I first met Kyle from Anahata in 2015. At the time, I had my own small tattoo shop in a powerlifting gym, named “New Barbarian Tattoo.” Kyle had driven south from Canada to Oregon in part to have me add a black dotwork tattoo to his growing collection — some of which he’d had done by well-known tattooers I admired in Europe. My first impression of Kyle was that he was stylish and well-traveled. We had dinner afterward at a local German restaurant. Over the next few years, he returned to Oregon and Washington a few times to see shows and participate in rituals with me and others at Waldgang. I think I remember him boxing one of the guys out at the land. An avid physical culture enthusiast, Kyle would bring out gymnastic rings to exercise, and I’ve enjoyed following his adventures trekking through the mountains of British Columbia and around the world through his Instagram profile @solarus_cascadia.
I had stopped tattooing by the time I created the “Solar Vision” symbol, but he asked for my permission to have someone else do the work, and he’s got the symbol tattooed high on his chest.
While I’m not necessarily a metal guy myself, I was glad to see that Kyle had started making music again. The release of his collaborative project, Anahata’s “Auspicious Atavism,” coincided — auspiciously — with the debut of the PH2T3R cultural project, so it seemed like the perfect choice for its first feature interview.
Tell me about “Anahata,” what it means, and what it means to the band.
I decided on the name Anahata for the band directly after the Heart Chakra in Yogic and Buddhistic traditions. While not massively versed in that school of thought, I had read that “Anahata” means directly “unhurt, unstruck, unbeaten” and further, “Anahata Nad” refers to the Vedic notion of an “unstruck sound” or “sound created without two touching parts” or the celestial realm.
Given that myself, Ioan (vocals), and Jack (lead guitar) are spread between BC, Ontario, and Australia respectively, it is indeed “sound created without two touching parts”. We haven’t met in person (yet) but have managed to create this project in such a fluid and smooth manner, it clearly seemed to resonate with all 3 of us. Alex Snape who mixed and mastered the album at his Nomadic Studios is also out in Ontario and was right on the same wavelength as well.
The definitions go on to say “The name of this chakra signifies the state of freshness that appears when we are able to become detached and to look at the different and apparently contradictory experiences of life with a state of openness”
For me, I had taken almost 5 years off from making music. My previous musical projects tended to grind to a halt from clashes in musical direction and intention with other musicians. While happy with my previous efforts, they never seemed to go anywhere. When I presented the first 2 songs from the demo to Ioan and Jack, I asked if they would be interested in working together on a project, and said they have total control of how they wanted their parts to sound. Surprise me with what you think would suit these songs. And they took my rough outlines of songs and transformed them and gave them magnificent depth. Jack’s solos moved me to the core, both in sheer technical ability and in emotive playing. Ioan’s lyrics and vocal performances are more than I could have ever hoped for.
So between these 3 key definitions that pretty well sealed the deal for me on the name. This project has been a genuine breath of crisp, beautiful fresh air. To have a completely open mind and a canvas to offer those other incredible musicians to work with.
You’re pulling from a lot of mythic themes in this release, and your band’s profile speaks of “eternal quest,” “sol,” gral,” and “meru.” What do these words mean in the context of this project — and why do you think these ideas are important?
Ioan was entirely in charge of the lyrics, I gave him only the most vague outlines of themes. I seem to recall saying “Solar Grail Quest” and he said something along the lines of “I got you”. So I’m thrilled with everything he wrote, and that he covered a good amount of bases with subject matter without it ending up too disjointed or disconnected.
I was trying to come up with a short writeup for that section and those particular words just leapt out of the back of my mind right to the forefront and it seemed the right choice. They’re open enough to allow for interpretation and intent to those that find us. For me, the associations have grown each time I read them.
For me, The “Eternal Quest” is the Grail quest. The never-ending drive towards ever better manifestations; improvement for the sake of improvement – adventure for the sake of adventure.
“Sol” should probably be obvious for the people reading this, but the Sun. Source of all. We also like to dabble with concepts of Agartha and the “inner sun”, which should be taken as symbols of journeying inwards and bringing that internal Sun forth into the physical world as opposed to actually believing in a terrestrial “hollow earth”.
