical process. So many of the heroes of history are military figures and this is not simply the consequence of propaganda or the symptom of romantic delusion. The same era that inspired All Quiet on the Western Front also produced the Storm of Steel.
Strength Through Joy
Dark Rose - CD EP
The Force of Truth and Lies - CD album
Salute To Light - double CD in slipcase
The Pact - Dominions Behind the Sun
Terra Serpentes - Ways to Strength and Beauty
Riefenstahl - Ways to Strength and Beauty
Operation Valkrie - CD single
Opertion Valkrie - 7-inch vinyl picture disk
Secret Homeland - CD album
Whispers to the Soul - 7- inch vinyl picture disk
Whipsers to the Soul EP - forthcoming
The Pact 2 - The Reckoning
Death In June Presents KAPO! - CD album
www.ostara.net Ostara's official website