Ripper: The Banishing

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Patient Zero

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Genius Loci

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Compulsion Online

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We've been more than enamoured with the releases of The Psychogeographical Commission so we caught up with S.: to shed some light on this enigmatic musical project.

i) Firstly, may I congratulate you on two strikingly designed and beautifully composed albums. Response to Genius Loci has been overwhelmingly positive, have you been surprised by the reaction to Genius Loci?

Thanks, and yes, really surprised. Both of us have been in and around a few bands in the past with varying success and weren't really expecting a great deal from Genius Loci. We'd approached it more as a getting to know you exercise to see how we could fit together and work over the long distance. Things came together quite quickly and we were pretty pleased with the results as a first stab at an album, but even then we decided that a limited edition of CD-Rs was the way to go to see if it was worth pushing on with the project. Everybody we sent it to really liked the whole package, the music, the concept and even the packaging. We got some great reviews and were being accepted by quite a few small to medium distributors which was further than I'd got with projects before. We knew ourselves that some of the kit we were using wasn't really that good and we didn't really know how to use it properly hence the original release was a bit on the rough side so when we sold out of the map book edition we took the time to remix and remaster it properly and put a glassmastered version in 'proper' packaging. This in turn allowed us to get some new reviews from places which wouldn't talk to us originally and allowed bigger distributors like Cold Spring and Tesco Germany to stock us. The problem now is trying to better that with the second album, but I think music, concept and even just general production-wise we've shown we can push on.

ii) The Psychogeographical Commission are S.: and Hokano. Who are Hokano and S.:? What's your musical background? How did you come to work together?

Hokano is the name of Andy's ambient solo project. Back in the early 90's, Andy started off with ex-members of Mortal Terror in a band called Critical Mess which was a sort of anarcho space punk band, and played synths with Newcastle acid rock band The Dead Flowers, appearing on their critically acclaimed Moon Tan album. When these projects died he formed ZOoPhYte, an ambient noise project releasing a few cassette-only albums through the Destroy all Music tape label. This came to a premature end due to ether thieves stealing all the field recordings and master tapes. I met Andy shortly after this when I was living in Newcastle, where we were briefly in a band called Aftercare together (with me on guitar) until I moved up to Glasgow in 2000 but we kept in vague touch. In early 2008 I was playing around with a solo project under the name of mrsix, and Hokano had released its first album Ointment of Civilisation the year before. I was almost there with my solo album but then decided the underlying recordings on all of the early tracks were terrible and would need re-recording so at that point I decided to learn a bit more about production and talked with Andy about maybe doing a project with him and seeing if it would go anywhere. A few weeks later Andy and I were in London for a Current 93 gig and had a spare day to kill, so we decided to look for patterns on street maps and walk around them to see what we could find. We got halfway down the back legs of a Mithraic Bull we found slap-bang in the centre of London, when we were stopped under the prevention of terrorism act for photographing some graffiti on a closed shop blind. We later thought that the arrival of the police was entirely in keeping with having set about invoking the god of the Roman Praetorian Guard. After the C93 gig, on a bridge in the middle of the Thames and under a full Moon, we decided that there was still some life in the old gods, so we thought about writing some music to invoke them further and Genius Loci was born.

iii) I understand The Psychogeographical Commission are split both musically and geographically. How do you approach composition and songwriting?

We tend to write in three main ways, I'll either hammer something out on guitar, put some vocals to it then send it off to Newcastle for soundscaping, or Andy will come up with some dark ambient odyssey and I'll see if I can think of anything to add to it. Then there's the third way which is where he'll send me up a few loops of noise or interesting rhythms and I see if I can hear a song in them. We tend to use all three in equal amounts because it gives a nice variation of songs and prevents the album sounding a bit samey. Another thing that helps is my insomnia, I often sort out my guitar lines in bed at night with an unplugged electric guitar with the window wide open so I can get a backing of street noise, wind and traffic etc. It helps to get a quiet jaded sort of feeling which fits well with the soundscaping that get added to it later.

iv) Your albums Genius Loci and Patient Zero are both informed by Psychogeography. Psychogeography is generally associated with the written word from theorists such as Guy Debord through to the works and investigations of writers such as Ian Sinclair, Stewart Home, Peter Ackroyd... I'm intrigued as how you struck upon the idea to incorporate psychogeography to music?

We've both always approached things from the point of view that every sound is music, now it might not all be good music you'd choose to listen to but music nonetheless. We used to find sometimes that we'd ended up listening to the mains hum from next doors fridge when an ambient album finished, and had friends who live on major bus routes where songs are often interspersed with external noise which added into the mix. Sometimes listening to the album again we decided we liked it better with all the bus noise or hums. Andy was living in a large tower block at the time so no matter what you did you could always hear wind noise and people running and shouting in the stairwell which really added interest to some ambient albums. The big one for me was out walking though. Neither of us drive so we both spend many hours a week listening to mp3's whilst walking around, I really liked the way that some external noise interplayed with the music, it was like another instrument and was never the same twice so you never really got bored with it. It's a short step from there to incorporating certain places for their noises or the reverse of that, allowing the place to take a solo while we play the background music for a bit. Once you start interacting with a city like that you start to see it differently. There's a lot of interest to be found in cities if you approach them differently, and that's what Psychogeography is all about. People tend to ignore huge swathes of information everyday simply because they are used to it. But by walking a different way to work or looking above the level of shop signs you can rediscover a fantastic amount and reconnect emotionally with a city you've got bored with, and nothing aids an emotional attachment quite like music. Within the albums we try and create a balance between songs that try to stoke the imagination, confront you with concepts or ways of looking at thing anew, and songs which allow your mind to drift and revel in your own thoughts. Going by some of the feedback we've had it seems to be working for listeners.

v) Magick appears to play a strong role within your work. Do you agree? How is magick incorporated into your music?

