WZRD Radio - Chicago : 7 May 1982


WZRD: This is a WZRD Interview with SPK, System Planning Korporation and we sit here with Oblivion.
We're gonna talk about last night's concert and things, well this is a tape we can edit and everything [...] So we'll have everything.

O: You have free editing Ryan.

WZRD: Yeah, we'll put some music between it. So, you go ahead, you wanna...

O: Well as you cut out my negative statements and make them positive like they do in the press.

WZRD: Something that was explained just very briefly and I just heard it second hand was about the films that you had at concerts. If you could describe where and how?

O: Most of them are stolen or pilfered or... from medical files either medical libraries or medical museums, and the ones... the film that we did ourselve in the second half was by breaking into a training centre for medical students where they keep all the dead bodies.

WZRD: Was that in America or was it in Australia ?

O: No, better not tell you where it was in case... even though they... people could possibly recognise the bodies if they work for these places.

WZRD: Did you find other things, did you find certain things, certain experiments referring in the direction that they were trying to work on mind control [...] operations [...]

O: Uh, no not really. I'm not altogether sure whether that is an area where people do very much experimentation, even lobotomies aren't carried out very much anymore, certainly not in Australia, I don't know about the USA, and I think in only one place in the whole of England.

WZRD: Are you familiar with neuro toxins?

O: Yeah, I used to be a psychiatric nurse, so that's how SPK started originally. And that's one of our big pictures really, that we are extremely concerned with the legitimit chemical warfare as far as I'm concerned. In Macht Schrecken, on the first album, we had the juxtaposition of the side effects from chemical warfare with the side effects from anti-psychotic and neuroleptic drugs, and they're exactly the same.

WZRD: Yeah, there's material in Dokument I.

O: Yeah, one has an enormous public outcry about its use and the other is totally legitimate. And System Planning Korporation is actually the name of the US Chemical Warfare Developments division, which we just heard on a tape by accident one day and it fitted in with the letters SPK.

WZRD: [...]

O: No, Surgical Penis Klinik was just the original name that thought of. But the original SPK was the Socialistisches Patienten Kollektiv, which was a group of mental patients in Germany in Heidelberg which was organised by one Dr Huber to make bombs to get them out of their schizophrenic, kind of negative apathy whatever that they'd degenerated into, unfortunately they only blew themselves up, and that was the end of that. But anyway we are commemorating the idea, plus they came out with very good Marxist text.

WZRD: So you're Marxist ?

O: Uh, no no.

WZRD: Do you hold any political ideology?

O: Close to anarchism, but were trying to get away from the anarchist moral imperative to a more pure Nietzschean idea.

WZRD: So, [...] to another direction in the music. You found that many groups have nothing to do with the industrial sound. Have you found something else you're working on ?

O: Uh, you'd have to be more specific about that question or something else.

WZRD: The next album which you had [...]

O: Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, I got what you mean. The archetype, or the project of SPK was originally established to be two albums worth, the first one would be in atrocious conditions which would as it turned out, trying to be entirely independent, but with that sort of material you're not gonna sell very many records, and you're not gonna make very much money, we did that with practically no equipment at all, we did that in London, mixing it on a mono PA system. So that's why it's like that. We don't make any excuses, we stand by it, we don't disown our product like a lots of people. Anyway, that was noise wall, subliminal material, things mixed back so that you couldn't quite hear them, so we've tried to give up on that noise idea, and we've even gone non-electronic in a way, we've started to get lots of taped sounds and we're interested in developing the idea of metal percussion much more, even though we've brought drums into it. There's a lot more...

WZRD: Is there any more percussion equipment.

O: Yeah, this is what we're gonna do from this moment. Now with digital rhythm machines you can actually get your own sounds programmed into them so you can program a pistol shot as a snare or a crane dropping a 200 ton pay load as your base drum, they can do it. So you can have your rhythm smashing out all these things.

WZRD: [...] concrete sounds ?

O: Yeah exactly, electro-acoustic peticular. In a way our history kind of mirrors the European experience of 1952 when Stockhausen started off doing the electronics and had the idea he could build the whole world from of a sine wave and in opposition you had Schaeffer and Pierre Henry in Paris who said, you know stuff that, we're going do it all with tape. And I personally prefer the French, Schaeffer and Henry experiments. We've done all sorts of things that we could never have done electronically, we went down to a veterinary school and got 4 pigs screaming, and stuff like that. That's the second track on the second side. Side Klono of the new album.

