Iam sure I need not introduce Simon here… his powerful presence in the worldwide trance movement likely predates all of the “dinosaurs” to read this interview. It has to be said though, the multitude of projects involving Simon’s creative studio work has, and continues to shape this culture as we know it. From the pioneering sounds of “L.S.D.”, to the unique and profound journeys through the Shpongleland, it’s obvious… our paths are one with his.
The thoughts and insights in this interview present a picture of an experienced musician with an open mind and an open heart. As we welcome Simon in New York — this time, with a second show — a rare Shpongle DJ set, let’s take this opportunity to get to know him as he is these days.
Where are you right now Simon, and what’s on tap for today?
i am at home, in my studio, working on an Annodalleb remix.
Annodalleb, the LA industrial band with a new release containing remixes… how did this come about?
through a mutual friend.
To start out, a bit about the past…Do you recall the specific period or moment in time when your musical journey first touched off?
i guess when i was 7 or 8, and started to teach myself piano, by watching a very talented friend of mine… even then i would ‘tweak’ the sound, by shoving sheets of tracing paper between the piano strings and hammers!
What did you do for a living very early on?
I worked in a garden centre during school holidays, and then got a job at virgin recording studios when i left school… the townhouse, olympic, and the manor. They would move you around between the different studios… i always loved olympic.
Was there anything strikingly different about the trance gatherings back then, anything you get nostalgic about?
One difference that i do miss, is that there would be a wider range of music, with a huge contrast between the light and dark… these days DJs seem interested in playing only the ‘bangers’, and it results in a slightly one dimensional sound in the music.
As many of us do, you love the Floyd. What sort of experience was it years ago to hear such fresh and unconventional approaches to music and its creation?
a similar experience to what it would be today, i suppose… i was just younger!
In your view, how did this new thinking affect the things to come?
the first record i really noticed the actual production on, was ‘the wall’… i continue to like, and try to make, music that sounds ‘fat’ and fills the speakers.
Since those days, you’ve been on quite a ride: traveling, playing all over the globe… how did this shape you as a human being and a musician?
I feel lucky that i have been able to experience different cultures, and hang out in some beautiful places… i would hope that i have learned many things from this… one of them being “take half the clothes, and twice the money”! but i would recommend travelling to anyone, for opening your mind, and inspiring.
What kind of philosophy do you follow in life?
um… have a good time, all the time? treat others as you would like to be treated? i don’t know… i try not to subscribe to any single philosophy or belief system, as i prefer to learn and continually question everything around me…
What’s the biggest event that shaped your life and/or musical career?
Landing a job as a tape-op at virgin… even if i was only an assistant…ie sub-human scum in the hierarchy… i still managed to learn a lot from such uber-engineers as spike stent.
What else are you into besides the music?
Books, Movies, Women, Art, Computer Games, Daydreaming, Skiing, Pornography, Kinky Sex, Sushi, Tea, Intellectualising the Abstract, Mentalism… tho’ usually not all at the same time.
Through the years we’ve grown accustomed to having new music from names like Shpongle, Hallucinogen, Younger Brother, Celtic Cross and many others… are they all essentially various faces of a total body of work for you and your colleagues?
In some ways you could look at it as a window on my personal journey thru the universe… but each project has a slightly different mindset associated with it, in the same way that being with different friends, brings out different aspects of your personality.
Your projects continue to explore distinctly new directions… and they really speak to people. Give us a glimpse into your thinking in the studio…
Istart with a blank canvas and an open mind… i just try to do something that excites me and stimulates me as an artist.
Is there any new Hallucinogen material in the works? Will we get to sample some of it?
I have been collaborating a lot recently, so these things tend to get released under other names… i haven’t been in the studio on my own much… but once i buy a new computer i look forward to some ‘hallucinogen’ time.
So is excitement building in anticipation of the new Shpongle album?
I hope so… i am certainly excited by it… i think it completes the other two albums nicely.
Are we to expect the unexpected this time as well?
