Babylon Mystery Orchestra Interviews
An archive of lost interviews with Sidney Allen Johnson

BALLBUSTER HARD MAGAZINE

Just who is the Babylon Mystery Orchestra ?

Babylon Mystery Orchestra currently consists only of me. Unless of course you count my cat who is credited on all of the records. This is mostly out of neccessity. I have long since grown weary of dealing with “musicians.”  I am tired of trying to explain to musicians that being a musician in no way means you are an artist. Being the sole musician and composer is quite liberating. It has made music fun for me again.

In your own words describe BMO sound & influences?

The BMO sound is something akin to gothic classic metal. There is a lot of Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Kiss and Thin Lizzy in the mix as I have always loved those bands. But there is also a nod to sounds from  Sisters Of Mercy style goth rock. It is intentional that the songs are written, at least musically, for simplicity and accessability. They don’t “sound” difficult. This is to clear the way for the lyrics to take the dominant role in the music. The lyrics dictate how the songs will sound and how the vocals must sound. It is very rare that you will hear this said of any band but in the case of Babylon Mystery Orchestra the lyrics are the dominant factor in the music. The accompanying music is designed to support the feeling of power that the songs are often about.

Now the lyrics themselves are always centered around themes that I take very seriously. There are religious and political themes throughout BMO music. None of it owes an allegiance to any particular viewpoint except my own interpretation of the world around me.This is about true artistic expression. Other bands have claimed they believe in their music.What does that mean? They don’t express their beliefs in their songs. Mostly in heavy metal the lyrics are nonsensical violence and posturing. With Babylon Mystery Orchestra you know where my beliefs are. That may be the most terrifying part to some people. I believe in the things I write about. This is making full use of the right to free speech. BMO shies away from no subject.

Where was “The Great Apostasy” recorded?

I call it “Fallen Angel Studio.” It is my own home studio right here in Greenville Alabama. Not too far from the world famous “Pigeon Creek.”

Which tracks do you feel are the strongest & why ?

Now that is a difficult one. I would probably say “Eye Of The Needle” is one of the stronger tracks. It has that mix of acoustic verses and heavy choruses and is quite catchy. But what makes it stand out for me is that it is about real people. “Reverend Fred” and “Father Gene” are real people and I thoroughly identify them in the booklet. Those are their real names and the subject of homosexuality and Christianity is dealt with severely. I also think “Wolf In The Fold” is a strong track as well for its harsh dealings with the Pedophile Priests. My favorite track however is probably “Antichrist Superczar.” Its powerful heavy in both words and music. So is “Prey For Me.”And I get to be both Antichrist and Satan between them. But since the record is built on a unified theme all the songs work together to deliver a strong message. So in the end I look at the whole thing as one musical piece and the songs are just movements within the larger work, even though I think the songs can stand alone as well. Often times they can provide a totally different view when separated from the whole.

What’s the long & short term goals as far as touring, recording,
writing etc ?

Touring may happen one day. I would like to see this material performed live I believe. However that is not a priority. To me music has always been about records. I have always loved buying records and finding new music that I liked. So it was always my desire to make records. I have already finished 2 tracks for the next CD. I hope to get back to recording again soon so that I can get that one finished. I am full of ideas and I am already excited about where I will be taking BMO on that one. There are so many subjects that I want to deal with in my music. One life may not be long enough to get to them all. Recording like this takes a lot of time.It would be nice if I could devote my full attention to making new music. That is essentially the long term goal I have.

How did the band name come about?

The first CD, “Divine Right Of Kings” was written around the theme of the Mystery Babylon prophecies in the New Testament book of Revelation. Chapters 17 & 18. I just sort of worked on the name. Initially I wanted BMO to have an orchestral sound similar to the likes of Therion. Plus I thought having the word “orchestra” in the name of a one man band provided a desired sense proposterousness. So I reversed Mystery Babylon added Orchestra and there was Babylon Mystery Orchestra. This was a name I never had to worry was being used by someone else. So I trademarked it too. Ultimately I do love the name and the way it fits the sound of the music and its serious content.

What do you feel sets The Babylon Mystery Orchestra apart from other Metal Acts?

