Stephen O’Malley

Renzo Pavan vs SOMA 1206

Posted: Feb 27, 2007

Renzo Pavan vs SOMA 1206

Renzo: Why chaos?

Stephen: Why?

Renzo: Why chaos?

Stephen: Chaos is just a word made to objectify lack of understanding or lack of control or the inability to accept that you’re not in control of things. That’s why. It’s an attempt to understand something that you don’t, I guess. The entire natural world is very chaotic although there are, of course, physical laws and mental laws and all sorts of things like that. But ultimately, at the base of everything, there’s a sense of randomness.

Renzo: Yeah, definitely.

Stephen: So, just the word ‘chaos’ kind of personifies it in a way that you can oppose, more than anything, by structuring. Of course, the logical mind wants to structure things so that it can understand and ultimately control and bypass.

Renzo: That’s good. I also think that the entire existence is chaotic and we try to get order out of this chaos.

Stephen: Yeah.

Renzo: But, we can’t. It’s impossible.

Stephen: You can with certain things in your life. But, I mean, it’s also… I’ve found for myself that the only way to really reach any sort of peace, or peace of mind, is just to accept the natural order of the way things are. Especially with relationships and communication with people. Because, if you can just accept those aspects as they are, you are going to be at peace with yourself and you’re going to really appreciate what the reality is. The more you can actually accept the idea of chaos or disorder or randomness or lack of control, the more you are going to actually be able to understand the reality.

Renzo: What kind of value do you give to ‘no sense’, to contradictions, to the opposites?

Stephen: What kind of value? That’s how I like to be confrontational. Just to play the cynic or the devil’s advocate sometimes. And, sometimes it’s just to create a little fire or spice with things and to challenge people if they are being very structured with their idea. Like, thunk “Here’s my brick of an idea!” And they put it on your shoulders and you have to sort of deal with it, it’s like, maybe if I don’t agree or maybe it’s not even applicable, it’s interesting to sort of try and bend it or challenge someone, too.
Stephen: If it’s so strong, then why don’t you explain it this way? Not that I’m trying to break your idea. Maybe I understand that you can invest something more personal into it.

Renzo: I also think that, in life, contradiction relates to chaos. I am a contradictory person; I am always different. You probably know William Burroughs…

Stephen: Yeah, sure.

Renzo: He says that human beings are always different, day by day. Our psyche, our personality are strongly contradictory, you know, so…

Stephen: Of yourself…

Renzo: Of yourself…

Stephen: Yeah, I thought that this year for me personally has been very contradictory. I feel like I’m a completely…I guess maybe my awareness changed this year and I realized that you change pretty drastically over short periods of time. It’s not negative because that’s what growth is and experience is, and it’s development. But, if you look in retrospect in a conservative way, it seems contradictory to have that thought because you’re not sticking to one path. But, even though you are changing into a different person, you are a contradictory version of what you were. There are still many, many elements and foundational pieces of your personality, which are, at the very least, similar or consistent.

Renzo: Yeah, I agree… Are discipline and rules a sort of dictation for you, or can they be something constructive?

Stephen: For me, applying personal rules… the idea of discipline to me is more akin to something like practice; where you have the ability to focus and develop an idea or practice. In my case, I practice my instrument regularly and develop that way. Or, if you’re an illustrator to regularly draw or write or just kind of have the consistency of work. That’s what discipline is to me. Rules, I think, are something that is much different. I mean, you have everything from laws, which are dictated on you, that you kind of have to fit into in a certain way to exist in a society. You don’t have to follow every law, of course, no one does. But, if that structure wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be a foundation for any society either. And, it’s very important, whether or not you believe in the laws or not. And, I think, more important than that is the personal law and the personal rules that you put on yourself. I mean, a lot of the time it’s specifically constrictive in order to force your life into a certain place, which can be beneficial but can also be very damaging, too. Because, yourself implied limitation often could restrict parts of your personality or potential that you have no idea about anyway. Because, they…it doesn’t become… merging into your consciousness until after you’ve experienced the fact and you won’t have the realization like, “Oh, I actually have the ability to,” I don’t know, “relate to someone from a totally different culture,” for example or something. Where before the lack of experience you can’t, you can’t. But, if you went into that opportunity saying, “There’s no way I can relate to someone from Uganda, I mean, it’s such a different place culturally, racially, politically. All these things are very different, there’s no way I could do that.” But, then if you actually break past that and just allow the circumstances of the way things are to exist and affect you and to deplete the idea of chaos, you know, rules are meant to restrict that idea in a way. I don’t know, the potential of being open-minded and free is very risky and dangerous because anything could happen, of course. But, it’s also, I don’t know. It’s a challenge to actually trust yourself, to go through that properly.

