"IT'S COMING DOWN, BABY!": Sir Richard Bishop interviewed by Erik Davis (from Arthur No. 27/Dec 2007)

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It’s Coming Down, Baby!
Erik Davis catches up with SIR RICHARD BISHOP—gypsy picatrix, ex-Sun City Girl and guitarist extraordinaire
Illustration by John Coulthart

Originally published in Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007)

Superlatives can be lame, but Richard Bishop is one of the few post-punk guitarists who came of age in the 1980s to have achieved the incendiary prowess of a true Guitar God. Though largely unknown outside the underground, Bishop plays and improvises with an uncommon and original power. He can tantalize in a myriad of styles, he has a global jukebox in his head, he can shatter the walls of sleep and chaos, and he can turn on a dime. He loves the guitar and mocks it: he plays like an absurdist and a romantic at once. He studies the occult and travels the Third World fringe and you can hear it. He plays guitar to save himself and fails in the endeavor and you can hear it. He can scare the shit out of you sometimes, and he can make you giggle and grin.

For decades Bishop played with his brother Alan and the Charlie Gocher in the Sun City Girls, where his ferocious and inventive exploration of psych-rock, punk spew, idiot jizz, Indo-Arabic fantasias, and jazzbo abstraction was often shadowed by the madcap antics, acerbic lyrics and general air of arcane weirdness that surrounded that impossible act. Gocher passed away in February this year at the age of 54, and the Girls are no more.

But over the last half decade, Bishop has also been playing and recording solo instrumental music as Sir Richard Bishop, and the effort is really starting to flower. This year SRB released two great albums. While My Guitar Gently Bleeds features three long pieces that triangulate his essential territory as an improviser: a North African arabesque, a noisy electronic nightscape, and a modal neo-raga on the tantric tip. Polytheistic Fragments is a more accessible and varied work, featuring a dozen tunes that also stretch into Americana, gypsy rag and Lennon-McCartney charm. As always, the recordings are packaged with strange and mystic images that speak to Bishop’s longtime study of esoterica.

Earlier this fall Bishop toured with labelmate Bill Callahan. I called him while he was taking a break in Seattle. Continue reading

Is the “planetary consciousness” of neotribal psytrance gatherings just window dressing for the same old hedonism?

Trance Planet
by Erik Davis

originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008)

Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal

This August, around 25,000 people hauled their kits and caboodles down a long hot narrow road in the middle of the Portuguese nowhere to camp like migrants along the shores of a lake not far from the Spanish border. They made the trek to attend Boom, a biannual electronic dance music festival that has grown into a large and successful event that eschews corporate sponsorship and keeps its roots in the underground alive. There were all sorts of people at Boom, but the dominant vibe of the weeklong festival was neotribal: a rave-inflected millennial florescence of hippie shit like long hair, fashion exotica, hardcore psychedelia, trance dancing, healing arts, and pagan-ish New Age mysticism with an apocalyptic thrust. There were chai shops and vegan grub vendors and massage centers and drug information booths, plus four music stages that provided everything from cheesy breakbeats to live world fusion to ambient driftworks. But the core genre was psytrance, an intense and sometimes unnervingly trippy form of electronic dance music whose pulverizing, brain-synching and monotonous beats that embody a ferocious psychedelic aspiration that makes dancing at Boom as much a ritual as a party.

Continue reading

ERIK DAVIS "Visionary Hollywood" tour this Saturday

“On Saturday, October 4, Esotouric, the eclectic bus adventure company whose tours reveal L.A.’s secret history, returns with a second edition of VISIONARY HOLLYWOOD, the sold out tour which debuted in June, hosted by San Francisco-based writer [and Arthur columnist] Erik Davis and inspired by his acclaimed 2006 book “The Visionary State.”

“On this journey of exploration through the mystic realms of Los Angeles, passengers will join Erik on a guided tour of five extraordinary religious sites, meet followers of their respective faiths and explore the fascinating history of alternative religious practice in Southern California.

