OUTSIDER 001 - May 2019
DJ MUGGS On how to change while remaining the same
Only Four Degrees
Has the trend towards cautious messaging drained our culture of art that confronts us with the brutal reality of the choices we face, asks Phil England
The groundbreaking producer and Soul Assassins founder, DJ Muggs, talks to Deputy Editor Joseph Stannard about Cypress Hill, collaboration and changing while remaining the same
Kasper Opstrup cracks open the Third Mind and gets into the vibe with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, Matmos, Jennifer Walshe, Tomomi Adachi, Kouhei Matsunaga and more
Music and Mental Health
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First Nation resistance takes on sonic force and physical form in the performances and recordings of the radical Canadian collective. By Marcus Boon
Only Four Degrees by Phil England
Has the trend towards cautious messaging drained our culture of art that confronts us with the brutal reality of the choices we face? asks Phil England
“I want to hear the dogs crying for water/I want to see the fish go belly up in the sea/And all those lemurs and all those tiny creatures/I want to see them burn.” Anohni, formerly known as Antony Hegarty
Released to coincide with UN climate talks in Paris, Antony Hegarty’s “Four Degrees” delivers a visceral, nauseating jolt to the system. It’s a stark acknowledgement that failing to respond to the threat of climate change in full knowledge of the consequences is akin to saying: “Bring on the apocalypse: I want to revel in the destruction, senseless pain and havoc it will wreak.” It seems like the ultimate statement of resignation. A nihilistic, fatalistic, decadent embrace of the worst possible outcome. But the artist currently known as Anohni says she is acknowledging her complicity
in the problem. “Giving myself a good hard look, not my aspirations but my behaviours, revealing my insidious complicity,” she wrote on Facebook. “It's a whole new world. Let’s be brave and tell the truth as much as we can.” But it also works as an indictment of those more powerful actors standing in the way of change and as an incitement to action for those prepared to challenge fatalism and fight for the alternative, emergent low-carbon, renewable energy future. The impact of a four-degree centigrade rise in global average temperature on the survival of our fellow species is buried deep within the scientific literature, hidden under layers of cultural and
institutional obfuscation. Here’s a summary of what we know from a 2014 report by the Potsdam Institute for the World Bank: “Forecasts of future changes in biodiversity are generally alarming (e.g., Bellard et al, 2012; Foden et al, 2013). Using a global meta-analysis, MacLean and Wilson (2011) found a mean extinction probability of ten percent by 2100 across taxa, regions and warming levels. Warren et al (2013) found that, globally, 57 percent of plants and 34 percent of animals will lose greater than 50 percent of their habitat in a 4°C world.” It takes an artist like Hegarty to translate this into layman’s terms: “I want to hear the dogs crying for water/I want to see the fish go belly up in the sea/And all those lemurs and all those tiny creatures/I want to see them burn.” The psychology of effectively communicating climate change is a complex one that has generated a substantial body of literature. Apocalyptic imagery is considered a turnoff that can entrench denial. But has this trend towards cautious messaging drained our culture of art that confronts us with the brutal reality of the choices we face? Are we not in danger of sleepwalking into disaster? John Luther Adams is a composer with a different sensibility that is rooted in a deep connection with the harsh landscape of sub-Arctic Alaska. Become Ocean, his recent work for three orchestras, has the effect of inducing a cosmic consciousness of vast interconnectedness; erasing the narrow human perspective through immersion in a symbolic sea of sound. In his 2003 essay “Global Warming And Art”, Adams wrote: “In the presence of war, terrorism and looming environmental disaster, artists can no longer afford the
facile games of post-modernist irony. We may choose to speak directly to world events or we may work at some distance removed from them. But whatever our subject, whatever our medium, artists must commit ourselves to the discipline of art with the depth of our being. To be worthy of a life’s devotion, art must be our best gift to a troubled world. Art must matter.” Thom Yorke has embodied the troubled soul who has looked into the dark heart of the future and the present and found it wanting. For a time he was the poster boy of Friends of The Earth England and Wales – part of the push for what was to become the ground breaking Climate Change Act. At a concert in Paris in December in front of hundreds of activists who had come to the city for the international climate negotiations he performed a set which included