WZRD: Do you see your stuff as influenced by people that you've mentioned, or do you think that it's just what you started with?

O: We don't claim to be totally original, nobody can be, everybody is influenced by what they hear. But I don't think we have all that many influences. We keep a very close ear to what's happening. But we are influenced by some strange people, not really in the rock field, also in film, things like that really diverse influences, about the only real influence we have in the rock field is a couple of tracks off Neu 2.

WZRD: Speaking of fields of music, what do you think of, what is your opinion of the sort of industrial/avant-garde music such as Throbbing Gristle and sofort and Cabaret Voltaire groups that you're sort of included in, in the public's perspective. What's your feeling about the fact that it's becoming a bit more commercialised and perhaps losing some of its original roots ?

O: We're very upset about that in a way, but we never really thought that we were an industrial sound, in fact when we started of we were more, well slightly punk, with a variant of using rhythm machines and very heavy synthesisers. The only reason we ever appeared on Industrial Records was because we were invited to, and it was a kind of a personal friendship between the groups, Throbbing Gristle and the SPK, rather than any [...] to form a movement. In fact we deliberately split after that, totally amicably, because we didn't want to throw all our eggs in one basket and we wanted to sort of spread the independent movement out.

WZRD: Was that that single Mekano, the first thing that you put out ?

O: No, that was the second single. We had another one in Australia but that was only a 500 pressing, only a local distribution.
Uhm, to answer your question, yes, I'm disappointed really, personally we feel that the industrial movement lost its power about 1979, after that it was too slow and didn't have any punch.

WZRD: What was the cause for it to loose its punch?

O: I don't know really. Perhaps a too excessive an effort, though an admirable one, to change the product, like none of the people in the group... well Cabaret Voltaire I feel have just done the same thing all along, and I find it very boring to listen to after about one album, one album is great, excellent, but the other stuff I mean they might as well not be doing it. Throbbing Gristle on the other hand, made an admirable attempt to change their product, and do a whole lot of different things, but I feel they moved in the wrong direction, to that disco stuff.

WZRD: [...] avant-garde.

O: I don't think they are. Well, they had the idea that you could be subversive by becoming normal, but I don't think it works.

WZRD: [...] well the music's different [...]other people were [...] subliminally. The sounds are found [...] to the music. What sort of people have you found really respond to that ?

O: Well, originally very quite, what they call passive aggressive types. Now though by the fact that we've just introduced the drums and someone can see what's going on, the visual element is so much more powerful, we're starting to attract all sorts of people, quite normal people, one wonders what's happening in a way, and whether we [...] seeing we are attracting normal people, whether we can influence them in some way, or whether they're just coming because it's trendy. In Australia we got out because we were the trendy band in Sydney when we left. We set up a very good venue at the local brickworks, an abonded brickworks amazing place, all the old kilns and three hundred foot chimneys, and we did a very good gig there. A couple of people came along and invited us to the trendiest nightclub in town. Two weeks later we played there and all the hairdressers and boutique owners came down, but you can't influence them, you're just wasting your time, if we stayed there we could have made about 20 thousand dollars in three months, but we left because we're masochists.

WZRD: So, are you making money on this tour ?

O: No, we're loosing money, we're loosing money. The only way that SPK keeps going is by crime. That's the only way you can do it.

WZRD: That's how the big corporations do it too.

O: Yeah, exactly. Anybody that makes money has must be on the fiddle somewhere.

WZRD: That's right.

O: Simple as that.

WZRD: Someone sold out to someone.

O: If somebody's making money, somebody must be loosing it, it doesn't come from nowhere.

WZRD: The direction of the movement [...] and we seem to be seeing that more in the music scene, do you see that as some form of an uprising or more of an awareness to counter the new right.

O: There is always a big debate between whether art is potent or art is impotent. I think art itself is impotent. Punk shows you that, you can scream all you like lyrics about what's wrong with the world, and what we should do about it and things like that. But it does no good, it's just sort of... EMI puts it out and makes money out of it.

WZRD: [...] press and with their peace symbols [...].

