Here is an interview we had with Damh the Bard in September 2013! This interview was written by Nemetona for issue 3 of the Wyldwood Radio Newsletter.
Nemetona: You are very involved in Druidry, specifically through the organisation OBOD, or the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. What or who led to you finding Druidry?
Damh: My route to Druidry began with a love of the ‘occult’. A scary word to some, but all it means is ‘hidden’, and I loved the unexplained and supernatural. When my friends were all into football, I was into ghosts, bigfoot, magic and faerie. In my late teens/early twenties that led me to join a group that had links with the Golden Dawn and I studied magic with them for a number of years. Sadly the group broke up and I found myself in a spiritual no-mans-land. Hermetic magic had begun to feel a little detached and ‘heady’ to me so I took the opportunity to explore the more Earthy paths. I looked at Wicca and Witchcraft and although I liked the energy, I didn’t like the covenbased approach. It was when I sent off for the details of the OBOD that my life changed. I got the leaflet through and like many people had that sense of coming home. It had everything I was looking for – the creativity and myth of the Bard, the magic and mysticism of the Ovate, and the Forest Sage Druid. I joined in early 1994 and really that stamp changed my life.
Nemetona: What is it that inspired you to follow the more creative Bardic path?
Damh: Music has always been my first love. Combine that with my love of magic and you have the Bard. Me and the Bardic path were like two magnets that turned to face each other at exactly the right moment, and the attraction was impossible to resist.
Nemetona: Your music is, and always has been inspired and driven by the tales and legends of old. What sparked your love for this rich history?
Damh: With the risk of repeating myself it is the same energy that has led me all of my life. Myth comes from that place of unknowing, the hidden corners of the woodland, the misty area of the hill, the dark curve of the river. Places where we can just about see, but to know them truly we have to walk into them. Bringing myth and music together also brings it to a wider audience, and those hidden places are explored by more people. It’s what I love to do.
Nemetona: I’d just like to take a moment to talk about one of the songs from your latest album, Antlered Crown and Standing Stone, Sons and Daughters (Of Robin Hood). It’s a very ‘out there’ political song about the sell off of the British Woodlands. Can you tell us about your inspirations when writing the song?
Damh: Two of my songs have been written in anger – Only Human and this one. Politics is to me at an all time low. I watch what this government is doing each day and despair. The song was inspired by the return of a Tory government. I realised that my children had only experienced Labour and that was their benchmark. Mine was Thatcher. The Tories have never been very supportive of alternative lifestyles. When I heard that one of the first things they were going to do was sell of our forests I couldn’t keep quiet any more. I wanted people to remember the poll tax, the riots, the road protests, the exclusion zone around Stonehenge, the Bean Field. I guess this is a folk song in the truest sense of the word. Music is therapy, and writing this was mine.
Nemetona: What does bringing music to people represent to you?
Damh: There are two sides to this. Writing and recording, and playing live. When I write and record I throw myself into the process completely. Each word and note must mean something. It’s hard for me to write songs. I’m not that prolific. The CD is a new child and it’s fed and nurtured before you let it out into the world. What happens after that is up to the people listening. Live I would say I was an entertainer first, and a musician second. I love to engage fully with an audience. We sing together, we laugh together and sometimes we cry together. Music is magic. Four well placed notes can either lift you up, or make you cry. The way we hear music, what it does to our bodies, is real magic, and good entertainers and musicians, when they play live, are also magicians. During the gig we cast a spell with notes and words. I live for it.
Nemetona: The Pagan music scene has changed a lot over the last few years. Where do you see it going over the next 5 years?
Damh: I have no idea. What I love about the Pagan music scene is the way we all help each other and when we can play together. I see no competition with my fellow Pagan musos. I love them. I hope it continues like that. One big family playing music and changing the world.
Nemetona: What would you say your greatest achievement has been, and why?
Damh: For me it was standing in front of Sydney Opera House a couple of years ago. I’d seen this building so many times on the TV but there I was in Australia. I remembered that 8 year old Damh playing his first few notes on the guitar, and then looked again at Sydney Harbour. That decision when I was 8 years old led directly to me being in Australia. I was 45. It’s amazing what 37 years of complete singleminded focus can do. My guitar and music was allowing me to see the world. That’s pretty amazing.
Nemetona: And our random question: If you could be any kind of biscuit, what would you be and why?
Damh: My favourite biscuits. Cornish Fairings 🙂
To find out more about Damh the Bard please visit: www.paganmusic. co.uk