9 Feb 2012

Entering an Illusion - Annapurna Illusion Interview

Entering an Illusion - Annapurna Illusion Interview

In 2010 we introduced the pyramidal meditationist ‘Life is an Illusion’ album by Annapurna Illusion, the evil twin of Not Not Fun’s High Wolf. Rocket scientists then trekked to the far reaches of the known world to interview this elusive Kosmische spirit of the dead and what follows are the transcripts of the meeting. So soundtrack your mind with this AI sampler and we hope you enjoy the read.


Entering the Illusion: In the highs of the Nepalese mountains, how did the darkness of Annapurna illusion transmutate from the lightness of High Wolf, and is High Wolf the sherpa to AI's music?

If High Wolf was born in the Nepalese mountains, Annapurna Illusion comes from the cremation ceremonies along the Ganges in Varanasi. AI is one of those characters like Maldoror or Melmoth, who fell in the darkness and wander since then. So AI tries to make HW fall, and HW, like Ulysses or Dante just visits hell but managed to escape every time so far.

AI is the pulsion of death (see Freud's theory), HW is Nietzsche's will of power. They're opposites and complementary, they're Eros and Thanatos, in an eternal struggle, trying to kill the equilibrium that maintains those two forces equal so they can't win this war. High Wolf is the solar energy that creates light, AI is the gravity that will eventually make the sun die.


An illusion is a distortion of the senses, revealing how the brain normally organises and interprets sensory stimulation. Some illusions are based on general assumptions the brain makes during perception. These assumptions are made using organisational principles, like Gestalt, an individual's ability of depth perception and motion perception, and perceptual constancy. Other illusions occur because of biological sensory structures within the human body or conditions outside of the body within one’s physical environment, what is Annapurana's Illusion?

As said, life is an illusion. There are many ways to understand this, a spiritual way (maya), a scientifical way (Gestalt), a sociological way...They're all true. Of course we analyze the world with our limited perception (senses) and intellect. For instance, colors don't exist, it's just our brain perception of the light reflection on various objects / substances. But can we really understand that? That the sky is not blue, the snow isn't white, a banana isn't yellow?

There is also the illusion of control and free will. We don't know how free we really are. The inconscious takes care of more than eighty percent of our body actions and we don't know how much it is responsible for our decisions. It's very possible that none of our "conscious" decisions is really independant. Some studies show that some brain signals prove that the decision is already made before we actually realize it.

Not to mention our idea of time that makes every observation and statement we make temporary. And there is a volontary illusion, a social and political one, that we maintain through education, the illusion that convinces you that you have no choice, an illusion created by the system to stay alive and not to be questionned. But we tend to create illusion ourselves as well. Jung said illusion is for the soul as much important as oxygen for the body. Illusion is reality for the soul. Soul creates reality everyday. At the end no one can tell what is illusion and what is reality.


Annapurna Illusion's dark Krautrock aesthetic reveal's itself in tracks like hypnotic moiré of black & white geometry, when the listener hears, the impression is given of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibration, patterns, of swelling or warping, do you seek to paint with your music?

I paint with emotions. It's deeply emotional and instinctive to me. It's like transmitting an energy. This pure matter is then reinterpreted by the brain in a subjective way, you'll see colors, shapes, you'll invent a story. It's the same process that we decribed earlier, this music goes through one sense and then our over complex brain messes with it BUT keeps some truth to it anyway. Illusion doesn't necessary means a conspiracy.


For my ear's AI share's a cosmic exosphere with the highly regarded German musicians of the 70's, Kosmische artists: AR Machines, Klaus Schulze and Harmonia. What attracted the 'Wolf' to the upper limits of the atmosphere, where these musicians reside, men of higher heights?

