Stabmental fanzine : 1981
S.P.K. stands for Surgical Penis Klinik, for System Planning Korporation and for many other things. They make an incredibly violence, distorted and disturbing type of electronic music, overloading the senses with volume and with information. They have released an ep. on Industrial Records called Meat Processing Section and an LP and an ep on their own Side Effects Records. The LP was released recently and is called Information Overload Unit. It was released in UK. The original ep 'No More/Contact/Germanik' was released in Australia which is were the group were originally formed.
SM : Who is in SPK and who has been in the past as I
know there have been numerous lineup changes.
SPK : "At the moment the lineup consists of Operator-synths, rythms, traetments, vocals. Wilkins-guitar, bass, tapes, vocals. Tone Generator-syth, treatments, vocals. Mr. Clean was until recently involved as technition but left immediately after we recorded the LP. The previous lineup was based around EMS/AKS and NI/H/IL in collaboration with 2 punk musicians in Australia."
SM : How did the LP emerge ?
SPK : "During the period of relapse of SPK, the move from Australia to Europe there were many ideas formed, many of which were realised on the LP, but there were other ideas added by incoming members of the group. As far as production goes we decided to do everything that we possibly could independantly - we raised the money ourselves, bought the equipment - designed the sleeve and info.handouts. The only thing we didnt do ourselves was distribution and Rough Trade did that. We have distibuted to Europe through our own connections however, and are working on a deal with Japan as well as handling mailorder. All the production was done on a strictly limited budget which is why we only released a I000 to begin with, but it looks like were going to have to do some more."
SM : How many times have you played live ?
SPK : "Four times. once in Britain althogh by the time you read this it will be at least once more." (They have oplayed in London with Nocturnal Emissions since) "We were a little disappointed with Heaven although it was sordid enogh. We would like to find somewhere more interesting to play. Idaelly we would like to play in a mental institution or the underground bomb shelters in London. We dont fit in to standard musical structures so we dont fit into standard musical surroundings."
SM : Why do you play live and do you enjoy it when you
do play ?
SPK : "We have to anwser presonally. Operator thinks he might enjoy it if it were in the right surroundings but otherwise dosnt enjoy it at all. Wilkins likes the elements of chance and uncertainity that come into live performances. He feels that you can to some extent feed off the surroundings and the emotional balance of the occasion and channel them through the sound. Tone Generator likes the element of feedback from the audience - that if people see you live they are more likely to approach you rather than if the only contact is a mailing address. We enjoy playing live if we can do something interesting and are in control of what is happening, but that rarely happens."
SM : What is the audience reaction like at your
SPK : "Largly confusion - we dont really get a balanced picture of the audience because if they dont like you then they leave or stand around silently so you only get feedback from those that enjoyed it. The first time we played was in Aust. and we were pelted with beer cans and had the mains pulled out three times. At Heaven, the latest one they cheered and danced. In fairness there was one shout of 'Get Off' but largly that was a very favourable reaction. Someone may even have been standing on his toe."
SM : Why have you named yourself after a Baader-Meinhof
offshoot group ?
SPK : "IMPORTANT: The SPK were NOT a Baader-Meinhof offshoot group, although it existed in Germany at the same time. We take our name fromthe Sozialistiche Patiensten Kollektiv which was a group of psychiatric patients in an institution, bought together by one Dr. Huber who helped these people express the content of their repression in their Manifesto which is quite a long document and reads very coherently. They also formed the working Circle Explosives which was a bomb making collective. It represents for us an effort whether or not we agree with the ethics of what they did, an attempt to extract themselves from the institution, from the situation into which they had been forced. It is also important that they saw mental illness as a label tagged onto them by a system that had failed, couldnt take them into consideration and had to hide them away in an institution. The fact that they failed by blowing themselves up is quite important to us too. In that any attempt to work your way out of a situation there is bound to be an array of interferences that are going to occur and must be anticipated. They dont appear by obvious crushing of a movement, they occur because of the internal socialisation procedures that have already gone on. They appear to come from you and it is important not to be discouraged by such problems as they occur - just accept them as part of what you are doing ! In that sense it relates to to the way we construct sound. We let the interference from the ma chines take as much weight as seems appropriate and oten inappropriate to the expression of the idea that we are working on."
SM : Do you admit to being influenced by anybody ?
SPK : "Obviously a number of musicians have influenced us in the past and we are still being influenced now. It is important to stress that music is not the only form of influence on us. All forms of media in particular film, literature, painting, television, bizarre visuals interesting documents, conversations, sounds, accidents, fate, etc."
SM : Do you like any contemporary groups ?
SPK : Theres no common ground amongst the members of SPK, some members like things that the others despise. So some of the following names could appeal to one member, equally could be tolerated by all: - Can, Neu, Der Plan, Harmonia, Cluster, Faust, La Dusseldorf, Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, Wire, The Fall and The Residents."
SM : Do you like London ?