Renzo: The only way to survive, I think.

Stephen: Yeah. But, I mean, rules help structure your life. If nothing else you can have your habits and your daily sort of routines.

Renzo: Is there a boundary between art and the real world? Are there separations from art and the real world?

Stephen: It depends on who you are. If you’re an artist, what’s the difference? I don’t know, for me it’s like this is reality.
For someone who has a different reality and then enters the art world for that proportion, like selectively, then there is a difference there. For me, like if I go to a banking convention, that’s a different reality, too. I mean, you only exist in your own reality. Everything else is, like, separate. Your reality doesn’t have to be constricted into your…

Renzo: I ask you this because many artists that I know say that they use art to get outside of reality, to reach a condition that is impossible to reach in the real world.

Stephen: Well, it is pretty far. I mean you can really… that’s okay… You can really follow a line of thinking or experience an emotional state of mind, a way into this different place that is not going to be very useful when you’re on the train or trying to eat a normal dinner. But, you can always reach those kinds of things through conversation with anyone.

Renzo: Yeah, you’re right.

Stephen: Expression is a different thing. I mean, it’s personal to everyone’s state of mind and also their set of rules and stuff. Like, for some artists maybe, it’s “I only can get to this emotional state when I am painting,” for example, or whatever they do. But, for other artists it’s like, “Well, this is just a focus of the way I think anyway. My life is, my art is just the pinnacle of a state of mind, which is my personality.”

Renzo: What kind of significance do you give to the word ‘communication’?

Stephen: I don’t think there is anything more significant. If you can’t communicate properly, then you are isolated; including self-communication. But more so, I mean, humans… When I was younger I used to be a lot more isolationist in my thinking. Like, I could be alone in a sea of humans that are…I’m so different from them and stuff. Like, sure you are, everyone’s different though, but you can’t be alone. It’s just social. You’re wired to be social. Communication is something that you can, speaking for myself, I feel like a very poor communicator. Not poor, but there is a lot to learn in communication. And, you’re always… You could be aware of the fact that communicating with any person in any relationship is very different and that you can always better it. And, if it’s significant, why not? You know? So, ultimately, communicating with yourself is the most significant. If you can’t do that, honestly and clearly, then how can you communicate with anyone else? Because you’re not representing yourself. That’s a very important word, an idea.

Renzo: How do you communicate your art?

Stephen: How do I communicate it? I feel it’s a big challenge right now. Everything I have done, which isn’t a lot, I mean, I feel like it’s very early in my artistic experience (even though I feel like I’ve been artistic since I was a child, which is a positive thing) I think it’s like, “Oh, well there’s so much more to have happened.” I feel like one of the biggest challenges right now is to adapt and do things like this, which is a different area than I’ve been doing for a few years and kind of become like my expertise from a different area. It’s a challenge and that’s sort of like stripping away a lot of details and baring… Like, how do you actually communicate your art, your music, in this case, or how are you presenting it, how do you express it, what’s the important part of your expression, is it this element of the music, is it this, or is it just in general your persona and the way you’re playing? The improvisation, all of these… it’s interesting right now and I find that to be a big challenge. So, yeah, communication…

Renzo: I think there are also two other communication aspects in art: the visual and the marketing/economical aspect. I’m talking about the layout, the artwork, the packaging of the albums and, on the other side, the decision to release several of them in limited editions.

Stephen: Yeah, sure.

Renzo: What do you think about that?

