The new year has just begun and already brings us a new album from Ostara, the heralds of Pagan Pop. Although their pre-release schedule must have been pretty hectic, Richard kindly took some time to answer a few questions about "Kingdom Gone" for Heimdallr...

1/ "Gloria excelsior, Sacrum Imperium", what is the meaning behind that phrase.The mourning and nostalgia of ancient times or a summoning to the future so that the Western World gets back to values preached at that time ?

Glory in the Highest, the Sacred Empire. The first comes from the Christian Liturgy and is related to the Crusades. The second is the name for the Holy Roman Empire, the realm of the Frankish and German emperors that culminated in the Habsburg dynasty although its significance here is more broadly understood as the spiritual imperium of Europe with its roots in pagan Rome. The text does evoke a kind of mourning and nostalgia but it is more of a stoical reckoning with the present world of political cynicism, moral nihilism, materialism and fanaticism through which the realm of the spirit and its legacy have become an historical myth. There is a harsh inevitability in this perspective rather than a yearning for some kind of regeneration. The sacred imperium has passed into the infernal regions and remains a dying figment of selective memory. It cannot (it would seem) be revived except in this memorial state. The word that follows these lines is 'Shunyata', Tibetan for Emptiness, which is conceived at the summit of enlightenment, the place where the illusions of the world and its vanity are revealed.

2/ " Kingdom gone". What do you think is gone nowadays ?

This is an inversion of the line in the Lord's Prayer, 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done'. To reverse this suggests that the kingdom has already been and gone, or will never come at all. The promise of salvation in the modern world is so utterly lost and perhaps has only ever been an illusion. The 'kingdom, the power and the glory' are religious/spiritual ideals that no longer move the terrestrial plain and to find them again is to tread the quixotic path of a mystical exile.

3/ The title track sounds like a warning against religious fanaticism. Against Islamic fanaticism or against radical religions more generally ?

It is a negative vision of radical Islam and its suicidal ideals, particularly the way in which religious tradition and dogma becomes fused with the cynical (if ingenious) manipulation of money, technology and human lives. The word Jihad originally had two meanings: Mohammed said that one returns from the 'little war' (the fight against the infidel) to fight the 'greater war' which is the war of the soul, an introspective battle with oneself. This profound ethos seems to have all but disappeared from Islam, just as it has declined in other traditions. The track is not simply concerned with Islam but with the general state of things and how September 11th was possible at all.

4/ There are some great surprises on this album, more electronics, more industrial tunes sometimes...It kind of break the harmony sometimes, in fact it's weird. What was the idea behind these tracks, a deliberate choice to make this album more varied or a trip back into the past (STJ years ) ???

It was a deliberate choice to diversify the sound but not to rekindle any vestige of STJ. We wanted a bolder sound to that of 'Secret Homeland'. The first album can be described as a journey of dreams whereas 'Kingdom Gone' is a vision of awakening.

5/ Tim sings more than on the debut album, has he contributed to the lyrics or just sing ?

Timothy composed all of the electronic pieces on this album and where you hear him sing he is singing his own compositions.

6/Please explain the meaning of "Tatenokai"...

The Tatenokai was Yukio Mishima's 'Shield Society', the spiritual army he created to defend the ethos of Japan and project his own image of male virility in a military context.

7/ This time it's a photograph used on the front cover, Ostara made us used to paintings and drawings rather than photos. What does it represent ?

It is preferable to use original images and the cover artwork comes from the relief sculptures beneath the equestrian statue of King St Stephan of Hungary in Buda.

8/ A new year has passed, what were, on your mind, the three best albums of 2001 ?

It was the true beginning of the new millennium, a year of highs and lows personally and of lows generally. Three albums I like from 2001? Bjork, 'Vespertine', Nick Cave 'No More Shall We Part' and, sadly, I can't think of a third.

9/ Your motto for the new year ?

Kingdom Gone.

interview: Rob Nikada (January 2002)

Heimdallr 2002
Illustrations: Ostara
web: http://www.ostara.net
e-mail: leviathanjenn5@netscape.net