Robert N. Taylor was born in 1945 and grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. As a member of both the psychedelic underground as well as the anti-Communist paramilitary organization The Minutemen, Taylor participated directly in the violent social upheavals of the 1960s. In 1969 he started the music group Changes with his cousin, Nicholas Tesluk. After its revival in 1996, the group would go on to become a seminal part of the American apocalyptic folk genre. Taylor was also an early exponent of Germanic heathenry, or Asatru, as it is known in North America, and is the founder of the Wulfing Tribe. An accomplished writer and graphic artist, his ideas continue to resonate throughout the subcultural underground.
We talked about Changes, books, Asatru, art, surrealism, psychedelics, the American underground, and some dangerous moments in his life.
What are you proud of in your life?
Probably the children I have sired, more than anything else. As one of the founders of the revival of Asatru, I am also gratified that it has become widespread.
What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever experienced in your life?
That is difficult to answer, since there have been so many dangerous occurrences in my life. I rode motorcycles daily for decades. I was once a motorcycle courier, working eight or more hours a day in dense Chicago traffic. I doubt that I could count the close calls on bikes I’ve had. I have survived a few assassination attempts. I worked on some extremely high places. I was always so busy reacting to things in an immediate sense that I had no time for fear.
Have you written a chapter on the gangs in Chicago? Did you have any funny stories in the gang scene?
Yes, I wrote a 10,000–word chapter for a book on Chicago street gangs that is yet to be published. They published one book in the series already: Compliments of Chicagohoodz (Feral House). I am quoted in it in the marginalia. The other book is in its final editing, from what I know. I have an agreement with the editor not to divulge any of it until publication of the book.
You’re a very capable artist: You make music, craft, paint, and draw. Do you respect the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement?
Yes, I respect it, but cannot say it has influenced me. I may have been somewhat influenced by William Morris, the English Pre-Raphaelite. I did study his art and crafts and various creative endeavors. It was more an influence of his example then of his art, per se. Though I admire the works of others, I have never tried to emulate them. One of the goals of art is finding one’s own signature, things that mark you apart from other artists. Nuances and approaches that define your art as yours and only yours.
Do you collect surreal poetry? What authors attracted you to it, and what surprised you about this poetry?
Though I have many volumes of various surrealist poets, I cannot say that I collect them. It has just been one of many genres I have studied. Surrealism is interesting but after a while it loses its force because, like any genre, it gets played over and over. I suppose that in a real sense, Rimbaud is the original surrealist. Those poems or lyrics I have composed that might seem surrealistic are more in the vein of psychedelic: the products of psychedelics, the thought processes of the psychedelic mind.
What’s your Red Salon for poets?
The Red Salon is a publishing imprint as well as a physical location. We — my wife Christina and I — initially created it so as to publish our own poetry. Eventually we published other poets who we liked. When we began, we created chapbooks. These were all typeset, designed, printed, collated, bound, and trimmed in our own home. It was quite a labor. My wife did it all. In time I think we took the chapbook format to a new high. They in effect became objets d’art. At some point we switched over to perfect-bound books for ease of labor.
As for the physical Red Salon, it comprises two rooms of our home that have red walls and gold trim and details. In it are thousands of poetry and poetry-related books that I have collected all my life.
I now have six books of poetry in print and my wife has three. One of mine is available from Arcana Europa, Remnants of a Season: The Collected Poems of Robert N. Taylor.
How did you discover Julius Evola in the 1960s in the United States?
I did not become aware of his books and thoughts until the 1990s, mostly by way of a friend, Michael Walker, and his magazine called The Scorpion. It introduced me to many European thinkers on the Right, including Evola as well as Ernst Jünger.
Do you collect these underground magazines like The Scorpion? Which ones would you recommend?
No, I don’t collect them intentionally. I subscribed to some, and others found their way to me. I’m not sure if any of them exist anymore. Everything has gone digital. Plus, since they’re dated in their information, there may be better sources, like the TYR journal.
Have you ever visited Italy? What are your memories of it?
Yes. I loved Italy, that which I saw of it, which was limited mostly to Genoa. Most of all I loved the Italian people. Same with Greece. The people in both countries seemed altogether human. They could laugh and cry and knew how to hallow life with good food and drink. Technology did not seem to have affected them greatly.
