The genesis of a genre is a rare occurrence. Changes are one of the few bands that have set something in motion, and without whom today’s neo folk scene may not have happened. SqueakyPete talked to original band member Robert Taylor for this extensive interview. Mid 2004.
SP: For those readers that may be unfamiliar with your work could you give us a brief history of the group? What have you been busy with recently? Any travels etc.?
RT: Changes came into being in the winter of 1969-’70. For me it was a period of the ” dark night of the soul “. I had, but some months previous, severed my connections with the Minutemen organization and political action. The previous ten years had been taken up with such activities incessantly. The results were very dissatisfying to say the least. So, thrown back psychologically on my own resources I found an outlet for my angst in writing poetry, song lyrics and visual art. It was music and art that would occupy my time and energies for the on-going decades. During that period Nicholas and myself usually got together on the weekends and worked on composing and practicing songs. Considering my state of mind at the time it is little wonder that the music lyrics would take on a dark and forbidding atmosphere. I had experienced a sort of Apocalypse on a personal level. Western civilization had also gone through some radical changes in its overall decomposition. I think much of the music we did at that time captured something of its essence. For years Nicholas and I practiced playing every weekend and available time we had. We were very creative during that period, composing hundreds of songs. We played many coffee houses and college and university concerts during that period. We recorded demo tapes and proffered them to disinterested record companies. In those days there were basically just major labels. The Indy scene had not begun yet. So, if you couldn’t get a deal with a major label – forget it! But we tried nevertheless. That was the first incarnation of Changes, which ended in about 1974. I had relocated to another part of the country for about a year. Around 1976 or so we re-emerged with several other ladies. Each of which would end up becoming our wives. That lasted for about a year and a half. Both Nicholas and I got married, had children, Nicholas moved to another state. He eventually teamed up with Mark Andrews an associate of the time and they began playing under the band name Phase- II. That went on for some years. They played some large outdoor concerts and did some radio appearances. They wrote new songs and Nicholas tried his hand at lyric writing. Meantime, I turned more to writing for small magazines as well as composing my own music and painting. Several of the songs of Phase II appear on the recent Flamenzauber Fest CD compilation. between us there are five tracks on that compilation. Then in the early ’90s I met Michael Moynihan and we became fast friends. I sent him a chapbook of some of my song lyrics and he liked many of them and asked if we had ever recorded any of the music that went with the lyrics. I sent him a cassette of some of it and he liked it and wanted to produce and release it – which we did. That began the third incarnation of Changes that extends now up to the present time. ” Fire Of Life ” was co-produced in Europe by Willi Stasch of Cthulhu records. ” Fire Of Life” became a sort of cornerstone of Apocalyptic Folk. Though the CD was remastered and digitalized from old reel-to-reel analogue tapes, there is something about it, which captures the era, and time in which it was done. After Fire Of Life, Michael induced us back into recording new material. We recorded all of that which will be on our next CD, Orphan In The Storm as well as LEGENDS and other material yet to be finished. This was done at Absinthe Studio in Colorado with the virtuoso recording and sound engineer, Robert Ferbrache. Robert also sat in on songs with me. He does the guitars on both versions of ” waiting For The Fall and the electric version of Universal Soldiers Song “.
