(was reading Ian Abrahams' biography of Mike Scott - Strange Boat - and came across my name as he quoted this interview... so thought I... with the 6 CD Fisherman's Blues about to be released... let's blog it again!)
STOCKI: Environment has a huge influence on your work - Spiddal on Room To Roam, Findhorn on Bring Em All In, London on A Rock In A Weary Land. Are you strategic about where you go to write and record?
MIKE: I generally make 'em wherever I find myself but on occasion I have made a decision in advance to, for example, write and record in the West of Ireland (late 80's), or to record the new Universal Hall album in Findhorn, in the spiritually charged atmosphere of the Findhorn Community. I am always inspired by the places I live and by what I feel and see around me, and this inevitably flows into the music and the albums.
STOCKI: So what took you back to Findhorn?
MIKE: My wife and I visited in 2001 after several years living in London and both got a 'yes' feeling to moving back.
STOCKI: Maybe that is a chance to sketch us your spiritual journey. What triggered it?
MIKE: If you mean what triggered my whole spiritual journey, it was being born on planet earth of course ! I've always been wondering who I am, what are we here for, what is God etc. I got an early sense of the nature of the divine from CS Lewis's Narnia stories as a child. Then as a young man I discovered the world of metaphysical and esoteric teaching and wisdom - this was around 1983. That began a long period of deepened learning - some high, some painful. Finally, after many adventures I found my school - and that was the Findhorn Foundation.
STOCKI: How did it lead you to Findhorn?
MIKE: My mother had been there on a healing workshop and told me about the place. I remembered hearing about it years before, so I checked out a video featuring its founders, especially Eileen Caddy. She was talking about the power of gratitude and unconditional love and it was exactly what I was ready to hear. I went there as quickly as I could and did an 'Experience Week' there during which God came down from my head into my heart. A very beautiful and transformative experience.
STOCKI: Eileen Caddy seems to be a bit of a guru. Tell us about her? What drew you to her stuff?
MIKE: 'Guru',with all its distortions, would be the last word Eileen Caddy would use to describe herself. She is a teacher, certainly, primarily by the example of her own life. She's an ordinary woman who has lived in an extraordinary way - following the inner guidance of the 'still small voice within'- the voice of God within - wherever it leads, however strange its instructions might appear to human values. Her whole teaching is to turn others inward to find that inner divine source within themselves (the mark of the true spiritual teacher), and that is what I've learned from her. I love her a whole lot and am very grateful for the privilege of knowing her.
STOCKI: In a world of definitions would you label your creed "new age"?
MIKE: And what creed might that be ? I have none. I personally believe we are truly One in our deepest truth; that there is One Life in creation, and all our adventurings and learnings are leading us to that realization. This is the perennial wisdom and it has been around as long as God.
STOCKI: You have been reasonably clear if quiet and gentle about rejecting Christianity and yet Iona, CS Lewis and Christ are all very much a part of your belief?
MIKE: I don't reject Christianity. It is the religion of my race and like everyone else here I grew up with the stories of the example and teaching of Jesus - and how could I be untouched by that ? But I am not a practising Christian. I'm not even sure Jesus would be if he incarnated today ! As for CS Lewis, yes, he was a committed Christian, but I find if a writer or teacher is infused by the true divine spirit, as Lewis undoubtedly was, this is magnified and transmitted through their work regardless of the name of their faith. Iona is well known as a Christian centre because of the work of St. Columba who brought Christrianity there in the 6th century, but it was a Druid centre of power before then, and the island has a spiritual quality or soul that is divinely and powerfully Itself - and accessible to all who have eyes to see, regardless of their spiritual background or religion. Lastly the Christ to me is the divine energy that Jesus manifested on the physical earth - hence his bearing the name 'Jesus Christ', but I believe the Christ energy existed before Jesus, and is a universal energy infusing every part of creation, and every human being, whether they call themselves 'Christian' or not.
STOCKI: Why Iona?
