For me, the reason why I create things is to stimulate change in some way; in myself first and, for someone who's listening, hopefully in them as well.
OK, then why change and what sort of change?
Firstly, to become aware that a lot of what I think is what I've been taught or told to think. It doesn't come from me; it comes from something that I've been led to believe comes from me. And the difference between the two is so hard to see. I push myself into some sort of action to find out the difference, to find out just how much I've been taught and how much is mine.
And what are you left with; how far are you with this process, this change? How far have you affected it? Have you affected it?
In a sense, yes. I know a whole lot more about what I've been led to believe, and I don't accept it at face value like I used to. To get there, I've had to commit crimes, among other things.
What sort of crimes?
Assault, necrophilia, to some extent pyromania. I'm calling them crimes because that's what they're considered by somebody else, not me. It's something I felt that I had to do.
Is that not counter-productive? This approach makes it easy for people to stick you into a little box and say, "This man does this". Where it's never totally defined what you do, then nobody can really do that. Maybe that's a more effective weapon - but this is something I'm putting to you as a question, rather than
something that I think.
It's true that people have tried to put my work into categories that create some confusion, but I think what they're doing is using these labels to escape from thinking about the issues I'm trying to raise.
This is something I learned in Japan. Before I went there, I made a lot of judgements about people who evaded questions in this way; I felt that it was weak. I don't think so anymore; I think it's their perogative. I had been expecting a level of understanding from them that they weren't prepared to try for, and allowed my disappointment with them to override what the work had taught me personally.
Why was that particularly because of Japan?
When I went there, I also started making a lot of judgements, about the way people were treating me, things that I was seeing, and it turned out that my perception of what was happening was completely different from what their intention was; from what would be considered normal there. Communication through spoken language made impossible. I'd get whatever understanding I could from gestures and facial expressions: I was using interpretations of these from my own culture and often this, too, turned out to be inaccurate at best. In this kind of isolation, it became clear that I was seeing what I wanted to see, that I was doing exactly the same thing that the people I was calling weak were doing, refusing new information by judging it from irrelevant past experiences. For example, when I'd play someplace there, the audiences usually didn't respond. There may be a packed house, there may be 10 people, and the audience of 10 may be the packed house. After you're finished, there's silence; like playing in a church. Then everyone gets up and walks out. The first time that happened to me, I thought, "Good God, everybody hated this!" I thought so for a couple of years, until people started coming up to me and saying they'd been in the audience, heard what I'd done and liked it very much, that they'd thought differently about music after they'd heard it.
Would you not say that to make something involves a kind of judgement anyway? I remember Brian Eno saying that music, or sound creation, was one of the best ways of working out philosophies and attitudes towards life because you could take a strip of tape, which is a certain length of time, and then within those
parameters you could work out any philosophy you wanted to and it wasn't going to harm anybody. But you still had those parameters; you still had to decide when it was going to start and when it was going to end. So you're making a kind of judgement and, to my mind, putting something out on a piece of tape or a record or whatever implies a kind of judgement.
For myself, of course; I judge myself all the time.
Where do you draw the line, then? Or don't you draw one, or don't you see it as being a line - between judging for other people and judging for yourself. This is why I asked about creation: why does anybody do anything? You can say it's to try and change yourself and to try and change other people, but that implies another kind of judgement because that says these people should change. It's a judgement about people you've never met, people who are going to be affected in some way by something that you've put out.
Yes, but by putting something out I don't want to make judgements about someone else: I have no right to do that, anymore than they have a right to judge me.
But if you say that you want them to be changed in some way, does that not imply a kind of judgement about the way that they are before they've heard your record, or whatever?
Let me put it this way: in a lot of ways I'm asleep. My reason for making work is.to wake up. I know that I'm not the only one who is asleep, so if I put work out then someone else who's asleep might respond to this. But I can't tell this person, 'you are asleep". I don't have any right- to do that because I'm asleep.
