Interview with Richard Leviathan (Ostara), 30/01/2001

Strength Through Joy was the moniker under which Richard Leviathan and Timothy Jenn started their musical career but after a MCD and two Fantastic Albums the need for new conquests led these talented young musicians to walk on a new path…and that path was named Ostara.
Ostara released its first work in 2000 (An Album called “Secret Homeland”) and its excellence soon silenced the voices of those Strength Through Joy Admirers that couldn’t understand its ending.
These subjects and other were brought up to Ostara’s front man – Richard Leviathan – who kindly accepted to shed some light on them, here on Heimdallr’s Pages.

Interview : Miguel V.

Richard, to start from the beginning…what in particular do you want to achieve/create with Ostara that you found impossible with Strength Through Joy?…Was the name -Strength Through Joy- and what it embraces a problem or you just needed some kind of rebirth in your Artistic life?…

Strength Through Joy was the very important beginning of our musical endeavour and will remain as such in our hearts. But, like every beginning, there are points of departure and we had reached a stage where the nature of our sound and the general orientation of the music as a whole was migrating towards something else for which the original medium remains as a formative root. Apart from this evolution in style, there were practical considerations that had to be taken into account. Thimothy Jenn moved to Germany  a few years ago where the name Strength Through Joy is not only problematic but officially illegal. We had a choice, either struggle against impossible odds or find some other way of describing our project. Combined with the new direction we had taken, the new name of Ostara is the perfect compliment to what we are now trying to achieve : a deeper, more perennial and mysterious vision that reaches further back into our Occidental heritage than the historically confined name Strength Through Joy.

About names and its power, Ostara has brought many controversial discussions about its dual definition. Can you tell us why the choice of this name and what in your opinion it involves?…

Ostara comes from the old word for Easter and the goddess of the same name. The theme of rebirth, renewal and recurrence is central to the Occidental soul not only as a pagan or heathen conception but one that found an equal presence in Christianity and the continuity of a culture of transition. In more recent times, Ostara was the title of an esoteric magazine edited by Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels who was influential in the occult revival of the last century and the Ariosophic movement in Germany. There is a dark, sinister side to this association which conveys the spirit of ambivalence which we had also sought with STJ. There is simply no escape from this double vision which is intrinsic to any understanding of the truth. Rather than escape from the legacy of the past (an illusory quest) we seek to transcend it which is only possible through a process of illumination that must face the shadows of our collective memory and experience.

Assuming that you knew the Dual Significance of the name – Ostara – can we understand that the subject – World War II – is of relevance when it comes to influence and inspiration or is it just an artistic taste for the abyss of ambiguity?…

The era before and after the last war has defined the world we live in, morally, spiritually, politically and aesthetically. No one can deny this fact. Having said that, Ostara is only partially concerned with this period of History and much more interested in a pan-historical vision that reaches far back into our past and deep into our present. WW2 is certainly a point of gravitiy but not the only point. The compass is much wider and these seemingly peaceful times are still frought with many secrets of a disturbing and irrational nature.

About the title of your first work “Secret Homeland”, it’s a magical phrase but what in fact were your feelings when you created it?…What does it represent?…

“Secret Homeland” was inspired by a number of things that revealed a unified pattern of origin. I had been reading a book called “Secret Germany” about Claus von Stauffenberg which claimed that this hero of the German Resistance to Hitler was motivated not only by a moral rebellion against tyranny but, as a patriotic soldier and aristocrat, by a sense of duty to his homeland that had been desecrated by those who had appropriated its essence. At the same time, the war in Kosovo was a dark reminder that the ideal of a sacred homeland could be transformed into its positive and this reverse transfiguration is an ominous paradox that reveals just how corruptible life can be. Within this context, the mythical landscaoe of ancestral memory remains a powerful, if dormant, force and however far we drift from the primordial spirit of life there will always be some compulsion to seek the bond of eternity that remains the source of our being.

