This interview was conducted by Troy Southgate in the Winter of 2001
Q1: What kind of social background do you come from?
RL: I was born in 1971 in Johannesburg, South Africa to a non-practicing Jewish family. We left that country in 1984, leaving township riots for the race riots of urban Britain! I went to school in central London (Notting Hill to be precise) and remained in the UK for 5 years before joining my family in Adelaide, South Australia (from one SA to another you could say!) It was there that I met Timothy Jenn and, by some wyrd coincidence, Douglas Pearce, who just happened to be living a few miles away from us. Thus was our destiny entangled. After seven years in Australia, Tim and I relocated to Europe to pursue the development of Strength Through Joy, and now Ostara. Thus have we come almost full circle.
Q2: Who were your earliest musical influences, and do you feel that this has had any effect on your gravitation towards music as a form of expression?
RL: You could say I completely fell into music by accident. Timothy Jenn was in a gothic band in Dublin and had some experience musically but all I had was a capable singing voice. I always enjoyed music and discovered Death in June in 1987 (the album ‘Brown Book’) which completely changed my perspective on music as an aesthetic and spiritual medium. Before that, we were both into a number of styles, including metal, punk, gothic and industrial: groups like Swans, Christian Death, Bauhaus, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds etc
Q3: Many people compared your previous incarnation – Strength Through Joy – with Death In June, and it’s undoubtedly the case that Douglas Pearce was something of an inspiration, but has Ostara now taken things in an altogether different direction?
RL: Yes. I think we found our own path with Ostara, integrating many of the cardinal aspects of our main influences, DIJ being the most significant one. T.S. Elliot said that a young poet imitates while an older poet steals. I am not sure if we have become proficient thieves yet but the element of ‘imitation’ has certainly been surpassed. When I listen to STJ now I hear an inferior Ostara more than anything else, so there was always something original therein to begin with.
Q4: Your lyrics encompass a wide range of cultural, historical, theological, artistic and political themes, most of which seem to encapsulate the vision of a sacred European Imperium. How far has this been influenced by the work of the Sicilian philosopher, Julius Evola?
RL: I think the themes you mention are central to the vision of Ostara. I felt I had ‘read’ Evola long before I actually picked up any of his books and consider his work to be essential reading. He is certainly not the only Magus from which Ostara draws inspiration and this is more an affinity based on shared ideas than a direct invocation of another’s work. (This is precisely where any true affinity lies). Evola just happened to be a vital link to many of the interests we had been cultivating for some time, an elucidation of ideas that was also taking place elsewhere among others of a similar persuasion. Generally speaking, the importance of the old world order as our spiritual heritage, the secret homeland of memory, the mythical and esoteric foundations of the world: all these things are intrinsic to the work of Ostara.
Q5: Have you any thoughts on globalisation?
RL: Globalisation has a long history but not so long in the general scheme of human evolution, stretching back only as far as 500 years. The conquest of the New World was the beginning of the global age, the extension of European or Western civilisation into a matrix that would eventually rebound on its founding states, particularly via the USA but also through the former Soviet Union. Both of these states were effectively new civilisations that sought to create a society based on revolutionary principles, whether liberal or socialist, ideals that were based on a Western, rationalistic perspective. Under their influence, the old world was either rejected or undermined as reactionary, anachronistic and spent. As every portion of the globe became either occupied territory or land coming under the sway of Western power (however partial), a pattern of global settlement was bound to emerge with ambivalent consequences, some creative, some destructive. The complexities arising from these forces of confrontation, assimilation and differentiation have not yet been resolved (unless you believe in the nebulous idea of the end of history) and what has emerged from this experience is an ideology or philosophy of globalism that seeks precisely this resolution by transforming an inevitable development into a positive vision of economic and cultural integration. Ultimately, however, this vision is forged largely from a Western perspective, an ideal that aims to justify the status quo by constructing a liberal ideal of tolerance and economic progress that embraces all the variances of culture within a single, ostensibly flexible framework. The anti-global movement has legitimately sought to expose some of the negative and complacent notions of a global system driven by monolithic economic and political constraints. Their alternative is also fundamentally a globalist outlook based on the eternally vague egalitarian principles that seek to resolve the inequality of the world by subverting the institutions of power that preserve the wealth of the dominant economic castes. The problem with this perspective is that it generally fails to account for the fact that every epoch is driven by an inequality of power and even if an equilibrium was ever achieved, it would soon slide back towards a new imbalance. To take stock of the problems of globalisation, we have to determine where in this context we stand, the region in which such an evaluation is made. While it seems impossible and indeed undesirable to return to an isolationist form of nationalism, the kind of petty conservatism of some Eurosceptics for example, it is important to see the world in terms of regions, each with their own centres of power and identity, however much these essential characteristics are affected and threatened by more dominant spheres of influence. Coca Cola, McDonalds and the internet may be creating a new kind of monoculture but, beneath every nation and region lies an undercurrent that remains true to its origins, however tenuously. To tackle globalism, we need to accept certain inevitable aspects of the global matrix. No culture exists in total isolation and correspondence between cultures is essential to the preservation of each. By focusing on the origins and extension of regions, the path to a revised form of global coexistence may be possible, as long as we realise that a single, global civilisation would never exist without competing regional forces. Even if the monstrosity of ‘space station earth’ comes into being under Russo-Sino-American auspices, each of these galactic sponsors would still be suspicious of each other’s motives. This means that each would gravitate towards its own regional bias. It is this regionalism that must be more deeply excavated in the pursuit of a new old world order.
