An Interview with Ben Power [3 of 3]

Here is the final piece of my three-part interview with Ben Power. Herein Ben discusses his influences.

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Benjamin Power

Part III – Affection for Rejection: SkonT

You note transgressive literature as a personal interest. How often do you read? Which authors, books, writings, influence your compositions?

Too much for my own good. I find myself majorly drawn to the novels – if not so much always the theory, usually due to time constraints – of Stewart Home. He’s quite hard to pin down; I don’t bother. Irvine Welsh, Hubert Selby Jr. and Will Self too, for obvious reasons. William Burroughs at times, although I prefer Robert Anton Wilson in the long run, interspersed with those sly elements of Peter J. Carroll that I can take as no more than world-weary, soundly-aware stabs at comic disinformation and hyper-reality.

I picked up Tim Leary’s Info-Psychology quite a while back, and like leaving that kind of infuriating pseudo-cognitive tosh about on the coffee table in case mental health workers pop by to visit; it’s the same with the assorted writings of Michael W. Ford, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Boyd Rice et al., as well as a frankly improbably amount of Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Grant and the collective output of the Typhonian OTO, but I can’t quite take those latter avenues of oddity-lit seriously – I’m not a firm-minded occultist, and don’t see the ‘field’ as anymore more than either an extreme case of wishful thinking and self-deception, fantasy, outright lying and cognitive dissonance, or, more interestingly, a set of deeply allusive symbolic logic euphemisms to be manipulated for steganographic and generalized crypto/clandestine ends. It gets Machiavellian, and beyond. If I mention cicada 3301 idioms too many times, feel free to knock me out.

That said, I’m caught up quietly on some S:.V:.V:. vocations for a certain individual and their team at the moment, but that’s another story. Michael R. Aquino is a useful study companion, particularly the MindWar (and beyond) papers set. Andrew Wallace Terrill on more serious days, as well as Bill Gertz and John Douglass. That would take some explaining.

Anyway, Chuck Palahniuk’s early stuff holds my attention well still. The later novels lose it a little, I feel, though still give me the freaking willies on occasion, as well as moderately bouts of unhinged guffawing. Martin Bladh’s got some nice collections. As well as all this hefty cerebral smut, I started reading HP Lovecraft as a child, and, though that squamous canon’s been done to death by pretty much every alternative musician ever over the course of recorded history, I still find his work pleasant to relax with now and again.

On a related note, I’ve just started Cyclonopedia, although I’m still not entirely sure who wrote it, despite the ostensible cover explanation. I feel that that’s part of the fun, somehow. Same with House of Leaves. Anything to do with speculative realism or post-philosophy keeps me going too, or eldritch metaphysical appraisals of our own insignificance and impotence before the wet, slithering nightside of the cosmos, and the potential of our ultimate collapse into voided nothingness in the dead spaces between the stars; or just inside our skulls. Cheerful stuff. Nick Land and Ray Brassier, and Eugene Thacker then.

All these folks end up in my musical works, in some form or other, or at least, I often find parallels, looking retrospectively, or in the middle of my creative processes. Cormac McCarthy’s often encountered, and indeed some of the more horrific efforts of Nick Cave. However, I’ll leave it to our collective imaginations to work out which novels in particular I would theoretically feel most drawn to, and quite what I would usually take from them all. It shouldn’t be too hard to fathom by now.

I won’t get into the classical and modern moral philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, neurologists, formal linguists, anti-psychiatry researchers, social critics and theorists, ruthless barbarian overlord economists – a small clue there – and brilliant academic nutcases and iconoclasts I tend to sample or otherwise read up on, but there’s quite a spread. Oh yes, and Blake. And Catullus, unfortunately, but we all have off days. Perhaps, in hindsight, it would have been easier on the mind to consider what does not inspire and influence me.

Your poetry swirls in this semi-surreal, abstract, almost hallucinatory realm of twisted thought. Where does your cold but at times ethereal imagery come from?