MIKE: My grandmother grew up on the neighbouring island of Mull and from an early age I was familiar with the idea that Iona is Scotland's sacred island - a special place set apart. When I eventually visited it I found the spiritual peace and presence there and loved it.
STOCKI: What is CS Lewis's greatest contribution to your own journey?
MIKE: Infusing me with a sense of the divine when I was a child. Later, with his books 'Perelandra' and 'That Hideous Strength' he taught me a lot about the topography and inner life of what we call evil. That was useful too.
STOCKI: Who do you see Jesus of Nazareth as being?
MIKE: One of a succession of divinely directed world teachers who incarnated at successive periods of human history when as a race we were ready to go through initiations. And I see Jesus as being a real and available spiritual presence right now.
STOCKI: While we are there, Pan with his cloven hoofs. Who is he/she? The cloven hoofs is an image usually given to the devil.
MIKE: The 'devil' image was superimposed on Pan by the early church fathers in order to discredit the pre-Christian nature religions, that they sought to replace. Pan is not the devil, but a principle of creation, and - in my book - a divine ally of the Christ energies.
STOCKI: I was there in Belfast's Ulster Hall when Steve Wickham came on stage and the crowd went wild. It was echoes of my favourite gig ever in the same venue in April '86. How did you get back together?
MIKE: Steve and I are great friends and even when we weren't working professionally together we were always in touch. In 1999 Steve invited me to Sligo, where he lives in the west of Ireland, to do a show. So I went over and we did a two-man concert together. It was a great success and I knew we had a lot of music still to make together. Then I asked him to guest with us at our shows in Dublin and Belfast in 2000. It went so well I asked him to rejoin the band, and, to my great pleasure and delight, he is back and playing the greatest rock fiddling ever !
STOCKI: What does he add to the Mike Scott/Waterboys muse?
MIKE: Steve gives the music wings, a sense of the elemental, a sweetness, a gateway to the unseen.
STOCKI: In the writing of these songs does a fiddle on stand by effect where the songs go?
MIKE: Yes, indeed. 'Peace of Iona' was a hypnotic chant until Steve's fiddle entered the picture and turned it into a sonic evocation of the island and the elements.
STOCKI: How did Steve take the spirituality of the piece and how did he enjoy Findhorn?
MIKE: Well, I can't answer that for him, though we had a great time together in Findhorn making 'Universal Hall'. He has visited many times.
STOCKI: Some of the new songs are almost Taize chants. What inspired the economy of words?
MIKE: I'm familiar with Taize chants because they are very popular in Findhorn, and I also work with affirmations, so I'm used to the idea that a few short lines of words, carefully chosen and repeated aloud or inwardly, can have a powerful inspirational effect. When my songs started coming in this minimal form, with only 2 or 3 lines, the challenge was to allow them to be so, and not to be tempted to flesh them out into a 'normal' structure. I resisted the temptation ! >
STOCKI: When spiritual belief ignites the songs does that give an extra expectation to what you hope that they might achieve?
MIKE: My hope is the same whatever kind of song I'm writing - that I may express myself and my inspiration authentically, in a way that thrills me and takes my writing somewhere it has never reached before, and that the listener will have every chance to 'get it' and receive the same inspiration I did when writing.
STOCKI: What would you hope the listener takes away from Universal Hall?
MIKE: A feeling of love inside.
STOCKI: When I watch you perform now I get the impression of a man at peace with where his art has taken him. You could have been a megastar but you decided to get off the beaten track and head west to Galway. You seem to be very content at the level of your success. The songs seem more important than the riches, fame or house in Malibu. Am I right?
MIKE: Whether I 'could have been a megastar' is unknown. As CS Lewis liked to say 'We are never told what might have happened'. Nor am I interested in what might have happened ! I've always followed my heart, guts and fascinations and I have learned to surrender to the places - both physical and inspirational - to which they take me. Yes, the songs and creativity are more important than any riches that could result, but I have nothing against houses in Malibu. Malibu is a very fine place indeed.
STOCKI So, where next?
MIKE: This is unknown !