PsyAmb favorite Simon Posford has been busy recently with the Shpongle tour of the USA. If you guys have been following his Facebook feed you will know that Simon has been right up there with his use of social media and letting the fans know what him and his band of traveling pranksters are up to on the road. Recently he posted a link to some some nice interviews he gave about things past present and future concerning Shpongle and Younger Brother including some incites into the next new Shpongle album including possible track names and album title. For those of you who don't use Facebook here is a copy of the interviews for you :
"The Brain Trust" interview : Part 1
Several weeks ago, Ben of The Brain Trust sat down with Simon Posford - a psychedelic mastermind of sorts whose at the helm of projects including Shpongle, Hallucinogen and Younger Brother - for a lengthy conversation that touched on both the serious and the absurd. In celebration of Posford's upcoming performance at House of Blues Boston tomorrow, TBT will be releasing the conversation in two parts. This is part one in which Posford discusses his affinity for the live band, pre-show anxiety and the state of the record industry. Let's get Shpongled ...
*NOTE: Please read Posford's responses with a soft English accent in mind.*
BW: Logistical problems aside, if circumstances were such that you could do every single gig with a live band, would you?
SP: Absolutely, yes. It’s much more fun. Notwithstanding the fact that all the people in the band are my close friends that I love simply to hang out with before or after the show, I’m honored to be able to play with musicians of such high caliber and talent. They are all truly outstanding: from Joe Russo on drums who’s maybe one of the best musicians I’ve met in my life, to Pete Callard who is just a phenomenal guitar player and has a massive wealth of musical knowledge, or Harry Escott the cello player, who has scored music for 300 piece orchestras and choirs in Dubai. Raja Ram - my guru, my student, my friend and my muse always has the band in stitches with his cunning linguism.
During the show itself, all I really have to concentrate on is performing on my instrument - playing the guitar, tweaking some synths, and just being a musician, which is really what I’ve always wanted to be all my life. It's so much more fun jamming with people on stage, vibing off each other and it dilutes the pressure on me as well - there are many more people to take the heat if it fucks up! (laughs)
BW: Speaking of pressure, do you ever get nervous?
SP: Every time.
BW: Every time?
SP: Every time. I would like to be a little bit less nervous because it can be mildly incapacitating. But, on the other hand, I think nervousness is preferable to indifference. It keeps me on my toes. And I don’t think you want to be too complacent about a show. I think the day I stop being nervous is probably the day that I stop doing shows.
BW: I understand that Raja Ram often contributes conceptual ideas to Shpongle, which you then translate to music. If you can, would you take me through a case study of the journey from his idea to how you approached the translation to music?
SP: One example would be one of the tracks off the first album - Monster Hit - which began with the idea of the journey through a jungle to a waterfall, walking through sunlit glades with the water currents trickling around the moss covered rockpools, while strange creatures cry out from the trees above.
And then you approach the waterfall and you feel that sense of power, the sheer awe and majesty of tons of gallons of water rushing over the cliff edge. And then you stand under the waterfall and you feel the weight of all that liquid gushing over you … and then you walk through the waterfall … past the torrent ... to a secret cave on the other side. And there’s the stalagmites and stalactites in this dark, damp, dripping cavern. Then with those concepts in mind I’ll just start creating sounds: cavernous reverbs, liquid drops of nectar echoing off rocks, the white noise of the water rushing. Raja will come up with those concepts and I’ll try to create sounds to fit that description as best as possible.
BW: That segways nicely into the next thing that I wanted to ask you, which is the formatting of the final project that you are releasing. On the release “Nothing Lasts, Nothing is Lost,” it seems comprised of a handful of themes that are carried across many shorter tracks. Whereas “Ineffable Mysteries” has fewer tracks, but they are more complicated, longer, and more involved. I was wondering if you could discuss why you might choose one method over the other.
SP: “Nothing Lasts” was, in that respect, a little bit of a mistake because despite it being written in the same way that “Tales” was (comprising seven or eight tracks I guess, all sort of between seven and 10 minutes long) for some reason when we were mastering the CD, we decided to split each track up into several ID points, with a new name for each ID.
