Interview: Tony Wakeford and Reeve Malka (TURSA, Sol Invictus)


Inter­view with Tony Wake­ford and Reeve Malka

Feb­ru­ary 2008 - guest inter­view by Peter Webb.
[Com­ments in Brack­ets by O.S.]

Pho­to­graph by Renée Rosen.

Tursa (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​t​u​rsa and http://​www​.tursa​.com) as a record label and pro­duc­tion house has gone through a num­ber of sig­ni­fic­ant changes and devel­op­ments in the last two years. Tony Wake­ford’s band of merry troubadours Sol Invictus (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​s​o​l​i​n​v​i​c​t​u​shq) have been at the centre of the major­ity of releases by the Tursa label but it is now branch­ing out much fur­ther than it ever has before. Sol, reflect­ive of Tony’s per­sonal musical vis­ion and an expres­sion of a remark­able per­sonal jour­ney that has dealt with some of the polit­ical con­tra­dic­tions, interests, pre­oc­cu­pa­tions and ideas of a period of Brit­ish cul­ture stretch­ing from the 1970s to today, have fostered an extremely inde­pend­ent music and cul­tural scene that developed from punk and post-punk through Indus­trial to the folk noir or neo-folk scene today. There is little lit­er­at­ure on this very under­ground of scenes, David Keenan’s England’s Hid­den Reverse and Diesel and Ger­ten’s Look­ing for Europe being not­able excep­tions, but a curs­ory glance at the WWW shows a massive num­ber of web­sites, myspace pages, for­ums, record labels and dis­trib­ut­ors who are involved in this area (see Soleilmoon, Tesco, Dark Vinyl, Ath­anor, Cyn­feird, Strange For­tune, Trisol, Woven Wheat Whis­pers, Cold Spring, Eis Und Licht, Hau Ruck amongst oth­ers). Although the scene is not recog­nised in much main­stream music press (Zero Tol­er­ance being an import­ant excep­tion) across Europe the artists and fans of the scene have cre­ated a vibrant and thought­ful music and cul­tural under­ground that has explored and fore-grounded ideas about pagan­ism, eco­logy, indi­vidu­al­ism, anarch­ism and local cul­tural tra­di­tion. There are also ele­ments within this scene that fore­ground philo­soph­ical areas attached to the New Right but these groups are thank­fully small and mar­ginal to the major­ity of the scene.

Tony, as an Eng­lish artist, has honed his craft with Sol through many dif­fer­ent phases. The early record­ings of raw edgy gui­tar, bass and drums have given way to an evolving com­plex­ity of strings, oboes, violin, bodhrán, found sound samples, acous­tic gui­tar and bass all set off with Tony’s affect­ing and brood­ing vocal style that is par­tic­u­larly emotive. The sub­ject mat­ter on the early releases dis­cussed themes related to Pagan­ism and Magick, now those themes have given way to exam­in­a­tions of Reli­gion, Nation­al­ism, Indi­vidu­al­ism, Love and the strange and rare beast that is Eng­lish cul­ture. Tony had solely run Tursa as a label inspired in part by David Tibet and his early releases of Cur­rent 93 and Nurse With Wound on the Mal­doror, United Dair­ies and even­tu­ally Durtro labels (http://​www​.durtro​.com). Death In June also had run their own New European Record­ings label, this though had mainly been Douglas P’s baby (http://​www​.death​in​june​.net), so Tony, once he had star­ted Sol Invictus, decided he needed to take con­trol of his own des­tiny and developed his own label on the Enter­prise Allow­ance scheme (a 1980s gov­ern­ment attempt to get people off of wel­fare and on the road to cap­it­al­ist enter­prise). Although he didn’t become the Richard Bran­son of the Post-industrial scene he made a con­cer­ted attempt at present­ing his work and selling it to a wider pub­lic. Over the years the label has released 23 Sol Invictus albums and also albums by Skald, Sieben and Algiz. After being through a tur­bu­lent rela­tion­ship with World Ser­pent (a dis­trib­utor and fin­ance vehicle for Tursa which ended in a col­lapse and bank­ruptcy of the com­pany and left Tony with a large num­ber of debts and non-payment of roy­al­ties) he decided to develop Tursa partly as a label in its own right and partly to license record­ings to other labels. As the 2000s pro­gressed and the Inter­net star­ted to instig­ate massive changes in the wider world of music it also had a huge effect on under­ground scenes like the Neofolk/post-industrial scene. The net encour­aged a decline in sales of recor­ded music through peer to peer file shar­ing but also brought people and music scenes together in closer ties through net­work­ing sites like MySpace, for­ums, web­sites and web com­munit­ies. With all this in mind Tony has revamped and re-energised Tursa in a num­ber of ways.

