Interview with Auld Ridge

5/26/21 | J. Proust

Auld Ridge artist photo

Auld Ridge officially began last year with the release of their demo tape Mítt Ríce, a collection of instrumental dark folk numbers which gather toward a closing black metal track positively fecund with inspiration. This was only the starting point for the English one-man band, and, as you’ll read below, it was an auspicious yet deceptive beginning. Auspicious because Mítt Ríce was well-received; deceptive because those pastoral atmospheres, however moody and moving, were but the prologue to what Auld Ridge would become by their next recording.

In a rare interview, O.W.G.A, the sole musician behind the music of The Hermetic Order of Ytene, provides insight and context behind the works of Auld Ridge, undoubtedly some of the best and most sincere black metal of recent times.

[Editor’s note: Because Auld Ridge is an English musician, his punctuation throughout his answers will remain in its original state, that is unedited for American audiences. Specifically, the periods are outside of the quotation marks, despite the rules of grammar in U.S. English.]

Obviously you've played in other bands before. If that’s not the case, please say so. But the music of Auld Ridge speaks to a great amount of experience involved in not only composition, but black metal composition. Would you be willing to divulge any of your history for us?

Yes, I have played in bands before. Mostly Oi!/punk/post-punk and neofolk bands though, I have never actually played in a metal band. All the metal orientated music has been solo projects.

Why do you think, personally, more than any other subgenre in heavy metal, why do you think black metal relies so heavily on culture and heritage? In this regard, how does Auld Ridge fit in among other acts from the UK which also focus on these themes?

That’s a difficult question to answer, but I think from the earliest springs of black metal the spark of culture and heritage was present. You cannot really sing about Norse gods a la Bathory without invoking some kind of cultural heritage. You cannot spit vitriol about Christianity without acknowledging that religion’s history within Europe. I also think that black metal both melodically and spiritually has strong ties to Folk music. Folk music by definition is the music of blood, it is the music that springs from the synergy of the people of a race or nation. In this sense, it is hard to make this kind of music without there being ancient, atavistic emotions present. It is in a sense an ancestral memory. When I listen to Black Metal, of any kind, I am transported away from the present and into a landscape in a different time or potentially even a different plane of existence, depending on the context of the music.

From the Hermetic Order of Ytene page I’ve gathered that you’re likely the same person running this label, and that you’ve relocated to France from your birthplace in England. How did this relocation help it ignite the fires beneath Auld Ridge?

Yes I run the “label” if you can call it that. The relocation to France was with a heavy heart. It is something I never intended to do, but with the way the world is going I needed to make a change in my life, and moving to France was the only viable way to make that change at this point in my life. It was necessary to pursue the life that I want for me and my family.

Having said that, France is a culturally rich nation with deep ties to England. Specifically in my new region of France. It is historically mostly Germanic, and so I feel more at home here than perhaps I would in Occitanie. This move certainly ignited the fire in Auld Ridge. The new album is largely concerned with historical events in my new region as well as other religious heresies all over Europe. It gave me a huge amount of inspiration. Although, of course a lot of the new album is still focused on events in England and Wales. I will never be able to stop thinking about the British Isles. I am a man of Ytene after all, no matter where I reside on this Continent.

Auld Ridge promo photo

Where do you think your interest in the ancient history of your birthplace comes from? Seems like an obvious question, but think about it. Not everyone cares about where they came from. Not everyone has that interest in their history. What is it about these themes that speak to you so much as to inspire you again and again?

It is a shame that not everyone cares about where they come from, but it probably explains a lot, if you don’t know where you have come from how will you know where to go from the present? This has likely led to the misdirection that the west has been seeing for the past few hundred years. I think likely my interest in my heritage came from it being encouraged by my parents, we would spend a lot of our holidays in my youth visiting ancient sites. Mostly pre Christian but often early Christian and Norman too. This captivated my imagination, seeing an iron age hill fort for the first time blew my mind, and hiking through national parks visiting stone circles and cairns and barrows. Walking the very earth my ancestors would have thousands of years before me, feeling their presence and their guiding hand, wanting to do them proud. All of these things gave me a thirst for knowledge of where I have come from and the genes that make me who I am. I also remember reading The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell as a teen and becoming utterly obsessed with that world. That Trilogy is a stunning retelling of the Arthurian legends.