Q6: Your first CD, ‘Secret Homeland’, was inspired by Claus von Stauffenberg’s July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and save Germany from impending disaster. But does this episode have a spiritual, as well as a political, significance?
RL: Yes it does. Stauffenberg came from an aristocratic family that went back to the court of the Hohenstaufen. He and his brothers were the spiritual disciples of Stefan George whose stern and elitist neo-Romantic vision made a lasting impact on their final act of patriotic treason. Stauffenberg, like Hitler, was an instrument of Providence, a true warrior in whom the desecrated spirit of Germany and Europe was embodied. When you see the radical contrast between the striking figure of Stauffenberg and the diabolical charisma of Hitler, you realise that their confrontation was something eschatological.
Q7: Would it be fair to say that you admire certain aspects of early National-Socialism, or that had you lived through this period you would have supported the aspirations of Otto Strasser and the Black Front, for example, who were also bitterly opposed to Hitler?
RL: National Socialism was a more racialistic and primitivistic form of fascism that did have some principles that can’t be simply dismissed as evil or perverse. As a radical form of Nationalism it sought a deeper source of identity based on ‘blood and soil’ that unfortunately degenerated into biological determinism and mass murder. It is easy to believe that there was something inevitable in the direction that NS took given that certain ideas were fixed from the start but the final outcome was never predetermined. The elimination of Strasser among others proved that there were different currents in the movement that did not accept Hitler’s vision of a German empire stretching into the East at the expense of millions. But Nazism was a movement that was inherently hostile to Soviet Communism and Hitler’s popular support stemmed largely from the fear that Communism provoked in the minds of the conservative middle classes and the bureaucratic, business and military establishment. The real significance of NS is that it was a movement born out of the catastrophe of the Great War in which the comradeship and suffering at the front changed the way in which the nation as a whole was perceived, dissolving many of the absolute distinctions between class that had pervaded the old structures of society. It was in this ‘socialism’ that the spirit of the front crystallised into a political orientation that ultimately degenerated in the madness of the second great war and in which any potential for national renewal was strangled by Hitler’s fanatical mission for a racially exclusive German Empire. Naturally if I was a racially defined Jew in Nazi Germany I would be in a bit of a dilemma!
Q8: During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the German writers Ernst Junger and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck supported an alliance with Russia in the belief that she had a vital role to play in the defence of European civilisation. With the recent demise of the Soviet empire, do you feel that Russia has any significant role to play in Europe today?
RL: It depends on which manifestation of the Russian soul we are considering. Any alliance with the murderous Stalinist regime does not seem particularly inspirational, at least not in hindsight. I am more inclined to sympathise with the White Russian resistance than the Bolsheviks, even if the latter could have been lead by a more ‘enlightened’ despot like Trotsky. The red dye had been cast long before Stalin took the reins. I agree that Russia has a vital role to play in Europe as a great European nation with roots in both the West and the East, the staggering giant without which Europe would not be complete. It is unfortunate that this great Slavic nation had to be the instrument of so much oppression but the national reawakening of the central and eastern European nations since the fall of the Soviet empire is a phenomenon that very much includes the destiny of Russia as well, with one very important difference: Russia’s westward glance will always be complimented by an Eastern gaze.
Q9: Tell us about your interest in the neo-Romantic poet, Stefan George.
