Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wesley Morgan - Back Room in Tulsa

I'm pleased to announce the official release of Back Room in Tulsa an EP by up and coming singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer/engineer Wesley Morgan. I was fortunate to work with Wesley and a stellar band he assembled on two of the tracks, Back Room In Tulsa, and Flesh and Bone at John Vanderslice's studio, Tiny Telephone, in San Francisco. It was an all analog recording  through a vintage Neve console onto a Studer Multitrack machine then mixed down to an Ampex 1/2" never once passing through an A/D converter en route. This certainly made a difference in the quality of the recording. I was especially happy with the vocal sound we got. Wesley brought his own microphone, a Neumann M149, the reissue of the classic M49, and we used a Neve mic pre and one of  Tiny Telephone's vintage compressors. He told me the exact signal chain we used but I must have deleted that message. Maybe he'll let us know in the comments. As a rule I never notate these things preferring to just go with what feels right in the moment, but I was so impressed by the intimacy of the vocal sound we got that I asked if he remembered the signal flow.

Morgan's songwriting hails from the Tom Waits school of gritty, dark and brutally honest expression with an implied promise of redemption if from nothing else than the very fact that it can be sung about.  That fits the first song, Back Room In Tulsa further described on his website as:  "what you might hear being played at a drive-up chapel on your way to hell. Full of dark imagery and lost love, "Backroom in Tulsa" is a rollicking good time that you will regret the next day."  The musicians do an excellent job of creating the appropriate atmosphere.  You will feel like you are there.

Flesh and Bone is a tender, country style (check the pedal steel in the background) ballad full of heart and soul. It gives a fresh take on the classic scenario of a narrator so devoted to his beloved that he would do anything for her yet tinged with the melancholy feeling of knowing the limitations of time and space, flesh and blood.

 The third song, Fade, is described as: a slightly different adventure. Born from the live looping Wesley employs in his solo show, Fade is built up from a simple beat box loop that is reminisicent of the intro to "Closer" from Nine Inch Nails. Wesley then applies different sounds on top of this loop to create an electro-acoustic hybrid that borrows heavily from Radiohead, Lou Reed, P.J. Harvey, and many others. The song's lyrics present two sides of the same story, a story that dwells in obsession and desire

The closing song, Last Call, an atmospheric instrumental, recalls the spatial immensity of Ry Cooder's soundtrack for the film Paris, Texas.

All of the songs can be previewed and the EP ordered HERE.

Wesley and group are performing a free CD Release show Thursday August 2nd, 7pm at Amensia in San Francisco's Mission district.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Hakim Bey and E.J. Gold

This post will conclude my series on E.J. Gold for the time being.

Some years ago I was invited to dinner with Bill Laswell, Janet Rienstra, and radical ontologist Peter Lamborn Wilson aka Hakim Bey.  As mentioned in the last post, Wilson/Bey held the prestigious post of the official philosopher for Axiom Records.  Not many record labels have an official philosopher, but then again Axiom was an extraordinary label in more ways than one.  I had seen Peter Wilson once before when he introduced Robert Anton Wilson the first time I heard RAW speak at New York's Open Center in Soho, and listened to him occasionally on W.B.A.I.  Apart from his book T.A.Z., also mentioned in the last post, I knew PLW as an authority on Sufi poetry, and  Hassan I Sabbah,  the Old Man of the Mountain, a person of multiple legends,.  Wilson's Angels served as the main reference book when E.J. Gold and his group made extensive studies and experiments with Angelology in the 1980s.

Wikepedia says of his early work:
After studying at Columbia University, he did extensive traveling in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan India and Nepal.. He studied Tantra in West Bengal and visited many Sufi shrines and masters. In 1971 he undertook research on the Ni'matullahi funded by the Marsden Foundation of New York.[2]
This research was the basis of Bey's book Kings of Love. The biography continues:
During 1974 and 1975 he was consultant in London and Tehran for the World of Islam Festival . I1974 he became director of English language publications at the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy in Tehran under Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and he studied, worked with, and published books by Nasr, Toshihiko Izutsu, Henry Corbin and others. He was editor of Sophia Perennis, the Journal of the IIAP.Bey left Iran during the Islamic Revolution
Hakim Bey

We ate at an upscale Indian Restaurant that had a royal bearing.  Not long after we were seated, Janet mentioned that she had a couple of friends interested in learning about Sufism and asked Wilson if he could recommend a good introductory book.  He hemmed and hawed, seemed quite reluctant to give a direct answer but finally suggested that the best approach was to read Sufi poetry in the original language without specifically saying what poetry to read.  I found this a little evasive, I'm sure he had his reasons, so I said that The Sufis and The Way of the Sufi by Idries Shah seemed good introductions to the subject.Wilson objected saying those books were misleading and went on a mini, soft-spoken rant against Shah and his work saying that he brought in a lot of his own ideas and called it Sufism.  These were distortions, he felt.  I mentioned that Shah had recently died and he stopped saying that he didn't want to speak ill of the dead.  I then asked Wilson what he thought about Gurdjieff's presentation of Sufi ideas?  He felt the same way, Gurdjieff added a lot of his own stuff, you couldn't call it authentic Sufism.  Then I asked him about Reshad Feild and Murat Yagan two writers I considered knowledgeable about Sufism. Wilson wasn't familiar with either of them.

Being young, arrogant, and getting mildly frustrated with Peter Wilson's criticism and inscrutability - there was no Wikipedia at that time, I didn't fully know his creds - I said, "well I know someone in California who started a Fake Sufi school."  Laswell knew immediately where I was going with this and gave me an encouraging look which basically communicated, 'tell him about E.J.'
Wilson replied, "who is that?"
"E.J. Gold," I said.
His face lit up, "ah, there's someone who has the real goods.  Is he still giving it out?"
"Yes," I answered, "if you listen closely and pay attention.  He doesn't make it easy."

