An Interview With The Band COIL
JOHN BALANCE AND PETER CHRISTOPHERSON
IN CONVERSATION WITH
JAS. MORGAN AND DIANA TRIMBLE
The difference between MONDO and magazines like Rolling Stone
can clearly be illustrated by comparing their list of the year's top ten
records with ours. First of all, we don't have one. And if we did,
R.E.M. wouldn't be anywhere near it and Coil would have achieved
Gold Disk status-alchemical gold. Their most recent release, Love's
Secret Domain (domestically available on Wax Trax!) is a fascinating
aural descent into a rather delightful and exalted Inferno.
This is a realm inhabited by rabid Spanish guitars, Annie Anxiety
impersonating herself as drugged-out Mexican whore, sampladelic
mixing techniques, warped electronic voices, neurologically correct
noise, didgeridoo, oboes and bowed strings cast South of Heaven,
Burroughsian cut-ups of film dialogue, all fornicating somethin' awful
in a multidimensional sonic landscape, and presided over by those
charming and intelligent Goat-Gods, John Balance and Peter "Sleazy"
Those familiar only with John and Peter's past lives as members of
Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, may be surprised that in this
chaotic landscape the lamb lies down with the lion. Pieces of
surprising beauty-such as "Dark River," sounding like the grinding
and scraping of the celestial spheres or some monstrous bells-are also
to be discovered amidst the musical mayhem.
Once granted an audience we enjoyed a lively hour and one half
unraveling the social, psychedelic and sexual notions of the secret
celebrities at Threshold House, London. And now Ladies and
Viruses, the Anti-Popes of Pop_
-Diana & Jas.
MONDO 2000: As a magazine that promotes freedom of information
we are interested in the way in which the media is often used for the
opposite end, to control, repress and distort information. What's the
climate in England right now?
PETER CHRISTOPHERSON: I don't think that in England there is
anything that appears to be a coherent plan or organized government
system, it's just that the media is so biased and so narrow that it tends
to view things with the most stupid and fundamentalist attitude.
Those things [repression & distortion] kind of happen by default
JOHN BALANCE: I disagree with Peter because the state here has
been set up since 1800 or something as a like royal espionage thing,
which turns into MI5 and I think that in England far more than in
America what they call "transgressional publishing" hardly gets
started before there's a backlash. And I'm very suspicious of any
magazine or someone from England who will call us up and want to
talk to us with view to publishing radical viewpoints, because I think
they're in serious danger. Like Burroughs said, "If you're not
paranoid, there's something wrong with you." It's getting stupid! I'm
getting extraordinarily paranoid, but I think I have a perfect right to
be. And look, if it gets to the press and the whole media circus, then
that's just second hand information, the first hand has been
suppressed or will never see the light of day. But there's a very long
tradition of that kind of control. From the very first printing presses
in the 15th or 16th century, a control has always been exercised over
the method of distribution of information. Operation Sun Devil was
the beginning-you know the computer seizure stuff-of something
much large. I think it's a pre-echo of something that's going to become
legislation in several years.
M2: How do you see this coming about?
JB: I could see where the holding of corporate computer codes or
something will be an offense, a federal offense in itself.
M2: There's been an interesting case relating to that here in Berkeley
recently, involving some students. They're trying to determine the
legality of searching and ransacking electronic files and they're finding
that the same legislation that would apply to someone coming in and
burgling your house is somehow not considered applicable.
PC: Yes, exactly. I mean obviously the authorities bring it down on
the side which suits them best. They don't consider the fact that
electronic information may not be viable or that transmitting
pornography in digital code across a telephone or something is in fact
not the same as distributing pornography. None of these things have
JB: Actually, they have. In fact there have been cases here recently
prosecuting people in possession of disks and files that could be
decoded in a pornographic way.
PC: It always falls in their favour. I mean why don't they get
prosecuted for decoding the code? If it remains as code then it is
nothing. It is in the ether. It's pre-existing. It's all a panic born of
confusion. There are myriad accesses and these people just want to
close down everything that they feel is threatening which is obviously
a human response but not one that I'm in favour of.
M2: Yeah, we have a situation that's come up here concerning smart
drugs. The FDA has not officially outlawed a number of compounds
that have shown some promise in intelligence increase and cognitive
enhancement. But we saw an internal memo from the FDA customs
and the U.S. Postal Service with instructions to just confiscate people's
prepaid packages. Has that been happening over there too?