SP: Much has been written about your early involvement with the Process Church of the Final Judgement. A lot of people will be aware of your chapter in the Apocalypse Culture dealing with this topic. Do you think that this link with the Process was a help or a hindrance? Did it help in the beginning, how does it affect you now? As it is often one of the first things people mention when talking about Changes
RT: I think initially the connection may have sparked some interest in some people in hearing our CD with all of that in mind. The Process did seem to have a mystique of it’s own that lingers on even up till this time. I think a part of that mystique ties into the popularity of the Manson Family Mythos and the possible connections between them. I suppose the Process connection will always haunt Changes in some manner. It kind of defined us initially. All of that however was decades ago. Time does march on. I hope our next CD; ” Orphan In The Storm ” dispels some of that. It is more a case of Changes today, as opposed to yesterday. That seems far to fine a distinction for the anti-fa groups to grasp. They are incensed over things from 40 years ago or more. Things that occurred when I was 12 years old and I had the audacity ( in their way of thinking ) to even chronicle or tell about it. I suppose it is ” heresy ” to say some of the things i say, or discuss some of the subjects I discuss. So much for guarantees of First Amendment freedom of speech and expression. It really doesn’t exist anymore. Well, sort of, kind of, theoretically, apparently, but in the end not actually. All depends on what you have to say, and how you say it. The mob will decide. The chapter in Adam Parfrey’s ” Apocalypse Culture ” was read by a lot of people. Many contacted me afterwards asking questions about the Process and such. I even had some visitors whose express purpose of visiting was to discuss the Process with me. I later wrote three instalments for Esoterra magazine on The Process. They seemed well received by the readers. I had initially hoped to do a one-article affair on that for Esoterra. But I had so much research material and thoughts on it that it soon became apparent that any one article would be really deficient to the subject. So, I began a series. Perhaps I will endeavour to complete it some time. I recently did a chapbook cover for Adam Gorightly’s Monograph ” Death – Cults “. That largely is concerned with The Process and weaves a conspiracy web about the subject. It is available from Sisyphus Press, P.O. Box 10946, State College, PA. 16805-0495.
SP: What have you been doing in the time that Changes was inactive? You have published several books on what could be termed survivalist literature, could you tell us more about these?
RT: I couldn’t begin to really chronicle all the years of living during the period that Changes was inactive. It stretches over decades. Suffice to say that I did continue on with my graphic and fine art. I continued to write lyrics and some songs, I continued to write poetry all the while. I raised children, maintained a home. Tended to apple orchards I had planted; built an Asatru temple. Worked on constructing a stone walled garden; Spent a dozen years trying to resurrect Asatru as a viable spiritual path. Wrote for various underground publications. Did a lot of study on symbiology and geometry and optical art and much more. I think one of the books you are referring to is Paramilitary Operations, which was published by The Rising Press several years ago. Though the publisher mentions something about that being written newly for them, such was not the case. That was written in 1967. I think the last things I wrote on that subject were written in 1968. After that, I lost interest in writing on the subject. I did think a lot about the subject but never wanted to present my ideas publicly on it all. My thoughts on those subjects evolved greatly over the years. I have had an interest in military theory and military science since I was a teenager. I have seen a lot of material being sold by said survivalist groups which are things that were in fact written by myself and other Minutemen back in the 1960s. Much of it has been recycled for a new generation.
SP: What was the major impetus for reactivating Changes? The material contained on your CDs is from the 60’s- 70’s. How do you think it sounds today? What do you think is its relevance several decades on?
RT: I pretty much covered the first part of your question in earlier answers. As for how the old material sounds? I don’t know if I can truly be objective on that subject. I’ve just lived with that music too long.. After you have sung a song a thousand plus times, you and the song sort of become one. Perspective is destroyed. An individual is neither foreground or background to themselves. They are only a subjective point of observation and a reference. One is without perspective in such matters. As for it’s relevance today? I really don’t know. You or others who listen to it would be better qualified to answer that for me. What’s it mean to you? What feeling does it stir within ( if any )? Does it address matters that concern you? Is it disturbing? Is it soothing to you? Is it sad? One thing I will say is that i think the music of Changes is not rigidly locked into a time-frame exactly. Balladry seems to transcend fashions, eras and such. It is enduring because it speaks most directly, and simply, to the human heart.
SP: The name Changes is often mentioned as being a forefather of the current neo/ apocalyptic folk movement (Current 93, Death in June etc). How does this make you feel? Did you consider yourself ground breaking? Did you ever expect to have such a legacy?
