Neofolk, the European musical genre of dark, romantic melancholic folk, has been around since the 80s, and Tony Wakeford is prolific across many of its interconnected bands and releases. From his involvement in 70s punk band CRISIS, through DEATH IN JUNE, his own band SOL INVICTUS, and with some ‘investigative politics’ along the way, Tony has led or collaborated with just about every musician and idea in the scene, so he seems to me to be a man who can answer questions with the benefit of a fair bit of well-rounded experience. But what is he up to now? Is he really a chap spending his days seeking happiness through the acquisition of collectibles, and maybe the completion of a boxed tabletop challenge? Or is it a double bluff? Or is it a triple? In this interview we talk lockdown life, European identity, the Enlightenment idea of progress, dodgy politics, left-wing Brexiters, ‘gammon’, what complete bastards pets are, who cleans the toilets in the The Fountainhead world, and what he really thinks of modern satanists. But as a kind of Mr ‘Death of the West’, is it all doom and gloom? Or will you laugh as much as I did?
Main photo – copyright Steve Kenny.
What is a typical day like for you, now we have lockdown?
I wake up early but try and make it to 6:30ish before officially rising. My wife got me addicted to Animal Crossing which is a sugar coated Ayn Rand utopia were people work in an office 24 hours a day so a group of idiots can overfish and murder butterflies and bury money.
Jigsaw puzzles and Audible, plus something Killy on Netflix. When arsed, I attempt guitar, bass and working on a few projects. CRISIS are trying to rehearse once a month, so I’m trying to keep my hand in for that and we are recording a new single.
My wife is in a coma before the injection of caffeine so I have to administer a cup and breakfast to get her at least to zombie level. I also feed my hate-filled parrot and our gang of pigeons on our balcony. Sadly it seems Nutella our Squirrel of many years who would come in for some nuts is probably no more.
Surely you were proud of your label Tursa?
I’m not sure how I feel about it, really. It seems so long ago. It put out some pretty good stuff but I won’t miss the joy of releasing a compilation.
How is Bandcamp working out?
It’s a great platform and I have a small group of subscribers who mean I at least have to do something now and then, but it’s a pebble in the ocean.
If you want to make an old man happy, subscribe!
I caught the end of the CRISIS set at Rebellion 2018….how was it for you?
Really good and the reaction we received was very positive.
You must have heard a lot of music over the years. What floats your boat these days?
Kraut Rock, The Fall, Pye Corner Audio, Prefab Sprout, King Crimson and Rain soundtracks to nod off to.
Would you consider yourself primarily a lyricist / poet, or a musician?
None of the above.
You’ve had some stick over the years, but I think your voice sits especially well on the last three albums…
Ha ha. It’s an acquired taste that’s for sure.
Lemmy once called Dave Brock a dictator, meaning it as a compliment. I guess Sol Invictus has always been your solo project, and you’ve seen no shame in being in charge….has that ever caused problems?
Yes, I make it plain from the start but some people forget it then get upset when I eventually have to remind them.
You must have played a fair few gigs. Any stand out ones? Any disasters?
On the whole I have been pretty lucky as most actual on stage experiences have been good. Everything before and after the actual concert less so. Our WGT and Wroclaw festivals have some good memories. Plus one off festivals in Lithuania and Portugal.
What is European identity defined, ( and perhaps its demise ) to you?
It’s a civilisation, a culture. It’s done terrible things, it’s done amazing things. On a personal level it’s how I define myself. Having a mate in Berlin, Paris, Rome or Birmingham is all the same to me.
Isn’t the artistic ‘anti-modernism’ and ‘aristocratic fascism’ of some neofolk just a bit of harmless escapism? Or is it – as some critics have said – something that must in some way inevitably contribute to real fascism, and if so, do you have any second thoughts on anything you have created?
It’s both I think. Goths and Neo-Folkers are about the least likely brownshirts, perhaps just behind Jazz improv fans. But it takes many Zeits to make a Geist and certainly it’s not only Folk club singers who had fingers in their ears.
The Brexit result was something that shook many people’s sense of identity…
Yep. If you are far right, it makes perfect sense which is why they all supported it, but anyone not on the right who could delude themselves that it could be other than a disaster, well, how’s that turned out? I have friends whose lives have been turned upside down by it.
That said, the Remain campaign was appalling and although the Leave side cornered the ‘moron and vitriol’ corner, there’s no doubt Remain had the ‘smug living in a bubble’ demographic in the bag.
Result aside, if Britain had ever been occupied, maybe we’d understand the EU a bit better? If we’d had an Oradour-Sur-Glane…?
Yes, indeed. It’s very noticeable that the war generation, regardless of party, saw this as so important.
