Last year, Tau Cross‘ eponymous debut took the top spot on Last Rites’ Best Of list, and with good reason. The logical continuation of Amebix‘s final gasps, Tau Cross is a record that feels both current and timeless, relevant and oddly archaic. Beneath the cracking croak of Rob “The Baron” Miller, Tau Cross brings beautifully dark tales of death, rebirth, destruction… Big fans that we are here at LR, we jumped at the opportunity to engage The Baron in a quick five-question interview, and here’s what he had to say about the past, present, and future of your new favorite band.
Yes, that is true; it was initially Amebix songs that I was writing for a follow up to Sonic Mass, but the band was also falling apart at the time. I did travel to L.A and stayed with Roy (Mayorga) for a week to record some of the tracks with him (“Prison”, “Our Day”, “Midsummer”, plus one unreleased). We also started to look for other guitarists for this, once it became clear that it would not be Amebix. I went through almost everyone I knew looking for a crew until the obvious became clear. So the songs were already written and pretty much arranged when we came to record — there was very little changed. However, Andy (Lefton, guitar) and Jon (Misery, guitar) have both been writing songs for the next slab, which we are working on at present.
2) Tau Cross seems to have been very well received, and it was certainly a big hit with the staff here at Last Rites. Would it be safe to assume there will be another Tau Cross album, and if so, have you done any writing for it yet?
Ha! As above, yes there is another album in the works. Away is out with Voivod but took time to get the drums down before he left, so we are going to start building the songs as before. We have around 14 so far, which is far too many, but it will be good to hone in on what works best.
3) I’ve spent some time on your swordsmithing website (castlekeep.co.uk), and was quite impressed by your craftsmanship. Swordsmithing seems like a painstaking, highly involved process. Which is a greater challenge for you, swordsmithing or songwriting, and are there any parallels between the two processes?
I dont know much about songwriting; I mainly just rely on something coming down and trying to match what I hear in my head with a song. It is a more intuitive process than the mechanical work of the smith, but there are some parallels, of course: Taking time in the finishing is important; the way the end product appears and feels is important. I approach songs very much on their emotional impact.
4) The Tau Cross record is stellar, from top to bottom, and one particular factor that I keep returning to again and again is the lyrics. They’re wonderfully poetic, even more so than on Sonic Mass and earlier — there’s also a certain sort of archaic quality, for lack of a better term; a certain lyrical leaning towards times far less modern, be they the rustic images in songs like “Sons Of The Soil” or even “Lazarus,” or the religious/historical ideas in “Fire In The Sky,” or the witches’ tale in the killer “Hangman’s Hyll.” I feel like that transition began with the post-reformation Amebix material, but it’s more prominent on Tau Cross. Was that a conscious decision to sort of move away from the more modern political commentary into something less direct, or did it just evolve over time?
I feel that this record really allowed me a lot of space to explore lyrically. I have always placed a huge emphasis on the lyrical side of the music; It is perhaps even more important. I like to imagine that the words themselves can be read as a type of simple poetry and still generate the images and landscapes that the music drives towards. It feels to me as if I have come home in Tau Cross and finally found my own expression without limitation or expectation. The Tau Cross landscape is almost mythical. I think it is very unique to us, and it seems to be a place that I am still finding words within.
5) Both Tau Cross and especially Amebix have those socio-political themes; the former came out of the punk scene in the late 1970s, which was obviously highly politically charged, with tales of apocalypse and decay. Most of Tau Cross’ work feels just as apocalyptic, even with those rustic themes. These days, it certainly seems as if the world is at a turning point, especially here in America. Has anything changed for the better in the days since Amebix arose, or is it all the same? Is there any hope for humanity to clean up our messes, or are we all just screwed?
You have caught me on Skye in the winter time. I don’t respond well to lack of sunlight and that reflects in my present frame of mind, but I am fully aware that this is temporary. When the Spring arrives and the birds sing, bees buzz, and the land is reborn, I will be full of optimism. As it is, I am not. I think that the nature of information is the central issue. The Internet is the enemy of Authority, as it is the only real way we have of exchanging ideas now, but it is also polluted with disinformation and misinformation, agenda and propaganda like never before. The Media has become transparent to those who can still think, and every cynical move they make is noted, yet we are no nearer any change. Each time some hope arises it is snuffed out or compromised in some way. There is a numb indifference to the result of the great lie and the millions who are suffering and will continue to do so. I find this depressing, that with all this vast access to knowledge and information we are still just cattle munching at our piece of grass, whilst the slaughterhouse doors keep opening and closing. I get so frustrated that people cannot seem to grasp the big picture, and then I realise that in fact that is a conscious choice; even with an abundance of evidence people will simply choose not to engage. Maybe that makes for a simple life; head down..munch munch munch, but I cannot stand this. My life has been a search for meaning and for answers, from the sacred to the profane, and I come to a point where some of the answers I am discovering are abysmal. Other times, I think, “Give me sunshine and an empty beach, clean sea and a cold beer, and the rest of the world can just go and fuck itself.”