SONIC MASS, for many, is one of the most anticipated anarcho/punk/crust releases ever. AMEBIX transcends what a band can stand for and it could be said that they have impacted many a listener on spiritual level as well .
Their music and attitude ask you to look inside, in your being and reject the illusion that wraps itself around us each day. AMEBIX' followers get it, those unwilling or unable to push their boundaries will never get it. And sometimes it just takes a little while for people to catch on and open themselves to what is truly important in life and beyond.
AMEBIX has always had a sense of mystery about them and that hasn't changed as you will discover in this interview that maybe opens as many new questions as it does answer current or pending ones. ThrashHead was honored to have this chance to catch up with Rob 'The Baron' Miller. When we got the okay to do the interview we knew that our very own Val Landrum was the best one suited for such a task. Here is Val's conversation with the Baron. -Josh Mosh
ThrashHead: If I understand it correctly, you have not been particularly satisfied with the production on your past recordings. Have you finally created a work that sounds the way you wanted? Where was the recording done? How were you able to achieve the sound you wanted?
The Baron: That's true, there was always this idea that we wanted to capture a lot more depth in the recordings. I think that the limited budget and also the pre disposition of particular studios worked against us. "Some people" considered "Rock" guitar to be a macho and misogynistic sound at that time and were instrumental in watering down a lot of the Spiderleg releases. Arise and Monolith were better for us, but without any real technical ability and little time we had to settle for what we had. I can well understand peoples attachment to the original mixes however, but we had something different in mind at the time. Sonic Mass is the album for me; focused and powerful. Recorded in three different places over two years.
ThrashHead: Can you tell us what new perspective and ideas Roy has brought to the table? How did you initially meet?
The Baron: Roy has brought a whole gamut of skills to this table, as a producer, engineer, writer, keyboard and of course drummer. I think that he had an intuitive understanding of what we wanted to achieve, and an uncanny ability to bring that out in the new material, plus we all clicked pretty much straight away, much like finding a lost brother after all these years. Roy was a friend of Alicia from 13, and she put us in touch initially with the idea of re-visiting some songs for the conclusion of the RISEN DVD project. Everything really stayed open after that and we have been walking that path ever since.
ThrashHead: Are you enjoying working on AMEBIX again? Has your reception been what you expected? Be positive, follow your own true will, manifest your own destiny and rise above your trials.or...drive your enemies before you...,hear the lamentation of their women... -The Baron
The Baron: Yes, absolutely. This experience has been quite amazing, for three years we have looked for small windows of opportunity and leaped at them. It has not been easy at all, but it has been a full journey, including splitting with our previous record companies and setting off on our own. Lots of hard work and learning. Touring has been dramatically different, people come to see the band now and they know the songs, they create the atmosphere. At times it has felt like a great celebration.
ThrashHead: Are you able to balance your personal life and the band life? Have the last couple of years brought about a change to your home life? A change to your work as a sword smith?
The Baron: I am learning to balance things better now. I have three jobs that I work at every day now, but I try and cover them without getting stressed. When I have come home after touring I realize again how peaceful my home life is, it's a great Sanctuary. My sword smith work is taking a bit of a back seat whilst we prepare for the album release, but its no trouble. Most of my customers are waiting for a year or so anyway, so a month or so either side is fine.
ThrashHead: What is it like to work with your brother? Does being brothers make it harder to work together? Easier? Tell us about working with Chris over the years.
The Baron: A pain in the fucking ass J, but that's why it works in one sense. As brothers we have a very psychic connection when it comes to the music and the things were are manifesting. That doesn't make it easier to work together, but it does create a dynamic that helps. He is a great guy.
ThrashHead: I know that you applaud bravery and the taking of risk; do you feel that you took a lot of risk with this LP?
The Baron: Strangely enough no, I don't think that at all. Its very weird to hear peoples reactions to this when all I hear is the same AMEBIX naturally mining the same vein. I have had people saying how contemporary it sounds, but I have no point of reference. I have not listened to much new music for over 20 years. This is just what was there, albeit with Roy steering and giving shape to things overall.
ThrashHead: Tell me about the songwriting process for this LP. How did these songs come about? There seems to be a lot of experimentation with unusual instruments, sounds and arrangements that hint at foreign cultures. What made you incorporate those elements into the production?
The Baron: When I got in touch with Roy initially it was because he had been doing some film scoring and he was obviously interested in atmospherics, which has always been a strong point in AMEBIX' material. We have a lot of different sounds going on from Hurdy Gurdy through Dumbek, Egyptian tambourine and sword steel on shields. Its all a part of the narrative. Songs have kind of arrived when they were ready to. I would write on a little BR4 and send mp3s to the other guys, likewise Roy and Stig, so we would exchange ideas initially and then re construct them in the studio. Some of the songs are as demo-ed , others are pulled down and re written, something we had no idea of back in the day.