JB: All of our packages are opened if that's what you mean.
PC: I mean the reason that all this stuff has never been classified by
the FDA, isn't it because the AIDS activists have managed to be
allowed to bring certain drugs in and that includes the nootropics and
M2: I think that has a lot to do with it. There's a whole underground
chemistry movement that's taken off in Northern California relating
to AIDS research.
PC: Well, no doubt they're going to be clamping down on that.
JB: There's been no lobbying campaign even on behalf of the AIDS
activists to get anything into the country here. It's only just by chance
that there's still a legal loophole. As soon as any serious media
attention is drawn to it's so-called abuse, no doubt they'll close those
loopholes. It's considerably more financially viable to have these drugs
tested in the public the way that they're being tested now rather than
having to set up trials in prisons and what have you. So, I feel the
reason that they are allowing a certain amount of minor usage in this
way is to find out what the risks are without involving any expense.
We're all guinea pigs.
BITE ME! BEAT ME! ARREST ME!
M2: In your fax to us you mentioned some rather ridiculous laws that
have recently been passed regarding personal sexual choices.
PC: Yes, the S & M rulings. There was a celebrated court case here
called Operation Spanner in which Lord Lane ruled that consensual
acts of Sadomasochistic sex which involved sexual gratification, as
opposed to any other sort of gratification, were criminal acts. And the
consequences of this ruling actually meant that having hickeys, you
know, love bites, became a criminal charge which the police could
become involved in. I mean you don't have to have charges brought
on a personal level, the police can come in and see what's going on
and arrest you.
M2: Does it seem that they're seriously trying to enforce this or is it
more of a symbolic ruling?
PC: It went to the highest ruling in the land. It's going to the House of
JB: But the important aspect of it that hasn't really been considered is
that there's a distinction in law between having a sexual motive for
consensual assault, which is hurting someone else with their
permission, and any other kind of motive. For example if you go to
the dentist or a plastic surgeon obviously you're accepting pain on a
consensual basis, but it's not illegal. But the implication and what you
can extrapolate from that, is that your state of mind or your thought
or your attitude towards a certain action is what's illegal rather than
the action itself.
PC: So you've got thought crimes.
JB: And it's very similar in a way to the notion of having an illegal file
in your computer, regardless of whether it could be read or decoded
or not. It's just the very fact of the potential of what you believe it to
be that's illegal. We're in a far more nebulous and vindictive and
dangerous state that we've ever been before really.
M2: And what's the public reaction to this, or is it under wraps?
PC: The sort of news on the grapevine in the legal arena was that
people were really shocked by it and there's been a definite trend
towards picking up any cases of this nature so far. There's been a sort
of 90 degree swing again, but who knows, a precedent has been set,
and precedents get followed by bigots.
JB: And the national pastime in this country is lethargy anyway.
M2: As it is here.
BIG BROTHER & THE TELEPHONE CO.
M2: Can you give us any insight into what's recently happened with
Temple of Psychick Youth and some of the trouble they've been
having? We had heard from our associated spy network that some sort
of a raid had gone down at the home of Gen and Paula of P.T.V.
JB: [Laughs] The phone just went dead when you said "Psychick
Youth." But we haven't had any connection at all with that
organization for about eight or nine years now and are not really very
interested in it to be honest. I mean the media picked up on it in the
usual stupid media way: Satanism, devil worship, blah, blah, blah.
Not picking up any facts whatsoever, but I actually don't know the
real facts. If Gen's in America he can probably fill you in a little bit
M2: Has there been any overflow, any suspicion of what you all are
PC: We don't know, we haven't had any active flak from that yet, but
we're assuming they're moving behind the scenes of course.
JB: We know for a fact that our involvement [with P.T.V.] and lack of
it has been well known in legal circles for some time, so we're not too
worried about it to be honest.
M2: This bit that was run in the media about Satanism, was that a
series of television programs?
PC: No, there was one television program which started it, by some
guy named.Andrew Boyd.
M2: Was he with a "Christian" group?
JB: Andrew Boyd, although he's an English guy, has been associated
with Christian Fundamentalists and Christian publishers in the U.S.
and by some strange coincidence, the day after his program was run,
in which Psychic T.V. were not specifically named but were connected
by association with Satanism, his book on Satanism was published.
And the television production company which made the program
closed down the day after.
