Interview with Richard Leviathan (Ostara), on The Vanishing Point radio program, on
2nd March 2004.  This interview then aired on 16-17 March 2004.

The Vanishing Point - 3D Radio, 11pm Tuesday to 1am Wednesday, Adelaide, Australia

Participants:

Alan Bindig (DJ)
Richard Leviathan (Ostara)
 


Song: Ostara - Proud Black Templar

Alan Bindig:  Good evening and welcome to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, I'm here with our special guest this week, Richard Leviathan from Ostara is here to guest program the show.  Welcome to The Vanishing Point!

Richard Leviathan:  Thanks very much Dave.... um, Alan, I should say, sorry!  [laughter all round]  Jet lag!

AB:  You're probably getting a bit confused because you met David Tonkin today...

RL:  True indeed, yes!

AB:  So, what brings you to Australia, anyway?

RL:  Well I lived in Australia for seven years, between '89 and '96, and I'm continuously coming back here because it's a place where some special things happened in my life. I met my partner, and also established my first group which was Strength Through Joy, which we set up in 1991.  During this time we wrote to Douglas P. of Death In June, requesting if we could send a demo tape to him, and he responded with a letter, or somebody responded on his behalf I recall, informing us that he was about nine miles away from us in the Adelaide hills, so this is quite a strange and interesting coincidence, and it sort of got the ball rolling for establishing our musical careers.  Hence, we set up Strength Through Joy, recorded two albums here in Adelaide at Big Sound Studios with Dave Lokan, and then proceeded to move to Europe and tour.  So it was a very exciting time, and then I split with Tim, as he was the other half of Strength Through Joy, and established Ostara, and that leads us up to the present, where we are now.

AB:  So what was that track?  That was from the new Ostara album...

RL:  From the new Ostara album which is called Ultima Thule, which is out on a German label called Eis & Licht, and this is our third album, and the track is called Proud Black Templar, and it is based essentially on the Knights Templar, but it's a bit of a spin on that theme. The Knights Templar were originally a priestly order who were sent out to guard the Holy Land, but then they were discredited for accumulating a lot of power and wealth and were associated with Black Magic, and while a lot of those accusations were spurious and false, there is perhaps an element of truth to the tradition there.  So it's an interesting background to base a song upon, and this track delves into the darker side of religion and how religion has evolved through time, and the Black Templar is like a negative image, a shadow image of the Knights Templar.  A bit of an echo there, also of the Masonic organisations and even organisations like the SS in Germany who based a lot of their ideas and heraldry on knightly ideals... it's about the path of history, the ruins of history, but also some of the nobler elements in there.

AB:  Now we're going to hear another track from the new album Ultime Thule, I always thought it was pronounced "thool", but...

RL:  It can be.  But I think "too-ler" is the correct way and it refers to... it used to be associated with Iceland and the furthest point north that you could go.  The Roman travelers and geographers who located Ultima Thule, the furthest point north, but there's also a lot of mythical associations with it being an extreme high and extreme low, so there's a lot of resonances in that respect.

AB:  This track is called "Rose of the World".

RL:  This is the first track from the album, and yes, this is one of my favourite songs, so I thought we'd play this one.

Song: Ostara - Rose of the World
Song: Death In June - Heilige Tod
Song: Death In June - Touch Defiles

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, he is programming the show tonight - tell us about that track.

RL:  The first one we listened to was the first track of the Ultime Thule record, the Ostara record, and that one originally wasn't going to be the first track, but the record label decided "no, it's a good one, you should make that the first one".  It's generally a song dedicated to an imaginary lover, although I can associate it personally as well, and it has some references to sort of universal things and how these things can slip away from you, so that's the kind of basis to that song.

AB:  I was going to ask - what instruments are you playing on that particular track?  Because it's a very sort of... full sound, I guess...

RL:  It was originally composed on acoustic guitar, and then I subtracted that.  I collaborate with a musician called Stu Mason, who does a lot of the arrangements, electronics and electric guitars on the album, and he fleshed that song out and gave it a different kind of dimension, so that's how we worked on it.  Essentially Ostara, although a lot of it's quite diverse, we do a lot of acoustic songs, you heard the accapella song previously... we do have a rock element as well, which utilises some electronics and quite layered electric guitars, that's how we tend to approach the material at present.

AB:  After that was Death In June - tell us about these songs.

