Fighting for the Earth to Survive: An Interview With Ionncaish

From deep in the cascadian scene, Ionncaish is a fascinating project that exemplifies how neofolk can draw directly from metal and a string of intersecting genres.  Ionncaish is a Scottish word for both “Learn” and “Teach” and it is well centered for a project that is about exploration, both of ourselves and of our connection to a planet that is on the brink.  We caught up with Ionncaish for a quick few questions, and to get into what drives them to do this iconoclastic project.

How did your project come together? Were you in any other bands before, or was this your first time recording?

I had been in a Doom/Folk band called “Black Mould”/”Skaldr” in Ashland, Oregon. When we broke up, I had a lot of material that wasn’t used. So I developed it and got in touch with my friend Ignat Frege and recorded it.


How does Scottish gaelic folk music and traditions inform your work?

My heritage is mainly Scottish. I had a huge fascination in the reclamation of the gaelic language and culture, that was eliminated by the colonizers. The word ionnsaich is Scottish gaelic for “Learn,” and in some contexts, “Teach.” Gaelic music had always got my blood running, kind of how a d-beats makes some people want to mosh.


What bands inspired you in doing the work?  Were you in touch with some of the Cascadian bands, like Nuwisha?

I was heavily influenced by the music coming out of Salem, Oregon and the Burial Grounds at the time. Artists on labels like Eternal Warfare and Woodsmoke would tour through southern Oregon a lot and one of my projects would always end up on the bill.

I had met Rowan once in a squat outside of Portland but was more friends with Icarus Valkyrie, who was featured on some recordings.


There are few bands that really come out with the fusion of soft neofolk and grinding black metal vocals, how did it come to you? How did you start to craft your sound?

I wanted to start a melodic black metal band. I had been messing around with open and drop tunings a lot. At the time I didn’t have the means to buy equipment. So I did without and just played my acoustic guitar.

Do you think the term “blackened neofolk” applies here?

It’s a way to put a label on it.  I think the blackened part has to do with the riffs and vocal style. I think the neofolk part comes from the lyrics and solo guitar playing.


Where does your lyrical inspiration come from?

At the time there were a lot of astrological movements happening that seemed to coincide with what was happening with my reality. That mixed with my childhood of being homeschooled and talking to animals and trees and having the innate sense that there was an actual exchange between me and them.  Then learning about studies that back my childhood experiences.


What drives your commitment to antifascism?  Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?

A combination of things. Growing up listening to punk music and having a family that promoted equality. A current desire for equity. Striving to accept my problematic past, to then become a more humble and better person.

I have heard of people in the scene having fucked up ethics but have also seen people not look into the art of artists and define what they don’t understand as fascism. I have been fortunate enough to only make real life contact with fellow anarchist artists.


Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist band?  How does antifascism inform your music?

It immediately draws a line. Art, being subjective, can be taken by people and repurposed to fit their narrative if you aren’t completely transparent. It tells people as an artist, I’m trying to create space and will stand up against shitheads. It’s a good way to be.
It doesn’t directly come out in the lyrics for Ionnsaich, but anti-authoritarian/anti-agroforestry are sentiments are there.

What other social issues play into your music?  There is a strong sense of a need to a return to a cyclical, grounded way of life in communities.

Will we heed” was a lament towards agriforestry and a question of whether we’ll fight for nature and all forms of sentient life.

But mostly, music is an outlet for my emotional process. It can be considered narcissistic or imposing of myself onto others, who have their own suffering, but I aim for it to be a bond of empathy and understanding between the audience and I about these larger problems that can feel overwhelming.


What’s coming next for you?

As I write this, my new band Exulansis is recording our first full length album. Half the album is acoustic while the other is Blackened Doom. We’re playing Lithia Cascadia in Washington on June 21st-23rd with a lot of amazing artists!

I’m also releasing a 7″ single for solo folk/indie album, followed by the album release on cassette on my label “Wretched Relics”.

Wretched Relics is also working on more releases.


What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

I feel that a lot of artists are calling themselves as “experimental folk” these days, to distance themselves from the neofolk stigma.
But some of my favorites include:


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