In Gowan Ring interview
B’eirth, the man behind In Gowan Ring, emerges as a visionary bard of the green, healing man’s connection to the otherworld… A reposeful songwriting mixes with crystal clear and cleaning drones. There are ecstatic chants of wind in the crowns of trees and mystical paths through enchanted gardens of nature, waiting to be taken…
People have visions, grown and evolved in the world within to be transcended into the world outside. IN GOWAN RING is the vision of the American musician Bobin Eirth aka B’ee. It shows a man on his journey, incarnating the music of his soul. B’ee creates a truly vivid organism of sound which becomes outlined more an more during the creative process. Next to the folk traditions of the western world B’ee has studied different music from many cultures to explore all similarities and differences and to make it all become part of his inner vision. His works arise from the depths of his soul. This explains why he just created three albums within the first ten years of his career. The third album „The glinting spade“ was awakened between 1997 and 1999 during a period of complete isolation and the detection of new musical influences with a childlike passion. No big surprise that this music is a rather intimate affair. B’ee’s compositions are captured and detained by him and his fellow musicians partly with regular, partly with unique instruments that were created just for those recordings. The spiritual mood of the songs gets driven by enchanting melodies and quite often ends up in rather mystifying kaleidoscopes of sound. B’ee adds fresh inspiration and creativity to the tradition of the great ancestors of psychedelic folk and singer / songwriter of the 60s and 70s just like Donovan, Perry Leopold, Nick Drake or Exuma. It is a blessing for all music lovers that this long out of print record now receives it’s well deserved reissue on vinyl and CD.
Can you elaborate on the formation of the band? In was in the the early 90s?
It was rather a bit earlier – the first performance was in Provo, Utah at a small café called ‘Café Haven’, maybe in 1991. In a house called ’Sam Hill’, where I lived with friends, my first home away from blood relatives. I started recording the water in the gutter, and other sonico-poetic musings. I painted there the oil painting on the original ‘Love Charms’ cover and explored other realms of mind. I moved with these friends to Seattle thereafter, lived in various warehouses and apartments for a year and then returned to Salt Lake City and made a little room out of an unfinished corner of an attic with some friends, likely the greatest bulk of Love Charms was recorded there on an 8-band cassette machine, there were other musicians there and they were practicing often, so sometimes there were bits of bleed in the recordings, in my hidden away attic room I could spend all morning recording some drum for something or other, and there were other instruments around and sometimes people to play them.
After this period I had some time in Prague where I continued to record the music for ‘Love Charms’, but finished the mixing back in Seattle.
Who is In Gowan Ring? Is it a collective of musicians or just you? In the past it appeared to be both, just like it happened to be with your side project “Birch Book”. Did the lineup changed through years?
Yes, it’s my project and I have others join with me as they are available, there have been band configurations over the years, but this has changed radically as I have moved from place to place. I carry around with me the ‘vision’ and some of the musings that become songs.
What would you say were some of the influences and intention, that helped your decision to start this project?
Well, I’d say it’s the urge to try to portray the indescribable, or when you have a vision of reality that wants to be expressed, it formulates itself with attention, so it formulates itself in a way, on the other hand the intention has been to some extent to allow path toward ‘altered states of consciousness’ . I was also inspired by various folk music from around the world, Middle Eastern to British Isles, and had a naïve yearning to capture something of these feelings in my music.
Your first album ‘Love Charms’ was released in 1994.
It was important to me as it was the first ‘real’ or well developed piece that I thought portrayed something of the visions that inspired it. The musicianship is simple and tended not to be overly labored, but semi improvised at times. At the time, I thought that it captured the essence of the worlds I wanted to convey and that there wasn’t anything else like it.
A few years later more albums followed. ‘Twin Trees’ was released in 1997.