Of course! there are no big ‘hits’ on this album, but as a journey into shpongleland i think it is more accomplished than the previous two albums.
Why are Shpongle sets so exclusive?
We don’t play often, because technically it is quite hard to get together, with 7 musicians… the drummer comes from japan, and doesn’t speak any english… the singer and guitarist are not involved in the trance scene and are always busy working as professional musicians… on stage i have to mix 56 channels of audio live….impossible without great monitoring… so to do the full live shpongle is quite an ordeal, and so far only japan has had the technical expertise, equipment,budget and crew to pull it off… Raj and i have occasionally performed a diluted version, with less musicians, but that is something we are both increasingly less inclined to do.
There is always something exciting going on at Twisted Records. Please give us a brief update.
Currently all our artists are in the studio working on new albums… we had a tough time recently when our main distributor went bust, but soon there will be a whole load of new material from everyone on the label.
Here are some questions from the people on the NYC604 forum…
What do you see lacking in modern (electronic) music?
Not all music lacks something… the technology is such that one can really achieve anything these days, so it is more about the personality and soul behind the music… a bland personality will make bland music, and now more than ever i look for something in the music that reaches out and touches something in me… my heart or my head or my soul. I guess another thing about the technology making it possible for anyone with a computer to make music, is that anyone with a computer DOES make music, and so there is a massive glut of amateur sounding generic electronic music… that means the diamonds are harder to find, but when you do, they shine brighter.
Any other musicians do you feel provide a pleasing “derangement of the senses”? contemporary or otherwise?
The most surprising thing i have heard recently was by a guy called ‘flanger’… it really challenged and appealed to the programmer in me… it’s a bit intellectual and clever, but it was the 1st time in ages i heard something and thought “how the hell has he done that?” we asked him to do a shpongle remix, and he said it was too commercial for him!
Have you ever smoked DMT or done ayahuasca?
Yes i tried D.M.T whilst we were making the track ‘behind closed eyelids’ (hence the name) on shpongle 1. It was something i had been building up to for a long time – it’s not an experience to be taken lightly! and i wasn’t disappointed! i still think about it almost daily, and it taught me many things about myself and the universe… if you have no idea what i am talking about, i recommend reading some terence mckenna, or listening to his descriptions of the experience… he is far more eloquent and describes the experience far better than i ever could… i would have to invent some special extra keys for this keyboard to be able to type anything appropriate!
From L Elliott:
With the success of shpongle and a growing interest in psytrance cross-over projects (for example the Grand Turismo compilation Solstice featuring the new hallucinogen track) what are your feelings about the future of the Goa/Psytrance lineage? Are you concerned about the dilution of music aimed at larger audiences, or is a broader appeal a good thing for “psychedelic community” or whathaveyou?
I think it is good thing if the music is able to reach a wider audience… what concerns me is when people try to make music specifically to appeal to a wider audience… a sort of ‘dumbing down’ of the pure essence… it is a dangerous route for a band or artist to go down, heading towards the lowest common denominator…. but if real music, made from the heart, reaches more people, what is wrong with that?
What would you say the attraction of shpongle is to those that don’t have experience with goa/psy? Is there any particular message being communicated in shpongle or your music generally? For you, do the multiple time signatures and wide ranging samples say something about the world we’re living in, or is it really just about finding the newest, sharpest sounds going?
Well, shpongle is made with love… it is fun and stimulating… i know grandparents who love it, and kids who love it…. who can’t relate to fun? the multiple time signatures aren’t some deep statement about the world…of course not… that is just a symptom of what i enjoy as a musician, and attempting new things as an artist… also i don’t always try for the newest sound… sometimes the oldest ones of all, such as the human voice, are far more applicable.
Written by: Richard - DMT FM
Incorporated psytrance elements are low-bass frequencies and hypnotic melodies and the use of samples. Those samples mostly contain references to drugs, parapsychology, extraterrestrial life, existentialism, out of body experiences, dreams, science, time travel, spirituality and similar mysterious or unconventional topics. Psydub is also highly influenced by the music of India.close
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