Interview to Simon Posford aka Hallucinogen aka Shpongle
Simon Posford aka Hallucinogen met Marge from Looney Moon on May 3rd 2008, when he came to play at Looney MoonMaitake Production party at Ranch, in Torino, Italy. Interview to Simon Posford published on Mushroom Magazine
Since Shpongle’s first album, Chill Out music and culture have gone a long way…In what do you feel they have changed?
Simon Posford: I don’t know if Chill Out music and culture have changed, it depends where you are, who is playing, what kind of party it is. The Chill Out, of course, is a good place to go and relax, that’s why it is called “the Chill Out”! But I suppose it is true that there are more and more chill out artists getting bigger and bigger. In fact the first time we did Younger Brother, we did our gig at Brixton Academy in London, a very big venue. That was more of a show, a concert rather than a set in a Chill Out room. Maybe people are bored of hearing just trance, they are sort of opened out more to new experiences. I suppose ten-fifteen years ago, people just wanted trance and just wanted to dance to it. Now people are more opened to a bit of everything, as long as it is psychaedelic and interesting. It does not really matter what you do. Of course it depends what you mean by Chill Out music; anything could be Chill Out music. For instance Brian Eno’s music is very ambient and he does art installations as well. His work is far away from a psycaedelic trance party. Actually it is strange that we end up with a Chill Out room at a trance party. Maybe it is there just for people to relax, but as long as the music is good then probably people are going to be interested in the music, in the artist, and they are maybe going to travel just to see that artist, just to hear his music.
It depends what you go to parties for. Some people are here because they want to dance all night, others are here to listen to some good music and probably would go to a Chill Out event with no psycaedelic trance playing. We are doing our Shpongle gig at Halloween in 2008 this year and there is no going to be any trance music there and Shpongle is a Chill Out act. Chill out covers such a wide range of music that it encompasses normal shows and gigs…
You’ve been travelling a lot, what is your favourite crowd?
SP: I always love Japan, Japan is fantastic. I love the culture, the people, the parties, the food, everything about it really. They are so technically brilliant as well, the sound is always good, the equipment is always great. Many artists will tell you the same thing, people love Japan.
Shpongle has not played together very often. How is it to play as a live band?
SP: It is a fucking nightmare! The Shpongle music is very layered, there are a lot of instruments and is very technical. In the studio we are privileged enough to know some great musicians that we get down to play and then we edit it really heavily and chop everything up for them to replay it is often quite hard. Luckly for the guitars, the artist who works with us is technically brilliant and our singer is also fantastic…
We don’t do Shpongle live a lot, just because it is so difficult! We need so many people…For the Halloween show that we are doing in London in october this year, there are going to have two singers, two drummers, a bass player, two guitars, a cello player, myself, Raj…I mean, that’s ten and that won’t even cover what is on the record!
Also the feeling of playing live is a fucking nightmare, because I am always terrified that it is going to go wrong at any moment. Luckly the musicians are great so normally they get it right, but I don’t really trust myself and Raj. We are the weak legs! We make the music in the studio, but playing it live is different. I am not really a performer, I love staying in the studio, creating music and trying to challenge myself artistically. Playing live does do that, the challenge is itself very exciting, but I am also a bit shy of being up there in front of a huge crowd of people.
Your solo project: Hallucinogen. Is there ever going to be another album?
SP: There will be another album. I am not consciously working towards an album, for the last few years my other projects have taken up my time, Shpongle and Younger Brother particularly. As an artist, what I want is to challenge myself creatively and that has been the most exciting challenge for me, collaborating with people. When I made the first two albums I was much younger and I was much more of a control freak and I did not necessarily want other people involved. I enjoyed making music on my own, whereas now I enjoy the chemistry of working with someone else. I enjoy someone persuading me not to do what I would naturally do. However, after a few years doing that, now I swing the another way. Firstly because I feel there is a gap in the trance market, all the trance music that is coming out lately sounds very similar to me. I have only ever made music to excite myself and I think I am ready now to go back to Hallucinogen. I wasn’t before, in the last few years I have not been so interested, just because the trance music I hear at the parties I go to sounds very generic, not something I really want to do myself. If you go to gigs and people want to hear that, if that is what they expect and what they think trance music is, then it is not really my arena. However, as an artist I need to make music and as I want to do something different than what it is around now, I am definitely going to do more Hallucinogen. It is all about a sort of personal quest.
If you had to choose a movie to make a soundrack to, what would it be?
