[Interview by Synthema]
The sometimes solo, sometimes collaborative project of Jason Thompkins, Harvest Rain have released a wealth of albums over the years. Sometimes describes as neofolk, even a casual listen will reveal that such a label is inadequate to describe the music he makes. Elements of deathrock, darkwave and distortion laden noise rock like Jesus and Mary Chain also have had their influence on Harvest Rain’s sound. Recently, Harvest Rain’s back catalogue has been made available on bandcamp, along with the previously unreleased October Chase and The Cloven Shovel ep’s. This event seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask Jason a load of questions about music, ritual, drugs, magic, the dead and all that exciting stuff.
Much of your music seems to be inspired by an occult perspective. Elements of magic, religion and rituals always seem to be present in some way. Considering that, are any of your songs actual spells? Are there any that you created with some kind of magical intent?
Early on I knew that words, by definition, can be spells. Mantras. Some of my songs are in fact intentional directed spells. Corpse Candle comes to mind. Arise and Awake was a spell I did for the seeding of Harvest Rain with deer antlers and corn sheaves under the light of the dawning Autumn morning. I think most people know that my song The Butterfly and Morningstar, which is a newer version of My Butterfly, is a genuine Invocation to the Beloved and Lucifer, the Morning Star invoked and ritually recited by Miguel Serrano himself. It is a call to Her. I had been writing to him and he said to me that it was his wish for me to find my Medea or Her to find me. Words are power. From the on-set of human civilization I would think that even Love Songs are spells. They are to me. If I am playing a lady a love song then I am intentionally trying to woe her to me. Magic is not hocus pocus. Magic has a genuine scientific method to it. Throughout Blood Hymns, on various songs, where it may sound like I’m just singing a back vocal, I am in fact chanting runes. The opening track Pillars of Ice is an old Armanen invocation. This album was the peak of my interest in Armanism. Deities such as Lucifer as the bringer of light occupied me. Light in the sense of knowledge or gnosis and light in the spectral otherworldly sense. Venus, the feminine aspect of beauty and seduction. I have always belonged to Venus, Ishtar, Isis or Freyja. Abraxas, the Gnostic deity of unifying polar opposites, good and evil, day and night, him and her, chthonic and Uranian, telluric and Olympian. In this regard Will-o’-The-Wisp comes to mind. The song is about traveling up the river to see and speak with the wise lady of the woods. The wise witch who lives among the shimmering will-o-the-wisp. So I invoked Raidho and Isa. Frozen Light has a sample of me chanting an invocation in the background. Once again this is an incantation to the Muse, the Beloved. Both versions from Night Chorus and Blood Hymns. You can hear the mumbling and not make out the words. That is directed magic with intent. There are too many to mention here.
One of the songs that stands out in regards to songs as spells is “Corpse Candle.” Was this in fact created as such?
Corpse Candle is a song I did which is probably the most obvious to my listeners as a magical formulae put into action. I believe that when something is either said or written down then it is collected in the Akashic records of the Multiverse. That song has to do with an ex girlfriend whom betrayed me. So I literally made a corpse candle and left it burning on her doorsteps. It had various herbs, oils and things carved into the candle. On that particular night I made the candle I also recorded the song before driving to where she was staying and placing the candle on the doorsteps. So that was my way of getting inside her head. The song is a literal true story. It’s about getting into someones head. I often invoke the idea of windows in my music. This is my fascination with eyes. Windows are like eyes. Besides the obvious theme of the song one can probably make out me whispering certain runes in between vocal takes. This was not some death ritual. It was me getting into someones head to make sure they thought long and hard about what they did.
Another of the more important things to you as concerns making music seems to be the element of ritual, of certain special conditions under which songs were recorded. Could you discuss this a bit in relation to songs or even albums in particular that you feel really capture and express what that means to you?