Stephen: Well, in music it’s interesting, at least in the area I reside in. Because, it’s commerce, also. It’s commercial music. Because if it’s experimental, or whatever it is, well, the reality is that we release albums and we try and earn our living through that and through performing. You know, so you have these ideas, which some musicians and composers detest, the idea of being a commercial musician. Okay, you know we’re releasing one recording of a composer’s work, maybe a huge deal, which may need to involve all sorts of publishers and like universities or theater groups, or a big scale thing where I see it as being a very, very accessible thing. Maybe just a few levels above a magazine as far as what you can create to communicate with people outside of your scope. It’s interesting to me because I have an interest in marketing and propaganda and stuff like that and presentation. And, you can really explore a lot of ideas visually and aesthetically through a long-term document of your musical communication through packaging. You can create things that are reflective of the art world like small editions. I mean, a small edition record of 500 copies is a lot more than an edition in the art world of six sculptures or something or six casts of a sculpture, but it is a similar idea and I like to approach it that way. You know, where it’s a piece of work as well although you’ve bought it in a store. Commercial music: I think it’s better to think of more as a folk art than high art in that way, I mean, in the marketing way. But, the whole idea of high art is so subjective anyway, it doesn’t really matter. So, you’re trying to do what you do appropriately enough and for me a lot of the aesthetic of the music also comes in the packaging and that’s kind of the interest there, too. It’s a nice place where I can combine these other skills and interests that I have.

Renzo: Yeah, that’s good. I’m thinking about my personal experience with your releases… I don’t have every single record you made; I miss the White Box and other rare stuff, for example. But, I’m not angry with you because you release limited edition…you know, it’s cool for me. It’s like a treasure hunting, something like a myth, you know? There is a sort of fog that covers those objects… it’s really catchy…to me it’s a kind of a plus value to your records.

Stephen: Well, it’s interesting to be able to create mythology. I mean, it’s not as strong as actual mythology, but for music it’s fun to create these mythologies and these other feelings. Like, what we’re doing, in a way, I mean you could look at it this way – by doing that there’s thousands of people out there who are lusting after this stuff. So, we’re creating the feeling of lust through that music? That’s bizarre! Or craving, or need, or want, you know these really strong emotional stays, or anger. It’s like this conflicting feeling of needing something, but I’m really angry I can’t have it. It’s like out of reach.

Renzo: Yeah, I see…

Stephen: But, from my point of view it’s not deliberate. I mean, those are all other aspects that exist there that I recognize and I don’t have negative ideas about it. But, for me it’s project-based. Like, here’s a piece of work that we made at this period, a snapshot of these ideas and here it is. And, here’s another one or, you know, and there’s a lot of facets and it’s along project, so these are just other dots on the line.

Renzo: That reminds me your debate with Aquarius Records on Ideologic… I totally agree with you because, as an artist, you can do what the fuck you want, right?

Stephen: Yeah! But, someone can counter that by going, “You’re totally pretentious for saying that!” Why? You’re pretentious for telling me what I am supposed to be doing! I’m not doing this to harm you! What’s the hurt there? Your level of consumer value goes down because you can’t have everything you want? I don’t care! That has nothing to do with the reason we did this!

Renzo: I agree!

Stephen: That way it’s funny. That’s a fun debate!

Renzo: Yeah, yeah!

Stephen: Especially in music. I mean, we exist in this realm of record collecting, too, because of that. And it’s fun. I like the treasure hunt and the quest and like certain records, but I’ve kind of outgrown that, too. I don’t need to have everything! There’s so much out there to experience! What difference does it make, you know? Consider yourself lucky to sometimes encounter those rarified bizarre things.

Renzo: How important is it for you to remain independent?

Stephen: I have thought of myself as being very, very independent but…
I have found that this year I’ve recognized… One of the things that I was talking about earlier, as far as changing your personality and not being contradictory to yourself, I’ve recognized this year that as independent as I think I am, I am super dependent on certain people. My partners in my music, like Greg and Greg’s whole business, I mean, that’s my economy; a lot of it. My wife, her sort of indirect support of my work and allowing me and supporting me to do these things. You know, the dependence… If you deny dependence, then you are limiting yourself because you are going to be able to get as far as you can individually, which for most people is as a… You can’t conceptualize past your certain experience or your imagination. So, it’s hard to say, but you can’t be ultra open with your ideas. But, when other people’s ideas become involved, you learn from that and you can search to focus through their lenses. I don’t think dependence is a negative idea. I think being dependent for lack of your own ability is something that you want to try to recognize at least. Because, that can just be limiting as well…
Working with people to get or have experience or have results that are beyond your own capacity I think is positive; as long as it’s not taken advantageous.