PC: He conned Channel 4 into allowing him to make the program
which he said he had two years in solid research and evidence to back
up. The "evidence" in the program consisted of a woman who was sort
of nameless and anonymous or given a pseudonym who was basically
reporting from what seemed to be a mental hospital about ridiculous
allegations which he couldn't back up, wouldn't back up. And the
whole program had this sort of like Hammer Horror, 1972, Vincent
Price-type playground with dry ice and children's voices in the
background and then it would cut to this perfectly innocuous Psychick
Youth video from 1983 which featured Derek Jarman, the well-known
filmmaker, giving a sermon. It was completely ridiculous.
JB: But you know in the way that the media works, to some extent
there is a kind of guilt by association. So if you present totally
separate facts in the same program, in the same context, a certain
amount of people will always see that there's no smoke without fire.
M2: Speaking of Derek Jarman, have you been working with him?
PC: Yeah, he's got a lot of archive material we're going to be
soundtracking and we have a reissue of our first record called How to
Destroy Angels, which he promised to do the artwork for.
JB: We try to encourage working on all different kinds of film projects
M2: You also mentioned Gus Van Sant as someone you wanted to
work with, have you had contact with him?
PC: A certain amount through William Burroughs but not as much as
we would like. Greg Araki has just done a film called The Living End.
He's done a sort of gay Thelma & Louise, about an HIV positive
couple going across America and blowing away homophobics. It's
really a good, nihilistic, on the edge sort of film. It was supposed to
play at the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival last week but for
some obscure reason it was cancelled and they wouldn't tell me why.
JB: It might have been a customs problem I gather.
PC: Yeah, I guess the film was too contentious for our bloody
JB: But that's definitely one we should recommend because our music
and quite a lot of other good music is incorporated.
M2: What about working with William Burroughs?
JB: I've known William for a long time, sort of off and on, and we've
collaborated on photo projects and various other things.
PC: We did hot knives with him. [Laughter all around]
JB: When I had Industrial Records we produced a record of his
seminal early tape cut up experiments with Gysin and Ian Somerville
and all those guys.
PC: And he keeps in touch with us, he sends us postcards and
semi-official lithographs and stuff, but it's very difficult to pin him
down. He's always sort of in a netherworld even when you meet him.
[Laughter all around] I'm never really sure that he knows who we are,
but then again we get invited to parties with him and Nick Rogue and
Bertolucci. I think he rates us in some way!
M2: Have you seen the film Naked Lunch?
PC: No, we haven't yet, no.
JB: We were hoping to do the soundtrack but he got that Howard
Shore guy again. We held out in vain hope that Burroughs might
recommend us for it. As far as I'm aware the film is striving for a more
mainstream appeal, so we probably wouldn't have helped in that
M2: I liked Clive Barker's comment about your soundtrack for
Hellraiser being bowel churning.
JB: He meant it as a compliment by the way.
M2: Yes that's how I read it. [More laughter]
JB: I just wanted to make sure. Clive has told us that frequently when
he tours the U.S.A. doing book signings and lectures, he's quite
bemused by the number of Coil fans that come up and ask him to sign
copies of our Hellraiser record. In excess of the number that ask him
to sign copies of the book, I think.
THE ELECTRIC RUNES
M2: I'm simply mad about your last record and had a question about
some of the Blakean references; a lot of his ideas about Energy seem
to relate to your ideas. I'm curious about your connection to that
PC: I think we're just travelling in the same mystical English paths.
Energy's Eternal Delight_ we keep playing around with that. It
reduces everything to the basic fundamental human frequency. We've
said the last album was about electricity and drugs.
M2: Yes! I had vaguely assumed "Teenage Lightning" to be about
lightning that wasn't quite grown up yet, and was delighted by your
explanation that it was really about the electricity created when you
rub two teenagers together!
PC: I think that Blake was travelling similar paths himself and that
we'll probably continue in the same vein, oscillating wildly.
M2: Do you think you would set any more of his poetry to music? I
noticed that you used a few lines from "The Sick Rose."
PC: Quite a few, yes. You're one of the first people to mention it as
well though. "The Sick Rose" is one of my favorites, it's one of the
best poems ever written. So, I think he'd give us the thumbs up over
M2: You mention a connection between drug energy and electrical
energy. Would you describe how you see that connection and how you
treated it in your record?