SPK : "We are fairly nomadic and experienced in different types of culture and civilisation - London isnt really very different from any other city. The London scene ? We are not really part of it at all, people just seem to be following fashion without giving it much thought. The same thing will happen in New York, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, Berlin etc so no cities are really that different."
SM : Can you give any sort of a statement to describe
what you intend your music to do for people ? How can they be
influenced by listening to it ?
SPK : "There are 2 possible ways of interpreting the word influence. The first and usual approach , is to try and influence somebody into thinking/acting in the same way as you do. Such aformat uses familiar materials in order to transfer an established message to a passive recipient with as little loss of information as possible. Often an emotive context is established around the message in order to heighten its impact. However such practises are really only coercive, at no stage is the recipient able to construct anything for himself.
the second, or experimental approach is to attempt to influence somebody into thinking or acting differently from both his habits & you. This usually requires some sort of a jolt as weve said before - either by an intensity (or overload) effect or by confusion. It also requires to break out of mood formations which are just as coercive as message dictation because they can lull a listener into passive unconciousness very easily. This is a danger experimental music always run and often fails to realise - it too can degenerate into familiar categorisable musak. We are trying to avoid this trap and it is very often the first response on listening to SPK that there is something wrong or 'deviant' about it. "Diseased" is a word that has often been used to describe it, which we like. Generally we would like to be happy with the maximum possible number of variations in response - but any listener has to do a lot of work for himself."
SM : You seem to have a lot of interest in aspects of
mental illness - can you comment on this and how you have had so
much contact with it.
SPK : "The original SPK started as a collaboration between NI/H/IL who was a certified schizophenic patient and EMS/AKS who was a psychiatric nurse in a state institution. It semed that mental illness was a much neglected area in terms of atrocities commited on people, which we try to bring out in our music. The LP track 'Macht Schrecken' for example contains a juxtaposition between the sideeffects of anti-psychotic drugs and the effects of chemical warfare agents. The list reads almost exactly the same, the only difference being usually that the administration of the drugs in mental institutions does not end in fatalities, but these fatalities do occur, largly through suicide.
There is that negative aspect to mental illness - there is also a positive one where there are some so called mental disorders, particuarly obsessive/compulsive neuroses, schizophrenia and manic depressive psychosis which have a great deal of positive content. This is suspessed not only by institutionalisation but mainly by the overpowering pressure of society to conform to the behavioural norm. We are not concerned solely with mental patients but with deviants of all kinds, we feel that they should not be 'cured' or conform to any 'norm' that they should be allowed to give free reign to what they are, and that society should drop all pretension to cohesivness with one group speaking for the rest."
SM : Can you say why your music is so violent ?
SPK : "There is a certain threshold of intensity needed to shift people from habitual ways of thinking, appreciating or interpreting in formation. If you dont reach that threshold then theres nothing to stop them continuing in the same way. If you supercede that threshold then you have a chance, however small, of jolting their way of thinking. Were trying to jolt them out so that they have to form a choice between multiples. We are not perpetrating fascism. Fascism is the preclusion of choice. It is not violent per se. We are using violence to enable choice and we think that we think that it is necessary to force a choice given that violence is already occuring in suppression of options.
Also our expression of the content of mental illness often requires violence as many mental conditions involve internal as well as external violence. There is a violence not only as a reaction to a suppression, there is also a violence of sheer energy, which is a very valid thing."
SM : What ideas have you got for video. Ive heard that
you plan to make widespread use of them ?
SPK : "A lot of people are using video now and it seems that all they do is take pictures of themselves, fiddle with the image and its just like looking in a mirror. its very narcissistic. We hardly ever use our own pictures as we feel there are a great deal more images of more interest. We are not trying to hide our own images, but due to the nature of the media the 'performer' is regarded as the focal point of the performance when really there is far more important images to be used. This is why we tend not to offer pictures of our selves so they cannot be used to the exclusion of images we consider to be more valid.
As far as the content of our videos goes, were trying to convey visually an image of another world from that which you are shown by the media. The only time you ever se anything out of the ordinary happening, is as something which is deviant which is considered to be a crime or something that is wrong with the system. The only way any changes are going to occur is if something 'goes wrong' in the main stream structures. To quote Deleuze, writer of a very good book called 'Anti-Oedipus', "The machine works by breaking down". We try to give the counter-side of history.
Our video works in conjunction with the music - the two are not necessary to each other, they are simply the utilisation of two different media to realise the same end. Video is not an appendage to provide something for you to look at while you listen to the music. Equally the music is not something for you to listen to while you are watching the video. They exist independantly of each other and are equally valid.
There is an order to the way we do things, we dont leave anything absolutely structureless. A lot of what we are doing is working on the idea of different dynamics of organisation. It will sound odd to many people, it will not even achieve widespread underground popularity because it is not structured in a linear organisation where every noise comes in succession after the one before it to give the impression of variation. What we do is to cram information together and achieve a depth of dynamics in which things are layered on top of each other, bury each other and interfere with each other which reflects disorganisation and the idea that all information cannot be grasped at one time. Things aren't just arranged neatly so that people can follow them exactly and that is the way things are with our music.