His affirmation of E.J.s Sufism surprised me as Gold seems to add all kinds of things that wouldn't be thought of as Sufism.  He also doesn't call what he presents Sufism, maybe that's one reason why Wilson considers it genuine?  However, one of his classic books is the, The Joy of Sacrifice - Secrets of the Sufi Way. 
Another is Autobiography of a Sufi.

Peter Lamborn Wilson and I got along pretty good for the rest of the dinner.  He gave me a bunch a cool bookmarks from a publishing venture he was part of, Semiotexte, that featured different outlaw literary figures on each one.  "We will no doubt see each other again," he said as we parted but that hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How I Met E.J. Gold (addendum)

Shortly after my return from California I went to a lecture by Timothy Leary.  In it he stressed the importance of working in small groups, a strategy that also received a great deal of emphasis at the workshop and convention in California.  This part of the lecture strongly resonated with Gold's school.  Along the same lines, the following year would see the publication of Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone  which "describes the socio-political tactic of creating temporary spaces that elude formal structures of control" 
( Gray, Chris (2001). Cyborg Citizen. New York: Routledge. p. 47).  This idea seemed to be in the air.  Hakim Bey was to become the official philosopher of of Bill Laswell's Axiom Records.  A few years later, I would help record a spoken word record of the same name produced by Bill for Axiom.

At one point Leary made a comment I thought rather unusual for him to make in public considering his history with law enforcement.  He said that it seemed psychedelics were the only way to reach higher consciousness.  This registered as being not at all aligned with the California school.  Nothing was ever said or implied that psychedlics or any drugs were needed to reach the waking state.  They weren't a topic of discussion at all either pro or con.  They only came up at the initial workshop talk given by Claude Needham when he advised against using psychedelics saying that E.J. had mentioned they use up energies useful for working.

During the break I stepped outside and discreetly did a short Presence Meditation.  When I came back in and went to take my seat I made eye contact with Leary.  He was beaming at me as if he knew exactly what I'd been up to.  

After the lecture a small group of us hung out around Tim hoping to talk a little more.  I wanted to ask him the same question I had asked in California.  I soon got the chance, phrasing it a little less formally.  I asked him how I could get a job doing what he was doing.  He looked puzzled so I added, 'you know, being a cheerleader for change (one of his self-descriptive slogans), that kind of thing.'  He laughed and said he didn't know but if I ever found out to please let him know.  Then he asked me if I had a computer.  Remember, this is in 1990.  Home computers were on the rise but not as ubiquitous as they are today.  It was still a few years before the internet.  It's well known that Dr. Tim was one of the first schmurus to jump on the computer bandwagon saying  they were the next stage in brain-change technology.  With this prediction he showed remarkable prescience and was completely in synch with E.J. Gold.

Gold and his G.O.D.D. ( Games Of Diabolical Distinction) crew - Dr. Claude Needham, Richard Hart, and Barbara Haynes, have been making immersive video gaming environments for almost as long as there have been computers to program.  The latest releases are the Prosperity Path levels.  "These  nonviolent environments are learning tools designed to make your life and death better."  It's basically free costing a nominal 99 cents for a download fee.  I help out with the soundtrack.  Gold's blog, Gorebaggs World carries all the latest gaming news though it gets into other things also.  It appears aimed at the general public. No experience  necessary, you just need a computer.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How I Met E. J. Gold (part IV)

It was the last chance to ask the question burning up inside of me.  In the morning I would catch a flight back to New York City.  My mind was made up to ask it no matter what happened.  Of course, as fate or Coincidence Control would have it, the circumstances couldn't have been worse.   Despite what was going on, I absolutely had to ask my question.  When it seemed a break point had been reached, I cautiously asked a question - the wrong one!  I said, " can I ask a question?"  Gold went into a satirical impersonation Of Johnny Carson's Carnac the Magnificent routine where he hilariously divines the answer without knowing the question.  After some minutes of this when it seemed I wouldn't get a straight answer to the question of asking a question, I interrupted and asked what I really wished to ask.  "How can I get a job that requires the ability to access the waking state at will in order to work at that job?"

 Carnac the Magnificent

Gold's first response was to say that was a good question.  Then he looked directly at me and said that answering that question was like trying to explain nuclear physics to a bushman from Borneo.   The rest of the reply seemed addressed to the group as much as it was to me, sometimes even moreso.  Most of the following discourse didn't sound like a direct answer to the question, sometimes it seemed only tangentially related.  The talk wasn't recorded and I wasn't taking notes.  I wrote down what I could remember on the plane the next day but don't have access to that notebook at this time.  However, some things I'll never forget, such as:

"If you want the truth you have to tell the truth.  If you lie to yourself then you'll teach the whole Universe to lie to you."

Another direct moment came when he asked, "Who are you? ... who are you?"  The same question the hookah smoking caterpillar asked Alice in the Wonderland adventures. I didn't have an answer in that moment.  I'd done the Buddhist "neti neti"  ( not this, not that) exercise enough times to know what he was asking.  I knew that I was not "Oz Fritz," not a sound engineer, not a magician, yogi or spiritual seeker, etc. etc. - these are all masks, activities, or relations, they are not who I am at the deepest level.

Gold started taking about Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land book following that question.  He knew Robert and Virginia Heinlein through his connection with Galaxy Magazine.  E.J.s father, Horace L. Gold was the founding editor.  Apparently, they were very conservative.  Gold held that Heinlein intended SIASL as a satirical comment on the hippie lifestyle.  I still find this hard to believe though having read it again recently, I do find the free love section over the top and can see how that might be a parody.

