– Hello, lots of thanks for answering our interview. How is everything going into the LEAFBLADE’s camp right now? You have just released «The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh». How is everything working thus far?
Buenas, Tania, and to all your readers, and thanks for the interest! It’s been a busy time of rehearsals and promotion at present, but the Leafblade engine is moving. I’m in preparation for a few acoustic shows at UK Healing festivals over the summer, as well as making sure I have enough time to play guitar in relaxation! Kscope records have been very happy with the initial sales of “The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh”, and seem to have a lot of faith in us, so that’s fine with me!
– It has been a while since «Beyond, Beyond» came out, anyway you haven’t been really quiet throughout these years, as you have done several shows but, when did you start working on this new opus? Have you slowly been collecting ideas for this new record?
Since 2003, Dan and I have played in 25 countries, and after the release of “Beyond, Beyond”, we stepped things up promoting it. We haven’t been idle behind the scenes. I work regularly as an actor, and have done a few short tours with bass player Kev both in Europe and the UK. I have been composing the new stuff this past couple of years, literally composing last touches in the studio. Songs and ideas tend to drip through amidst the daily life, though some days I have the pleasure of
being able to confine myself to complete study, composition and just having a good morning’s think! The ideas on the new album have been part of a healthy filtration process this past year or two. I’ve composed about a thousand pieces of music, and from that library of ideas we were able to select favourite pieces to re-write, some of which I have played live for a few years. So you could say that some of them are older, but made new in the last recording process.
– On this new album you have kept the essence with really spiritual and poetic lyrics, I could say they feel like an inner journey in some way. What are the main inspirations behind your lyrics?
The interpretation is individual, of course, but I think there has to be an inner journey for the listener. After all, this is where the real infinity is. The essence could be nature-mystical: the poet stands still, observing, celebrating sensory interaction with a non-human environment. That moment, that chance, is a real time to watch, to listen. The heart quickens, the blood churns, not in a romantic sense, but in the sense that if we have any evolution in our blood it is to step outside the self, examine our place in the universe; to explore our spiritual growth, our reactions to others. I love quantum mechanics, comparative philosophy, sacred geometries, alchemy, Celtic Mysticism in its adoration of, and veneration for, the landscape: season songs, moon glow; the music of Stravinsky, Beethoven, the poetry of Walter de la Mare, W B Yeats. Wordsworth, Shelley; the polyphony of Hildegard of Bingen, the great medieval estampies and songs of Spain, through the Cantigas de Santa Maria through Alfonso X, to the Carmina Burana and my love of Renaissance choral music. Most of the time I try to find some inner peace, whether it is sat by a waterfall, reading my poetry volumes, composing my own poetry, listening to the imagery in vast symphonies, or just losing myself in shadow, in candlelight, in sunlight. But it isn’t easy!
– And what would you like your lyrics to convey to the listeners? I think there are different emotions on the different songs but, is important for you to make the listeners feel reflected on your music?
Listeners may read into it what they will. I have certain philosophies, outlook, idiom in my art, but I don’t want to throw it at them in an attempt at programming. Our own Imagination must triumph. This is integral to my ideas, to what I would like to convey. When we say that we have just read a great book, we are saying that our Imagination has triumphed. Even the English poet C Day-Lewis tells us: “Is that a beautiful mountain, or just the poet that sings you so well?” I think I’d like Leafblade to assist in keeping the poet in each of us alive. We have a very discerning, intelligent audience and fans who ask me many interesting questions that provoke, that stimulate the mind. They fuel my breathing, as I would hope to add a little fuel to theirs, as we raise each other beyond the activities of the everyday life. And finally, I’d like to convey a little honesty, openness. A synergy, an exchange, is at work. I like the idea of “reflection”, though; a bridge of glimmerings between us. I have had many beautiful reflected sentiments in the past after albums and live recordings, comments which have uplifted me, made me feel that what I’m doing is worthwhile. I can empower myself from within, nurture the inner ego without need of gratuitous comments. Music is something I feel I have some heart and spirit for, so the universe has engineered me to do it in consort with my wishes; but it is certain positive shining from people who have had their lives changed for the good in some way after listening to my stuff that has really been the kiss to my earthly flesh…
– You are often considered a progressive band. Personally I could say you are progressive not musically, but you have a progressive nature, creating really forward thinking music. How do you feel being considered a progressive band on musical terms? Does it fit you?