Looking back, it seems to have taken me so long to get on with ‘Twin Trees’ – especially so as many of the songs I already had demos for at the time of Love Charms, but I was on a path of development musically and otherwise, so maybe some parts became more labored – ‘crowded’ as it seems to me now – I experimented still with layers and semi-improvisations, but wanted to develop a more ‘composed’ sense to the materials – I wanted things like Ullean Pipes (which I never had), harmonic singing and all the exotic instruments I could find – I got ahold of a cittern and bowed psaltery, and had again Amber for some of the lazily flowered flute arrangements. By this time I had heard Amon Dull and Incredible String Band (from a comparison in a review of ‘Love Charms’) and I had quickly become obsessed. I had continued to travel around, seemingly never statisfied with anywhere, this time across country to Asheville North Carolina, where I finished recording and mixing The Twin Trees at my friend Debra’s place – It was actually in Hendersonville, down a deadend street – I was reading a lot of Celtic legends and poetry at the time while I could walk to the nearby forests.
In December 1999 ‘Abend the Knurled Stitch O’er the Glinting Spade’ was released.
The concept of ‘The Glinting Spade’ in sigil form is the intersecting Chalice/Spade – Male/Female – Heaven/Earth polarity principle. By this time I had studied High Renaissance counterpoint and wanted to capture a minimalist medieval 70’s movie ‘soundtrack’ atmosphere – don’t know that I ever managed that, but… I was still interested in trance soundscapes and the excessively minimal pieces came out of these explorations in sound verging toward meditation.
Why it took so long to record it?
Everything takes a long time, life just sort of ‘gets in the way’, maybe not so much anymore, I have a bit better ‘let things flow’ skill now…
You are collaborating with drone masters Hitoshi Kojo and Alio Die.
That summer of 1998, I remember after I had finished my Counterpoint of the High Renaissance classes ,leaving Portland in my blue van called ‘Briney’, filled with the instruments I managed not to lose or get stolen in the various rehearsal spaces we’d been using (though most of them are all gone by now…)- the big bass drum that Kevin Kiggins found in the Provo High school dumpster (and which I DO still have), my bowed psaltery and cittern, the fiddly Krumar analog organ, some guitars and assortments of whistles etc.– I was going with Jesse, a bandmate friend at the time back to Salt Lake City – I hung out for a while in SLC and continued down to southern Utah to stay with Sabastian in a little town called toquerville, near to Zion National Park, some 800 inhabitants and the only services were postal and religious… – Salt Lake City often gave me the feeling that I had to ‘get out’ – in this summer as in some others (like now!) I was seeking a rural haven where I could escape the thought pollution of the city and rest in waves of nature’s buzz. And I had this project and these songs to work on for ‘The Glinting Spade’. ‘The Glinting Spade’ as sigil is an intersection of a Chalice and Leaf, or another version of the balances Male/Female Heaven/Earth principles like in the so called ‘Star of David’. I did use some kind of brass chalice from Salvation Army as a swishing alcohol flame – the singing bowl type sound was actually a crystal wine glass played by Lincoln that I toyed about with pitch… my guiding image for these swirling drone pieces was a kind of ‘Soul Forge’ ..”mind like a candle burning”… forged mostly during some seasons of solitude there in toquerville. Sabastian was habitually gone travelling about various places, sometimes bring back a girl with him for a few days.
There were fruit trees, apples, pomegranates, figs, almonds. I experimented making rice milk, some dearly time consuming pomegranate juice and even more dearly fashioned prickly pear cactus juice ( I learned afterward, when I crashed a neighbor’s Mormon family function that the meathod is to burn off the spins.. yes it IS a bit hard on the hands otherwise…) I remember reading quite a bit and though I’ve forgotten most of exactly what, there were the so called Gnostic texts, and Teilhard de Chardin, I was going through Robin Williamson’s whistle book at the time as well, but also rummaging through Sabastian’s record collection, Tom Waits, 17 Pygmies, Donovan’s Sutras and Jean Redpath, private parts and pieces, obscure prog stuff – I had the time for it, and also night watching the clear skyway full of stars, shooting and in slow motion, at night on a cot to keep safe from the critters… scorpions… in the day, I’d run into Rattle snakes and tarantulas… yes, I walked most days on the other side of the hill, where the desert landscapes merged and melded the shifting colors of the setting sun. There were lots of other songs I’d written and sadly a book containing several of these was lost on a subsequent west coast tout with Dawn & Nils as ‘The Two Dimensions’ (later ‘Faun Fables’) . During my stay in Toquerville I played one single concert at the local restaurant in Hurricain – this may have been the first concert I felt comfortable playing ‘Solo’ – I’d always had bands before, and my fingerstyle was still somewhat nascent, just a guitar and voice some whistle piece a song or two on folk harp – I played mostly traditional with a scattered few hidden originals. Hmmmm.., semi weekly visits to Pah Tempe hot springs (sadly closed now I understand…) with Brian and Dianne .