I described most of it in a short, irreverent psychobiographical essay I wrote a few years ago. I hope you don’t mind if I lift a segment:

“As for wordsmithery, I don’t think I’ve written a normal poem in many years, having, by accident and circumstance discovered my own, practically unmarketable voice fairly early on, and subsequently ploughed it further and further into darkness and obscurity. I’m convinced by now that the sheer inaccessibility of many of them would put a reading public off entirely, even were they to desire a short, concentrated hit of utter misery. If anyone wanted to analyse though, there are stylistic patterns to them. General melancholia, mental health fopperies and the occasional bit of unnatural fucking grimness, usually swirled around by excessive wordplay. I slavishly bend over and prostitute myself with regard to metre and historical form, no matter how much I try to gently augment either. Lots of stone, stars, nails, shells, wildlife, spirals, clouds, smoke, leaves and a plethora of colour words, plus lots of sea-shore and woodland references. Onomatopoeia, feckless alliteration and an almighty wish-wash of bizarre and unsettling similes and metaphors. And, of course, they usually all rhyme too, as free verse knackers me. A gross multi-meaning fascination, and a soul-sapping habit of going on and on about needles in as many different settings as could be imagined for such implements, from handicrafts to heroin to tattooing and other common, and less common, usages, plus using the term ‘drug’ to describe far more elements of the world than could be envisaged to be of a strictly narcotic or pharmaceutical nature. Oh, and the regular appearance of complicated metaphorical seas, skies and gardens, disruptive Greek, Biblical, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Roman allusions, and various confusing feelings over seasonal variation, light and the movements of the sun, ranging from sublime joy to outright contempt. If I get the chance to slip in unsettling references to biology, mortality, sharp implements, more damn teeth, or leaking bodily fluids, all the better. A load of Larkin-tinged, sub-Blakean Romantic metaphysical crap probably, brightened by the odd whimper of direct pain, urban underworld slang-term or bitter complaint about some hospital or other.”

As for my little subtle concrete word games in the lyrics; acrostics and letter-to-number parallels, and my fascination with slyly inserting, subverting/inverting and manipulating the Tau letter symbol, and various sets of initials… that’s possibly too complicated for the moment; or too obscure and unpleasant. I don’t know if anyone reads my poetry or lyrics. Now I’ve laid it all out above, however, perhaps people might step in and have a little go.

Eschatology.

Very much the paradigm I work under, both as an artist, and a human being. Not necessarily in a Christian sense, though I am, with a certain flourish of anachronistic nerdiness, still some form of benighted Catholic. I’m also an atheist, somehow, and sadly so (or at least, I can’t rationally accept the majority of religious claims and understandings, nor find them worthwhile – I won’t get into it all; the myriad arguments for or against, or theodicy, or burden of proof, or any of that; now isn’t the time). But still, I remain a Catholic in stance, in the ‘dark night’, and, to badly loot and paraphrase Billy Connolly, with ‘a certain spiritual’ dimension, or means of generating personal energy, and a sense of the other that is beyond, and greater, and could never be myself, that I can’t readily discuss here. It’s too private, as perhaps these things should always be and it gets fiddly for the mind to stumble though; harder still to accurately enunciate to others.

I don’t believe in the existence of an interventionist deity, let alone a pantheon. I do commune though, in solitude, and pray, and somehow gain what I need from that. We seem to require the existence of a firm, external, objective reality, and perhaps an absolutist one at times, for judgement of our actions beyond the boisterous, free-wheeling irresponsibility, petulant relativism and regressive solipsism of, for example, postmodernism. Perhaps this is my way of explaining a Natural Law state of cyclic universal regeneration. In any case, I know I refer to my works as ‘endzeit electronics’. It’s actually a term I read in an essay written regarding the music of the (somewhat infernal, on a few levels, yet wonderfully talented) composer Rudy Ratzinger. I think it fits my own too.

I’m not a tactless Millenarian, or anything of a doomsday conspiracy theorist, but I do feel we reap the rewards of our own actions, and there’s an interesting harvest to come over the next 100+ years of our existence on this planet. Much as he’s a controversial figure and some of the meta-analyses are distinctly debatable, as disparate lobby groups press in from all sides, and the myth of impartial science is slowly overturned in the public’s eye, there are elements of Stephen Emmott’s research that I feel hold true, and often I find myself pondering storms.

How do you derive meaning in your existence?

On a geeky level, having studied for a while under the irreplaceable Dr Paul Elbourne, over at Queen Mary University, I’d say through repeated applications of a soul-stretchingly complex symbolic manipulation of the simplest discrete units of valid syntactic sense and logic. I’ll never quite forgive Montague Grammar for putting me through that. Messing about with the essences of what life seems to have to offer, basically.