I've always seem magick as a precursor to Psychology in the same way that Alchemy was the precursor to Chemistry. Magick is just antediluvian reality hacks passed down through time because they work. We both see magick as a very personal thing and approach it like magpies, we've read and experimented with many different systems and Andy goes down a vaguely Ramsey Dukes route whereas I prefer my magic a bit more symbolic and Austin Osman Spare, but we're not too dissimilar. We both tend to cherry pick the bits that have worked from whatever we've looked at and use them again, and it's very much the same approach with the music. Neither of us have been taught music to any degree and have actively avoided being constrained by such lessons, yes, we might have borrowed a few techniques from places, but it's methodologies that we've adapted into something that fits the music. We both tend to work more creatively around times of lunar significance which we managed to build into the concept of Patient Zero and deliberately add elements of chaos into our more ambient pieces as it helps to give it a more natural feel, it takes off the sharp corners.

vi) Releases from The Psychogeographical Commission are conceptually very strong. What are the principal influences (music, authors, film, ideas) that feed into The Psychogeographical Commission?

This is probably the first and last time you'll here this from a band but the thing that really set us going was thinking about the psychological effects that Town planning has on the inhabitants. Of course, as you'd expect, we came around to this after studying Magick, the natural alignments accentuated through time by evolving cites, lost rivers, symbolism and remnant traces of religions and customs past which still surround us all, but our biggest influence are Cities and how they make us feel.

Andy reads lots of Arthur Machen amongst other things, I read quite a bit of China Miéville, Looking for Jake and Other Stories with people chasing alleys which have disappeared from one city only to reappear in different one, beat up a another street and disappear again. I think our favourite at the moment has to be Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways by Phil Smith though, it's just jam packed with cool ideas and concepts. Film wise, there are Patrick Keiller's films, London and Robinson in Space with a third one coming out this year some time Robinson in Ruins and the excellent Nine Lives of Tomas Katz which is great for the window conspiracy and talking bollards alone. Musically the most obvious influence is the Musick To Play In The Dark era of Coil and most albums by Nurse with Wound, then there's some of the Ghost Box releases and a lot of the mid-late period of Einstürzende Neubauten where they started getting a bit quieter and sonic, and perhaps bits of TG as well. These things get the mind going, then we go for a walk and start investigating.

vii) On your website you write: "After a great deal of time wandering the back streets of London and other large cities looking for the spirits which now dwell within them, we came to the conclusion that the psychological make-up of cities is now at odds with the populations inherent rural based mythology. People aren't evolving to cope with cities fast enough to keep up with the constantly shifting cityscape." Could you elaborate on this? What lead you to this viewpoint?

I've been a pagan for many years, since I started thinking about religion, but I also live in a city. It always struck me as a bit odd that most pagans are only really pagans on weekends when they go somewhere green and celebrate its well, greenness, and those that do keep it up during the week usually dislike being in cities because it's at odds with their religion. I suppose it shouldn't have really surprised me because Paganism had developed in a time when the vast majority of people, even if they lived in towns or villages, were essentially still rural. Trouble is it's not the case any more and hasn't been for a long time. A lot of the old hedge lore is becoming increasing irrelevant due to man changing the environment of the plants and animals, you can't see the stars anymore in most large cities and the rivers and grass are mostly covered in concrete. It just seems to me that lots of people are losing their connection with their environment because we changed our circumstances but our methods of coping didn't. Catholicism realised it early on and demons and angels were born to update the old gods, but even that has been eclipsed by our psychological evolution since then. Atheism and Psychology wiped the slate clean as far as gods are concerned, but there's still that edge that people can get from magick and paganism that has enough freedom within it to make use of it. People live in cities now, pagans should accept that and move on. There are more than enough newly created aspects of the human consciousness to think about rather than concentrating on withering irrelevances. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting a massive dumping of tradition, but the methodologies which have been used to great effect down the years which are dying out due to a lack of relevance can be used in new and more relevant ways. For instance, Geomancy essentially derives down to divination by 16 binary digits, it could be lights in a tower block or spaces in a supermarket car park it doesn't matter. The Romans documented methods of divination using the patterns of bird formation which could be similarly adapted for people moving on a street. The wafty bearded gods of the ancients have not gone away, they just have iPads and Bentleys now. There are a few offshoots out there trying, but most are too dogmatic and clunky in their updating. The main point of the music is to help people to create their own personal mythologies, ones that are relevant to them in whatever environment they live or work in.

viii) On your website it states "Genius Loci attempts to explore further the Psychogeographical nature of our built environment and is therefore written to be played whilst interacting with a city …" Did you receive any feedback from your listeners about this that you would care to divulge?

Yeah, there's been a surprising amount of feedback, it's been really good to hear back from people.

Quite a lot from Londoners saying it really capture the essence of the city, there was even one guy who emailed us who was brought up in London and lives in the States who said it helps him feel a little less homesick. Most people have commented that it's making them listen to background city noise now because there are points where they can't tell if certain noises are on the album or not which was one of the things we wanted to do. I think most of feedback is a result of the listener looking up above the shop signs and seeing things about their city that they'd not noticed before, which can only be a good thing. Your imagination needs to be fed as often as you can. Because there's more to the band than just the music, it's great when other people play around with similar concepts as us and tell us how they did something differently and how they got on with it. We all have fun then.

ix) Just out of interest in terms of psychogeography what are you favourite pieces of architecture and areas for exploring?

I don't think it's a case of having a favourite, most places have a vibe about them but they're all different. But big tall stone buildings with lots of narrow little alleys and stairs leading of in all directions are usually the most fun, so places like the Quayside in Newcastle used to be great before it was redeveloped. Generally most places with a bit of age have collected some sort of vibe about them over the years. It usually makes me remember The Stone Tape, a great drama from the seventies that's well overdue a remake. In it the stone of a castle is affected by sonic experiments by beardy 'scientists' to the point where it released the traumatic memories it had recorded over the years as ghosts. I can really see where that came from, generally the older the place the easier it is to get some sort of a connection. Most new places don't have the same capabilities because they have an inherent impermanence about them. There are quite a few architects out there these days that do take emotions into account but never usually in social housing, it's usually corporate buildings and large public works which is a shame. Most people have to put up with almost identical prefab buildings with very little emotional content. That's one of the great things about Glasgow, the amount of Tenement housing, built to be around long enough to carry feelings, all that lovely stone.

x) Patient Zero is based around a fictionalised concept involving the outbreak of a contagious illness aligned to solar changes. I'm intrigued by this concept could you expand on it? How did the idea originate?

