AN INTERVIEW WITH RAT SCABIES
Chris Millar – more commonly known as Rat Scabies – is the drummer and founder of the seminal English punk band, The Damned. He’s also a Rennes-le-Château aficionado and Grail hero.
Yes – Grail hero. Rat, as he is known by his friends, is the hero of Christopher Dawes’ refreshingly trippy Rennes-le-Château road-trip adventure yarn – Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail.
The book chronicles the exploits of Rat and his Brentford neighbour, ex-Melody Maker reporter and Brentford Football Club fanatic, Christopher Dawes. Together, the intrepid explores investigate Rennes-le-Château, only to uncover more lunacy than legend, and more trouble than treasure.
Dawes, who is unfamiliar with Rennes-le-Château, is transported by Rat on a hero’s journey into the heart of the enigma’s people, places and, err, pubs. Along the way they immortalise their local, Brentford’s The Griffin; the pub where Rat host’s his Rennes-le-Château discussion forums and where we conducted our interview.
One could say that Rennes-le-Château is in Rats blood, for his parents, John and Joy Millar, are the founders of the UK based Saunière Society: “a loose organization of diverse individuals formed to pursue the ideas and objects first popularized by Henry Lincoln, and has as its primary object, an endeavour to seek out the truth."
However you slice it, the Millar family are Rennes-le-Château fanatics. And Rat, as the grandfather of Punk, brings a truly unique perspective to the genre.
1. So, we are here at the Griffin Pub. Rat, tell us about the legend of monsters in Brentford – especially the mythical Griffin? Are they to be believed?
Ya, well there was a famous sighting in the 1800’s, in what is now the football grounds, back when it was open wasteland. Three underground rivers meet beneath the grounds. Griffin Park has always had a mystical quality about it.
What kind of sighting?
There was an animal known as the Chiswick Beast, which later became the Beast of Brentford.
Oh right. So what’s the story…? Didn’t King Charles II give his Brentford mistress a Griffin that fell in the river and was dragged into the Thames? It survived, and was later breed with a griffin Captain Cook brought back from his travels, the offspring of which terrorized the town, or something like that…
Yeah, that’s it. That’s the legend.
Have you seen it?
Actually I may have. It saw a beastly looking thing with four legs and a lot of mange walking down the street late one night. It was weird. I mean, it could have been a fox with bad mange or something because it didn’t look very healthy, but it was the wrong size for a fox.
Cool. And here we are travelling to Rennes-le-Château for a bit of mystery and adventure. It’s all here!
I’m not so sure about that…
2. Right, so if the usual Rennes-le-Château characters formed a band; Saunière, Boudet, Gelis and Maria – who would play what instrument and what would their sound be?
Now that’s a stupid question!
Really, I thought you’d dig it?
Bloody hell. (laughs)
So, I believe Saunière was a flamboyant character and for that reason alone I’d tag him as the singer. Ya, Saunière is definitely the front man. And I think Boudet would be the bass player, kind of quiet, seemingly uninteresting – reads a lot – you know the type…
Boudet on bass – I like it! I’m picturing Frank Black from the Pixies. What do you think?
I’m not so sure about that.
And I think Alfred Saunière would be the drummer. I think he’s a loose cannon. As for Gelis, well he was a bit older. He would have been the manager.
And of course Maria on keyboards and backing vocals.
Are all drummers’ ‘loose cannons’ then?
All but me!
I’m not sure about that….So what would the band sound like then?
I suppose like a Gregorian Sonic Youth…yeah – that’s it.
Cool. A whole new genre really.
What else would you expect?
Damned, Damned, Damned: the 30th Anniversary Edition was just released a few months back. What’s more likely, a true discovery in Rennes-le-Château or a Damned reunion gig?
A true discovery in Rennes-le-Château…
The Dammed had its chance to reform and re-invent itself. The plain and simple truth is you’re dealing with musicians. I’m a drummer. There’s a very big difference. I don’t play music – I keep time and have nothing to do with melodies, harmonies, or notes. Scales are not my domain. Sadly, people who have to deal with those things tend not to be very bright.