the new Radiohead song “Silent Spring”. The lyrics sum up the spirit of campaigners’ attitude towards the climate talks – the inevitability that they would fall short of what’s needed and the realisation that the solutions lie elsewhere: “We are of the Earth/To her we do return/The future is inside us/it’s not somewhere else/(…)/Calling on people/People have power/And the numbers don’t decide/Your system is a lie/A river running dry/The wings of a butterfly/And you may pour us away like soup/Like we’re pretty broken flowers/We’ll take back what is ours/One day at a time”. When PJ Harvey performed “River Anacostia” at the Royal Festival Hall in October in a preview of songs from her forthcoming album, I had fantasised that the Mercury Prize winning artist was making the link between oil and war. The new songs are based around poems written on road trips around
Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washington DC, and in my willful misinterpretation of the song – which ends with the refrain
“We are of the Earth/To her we do return/The future is inside us/it’s not somewhere else / (…) Calling on people/People have power/And the numbers don’t decide/Your system is a lie/A river running dry/The wings of a butterfly/And you may pour us away like soup/Like we’re pretty broken flowers/We’ll take back what is ours/One day at a time.” from the spiritual “Wade In The Water” – Harvey was tipping her hat to the moment a guerrilla choir gatecrashed the same venue two years earlier before the start of a concert sponsored by oil company Shell. Part of the Art Not Oil umbrella of art-activists seeking to bring an end to fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts, the Shell Out Sounds choir had written new words to “Wade In The Water” to tell the story of the impacts of Shell’s destructive oil extraction projects. The group scored a victory a few months later when London’s South Bank Centre announced that the following season of classical concerts would no longer be sponsored by a company which actively campaigns against action on climate change. It could be music like this, put directly into the service of a strategically smart, targeted campaign that arguably has the most leverage to make a genuine impact in changing our energy future.
ULTRAVIOLET The groundbreaking producer and Soul Assassins founder talks to Deputy Editor Joseph Stannard about Cypress Hill, collaboration and changing while remaining the same
When Cypress Hill released their self-titled debut album in 1991 – a year which also saw landmark albums by Main Source (Breaking Atoms), De La Soul (De La Soul Is Dead), Black Sheep (A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing) and KMD (Mr Hood) – they presented hiphop with a new aesthetic. Thick, bottom-heavy and organic sounding, replete with jazz, R&B, psychedelic rock and metal samples and topped off by the weed-fuelled aggression of rappers B-Real and Sen Dog, the trio immediately distinguished themselves from everything else around. Clad in its bleakly beautiful
skullscape sleeve, 1993’s Black Sunday saw producer DJ Muggs digging deeper, producing stoner anthems (“Insane In The Brain” and “I Ain’t Going Out Like That”) without a hint of compromise. 1995’s III: Temples Of Boom was more introspective, as illustrated by the spectral single “Illusions” (“Some people tell me that I need help/ Some people can fuck off and go to Hell”). The group continued to produce successful albums, some incorporating elements of rock and dubstep. In the early 2000s Muggs shifted focus to the Soul Assassins
label and collective, solo projects and collaborations with numerous rappers including Meyhem Lauren (on 2017’s Gems From The Equinox LP and 2018’s Frozen Angels EP) and Roc Marciano (on the imminent KAOS album). Ever active, one of the three full-length albums Muggs has produced this year is Cypress Hill's Elephants On Acid. It's first to feature the head Soul Assassin as sole producer for 17 years, and it’s quite a trip. The Wire’s Deputy Editor Joseph Stannard took the opportunity to speak to Muggs about the new album and more.
DREAMS Outsider 9
Cypress Hill in Germany, 1998
Joseph Stannard: Elephants On Acid is the first Cypress Hill album since 2001’s Stoned Raiders to be produced entirely by yourself. How did this come about? DJ Muggs: It’s time man. The sleeping dragon was in hibernation. It was time to wake up and reclaim my domain. Did you feel any pressure to make this a special record? Well, it’s an interesting thing. When you put hiphop records out for 30 years, you want to bring that energy that everybody loves about you, but you have to change. So how do you change but stay the same? That’s the riddle. For me it was just creating my own universe, creating my own world that was Cypress Hill. Anything that was going on in contemporary music I didn’t even look at, I didn’t even care. I was just about creating this surreal world that you can tap into and come down the rabbit hole.