Seasonal changes and the increasing darkness are as much a psychological factor as the building and it's not a great jump to say that times of solar/lunar significance also have an effect psychologically. Full moons causing increased madness have long been talked about to the point where the police actually do put more people out patrolling city centres on weekends that fall on full moons than on those that don't because of the increase in trouble even though any link between lunar activity and psychological state has supposedly been scientifically disproved. Seasonal Affective Disorder is now a recognised condition with firm biological roots, the decrease in serotonin and increase in melatonin causes increasing depression due to reducing daylight hours. We wanted to investigate this link a bit further. Our music can be quite dark at times so it was natural to use the period when the sun goes from the height of its power to its lowest point. From the Summer solstice, the sun is on a downward path until it is reborn at the Winter solstice, it's like the sun is infected by a hyper Psychogeographical Seasonal affected disorder of it's very own. We decided that everyone is infected to some extent by the dying sun and extrapolated a single case to study out of that, we then thought to move the project steadily northwards to try to accentuate the changes. The thing that really tied it together was realising that the omega symbol (O), used to symbolise death for centuries looks just like a setting sun, I'm not sure if that was originally how it came about but we liked the connotations.

We've not actually considered doing an album chronicling the rise of the suns power to complete the year but I suppose that might be a concept to bank for a future album.

xi) Do you think the concept of Patient Zero would work well as a graphic novel? Have you any interest in graphic novels or any of their writers? I'm thinking initially of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison both of whom employ both psychogeographical and occult ideas in their writings but also of the work of Warren Ellis.

I don't know so much about a graphic novel, but we were watching a film called Heartless (2009) last time I was in Newcastle, and the first hour or so of that so easily could have been a video for Patient Zero a guy in a hoodie slowly becoming more and more paranoid with an increasing undercurrent of something eating away at the soul of the city, it was great.

It's only been the last 10 or so years I've started getting into graphic novels. My personal favourites are The Invisibles by Grant Morrison (which dropped off a bit when transferred to the States) and From Hell by Alan Moore with the whole darkness and the (not quite) alignment of Hawksmoor's churches thing, I've also been a big fan of Hellblazer for a number of years now and I've just finished reading the story arc that Denise Mina wrote where John Constantine comes to Glasgow and fights off demons in Kelvingrove Museum with pornography, great story. John Constantine spends most of his time walking around cities in the rain looking for spirits, so do we.

xii) Patient Zero features location recordings from London, Newcastle and Glasgow provided by Missing Transmission. Who or what are Missing Transmission?

Missing Transmission is the solo effort of a good friend of ours who set it up as an ambient Steampunk project to create soundscapes evoking the paths not taken by history. He's into early Tangerine Dream and Sleep Research Facility, so it sort of fits.

For Patient Zero we came up with the Alphaville concept. Because we wanted to produce a smooth flow to the album to avoid breaking the listener's train of thought, instead of it stopping between songs we decided to add in small songlets to bridge the gaps. I suppose it's like having smaller shops or buildings on a street, it offers something a bit different but still in the same flow. To do this we asked a couple of people to listen to the first album and create some textures of about 2 minutes, and Missing Transmission came back with the best ones. I'd just watched Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution (1965), where they'd built numerous computers to run cities (Alphaville 1-59) until they perfect one which outlawed emotion and outlawed free thought, and decided to call these bridging textures after the early attempts to shape cities. We'll probably invite a few more people to contribute Alphavilles on future projects just to add a bit more city to the diversity of the album. I doubt we'll ever get to 60 but we might get enough of them to mix down into a separate album at some point, but that will be way off.

xiii) You reside in Glasgow and Patient Zero features location recordings from Glasgow and an altered photograph of Glasgow's main shopping fare, Buchanan Street. Have you or do you intend to investigate Glasgow, its occult significance or its underground history?

Definitely, but rather than Underground history, the next Psychcomm project is about the history of the Underground. The idea is pretty straight forward, we take a recording of the Glasgow subway as it performs one loop of the anticlockwise inner circle, soundscape it and release it as a limited edition mini CD. Where it starts to get interesting is when we go back onto the Underground and play the CD back at a slightly higher volume than the train and out of sync with the passing platforms. If we do it late at night or early in the morning then we should be able to spot which other passengers are using audio cues to work out where they are and when to stand up for their exits, at the very least it should confuse people and draw an emotional response. I'm just hoping that the emotional response doesn't involve us getting hit.

There's also another project about Glasgow I'm doing a bit of research on at the moment and that's probably more akin to Alan Moore's The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. It's a long narrative piece about the history of Glasgow, based heavily on Harry Bell's work on the Geometry of Glasgow and the surrounding area, and Ludovic MacLellan Mann's work Earliest Glasgow, a Temple of the Moon about networks of moon temples in the area, but then bringing it forward showing the undercurrents to how the city evolved and its more esoteric background, its pyramids, miracles, hidden rivers and even Crowley's (non existent) meeting with Rudolph Hess. So if there's any stories or interesting facts that people think I ought to know to help out, then let me know, there's an email address on the website. (

xiv) I can detect the influence of Coil in the sound of The Psychogeographical Commission but are you aware of English Heretic, another shadowy outfit who investigate the spirits within architecture and landscapes? Or back in Glasgow what about Drew Mulholland and the Mount Vernon Arts Lab? Who do you regard as musical affiliates to The Psychogeographical Commission?

Yes, we swapped some albums with English Heretic early on and I really loved The Séance at Hobs Lane so I might have a go at contacting Drew at some point even if it's just to have a chat give him our stuff to listen to. There's also a bunch of people doing work with Acoustic Archaeology like Z'ev who go a bit further in to the interaction with a place, but it's probably not for us to say who we feel we want to be affiliated with. It's been really astounding that we've been liken to so many great bands and we're just happy with that.

xv) As far as I'm aware The Psychogeographical Commission have never played live. Can you envisage a situation where you would play live? How would you approach it?