What can anybody hope to achieve by doing that kind of operation. This goes all the way along the line; you have the wonderful example of Handel's Surprise Symphony - do you know that one? He was absolutely sick of London audiences falling asleep during these very long soirees, etc., so he made this piece where, da dum da dum dum dum BOOM! and everyone jumped, "what?!". What can
anybody hope to achieve now, with the fact that if people are asleep - of course, how and whether you know somebody else is asleep are separate questions - but what can anybody hope and expect to achieve if people are asleep anyway? And if you do not have the right to judge and tell somebody else that they're asleep, what right do you have to make them wake up?
Well, I don't; that's the whole thing. For one thing, if someone wants to stay asleep, who am I to tell him he's wrong?
What if someone wants that person to stay asleep and that person doesn't know they're asleep? Does the dreamer know they are dreaming? The old zen story where "I dreamt that I was a butterfly and then I woke up: am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man, or am I a man dreaming that I am a butterfly?". Where's the in-point, where's the button?
That's why I make work, to find out.
What have you actually managed to find out? What have you encountered?
Well, one thing I learned from Blind Date, having sex with a cadaver, was that I started asking myself a lot of things, such as why would I choose that punishment and what's the point of such punishment in any event?
Could you say that you saw it as a bigger metaphor, for something else?
Much bigger. I still learn new things about that. One was that sex and death are very connected; they're the two inescapable events in the life of a human being that bring a human being back down to an animal, into blood and guts. Everything else that we build up, philosophies, societies, technology, government, religion. Is to explain and filter these two things, to try to give ourselves an illusion of diluting their power. And these things are just that, they're an illusion. Sex and death come back; they take their time but they come back. If we just accept these, really accept them, then there's a strong temptation not to do anything.
Yes, I can see that. If you say, "that's all there is."
So I learned that we need this illusion; I need this illusion of a sense of purpose. I see it as an illusion, one that's essential for my 'being', to have a sense of value.
It also gave me an entirely new understanding of what 'beauty' is, and made it clear that my creative actions up to then, of criticising hypocrisy or making issues of social behaviour, were a form of one-dimensional thinking. The sex experience itself, the sense of hopelessness driving events leading up to it and its presentation in public, the co-ordinated attempt by several of my friends and former lovers to have me tried in Mexico on necrophilia charges, the attempt to cast me as a pariah when extradition proved too impractical, my move to Japan, et cetera, et cetera... The entire episode was the opening of a door. Beyond it turned out to be a realm, inconceivably vast. What began as a determined effort to degrade myself beyond anything I thought I could survive became an affirmation of life.
It's interesting: you say sex and death are the two - I'd say there are three. You missed out birth.
But you say that sex is just meat: there are 2000 years of a certain kind of relgious thought that would say that sex is actually the highest, something that is so far away from meat and bones and blood to be totally unrecognisable from that.
The same thing is true of death.
Maybe the act itself is to do with meat and decay and the reminder that we are in fact physical, but the effect that happens within as such is an outside effect, reminding us that we are actually capable of more than we really have. So it is quite the reverse. And that's why I asked what kind of changes had happened, because to me that is one of the most fascinating things, it's like you've been tricked into thinking in a certain way. I think most of the 'illusions' as you define' them, politics, religions, whatever, would like you to think that it is in fact 'the bestial act', which is what you say.
I know very well that this is what I've been taught to think. But when I say religion I'm including Tibetan. Whether it's considered positive or not - for example, in Buddhism, death is not considered a negative thing- it's still a belief.
Those are things that we invent. I learned from this experience I had that they're necessary, we need them. In whatever way we impose a filter on these three events they all defy, by their nature, the beliefs that we put out to filter them.
In that case, I can see that's true for a large percentage of the belief systems and people that I've come in contact with, but where I take issue is, where do you put all the people who've died, for instance, and come back? Where do you put all the people who never have sex? Where do you put all the people who Just aren't part of what you've just said? If we need these beliefs, where are these people? People who are crippled for life, people who are what's called mentally subnormal who never have sex and never even think about it - and can be incredibly gifted people. I mean, what's he called, Wolfli, the Swiss - you know this guy?