PC: I started to be obsessed with these things when I was about 11 and
I had taken a huge overdose of Psylocibin mushrooms and I
remember putting my hand into a sort of electronic green grid, a
hexagon grid that appeared on the floor about a meter above it. I
stuck my fingers into it and it fitted completely. And ever since then
I've been obsessed with these things. With frequencies and tissues. I
just think they can be reduced quite quickly to energies like this.
JB: We have quite a large collection of electronic stimulating brain
machines and in many cases the effects are very similar to those that
can be achieved chemically.
M2: Are you doing anything with the neuron impulses to the optic
JB: The optical ones really don't work as well as the electromagnetic
and straight magnetic ones, in which you put your head into an
oscillating electrical field. They're a bit over the top actually in some
cases. [Laughter] The guy that makes them here in London, Tony
Bassett is a kind of mad inventor who graduated to doing brain
machines from doing audio machines. He claims that a time travel, or
perception of time travel effect is achievable.
PC: I've experienced this. They give out massive doses of all the radio
waves and he says they recharge your soul and your spirit. You can
actually have OOBEs on them after about an hour on your own. But
if you're going through a group therapy with him it will happen in
about 45 minutes. He once had a journalist from one of the scurrilous
Sunday newspapers here, who he took back to being a German
soldier. The guy had gone there to do a disparaging expose' on him
but came away so convinced by it that he wrote a really positive piece.
He actually expierienced being killed and said that the physical thing
was so strong for him he almost gave up journalism. These are very
JB: The effect of pharmaceutical substances is to rearrange energies
that are already present, so in one sense that is more natural but in
another way it acts sort like a bank loan, in that you have to pay the
stuff back later. And even with smart drugs temporary gains have to
be measured against the perception of subsequent loss when you stop
M2: I want to ask you about other alternative ways of tapping into
altered states, non-chemically, either through the use of ritual or other
methods, also about childhood altered states.
PC: When I was a child we used to do this sort of death ceremony
where you would lie on the floor and people would press on you and
they'd say, "Oh, he looks ill, he is ill, he looks iller, he is iller, he looks
dead, he is dead" and then they would levitate you!
M2: This is amazing!
PC: Yes we would sometimes lift the person up about 6 feet in the air
and they were only 4 feet tall to begin with. And the person being
lifted actually felt like they were flying. When the teachers found out
about these things going on in the playground, they were banned
immediately. They became taboo and so we used to go into the woods
and do it. We'd also do hyperventilation, where we would breathe
really deeply and hard and then someone would squeeze your chest
when you jumped up from a crouching position, and those were
liberating experiences for me because you'd be reborn every bloody
time! I mean they did set me off on my errant course or whatever.
M2: Thank God.
PC: Thank God, yeah!
JB: I think these experiences are universal, I don't think they're
confined to particular areas. I mean it's all about what you can do
with a pre-teen body. But we won't get into that! [Laughter all around]
M2: Create some electricity!
M2: Have you had any experiences with synaesthesia?
PC: I had a very critical experience the other week.
M2: How would you describe it?
PC: I felt a sort of magnetic field in the whole place, my solar plexus
was pulling towards the center and I could see bands of energy like
magnetic fields around the earth or something.
M2: Where were you?
PC: Well, I was in a club. And there was a group of people, and as the
group got more concentrated I was pulled towards it with increasing
velocity. And it was really overwhelming and it started to feel like my
fingers and my external being were being pulled towards it, but my
internal being was still solid and upright. Very peculiar.
M2: Do you ever get sensory blendings? Do certain musical keys
correspond to particular colors, do you see music, hear visual
JB: Smell the music, yeah. [Laughter]
PC: My most common one is bending of the music into the
physical-the music starts to turn into shape.
M2: Does there seem to you to be any grammar or syntax to how
music bends into physicality?
JB: We're unfortunately rather undisciplined about these things.
When we're involved in those sorts of things we're involved in a lot of
other perceptions, and we're not in a controlled environment.
PC: In other words, we're out of it. [Laughter]
M2: Relating altered states to S & M now, I was wondering if you had
any comments on activating the pain threshold as a method of
achieving altered states and also if you were aware of our local "pain
shaman" Fakir Musafar?
PC: Yes, we know about his stuff. It's definitely an area that did
interest us. It's too illegal to interest us now! Literally, I mean you
would have to go abroad to explore it further.