With Babylon Mystery Orchestra,  music is the vehicle, not the destination. That alone will separate it from virtually everyone else. More often than not, I believe most metal acts have no real reason to exist. They are just musicians seeking attention. Music is just a “craft” to them and all they are doing is displaying their craft. Sure they are often really skilled players, but I am no more interested in a really skilled guitarist that I am a really skilled plumber. And lets be honest, no one will ever NEED a musician for anything, ever. Music therefore has to be something special. You have to WANT it in your life. Most bands these days may have well constructed records, but they are as useless as a beautiful boat sitting in a desert. Just like everything else of value in this world, music should have a greater purpose  beyond its own existence. BMO isn’t going to get lost in the crowd of “musician” bands that dominate the current metal scene. The first rule of setting yourself apart is to be different. Heavy Metal is built around bands. Not BMO. Almost exclusively heavy metal is dominated by the music way over the lyrics. In fact most heavy metal lyrics are disposable. Not so with BMO. Everything said on a BMO CD NEEDS to be said. Most heavy metal bands are only interested in fitting into the pre-existing subgenres that are out there. They will look and sound, almost always, exactly like someone else. In fact most bands are only influenced by that narrow subgenre they are trying to fit into. Think of it as conforming to fit in with the non-conformists! BMO is influenced by everyone from the Doors to Kiss to Sisters of Mercy to Therion to more than I could list. On most heavy metal band’s records all the songs sound like the one before it, and the one after it. Not BMO. Every song is different so as to reflect that not only do I play music, but I have been listening to it longer than the last three years.

What would you say is your biggest gripe about the music industry?

Somewhere along the way the rock music industry stopped looking for the artist who is different and instead sought out the  copycat musicians. In many ways I feel the rap industry is far superior to the rock industry. Rap very much an artist dominated  industry. The more independent you are the more control you can exercise over your creation. Rockers lack that independence. Thats why rock music is so dominated by bands over individual artists. Rock bands seek out labels and then depend on them to do everything for them. It is also why the bands are so lazy and just follow the same path, hoping to fall into the same pot of gold as their idols. Their is no more originality in their approach to presenting their music than there is to the music itself. If touring is the way to sell records then why does Mariah Carey sell any? She doesn’t go anywhere it seems except to parties to get her picture taken. Yet her records sell in the millions. The record labels that sell rock music are just not looking for interesting  bands. Just a shortcut to a quick dollar. If they found interesting personalities and developed that, there would be a lot bigger reward for both them and the artist. They too need to learn the difference between “artist” and “musician.” We generally don’t let electricians, plumbers or brick layers design buildings. Why do we let musicians create music? I say again, an artist has a greater purpose.

Your musical influences ?

I have always been a big KISS fan. Since Kiss Alive! came out in 1975. I have bought thousands of records since, but I have never bought a better one. I also have always been a big fan of Ronnie James Dio. I discovered him shortly after I started listening to rock music when he was still in Rainbow. “Gates Of Babylon” is probably, in my opinion, the best heavy metal song…..ever. The truth is I have a lot of influences. If anything I may have too many. Be it Blue Oyster Cult, Tiamat, Manowar, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Nick Cave or…..the Partidge Family. But I mostly listen to the heavier stuff.

What is your fan base like?

In America, it tends to be a largely Christian audience. This being, I suppose, because I often deal with deep Biblical topics. They are controversial and most artists that actually seek out the “Christian” label don’t want to touch such things. They claim its too “divisive.” Christian artists generally wants be viewed as “positive” all the time. BMO is actually very negative. The truth hurts. It got Jesus crucified. I think there is a large audience of Christians who actually don’t want a false “positive” message in their music and they appreciate the BMO approach. Christianity has long since become too “reward” oriented. Salvation is sold to the Christian flocks as though it is an extended warrant plan on life. BMO is actually out to strike a blow against that kind of thinking.

In Europe the audience are largely  fans of gothic metal and hard rock music. And the approach with the lyrics and its harsh realities appeals to them just as much, even if they view the music from a totally different perspective. I like gothic music a lot so I can understand that. A lot of the best heavy metal has had a very gothic edge throughout its history.

Any road stories you can let us in on ?

Not really. I did live out in Hollywood back in 1988 when the filmed that movie “The Decline Of Western Civilazation pt. 2 The Metal Years. I saw a lot of those freaky people out there. They didn’t make them up. I actually talked to some of those very same people. In fact I was so disillusioned that I moved to Augusta Georgia and lived there till 1995. That whole time I virtually never touched a musical instrument. If it wasn’t for the KISS reunion I may have never played again. But I bought that reissue of the Ibanez PS 10 that Paul Stanley plays. I decided it wasn’t just going to be part of my Kiss collection. I was going to use it.

Parting shot ?

I thank everyone who has expressed an interest in Babylon Mystery Orchestra. I hope I can continue to make records that cause people to think. Especially to think about things they may not have wanted to acknowledge. The world is way more than it appears to be.

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