Adolf Wolfli? Artist, musician, composer, writer and self-enthroned King of All Earthly Lands Alright! who was the first composer to write free improvisation and chance notation into musical compositions; committed for life to a Swiss mental hospital by the citizens of his town.
Yeah. This guy never had sex in his life. Where do these people fit in?
Maybe as teachers.
OK, we have to use this ridiculous thing of people being taught to think certain things, but in whose interest is it to think in this way? Because it's certainly not in our interest! And all creation and also information is an attempt to step outside those limitations.
So, why is creation, the act of creation, so plotted against and so reacted against and so... snuffed-out? Five years ago, it was very unpopular to have children. It was, "no, no. I'm independent; I've got my flat and my car and my job". That's just an isolated example. Now why is the creative act - why is music that is bought in droves less 'creative', only a repetition and a reinforcement compared to the music of say 50 years ago? Why is 'creative' music, music that does challenge, music that does in fact have a spark of originality, that has something that is outside of itself and has something to do with this 'Life' that we're talking about, not the popular music? Why is Muzak more prevalent than all the other stuff? Why is the creative act itself looked down upon and fought against? Because when you look at it, the creative act is the thing we all come from anyway. So why is it being so shunned?
Because it's threatening.
Well. When someone has done something that changes me or challenges me to think, that makes me question whether what I'm satisfied with is really enough. That pushes me to respond. If I didn't have the confidence to do so. I'd find such a challenge incredibly threatening.
I can understand that, but it's so upside down. Because if something is threatening and it makes you push further, you could say that in an antagonistic, controlled society that's actually good for the society because the society then has more to sell. It has more that it can get people involved in. It can then use up more of its garbage by then throwing it at people who want more.
It seems to me that people are - certainly I was - taught to be satisfied with less and less substance and more and more objects, more and more distractions. Someone who makes an object or does an act that flies in the face of that can be threatening to someone who's very comfortable there.
Yeah, but you know and I know that if that happens you actually feel a greater sense of being alive.
I do, because I have a release for it.
Everybody does. Why do you think all the Dutch people go skiing? Why do people smoke, why do people take drugs? It's exciting, it's forbidden; it goes against the grain.
But it's also easy. It doesn't demand anything of you. It takes its toll.
It also creates a different set of parameters. But that's getting off the point, because I can't see why a control system wants people not to think. I know that it does this, but I can't see why; because if people think, if they're going out and doing things, then they're going to want more anyway. They need more to feed this sense of living. The sense of being alive is that all those things you said about sex and death and birth just don't matter anymore. I know what the answer is, because what I was going to say was the control system wants you to believe, as you said, what you've been taught, and the creative act actually means that all those things don't matter anymore because it's actually higher and further forward than those things we've been talking about. And that's why the control systems don't want you to think, that's why they don't want you to do creative things. If you do, you're not a prisoner anymore. You ARE the life-force, you don't need any
of this crap. You are not a body. This is one of the good things about Scientology - they've got this big list of the things which are used subliminally, they say, in control techniques to subdue people because it tells you something that you must be anyway, you can't help being, to be a body. To be here. To be now. And of course you hear this and go "fuck!". And they have this thing about having simultaneous commands, stand up / sit down. Well you can't do them both at once, so what they call your 'reactive mind' gets completely confused.
Now what I'm asking you is how we can use this and how we can actually do something about this. I'm not saying something like 'sex for everybody'. I'm talking about how you can reproduce, create these states, which is the change that you were talking about, by the use of something which is inorganic. Like tape, things which have this plastic inbetween - like pornography, like records; there is a barrier between the creative act and what happens with somebody else. How can we actually dissolve that line - and I don't mean by performance where there's somebody there, because there's still a kind of plasticity inbetween. How can you make a creative act?
In a way you answer your own question. Porno actors, people who are really good just radiate it, because of the way they feel about themselves and what they are doing. And the image, the tape, simply functions to record that. When they're doing it, the camera or tape doesn't get in the way, it gives it back.
