49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives
Canadian Paganism has a style all its own. Have a look at events, issues, celebrations, people, trends and events north of the border from the eyes of a Canadian Witch.
An Interview with Raven's Call
In the wake of my article on Canadian Pagan music, I had an opportunity to interview Thom of emerging Canadian Celtic folk rock band Raven’s Call, who was happy to share with me the details of what was going on with his band! For the full interview, check out my podcast as of June 10, 2013, at http://paganpathfinders.webs.com.
Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Thom: Lead vocals, violin, tinwhistle, bodhran
Laurie: Lead vocals, backup vocals, djembe
Dylan: Bass guitar
Thom and Laurie: Songwriters
Sable: So, tell me a little about yourself, and your other band members, and what it’s all about!
Thom: Our oldest member is our drummer, Bruce, and he’s been drumming for years. He came to us because he likes drumming and he loves a challenge. He was tired of playing the same thing. Raven’s Call allows him a chance to get out of that, because all of our songs are different. They change timing quite frequently throughout the piece. He can do more than just play the drums. Some of them he plays little hand drums. He plays chimes, he plays the cymbals, so he can expand himself from being more than just a drummer, to being a percussionist.
Sable: Hey, that’s cool. I appreciate when people treat percussion like an actual instrument; that’s a good thing.
Thom: Well, for me, I always have. One of the many instruments I play is the Celtic bodhran. And with that, you can hear the different tones it makes. If you know how to play it good, you can get it to sing its own melody.
Sable: What does everybody else in the band do?
Thom: Adrian, the keyboardist, is really new to the band. Like, only about four months, I’d say? He joined us because when we moved from Fort McMurray, unfortunately our guitar player could not come with us.
Sable: That’s too bad.
Thom: Yeah, he had his job up there, and he just got way too busy. So, he loved us, and loves what we do, but he just couldn’t commit. And this guy Adrian . . . I wasn’t even thinking keyboard at the time for the band; I was strictly thinking, “another guitarist.” Adrian was, like, “Give me a chance! Lemme show you.” So we had him out to a couple of rehearsals, and he just blew me away with what he can do.
So then we have my lovely wife Laurie, and she does lead singing and backup vocals with me, and she also plays the djembe in some of our pieces and also writes some of our pieces as well.
Sable: To be frank with you, I’ve only heard a couple of clips of what you guys do, but I really like her voice.
Thom: The Bandcamp link that I sent you, you can listen to whole songs on there. When you click on it, if you look to the right side of the screen, you’ll notice (a link) that says, “Call of the Raven.” That’s our first CD. “Raven’s Journey” is our second CD.
Sable: Great, that’s good to know, because that was going to be one of my questions: Where do people get to listen to your stuff? Where can they buy it?
Thom: Bandcamp: http://ravenscall.bandcamp.com/. It automatically takes you to the most recent release, “Techno Pachabell's Cannon in D.”
Sable: Actually, I really liked that. I thought it was interesting: techno-classical, cool.
Thom: It’s the one thing we’re trying to do with this new album. We’re still going to be the Celtic rock style, but we want to take people on a journey. And part of that journey is going to the past, which is classical. And, you know, I just didn’t want to do the classical like everybody hears it. I wanted to give it a unique twist to it; hence the techno.
Sable: Tell me about the new album, “Raven’s Journey.” What’s your vision for it? And is it available, or is it coming, or when will it be?
Thom: It’s in pre-order right now for people. We are actually doing something unique with it. Our first album is just available on CD. But the second one we’ll be making available on USB sticks, and on the USB we’re doing a couple music videos, as well as photos; something that we couldn’t do with the CD. And the reason why we’re thinking that is (that) so many people nowadays use the CDs just to put it on their Ipods and their Mp3 players anyways.
Sable: I definitely see the logic in that. I really feel that you guys are right; that’s probably the wave of the future for music.
Thom: “Raven’s Journey” (is) really about a personal journey but also a spiritual and magickal journey. One song is called “Awakening.” It’s a traditional piece, all about waking up everything, from your senses to the earth around you. And then you’ve got . . . everyone was bugging and bugging me to record one of the chants that I brought to the Pagan community here, which was “Earth My Body.” So I’ve taken that chant and made it into a song. Then there’s some instrumental pieces as well. One of our songs is called, “Outside Looking In.” It’s all about looking at the world around you and yourself from outside of how you usually would, and looking at the beauty in everything there, and realizing just what you have, and appreciating that. And, you know, the changes that you have to make and the sacrifices that you have to make to get to where you are. And the whole album’s like that. From start to finish, it’s just looking to be a journey through the senses and imagination for everyone.