RL:  Well that was the first I ever heard of Death In June was I brought that album when it came out.  That was from Brown Book, which came out in '87, and was an album which I was very curious about.  I was in a Virgin Megastore in London at the time and just picked it up and it had this image of a death's head, a skull and crossbones and a number six on the cover and I knew I'd seen it somewhere before and I thought "maybe I should have a look at this".  So I bought the album and put it on and was immediately drawn to this mysterious, very resonant sound with a deep voice, acoustic guitar and atmospheric noise.  It's an album that has stayed with me for a very long time, it's one of my favourite Death In June records and it really began the path I suppose I then began to pursue with first of all getting everything else in the canon of Death In June, then eventually meeting Douglas Pearce and being introduced to him personally, and then developing my own project.  So in essence, Brown Book was the kind of first chapter of a longer book, a life book you could say, which has led up to the present time, so it's a very special album for me in many respects.

AB:  Next up we're playing from a band called Foresta Di Ferro, I've not of heard of this before, tell us about them.

RL:  Foresta Di Ferro, which is Italian for "Forest of Iron", which also has some old mythical associations with Rome and Greece, and the European world generally.  This album, essentially the man behind it is Marco DePlano, who comes from Como.  He also spent some time in England, which is where I met him and where we collaborated as well.  It's an industrial album, it's got some strange Latin folk elements as well, it's an amalgm of different sounds, and I am on this album along with John Murphy, formerly of SPK and now working with Knife Ladder and also in Death In June, so it's a good collaboration, it's also something quite special because Marco was in England for a short time and then left, and we did this album together.  It's being released on the HauRuuk label by Tesco, so it's associated with Albin Julius of Der Blutharsch, and its a very powerful album, and I'm just going to grab the... [voice fades out as Richard reaches over to grab the CD case]

AB:  Yes, sure....

RL:  ...I'll read the back - it's a "soundtrack for an imaginary docu-drama about faith, misfortune and fanaticism", and I think this sort of sums this album up in many respects.

Song:  Foresta Di Ferro - On The Marble Cliffs
Song:  Foresta Di Ferro - Kshatrya
Song:  Fire + Ice - Dragons In The Sunset
Song:  Fire + Ice - Lady of the Vanir

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, he is our guest programmer tonight, playing some tracks for us.  That was Fire + Ice that we just heard there - tell us about those songs, and about Fire + Ice.

RL:  They're from the album Birdking, which is the last Fire + Ice, and it's a really good album.  Fire + Ice have been going for some years, and it's essentially the project of Ian Read, he's a vast knowledge of folk music generally, but particularly in relation to Nordic folklore.  He's an expert at the runes and the Nordic traditions and a member of the Rune-Gild, and he brings this to music and I think he uses music as a meduim to express this identity and this incredible knowledge and traditional wisdom.  He's a very interesting figure, and we've done a few shows with him, and a few collaborative things, and he's a very interesting person to be around.  He can talk probably for an eternity on certain things, and that makes him interesting in many respects but sometimes hard to listen to as well!

AB:  Next up is your old project, Strength Through Joy.

RL:  This is from the album The Force Of Truth And Lies, it's the first track from that album.  This is the first song that Douglas Pearce would have heard from us when we demoed this to him, so this sort of struck a chord, and it's an interesting one and it's a very nihilistic song, and I like it a lot.  So, this is from the first Strength Through Joy album, "The Force Of Truth And Lies".

Song:  Strength Through Joy - The Force Of Truth And Lies
Song:  Boyd Rice and Friends - People

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, and he is programming the show tonight, playing some tracks.  That was Boyd Rice and Friends with "People".  Tell us about why you picked that track.

RL:  Well I think a lot of us feel like that a lot of the time, or certainly some of the time, so it's a track that articulates those sort of feelings, and I think Boyd does it very well with a degree of black humour that is inimitable in many ways, so that's why I like that song.  It's the first thing I heard from Boyd Rice actually, and I then went on to listen to NON and the more industrial elements of his projects, but that one has always stood out as a real classic.

AB:  Next we're playing some more from your latest album.

RL:  Yes, this track, track two from the album is called "Nightmare Machines", and I based this song on the life of Leni Riefenstahl, who was the filmmaker who made films like Olymiad and Triumph Of The Will, and who was essentially stopped from making films after the war because of the associations and who she worked for, obviously the Thrid Reich, but she made films prior to that, and she's still regarded as one of the great, most revolutionary cinematographers.  I actually wrote this song before she died, and when she died late last year it was a real suprise and I thought it was very poignant actually to release a song based on her, and this one is quite special to me, as Leni Riefenstahl is to me in many ways, so I thought I'd play this one.

Song:  Ostara - Nightmare Machines
Song:  Leonard Cohen - Last Year's Man
Song:  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Stranger Than Kindness

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, he is programming the show tonight.  Tell us about those last few tracks and why you picked them.