Have you had any adventures in the ‘60s counterculture?
Many. I hitchhiked across the North American continent and visited many places in my travels, and had many adventures. I was traveling down highway #1 in California in 1967 during what is called the Summer of Love. I spent a brief time in San Francisco at that time. The scene was beginning to deteriorate at that time and the place was full of junkies and criminality, as I recall. I suppose my indulgence in psychedelic drugs was a sort of adventure. In that same period, I did a bit of mountain climbing and was of course involved in revolutionary activities.
Have you read Ernst Jünger’s book on drugs, Visit to Godenholm? What is the relationship between the psychedelic and neofolk movements? Have you heard any psychedelic albums by Der Blutharsch?
Yes, I have read Jünger’s book that you mentioned. I don’t know if there is a direct connection between psychedelics and the neofolk music movement. It is a bit amusing that some of those on the Left side of the spectrum politically feel LSD to have been some sort of Leftist thing, when in reality it was used by those ostensibly of the Right like Albert Hofmann, Jünger, and others like myself. I derived a great many insights by way of LSD regarding the human condition and the spiritual realm.
Yes, I have heard those albums by Der Blutharsch. Albin Julius produces the Changes music albums and has himself participated in their creation.
Would you like to describe any of your psychedelic LSD experiences for our readers?
I went through a period in the late sixties and early seventies where I experimented with many psychedelics, including acid. They definitely provided me with new insights. I hope to finish writing a book on all of that. Changes’ album Pyschonautika is related to it all.
What is your psychedelic album Psychonautika about?
It is basically songs that were in some manner inspired by psychedelics. The psychonaut is one who journeys within his psyche. Some of the lyrics were composed while directly under the influence of psychedelics. The 3-D packaging was something I had hoped to do for at least a decade, since having discovered chromadepth glasses. Nicholas did a great job on that.
Have you ever been interested in the German roots of the hippies: the Lebensreform, Wandervogel, California Nature boys, nudism, naturopathy, ecology, the painter Fidus, etc.?
Yes, I am aware of that set of roots of those Germans who resettled on the West Coast in California to follow the Nature boy path. I have been aware of Fidus for many decades. I was one of those in the States who helped to popularize his work by its use in publications that I was connected with.
What elements did the band Changes take from the hippie counterculture?
Few. We were coming from another direction: basic acoustic balladry. That was certainly not the ideology of many of them, which was from a Left–wing perspective.
What was your relationship with the religious group The Process Church of the Final Judgment? Did this group influence your music in any way?
I encountered members of the group on the downtown streets of Chicago, which was where I lived at the time. Changes’ first performances were at a coffee house they ran in Chicago. I attended some of their meditations and telepathy classes as well. I contributed some artwork to their publication. They did not really influence anything we did musically.
Are you or were you a member of any pagan or occult group?
Yes, I am one of the three independent founders of Asatru/Odinism in the United States (the others being Steven McNallen and Else Christensen). After a short while, we all came into contact with one another. I, along with a former wife, founded the Tribe of the Wulfings, which is probably the oldest Asatru group in North America. It is essentially a group of creative people serving the larger heathen movement. I was also a member at one time of the original Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) and was one of the founders of the Asatru Alliance. I have spent the past 45 years or so involved in and contributing to the Asatru movement.
How do you perceive the current state of the pagan scene in the US? Do you know about the construction of the pagan temple by AFA?
It’s grown and matured greatly. The AFA didn’t really construct the temple. They bought a former church and modified it to their needs. I think other members in Minnesota have also acquired a former church and done the same. I built a temple Hof back in the mid–1990s in Wisconsin on what was then my farm.
Do you agree with Edred Thorsson’s idea that he puts forward in Re-Tribalize Now? Have you done anything to create the Asatru tribe in the past?
Yes, I have read the book and think it is one of the most important ones he has authored, and he has authored so many over the years. Basically, the family is under attack on every front these days. Families are the foundation of a nation. Destroy the family and you have destabilized a nation. The family is being confronted by a huge government with unlimited resources. They are little match for it. By retribalizing, a larger support unit is created. It is a thing of strength in numbers and unity.
