Aïsha Devi The “radical alchemist” and Danse Noire founder talks rave culture, DIY tattoos, and why whales beach themselves

Photo: Emile Barret

Aïsha Devi is the high priestess of cybernetic conscious music. Her most recent album, DNA Feelings (out now on Houndstooth), takes the listener deep into the realm of the “aetherave.” After gaining a profile releasing music as “Kate Wax,” the SHAPE alumna reverted to her birth name in 2015, “putting Kate Wax to rest for a consequent amount of eternity.”

But Devi doesn’t, as the Buddha put it, hold the teachings “with a closed fist” — she’s exceptionally friendly, deeply enthusiastic, and erudite on subjects from quantum physics to continental philosophy.

She explains that she sees an interview as a sharing of knowledge between anthropological beings. She apologizes for talking so much as she lights another cigarette. When I inquire about her tattoos, she asks to see mine and compliments me on them. A cat persistently demands attention in the background.

Being a meditator myself, I’m curious whether she practices meditation in a specific tradition. She mentions inspiration from texts like the Upanishads, before saying:

Meditation gave me a perception that frequency is the origin of the form and of the nonform, and so we can impact our own form and context with true frequency. That’s why music can transcend dimensionality. It’s actually an antigravity filter, an all-dimensional gate opener.

For me, it’s not about any [type of] meditation; it’s not about an isolated thing. The meaning of meditation is part of the whole spectrum of knowledge. I connect the dots with where modern quantum physics is now. When there’s knowledge, it’s calling to knowledge.

My grandfather was a brilliant physicist — he was the pupil of [Wolfgang] Pauli, who was a Nobel prize winner and a pupil of Einstein, so he really did extend knowledge about zero point energy and (super) relativity. The concept of transcendence has now arrived in modern physics and especially in string theory. They have knowledge that the origin of matter and nonmatter is a vibration, an oscillation that provokes a frequency.

Capitalism is a society which occults this knowledge to make us submissive robots — but my aim in music is to spread this knowledge. The more you meditate, the more you want to spread this knowledge. It’s not about a selfish individualistic [practice like] “enhancing your health” … of course it does that, but that’s just the first step. The next step is the need to spread the energetic comprehension to the world.

On that note, how do you feel about the spread of corporate mindfulness? You’ve previously mentioned Guy Debord as an influence, and he talked about the parallels between religion and mass marketing — do you see the explosion of interest in mindfulness in a positive or a negative light?

We live in a capitalist society and a society which wants to capitalize on knowledge. The new value is not about money — it’s knowledge. We know there are going to be people who are going to turn this knowledge into something they earn money with, but that’s a consequence of the opening field of knowledge.

When I was a kid, we had to go to the library [to find knowledge]. School was the only place where you could learn some stuff. But if you’re lazy, you don’t open a lot of books, especially on alternative knowledge. We live in a Western, post Judeo-Christian society which orients you into being submissive, and only knowing about the materialistic realm — into thinking that we have to maximize this life, we have to be afraid of death, we have to hide our corpses, we have to be ashamed and to pray outside [ourselves]. Christianity is all about praying outside our body.

This is only possible when old religion is hidden. But now, with the opening field of knowledge which is the internet, all this alternative, ancestral, ritualistic knowledge is an open field, and people who are interested can go there with that curiosity. They can go there like I did and connect the dots like I did. It’s shaping the revolution out there, because the revolution is going to be frequential. It gives us the knowledge that we are frequency and the knowledge that we live in a society which parasites us with frequency. There are whales lost on beaches, and we’re like, “oh poor whales, what’s happening?” But it’s because we’re messing up frequencies. Your fridge is sending out frequency, your phone. The Shaolin monks say the masters now will never be as powerful as they used to be, because there are too many parasite frequencies in the world, and it’s really disturbing our tuning. The internet is opening the gate to people, to show that “fuck, we were so submissive!” The last 50 years with television — the omnipotence of television was constricting you into one mono vision.

But now we have multiple vision. For example, you have many [net] channels of girls teaching craft, and I think this is part of the emancipation of our individuality. We are so formatted to work on abstract work, for money. But there’s nothing that we are proud of that we make with our hands. Artisanal craft is so important for humans. Even [to be able to] garden your own potatoes you have to understand nature, you have to understand cycles — and then you can be proud of them, and then you can eat them! People are blooming who realize that they have their own potential, their own skills and craft possibilities. And at the same time, there are people who understand that the light was hidden from us. It’s a transition era, and it’s an empowering era. I have a lot of friends who are quitting their jobs; they’re like, “why am I frustrated, why am I so unhappy during the week and I’m just waiting for the weekend to come, I’m done with that!”