Sable: It sounds like you’ve covered a very wide variety of subject matter as well.
Thom: Well, since the band has changed, and since our first album, I’ve changed a lot too. So I wanted that to be expressed. And express that the world changes too, and not just in a little bit.
Sable: When does it release? (the album)
Thom: Around mid-October, because we want our CD release concert to be before everyone does their Samhain stuff. We’re not sure on the exact date of that yet.
Sable: You guys have been making quite a name for yourselves in the Alberta community in particular . . . I know you guys played Sunwheel last year, and you did a big festival right before that too . . . I’m sorry, I saw the pictures but I don’t know what it was called . . . it was more mainstream, it wasn’t a Pagan festival.
Thom: That was actually in Fort McMurray, and it was called the “CanadaROCKS Tour.” On Canada Day, Fort McMurray has some big-name acts, and that year they had a Celtic day. We opened for Captain Tractor and the Newfoundland group The Navigators.
Sable: Nice! That’s great; I’m familiar with both of them. That’s pretty cool. Good for you!
Thom: And the day after, KISS did their concert on the very stage we’d played on the night before.
Sable: Cool! I must have missed that one! Are you guys going this year?
Thom: No, we’re going to be busy recording. We are going to be going to the Spirit of the West Druid Gathering though.
Sable: That’s cool. But not Sunwheel then either, right?
Thom: They did ask us back but because our schedule would not allow it, we unfortunately had to decline this year.
Sable: So, what would you say are the band’s greatest accomplishments to date?
Thom: Our greatest accomplishments, I guess, would be . . . well, one, a successful first album. And the ability to come out with a second album, and to have the stuff to make a second album. And also, being able to play at Canada Rocks! And being blessed with the fans we have.
Sable: Yeah, you guys are developing a bit of a following, it looks like. You’ve got quite a good fan base there.
Thom: Yeah. (laugh) Like I say, we’re always thankful to all of our fans that come out and support us at the shows, and listen to our music, and even just say hi and appreciate what you’re doing when they see us around the different events.
Another big accomplishment, for which I must thank Daniel Updike, is he interviewed us on his radio station, the Northern Runes Radio. Now that got us exposure worldwide.
Sable: So, what are your plans for the next couple of years? Where do you see Raven’s Call in, say, 2015?
Thom: Um . . . definitely we want to get this album, “Raven’s Journey” done, and also our Christmas album, because so many of our fans have been bugging us to do a Christmas album.
Sable: (laugh) Christmas album? Cool, a Yule album!
Thom: They’re thinking that a lot of these Pagany Yule songs are just the Christian tunes with different words. They want some original Yule songs that are Pagan oriented that are easy to sing. “All Around the Yule Tree” it’s going to be called.
Sable: That’s cool, when do you anticipate . . .? I mean, obviously this isn’t a “for sure” thing, but . . .
Thom: We anticipate Yule 2014.
Sable: I’ll probably pick up a copy.
Thom: We’re also looking at getting more into the secular side of things, by doing Celtic festivals and other festivals aside from just Pagan festivals.
Sable: I think you guys might be able to do that. You guys seem to have enough of a potential mainstream appeal that you can cross that barrier. A lot of Pagan artists don’t. So that’s good! I wish you luck with that!
Thom: Oh, thank you. Our original (pieces are) heavily Pagan oriented. Because a lot of them – at least, mine – have come from either when I’m invoked, or through trances, or at drum circles . . . they just pop in. To help bridge that gap, we throw in some traditional Irish songs, as well as traditional English ones. And that sort of helps at our concerts . . . it makes sort of welcome listening for everyone. That’s the way I see it should be. Whether it’s Pagan music or mainstream music, it should be able to appeal to the masses. Because that’s what music is: a voice, and an entity that wants to be heard, that needs to be heard, and especially with today’s society, the music needs to be heard by as many people as possible.
Sable: Do you have anything else that you’d like to add or something you’d like the general public to know?
Thom: Just keep your eyes open on our Facebook page; also on our website; if I haven’t already, I’ll be posting soon on the webpage our app for Android Home users . . . we’re in the process of getting it for Iphone, but as of now the app only works on Android phones; we’re having fun with Apple (laugh).
Sable: So, lots of things going on then!
Thom: Yeah, it’s a pretty exciting time for us. Keep an eye out in Edmonton, we’ll be getting out and doing concerts around here, and get to do some concerts in BC as well.
Sable: Cool. Well, thanks so much for your time! I really appreciate it!
As of this article, I am told that the release of “Earth My Body” is only two weeks away. You’ll find it at their Bandcamp site with the rest of their music, available to stream or download.
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