An interview with Neofolk musician Alan Trench of the London-based label World Serpent (Coil, Current 93, Sol Invictus, Nurse With Wound, Cyclobe) and the bands Orchis and 12000 Days -arguably the most 'quiet' folkband around...
How did Martyn and you get to know each other? Did the both of you realise immediately that you were meant to collaborate in the way you do now?
Well, I knew of Eyeless for many years, of course, but only
met Martyn when we started working with them at World Serpent. The first
Orchis album, The Dancing Sun, had not been long out, and I gave him a
copy - which he hated. However, he then got into its' peculiar charms,
and we wanted him to do some vocals on some Orchis stuff. As soon as he
and I started playing it was
What is your opinion about the England of today? Does living in England have a central and concrete influence on your art - or do you think it’s more of a subconscious "background noise" to you?
The England of today is divided into threes: the England of the past, the present and the future; the England of popular/everyday culture, historically received culture and that of the personal; the city, town and country and so on. In the day-to-day, England has all but lost any sense of identity and history (apart from mindless patriotism). Marx famously said that religion was the opiate of the people; that has very much been replaced by the cult of celebrity - it seems to me that the attributes that used to be vested in the ancient gods of the land, later to be usurped by the Christian church are now vested in footballers and soap stars (David Beckham as Christ and his benighted wife as the Magdelene/Virgin)... There seems to be a basic human need for some sort of role model archetypes, and in modern England the pantheon, although ever changing, is also constant - a very depressing thought (although I'm sure that it is not unique to England). Social life has become so debased that television soap communities, and the unthinking audience's reaction and involvement in them, are far more real in the minds of most than their own actual communities - even if you go to campsites in England there will not be people out and about in the evening; they will all be cut off in hermetic capsules, bathed in the blue glow of a voyeuristic hyper-reality. This is the background noise that must be cut out, and that has no place in anything we do. Yet every placename, and virtualy every streetname in England is charged with the past; while there are no wild places; the whole country has been shaped over centuries by those that have lived here, and shaped with purpose - managed for the growing of food, materials & etc. As you walk through this landscape you come across beribboned trees, tokens placed on grassy mounds and in shadowed and mossy groves... there is a secret life in England that is green and vibrant the further it is from modernity (the benefits of which we're quite happy with, thanks!) - and that is what has a central influence on me personally. An individual is part of the land, and it chimes within him - in particular, for me, there is the Weald and Downs of the South which have a high and airy calling, and the Wolds and wooded Fens of Lincolnshire where I grew up (and have now returned) which are full of a dark secretiveness. In such places, ghosts and the past take concrete form and you can feel the beating of the heart of the land; that which we have lost seems so much closer.
How do you attain this devotional and atavistic mood your songs convey? Do you perform any "rituals" to establish a link to nature and/or a more intense self-perception, finally carrying you into musical and lyrical composition? Or is it a rather pragmatic mode your song- writing follows?
There are two distinct ways that we write. We will either
have a finished song that we bring along and the two of us arrange or
one will have the words or the tune and the other will provide the missing
half and then we will both work out the arrangement. Either way, our personal
interests and obsessions will be inherent in the song, and it so happens
that we have a
Do you believe in something like a collective subconsciousness? Would that be a source you draw the familiarly strange and timeless images and moods for TTD from?
Yes, of course. Though for collective unconcious in this
context, I would define this as the grand total of generations of experience;
folk song, folk medicine, folk tales, etc. - all of which is part of a
common heritage; not just English (although it is primarily that) but
European. As we are a product of that, then naturally we draw upon it
and use it in our metaphorical language... there is a great deal that
is timeless and unchanging in people's lives despite the clamour of the
modern veneer... we
Your lyrics often seem to ensue a dreamlike logic: Do they emerge in the manner you set them in for TTD originally or do they rather pass through hard work of arranging/puzzling?
For me, the lyrics come about 95% finished. I'll go through
them and change the odd word - for something more apposite, something
that gives greater charge or depth of meaning. There's actually noting
vague at all about my lyrics - I find them very exact. I've often heard
people say that they catch whatever is floating past, and it is very much
like that. Certainly you can try doing it as hard work, but it is seldom
as good, or as true. My
Would you consent if I compared your tunes to shamanistic soul-journeys? Are you into Shamanism in some way?
Well, in many ways that is a fair interpretation, though
it is more a collection of tunes representing a particular journey - or
rather the facets (or certain facets, anyway) of a particular journey.
The order of the songs on the albums are arranged in the way they are
for that very reason... But I do think there is a lot of rubbish talked
about shamanism - modern shamanism that is... there should, perhaps, be
some other name for what genuine modern
"The garden of the wild stars" starts with
the invocation "Let the
The whole album is a kind of night-time, or dreamlike journey
starting with letting the evening in - letting that which is without become
that which is within, opening yourself to the power of dreams, being able
for one moment to glimpse that power and grasp its' meaning. It's about
the cyclical nature of dreams and obsessions and of trying to find a way
through the mundane and into the inner and timeless core... evening, a
time of gathering
The song "All in the may" contains the striking line "Fan the spark of the ancient fire": What does the term "ancient" mean to you? Is there a way leading back to the instincts and "innocence" of old? By means of romantic idealisation, can the idea of "ancient" still be something realistic and applicable?
In this context it's a rather romanticised ideal 'elder
If you had to assign a colour, weather and landscape to the musical essence of TTD, what would that be?
Dark Blue, Late Summer/Early Autumn, The Woods and Wolds of Lincolnshire or the Weald of Kent/Sussex. Before it gets to cloudy, let's try to approach the ground somewhat...
Do you regard yourself as part of a "scene"? Are you in touch with many other (congenial?) artists and bands?
No, I wouldn't have thought so - I don't see that TTD fits
in with any other scene or movement. There is certainly now a movement
in the trad/folk scene to update traditional songs into the modern idiom,
and I guess we should fit in there if anywhere - however, none of the
material I've heard sounds remotely like TTD - other than stuff that Martyn
has done with Eyeless, Mick
Could you tell something about the distribution company and label you are co-owner of? Which criteria do you apply when it comes to the decision of signing a band or not? Which bands do you want to recommend here?
I don't think it's really the place for that!
What's your opinion on bands like Der Blutharsch, Blood Axis, Death in June, Allerseelen…? Do they mask political fanaticism (at least in terms of archetypes closely related to the Third Reich) and an immature/ignorant idea of provocation behind the label of art, particularly behind a type of art concerned with esoteric, myth and culture in general?
All the bands you mention have fallen foul of the AntiFa
in one way or another, so there are certainly plenty of people who do
think that. Certainly there are also plenty of people out there who still
think it's pretty cool to embrace far-right ideals and that the best way
of showing their allegiance to such ideals is to use 3rd Reich symbology
rather than attempting ACTUAL political change... for these people, bands
such as the ones you mention come as part of the package, part of the
pose - and thus
Are there ideas, traits of characters, emotions (aggression?) you cannot live out with TTD and Orchis?
In this context: What can we expect from your solo-project?
Secluding it all, could you give some prospects of your personal and artistic future (concerts?)? What are your aims, your wished concerning your next 12000 days?
We're always happy to do concerts in theory, but Martyn
and I never seem to have enough time for anything - though despite that
we have nearly two albums of as yet unmixed material recorded and ready
to go. There's no doubt that we would love to do some live shows, rveything
permitting - promoters feel free to get in touch! The new Orchis material
I'm ridiculously happy
So now you "brought home the bacon" and I am very much obliged to you for your efforts. May we hear a great while longer from the both of you!