The music of Harvest Rain was often recorded in genuine ritualistic environments. Blessed Frost, for example, was recorded during the pre-dawn hours of the South’s first frost of that year. I was looking out the window at it when I recorded it. Storm Watch was recorded during a Tornado watch. A bolt of lightning touched down and can be heard as an electrical click at the very end and beginning of the song. The Sleepy Old Man was recorded at my Grandfathers while he slept. On the spot. Unrehearsed. And when he woke I put the mic to his mouth and that is where that sample comes from. At the end of the album I did a ritual with antlers and corn sheaves. The little “seed to be to you from me, awake and arise”. Blood Hymns was an entire ritual that started on the Winter Solstice and went through the 12 days of Yule. This album was my own self journey and to the most northerly midnight and my initiation into a Circle within circles. To the legendary ancient Hyperborea of the Greeks. The place beyond the North Wind. Beyond the ice, cold and storm. Beyond Boreas, the God of the North Wind, of the Winter storm, of the ice and snow. Ultima Thule, most farthest north. I have tried to put my soul into what I do. I do not like plastic tupperware art. I need the real thing. Show me your soul and I’ll show you mine. Time is running out. October Chase, the E.P. and the song Raincloud with a Name were recorded with all my windows open, my front door open and a huge Autumnal storm that came rushing in that night. It’s all right there with the music. It isn’t just me in a studio. I am literally with nature when I record. I have even snuck into an old church and found an outlet to plug into and recorded music there on the altar.
How do You go about recording in the technical sense rather than the ritual? How do you begin the process of writing a song?
When I make music I have to be under the influence of the spirit. I may indulge in substance to get there or perhaps a storm will inspire me. I normally just start with a riff. I always described it as a skeleton that I keep adding flesh to. Eventually the music takes on a soul of it’s own and I simply become the mediator to whatever is being turned to substance. I hear music in my head and I also see pictures in front of me. I do my best to make these pictures into sounds and words.
You’ve been making music for a long time, in a variety of styles. What was it that made you want to begin making songs? Is music something that you’ve always been drawn to?
Music has always been with me since early childhood. I went to sleep at night with a little radio curled up to me. I also grew up in Church so I sang in choirs. I took drama class when I was young so I’ve always been drawn to expressing myself through art. A lot of my family are musicians. My own Grandmother who is in a wheelchair can play the guitar. The music seems to come from my maternal side. My Mom plays piano. My aunts, cousins, brother and everybody on that side of the family are musically inclined. In elementary school at the age of 7 or 8 I remember we’d have radios at recess and a group of us would dance. A lot of people may not know it but I love dancing. Not dancing in the sense of nightclubs, but moving my body and soul to sounds that move me emotionally. There is always a rhythm going on in my soul or in my head. In the 4th and 5th Grade I took Violin lessons. That was the only formal training I had. When I turned 13 my Grandfather bought me my first guitar. I had been a young teenage boy inspired by Jim Morrison and the Velvet Underground. That is when I really started writing songs. Songs that eventually came to be the little aura that surrounds Harvest Rain.
You were in other bands before forming Harvest Rain. What were those bands like, what kind of music was it, and what kind of impact has the music you made before Harvest Rain had on what you do now?
The early groups I started were in my young teenage years. Based around my love and fascination with groups such as The Misfits, Christian Death, Samhain, Cramps, Negative Approach, early Swans, Flipper and all the others. I live in a small town in South Carolina not too far from Myrtle Beach. So I went through various bands which played mostly a dark romantic, hardcore, angst ridden, melodic music. We liked noise and the idea of creating beautiful sounds with harsh brutal noise. I had already started writing lyrics that were always romantic in nature yet darkly tinged. Even then there was a complete fascination for the eternal feminine, Autumn, Winter, coldness, graves, night, dark southern fields, ghostly phenomena and so on. These were the days of building my identity as an individual and my own writing. This was also the time when experimentation with substance became involved. After almost a decade of that I gradually went into a more subtle acoustic song writing territory. Although the lyrical content and the over-all aura of what I was doing would permeate into Harvest Rain. My old band from my teenage years Shadowful, also known as The Humanoids, can be heard here: https://www.myspace.com/thehumanoids4
So why was it music that really grabbed you, that made you want to really be a part of it? What does music do for you, what does it give you? What do you want to do with and through music that makes You continue doing it?