In a more subdued frame of being, time spent with my family is important to me. I’ve become a stepfather. It’s a magnificent mind-blitz from the second I wake up. I love my partner Abby too. It takes a very certain and stoic mind to tolerate me and my extensive idiotic womble-warbling for more than about 5 minutes, but she’s pulled it off for quite a while now. I respect that, even if I do often wonder why. She’s also extremely amusing, fiercely competent and practical, creative and somewhat wise in her own position regarding reality, and we find a multitude of novel ways to whittle away the obsidian flame of existence; often with the curtains shut. Either that, or a nice cup of extremely cheap coffee in the morning. Hamsters are a blessing also. I’ll get into that later.

Bizarrely, my music’s not really something that brings me much joy, despite being a profound time-sink and a mentally-stimulating distraction. I don’t think that’s part of the teleology though. It’s still necessary. If I get it right in the end, I can burn it all one day, or otherwise delete it.

Other musicians. Which groups or persons influence you most?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Primarily the pre-baroque, gothic, ultra-scary European dark electro and noise-industrial pioneers from the 90s – :wumpscut:, yelworC, f/a/v, Remyl, Infact, X-Marks the Pedwalk, Das Ich and Mental Destruction. Dive too, and Klinik. For me at least, they captured all that I think is good about electronic industrial music, before the clichés and posturing and endless, stale trance-beats and dancefloor watering-down bumbled in. The gratuitous EDM gasmask hipsters that hold it in thrall now, and keep it shitty. And before NIN and co. ruined the other side of it, basically, and made it into twee arena cock-rock with the odd dollop of moody synthesizer fartage.  Plus, those original bands I just mentioned scare the absolute bejesus out of me on occasion.

There’s always a special place in my heart for Throbberstalk, a project created by my good friend Lars. It’s really quite an ‘out-there’ musical act; beautiful, cold, harsh, grainy sounds. Highly original. I envy his vocal techniques, and the intelligence of it all. Actually, I’ve completed some remix work for him recently, just to celebrate a few of my favorite Throbberstalk tunes. Jacek from Cold Therapy has a fantastic modern act along similar lines to some of these guys. Beyond that, Coil’s always played a big part in my music listening, particularly around the Zos/Kia point – Coil fans are all maniacs in the first place though, so I’m in good company. The Birthday Party, and SPK; Batz Without Flesh too, for their wonderful rhythms and atmospherics, and very much the scathing, bloodily enthusiastic canon of JG Thirwell & Foetus. Creaming Jesus had the most inspiring vocalist ever. They’re all the general VC inspirations, at least.

Bleach for the Stars is a little more diverse – everyone from Penderecki, Arvo Pӓrt, Webern and Berg, to Jandek and the Outsider Art practitioners, and then out into NON/Boyd Rice and KnifeLadder. Absolutely anything involving Blixa Bargeld. On a stylistic note, I love listening to Rasthof Dachau, Brighter Death Now, Sutcliffe Jugend, and Trepaneringsritualen. Gnaw Their Tongues is a goody, also, and a huge swathe of underground black metal – T.o.m.b. is a real favourite, even if I do often feel I’d like to give him a hug as you get the idea he’s had a hard day at the office.

A special thank you would probably go out to Rauppwar, perhaps the most unbelievably prolific composer I have ever encountered and chatted with – his mental attitude is easily worth admiration, and the sounds themselves are diverse, novel and highly enthralling. He’s also a lovely bloke. Nichlas from Distortion Six terrifies me, in an effective way, and helps me out with my remix projects, as well as pumping out a damn good racket with the intelligent, brutal power noise and bastard-hard, evil death-rhythms of his own work.

Finally, I get a great deal of inspiration, constructive aid and vital feedback from my friend George, and his ultra-gloomy, beautifully mastered martial electronics project, Wee Chapel of the Dawn. All this tosh and I never mentioned my Kula Shaker days. The relief. 10-headed lions, indeed.

******

This concludes the formal three part interview with Ben Power. Keep an eye out for a coda, release date unknown. It will contain a handful of leftover questions I asked Ben that did not make it into this three-part series.

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