The THIRD EAR BAND is the first mystical OVERGROUND (celestially-orientated) musical group to hit the Scene. Glen Sweeney, Drummer and group Unifier, tells of the group’s origins and future plans to play at psychic power centres throughout Britain this summer.
“What we’re into now with the Third Ear Band really began when we were on a gig, and some kind person, or mysterious force, or whatever it was, stole all our amplification equipment and just left us our instruments. This seemed so significant that we took it as a sign. Apparently we had been going in the wrong direction by going electric, and that event caused a tremendous change in our whole way of approach.
“And that’s how it has always happened with the Third Ear. We’ve never exactly known what we were doing or what we were meant to do. Things just seemed to occur naturally. I was originally on the jazz scene and in a terrible state. You know, doing the whole bit, being on the phoney junkie trip which nearly every jazz musician was on, trapped in a ridiculous pad in suburbia, hire purchase scenes on my drums and everything else, which they came and took back; no rent money, no job, and no food – so I was gradually starving.
“I began to withdraw into myself, and the lack of food brought on a kind of mental trip in which I was able to review my life with great clarity and became aware of all these hang-ups I’d had in my subconscious. When all that was over I had become a different person completely. It was about this time I had turned on to Zen and this was the thing that got me together again. In my own way I became a very religious person.
“Soon after this, I met Dave Tomlin, a multi-instrumentalist who, it seemed to me, had become a kind of musical guru. And he turned me on to an aspect of music that I had long been searching for. He was the first guy I had ever met who used his music to influence people, to turn them on, or freak them out. When I used to play with Dave’s group, the Sun Trolley, at UFO club, just two or three of us would take on up to two thousand people, with no amplifiers or anything – and Dave could get them all with him and do incredible things to their heads. I had never seen music used that way before.”
“So when he split from London to take up gypsy caravanning on the Mark Palmer scene, the Third Ear seemed a logical extension of what Dave had been doing. But I had a hard time finding people who had any idea of this particular area of music, and I had to find ways to turn even musicians on to thinking that way. And then eventually, when we did form the acoustic group, we had all the gear stolen. In a way it was fortunate, because we started to get it together at great speed from then on.
“The basic Eastern sound had always been there, and now it had the opportunity to develop in the right way. If you go into it really deeply, playing Eastern-style music entails a completely different way of thinking. Western music is sort of ‘put together in pieces’, whereas the Eastern style seems to be more ‘organic’. And as you play, you soon discover that it is not even coming from you, and that your job as a musician is just to get yourself out of the way. This is the state we have got into now, where everyone realises themselves as a channel – and the music just comes.
“We are beginning to move into some strange musical areas, doing a piece we call Druid. Once or twice when we’ve played this thing, we’ve gone into a weird sort of experience we call a ‘Time-shift’. Nobody really knows what it is. The whole Druid piece is repetitive and extremely hypnotic and yet you have some of the instruments doing far out things so that a fantastic tension is built up. It’s like alchemy. The alchemical emphasis is on the endless repetition of experiments, doing the same thing over and over again, and waiting for some sort of X-factor to appear. This is more or less what we do when we play. And our X-factor is this time-shift thing.
“It happened once at the London Arts Lab, and as we played, it seemed as if time had slowed dawn and we had drifted into a completely different dimension. And when we finished, nobody moved at all. They were kind of stuck there. So I felt that perhaps it had happened to them too. So that’s the thing we are trying to get into. Although it can be quite a strain during public performance, like living on the edge of a cliff, since nobody knows what might happen. To be on stage and feel it happening can be quite frightening. You go out of yourself, and when you come to, you discover yourself on stage with hundreds of people staring at you. You get this split-second thought: ‘Have I been playing? Have I ruined the whole thing?’ In a way, it’s very similar to meditation and mantra chanting, which is why I feel what we are doing has a very religious depth.
“I’m just hoping we come across on record. We’ve just cut our first disc called ALCHEMY, with Richard, who plays violin and viola, Paul on oboe, myself on hand drums and Mel on cello (that makes the deep magical drone), and if we can make it with records and the Straight Scene, playing all over the country, we want to do a lot of free scenes in the summer, playing at power centres like Glastonbury Tor or Silbury Hill, Avebury Ring, or Merlin’s rock-tomb which is supposed to be near Manchester. Flying saucers appear to travel between these places on definite routes, and anything could happen where the ‘energy lines’ cross.
“There is also a point where Eastern and Western mysticism meets and I hope we have captured this on record. We cut the whole L.P. in only six hours – and every one a first take, although we had a bit of a hassle trying to get it made the way we wanted it. They wanted to put in echo and phrasing and all sorts of commercial rubbish, but we held firm to what we felt it should be.
“There are no lyrics on any of the tracks. I’ve always felt that music should be pure. If you have lyrics, you are preaching in a way. Somehow words are a block to communication. It’s almost impossible for me to explain exactly how I feel about this, that’s why I’m a musician. The only way to really understand what I mean, is to firstly listen to a pop group and then listen to us, and then I hope you will know what we’re trying to say.”
Copyright © Muz Murray 1969.