Renzo: And to remain independent in the music business?

Stephen: Well, you’ll never be in business and be truly independent.

Renzo: I mean the independent labels, the underground – how important is it for you to stay in the underground? If a major says to you, “Okay, SunnO))) is signed to Sony.” What would you do?

Stephen: I don’t, it depends, I don’t know what that’s like. I not objected to doing that or something like that. I mean, look at someone like Prince or David Bowie. I mean, they’ve worked in the… They are the higher echelon that the corporations want to work with. Not a gift to David Bowie, like, “Oh, you can put out records on Columbia now!” It’s like Columbia was created because of people like that. But, yeah, that’s a totally different way. My experience with music has always been me and my friends working together, doing our thing and, like, realizing our dreams. And, right now, I mean, Greg and Southern Lord, it’s very successful and he’s still in control of it. I mean as the pilot of the ship. He’s now running all the crew, he’s got a lot of crew there, enabling things to happen and the more people you get involved, the bigger you can get as well, or the more you can do, rather. But, you know, that’s a gift, too.

Renzo: Yeah. I see..

Stephen: I think that more than being independent, or dependent, I think it’s more important to be honestly working with people on a level ground and you don’t necessarily have to like them personally, but it’s a real gift when you get to work, do your work and your dreams and stuff, and work with people you like, and that you can relate to beyond the work…
That’s when the line between life and work goes away. Why should there be a line? Why should you feel like, “I’m going to my job now and then I leave my job and have my life.” It’s all your life anyway. You’re going to be in a better place if you just… I mean, for me being here, this is my work. But, it’s my life, too. I mean, I came over here and met John Wiese here, who’s a friend of mine. And, here we are in this… I mean, what the fuck are we doing? We’re in Milan doing this… I don’t even know what’s going on kind of… I mean, it’s a gift. I was trying… A very good friend of mine I started working with recently, this producer guy Randal Dunn, has a really great way of looking at working with people. And, he always reminds me of the value of being gracious. I mean, it’s very simple. Because, once you just remember that and express it to people, everyone’s grateful when someone’s being gracious! It’s like, “Thank you, very much!” I mean, it’s a great feeling to have that, but it’s also a great feeling to express that, too. Because you’re saying, you’re admitting to yourself, like, “Well, yeah, I am thankful for this, whatever help that you’ve given me or working with you, your presence and stuff.” These are really important things in the long run.

Renzo: What do you think about music critics? I’m not a music critic: I hate them, ah ah! But, what is your relationship with them?

Stephen: Music critics are interesting. You have people who may be like, you know, whatever, you’re sitting here with your friends and someone happens to be a writer that you respect their opinion because… Music is one form of journalism. I’ve noticed that you can have zero journalistic credibility or writing ability and still get into music journalism because you’re a fan, or because you have a little knowledge of some music. But, you know, you can be on a platform and you’re thrusting your opinions and a lot of people may or may not be affected by them. But, if nothing else, you’re getting a chance to project those into a bigger area. I’m pretty sensitive about people’s reactions to my work, even though I feel like it doesn’t ultimately guide things unless it’s a reaction from someone I’m working with. Criticism is kind of hard to deal with sometimes and that’s great, too. But, you just have to keep it in perspective. Like, okay, someone could be ultra critical about something you’ve worked on for six, eight months, a year and they have experienced your music, or that piece of work for forty minutes (the length of the album) and spent another half hour writing about it. That’s not objective. Criticism is not objective in most cases; specifically music journalism. So…

Renzo: There was, I think, a philosopher of the ancient Greece. I don’t remember his name, I’ve never heard of him; someone told me that this philosopher stated that critics are a living no sense because art can’t be criticized. You can’t write in a mere page the complexity, the magnificence and the hugeness of music/art. A piece of work can’t be categorized in a few words, you know…

Stephen: It’s difficult.

Renzo: Yeah, yeah, it’s really difficult. It’s impossible. That’s why I think that it’s almost propaganda, you know?