SP: My music is very visual so I guess a very visual kind of movie, the one that immediately springs to mind is Baraka . Maybe something with not so much plot to really explore the sonic and the visual sound scapes together. That would be pretty interesting to do. I would also like to make music for a proper movie, with a plot and everything, because it would be just a challenge to try, it would be different, something I have never done. For sure I would be interested in doing any movies.
What are your favourite synths and plugins?
SP: I am a big fan of the 101, I use it in all my live sets, it is a great synth because it has a knob slide for every control and this is great. I can look at the 101 and instantly see what sound is going to come out, as long as it is in tune.
Native instruments stuff is very good on the software front as well. I like all the native instruments, but synths wise I don’t use a lot of software synths, just because I am after something that is more characterful, it does not necessarily have to be better. Analog synths aren’t necessarily better, in fact the plugin synths and the digital stuff often sound cleaner and better produced in a way. It is very easy to get to what people consider a good level of production because they make a nice, big, clean sound. However, it all sounds a little generic to me and so what I really go after is character. All those analog synths don’t sound the same. I have got an OSCar, I also have the software version, the impOScar, but I hardly ever use it because it is so predictable. You turno OSCar on and it does not make the sound you want, it drives you crazy…it only works half the time. But when it does work you get something unique and truly characterful. And that’s what I really want to hear in music.
Are you influenced by the dreams you make when you sleep?
SP: A dream can really stay with you, it does affect daily things, of course. It affects your making music, but actually anything affects your making music. Your music will be affected also if someone calls you on the telephone while you are working,.
I got an incredible trouble one time with an ex-girlfriend. I woke up the next day and she was being really rude and offish with me, I couldn’t understand why and I kept asking her “What’s wrong” and she said “Oh! You said this other girl’s name in your sleep!” and I said “Oh yes, I did have an erotic dream about her in fact!” (laughs) You cannot control your dreams, you cannot control who you sleep with in your dreams, sometimes it is hard to control who you sleep with in real life!
Dreams, real life and fear of death. Have you ever felt scared because you were in a powerless position that you could not control?
Every time you take LSD you feel that you have to “abandon” yourself to it. You don’t know what is going to happen and you really have to give yourself up to the universe. As for facing death, I went to hospital last year to have my gallbladder removed. Before it was removed, I went to the hospital to have the scan and they gave me a sort of pregnancy scan. I was making all the joes that probably everyone makes in that situations, I was asking the doctor “Is it a boy or a girl?” The doctor did not laugh and looked very serious and I thought that something may be wrong. She said “I will tell you at the end” and I thought that that did not sound too good. Then she said to me “You have these kinds of spots in your liver, which could mean many things. It could mean bowel cancer…” I had to wait at the hospital for hours waiting for the specialist to turn up, meanwhile the guy next to me in the waiting room started vomiting and sounding really ill. So your mind starts thinking all sort of things “What if I have cancer, what if I got admitted to hospital now, I am not ready” It would be like being suddenly taken to prison…It is like anything else, if you can prepare for it is one thing, but if you are suddenly there, admitted to hospital, next to a guy that keeps vomiting…No, thank you, I’d rather go back home and die there on my own! Luckly of course it was fine, the specialist came and said that there was nothing to worry about those spots, but that my gallbladder had to be removed. I am not afraid of death, but when you suddenly get confronted with your own mortality, it does make a change…I am not scared of dying because we don’t know what happens when you die, but I don’t want pain or a long suffering. This is what scares me.
Let’s talk about life now. What are the three things you like best in life?
SP: The first two have to be music and sex, for sure, and drugs…(laughs). I love food, I love wine, I love pleasure. Creating or hearing a really good tune gives me a lot of pleasure. I also like sleeping, I sleep a lot, as Bill Hincks said “I need at least eight hours of sleep a day and also ten hours at night”. Can I have pleasure as one of the things? So music and sex are pleasure. So, my three favourite things are pleasure, happyness and fun!
If you reincarnated in someone or something, who would that be?
SP: I’d like to be reincarnated in my girlfriend..! No, I am joking! Actually, my life is pretty good, I would not mind living my life again but better! If I reincarnated in an animal it would be a bird, because birds have the flying thing, which is pretty cool. Or dolphins have the swimming in the ocean thing, so both of these animals I guess. If I reincarnated as a plant, it would be cannabis, because…I am so familiar with it! A lot of people get cremated in the end anyways…