I agree to the notion that Leafblade aren’t fully “progressive” musically. I have discussed this in a recent interview. I think the music on “The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh” is warm, attractive, anthemic, rolling; catchy, even. This isn’t your archetypal progressive music in the vein of early Yes or Rush (bands that I adore), or a musically diverse Peter Gabriel, with its odd-numbered tabulation and construction based around the metre of the lyrics. Perhaps tracks like “Oak Machine” or portions of “Portrait” have stronger suggestions of concept, progressive weavings in the orchestration, the emotional roller-coaster movements. Conceptually, thematically, I think the “progress” is all there. As I’ve said earlier, this is very much the poet listening to the life and death within the land, applying those metaphors to the human condition. We immerse ourselves in magic, ritual, the sacredness of numbers, of synesthesia, of childhood wonder, of meditation, of a discourse in comparative theology and occult history in tracks like “Bethlehem”. I explore concepts in the life in the Land, in the land’s memory, in tracks like “The Hollow Hills”; the meditative journey at the mid-point in the song is reminiscent of a dreaming journey through both the labyrinth of the psyche and the deep roots below the earth’s surface, where dwell denizens of the great Middle Kingdoms.
– You mix elements from different music styles on your compositions, as Folk, Rock, Pop, etc., so, what do you think have been the most influential bands for you?
As a kid I listened to a lot of Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel. This gave me a great grounding in acoustic composition, as did Led Zeppelin’s acoustic stuff. Irish band Clannad opened up new colours musically and spiritually with their astounding album “Legend”, based on the adventures of the English Robin Hood theme, but with deeply Pagan, greenwood imagery. During my Valle Crucis years (a band most definitely “progressive”!) I strapped on the electric guitar for death-defying time-changes and atmosphere, theatre and ritual storytelling, influenced by bands like Rush and Yes, (delighting in their sheer variation: acoustic patterns through full-on rock) early Sabbath, then into the realms of my love of medieval music and the power of Stravinsky, Bach and Vaughan-Williams. I listened to a lot of guitar work by Albeniz and Granados. I adore Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez, the lute music of John Dowland, choral music of Tavener, Arvo Part, William Byrd and Gesualdo. This is the beginning of a huge list! I would include the paintings of Van Gogh and Monet for finding the Inner Light and warmth, rapture: Odilon Redon, Ernst Oehme, Magritte, Dali; pen and inks of Edward Ardizzione, woodcuts and engravings in stone, within which I can become lost!
– You have been working now for several years with Danny Cavanagh. What could you say has he brought to LEAFBLADE both musically and on production terms?
Danny has always loved my stuff. Acoustically, he has added subtlety, a lush warmth; extra colouring without swamping the original idea. He is very sensitive to this. Our acoustic shows always had a gravity to them, a bardic feel, as though we were gathering the audience about us to listen to a few firelit tales. They were very intimate performances, very special, as he brought Leafblade’s music to a whole new audience, a very appreciative crowd. During the pre-recording production of “The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh”, Danny and I were agreed that we would produce ultimately a rock album, with more physical impact than “Beyond, Beyond”. The thematic core, the classical guitars, the vocals, the poetry, would remain the same. But we had a brace of favourite songs that we had been playing live that we wanted to dynamise with electric guitar and more drums. It was an exciting prospect. Dan brought lush orchestration and guitar work to the music that thickened it, added more power. Again, he was sensitive to the original composition – we were diplomatic, sharing many ideas. Usually I compose on my classical guitar, and in my creative mind’s eye I have an idea of where I’d like to take the harmonies and extra melodies. I write quite elaborate frameworks in the first place, but Dan’s extra ideas, his facility for production and expansion, as well as Dan Cardoso’s superb drumming, really brought things up to a new level. We had the melodies, the arrangements, but everything reached a dizzy height musically with the churning guitar and kit, allowing me to push the vocals and the sentiment in the songs. The album wouldn’t be what it is without the rainbow additions of “The Dans”, as I like to call them.
– This album has been released through Kscope Records, which musically seems to be pretty fitting your a band like you, always looking and moving forward. How is everything working with them so far?
Kscope have been helpful and informative, supportive. They seem to have a smaller number of staff, which I think is healthy, and allows me to speak directly to whomever over any issues. Everyone can be contacted easily. It’s a pleasure to have joined their company. And they’re throwing plenty of interviews at me! As I’ve said, opening sales have put a smile on their face, but I will be evaluating their work rate and exposure / promo strategies as much as they will be monitoring Leafblade. Kscope are at the forefront of pushing new and innovative music, so I’m pleased they had faith in Leafblade, seeing potential in the writing. But it shall be one album at a time!
– All this about «The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Ecstatic, vibrant, colourful
– And finally, what are your near-future plans?
A few shows with bass player Kev and guitarist Pete Gilchrist over the summer at a few UK Pagan festivals, on and off until December. I may play a few acoustic shows with Dan in the autumn, but it’s been difficult to arrange with his schedule. We’ll be playing together with Dan Cardoso in London in July at a Kscope stage night. More writing needs to be done, more acting, a video shoot at some point is planned, make sure there’s a few biscuits and tea at home…
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thank you for your interest, Tania – it is always a privilege to have people ask me questions about my music and ideas. I think summing up “The Kiss of spirit and Flesh” in three words was very interesting! Love and best wishes to all reading, good luck with Queens of Steel, and remember to nurture the Imagination, keep a bit of space inside to think!