We might get around to getting something into shape for playing live, but because there are only two of us in the band and I'm playing multiple instruments, it means adding a few more people to the band or just generally being a bit more creative about how we're coming up with sounds. We're currently sorting out a free to download album consisting of few tracks off the first album with five or so covers of songs that fit in with our concepts and perhaps a couple of Alphavilles, so we're taking that opportunity to perhaps try out a few people we know, so we might end up with enough bodies to consider playing live at some point.

We had thought about doing the Underground EP live using the train as a third member of the band, but getting permission to take over a whole Subway carriage and powering a PA in there was going to really difficult. It's probably more likely at the moment that we'd be doing something site specific like this rather than just standard gigs, it would probably fit with the band ethos a little better as well as being a bit more special for those who can make it, but it would depend on finding places with interesting enough noises that are useable as venues.

xvi) And just where can we find the Xerxes Bar and Grill?

It has been said that the Xerxes Bar and Grill is the etheric creative space originally found during the ZOoPhYte phase as a receptive place to practice and experiment, and that it has had many locations over the years forming when needed and dissolving back to the ether till the next project is born. But I could be wrong.

Kaliglimmer Site

"Psychogeography tells us there are emotions to be derived from almost any location, so why not write music for interesting locations and make use of their acoustic properties or inherent noise?"

Following up the review of their new release Patient Zero, we felt it natuall to do an interview with the mystical people behind this excellent project. Rarely do we come across artists with such intent and interesting philosophy. In this Interview we get a more profound insight to their artistic intentions. Enjoy the conversation and do buy their album.

Q: What attracts you to Psychogeography, and why did you decide to translate Psychogeography into music?

A: Hokano and I had noticed for a long time that the more people were used to their surroundings, the less they thought about them. This over time breeds complacency and eventually can end up with a sort of contempt for the places you are most familiar with because you take your surroundings for granted. You stop connecting with them because you know what it feels like and can blank it out.

Psychogeography (to us at least) is a set of tools to allow your imagination to reconnect and interact with the environment you live in or are experiencing. It’s like trying to see places again for the first time through the eyes of a child. When you visit another city for the first time it can feel strange simply because you are not used to the area. Small insignificant details take on their own meanings, buildings and streets suddenly have their own personalities and there is a feeling of the unreal as your mind tries to make sense of all the new information. Now imagine what it would be like to experiance that depth of feeling about your own city or one you’ve got bored of, knowing all you know about it and the memories it holds. The City reinvents itself in your mind providing stronger, more relevant links to where your life is at the moment. It becomes a projection of your psychology right now, rather than a memory of a projection you had when you last really connected with the city years ago. Given a bit of practice you can go into any city, make a connection and use it to explore your own psychology, it’s a really healthy thing to do.

Music fits so easily into Psychogeography. Music is all about evoking emotional responses from the listener so if you factor in the listener’s environment to the overall experience then the responses can be stronger and have more meaning. Adapting music for the acoustics of special locations been done since the dawn of time at many megalithic sites which only now are we starting to explore with Acoustic Archaeology, but nowadays it’s the reverse which usually happens in the construction of Cathedrals or grand Concert Halls where the sense of place is formed around the engineering of its acoustic properties. Psychogeography tells us there are emotions to be derived from almost any location, so why not write music for interesting locations and make use of their acoustic properties or inherent noise? We quite often make use of the noise in certain places and add them into our music. It's like the location becomes another member of the band.

Q: It's such a fascinating idea, and very innovative. Would you say this is an attempt to inform your audience spiritually?

A: We wouldn’t want to tell people what to think or how to approach their own concepts of spirituality. We’ve always found, having looked at various magickal systems over the years, that the best way of working is to pick and choose the methods and ideas that are successful for us and use them. This means we’ve both ended up with individually tailored belief structures with some similarities and differences. I firmly of the belief that because everyone has a different set of memories, ideals and emotions through which they filter the world, signing up to someone else’s god/belief system is an abdication of responsibility and a submission. At best it’s like saying your ideas about how the world works mean less because someone else’s thoughts are somehow better then your own, it’s just a very negative place to be mentally and we wouldn’t wish to impose that on anyone.

What we’re trying to do in the music is expose listeners to ideas and methodologies so that they think about how they approach the reality they construct for themselves by using the city as a meditation point, hopefully we can stimulate a bit of imagination to let people think twice about their surroundings and the effect it has on them. We ultimately want listeners to formulate their own mythologies around the things important to them, so we overload the albums with symbolism, myths, occult history, etc, so the listener can use the bits which have the most resonance for them and ignore the rest, I suppose you could call it an inoculation against organised religion or group-think.

The new album ‘Patient Zero’ is an attempt to document the effect the waning sun has on people as the second half of the year progresses. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognised condition where the body reacts badly to reducing light levels and the police put more patrols out on weekends of a full moon, so why not factor this in to your personal mythology as well?

Q: I see clear references to urban animism, perhaps even Shinto in a Western variety. Your thoughts on this?

A: I’d always seen Psychogeography more as a westernised form of Feng Shui, but Feng Shui has been around a lot longer and widely used whereas the same concepts have tended to be ignored on a city scale in the West, so Psychogeography isn’t quite as developed and accepted as it should be. It’s getting a lot better these days, in the past architects have only really been interested in dominating landscapes and inspiring awe to reinforce feelings of insecurity to enable the easier control of the populace (cathedrals, castles and town halls). Nowadays, public buildings are designed to be more subtle, friendlier and generally less fear inspiring. Shops and Supermarkets especially spent millions trying to come up with new ways of being warmer and more inviting to customers, they know that the subtle manipulation of shop layouts, colour, sound and even smell make a huge difference to the amount a store will make. Town planners are only just starting to think in the same way. In the past places and moods evolved over time allowing a natural and gradual build up of emotion, now we’re getting better at creating them from scratch. Cities are alive and we’re getting better and better at producing/nurturing the city spirits which are useful and helpful to us. The older spirits are receding into the corners and require you to look harder for them, but then again that’s probably the same at any specific point in time as people evolve as well as their cities.