M2: You've spent a lot of time in Thailand I understand.
PC: Yeah, we go there for the pain threshold. [Laughter all around]
That and the food. Synaestheseia, smart drugs and pain thresholds all
come into one via the food. I've had seriously mind altering
experiences with the food over there.
JB: I don't think anybody really appreciates quite what the chemical
processes are that are involved with spices of those kinds. We've
described ourselves as Spice Cadets in fact because we've
experimented quite heavily in that area.
PC: Like the Aztecs, their religion was based on chocolate and chilis
and sacred mushrooms and I don't think the chilis should be
underlooked here! It was the combinations they had. The whole
control system was sort of based on chili torture.
M2: Chili Torture?
PC: Oh God yeah! They shoved stuff like seventeen different sorts of
chilis up your anus for adultery or whatever. Or pulling whole strings
of chili through your tongue. It was all sort of par for the course over
M2: What is this project you're doing about the Black Star or the
PC: Ever since we first did Coil, we always used the Black Sun as a
symbol, originally we got it from Crowley. But ever since then it seems
that a lot people keep coming up to us and they've had tattoos of
Black Suns. It seems to be a sort of millennium badge and I want to
do a book wherein I invite people to give us their interpretations about
the symbol. We've been discovering a lot of mythology about it as
well. I could go on for ages and ages about it. But it's basically Odin_
a dark rider_ the midnight sun_ nightmares_
M2: And this is a book you want to publish?
PC: Yeah, I want to publish it. But it's strange because we never really
pushed it as a symbol and then chaos magicians in London, the IOT
started using it as their symbol and calling it the chaosphere.
M2: What is the IOT?
PC: They practice what they call chaos magick which is a slight
reaction against Crowley's Golden Dawn-related magick and it's far
more personal and far more shamanic.
M2: And are you involved with this group?
PC: I'm affiliated. I'm an honorary member, I don't practice with
M2: About the pagan movement in the U.K., or the magickal
movement, whatever you prefer to call it. I don't know if you want to
talk about this personally but if you do, whether you practice within
an organized setting yourself?
PC: I would talk about it, but I actually don't practice within an
organized setting because the people I admire are like Austin Spare
who's the sort of archetypal early warlock. He was practicing in the
1920's. Even Crowley thought he was a bad sort [laughter] because he
could actually conjure up dead entities, and slime would pour down
the walls and stuff.
M2: That could ruin a tea party.
JB: It could ruin a tea party and it could also ruin a lot of paintings.
I've got several of his paintings and every place that he lived, the
whole place seemed to be dripping with water. He could never get rid
of these, like, water elementals. But I'm not sure about the pagan
movement here, it's not as on the edge and exciting as what appears
to be in America, we occasionally get these sort of gay, Pagan,
pandrogynous-type magazines from America which really excite me.
M2: Yeah, there's the whole Faerie movement which is quite active.
JB: And I don't know if it's because England is repressing it or just not
delivering the goods or if people are scared to express it.
M2: But an interesting thing about the English movement is the fact
that there's so much history to it, and there are so many ancient sites.
But Stonehenge you can't even get to! And the authorities know that
these places-whether they know directly or just sort of
instinctually-these places are dangerous to be revitalized. You know,
the whole order would crumble because real order would be restored.
It would be, you know decentralized anarchy. Are you hopeful that
this will happen?
JB: Oh Definitely! I don't know when. I'd love it to happen! Anything.
But half of Salisbury Plain is a bloody military zone anyway. And
there really is a suppression about the places that you can visit.
M2: Last time I was in England, someone had gotten in behind the
fence at Stonehenge and spray painted "LIVE" on the stones, and the
way the media talked about it was that someone was trying to write
"LIVERPOOL" had been apprehended before they could finish!
JB: That's very typical of the media. I suppose they thought he'd run
out of wall or something.
JB: In regard to English pagans, although there is a tradition of the
English eccentric they are generally seen very much as people on their
own. People that do not work within a framework or sort of standard
organization. For the last 500 years, the people in control of English
society have always been the church and the government.
PC: Elizabeth the 1st was a witch and so her government was one with
witchcraft at its helm. She had John Dee and Edward Kelly who were
sorcerers of the highest degree at her beck and call and when they
weren't she had their hands cut off. And I still think there's a tradition
carrying on. The Royal Family now who are far less empowered, still
have mystics and advisors of what you might call a very suspicious
nature behind them. I think these people are the white witches still
ruling this country. I hope so anyway.