At one point Fortrean type phenomena was mentioned particularly architectural structures that couldn't have been built by any known technology  at the time they were constructed.

Toward the end of the talk he brought up the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation, found in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy story.  I don't recall the context but remember him finally saying, "they're real ... they're out there ( points up to the right), well, no actually they're over there ( pointing down to the left) ... or maybe they're over there"( pointing horizontally to the right) amongst laughter, and that's how it ended.  Claude Needham said, " to be continued..."

I felt in a very altered state when the talk was over and had no idea how long  had been.  It seemed like a really long time but in consensual clock time probably lasted for 60 - 90 minutes.  I still felt altered 2 days later at Laswell's Greenpoint studio when I helped Jason Corsaro record the best drummer alive at the time, Tony Williams, for an album called The Word by Jonas Helborg.  After Tony left, I told Bill everything that had happened in California.  Bill said that he felt a strong contact high just hearing about it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How I Met E. J. Gold (part III)

When we last left off, I had accompanied a group of musicians from IDHHB's 1990 Convention site to observe a mixdown session at the Union Label studio, as it was then called, located in one wing of E.J. Gold's ranch-style home.  I didn't return to the Convention, spending the days assisting Jimmi Accardi with studio chores.  One day saw trumpet overdubs provided by a musician named David, last name unknown, a visitor from Dru Kristel's community in New Mexico. 

The post-convention workshop had been cancelled.   Participants had their money refunded and sent home, however a few people were invited to stay, among them my ex and I. Early mornings saw us out in the California sunshine weeding the large vegetable garden until it got too hot to work.  I was supposed to stay with that small group for the rest of the day but Jimmi  made a special request to get me back into the studio.

One night I recorded Lee Lozowick singing classic rock and blues songs.  Unbeknowst to me, Lozowick was a widely recognized spiritual teacher in his own right running a community outside of Prescott, Arizona.  I just recognized him as not a particularly great vocalist who sang with much passion.  The first clue that Lee wasn't your average Joe came when I approached him in the parking lot after the session and expressed that it was nice to work with him.  Another fellow, I later guessed to be a senior student, began to bristle and look defensive as I approached Lee, like he might be on some kind of security detail.  Lee simply acknowledged the comment and stayed relaxed.  None of those songs ever got used except one, Little Red Rooster, the Howling Wolf classic, which ended up on a compilation album. 

The first one on one conversation I had with Gold occurred in the recording studio.  I told him that I could get into different states  of consciousness but couldn't stay there with any consistency.  He said that what he did was get a job that required higher consciousness to work at it.  I started to ask how he got his job then stopped myself and asked how I could get such a job?  He said that was a good question but that it should be asked before a group.  He told me to formulate the question as best I could then ask it at lunch in the dining room in front of the group.  Then he asked me a question, "Why is God in Hell?  God is everywhere, right?  So must be in Hell, too?!  I am God in Hell, Jimmi is God in Hell, you are God in Hell, etc. etc. so why is God in Hell?"  I had no idea what he was getting at so made no response.  I did recall Robert Anton Wilson writing in his Introduction to Visions in the Stone that Qabalists consider "Hell" to be the space/time continuum.

By the time lunch arrived I had formulated the question as, "how can one get a job that requires the ability to access the waking state at will in order to work at that job?"  I was prepared to ask it, however Gold made it impossible to say anything by playing back some music at a substantial volume and exhorting us to pay close attention to it.  So I thought, ok, I'll ask it at dinner.  Dinner rolled around, and again a space was created where I felt I could not ask the question without interrupting something more important.  I started to get a little antsy.  Every meal I attended in Gold's dining room for the remainder of my time there played out a similar situation.  My neccesity to ask this question kept building and building to a breaking point until I felt that I would be missing a tremendous opportunity if I was to leave California without asking the question.  It finally came down to my last evening before returning to New York.  I resolved that I would ask the question no matter what breach of conduct it required.  I might as well be dead if I left without asking the question is how strong it felt at the time.

Earlier in the week I overheard Gold make an unusual comment to Lee Lozowick saying that he lied about the Work 50% of the time.  This related to something Claude Needham had said when initially addressing the pre-convention group which was to not automatically accept anything Gold or anyone else said, including himself, as true.  They might be wrong, he said.  He then gave a past  example of people spending their whole time out there getting steered down a dubious course by community members with a personal agenda.  I didn't get the sense he was saying Institute staff would intentionally give misinformation but that it might not be relevant to our own course.  This is why I posted the Wilson video where he suggests never fully buying into other people's BS (Belief Systems) , '"I don't care who they are" - this seems very much the spirit of what Claude communicated.  That also relates with the second Wilson video - "every perception is a gamble"  To unquestioningly accept that what you perceive equals reality gives rise to "naive realism."  Don't fully buy into your own BS either.

So why would Gold deliberately lie about the Work?   I don't fully know but would suggest it has something to do with dissuading anyone of the misapprehension of appearing as some sort of infallible Guru figure.  A traditional Guru in the Eastern sense is someone you put your full trust in to carry you to the other side.  It requires unconditional obedience and unquestioning devotion.  You better hope the Guru knows what he or she is doing, and with a plethora of charlatans and out there, you risk some probability that they do not.  In my opinion, fully surrendering to an external Guru indicates the giving up of personal responsibility.  You don't have to make the effort and go through the pain of becoming enlightened, or whatever you wish to call it, the Guru will do it for you.  However true and effective that may be, you still have to go through your own death on your own.

Gold refers to spiritual teachers as schmurus which seems a yiddish way of gently discounting the Guru idea.  Like the joke about a guy going to a psychologist saying, "Doc, I think I've got one of them Oedipus Complexes," whereupon the doctor replies, in a heavy New York  accent, " Oedipus schmedipus, as long as you love your mother."

