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Michael Tyack of Circulus
Circulus (picture below left) have been described in the Guardian as Britains No1 medieval rock band. They recently released their second album, and at the time of writing were arranging to accompany Lali Chetwynd to the Basel Art Fair in Miami. Cornwall had a very strong folk scene in the 60s and 70s, and produced the greatest acid folk band 'C.O.B.' fronted by Clive Palmer (picture below right). Michael Tyack, a fan of this older generation and now singer and song-writer for Circulus gave artcornwall a rare interview.
I'm a big fan of the Incredible String Band and C.O.B. and, knowing this,
a mutual friend recommended the first Circulus album to me.
It would be really nice if you would allow me to interview you by e-mail about links between interesting art and interesting music and their crossovers...Talking of which did you know that Clive Palmer is back living in Cornwall?
Yes I am from Cornwall. Camborne way. We mainly play in London, but are in
the middle of a country-wide tour. We have played at the Clipper in Camborne,
Falmouth Pavilion, Bodmin Dragon Centre and not so recently two Tapestry
festivals at St Columb.
be happy to answer any questions you like. There's a great folk club at
the Shipright in Falmouth every Tuesday run by a really good folk band
called Thistle Town. They're also planning on doing a folk/psych night but
since the Jacobs Ladder has re-opened and is totally shit they don't know
where to do it!
didn't know Clive Palmer was living back in Cornwall. Do you know where
Do you know Bob
Devereux? He’s involved with the folk scene in Cornwall and made an
album with Clive Palmer about ten or more years ago. He runs the Salthouse
Gallery in St Ives and has some interesting stories to tell - and seems
happy to tell them. He’s also got some cool photos of Robin Williamson
in the early 70s walking round places like St Agnes. Last time I went to
his gallery - this Summer it was - he said that Clive had moved to Carbis
this website I'm trying to help and support art and artists based in
Cornwall, I am interested in Cornish cultural history - (not just because
I'm parochial - though I am a bit!) and I think its interesting that in
the 50s and 60s there were some good visual artists inspired by being
here - and I wonder how that relates to the emergence of a really
influential cult band like C.O.B. in Mitchell. In a way there was a shared
artistic milieu - a shared sense of an idealistic getting back to
nature/a simple life. At the time it seemed genuine and authentic and
unselfconscious - as reflected in the music - and the times were
sympathetic to that kind of message.
question I'd like to put to you is: is it possible to write psychedelic
folk now and do it seriously - or does it have to be done in a
slightly knowing tongue-in-cheek way. How do you think times have changed
Back in the late sixties Cornwall
must have been a wonderful place for an escaping artist. Before every
ramshackle barn became a financial commodity and when St Ives was still a
fishing port. Or hanging out with COB at the Sacred Heart!
Do I believe in fairies? Belief
is perhaps based on knowledge, intuition and experience. I believe in
them, though I have never seen one. I also believe in interplanetary
travel by spiritually advanced beings. A lot of people must think Circulus
are being tongue in cheek with songs like "Power to the Pixies"
but there are some who wouldn't hold that prejudice.
"Psychedelic" is really too much of a difficult and misused word
to answer the question. I certainly believe it's possible to make
interesting folk music nowadays.
Do you have much interest in
visual art and are there any parallels that you can see with your own
experience as a contemporary musician?
the film Spinal Tap there has been a lot of taboo in music. Since there
was never an equivalent film dealing with the subject of visual art -
artists have been allowed to continue painting their fantasies without
consciously censoring the "tongue in cheek" factor. Artists have
always strived to be free and so once again should music makers. Be free,
try and be free!
I think things are not so different in visual art: I havent seen it but Tony Hancock made a film in the 60s that was a parody of Modernist painters that is Spinal Tap-like. Being ironic, tongue in cheek - is something you see again and again in visual art these days - if you think of people like Jake and Dinos Chapman who refer to the holocaust and that kind of thing but also give the impression that its a kind of knowing game and that they're not really that serious. You just didnt have that in the 50s and 60s. People seemed to really believe in what they were doing (ie they believed in the power of art or music to make a real difference). I think the hallmark of our era (post-modernism?) is that idealism has been replaced by a more cynical and distanced attitude - where you can quote/borrow from artists you like - but also send up their original idealism. My initial impression of Circulus was that they are very post-modern in this sense - but may be I got it wrong...
There's no denying that pinnacle
of euphoria reached during the late sixties and early seventies across all
the arts was a remarkable zenith. It reflected the new spirituality in
people, new horizons as man reached the moon and new horizons with
mind-altering substances. We lost our innocence and are now left with what
you define as post modernism. There's only one way out of it. 'Post-optimism'.
Open your heart to the wonders of the world and see what happens!
Another related question:
Circulus seem to play down references to the sixties in their look and
music, and play up older (eg Elizabethan) references - is that partly
because the music scene is already littered with 60s revival-types (mainly
rock bands) and Circulus like the freedom that comes with going another
less commercial way?
I used to play in 60s dress-up
type bands, that's what I was into. Then I played in an Elizabethan band
who didn't dress up. After many years I sort of combined the two and got
Is there a sense that Circulus
can make people reflect on how barren their spiritual lives are these
days? A song like ‘My body is made of sunshine’ has that effect on me.
I find it intoxicatingly beautiful: but it would not work as a rap song or
whatever - it works because it seems to speak of another more magical time
Thank you. The idea of our bodies
being essentially made from sunlight came to me from the Aetherius
Society's "The Nine Freedoms". Their leader found out all kinds
of stuff by receiving mental transmissions from the Cosmic Master
Aetherius and Mars Sector 6! I tried to transmit that spirituality in the
Lastly what do you know about
COBs story? Coming back to them: was the Sacred Heart the name of the folk
club in Mitchell? I know that their second album refers to the Sacred
Heart....There isn't that much on the web about COB...
I read an interview with Clive Palmer in Record Collector a couple of years ago where I think he mentioned the Sacred Heart being their local. I know that they were produced by Ralph McTell and that things all soon went a bit wrong for them and they sold very few records. Moysche McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart is probably my favourite album of all time. And they dreamed it all up in Cornwall.
http://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/review/1098 a review on Julian Copes site of COB's second album
http://www.circulus.org/ Circulus own website