So I think the internet, and the trend of yoga and meditation, is a good thing, even if it’s reappropriated by brands. But it’s part of the process, even if there’s always a process of vulgarization. Even Hollywood now is talking about multidimensionality, even if they think it’s “magic.” Magic is just the invisible energetic that’s happening. [Talking about magic in popular culture] vulgarized it and dismantled the idea that it can happen to you, but at the same time it has an impact on people.

When you open the door of meditation, there is a knowledge you cannot get rid of, something that transforms your physicality, your cells, your atoms. That’s why I called the album DNA Feelings. We can change our DNA with frequencies. Capitalism transmits the idea that the only possibility we have as humans is to be born, to be successful, to get really high on the hierarchy, to get old and die.

But nowadays we have the possibility of totally hijacking, totally dislocating this false role. We realize that we can have an impact, that we can regenerate ourselves — we can actually change the color of our eyes with frequency! Mind is matter, and the extension of the power of the mind is a frequency, so if you tune on the right frequency, you can actually do that. I used [that principle] on several tracks [on the album] — there’s a track that’s supposed to make you younger!

The frequencies that you use in your music — where did you find them? Did you come upon them yourself, or are they from spiritual traditions?

What’s really interesting with electronic music is that you can have total control of which frequency you’re choosing. I work on binaurals, where you’re creating a different frequency on the left and right. The plasticity of the brain was scientifically proven — I don’t need that kind of proof, but people need it. The brain is able to reclassify and remold. And these [binaural] waves help the topology of the brain to modify.

There are four different frequencies. There’s gamma, in which the difference between left and right is between 40 to 100 hertz. Gamma will help cognition, functioning, processing information, and learning. It’s very high, a very vibrant frequency. Then there is beta, which again [assists] local processing, concentration, focus. It’s a kind of synapse conductor, so it will help to make analogies. But I mostly use the alpha wave, which is between 8 and 12 hertz, much slower. The two last binaurals are closer to the meditation states. [Alpha] creates a link between conscious thinking and the subconscious that induces relaxation and [fights] depression.

Depression comes from the fact that humans have a sense of multiple dimensions, but we are forced to live in the 3D. We are constantly trying to get to the other dimensions — through drugs, even sport — transcending your body — it’s an attempt to animate and to live this other dimensional. But society always pulls you down to the 3D.

Most of the time, I use alpha and delta. Delta is the slowest brainwave. The deepest state of relaxation is almost death, so there’s almost nonsignal — but you can hear a signal, because nonsignal doesn’t exist. They’ve proved with science that there’s no zero point to energy; space is a continuation of the energetic field that connects information together, so space is a concentration of energy. The delta induces rejuvenation and healing. I use a lot of delta waves, especially when I’m playing live.

It was my intention to heal people. We know that there are subliminal advertisements that use frequency in the opposite way — to make us submissive. But with music, I’m trying to spread the idea that we have the power of knowledge about this frequency, and we can use that to start rejuvenating, to heal ourselves, and we can spread that to the world instead of spreading tyranny and dogmatism.

So when I play live, it’s really there, it’s really frequence! A lot of people tell me after [a show] that they had a kind of massage. It’s pure, but not in the sense of [a negative] purity. It really does have an impact on your bones; you can feel the sub[bass]. Sub can make [physical] objects move. So I’m moving your internal matter with the intention to heal.

Some frequencies have more resonance with the natural. The “la” that all our Western music is based on vibrates at 140 hertz — but that’s a frequency that doesn’t resonate in nature. [In nature] we would find the “la” normally on 432 hertz — that would be the right scale [in order] for the whole of nature to resonate with our contemporary music.

I’m not especially a conspiracy theorist, but you can see that everything was put together to disconnect us from knowledge and from magical and energetic power in order to make us slaves. The witches were burnt in Europe because they were so powerful, and they were aiming to heal themselves. Now there is a system of pharmaceuticals that have masses of money — a patent for cancer costs millions — but actually we can heal ourselves with frequency.

You’ve previously talked about clubs as ritual spaces. Your music, though, isn’t what we might think of as stereotypical 120BPM club fare. Do you prefer for your music to be consumed in a group setting or at home on headphones, or is it the same to you?

