Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Psychographical Commission - Urban mystics.

Interview by Batcheeba.

"Psychogeography tells us there are emotions to be derived from almost any location, so why not write music for interesting locations and make use of their acoustic properties or inherent noise?"

Following up the review of their new release Patient Zero, we felt it natuall to do an interview with the mystical people behind this excellent project. Rarely do we come across artists with such intent and interesting philosophy. In this Interview we get a more profound insight to their artistic intentions. Enjoy the conversation and do buy their album.

Q: What attracts you to Psychogeography, and why did you decide to translate Psychogeography into music?

A: Hokano and I had noticed for a long time that the more people were used to their surroundings, the less they thought about them. This over time breeds complacency and eventually can end up with a sort of contempt for the places you are most familiar with because you take your surroundings for granted. You stop connecting with them because you know what it feels like and can blank it out.

Psychogeography (to us at least) is a set of tools to allow your imagination to reconnect and interact with the environment you live in or are experiencing. It’s like trying to see places again for the first time through the eyes of a child. When you visit another city for the first time it can feel strange simply because you are not used to the area. Small insignificant details take on their own meanings, buildings and streets suddenly
have their own personalities and there is a feeling of the unreal as your mind tries to make sense of all the new information. Now imagine what it would be like to experiance that depth of feeling about your own city or one you’ve got bored of, knowing all you know about it and the memories it holds. The City reinvents itself in your mind providing stronger, more relevant links to where your life is at the moment. It becomes a projection of your psychology right now, rather than a memory of a projection you had when you last really connected with the city years ago. Given a bit of practice you can go into any city, make a connection and
use it to explore your own psychology, it’s a really healthy thing to do.

Music fits so easily into Psychogeography. Music is all about evoking emotional responses from the listener so if you factor in the listener’s environment to the overall experience then the responses can be stronger and have more meaning. Adapting music for the acoustics of special locations been done since the dawn of time at many megalithic sites which only now are we starting to explore with Acoustic Archaeology, but nowadays it’s the reverse which usually happens in the construction of Cathedrals or grand Concert Halls where the sense of place is formed around the engineering of its acoustic properties. Psychogeography
tells us there are emotions to be derived from almost any location, so why not write music for interesting locations and make use of their acoustic properties or inherent noise? We quite often make use of the noise in certain places and add them into our music. It's like the location becomes another member of the band.

Q: It's such a fascinating idea, and very innovative. Would you say this is an attempt to inform your audience spiritually?
A: We wouldn’t want to tell people what to think or how to approach their own concepts of spirituality. We’ve always found, having looked at various magickal systems over the years, that the best way of working is to pick and choose the methods and ideas that are successful for us and use them. This means we’ve both ended up with individually tailored belief structures with some similarities and differences. I firmly of the belief that because everyone has a
different set of memories, ideals and emotions through which they filter the world, signing up to someone else’s god/belief system is an abdication of responsibility and a submission. At best it’s like saying your ideas about how the world works mean less because someone else’s thoughts are somehow better then your own, it’s just a very negative place to be mentally and we wouldn’t wish to impose that on anyone.

What we’re trying to do in the music is expose listeners to ideas and methodologies so that they think about how they approach the reality they construct for themselves by using the city as a meditation point, hopefully we can stimulate a bit of imagination to let people think twice about their surroundings and the effect it has on them. We ultimately want listeners to formulate their own mythologies around the things important to them, so we overload the albums
with symbolism, myths, occult history, etc, so the listener can use the bits which have the most resonance for them and ignore the rest, I suppose you could call it an inoculation against organised religion or group-think.

The new album ‘Patient Zero’ is an attempt to document the effect the waning sun has on people as the second half of the year progresses. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognised condition where the body reacts badly to reducing light levels and the police put more patrols out on weekends of a full moon, so why not factor this in to your personal mythology as well?

Q: I see clear references to urban animism, perhaps even Shinto in a Western variety. Your thoughts on this?

A: I’d always seen Psychogeography more as a westernised form of Feng Shui, but Feng Shui has been around a lot longer and widely used whereas the same concepts have tended to be ignored on a city scale in the West, so Psychogeography isn’t quite as developed and accepted as it should be. It’s getting a lot better these days, in the past architects have only really been interested in dominating landscapes and inspiring awe to reinforce feelings of insecurity to enable the easier control of the populace (cathedrals, castles and town halls). Nowadays, public buildings
are designed to be more subtle, friendlier and generally less fear inspiring. Shops and Supermarkets especially spent millions trying to come up with new ways of being warmer and more inviting to customers, they know that the subtle manipulation of shop layouts, colour, sound and even smell make a huge difference to the amount a store will make.
Town planners are only just starting to think in the same way. In the past places and moods evolved over time allowing a natural and gradual build up of emotion, now we’re getting better at creating them from scratch. Cities are alive and we’re getting better and better at producing/nurturing the city spirits which are useful and helpful to us. The older
spirits are receding into the corners and require you to look harder for them, but then again that’s probably the same at any specific point in time as people evolve as well as their cities.