Just an attraction towards the deeper layers of understanding. The curiosity, the will to experiment. The thirst of knowledge. And as everything is connected, looking for the bottom of things leads to the higher heights. If you want to know who you are you have to contemplate yourself, quietly, slowly sorting out all those slowly pieces of you. Understand that some parts comes from a biological process, some come from your social background, some from your education...what is coming from your subconscious, what in this subconscious is personal, what is an heritage...Your personality is like a puzzle made of hundred of pieces. And you, as an entity, is one piece of a bigger puzzle that is the universe. You're a ridiculously insignificant piece but you're part of the puzzle. It's the famous "Know Thyself" as I interprete it. So once you start to do this work, this analysis, you're trying to go behind the illusion, to see the reality of things. To seek for a pattern or to discover the absurdity of things, the absence of determinism.


Rocket are big fans of Heldon & Richard Pinhas music, are you aware of them & is their a strong sense of electronic music from where you are from?

Not really. First time I head Heldon was actually at Chris place after the show in London we played together with Gnod. I briefly checked some of the later Richard Pinhas work when I was younger, like 10 years ago, but not that much. That was just before the downloading era so it was quite difficult to get those records. I should look into that. I know it's a big deal in the history of french music.


What modern music can you relate to, you play with so many other musicians I imagine you are exposed to a great variety of influences?

Yes of course I am totally influenced by other people's music, both from the past and from today. This is more like a stylistic influence. The biggest influence, the influence that gives me energy, emotions, the real stimulus is life itself, contemplation, meditation (physical and metaphysical). But now after meeting so many musicians I see that at the end friendship makes the difference and the musical similarities doesn't really matter. Being part of a specific musical scene is not my concern anymore.


The Annapurna mountain range is a section of the Himalayas in Nepal & has the worlds most dangerous climb with the worlds most deepest Gorge, is there something of an analogy with your music, something dramatic and how has that part of the world influenced you?

For me it's about the extreme. It's like "I wanna go to the mountains". But I wanna go to the highest and most impressive mountains in the world. I want to experience the majesty of things, I want to experience "the oceanic feeling" (R.Rolland), I want to be crushed by the mighty power of the universe. I want the highest peak, the thickest ice, the most burning lava, the most dangerous waves, the loudest sound, I want to feel that power.


You've travelled the world on many long flights, been to the ends of the earth & fallen off the edge and back again, what soundtracks your journey & how have those travels influenced you?

Those travels made me who I am now, it goes far beyond music influence. I don't know if everyone can really point what events in their life made a huge difference. I know that going around the world, rather than giving me the feeling of "I've seen it all" fed my curiosity in some kind of vicious circle that is now "the more I know the more I want to know". I do bring some music with me when I'm travelling but I don't really use it as much. It's always fun to hear the local pop music (when you go out of the western world) and keep your ears open. And I do have a lot of lectures, about philosophy, science, whatever, in my ipod and for a while now I listen to those way more than music, I turned my ipod in a take away school.


What part of the world most surprised you musically, have you ever been somewhere so culturally different, but through the music you have somehow tapped into something deep rooted?

Well that's whay I like human diversity so much, it's because you never loose the link between all of us. Even in the furthest tribe with crazy rituals, weird social codes, you get this human core that everyone shares and that makes it understandable. And it's amazing to see the range, to feel how different humans can be while being the same.

So it can be through music for instance. Everyone in the world, almost every civilization, invented hand drums, shakers, string instruments, and singing technics. Now with that common base, the need to sing, hit, pick and the objects, the media of this need and will, the music will sound totally different if you try to analyze it in an occidental way (nothing pejorative with that notion). Tunes, modes, rythms etc will change a lot depending on where you are but if you look at the bigger picture, it's all the same. Once again the decorum, the individuality, the superficialism makes all different but when you dig you find this similarity. And I love both feelings, I love to feel that difference, it's the proof of human creativity and ability to evolve no matter what, and I love to feel the connection that remains no matter how different it sounds at first.


The first time I saw you, you played a long improvised expanding piece with members of GNOD, do the musicians who collaborate with you determined the direction you might take and how do you connect with them?

Of course they determinate the direction from many ways. The most basic things, like how many people are joining, what instruments they play, will, obviously determine a lot of things. For instance that day there was a drummer, which is not something frequent for me, so I had to make my percussion loop more simple to give him the space he needs to express himslef. But the thing I like the most playing with Gnod is their incredible energy that makes you feel undestructible on stage. It's quite something. They played a bunch of time with me for HW sets and I played once as a member of Gnod in Manchester, it was really great to experience this.

