The Daily Telegraph will tomorrow (16 June 2006) publish a delightful little article about David Tibet and the rather wonderful Current 93.
Most visitors will be aware that David has been highly influential, not just on music but also on the modern development and cultural impact of Thelema.
If you’re unfamiliar with his work, I can thoroughly recommend that you purchase the music CDs and take a look at his important article for Flexipop magazine…
Waiting for the apocalypse in a Hastings back garden
Chris Campion meets David Tibet of the industrial folk band, Current 93
What is it about seaside towns that attracts the great British eccentric? Whatever it is, Hastings is no exception.
It hosted the ﬁnal days of the notorious Aleister Crowley, the self-proclaimed “wickedest man in the world”. And now it is home to David Tibet, an “apocalyptic Christian” and the man behind Current 93, a 25-year musical project that charts his curious spiritual beliefs.
Tibet is something of a patron to other misﬁts and outsiders. He released the ﬁrst album by Mercury Award winner Antony Hegarty (of Antony & the Johnsons), whom he was introduced to by a mutual friend several years ago.
“I’ve always been drawn to people who have given their everything to create their own vision of beauty,” he says.
To this end, he operates a small, self-run independent label called Durtro. But his main focus has always been his work as Current 93. Born out of the ’80s “industrial” scene that formed around Throbbing Gristle, Current 93 has been described as “apocalyptic folk”, a dramatic-sounding genre that began life by accident.
“Someone wanted to know how to ﬁle us,” says Tibet. “I said, well, we’re apocalyptic folk, as in ‘people’. They took it literally.”
Current 93’s music slips between gentle melodies on cello, ﬂute and violin, and ambient soundscapes that provide a dreamy counterpoint to his spoken verse. Apocalypse is the focus of his new album Black Ships Ate the Sky, which vividly imagines the invading forces of the Antichrist.
The album came out of a fevered dream Tibet had four years ago, while living in Walthamstow; to be fair, a place quite likely to inspire apocalyptic visions.
“It was made clear to me that this was the invasion force of Antichrist, portending the Second Coming of Christ,”
Tibet tells me, as gulls caw above his back garden. Born David Michael Bunting, the son of a mining engineer who settled in Malaysia after the war, Tibet was educated in England but raised in Malaysia until his teens.
By his own admission, he was a precocious and inquisitive child. At 10, he had already consumed Tolkien and CS Lewis along with Thomas De Quincey and MR James’s The Apocryphal New Testament. At 12, after picking up a lurid paperback by Aleister Crowley, he joined the International Order of Qabalists.
“I used to get their literature sent to the prep school I went to in Yorkshire. It was always conﬁscated. As a way of coping with a world I didn’t understand – the world of the English prep school – I was always plotting different methods of escape, and what to do if the sky suddenly split open and Christ returned.”
From 1982 onwards, he ploughed his dreams into musical forms. “A lot of my work is about trying to recapture when I was happiest, in Malaysia.” Tibet’s work is undercut by an absurdist humour. “If I say, ‘There’s the knock at the door; it could be Christ returning’, I fully realise it could also be the postman. I’m aware that people can listen to what we do, be charitable, and still think I’m insane.”
That said, a recent concert hall tour of Europe found him playing to 1,000-strong audiences. “I’m not an evangelist,” he says. “Current is about trying to explain myself to myself and to work out my own salvation.”
For now at least, Tibet has found his own safe harbour from the black ships, in Hastings.
“If you’re waiting for the Second Coming of Christ,” he says, “it’s nice to do it by the seaside.”
# ‘Black Ships Ate the Sky’ is out now on Durtro Jnana.