I see. Well that’s a shame…
Why is it a shame? It was thirty years ago and it was disposable pop. I for one can’t understand this kind of clinging onto the past and former glories.
So what do you think when you see the Police playing at Wembley?
I think so what, who cares? It’s kind of a nostalgic trip.
A musician is an artist who creates something representative of the moment. And it doesn’t matter if I you get it wrong. It’s a snapshot in time. That’s the important thing.
I’m interested in creating new stuff. I want people to point to me and say ‘there goes that guy that’s just done something new’, not ‘there goes that bloke that used to be something thirty years ago.’
Speaking of 30 years ago, I saw you guys at Club COD in Chicago in the late 70’s, and Police a couple of years later. In each instance there were about fifty people in the audience and it was absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t want to see either today…
That’s my point. The thing is when you’ve seen a band at their best, like when I saw The Who perform Tommy, I mean they nailed Moon’s drums to the stage, Townsend wore his boiler suit, Daultry sang in tune. It was brilliant. I went to see them in Phoenix a few months ago and it was quite a good show but there was none of that energy or the sense of faith they once had.
When musicians play it’s because they have faith in what they do, a belief in their ability and an understanding that if they get it right then the audience will connect. That’s when music takes on a kind of spirituality. I know it exists. I know there are ways of connecting to it.
Now is there a shortcut to connecting to it by standing at San Sal Valvayre (a small, hilltop church not far from Rennes-le-Château where an apparent energy line runs through the high alter – believed by Henry Lincoln to be great significance) with your hands over that piece of stone, I don’t know. Hell, I’ll give it a try.
3. Those who have attended your Rennes-le-Château nights at the Griffin know you are quite an aficionado on all this stuff – an expert, really. So what’s it like having parents that know even more than you?
I wouldn’t say I was an expert by any stretch. I’ve been force fed, really – without being unfair to my parents. We lived in a small house, and so I heard all the stories. For instance, David Wood would come over and I would hear his conversation with my father.
When I was in the band I didn’t bother with Rennes-le-Château much, not until we reached a point where our touring required long drives and I needed something to read. As I don’t believe in God and don’t have any kind of religious faith, Rennes-le-Château became the nearest thing to spirituality that I had.
1984 was first time I went to the church in Rennes-le-Château, and let me tell you it was a very, very strange place back then. The locals weren’t friendly. It had very few tourists, and because the band were there in leather jackets and had long hair and looked quite gothic, they didn’t want us in any of the restaurants and stuff.
There was a very, very sombre atmosphere throughout the Domain at that time, as well as the church. It was like a vacuum. And you would expect some atmosphere in a place like that. Most places either having a warming sense to them when you arrive, or a kind of ‘oooohhhhhh’ effect. There wasn’t either in Rennes-le-Château back then.
How has it changed today?
Now it’s nice and friendly. It’s not flat-line. Flat-line is the best way to describe the way it used to be.
What did the rest of the band think of Rennes-le-Château back then?
Dave read a fair amount of the stuff and we’d kind of talk about it a bit but none of them were into it like I was. They thought I was treading on slightly dodgy ground, and I have to admit that shortly after that it got very freaky when the coincidence factor kicked in.
I remember when I was in San Francisco, on tour, and I rung my father to say hi and he asked me about someone we had not heard from for about eight or nine years. I put the phone down and he called and was living in San Francisco, so I went ‘wooo that was a bit freaky, that was a bit weird.’
And then, as I finished my beer there was a pentagram on the bottom of the glass. That’s two in five minutes – it was quite odd. So then I rehearsed with a drumming pad I had used for years and noticed that there was another pentagram on the base. From that point on everywhere I went there were pentagrams.
4. That’s weird. Hey, let me ask you, as the hero of the greatest Rennes-le-Château book ever written – in my estimation – Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail, what is you relationship with the book’s author – Chris Dawes?
