This was an interview from Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors journal from Winter solstice 2005, thought I’d dig it out! (I had to split due to size)...enjoy!!
Have you ever been Shpongled? Of the countless electronic music acts hot on the international trance-dance scene, Shpongle stands out as true innovators. Known for his experimentally adventurous studio techniques, Simon Posford has established a reputation with the psychedelic projects, Hallucinogen and Shpongle. After a recent live performance at Spirit New York, Alex Grey had the pleasure of interviewing this modern digital maestro about his ability to permeate beautiful music with entheogenically haunting sound scapes.
Alex: We’ve enjoyed Shpongle for many years and wondered about the man behind it. What are the conditions under which your music is composed? Do you hear sounds in your head first, or do you experiment, hear the sound, and then recognize it?
Simon: A bit of both really. But we’ll always start with an idea of what we want to achieve.
Alex: How does that come to you – as a feeling – a sound – a vision?
Simon: Inspiration comes from everything one experiences in life. Working on new music we always have an idea we want to achieve that comes to us visually. Before we start doing anything with the computers, Raja Ram and I sit down and talk very visually. One vision that comes to mind is a lake, shimmering in the sky and we try to make a sonic equivalent of that. We also have a journey image on the first album where we’re going through rock pools and hear drippings sounds. Then there’s sunlight reflecting off the pools and a beautiful rainforest. You go under a waterfall, stand under it and feel the raw power of the water all around you and then pass through the waterfall. On the other side is a cave with colourful stalagmites and stalactites – a kind of psychedelic cave.
Alex: You’re the only musician I’ve ever heard describe a visionary prelude to creating music. I can imagine Beethoven walking and experiencing the storm before creating the “Pastoral” symphony. I don’t remember a contemporary musician describe visuals as a point of departure.
Simon: If you talk about a musical track using language, you’re really never going to get close to making the best music. I mean you can say things like, “we want it to be full-on with lots of drums”. But listening to a tune is an emotional experience. To achieve an emotion, a closer way to get there is to describe it as a visual image you can explore in your imagination.
Alex: I love the idea of the narrative in music. Wagner used it and Peter Gabriel’s been known to use narrative as a metastructure. People experience your music as entheogenic because of the depth layering, which is endless like a hall of mirrors, infinite in all directions. I don’t know how the mixing of your music works, but it seems like you have a lot of layers happening simultaneously.
Simon: We do like to use a lot of sounds. We put aside a certain amount of time to do a track and then just keep adding sounds as we like. Work in the studio has to be very flexible….it’s a creative process. Sometimes you come up with a sound, and then you have to let the sound take you where it’s going to take you. More often than not, a tune has you hanging from the coat tails as it makes itself. Do you see the work in your mind before you start?
Alex: Yes, and it also evolves, like you were saying with your music. You start with a crystallized vision. Then you come to an impass and it seems to solve itself. Like a grunt, I’m working for a force that works through me to make itself realized or perceptible. I think people are drawn to the contemporary sacred in your music. Last night, while you were playing at Spirit New York, a video showed endless clips of sacred dance from all over the world. It was exciting to see an interfaith perspective as well as street dancing – universal dance which was inspiring. How does the element of spirituality relate to your work?
Simon: The video was made for us with very little imput on our side. Music can be a spiritual and tribal experience, but we don’t force that. Spirituality may be the effect rather than a cause. I don’t think you can make music spiritual. People connect to things that are universal, through taking one back to their roots. I do believe that we are all one and music can return you to the source.
Alex: I’m interested in a non-specific contemporary sacred art that’s not a dogmatic adherence to one tradition or another. In your music you bring in the entire history of music. You can take a shamanic song and mix every element of the sacred, mundane and profane making it a holistic approach. This may not be conscious on your part.