O: Yeah, right. It's the same with reggae, reggae perhaps builds black consciousness but it doesn't really alter any racial attitudes towards... oh, it maybe does, in England, actually there's quite a lot of racial cross over now, but I mean economically it doesn't change any structures of the economy, the blacks are still the working class.

WZRD: [...] the major media does coopted [...]

O: The only thing that we could claim anybody in the movement really, is that it's kind of... we are using the medium for some ulterior motive that is why we have no great desire to carry on in music for the rest of our lives like the Rolling Stones, or anything like that. e just try to use the medium as efficiently as possible. On about three counts, first you can, at least you can prove that you can be independent and you can do something yourself without selling out to anybody, two you are not changing the world in a great Marxist revolution or anything like that, but you are maybe sort of filtering your ideas through slowly from one person to the next, on a very small scale, and you have to accept that scale.

WZRD: [...] much more efective. [...]

O: And than three you act as an inspiration I suppose for people who normally wouldn't for some reason or another actually do anything, to use their imaginations and try and do something themselves. It matters to a small extent the quality of what they're doing, we get some very bad tapes from people, [...] some self esteem.

WZRD: Do you get people send you tapes ?

O: All the time, they range from quite good. But we encourage everybody no matter how bad they are, and some of them get a lot better, it's really ggod. It just takes a life time to listen to everything and write all these letters.

WZRD: [...] some of the work involving [...] part of your ideology. I noticed the music on stage and the structure, the [...] plan, the way you play the instruments the way your drumming, all very structured in all respects. [...] It's almost like a nightmare taking place on stage, you would definitely have a dream that way.

O: Yeah, well a lot of the movement, the industrial movement, which the music aside, is concerned with freedom of information, information of the artist's type. The thing about that is that we are always trying to widen that definition, not just to information which is empirically verifiable or exists in the real world, like military secrets and things like that. But we are also interested in the imagination and in that sense this is what our political perspective is, the release of the imagination, and providing a shock to a shock for the imagination to get off it's arse and actually use it's potential finally.

WZRD: [...]

O: Yeah, so we don't do it in an artistic sense, we like to show reality really, that's why we don't use a performance art, ritualistic thing all the time, we just try to exhibit how science itself is completely ritualistic. The dissected heads with the signed name on the forehead, crazy things to do. Forensic science's little artistic pictures of the most ugly things they can think of. This whole idea that a scientific paradigm moves so quickly, that what we believe in and would kill for now, in fact do kill for, in 5 years time we look back on it and we think, oh Jesus how stupid were we. In the same way that we look back on magic, 500 years ago and we think it was insane. But now we can't put ourselves ahead of what we believe, and we must be able to do that, we can't think God we are insane to believe this, and we must develop that faculty.

WZRD: I got the feeling the concert was very primal, vibrations coming out, this is what man's developed from, [...] we've made some big steps,

O: But not much.

WZRD: Yeah, not much, yeah.

O: A big collapse of the primal into the modern, and it's just an exhibit, there's not much difference. We actually feel that technology and advance moves incredibly slowly. I don't believe this nonsense that they tell us about progress and we're moving together, we're moving extremely quickly and where in the space age and all this sort of things. Technology has two wings, one is the speed of developing new product, but the other one is the quality, there is quality and quality, the quality of the product. New products in the cultural sphere is really low on development quality, it's just miniaturisation of what already exits. In fact you can't even buy synthesisers in which you can do anything creative with the damn things because they're all made by Roland and they're consumer items and any mad can play jingle bells on them or somthing like that and that's about all you can do. It drives you insane trying to find a good product. There is one good product out, and it's called the CMI Fairlight and it costs 30 thousand dollars.

WZRD: [...]I think it's [...] programmable [...].

O: That's the computer eight voice thing where you can draw any waveform you like, in other words you can create any sound.

WZRD: [...] video generation are being used by television news [...]

O: One wonders how soon they will filter down if at all.

WZRD: [...] What about the constant promotion of document [...]

O: We always try to show the double faceted nature of every question, you probably noticed all the way through this interview, I've always got two sides of things. And that's another one there. Certainly there is distress in emotional illness, but the whole question revolves around the point why is that a distressful condition, is it because it is socially illegitimate to be like that, or is it because it is actually physiologically illegitimate to be like that. We don't believe in natural man, I think that natural man is a [...] or a bourgeois myth. N not that we're entirely behaviourist, but the major component of why mental illness in inverted commas causes distress is because you're not allowed to express it, you can't hold down a job, you can't live, you shoved in a hospital which is like a horrible nightmare, naturally you're gonna go downhill, this is why schizophrenia is always degenerative.