There are many ways to heal, and there are many ways to meditate, on top of a mountain or with a group — but I love the club! The club helped me to belong to the human race [laughs]. Think about the club kids in the 80s when everything was possible, when you could dress how you wanted, when there were no little stickers [defining] who you are. Because “if you name me, you negate me.” I want to be everything. That’s what these people did, and that’s why rave exists. If you gather with these people and you rave and you dance in the same gesture, you bounce — that becomes a unifying wave!

I really love club culture and I really love raving — it’s in my bones. Of course I can play an art space, but I think the people who are raving and dancing with music have that kind of awareness already. It’s not a coincidence that ritualistic music is really close to a state where the shaman is guiding you and you are in a trance. When we are raving, we reach an altered state of consciousness with music — with drugs maybe, but music can also do the job. When I’m playing live, I’m already in a quasi-altered state of consciousness because I [undergo] self-hypnosis.

For me, [raving] culture is really important, socially and politically; I always felt free in this culture — but it’s also one of the only platforms where I could deliver this knowledge and make it become like a movie, with multiple layers of comprehension. There are going to be people who will just be entertained, that’s fine with me. But there will be people who are gonna feel something in their bones and will be really curious about it. I played in London and it was almost like a religious ritual, a cult or a communion, because we were in such a love wave. It sounds hippy, but it’s not hippy at all, because we are more conscious than hippies were. It was a dream, and now we are not living a dream. We come after a collapsing society, so we have to reinvent knowledge — so it’s not really hippy!

Music was originally an initiation from the ancestral world. It’s the connection between the 3D and the alter-dimensional world. I like the idea that electronic music takes back the idea of ritual, because it’s a repetition. It’s not about the words or melody, it’s about the tone. When you’re saying a mantra — [chants] om mani padme hum — after a while it dissolutes into frequency in your throat. There are some languages that are more aware of that and more purposed for that — like Sanskrit. If I do mantras in Sanskrit, I use my throat, the way your voice resonates inside your throat, [whereas] English and French are very much on the top of the lips so there’s no frequency happening. I also do binaurals with the voice, and that induces an altered state of consciousness too.

We play on the best sound system in the world — you have a wall of subs, and that’s one thing that really has an impact. When you listen to the radio or to pop music, it doesn’t have that physical impact.

I remember that, from my time in the mid-90s psytrance scene, you could feel the music pulsating through your body…

Exactly. Sometimes I dance in front of the sound system, because you need that transformative signal that goes through your DNA and yourself.

I also have the will to hijack the industry of entertainment and the media. In the European scene now, the audience is active, not passive. When I play live, I sense signals, transformative frequencies, the way that the audience is bouncing, the way the energy elevates in the room, and I get that back — and we can reach a kind of collective transcendence.

I recently did an interview for Vogue — so, old-school, Western culture-orientated, capitalist-orientated media are starting to be interested. I take a platform and I troll and I act up, it’s tentacular! The [European] scene isn’t about the ego, it’s not about being a diva, it’s about spreading the knowledge of frequency.

Speaking about what’s going on in the world at the moment, in previous works you’ve engaged with overtly feminist paradigms — for example, “Aurat” [using text from an Urdu/Hindi poem written by Pakistani feminist, Kishwar Naheed] on your 2015 album Of Matter and Spirit. We’re currently in a strong feminist moment — do you see this as being expressed on DNA Feelings as well?

I feel that this album is not about me anymore — it’s about spreading this knowledge of the metaphysical and of frequencies. I’m still in between two things. I’ve always been part of the outcasts and part of the minority, and I think the minority is slightly gaining more voice — it can be about feminism, about gay rights, about racial issues… especially if you go to the States, it’s absolutely crazy how it’s present in every second of your life, the inequality and incoherence about races and dominance. If you submit to the dogmatic, misogynistic, and tyrannical society, you are totally dumb. I’ll always be part of the minority for that.

Photo: Emile Barret

The thing is that I think I’ve stopped identifying myself as a woman in music. I identify myself as a connection with a kind of knowledge and with trying to deliver the knowledge. But for my everyday life, of course I will take my voice and give my voice for the minority and against inequality.

For me, the tool of frequency, the tool of healing as a shamanic process, is about the anger of this social inequality. Maybe that sounds a bit inadequate for [our moment], but I’m quite sure that this is a more powerful tool to transcend. Because when you are in a programmatic about race or other things like that, you are still inside this system of capitalism and you are kind of submitting to it — whereas I’m trying to have a point of view outside of that same system that is crushing you.

