High Mountain Tempel is an experimental space-psych band consisting of Eric Nielsen and Keith Boyd, who also run the local website www.blogsandiego.com. Nielsen has played with Maquiladora, Buzz or Howl, and various Japanese underground outfits such as Acid Mother's Temple, Astro, and High Rise.
“Our music can be described as ritualistic soundscapes for seekers, the sound of golden ashes from a dream,” says Boyd.
Nielsen waxes equally esoteric. “I’d describe [our music] as the sound you hear under the ocean after jumping from the arches at Sunset Cliffs, bubbling, shocking, mysterious, and full of past-life memories.”
According to Boyd, "High Mountain Tempel began when Eric and I rekindled our friendship after a decade long break. We happened into each other by chance at a gig of one of our soul brother kindred spirits bands, Acid Mothers Temple. Unbeknownst to me, Eric's other band Maquiladora had been touring and recording with them for a few years. We'd played in a college band called Blueberry Jam, which also featured Phil Beaumont from Little White Teeth and Maquildora, and this reconnection made us realize that we both had musical ideas in common that we wanted to explore."
"This is music as voyage, dragging your nervous system out to the cosmos with no plans on returning."
In fall 2007, the band released a new CD on their Lotushouse Records label, A Screaming Comes across the Sky. The album includes the song "Fluctuat Nec Mergitur," which pays homage to Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the Church Universal and Triumphant.
"She had a free cable-access TV show [until the early to mid-'90s] that aired in San Diego late at night," explains Eric Nielsen. "She would channel the ascended masters and go into these trance chant sessions. They were sure that the end of the world was coming, and they dug into the earth to build these huge fallout shelters [mainly in Montana, but one was built in Santee]."
Prophet's church doctrine included fairies, elves, mysticism, alchemy, and paranormal beliefs. According to bandmember Keith Boyd, "fluctuat nec mergitur" means "She is tossed by the waves but is not sunk." The track includes samples of Clare Prophet's voice. "There is a disturbingly beautiful pulse she develops as her prayers progress, which is both mechanical and organic," says Boyd.
The Tempel's 2008 album The Glass Bead Game includes two cuts, "The Motherhouse" and "The Ascended Master Moves On (Hang Gliding in Heaven)," which are homages to Father Yod, the spiritual master of musical vegetarianism. The two songs include sampled sermons given by controversial sex-and-veggie cult leader Father Yod.
Keith Boyd -- aka Ras Al H’nout -- explains, “Father Yod lived a storied and adventurous life as a military hero, jiu-jitsu expert, and craftsman when he came to found one of the first health-food restaurants in America, the Source. What started as a series of lectures morphed into a full-blown commune, the Source Family. The group venerated Yod as the living embodiment of God and created a completely alternate lifestyle based on communalism, chanting, meditation, vegetarianism, and ritual sex.… The Source Family engaged in marathon sex magick sessions.”
Yod was also a musician and recording artist championed by fan and sometime follower Sky Saxon of the Seeds.
“The Source Family released roughly ten albums,” says Ras Al H’nout, “going under names like Ya Ho Wa 13 and Father Yod and the Spirit of ’76. The music was a wild and thrilling ride through Yod’s various beliefs and manifestos.… Father Yod played gongs and kettle drums while preaching.”
The Source Family ended with Father Yod’s 1975 death in a hang-gliding accident. According to Nielsen, “Family members went their own ways, but in recent years they’ve reconnected to publish oral histories of the group and stage concerts.… We use Yod’s chants and snippets of wisdom on the new album to hopefully re-create the atmosphere the Family felt during their morning meditations.”
High Mountain Tempel calls itself “San Diego’s most occult band,” but does that mean the band endorses Satanism or something akin? “The word occult is an often misunderstood and misused word,” explains Boyd. “Essentially, it means hidden. Another sense of the word refers to knowledge or wisdom only available to one who has been initiated. We’re interested in the underlying meaning of life and our experience of it. There’s no one creed or faith we ascribe to.
“All paths are equally valid expressions of the primal drive humans have to seek the divine.”
High Mountain Tempel did not perform live until after recording four albums. They finally hit the stage for the first time in June 2011. Later that year, a remix of their song “Pilgrimage to Thunderbolt Pagoda” appeared on a compilation CD included with an issue of the British occult journal Abraxas, alongside songs by Ragnarok, Cyclobe, and Arktau Eos.
Their fifth studio full-length Gnosis, which features players from Acid Mothers Temple, includes a song called “Once On a Golden Mountain” recorded with Isis Aquarian, whose life with the late Father Yod's sex-and-veggie cult the Source Family was chronicled in a documentary film and a comic book one-shot. The album is the 20th release by the band's San Diego-based label Lotushouse.
Eric Nielsen also fronts the psych-noise band Buzz or Howl.