An Interview with Endura

by Chad Hensley

Endura are soundscape alchemists combining synthesizers reminiscent of Tangerine Dream with (un)healthy doses of Aleister Crowley, H.P. Lovecraft, and psychedelic drugs. Brought together by friends that were sure the pair shared similar interests, Stephen Pennick and Christopher Walton began a journey into the realms of ambient electronics in 1993.After two cassette releases, the next year saw the release of their first CD, Dream of Dark Waters on the German label Nature and Art.Endura would remain silent until the summer of '96 and the unveiling of three simultaneous releases. These three releases were The Light is Dark Enough on Allegoria, Liber Leviathan on Aesthetic Death, and Black Eden on America's chthonic Red Stream.

Though each full length CD is unique both in style and concept, there are similarities. Those more inclined to medieval devil worship and sabbat dancing will want to begin with Black Eden. Those partial to oceanic depths and what lurks beneath the waves should first swim within the dark waters of Liber Leviathan. The Dark is Light Enough will await the converted follower on unholy ground.

The songs of the dead dreamer are carved upon the flesh of Endura. Their music dares to breach the abyss and pull the listener feet first into bottomless gulfs somewhere at the edge of insanity's imagination. Endura's ambient impressions take the listener to a deeper darkness buried somewhere within the subconscious. Let us hope that all of us can crawl out in one piece.

How did you develop your dark ritual sound?

Stephen: I would describe our music as quite dark in its origins and I would like to think that it makes people think but I certainly don't want us to be categorized as a satanic, extremist band because we are not. When we set up the band, our intentions were to create soundscapes to dark themes. Dark themes being "Death" and "Mysticism" not Satanism or any of the baggage which that label carries with it. All of the mastering is done on headphones, so we can get the most space out of the stereo imaging, and because of this, I think it works best if the listener is also using headphones. Let us inside your head, I'm sure you won't feel the same afterwards. I think our recordings are getting better. Personally, I am learning more about the programming of voice architecture on the synths and the intricacies of the sequencer, more about panning techniques and compression. We didn't choose to play dark ritual music, that is just the way it comes out. We play music which sounds good to us, if other people are impressed by it then I guess that's OK. We don't sit down and say "right this is gonna be a really slow, miserable track" that's just the way they turn out. I think it's probably a reflection of our inner side. However, this does not reflect how we are as people. ENDURA is not just a Dark Music set-up. We work with loads of different styles and have crossed over many boundaries. I don't want ENDURA to be restricted to following the same set of listeners. When we play music, we play to please ourselves.

Chris: My dreams usually take place in an internal landscape that is a distortion of a river valley close to where I lived when I was younger, in these dreams I have swam in the river using a strange hybrid body, flew over the river like a swallow and watched monsters emerge from the river. Things that live in water fascinate and frighten me. I am particularly sensitive to the image of sharks and leviathans, any large submerged shape, either animate or inanimate, sets off very primal instincts. These are things I want to express in music and the "Dark Ritual" genre is much more suitable. The basic idea behind a ritual is to provide an "atmosphere" that is conducive to the facilitation of a result, this applies in every day life as much as in magic and music. Any ritual must produce an atmosphere that the participants can use like a psychic lens to sharpen and focus the will and ultimately to get the required job done, whether that is contact with trans-human intelligences or getting a pay raise. The music is a sigil allowing access to altered states. I do not think that every ENDURA song works in this way for everybody who listens to it but for those who know the gate maybe we provide a key. I also think it is important to remember what Stephen said, we have recorded music in a wide range of styles, we do not limit our expression to any one style of music.

I understand the word ENDURA comes from the world of the Cathars.

Chris: Anybody who reads about Catharism and the siege of Montsegur can not fail to be moved by what happened. The armies of the Pope destroyed one of the most vibrant and progressive cultures of the middle ages. One of the most interesting aspects of Catharism is the hold it has on the modern mind. In the 1960s an English psychologist, Arthur Guirdham, researched the mental illness of some of his patients. He found that they had recurring dreams and visions centered around the fall of Montsegur in March 1244. They could recall details of past lives as Cathars in the Languedoc and they all told of their death at the hands of the Catholic army. Guirdham claimed that what he had found was a cell of people, who had reincarnated again and again, they had known each other as Cathars in 13th century France, and they had come together again in Southwest England. Guirdham was not a cranky

new ager, he was a respected psychologist, he presented documentary proof from his research that amazed French historians with the accuracy of the detail. Reincarnation was one of the Cathars central doctrines, in common with many quasi-Gnostic cults. They saw the world as a veil of tears through which the soul had to progress. Obviously these people had yet to break through it. The word "ENDURA" is taken from the name of a Cathar ritual. The ritual involved fasting and meditation in the wilderness, just as Christ spent forty days in the wilderness and Jonah spent four days in the belly of Leviathan. The purpose of the ritual was to test the person, to harden him and strengthen him, mentally and physically, to ensure the candidate was ready to take the Consolamentum, the sacrament that initiated the Cathar to the priesthood. ENDURA is a universal word, most western European languages, with Latin elements, have some close approximation. I am aware that people will react to the word ENDURA differently depending on which languages they know and what they know about Catharism. I would almost want people to know nothing about Catharism and come to their own conclusions based on their own experiences.