I suppose music is the vehicle I naturally leaned towards to express myself. To exorcise my love and my demons. It just came so naturally. I was always musically inclined. I love the way a piece of wood can have breathe blown in it and then turn the emotions of mankind into various colors. The way a string on a guitar can be handled and picked to deliver the sounds of Love to a lady. It is just so beautiful. A lady can sing in the forest and that forest becomes serene. However I also write, I paint, I dabble, I make my own incense, oils, tinctures and witchy things. I grow herbs, flowerbeds and many other things. Everything eventually becomes a form of art. I prefer music because that is the vehicle in which I can do all these things the best. I paint pictures with songs. A song is not just a song to me. It has intentional meaning. Like a spell. Music is the harmonic resonance of various Gods and Devils.
Since music is the form of expression most important to you personally, there must have been musicians you’ve loved that have had an impact on what you do yourself. Who are some of the bands and artists that have inspired you over the years?
I’m still listening to the same albums I always listened to. Every now and then a new group or artist will make me ponder their genius. Anything that is just raw and real. I don’t care about a clean studio sound. I don’t care what brand name your guitar is. I know people, literally, who can move me more to tears with hitting Oak sticks together and singing than some idiot with a new 7, 000 dollar guitar. I’ve always loved The Misfits, early Christian Death and the more raw dark 80’s. Jesus and Mary Chain. The Misfits and Flipper were the first bands I discovered outside of Top 40. Then came Rozz Williams (Christian Death) and Michael Gira (Swans). Even their writings. Not just their music. The first decade or so of Death In June and Current 93 has an influence on me. But now everything is so pathetic. You have everyone claiming to be a Neofolk band. Didn’t you know you can record an album on your smart phone and put a cool runic character on it and be a neofolk hit wonder? The real underground is bleak. It’s not pretty. I like the music of the Tollund Men. Absolutely amazing music. Neal’s music is by far my current favorite music. For a year straight now I have been listening to Tollund Men just about everyday. A brilliant musician who does not have the money for nice stuff but he has created a whole genre of his own with his 2-track drugged-out recordings. There are so many great musicians. And in literature I belong to Novalis and the emergence of the German Romantics. In particular Blake and Rilke. Blake will always be the ghost I hang out with the most. The poet comes to achieve a magical realism. Being able to shape his/her destiny like an artist painting a picture. Blake’s “Poetic Genius”, Jung’s “Selbst”, etc.
Having been in bands for as long as you have been, you must have played with a lot of local musicians over the years. How important has that been to you and are there any that have impressed you especially, or inspired you in some way?
All my old friends have settled down with families and so forth. There was a time however that I got really lucky to meet some elderly black blues players at an old country store. I was so overwhelmed to watch these men play those old songs. I mean there they were, whiskey in the brown paper bag and all. They told me of the old Juke Joints. I remember them telling me that Juke Joints in the south were called Buckets of Blood. Samhain used to have a poster with that title on it. Basically they told me that it was called a bucket of blood because men were always fighting and dying in those old Juke Joints where they played the blues on the weekends. These were elderly men. The last of the last. I used to be quite obsessed with Robert Johnson and Son House so I was completely amazed. This was genuine culture. Not unlike my own folks playing old Scotts-Irish and Germanic gospel songs at church on the banjo and fiddle. I feel very proud to have grown up with this culture. I would buy these men liquor and we’d drink and play songs on into the evening. It was very inspiring.
You mentioned William Blake as an inspiration. So are there things aside from music that inspire you – books, authors, ideas that resonate with you and influence you and what you create?