“Gral” is our preferred choice of spelling (Cornish) for the Holy Grail, the Grail, Sangraal. Whether the Chalice sought by heroes in Arthurian Legend or the Stone fallen from the crown of the Morning Star – both these symbols are powerful archetypal objects which we have found beneficial to consider.
“Meru” is the Mountain at the centre of all worlds. Many try to attribute a geographical location to the mountain, not coming to the conclusion that it is the inner mountain – again thoughts of the inner Sun and inner worlds. And the Mountain MUST be climbed, at the top, perhaps the Gral? Perhaps the Sun? One can always find something of immense value at the summit of the Mountain.
I would consider the words important for contemplation and meditation. They seem to have substantial overlap with one another in their meanings. A never-ending quest, the Sun which rises and sets daily and waxes and wanes annually forever, a sacred object that may or may not have physically existed which bridges the gap between mythical and historical existence, and the symbolic Mountain at the “centre of the world”. The contemplative aspect is enough for me, and every time I consider them, they seem to apply to more and more scenarios either individually or collectively.
The never-ending quest… I know mountain climbing is important to you. I believe you were even in the Himalayas not so long ago. I think people would like to hear more about that, and how it has influenced you spiritually and as an artist.
Like I’m sure a substantial amount of people, I always felt the intrigue of the Everest region and more broadly the Himalayas. They have this other-worldy air about them, and rightly so! I’ve been up in the Himalayas twice now, first in 2016 and again in 2019 (wow time flies). The first time was part of a large 4 month journey I went on around the northern hemisphere from Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, to Moscow and the Trans-Siberian Rail to Irkutsk. Down into Mongolia and China, and then into Nepal and the Himalayas, finishing and heading back home from India. My first time in the Himalayas was to do the Everest Base Camp trek. It sounded so crazy and I had no idea what to expect in terms of how tough it could be. What would the thin oxygen feel like? Have I brought enough food? How far apart are the villages? But I just jumped right in.
It ended up being a breeze. I had allotted 14 days and did it in 10.
I did the first 7 days by myself – though you end up eating dinner and chatting with all the other trekkers in the tea houses each evening. The solitude was brilliant. I unknowingly had begun my trip the week before the peak season begins and the droves of people arrive. Most days I was left just with the crunching of my boots on the gravel. I didn’t struggle immensely with the oxygen levels, but you are definitely aware of it. Above 4,000m you don’t sleep very well, and the dreams are extremely vivid. On the 7th day, I overheard another group talking about their intentions to climb Kala Patthar (a small peak that overlooks Gorak Shep with brilliant views of Everest) at 3 am to watch the Sun rise from behind Everest. We joined up and set off in the pitch black in a snowstorm, we were breaking the trail up with a group of a few Japanese gentlemen behind us. We assumed there likely wouldn’t be views given the cloud but decided to just push on for the very principle of standing on the summit that we set out to climb.
We kept up, and up, and the clouds began to grow to a dark blue as sunlight began to tint the sky, and then suddenly we popped up out of the low pressure system of the valley into crystal clear skies with Everest, Lobuche, Ama Dablam, and Pumori surrounding us. It is forever burned into my mind’s eye and I wept up there. That reward of pushing through, breaking trail in fresh snow over 5,000m above sea level at 3 in the morning, assuming we would simply be in the clouds.
I knew I would have to return. So when I met Coach Josh Wood and saw he is totally on the same page, I asked him point-blank within a few hours of meeting him if he wanted to go trek in the Himalayas with me. Obviously, he said yes and we worked out the finances and schedules. Josh proposed that we tackle the Three Passes Trek of the region, going above 5,000m three times and encircling the entire Sagarmatha National Park.
Doing it solo was magical, but being able to share that experience with a guy I very quickly grew to love as a brother was so much more powerful.
The first trip there was cathartic. I felt I let go of many things over the course of that adventure, but sunrise at the summit of Kala Patthar was the pinnacle. It was my Meru and I was cleansed atop that peak. I came down from there a different man, and many of my closest friends remarked on it.
The second trip galvanized my appreciation for having good men in our lives, and the importance of sharing profound times and struggles. It truly gave me a bond with Josh that feels infinitely strong regardless of the distance between Tasmania and western Canada.