Firstly he met the Israeli and Jew­ish artist M or Reeve Malka. Reeve and Tony first linked up through ‘the evil’ that is MySpace. Reeve had been doing some work with Jar­boe (on a yet to be released pro­ject) and Tony hav­ing worked with Jar­boe in the past took a look at Reeve’s work. The two of them cor­res­pon­ded and hit it off. They star­ted to look to ways in which they could col­lab­or­ate. Reeve is a musi­cian (M, Init, Hatch, The Miller Test - see http://​www​.idv33​.com.) but also a tal­en­ted pro­du­cer and they decided that a fruit­ful rela­tion­ship could be developed firstly with Reeve as a pro­du­cer of Tony’s work and secondly as a joint label owner for Tursa as his busi­ness acu­men was much more refined than the humble Wakeford’s, some­thing he all too read­ily admits. Their first released work has been Tony’s solo album Into the Woods, a layered, tex­tured and beau­ti­fully craf­ted album that high­lights Tony’s struc­tured song-writing on tracks like “Down the Road Slowly” and “The Devil went a trav­el­ling” and also his abil­ity to pro­duce dense atmo­spheric slabs of brood­ing ambi­ence that evoke, in this albums case, an Eng­land of old, steeped in enchant­ment, magic, fear and mys­ti­cism on “Into the Woods” but also so read­ily brought back to earth lyr­ic­ally in tracks like “The Hangman’s Son” and “The Lon­don Hanged”. The album has shown how the new rela­tion­ship between Tony and Reeve is begin­ning to blos­som into some­thing quite spe­cial. They have also been work­ing on the Orches­tra Noir pro­ject and a check of the MySpace page of the band also shows the way in which Tony and Reeve’s col­lab­or­a­tion is begin­ning to shape the pro­ject into a stim­u­lat­ing mix of clas­si­cism, ambi­ent tex­tures and vocal com­bin­a­tions of Tony, Autumn Grieve and Jes­sica Con­stable.

As a new busi­ness part­ner­ship and pro­duc­tion house Tony and Reeve have gone about con­struct­ing a small empire of acts and bands that ini­tially have come mainly from Tony’s own cre­at­ive vis­ion. He con­tin­ues the pro­ject Orches­tra Noir (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​o​r​c​h​e​s​t​r​a​n​oir) with a host of musi­cians some of which are ‘names’ on the clas­sical scene: Guy Har­ries (flute, oboe - http://​www​.myspace​.com/​g​u​y​h​a​r​r​ies), Mark Bai­gent (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​m​a​r​k​b​a​i​g​e​n​t​o​boe), Richard Moult, Alex­an­dria Lawrence, etc. He also has developed a num­ber of new pro­jects – The Triple Tree with Andrew King (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​t​h​e​t​r​i​p​l​e​t​ree), Grey Force Wake­ford with Nick Grey and Kris Force (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​g​r​e​y​f​o​r​c​e​w​a​k​e​f​ord), Ward­robe with Andrew Liles (http://​www​.myspace​.com/​a​n​d​r​e​w​o​w​e​n​l​i​les) and his own solo pro­ject. Tony and Reeve have also gone about adding a new set of inter­est­ing artists to the Tursa stable: The Zun­royz: a Ukrain­ian folk band and the mel­an­cholic and atmo­spheric pop of Lon­don based Hong Kong in the 60s.

The rest of this dec­ade looks like being an excit­ing one for the ever-expanding group of musi­cians asso­ci­ated with Tursa. With these new devel­op­ments in mind and also want­ing to get Tony’s take on his life and the vari­ous paths that he has taken up till now, I sat down for a cup of tea and a slice of Zuc­chini cake at Tony’s Lon­don res­id­ence with him­self and Reeve Malka. We star­ted by explor­ing Tony’s first interest in polit­ics and dis­cussed his mem­ber­ship of the Inter­na­tional Social­ist organ­iz­a­tion (who later morphed into the Social­ist Work­ers Party):

PW - Tell me about your rela­tion­ship with the Inter­na­tional Social­ists and your time as a mem­ber with them:

TW – Basic­ally they (The IS) came to the door one day to sell my sis­ter a copy of their paper, her being a mem­ber of the hoi polloi and all and she got involved. I was about 13 at the time she was 6 years older than me, she was a skin­head girl and I was a little mini skin­head. For me it star­ted as an easy way to get into pubs, as most of the meet­ings were in pubs, then of course even­tu­ally you get involved, she star­ted going out with one of the blokes in the party. So I got involved and became quite act­ive and for a social­ist or far left group I think they were one of the best around at the time or the best of a bad lot. They were quite easy going and had a sense of humour and it wasn’t dog­matic but it even­tu­ally morphed into the hor­ror that is the SWP [Social­ist Work­ers Party, Wiki­pe­dia].

PW - So in terms of the polit­ics did you get dis­il­lu­sioned with them?