Other things beside music are important to me too. I will always be a child of William Blake. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was my first real life-changing book. In my early teens I was inspired by Jim Morrison and this book found it’s way to me. To this day that book is still the one that inspires me the most. Not long after that I was introduced to the Gnostic deity Abraxas. The God that represents the emergence of light and darkness, good and evil. In the East, in India, they do not even think the same way westerners do. They have a god for everything and there is no sin as such. I believe the caste system is very beautiful and it is a natural process. In this regard some Hindus believe in the absorption back into the primordial Brahma. This is called Samadhi. However, this is the right hand path of the Saint/Priest as to the left-hand path of the witch or magician. The devouring of the ego into what the Sufi calls Fana. One can either be devoured or one can resurrect like Osiris after the dark night of the soul, after the ego is eaten. This is called Kaivalya. Solitude, Isolation, absolute complete union in seperation. To go beyond all Gods. Instead of killing the ego one transmutes it into a Supra-ego after it has been ripped and torn to pieces. It is the Individuation of Jung. The Selsbt. Christ. The Bodhisattva. The being who has attained supreme awakening and chooses either to come back as an enlightened soul to help mankind or decides to become immortal. There are two paths for the awakened soul. The deva-yana which is the path of the Gods or the pitra-yana which is the path of the ancestors and is the ever returning cycle of samsara and Maya. When I was 18 I studied Tibetan Buddhism and was fortunate to meet a Lama exiled here in South Carolina who taught me basic breathing and focus techniques. Eventually I found my way to the left-hand or moist path. I consider even this world to be a limit. Death is to be over-come. By unifying the perception of opposites one can achieve this. What the Egyptians call Sadhu. The Tibetans call Vajra or the Rainbow Body. The Gnostics call it the Glorious Body. Him and Her resurrected as one. No more he or she, only we. No more good or bad. No more night and day. Beyond it all.
Quite often, your songs either concern or mention an unnamed ‘her.’ Are you referring to a particular person, an idea, an ideal? What does that mean to you, in what way is that important to you?
The Her in my music is pretty much the deepest area of my inspiration. The driving force. Some might would call it Kundalini. The transmuting of sexual energy into divine Love. Every poet of any reverence whether male or female has always had a special other. The one that they truly gave their all to. I have always longed for my One, for my Her. To be beside me. The one who heals my wounds. The one who gives me poetry. She who puts the Muse into Muse-ic. Most of the incantations in my songs are a direct magical calling for this one. The one who can hear not just my songs being sung but can feel them in her soul. This has been my obsessive melody. This is what drives me. The physical manifestation of Autumn in the body of a girl who is mine to Love. Since the beginning of writing music I have always written about this her or she. Even in my earliest punk songs. The first song I ever wrote is called Her Midnight Cry. That song itself is about a girl who is quiet, pale, shy and climbs down a ladder at night to go play with her cats in her favorite graveyard, wears a crucifix, screams at the moon, and walks back home alone to climb back up the ladder to her room. I was 15 years old and this is the type of girl I dreamed of. It still is. So just about all my songs make mention of this her, this she.
Recently, you’ve made Harvest Rain’s entire catalog available on bandcamp. Among the previously released albums, there are a couple that have never been made officially available before. One of these albums is October Chase, which, is a bit different in sound from a lot of your other work. What was it you wanted to do musically with it, what was your inspiration for it? You also recorded this album entirely alone, whereas much of Harvest Rain has been done in collaboration with others. Was there a reason for that? And what role did the elements of ritual and the use of drugs play on this album?
Most of Harvest Rain has a bit of a dark psychedelic acoustic, experimental sound. I ventured into electric guitar, lots of reverb, distortion, feedback, noise and percussion with an E.P called October Chase. I was doing lots of Opium during the time and wanted to record a more drugged out upbeat album if you will. I was also very much in love with a girl who inspired the whole thing. The E.P. has the theme of a love affair with a ghost. This Her and She in the songs was something intangible to me so I equated it to a ghost. A beautiful female ghost who also wished she could reach out and touch me. But as much as we wanted to we could not get to each other at the time. Only haunting each other. It’s one of my favorite sessions. I was so completely inspired. I did not care about a clean sound. Just lots of noise, lots of Opium and lots of longing for this Ghostgirl. I would wait til late night, open the windows in the living room, open the door, light candles and just record. Playing all the instruments was also very inspiring. I consider this one of my best recordings. My soul can be felt in this E.P.