As I see it, the point is that you have to learn to think and do for yourself.  That won't happen if you're being told what to do all the time.  The realization that every perception is a gamble doesn't appear obvious in the ordinary course of events.  If you're told that 50% of what the schmuru says isn't true, then every time they communicate about the Work you will knowingly make a gamble of whether to accept or reject it as true.  Even accepting the 50% number seems a gamble. 

Gold also didn't want to be referred to as a teacher.  At the early workshop he said to not think of him as a teacher but rather a fellow researcher or a technical adviser.  However, he has been called a teacher's teacher by others on more than one occasion.  The teachers he has worked with include Chögyam Trungpa, Tarthang Tulku, Thich Nhat Hanh, Reshad Feild, John Lilly, Robert Anton Wilson, Claudio Naranjo, Lee Lozowick, Purna Steinitz, Dru Kristal, Reb Zalman Schachter, Andrew Cohen, Werner Erhard, John Allen aka Johnny Dolphin, Timothy Leary, Swami Vishnudevananda, Ricardo Flores aka Koyote, Isaac Bonewits, and Poke Runyon to name a few.  Not to say that Gold was a teacher to them all, for some he clearly was, for most it seems the influence went both ways.  Gold was friends with Jim Morrison who used the patchouli oil Gold sold out of his Compleat Enchanter shop located in the Gemini Psychedelic Supermarket in L.A.  Morrison was a frequent visitor and they would often talk philosophy and other arcane subjects.  This may have been how Morrison acquired his interest in shamanism.

Part IV, the conclusion, should be ready shortly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jon Lord's Greater Feast

Another extraordinary musician has joined the All-Star line-up in the sky.  Jon Lord who lent his signature amplified Hammond B3 Organ sound to Deep Purple, and later to Whitesnake, died earlier today in London from complications arising from pancreatic cancer.  Lord was one of the first rock musicians to incorporate classical music into his compositions.  Deep Purple's album, Concerto for Group and Orchestra was their first release to make it onto the charts.  Wikipedia has an extensive biography on him.

I listened to a lot of Deep Purple in my formative years.  Their album Machine Head was a favorite, but I particularly enjoyed the extended live jams from Made In Japan.  Songs such as Highway Star, Space Truckin, Lazy, and of course the venerable classic, Smoke on the Water stayed at the top of my playlist for some time. 

Lord shows his amazing versatility in this video. Bon voyage ...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Robert Anton Wilson On Reality

Taking a slight break from the "How I Met E.J. Gold" fugue with the harmonically contrapuntal but very much related Robert Anton Wilson On Reality video clip.

Highlights include:

1) Wilson's take on the origins of all prejudice, bigotry and ignorance - not taking into account that "every perception is a gamble," and not realizing that what we consider "reality" comes down to an interpretation of the signals we receive.  He says that in philosophy, "what I perceive is reality is called naive realism."

2) "Every reality tunnel might tell us something interesting about our world."

3) "We are trapped in linguistic constructs"  This leads to a short discussion of e-prime, trying to remove the word "is" from speech and writing, and the value of that for getting out of angry or negative emotional states.

4) The advantage of knowing your own Cosmic Schmuckness

5) People arguing about words "should be put in a nice quiet home in the country with kindly doctors and beautiful nurses and good sedatives.  Instead, they end up in government mansions and start bombing one another or leading a religious crusade for the one true faith and kill each other with swords"

6) "Why it's more fun to be an optimist than paranoid."

To return to the first point, naive realism seems related to " what Gurdjieff called the ‘formatory apparatus’, that part of the brain which was busy classifying ideas and objects, putting them into pigeon holes, and thereafter returning mechanically to them as statements of truth."

-quoted from Louise Welch , ‘Orage With Gurdjieff In America’: pg. 47 as seen on this website.

The formatory apparatus often assumes and jumps to conclusions about things with insufficient data.  The classic example in our times justified the 2nd war in Iraq due to the erroneous belief that they had programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.  Even politicians can get things wrong!

When we return to our main musical program, "How I Met E.J. Gold,"  I'll show how this video and the  Wilson video at the close of the last post fit into the overall theme.

Enjoy the video!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How I Met E.J. Gold (part II)

To continue where I left off... earlier in that same workshop where I asked Wilson about the necessity of finding a School, he mentioned that he thought Crowley and Gurdjieff  presented the same system but with different approaches, something I had long suspected.  He was asked if he thought the two Masters had ever met and said the only reasonable account he heard had them meeting in a Parisian cafe where they were both wary, didn't say much and sniffed each other out like dogs checking out the competition.  This is the account Crowley archivist Gerald Yorke gives based on something he found in Crowley's papers.  I asked Wilson if he was aware that Buckminster Fuller met Gurdjieff several times in a bar on 8th Street in New York, something I had recently read in a Fuller biography.  He hadn't heard about this.  Apparently, Fuller was put off by the followers and their adulation that swarmed around Gurdjieff vowing he would never tread the guru path.  I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall that could overhear those conversations.  They both shared altruistic ideals toward making the world a better place to live in.  Gurdjieff tried to show people how to evolve out of the cattle path of their ordinary mechanical and predictably self-destructive behavior.  Fuller felt that you can't really change people directly but you can change their environment to make it more conducive for them to change themselves.

Early in1990 our study group leader, Jimmi Accardi, moved to California to work more directly with Gold.  Jimmi, an accomplished musician and home recording enthusiast, was a perfect fit to help out with E.J.'s musical and recording endeavors.  Gold, similar to his friend Ken Kesey whom he has been compared with, is a technophile who began acquiring audio and video recording equipment about as soon as it became available on the market back in the '60's.  One part of his large home was set aside as a recording studio giving Jimmi a place to work on a daily basis.  Largely through his efforts aided with the help of some others, Jimmi re-established the musical output of I.D.H.H.B. through the creation of a indie record company called The Union Label.