Stephen: Well, you have to remember that any critic is just trying to explain their impression. And, whatever value that has; who cares? I mean, everyone has experiences with things, but I guess it depends on the person who’s writing it. If a certain person has written about you, who has had tons of experience with music and stuff, it means something different. But, it’s kind of hard to… You can’t compartmentalize ideas that way, as well…
For that matter, I think that super positive criticism is also negative!

Renzo: Yeah, sure…

Stephen: Because you’re simplifying it into this experience and of course it’s great; everything is great. If you want be that way, but it’s way more complex than ‘either or’. Or a rating, like a decimal system rating. Like, what does that mean? You know, it could exist in all those spaces.

Renzo: What kind of media do you use?

Stephen: Media?

Renzo: Computers, newspapers, TV…

Stephen: I use computer a lot, I use magazines and Internet, and newspapers.

Renzo: What kind of relationship do you have with the media?

Stephen: With the media? Kind of distant. I try to, I don’t know, I feel like I find myself trying to pay attention to the world events through the media, but…

Renzo: There is a big filter, I think.

Stephen: Oh yeah! It’s important to remember that, too! I had a lesson about that last year. I went to… or this year… Last summer I went to Israel the week after the Lebanese attacks started, and the media was fucking crazy; especially the United States. I happened to be in France at the time and people… It seemed like the further west you got from Israel the more fucked up the media was. A friend of mine from LA called me up when I was in France and said, “I don’t want you to die! Don’t go there!” Die? Two of our friends are there already that I’m supposed to meet. But, once you get there you realize like, okay, that’s another huge filter. That’s like the criticism projected in a certain way. Yeah, of course you can see it that way, but… Media is so powerful and widespread, it’s hard to separate it from reality. I was having a conversation last night about this Italian guy, he fell down yesterday – it was on the front page of the paper. He used to be the Prime Minister but now he’s the leader of the opposition.

Renzo: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, Berlusconi!

Stephen: Yeah! Someone was telling me about him and like he’s a total asshole, but people love him. And, he’s very like a kind of joker or something?

Renzo: Yeah, he’s like a joker. He’s the “owner” of the entire Mafia. The media don’t say this, but he’s the big chief of Mafia. We haven’t the proof but there are some books (counter culture publications) that reveal many proofs about his relationship with Mafia, you know? It was the worst government after fascism here in Italy…

Stephen: That was just recently, too!

Renzo: Yes, recently! The new government was born last spring. But, before that, we had five years of Berlusconi! Freedom of expression died with him… He fired several of the most prestigious journalists only because they opposed him!

Stephen: Yeah, well he owns a lot of media! That’s what I was going to say. A person of power always owns media; always! The more corrupted areas like Russian people, you know that the people leading the government always own a lot of media. Because if you have that voice you change reality because people, you know?

Renzo: Yeah! He changed reality. In Italy we have two big television poles, you know? The private one that belongs to Berlusconi, and the national one that belongs to the state, but since Berlusconi…

Stephen: …is also the state!

Renzo: Yeah, the Prime Minister! Propaganda! That’s really crazy! A lot of people get their brain destroyed, you know? “Oh, why? I like TV, I like reality shows!” You know, Italy is one of the worst places in Europe, both socially and politically: we are really provincial…For example, look at the Scandinavian countries that have a better government: obviously there’s corruption there too, but in a minor key, you know? Here in Italy it’s totally explicit, totally. And lot of people say, “Ah, that’s okay! Who cares?” It’s crazy. I don’t understand. I don’t comprehend why. It’s sad.

Stephen: It’s human nature.

Renzo: Yeah, yeah, really. Berlusconi is also a very good friend of Bush.

Stephen: Yeah, of course he is. Well, they both have a similar objective probably, which I don’t necessarily understand, but…

Renzo: Yeah, the power! Berlusconi is a megalomaniac! He thinks to be god…he even compared himself to Napoleon! That’s crazy! Maybe because he’s small, you know? Fuck Berlusconi! But, at the same time, the new government that won the elections against Berlusconi it’s also total shit. Maybe only a little bit better, but…the same old bunch of assholes. The political tradition of Italy after fascism is really terrible because corruption is the main institute of the state. We have bad services, we have bad railways, bad streets, bad hospitals, etc. We are considered one of the most civilized country in the world but a lot of things here work like the third world! We pay a huge amount of taxes to have nothing in return.