RT: Yes, apparently we were the first. the tip of the zeit- geist in that sense. It is very eddifying to be the originator or the first impulse. That is not to say that the other aforementioned groups were in anyway inspired by us. They didn’t even know that we existed of had ever heard any of our music. I think what similitude they have with Changes is that they were motivated by many of the same insights, observations and concerns. As for considering ourselves ground breaking, yes, in a sense we felt that back in the early 70’s, long before Apocalyptic or Folk Noir existed as a genre. We knew we were doing music unlike what was the current fashion of the time. Most of the folk-music scene of those days tended toward mimicking Appalachian Folk Music, and stuff like Woody Guthrie’s compositions. Much of it was simply leftist protest music and satire. Nicholas and I both love classical and symphonic music. We were more inspired by British Island folk music, Medieval and Baroque period music. The music and poetry of the troubadours and meister singers. Our inspiration was primarily from European Civilization, of which we are both members of. So both in musical form as well as lyric style and meanings we were not just another clone group of that eras folk-scene. I think audiences of that period had a difficult time getting a handle on what we were doing. I think many of them knew there was a greater meaning to our music then they were personally able to understand. More complex elements that eluded them. As for expecting to have a legacy as a result of it? Absolutely not. I’m incapable of thinking or imagining in such grandiose terms. After our second incarnation as a band I thought ” that ends that “. I never imagined we would have CDs out or be performing live again for anyone. It was sort of a case of having put those childhood dreams and toys away and moved on to the serious business of life. But, nevertheless it has been a lot of fun to be back again as Changes in it’s third incarnation. Will just have to ride the tiger till he falls.
SP: How do you view this scene today? Folk music is often regarded as a form of grass roots cultural history as well as being protest music; do you see these elements in Changes? How do you view these themes in the scene generally?
RT: I’m not quite sure there is a Folk-Scene here in America as there was in the ’60s and ’70s. There is a lot of folk music being played today but I think most of it is real folk music in the sense of being traditional music of European folk. There is a lot of Celtic music being played in America and I assume in Europe as well. There is, and always has been, n active Appalacian music scene here. These are of course real folk music in a rooted sense of tradition. I don’t think there is much protest music. None on the left I can think of at the moment. Most of what would be termed Protest today is being done by bands like Death In June, Changes, Sol Invictus etc.. Most of the protest- folk music in Europe. But even there, I don’t think any of the people composing the music are sitting down with a agenda to write some message to the public. It is more case of hearing of something, reading it in the paper or something and it leads to a frame of mind and music and poetry are a way to expel ones disgust, disdain, and angst at the state of things in the world.
SP: When you are composing your music do you work around the music or the lyrics? Do you have images and themes in mind that you want to convey?
RT: For the greater part it is a case of the lyrics being written and then the Music being composed to accommodate it. In that way the lyrics have some effect upon where the melody will go. I have composed a few songs where I did the music and the words together, or where I laid down the melody first and then composed the lyrics to it. Overall it seems that when I’ve tried that, the lyrics are often a lot lighter and insubstantial in intellectual content. Writing in that manner reminds me more of commercial jingles. I once worked as a copywriter and art director doing television and print ads. So I know how commercial jingles generally are composed. Music first – words second, or simultaneously. I just write poems and lyrics regularly. It is often a daily function with short gaps in between for other creative endeavours. A recent occurrence has been Nicholas taking poems I’ve written, which were not in anyway earmarked for music and composing music to them. Generally they are not written in a perfect end rhyme ballad form. I have a tendency in my poetry, intended for voice and printed page, to create the form it is in to the feelings and shape of the thoughts I have to express. So most of my printed poetry does not adhere to a consistent form. I tend to be more concerned with the phrase and the line and how it sounds with the human voice when rhapsodised. I use a lot of half-rhyme, near-rhyme, rhyme proper and meter. Much of such written poetry is too brief for a song. I do attempt to crystallize my thoughts in as few words as necessary. I am always striving towards brevity of words that will yet convey the thought or emotion as directly as possible in a crystallized form. Here are a few examples: Love like a hummingbird, suddenly here on invisible wings then suddenly gone! or: -Finale – And after all has been said ( and little truly done ). The curtain falls and the players take their bows and exciting depart. For it was all but the frenzied dream in a mad poet’s mind. A spectral carnival of woe and delight. Knaves and fools one and all. Shadow figures on a blank stage wall. These type of poems don’t readily translate into musical lyrics. However, there are some that do. And Nicholas was able to compose some really great music to some of them. I was quite surprised by it. One song we did at our recent performances is ” Somewhere In the Night “. It is one of those poems set to music that was never intended for music and it worked so very well I thought. I really enjoy singing that one. Between December 2003 and June of this year Nicholas and I have composed an entire CD length collection of new material. Some of these” meant to be prose poems ” are included in the collection. It will be called ” Lament “. One of the songs ” Mountains Of Sorrow – Rivers Of Regret ” appeared on the Flamenzauber compilation. It was sort of an experiment of mine in a mode of using spoken poetry with a choral loop of ballad for background. I thought it worked well. In the past several years both Nicholas and myself have gone through divorces. So ” Lament ” is some of what came out of it all for us both. We have only to date recorded the trick which appears on Flamenzauber.
