This interview was first published on www.emofag.net
P. Emerson Williams (or 333 as I call him). Musician, artist, illustrator, web mogul, chaos magick practitioner. Since the late 1980’s P. Emerson Williams has been making his mark in a world that is not often seen by the mainstream media. But through his incredible work ethic and vast amount of creative energies, as well as a knowledge of how to tap into the powers of the web, he is now able to reach across to his fans in a multi-medium fashion that has only become possible since the turn of the century. And just when the world catches up with him, he takes another quantum leap forward – as he did in 2005 with the multimedia work “Panic Pandemic”, and promises to do again this year with new releases including the newest Choronzon recording “Controlled Substance”. Perhaps the best way to describe 333 is like a Whirling Dervish – of the Sufi Order… Both in the constant movement and spinning (in great productivity), but also as a man on a mystical journey.
TheeBradMiller: You have been recording your brand of musick for over 20 years. I suppose one could say that you were berthed out of the Black Metal scene of the late 1980’s. Was that a scene you identified with in the beginning?
333: Well, I was listening to a bit of primordial Black Metal at the time I started out, but what I did on the first two tapes and corresponding events really had little to nothing to do with Black Metal. I can’t really say there ever has been a scene per se that I would say I could identify with. Obviously, a Bathory and Celtic Frost influence crept in at some point and I did find that the early Norwegian bands along with the Greek bands were tapping into a current that I still wonder if they knew what that current was, or even if they knew they were drawing on something not quite of this universe. That aspect disappeared as soon as the world found out about them in any case, following the events that have come to identify the genre in most peoples minds ever since.
TBM: While many of Choronzon distributors categorize you as Black Metal (they have to call you something), it seems that you are moving away from the standard trappings Black Metal fair… in fact, as I go through your catalog I noticed that this becomes particularly noticeable with “Psychosis Ex Machina”. Was this intentional?
333: I don’t think “Psychosis Ex Machina” would have happened without my having done Veil Of Thorns‘ “Birthed” right before it. “Magog Agog” was my first all digital recording, but I had used a lot of looping using primitive processes of splicing tape into loops or using a reacjmount digital delay and creative use of analog delay. If you compare “Magog Agog”, “Era Vulgaris” and “Larvae” which were all recorded using the same equipment and set-up, you find that experiments as they exist on those recordings are in the playing, not the arrangements.
On “Psychosis” I was manipulating the source sounds a lot more. I took a lot more time to twist and distend the sounds and arrangements, making the process of creation more like painting, in a way. So, the change grew out of expanded experience and new technological capabilities. I also changed my approach and intention from creating a record or artifact from rituals, through making a musical statements, with the trio of albums starting with “Magog Agog”, to creating hypersigils. That is, creative works as weapons of magick. Part of the intention of “Psychosis Ex Machina” was to wrap the Black Metal, musical albums into a larger hypersigil that is traced by the sum of all Choronzon releases and early events.
That means the hypersigil is always developing, as I find pieces I’m working on continue to develop even when I don’t touch them for days, weeks or months.
TBM: Tell me more about hypersigils. What inspired it? What is the process? Does it contain a similar structure to more traditional (as if that even exists) chaos magick (formulation, conversion, implantation)?
333: Hypersigils is a term coined by Grant Morrison, to the best of my knowledge. Traditional sigils distill words and image elements into a single glyph which is easily subsumed into the subconscious and is usually burned and forgotten. This is so the intention the sigil is charged with can work without interference from the conscious mind or limitations placed on it by what is considered possible by the individual.
A hypersigil uses the same methodology, but is distilled into a narrative, in a sense. I use the Burroughs/Gysin cut-up method in all media, from lyric and story writing, sound manipulation and video to avoid straight narrative and embed the intention behind and story arc into a greater work. The memetic material is thus transmitted in subtle ways and magickal intentions are placed outside conscious thought in the same way.
I had been doing this in my visual work and music from the start, but didn’t become fully aware of hypersigils and their magickal and creative possibilities until I became involved in some discussions with younger chaos magick practitioners around the time I was working on “Psychosis Ex Machina”.
TBM: “Controlled Substance” (a new Choronzon recording) is going to be released soon. What type of early magikal ground work was done for this release?
333: Well, I hate to be coy or come off like I’m trying to be mysterious or something like that, but we are not talking a whole lot about the work behind this one just yet. Some parts will not be revealed, but will be experienced. I’ll say that before the work was started, weaving spiders went there, saw and are delivering a drubbing that will not be truly appreciated until history gives perspective.
