Walker Phillips self-released a cracking LP a year or two ago entitled ‘My Love Sunday’ which immediately caught the attention of heads everywhere with its experimental acid-folk sitar/guitar meanderings peppered by flute, percussion & whimsical lyrics with the occasional burst of electric guitar riffery (especially on the excellent closing track ‘End Time’). Andrew Young took some time out to interview Mr Phillips about his records, and as a special favour to yours truly he also grilled him about ‘Mirror Mirror’ the gorgeously haunting, introspective, sparse avant–garde folk LP by Caira Paravel which Phillips also put out on his label, God’s Eye Records.

Let’s start with a little background information on yourself and how your debut album come to be.

I grew up in a most unmusical family; my parents are surfers and we lived at the beach which never really suited me. My parents are quite scientifically minded atheists, but they did have the peculiar good sense to read me Greek mythology and Shakespeare for bedtime stories. This all really screwed me up and so naturally I became a musician. The album ‘My Love Sunday’ came about because I had a handful of folk-ish songs that I'd been kicking around and suddenly realized they all went together well as an album. I’ve been recording myself at home for a long time. I prefer to work on tape and with analogue devices, because the limitations of the medium force you to make decisions while drunk or stoned and to give better (or worse) performances in fewer takes. 


What made you pick the Garcia/Hunter song ‘Rosemary’?

The Grateful Dead are among the top groups for me, musically and also lyrically. My atheist upbringing had naturally catapulted me headlong into the bosom of the divine, and through the guidance of my good friend Shaun Partridge I had begun to explore religion, alchemy, Carl Jung, and all the various milkshakes of mysticism. Robert Hunter was certainly influenced by many of the same texts that I was reading - the alchemical and mystical allusions in Hunter's lyrics are unmistakable, and of course the playing of the Grateful Dead would also seem to invoke alchemical ideas. ‘Rosemary’ was a beautiful song that I had been performing live and it fit very naturally into ‘My Love Sunday’. I suspect that most people would never recognize it as a Grateful Dead song, and that was part of the appeal. I had a lovely time playing a Lowrey organ on that song, it's not immediately recognizable but it is the same model organ that was used for ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ and I used what I believe to be the very same settings... though my recording situation was far more modest. 

And why God’s Eye Records?

I have no aspirations to operate a record label, but the pressing plant insisted on a label name for catalogue numbers so I gave them one. I do like the name God's Eye an awful lot - it was Caira Paravel who first presented me with a woven diamond of coloured yarn and said, "this is a God's Eye."  I'd never heard of anything more magical than that.

Has work started on a second album?

A follow-up album has been recorded and I’m looking for a label to release it. The second album is titled ‘God's Eye’ (confusingly) and contains some of the best songs I've ever written. The first side of the album is a suite of pleasant songs and the second side is a single track which was inspired by Miles Davis's ‘Bitches Brew’ - I recorded about one hour of free improvisation with a fantastic group of musicians and spent two days editing (on tape with razor blade) the performance into a completely new 20 minute piece of music. It wanders somewhere between Stockhausen, Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead. It goes tremendously well with great blobs of coloured light dancing on the walls.

You mentioned Caira Paravel earlier. Can you tell me a little about her, and her excellent debut album ‘Mirror Mirror’ which you also played on and produced? 

I first met Caira at a party. Caira is such a talented singer, and with such great taste, it was wonderful working on that album because each day one of us would come in and say, "what about this song?"

Right, it’s notable that the album includes a bunch of interesting  covers: ‘Andmoreagain’, ‘Fine Horseman’ and ‘Lord Of The Reedy River’ amongst others.

It was an honour to record songs which are so highly revered by both of us, and I hope we've done them service by interpreting them in a way that was both adventurous and also true to the spirit of the original compositions. I find it perplexing that contemporary singers and groups are so reluctant to perform material that they didn't write.  To perform great songs and to perform them well, that's all that matters - ask anyone at Motown. 

I see that you also have a band called Tabernacle that features Caira on vocals.

Tabernacle plays only traditional folk songs, mostly British, nothing contemporary at all... songs that are a hundred years old at the very least, and many of which are older. We play them loud. Caira and I had taken to singing more and more traditional songs, but I must tell you honestly that a present day audience has an awfully difficult time standing still and listening to someone sing 14 verses acapella with a finger in the ear. Would that they could! So, we brought in a drummer and amplifiers because we love the songs and we want to sing them, and if we have to drown you out then we certainly will. We are very careful, however, to explain the history and subject of each ballad, and to give credit to our sources. We have a full album recorded and are looking for a label to release it. God willing we would like to tour at least some part of Europe in 2021.

Walker Phillips was interviewed for us by Andrew Young