So, having got this, how do we get across the plastic barrier? How can you make a remote action happen to a lot of other people?
By having it happen to yourself. By being that yourself.
Right, OK. But where does that come from? AHA! this is where I'm leading to; where does that come from? It seems to me that you have two alternatives: you have something which is completely remote, abstract, which is then taken by somebody and converted into something else. Which is one kind of definition of a
creative act. Or there is the other possibility that there is no plastic barrier, that there is this something that happens, in real time, in real space, and is then impressed upon what is essentially a plastic medium, totally inorganic, and somehow that inorganic quality doesn't matter anymore: the organic quality can actually come through. Now, which is it?
I think it's the latter.
Right. Now, why? And what comes through? In Sufi exercises, there's a vast surface of energy and you are taught certain ways to use this energy so that it gets used up and doesn't fly around the room causing all sorts of damage. You can take an object and can use this energy, and then give it to somebody. The object is 'charged', as if with electricity. It might took perfectly innocuous, you pick it up and go "AAGH!". Right, now can this be done with videotapes and tapes and records - books even?
How?... You see, what I'm getting at is that you use shortwave to do your "music", but where's your personal input and where is this communication, which is really the creative act, isn't it?
The best way to answer that is to describe how I work. When I turn the radio on, I start scanning for something - I'm looking for something that - without being able to put it in words - says what I feel. I usually find a sound that says more than I was looking for.
Then you put that together into a form?
OK, fine. But that's not what I'm asking. What I'm asking is how, if it's received through a radio set, can it be something that is precisely what you want to say? Where is the creative act? You have a feeling and you... twiddle? It's like dowsing, the way you describe it.
Like a divining rod?
That's what I'm talking about. These vicars who look for water, they always see it as not being them who are doing it, it is actually something coming through them. I remember one example where this guy said he was a radio set. He said the more pure he was feeling and the more he allowed himself to step into the background, the stronger the signal that came through. That's an analogy I've used before: the idea is to become a better and better receiver so that the signal is less and less distorted. So if you're feeling something, if that analogy is true, and I have no reason to believe that it isn't, then what are you trying to find? If it is just confirming a state that you are in, or fighting against - which is another kind of confirmation - then where does that get us?
This may sound stupid, but when I record something and if I feel that the recording is good, then it tells me something that I didn't know before I started. I use my own feeling as a base and then it tells me something about that feeling. It never lasts very long. Signals change very quickly and can be very elusive. After listening to these signals without trying to 'catch' them, I was beginning to feel connections in them between religion, eros and war. So I started to develop that.
There's a book of interviews with Stockhausen, called 'Conversations with Stockhausen' or something. He was listening to reasonably high volume shortwave material on headphones and also on speakers, certainly enough to cause problems with your neighbours, and he was just tripping-out, going crazy. He got a whole group of students listening to this stuff for 40 days and nights, all the way through. If they were asleep, they'd have their headphones on. And he has this very big quasi-Buddhist Christian thing of 'the world is an entity', etc., which is what would now be considered 'hippie' or something, but he has a very holistic view of everything, and he has this notion that you can listen to the stars on shortwave. You'd find that interesting, it's really good. But he also talks very briefly in this interview about the connection between a certain kind of frequency
on a shortwave and people going, like 'boing!'. But I understand that to be coming from interference with alpha waves in the brain; it's not from anything inside that signal, it's not because it comes from some particular star or anything, although I think that has a slight influence; if you listen to the 'woodpecker' pretty loud you start to get these alpha wave patterns. So in a sense it's linked to the whole DREAMACHINE flicker research. I can see that if you're dealing with shortwave, then you're dealing with very pure tones, with something that can sometimes link up with the physiognomy of your brain. Then are you being tricked into thinking it's a feeling when really it is only a kind of interference in your brain? It's making neurons fire that normally lie dormant?
That happens without any question, and when it does there really is no separating the two.
So you've had this 'blending'?
So everything you do with shortwave concerns the effect we just talked about?