As for the Shinto, I see it be a more nature based version of the Greek + Roman type religious systems where particular aspects of the worshippers psyche are specified and magnified to give them greater prominence when they are needed. I suppose our take on it is a 21st century post-psychology view, where we know that these gods and spirits are projections of our psyche, so we seek out the places to commune/worship those aspects based on the feelings those place evoke. One of my problems with Paganism is that it hasn’t evolved enough to take into account that people live in cites now. Pagans irrationally over focus on the countryside with its dying gods and irrelevant spirits and deride cities because they see them as cold, unnatural and spiritually dead. We, however, know that the City is full of spirits because that’s where the people are, you only need to feed them with imagination and discovery. The Gods need people to survive more than the people need Gods, so they moved to the city when we did.

Q: Could you describe your creative process? Do you two have an intuitive understanding, or do you have to work out a conscious concept as a group?

A: We work surprisingly well considering we live 150 miles (250km) apart. We’ve known each other for a fair few years, read roughly the same books, seem the same films and we talk pretty much daily for the last three years so we’ve got a pretty good understanding. We’ve also spent many days wandering around strange cities together, mainly when we’ve met up to go see gigs in a distant places and ended up with spare days to kill, so we pretty much know what common ground we have when it comes to psychogeography as well and that helps when coming up with concepts for songs or albums. One of us will see a line in a book or a section in a film or a back alley somewhere and the other person can latch onto the essence of it and slightly warp it into something usable as a concept for the band. ‘Patient Zero’ was born out of a wish to look at the much larger scale cyclical environmental factors which effect cities as well as the people within them. It struck me that the sun gets infected with death at every summer solstice which then grows inside it until it’s rebirth at the winter solstice, with the moon providing a steady monthly gravitational beat. We then set about working out a way of portraying this as an album. We later added in ideas like slowly moving north during the six months to amplify the reduction in sun to magnify the effect. Then it became a concept we couldn’t resist.

Musically we come at it from different angles which is good because it produces a pleasing range of songs on the album. I’ve always tended (as a guitar player) to concentrate on writing songs, sonically I tend to love and write in an orchestral, Current93/Coil/mid to late Einstürzende Neubauten sort of a way. Hokano ’s work intentionally lacks any formal song structure and concentrates on the evolving of textures and moods. Usually I’ll either write a full song and get Hokano to add extra soundscaping to it, or he’ll write a long ambient piece and throw it across to me to add extra bit’s of interest and we trust each other enough to not put any restrictions on what the other adds to the piece. We also write songs where Hokano comes up with a few strong loops which I then arrange into a song structure and build a song out of, songs like Gutterbright to the starres on the new album and Camden Book Of the Dead on ‘Genius Loci’ are examples of this sort of a song.

The lyrics I tend to write on my own, usually down the pub with a crossword at the same time as or slightly after the music is written. I’ll have previously written down some nice phrases or interesting words and I’ll use them as starting points for sections of the song which I then rearrange into the concept story and then mostly rewrite it again as the structure takes shape.

We record all our parts separately due to the distance, but then I go through a period of commuting down the Newcastle at weekends when we enter the mixing phase, we can change songs quite drastically at this stage so it’s good to be both sat together in the same room making the decisions.

Q: Where will PC go from here? What are your future plans?

A: A lot depends on what happens with this album, we do everything on our own and we got hit badly by piracy with the first album which meant we struggled to break even let alone fund this album. We might have to hold back on some projects if they won’t pay for themselves, just because somebody somewhere takes it upon themselves to give away our music for free. It’s a shame but it’s the reality of the situation.

We’ve currently got plans for a few things if we can afford to fund them, first will be a project based around the Underground system here in Glasgow, we were looking at playing live in one of the carriages adding sounds and textures to augment the noise of the train as it travels around in its big loop but there were just too many problems (mainly down to power and safety reservations), so we’ll probably release a limited edition EP based around the idea.After that we’re probably going to release a free to download album with some songs off the first two albums as well as some covers of other people’s songs. It’s something we want to do so we can concentrate on crystallising our sound to get to the essence of what we’re about musically, and it will also give us the chance to try out a few people for playing some of the less ambient pieces live if we ever need to. I’m also investigating the suggested alignments of Lunar Temples around Glasgow as well as other hidden bits of history about the city so that may come out at some point, along with a third full album.

We thank Psychographical Commission for taking the time to talk to us.
We at Kaliglimmer thoroughly enjoyed talking with them, and we highly recommend buying this album.

Interview by Batcheeba.


Myths Behind The Maps [2012-06-01]
-An Interview with The Psychogeographical Commission-
Psychogeography, coined by the French Situationist Guy Debord in the mid-Fifties, questioned the ways in which places affect people, and particularly highlighted the negative consequences of urban architecture’s focus on function over form, providing a clear division between work and play for its inhabitants as they routinely experience the expected, their inquisitive senses dampened. More recently, aspects of psychogeography have been explored in modern literature, the most popular of which have included Ian Sinclair’s secret histories of London and Will Self’s regular provocative postcards for The Independent newspaper. But, despite music’s lifelong relationship to the environment, from the strategically sedatory effect of Eno’s Music for Airports to Annea Lockwood’s sound maps of rivers, overt aural expositions of psychogeographical secrets remain largely the preserve of audioguides aimed at tourists.

The Psychogeographical Commission, formed in 2008 by Stuart Silver (S.:) and Andy Charlton (AKA Hokano), seeks to fill this gap between form and function by creating music that attempts to reconnect urban listeners with a sense of mystery, or to simply inspire curiosity, about where they live and work. Their first album, released in 2009, named after the Roman mythological ‘spirit of place, Genius Loci, asked its audience to listen while interacting with a city, so their blend of eerie folk song, electronic vapours and treated field recordings can form an unusual soundtrack to familiar surroundings. Since then, they have produced three further releases: 2010’s Patient Zero tracks the psychological effects of post-Summer solstice blues as the Autumn nights draw in, Widdershins exposes an ancient ritual underlying the Glasgow subway system and this year’s Urban Psychetecture showcases choice cuts from the first two albums augmented by a selection of cover versions of songs from Coil to The Moody Blues, perhaps indicating their preferred musical environment.