M2: It's funny, it reminds me of the scandal about Nancy Reagan's
astrologer. Everybody was so shocked and I was like, are people
really surprised that the people in power are using these methods?
PC: Yes, Nancy Reagan and Yoko Ono.
M2: Now there's an unholy alliance! [Laughter]
JB: I'm sure they swap notes. But what you have to do is see the
people in these situations for what they really are. We certainly feel
that it's a bad time for us to put ourselves in a position of danger by
associating ourselves with a movement. Everybody's an independent
character who's able to make the decisions based on the way that they
see the world themselves rather than the picture of it that's presented
by the media.
PC: I mean, there comes a time where we feel we will lay our heads on
the block and stand up and be counted. But I think it's best not to do
it in your country as it were. Maybe we'll come across to America and
make a point there. Because to do it here is like shitting on your own
doorstep. You have to sort of suffer the consequences and they can be
dire. Just labelling yourself or allowing yourself to be labelled.
M2: In terms of the Anarchist movement over there then, how
connected is it to a magickal or pagan movement?
JB: There are definitely some links, but who's to say if they're the
M2: In S.F., there's a quite interesting subset of magickal anarchists
who are trying to redefine culture in some new ways.
PC: Right! Americans for some reason have a much better grip on
presentation as it were.
M2: Sometime's that's all there is. [Laughter]
PC: But they know how to present themselves. Here, there's perhaps
an opinion or a groundswell of energy or whatever but it's quite
disorganized and it can never get together in a seriously organized
JB: And even if it did it would be suppressed.
PC: The Temple of Psychick Youth proves that when you form a body
which the state sees as sinister it will come down on it in whatever way
it can. Be it legal or illegal you know. If you pull people's strings
they'll react really. it doesn't make for the most exciting life actually,
but we spend most of our energies trying to appear other than what we
M2: Would either of you express an opinion of the current British
PC: In England, it's going very demented.
M2: In what way?
PC: Too much electricity. Too much energy. I mean, it's how many
years along the line, five, and it's getting far more seriously
psychedelic in what I consider to be the purest way. The music is
seriously taking people out of any sense of reality any more. And the
machine/human interface is so complex and so, not decadent, but
detailed that something really interesting is happening. I'm just
worried that the energy is being generated with no actual aim or
M2: It's like doing an energy raising ritual without grounding the
energy. You have to wonder where it's being sent.
PC: Yes right. It's like the height of the 60's, everyone saying you
know, levitate the pentagon and stuff, it's all very well, but no one's
even saying that anymore. I just wonder where it will be directed , or
whether the opposition now, the authorities, will pick up on the power
and just turn it against them.
M2: So then you see the need for some more leadership, some more
focus in it?
PC: Well yes, just a purpose! You know. I mean, there's a huge
reservoir of energy here, far more than I've ever seen, it's overspilling
and I've seen people go mad in the streets and sort of smash through
plate glass windows and stuff. With far more regularity than I would
JB: But the house scene in this country has been allowed to grow and
allowed to happen and relatively large amounts of drugs are allowed
to come into the country and be sold because people would rather this
energy was expended in the middle of the night in a club rather than
on the streets with a Molotov Cocktail or whatever.
PC: The Metropolitan police we've heard have unnoficial guidelines
which say they don't bother with Ecstasy and Acid and stuff because
the prevalence of it in the population has caused serious lessening of
violence on the football terraces and stuff. People who were
traditionally football hooligans have been taking MDMA and have
caused no trouble whatsoever.
JB: It leaves them much easier to control. And also afterhours
drinking has gone down considerably, violence along with it.
PC: Yeah, I mean they were complaining that like 20,000 people
would meet in an aircraft hangar. The only complaint about that was
the fact that there was noise, you know, any 20,000 other people and
there would have been violence, stabbings and stuff, which never
happened with the Acid House thing. But they see something going on
and they want to control it, you know.
M2: This also relates to another topic I wanted to talk about. The use
of music in magick and as a tool for inducing heightened states of
awareness and how this can consciously be done?