TW – Well I was a real mix­ture of things, my dad was a shop stew­ard and an ex-military police­man and he was a sup­porter of Enoch Pow­ell so I was a real mix­ture from my upbring­ing. I was very social­ist, I was in a coun­cil estate that was right next to St Georges Hill which was one of the most expens­ive pieces of real estate in the coun­try at that time. The houses there were full of rock stars, my dad had become a taxi driver and used to drive the stars and rich Arabs about, so there was a weird mix­ture of dif­fer­ent com­pet­ing pre­ju­dices within me. I con­sidered myself to be pretty social­ist and left wing but also I was pretty racist as a lot of people were. So there was a real mix­ture of dif­fer­ent views. I also got involved in a lot of the anti-fascist cam­paigns of the time which is quite ironic as I get a lot of cri­ti­cism now but I have prob­ably punched more fas­cists than a lot of the people who cri­ti­cise me have. There was for me no real dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the Inter­na­tional Social­ists but when the SWP came along and dom­in­ated the Rock Against Racism cam­paign and threw people like us into any war­zone they could then I got fed up with it. The prob­lems of the far left i.e. being very middle class dom­in­ated and the level of self hatred that is expressed where noth­ing Eng­lish can ever be any good. All cul­tures are a mix­ture of good and bad.
It is a shame that today there still seems to be a self hatred that I think Orwell (George) talked about that is destruct­ive and neg­at­ive and ali­en­at­ing to a lot of people.

PW – Was that one of the reas­ons that you got dis­il­lu­sioned then?

TW – Yes it was just how we were treated as mem­bers. It is the same with all of these extrem­ist groups they live in their own bubble. You can say exactly the same about parts of the far right; they’ve no con­nec­tion to real­ity. Both extremes seem to meet up as ‘culty’ con­spir­acy loons. Cer­tainly the far left and the work­ing class could be liv­ing on dif­fer­ent plan­ets.

PW – So in terms of the music, which was very polit­ical at that point, Crisis were very polit­ical in a left­ist sense, but then you move out of the far left, Crisis splits up and later Death In June forms. Then there is a use of sym­bol­ism that is asso­ci­ated with the far right and a whole image that seems to come from a far right aes­thetic. Was part of the appeal of that polit­ics and aes­thetic find­ing; as Douglas P is quoted as say­ing, the ‘left wing’ of National Social­ism or even of find­ing the social­ist ele­ment of those polit­ics and being attrac­ted by that?

TW – Yes, I think that one of the dangers of being heav­ily involved in anti-fascism is the danger of attrac­tion. You define your­self in oppos­i­tion to some­thing so much that you become obsess­ive. You find out more about it and it gets weird. I had always been a social­ist but I didn’t see what was wrong with lik­ing your coun­try and being pat­ri­otic and I thought that the views of the Brit­ish work­ing people were being ignored. So, of course, in the name of a social­ism that is pat­ri­otic and is inter­ested in what is hap­pen­ing here and not a thou­sand miles away I looked around. So as I got dis­il­lu­sioned with the left then that became an interest. So when you find out about the Strasser Broth­ers [Wiki­pe­dia] and their ideas, it seemed to click with me, on a cer­tain level and unfor­tu­nately, for me, it coin­cided with the NF [National Front, Wiki­pe­dia] hav­ing that strain within them. I remem­ber pick­ing up a magazine and being quite sur­prised because it was quite left wing. So when the mem­bers of left organ­isa­tions are telling you that the NF are the boot boys of cap­it­al­ism and a bosses front and then you read their mater­ial and it seems to be the total oppos­ite of that so rather naively you think okay maybe there is some­thing here. Maybe this is an altern­at­ive. I have to add that I was the only one to be stu­pid enough to fall for it. Neither Doug or Pat [Patrick Leagas] shared my death wish. But the reason that I do deeply regret it is the fact that, regard­less of that the under­ly­ing strain of that polit­ics is, or at least was then, anti-Semitism. That was also the bizarre thing that apart from hav­ing the left wing affect­a­tion of being very anti-Israel, I had had Jew­ish girl­friends before then, the Crisis song “Holo­caust” was about the Nazi’s and the exterm­in­a­tion pro­gram and I was very anti-Nazi and that is one of the real shame­ful things of it is that you get involved in the bubble that is far right polit­ics and things you don’t believe in get ignored. When I joined I said that I was very social­ist and pat­ri­otic and I don’t want to know about this holo­caust denial and anti–Jewish stuff, I think that is bonkers. Then you get into it, you get in this bubble, you’re drink­ing and meet­ing with people and you just let things slide and in the end, I’m ashamed to say, you go out on the piss or to a party and you real­ise it’s for some dead gen­o­cidal mani­acs birth­day or some­thing. At one point you would have been shocked at that, but because you are in this polit­ical bubble you just go along with it. Now, look­ing back on it, you real­ize you were align­ing your­self to some­thing that had they won power some­where, would mean that many of your friends, and your wife would not have even been born.

PW – The NF were very good at recruit­ing amongst foot­ball cas­u­als, young guys that were into music, cul­ture and fight­ing and who were pat­ri­otic, social­ist in some senses but had the feel­ing that the left was full of middle class intel­lec­tu­als. But these people often got fed up with the lead­er­ships of these organ­isa­tions, wondered about their motiv­a­tions and often when the more extreme ele­ments of the racism came to the fore it con­tra­dicted their rela­tion­ships with young black kids in their cit­ies, work­places or schools. How did you see the lead­er­ship of these organ­isa­tions?