Both S.: and Hokano recently spoke with Musique Machine about the rich concepts underlying their music and the ‘alternative’ realities that inspire them.

m[m]: The Psychogeographical Commission aims to help people who live in urban areas to re-evaluate their surroundings and to discover and appreciate local mythologies usually assumed to be the preserve of more rural settings (from an ancient God of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the banishing ritual of the Glasgow Subway system). How do you both go about initially discovering such mythologies? Have you academic or professional experiences in areas such as architecture or urban planning that has given rise to this unusual and rare pursuit or is it self-taught?
H: Personally I’ve got no academic training of any sort, just have a real curiosity from a very early age. I always looked up at buildings and wondered about them. Once you look up past the shop fronts you can find an amazing array of architectural anomalies. One of my favourites in Newcastle is the vampire rabbit adjacent to St Nicholas’s Churchyard who sits above a doorway to what was the dormitory for the monks and priests working at St Nicholas’s, it was put there to scare off any demons that might attempt to attack the sleeping monks. It’s just a shame that most people never look up and see the wonderful and sometimes curious statues and stained glass windows that exist above eye level, they never wonder who made them and why those figures in particular.
S.: : It’s mainly understanding the stories hidden in plain site, it’s about walking down the same streets as usual but looking at it with different eyes. Mythologies are easy to find, they’re all around you every day, in the statues, street names, the buildings and street layouts. Once you start thinking about them they come and find you. There’s been quite an increase in local history websites and forums where you can find stories and memories that can really give you new perspective on a place, you also find other people interested in the particular bit that floats your boat, be it tunnels, architecture, life in social housing, local legends or whatever. It’s one of those fractal subjects that becomes more interesting the more you find out about it because it can make you question fundamental things. Once you realise that a commonly known historical fact can sometimes be traced back to an odd sentence in a dubious 15th century book that you can tell even on first glance is full of errors, you soon realise that a lot of history is little more than myth and guesswork, and that there are more credible stories which can explain the facts better.

m[m]: So what lead you to choose music and sound as the stimulus with which to promote psychogeographical sensibilities? Are you, perhaps, relocating folk’s traditionally rural settings to apply to cities in the same way you focus on urban instead of rural mythologies?
H: In the way that people like sitting there listening to nature? Possibly...
S.: : It struck me as odd that Psychogeography seemed to be a purely literary thing, because as great as the writing is, there’s an inherent disconnect because you can’t read a book whilst taking in your surroundings. It gives you the concepts to take in, but you can’t experience it at the same time. We’ve tried to take the same concepts, and put them into a more portable form. With adding the field recordings and everyday noises we’re trying to approach ‘city noise’ as music. Music is a very emotionally charged medium, so we just thought it would be ideal for trying to portray a sense of place.
H: Listening to your environment is something people rarely do these days. Human beings evolved over the centuries to be in tune with their surroundings, to take notice of the details, or else you didn’t survive. Since we organised into an urbanised environment most people spend their time trying to block it all out or having it blocked out for them with constant advertising chatter and the like. Some people occasionally like to look around but it’s quite rare that they’ll just sit there and listen to what’s around them.

m[m]:Stuart, you’re a pagan, but one that accepts that people live in cities and, therefore, you’re prepared to adapt your beliefs to the urban environment. Is this a unique approach or is it part of a wider movement, perhaps?
S.: : I suppose you could see it as part of a movement but only in the way that a religion should naturally evolve to cope with changes in society. Chaos magick really opened the options out in the late 70s and 80s when it put more store in creating your own gods and rituals, stealing the techniques that work for you from other ideologies and generally deconstructing other belief systems to see what makes them tick then letting you reconstruct a system that works for you. Everyone’s psychological makeup is different and has different anchor points. The world is changing constantly so why shouldn’t beliefs evolve to keep up?
To me Paganism is really individualistic; it allows a healthy externalisation of your personal psychology, which means it only has to be relevant to yourself. I have no problems with more traditional pagans because that’s up to them, if it makes sense to you: run with it. I live in a city so it ends up being a part of who I am and the way I look at things

m[m]:You’ve mentioned before that you are both more creatively productive at 'times of lunar significance' and I hear you’ve been investigating Lunar Temples around Glasgow. What is it about the moon that seems to exert such power, and is it automatically received or do you harness it in any specific way?
S.: : Creatively the Moon for me is a meditation point that allows me to shift my perception to the slightly different headspace I like to write in. It allows me to make all sorts of interesting linkages both musically and lyrically that I wouldn’t have made otherwise. Most of my writing gets done at night when it’s really quiet so it’s a constant companion and the different phases of the moon can put you in different moods. The times of significance are mainly about fixed points in the year, as they progress they pretty much tell you which part of the cycles you need to be thinking about, they remind you that the seasons still progress even in the heart of a city. Occasionally there are rituals involved, but I’m pretty good at achieving the required state without.
The Lunar Temples are an interesting one though. A network of Temples was postulated back in the 30’s, based on some pretty dubious archaeology and perceived alignments. But like I was saying before, it’s these little ideas that allow you to perceive a place differently. You start exploring it further and you find all manner of supporting evidence in place names, geography and local folklore. It’s another example of finding a mythology, you start seeing the place through different eyes and you start reengaging with the environment again.

m[m]: My first encounter with your music was on last year’s Widdershins EP, a seemingly subtle treatment of your field recording of a journey on the Glasgow Subway system, which leads me to assume that presenting everyday city sounds was central to your strategy for reconnecting people with their urban environments. So, I was surprised to find that your preceding two albums, Genus Loci and Patient Zero, are formed mostly of songs accompanied by guitar and atmospheric synths, albeit with field recordings often further down the mix. Is the Widdershins EP a one-off or are you finding that the actual sounds of the city are coming more to the fore in your work?
H: On the albums we’ve tended to approach field recordings as instruments, nice background sounds that blur the boundaries between what’s recording and what’s street noise, whereas on Widdershins it was more the basis for the entire project. I think we’ll try to do more projects like Widdershins down the line if we can find a location that can provide a narrative and a noise to collaborate with. We’ve got some projects coming up that are more narrated mythology/history than anything else and we’ll be using field recordings quite extensively.