PC: It's such a huge subject. I did a course a couple of years ago with
a woman called Jill Purce. Although I have reservations about her
methodology and where she got it from, the physical effects that the
course had on me were so immense, they couldn't be discounted. She
taught me overtone chanting and stuff and sort of unlocking the
chakras using sound. I did it for just over a week and it completely
cleansed me. I was having dreams of like violent volcanic eruptions,
and blood rituals and decapitations and disembowelments and stuff
and it was explained that these were all typical cleansings, where my
body was sort of being hacked apart and shared among people, and
these were all good.
M2: So how possible then do you think it is to really consciously try
to utilize music to try to focus our energy collectively?
PC: It was introduced to me that there was an exact science which
could be used. We were doing stuff with the Kundalini energy and
cleansing each chakra. And at the end of two days of this I couldn't
work out why I had a big bruise at the base of my spine. It was like the
vibrations where my body had been in contact with the floor made a
really serious bruise. The vision in my eyes was changing as well. I had
in mind a project to gather up from around the world all sorts of
similar vocal magickal correlation type things because I have a friend
in Sweden whose girlfriend could clot blood by singing down the
telephone, stop blood flowing. And things like this. It's from a sort of
Laplander farming religion.
M2: I'm interested because I'm a vocalist, and I've been exploring
ways of using the voice to do very specific things.
PC: I think you can get really specific. It depends on your mindset and
your cultural references, although I think thay are cross cultural as
well basically. As long as the nervous system is loosely related I think
you're going to come across similar situations! There's a woman in
England, Freya Aswynn, who deals with Runic systems and she's
attempting to use a similar sort of overtone chanting to re-find how to
actually chant the runes, because they're obviously a very physical
phenomena, apart from just being a vocal or alphabetical system.
There are obviously, you know, specific correlations that can be
M2: On Love's Secret Domain you work with a number of outside
musicians. How have you found them?
JB: Unfortunately, it's not correct to say that. We wish we were. But
generally what happens is on any specific project we have to go out
and find people that we think would be suitable for it and we're
constantly on the lookout for people who have similar sensibilities and
general ideas but that can bring in new or different musical
strengthsand quite often this happens in the so called coincidental
manner. For example on L.S.D. the digeridoo player that we used we
just happened to see on a cable TV program and wanted to get in
touch with him and tried to get in touch through the cable station but
were unable to do so and then about a month later when we were in
the studio we went out totally by chance to get something to eat and
we bumped into him in the street, so you know, those opportunities
are not to be missed really. Cyrung, who played on the album is really
amazing. We were a bit worried about folding it up and cutting it up
and everything and he sort of said no, no do whatever you want with
it, take it somewhere else. I think people sort of think that our music
is fundamentally sampled, and although it's true to say that the
structures are Macintosh sequence-based, we certainly don't have any
precious attitude towards computers. If it's possible to fuck them up
then we will. And likewise, we'd rather use a live musician when
they're going to bring qualities that the computer is not able to do.
M2: How did you end up working with Annie Anxiety? She
contributes a great vocal track.
JB: When we come to do an album we always, as I said, choose
around and we'd known her since like Crass days and we liked her
persona, she sort of has a set persona and we decided to make use of
M2: Was that track improvised?
JB: Yeah. I played her the base of the track, you know, the
instrumental version and I said to her "I've got a few ideas, like
disappeared people in Central America and stuff, shell shock." And
she just sort of played off those two lines really. Oh yeah, she got
drunk in the studio and came out with it in about an hour. [Laughter]
JB: When we have people with whom we feel we have an empathy we
like to set up a sympathetic circumstance in which they can do their
thing for like a few hours and then we take that and sort of
manipulate it, cut it or whatever. It's really a good way of working. It
was the same with Cyrung and the same with the Spanish guitar player
that we used on the record.
M2: Which one of you is it that appears in the "Windowpane" video.
JB: Me, John.
M2: Where was that filmed?
JB: Actually on the Golden Triangle, between Burma, Laos and
Thailand in the River Mekong there's a small island, a sand island
which is actually the Golden Triangle where the gold and opium
smugglers would meet. A sort of no man's land between the three
countries, and we hired a boat out there and filmed on it. Fortunately
there weren't any smugglers there at the time. Anyway it's quicksand
and I was thrashing about a bit and trying to dance in time with a
small ghetto blaster on the shore which I could hardly hear and I was
looking down at this quicksand trying to pull my legs back up before
I sank and later on all our Thai friends were saying "My God, you
went out there!" Because loads of people die out there. The sands shift,
the whole island shifts. And theres always a good chance of getting
shot at by the Burmese guards who haven't got anything better to do,
and might just do it for the hell of it during their lunch break.