TBM: Hmmm…. Can I speak with the spiders for a inside scoop? How about this then, is the process you used on the new recordings substantially different than what you have done previously… or… is the new work(s) a continuation of a process/journey that you have all ready been on?
333: In a way the spiders are Eris’ apple as it was thrown into the proceedings.
The new works bring the way I have always worked visually into the realm of sound. I like to start by raising the densest chaotic dust storms and seeing what faces stare out at me. The living center of a piece becomes clear in the process of taking away. Electronic Voice Phenomena work like that. I’m less concerned with theorizing what they represent or what causes them as I am in emphasizing them and adding elements to enhance them when they appear. of course, with digital recording, I have no limits on how many tracks or midi devices I can have running all at once, so my first inclination was to heap up sounds as thickly as I could. Now leaving enough sonic room around chaotic accidents to show them in higher relief is key.
TBM: So you reach your final out-come through chaos and discord? Correct?
333: Chaos is my jumping off point, discord the quantum waves and the ripples therefrom are the patterns imposed on chaos as the work filters though ears and crania. The act of listening continues the act of creation in that sense.
TBM: The cover for “Controlled Substance” is up at “Center Of Pestilence” (http://choronzon333.livejournal.com/). Can we infer anything about the recording from the cover? How about from the title?
333: It’s the first iteration. The initial spark is there, but much more work will be put into it. Mesila (Demimonde Mesila Thraam) told me to kick her into gear on the site and album(s), so I figure posting stuff in process will get the conversation into action.
TBM: Let’s move backwards for a bit. I’d love to talk about “Panic Pandemic”. It’s epic is it’s scope… There are so many twists and turns… even within one song. I believe I told you once that I thought it was your magnum opus (to this point). When you first began formulating this release what were your intentions?
333: Part of the large scope of “Panic Pandemic” is due to the long gestation period of its genesis. I had gone through an extended period of cutting away of past creations, perceptions, persona’s and viewpoints. What the process of creating this release signaled was a new period of building up form a point of zero.
The work began immediately at the conclusion of the “Psychosis Ex Machina” sessions and ran concurrently with the gestational period of writing Veil Of Thorns‘ “Manifestation Objective” and alongside the Choronzon East/West creation of “New World Chaos”. (An aside – “Manifestation Objective” – see the thoughts of regeneration reflected in the title?) It was 2003, well into the extended ritual of Rovian Black Magick. My focus was on the eternal to the point where it didn’t seem important to me if fascism completed its power grab in the US and internationally, if the human race survived its own folly or indeed if life on this planet were to continue or not. Several interviews, especially in Punk Rock oriented magazines were dropped because of this stance and some close associates kept coming at me with political concerns, Space-time limited fears etc…
This release is a book and two discs because I felt a need to answer these issues in a way that could be pointed to in future. In toto, the release is a hypersigil that effectively blocked the psionic influence of the prevailing corporate/state/consumer culture’s memetic leak into minds that were not inviting it in. (Kinda like the way a demon or vampire has to be invited in according to some theories and myth complexes.) More than that, this release is a declaration of the end of the “Panic Pandemic” just as it is named, and a foundation of creation from point zero, chaos, pain, pure potentiality
A future P. Emerson would probably have distilled all this down further to a more pure form, but “Panic Pandemic” was as succinctly put as I was capable of at the time.
TBM: In away then “Panic Pandemic” was your “Fuck You” release or your “Metal Machine Music” release. It was personal. It ended up being incredibly powerful. Was your “eternal” view related to personal struggles?
333: Hm… I think my releasing the mangled master for the “Lilith” album 1.0 under the name “Evocation Of Sandstorms” may fit the description “Fuck You” release or my “Metal Machine Music” release. I felt a setting and a story arc at the center of “Panic Pandemic” that was vast and universal, but the point of view within that setting was singular, so in that may have made it more personal.
My eternal view came from some heavy meditation and the visions that meditation brought, along with astral travel. In both cases I was going ever further, inward with meditation, the image making faculty being dismantled in meditation and going ever outward in the astral work. The planet, solar system and galaxy faded further away and I had vision of the universe, the bodily point of view faded and I observed the center of my consciousness not as the meat and bone container of this ego and accumulated experiences but the origin of pure consciousness.
All the games, aggrandizement and struggles for order by politicians, religious leaders and heads of the “Corporate State” reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s telling of a story that has come to be known as “Indra’s Lesson”.
