Far from suffering for being stranded in Hamilton, almost 80 miles south of Auckland, Craig Williamson thinks it’s been a good thing. “It allows me to have the space and freedom to create with no reference point locally, no peer pressure or scenester bullshit. I’m happy being a musical recluse.”
Twenty-odd years ago, he was on a different path, fronting Datura, one of the first New Zealand bands to pioneer the stoner rock sound. But after six years, instead of enjoying the success of their 1999 album Visions For The Celestial, he had become frustrated by “all the bullshit that surrounded it… I was going for a more psychedelic, lighter and more Eastern-flavoured type of music, as shown on the album’s final track Mantra. The other guys were more into straight rock and blues, and I was getting tired of being in a band, so I took some of the song ideas for our next album and moved on.”
Citing Donovan, The Incredible String Band, Skip Spence and “more obscure neo-psych and prog stuff like Sun Dial, ST Mikael or The Bevis Frond” as influences, Williamson re-launched his career as Lamp Of The Universe. While he brushes away potential links to any “specific religions”, the many not-so-hidden references to Buddhism or Eastern philosophy only seem to underline how “cosmic” this meeting of Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel and Indian classical raga is. Although his music is mostly based around his guitar playing, it also features a wide range of instruments, from sitar to Moog, tanpura to tabla and even a vintage Mellotron M4000 he bought off Eddie Rayner from Split Enz. As Williamson performs and records everything himself in his home studio, this allowed him to be prolific. With the recent release of The Inner Light Of Revelation, Williamson’s nine album-strong discography has now seen him tackling a broad range of music, including psychedelic rock, acoustic pastoral reflections and even pure drone. Although he has renewed his ties with heavy music with Arc Of Ascent, his focus remains on Lamp Of The Universe “right at the fringes of the psychedelic underground which I don’t think I have ever returned from.”
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