“You Miserable uneducated Half-Man , you’re not at all what we fought for!…”.
This is the Voice Sample that opens the fantastic track “Operation Valkrie” from where does this come?…
What about the other Samples in “Epiphany”, “The Reckoning” what do they tell us?…

The sample comes from a film called “The Fall of the Roman Empire” with James Mason as a Roman general forced to choose between incorporating barbarians into the imperial army or being killed by them. At first he refuses but when faced with execution he realises that the future of Rome depends upon an alliance with “miserable, uneducated half-men”. I thought the quote was very pertinent to the song given that the barbarians were Germans whose pursuit of greatness in more modern times provoked a similar attitude of contempt for other races considered inferior to them. It also has some resonance within our own time in which advanced technology coexists with the “dumbing down” of culture. The other samples on the album were chosen by our collaborators. The Prelude to “Epiphany” is by Marco Deplano who reads from an Italian radio broadcast in 1934 following the Night of the Long Knives. Called “Radio Liberta” it is one of the first manifestations of the resistance from within the Nazi movement itself. Wolfgang Weiss reads a passage from Hermann Hesse ‘s “Demian” describing the spirit of ennui descending over European civilisation. He also includes an excerpt from Liebenfels on the in-dwelling of God in the folk-soul. By offering these parts to people I have known for a while, we were able to add the contribution of other European languages and ideas into our work.

In the track “Ways to Strength and Beauty” you begin with the following text:
“Wood is an old name for forest…In the Wood the Paths mostly wide along (Help me there with the translation, please) until they end in an impenetrable thicket…they are called Woodpaths!…
Each goes its peculiar way, but in the same forest often seems as though one were identical to another, yet it only seems so!…
Woodcutters and Foresters are familiar with these paths, they know what it means to be on a Woodpath!…”
Now, Richard, what does it mean to be on a Woodpath?…

This text is from Martin Heidegger whose philosophy has been important to me for some time. The woodpath is both a literal and symbolic image. Heidegger was literally a “wood-cutter” who conceived much of his work in the heart of the Black Forest. His vision of the quest for being ran parallel with the mysterious yet familiar pathwork of the forest that ended in the “impenetrable thicket” of thought, the dead end that had to be breached in order to rediscover the clearing of truth that could only be revealed within time and thus in the mortal stream of existence.

Ostara has released its new work called “Whispers to the Soul”, can you give us a general idea of it?…Are there any differences concerning the  Artistic Spirit/Soul between this one and “Secret Homeland”?…

“Whispers of the Soul” is a two track 7’’ vinyl picture disk and CD. The latter contains additional pieces but the new songs are the main focus. There is something more intimate about these songs, a kind of casting adrift from the realm of “Secret Homeland” into further reaches. This at least is the general impression I get from the songs.

In the very few songs that Tim had the chance to sing, he showed a wonderfull voice, will he  be featured singing more often in future releases?!...

Yes Tim's voice is a strong counterpoint to my own and he will definitely sing more on future releases.

What about participations, can we expect on continuing to see the fabulous contributions of Tess Rokita (Backing Vocals) and Jo Richards (Cello) that so much have helped on building the harmonies  of “Secret Homeland”?…Are there any more special Participations?…John Murphy?…

The cello will still be a prominent feature on the next album but there will be less consistent collaboration, due partly to a deliberate intention to diversify the sound. The next Ostara album will have elements previously unheard and be a more varied experience. It is still very much in process so I can’t exactly predict what the final outcome will be.

Apart from Ostara’s Realm, will there be any more participations from your side?…Like in the Fabulous “Birdking” of Fire+Ice?…

The only confirmed collaboration will be with Marco Deplano’s Foresta de Ferro project which promises to be something quite exciting, a mixture of neofolk songs and industrial terror. Whatever happens, I know that this is going to be an innovative venture.

Is there any book/film/record that you've recently read/saw/heard, that you've found as being special and worthy of mentioning?!...

I recently saw Jodorowski's "Holy Mountain" which is one of the most powerful and magical films I have seen. As with "Santa Sangre", there is a mystical pathos and black humour that makes it more than just fiction but also a work of catharsis and incantation.

Ostara couldn't play many times in Germany and in the Netherlands. How do you understand, being accused of antisemitism, and being Jewish as well. How do you understand, that people who accused you,  can have such a bad faith? What's hidden behind all these lies, why this hypocrisy ?