B-Real has been recording and touring with Prophets Of Rage (essentially Rage Against The Machine co-fronted by B and Public Enemy's Chuck D). Did it take a lot of coordination to get everyone together? All of the tracks that I made for this record, except for three of them, I made in 2013. A lot of the stuff was recorded in 2014 and 15 and then that’s when Prophets came. I went and took some of the stuff for a few years and put it on hold and came back to it and started wrapping it up. Before I even started working on it, I already knew the title and I already had the vision. I was really digging deep into the subconscious and pulling from there, pulling from inwards instead of pulling from inspiration outwards. And that’s why the album is different to anything else out there? Absolutely. Yeah, you’ve got to… we put music out, but I’m also here to learn and I’m also here to teach. You don’t need to fit into the square holes – go against the grain, man! Carry your own sound, have your own look. That’s always been a principle of ours, to create our own world.
That comes across strongly with Elephants On Acid. Is this the most psychedelic album you’ve ever produced? I don’t know. I have got to leave that up to the people to tell me. But what we have done is definitely a fucking experience, you know that. It seems to trace a gradual descent into madness from beginning to end. Is sequencing something that you consciously spend a lot of time on? Absolutely. Always when I finish a record, I can take up to a month to sequence the record sometimes. I sequence it, I drive around with it, I don’t listen to it for three or four days, I smoke some weed, I play it again first time, you know what I’m saying. It's definitely something that I put a lot of time into.
It has a cinematic, narrative quality… 100 per cent. The difference with me is, the kind of producer I am, I guide the songs, I come up with a lot of the concepts and the choruses and put the visuals together. I see the album cover in my head. I have an image in my head of what this record is going to be. Then you have a complete body of work that is like this, on its own. A lot of it isn’t logical. If you are looking for logic in here you are not going to find it. Everything is really abstract from my angle anyway. With B-Real and Sen Dog you have two of the most distinctive vocalists in rap. Is there a particular approach you take in making tracks for them to work with? Yeah, I know how to make them sound better than anybody can make them sound. They sound better with my music than anybody else’s. Other people can make better music than me, but I’m about authenticity and being unique. I know what I can get out of B-Real and Sen, I put them together and make them sound, like, if you have never heard Cypress Hill ever and you came to this record, you’d be like ‘Who the fuck is this? This is visionary and brand new shit I have never heard before’. Nobody can make them sound like me. It’s definitely the freshest sounding Cypress Hill record for some time. Y’know it’s a funny thing. People think rap is a young man’s game, but do you know what it is? Pop is a young person’s game. Pop music. You don’t become a master at rap until your forties and when you learn more, you learn that age is an illusion and it don’t matter at all. I’m just getting going. You're well known for using unusual sample sources not just in terms of the music you sample from –from funk, soul and jazz to krautrock and metal – but also different kinds of sounds, like sirens, elephants, horses. How does a potential sample grab your attention? Could you be watching a film when you hear something that makes you think ‘That would make an amazing hook’? Yes, you know I have a visual thought first of all and that excites me and on the conscious side of it, I’m always looking for things that are awkward. And I don’t put my music on the grid. I was working with some engineers on this record and at the end they were like, ‘It’s not on the grid!’ Stop listening to music with your fucking eyes man! Listen to the sound. I don’t care if it lines up on the grid. I came from tape machines where you didn’t look at the music, you know? There is no rule for music, man, what can I say? If it doesn’t line up on the grid I’m not going to get into a fight with a cube, you know.
Is that a big problem with contemporary music, that it's too grid based? So you constantly have these blocks moving past your eyes… Not for everybody, I can’t just throw a blanket over everybody. For me, personally? Yes. For me. The first Cypress Hill album predates Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by two years. Do you feel you get enough recognition for pioneering that murky, bass-heavy style of hiphop production? The people who know, know. But the story isn’t finished. It hasn’t been written. So everybody is going to know. I know where it came from. Nobody was doing my style before me, nobody was smoking weed before us, you know what I mean? Nobody was rocking tattoos as hard as us before us. That was when we got into this game, man, and it’s not a sprint but a marathon. Who can endure? Now I’m going to show you who is the greatest. There is no one coming after 30 years making music like this. I think you can go back to any rap record in the history of time and I don’t think nobody has achieved this yet. Kevin Martin (aka The Bug) came up with the term doomhop to describe your music. I’m interested to know what you think of that. I don’t know man! [laughs] That is funny. Once we put Black Sunday out and people had seen the cover… y’know, I come from a classic rock background, I come from looking at Black Sabbath and Zeppelin album covers, so me putting all that artwork and visuals into my covers is just natural for me. When we came out with Black Sunday, we brought the skulls into the game. Everybody wants to put a tag and define, but I’m undefinable. You cannot define what I do. It is about creating your own recipe, not tapping into what’s next because I promise you anything you hear on the radio or anything anybody produces, I can mimic anybody. You won’t even know it's not them. But that is not what this thing is about. It is about the culture, making the culture bigger and pushing the envelope not just of the music but of yourself and what you are capable of doing. I’m just expanding.