RL:  We heard Leonard Cohen from the Greatest Hits album and that song "last Year's Man" which is a real classic I think, it's got lyrical brilliance.  It's really like a long poem put to music and it's very melancholy and very solemn and it's very powerful, and it's got all these religious connotations.  Leonard Cohen's definitely inspired me lyrically and he's got a remarkable strength in terms of making music meaningful, and that's why I chose him.  Nick Cave, it seemed the logical choice to have Nick Cave because Cave has covered Cohen he's sort of rising to the staus, or has risen to the status of Leonard Cohen in terms of being a poet, a writer and a great performer, so I though that was only appropriate.

AB:  Okay, next up we've got Der Blutharsch.  Tell us about Der Blutharsch.

RL:  Albin Julius is the frontman for Der Blutharsch, and he works with his current partner in the live sets and they make a very very good pair.  Der Blutharsch is a kind of industrial bombastic project, its uses a lot of sampling very effectively, and live they're very charismatic, almost in some ways, I can imagine them as a kind of like a boy-band in uniform in some respects, it's kind of amusing to see.  They co-ordinate very well, they choreograph very well, so it's very powerful and he's a very interesting individual and I don't know too many Austrian bands, so I think Der Blutharsch is one of the most innovative and interesting bands from Austria.

Song:  Der Blutharsch - untitled
Song:  Kapo! - Wolf Wind

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, programming the show.  That was the Kapo! project, tell us a bit about what that's all about, and how you became involved and so on.

RL:  After we did the first two Strength Through Joy albums, we did two project records.  One was called Scorpion Wind which was with Boyd Rice, and Timothy, the other half of Strength Through Joy, was involved in that.  I was, in a minimal level... and Kapo! was Douglas Pearce, Death In June and myself.  It was an idea that basically came out of Douglas' experiences in the Balkans.  He was out in Croatia when the war was on there in the early '90s when that broke out with fierce conflict, and he was on the front line there, observing some of the breakup of that country.  So it had a lot of important implications for him and his work, so he brought that back, and Kapo! I think was the first expression of that, and it went onto other things.  There's a live album in Croatia as well, so there's a very deep conflict in Europe and a reminder that Europe could explode even in this so-called post-war peaceful era.  The roots of the past and some of the acrimony that's arisen there can sort of burst at any point, so it's a volatile place.  Kapo! had some associations with the World War II era, the name comes from an Italian name for prisoners who guard prisoners, and has all those assocaitions of the network of destruction and extermination that obsessed Europe for that period of time, so it's the way in which history shadows itself and comes back to haunt you and that's what Kapo! is.  It was interesting from the point of view of that that was the first time I actually wrote a song on guitar and that song we just heard called "Wolf Wind" was the first song I ever wrote and recorded on guitar.  Douglas put the voice to it, so it was a very fruitful collaboration, and we went on to do it live and it's been re-released since its original release in '96 with a new package and new tracks, so it's very much worth having.

AB:  Next up is more Death In June.

RL:  We're going to listen to the title track of Rose Clouds of Holocaust, which is an album which is partly recorded in Adelaide at Big Sound.  I was around for some of that, and it was a great experience, and this is a superb album and this is a truly brilliant track.

Song:  Death In June - Rose Clouds Of Holocaust
Song:  Ostara - Ultima Thule
Song:  Diamanda Galas - Gloomy Sunday

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, who is programming the show - tell us about Diamanda Galas!

RL:  I first listened to Diamanda Galas a good few years ago with The Divine Punishment, we've just listened to a cover track, a much more mellow track called "Gloomy Sunday" and I saw her perform that at the London Festival Hall about three years ago, and she was very powerful.  She has two sides, this kind of mellow side, or this operatic side, and then this kind of harsh, very black side which she brings all together in different ways and forms, and it mkaes her a very interesting and dynamic figure so I thought I'd play a bit of her stuff.  Before that we heard the title track of the Ostara album, "Ultima Thule", which is again a kind of mellow acoustic track which I thought I'd play, and that song has a lot of resonances with references to suicide bombings etc but contrasted by a rather mellow style.

AB:  Next up is Marilyn Manson.

RL:  Yes, I started listening to Marilyn Manson only recently, basically just out of curiosity.  I thought he was a sort of clownish figure and didn't take him too seriously and like a lot of people who saw Bowling For Columbine, saw that there was a very intelligent individual behind that sort of ghoulish mask...

AB:  Yes, he probably has the most intelligent thing to say in the whole movie...

RL:  Absolutely, without a doubt, and it totally contrasts with anything anybody else does, apart from Michael Moore himself.  So I started buying a few of his albums and realised that behind the black comedy and the tongue-in-cheek sort of stuff there is a serious side as well.  This track, this second track called "The Love Song" from Holy Wood which was the result of the Columbine massacre when he locked himself in an attic for a long time - I can't remember how long - and wrote this album.  It wasn't the best selling one, and many people regard it as the least good of the Marilyn Manson records, but I think this song is very powerful, and sums up a lot about the Columbine thing.