m[m]: When putting field recordings into your songs do you find they mix with music effortlessly? perhaps in the same way pretty much any soundtrack will sync with video at certain points? or do they often require the instrumental parts to be altered? Do they ever dictate the instrumental parts perhaps?
S.: : The field recordings tend to be really easy to work with. I usually write the basics of a song then we put the field recording in, then we’ll add the rest of the layers over the top. With Widdershins it was a bit different, Andy worked from the field recording up, augmenting and colouring to reflect the land usage above and I added small collages in for each station so it was the Subway that dictated the sound and I filled the silence while the doors were open.
H: Sometimes a certain ambience of a field recording can dramatically alter some of my electronics as I prefer to try and make the synthetic sounds as organic as possible so that they blend in sympathetically with field recording. We even had one person who commented that it wasn’t until his second listen to Widdershins that he actually noticed that there were any synths on it.

m[m]:With location being so important to your music, are you ever tempted to be more prescriptive about where (and maybe when) your recordings are experienced?
H: I think it’s going to be a lot easier to take an audience with you on a site specific journey when playing live. We’ll probably try to play some obscure places if we get the chance, hopefully some might have their own inbuilt sounds for us to play along to as well as an interesting ambience.
S.: : Some things need to be more site specific than others, ‘Genius Loci’ was an album we wrote trying to capture a spirit of London and we tried to use some field recordings to merge the music into a background, to blur the boundaries when listening to it on headphones whilst walking about the streets, it was more of a sort of wandering album. I’m currently putting together a narrative for a project in Edinburgh which narrates a walk down a specific street; it’s sort of like an alternative guided tour. The idea is to slightly disorientate using field recordings which is at odds with the live street noise and to use the architecture of the street to tell a story which isn’t actually there but is based on facts you can check.

m[m]: I find the idea of musically accompanying the live sounds of a specific environment fascinating, whether as part of a live performance or pre-recorded as an alternative guided tour. What inspired you to head you down this path?
S.: : We’d used field recordings quite a bit before, there’s quite a long bus journey on the end of Genius Loci which finishes the album beautifully, but I was sat on the Glasgow Subway one night after a few pints and just loved the noise that it made. The journey between each stops were a different length, speed and volume and crescendoed in different places like different songs. It struck me that the Subway was a continuously playing instrumental album and I started to wonder if you could recognise the individual songs on the album or add other instruments in to augment it. I think that was the chrysalis of our Widdershins project and once we’d done that and it sounded so good it’s set us looking around for another similar noise source to collaborate with.
H: One of the earliest inspirations for creating an environment within an environment would be going to see a performance by Big Road Breaker who had placed speakers all ‘round the venue with microphones in different areas and then all the feeds were mixed so as you walked ‘round the venue all the sounds you heard were from another part of the room thus creating a different reality depending on where you are standing. Also I loved what the Paris Situationists did creating a riot in Paris just with tape players, at a prearranged time they set off the recordings of screaming, shouting and gunfire, the result: chaos. Plus I have a mischievous side that likes to play with people and confuse them as to what is real and what is performance.

m[m]: Your latest album, Urban Psychetecture, available for free from your Bandcamp page, collects choice cuts from the first two albums augmented by cover versions of a song apiece from Coil, Roxy Music, The Edgar Broughton Band, The Moody Blues and Chrome. Aside from their track titles alluding to the built environment, do they partially map your musical influences?
S.: : Yeah to some extent. It was the Coil cover that gave us the idea for the album though: I was lucky enough to have a chat with Sleazy (Peter Christopherson) when he played Glasgow in 2010, we talked about the ‘Musick to play in the dark’ era of Coil and ‘The Lost Rivers of London’ in particular. I told him that it would be the only song we’d even consider covering but I was too nervous about doing it justice. He was very lovely and just said 'Just do it and see what happens', we eventually got around to the project and were really happy with the result.
The Chrome song was a favourite of mine. I was listening to it one day and I could suddenly hear how we’d do it, by ripping out the beat and the monster bass line, it works scarily well as a sort of ambient song.
H: I’ll hold my hands up, The Moody Blues cover is all my fault being a Moodies fan for years, though I’d be hard pushed to find a direct influence. As much as possible I won’t listen to any electronic music when writing just so there won’t be any bleed through, but with there being so much music out there, a comparison will always be found.

m[m]: If you were to plan a second volume of cover versions what other choices might be floated?
H: Well an obvious choice would be the Petula Clarke song ‘Down Town’, hehe, just kidding, S .: would rather eat his own hands than do that.
S.: : No, fine by me, as long as you don’t mind me giving it the full Shatner Treatment
H: On a more serious note ‘Empire State Human’ by the Human League could be an idea or maybe ‘Walk on By’, by Dionne Warwick probably using the Stranglers’ version as a template. On the subject of the Stranglers, ‘Strange Little Girl’ could be interesting given the PsychComm treatment.
S.: : I was just saying to Andy the other day Neil Diamond’s ‘Beautiful Noise’ is one we really missed out on. There’s a Living Colour song called ‘Type’ which we might have been able to slow down and soundscape and perhaps Hawkwind’s ‘High Rise’, though it’s a bit on the negative side about cities. I do like a bit of Hawkwind now and again.

