Swedish magazine interview
1.What sort of horror movies do you prefer, and what types do you dislike?
I have always enjoyed the early black and white horror films of the 1930s – the classic Universal horror films staring Karloff, Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jnr which were directed by James Whale and Erle C. Kenton and also the films of Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur made as B movies for RKO in the 1940s. These directors had small budgets but made up for it with a distinctive, highly personal style and they used shadows to suggest unseen horrors which left more to the viewer’s imagination. I love the heightened sense of reality they created with their twisted sets and foreshortened perspective borrowed from the German expressionists which helped create a fanciful, dreamlike quality. But I also like Hammer films and the Roger Corman Poe series for their comic book colours and fairy tale settings.
The only horror movies I don’t like are those which are gory, graphic and explicit. Watching them is like being a witness at a traffic accident or an surgical operation. There’s no imagination in those at all.
2. How did your interest in horror fiction start?
I began with the science fiction fantasies of H.G.Wells (author of ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Time Machine’) when I was about 9 years old. I was initially attracted by the period setting – suburban England during the Edwardian era – an era of quiet domesticity and good manners in to which would burst fantastic creatures or men with a vision who would find themselves confronting the unknown or experiencing alternate realities. But it was also the erudite quality of the language Wells used and the subtle touches of whimsical humour which made me feel that I was entering a world in which I could escape the mundane reality into which I had been born. After that I felt compelled to read the cornerstones of horror fiction ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ but both were very heavy going. I still prefer writers with a lighter touch to those like Lovecraft who shovel on the horror but who leave little sense of wonder.
3. A writer I personally often come to think of when listening to your songs is M.R. James. Do you appreciate his stories?
I didn’t discover M.R. James until I was in my 20’s. I still find his stories very unsettling. Not the sort of thing I’d read before bed! He is a master of subtly and atmosphere when evoking the musty surroundings of old country churches and academic environments inhabited by unquiet spirits and again, like Wells, the language he uses is highly evocative and suggestive of the period. It has an authenticity which modern writers who try to recreate that era don’t appear to possess.
4. When asked about favourite authors, you usually mention H.G. Wells, E.A. Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. What other writers do you like?
I have recently discovered a small clique of modern writers who set intriguing crime mysteries in a historical setting - Erik Larson ‘The Devil In The White City’, Charles Palliser ‘The Unburied’, Caleb Carr ‘The Alienist’, Jane Jakeman ‘In The Kingdom of Mists’ and Nicholas Griffin ‘The House of Sight And Shadow’.
5. What is it you like about writers such as Wells, Poe and Lovecraft?
I think I’ve already answered that – their easy facility with language (although Lovecraft is verbose and often strains for effects) and their subtly (though again, Lovecraft doesn’t qualify in that department). I have a problem with Lovecraft, as you can tell. I like the idea of Lovecraft, his world and the idea that a thin veil separates our physical world from an alternate reality, but he lays it on too thick for my taste. He is contrived and overwrought. I can only read him in small doses. I also find his tendency to anti-climax very frustrating. After a hundred pages of build-up he will frequently fail to deliver anything of substance, describing the eldritch creatures as ‘nameless, indescribable horrors’ and leaving readers like me feeling short-changed or cheated.
6. Do you write things in a similar vein yourself, besides your song lyrics?
The only fiction I have written are two novels – a light fantasy called ‘Castle Grimm’ and a mystical novel called ‘The Guru of Greenwich Village’ based on many of my own spiritual and psychic experiences for which I am seeking a publisher.
When I was a child the first things I created were short stories but once I discovered song writing at the age of 14 I incorporated my fantasies into the lyrics. I like to think of my songs as short stories set to music.
7. What would you say are the major themes running through your song lyrics?
Ordinary people becoming caught in extraordinary situations which prompts them to question the nature of reality and value the friends they have made. There is also a sense of longing for the past, of a more leisurely age and the yearning for a pastoral paradise. But having said that, I also indulge in exploring the dark side of human nature, although it is usually in the guise of a Music Hall villain or a cinematic bogeyman – the bodysnatcher, childcatcher or domesticated demon. I find it hard to play it too straight. I find it difficult to resist adding a twist of black humour when in fantasy mode.