Well, he really is the bloke who lives over the road.
Many fans of the book will want to know if Chris has moved from Brentford as the ending of the book implies, and if not, are you still storing your Marshal amplifiers in his living room?
No, he’s made me take them back – the rotten bastard! And ya, he still lives across the road.
Has the book changed your reputation?
Yeah, in a very good way. I’m very pleased, you know, having been in a band for all that time and being asked the same questions about ‘what’s it like being in a group’. To open up a different field of conversation is absolutely fantastic.
5. Tell us about your recent trip to Rennes-le-Château with your parents and the Saunière Society. Were you not accompanied by the Messiah (David Shayler) himself?
Ya, I was!
David Shayler is a very powerful character.
He’s very vibrant and has a lot of charisma, which I felt unbalanced the yin and the yang of the tour as it were, and I soon realized that if he was indeed the Messiah then we needed a representative of what David would call the dark side.
In short, I realized that if he was the Messiah then I had to be the anti-Christ.
Cool. Who was more convincing?
I was. Let’s just say I wasn’t convinced, but then being the spawn of Satan I wouldn’t be.
Of course. So what did he think of Rennes-le-Château?
Well he said he’d solved the whole thing, which was quite good of him.
Really? Did he say what the mystery was in the end?
He did, but I won’t really get into that…
Well, if you insist …His opening salvo was ‘I am Christ, I am the Messiah and what’s more I can prove it!’
Well not to me he didn’t. His first point of reference is the Bible Code and with his decoding he gets something like ‘King David Shaylot’, and to be honest if you apply the Bible Code to Moby Dick you’ll get just as coherent answers, if not more so.
6. You once drove David to Scotland, where he was schedule to speak at a Saunière Society meeting. Tell us, what that was like?
You know exactly what it was like.
I know – but tell me again please!
Well it began with me falling into his cellar. It was very weird. I’ve searched for reasons as to why he’d want to kill me. I have…
Literally, I walked through the door and it was ‘hiya, I’ve come to take you to Edinburgh’, and I kind of stepped inside and the next thing I knew I had this incredibly, pleasant sensation of floating and falling. It must have only lasted one or two seconds. I slammed my back into the staircase and was kind of hanging upside in this totally surreal moment. Then we drove to Edinburgh where I was anointed by every witchy type in the building with all sorts of smelly stuff which actually did my back quite a lot of good, but I think the wine did just as much.
The whole reason I was picking David up in the first place was because he had two cars tampered with and he won’t drive. That’s why I’d been nominated by my dad as the driver. So we finished the meeting and there was somebody that hadn’t attended the meeting that had been hanging around in the bar and who was causing a certain amount of paranoia with David and some of the others. And of course as we drove back to London the following day the car brakes suddenly lock up and we veered into the other side of the road and we had to get it fixed.
So someone had cut the brakes?
Well, it was the hand-brake. It had a calliper inside the brake drum which had sheared off. It was classic as well, because when I took it to my guy who always fixes the car he said ‘well what happened?’ So I told him it was the brake calliper, and he said ‘but they never go’, so it may have well been a murder attempt on David.
7. On another occasion you returned from Scotland to find two animal hearts on your doorstep. What was that all about?
In the back yes, but that’s a whole other story. I’m not sure whether it was advice or a warning but I think it was one of the two.
Does it ever feel like there’s someone who thinks you’re getting too close to something?
No, not really. I think I’ve been viewed as someone who can be a convenient pawn, and I can be used to gain access to other things…
8. Your relationship with Henry Lincoln goes back over a quarter a century. I imagine you are relatively close.
Well I drove him around a lot and we spent quite a lot of time together, especially during the Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code trial. Henry’s like a rock star, he’s had a lot of success and fame and he’s done a billion interviews and he’s been asked questions non-stop. I suppose because of my music background I understand how people in that situation tend to react and how they kind of feel about things. He’d try out his lectures in the car on the way to a meeting and stuff, and in turn I’d usually pick his brain for whatever my interest was at the time. He’s told me a lot of stuff.