TW – I think that with all parties and extrem­ist polit­ics the fur­ther you go up the greasy pole the more cor­rupt and un-idealistic it becomes. You get all these Mup­pets on the ground, whether it is the NF or the SWP, who get their hands dirty and do all the ground­work but the fur­ther you go up the organ­isa­tion the more cyn­ical and cor­rupt it becomes. It’s all a bit of a cult.

PW – So when did you decide that you had had enough of that and when did you decide to move away from those polit­ics?

TW – This period, for me, coin­cided with low level crimin­al­ity, drugs (the tak­ing and push­ing of), drink­ing far too much, a gen­eral down­ward spiral. I woke up one day and real­ised that if the police had knocked on the door and come in and searched then I would have ‘gone away’ for a long period of time. I felt that des­pite all the changes in the NF and all the dif­fer­ent ideas that the under­ly­ing ethos was still that the Jews are to blame. Even though there were some of us in the NF who would say that ‘if it rains they’ll blame the Jews’. Also, even though I was racist the idea of attack­ing someone because of their eth­nic iden­tity felt hor­rific, I was always polite to people in gen­eral whatever their back­ground, because I’m very old school Eng­lish like that. If people are polite to me then I am polite back. In fact I hate people’s bad man­ners far more than any­thing else, so it just wasn’t me. So although the people in the NF weren’t all the Devil incarn­ate there were some utter scum­bags who should have been put down, so I thought what the hell am I doing, this just isn’t me. So I tried to just untangle myself from it all and it wasn’t imme­di­ate , it was a gradual pro­cess of get­ting out of it.

PW – So like leav­ing any organ­isa­tion that you have spent time in you still have friend­ships with some of these people. Would it be fair to say that you main­tained rela­tion­ships with some people who had been in the organ­isa­tion after you left?

TW – Most of the friend­ships that I had with people were with people that also became dis­il­lu­sioned with the polit­ics. So very soon after leav­ing I didn’t have friend­ships with any­one who was still in the NF. Friend­ships in those organ­isa­tions, just like the SWP, are often about being in the organ­isa­tion and after you leave the friend­ship is dead, you become an out­cast. It’s like a crap ver­sion of the Mafia. But yeh I don’t know any­one now who is a mem­ber of, or act­ive in any of those organ­isa­tions on the Far Right. But the people who left, we used to get together occa­sion­ally over a pint and have a moan and com­plain and it would always end up with us say­ing “what the fuck were we doing?”. Of course you still have resid­ual views that carry on for a period of time but the fur­ther away you get from it the less you have those ideas. I mean now I’m the least that way inclined than ever, I don’t have any interest in it what­so­ever. I find it quite alien. For me the past really is another coun­try.

PW – So in terms of your tra­ject­ory since leav­ing the NF and DIJ what are the themes of Sol that are key con­cerns of yours. There seems to be a con­cen­tra­tion on Eng­lish­ness, Pagan­ism, the Occult, the Runes, Reli­gion are these new influ­ences for you, or are they themes that are car­ried on from your earlier path?

TW – Yes, I think to be self crit­ical, that I always needed a crutch of a big idea or a uto­pian dream. I think that the interest in Magic, the runes and Pagan­ism was try­ing to fill a gap in a way and of course the Occult is just like all these polit­ical organ­isa­tions in that it’s ‘cranks­ville’, people in bed sit think­ing that they are great, either they are the new Lenin, Mos­ley or Aleister Crow­ley but the fact is they are wank­ers. In the end you come to the con­clu­sion to mis-quote the Marx Broth­ers “that any organ­isa­tion that wants you as a mem­ber is prob­ably one that you don’t want to join”. I still find it very hard to look back on a lot of this stuff; I have just pushed it down not because I want to keep it a secret but because I’m embar­rassed about it. I just want to for­get about it but of course life is not like that. The Eng­lish love belong­ing to things whether it is the Women’s Insti­tute or Train­spot­ters and I guess that I have been a more extreme and sociopathic ver­sion of that.

PW – In terms of Sol’s devel­op­ment as that pro­gressed and you got dis­il­lu­sioned with the magical and pagan ele­ments of it what were the themes that remained strong for you in that work?

TW – I think that run­ning all the way through it for good or ill is that I am an Eng­lish artist and a lot of the music I like reflects a sense of place or cul­ture because oth­er­wise you are just play­ing lift music for cor­por­ate crap. Maybe I’m just being hope­lessly reac­tion­ary but I think that music should be an expres­sion of the artist. Part of what an artist is, not the only thing, but one thing is where you come from and the cul­ture that you were brought up with and that should be reflec­ted in the art you pro­duce. So I am a very Eng­lish artist and whether that is good or bad, I don’t know, but that is what I am. So all the hang ups and obses­sion of liv­ing on a little island, all the class, sexual and reli­gious hang ups that Eng­land or Bri­tain res­on­ates with all come out in the music. Also, more gen­er­ally, I write on a more per­sonal per­spect­ive now. I’ve tub-thumped for long enough. So in the end how indi­vidu­als think and feel and act is far more inter­est­ing than sprout­ing some ideo­logy. Polit­ics and art are very uncom­fort­able bed fel­lows. Espe­cially when with music, they’re end­ing up singing alibis for mur­der­ers.