Details:

WHAT: “Visionary Hollywood” bus tour of historic spiritual sites
WHEN: Saturday October 4, 11am-3:30pm, departs from Bodhi Tree
Bookstore in West Hollywood
COST: $64/person, snacks included
MORE INFO: visit esotouric.com or call 323-223-2767

The tour departs from Bodhi Tree Bookstore in West Hollywood and includes visits to five extraordinary destinations:

THE AETHERIUS SOCIETY, a center for cosmic consciousness and healing founded in 1955 by UFO contactee Dr. George King, where guests will hear actual recordings of an extraterrestrial voice conveying significant messages. KROTONA APARTMENTS, a former Theosophical retreat founded in 1914, where guests will have a rare opportunity to visit the central courtyard and view the Rosicrucian window of this now-private residence. SISTER AIMEE SEMPLE MCPHERSON’S PARSONAGE, the beautifully restored private home and museum to the life of the influential and charismatic founder of the Foursquare Church on the edge of Echo Park. THE PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH SOCIETY, founded in 1934 as a non-denominational repository for the wisdom of the world, where guests will be guided by librarian, lecturer and author Maja D’Aoust through the Society’s remarkable library. THE VEDANTA SOCIETY OF
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, founded in 1930 to bring sacred Hindu philosophy to the West, where guests will be given a presentation on the Society’s history and programming, and browse in its fine gift shop.

Tour cost includes snacks and beverages served at The Aetherius Society and a seat on a luxury coach class bus equipped with monitors, air conditioning and restroom.

The post tour book signing at Bodhi Tree includes host Erik Davis, Maja D’Aoust (Philosophical Research Society librarian and author of “The Secret Source”) and Louis Sahagun (author of “Master of the Mysteries,” a new biography of PRS founder Manly P. Hall).

ABOUT THE HOST: Erik Davis is a San Francisco-based writer, culture critic, and independent scholar. He is the author of “TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information,” as well as a short critical volume on “Led Zeppelin IV.” Davis writes the “Analog Life” column for Arthur and contributes to scores of other magazines. His profile of Joanna Newsom in Arthur No. 25 was selected for inclusion in the “Best Music Writing 2007” collection from Da Capo. He won a Maggie award for his “San Francisco Magazine” profile of the Internet entrepreneur and UFO contactee Joe Firmage, while “The New Yorker” has recognized his expertise in the works of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. He lectures frequently on topics ranging from electronic music to the evolution of consciousness.

For more information about Erik Davis, visit www.techgnosis.com
For more on The Visionary State, visit www.visionarystate.com


Arthur contributor Erik Davis on WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM for Slate

Deep Eco-Metal

Delve far enough into heavy metal, and you’ll find environmentalists.

By Erik Davis
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007, at 1:44 PM ET
slate.com

After 20 minutes of driving around in the dark near Santa Cruz, I found the right road and pulled up in front of a cemetery. I was looking for a rock band called Wolves in the Throne Room, whose gig tonight was advertised as occurring “somewhere in the woods.” Stepping into the chilly evening, I slammed the car door and started walking down an unlit lane toward a forest of cypress and eucalyptus. Where the asphalt gave way to dirt, a scruffy kid with a lantern led me and a few others along trails and over streams. A sign asked us not to smoke, to turn off our cell phones, and to try to refrain from talking. Nobody asked me for any money.

Stumbling through the weeds, I came across 30 or 40 young folks gazing at a black-and-white film loop of ravens and ravaged forests that was projected onto a sheet pegged to a massive conifer. The crowd shuffled and stared and occasionally burped and giggled. Then we lumbered through the bushes toward a nearby clearing marked by a few antique hanging lanterns, a drum kit on a carpet, and a couple of amps and guitars. There was no stage, no risers, no proper lights. A massive tree limb stretched over the clearing, and a few people had clambered up for a better view, young gents with furry hats and Rasputin beards passing around bottles of nameless homebrew. Waves of ambient electronica began flowing out of an old analog synthesizer, merging with the groan of a nearby generator. After 15 minutes of this, three rather nondescript guys shuffled out of the crowd and took up their instruments.

Given the setting, you might think that Wolves in the Throne Room was some West Coast jam band or a freak-folk combo. But what these three fellows played was melancholic and often brutal black metal. READ MORE…


"The Crazy Wisdom of Philip K. Dick" online course by Erik Davis

The Crazy Wisdom of Philip K. Dick
An online course by Erik Davis
Maybe Logic Academy (http://www.maybelogic.org)
Sep. 17 – Nov. 11

Once a purely cult figure, Philip K. Dick ( 1928-1982) is now widely recognized as a pulp visionary of the highest order. This course will approach his work not so much as science fiction but as crazy wisdom. We’ll explore how his texts seem designed to illuminate our posthuman problems and our most ancient philosophical questions — and to then scramble those insights with a cheap ray gun. We will read two of Dick’s major novels, _The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch_ and _VALIS_, both chosen for their heavy gnostic themes. We will discuss drugs and archons and machines that break down, including, possibly, yourself. We will also explore the two greatest examples of the many PKD movies to date, the “new” _Blade Runner_ version and _A Scanner Darkly_—further evidence that Dick’s spirit will only continue to permeate the culture at large.

Please check out
http://www.maybelogic.org/erikcrs.htm
and consider signing up!