When I think of NeoFolk, there’s few names, or voices, more iconic than that of Ian Read. He was part of the genre’s inception and continues to breath new life with each consecutive album. If I had to pick my top ten NeoFolk records, Fire + Ice would hold at least four positions. I was recently given the opportunity to ask Ian a few questions, and was graciously given the answers below.
Ian, firstly let me begin to say how honored I am for the interview. Since being introduced to your solo work shortly after the release of “Birdking”, I was immediately hooked. Since then I’ve stalked your back catalog like a trophy hunter and obviously grabbing anything new that you bless us with.
For the uninitiated, as far back as 1988 you worked with Current 93, been involved with Death In June and were at one time a member of Sol Invictus. Am I missing anything?
It would be more accurate to say that I founded Sol Invictus with Tony Wakeford.
I don’t know about David, but Douglas and Tony were obviously both in Crisis and once part of the British Punk scene. Do your roots go back there as well?
I know Douglas appeared on your last studio album, “Fractured Man”, so I’m assuming you still keep in contact with him. What about Tony and David? The Romantic in me wants to believe you are all part of some NeoFolk Gentlemen’s Club with monthly meetings in smoky, wood-paneled rooms.
Such a club would suit me but not the other two. I have spoken briefly to Tony twice in the last decade or so but have no contact with Tibet.
If my investigative skills are on track, it was roughly two years between the time you left Sol Invictus and emerged with your own band, Fire + Ice. What went on in that time and what was the catalyst for you creating your own project?
I was studying the Mystery and Fighting Skills in Germany and elsewhere during that period. When I came back to England I had no intention of continuing to record music but Douglas P. convinced me I should.
Your albums are always steeped in Germanic lore, as well as traditional Folk songs. They are nearly always a learning experience for me. I’m forever digging deeper into song meanings. Your early works were a huge influence on my own spiritual quest. Even being raised a strict Southern Baptist, I’d never recalled hearing of Jubal or Tubal Cain until your last album! Do you find the main source of your inspiration comes from the Lore?
My inspiration does mainly come from studying and living the Lore.
It was nearly 12 years between the release of “Birdking” and 2012’s “Fractured Man”. That’s quite a break between records. I’ve always been curious about that. Had you said everything you needed to up until that point? While it would be impossible to cover that entire time span, what’s the condensed version of what was going on?
Music is one way I use to transmit sacred ideas. One doesn’t so much teach what one knows but rather what one is and, in order to do this, one must become more. That takes time and, in this particular case, I waited 12 years for the inspiration to come to me.
Along with “Fractured Man”, there’s been a beautiful reissue of “Rûna” on vinyl from Autre Que, the wonderful new live album “Deo Endovellico Sacrum” on Pesanta, two successful European tours as well as a US appearance at 2013’s Stella Natura. You’ve been incredibly busy the past couple of years. What made you decide to come out of retirement, for lack of a better term?
I never retired and always did the odd gig now and again. The release of Fractured Man just increased my involvement in music for awhile. That is likely to continue for a bit longer at least. We shall see.
How did the most recent tour go? Were you happy with the turn out and the response? From a few videos I’ve seen floating around, it looked like some great shows.
Taken as a whole the tour was a great experience and was everything we had expected and more. Any minor problems became dust in the wind and we overcame them. Looking at the shows on video afterwards I see that we did ourselves proud. Nathalie and Autre Que pulled a blinder, as we would say in London.
Are your ever subjected to the threat of the Antifa knuckleheads as so many of your counterparts?
They make noises, which I ignore.
How did the vinyl reissue of “Rûna” come about? While it never went away, there’s definitely resurgence in actual records. What’s your take on that? Are you happy with the reissue?
Nathalie and I spoke and it was clear to me that she would be able to produce something special and that is what happened. I am happy as a pig in the proverbial about that.
There seems to be a fair amount of the Fire + Ice catalog available for digital download through iTunes, Amazon, etc. What’s your take on the medium? Do you just roll with the punches when it comes to technology?
The world moves on and I am in the world, although not a part of it, and accept certain realities when they are not too egregious.
The “Fractured Man” liner notes read like a who’s who of the current NeoFolk scene. Besides the above mentioned Douglas Pearce, there’s Sonne Hagal, Unto Ashes, as well as Michael Moynihan, Annabel Lee and Bob Ferbrache all of Blood Axis all contributed to the album. How did these collaborations come about?
Unto Ashes approached me through the engineer in Texas who recorded the vocals and put it all together. The others I asked to help and they were gracious enough to accept. They all did a great job. It is worth mentioning here that the tunes of Fire + Ice songs, when not traditional, are nearly always from my mind.
The live LP “Deo Endovellico Sacrum” was released earlier in 2014. This is probably one of the best live records I’ve heard. The recording is pristine! I noticed from the notes that this was actually recorded at Sintra, Portugal in 2001. I’m assuming this was just locked away in a vault somewhere. What made you decide to go ahead and release it?
Robert Ferbrache had been beetling away with the recordings on and off over the years and eventually indicated that he had enough material to create a release. Based on his undoubted genius as an engineer (not to mention as a musician,) we all decided it should see the light of day.
It seems to me in recent years that a good number of people are longing for music with more sustenance, that touch on matters of the spirit. Bands like Fire + Ice and Blood Axis have a growing fan base, or it could be wishful thinking on my part. Have you noticed a growing amount of support or is it less than in past years.
The right people seem to hear it and like it and that is good enough for me.
I know you’re still active in the Rune Gild. How did your association with Edred Thorrson come about?
One of my early teachers was sent a copy of Edred’s Futhark manuscript to comment on and I was lent it. I used a typewriter to copy the text and hand drew the illustrations. Then I wrote off for the training material that he produced in booklet form and started the work. After producing my Masterwork I went to Texas with a group of other members to be personally named a Master. Forty years ago this year I swore my oath to the Lord of Light and Drighten of Darkness that I would Become what I already am. I have never deviated from that sworn word.
Are you still actively involved with the IOT?
I am an Elder but rarely engage in anything with them these days, although I am kept in the loop.
Can you give me any insights into what’s next on the horizon for Fire + Ice? Without gazing into a crystal ball, do you think you’ll continue with the current momentum you seem to have built up? I’m hoping for my own selfish reasons there’s a few more albums and tours to be done.
We will play live next year but not often. An idea for a new album is germinating too and I doubt it will take me anything like 12 years this time.
I’m always curious as to what inspires the artist whom inspires me. Is there any particular record, book, etc that’s occupying your time?
The Folk Tradition continues to inspire me musically. When it comes to reading, I am more likely to have an article in front of me than a book these days because the cutting edge is where I find myself mostly. Once the penny drops, one feels the dark edge of the Mystery enveloping one; and expanding that ever out, whilst knowing it is ultimately never to be more than partially known, becomes one’s life’s work.
Ian, thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s been a privilege. The closing words belong to you.
This is for the Numbered Men. You will know who you are.