In discussion with Oliver Ho on “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ (1993).
Were you already familiar with the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia, or was “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ your first encounter with their music?
I was already familiar with their music, I think the first thing I had heard was the album, “Ov Biospheres and Sacred Grooves”. The thing on that album that really struck me was “Linkage”. The way they sampled Egyptian rhythms, and the fact that the track was purely made up of rhythms in a very stripped back way, that were also at a slow bpm. It had a purity and a different edge, very tribal, not techno or house in style at all.
Why did you choose this particular release out of their back catalogue? What made, or still makes, it so special for you? Is it a blueprint for aspects that interest you in electronic music?
The thing about this release that struck me at the time and what continues to be relevant to me is the is the purity of intention. It was an attitude towards music as ‘magick’ that was inspirational. The idea that a particular rhythm is like a spell, something that isn’t just about entertainment, but is operating on a more powerful level. There is a message on the record sleeve artwork that reads: “Warning! This object has nothing to do with art or artificial intelligence. This double package (12″ version) was designed for mixing, for breaks, for possession, for collectors.” This seemed to articulate that there were was something inside the music, that was waiting to released, some kind of energy, that had been placed there by the makers…
“Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ was released in 1993, three years before your debut single. Did it leave an inspirational mark on your early days as a producer?
It certainly has had a lasting effect. It’s about being taken to a certain place I guess, a certain feeling. Getting to a psychic place through the application of sound. There’s something very ancient about that. That’s still the reason i make music today.
What role do “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ play in the works of the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia? How can one place it in what they did?
I would say it was their masterpiece, because its a very distilled record. The fact that all tracks relate to each other, the way that there is quite a limited sound palette. It makes it feel more ritualistic or sacramental. The other releases they did have more synth and melodic elements, but this had a skeletal feeling to it. It’s like a box of tools, because all the tracks are related and are different versions of a single idea. I hadn’t seen this before, music as a tool, as a very specific tool. There’s something very esoteric about that, its similar to the way alchemical/spiritual ideas were passed on through architecture and symbolism through history.
I think aesthetically, “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ is quite a statement. You mentioned the message on the sleeve. Is this really just a tool?
I would say it’s anything you want it to be. However, if you have the desire and focus, it can be a tool. That’s the essence of magick, it’s about intent. It’s also art and music if you want it to be. It’s really about how you deal with it once it’s in your possession. All things are pretty elastic until you decide to make them solid by giving them a name or function. In a way this record was half the story, the other half was experiencing it being performed live by the group. You realised the potential of the music, and how it could be manipulated in a very spontaneous way. I remember seeing them play at a place called Club UK. There seemed to be 3 or more of them, all pushing and pulling sounds and rhythms in and out of the mix in a very organic physical way. Seeing them live at that time completed a cycle, it crystallized something.
Do you think that techno in 1993 techno needed a counterpart to the “Artificial Intelligence” concept Warp Records initiated? Was there too much music produced that tried to sound more or pretending to be more intelligent than other music?
I loved the Warp AI comps, they were very inspirational to me, this was another aspect to what was going on at the time.
I remember that there was a heated debate about “Artificial Intelligence” back then. And that awkward tag “IDM” is still attached to music. Is this just ridiculous, a media tool, or is there actually a need to define some lines between music trying to achieve a higher artistic and receptional level in contrast to productions that just aim for club play?
I always hated the IDM tag, it’s all music. It’s all what you want it to be, it’s up to you what you do with it. I guess that’s what seemed to be quite deliberate with “Rhythms Vol.1″. It was saying that the person that listens and plays the music has a role in the process too, I have always believed that. That the record itself is something that can be imbued with desire or energy. Like a car or a gun or a crucifix.
In any case, “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ breaks down tracks to simple elements. There’s a concentration more on the rhythm than harmony, only a few sounds suffice to build the grooves. Was this back to basics, or even foreshadowing tendencies to strip down techno to its basics in the years to come?
I was definitely affected by the sparse sound, the basic sound. It’s a kind of minimalism, the same as Steve Reich or Anish Kapoor. A way of allowing the mind to meditate on something and then ultimately cause it to vanish, leaving only a kind of ’stillness’.
Is there even a need to define a set of basics for a musical genre, or does every effort establish new rules that are to be taken down with other productions? Does it also apply for electronic dance music that discourse helps new ideas?
I think that always happens, we have new definitions or aesthetics to define types of art and music, we then seek ways to evolve them when they become the norm, ways to break the cycle. It’s a dynamic tension between the accepted forms and seemingly progressive and new forms. If we can have a healthy balance then that’s great.
Although they certainly sound different, the tracks on “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ reminded me of the rhythm tracks produced in early Chicago house. Are these stylistic predecessors to “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″, or is this genuinely different?