There is a wonderful story in one of the Upanishads about the god Indra. Now, it happened at this time that a great monster had enclosed all the waters of the earth, so there was a terrible drought, and the world was in a very bad condition. It took Indra quite a while to realize that he had a box of thunderbolts and that all he had to do was drop a thunderbolt on the monster and blow him up. When he did that, the waters flowed, and the world was refreshed, and Indra said, “What a great boy am I.”
So, thinking, “What a great boy am I,” Indra goes up to the cosmic mountain, which is the central mountain of the world, and decides to build a palace worthy of such as he. The main carpenter of the gods goes to work on it, and in very quick order he gets the palace into pretty good condition. But every time Indra comes to inspect it, he has bigger ideas about how splendid and grandiose the palace should be. Finally, the carpenter says, “My god, we are both immortal, and there is no end to his desires. I am caught for eternity.” So he goes to Brahma, the creator god, and complain.
Brahma sits on a lotus, the symbol of divine energy and divine grace. The lotus grows from the navel of Vishnu, who is the sleeping god, whose dream is the universe. So the carpenter comes to the edge of the great pond of the universe and tells his story to Brahma. Brahma says, “You go home. I will fix this up.” Brahma gets off his lotus and kneels down to address sleeping Vishnu. Vishnu just makes a gesture and says something like, “Listen, fly, something is going to happen.”
Next morning, at the gate of the palace that is being built, there appears a beautiful blue boy with a lot of children around him, just admiring his beauty. The porter at the gate of the new palace goes running to Indra, and Indra says, “Well, bring in the boy.” The boy is brought in, and Indra, the king god, sitting on his throne, says, “Young man, welcome. And what brings you to my palace?” “Well,” says the boy with a voice like thunder rolling on the horizon, “I have been told that you are building such a palace as no Indra before you ever built.” And Indra says, “Indras before me, young man— what are you talking about?”
The boy says, “Indras before you. I have seen them come and go, come and go. Just think, Vishnu sleeps in the cosmic ocean, and the lotus of the universe grows from his navel. On the lotus sits Brahma, the creator. Brahma opens his eyes, and a world comes into being, governed by an Indra. Brahma closes his eyes, and a world goes out of being. The life of a Brahma is 432,000 years. When he dies, the lotus goes back, and another lotus is formed, and another Brahma. Then think of the galaxies beyond galaxies in infinite space, each a lotus, with a Brahma sitting on it, opening his eyes, closing his eyes. And Indras? There may be wise men in your court who would volunteer to count the drops of water in the oceans or the grains of sand on the beaches, but no one would count those Brahmin, let alone those Indras.”
While the boy was talking, an army of ants parades across the floor. The boy laughs when he sees them, and Indra’s hair stands on end, and he says to the boy, “Why do you laugh?” The boy answers, “Don’t ask unless you are willing to be hurt.”
Indra says, “I ask. Teach.” (That, by the way, is a good Oriental idea: you don’t teach until you are asked. You don’t force your mission down people’s throats.) And so the boy points to the ants and says, “Former Indras all.Through many lifetimes they rise from the lowest conditions to the highest illumination. And then they drop their thunderbolt on a monster, and they think, ‘What a good boy am I.’ And down they go again.”
When the boy is talking, a crotchety old yogi comes into the palace with a banana leaf parasol. He is naked except for a loincloth, and on his chest is a little disk of hair, and half the hairs in the middle have all dropped out.
The boy greets him and asks him just what Indra was about to ask. “Old man, what is your name? Where do you come from? Where is your family? Where is your house? And what is the meaning of this curious constellation of hair on your chest?”
“Well,” says the old fella, “my name is Hairy. I don’t have a house. Life is too short for that. I just have this parasol. I don’t have a family. I just meditate on Vishnu’s feet, and think of eternity, and how passing time is. You know, every time an Indra dies, a world disappears— these things just flash by like that. Every time an Indra dies, one hair drops out of this circle on my chest. Half the hairs are gone now. Pretty soon they will all be gone. Life is short. Why build a house?”
Then the two disappear. The boy was Vishnu, the Lord Protector, and the old yogi was Shiva, the creator and destroyer of the world, who had just come for the instruction of Indra, who is simply a god of history but thinks he is the whole show.
Indra is sitting there on the throne, and he is completely disillusioned, completely shot. He calls the carpenter and says, “I’m quitting the building of this palace. You are dismissed.” So the carpenter got his intention. He is dismissed from the job, and there is no more house building going on.