Auld Ridge began in 2020—at least your first release came out in 2020. What can you tell us about your debut release Mítt Ríce? The heavy jam “A Lyke Wake Dirge (Earth Receive Thy Saule)” that comes finally at the end is such a nice treat. But it makes me want to know so badly: What does side B contain? Is it also mostly instrumental dark ambient/folk like side A?

Mítt Ríce is a collection mostly of small folk compositions I had made here and there over time. Auld Ridge was started pretty much just as a medium to release these folk compositions. “A Lyke Wake Dirge” is actually a rendition of an old English folk song which tells of the soul’s travel to the afterlife, from earth to purgatory. It is a song from Christian times, however much of it is of pagan origin. The original passage in the song is:

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

I have used the less common refrain “Earth Receive Thy Soul” to amplify the pre-Christian aspects of the song. My favourite rendition of the song is by The Young Tradition, from the self-titled album. I really like the Pentangle version as well, which is a lot more mournful. The B-Side of the tape is 40 minutes of additional folk material, some of it improvised, some not. One of those songs featured recently on The Sun compilation put out by A.S.K.E and another actually made it onto the newest Auld Ridge tape (“There Is No Room For God Here”), so some of them have since seen the light of day, but I have no intention of ever making them public officially.

What is the significance behind the title Mítt Ríce?

Mítt Ríce is Old English and means “My Kingdom”. In Norwegian it would be “Mitt Rike”. The reason behind the name is this idea that the natural world of Europe is my kingdom, my home, where I feel most comfortable. A mountain forest, a fire and only the items I can carry on my back. This is me at my most contented.

At the point of releasing this debut, did you know that future Auld Ridge works would be the opposite of this one, as in, the amount of dark ambient/folk and the amount of black metal would be reversed so that there was more of the latter with the former acting more as segues and interludes?

No, I can’t say that I did. I always knew I wanted to continue to make Folk music, so Auld Ridge will always be a vessel for that in some capacity. Auld Ridge basically became a project that I can do whatever I want with, as it’s not tied to any one theme in particular. Unlike a project like Albionic Hermeticism, which has a very specific theme and correspondingly a very specific mindset needed to create the music.

Now along comes Ascetic Invocation, quite a surprise for anyone expecting more soothing dark ambient/folk. When was Ascetic Invocation recorded and where? What can you tell us about the recording process?

Ascetic Invocation was recorded in the winter of 2020, in Staffordshire at the time. This has become a cliché to say, but it came out of a very dark time in my life. It’s an album that only could have been made in a time of intense physical and mental suffering. Hence the album title. It was a way of me channelling that suffering into something productive spiritually, rather than simply wallowing in it and feeling sorry for myself. The path of the Ascetic. The album was deliberately recorded in long, uninterrupted sessions for this purpose. I recorded the entire first song’s vocals in one sitting, with no drink. This is nothing new, but I really wanted that physical pain to contribute to the vocal performance. It was initially never intended to be an Auld Ridge release, but upon completing it I soon realised that it wasn’t a recording that would fit under any of my other projects and so Auld Ridge actually seemed like a very fitting project for it to be released under.

Besides the numerous jaw-dropping riffs, the many examples of perfectly positioned payoffs and solos, what rules most about Ascetic Invocation is the fact that you just go for it. There’s little stress over whether this part is or isn’t black metal. It all just rules and fits the vibe of the recording, and in this way it really reminds me of a much older metal album, from back when the genres weren’t so neatly separated by pedantry and trends. What can you tell us about the writing process for Ascetic Invocation?

First of all thank you for those words, that means a lot. I never try overtly to make black metal, but I also never intend overtly to stray from that. It’s all just very natural, whatever sounds good to me at the time, whether that be a traditional black metal passage or a proggy interlude or a doom-inspired part. I like to see it as paying homage to tradition whilst not allowing that to become a hinderance.

As far as the writing process goes, it’s very hard to say. I rarely ever compose a full piece. Most of my projects are recording projects primarily, so there is no pressure of playing with a live band to worry about. I just come up with an idea that I like, this usually happens on the guitar first, and then I begin recording straight away, things tend to flow very naturally from there on. Usually a song will appear in a matter of hours, whether that be a 5 minute traditionally structured song or a 27 minute multi-faceted song like the opening track to AI. It’s almost improvised. Of course once the skeleton is there I may let it sit for a few days and come back to it and add embellishments and additional parts/tweak things here and there, but for the most part it all comes in that first recording session. This makes those sessions very intense of course. I certainly have to be in a certain frame of mind to do them.