“You don’t become a master at rap until your forties and when you learn more, you learn that age is an illusion and it don’t matter at all. I’m just getting going.”
Continued on Page 32…
Iron and Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days 15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Digital/2xLP/CD)
Weyes Blood Titanic Rising (LP/CD/CS)
Flight of the Conchords - Live in London (Digital/3xLP/2xCD/CS)
Tacocat - This Mess is a Place (Digital/LP/CD/CS)
The Gotobeds - Debt Begins at 30 (Digital/LP/CD/CS)
Minor Poet - The Good News (Digital/LP)
Orville Peck - Pony (Digital/LP/CD)
Luluc - Dear Hamlyn (Digital/LP)
Perfect Son - Cast (Digital/LP/CD)
Calexico and Iron & Wine - Years to Burn (Digital/LP/CD)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - In the Capital/Read My Mind (Digital/7")
Green River - Rehab Doll Deluxe Edition (Digital/2xLP/CD)
Green River - Dry as a Bone Deluxe Edition (Digital/2xLP/CD)
J Mascis - Elastic Days (Digital/LP/CD/CS)
William S. Burroughs
Kasper Opstrup cracks open the Third Mind and gets into the vibe with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, Matmos, Jennifer Walshe, Tomomi Adachi, Kouhei Matsunaga and more
J A M S
seen a pronounced increase in recent years. Not only are MDMA, LSD and other drugs regaining a foothold in the psychiatric communities, but Fortean topics have also been embraced by publishers such as Strange Attractor Press in the UK or Edda in Sweden.
As a kid I used to spend the long days of summer staring intensely at a glass placed in front of me across the table. In my mind's eye, the glass would move back and forth across the tabletop, fly through the room and smash against the wall, as if poltergeists had descended upon the house. But it wouldn’t be poltergeists at play. It would be me, unlocking my hidden telekinetic potential. Inspired partly by the film and partly by one too many Stephen King novels from the local library, I wanted to develop my ability to change the world by will alone – the occult power par excellence – in the hope of escaping boredom. Soon, I imagined, I would succeed in transmuting my mind into a short wave radio of grey matter, enabling me to participate in a community of fellow enthusiasts through the ether. Only later did I realise that these acts, had they been successful, would be indistinguishable from magic or some other very advanced technology. We live in an age where the algorithmic feedback systems we surround ourselves with have reached a level of complexity beyond our understanding. Since the wild utopian hopes for the age of the internet are now in retreat, this unfathomable, technological structure that surrounds us, yet is invisible, adds to the general mystification of the world. This might add to why an interest in the occult and the psychedelic has
This tendency was clear at the recent Here To Go 2014 symposium on art, counter-culture and the esoteric in Trondheim, Norway (which ran for the second time from 30–31 May as a thread at the Meta.Morf biennale). Consisting of a day of performances plus a day of talks, it brought together artists and writers like Z'EV, Vicki Bennett and Carl Abrahamsson, all of whom have connections with the occultural underground of the 1980s. The various juxtapositions of sounds, performances and talks during the event examined the growing intersection between modern art and contemporary esotericism while drawing the outline of a contemporary occultural movement, standing with one foot in the world of electronic music and one foot in the shadows. Cultural experiments with psi powers and ESP have a long cultural history passed down to us from the 1960s and conspiratorial projects such as MK Ultra where occult methods became the object of military research and psychedelic investigations. A fairly recent example from the world of electronic music is Matmos’s 2012 EP The Ganzfeld Experiments. This saw them delve into a psychic territory already partly mapped by a string of psychonauts reaching back beyond the occult revival of the 1960s with its mixture of religion and sexuality to an anti-tradition that arguably can be traced to the Marquis de Sade, the heresies of the Brethren of the Free Spirit and beyond. One of the threads running through these histories is a quest for total, untrammelled freedom and, at its most extreme, to transgress even one's bodily confines. This anti-tradition includes a string of iconoclasts (like Alexander Trocchi, William S Burroughs, the surrealists, the dadaists and Alfred Jarry) who wanted to expand the
