2004, New York, America
Interviewers: Yasha & Carol
How would you compare your most recent CD, Ariel to your earlier recordings…?
Argo, Alexandria and Ariel share themes of flight and alchemy… a seawitch becomes the Lady in the Fortress; Inanna becomes Alice, descending to the underworld. On Ariel we involved more musicians, including a string quartet. We also hired a new producer, Brett Taylor, for most of Ariel.
Your cd, the lyrics as well as the music, reflects your fascination with birds…?
Australian birds, on the goldfields where I was raised, were so dramatic. Other wildlife was quieter: a kangaroo grazing, a koala swaying, a wombat ambling. What we heard were plovers at sunset, warbling magpies and the explosive laughter of kookaburras. Now we live near coastal mountains, home of the fairy wren. Birds remind me of childhood freedom, time and space to dream.
Your first recording was done at age ten. How did that come about?
I was selected for a program to have my music recorded and analyzed. It feels foolish to discuss… Have you ever met a mum who hasn’t felt her child is a prodigy? In the fame cult it would be more original to say I was a dud of a kid!
What made you want to start playing the mandolin?
It looks and feels like a fairy guitar (though tuned like a violin) and it’s light to carry.
You’ve done quite a number of festivals. What do you enjoy about performing at them and do you prefer them to playing in smaller more intimate environments?
Only regular festival I do (as at 2004) is the Royal Melbourne Show, where I roam with clowns and puppeteers, improvise with a statue-man or hug a walking sunflower. There’s circus boy, carrying my mandolin in exchange for moonstones, with the grubbiest feet and sharpest eyes, knowing every ride… there are ad-lib sprees… a ditty, a rhyme… I’ll sprinkle stars, ask “anyone for a story?”, spread a mat; a child crawls into my lap; I was tinkling on mandolin when up loomed two poles: the striped trousers of a stilt-walker! He turned my tambourine into a hoop for his juggling…
The art work in your cd is beautiful. What artists are you drawn to or influenced by?
Karan Wicks… is influenced by Frida Kahlo, Lewis Carroll and surrealism. She also designed our motif, Yggdrasill. The blue faerie is by Sabine-Adelaide… her designs are exquisite. Painters I like? Redon, Chagall, Boecklin, de Chirico, Moreau, Rackham, Millais, Paton, Simmons, Fitzgerald; Huskisson’s ‘Come Unto these Yellow Sands’ (from The Tempest); Spirit of Night by Grimshaw…
Are there any in particular fairy tales that have influenced your writing?
Mermaid tales (Undine, Melusina), Faerietales of Wilde, Grimm, Anderson, World Tales retold by Idries Shah, stories by Calvino, Hesse, Dunsany, Celtic faerielore collected by Katharine Briggs…
Your music is nature. How do you view nature?
Fickle, wild, rugged, challenging, dangerous, full of contradiction… Australian landscape and conditions are more harsh than those of America or Europe. I like these words from The Dream of the Earth: “primordial particles are already radiant with intelligibility and… unfathomable mystery”.