PW – So, when you take a good look at your lyr­ics over the last ten years then I would say that a lot of what you are express­ing is the con­tra­dic­tion, the mad­ness, the chaos of Eng­lish life.

TW – Abso­lutely!

PW – Rather than say­ing isn’t this great, let’s fly the flag, it seems to be say­ing look at what is going on in this cul­ture and look at the strange­ness of it. Would you say that is a fair com­ment on your work?

TW – I am a bit embar­rassed by flag wav­ing, I like the kitsch value of it but I do know that it should be kitsch. So the whole con­tra­dic­tions of the Eng­lish whether… I think that there is a quote that says “brave sol­diers, cow­ardly civil­ians” if you stick a uni­form and a medal on them they’ll die for you but in every­day life if you say jump they’ll say how high. There is also the whole class thing that I think a lot of Europeans don’t under­stand you know you can open your mouth in a pub and half the people in there will hate you – maybe it is not as much now but it is still there. The whole sexual hang up thing, I came from a very repress­ive work­ing class fam­ily, my par­ents didn’t even undress in front of each other. I know that sounds ridicu­lous but it hap­pens and those things have an effect on you. My dad was… another reason that I can speak about these things now, and my wife poin­ted this out to me, is that with a lot of the polit­ics stuff etc. while my par­ents were still alive I didn’t want that to come out. My dad was one of those that lib­er­ated Neuengamme con­cen­tra­tion camp, he had a walk­ing stick… while I was in the NF I pushed all this aside, but I sud­denly remembered that it was a walk­ing stick that had been carved by one of the inmates as a thank-you to the sol­diers who lib­er­ated them. It was very nice piece with the name of the con­cen­tra­tion camp on it. Now that my par­ents are dead I feel more com­fort­able talk­ing about these issues.

PW – How do you see your­self now? Some­times you may be described as a Liber­tarian; do you think that is fair?

TW – In some ways I am a liber­tarian but there are cer­tain issues that I have strong views on; People who are cruel to anim­als. Rap­ists and pae­do­philes, bul­lies in gen­eral I guess. I’m still a fas­cist 🙂 when it comes to stuff like that. But apart from that if people aren’t hurt­ing other people then they should be able to do what they like. That is another thing with the far right is that they had an irra­tional hatred of homo­sexu­als; people have dif­fer­ent views on things but nobody should be killed or dis­crim­in­ated against for who they sleep with.

RM – I think that it is easier for me because I have fol­lowed Tony’s music from the early years; a friend of mine intro­duced me to Sol Invictus and Death In June. I was attrac­ted to Tony’s music because I think he maybe uncon­sciously developed this win­ning musical for­mula of one’s ideas, ideals and opin­ions through lyr­ics rendered by folk style music with an exper­i­mental nature (need­less to men­tion that folk sym­bol­izes the togeth­er­ness) topped with aggres­sion, anger, beauty, mys­tery, the occult, and many other moods and emo­tions.

PW – So on the musical front there was def­in­itely a strong feel­ing from you for what Sol was doing?

RM – Cer­tainly, I loved what Sol Invictus is about, the lyr­ics and the way to hint and hide behind the words has a def­in­ite effect, his good old Eng­lish sense of humour, the witty lan­guage, the insinu­ations, all of it is Tony’s artistic per­sona!

PW – What about your back­ground as an Ortho­dox Israeli Jew? When you hear about Tony’s past how did you feel about that?

RM – I see things in a healthy way, you never judge a per­son for his opin­ions only for his actions.
If the good man had murdered someone or some­thing like that then I def­in­itely wouldn’t have any­thing to do with him. Every­body goes through changes and we always grow. I have to admit and it may seem strange but I knew noth­ing about Tony’s per­sonal life till I met him, per­son­ally I have no inten­tions to know any details about a musi­cian besides his music. I knew vaguely that there was some­thing about DIJ and col­leagues but never bothered to know more or stick my nose in someone else’s busi­ness, I’m not the type of per­son, I don’t like it and I don’t like when someone does it to me. It was after our first meet­ing when Tony emailed me a true and sin­cere email about his past, I then figured and said ah, so he was the trouble maker. I simply admired his open­ness and the good that he is after and took no time to reply yes, we’re going to work together! I have worked with big names in the industry and I will men­tion no names but there are some who did more harm and were anti-Semitic, people you least expect, but they often put on an effi­cient dis­guise.

PW – So now that the two of you are work­ing together in Tursa, have you become a cre­at­ive part of it as well as a fin­an­cial part of it?

RM – Yes I am a cre­at­ive and fin­an­cial part­ner.

PW – Sol has this Neo-folk tag attached to it which some­times makes sense and some­times not at all and you come from a back­ground where you have been into a wide vari­ety of music and music scenes, do you see these tags as being use­ful in terms of an audi­ence or cat­egor­isa­tion?

