Everything Is Just Dandy!

Galaxian interview: “To me, the whole set-up is a mindfuck death-cult”

Juno Daily

He’s got the power

When we heard Galaxian had made his first album in over a decade, We Are Power , there was no way we were going to miss out on a chance to meet the man behind the gas mask. What we ended up with was way, way more than even we’d hoped for…

Electro is a genre stooped in themes of totalitarianism, militancy, power. Why do you think that is?

I don’t think it is, to my mind it’s steeped in fetishised futurism, technophilia utopianism, sci-fi tropes, second-hand ideas of deep sea worlds, jump-up party music and all manner of weak, polite lullabies, suppurating trash. 

There are some obvious examples of prominent artists who have a more substantive focus, but they are far and few between. I think this is true of most music genres. There are those with something meaningful, relevant to say, to point to, posing questions, something of substance beyond the functional & derivative.

One of the most central themes to the album is the notion that power is not what we think it is. Could you shed some more light there?

The cultural institutions of perceived power, the entities and personas which are granted special privileges, greater access, controlling roles. These imaginary powers are granted, through laws, through legislation, through rules & regulations, through mythologising.

That is a power of sorts, those are ideas, beliefs of power. We are continually assaulted by the messages that this is an all pervasive, ultimate power, that must be worshipped, glorified & obeyed, under any and all circumstances.

The corresponding cultural imagery, totems, symbolism, embedded messaging is force fed to us via the tsunami of means like dogmatic politics, organised religion, infinite waring, mega-corps, special interest & pressure groups, whitewashing, greenwashing, establishment news and entertainment media, ubiquitous internet, schooling & education, the roles assigned to us, the classifications, categories we are placed in, the cultural myth making and forced a narratives.

All these tools of social management & control, population manipulation are are used to reinforce the message by those institutions and cultural managers that hold us there and keep us in our place. This is modern industrial growth tech(no) society. To me the whole set-up is a mindfuck death-cult.

The flip side of that is one i’m more in tune with, gradually tuning out the white noise of a mass orthodox culture which is spoken about in the album. The natural power of the Earth, innate power of being, the inner power of compassion, of love, of empathy, the connectedness to the psychedelic-ness of all experience. Those are the sides of real power that have become diminished, weakened, mocked, derided, forgotten, denied or disavowed. These very ancient, primal powers, that are innate, before they have been stripped from us by the artificial power structures & dogmatic belief & control systems in service of that other.

What use are those power qualities in a world that we are told is formed and held together by constant conflict, savage competition, rewarding narcissism, raping of the natural world and a dumbing down of anything that dares speak truth or acts contrary to the insatiable needs of the maniacal structures that lust after that. The obvious signs we see are symptoms, not causes.

There’s not a whole lot of point looking at these aspects without addressing the fundamental anatomy and systems which sustain all of this. The language, means of communication in which we are bound, in which we are fenced in. The demands made of us within the system that dominates, the questions that it ask of us, those questions that it ignores. Language and it’s associated imagery & symbolism is a big one, it’s a totalitarianism of sorts. The PR world knows this all too well. In 2008 when Obama won the US election his campaign won the prize for best advertising, beating Apple for top spot. In some Eastern wisdom teachings language is considered an impediment to true authentic understanding, to ultimate being.

You philosophy of power seems to imply that power and corruption are merely entangled, not intrinsically linked. What do you make of the phrase “power corrupts”? Is it absolutely true?

Absolute truth doesn’t exist but I think you are correct, I don’t feel they are intrinsically linked or that it’s a given that it will corrupt. Under certain conditions, it may well do that, maybe even in most cases it does do that but it’s not a forgone conclusion. Power doesn’t need to dominate or subjugate, it can equally seek and foment balance, equilibrium, equanimity. There are many everyday examples of this around us, independent individuals, groups, organisations and the community acting outside the system in service of a collective good.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the music on We Are Power is mostly more downtrodden and dense (apart from the end), compared to the analog uplift / unrelent of some of your earlier releases. What was the thinking there?

I’m trying to come up with music that’s free of convention, less constricted by cliché and accepted convention. I don’t care for limiting categories. My favourite albums tend to have a musical and thematic arc. As a listener I want to be carried through the world the artist is trying to evoke. With an album there is obviously more scope to experiment with a variety of sentiments. I wanted to paint a more nuanced picture, express a more sensuous, warmer musical world. Something vulnerable and delicate as well as dynamically provocative. Staying in the same gear would simply be monotonous. Most of my releases have at least one or two tracks that are a little more sober or indeed dissolve into washed out ambience. It’s nice to just let it all emerge. As in life, there are no constants, everything is in constant flux, an exchange of energies, continually morphing through various forms, feelings and sensation. That’s what I wanted to convey in this record.