Just to backtrack a second, recently I was listening to a podcast by an old friend of Gold's, Poke Runyon, about a recent book release called Inside Solar Lodge-Behind the Veil wherein he told an anecdote about Jeff Gold, as E.J. was known at the time, and described him as a "merry prankster."  I don't think Runyon meant that God was part of Kesey's gang, the Merry Pranksters, just that he is merry and a prankster.

Before he left, Jimmi sold me his essential oils kit and bequeathed his job of going to psychic fairs to blendi and sell fragrance oils for people.  This was something completely new for me, I'm more of a behind-the-scenes guy.  Sometimes I would go alone, sometimes with my wife at the time.  It was most educational, an exercise of intuition to choose what oils would work well on someone; a great way to establish a rapport with a complete stranger.  Working with the oils also required an increase of attention to keep them free from getting inadvertently contaminated with one another.To get into character, I established a different persona, bought some special clothes and had cards printed that gave my name as Mick Anubis.  Mick was my nickname growing up, Anubis, the ancient Egyptian jackal-headed god is a psychopomp in their mythology, the guide through the Land of the Dead.

Another thing Jimmi bequeathed me was the Sufi Movie Club.  He had encouraged me to start a discussion group to introduce these ideas to anyone who might show an interest.  A discussion group was much looser and more informal than a study group.  Films were a great medium to base it on.  We put up fliers advertising it at Weiser's and Esoterica bookstores and a few other places; the promo graphics had already been designed when Jimmi ran it.  We held it in our apartment, a rent-controlled high rise on South Street in the Lower East Side with a magnificent view of the East River and a balcony to appreciate it.   Attendance was modest, averaging about half a dozen.  We would show the film, serve light refreshments, then have a discussion about any esoteric ideas we may have noticed.  I had a lot of fun with this.  For me it meant watching the film at least 3 times in order to prepare to lead the discussion. We opened with Blade Runner.  Some of the other films included Duck Soup by the Marx Brothers, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and 2001, A Space Odyssey.

Following Jimmi's departure the study group moved to Evan Lurie's penthouse apartment on 29th and Lexington.  He held it in the same room where he composed music.  One of the projects we undertook consisted of reading the Human Biological Machine as a Transformational Apparatus a chapter at a time.  I had already been through the book and had done the exercises but hearing it read aloud gave a whole new experience and new cognitions. 

Some time in spring of 1990 we got word of the annual IDHHB Convention scheduled for the Labor Day weekend.  A week-long pre-convention intensive workshop was offered and another workshop following the convention was made available.  My wife and I signed up for everything.

The first day of the workshop was August 25th, 1990 my 31st birthday.  By that time I had read enough of their Talks of the Month to pick up on the birthday question tradition.  You could ask anything you liked on your birthday.  I didn't really have a pressing question at the time so tried to come up with a good one on the flight out to take advantage of the opportunity.  Gold wasn't around the first day, the workshop was being handled by some of his senior students, Claude Needham, David Franco, and Julia Glasse.  At dinner I asked the question anyway which was something along the lines of " how does one learn to navigate in the macrodimensions?"  There wasn't much discussion about it but I did get a great answer from Claude, a suggestion to watch the film They Might Be Giants.  It's an excellent film about a millionaire, Justin Playfair,  who becomes convinced that he's Sherlock Holmes.  He's taken to a psychiatrist named Watson, coincidentally, who instead of curing him enters his world and participates in the search for Moriarty through a series of unusual clues.  The title derives from the story of Don Quixote who saw windmills as monstrous giants.  At one point Playfair reveals that he's not completely mad when he says:

Of course, he carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be... Well, all the best minds used to think the world was flat. But, what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mould might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what they might be, why, we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.

You can see that same kind of navigation through an unusual clue at the beginning of The Matrix film when Neo gets advised to follow the white rabbit.

Most of the workshop took place on this lot in Penn Vally that had two rows of small warehouse-like spaces.  One of them had been turned into a plant shop.  The first time I saw E.J. Gold in person was one evening when he came down to check how things were going.  He entered the space like a slapstick comedian.  A large wide metal door had been pulled halfway down the entrance.  There was a loud crash as Gold feigned banging his head by walking straight into the door.

The main thrust of the workshop was learning how to grow, sculpt and care for Japanese bonsai plants, basically miniature trees.  Gold gave a thorough demonstration of how to go about working with bonsai and also tied it in to the business of transformation.  When Gold selects a field of endeavor to work with, he really plumbs it to it's depths, finding out absolutely everything there is to know about the subject, and then some.  I know several people who have launched careers and businesses inspired by one or another of Gold's activities.  I am one of them.  My interest in recording the ambience of spaces originated from this workshop.  One fellow, Werner Erhard, took a workshop from Gold in the late '60's or early '70's and developed only one small aspect of the workshop into a personal training system called EST. For good or ill I'm unqualified to say.

Other main topics of this workshop included the importance of teamwork and the value working in small groups.  The way it was put seemed quite similar to Hakim Bey's concept of temporary autonomous zones. All of the participants were encouraged to stay in touch with one another after we left.  Most of us still do some 22 years later.  I would have more to say if I hadn't waited 22 years to write about it.  I did make notes but don't have that notebook available at the moment.  It's probably in storage. I do remember another talk where I was surprised to hear Gold mention the superiority of Neve mixing desks.  It's true, nothing sounds as good as a vintage Neve, the console that Bill Laswell had at Greenpoint and which Prairie Sun has in two of there three studios.