M2: Did you go into Burma?
JB: Yes we did a whole field recording tour in Burma. We recorded a
track of a sort of animist pagan monk at a place called Pagan. There's
this whole mountain dedicated to dragon spirits and animal spirits
that has a carved dragon staircase round it up to the top and we
recorded the monks chanting for the end of the world on top of it. The
day before we arrived the government announced that all currency
notes above the value of about 50 cents were worthless so the country
was in some turmoil when we arrived. A few months before they had
a temporary student uprising. You're only allowed to go to certain
places in the country and you're always accompanied by a guide. And
the length of visit at the time was limited to six days.
PC: The whole place looks like 14th century Thailand or something.
Immaculate walled cities with moats and plains that just stretch on
forever with no roads or anything. It's really unspoiled-apart from
potholes caused by gunfire.
JB: Rangoun is pretty much how it was when the British left it in 1918
or 1924 whenever it was.
LIVE SHOWS & LINGUISTICS
M2: Do you want to perform live ever?
JB: We have very mixed feelings about the whole nature of live
perfrmance because there are several sides to it from the point of view
of energy distribution, but at the same time there is such a stigma for
us involved with the notion of concerts and especially anything that
has a sort of rock association. It's difficult for people of our limited
resources to be able to stage something that sufficiently breaks
through those barriers to reach a new sphere of performance. We,
generally speaking, don't enjoy watching other people's concerts and
really don't see why people would enjoy watching ours if they were the
M2: Would you then be more interested in doing a multimedia thing?
JB: If we could yeah, but even with multimedia in the conventional
sort of indie music sense, you know of putting up a video wall, or
screens of super-8 projections and stuff, really it's not telling people
anything that they don't already know and haven't already seen a
million times. Probably Hollywood has the resources to make those
things look good, we don't really and the people that try although it's
a valiant attempt in many cases, it's sort of doomed to failure before
they begin I think.
M2: You have to meet our local visual design genius Charles Rose.
JB: Well, put him on to us!
M2: I'd come!
M2: What was the inspiration for the title of your instrumental,
PC: Your magazine. [Laughter]
M2: I'm flattered. I coined that word!
PC: Oh I did as well! [Laughter]
M2: Double parked in a parallel universe.
PC: What do they call them? Neologisms?
M2: Or portmanteaus.
PC: I've got hundreds of them.
M2: Jas. collects them too, you should compare notes.
M2: What is your interest in playing with language in this way?
PC: Well just sort of getting back to babble. About five years ago I
was really into writing whole books that appear to be nonsense but
when you go back and look there's a lot of interesting stuff there. But
it's basically babble. There's a story that Brion Gysin tells of listening
to the radio in Marrakesh before he could speak Arab fluently and
even when he wasn't stoned being very struck by the fact that even
though the radio was only broadcasting in Arabic from time to time
there would be what appeared to be a complete sentense in English.
Certainly that's what Chaostrophy is about. There's a tremendous
amount of layers in our music, specially that track, where words have
been recorded and either buried in the mix or folded in in some way
sublimated to the theme of the music but nevertheless what we hope
is that some aspect of the message will remain. It's like we've taken
away all the pointers, all the signs and indicators but we've left the
actuall purpose behind which I hope people can pick up on.
M2: What contemporary music do you find exciting?
JB: We like the music of the Eskimo peoples.
M2: The throat singing?
JB: Yes, amazing stuff. I think there's not enough research in that
area. Absolutely amazing stuff.
M2: What about Pygmie yodeling?
PC: Our dogs do that. We have two Basenjis which are originally
Pygmie dogs. A tribe called the Azendi-who are Pygmies with a
reputation for witchcraft even among the other tribes who live around
them-and the dogs we have are the witch doctor's familiars.
JB: They are sometimes called the Congo Barkless Dog, they do not
bark but they yodel. When they are in a high emotional state they
make these very strange yodelling sounds.
M2: Well, so much for our joke question.
JB: I think the main reason these dogs are kept in modern times-apart
from a few witch doctors and shamen-is because the women of the
tribes use the dogs for licking their babies bottoms clean and I'm not
going to say any more on that subject.
M2: I don't think Lord Lane would approve of that.
JB: No, we don't want our dogs taken away from us with a care order!