Shpongle Interview

Interview with Shpongle (Simon Posford)

Contributing Writer : Brooke Kettering

Make sure you check out the live experience Simon Posford creates at Electric Forest Music Festival!  For more information, check out the event website: ElectricForestFestival.com

B: How are you doing?

S: I’m good, a little tired, but umm feeling good. Excited for tonight’s show.

B: Have you been touring like crazy?

S: Yea, I’m on an eternal tour. We’ve done, I don’t know, ten days or something like that. We’ve only just started I guess, and it’s fifty shows in total.

B: So you’re touring as Shpongle right now, correct?

S: The Shpongletron, ya, exactly.

B: Right, how was Coachella?

S: Coachella was amazing. A lot of people, and fantastic production.  So everything just conspired for a great show.

B: When you go to festivals like that, do you ever get time to enjoy yourself?

S: We did. Um, commercially I suppose Coachella isn’t really my type of festival but um, the only people we really wanted to see were Trentemoller but because all the people and stuff we got stuck by Duran Duran for some reason.

B: So you got to hang out for a few days or were you back on the road right away?

S: We stayed for two days, we saw Duran Duran and Kanye and a few other people.  But pretty much had to go straight out.

B: So, I’m more of a conversationalist than a journalist, but, hopefully we can just have a nice conversation and I’ll able get some interesting stuff out of it.

S: Ya, I mean ask me anything you like and if you want me to expand further I always can.

B: Something that I found interesting…have you heard of CouchSurfing, the website?

S: Couchsurfing?…yes.

B: So I’ve been doing that for a while…just hosting not traveling myself…

S: Really? How is it?

B: It’s been awesome! I’ve had all great experiences.  I hosted this one guy from Israel and, I always try to find a common ground in music, and in saying that I listen to some electronic music, he said he listens to Shpongle.   And then I was in this remote part of Mexico (Mahahual), where I became friends with these Mayan dancer dudes, and in talking about electronic music, Shpongle was our common musical ground.  You obviously tour all over the place…why do you think Shpongle is soo…can appeal to anyone?

S: Um I think, you know, Shongle is very universal.  The other guy in the band, Raja Ram, is 70 years old.  I’m obviously a bit younger than that, so you know, it seems to attract everyone from kids to grandparents. I know that he has plenty of people his age who like it.  I have a letter from somebody who works with autistic children, doing music therapy, and they play Shpongle for them as well.

B: Really! Do you know how they use it?

S: I don’t know what sort of music therapy involves, sort of playing the music and getting them to engage with it in some way I guess.  And one of the kids, he didn’t talk to anyone, he didn’t talk at all, he sort of learned the Shpongle music, he really digged it and the first words that he said in the class were,  “Shpongle! Shpongle!”  So that’s nice…I don’t know why it has that universal appeal…I mean the music…I guess, there’s something there for everyone.  I mean there’s certainly something in there to piss off everyone, we use so many different influences from Indian to Moroccan, to jazz to classical, dub, psychedelic, but you know there’s gonna be something in there for someone not to like, but you know also something for someone to like, maybe.

B: It seems like dubstep is becoming huge, becoming more mainstream.  Do you see the music you’re producing incorporating dubstep more?

S: I’m not particularly into dubstep myself, so I’m not going to suddenly start producing dubstep just ‘cause it’s trendy.  I mean I’ve never done that with any sort of music.  I incorporate what influences me and what I listen to, so I guess if I start listening to a lot of dubstep then it might creep into the music but as of now I haven’t.  I think dubstep seems like any musical fad, I think it will probably die out.  Or not die out, but you know these things always diversify, they incorporate other genres. So rather than me incorporate dubstep it’s much more likely that dubstep will incorporate other styles of music and splinter into different versions of itself and different genres within the genre.

B: Younger Brother seems pretty different from what you’ve done in the past.  Do you enjoy doing that because you like working with the people or because you actually like that music more?

S: Ya, I just really wanted to do something with the band.  Younger Brother was the first project we performed with a band, taking electronic stuff and performing it with a band and enjoyed it so much that we then sort of got the people we were performing with, involved in the studio when we were recording.  Again, it’s a reflection, it’s another aspect of music I listen to, and another of my tastes.  You know, I like rock music, I like Radiohead, and Pink Floyd and those sorts of things. And then we have Ru singing which naturally lends itself to more of a band sound, with a song structure. It’s just another aspect of what I like to do…If I stick to any one thing for too long I get bored. Even doing Shpongle, as much as the sort of multi-colored , hyper-dimensional that shpongle is, I still get bored and want to do something different after I’ve done too much. And so Younger Brother was sort of like that. And although people say it used to be psytrance, it never really used to be psytrance. My project Hallucinogen is what I would call psytrance.