RM – Basic­ally I don’t like tags nor cat­egor­ies, I don’t like or want to have the need to explain my art or my inten­tions, it is strictly up to the indi­vidual to absorb and to exper­i­ence it. It is up to the stores to cat­egor­ize for effi­ciency and effect­ive­ness of sales. The Neo-folk tag seems to work as long as the artist has no inten­tion to limit his cre­ativ­ity and vis­ion to one style of work­ing. Artists should not use the Neo-folk flag as a style that can get stag­nant and not be explored developed or pro­gressed. I think it is quite unfor­tu­nate that the Neo-folk has a repu­ta­tion that iden­ti­fies with cer­tain move­ments and ideals, as far as I am con­cerned most of the artists I listened to recently in this genre are simple copycats and some of them have got it very wrong or they simply don’t under­stand!

PW – The other devel­op­ment at the moment seems to be Orches­tra Noir. There have been two pre­vi­ous pro­jects that were quite clas­sical in approach, what is the approach being taken with the new ON pro­ject?

TW – It’s got, not so much of the mar­tial ele­ments, I’m really tired of all these mar­tial sound­ing acts, casio pan­zer divi­sions, plastic kettle drums etc. Richard and I when we first got together on this wanted to do some­thing more emo­tional, much more per­sonal but with clas­sical ele­ments and other ideas com­ing into it.

PW – Has that become much more of a band or unit as a whole?

TW – Well it used to be French based and now it is UK based. A lot of the people are now in Lon­don or the South East so it can come together much more eas­ily now. Hope­fully we will actu­ally be able to play live. That won’t be easy espe­cially with the nature of things as they are now (the expense of live per­form­ance) and with the fact that there are up to ten people involved. But the core of the pro­ject is me, Richard (Moult), Reeve and Mark (Bai­gent), the hor­rendously tal­en­ted oboe player that we all hate. There is a lot of poten­tial there, before I was knock­ing it out and someone else was arran­ging it where as now it is far more. Well not a demo­cratic band because the ideas ori­gin­ate with me but Reeve gets involved. So for example the track “The Last Train”, Richard sent me a piano piece, there was a pas­sage I liked so I looped it, wrote some bass and some lyr­ics and then every­one else got involved. Reeve cre­ated a really good per­cus­sion part that changed the dir­ec­tion of the piece, so it is a very inter­est­ing pro­ject.

RM – The track “Unto Eden” is an example of the new dir­ec­tion that we might take ON in, not for this com­ing album, but cer­tainly for the next.

PW – So I’m not sure how many pro­jects that you are now involved in, is it 7, why do think that you are involved in so many pro­jects?

TW – I think that partly it is… I’m not sure really. I really enjoy that side of things and I hate the busi­ness side of things and Reeve as well as being an artist can do the busi­ness side. I think that some pro­jects, like for example The Triple Tree - the M.R. James pro­ject, ori­gin­ally that was an Orches­tra Noir pro­ject but it seemed to be too rigid for that so Andrew King and I developed that work. So these pro­jects arise because we have such a big pool of fant­astic musi­cians and within the Tursa fam­ily there seems to be no big egos. I’ve been in the music industry for a long time and I don’t know who is worst for ego versus tal­ent; drama stu­dents or musi­cians. But within Tursa we have a great bunch of musi­cians who have no need for huge egos; they know they’re good and I know they’re good. We all respect each other and so far there has been no prob­lem. I’m never sure whether those with the big egos are those who are lack­ing in tal­ent?

With The Triple Tree, this star­ted out as a one off pro­ject for Woven Wheat Whis­pers, a great on-line site that Mark Coyle star­ted. He is a real unsung hero of the folk scene and I am very proud to have the Tursa cata­logue as part of it.

PW – When people look at Tursa from the out­side and don’t know about the devel­op­ment of it and Tony’s devel­op­ment they may look at someone like Richard Moult and ask ques­tions about him e.g. where has he come from, he had links to an organ­isa­tion that were on the extreme edges of Satan­ism and National Social­ism, does he still have those ideas? He is not here him­self so he can’t talk about it but how would you describe that rela­tion­ship?

TW – The bizarre thing about it is that I didn’t know about Richards past at all until fairly recently and as soon as it came out I thought “oh no this is a con­spir­acy theorist’s wet dream”. I found out about him through Cur­rent 93 and his art­work and I thought that his work would be good for an album. When I was think­ing about the solo album I con­tac­ted him and said that I really love your art­work and would you con­sider doing an album cover for me. He said that he would love to and we got talk­ing and he said that he really loved the Orches­tra Noir stuff and if you ever need someone to tinkle the key­boards then I’d love to do that. So we star­ted col­lab­or­at­ing and like a lot of these things nowadays you don’t meet, you send stuff to each other and work on it. But on one occa­sion he was com­ing up to Lon­don to do some stuff with us and I thought it was a good oppor­tun­ity to have a con­ver­sa­tion with him. Because of my past I like to tell people about it, I did it with Reeve because he is Jew­ish, Les­ley and Car­oline because they are gay.