Another item at the forefront was the B.B.C. audio recording of the SF classic, the  Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  It was listened to repeatedly over and over again and the subject of ongoing discussion. One of the characters,  a suave 2 headed, 3 armed ex-President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, lent his name to a band  formed by Accardi, Gold, and drummer Bob Bachtold called Zaphod and the New Harmonics.  They released several albums noted for Gold's improvisational exploration of Harry Partch's 43-tone scale on the saxophone.

One evening saw a presentation of Gold's play, Creation Story Verbatim, a divine comedy consisting of a dialogue between The Lord God Herself and the Archangel Gabriel concerning humans on the solar moon Earth.  Before the play started they prepared the space by censing it, that is they walked around the room with two incense censors burning frankincense, benzoin, and myrrh on charcoal bricks.  The large censors were beautiful pieces of crafted metalwork.  I asked about them and was told they were handmade in Africa.  I enquired as to where one could be found for purchase.   They graciously sold me one of theirs for a nominal cost.  Each one had a lid with a small metal sculpture on top.  Mine showed man seated and smoking a pipe under an umbrella with a group of smaller pygmy men standing around him in different poses, one of them playing a horn.  To this day I bring this incense lid into the studio and set it on one of the speakers when I mix.  I've been doing this for years.  The first time I mixed for  KSK, a traditional African music label, one of them looked at the sculpture and said, "Oh, that's Dogon."  I had no idea.  The Dogon tribe, of course, is connected to the Sirius Mystery.

The Convention was also scheduled to take place in Penn Valley but at the last minute, and I mean last minute, like the day before, it was moved to the Sacramento Inn in Sacramento resulting in all kinds of chaos and confusion.  People had to scramble to change their accommodations.  They were told to just go to Sacramento and their luggage would be brought down later.  Of course, the luggage got all mixed up and took some time to sort out. 

The theme and title of the Convention was The Union Label - Voyaging through Sound and Music.  Gold gave the keynote talk with help from Jimmi Accardi.  They had spent many long hours in the studio ever since Jimmi arrived seven months earlier.  He talked about how listening to certain kinds of far-out music changes a listener's perception as they learn to appreciate and process it.  This can take some time.  The music of Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Harry Partch, Charles Ives, and the eccentric blind street musician Moondog (an old friend ) were given as examples.  At the close of the talk Gold asked all of the musicians present if they would like to come to his house for a mixing session.  He casually asked me if I'd like to join them. I said yes.

Gold's home studio had a 16 channel Soundcraft mixing board.  I''m still partial to Soundcraft mixers.  The first board I purchased for live mixing was a Soundcraft 1S back in 1980, and I also brought a Soundcraft to Jajouka for the remote recording there.  At that time, the Union Label studio worked off of an Otari analog 8 track with dbx noise reduction.  I watched as Jimmi Accardi mixed an album called Evolver which consisted of instrumental Beatles songs with free jazz horns playing on top.  I was quite shocked by how quickly he mixed it, a 30 minute side only took 45 minutes  to an hour to mix.  It seemed random and cavalier, to me, not what I was used to when mixing in New York.  That album has since been extensively reworked.

I never did make it back to the Convention.  Jimmi enjoyed having me in the studio to help out, so I went straight there the next morning.  I'm not sure if Gold ever went back, either.  My wife did, so I got the report, that the Work Circle, as it was called, was being broken up.  With just a couple hundred or so attendees it had become too large and unwieldy.  It was suggested that folks form smaller groups local to their area to hold any future conventions as this would be the last one in California near the home base.  I later found out that disbanding the group when it reached a certain size or inertia was something that occurred from time to time.  Gold isn't interested in building up a large organization. 

Part of this disbandment involved creating a sense of emergency about upcoming dire conditions in the world at large.  A film about Nostradamus was shown that dramatized his apocalyptic predictions which included scenes of New York City being attacked by war planes.  This upset my wife.  It was predicted that terrorism would rise dramatically and become a major concern.  This was in 1990 when most of the media portrayed a cautious optimism with the recent events of glasnost, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.  Yet it was only a year or so before violence reescalated in Israel after a lull of some years followed by Iraq invading Kuwait and the start of the war there.  Eleven years later sees 9/11, the attack upon the World Trade Center towers and the beginning of the War on Terror.

The post-Convention workshop was cancelled and attendees were asked to hand over their plane tickets so they could be rescheduled to leave immediately after the Convention.

Stay tuned for part III

I'll tide you over with Robert Anton Wilson on Belief Systems apropos to some of the flavor of the pre-convention intensive:

Monday, July 2, 2012

How I Met E.J. Gold

At the age of 21 I was turned on by my friend, Bob Gregory, to a book that profoundly changed my life, Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger.  This book serves up a compelling  autobiographical account of Wilson's spiritual journey  included methodical experimentations with an eclectic assortment of consciousness expanding technologies.  Wilson ranks as a genius, one of the truly great psychonauts of the XXth and early XXIst Centuries.  His balanced skepticism and generalized purview, ranging from the scientific to the paranormal, from theoretical physics to ufology, covers a lot of ground.  His playful Pythonesque sense of humor lightened the seriousness of the task.  Cosmic Trigger appears concisely encyclopedic in scope,  introducing most if not all of the cutting edge esoteric researchers in the areas of study Wilson pursued.  I spent at least the next 10 years following up on subjects I discovered there.  Apart from Wilson, the researchers that had the strongest influence on me included Aleister Crowley, G.I. Gurdjieff, Timothy Leary, John Lilly, and Buckminster Fuller.  A unifying thread behind all these disciplines is the search for underlying principles behind all religions, mythologies, philosophies, sciences and human experience.  Gurdjieff, inspired by Sufis, called it The Work.  Crowley, a romantic poet by profession, called it The Great Work.  Leary declared himself to be carrying on the work of Crowley and Gurdjieff., and came up with the S.M.I.2L.E. formula. Lilly, a hardcore scientist, called it Simulations of God.  Fuller, seemingly the most pragmatic of them all, called it Design Science.  It was an interest in all these fields that eventually led to meeting E.J. Gold.