Another previously unreleased album now available on Harvest Rain’s bandcamp is The Cloven Shovel. Like October Chase, you recorded this without the participation of anyone else and it, too, is different from the majority of your other music in style and tone. What was the impetus for making this album, what does it describe and express for you?
The Cloven Shovel was my most intense and personal album. It was recorded in a very brief period and under extreme emotional outbursts. I would wait intentionally for these moments and record this E.P. In particular the lyrics and music of the songs were done on the spot without even writing them down or rehearsing them. I had a bad case of opiate addiction at the time. In fact it was at the height of my addiction. It is more aggressive and filled with angst than anything I have ever done. Lots of pounding echoed drum beats, swirling delayed feedback guitars mixed with hallucinatory ghost stories from a lot of childhood memories. True events which I put into song such as I Call Her Cloudgirl, Message in a Leaf, Shovel. I Call Her Cloudgirl is actually about addiction and what it does to others who have to be around the addict. There is an old Civil War cemetery in the woods behind my childhood home and I used to go hide out there. Me and my brother played out there. I dream about it a lot. Then during my mis-spent youth I still gravitated towards that place. Camping out and doing Solstice and Equinox rituals. If Harvest Rain are known for their ghost music then this is by far the most ghostly of albums. It’s about dead things, collapse, childhood hallways, autumn decay turned to silvery beauty and a narcotized night flight into the numbness of anesthesia.
It was quite a while back that you recorded both October Chase and Cloven Shovel, and only recently that you’ve made both available to people. Why did you decide to let people hear these two albums now?
I decided to release October Chase and The Cloven Shovel because enough time has lapsed for it to not be as personal and private as it was. Although they are still very personal albums I do not mind others hearing them now. They both were recorded in 2004. Also I have always tried to keep a certain aura around Harvest Rain and my personal indulgences were kept private. Now that I’m older I do not mind the rare fans of my music to have the chance to hear it all. And that’s what I appreciate. The fans of my music seem to have a certain quality about them that I relate too. From addicts to occultists to outright weirdos. I appreciate those who are able to transmute decay into beauty. Those willing to die for true love and for what is right. The outcast and the outsider. The few. I am simply not interested in quantity. I appreciate quality. I’m now working on another project called Antique Powdered Sleep which is melodic noise, distortion and reverb based guitars, drums and vocals. This gives me a chance to make sounds and colours of what I see as the collapse of modern society and turn those colours into a beautiful painting. To dance in the light of another world while the light of this world fades.
You’ve mentioned here and there that the use of various mind altering substances has been a part of the process of making music for you and at times your music has been compared to the effects of various drugs. Is substance use a large part of music making for you and if so, how do you view your use in relation to your music?
Drugs were always present. In fact there was never a time we did not rehearse, play, record and even fiddle around without substance. My music is without question drug induced music. Depending on how one wishes to identify with that is up to them. I have been using substance since my early teens. In the beginning it was a lot of LSD, mushrooms and pot. Later on came cocaine, heroin, opiates, benzodiazepines and the more deadly path of drugs. We went places that I cannot even put words too. One has to witness or experience such things to truly see what chemicals can do to a human soul. It’s right there in the music. It’s in the sound, it’s in the lyrics, it’s in the over-all aura of all music I have ever created even unto this day. Mankind has been using substance to activate dormant areas of the mind since the beginning. And here, in the end, I am still using such things to lead me to where I am seeking to go. With that being said addiction is a deadly and agonizing road. Lots of friends are dead or spiritually bankrupt. It’s not cool, it’s not hip. When one catches themselves waking up and not being able to pour coffee without an opiate injection then one is sick. I myself no longer use drugs unless I’m in a ritual setting to record music or conduct rituals. I identify with certain addicts. Addicts are the most heart-filled, loving, unselfish, caring, raw and real souls one will ever meet. It is this deep intuition, this deep sense of empathy they feel with suffering in the world that makes them numb the over-bearing pain of so called reality. I do not like pretentious artists and people who shy away from being who they are when a camera or mic is in their face. I’ve no time for them. I represent the true Outsider. The one who holds the Light yet is beaten and shredded under hooves. Prometheus, Lucifer. I represent the souls who create beauty from disgust. Often these souls are addicts. My road down addiction and recovery can be seen in my albums almost like a diary being read. Not one song I have ever recorded was not done under the influence of substance. I think the term Audiodrug in which the press has labeled my music is very accurate.