What landscape do we see featured here on the cover of Ascetic Invocation? The land itself, as well as its history, seems to play a major role in Auld Ridge. Am I correct in assuming that your covers are not just random, aesthetically pleasing pictures of anywhere?

The landscape in that photo was actually taken in the mountains above Bergen, when I was living in Norway. You would be correct in assuming that it’s not a random decision. If I am going to use a landscape as cover art it has to be for a purpose. In this case the sun in the photograph is so striking. This album definitely feels to me more solar and masculine and so it was fitting. It was also taken at a location I frequented a lot in my own pathworking and practice around that time. For this reason it held a special place in my heart and I was definitely invoking that landscape when the music was coming through.

The land itself definitely plays a huge role in all of my artistic endeavours. My first love is the natural world, and reverence for nature and vehement worship of the natural course of the universe is something fundamental to my way of life and how I live day to day. I am utterly at the mercy of nature and how she decides to behave. I feel like a lot of nature worshipping black metal bands do not have this perspective, they may spend time in nature, hiking or whatever, but they do not live in it, being encompassed by it. Relying on it for food and water. This relationship with the natural world gives you an entirely different perspective.

How does such an epic beast like “A World of Blood, Manifest as Being and Life” end up as the first track on an album that has more songs after it still? It’s madness, but it’s brilliant. Very prog rock of you. Do you find yourself moving in such a way as to keep your audience guessing?

To be honest the only reason really is that I tend to place the tracklist in chronological order of when the pieces were recorded. This often works because the albums come so quickly and in a short burst, so it ends up immortalising that period of time forever in an album's worth of music. I never went into that track thinking it would be 27 minutes long, it just never seemed to want to end, so I let it keep going until it felt right for it to draw to a close. And since it was the first piece that came for this album, it ended up being the first track. It’s as simple as that! I do also love prog, so maybe you are right and I was being visited by Fripp in some capacity.

No, I never deliberately try to keep my audience guessing. I am very grateful and pleased that people enjoy what I make but ultimately I make it for me and with no one else in mind.

Yours is an original sound, no doubt, seemingly influenced by a wide array of artists and genres, guided by something deeper than an interest in any one subgenre. What do you personally look for in music that you feel Auld Ridge also conveys?

All I look for really in music is conviction, integrity and dedication to a vision. Whatever the style of music being created, I loathe the idea of making music for the sake of it. Especially in this world that is so oversaturated with media of all kinds, we really do not need posers jumping on the bandwagon, making shit music without an ounce of songwriting ability and just calling it “raw”. I spit on this modern trend.

How did the split with Yak come about, and what was it about this band that made you said: “Okay”—or perhaps the split was your idea?

Originally, I was preparing a compilation album displaying a lot of the projects from THOOY. That fell through, and Yak was a project from a friend of mine. I liked what he was doing, it didn’t sound like a lot of the trendy black metal that’s popular at the moment so I decided to just make it a split with some loose ends I had lying around under the Auld Ridge name.

Auld Ridge promo photo

These two songs from the split have a janglier, looser approach to them as opposed to your other aggressive metal tracks. When were “Circles that Enshrine the Dust” and “Singing Psalms to the Father” written and recorded?

They were recorded just after I finished Ascetic Invocation actually. I was listening to a lot of classic rock and metal at the time which is probably why they ended up sounding how they do. I ended up liking the idea and lyrics of “Singing Psalms to the Father” so much that I based a whole album off of that concept immediately afterwards.

What can you tell us about the recording process for Consanguineous Tales of Bloodshed and Treachery?

Consanguineous Tales is the most recent thing I have made. Which is important to state firstly because not all of my releases come out chronologically and secondly because that means that it was all recorded after moving into my new house in France. It was recorded quickly in the space of about a month as all my releases are, in a confined environment that I wasn’t used to, this added a sort of tension to the recording process that I actually came to really enjoy. It was a very different experience than my other releases.

This is by far your most energetic and melodic black metal release yet. What themes give these songs their meanings? What inspired the album title?

As I stated this was recording only a month or so after I made the move and around that time we were doing a lot of family visits to local historical sites and spending quite a bit of time in the wilds near to us. This of course started a flood of inspiration. There is nothing quite as inspiring as an old medieval town with a castle in the snow, crows flying around its peaks.