The album is electro as usual, but the sounds therein are both galactic and tribal, cosmic and ancient. To our ears, there’s a strong sense of ecologic, sonic reconciliation. Is that what you were aiming for?

I’m glad you are hearing that. For sure I wanted something a bit more earthy, organic. Like if you could actually smell the Earths soil, hear it, feel it. A track like Natural Energy feels almost like some unearthed relic. Something deeply primeval, from a distant yet familiar time. Before an age of machines, of virtual connected worlds, an epoch of Earth connected, when there was little perceived or felt separation as the Self or the natural world. There’s other songs like that too, In Reverse, Fields of Meaning.

Through our collective consciousness, through our shared ancestral history, we can reach back, feel through to that, pull it forth into our sense of being, in the present, give expression to that through all manner of artistic endeavours, it seems to me that is what shows up, becomes manifest when I produce my most interesting music and artworks. That there, is real power.

The unjust plight of indigenous peoples is a core theme. But which particular real-world historical / current power struggles were you inspired by, either in relation to Native Americans or otherwise?

Too many to mention. I feel a deep seated pain when I hear about the accelerating destruction of delicate eco-systems across the world, the Amaoznian rainforest being scorched, decimated, levelled, the Australian great barrier reef suffering more and wider bleaching events. The plight of indigenous tribes who rely on those irreplaceable forest land and environments. I feel for the people embroiled and acutely affected by the many conflicts, the wholesale decimation of the planet that effects those most keenly connected with it. In general It’s easier for us here in this region of the planet to put that to the side, when we like, but that privilege is not easily afforded those who are on the frontline, that feel the impact of that on a day by day basis. Sooner or later, unable to turn away, we will have to come face to face with it. That reckoning is rapidly approaching, if not already here.

A little research on the opener, ‘Out Of Balance’, reveals the sample to have been lifted from a speech given by activist John Trudell in 1980. How did you discover Trudell’s work, and why did you resonate with it?

I discovered John through a friend who let me hear his speech on Youtube. There’s a few of his speeches on there. I think it resonated so deeply because on one level it gave voice to & spoke to some feelings I had but couldn’t quite articulate or put them in such an eloquent, poignant yet extremely powerful & passionate way in like he did.

What he says is just as relevant now as it was then, maybe even more so. The words and thrust are timeless, Universal and ask of us all to take account of ourselves, each other and the giving planet on which we rely. For me it easily ranks as one of the greatest speeches in history. 

Said sample returns on ‘We Are Power (The Final Assault)’, which has a muted tone of hope, climax, and signals a tonal shift towards the album’s end. What were you sonically suggesting at this point?

Its kind of like a rallying call. I’m suggesting, like the sample says, it is us that have and maintain all the authentic power, that we seize our power, ourselves, back from the darkening forces that drag us away from our own agency, that we get back in touch with our oneness. It’s meant to be uplifting & empowering. The song gallops along and reaches a crescendo in the breakdown and subsequent, intense drive to the end.. What power force wins out? Time will tell.

‘Universal Truths’, ‘Anatomy Of A Modern Lie’, ‘Code Of Existence’, ‘Messianic Delusions’… your track titles are postmodern, grappling with controversial appeals to power that many despots have clung to in the past – fundamental axioms, the divine right of kings, etc. Do you really aim to answer the question of what power is, or are you more just reckoning / coming to terms with its shifting, dubious nature?

Personally I feel I’ve reached somewhat of a satisfactory understanding of what power is, in the ultimate sense. As we’ve already touched on there can’t really be one idea of what power is, it means different things to different people, groups, era’s. If you ask a shaman what power is, they are going to describe something entirely different from what the CEO of Shell Oil will have you believe. What I do know is what my experience is, what i see when I look around me, when I view in full awareness, in those often fleeting moments that we all know, when we touch the core of existence that is beneath the obscuring layers of prescribed beliefs, forced conditioning, manufactured reality. If we feel our way into that space, to empowerment that sustains and promotes life, learn how to articulate and express it, if we extol those powers, we’re going to be rapidly moving away from the self ameliorating habits and power structures that will be ours and the planets ultimate demise. 

The world was not created through wars, conflicts, hate, brutality, by back-room deals by grey men in grey suits, that’s a pernicious lie. Our shared history, the planet is created and sustained through mutual co-operation, compassion, empathy for the whole of life in all it’s seemingly messy, unwieldy forms. I thoroughly feel that the most importation task for the planet and its inhabitants is too fully reject the notions of the tyrannicidal monstrosities of the dominator culture through re-education of our minds and hearts. This is the true task. That is where our real power will be found.

