SABBATH ASSEMBLY is a strange beast to me but I had to know more about the concept seeing as there is a second album out too. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
I guess that this is the most frequent question asked but what where the reason you wanted to do Sabbath Assembly?
-I felt immediately drawn to the lyrics of the hymns of the Process; the first one I discovered was called “Christ and Satan Joined in Unity,” and I felt a strong relationship to this idea of balance. Thus it became a mission to share the hymns of the Church, none of which had ever been recorded, with the world. I connected with former members of the Church and secured a hymnal, which for me was like discovering a buried treasure. Each hymn is really pure gold.
When you have such a clear concept that you have does it ever feel limiting creatively?
-We are beginning to expand by playing more original material, still in the spirit of the Church, but not so confined to the structure of a hymn. One critique that is sometimes made of ‘occult’ music is that, in this day and age when we have access to all occult ‘secrets’ at our fingertips, the themes of the music can suffer from a kind of ‘eclecticism’ – here’s a song about Crowley, here’s one about the Rosicrucians, here’s a few lines from Ancient Egypt. The limit of focusing on the Process exclusively allows us to really deepen ourselves in this one path, and hopefully provide a message that is more clear, rather than just creating some kind of occult stew.
You are on your second album now as the Sabbath Assembly. How far can you take this before it all ends?
-Yes, and we are just finishing our third which be for sale in limited quantities on our upcoming Spring EU tour. The new album is called “Quaternity” and features half Process songs and half songs of our own composition, but based on the themes and writings of the Church. Thankfully the Process was quite prolific, with more than 60 hymns published in sheet music, and over 500 pages of published writings.
Is there a future to Sabbath Assembly once you run out of stuff to record? Can Sabbath Assembly exist without the material?
-Given the above numbers we could definitely make five or more albums without running out of material, plus adding originals you may not get rid of us for a long time!
For those of us not too familiar with the origin could you please give us a short introduction?
-The Process Church was a new religious movement that developed in the late 60’s and early 70’s as an outgrowth of Scientology. The Church described the functioning of our minds in terms of the Western deities Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan, and taught radical acceptance of all of these. The Process despised repression and social conventions, which they felt concealed our true natures. Christ represented one who could balance these inner impulses in harmony, rather than championing one over another – hence the talk about unifying our inner forces of “good” and “evil.” The ultimate goal was, and is, to come to understand the root of our compulsive behaviors, learning not to act on these compulsions non-reflectively, and thus aiming towards a kind of “Truth” in the sense of attaining a glimpse of ourselves apart from the influence of society.
What is the biggest challenge taking on this material? How true to the originals are you? How much room for improv is there?
-We only have the sheet music to create our recordings from, no actual recordings of the songs. So looking at a piece of sheet music only, there are an infinite number of ways to bring a tune to life. Also we are quite free with changing certain words, chords and melody lines to create pieces that we are comfortable performing. The purpose of Sabbath Assembly is not to be historical documentarians, but interpreters of these hymns for these modern times.
How do you distance yourself from the message within? Do you distance yourself from the message?
-I don’t have an interest in distancing myself from the message of the Church at all, and find the music is better the more we as a band immerse in it. We certainly distance ourselves from the way the message was disseminated, and the social conditions under which it flourished – meaning the cultish obeisance to human leaders, and the ‘give everything away and follow us’ tactics of joining and staying in the Church. We believe in personal empowerment, not in total sacrifice to the Process Church or anyone else.
How does the Church’s ideology fit in today’s society? How much of a cult was the Church?
-The way the Church survived was absolutely based on cult tactics, and as previously mentioned we as a band do not condone these. The ideology, however, absolutely fits and this has been shown by the reception of the band. “Christ and Satan Joined in Unity.” People are weary of the warfare between ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ and the ultimate subjectivity of these terms. Who’s a ‘terrorist’? It depends which country you talk with. “Satan” was a term used by the Hebrew tribes to refer to an ‘adversary,’ and the Process picked up on Christ directive to love our adversaries – including Satan. In psychological terms, this means making friends with the “shadow” side of ourselves; not doing so results in hypocrisy and wars. This is seen most obviously in the Holy-Rollers who pronounce war against homosexuality, but meanwhile have a same-sex prostitute in secret. Or in my life as a boy trying to be a good Christian for my family, but meanwhile listening to Venom records in my closet in secret. The Process is about “no more secrets,” no more lies, no more false personas. Stop trying to be so ‘good’ or so ‘bad,’ and seek a life of balance, harmony, and openness.
What are your opinions of doomsday cults and religious sects? Are they a necessary evil to keep the rest of us sane?
-I feel like there are two opposing forces we see at work in society. One side encourages us to believe in permanence and security, so we amass lots of things, get married (‘diamonds are forever’), and go to churches that assure us we will live eternally. As a necessary reaction to this, we have serial killers, doomsday cults, and wars that continuously remind us that nothing is permanent, and that the world could end tomorrow. I would say that neither of these viewpoints keeps any of us ‘sane’ but rather balance each other necessarily. What would be interesting is to see how human behavior would change if we feared death less, and worried less about ‘leaving our mark,’ and instead became a bit more comfortable with the present moment.