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.

JC: Join My Cult! was very personal. I had been going through some intense things that I guess a lot of outsider adolescents go through... it's a process that's been called the 'dark night of the soul' before, though I think that's probably both a bit melodramatic and goth. You can't tell if you're going crazy, or if it working towards some sort of transformation. When it is happening, it can be very scary, especially if you have no outlet. So I made one. I pretty much wrote my way through it. I look at that book now and it feels really raw, sometimes childish, always fractured, maybe a little inspired from time to time. I'm not sure you can call it a novel. It isn't a kind book to the reader, especially if you expect a story to be laid at your feet.

All of that said, it really doesn't matter what I think of the book. I'm a little embarrassed by it, frankly, but I still get letters from people who tell me that it really resonated with them. Even a few who tell me it's changed their lives. I think that's great, though it's a little scary too.

SN: Care to share anything more about your second novel, Fallen Nation: Babylon

JC: I re-wrote the first edition (Babylon Burning) entirely as Party At The World's End. That's a long story unto itself. 

Either way, this book is turning out to be a bit prophetic, with what's going on in the US, and in the world right now. But mostly it's meant to be a good time and at the same time make people question their beliefs a little. Or a lot. It's pretty much meant to be a revolutionary pill, sugar-coated with drugs, rock n' roll, and sex. I don't necessarily mean political - or a-political - revolution. I mean the kind that matters.

SN: Are you, and if so what, are you planning for a third novel?

JC: I don't like preconceiving projects like that. Something has to really get on top of me and make me see it through. If it isn't really in you, then it's just busy work. Like I said every project- whether it’s an album, a film, a novel, a comic- has to be unique. It has to come from inside you, and be informed by everything that you are. Otherwise it's filler.

There's already enough filler crap in the world right now. I'm working on scripts for a couple film projects. I can't talk about them too much- we have producers and so on
associated with the projects, so they're not total crap shoots- but at the same time, it’s the film industry. So of course it's a total crap shoot.

SN: Tell me a little bit about your article in Disinformation's Generation Hex, 'Living the Myth'.

JC: Those were some first thoughts regarding a subject that I've been nibbling around the edges of for almost a decade now. That is, an exploration of what myth really is, and how it works. Most people's ideas about this subject are pretty off-base or simplistic. They think myth is something relegated to archaic stories, when the function of myth and the psychological processes involved are central to how we re-construct the world for each other. I think the chapter I contributed to that book is a little scattershot, it's a big subject and I only had a couple months to get my ideas together- I wrote that when I was working on the first draft of Fallen Nation and working for a web design firm. Since then, I've continued working with it off and on. It has become a part of a project called The Immanence of Myth' which is becoming more thorough... though it is still pretty meta- level discussion. I lose a lot of people doing that, but I don't see how else it can be approached. I guess that's why I focused more and more on media, and less on philosophy. You need to de-construct the world using philosophical processes, but you aren't going to reach people that way. You aren't going to construct things that way. Right now much of Immanence of Myth is available online, if you google search for it. Maybe someday it will grow and come to fruition. Then again, maybe not.

SN: Tell me about Bedtime Stories with the Antichrist and anything else you're doing
with podcasts.

JC: BSWTA was a really fun process. It was a podcast that had a lot of "easter egg" kind of clues related to Fallen Nation. It also died out before its time because my co-host, Agent 156, quite literally disappeared off the face of the planet. No one who knew him knows if he is alive or dead. I quite honestly miss the hell out of him... and there was no point continuing the show without him though I tried for a few episodes. The first episode got a hell of a lot of downloads off of Greylodge. I don't know where it is now but we had like 50,000 views after just a couple months. I've done a lot of other podcasts, each with its own concept.

BSTWA was kind of all-original audio theatre. Wordsalad was pretty much just an
attempt at fucking with people's heads. The G-spot, which is still running on Alterati, is mostly more traditional in the sense that we've interviewed fringe artists, scientists, authors, and so on...

(Edit: A group got together and collectively tracked 156 down. That, also, is another long story...)

SN: What is the purpose and goal of your art?

JC: Oh, I don't know. You find yourself in your art. It's like when you sit down to write, and you find yourself writing things you wouldn't have imagined...

Or maybe it's all just an elaborate means of getting laid. The hell do I know? I've just always done it.