Song:  Marilyn Manson - The Love Song
Song:  Psychic TV - In The Nursery

AB:  You're listening to The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM, We're here with Richard Leviathan from Ostara, he is programming the show.  That was Psychic TV and "In The Nursey".

RL:  That was the first Psychic TV album I bought, and that song stood out, it freaked me out the first time I heard it, sort of a shock to the system.  I pursued Throbbing Gristle as well, and certainy Genesis P-Orridge and co. redefined music, how its made and what it is, and I remember reading things he wrote about the prevalence of "muzak" in the world and how a lot of music is just background, it doesn't actually mean anything except to create distractions and I think Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV put some nails into the coffin of that idea.  Obviously that's still prevalent, but it's the sort of shadow, it's the dark side, and if you've got a two and a half year old son as I do, I think that song puts some different implications on the world of nerseries as well, so... [laughs] ...it's a great track, really really good.  I believe TG are doing a big revival concert, so it should be interesting.

AB:  Tell us about the next track, this is a group called Changes.

RL:  It's an American band, or a group of people who were around in the mid '60s and began recording at the height of the hippie era.  They're quite unusual in some respects, because Robert Taylor who fronts Changes is essentially an American folk musician, but he's also like Ian Read, very interested in the occidental and Norse traditions and he's brought that into his music.  That was quite an anomaly, an exception during that time of the flower-power movement, and I see Changes as very much a part of the '60s but also like a '60s counterculture.  Sort of halfway between Bob Dylan and Charles Manson in some respects, so it's a very interesting group.  They've come back, they've been re-released by Michael Moynihan from Blood Axis, and [transcriber's note: not sure of name here] who ran a German label called Cthulu and actually started this revival of Changes and bringing them to Europe.  When I first heard their album Fire Of Life I was absolutely blown away at how it reminded me not only of some of the things that bands like Death In June were doing but it was 20 years prior to that, and revolutionary in many respects and very interesting.  So I'm glad they're back and I think they're coming along to a concert that we're doing on the 20th of March in Germany in a castle there, so I really look forward to that.  I hope they make it, and it will be a real honour to play with Changes.  This song is the first track, it's from a compilation called The Pact, and the title of this one is "Waiting For The Fall", it's very short, but it's very powerful, and apparently also features William Burroughs.

Song:  Changes - Waiting For The Fall
Song:  Forseti - Heilige Welt
Song:  Ostara - Operation Valkyrie

AB:  This has been The Vanishing Point on 3D Radio 93.7 FM.  Richard Leviathan has been our guest tonight, from Ostara, he's been programming the show and playing various tracks.  That was another Ostara track just then.

RL:  Yes, that was from the first Ostara album called Secret Homeland, which came out in 2000, and that song was called "Operation Valkyrie".  It's one that I play quite often live, because it's a little bit of a favourite with people who like Ostara.  It's inspired by an event in 1944 when a Colonel tried to assassinate Hitler, and put a bomb underneath the desk, but the desk was made of such strong oak that it actually cushioned the blow and the man survived.

AB:  I heard he put the bomb on the wrong side of the table leg...

RL:  Something like that, yes.... and the building itself was actually in tatters but the people inside only sustained minor injuries.  Staffenberg was an interesting figure because he was part of a movement which was called The Secret Germany and kind of had a spiritual side, and he ultimately decided that he had to conduct an act of betrayal, an act of treachery, which was very difficult for a very patriotic kind of soldier to do, so it was an act of great conscience and courage in that respect, and he turned into an icon of the resistance.  But still in Germany I believe, even when they commemorate him, people protest because of the military associations, so it shows that that dark past still remains as a very powerful undercurrent within the German society.

AB:  Well, that's basically it for the show, so thanks very much for coming in and being our guest.

RL:  That's a pleasure.  Thanks very much Alan, for inviting me, and thanks very much to David Tonkin, from Isomer, for organising this as well, and also Douglas Pearce from Death In June, who put me in contact with you.  It's great to be here in Adelaide again, and great to be on Adelaide Radio for the first time, so many thanks for that!

AB:  No worries.  Now we're going to leave with Boyd Rice and Fiends, from the Wolf Pact Album.

RL:  Yes, this is a fairly recent project.  It's similar to the Scorpion Wind thing that we did and I wasn't on this one, this involved Albin Julius as well, and it's a great experimental album, and this track is a very powerful song.  It commemorates another event close to 1944 in Europe, when there was a massacre on the western front, so this is a particularly sinister track.

AB:  Okay, this is called "The Orchid And The Death's Head".

RL:  That's it.

AB:  I'll say goodnight, and thanks for coming!

RL:  Goodnight, thanks.

Song:  Boyd Rice and Friends - The Orchid And The Death's Head

End of interview.


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