Monday, September 14, 2009

Felix culpa: fortunate failures as creative process

When working on a project in any medium, it has often been observed that - to a certain extent - the tools dictate or at least direct the end result. This is something that is often met with a sneer by purists, "Oh, I can tell that such-and-such was made in such-and-such application!" or "I know how they did that in photoshop," as if to dismiss the end result entirely if you can decode how that result was technically arrived at.

There's a certain comedy in that, but what I'd like to get at is beyond that- looking at the actual comedy of errors that, for me at any rate, oftentimes dictates the direction a project is going to take. For instance, when developing a design in photoshop, or when implementing it in CSS, there are countless opportunities for "mistakes" - dictated in regard to your initial intentions - to guide your hand. You may set up a class on a div, and check it out in a browser and discover that it did something totally different than you had hoped, or you may apply a filter when producing an audio track, with similar results. Sometimes, those results are undesirable, and you backtrack. But other times, it drives things in a completely new direction.

That for me, is creativity. Not the intention that got you started in the first place.

The control freak in us screams that the results must always match the intent. However, I have always found serendipity a much more thankful muse, and a very dynamic connection with both the chaos that actually dictates life as well as our own subconscious. I rarely get the results I set out expecting or intending, and so it is with life as well. It is equally constricting to set out with a particular "sound" in mind, or even- well, this applies to everything, doesn't it? You set out on a journey, you take the first step with a clear intent in mind- the rest are reactions to what is, when viewed from the present moment, blind uncertainty.

Can you embrace the random and dive in, or will you try to control the end result? Which is better? Which is more liberating?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Interview on Kult ov Kaos issue 1

Here is an interview I did early this year for a little web zine, I enjoyed it and thought we covered some interesting topics once it got going, even though I feel like interviewers have mostly been asking me the same questions the past couple years. (Rather than providing links throughout, you can find many of these projects on my portfolio site.)

Saint Natas: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you come from? Who were your major influences?

James Curcio: I wasn't raised by nymphs in some mountain glen or something... I grew up in and around Philadelphia, spent most of my adolescence in the suburbs. My Mom was a lesbian artist, we moved around a lot.

I really couldn't tell you who my influences were in such a general sense. I spent a lot of time, especially in my early youth, reading books. I got picked on a lot for that at the time - you know, other kids would be chugging Mountain Dew or whatever it was they were doing, and I was mainlining philosophy and Sci-Fi. The caffeine excess - that came a little later. I was always looking for something different, I don't know if it's a symptom of suburbia, but there was always this feeling that there had to be something more out there.

Thankfully, I was right.

SN: I first came across your work as a member of the Babalon band. Can you tell me a
little bit about that project? How did it come together? Who was involved? What was it about? What was the experience like? How did it end?

Babalon Band pic c. 2003.
JC: Babalon's first incarnation was actually a somewhat poorly conceived music project that I put together in my final year of college for the integrated arts department. I say poorly conceived, because we were fusing all of these genres and approaches to music together in a forum that didn't necessarily make sense for it - and though some of us had plenty of past band experience, we were still trying to find our voices - together, and separately. Out of that, an artist and music collective formed. In it's heyday, if you want to call it that, we had two audio visual studios, and quite a band of freaks in the "regulars" that would pop in at all hours of the day and night. As often happens with such things, it started to ramp up and there was either the possibility for it to break forward or fall apart. It fell apart, at least so far as I was concerned. So my wife - at the time - who had been the singer of the previous Babalon incarnation started talking with Scott, the guitarist, who was living in Los Angeles. We started a long - distance music project that became Babalon's Descent. And as we wrapped that project, we decided to move out to Los Angeles to work with him directly, and make the band a full - time thing. It was a pretty big commitment, and quite a leap to make. We dropped everything.

I don't know. The story behind Babalon is really elaborate. I'm not sure how to attack it in this format, though I've been asked these questions in plenty of interviews. I don't mean to dodge out, but the truth is that the experience of putting this together, and its painful dissolution, heavily informed Fallen Nation. That book might not be based on Babalon literally, but the ideas are all there. And so are the experiences. I'd like to think that reading the book would be more interesting than hearing me ramble on about the past.
1/2 of HoodooEngine Chillaxing.

SN: What else have you been up to musically?

JC: I've done a couple of studio albums since Babalon - subQtaneous, which wound up becoming a pretty colossal effort... Subq was a collaborative concept album. I must've brought in over thirty musicians when all was said and done. It's a pretty unique effort, maybe too unique for it to ever really catch on in the US. Like a really funky lambic. I played bass with elektroworx for a while, we opened up for Front242, considered going on tour, and wound up breaking up instead. Laid down some drums for a Veil of Thorns release, and have done a lot of music work for various podcasts_ as you know, the crew I work with have this habit of creating original or semi-original material for the audiobooks and podcasts we do.

Right now, I'm working a bit on a tongue-in-cheek, really heavy project with Marz233
from Elektroworx called Hoodoo Engine. Scott Landes - the guitarist from Babalon -
will likely lay down some stuff too if he can find time from the crazy tour schedule he has going with Collide, Mankind is Obsolete, and the Kidney Thieves. If we can find the right front-man, we're planning on making our first release "Nothing Is Sacred." It's really just a place to put our frustration, honestly. That's very different from what we were doing with Babalon or any of these other projects. Every project needs to be unique, and has to have its own intent, its own life span. I can't tell you which will really get feet, that's as much up to fate as it is up to me.

SN: The next thing I came across, a few years ago, was the book, Join My Cult!, published by New Falcon. Tell me a little bit about the idea behind the book and what you'd like your readers to walk away with after reading it.


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