As well as releasing albums you’ve kept mostly to yourself for a long time, you’ve also been more open about the role drugs have played for you. Why do you now feel the need to talk about this more than you have in the past and what’s the intent in doing so?
It’s just that I believe in absolute honesty so my legacy is not stolen. I want people to know who I am and not what others try to paint me as. And yes – I have a soft spot for addicts who are really good souls, tortured souls. The modern day Light-bearers who do not get the proper credit. Instead they get ripped apart because that’s the archetype of the sacrificial lamb. This is who I represent. I refuse to be anything I’m not. I don’t care how many records I sell. I care about helping and changing people who have the spirit to do so. In today’s society one must learn to turn the poison into the antidote. Everything is topsy-turvy. The Kings have no clothes and the plebeians are in control.
Ghosts and the dead also clearly play a large role in much of your music. Why is that, what is it about ghosts, the dead, Autumn, that inspires you?
Since I was a boy I have had a fascination with ghosts and other weird phenomena. It is also my whole fascination with Autumnal weather. I like the tranquility, quietness and serenity of cemeteries. I believe ghosts are friendly in nature in most cases. There is just something exceptionally romantic about female apparitions in their glowing gowns seen picking at flowers. Also growing up listening to The Misfits and Christian Death made it natural that we would gravitate towards hanging out in graveyards. Back then it was more of an appeal towards the dark. But then it became intensely romantic and beautiful. I no longer saw it as darkness. Actually it was the same as a beautiful rainy twilight in the colors of October. The serene October wind blowing a night chill in the air as I walk past the graves and see the dark storm clouds overhead. Quiet company. Alone but not lonely. I believe only other Autumnal souls can understand where I am coming from. It’s a secret dialogue with the dead.
Some of the songs that address the dead do so in an intimate manner, as in “Cold Bed” or the entirety of Coven Shovel, as well as some on other albums. So why is that, what’s appealing about the idea of singing directly to the dead in this way?
A lot of my songs are addressed to the dead. Or better yet they are communicating with the spirit or geist, the wind of the dead. A few songs do talk about actually touching the dead in a romantic way. The way I would have to describe it is that a human soul can get to a loneliness that is beyond lonely. I have a soft spot for Ed Gein in this regard. Known to plebeians as a murderous serial killer. However Ed Gein was just a product of his mother and of intense isolation. He dug up bodies to keep him company. The soul itself can feel more feelings towards a relationship with the dead than with a living girlfriend if it is driven to such extremes. For one they never upset, abandon or betray. I also find the idea of being in love with a ghost very romantic. I am reminded of my lyrics on County Lines: “You are never late. Gardenia and dead body.” The way I address those words are almost sarcastic towards another human being in my life at the time I recorded them. I also see dead females as being so sad. However I have always been attracted towards girls that are sad, quiet and mysterious. That’s why I call them Ghostgirls. They have an innocence unlike other girls. The pale, withdrawn, shy and beautiful girl. But yes – not that I probably need to go into absolute detail about some things I have done in my life, I will say that A Cold Bed, Shovel and many other songs are true incidents.
Would you like to talk a little about the incidents with the dead that inspired some of these songs?