There were 3 independent sources that personally directed me to working with Gold.  The first came from Sam Zeiger who owned and operated the Blue Light Floatation transit station on 23rd Street in New York, the second was through an eccentric wayward Sufi named Hassan Heiserman who worked on and off for Bill Laswell, and the third was Robert Anton Wilson.

 The first book of E.J. Gold's that I read was Secret Talks with Mr. G but I had no idea it was by him.  No author was listed and the cover featured a photo of what appeared to be G.I. Gurdjieff.  It registered to me as one of the most informative books about Gurdjieff's work I had read. It had real substance.  Later I found out that the photo was of Gold dressed up as Gurdjieff.  He apparently felt that significant writings by Gurdjieff was witheld from publication so he and his group simulated Gurdjieff''s salon, assumed the role and invoked him. This method generated quite a bit of useful material but also incurred the wrath of the Gurdjieff Foundation.  They have since made peace.  The next book I got was The Lazy Man's Guide to Death and Dying, now out of print, unfortunately.  I picked that up at a Robert Anton Wilson lecture because Wilson penned an intro for it.  It didn't do much for me at the time, but I've since grown to appreciate it.  The book that really grabbed my interest was an expensive spiral bound publication called Practical Work On Self.  It was the title that caught my attention.  My biggest issue with the Fourth Way literature was that there was a great deal of theory but not much in the way of practical exercises.  This book basically only had one exercise called Invocation of Presence but I found it very effective.  Strangely enough, the book was mistitled, it's real title was Invocation of PresencePractical Work On Self is a whole other book entirely.  

I next encountered Gold's work when I went to one of my regular floating sessions at Sam Zeiger's place. Gold had a painting on a magazine about Floating that Glenn and Lee Perry published. I thought, wow, this guy really covers all the bases. Customarily, after my float, Sam would serve some refreshing herbal tea and we would hang out and chat about the latest in conciousness raising technologies. He told me about the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being which put out all kinds of products inspired by Gold. This had a nice updated Gurdjieffian ring for me. Gurdjieff's school was called The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.

Sam got me into doing readings from the American Book of the Dead (ABD), a book I'd first come across when Bill Laswell brought it into the studio. Sam also turned me on to the Zen Basics being attention exercises, a practice I still revisit from time to time to this day.  One day Sam called me up with an invitation to an event for people interested in the writings of E.J. Gold.  It featured a demonstration of essential oil fragrances and was going to take place at the apartment of someone named Evan Lurie.  Now, I had heard of a musician by that name who was an original member of  the Lounge Lizards.  However, I remembered that the editor of the ABD was Iven Lourie so I was already getting my conspiracy theory brain tweaked and wondering what was going on.  It was the ex-Lounge Lizard Lurie's domicile, they both just had similar names.  I remember walking down 29th Street from Park Avenue to their apartment on the corner of Lexington looking at tree tops blowing in the cool wind against a grey overcast sky. I felt this strong mood and a premonition that my life was going to be forever changed.

It was at that "perfume party" that I met Jimmi Accardi.  Jimmi was also a musician, formerly of a group called The Laughing Dogs that had been signed to Columbia in the heyday of CBGB's.  He applied an essential oil blend to my wrist that combined labdanum and patchouli to create a very earthy and spicy fragrance.  After the party, I went back into a session at Platinum Island.  When I chanced to smell my wrist again, it smelled different having blended in with the natural skin oils.  I suddenly flashed on a memory of when I was about 2 or 3 years old.  It smelled exactly like a favorite stuffed animal I had back then, completely obliterated from my memory over the years.

After the oils had been presented, Jimmi had us gather in a circle and asked if anyone had any questions they'd like to ask.  I mentioned that I had a problem which is that I could get into more rareified states of consciousness but I couldn't maintain them with any kind of consistency. He thought this was a good question.  There was some discussion but nothing that I can recall today.  Jimmi dropped some hints that there might be other kinds of meetings regarding this work but stopped short of offering an invitation.  He did mention a presentation of some sort that he and Evan were going to do at Estorica bookstore the following week that I was invited to attend.  I went to it, we had some further discussions, my memory fails of exactly what, but it did lead to an invitation to participate in his study group out in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. 

Jimmi was a masterful study group leader.  He stressed that if anyone was even one minute late, the door would be locked, entry denied.  The far corner of Queens was a long way to go to get turned away.  This had the effect of making these meetings seem like they were the most important thing we could be doing at that time. I felt like I was entering into a secret society or attending a Masonic initiation.  We would gather in the living room of his apartment exchange greetings and pleasantries, but once we crossed the threshold into a separate adjoining room where the meeting took place, we left behind all social custom, parking the conditioned behavior of our ordinary personalities at the door.  It really felt like stepping out of the human world into another dimension of unknown territory.  I would start to notice the same skin prickling sensations experienced in the floatation tank indicating a shift in consciousness and awareness.