Of course, there are people who need [overt political struggle] for their lives, but I have the chance or the privilege to be apart from that. I’m a woman, [but] I don’t work in a factory where I’m underpaid or anything like that. I still see some misogynistic things, but I realize that it’s changing, and [so] the best answer to that is not aggressivity (for me) toward the people who are misogynistic. For me, it’s an old paradigm that’s shifting, and all these people who are still into that idea of supremacism of boys or race or anything are just retaining [that paradigm].

The stigma in society and in the system, you can transcend that, but some people are not able to — because we are all in different realms, and for some people they’re unable to transcend in their everyday life, because the system is too heavy on them.

In Switzerland [where Devi lives], it’s very difficult to organize underground rave parties because people are so afraid of subversive alternative ideas and of that way of partying. They have so much in their hands and they’re really afraid of losing their comfort zone. If you come with a new idea, with a music that will question their being, they close the gate. There’s no dialogue possible, you cannot change their mind with [argument]. But there are other ways to change their mind, that is to induce shamanistic vision and to make them transcend. It will not happen at an intellectual level — these people have too much to lose moneywise. And we should make them understand that when you’re about to take your last breath you’re not thinking about money. My fight is about making people realize that and making them realize that when it’s “eternity versus capitalism” — in the end, what’s winning?

On questions of identity, I wanted to ask — you started using your birth name, Aïsha Devi, for your musical project a few years ago. But it’s a name that seems very appropriate to your music. What’s the background to that name — does it have a significance to you beyond, “this is what my parents called me?”

The fact that I took back my name was totally connected with meditation and the vision I had. Before taking my name, I was more creating music as an ego thing, needing to find a place in society. I was always the lonely kid doing music, like a geek that nobody wants to be around. So when I started making music in my little room and someone was interested in that, and when I started singing as a soprano, it was the first step of integration. I had been hiding my true identity — I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be like my other friends who had nice clothes and things. So when I started meditation, I totally replaced myself. I reappropriated my own genesis — with the suffering of it.

I grew up with my grandmother. I don’t know my father, who is a Nepalese-Tibetan Indian. And my mother is a crazy freak. I’m at peace with that legacy; my name turned out to be a nice name, but I understood that when you’re healing your own child, your own suffering, and when you stop being a victim, then you can develop yourself. Not in a capitalist way — but you can stop being ashamed of yourself. “Aïsha” is Sanskrit, and it means “alive” in Arabic, and is also the first wife of Muhammad. “Devi” means “goddess” in Sanskrit. I think it was almost an anticipation or a prophecy [laughs].

That’s exactly what I had wondered about — I could hardly believe it was your birth name, because it seemed so perfect for your project…

We are always in transformation, and [previously] I was just not ready to wear that name. The name was probably too heavy for me. Now I can embrace it, and I kind of like it, but it took a long long time.

I wanted to be a white little girl, and I really suffered from racism. It took long years to realize the richness of the ancestral world and especially of the Asian metaphysical, which I connect with a lot. But the alibi of going to search for my father and for my ancestry was just an alibi, I guess — I’m transcending the personal genesis now, I’m not on that level anymore. I never found him. I would like to maybe search, but it’s not so important in the end, because you can transcend your own genesis. And then you can spread the knowledge better, because there’s no anger anymore.

You mentioned getting started working on music, singing soprano — can you tell us something about your creative process and what kind of gear or software you use?

When I produce music, I always start with meditation. I always produce by night, because I think when everybody’s sleeping, demons, whole realms of energy are coming out — I love to connect with that. When I’m producing now, it’s a kind of extension of the meditative state. Of course, there are concepts and intellectual things that I want to inject, but it’s more about cosmic knowledge.

Normally I start with the beats — it’s not the speed, it’s the heaviness — and with the sub[bass]. When monks start meditation, they always start with the low level and then during the hours of meditation they go faster and they go higher.

So I start with the grounding — the sub and the beats — and that is the connection with the earth, with our own death, the heavy matraquage (in French) of the beats. There’s also a kind of purge before cleansing. When I play live, I really love heavy, heavy beats that really impact you. Like when you take ayahuasca, you have to vomit; you have to purge and clean your body, so it’s part of the process.