Indra decides to go out and be a yogi and just meditate on the lotus feet of Vishnu. But he has a beautiful queen named Indrani. And when Indrani hears of Indra’s plan, she goes to the priest of the gods and says, “Now he has got the idea in his head of going out to become a yogi.”
“Well,” says the priest, “come in with me, darling, and we will sit down, and I will fix this up.” So they sit down before the king’s throne, and the priest says, “Now, I wrote a book for you many years ago on the art of politics. You are in the position of the king of the gods. You are a manifestation of the mystery of Brahma in the field of time. This is a high privilege. Appreciate it, honor it, and deal with life as though you were what you really are. And besides, now I am going to write you a book on the art of love so that you and your wife will know that in the wonderful mystery of the two that are one, Brahma is radiantly present also.”
And with this set of instructions, Indra gives up his idea of going out and becoming a yogi and finds that, in life, he can represent the eternal as a symbol, you might say, of the Brahma. So each of us is, in a way, the Indra of his own life. You can make a choice, either to throw it all off and go into the forest to meditate, or to stay in the world, both in the life of your job, which is the kingly job of politics and achievement, and in the love life with your wife and family. Now, this is a very nice myth, it seems to me.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987),
“The Power Of Myth” (with Bill Moyers)
Doubleday, New York, 1988
Now, Indra is a god similar to the old testament Jehovah. This is also the lesson of the Brothers of the Left Hand Path, as defined by Crowley, (not to be confused with LHP in Satanic practice). The overarching forces of influence and power of our age are bringers of death in life, and may prove to bring literal death in the end. It is they who are the still, shadowy figures in the abyss. If they end all terrestrial life, their influence is not even a blip, for the creative force can not be halted.
TBM: Brilliantly told by Joseph Campbell. It actually brings a whole new listening experience to the CD, and sheds a whole new light on many of the tracks (“The Time / Death / Birth Gimmick”, “Our Cacophonous Ghosts” come to mind instantly). Are you still exploring themes in “Controlled Substance”?
333: There’s a theme of addiction, the tendency in humans to want security and to control everything to the point where reality is static and dead. And the addiction to control and addiction to order. I’d cite Herman Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game” as a reference. Once an aspect of human endeavor is ossified into a formal set of works, it’s repertoire falls off until a narrow selection is all most people know. There may be a correlation between the calcification of the classical music repertoire in the last thirty years, the pervading neoconservatism/crypto-fascism and the “retro-necro” of popular culture, as Momus puts it, in the same period.
TBM: And that is the great thing about staying away from a “scene” when trying to remain free in the creative process. But your identified often with Black Metal, even though Choronzon is so far and away “different” than – really any genre. This maybe impossible to answer, but how does one set out to break the the “retro necro” of pop culture. And by doing this do you stave off any chance of commercial success?
333: Well, my own history and career has shown that I probably have avoided any chance of commercial success. I can’t say I give the “retro necro” of what passes for culture in these days much thought. The overarching, ever present bilge pumped at us from large corporate entities has nothing to do with anything and needs not be heeded or answered. While this behemoth of rehashed, watered down ideas and forms seems to be all powerful, its influence can be avoided easily enough. Television and commercial radio are as influential as one lets them be. Scene trends and styles are as limiting as one lets them be. Every one of us creates unspoilt and creative drawings before we get the message that things have to look a certain way to be a legitimate pursuit. Production values can be murder on the spark of a good idea if you accept that everything has to be squeezed into certain forms. This goes for all forms of art.
TBM: I believe it was Sting who said “there is nothing new under the sun”. (that’s a joke)… But submission to pop culture certainly gives in to Ambrose Bierce’s claim. The idea of creativity – unspoilt, pre-influence (pop culture influence) – must require quite a bit of filtering. Who do you admire, and how do you keep that from taking over your musick?
333: In a sense, I can’t help what I do. Even when I have tried to take on a style, a particular artist aesthetic or a take on a genre, there’s always something weird about it. Usually, the attempt turns into something entirely different from what I had attempted to do. It’s that inner voice.
While I’ll spend a lot of time with Killing Joke, SLEEPCHAMBER, Christian Death, Coltrane, Celtic Frost et al, I don’t consciously imitate or weed out their influence. I can hear it all in there, and what I do wouldn’t be the same without having known the work of those artists I admire, but I don’t try to cop their mannerisms.