B:So then what would you call Shpongle?
S: Shpongle…is sort of genre-defiant.  I always say, you know trying to describe music, there aren’t really the right number of keys on the typewriter, you can’t translate music into language.  It’s like describing physics through the medium of dance, or mime.  Music itself is a translation of emotion and feeling, and possibly something spiritual.  I understand for journalists and marketing people and record labels, to describe it to people who haven’t heard it you need to sort of convert it to language, but I don’t really know how you do that for Shpongle.

B: Speaking music and spirituality, do you ever use sacred frequencies or anything like that?
S: I’ve messed around a little bit with that ya, the golden ratio and with whatever it is, 7 Hz. I don’t think it really makes much difference. Generally I don’t worry about that kind of stuff. I just do what I want to hear.  The basic rule of all the music I make really, is I make something I wanna hear.

B: How is the energy of the crowds different across the world? Or is it the same?
S: I mean the crowds, I guess they’re different. I only really see unity, of people that love music, and want to have a good time and be able to party and lose themselves in music and dance. That’s something very primal and shamanistic that has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, probably. How are the crowds different? I don’t know they speak different languages, they come from different countries, but I see more of the commonality between us all.

B: Back to how you produce music…are you kind of obsessive about making something sound the way you might envision it or is it more organic? How is that process for you?
S: The process in the studio has to be very flexible and you can’t, it’s a strong tide, to give a bizarre river analogy…to swim upstream is always going to be very difficult so you have to go with the flow wherever it takes you. But yes, I am very obsessive so I’ll get stuck in whirlpools and headies with a particular sound, I’ll obsess about the detail of a tiny sound that might be, in the final mix, might be so small and such a minor part of the greater landscape, it might’ve just been sort of one little rock pool of the giant river, but ya I get a bit obsessive of every sound I work on.

B: I saw a video of you guys in the studio recording sounds like a coin being stirred around a wine glass…have you found some sound that you especially enjoy creating?
S: I would say nothing in the studio is off limits.  My studio is a big combination of digital and analog.  Analog can be anything that works from a chip packet to rubber bands to coins in a glass. And then you know I’ll also use the latest high tech plugin. Whatever makes a sound is gonna be useful.  Nothing’s off limits.  I’ve gone through the trash and whatever’s lying on the floor, scrumpled it up or torn it and record it. Record a bowl of water, cups of teas…the state of computer technology now is such that you can crumple a crisp packet and make it into a giant cascade of falling trees in an enchanted forest. You can take a single coin and turn it into a liquid drop of nectar.

B: Ooo nice analogies. Do you ever get the chance to be an audience member.
S: Uh, ya sometimes. Not at my own shows obviously, I’d love to see a shpongle show.

B: What is the shpongletron experience anyway?
S: Oh it’s just a marketing name really but to try and describe what it is…it really has to be seen. It’s sort of a giant structure, visually it’s a bit like a pyramid, all the lighting is done with projectors and projections and 3-D mapping so it literally throbs and breathes with life. It’s super psychedelic.  And things move around.

B: Cool!  Have you read DMT: The Spirit Molecule?
S: Is that the Terrence McKenna one? I think Terrence McKenna is the best person at eloquating, is that a word?  At articulating the psychedelic experience, at translating, again, something that doesn’t really translate to language. He’s got the closest. I don’t know if you’ve heard any of his lectures about DMT and the psychedelic experience.

B: Ya, he is.  You can choose not to answer this, but do you often perform shows on some type of psychedelic?

S: No, I can’t perform under anything, even drunk. I might smoke a cigarette. Now I don’t even really smoke a joint cuz I sort of need to be clear..I get so nervous before I play, as well. I don’t want anything to enhance my nervousness.

B: Even after all these years you still get nervous?
S: Ya, I guess it’s a good thing. It’s better to be nervous than complacent.  Sometimes it’s a bit of a pain, when you can’t really relax before a show.

B: Ya, but then you get that release when it’s over.

S: Ya exactly. You get the high of it being immediately over, but then the inevitable depression a few hours later, when the endorphins run out.

B: When it comes to DMT and that whole experience, do you feel like it’s a good short cut and advantageous for people to experience something so spiritual like that, or do you think there’s something detrimental to experiencing something so sacred from something synthesized from chemicals?
S: No, I always take the short cut myself. Why take the long route? Sure you could do thirty years of yoga or meditation and serious study and probably get somewhere close to that experience. But, amazing, why not take a hit on a pipe and you can get there in a minute? Nah, I think it’s amazing.

B: Do you think you would be doing what you do if it wasn’t for those kinds of experiences?

S: Probably not, no.

B: You think you’d be a mechanic or something?
S: I can’t really do a lot else, to be honest so, I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing. I’d like to be a racing driver, that looks kind of fun. I’d like to be a writer as well. But I’d hate to be an unsuccessful writer.

The rest is off-the-record, small talk. J  All in all, Simon Posford seems to be a super down to earth, open, spiritual artiste.  Google 3-D mapping, and then go experience the Shpongletron and Younger Brother!   a