Stephen: …advantageous approach. It’s one of the reasons that people get into public service I think, not in all cases, but…

Renzo: It’s a really terrible situation, I think. I don’t absolutely trust any politician, they are all liars. What I am saying now may appear simple and banal, but it’s true!

Stephen: Congress of the United States is all a legal system called canvassing. And, it’s basically private interest supporting the politicians in certain ways in order to get favoritism. And, I don’t know if that’s good or bad, or new or old, but it’s just the way that power works, you know? People who are powerful and smart enough to deliver their power in the way will get their way.

Renzo: What I fear most are not the people who have the power, but the people who vote for them.

Stephen: Right.

Renzo: I think that the real problem are not the politicians, but the people who vote for them, people that have no brain, you know, that don’t understand, that don’t resist to propaganda, you know?

Stephen: I think that’s oversimplifying. I used to think that people are not that stupid. Even the most naive person who lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere and just thinks very conservatively because it’s a direct relationship… I think… I mean, it makes me even wonder if the whole political system is just a larger distraction of some other purpose. Because, ultimately, the people are running everything anyway. I mean, who fixes the street? Well, yeah, there’s a political or there’s a government organization of street fixers, but it’s still the fucking people who are doing it, you know? And if that went away there would be another company that would come in and do it or whatever. It’s very complex.

Renzo: Let’s come back to music… Your creative process: how do you develop it? Where do you get the inspiration to do something? What happens when you create?

Stephen: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s as much like that. That where you’re spending a lot of time and then you lay an egg and that’s the thing. It’s kind of like go practice and continuity of working is the inspiration and developing the ideas longer than one project or one piece or one year, amalgamating your life into the process. It’s hard to find inspiration sometimes though. Well, it’s not that inspiration is hard to find; it’s hard to find energy to pursue the inspiration sometimes.

Renzo: For me it’s totally casual. It’s a sort of an illumination that comes from nowhere, sort of a lightning that catches you. So, it’s the magic, I think, of art, you know? It’s really good.

Stephen: You never know when it will strike.

Renzo: Yeah, never.

Stephen: But, for me, if you actually just open the gate like that and then dig in, then there is always something just a little further down that you can find.

Renzo: I see.

Stephen: Little treasures buried beneath that initial fog.

Renzo: Sure.

Stephen: Sensory depravation is good, too.

Renzo: Sorry?

Stephen: Sensory depravation.

Renzo: Depravation…Really?

Stephen: And meditation and stuff.

Renzo: Can you reach sensory depravation by yourself or with something else like smoking?

Stephen: Both.

Renzo: Both?

Stephen: Yeah, it depends on the environment, I guess, the emotional state of mind, the clarity there.

Renzo: Music is a language, but I think it’s very different from the verbal language. Do you agree? What are the differences between the verbal language and the artistic language?

Stephen: One main difference is that the verbal language is sound. It hits your eardrum and goes to a different part of your brain, which has developed in humans and some animals to decode the rhythm and the placement of those sounds into meaning and language. That’s what language is. But music, I mean, it hits your ear and goes to, maybe part of it goes to the… or maybe it goes to that area but it also goes to other areas. It also may hit your stomach and have a feeling or maybe it’s your visual as well, which can be something of language, too. But, I think that music and art relates more… whatever comparisons you can make to language are probably true because if you interpret something that way, you do. That’s the reality, but there’s also a lot of other sensory ways of experiencing it, too. And, then I think that’s also when stuff like poetry and literature and prose ascend outside of the language into art or into this higher place, it’s when they really elevate into the other sensory experiences. You could be reading poetry that’s so powerful and luscious, or has all these other aspects that cause you to have this other experience beyond just the language.
I also think that art can be… There seems to be triggers to your brain creating relationships between experiences and feelings that may not have a deliberate connection to the experience you’re having now and that’s when it affects you as a person.

Renzo: Do you think that can be possible to know a person in depth through his art rather than face to face interaction?

Stephen: Maybe. It could also be hopeless to try and know someone through their art because the social personality and the verbal personality could be very different as well. And the art may just be one aspect. Maybe to think about it as the pinnacle of their experience is the expression of the art, but the majority of the experience. But maybe it’s not even like that, I don’t know. You can know a lot about a person through their expression, of course, but you’ll never know a person, I think, more completely than through verbal language.