And yes, I created the Tribe of the Wulfings in the early 1970s. It is mentioned in Thorsson’s book on retribalization. He describes it basically as a Männerbund as opposed to an actual tribe. We are widely spread out, and not all in the same geographical region, so the group gathers infrequently for moots.
Is there any neofolk movement in the US?
There are neofolk bands. I don’t know if one could call it a movement, per se.
What do you think about wildlife festivals like Stella Natura?
They are the best venue of all. They are most enjoyable insomuch as there is a lot of visiting, meeting, and exchange between people. It’s as much the people attending as it is the music, like a party or fest.
Do you have any books from Arcana Europa? Your book of poetry was also published by them. Would you recommend any books by Edred Thorsson aka Stephen Flowers?
Yes, I probably have all that they have published to date. As for recommendations of Edred’s books, certainly all of his runic books.
Do you have any personal memories of Adam Parfrey and his publishing house, Feral House?
Yes, I knew Adam for over three decades. He was an old and dear friend, one whom I miss a lot. I knew him from when he and George Petros had launched the magazine Exit. Adam was a doer, a maker, and a shaper. A very sophisticated individual. I recall when I wrote the chapter on The Process for Apocalypse Culture at his request that I did not have a typewriter at the time and wrote it all in longhand, and he transcribed it for me. That chapter I wrote set the whole Process thing into motion. Prior to that, there was little interest in the group.
I had a conversation with a colleague and we were talking about the state of affairs in America, and he posited that eventually it would all unwind and fall just like the Soviet Union did. After our conversation, I wrote the lyrics to “Waiting for The Fall” and composed a melody to it. As for “We Went to Find the Sun,” it was written long ago on acid. It sort of alludes to the way the mind works under such influences.
Which of your songs do you consider the most important? Is there any story behind it?
That’s a hard question as we have composed a few hundred songs. “Waiting for The Fall” has been pretty popular and has been covered by at least three other bands. “Fire of Life” has been a mainstay for years of our performances. We continue to compose new material even now. We just had our Ballad of Robert de Bruce released. It is perhaps our opus.
What kind of sense of humor do you have? Did you experience any humorous situations thanks to your art?
My sense of humor is perhaps best described as sardonic humor. Maybe gallows humor. As for humorous situations, in Denmark a woman jumped up on stage with her blouse open and started hugging and kissing me as I struggled to keep on singing.
Have you had any spiritual experiences or visions? Did you write about those experiences?
Yes, mostly in the realm of what is called the hypnagogic state, that twilight state between sleep and wakefulness. I do record such dreams and experiences and hope to compose a book that will cover them and other related matters. [A chapter from this book, “Death and the Psychedelic Experience,” has been published at Counter-Currents.]
Do you have recurring dreams?
I have had a few such dreams. There is one in which I am exploring an old Victorian house. As I go from one floor to the next, it seems as though I am traveling further back in time.
Do you believe in the afterlife? What happens to the human soul after death?
I do believe in the existence of the human soul. I believe that the soul incarnates into the fetus when the pineal gland as well as the gender first appear. So any abortion from then onward is murder, plain and simple. In the realm of the soul, once detached from the physical body concepts of time and space become irrelevant. The soul being immortal cannot be measured by a duration of time. The soul being infinite cannot be charted by any measure of space. Where the soul journeys to after death is something to be learned after dying.
Is it true that Changes resumed their activities only thanks to Michael Moynihan? What is your relationship to him?
Yes, Michael got it all moving when he released Changes’ Fire Of Life 7–inch record and subsequent CD. The rest, as they say, is history. My relationship with Michael is such that he is one of my very best friends. He is one whom I trust and whose company I enjoy. He is a very intelligent, mannerly, and true–hearted friend. When I first met him, he was about 19 or 20 years old. Even at that young age, I could discern that he was a quality human being.
Do you have any long-term goals?
I have goals. I don’t know if I will achieve them all, since I am now 76 years old.
They are mostly in the realm of writing, but not exclusively. When you get to this age, long–term anything becomes meaningless. At this stage, waking up tomorrow to a good cup of coffee seems a long enough goal.
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