Some of the tracks seem to play with tropes related to power found in film soundtracks. We love the swelling strings of ‘In Reverse’ – they remind us of the great, wide tracking shots of landscapes in epic films like Star Wars or Prometheus, implying gargantuan, sublime and awe-inspiring moods. What are you suggesting by including interludes like these?

Exactly that “gargantuan, sublime and awe-inspiring moods” You know we reach points where need a breather, it is overwhelming, where the task before us seems insurmountable, where we are swept along in currents of emotion, through experiences that are unfathomable, too big for us to process or deal with in one go. Surveying the scene, viewing the work that has been done or needs to be done, what has been achieved, what needs to change. We free float, are thrown around and bruised by it. Then, we settle, we find something to anchor, we work it out, we get back on track.

Were you using any new gear/software to the make the album and if so, what were you using?

I was using a lot of tried and tested gear. Much of it could be considered vintage software plug-ins some going as far back as 2004. That’s a bit silly of me to be honest but some are discontinued, sometimes updating results in compatibility issues and all sorts of problems.

I used FLstudio 11 from 2014 which is a Daw I have just used forever. It works. I’ve actually upgraded to the latest version 20 now and it’s fantastic & exciting to explore the new possibilities with that. I used Arturia synths extensively throughout the record. Like the ARP2600 for the arpeggio lines in the album closing track Code of Existence. Their lovely SEMV on for the pads and synths on Messianic Delusionsand the Minimoog plugin on Fields of Meaning. Arturias gear is fantastic in general. Other songs I used plugins that i’m comfortable to use. Like the now discontinued reFX Vanguard. It’s not even that great sounding but it delivers fast, interesting results. That’s from 2004. So I am going to stop using it since it’s mostly incompatible with the latest 64 bit daws. On a few of the songs I used Rob Papens Blue which has some really nice texture and pad sound capabilities. FX wise nothing particularly esoteric, lots of delays and reverbs, touches of Sugarbytes Turnado multi-effects unit & Fab Filter Saturn saturation effect.

A first for me, I had my shamanic friend record her flute playing, most prominently heard on the title track We Are Power. That was so special to have her do that and I think it really adds a wonderful human element to those songs. I hope one day I can have her on stage performing a ritualistic, shamanic dance and playing along . That would be amazing.

We know you’re a reader. Aside from the zine you made to go along with the LP, do you have any book recommendations to accompany our listening?

If your picking up a book your on the right track already. That’s a tough one though. Probably the book you are currently reading is the best one.

Alan Watts The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

I love this book, its probably his best work, distilling much of his teachings into a small easily digestible tract. I think it’s a perfect way into Eastern wisdom teachings such as Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhist , non-dualism. He was one of the main players in the counter -ulture 60s and is cited as helping make those teachings more approachable for a western audience. I’d highly recommend giving it a go. I’ve since dived deep into those wisdom teachings reading though many of the original texts and pure non-dualism, Vedanta philosophy.

Right now i’m trying to revisit some of my anarchist path. 10 years ago I was rather struck by a book Peter Kropotkins: Anarchism – A Collection of revolutionary writings. It made a big impact on me. He was really one of the first environmentalists before that was even a thing. He was pretty anti-Darwin. His thrust being that it was “Mutual aid” (his famous philosophy), co-operation within a species that had been some of the defining factors in institutions and survival , that raised the quality of life, not “survival of the fittest” definitely worth your time.

I’m very much into Herman Hesse at the moment, Steppenwolf, Demian and I just finished Narcissus and Goldmund. I particularly enjoyed Steppenwolf. Perhaps they have more to say about the human condition than any much of what you might initially find yourself drawn towards.

How is the live set going? Do you aim to bring some of the tracks on ‘We Are Power’ to the live circuit?

I love playing live, I get to connect with the audience and share loud music that I made, I feel it’s for all of us to enjoy. I just played in Nuits Sonores festival in Lyon at the weekend and played We Are Power as the closing track, the crowd loved it. It’s an uplifting rabble rouser and just a straight up banger, perfect to end on. I’ll definitely play out more of the albums tracks too.

That in mind, where can we catch you playing next?

Italy soon. And a few more others. My touring schedule has been fairly quiet recently although I’ll be back on it more regular shortly. My DJing abilities are something I’ve previously under utilised but I’m going to be booking more DJ shows as it’s something I really enjoy as much as playing live.

Jude Iago James

Buy your vinyl copy of We Are Power here