After the beats, I go with the mid frequencies, the melodic things — something that is a bit more connected with my genesis. Baroque sometimes, it’s more and more non-diatonic, but there is still some pop reminiscence of my childhood — that melody that is in the back of your head sometimes. It becomes less and less pop, and more and more semi- and quarter-tone.

I finish with the voice, because the voice vibrates at the highest frequency, it’s the most powerful instrument. Every instrument is vibrational, but the voice is amazing because you can actually control it. I do some vocal harmonization using two frequencies, which is the technique of the Tuvan singing, Khoomei, and the Kargyraa from the monks. This induces an altered state of consciousness because you have attuned frequencies — like binaurals.

Then I produce with a bunch of synthesizers, and I’m a geek, so I work on Ableton. I love the feeling of Ableton, where I can play a loop and it stays forever — where the idea is that you transcend spacetime. I use a lot of plugins, every kind of synthesis you can imagine, and I also use the Jupiter-80, which is the synthesizer of the 90s trance scene. And it’s not a coincidence, because it affects your consciousness. That machine has the supersaw parameter, which is exactly the same as I’m doing with the voice. The Jupiter is like my lover, like the magic machine, with the way it can control every frequency. It’s like building multidimensional spaces with this machine. You’re opening the gates with your mind, but then the extension with the machine and with the computer is exactly the mirror of your mind.

I’m still part of the post/modernist school that form follows function, and so I’m guided by the metaphysics and then it becoming a track where, while I have control of the frequency and everything, at the end the aesthetic will be defined by the metaphysic. It’s not lyrical, it’s metaphysical.

Thinking about postmodernism, I wanted to ask about the question of authenticity in a digital age — that seems to play out in your work a way that’s quite complex…

Authenticity is just a concept! Like pornography [laughs]. It was invented by the Victorians, by the Western, super-educated white culture.

The fact that now we consider tattoos as art is the worst thing on earth, because we erase and we are stealing that idea of transcendence in tattoo. Tattoo is ritualistic, but now people are suggesting we put tattoos in museums. Tattoo is not that! Authenticity for me is exactly the same thing, to keep art in the hands of people who intellectualize it and to give (post-) colonialist white art supremacy.

But I don’t believe in that. I really believe that the machine can be an extension of your mind — you can exist in a virtual world. There are people playing video games in a world that does exist — they are not physically there, but their minds are there, so it’s already depicting the after-death, the possibility that we exist outside our physicality. It’s just a tactic of capitalism to say that nothing exists outside of your body and nothing exists outside of the system — scientists will prove that wrong. My tools are machines and virtuality and coding — the best way to opening the gates of alter-dimensional consciousness. Authenticity exists even more [in those realms], because there, the intention is not for people to submit, but to become empowered.

In French, we say “siècle des Lumières,” which corresponds to “the apogee of Western culture” — meaning industrialization and literally putting lights on the street (and in cinema). It’s so hypocritical to see that [etymological] determination of the word “enlightenment,” celebrating industrialization. Guy Debord anticipated that; he was one of the first who was talking about our self-anthropophagic behavior. Our self-entertainment comes with a lot of guilt, especially in a Calvinist society. For me, the [real] “siècle des Lumières,” like Adorno said somewhere, is our self-identification with the intention.

Your work is a new kind of “conscious music” — for example, on the one hand I listen to contemporary electronic music, and on the other I listen to kirtan and new age music, mantra music, but I try to avoid the clichéd qualities in a lot of that music. Your music has those elements, but not in that tacky kind of way…

That’s true! I used to listen to some of that [new age mantra music] and always had the feeling it was a kind of fairy tale. I think it’s because the era was not ready. We had to go through an individualistic depression combined with capitalism to get to the point where we are now. Capitalism is collapsing, and the whole New Age was a golden era of capitalism, so it was full of very childish dreams.

The new generation now is much more aware of how capitalism is destroying and waging war on earth, imperialistic war on earth regulated by money. So the new era of “conscious” music has got rid of that kind of fairytale. It’s not about keeping people in a fantasy — we don’t fantasize anymore. It’s much more connected with our everyday life. It’s more the connection with the 3D — how we can make people not feel depressed anymore, make them realize that there is something else than what we believe in and what we see. And how we can actually live through that and organize a new society!

But this will come from the inside — we have to degenerate society from the inside and make people forget what they’ve learned. I think for hippies, there was little suffering. The suffering came afterwards. My mother was a hippy, and she ended up working in a very big company making so much money. They had to put all their fantasy in a cupboard and forget about it. And also, it was really a teenage rebellion.