When I was in my early 20’s/late teens I went so far as to actually unearth a couple graves. It wasn’t in some disrespectful manner. And it wasn’t in a psycho-sexual sense. Like I said I had more of a romantic feeling than any sort of animalistic impulses. Just like needing to be close as possible to someone when you’re in love with them. It was an urge to fully experience what others may draw a line at. I have always had this feeling. A need to go a step beyond what the average human soul may find taboo. The sheer need to experience all things possible. There never was any grave desecration. It was beautiful and poetic. Then there was one Halloween night I had a show to play and on the flyer I had written “Bring your shovels”. The band and the audience passed around mushroom tea that night and after the show a guy brought me to his car and looked at me and said “I brought mine. Did you?”. In his trunk was more mushrooms and shovels. In fact he was the guy who brought the jugs of shroom tea to the show. So I ended up tripping on mushrooms with some crazed guy and we dug up a grave out in the middle of the swampy woods. That particular night I was simply out of sight and mind. I remember feeling mesmerized. I remember seeing clothing floating in the casket and it was filled with water. This guy looked at me with a crazed look, shook my hand as if to say “Well done!” and we eventually covered the grave back up. There are people who sing about this stuff and put on gothic make-up and then there are those who actually indulge. I shy away from pretentious people. Now that I am older I do not mind my fans knowing what I have experienced. I would hope that my fans are much like myself.
Since they are important to your music, do you believe in ghosts as a reality, or are they a kind of poetic ideal or symbol to you? Have you ever experienced any kind of ghostly phenomenon at all?
I experience ghosts in all ways always. A ghost to me is an old ring that is associated with happy, sad or disturbing memories. It is the smell of a flower when the season breathes deja-vu through my body and I experience the sensation of a previous season which is a dead season. A ghost, a wind, a spirit, that geist of the former season still permeating through it’s fallen leaves, twisted limbs, dead winds and fragrant flowers wetly kissed with the dew of over-cast foggy dawns. Also, ghosts are the spirits of once breathing human beings. Most of my songs talk about a Her or a She which has always been, as You mentioned, an Ideal of the one I have always needed to love and be beside me. In this regard the female ghost in my songs did haunt me. She was also the inspiration for all I did. Only a very few of my songs are about human beings. The October Chase E.P. was inspired by a girl who I was in love with yet she was always so far away so she did become a ghost to me. That E.P. is themed on a love affair with a female ghost because I could not be with this girl at the time. It took a while but she is no longer a ghost as such.
This subject often makes me feel vulnerable because only those who have witnessed these things could possibly distinguish between the phenomena as being real or not. However, I have had a few encounters with a female ghost. It is always the same one. I’ve never seen her in my life. I don’t even know who she might be. She comes and appears near my upper body. She gives me a look as if to inform me all will be okay and then she bends down and kisses my forehead. She seems to come in great moments of crisis. There is a feeling of absolute clarity after she leaves. There is no fear. There are no feelings of attraction. It’s as if I feel back inside the womb.
So, to you, is being haunted only restricted to ghosts, reminders, memories or can the sense of being haunted extend to being haunted by events, by feelings, by people or things – places even?
All the above. People haunt me, places haunt me, memories haunt me. And there are also actual landscapes which are truly haunting in the phenomenal sense of that word. As a youth I would visit my local library and look for books that had the location and stories about houses and places that are haunted in my area. I’d get the directions and this is what I did as a hobby. This was long before the Scifi channel had Ghost Hunters. Even the library I was doing my research in would prove to be a haunted landmark since I live in an old river town. I love going to haunted grounds and sitting out there. Ghostly phenomena and strange weather phenomena are a major influence on me as a person and in my music. Old Southern houses abandoned out in the swampy woods. Old libraries with that smell of old musky books. This stuff in itself has a ghostly nostalgic aura about it. Certain graveyards when the flowers are in bloom seem to open up the veil of a non-corporeal, aural, ethereal location. The chthonic under-currents of some environments just burst with the energy of a true haunting. Walking down old streets at night in the cold outside air with crisp Autumn winds blowing. Looking at the old plantation homes with dim lights making the upstair windows faintly glow. My imagination will then turn to roaming around in a self-invented story, a tale. Windows are like eyes into a soul. Some of us can perceive the soul of a home by looking through the windows. It’s a romantic perception of night. A ritualization of the nocturnal roamer. I used to wander at night and look up at these upstair second or third story windows and also have romantic reveries of my her, my she, my ghostgirl up there combing her hair. There is just a still, quiet romance with the spirit world in certain locations.