Renzo: Art shades the physical, psychic, and temporal boundaries. Do you know what I mean?

Stephen: Yeah, as far as it creates lenses in front of us. It does. Art is a lens for perceiving ideas or realities or any of those realities.

Renzo: I think that art is something that remains and speaks through time…It’s something like an immortal entity, you know? Because, if you look at the Greek sculptures, or if you look at Michelangelo’s paintings…they are always actual.

Stephen: Well, yeah, I mean, one of the highest compliments you can give art or expression is that it is timeless.

Renzo: Yeah, timeless.

Stephen: It’s not constricted by a specific idea or situation or environment. It’s something that you can always perceive or have a reflection or, you know, have an experience with.

Renzo: That’s right!

Stephen: Well, I agree with that. I mean, you always want… I don’t know how you go about… You cannot enter a project… I feel like if you enter a project striving for a sense of timelessness, you’re probably not going to achieve that.
It’s got to be something that, I mean a result that, truly is timeless, is also a result of a lot of things beyond your direct influence or your hand like a lot of other… I mean, circumstantial things, too. Timeless art is a product of its time as well.
It’s just that situation is so resonant that it can affect a lot of other realities, too.

Renzo: What kind of value do you give to irony? What do you think about irony?

Stephen: I love it, but it’s really annoying when you’re the source of it. It’s stimulating though, right?

Renzo: I mean, do you take yourself seriously? Is there irony in your art? I think irony is very important for art.

Stephen: Yeah.

Renzo: I don’t think it’s a matter of joking. To me irony is chaos.
Irony, to me, is to have consciousness of the opposites.

Stephen: Yeah. I think irony is important because you can see your work from a different perspective. It doesn’t necessarily have to be humorous or derogatory, it’s just the ability to… I mean, taking yourself seriously obviously is very important. Why wouldn’t you want to take yourself as seriously as you can with your life, with everything you do? But, at the same time, you don’t have to have a lack of insight or humor or flexibility of perspective. And, irony provides that very simply. I always experience irony as having a humorous aspect. A humorous aspect for me is a very easy way of sort of… all of the tension just dispersing a little bit, you know? Which is good because it allows more flexibility in the work or the perception or something like that. Of course, if you’re constantly making it flexible, it’s not going to have any sort of stability either, so… I think it’s important to be able to look at yourself, at your work, from different angles. And, some of them maybe are not the most comfortable angles, but ultimately it’s going to be beneficial if you’re open to understanding those other ways. It’s like being really, you know, blinders on in a certain way. It’s like, well, actually all of these other ways are still there. What do you want to pay attention to?

Renzo: Do you think that art can be one of the paths to get to the condition of _bermensch? You know Nietzsche?

Stephen: Yeah.

Renzo: Can art can be the path to get to the condition of _bermensch?

Stephen: Maybe. It depends on how much you love yourself.

Renzo: I try to explain.

Stephen: I know what you mean, I think, but how do you explain it? How do you explain that?

Renzo: _bermensch is a sort of condition. Sorry but it’s difficult for me to explain it in English. Ubermensch is to be conscious of the chaos, be conscious of yourself and go _ber, you know, go further. Try to take new paths, maybe dangerous ones, maybe strange, maybe horrific…but…To me, the best tool to get to this condition is art.
I don’t think Nietzsche was a Nazi… Maybe you know this because his sister changed his writings so…

Stephen: So that they wouldn’t be destroyed by the Nazis.

Renzo: Yeah, right…Fucking Nazis.

Stephen: Otherwise it would be gone.

Renzo: Yeah. And I think he was the really first anarchist thinker in the world because of…

Stephen: Well, he was also very psychotic.

Renzo: Yeah, very psychotic.