In that case. It should be listened to on headphones or pretty loud.
That's right, including signals that are very low volume, because they still permeate the room. It seems like they're all around you.
Sounds like the formula for a standing wave.
Yes, but they're more complex than that. That's another really beautiful thing about this: for one thing, the most carefully ordered and sophisticated transmissions put out are all subject to magnetic and atmospheric effects that are out of anyone's control, changing and subverting these signals.
Is that the link between the organic thing that we were talking about, the organic creative act?
I see shortwave as organic. The quality I'm interested in, which as far as I know comes more from sunspots and the presence or relative absence, or fluctuation, of solar radiation rather than from stars, is an unpredictable and naturally occuring subversion of the best human efforts to overcome it. You can have a strong focus, but this is usually - and should be - subject to external influences over which you do not have complete control.
Take for example driving a bus, which I used to do when I lived in LA. If I'm focused on the details of the work, where the stops are, how many people are standing there, whether or not they're standing out in the street, I do a better job. If I'm thinking about something more important, personally, some experience I've had or something that someone else did then it's more difficult to concentrate on what I'm doing.
There's a way of thinking that says it's all connected anyway, and that you could actually see your Job as being a metaphor and get an enormous amount of creative output. So why is that dividing line made? I don't see any separation between doing the shopping and making a tape recording. One has its influence on the other, and there's absolutely no way of denying it. Because if you spend
the better part of your day driving a bus, then it's bound to have an effect on your "creative" work.
So is drawing a line something that is really helpful? I'm assuming that you're trying not to, at some point.
It's like a balloon: if you push one end, the other end's going to respond accordingly. So isn't drawing lines and saying this <A> is this and this <B> is something else, like Gurdjieff said, 'pouring from Empty into the Void'?
Yes, it is.
So why do it? Is it something we learn, or is this something that's actually built into us - to draw lines and say, "this is my spiritual life and this is my work life"?
If you hate shopping, hate work, then you make a very big separation: "this isn't really me, I just have to do this".
Right. And of course it is really you, you can't get away from it.
And so is the hate.
I've never understood hate. If you hate something, you identify with it, you are it.
So what do we do? Are we fighting against this, or are we just confirming it? You tell somebody something that's true and they immediately don't see it. Is there a way to do this where people can see it? Can people really wake up as a result of the actions of somebody else? What makes you or I think about these things and other people not? What makes us want to create, what makes us want to do something about this situation - in whatever way it gets perverted along the way? Why? What was the first thing that you ever did that could be called a creative act?
Inventing labour-saving devices! Something always went wrong with them - I was four or five years old.
You see, nowadays I think that's the way most people start off. Originally, maybe a hundred or two hundred years ago, people didn't start out with anything to modify. But if you look around at children now, if you talk to people in "our generation" you'll find that most people started something creative by modifying something else, not something they thought of totally by themselves. It's all there, given to them. There doesn't seem to be that oasis of possibility anymore. Kids grow up and it's as if they're being asked, "what are you gonna do with what you've got?". Once they start thinking about careers, they're not asked "what do you want to be?", but "which career do you want to follow?". You can't create anymore, you can only choose from what's already been created.
Earlier today, someone was trying to tell me that everything's been done, nothing new is left.
I think that's probably true.
Maybe, but it's not true for me. 'When I do something that's been done for as long as humans have been around, I don't care. It's still new for me. I learn from doing it.
If it's done with that kind of intent I think .it comes through. Everybody can play someone else's music on the violin if they're given the right kind of tuition but nobody can play it like JashaHeifetz. Same, with atmosphere recordings. So, what was the next thing you did?
Reading. I was fascinated by the encyclopedia. In there I found a section that described flying and how to fly a plane. I studied that, and got this drive to fly a plane - which I still have.
Have you ever been in a glider?
Not in a glider, but I have been in a 2-seater.
Was it anything like what you thought it'd be?
More so. It was much more than I ever expected.
OK, that leads quite nicely into this Immersion Tank experience. I mean, you described this feeling of being really tossed about. So was that like flying?
