Echtra’s Paragate is one of my favorite albums right now, there is a rhythmic, hypnotic sound that relaxes you into a trance like state. I really love the record and was curious about this reclusive band, so luckily they recently took time for a quick interview.
“Echtra” refers to old Irish folklore that typically has to do with adventures in the underworld. How does that relate to the band and the music you make?
I appreciate the question. The adventures do take place in mythic space and time, though not necessarily in an underworld setting. The theme I’ve sought in the concept of Echtra is that the hero is unexpectedly transported from the everyday world into the otherworld. This happens inexplicably, and causality is rarely if ever pursued in this kind of tale. One could be hunting, in the woodlot picking mushrooms, or walking from one place to another, only to be transported instantaneously into another realm of reality. This transmutation, which cannot be beckoned forth, always waits, just beyond the pale.
You originally conceived Echtra as a performance band and did not focus on releasing music. The music was meant as “a vehicle for ritual performance.” Has that vision changed over the years? Will we see quicker releases for Echtra in the future?
Echtra has two remaining album-length pieces that have been used as soundscapes for live performance rites. The years to come will see the release of these elements, presented as the triumvirate of the Passage Cycle, which will also include the yet-to-be enacted 3rd Chapter, focusing on rebirth. The releases will focus on the visual aspect, including HD video productions incorporating the videography that has occurred at more recent Echtra manifestations. The project is still a vehicle for ritual performance, and yet I am also open to the dissemination of this material on a wider scale.
When I first listened to “Paragate”, I initially thought of the band Earth, not that the music sounded the same, but the atmosphere and mood it created was similar. Was Earth an influence at all?
Not that I’m aware of.
You talk of “ritual performance”…what type of rituals are you performing? In your bio, you mention Druid & Celtic spirits, but you also mention “BardO”, which is a Buddhist tradition. Are the rituals rooted in either of these?
Echtra pulls from a complex amalgamation of Tradition for inspiration and direction, though ultimately my master is intuition. The soul that expresses through the channel of Echtra is mine, but not mine alone, and I carefully attune my attention to the whole of Life when I listen for the inspiration of the Muse. “Ritual” in this sense refers to that which is experienced in mythic time and space, that which takes place in the intermediate space between this and that, but never to a reenactment of a form directed by another. The rites of Echtra draw from pre-Christian (particularly Druidic) forms, the practices of Vajrayana Buddhism, authentic movement, Somatic Psychology, and my own personal history, philosophy, and mythos.
It’s a little difficult to describe, but as I listen to “Paragate”, I get an overwhelming sense of the mystic properties of nature and I find myself falling into a light trance. With the repetitive, chant like sound of the music was this the desired effect of the songs?
One of the most interesting aspects of this release is reading the reviews, as it has helped me tremendously to hear how others experience my music. I, myself, don’t experience the songs as being “repetitive”, but the regularity with which that adjective appears in descriptions of the work helps me realize that I am hearing something completely different than the general listener. Some find this repetition effective, and others find it grating; either way, the project has a repetitive nature. This is interesting in that my psyche experiences the songs differently, induced by my familiarity to hear the dynamic quality of the movement between disparate elements. That said, I do explicitly focus on trance as I compose, and am always balancing movement and stasis, engagement and transcendence.
Your songs are 23 minutes in length, is there a ritual significance in that number?
Fu stepped forward with the offer to release the album and impressed me with his diligence and availability. None of my projects have ever solicited record labels or offered demos or press releases of any kind. The labels that find us and have the desire to publish the work are generally the ones that do so.
When you began work on your second release in 2004, you introduced acoustic guitars to the music. What prompted this?
The first album was an effort to create metal music that could be used for meditation. As such, it contained little variation and utilized drum machine, distorted electric guitar, and grim vocals exclusively. Simultaneously, I was working on another project that contained only acoustic elements, called Alethes. Something in me desired to reconcile these elements, and the second manifestation of Echtra brought together the acoustic and the electric, the timeless and the modern, the rural and the urban. In this we see the dissolution of opposites into One, the re-sanctifying of the world, and the liberation of the full dimensionality of the human person.