Stephen: And a lot of other things. I think that _bermensch, in that case, is something that you should really try to achieve, if only to just extend yourself. Any type of uncharted territory will be risky and maybe the way you experience risk is fear or strangeness or unknowing, but, I don’t know. I have a Finnish friend who is very optimistic in his life. He sees these risks as, “Oh, wow!” Exploratory like, like revelation, like “we could try this whole other area” and, you know, very exciting and positive. For me personally it’s hard to be that positive about risk, but sometimes you can. And that’s the idea of overextending yourself becomes more exciting. It’s that risk.
Or, like a conflictual type of thing, like “I’m going to go beyond what people have done before”! You know, why does it have to be contrary? Everyone is trying to go beyond in some aspect of their life probably. Whether it’s a mother trying to be a better mother than she understands, or her mother was. Or, it’s an artist trying to destroy, or trying to overcome his current state and evolve.

Renzo: You explained what I wanted to say!

Stephen: Okay.

Renzo: With your good English! Mine is…

Stephen: It’s better than my Italian!

Renzo: Your music is extreme. What is extremism for you?

Stephen: I don’t think it’s extreme. I think it’s very, like seeking some sort of balance. Extremism is just… Everyone exists at the center of their universe, in a way, and extremism is something that’s very far away from that. So, for me, maybe it’s research biology. I don’t know. It’s interesting to encounter those things, which seem very far away from you, because you can hopefully gain insight that you’re not actually that far away from those supposedly extreme things. And, it’s not contrary. I used that word again. You could be really flexible with the thought, you know? And, it’s also not a linear thing, like okay, the further from the center is the most extreme. It’s like, there’s still all of these other angles, too!

Renzo: Yeah, yeah! It’s very interesting what you’re saying because you get outside from the normal definitions, you know? It’s very good.

Stephen: How can you extend into another, you know, how do you grow? It’s encountering those things.

Renzo: Yeah. In fact, I hate people that say, “I want to make sooo extreme music because I am sooo extreme, because I want to play it sooo loud!” That’s extreme for extreme ‘sake!

Stephen: Yeah. Well, maybe for them though it’s a challenge. They’re encountering something that’s… Maybe they’re a grindcore band and for them playing really fast is a challenge! Like, “I’ve never done this before! It’s so loud and fast and the singer is so angry and I never have encountered someone, like, that angry!” But, it’s still safe because we exit that state of mind. I’m like, okay, good, bravo, you’re extending the reality. Great! To me, I mean I have a different perception of what I’ve experienced.

Renzo: That’s why I think that the best way to describe your music is the word intense.

Stephen: Yeah.

Renzo: I think that your music is intense in all ways: physically and psychically. Both SunnO))) and Khanate are truly intense…Khanate…I’m sorry that you split up!

Stephen: I’m sorry that that makes you sorry.

Renzo: You know, I feel your music very physical… not only at the concerts, but also at home: it seems that the instruments come outside of the speakers, you know? Seems that Alan Dubin is really there with you!

Stephen: I like the idea that the speakers of your stereo are just the catalyst to having an experience rather than being, okay, we’re safely behind this veil. And that whatever is happening on that side it’s okay because it’s not come into my living room. But, you can have a more direct experience like that. It’s not my goal to affect people strongly like that. I don’t even know what my goal is, but I know that I feel like the purpose of doing that is to have affected experience myself through that cathartic moment of ecstasy with the sound, I guess. That’s one way of experiencing it, but it’s interesting to have a more direct… There you’re describing it as a more direct experience because of the intensity.

Renzo: Okay. That’s the last question.

Stephen: Okay.

Renzo: Finally! This is funny! What do you think about the entire existence?

Stephen: What do I think about it? I think that you have no idea of what it is. I don’t. The more intense life gets, the more the layers just peel away and reality becomes more and more apparent. I feel like reality is actually something you have to search for no matter how hyper-real or super real your experiences are. Your interpretation of those can diffuse the reality into something that is insubstantial. I’m on a quest to try and make my mind appreciate the actual reality at face value. There are a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of reasons to distract yourself from that, too. It could be pretty hard, or pretty harsh, and you don’t have a… I mean, that’s the reason why the gurus go away from society for fifty years to meditate on a mountaintop. I mean, that’s a fantastical version, but I mean encountering reality and existence is not just a matter of existing, I think.
That’s an important perception. If you can… I believe if you can gain the skill to change your perception to try and engage in and encounter reality more clearly, then you can also change reality further than you would just by sort of existing within it.

Renzo: Thank you very much!

Stephen: Alright! Right on!

Pic: SOMA vs the atlantic cliffs of Britagne 0207, by Rebecca Flores