No. because being tossed about when you are flying is... best described as visceral. These other experiences were not.
So explain to me what happened when you met John Lilly.
I met him at a lecture of his. He then invited people to come and try the tank. I knew that he'd done a lot of experiments with it, especially with LSD. I wasn't interested in trying it with LSD, basically because I was interested in seeing what would happen without any distractions. Lilly invited me to his house in Malibu.
We talked for a while in the main room.
He didn't give you any kind of prior information?
He didn't want to 'guide' your experience. What he did do was explain the procedure: you have a shower beforehand to rid your body of dry skin and hair so it doesn't get in the tank and clog up the system.
Well, it's also pretty sensible because it means that all the capillaries on your skin are being stimulated.
So you have a shower and he gives you some sort of robe, like a yukata, then we went from the house out to a rough wooden shed that had two tanks in it. The tank I used both times was the one Lilly had made, which was like a coffin. The tank was filled with water in a 10% saline solution, and the temperature was thermostatically controlled, to match your skin temperature.
I always thought it was the same temperature as your blood.
That's too warm; then you'd be more aware of the water. The idea is to make it as unassuming as possible. I got in, laid down, he closed the lid. The tank is light-tight, so I could either leave my eyes open or closed. I could hear the sound of the water if I moved, but if I chose not to move there wasn't any sound. After what I reckoned to be about twenty minutes, I moved up to the top of the tank inside, and in a kind of dissolve, moved to the outside. I wanted to face forward. I turned over and then moved to what we understand as upright, but there wasn't any sense of that being important: I then moved to the door of the shed. The door moved closer and I could see the interior side, then it faded to the exterior side. Then I turned around and saw this path from the shed to the house, and I followed that. Floating. It's not a sensation like walking, where you feel your weight shifting. Floating. Then I saw the glass wall of the room that we'd all been in, from the outside. And then I saw it from the inside, same kind of dissolve, and saw people moving around very fast.
Much faster than humanly capable?
Like a high-speed film. Blurs; people moving in blurs. I could tell who they were when they stopped. I saw that Lilly himself was in a room that I hadn't seen before, like a large closet with several open-reel tape recorders and stacks of tapes, and so forth. Toni was in this large, open kitchen, moving around. I moved, floating through this room to the front door of the house: saw the inside of the door and the outside in the same way. Then moved outside at the front of the house to a van that was parked close by. Before I'd gotten into the tank, Lilly had talked about this van as being one that they'd used in their research with the dolphins, so I was interested in seeing that. Someone was in the van, so I went up to it and went inside, looked around, then wentoutside of it. Then I saw the top of the van, the top of the house, went over it, saw the path on the ground, went back down to that, then to the door of the shed from the outside: inside. Over to the box, top of the box, inside the box, then into my skin again as if putting on a wetsuit.
Why did you go back? Did some voice say "you have to get back now" or was it just something that happened? Did you feel some force calling you?
No. After this first experience, I went back to Lilly and asked him questions, and described what had happened. He became very interested and showed me where he'd been, and there were tape recorders in there. In fact the door to this room he'd been in was actually part of the wall; once he closed it again it was difficult to see that there was a door there. And indeed, Toni had been in the kitchen and there was someone out in the van at the time. We went back two months later and went through the same procedure: shower, yukata. This time, again after about 20 minutes, I "left".
Did you have the sensation of being able to stay there for a longer time, or was it an unpleasant sensation to lie in salt water for long?
Not unpleasant. Unnecessary. Like watching TV for a long time. You begin to feel 'what else is there?'. The second time, I moved up toward the top of the box, but didn't go outside it this time. I moved in a circle - out of the box, the room, to about100 feet in the air, in a very wide circle about a 100ft. diameter from the top of this box, through it, through the shed, up to 100 ft. in the air, down again to the point where I started; 3 times, really fast, like something being spun on the end of a string. The third time, I had this 'plasma' feeling; that I existed without any question, that I had consciousness, but didn't have the kind of physicality.