Another intereting thing we are working on is the idea of experimenting with subliminal images. It is of course well known that much advertising still uses subliminal sexual messages and symbols to induce perchasing "(note the Cadburys flake advert-SM)" "It is not generally known that certain Us agencies even used the just-invisible word SEX scrawled all over newsreel pictures of Vietnamese atrocities in order to make thier campaign more palatable, subconciously erotic or attractive to the public. This is perhaps the ultimate obscenity.
But as is often the case, what usually is a fascist tactic can be used for other purposes. We intend to use a variety of subliminal data (many of non-sexual nature) to disorder perceptual patterning habits at hte unconcious level like we do with music at the concious level. Because once you forced some kind of change in conciousness you usually find that the uncocious is lying there prestructured in some way to comfortably reorder everything again. This is what is missing in most left-wing revolutionary theories & is why the whole thing collapses into a mess of ideological disputes. But thats an entirely different question. Naturally we will have to question people about their feelings to see just what the effect of this tactic is, after seeing the video."
SM : I have read that Operator is writing some book or
other, what is it concerned with ?
SPK : "The one Im most interested with is concerned with a mixed fictional-theorectical complex of symbolic architypes. It is derived from some of Jungs psychology, the idea that all human thoght is dominated by a few architypal arrays. But my particular set of ideas has been influenced by the most recent work of Gilbert Durand, who summerises the structures of the imagination into 3 common perceptions of notion, to which all (or nearly all) human creativity seems to conform. They are the linear, 'progressive' or heroic dynamic, the regressive, internal downward movingdynamic, & the synthetic, circular dynamic. Where he stops is where I think one should begin - using such a structuralist approach to derive other possible dynamics which may give new creativity to an imagination in morose decline. The ones I am working on are alternatives like 'convulsion', a violent epileptic of constant change, 'proliferation', a disordered spreading, cancerous and 'coma', the absolute zero of motion. There are many others I am generating for the book but these seem to be the most relevant or useful to subversive activity. Stylistically however, I am writing it as fiction to try and make it as interesting as possible.
The other book that Im writing with a friend in France concerns the alternatives such as ideas might provide to the field of machine intelligence. This science doesn't seem to be getting very far because there are still no models of human imagination which can be transfered to algorithmic form. The old rational binary search and destroy system (at high speed granted) continues to be the best working proposition (eg. in computer chess).
The whole man-machine relationship cant seem to get beyond the two alternatives - either dominate the machine by flash pseudo-virtuosity (like Emerson or Wakeman) or humanise it by pseudo-emotion parodies (Joy Division etc.). We are writing about alternatives to machine as slave and/or lover. Incidentally this will end up telling us a lot about human imagination."
SM : What are the future plans for SPK ?
SPK : "There will be a second LP before the end of the year, there may even be product from other artistes being released on Side-Effects Records. However they would have to stand up to the strictest standards of Information Overload demanded. This is not to say that they should sound like us - they should sound like nothing that we have ever heard before. There will be videos (as discussed) and possibly some cassettes. We are going to release an SPK live in UK/USA tape sometime in the future. Some members of SPK are leaving Britain and going abroad (Back to Australia ?) but they will probably return at some time. Side Effects (UK) will continue as usual, and there will be bases of Side Effects abroad wherever SPK members happen to be living."
DISCOGRAPHY : EP I.NO MORE/CONTACT/GERMANIC. (Side Effect
SINGLE I.Meat Processing Plant. MECHANO/SLOGUN (Industrial)
LP I.Information Overload Unit. EMANATION MACHINE R.GIE I9I6:SUTURE OBSESSION:MACHT SCHRECKEN:BERUFSVERBOT: 2:GROUND ZERO:INFINITY DOSE:STAMMHEIM TORTURKAMMER:RETARD:EPILEPT:CONVULSE:KALTBRUCHIG ACIDEATH. I think that the tracks on the Industrial EP were taken from another Side Effects EP for which I havn't got the original tracking.
"The project ideal is to express the content of various psycho-pathalogical conditions, especially schizophrenia, manic - depressive psychosis, mental retardation and paranoia. Information Overload supersedes normal, rational thought structures, forcing deviation into less restrictive mental procedures of so-called 'mental illness'. SPK is trying to be a voice for those individuals condemned to the slow decay of mental hospitals and chemical / electro / surgical therapy, without fetishising them into blatant entertainment product. 'SONIC FOR MANICS' aims to be a vehicle for sharing mental experiences through sound. Owing to the instability of personalities associated with SPK output is likely to be irregular, as it has been up to now. We would like to hear from anyone interested in what we are doing, especially those with interest in, or history of, psychotic disorder. We will reply personally to all correspondence. Our name and material will vary with each project, but once established, you will have no difficulty in maintaining contact. Write to Mike Wilkins,/I5, King Edward's Road/Hackney/London E9 7SF.
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