RM - Yes he sent me an e-mail and we had a chat and I thought: great, this per­son is very genu­ine.

TW – There is always a cloud hanging over you, espe­cially if they have a good reason to be offen­ded by my past. But with Richard he was just a painter from Wales, so he came up and we were work­ing and I thought I’ll make him a cup of tea and tell him. So I said ‘Richard I’ve got some­thing to tell you’ and he said ‘well I’ve got some­thing to tell you too’. I said ‘do you know about my past’ and he said ‘oh yes I know all about your past, don’t worry about it’. He then said ‘do you know the group the Order of the Nine Angles’ and I thought ‘oh my god, of course I know, David bloody Myatt!’. For me all of that is way bey­ond the pale, whatever he has been involved in whether it has been far right polit­ics, magic or Islamic stuff, the under­ly­ing core of it has been a vir­u­lent anti-Semitism. For me that is just too much and I would never have any sym­pathy with any of that shit, I never will have and Richard knows that. If I thought that Richard was still involved in any of that then it would be ‘good­bye’. But for me I had to tell people who I wanted to work with about my past, like Reeve, Car­oline, Les­ley and they have been very gra­cious and under­stand­ing, so what am I meant to do when someone comes to me and says some­thing that is of a sim­ilar situ­ation. I couldn’t tell him to fuck off. I did think when he first said it that I might go for a piss and come back and find the cat with its throat cut splayed inside a pen­ta­gram, but he said to me that this was ten years ago and he totally rejects it now. So I thought okay, fair enough, if this is genu­inely in the past then let’s keep work­ing but I know that this will cause a load of shit and people will use it to stir things up. He is how­ever ultra sens­it­ive about it and he does think that he was stu­pid, but we know that if this wasn’t in the past then we couldn’t work together any­more. For me all the David Cope­land stuff and everything about them is bey­ond the pale. I have been through some really shame­ful, hor­rible things in my life so it would be the height of hypo­crisy for me to not treat him with respect when he says he has turned his back on those ideas. But of course, if I was look­ing at it from the out­side then I would think look at these con­nec­tions, but I genu­inely didn’t know at the time and now we have resolved all of that. If I was part of some under­ground occult move­ment try­ing to per­vert our pop kids then I think I would go about it in a slightly more under­cover way.

PW – Another side to this, away from the polit­ics is the clas­sical and oper­atic side that Richard has brought to the Orches­tra Noir pro­ject. He has a back­ground in inter­pret­a­tions of Brit­ten’s work and pas­toral music and it seems to have brought another ele­ment into the pro­ject.

TW – Yes it really does and he has brought some­thing else to it. There are some dis­par­ate strands involved but they work really well together and every­one who is work­ing on it has said that they feel it is a very spe­cial pro­ject.

RM – Yes clas­sical, exper­i­mental, ambi­ent even some pop ele­ments there is not much like it out there at the moment. The way this music is per­formed we achieve an emo­tional response, strong and soft at the same time, intel­li­gent and eleg­ant songs and we all seem to love the outcome- it is an extremely strong band!

PW – Before it has just been your voice, but now you are bring­ing in some female vocals to it. What was the think­ing behind that?

TW – I’m not the biggest fan of my voice and with this pro­ject I thought that there was a def­in­ite need for con­trast, because the female voice takes it into dif­fer­ent areas and gives it a dif­fer­ent feel. The con­trast between the two is good, the melod­ies get more inter­est­ing. With the pro­ject you have Mark Bai­gent, who is one of the best oboe play­ers in Europe and he is clas­sic­ally trained, but he can impro­vise and that adds to the sound and suits a vari­ety of voices.

RM – He’s great, he can pro­duce any­thing with his oboe!

TW – Then there is me, I don’t know that many chords, I just play what I play, but within that and with Reeve and Guy (Har­ries) who are great musi­cians, we gel really well and there is a great feel­ing about the group.

PW – So you have an album that is being com­pleted and that is going to be released next year and that is com­ing out with which label?

TW – We don’t know yet. We are leav­ing our options open because we are not sure who to go with. It is a very import­ant release and I don’t want it to trickle out and do a thou­sand. So we want it to come out on the right label that will really push it and pro­mote it.

PW - For the Orches­tra Noir stuff you, Reeve, have brought a lot of dif­fer­ent feels to the music espe­cially in the per­cus­sion end of things.

RM – Yes, I look at each song and lay down what is needed, lack­ing or what will make it work. I am a per­cus­sion­ist by nature and I always push towards rhythm but in the end it is up to us to decide on the pro­duc­tion and the image of the pro­ject.

PW – So in terms of Sol Invictus? What is the plan there?

TW – We have an album planned for 2008 which at the moment is called The Cruellest Month. The last album was 2005 and this one has gone through many stages. It has been per­col­at­ing for many months. It star­ted off as basic gui­tar and voice and since then we have added a lot to that which may get stripped off again the nearer we get to the final mixes. Reeve has got some ideas for cello and trum­pet parts so we again are going to spend time on it because it is also an import­ant release. It will be the first stu­dio album with this line up. So we are going to take our time and get it right. But I am very happy with the way it is going I think it will be a very good release.