WZRD: [...] in concept of mental health as ability to hold a job and not be frustrated, and not to [...]

O: So we'retrying to express both the distress, but also the possibility that the anormal states are totally creative, we're just trying to differentiate everything, which is why this whole movement tries to change itself all the time, tries to mutate.

WZRD: Mutate, right, it's the one state to be considered not by many other people [...] expression could be a part of it.

The whole idea also of disgusting people with the visuals, why are people disgusted by certain things.

WZRD: Because they were told it was disgusting.

O: Yeah, exactly, they're told it was.

WZRD: There are cultures that don't fear death in the slightest. We do, we're obsessed by the idea.
Some cultures don't even have anger. [...] we behave by those standards and therefore our feelings. Most people are tought that feelings are [...] are supposed to conform, are to be good somebody must tell you so.

O: We're trying to provide that shock element all the time, which can cause deconditioning. Somebody told me in Arizona, something I didn't know about that Pavlov when he was conditioning his dogs, apparently all the water mains in the laboratory broke one day and just like that they were all deconditioned and he had to start all again, because they got such a shock, and so it can be done with humans too.

WZRD: I think of what the shock element could do, if you could break the... People could break the conformity belt of society and...

O: It doesn't have to be a bare shock, it has to be an intelligent shock...

WZRD: Right, leaves it in a positive directional

O: It's like the difference between the Baader-Meinhof and the Red Brigades.

WZRD: And that same shock is used by neo-nazis...

O: Yeah, but that's...

WZRD: Did you feel attraction to those [...] had that art [...] just you said the other side, some gonna reap a benefit of that.

O: There is a very great danger in limiting oneself to just the ceremonial aspects of a cult, or ritual or a religion. And I think that's what the new right does, they are extremely attractive, the use of symbols and the uniforms.

WZRD: [...]

O: We don't shirk from that though. I was very impressed by Reich's early writing when he was a Socialist around about 1924, when he was writing letters to the Socialist party in Germany, saying look you guys, there's these fascists out there, and they've got uniforms and they've got sexual appeal and they've got symbols and a whole lot of other things and organisation groups and things to do and you guys are sitting here and your as puritan as all hell and you're trying to argue things from a rational perspective which was dead about 200 years ago with Hegel. And, he just said, if you don't get out there and use those things yourself, which are after all extremely important to human beings, and have been ever since the species, then you're going to lose, and with in about 4 years of course he was proved right, and the Socialist party was destroyed, and then he had to flee to America. I mean this is the sort of thing. There is another important quote too which goes with the use of symbols and everything. It's from Malcolm X, where he said, that violence is neither right nor wrong, it's just an aspect of the situation, and that's why don't shirk from the violence either. If you're going to win in anything like those in a polarised thing, then you've got to be extreme. So, you've got to be violent and you've got to be attractive.

WZRD: Fascism got an attractive point with the socialist part, seeing the workers together [...] of the extreme.

O: There is no reason why Socialism can't be like that either, which is why it always falls down, its frightened by these images, and there's nothing wrong with an image, and no matter how hard you try you are going to have an image, of some kind, even if you're the most normal person in the world, you're still the image of normality, an image is unavoidable, so you'd might as well make it a good one.

WZRD: What do you foresee about the images of the present and the future ?

O: There is the image of the clean society, which will always be there, the shiny stainless steel and the regularity and symmetry, and then there is always the underbelly as well, the soft underbelly which is what were dealing with, the unconscious, we're trying to develop an inorganic unconscious, a modern one, to get away from all this kind of spiders and snakes and blood, just modernising it, and it already is modernised, we just haven't realised it yet, and this is why JG Ballard is probably the most important writer, I feel, when, especially in The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash, he's almost developing an inorganic unconscious.

WZRD: You're planning to do some writing yourself ?

O: Yeah, I want to... I've got one book in the process, which I have to re-begin unfortunately, because I read it too long ago now of an inorganic unconscious, with developing from Jungian archetypes, and using archetypes of motion. So I think the unconscious [...]


WZRD: Back to SPK = Interviews

Back to SPK Home