RL: Essentially this developed from my interest in Stauffenberg and not vice versa. George was a great poet but not one I have read exhaustively. He was one of those spiritual heirs of Goethe and Nietzsche who understood the dilemma of the poet in the modern world. Like Holderlin, he realised that the seer was often an exile and it was in that state of exile that a lonely court of nobility could still be cultivated, a kind of grand, heroic pessimism raised out of the darkness of the world.
Q10: Is there anyone in the present century who represents the soul of the nation?
RL: Perhaps we should rephrase the question: where is the soul of the nation today? Gone underground like the souls of those who may still represent it in some uprooted form. But the thread between a nation and its soul is now so obscure that it is better to remain a closet subterranean than to try and re-cultivate the desert above. One day perhaps, these roots will rise to the surface again.
Q11: You have a keen interest in history, not simply from an academic perspective, but also because you appear to look at things in a more cosmological – even Spenglerian – sense. Given that one of your songs is entitled ‘Nostalgia For The Future’, precisely how do you see the future of humanity? Does the song reflect an optimistic attitude, or is imminent world chaos truly a redemption of fire in which it is possible to find an ultimate peace and tranquillity?
RL: Taking the song, ‘Nostalgia for the Future’ as a reference, I would say that we need both nostalgia and futurism for a complete vision of the world, it past and its destiny. We need a nostalgia FOR the future as a hermeneutics of memory, a memory that is also a projection into the unknown. The contemporary world can be described as chaordic, a mixture of order and chaos with no real centre, only the ostensible autonomy of a self upon which the liberal conception of freedom is based. But this is an inadequate projection of what Isaiah Berlin called ‘negative freedom’, a necessary basis for liberty but not a consummate vision of the nexus between self and world. Western democracy has shied away from the opposite polarity of positive freedom having associated the latter with the origins of totalitarianism, the attempt to organise and determine freedom from above. We now reside at the extreme end of negative freedom which presents many opportunities to the individual while, at the same time, permitting the freedom of irresponsibility. The result is a society that extols liberty but begets social decay. To some extent, all civilisations have harboured these forces but traditional societies were defined by the sacred centre upon which they were founded, the axis upon which all else turned, an order to which every member of the hierarchy was bound. This too had its limitations but there was certainly more to it than just authoritarianism and economic constraint. The grandeur of past civilisations may be impossible to revive today, being largely superfluous in a purely secular and functionalistic world, but the heritage from which all culture derives remains an important link to that past, not simply as a dead memorial for a museum but as a living thread that bears the self towards something higher, a transcendent identity that is ultimately immortal. This thread of continuity has been broken and the temples of memory are dissolving even as the empirical knowledge of the past increases exponentially. But we cannot pray among the ruins: the holy fire of purification must recreate the foundations of faith, a faith no longer in God but in the divine order that lies behind the chaos of the world. I don’t think there has ever been a universal state of peace and tranquillity. It is a state to which we can aspire, like the Buddhist state of Nirvana, but without the samsaric recurrence of strife in the world this state of bliss would be inconceivable. Chaos and order are two sides of the same mirror of being. The goal is to transform the downward march of time into an upward spiral, the alchemical inversion that requires the heaviest burden for its final consummation.
Q12: Your lyrics betray a strong interest in legends and archetypes – particularly via the themes of Norse and Greek mythology, Atlantis, fallen angels, Hollow Earth, and solar paganism – but how would you summarise your spiritual outlook in a very general sense?
RL: I don’t want to limit myself to any specific definition as I don’t believe that anyone can truly know exactly what makes them tick except in an intuitive sense. I would say that the path I have chosen is a gnostic one, gnosis being a higher form of knowing, a divine wisdom that is often only grasped fleetingly.
Q13: I know from previous interviews that you both enjoy and recognise the vast possibilities that can be achieved through film, so will OSTARA be employing this medium at any time in the future?
RL: We would love to do a video for one of our songs but miming is out of the question! We have used some visual media in our live performance and I hope we can develop this more thoroughly. I love cinema, especially the type of film that goes beyond the purely representational or fantastical. Films like Santa Sangre, Holy Mountain, Fight Club and Taxi Driver to name just a few have this visionary, often magickal quality.
Q14: Finally, in 2002 you plan to release the ‘Kingdom Gone’ CD for the German label, Eis&Licht. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from this second musical offering and, if necessary, whether it differs in either style or content to ‘Secret Homeland’?
RL: Something more extreme for sure with more experimental elements and a strong blend of martial and esoteric themes. A more virile album than ‘Secret Homeland’. After all, we are getting older….