PW – Apart from Orches­tra Noir and Sol Invictus, what about The Triple Tree and Grey Force Wake­ford?

TW – Grey Force Wake­ford (a col­lab­or­a­tion between Tony Wake­ford, Kris Force and Nick Grey) is all done and dus­ted as an album, Ath­anor are going to be put­ting that out next year. The Triple Tree will be put out by Cold Spring in Janu­ary. Also Renee and I did a con­cert in Nor­way, with a com­mun­ist pro­moter no less, and friends of his have a band that are mainly accapella with bits of per­cus­sion but amaz­ingly beau­ti­ful. So we may do some work with them on Tursa or with Orches­tra Noir and bring some­thing out.

PW – So you are using Tursa for some pro­jects and other labels for oth­ers like Cold Spring for example. They put out a CD from the con­cert you did last year, how is the rela­tion­ship with them work­ing?

TW – Yes that rela­tion­ship is good. Justin has been really sup­port­ive and has stuck by us after the World Ser­pent fiasco. I like the fact that he is gen­er­ally a good bloke and he has been very good with us. He organ­ised a good con­cert and put out the com­pil­a­tion so he’s been fant­astic. I don’t like everything on the label but you could say that about most labels and it is his pro­ject. So he has always treated me very fairly and likes The Triple Tree. God that sounds so syco­phantic. He is a north­ern git and Cold Spring is just a front for dwarf smug­gling into the UK. Some­thing should be done!

PW – So in a way this is an example of the diver­si­fic­a­tion in the music industry using dif­fer­ent labels and look­ing at how those labels may con­nect you to audi­ences etc?

TW – Exactly, we will have the Tursa logo on the albums but we are using lots of dif­fer­ent labels and we see ourselves as almost a pro­duc­tion label. But that is the way the industry is going it is all about diver­si­fic­a­tion and the whole industry at the moment is in flux.

PW – And what about your other pro­jects Reeve?

RM – I am doing a pro­ject called iNiT as well as Hatch with my dear friend and a col­league of 12 years Guy Har­ries and I’m quite proud of them. iNiT is elec­tronic pop rock infused with middle east­ern influ­ences and people seem to really love it and dance to it. With iNiT we are look­ing for a major label as it is pop and dance ori­ent­ated music. I also work and per­form under the name of M and have a few unre­leased albums of which one is double album mas­ter­piece with Jar­boe of Swans and I’ll release them when the time is right!

I also play in and pro­duce The Miller Test also on Tursa, as well as Zun­royz which is a band I was com­mis­sioned to put on together for a few highly suc­cess­ful shows and then had a pres­sure to record an album and when I gave Tony a copy we decided to bring it to the Tursa rep­er­toire.

PW – Are there any other pro­jects that you are involved with at present Tony?

TW- I’m work­ing on a solo album for the Israeli label The East­ern Front. I met Tanya and Igor who run the label when I was stay­ing in Tel Aviv. The album will be called Not All Of Me Will Die and is based on the poems of the Pol­ish poet­ess Zuz­anna Ginczanka. I’m exploit­ing the tal­ents of people from Zun­royz, Sol and Orches­tra Noir on it. I’m very pleased with how it’s going. I find the couple of poems by her trans­lated into Eng­lish very mov­ing and power­ful. She was shot by the Nazis in Krakow just before the end of the war. She was denounced to them by a neigh­bour. Her work was ignored by the Com­mun­ists. I guess being Jew­ish and hav­ing friends in the Pol­ish res­ist­ance did not put her in Uncle Joe’s top ten.

With that I fin­ished my Zuc­chini cake and cup of tea with soya milk said my good­byes and headed for the exit. Tursa and the indi­vidu­als that make it up, as a pro­duc­tion label and a group of musi­cians are pro­du­cing music of real qual­ity that stretches way bey­ond the con­fines of a nar­rowly defined Neo-folk whilst also main­tain­ing its rela­tion­ship with that audi­ence. Tony Wake­ford has forged an inter­est­ing and pro­duct­ive rela­tion­ship with Reeve Malka and a listen to the vari­ous MySpace pages of Sol Invictus, Orches­tra Noir, The Triple Tree, Grey Force Wake­ford and Tursa show the breadth of music that Wake­ford is instru­mental in pro­du­cing. The story of Tursa is also one of change. Tony Wakeford’s own per­sonal jour­ney reflects this change and shows how a simplistic view of someone’s polit­ical his­tory can never cap­ture the place that they have come to. Wake­ford seems at one with him­self and very open to a dis­cus­sion of a period of his life which now is well and truly behind him. The future looks increas­ingly good for the vari­ous pro­jects that Tursa has instig­ated in the last few years and the label is striv­ing to provide an altern­at­ive beacon for inde­pend­ent music and pro­duc­tion in the 21st cen­tury.

[Inter­view with Tony Wake­ford and Reeve Malka, Lon­don, Septem­ber 2007. Writ­ten and under­taken by Peter Webb, Feb­ru­ary 2008]

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