ThrashHead: Tell me a little about the mythology that is alluded to in SONIC MASS. If the Saxon ghosts of Glebe are present in your earlier works, has the Scottish isle of Skye worked its way into your songs?
The Baron: Yes, Skye and also England and the connection with the earth. There are a few themes that are touched on, from the alchemical through to the Archetypal, Gnostic and Neo Platonic. I think we have tried to bring together a cohesive journey through this album, hence no gaps. It is a process that the listener needs to engage with.
ThrashHead: Can you expand on the thematic contents of SONIC MASS? Can you tell us a little about how Gnosticism, Alchemy and the Neo-Platonism influence your work? No Gods, No Masters, because that already exists within each of us? (My mother is a Gnostic scholar and I find many aspects of Gnosticism fascinating and applicable.)
The Baron: When I left Bath 20 years ago I spent a lot of time in study as well as walking all over the outer and inner Hebrides, it was a time of reflection and learning. I found a lot of intriguing thought in many traditions, the Gnostic idea of the Demiurge really fitted into the idea of No Gods No Masters to me, as this had never been a statement against a wider understanding of the Universe, but much more about the control Gods: War, Religion, Science, Fear. The Emerald Tablet gives us the understanding of 'as above, so below' which intimates that within all of us is the same universe, on a macrocosmic and microcosmic scale. We are the One. A lot of these original self empowering ideas were labeled as Heresies from the Albigensians/Cathars to Giordano Bruno, because they gave the power to people and took it out of the control of Science and Religion. This has always been the struggle. In this time we face disinformation and media lies, government cover ups and conspiracies on a massive scale. All with the same goal in mind: to separate us from our true nature. It seems that as a race we stopped thinking independently some time ago, so these are some of the last reference points for big ideas.
ThrashHead: What does SONIC MASS mean to you? What is its message?
The Baron: V.I.T.R.I.O.L It is a psychological and metaphysical journey. I don't know if people will understand that.
ThrashHead: You mention V.I.T.R.I.O.L. which has an alchemical connection to the Philosophers Stone. "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem," "Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone." I take this to mean that you have returned from a period of "reflection" as a transformed person. What helped you on this path?
The Baron: Journey to the centre of the earth and through rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone. Yes, the old alchemical formula for engaging with the work and allowing ourselves to observe the process of change on a psychological level through your personal journey. I think we have mirrored that journey to a lesser degree in this musical work. Dissolution, nigredo, the alchemical marriage can all be found. What intrigued me about Alchemy was that Carl Jung discovered it late in his life. Like a lot of people he had dismissed it as an eccentricity of the medieval mind, but then started to notice some of his 'Archetypes' within it, eventually realizing that these people had been talking about a psychological transformation as well as the obvious physical enquiry. The one path leading to psychology and the other being science. He spent the remaining years of his life in study of Alchemy. The Mysterium Conjunctionis is a major work, but does resolve some of the questions.
ThrashHead: Tell me about the cover art. Who came up with the monolith/symbol? What does it represent for you?
The Baron: That arrived in Deryshire, it just took us a little time to find a way to represent it. I am sorry, but I cant be more specific than this in this instance.
ThrashHead: Can you tell us about parting ways with Profane Existence? What was the issue with distribution that couldn't be resolved?
The Baron: I am sorry, but I don't like to go into details about these things. For AMEBIX it was a logical and positive move to initiate our own label after all these years.
ThrashHead: What is next for AMEBIX? Will there be more touring? Other releases? A memoir?
The Baron: Well, I would like to get back out and play again, but it may not be until next summer. We also have some material left over from Sonic Mass and I think it seems likely that we will record again if we can. There's been a bit of a build up of ideas over the last 24 years!
ThrashHead: I understand that you guys don't really look back on the early 80's with a lot of nostalgia because times were very chaotic and hard, especially in Bristol, but do you have any memories, maybe of your time in Bath, that showed you that there might be some hope out of all the darkness and pain?
The Baron: Bath for me was a great place, loved living in that area. I think things really changed when we moved to Radstock. Arise came together there. Lots more positive stuff, getting into motorcycles again and the country. My relationship at that time was a bit ropey but overall better days. Bristol to me was not a fun time.
ThrashHead: In your opinion, what is it about AMEBIX that has been so enduring for so many people?
The Baron: Ah,I don't know, but what I do respect is that this band has been taken deep into peoples lives and that is a very humbling thing to know. If we can offer some hope and meaning to other people in this lifetime then I think we are very fortunate.
ThrashHead: What advice would you give to a kid growing up and seeking answers in our ever decaying world?
The Baron: Be positive, follow your own true will, manifest your own destiny and rise above your trials.or...drive your enemies before you...,hear the lamentation of their women...