You didn't feel you had any kind of control over the situation?
For a while I felt that I had a sort of control over my direction. I didn't know why I was moving so fast or what was doing that, but I had the sense that I could 'steer' myself. And it felt ecstatic. Suddenly I stopped, and there was a wall. I was right in front of this wall, as if your nose was just a few inches away from something. It seemed like a combination of cement and metal and it was infinite in all directions. I couldn't see any borders, or sense where it stopped. This whole excursion was in the dark, even though both sessions in Lilly's immersion tank took place during mid-afternoon. This is something I still don't understand - why these sensations of extreme movement, clear recognitions of verifiable objects such as the tank and the shed and unverifiable recognition of surfaces I'd never seen (an alloy of concrete and metal) all occured in darkness. One answer that seems obvious at face value is that this experience took place in my psyche, my 'imagination' so to speak. I've tried to accept this, in fact would prefer to, and have since recognised a tendency to seek out confined spaces (nose to an 'infinite wall'). But I have a clear perception of the difference between the imaginary and the tangible, and this explanation does not in any way account for the fact - the fact - that each of the sensations and objects encountered was in every way as tangible as the page you're reading. Then I became aware that there was another wall behind me. I only knew that this wall was very solid, that I wouldn't be able to 'go through if. I was very frightened; I felt that they could crush me. All they had to do was move slightly together. I went down, as fast as I could.
This was a choice?
Chosen. And back down to the shed, into the box in a kind of slide, not 'through doors', and stopped, back into my 'suit'. I opened the box myself this time. I went back to the house, told Lilly what had happened, and he asked me to write it down, just as he had done the first time. I was scared.
What were his reactions to this?
He was very interested. He asked a lot of questions, same as before. I was shaking when I got out and it took some time to write. When I came back in, Toni, his wife, had made a big pizza for everyone. I only ate half of it. And either because he thought I was very rude to, or because he thought that my experience, because it couldn't be verified probably wasn't usable as research, I don't know. But that was the end of it.
How did your experience shape what you want to do? Apart from the direct,
that everyone would agree with or recognise.
In the sense that I have absolutely no question that it's real. If I describe it to somebody else, somebody reading this, they could easily believe that I'm unbelieveably self-deceiving.
I don't think so anymore; I think those days are long gone. What I was thinking of was the idea of a Reichian exercise, which is basically hyperventilation, originally conceived to get rid of the character armour. That probably gets you into the same sort of state, I should imagine.
No, it's very different. It's visceral, in that sense; it's a loss of control of the body. But you're very much - at least I am - in the body.
What other experiences have you had, then?
The first time, it was a Reichian exercise experiment, but the psychologist 'guiding' the experience didn't really know what she was doing. It got out of control.
How long ago was this?
Let me think - about 18 years ago.
And how'd you come across it?
She was studying the technique as a possible theraputic tool for patients with occasions of violent physical agression and prolonged depression, of which I was one. She lost control of the session and got me out of it as soon as she could. But it affected me for several days afterward. I felt like I was being electrocuted. At first, there was a kind of energy coming from my solar plexus that slowly radiated out in all directions throughout my body. I felt that if it reached my head. I'd lose it. And it did.
I suppose that has a physical basis, anyway, because if the brain's deprived of oxygen it just goes loopy.
It was very physical. It always is.
So it has no relation to anything with the tank, then?
No. In fact, it's the opposite: if you can describe the tank as an expansive experience, this is implosive.
Were you making recordings before this?
Yes, I was making breathing recordings, actually, with groups of people. It was a good experience for all of us, and the people who listened to it would respond by changing their breathing to fit the rhythm that ours was making, like a chorus. That was also the first broadcast I ever did.
This is a well-used technique; this is the way this whole disco thing works, the beat has a correspondence to the heartbeat. In fact, they're having a lot of trouble with it now, saying that this acid-house beat is actually too fast and that it's making people prone to heart attacks. The lessons of Vietnam being learned all over again. Just as with television.
It's a control device.