Do you have any favorite hauntings, or any hauntings you’d like to experience still that you haven’t?
Here in Pawley’s Island, near Myrtle Beach there is a very popular haunted cemetery. The grave of Alice. There are always rings that are left on her grave every night. Alice died and withered from a genuine broken heart and torn soul. She was madly in love with her true love and her parents did not like the guy because he was not rich. Alice knew him though as her true love. He finally went off to the Civil War to fight for the Confederacy. Before he left he gave her a ring. After some time he never came back. His best friend did. Her Father kept hiding the ring from her. And one day he threw it out. So she was always looking everywhere for it. Her family also lied and told her that her beloved had died. So after a while she was to be married to this friend of his. On the day of the wedding he showed up. Upon seeing her in bridal costume with his best friend he drove his horse into the Pee Dee river and drowned himself. Alice slowly died of a broken soul. To this day she is roaming outside the Hermitage, in the graveyard, looking for her ring. This is a genuine true story. I like to go to the spot on the river where he drowned. I like to see the rings on her grave right before dawn. There are some haunted areas right near my home I also go to. One being the lights. A flood came once and a woman was carrying her baby. The flash flood knocked her over and the baby got washed away. To this day one can park their car where that bridge is and see a light which is the old lady out with a lantern looking for her child.
Have you ever been inspired to write songs about these hauntings you have there? You’ve got such a fantastic landscape for hauntings too, all the swamps and rivers, right on the ocean.
One of the very first Harvest Rain songs ever written was called The Legend of Sterrett Swamp which was about me swimming in a swamp where a girl had drowned. I also wear Alice’s rings when playing live. I have asked her if I can take them from her grave and I’ll wait for either a wind to blow or a sign, an omen. I then perform with the dead in the best way possible. By wearing either jewelry or pieces of clothing.
Since you love ghosts and hauntings and eerie things so much, is Halloween an important holiday to you? Do you or have you done anything extra special to celebrate it?
Halloween still gives me the same giddiness it did as a child. I adore all the pumpkins, the way the kids get excited, the whole psychic feeling in the air. I love the weather during this time of year. It’s cool out. I like dressing up and getting into it. Since I was a teenager I have been dressing as the skeleton singer on the back of The Misfit’s album Legacy of Brutality. I love the childish atmosphere. Haunted houses and being scared for the sake of being scared. The Twilight Zone marathons. I also get into the more serious side. Where the veil is thin between us and the dead. This is the waning time of year. So we cast off our old skins, feed them to the dead and arise in the zenith of night. Ritual is something I engage in. One Halloween Harvest Rain did a performance out in the woods in an old Southern haunted home. We just had a fire out front, people dressed up, candles in the trees and in the house because it had no electricity. Most of my nostalgic memories seem to derive from Halloween or just the cold season itself. Everything about Halloween is pretty. Decorating the house with fall foliage, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and witchy things. Decorating the yard with all sorts of things. I make my own candles, make my own special Halloween incense, my own oil out of herbs. I am more into Halloween than any other season or holiday.
And finally, are you working on any new music now? You mentioned a new project, Antique Powdered Seep – what will that sound like? And is there any new Harvest Rain? Will both this new and old project going to be part of your future musical output?
I’m working on a project called Antique Powdered Sleep and a new Harvest Rain album called Nightlight. Nightlight is a return to minimal coldwave, darkwave, nightwave, ghostly colors and narcotized sounds that I started on Night Chorus. It will be the culmination of what I perceive to be night roaming music. The night wind, the isolation of nocturnal wanderings. The cold frozen breath glowing under spectral radiance. Melodic music that adorns the black blossom with an aura of purple-gold. The black blossom emerging with the ghostly green light of night. Just night music. Antique Powdered Sleep is a project that is strictly lots of feedback, melodic distortion, spontaneous vocals and minimal percussion.