Juillet 2002, Trimestriel 15, Belgium
Interviewers: Julie Boitte & Frédéric Cotton for www.lefantastique.net
Most of your songs are based on tales or legends. Can you tell us how you became interested in fairies and fairy-related music?
It is natural for children to imagine spirits in trees, rocks, fire, air and water… I grew up where The Dreaming existed for over 50,000 years. This mingled with the Druidic animism of my ancestors. Music (can) express a sense of being enchanted by life.
As can be seen in Argo and Alexandria (with the song ‘The Last Centaur’ or the adaptation of a Cavafy’s poem), you are interested in Greek mythology. Do you have other favorite mythological areas?
The Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent to the underworld means a lot to me. I was excited to learn that Inanna and her sister Ereshkigal, Queen of Hell, were sometimes seen as the one deity. So in dying to her sister, the goddess got in touch with her own darkness and was renewed.
Since you were a child, you have been interested in the Aboriginal Dreaming. Does it have similarities with other mythologies or is it unique?
The Rainbow Serpent, which has many names (Borlung or Kunmanngur) shares characteristics with dragons, serpents or snakes in other mythologies, in connection with fertility; but does not seem so sinister as European dragons like the Lambton Worm… Some tribes have told of the mimi, gowowa, wahwee, dulagarl or yowie, that remind me of creatures in Celtic folklore.
What did you love about Shakespeare’s Ariel character, so much that you wanted to write a song about it?
It was the language that captivated me…
The Black Bird is a recurrent theme in your lyrics. Can you tell us more about him?
He is the vagabond who waits by the door, the messenger of song, the thief who pecks noses off nursery rhyme maids, the immigrant, the lover who steals a woman’s soul: “Come blackbird and take my soul away”: the word “Come” opens the album…
You like Alice in Wonderland as reflected by several songs on Ariel. Does it come from your childhood or are you making an adult interpretation?
Both. As a child I loved the Mad Hatter, the sardonic Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, the Mock Turtle and the dance of The Lobster Quadrille. Later I came to appreciate the puns and social satire. My song ‘Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers’ hints at the music industry with a pun on jam and tarts: if musicians are jamming, what is the Marmalade Parade?
Do you also like traditional tales such as those written by the Grimm brothers or others (Andersen, Hoffmann)?
Yes, my favourite tale by the Grimm brothers is Rapunzel. And I do love Andersen’s tales: the poignant humanity of The Steadfast Tin Soldier or The Ugly Duckling; the witty satire of The Emperor’s New Clothes or the mystery of The Tinderbox. As for Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter, I remember laughing at The Story of Cruel Friedrick.
Apart from your art, you are involved in the stand for asylum seekers in Australia. How is the fight going?
Protests and riots continue, detainees have tried to escape – some then had to face the desert without water…
Do you know Claire Nahmad’s Fairy Spells, a book telling how to meet fairies?
I have long loved the art chosen for her book-cover: Grimshaw’s painting Spirit of the Night.
Finally, could you tell us one of your favorite tales?
A Sufi tale, from The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nazrudin by Idries Shah and retold by me, especially for you and your son, Ian:
“Wake up Nazrudin! You must get out of bed!”
“Why, father?” yawned the boy.
“Early rising is a good habit. One morning on the road, I found a sack of gold! It was not there the night before…”
“Well then” replied this son, “It isn’t lucky for everyone to rise early. The person who lost the gold must have been up before you.”