As for the Shinto, I see it be a more nature based version of the Greek + Roman type religious systems where particular aspects of the worshippers psyche are specified and magnified to give them greater prominence when they are needed. I suppose our take on it is a 21st century post-psychology view, where we know that these gods and spirits are projections of our psyche, so we seek out the places to commune/worship those aspects based on the feelings
those place evoke. One of my problems with Paganism is that it hasn’t evolved enough to take into account that people live in cites now. Pagans irrationally over focus on the countryside with its dying gods and irrelevant spirits and deride cities because they see them as cold, unnatural and spiritually dead. We, however, know that the City is full of spirits because that’s where the people are, you only need to feed them with imagination and discovery. The Gods
need people to survive more than the people need Gods, so they moved to the city when we did.

Q: Could you describe your creative process? Do you two have an intuitive understanding, or do you have to work out a conscious concept as a group?

A: We work surprisingly well considering we live 150 miles (250km) apart. We’ve known each other for a fair few years, read roughly the same books, seem the same films and we talk pretty much daily for the last three years so we’ve got a pretty good understanding. We’ve also spent many days wandering around strange cities together, mainly when we’ve met up to go see gigs in a distant places and ended up with spare days to kill, so we pretty much know what common ground we have when it comes to psychogeography as well and that helps when coming up with
concepts for songs or albums. One of us will see a line in a book or a section in a film or a back alley somewhere and the other person can latch onto the essence of it and slightly warp it into something usable as a concept for the band. ‘Patient Zero’ was born out of a wish to look at the much larger scale cyclical environmental factors which effect cities as well as the people within them. It struck me that the sun gets infected with death at every summer solstice which
then grows inside it until it’s rebirth at the winter solstice, with the moon providing a steady monthly gravitational beat. We then set about working out a way of portraying this as an album. We later added in ideas like slowly moving north during the six months to amplify the reduction in sun to magnify the effect. Then it became a concept we couldn’t resist.

Musically we come at it from different angles which is good because it produces a pleasing range of songs on the album. I’ve always tended (as a guitar player) to concentrate on writing songs, sonically I tend to love and write in an orchestral, Current93/Coil/mid to late Einst├╝rzende Neubauten sort of a way. Hokano ’s work intentionally lacks any formal song structure and concentrates on the evolving of textures and moods. Usually I’ll either write a full song and
get Hokano to add extra soundscaping to it, or he’ll write a long ambient piece and throw it across to me to add extra bit’s of interest and we trust each other enough to not put any restrictions on what the other adds to the piece. We also write songs where Hokano comes up with a few strong loops which I then arrange into a song structure and build a song out of, songs like Gutterbright to the starres on the new album and Camden Book Of the Dead on ‘Genius Loci’ are examples of this sort of a song.

The lyrics I tend to write on my own, usually down the pub with a crossword at the same time as or slightly after the music is written. I’ll have previously written down some nice phrases or interesting words and I’ll use them as starting points for sections of the song which I then rearrange into the concept story and then mostly rewrite it again as the structure takes shape.

We record all our parts separately due to the distance, but then I go through a period of commuting down the Newcastle at weekends when we enter the mixing phase, we can change songs quite drastically at this stage so it’s good to be both sat together in the same room making the decisions.

Q: Where will PC go from here? What are your future plans?

A: A lot depends on what happens with this album, we do everything on our own and we got hit badly by piracy with the first album which meant we struggled to break even let alone fund this album. We might have to hold back on some projects if they won’t pay for themselves, just because somebody somewhere takes it upon themselves to give away our music for free. It’s a shame but it’s the reality of the situation.

We’ve currently got plans for a few things if we can afford to fund them, first will be a project based around the Underground system here in Glasgow, we were looking at playing live in one of the carriages adding sounds and textures to augment the noise of the train as it travels around in its big loop but there were just too many problems (mainly down to power and safety reservations), so we’ll probably release a limited edition EP based around the idea.
After that we’re probably going to release a free to download album with some songs off the first two albums as well as some covers of other people’s songs. It’s something we want to do so we can concentrate on crystallising our sound to get to the essence of what we’re about musically, and it will also give us the chance to try out a few people for playing some of the less ambient pieces live if we ever need to. I’m also investigating the suggested alignments of
Lunar Temples around Glasgow as well as other hidden bits of history about the city so that may come out at some point, along with a third full album.

We thank Psychographical Commission for taking the time to talk to us.
We at Kaliglimmer thoroughly enjoyed talking with them, and we highly recommend buying this album.


  1. interesting that the Psychographical Commission relates psychogeography to being a westernised form of ”feng shui“. i'm chinese and personally have previously avoided looking into fengshui, despite living in Singapore where geomancy is very much alive and geomancers are frequently consulted when building houses and doing interior decor here. i guess i've associated it mostly with superstition altho they have tried to modernise its image in recent years; from my understanding the actual fengshui masters also calculate things based on astrology, and this sort of divination is a bit too far a stretch for me to believe in, but nevertheless i do love the idea of creating or cultivating new mythologies/mythogeographies, where people only pick out certain myths which resonate personally. a bit like a person drawing a map and omitting certain real features because one doesn't frequent the place as often. i guess that's what we take home at the end of the day....

    anyway, the work sounds interesting and i hope to hear it soon!


  2. This definitely goes to the "must-have" section.

    Brilliant interview =)!

  3. Debbie: You really should look into this project as it is well worth it. Not only for it's sounds but for the whole package.

    Cthulberg: Have a listen at their myspace site :)