But the new revolution is a whole spectrum of age and a whole social spectrum, because of the internet, because of the possibility of spreading the knowledge. Also, I hope, not only touching and calling the middle class — I wish we can touch all classes, also people who [live in] survival mode, because they hear a bit more than we know. Obviously there are some countries that have that metaphysical knowledge and at times they are more conscious than we are. So I’m hoping we can go through this revolution, but I think it will be about hijacking more than ghettoization.

I know from my own experience that depression was the thing that brought me to meditation — and part of that depression, among other things, was this feeling of being trapped in a system.

You are trapped and used! And conforming! Conforming for what, for an ideology… that’s crazy, right?

Personally, I was trying to use meditation in an instrumental way, always doing more and thinking that I needed this process to very quickly solve all my problems. And meditation has done amazing things for me, but that’s not one of the things it’s done (at least not as I originally imagined). What’s your take on this — do you see your own spiritual practices progressing toward a goal?

When the seed of consciousness is planted, it’s growing. To me the same as you, first it was a kind of discipline, and then it became an urge. Having this moment where you open to the outer dimensional and you reverse the thing of being crushed in the 3D. It was like an emotional Fischli/Weiss, the Swiss artists who did an amazing piece, The Way Things Go. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art that exists. It’s an installation where they light a candle, then the fire will burn and push a wheel to do something, [and so on] — it’s almost a chemical reaction. But for me, it’s metaphysical. It means that there is no self-process that will not have an impact on other things — change your whole body, change your context, change your neighbors! I realized that when you meditate, you transcend the idea that it’s only for yourself. It has domino effects, like the Fischli/Weiss piece, because it’s energetic and metaphysical.

And it’s an idea, but it also takes place in the material world. Meditation knowledge, which for some people is very abstract and very esoteric, can be proven and underlined and explained with modern physics.

I think in the end we will not be a little hippy group at the edge of society. For me, the idea is to spread the knowledge, and if you ask me do I have a goal — yes, it’s the prophetic goal! [laughs] Every part of my body, my intention, my face, my self, how I look, is — not at the service [of this ideal], because it’s not a cult — but [working toward the] intention to]deliver that frequential revolution and to be a kind of sabotage to society [laughs].

At one point, I started reading The Elegant Universe, a physics book, but it was way beyond me…

It will sound weird, but I’m trying not to read physics, because with meditation you have the comprehension about it [laughs]. Sometimes I write formulae, and I don’t even know what it means.

Speaking of reading, you’ve said before that you read a lot, and that’s obvious from how you speak. Are you reading anything exciting at the moment?

No! I used to read a lot, but when I’m producing music I don’t want to listen to other music, and when I’m constantly writing codes that have signal, I try not to read so much, because I don’t want to interfere with what I gather as knowledge and what already exists. Sometimes I read something to confirm (or to do the opposite). But I talk a lot with Emile Barret, who does audiovisual work with me. He’s the same kind of kid as us — he’s hungry for knowledge, and he always wants to know more about the invisible world and things like that. He reads a lot, and sometimes when we talk, we combine what he’s reading and what I gather, and it matches! That’s incredible, to converge on the same metaphysical knowledge.

Something that really struck me, and that orientates us in doing the visual and transcending the idea of spacetime, was reading [Carlos] Castaneda — initiation, transcendence, and the idea of being a hermit, to understand the forces. When I’m on stage with a lot of lights, I’m connected with everybody there, but when I’m producing music I’m really a hermit, I’m in my little studio observing and gathering information and injecting that into the music — but without interfering with anyone. I like the idea of being a hermit to channelize and to transcend and to enlighten. A supraconsciousness is coming when you’re not self-referring to the eyes of someone else.

Adorno is one of my favorites, the idea of mass culture and how we are instrumentalized. Pop culture is actually not “pop culture,” it’s a tool to manipulate. That’s what we’re doing in electronic music now; we are hijacking pop culture, because pop culture has become the new mantra. [In pop songs,] the phrases are so short, it’s like implemented in your subconscious… and now I’m gonna hijack that!

And you work across media, so you’ve worked with the audiovisual, video games, and dance as well as solely music…

You transcend music, you transcend [forms]! In pre-Hinduism, music was the first, the primal energetic resonance and dancing was the second. Shiva, the dancing god, was always coming with music. Dancing is about knowing your own energetic system and the world energetic. In China, it’s kung fu or tai chi. That’s not the Western understanding of dancing, but I think some Western dancers know about their energetic thing.