m[m]: You both worked together before in a band called Aftercare that also featured Rich Blackett who contributed to your Patient Zero album and also records for your label, Acrobiotic, as part of the mysterious The Nothing Machine, Is this an indication of a network of sorts of like-minded artists?
H: Haha yes, you’ve discovered our secret underground network with plans for world domination.
S.: : I’ve known Andy and Rich separately for quite a few years before we got musical and now a lot of our projects overlap. The Commission is really just Andy and I at the moment, but early on we came up with our Alphalude project. We’d occasionally come up with nice little dead end bits of songs that were too good to throw away so we decided to use them to link some of the songs on Patient Zero. We’d just seen ‘Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution’ and came up with the idea of having 60 of these small tunelets as a nod to the sentient computer in the film that runs the City (Alpha 60), with the intention of eventually editing them all together into one long piece. It also means there was an easy framework to ask other people to contribute small bits.
H: The Nothing Machine Project is a larger extension of that. There are eight technicians working on the Nothing Machine full time, the first Therapy Recording only contained the noises selected by three of the technicians, the second Therapy Recording will contain sounds selected by five Technicians, hopefully we will get the remaining three to put down their clipboards long enough to contribute on later recordings.

m[m]: So, outside of The Psychogeographical Commission and The Nothing Machine are either of you involved in other musical projects?
H: I‘ve got my part-time solo project under the name Hokano. I released one album a few years back called Ointment of Civilisation and there were plans for a second album to be released through Thonar Records, however, this fell through. It may see a release one day, but work with PsychComm and Nothing Machine tends to take up most of my time.
S.: : I don’t really have much time for anything extracurricular either. Most of my time in between projects is spent doing research for future projects or reading up on all manner of esoterica to try to weave it into a narrative somewhere. That said, I’ve been thinking recently of doing an occasional solo ‘Noise performance’ thing, just small scale for a laugh, but I’ll have to see if I can find the time to do it justice.

m[m]: I heard you suffered from piracy with your first album - what happened and have you found any way to mitigate the risk of the same happening again with subsequent releases?
S.: : We originally released Genius Loci on CDR in large Map Book format which sold out surprisingly quickly. It got some great reviews and a lot of interest from distributors who asked us to glass master it so they could sell it. We spent a couple of months slightly remixing it and mastering it properly then released it. Unfortunately within a week of us reissuing it, a rip of the CDR appeared across the major download sites on the web which meant sales really slowed and any distributors who were stocking the reissue were stuffed with their huge margins on top
H: Yes, unfortunately Genius Loci was put on various torrent and upload sites, which was a good and a bad thing. The good being more people got to hear the music and spread the name, but the other side of that was we lost quite a few sales and distributors as they wound up sitting on albums they couldn’t sell. We’re probably still to break even on that one but we learnt our lesson.
S.: : Widdershins was a limited minicd release with lots of artwork because we just tried to make it special enough that people would want the artefact and not download a rip. The next album we’re probably going to have to bundle as much as we can into pre-sales, and then probably release digital downloads a few weeks after the physical goes out to delay the inevitable as long as possible.
H: There isn’t really a way to mitigate the risk we just have to hope that people who buy the music appreciate it enough not to give it away for free.

m[m]: While people used to record LPs to tape to cheaply circulate music around small circles of friends, gaining kudos for their tastes along the way, uploading and sharing other people’s work on torrent sites seems largely anonymous while making endless amounts of copies available to a global audience. Why do you think people create torrents of other people’s work?
S.: : Hard to say really, I’m sure there are some out there with the best intentions. They find a band they like and want to tell the world about it. It’s one of the reasons we wanted to release a free album, to reach more people who don’t have to pay to give us a try. The difference is they release everything and call it advertising with the problem being that there’s never an incentive to buy the music and we lose money making it, whereas with our free download, we’ve deliberately tried to do it in a way which retains some value so there is still a point to buying the albums, there’s more songs and concepts outlined in the artwork when you buy.
H: It did succeed in promoting the name but killed the album as far as sales went. I personally think they’re trying to get one over on the major music corporations by giving away their products, but all this really accomplishes is that the corporations step up their lobbying for control of the internet and producing music loses all its value. That’s workable for the major labels who can take a hit on reduced sales of the new Madonna album because their margins are astronomical, but when it filters down to the smaller labels and bands such as us, endless sharing does jeopardise the production of new material.

m[m]: You played live in Glasgow earlier this year - how did it go with translating studio-based material into a performance? Do you have plans for future live shows, and, if so, where would you most like to perform (however impractical)?
H: The Glasgow gig was great. Being part of the film festival we wrote a whole new piece, which was specifically written only to be played live, based around an edit of the film ‘Heartless’. We have some plans for future live performances but chances are they’ll either be special events or more conceptual happenings. There are plans to try and do the studio work live at some point but the logistics of putting together a full band are proving tricky.
S.: : I originally saw Widdershins as a live piece to be played on the Glasgow Subway with the Train as third member of the band. We did look into it but even if we could have convinced SPTE [Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive] to allow us to do it would have been massively expensive so we couldn’t do it. I’d really like to play some underground cavern or tunnels, would be great acoustically and very atmospheric. I suppose performing a ritual piece inside the Great Pyramid would be fantastic, or a deserted military bunker? Anywhere with narrative and noise.
H: I’d love to gig in the Vatican City I visited the public bits of it a few years ago and the acoustics in some of the rooms there are amazing, other than that I have always wanted to play in Japan.

m[m]: What can we expect in terms of releases or performances from you both in the near future?
S.: : We’re currently working on a new PsychComm album all about the mythologies of Roundabouts and the esoteric order of Roundabout Engineers at the heart of the Transport Research Laboratory. There’s another project based around using a Cabbalistic interpretation of the layout of New Town area of Edinburgh to explain chunks of Scottish social, political and religious history whilst walking down George Street, and I’ve also started researching for a multifaceted Glasgow project but that one will be a while off.
H: And there’s helping out the Nothing Machine Technicians on their next Therapy Recording as well. There’ll probably be at least one more gig this year and we’re already thinking up ideas for next year, just nothing fully confirmed yet.

m[m]: What has made you laugh recently?
H: Rediscovering the film Harold and Maude and finding it’s still as funny as the first time I saw it.
S.: : I run our Facebook Page ( and I post all manner of bizarre signage, strange juxtapositions and photos which have unintended double meanings. Think my favourite in the last while have been the fighty Octopus,