Some of your work seems greatly influenced by the fiction of HP Lovecraft.

Chris: Lovecraft and the ideas that he used in his fiction have been a very useful springboard for my own ideas, both musically and magickally. The way he created alternate realities and secondary worlds is a very useful lesson for the magician, few artists can really dip their fingers in the stuff of magick and myth and do it well- in literature Lovecraft was one of those few. We can argue all day whether Lovecraft really was the involuntary medium that people claim him to be, whether he really was a conduit for "Hidden Lore" as occultist Kenneth Grant calls it, or whether his ideas have by some miracle of synchronisity just happened to echo the work of occultists.

Personally I don't think the question is important, whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first is not question, the thing to realize is that Lovecraft was able to weave subtle mysteries into his work to evoke a Subjective Reality. Where does reality begin and fantasy end, is there actually a hard defining border or do the two concepts blend together and blur, producing a borderland of surreality in which the magician functions? As a person there can be little doubt that Lovecraft was a very limited and damaged individual. He himself seemed painfully aware of his tainted ancestry, the family history of madness and his fathers premature death through syphilis show in many stories; the tainted blood, the hidden offspring, the fevered mind on the verge of insanity, this was the real legacy of the Lovecraft family. Lovecraft was a weak child, a loner and an outsider, he never really felt at home in the twentieth century and his work was a way of escaping the tedium of life in the goldfish bowl of the Lovecraft home. It is easy to be aware of Lovecrafts faults. His literary style often slips into self parody and cliché, his prose can choke on its own adjectives and his dialogue is always wooden and strained. Lovecraft may not have been a masterful prose stylist but his work is visionary in the real sense, it creates an "atmosphere".

I think the real power of Lovecraft is the constant evocation of weird atmosphere, so successfully that stories with paper thin characters and hackneyed plots come alive through the sheer otherness of the description. This is what I hope ENDURA also achieve in our music, use atmosphere and ambiance to evoke a state of consciousness the listener would otherwise not find. This is the basic theme of most of Lovecrafts work, the place of man in the cosmic cycle and the interaction of Man with forces and energies he is constantly pitted against. It has been suggested by Kenneth Grant that Lovecraft was an involuntary receptor for cosmic transmissions, that he was bombarded with knowledge and visions that he was unable to assimilate into his rational, materialist and bigoted world view. This theory can be substantiated by looking at Lovecrafts life and work, many of his dreams were turned into stories, he wrote that since adolescence he suffered nightmares almost every other night.

Although Lovecraft has left us some of the most outré and bizarre fiction ever written it seems almost in spite of his personality rather than because of it, for Lovecraft the universe was vast and cold, the Laws of Man are not the Laws of the Universe, we see time and time again a puny, priggish humanity vainly struggling to make sense of the universe and keep out the terror that threatens to intrude from beyond! Unlike Crowley, who actively sought traffic with the denizens of the Void, Lovecraft was both appalled and terrified by what intruded onto his dreamtime. The only way he could rationalize it was to turn it into fiction and exorcise what he could not understand. Although the Necronomicon was ostensibly created by Lovecraft it does share a common source with many other texts and grimoires. From recent research it certainly seems as if Crowley's Liber AL Vel Legis being and Lovecraft's mad Arabian, Al Azif, share a common source. In a letter written in February of 1937 Lovecraft said that the full name of the Necronomicon was "The Image of the Law of the Dead", an obvious similarity to Crowley's Book of the Law. In 1919 Crowley exhibited a portrait of an extra-terrestrial he called Lam. This picture was shown in an exhibition called "Dead Souls". The use of the words and imagery of death in the Necronomicon mythos is very interesting but should not be taken to mean the mundane earthly death of man. Perhaps it would be better to see the term "death" as interchangeable with the words "darkness" and "alien". The Necronomicon current is alien to earth, and alien to earthly life; Lam, the strange figure who Kenneth Grant maintains is cognate with Aiwass is essentially the same as Lovecraft's Great Old Ones, a preternatural intelligence, has anybody noticed the similarity between the Lam portrait and the "Greys" of modern UFO lore?

I think we should view the Lovecraft Mythos as having a subjective reality inside the psycho-magickal microcosm of the Magician. In the Mauve Zone of neither-neither time, in the gaps between the stars and the borderland between reality and surreality the entities of inner and outer space can manifest in ways intelligible to our mundane minds, people like Howard Philips Lovecraft took these experiences and used them in their art. We all carry the potential for our own Necronomicon.