Ruben (sabastian’s Dad who lived next door) would take me into Hurricain once every other week for supplies – he also patiently shot some dozen arrows so I could get the perfect stereo recording for the cameo on ‘Cipher’s string’. Ahh yes, he would also ply me with UFO & conspiracy literature & videos one or two at a time… and invite me over occasionally to discuss these topics over coffee & whisky (Sabastian wondered how he stayed alive as he never touched water or juice)… I had the time for such and to entertain all manner of fanciful ideas, and to soak in the still, pure, desert air, the wind in the tall trees.
I must have gone into the Salt Lake City once or twice and I remember a festival squishing grapes, I had some visitors passing through occasionally also, I made it down to Cedar City, sat in on some miserable music theory class where the plump professor pounded chords mercilessly on his piano and canted in the same harsh manner, I was there to put up an ad for renaissance musicians which I managed to recruit from the school, they played also for the Shakespeare Festival Green Show and of course sacbut & cornetto on ‘The Glinting Spade’…
What are you currently reading?
Well, .. ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’ – this is high esotera in its way, or at least I recently found it informative and amusing… So, recent books…: ‘Memories, dreams , Reflections ‘– Carl Jung; I’ve been following the last years some of the geometric ideas of Dan Winter, and John Lash’s interpretation of the Gnostic Sofia myth… the last film I saw was the psychedelic masterpiece of 1970 ‘Performance’ (with McJagger), I’m getting through a book a friend gave to me recently about north african magic called “Les Mots, la mort, les sorts’ by Jeanne Favret-Saada”, Some books from this decade that I’ve been reading and would recommend : ‘Interference’ by Richard Merrick. ‘secret teachings of plants’ – by stephen buhner .
For Old Classics / Long time favorites I would have to mention Ioan Culianu‘s masterwork “Eros and Magic in the Renaissanc “ which I hope to someday read in the original french if I can ever find a copy. The Body Electric by Becker & Selden – and yes, the Chuang-tzu stories…
I believe your father is apiarist. Did that had an impact to choose the name B’ee (Bee apiarist.) as an acronym for your full name?
Yes, perhaps that’s so – I also like to think of myself as gathering nectar from flower to flower…. Funny my dad was so immune to bee stings that they were like mosquito bites – incidentally, I never once got a bee sting in my childhood growing up around the half dozen hives we had in the back yard – only once at the beach in California did I ever get stung by a Bee.
‘Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home’ is another amazing release, perhaps a bit less experimental, but with really nice melancholic melodies.
Yes, the ‘Saturn Return’ album – I hope it’s cathartic for some…
Later you decided to release a collection of oddities, live and alternative versions. The result was the ‘Exists and Entrances’ series.
Yes, this was my first experiment in making small private ‘art’ editions exclusively for people on my mailing list, it’s been a fun adventure that I still continue!
Around 2005 you started another project – Birch Book. What is the main difference between ‘Birch Book’ and ‘In Gowan Ring’?