I think they were influenced by Detroit and Chicago for sure, there’s a lot of acid basslines there, and all the drum sounds are very 808. But it’s the subtle ways they make those familiar sounds their own, so you hear someone’s unique voice coming through. There’s a kind of wooden quality to some of the sounds which I love, and a vagueness to some, like a mix between voices and artificial sounds.
Would you say that this EP was a landmark release for what would be minimal techno? Did it open doors to reduce the techno sound, instead of making it more complex? Or was the original intention really just to make statement, and it eventually led to others taking up on the idea nonetheless?
To me it was, but I don’t know if it has been written into the collective idea of ‘dance music history’. Then again, ‘dance music history’ has always been something that’s a media thing, rather than anything personal to me. I can only assume what their idea was in creating this was, but I feel it was a junction between a lot of things, music as magick, but also the clubbing experience as a whole, where you can experience something that perhaps shapes your reality for a period of time, and leaves a mark on you. An experience that’s fun on a social level and a lot more on other levels too.
Is it a misconception that music concentrating on basic elements of rhythm and sound is less experimental or complex than music going in the opposite direction?
Hmm, I think the term ‘experimental’ is a loaded term. It’s all very subjective. I guess it’s all about what your individual ‘norm’ is. I would say free jazz was experimental because it was breaking away from the norm of jazz with a ‘pulse’ during the late 50’s, but everything becomes familiar very quickly. I guess now, we have a genre for everything, so the ‘norm’ is purely personal. I love a lot of very basic music, like minimalist stuff, but I also love very complicated music, like John Zorn, or Stockhausen, or Frank Zappa.
When you started out, your music was often categorized in a certain realm of techno, but you soon started to incorporate other aspects and interests in your productions. Did you feel limited in what you could do at times, maybe in a similar way the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia might have felt affected by what was going on around them, or what they were expected to do?
My music certainly emerged from a very defined techno music scene, for me it’s interesting to stretch ideas, and see where they go, have an element of the unknown. My music in the last 4/5 years with ‘Raudive’ is certainly about doing things on my own terms, than worrying about a scene. I need to keep myself interested, and that’s about surprising myself. Hearing and making things that feel like an evolution of what came before, on a personal level.
Do your productions still owe to the sound developed on “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″? Is the release an ideal you like to keep in mind?
I would say that what they are trying to do it terms of the energy inside of the music is something that always concerns me. I am trying to inject something into the music, it may not be on the surface, but waiting there, ready to become active. I think all forms of art have that in them, whether its consciously done by the artist of not. A lot of the time, I’m not actually ‘thinking’ like this, because that comes in the way of creativity, rather it’s better for this to be a ‘doing action’ without ‘thinking’ . Then it becomes more automatic and subconscious.
The Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia were in parts affiliated with the Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, founded by members of Psychic TV, Coil and Current 93. Was the concept of this fellowship something that interested you as well?
I was quite intrigued by the connection with ‘Thee Temple…’. It was a very mysterious aspect to the music. I would say ‘Thee Temple…’ was a work of art in itself. It was a way of distilling a lot of ideas about psychology, symbolism, alchemy and sexual magick. Like a modern esoteric teaching. There’s a lot of interesting stuff within the confines of ‘Thee Temple…’ I’m very glad that they did it, because it made a lot of things more concrete and it became like a contemporary update to ideas from Crowley, John Dee and other people through history. It applies a lot of esoteric ideas to technology, which hadn’t been done before. When technology becomes something that can be manipulated and subverted, that’s interesting and powerful, that’s how techno started.
There are influences from the post punk period and early industrial music seeping through your works. What does music from these contexts offer that is still required in electronic music? What does still work, and what is just working in the timeframe it was produced in originally?
I think a lot of stuff from the post punk and industrial genres has an amazing tension to it. That’s always something I’m searching for in my music. There were less defined ideas of style then maybe, maybe more chaos. Also an openness to fuse things together. I like where things collide and fuse, like the grey areas between electronic music and punk, or avant garde music and disco. I think that’s very relevant to my recent Raudive material, I’m energised by those things.
Would you say that “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ is an accomplished continuation of the sounds and ideas conceived then? If “Psychick Rhythms Vol. 1″ was a definite statement towards the state of music in 1993, what would be the statement right now?
Well, I think everything’s more fragmented now. So maybe it’s less of a statement these days. I can only say what has had an affect on me, and inspired me in similar ways to evolve. That would be music by Ricardo Villalobos, Matthew Dear and Hieroglyphic Being. They are all artists that define their own sound, and that push themselves. I guess you could say the ‘clicks and cuts’ compilations were quite a statement at the time. Let’s see where things go, that’s the exciting thing, to go into the unknown.