Now I've taken a different path for a while, putting live collaborations away until further notice. I needed something different, especially after touring the US and playing with such great musicians. It was like an initiation rite. Now I can use everything I've learnt by playing with so many people over the years, which was such a great experience, with some hits and misses or course. The stability of the solo adventure is quite different, you take some risks as well but you have nothing to worry about or to focus on except what you're playing, and it feels good for me right now. It's possible that in a couple of years I'll miss this collective energy and go back to those jams, I don't know.


What I enjoyed about your set with GNOD was I improvised my light-show to what I was taking from the music as you played, almost playing my projectors & slides - blanking out the light in time like percussive tools themselves. Are there other occasions where you might collaborate with visuals aswell as musicians, it certainly all seemed to merge in my mind?

I'm about to start a collaboration with a visual artist called Maximilian Pearson. That'll be the first real sound / visual collab for me. I'm very excited about this. I'm into this idea of collaborating with other media. I am now using visuals for my live shows as well, it's nothing precise, just a collage of extracts from some great ethnological / ethnomusical documentaries but it helps to make it a bigger experience. Stimulating two senses is better than stimulating only one.


I read somewhere 'The Solar System Is My God', tell me more about this as Rocket can certainly relate to this?

This is one track title from my first LP ("Ascension" on Not Not Fun). Actually it comes from a Sun City Girls track called "God is My Solar System". I felt like my conviction was the opposite. Solar System Is My God. Make it better with capital letters. But it's not really true. Cosmos is my god, the universe is my god, it goes further than solar system. By Solar System here we symbolize the universe in its entirety. As I said before I feel like I'm a part of this universe. Earth is a tiny planet lost in the middle, or at the extremity, who knows, of the cosmos. Earth has been created by a reunion of broken pieces. Some of the planet's water comes from comets that hit the earth hundred of millions years ago and some essential life composants as well from meteors. We come from an extra terrestrial origin, even though I think extra terrestrial doesn't mean anything. Because it's so obvious we're a part of the whole, created into a whole, it's stupid to oppose terrestrial and extra terrestrial, it doesn't make any sense. The earth is extra terrestrial itself because it's just pieces of former cosmic matter.

Anyway the genealogy of religion is fear. Fear of the non understanding and fascination towards nature's mighty manifestation. First people on earth were scared by storms and earthquakes, it's quite legitimate, so they thought it was actions of higer power, deities god. Well I'm quite into that idea myself, and because we now understand what is a storm, what is an earthquake, it's the observation of the universe that makes this same feeling, responsible for the creation of religion, that's why I say "solar system is my god". It's a new kind of "oceanic feling", it's a "cosmic feeling". It's changing from fear to amazement.

It's not that I believe in a higher intelligence or some kind of designer, I'm thrilled with facts difficult to apprehend, like Einstein's relativity theories, Planck, the multiverse theorie, whatever, things that goes far beyond the concrete experience of life (you'll never experience time and space curving or go through a dark hole). It's like there are things out there that go far beyond anything a human being could imagine and invent. But we are good enough to "discover" those things, step by step. First men were looking at the stars and thought "what the fuck is this?", now we are able analyze the composition of planets, discovering exoplanets avery week, know how a star born and die...it's crazy the amount of knowledge we grabbed from the universe in such a small period of time.


What does the future hold for AI & High Wolf, any further alter egos?

HW has a new LP out now on Holy Mountain. Annapurna Illusion has a split coming, part of a tape box celebrating the end of the label Peasant Magik. I want to record the follow up to "Life Is An Illusion" anytime soon. I'm finishing a LP for Not Not Fun. Iibiis Rooge, my duo with Neil Campbell, will be out soon on Weird Forest. And I'll be busy with travelling, playing shows in Europe, Russia until march, touring USA in April, travelling in middle east in may and june...


Annapurna Illusion's Life is an Illusion still is available on vinyl & download


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