*  *  *  *  *  *

 Hassan Heiserman was quite the character, maybe still is for all I know.  I'm not sure if he's still alive, I hope so.  The last I heard, he had adopted a lifestyle of the homeless,  hanging out in Alphabet City.  John Zorn would see him from time to time but it has been some years since I got any news.  He had an abusive childhood but somehow as a teenager ended up living at J.G. Bennett's 4th Way community at Coombe Springs in England.  The stories about him are legend.  He apparently drove across the U.S. with Jack Kerouac sometime in the '50s.  No idea if this is true but there is a photo of a young Jerry Heiserman, before he adopted his Sufi moniker, taken in 1963 with a caption by Alan Ginsberg.  So Ginsberg knew him, and of course Ginsberg and Kerouac were close friends.  Hassan also claimed to have cooked for Timothy Leary during his Harvard days.  I had a chance once before a lecture to ask Tim if he knew him.  Leary looked puzzled and said he couldn't recall him.  I asked again, saying that Hassan claimed to be his cook, Leary shifted gears saying something like, 'Oh yes, now I remember ... wonderful guy,' and smiled broadly, but I had the distinct impression that he was shining me on, telling me what he thought I wanted to hear.  I suspect they're both right.  Hassan probably catered some Leary events, he never claimed to have met or spoken with Tim, and it's likely that Leary wouldn't know the hired help.

Bill Laswell met Hassan when he got into a cab Hassan was driving.  Somehow the subject of Ornette Coleman came up with Bill saying that he'd really like to meet him.  Hassan said that he knew Ornette and that he could arrange for Bill to meet him which he did. Bill and Ornette remain friends to this day.  Hassan said he knew Robert Anton Wilson, I didn't get any details, and that he had also spent time working with John Lilly's son, John Jr., on a project in Mexico.  Hassan fascinated me because of all his contact with heros of mine, yet he always had some snide criticism to offer about these individuals.  I asked him about E.J. Gold whose books I was reading and all he said was, "I love E.J,"  Then he told me how they met.

At some point, I believe it was in the late '60's or early 70's Hassan moved to Turkey and joined the Mevlevi Sufi Order.   After  a couple of years his teacher told him that it was time for him to return to the West and that he should look up  two teachers there, Reshad Feild and E. J. Gold.  Hassan didn't know either of them at the time.  He ended up in Los Angeles.  He had a bit of an inheritance so he used to spend his time taking long walks around the city.  One day he walked past a house with a sign that read "First Sufi Church of Christ."  Somehow he knew that E.J. Gold was there so he knocked on the front door, and started to explain who he was and who he was looking for.  Before he could finish, Gold came bounding down the stairs and announced to everyone that Hassan was his teacher from Turkey, sent out for Middle Eastern food and had a feast with Hassan as the guest of honor.

Coincidentally at that time, Reshad Feild and his group, The Institute for Conscious Life, lived in a house just a few blocks away.  They were preparing for a residential course, were in need of a suitable cook and ran into difficulties finding one.  Feild explained his predicament to Gold who replied that he knew just the right person, Hassan.  Years later, I was in Switzerland for a Praxis show not far from where Reshad had another large group house.  I came bearing gifts from Gold, a couple of small paintings, one for Reshad and another for one of his students.  Feild was out of town visiting relatives in England but the major domo left in charge drove out to the hotel we were at and we had coffee.  For some reason I started telling him about Hassan only knowing about his unusual meeting with Gold, unaware of what happened subsequently.  Reshad's consigliere, whose name I don't recall, mentioned that Feild was in the process of writing a book, which eventually became Going Home and that one of the chapters was about Hassan though his name had been changed.  I was invited out to the house where I spent a wonderful day and left with a photocopy of a transcript of the chapter in question called The Cook from Afghanistan.  Reshad speaks highly of Hassan.  It was nice to get some independent verification.

Hassan also turns up in one of E.J. Gold's books, Autobiography of A Sufi.  He's included in a "serious group of specialists" called The Fellowship of the Ancient Mind.  Gold writes:

Hassan was an expert in Persian, Turkish, Armenian, and Tibetan, and served as chief cook on our journeys.  He was familiar with the knowledge of "transforming factors" in food - spices and herbs which made food a new substance which could utilize the results of breath and impressions for material for the development of essence.  He had also studied with the Mevlevi in Konya, Turkey, and been the personal secretary for the founder of a great world religion in Indonesia for some years. 

The 'great world religion' was Subud who he likely got connected to through J.G. Bennett.   Hassan was also responsible for introducing Lily Nova to Gold.  Lily was another colorful character, a fashion designer for the stage who had once dined with Salvador Dali at the Waldorf Astoria.  Lily had been part of Oscar Ichazo's Arica group prior to meeting Gold.  She knew the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky  around the time he made The Holy Mountain through the Ichazo connectionLily and her partner Paul Landman had hosted Gold and his group from California during the summers of  '82 and '83 when they presented a series of workshops in New York. The summer of '83 was the time I first visited New York.

After I got to know Hassan better, at one point, out of the blue, he said "We have to get you to see E.J." I wasn't sure what "we" he was referring to.  Another time he spoke very highly of everyone he knew who had been through Gold's program.

*  *  *  *  *  *  

I've always been skeptical about joining any kind of group.  This explains why there's never been a desire to join the A .'. A.'. or the O.T.O. despite a strong resonance with the system Aleister Crowley propagated.  I once attended an introductory meeting of a 4th Way group at the Squat Theater next to the Chelsea Hotel in New York.  Their lineage derived from J.G. Bennett's school I was told.  They promised 'real work' the next day up in Central Park.  I found them extremely pretentious, they turned me off.  You could ask the most ordinary question like, 'What time are we meeting tomorrow?' only to be met with a pregnant pause while they searched deeply within for the correct being essence answer.  

Reading something by P.D. Ouspensky changed my mind in that regard.  He stated in no uncertain terms that transformation was only possible in an esoteric School.  This point bothered me so I brought it up at a Q and A session following a workshop by Robert Anton Wilson.  Wilson, one of the most skeptical, independent freethinkers I knew, was also aware of Ouspensky's writings.  I asked him if it was necessary to join such a School.  He simply said, "I think it's a good idea."   A long pause ensued before I followed up with, "do you know of any you could recommend?"  He said, "well there's E.J. Gold's group out in California."