SN: You have quite a presence on the internet and in this underground culture. Any comments on cyber-culture and is it changing consciousness?

JC: The tools we use are modeled on our modeling of reality. At the same time, they form how we model reality. So, that changes consciousness, sure. I'm afraid to say that I think that futurists like Raymond Kurzweil miss the boat. I mean he has interesting things to say, for sure, but if you look at history, the infinite possibility of possibility, the exponential growth of processing, and so on, do not bear themselves out into golden cultural ages. The really worthwhile discussion there, I think, is figuring out what the limiting factors are.

SN: What are your thoughts on drug addiction?

JC: Are you asking if I espouse drug-use? Because I really can't imagine anyone being gung-ho about addiction. Well except maybe Hunter. I espouse making your own decisions and having the freedom of choice that comes along with being an individual.

There are some really worthwhile things to be learned from certain drugs, under certain circumstances- but not all lessons are necessarily pleasant. I think that over-quoted Nietzsche aphorism applies, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." At the end of the day, we're all going to die. I'm not too concerned about being a healthy corpse, though I don't want to shorten my life span considerably, either. At least not the part of my life that is worth living. That's just me though. The whole point is, make your own decisions. Live with the repercussions.

SN: What is your definition of magick?

JC: I honestly don't think about magick a whole lot anymore. I find myself doing it all the time. But I don't find myself thinking about it much. There was a time when I spent a whole lot of time thinking about it, writing about it, talking about it. Maybe that phase is necessary. I think it is. But not as much anymore.
What is it? Ludwig Wittgenstein made an interesting point about the defining characteristics of language- for instance you cannot define a game by saying "all games are A," "all games are not B." He makes the analogy to family resemblance. What I'm getting at is that it's a waste of time to talk about what magick is, what it isn't. Let me give you a list of examples... see if you can find the common ground. "Magick" is following your gut, it's making choices that come from living genuinely, rather than based on what other people expect you to do... Or what you think they expect you to do, which is a more common limitation.

Encountering someone by chance who changes your life- that can be magickal- it's
becoming more aware of your life, your dreams, it's falling in love. It's dying. And none of these. Like I said, it's not worth talking about for me anymore. If you want to encounter it, just open yourself up to life, and don't let fear hold you back.

SN: Is there a system of magick you use? One of your own invention?

JC: Well, aside from what I just said, I guess I'd have to say that all systems are training wheels. If you don't make them your own, you're not really doing it. This is true with music, it's true with writing, and it's true with magick, whatever the hell that is.

SN: Do you belong to a "magick order" of some kind?

JC: No.

SN: Who is Babalon and can you explain your interest in her?

JC: Oh boy, I knew you'd have to get to that. In my experience, Babalon is a name for the destructive feminine force. It is transformative, but by way of breaking apart all of the present constructs. An example of it would be the archetypical "harlot" coming in and smashing up your rigid ideas of civility. But I think it goes much further than that. With the band, our idea was to bring that force to our audience, and to ourselves. I've always been half skeptical of all these things, yet I've got to say, looking back, that it was so effective that it happened almost overnight. All of our lives were totally reformed, it was drastic and extreme- and all of us, so far as I can tell, have re-created our lives in a way that makes a lot more sense for who we truly are.

SN: What do you think was accomplished with Jack Parsons' Babalon Working?

JC: Shame we can't ask him, right? I honestly have no idea. I mean I've looked into it pretty deeply for what wound up just an offhanded remark in Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End, but it's all second, third, fourth-hand stuff. And- who knows. You could just as easily say the past thirty years of history came out of it as nothing at all. In a concrete way, the only thing that came of it, though not by Jack's hand, was Scientology.

Let's hope something else did too, right?

SN: Do you have any comments regarding the current economic situation?

JC: One thing that has been interesting to me is that, in a big picture sense, my friends and I have predicted almost every twist and turn that's happened the past eight years before it has happened. Are we experts of economics and politics? No. Are we geniuses?

Probably not. This tells me that a lot of it is intentional.

But, though I'm sure I have a couple insights on these matters, there are a lot of people out there that I would rather turn your attention to. For instance, check out Douglas Rushkoff's commentary the past couple months...


Read the rest of the issue, including BREAKING SEX by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer POrridge.

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