I was also reading a lot around this time about Heretical groups within Europe through the ages. The Cathars, Waldensians and Lollards being some examples, and how these various genocides and crusades played out against those groups. This largely inspired the new album. For example, the first song on the record is told from the perspective of a crusader carrying out the Siege of Béziers. This was the first military action in what eventually became the Albigensian Crusades, or the massacre of all Cathar heretics in the Languedoc in southern France. I found it interesting to put myself in the shoes of a Crusader, having justified the bloodshed to myself based off of a promise of redemption or “crusade indulgence”. Absolved of my sins for the greater domination of Catholicism. Only some of the population of this heavily fortified town at the time were known to be heretics, and so comes the famous line “Kill Them All; God Will Know His Own” (“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”), inferring that those slaughtered will find their way either to heaven or hell depending on their beliefs. God will allow the true believers into his kingdom. Some of these Catholic individuals sought refuge in god’s house, but this did not stop the bloodthirsty crusaders, simply breaking down the doors and slaughtering them all.

Are you beginning to see where the album title came from now?

Another example of a “tale” on this album is the third song “Pant-Mawr, Boniarth” which chronicles the life of English Heretic John Oldcastle. A man who for many years evaded capture and prosecution for heresy as he was a Lollard. He led a rebellion against the king. After his many heretical exploits, he fled to the Welsh Black Mountains and went into hiding. Allegedly in Pant-mawr, Boniarth, where he was eventually captured and sentenced to death by hanging. He may have been burnt alive, but this much is not known. The song is written in first person as Oldcastle.

Some other context behind the album is the song “Massacre in 437” which details the Massacre of the Burgundians under the hand of the Huns. Lots to unpack with this record. I never like to divulge too much information though.

What informed some of the more melodic, clean vocals parts throughout this album? What inspired them, but also what about the energy of the songs pulled you into that direction.

I guess it just felt right to include them, musically what I was writing was giving me kind of Sorhin/early Satyricon feelings. Definitely straying closer to melodic black metal in parts. Which I feel fits the themes of the record. I think clean vocals in black metal can either be cool or absolutely horrible. I like to think whenever I do it it is pulled off in a subtle way that enhances the music rather than makes you cringe.

I learned from the Jcard for Consanguineous Tales... (this is the only tape of yours I own, unfortunately) that Auld Ridge is a one-person operation. Do you prefer to work alone or do you do so out of necessity? I suppose the two aren’t really mutually exclusive. Perhaps you'd like to tell us about your own experiences as being a one-man band so to speak.

I started to work alone initially out of necessity, but now I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I am definitely not adverse to working with others on projects, but they would never mean as much or be as personal as my solo works.

Being a one-man band just allows you total artistic freedom, that’s the biggest advantage. It means you can take risks and not have to think about what anyone thinks. It’s the difference really between making music for myself and making music to please others, which I really try not to do.

What drives you to maintain such a prolific output?

I guess things just constantly come up in my life that need to be expressed publicly, and sharing my musical vision with people is very rewarding and it’s nice to see when people really “get” it. Anyone enjoying my music is a really humbling feeling of course, and I am grateful for each and every listen and purchase I receive. All of these projects probably would exist regardless of if there is an audience for them, since it is my medium, my way of communication, but seeing validation for the work I put in is certainly a real motivator. No artist can deny that. No matter how “kvlt” they claim to be.

Auld Ridge artist photo

Would you describe yourself as a person who lives a routine, or do you tend to create in manic bursts?

I create in bursts, but I wouldn’t call them manic. I am definitely a man of routine, perhaps autistically so, but artistically I don’t even tend to pick up a guitar unless I have a hankering to create something. This means that when I do pick up the guitar, maybe once or twice a month, a torrent of ideas and pieces flow through and I end up then creating quite quickly. Between these periods, however, it is usually fairly quiet. At least musically.

Which of your releases are you most proud of so far, and how come?

In terms of Auld Ridge specifically I would have to say I am most proud of this newest record. That would probably be the case for all of my projects though, if you don’t believe your newest creation is your best, you probably shouldn’t be releasing it.

Finally, what all comes next for Auld Ridge? And do you have any closing sentiments?

Auld Ridge will continue to exist as a way for me to release any and all musical experiments I undertake. Auld Ridge will never be constrained to just one genre. That being said, I would like to experiment more with the ambient and folk, potentially a full length release of just folk will come at some point.

In terms of closing statements I just want to thank everyone so much for the continued support for not only Auld Ridge but all of The Hermetic Order of Ytene. It means a lot ! And thank you sir for a very well thought out interview and your interest in the project. I enjoyed answering these questions quite a bit.

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