limits of freedom by exploring and expanding the human mind. This was seen as a first step towards a revolution in the head that would – by creating a new type of wo/man – result in a total overthrow of society. Their revolution would be an inner insurrection against past conditioning that would create new social relations; a way of relating to the world that would generate new ways of living. Due to their efforts to bring all information into the open, the emancipation of wo/ mankind from all limitations was as much an occult quest as it was political. Instead of turning the world upside down, these psychonauts wanted to turn it inside out. Thus, they chose culture as their battleground. Their weapons were absurd poetry, cut-ups, détournements, sound and media experiments carried out across the traditional genres of music, film, art, literature, and so on. Instead of the old occult dictum of 'as above, so below', theirs could more fittingly have been 'as inside, so outside'. Often, this inner freedom corresponded to a type of undogmatic anarcho-communism with mystic overtones, reminiscent of the early church. “Do as you will/this world's a fiction/ and is made up of contradiction”, as William Blake wrote in “The Everlasting Gospel”. A ganzfeld experiment is a way to expand consciousness in a non-chemical way. The subject of the experiment places half a pingpong ball over each eye and stares into a red light, wearing headphones blasting static and white noise. The idea is that you enter a receptive state resembling hypnagogia, where experiments of a telepathic nature can take place. Matmos used the experiment to attempt to project the concept of their album into the mind of volunteers whose experiences and visions were recorded and used as scores, as literal directions, or as found sounds. As such, the experiment is a type of empirical research into altered states of consciousness, similar to, for example, John C Lilly's sensory deprivation tanks, iconically used by a young William Hurt in Ken Russell's film Altered States (1980), or the dreamachine
as made for Brion Gysin by Ian Sommerville. Both Gysin and his into the present to let the future leak out. In their coauthored longtime friend and collaborator William Burroughs fit easily into the book, The Third Mind (1965), they claimed that no two minds ever trajectory of the occult revival of the 1960s. Involving cut-ups and come together without creating a third, intangible force, which scrying methods, their psychic experiments with tape recorders were may be likened to a superior mind. This psychic symbiosis makes intimately connected to attempts at making a mind revolution meant the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Another example is to provoke a step forward in human evolution. It was a way of hacking the telepathic concerts made in 2013 by vocalist and composer the brain and changing the code. Using the dreamachine, a variety of Jennifer Walshe, who collaborated with the sound poet Tomomi symbols, crosses and spirals appears on the eyelid after a few min- Adachi under the moniker The People's United Telepathic Imutes, as the light interruptions – at a rate of provisation Front (PUTIF). Their method 8–13 flicks per second – sync with the brain's was to improvise from an agreed start and alpha rhythms. The pulsating light stimulates end time and then afterwards mix the re“Cultural experiments with psi the optic nerve and alters the brain's electricordings, opening it up for aleatory sound powers and ESP have a long cal oscillations. In effect, it makes us dream clashes, counterpoints and harmonies. cultural history passed down to us while we are awake, causing individuals to from the 1960s and conspiratorial see colours, visions or even entire three-diIdeas about a third, collaborative mind projects such as MK Ultra where mensional landscapes with their eyes closed, greatly influenced the trajectory of inoccult methods became the enabling us to empirically experience what dustrial music and the barrage of groups object of military research and can be perceived as psychic phenomena, who consumed William Burroughs's sempsychedelic investigations.” whether it is a matter of faulty source moninal essay, “Electronic Revolution”, from itoring (like the sense of déjà vu) or not. Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Psychic TV, Current 93 and so on, up to contemporary The following Matmos album, 2013’s The Marriage Of True Minds, descendants like Cyclobe, Raagnagrok and English Heretic. The delved even deeper into this territory where the occult becomes ideas also found a certain resonance on the free improv and jazz a system to explain the inexplicable and know the unknowable. scenes. Several of the musicians bassist William Parker interviewed The title hints at a wedding not unlike what Burroughs and Gysin in his 2011 book Conversations talk about their music in profoundreferred to as a “third mind”. During their most intense period of ly mystical terms: they talk about “the creator” who might manicollaboration, they wanted to liberate thoughts from linear sen- fest in improvisation, about collective intelligence and the magical tence structures and create new modes of expression by cutting moment where a musician becomes a medium channelling energies Continued on Page 34…
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