Why do you choose to use television then, if it's a control device?
To subvert it.
Is it possible to subvert such an incredibly big thing?
Yes. On paper, it's relatively easy. The way to subvert it is to do something that changes the way people think about it. One way to do that is to put out something, without an explanation, on a channel at a time that's not expected.
It's an interesting answer, because what makes you think that that doesn't happen within the control process anyway?
'Cause it's not made for that.
I think you're wrong. When I was young, BBC2 was looked upon as 'the arts', right? So, coming from the north of England, my parents Just thought, "you don't wanna watch this rubbish!". It's a very Northern English attitude. So I wasn't allowed to watch it, and of course because it wasn't allowed I used to turn it on at every available opportunity. And the first time I can remember, I turned the television over onto BBC2 and there was this mouth on the screen. Great big mouth. And it was babbling away; then it just finished. No information; absolutely nothing. And it was 15 years later that I found out what it was; it was Samuel Beckett's 'Not I' - the Billy Whitelaw performance. That image stayed with me and is still with me now, and I can remember the contusion, and the delight. Much later, I was living in a different part of England, I turned the television on, and there it was again. I thought, "I'm going mad! This is it! Cart me away now, get the jacket!". And then it said what it was. Can you imagine? 15 years' separation between those two things. The important point which I'm trying to make is that it doesn't matter who is programming, it only depends on those who are receiving the broadcasts. And this was really unexpected and had a great influence on me.
I had a similar experience. It is a second, 'accidental' subversion, if you will, where images that have been carefully considered by ranking television producers have unexpected effects on the viewers. News programme producers approving the broadcast of scenes that have stunning and lasting effects on generations, such as the first helicopter overflights of Jonestown, Guyana and recent American talkshow hosts provoking studio audience riots, showing that 'accident' is at best relative and at worst a guise. But this is not what I'm talking about. More specifically, then, to cite one alternative, show images that demonstrate and encourage the possibility of viewers using this medium themselves, of acting and interacting rather than consuming, of producing instead of being the product.
It's amazing: you say subvert something by putting on something that's unexpected, that's against the grain. It happens all the time, you know.
If it happened all the time it wouldn't be unexpected.
That sort of definition does not mix. Somebody like you or I who've grown up with television and we see - what is it, how many deaths are we supposed to see on television? A kid that turns it on for the first time is not expecting that. And it doesn't matter: you can create your own world and everything is surrealistic. And everything is surrealistic, of course; it can be the most normal thing in the world to you and I, but to him, who knows? The medium itself is not subject to control. You and I have got our greatest influences from things which come from the standard means of communication, which are totally subject to the means of control. Even Burroughs, you know? It all depends on how you use it. It's like I said before. It's not the fault of the bricklayer if someone picks up a brick and smashes somebody over the head with it. It can be used as a weapon or it can be used to build a wall; doesn't matter. It's the same fucking object.
Alright, then let me ask you - why isn't it being used?
Well, if it's being used. It's living, it involves chance. And if it involves chance well then you're fucked! Because people don't want chance. Not people. It's a phenomenon which is called homeostasis, which means that people will always want things to stay exactly the same everywhere; it's a physical property of amoebae and all this kind of stuff. You find something, you like it and you want it to stay exactly the same. And of course chance is directly against that. So you cannot control somebody if they are constantly doing different things. So what you do is to narrow the lens. And then people see a more and more fixed point. But the point is that if you narrow the point, then all the power goes into that point. This is what they forget; this is the weapon that you have against the control system. If you narrow the lens, then you have a stronger and stronger force streaming through onto this one particular point which means that it goes out at the other
end. So what you have is this perfect means of escape, it just means that you go through a smaller and smaller door and you just breathe in a bit more. And squeeze yourself through. And that is the way, that is the way. This is what Buckminster Fuller meant when he said that more is less. That, if you want, is what Gurdjieff meant too.
This "interview" between John Duncan and Andrew McKenzie was recorded in 1989 in Amsterdam, and edited by Jon Wozencroft in 1991/2.