There was a rather long break since my last In Gowan Ring album – I felt a bit disconnected from my life in music, I don’t think I’d toured for a while for example, I was working at a folk music instrument shop, life had thrown me around about a bit or at least to different places- and I just continued to collect new songs I’d written, but not really have the opportunity to record them properly and my vision/ideas for recording arrangements for my In Gowan Ring visions became like complex overly ornate sculptures that collapse under their own weight – they were actually somehow unrealizable, I carried all these old songs and album ideas around with me, but their reality was somehow fading into the distance, and I just kept writing new songs about my life and perspective as therapy in a way, or a practice, or to keep my way… and gradually, the song became more the important part, the real part that was a part of my experience, part of my life, something that i could just be over at someone’s for coffee some morning, find a guitar lying around and say, ‘oh, listen to this, here’s a song I wrote the other day’. – that the recording or the arrangement or ‘art’ wasn’t really the thing any more because at times all I had was my guitar and my songs, maybe I didn’t have my albums, or I couldn’t tell if anyone was listening to them anyway, but when you play a song for someone, you can tell if they’re listening…
…so, “Birch Book” is about the songs and more ‘personal’ maybe less ‘abstract’ though not necessarily always overt or narrative… there’s still something of the psychedelic there and for me it bridges the ‘transcendental’ and the ‘existential’…
Back in the early 90’s, perhaps even before In Gowan Ring, there were some projects that I don’t know much about and I would love if you could tell us about the following releases: ‘B’eirth’s Pscikadilik Psyrkuz’, ‘Mary Throwing Stones’, ‘Witch-Hunt’.
Ahh, the Pscikidilik Psyrkuz, was mostly just catharsis – I did the first one after I’d finished Love Charms – I sort of whipped it together to give to a friend who was in hospital with a serious heart operation – the second, though I was using recordings from a certain period was also whipped up in a few days fueled by string coffee in my parents basement. I was having fun I guess, and it was at a time when you could still get high quality cassette duplication, so I made small runs for friends mostly, though now I kind of wish I’d released them properly on CD at the time – it would have been interesting to see peoples reaction anyway – well, one friend of mine would always put it on REALLY LOUD when the party at his house went on too late and he wanted people to leave… anyway, there is basically everything there for volume 3 that I never finished – if I ever get a spare moment I’ll find those tapes, but I don’t know that I’ll be entirely thrilled with what I find….
Marry Throwin Stones was properly before IN Gowan Ring and this was a ‘quirk pop’ project with some friends Lincoln & Kyrbir in Utah, there were a few albums I think, but more projects that didn’t happen, we lived for a while in Seattle and also played shows there, but we were always banned from the bars we played at because it was ‘too weird’, even though people would come to see us… – how to describe? The only proper CD has us posing in cow shit with dresses… I wore dresses or bedsheets anyway at the time and tended to go barefoot even in the Seattle city winter..
What are you interested in, besides music?
Actually everything IS Music… But, well, so to speak, otherwise :Survival, self sustenance, psychedelic sex, natural life energy, trees, leaves, stones and dirt!… oh, and also: Yoga theory & practice, Herbs , essential oil distillation, Rocket Mass Stoves… I’ve recently had the chance to do some sewing again, I made myself a hat, but not much chance for too much else yet, besides the tent… I was into analog recording and fixing reel to reels a few years ago, but I don’t think I can really keep that hobby for the moment. I make Pents.. Pent Tables, and of course PenTambourines… and the Pent Tent.
Are you currently working on something new?
YES! Always many projects, but recently I’ve build a 9 square meter Pent Tent that is potentially winterable – it’s got a nice little wood stove and a partial wood floor – think of something like a Yurt but five sided – its where I’m writing from (on battery power) and I’ll be recording music in here this week.
I’m working on a travel hurdy gurdy prototype. Also, I’ve started a fretted clavichord, I still have about 5 albums worth of songs to record, likely with the next Birch Birch (vol IV) coming out sometime next year with accompanying tour. Funds permitting, I’ll be expanding on my solar powered recording studio as well- it s, um, rather basic at the moment…
Thanks for taking your time. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine readers?
The world could change at any moment! You could be in a place this time next year that you would have never imagined! Be brave, live true and dream free!
– Klemen Breznikar & Amadeus Wächtler