Aesthetics are important. There’s something about contemporary culture that makes an allowance for men involved in music to explore a visual expression of masculinity in a way that would raise at least an eyebrow in any other context. When I saw you break out the chain mail and aviators I was almost jealous. It’s a great look and it seems to fit the theme of the project perfectly. How did that look come about?
It’s weird Isn’t it? I think it must come with an implicit understanding that a band is a cohesive work of art. I’ve been to so many countless concerts now that I have no interest in seeing some guys play music – no matter how good – in JUST their streetwear and some lights. I want a show. Give me flames, costumes, stage props, a storyline. And hopefully, someday Anahata can perform live one way or another and we can offer something substantial.
As for the chainmail and sunglasses look, Ioan has had the chainmail coif for a while now. He performed a live acoustic set with our engineer Alex Snape for their other band Unbowed, and in that he wore a leather jacket, the chainmail coif, and sunglasses and I just thought “well damn, that’s the Anahata look for sure”. I find it offers a totally direct “Grail Knight” vibe, without going over the top with any LARPy full armour or helms, and the sunglasses are just a cherry on top.
Tell me about “auspicious atavism.” What does that mean to you and how is it expressed through this project.
“Auspicious Atavism” was another term that just exploded into my head. No brainstorming, it just hit me like that illuminating bolt of lightning during the writing process. I’m a big fan of alliteration and assonance, so it really vibed with me. The definition of Auspicious is “Presenting favorable circumstances or showing signs of a favorable outcome; propitious” and the definition of Atavism is “The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence”
I see this in these circles we thankfully find ourselves immersed in. Traits in men that appeared to have been lost through prior generations. From the physical culture to the arts and creative aspects, we’re lucky to be seeing and meeting more and more men showcasing Atavistic tendencies of our oftentimes more capable forefathers. Whether grounded in “historical reality” or not, we’re all reading into these mythologies and philosophies of men from bygone eras and feeling it ignite a fire in our hearts.
I also enjoyed the aspect of Atavism in that, being a biological term, it implies constant evolution and forward movement as opposed to an attempt to resurrect what was. It has an aura of cyclical time to it; archetypes resurface though the time and place in which they appear are different.
And naturally, to see this renaissance of joy in life and creation is Auspicious! There is such a vast ocean of doom and gloom we can drown ourselves in, that to find men who instead opt to build these glistening islands of creation, and a better future, it is truly inspiring and hopefully sends off a beacon to other men who might feel adrift and lost and haven’t found or forged an island yet in that sea. Nothing could be more inspiring, glistening, and golden than to create what we want to see and hear, and if it brings joy, merriment, and entertainment to our fellow men, that is also excellent.
What are your plans for this project and musical projects generally after this release? Do you think we’ll be hearing more from Anahata?
As for our future musical endeavours, Jack Heath is an incredibly talented guitarist, guitar teacher, and overall musician. His main exposure is just through his Instagram @jackheathguitar and I’m sure he’ll have endless guest spots and be posting great content.
Ioan is quite possibly the most diversified musician I’ve gotten to know alongside our producer and his bandmate Alex Snape I mentioned earlier. Ioan and Alex constantly have new projects coming out that any general heavy music fans should keep up on. Their main band that they have had for a decade “Unbowed” is coming out with a great new album this summer that I’m greatly anticipating. They have another pummeling band called “Hirsi” with Zack which is about to release an album as well! These guys are a genuine creative force to be reckoned with.
There are 3 atmospheric synth songs on the album as well written and recorded by Zack Janson under the project name “Graal Knyght”, people who listen and like these should definitely follow up with him and another of his projects “Neverlur”.
Given that we’re approaching prime mountain climbing season, and it’s light until nearly 10 pm up here in Canada, I don’t see myself writing much music through the summer. As with most musicians, I have a stockpile of general ideas and riffs for songs, but I can’t bring myself to sit in my garage under artificial light when the weather is amazing and the mountains are beckoning me.
Fans of Auspicious Atavism can expect some new music from us closer to the end of the year or early 2022 for sure. I think we’ve really hit gold with this endeavour and it feels right to continue carving forward in this direction.
Anahata’s “Auspicious Atavism” is available Friday on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, and most music streaming sources.