It’s the generations who had no part in WW2 and who wear the suffering and sacrifices of those years like counterfeit trainers that really pisses me off. The very same people who cry because they have to wear a mask, or can’t hang Golly Wogs anymore or call plod when KFC run out of chicken.
What do you think about Christianity these days?
Not a lot despite being a lot closer to death.
Of course old school Catholicism and Orthodoxy and M. R James all have their charms but the stench of American evangelicals always puts me on the side of the lions.
Mind you we have gone from the romance and style of Fin de Siecle Satanism to Order of the Nine ‘Nonces‘, so this rot is everywhere.
Thinking of Sol Invictus’ anti-Americanism stance – when did it all go wrong? Tony Blair? Earlier?
Earlier, although Wilson managed to keep us out of Vietnam without us sinking beneath the waves. Americans are our friends, I even have some 😉 America, however isn’t. I’d say the same about Russia, Israel, Iran and a host of other countries. The people – friends, the people in power – not so much.
Traditionalism or progress? What about modernity and the ability to shape individuality – eg being gender neutral, or tattooing your eyeballs black?
I have friends on both “sides” of these arguments. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of identity and intersectional politics at least not in how they are presently manifested.
What do you think of Richard Starkey calling Remembrance day ‘virtue signalling’?
I hadn’t seen that. I always wore a poppy up until recently and I still put a quid in the tin but don’t wear one. Fucking gammons ruin everything.
I don’t hold with the hero stuff either. Of course what you do can make you one, and many soldiers, amongst others,deserve the title but simply signing up doesn’t. Especially as our forces are not being used in our defence but in promoting the greed of foreign powers and interests.
The BBC is in the Tory crosshairs for being ‘culturally left wing’. Do you think they have a point?
I’m sick of BBC ‘Trots’ like Nicolas Farage and Jeremy Clarkson. Thankfully we have the Mail, Express, Telegraph, Sun and Talk Radio for a more balanced view.
Have you ever tried out some instrument or technique that seemed a bit risque in Sol, and then scrapped it?
I usually farmed that out to my solo stuff. There was a few spilt aryan tears when Thrones came out – “Why are you playing negro music?”.
What are the tracks that you are most proud of, that you most enjoy playing?
Well both Angels Fall and On and On – not because they are particularly good, but because they sprang fully formed from waking from a dream. Very odd experience.
Last album Necropolis – what did you set out to achieve with that album?
A fitting farewell I think. London’s obituary, and maybe my own.
Noting your line ‘an Ayn Rand freak with ermine privilege’ – I guess you’ve seen London change a lot?
Oh yes. Not all bad but most. Especially in the last years.
Are you working on any new stuff? Any plans for live streaming?
We are recording new material with CRISIS which I’m enjoying. I have worked on a couple of tracks for Fritz, the small but perfectly formed German from SONNE HAGAL. SOL are doing a track for a bonkers Norwegian compilation being put out by some snow donkeys I know. Quite possibly our last studio track, but who knows.
I have also been recording material for a new OWLS album which may be out before my death but as it’s full of Italians I wouldn’t put money on it.
I also played bass on a great NAEVUS track and added my vocal groaning and pedestrian bass thud to some friends Inanis Yoake.
Matt Howden kindly gave me advice on streaming but I’m tech adverse. I have however just brought a HD camera as CRISIS are looking to put up something in lieu of playing live. Also Renee and I may do a song – although I fear it could be a bit ‘Nuts in May’, Zoo Song.
And lastly, it must be amazing being married to a talented musician, and of course the most beautiful woman in the world ( after my wife, of course )…
I’m very lucky to have met and married Renee. For her? Not so much.
Quick questions to end:
Do you drive?
No. I decided that ending upside down in a ditch with petrol dripping on my head was a hint not to. In my defence I was drunk.
Favourite all-time fiction books?
Something by John Le Carre, James Ellroy or Barbra Vine.
Fred, a parrot. He is an absolute cunt.
Most un-rockstar thing you do?
Collect watches. Do Jigsaw puzzles. I almost started an egg coddler collection but thankfully stepped back from the brink.
Do you have a favourite ( insert material object here – egg cup, plectrum, etc…)?
My modified Casio Royal, my modified Seiko SKX007, my Snapdragon bass and the urn with our cats ashes in. Oh and vodka.
What would you say to the young Tony? And would he listen?
Political parties should be avoided. No.
Any messages for the youth of today?
Trust no one. Not even yourselves.
Your predictions for 2021?
Just when you think it couldn’t get worse…
Cheers Tony, to end – how would you change the world ( assuming you would want to ), in a sentence?
A secular, humanist, enlightenment Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Plus Japanese girls in uniforms. Sorry, that’s two sentences!