9. Tell us about your contact in the US who engineered devices that have been planted around Rennes-le-Château and Mt. Bugarach
The weird thing for me is the belief that there is a giant UFO buried in the field next to Bugarach.
Why somebody would go to all the trouble of burying a giant UFO in a field? It doesn’t really add up to me. If you’re going to hide it you’re going to take it to a hanger somewhere. You’re not going to bury it. There are lots of stories of people feeling very strange while they’re in that area. I was talking to somebody who worked for an independent company that developed engines, and one of the engines that was developed was a very large circular electro-magnetic. I mean he did tell me more…
The description of it is a large UFO that has to be buried because of safety issues stemming from the pulses that are generated by this experimental energy. The description he gave me really does match the Elisabeth Van Buren story. They’re big, they’re circular, they’re always buried, and people get ill if they’re near them.
10. Now that’s really weird. Listen, as one of the few people (to date) to have seen the Bloodline documentary, tell us what you thought?
I enjoyed it! It was very balanced. I was expecting it to be quite biased and somewhat opinionated, which it wasn’t, thankfully.
So it was convincing?
It depends how much faith you put in their witnesses to be honest, Gino Sandri and others. I’m not at all convinced he is the head of the Priory of Sion. There are things in the film that suggest that Bruce (Burgess) is being watched constantly by another group, and it suggests that Sandri isn’t in fact the head of the Priory of Sion. I’ve signed a non-disclosure, so I need to be careful what I say – sorry…
But you think it’s pretty good?
I think it’s good to watch and I think when you’re a hungry Rennie, any new kind of information is really welcome, even if it is dismissed in the end. You’ll like it!
11. As a mate of Ben Hammott, and someone who has seen some of the artefacts first hand, and who just visited him in Rennes-le-Château – what do you make of his discoveries?
There’s something about Ben that I find very sincere. What do you think of him?
I like him. He’s put himself in Harm’s Way, he’s come to your Rennes night at the Griffin, he’s been out with us and a couple of people who have been, well not confrontational, but very direct with him, and he seems to handle it all very well. He never gets defensive.
As you know, when we had dinner with Ben and (Rennes-le-Château researcher) Bill Kersey I was more interested in the nut and bolt things like ‘how did you happen to have the camera turned on when it fell into the tomb? What kind of camera was it? Why were you in that cave anyway? How did you get it back?’ You know? those sorts of questions.
It’s the details that are the tricky bit and the only thing you can do is to keep asking the same questions over and compare the answers you get. At one point I even directly said ‘are you making it up? Are you lying?’ And the lie detector I had at the Griffin night, I have to say it stayed green the whole time he was talking.
12. Moving on – what then do you think Saunière discovered – if anything?
I think there is irrefutable evidence to suggest that he found a physical treasure. The priests in that area were all abnormally wealthy. They couldn’t all be taking money for masses. To be honest, finding something down there and the lads working out a way to knock it out really doesn’t seem far fetched to me. At the same time Jean-Luc Robin will talk a lot about the Hapsburgs and the paperwork which would have allowed the royal dynasty to hold onto certain lands and titles that they felt were worth having. That is also very possible.
So do you think he found something heretical?
You see the difficult part is this: the Catholic Church knows what it would regard as a heresy is in actual fact a truth, but it isn’t a public truth, and thus they regard it as a heresy. You see you are only a heretic because it’s what the other side calls you because you don’t believe in their beliefs, their indoctrination, and their school of thought. If you like, they’re zealots.
13. Ok, for the following characters tell me if you think they were a player of pawn in the mystery – just one word – player or pawn:
|The two Bishops||Player|
|Gerard de Sede||Pawn|
So that settles it – The Bishops count as two votes and sway the balance. The Players win, 7-6…
No – it’s too close to call. You know, in a very real sense, the point is that everything Henry published came from Gerard de Sède. Henry brought the subject to the public, but at the same time – in terms of the mystery – he’s not a player in as such. He’s an observer, if anything. Henry will always tell you he’s a journalist, that’s what he does.