SP: Your Legends CD has an impressively wide range of influences; was this a conscious decision? What are your major influences- musical or other wise?
RT: Yes it was. I endeavoured to write a pan-European Chanson of sorts. The six parts are taken from the corpus of myths and legends of the major ethnic divisions of the European family. I first composed three of the parts. Nicholas then set them to music. His music inspired me to go back and write and add three more to round it off. Like I said before, British Isle, Medieval, Baroque etc..
SP: What are your future plans for Changes? Can we expect any new releases or some live shows in the UK?
RT: Yes, I think there will be more releases in the future. As I said we have all the material composed for ” Lament “. The Orphan in the Storm CD is scheduled to be released in September in both CD and LP formats. We will be doing a record for White Label, Also, the live record album set of the Flamenzauber Fest performance. The ” Time ” album split with Cadaverous Condition is still available. Both Nicholas and I have small collaborations with others in the offing as well. More on that at a later date. Sheet music books will be available from Twilightlands music for the ” Orphan In The Storm ” collection. I will soon be issuing a series of poetry chapbooks by both myself and others. I also hope to get back to writing more and doing interviews again. I kind of took a hiatus from that because I felt like I was burning out on it. As for shows in the UK – nothing scheduled as yet. But we would very much like to play some shows there. Any suggestions or offers?
SP: Many thanks for the interview, are there any final thoughts or comments that you wish to add?
RT: My thanks to Black Harvest for the opportunity to freely express my thoughts.
Changes Discography: Fire Of Life – 7 inch record, 1995, Storm/Cthulhu
Fire of Life CD – 1996, Storm/Cthulhu
Legends CD – 1998, Taproot productions
Fire Of Life vinyl 33rpm, 2002 HauRuk
Fire Of Life CD reissue, 2002. HauRuk
Time: Split ten inch vinyl, in conjunction with Cadaverous Condition, Eis & Licht Compilation Tracks: Legends: Lucifer Rising CD, Athanor Waiting for the fall, ( Acoustic Mix ), Pact With The Gods, Fremdheit Dreams Of The Fatherland, Cordeanau Commemorative, Iron Guard Universal Soldiers Song Electronic version, Cordeanau Commemorative, Iron Guard Faust: A New Wave Gothic Epic in Four Movements, Men among Mice compilation, Warcom. 5 tracks by R. N. Taylor & N.G. Tesluk, 2004, Falmenzauber Fest compilation. Collaborations: With Annabelle Lee and Amber Asylum, Twilight, Cavalcare Le Tigre, Julius Evola centenary CD compilation. With Wolfgang Weiss and cadaverous condition, Time, the lesser Travelled Seas CD. Mix of R.N. Taylor/ Cadaverous Condition collaboration on Time remixed on Matt Howden’s Red Room CD.
Hero Takes His Stand, double gatefold LP of Changes Heldrungen performance March 2004, limited to 300 copies.
A Ripple In Time, LP and CD from White Label.
Orphan In the Storm 33 rpm vinyl and CD formats, HauRuk, October 2004.