8. Your song "Aleister Crowley" depicts a rather sad figure. What is your view on Crowley the man, the occultist and the writer?
Someone once described Crowley as a ‘nasty little boy who never grew up’ and I think that’s a fair description. As someone who has written about psychic and spiritual matters a great deal and experienced altered states of consciousness, healing and past life recall among other things I know that much of Crowley’s self-indulgent philosophy is superficial sensationalism. What knowledge he had was corrupted by his ego and as anyone who has been on the spiritual path knows you severely limit your development if you are not able to surrender your ego to the Higher Self. He did not exhibit the degree of self-awareness and compassion which a true enlightened human being would have if they were an adept or master. Crowley, in my opinion, was a charlatan and his philosophy is a dangerous, self-indulgent muddle of half understood ideas. ‘Pathetic’ is the one word I would use to describe him.
9. On the same album, there is a song about Luther with a definite critical edge. What is your view on Christianity?
The core teachings of Christianity – compassion, non-violence and seeking ‘the kingdom within’ are admirable and are shared by all philosophies and religions. Unfortunately many people have corrupted these teachings for their own ends and set themselves up as mediators between man and the Divine which gives them power over those who do not understand that each of us is Divine in essence. Religion is a crutch (a support or moral code) which enlightened or mature people do not need because they have the answers within. Fundamentalists of all faiths go against the principles of religion as I understand it and so Christian revivalists like Luther in the song are actually acting as the anti-Christ because of their self-righteous zeal. That’s the irony of that song.
10. Is the song "The Worlds of Jonathan Waverly" inspired by a real person?
No. That was inspired by a 1960s film called ‘Quest For Love’ staring Joan Collins and Tom Bell. It was a dull film but the idea was intriguing – a man who exchanges lives with his other self in a parallel universe. It was from a short story by John Wyndham – another English fantasy writer in the Wells tradition and the author of ‘The Day of The Triffids’ and ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’.
11. You have written a couple of songs where illegal drugs are mentioned ("In the Opium Den" and "The Best Years of Our Lives"). Is this something you have personal experience with? What is you opinion on these types of drugs?
I don’t take and have never taken drugs. I don’t need to – I can attain altered states of consciousness the natural way through meditation and visualisation. But the main reason I haven’t used drugs is that I was always afraid of losing control. Imagination is a powerful vehicle for accessing other realities and you need to be in control of it, not allow it to control you.
12. You also have some vampire-themed songs ("Nosferatu", "Last coach to Borgo Pass"). What is it you find fascinating about the subject in question?
Again, gothic settings are romantic and the equivalent of fairy tales for adults. I find the ‘real world’ mundane and seek escapism.
13. Besides music, you have a career as a writer of mass-market books on new age and the occult. Was this something you took up when you stopped recording albums?
I have always been fascinated by mysticism and the occult – ever since I had out-of-body experiences as a child – but I also had a fear of what I might find ‘out there’ so I took to writing books on the subject in an effort to explore the unknown step-by-step. And the more I learnt and the more incredible the experiences that I had, the more confident I became and the less fearful I was. And that is what I try to do for the readers – to take the fear out of the unknown and help them to understand that the supernatural is an extension of our natural world and that psychic powers are also natural and not superhuman in any sense. We are limiting our potential if we restrict our senses to the physical world alone.
14. On your British web site you are described as a "spiritual counsellor". Exactly what does this entail?
‘I give personal readings using my Kabbalah cards – a form of Tarot cards that I have created – which blends my psychic insights with psychological principles to give a fuller profile of the person than you would get with conventional tarot cards.’
15. Given that you have written a book called "New Age Living", would you describe yourself as a "new-age-person"?
No. I am now, sadly, a middle-age person. Seriously, I don’t like the term ‘New Age’ – that is a word used to describe a commercial fashion.
16. I know you have had mystical experiences of your own. Would you care to tell us a bit about this?
As I mentioned previously, it really started with out-of-body experiences when I was a child but when I was a teenager I saw a documentary on exorcism and it made me frightened of what I might find ‘out there’ so I stopped. When I was older I wanted to understand the significance of what I had experienced and so I eased my way back in by learning meditation and practising healing so that I would be on the side of the angels, so to speak. The more I learned, the less I feared.