This is a recurring problem in parts of Europe now, particularly in the Germanic countries where sensitivity towards the past provokes hysterical reactions from a minority of people that unfortunately has a decisive impact on the organisation of concerts. The threat always stems from below among youth groups who are ignorant of what they try to condemn. Rather than risk their reputations, the authorities prefer to justify censorship by claiming that groups like Ostara are right-wing but no evidence is ever provided to substantiate these claims – especially as there is absolutely no evidence in the first place !!  In Germany our old name and the reference to the Ostara magazine of the 1930’s is enough to ratify a ban. I can see why this creates tension in that country but judgements must be based on sound investigation unclouded by narrow preconceptions (that are entirely inaccurate). There must also be an opportunity for the “accused” to defend himself – faceless judges bear the mark of the police state. But Germany is just too paranoid to permit anything that appears to invoke the legacy of the Third Reich (ironic given the recent commercial rehabilitation of Leni Riefenstahl). In Holland, we were told that there was no evidence to suggest that we ourselves were right-wing but the management of the club did not want to take any chances ! Innocent till proven guilty does not exist in such minds and I cannot see how this kind of censorship benefits anyone. It is purely negative and reactionary and has no place in a free society.  At least, in the Netherlands, we managed to get an interview with a prominent newspaper (De Limburger) who have published an article in which we were finally given a voice. I explained that my interests in themes considered to be controversial are not only derived from my Jewish identity but also have a wider significance in our culture. The interviewer actually asked me if our current collective understanding of the past is inadequate to which I partially agreed. Of course, in order to reach a new and better understanding, you have to sometimes invite controversy and misunderstanding. There is no other choice and, unfortunately, there are always those who do not wish to be reminded about what disturbs them most. Listening to Ostara should make them realise how unthreatening we truly are ! But that’s just the point : none of our detractors ever bother to do this.

Did you ever think about having a side-project in which you could experiment other musical fields ?

KAPO ! and Scorpion Wind were two side projects that brought out some interesting new elements in our work but we would prefer to explore new things within the sphere of Ostara. Foresta de Ferro is probably the only opportunity that exists for further experimentation but our contribution will eventually find its way back into Ostara.

You will play with Lady Morphia in april at the Red Rose, in London, and you should also play with them in June in Croatia. They released an excellent album which is rather close to the Ostara sounds structures, what do you think about Chris Nedzynski's project ?

Actually we will not be appearing in Croatia but the London show is now confirmed. I agree the “Recitals to Renewal” is a very good album and I am eager to see Lady Morphia live. Nick and Chris have great ideas and ample talent so there is much to look forward to.

What is the importance of Nature in your life ?

Although the realm of cyberspace beckons many a waking moment, I remain acutely conscious of the presence of the natural world without which the senses are lulled into a languid stupor. It is disturbing that, increasingly, our contact with nature seems to have become more of a brief excursion into an unknown place than a regular experience. But, since the struggle for life has its roots in nature, we cannot expect to experience it simply as a pleasant retreat from the “real world”. Our connection to the earth is more precarious and perilous than that.

Last but not least, do you appreciate the french cuisine ?

France is a gastronomic paradise. I would be poorer in body and spirit if it were not for Burgundian wine, Camembert and Roquefort cheese, Châteaubriand, moules and Perrier !

Finally could you list your five favourites records and the five last ones you bought ?
Favourites : Death In June “Brown Book”; Current 93 “Thunder Perfect Mind”; The Doors “The Doors”; Love “Forever changes”; Scott Walker “Boy Child”.

Albums acquired in the last few months : Leonard Cohen “Greatest Hits”; Kate Bush “Hounds of Love”; Hildegard von Bingen “Voice of the Blood”; Strauss “Four last songs”; Madonna “Music”.

Thank You Very Much, Richard, for your Kindness in answering our Curious Questions, Best wishes for the Future and we hope to catch you somewhere live in Europe ...
 Interview : Miguel V.
Ostara website : http://sites.netscape.net/leviathanjenn5/ostara

and soon : http://www.ostara.net



© Heimdallr webzine, 2001
© All pictures, Ostara