I guess it was to irritate people that were downloading the album for free on torrent sites, but in fact it turned out to be more irritating to us and genuine fans.
If you have your iPod on shuffle, for example, you’ll only hear half of a track, when really we want you to play the full track, which is why the album sounds best listening to it from start to finish.
Also, we had so many track names, we couldn’t decide what to call each track. So we thought, ‘Fuck it, put in some more IDs and just split it up so we can have more names.’
I don’t think we’d do that again. The new album we’re working on now - the fifth Shpongle album will be about 8 tracks and we won’t make the mistake of splitting it up halfway through a track.
BW: Anything that you would like to comment on the evolution of the new project?
SP: We are 4 tracks into the new album, so far it’s sounding a little darker than the last album ... and slightly more of a return to our roots of “Are You Shpongled” … it’s been quite electronic so far, but more modern sounding.
BW: We’ve been doing a lot of research into how record labels are functioning in a landscape that’s shifting away from record sales. On that note, can you comment on how Twisted Records fits into your identity today?
SP: Yeah, I mean we’re lucky to be able to survive. I wouldn’t want to be a record label starting out now, in an industry where people are seeing music as increasingly disposable. Which is very sad for an artist like myself, who makes music, and that’s really what I always wanted to do - to stay in the studio writing tunes that would hopefully provide me with enough income to avoid having to get a 'real job' and leave a significant contribution to the world.
But, you know most people these days would expect to be able to download the music for nothing and say ‘Well, you make so much money from touring,’ which also isn’t that true because, to do an interesting tour, you have to provide a stimulating experience and put on a great show.
So we get to the situation when we can play - sell out, in fact - a venue like the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York for three thousand people, and not really make any money, because we spend so much on production because that’s what excites us. We want to do a fantastic show that we would enjoy attending ourselves. You mentioned the logistics: you can imagine the complexities involved in flying out 12 musicians, equipment and crew from several countries, with different touring schedules and work commitments. It costs 3,000 dollars or something just for a Visa for each musician, not to mention paying everybody, flights, hotels, transport, instruments and props, lightshows, Brazilian dancers, contortionists in a box, giant fluorescent slinkys, balloon drops … all the stuff that goes along with a Shpongle show.
So it would be nice to be able to make money from just making the music and album sales and live the hermetic reclusive life i prefer, but it's just not possible anymore. It sort of baffles me a little bit that people would rather not pay 15 dollars for a CD which will become the soundtrack to many great moments in their life for many years, hopefully, but will pay double that to go to a 2-hour show just to see you play, or buy a t-shirt.
I find it a bit sad that music has become so valueless. And Twisted Records as our label does sort of struggle with that a little bit, but I guess you have to adapt to what fans want, and if they want to buy t-shirts instead of CDs then I guess we’ll become a clothing company! That’s why rappers sell trainers maybe.
And record companies don’t invest in acts anymore, instead preferring something disposable that will come and go with the current fashion. But that’s what people are voting for, with their downloading of music for free … they don’t want to invest in long-term careers of artists.
It sounds sort of cynical and bitter, and maybe I am a little bit cynical and bitter. Because I grew up being a teenager who placed a massive value on an album - I couldn’t wait when a band that I liked released an album, I’d hurry down to the shop with my pocket money, super excited to buy the vinyl, I would get it home and look over every single detail of the cover and the artwork, obsessing over every detail, and listen to every song over and over again. It would be a momentous occasion in my life. And if I got an album that I didn’t like, I would take it back and get something that I did like. Nowadays, my iPod is filled with tens of thousands of tracks that I couldn’t possibly listen to if I had time. The value has decreased and the user experience lost some of it's magic.
BW: The last of the serious questions … what does it mean to be completely geshtunkenflapped?
SP: Geshtunkenflapped, that’s one of Raja’s words. He has a lot of sort of semi-Yiddish, made up words that he’ll bring out into conversation. (laughs)
Sometimes they’re meaningless, sometimes they’re just to make you laugh. Geshtunkenflapped is one of my favourites, along with magumbafleugle. I guess it just means you're stoned and kind of fried. It's related to all those similar words - shpongled, wasted, smashed, kippered.. all those sorts of words … geshtunkenflapped.