In recent years I have had past life regression and recalled episodes from my past lives spontaneously (without having to undergo hypnotic regression). I have also experimented with Remote Viewing and psychometry (gaining psychic impressions from people by handling objects infused with their personal energy). I have described my own experiences in detail in ‘Investigating The Unexplained’.
17. Have these mystical experiences influenced your writing and song composing?
No. The themes in my songs are pure fantasy, apart from ‘Beyond The Realm of Sleep’ which was about out-of-body experiences, or astral projection to give it its technical name.
18. What are the "kabbalah cards" you have invented?
Kabbalah has a reputation for being archaic, impenetrable, infinitely complex and even deliberately obscure. I created the Kabbalah Cards in order to prove that it is both of practical use in everyday life and, in essence, divinely simple so that everyone, regardless of their background or belief can benefit from this ageless universal wisdom. By using the cards in spreads similar to those used in tarot readings anyone who wishes to can discover the underlying themes of their life and the means by which they can overcome difficulties and make the most of their opportunities.
19. In many ways, you seem to have lived a very atypical life for a rock musician. How come there has been so little sex, drugs and scandals surrounding Paul Roland - or is it just that we havenīt been given the full picture? What are some of the wilder memories from your years as a musician?
I’m actually very well behaved and always have been. Someone who knows me well once said that my only vice is to take an extra ginger biscuit with my cup of tea. Frankly, I’m lucky if the music magazines write about my music – they certainly wouldn’t be interested in my private life which is as reclusive and nocturnal as ‘Nosferatu’. Writing is a solitary occupation requiring a lot of self-discipline so I really live a very quiet life, writing, watching movies and telling stories to my children. So far I’ve managed to adapt child-friendly versions of ‘The bride of Frankenstein’, ‘Alien’ and ‘The House of Wax’. I haven’t been able to re-write ‘Psycho’ for a 6 and an 8 year old, but I’m working on it.
20. You have been described as something of a recluse. Is that a correct description, in your opinion?
Yes. I enjoy peace and quiet and being left alone to think and work. But I was always very sociable when I was a child and I love being with like-minded people, talking about films and music and literature and spiritual subjects whenever I get the chance – which is one of the reasons I like to play concerts. Its for the chance to meet interesting people.
21. You used to live in a place called "Roland Towers". What sort of a place was that?
A crumbling old ruin in Kent. Now I am the only crumbling old ruin in Kent!
22. Given the fact that you frequently employ horror themes in your lyrics, do you have nightmares often?
No, I never have nightmares and I think that is because I process any fears and anxieties while I am conscious by thinking and writing about enlightening spiritual experiences, so there is nothing suppressed in my unconscious which can erupt at night. My psychic experiences have dispelled any fears I might have had of the unknown so horror movies and fiction are purely harmless fantasy for me.
23. Do you have any phobias?
I used to have a couple but I cured myself using a form of hypnotherapy. Usually a phobia is symptomatic of a deeper fear or anxiety and when you enter a relaxed meditative state you will find that it is not the thing itself that you feared, but something which that object symbolises. So, for example, you may suffer from arachnophobia (fear of spiders) but the spider is only a convenient socially acceptable symbol of a deeper fear and that might be a fear of the unknown or of a predatory or domineering female.
24. What were you like in school?
Younger. I was also a bit of an outsider because I refused to join in the daily prayers and I had a habit of practising astral projection and magic after lessons. I was always trying to levitate or move objects by mind control and never quite managed it. Although I did have out-of-body experiences. I think the other kids thought I was a bit odd but I wasn’t anti-social – I just didn’t like belonging to the mass, the mob. Some of the less able kids also resented my facility in English and the fact that I could actually read a book without pictures! But I wasn’t academically inclined. I was hopeless at most subjects, particularly maths and music which I just couldn’t understand. Music was taught as if it was a branch of mechanical engineering and I still don’t understand what all the little dots mean. I wasn’t bad at biology though. The human body was a miracle to me. At one point I wanted to be a surgeon, or a bodysnatcher, but I couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
25. Do you collect anything?