By the way my favourite geometry guy is actually Ashley Cowie, I think he knows his stuff. I really like his attitude. Henry’s geometry isn’t perfect, especially when you compare it to the work that David Woods did. That was incredibly accurate. But you see it is all to do with Henry’s role. Henry might not agree with this, but his real role in the whole Rennes-le-Château thing has been that of the sign-post, the person who says ‘have you seen this?’
He always says ‘Don’t believe a word of it’, meaning go check it yourself…
Yeah, like most good researchers as soon as you come up with something new they tell you its rubbish.
14. What do you think of the current Mayor of Rennes-le-Château and who do you think will be the next mayor?
The funny thing with the mayor is in the village the atmosphere has changed and people don’t seem comfortable like they once were. They’re not happy living day to day and I think the mayor is part of that. I think he’s had a destabilizing affect on the population as a whole, and I also have a very strong opinion that outsiders shouldn’t be trying to make decisions on what effectively is their village; where they live. We may very well want it renovated back to exactly how it was in Saunière’s day so we can still go there for a week a year and gawp opened mouthed and go ‘I wish I knew what it all meant,’ but the real truth is the population of very real people have to live, work and survive in that environment.
I think Antoine Captier would be quite good. I think it’s a very demanding job. I don’t think it’s as simple as people think. I don’t think you just sit there sipping wine saying thanks for the money. I think there’s a lot more to it, so I think it needs somebody with a lot of strength and energy to be able to deal with all of the various dilemmas that I’m sure turn up on a weekly basis in that place, but yeah, I think it must be somebody that is known to everybody and who’s trusted.
15. What pisses you off most about Rennes-le-Château?
I find the arrogance of some of the researchers quite astounding, and the factual manner in which they tell you this tenuous crock of shit that is supposed to convince you that they have discovered a tunnel leading to the treasure, you know?
Well don’t waste my time in the bar telling me about it go and dig the mother fucker up and show it to me. You know?
I’m not interested in you convincing me what the double M means.
I find the best question in Rennes le Chateau is ‘why?’. ’Oh look the double M symbol, that’s really important. Why’s it important?’ Then they go all quiet and fuck off cause the truth is they don’t have a clue.
16. I agree. So what do you make of the people, who shall remain nameless, who say there is absolutely no mystery in Rennes-le-Château, none whatsoever?
I think that’s a very narrow minded way of looking at it because there quite clearly is a mystery. Let’s forget flying saucers, sacred geometry and secret societies for the time being, let’s just look at Berenger Saunière.
17. In 50 years time what will be your legacy – heading up the first Punk band in history or being the hero of a great book about Rennes-le-Château?
Personally I’d like it to be the book, but sadly it’ll be that bloke who set fire to his drums …
That’s not a bad legacy…
I never even thought I’d make a record, I never thought I’d get any of the places I have and I’ll always be grateful for that. I did better than I thought I would, but at the same time you have to keep looking.
Most hobbies and past-times are pretty dull, while some can be rather dangerous; you’re endangering your life hand-gliding or parachuting or abseiling. The thing about Rennes-le-Château is that it’s nice and gentle, but with this wonderful sinister quality that lurks in the background; legends of murders and assassinations with secret societies.
The beauty is you don’t have to get too close. You can observe quite comfortably from a distance. And there’s something about the safety of the armchair when you’re reading about Noel Corbu (the business man who purchased Sauniere’s estate from Maria) being driven off the road to his death. You want to know more, but you know it isn’t going to come through the window and getcha, and that’s good.
Ya I like that aspect of it too. Excellent stuff Rat. Cheers. And best of luck in all future Grail quests. And be sure to watch out for low flying griffins.
Thanks Andy. Now I think it’s your round…