Jon Durant Talks New Project Burnt Belief And Failed Prophecies
Guitarist/composer Jon Durant has teamed up with Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin for the new ambient project Burnt Belief. Now that the the project's self-titled album is unleashed, I got in touch with Durant to dive into the history between the two musicians and how this release came together.
Drawing inspiration from the book "When Prophecy Fails" and the idea of exploring how people react when their deeply held beliefs don't pan out, Burnt Belief is an introspective journey relying solely on instrumentation and photography to get its ideas across.
Check out the full interview with Durant below, in which he discusses the recently released "Semazen" music video, Harold Camping's failed apocalyptic rapture prophecies, and more.
xFiruath: Can you tell me about how this project came together?
Jon: Sure, Colin had worked on my previous album “Dance of the Shadow Planets.” What I had done for that was brought everybody together in the studio to play live. The music had this sense of it requiring everyone playing together and making something happen in a live, improvisational sense. We felt a strong connection, the two of us. We were exchanging New Year’s greetings and we thought we should come work together. So Colin suggested we try writing and he had some ideas on how he might like to start and transform some of my ideas. They very quickly developed into a great working situation. We totally got each other and figured out what things pushed him in the right direction and he’d play something that was going to set me up perfectly.
xFiruath: What’s the story behind the band name and how does it connect to the music?
Jon: Burnt Belief comes from Colin reading a book called “When Prophecy Fails,” and that’s a 1950’s era book by a social psychologist who was really interested in the cult mentality and what happens when you get involved in a cult. They make a prophecy of a cataclysmic event happening and then it doesn’t happen. So what happens to the people afterwards? Some of them are going to get more entrenched, the more that you’ve committed to it, an emotional commitment or financial or whatever, you’ll dig your heels in and say “well, it wasn’t the prophecy that was wrong…” I’ve also been really interested in how we get into these strange belief systems that people often have. It provided us a sort of back drop. With instrumental music it’s difficult though, it’s not like you have lyrics to work with, so for us it was a question of how do we channel this notion of introspection and thinking about how do we come up with our belief systems and what happens when we shake them up a little bit?
xFiruath: Probably the most visible instance of that recently was with Harold Camping’s rapture predictions that were plastered across the country on billboards and that traveling caravan of cars with the message written on the side. Did that inspire the music at all?
Jon: Yeah absolutely, that was definitely part of our discussions. That was huge, because it was exactly that sort of thing. There were people who literally gave up everything to follow that guy. It would be fascinating to see what they’re response is now. There were people who told their kids “sorry, we’re going with him, you’re on your own.” So now what? It’s an amazing thing. How does one get to that point?
xFiruath: How does the art connect with the themes of Burnt Belief?
Jon: That was me, it’s all photography I did. It does sort of relate in that it’s all macro-photography that’s looking at very close details of mundane objects and looking at them in a way you wouldn’t normally do so. For instance, there’s photographs of fire hydrants. You wouldn’t necessarily think about it, a fire hydrant is something you just pass every day, but the fact is that when you look up really close there’s all these interesting elements. There’s decay and rust components and flaking paint and all these things. Angles and lines that when viewed up close you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. It’s about looking at things at a deeper level and pulling something else out of it besides the obvious “this is how we put a fire out.”
xFiruath: You also did the music video that came out for “Semazen.” How did that come together?
Jon: The idea was to try to stress somebody coming to grips with having this belief system that’s causing them to have to dress a certain way and cover themselves up, even though that’s not how they feel they really are. As you look around at the world and everybody else going on with their daily life, and feel how do I break free of this and remove those shackles and free myself form the constrains holding me back from being the person I want to be?
xFiruath: Will you be taking Burnt Belief out for live shows?
Jon: We would very much like to take it out on the road, but there’s enormous challenges we’re faced with in terms of putting the two of us in the same room, since he’s off in England and I’m in Portland, but normally Boston. We have to find a way to make it make sense, from a financial perspective. Porcupine Tree’s manager has been trying to scout out opening slots that could work. So we’ll see. Colin has been involved with a project in the Ukraine were he’s producing singers who do traditional folk music transformed into a very modern context with electronic rhythms and he’s got me involved doing my thing, so we’ve been asked to play over there in June. We’re trying to work it out but hopefully we’ll also be able to do some Burnt Belief stuff as well. It’s all in the heading of “stay tuned.”
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to add about the album?
Jon: It’s about that introspection and trying to look within. I hope that comes through in the music. Some people might think of it as sort of easy listening until you realize a couple of the pieces are just blasting you. Things like “Balthazar’s Key” and “The Weight of Gravity.” You turn it up a little bit and you realize “they’re really tearing it up here.”
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