"The Brain Trust" interview : Part 2
Ben Weiss (BW): If you could go on a psychedelic journey with one historical figure from global history, who would it be?
Simon Posford (SP): One figure … I guess I always wanted to meet Bill Hicks. He was one of my heroes, and I feel a massive kinship with his comedy and his worldview.
To be on a psychedelic journey with someone, it would have to be someone fun. In a way, it would be nice to have someone like Terence McKenna … there is no one more eloquent or successful at elucidating the psychedelic experience and translating it into language, and writing about it or speaking about it, and translating these very life-changing experiences into a pallid medium such as language. But, I think he may be a little bit more cerebral rather than fun to be on a journey with.
Jesus might also be interesting. Imagine Jesus tripping ... turning water into LSD and turning your lawn into weed. (laughs) Getting Jesus stoned ... ‘Come on Jesus, show us some miracles, we've run out of wine again!'
BW: If you had to, what would you rather give up: music or sex?
SP: People traditionally are able to give up sex, clearly. Demonstrably there are monks and nuns, of all religious denominations, becoming celibate and giving up sex. Possibly quite easily. There may be some religions where they just pretend to do it then turn to the abuse of children.
But, even those people don’t give up music. They have their hymns or their mantras and their chants, and I don’t know anyone that really gives up music. So for me it would be sex, as much as I really enjoy sex, having a very addictive personality. But, to be forced to give up music I think would be the worst.
BW: If you were reincarnated as an inanimate object, what would it be?
SP: Inanimate object … maybe, a computer. Because, I think computers will eventually become conscious. To see what people are up to when they’re surfing the internet or making music ... being a part of creativity certainly has an appeal. Sometimes computers appear to have their own agendas - you know, ‘Fuck it, I’m not working. I’m gonna crash ... I’m shutting down.’ So it might be possible to retain some form of free will.
BW: Wouldn’t it be funny if you were forced to give up sex, and then you were reincarnated as some sexual toy?
SP: (Laughs) Yeah, wouldn’t that be good, or would that be the ultimate torture? I don’t know.
BW: I don’t know, I guess it would have to depend on what sensations are like as an inanimate object.
SP: Depends where you might get inserted, there would be certain orifices where you’d be saying, ‘Oh, no, you’re putting me in there, really? Awh, NO.'
BW: I thought it might be fun to take the conversation in that direction.
SP: I don’t need pushing in that direction, believe me.
BW: Can you elaborate?
SP: I’m only human, and like all of us, I just like a lot of sex. Who doesn’t, really? It only really becomes a problem when you’re ignoring the rest of your life, when your work or creativity or friendships or relationships are suffering as a result. But if they’re not, then fuck it, let’s all have sex.
BW: Well put. Simon Posford for President. Simon Posford is a man of the people.
SP: Exactly. Particularly if those people are women.
BW: Last question. Have your parents ever seen a Shpongle show?
SP: They have. It took them a long time to come to a show. They came to Glastonbury Festival one time but it was on a small stage. I think the first major one they came to was Shpongle Live in London at the Roundhouse, and I was happy to see that they dressed up in costumes, it was Halloween, and they really enjoyed it and since then, they’ve been really proud of me which feels really good.
I’ve always sought the approval of my parents, as many kids do, and to have them come to a show and enjoy it and see what I do and see the people that I feel a kinship with, and actually enjoy themselves, and feel proud enough and excited enough to then want to come to as many shows as possible, was extremely satisfying. Finally, they felt confident enough that ‘Oh yeah, he’s gonna be okay, our son’s doing alright. He’s not just lost in a world of drugs and self involvement, he actually seems to be doing something with his life.’
BW: How do they feel about your open involvement with psychedelics?
SP: They are quite a conservative family, so they were obviously very worried that I would get into drugs. That was always their concern, and then they found out that I did get into drugs, but I was actually okay and survived.
I think that they’re now more tolerant about it, and I’ve begged my Dad to try DMT, and I think it really would enhance their lives. But, they just won’t do it - it’s not their world. They laugh at me and tease me about it. The closest they can relate to it is being very, very drunk, which is obviously nothing like a psychedelic experience at all. So, they don’t get it, but they’re at least less worried about me …