I work with Tianzhuo Chen and with Beio, who’s doing a hi-fi Butoh like I’m trying hi-fi shamanism. You can see he’s entranced. When he finishes dancing, he’s a ghost; he’s given every piece of his energy. We play together as often as we can, because with visualization, stimulation, dancing, all this energy has to transcend, has to mess with the idea of where is down, where is up, where is your body at, where are you at? That’s basically what drugs do, messing with your understanding of your own mass and your own corpus, and I think we can deal with a kind of metaphysical corpus. This is all stimulation that helps to transcend spacetime.

About physicality — I notice you have the DNA Feelings cover art tattooed on your palm. How long have you had that one for, and for you, the process of being tattooed yourself — what does the tattoo process, and having the symbol there, mean for you?

It’s definitely initiatic. People have been tattooed since the existence of humans — belonging to a caste, belonging to a war tribe, going through puberty. I’d never been tattooed, because I was sick for a long time. I was anorexic, so my body was just a burden; it was something I was getting rid of. I think anorexia is an attempt at enlightenment — you want to be a ghost, to transcend matter. When I started meditation, I had a lot of eczema, but one month after I started, I was healed from eczema and anorexia. So it really did make me a friend with my body again.

I needed that to be able to tattoo myself. The first tattoo I had was in India, from a gypsy girl in the streets. Everybody was like “are you crazy?” but I felt it. She had a little machine; she had to put two pieces of metal together to make it work. It was really DIY! And I got the Shiva symbol — for me, it’s a logo of enlightenment. She disinfected with coconut and I had a big swelling for two weeks, it was crazy bad. But I love it!

I got another tattoo in Shanghai from a Chinese friend, and it was her first tattoo. I was like “I want to be the first!”

And one from Tianzhuo — we were drunk in a bar one evening. It’s the logo of Asian Dope Boys [the performance group he founded], because they are my family. When I first saw what he was doing, I was like, “I’m gonna write him!” I never do that. I’m super shy, but I wrote him an email asking if he wanted to do a video. We found each other, because we were trying to say the same thing about ancestral symbolism as a counter hypnosis of media and advertisement.

So he did that tattoo and I love it, it’s really not standard. I was on the plane going to China last time, and I was sitting next to a Chinese man who noticed my skateboard, and we started to talk. He looked at my tattoo and was like, “this is really not a professional tattoo!” I was like, I get it, it’s really considered a shitty tattoo, but for me it’s the most beautiful tattoo. I love Tianzhuo Chen. I love his art, I love his gesture, like a childish calligraphy.

The [DNA Feelings] tattoo I did at the same time I did the [album] artwork because all that DNA suddenly came to me like a vision — we can change DNA! What scientists call junk DNA is our immortality. The idea that we can change our DNA is very difficult for people to take, because they’re like, “hey, I took 30 years to accept myself!” But you can change everything about your own physical aspect or your inside — it’s just intention or frequency. Time is the illusion of solidity. That’s the force of capitalism — “I am what I am.” No, you’re transforming!

We were talking about how people get wrapped up in social systems — did you ever have a day job you transitioned out of to be an artist, or is this what you’ve always done?

I was a privileged kid, honestly, even with the kind of nonbelonging to society and feeling an outcast [that came] with my name, my appearance, my mind. My grandmother always helped me. I started art school doing graphic design. When I finished, I started to work as a graphic designer, but it was just giving your knowledge and your skills for a big firm. I couldn’t imagine giving everything I knew and everything I’d learned to sell insurance. I had an ethical moment/um where I needed to stop, and I stopped, and I started making music kind of blindly. At first, it was more expressing my frustration, and then I started very quickly to tour and to earn a bit of money. I don’t earn money on selling for sure; I’m living by the gigs!

But I had the privilege that my grandmother thought I deserved to be endorsed. She was that type of authoritative German brutal person, but in another way, she really helped me. So I never had to question myself as to whether I should quit [a day job] or not. I’ve done music since art school — just as a kind of breezy natural thing.

Is there any last thing you’d like to say?

I’m about to do a lecture, and I love the idea of doing conferences, not just music but talking, being a bit more pedagogical. I think we are — I’m quoting a friend who’s doing a PhD — I think we’re the new field of expertise.

Oh, and one more thing — we are not defined by the physical!

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