TBM: You are a incredibly creative person, whose outlets go beyond musick. There are many people who know of you for different things, perhaps not fully being aware of the other aspects of P. Emerson Williams. You are an illustrator, musician, accomplished artists and designer, as well as somebody who has his fingers in many different projects on the web. For instance, Mythos Media and FoolishPeople… Can you tell us a bit about these projects.
333: The best way for me to give a sense of what and who FoolishPeople and Mythos Media are is to quote their (our) own words:
FoolishPeople create weaponized art, ritual theatre, collaborative events, books & film to raise a numinous experience within the witness. We engineer immersive, open source experiences that become a catalyst for positive change.
Amidst the current financial and environmental collapse, we seek to use ancient mythological techniques, elements of shamanism, drama therapy and strategic forecasting to enable a radical re-awakening of humanity’s purpose & the individual’s “true will”.
John Harrigan founded FoolishPeople in 1989, taking its name from one of the major arcana of the tarot, card 0: The Fool. “The Fool” reminds us of sacred things that we have forgotten or repressed and knows his or her own ignorance, thus is seen as the most wise. “The Fool” coaxes us to walk our own path, not the path of the “herd”, to become a “Free Spirit” – a self-actualized person, free from societal constraints, who is able to let go of outmoded beliefs and ideals with the courage to pursue their own special path.
Recently I worked with FoolishPeople on “Terra Extremitas”. The first work of theirs I became aware of was “Dead Language”. I’m currently engaged in some very intense and rewarding work with FoolishPeople. I can’t say anything about that at the moment, for they are part of our Black Ops for 2009. I will say that at the crossroads of art, music, literature, performance, ritual, magick, memetic engineering and much more I found Foolish People waiting for me. It’s thrilling to be involved.
And Mythos Media:
Mythos Media takes the ancient arts of storytelling and myth-making, and brings them to the present through modern media. We seek out the edgy and iconoclastic mavericks that exist off the beaten path, pump them full of our patented, secret super-drugs, and help them reach your eyes and ears. (We also enjoy a good fib, if it entertains or serves the plot.)
Rather than avoiding the unsettling, the unusual, the intense, we embrace it. There is nothing “cookie-cutter” about any of our products: they are all home-grown and independently produced. There are no focus groups. There is no formula aside from pushing our boundaries. You will find yourself entertained, edified, horrified, aroused and even possibly disgusted. In other words, everything you hoped to get out of college, for a fraction of the price. Take a trip with us.
Mythos Media is a company I started with author James Curcio, Michael Szul and Tovarich Pizor.
We have already published “Lives of Ilya”, an illustrated novel by Tara Vanflower of Lycia and wonderful illustrator Daniele Serra. It’s a new addition to the mythos o9f the vampire canon told in a language that is characterised by the musicality of Tara’s unique voice. For the audio book version we have several readers, one part is read by Jarboe, one by Martin Bowes from Attrition and one by an amazing artist known as Mister Sam.
The novel Fallen Nation: “Babylon Burning” is a psychedelic road trip across the highways of the modern collective unconscious. It’s a world where just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, where the things you dream about can come back to haunt you when you wake, and where the end of this world is just the beginning of another.
The audiobook for Fallen Nation, read by me and Tara Vanflower can be found at Alterati.
In addition to literature we have two musical releases. The first is SubQtaneous “Some Still Despair In A Prozac Nation“. On this album is me, Sean Marsden and Gaetan Sputnik (Elektroworx, 233Project), Scott Landes (Collide, Mankind Is Obsolete), Zac Shaw And Paul Heath (Dead Unicorn), Ryan Moll (Rumpelstiltskin Grinder), Dave Clark (Rob Banks), Jesse DeSanto (ATWG), Insanity (I&I), Martine Sinatra, Agent 036, Nate Sampsel, NightInGale & Aric Viecek (subNatural).
The other is Veil Of Thorns “Cognitive Dissonance”. A pretty little effort…
TBM: …And you have time to breath… When? In the intro for this interview I called you ” a Whirling Dervish (of the Sufi Order )… Both in the constant movement and spinning (in great productivity), but also as a man on a mystical journey. I suppose as a fitting final question… How long can you keep this pace up for?
333: Ah, well. Things go in stages. Once I go through the cycle of bringing current project home I hope to have the means to go somewhere remote for a while and recharge. I went away for a while ten years ago, but part of that was living on the streets, then working on the ocean and on to a couple years in corporate management. The journey of outward manifestation must also be balanced with the journey inward. The work itself is part of the latter, but there comes a time when sitting on a mountaintop is imperative.
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