Night Plane. An Interview.
Last week I had let myself become engulfed in a pile of unanswered emails and was desperately wading through the backlog whilst distracting myself with videos of kittens and other soul searching youtube moments. Then, something reached out of the screen and dragged me into a tripped out world of acid house and no wave, every part The Shamen as it was Throbbing Gristle. It was an email from Night Plane, whose remix of Warpaint’s Undertow we featured a few weeks ago. He’d sent me a link to his new EP, Acid Snow, made by his collaborative group CCC. He described Acid Snow as “an acid house track with lyrics taken by cutting up words from works by the late artist Dash Snow. Shay La Rey, the vocalist, is a 50s-something Brooklyn ‘glamma’ (glam grandma) and house enthusiast.” He had me at “acid house”…
I wasn’t previously aware of CCC and its functions but it transpired that they are a project group made up of three old Texan friends living in Brooklyn with a printing press and a record label. Most interestingly however, the group has spent the last year and a half curating the Acid Age Blog, which is a celebration of drug culture, as Night Plane (AKA William Rauscher) explains, “It started after I taught a literature class at NYU called The Drug Culture. We began by only posting art made under the influence (of which we had our own private stash) and our research expanded from there.”
The Acid Age blog has recently inspired a print version of itself; On Acid: A Field Guide to Altered States, which was released earlier this month. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask Night Plane a few questions about the book, its inspirations and the Acid Snow release.
You have just released the On Acid book, a print version of the Acid Age blog, tell us a bit about it.
Yes, the book is out! For the moment it’s available online through our website. We worked closely with the printer in Milan and the result is, we think, pretty striking as a book. The print edition of Acid Age assembles diverse texts, visual works and new interviews with contemporary artists and writers into a critical genealogy of psychedelic culture. Applying an allegorical curatorial practice to artistic, philosophical and literary engagements with psychedelics in order to re-trace the breakthroughs and heady experimentalism of the sixties and critically traverse its historical legacy.
The text section gathers key trip accounts, in which Antonin Artaud freaks out on peyote, William James discovers the secret to Hegel after huffing nitrous oxide, and Timothy Leary uncovers the solution to anarchy on psilocybin. The image section circuits between drug experimentation and artistic practice by confronting works by artists such as Francis Alÿs and Rodney Graham, and collages photos, jpgs, paintings and other visual ephemera in a stream-of-consciousness trip through the drug culture. The interview section features new conversations with Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, Hamilton Morris, and Arik Roper on drugs, art, science and magick.
With all of these drugs flying around did all of this come about in some sort of ‘moment of clarity’?
CCC never had a moment of clarity. It was pretty inevitable. The three of us form a hive mind, a locus from where different projects and tasks spring up.
You mentioned that you taught a drug culture course at NYU, did you ever encounter any tensions with the university over that?
I didn’t get any friction from NYU, I’m assuming, because the course was framed around the rhetoric of drugs. It was a literature course. I’m guessing that if I had made it an experimental science course I would have encountered more friction. In a literature course we stick with rhetoric – in this case, for example, the rhetorics of addiction, dependency, hallucination, and withdrawal. For me, drugs are a remarkably interdisciplinary topic: they involve science, religion, art, politics, crime, economics, psychology, and so on.
You took a lot of influence from the late Dash Snow in your most recent release, Acid Snow, what was it that drew you to his work?
I think we made up the title “Acid Snow” first and worked backwards. We liked that Dash Snow took headlines from the New York Post and cut them up in his artwork and so we cut them up again and collaged them so they worked as song lyrics. The words have a strong emotional quality but at the same time they’re the result of a chance process – I think that gives them a sort of oracular quality or something. And with tracks like Vibrations and SIVA I think we were in part inspired by the sort of psychedelic music that is intended to be communicating a mysterious message, like “Psychic TV” or “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Vibrations is about mental telepathy and SIVA is about praying to the three-eyed goddess.
And where did these glammas come from? Are they like elderly ravers who have never let go of that culture? Do they still party?
Shay La Rey and Harry used to work together. She has been a house head forever and she and her husband still go out and party, it’s a way of life. I only met her once when we recorded the vocals – she has a powerful spirit, she’s the kind of person who exudes soul, who seems to radiate it – the kind of person who emits love and good energy, like a small sun. She’s also literally like the best facebook-update writer of all time.
Musically, your sound is very obviously electronic but there seems to be an underlying allegiance to the alternative (indie/post punk) in there. Where does that come from? Does one inform the other?
Electronic music doesn’t really have its own melodic content, or rather, it’s a form that’s very flexible and can accommodate whatever content you want to insert. when you compose electronic music, in a way you have to devise your own kitchen appliance, that will chop up or liquify whatever raw material you dump in it. I have good friends who grew up listening to soul, funk and hip-hop, and you can hear that in their productions. I had to be honest with myself that my sonic background was rock music I heard when I was a teenager in Texas in the 90s. While we recorded Acid Snow it made me feel like early Sonic Youth, like when their drummer was Richard Edson. Edson has a particularly mechanical way of playing, with machine-gun style fills, as if he’d heard a Roland 808 and wanted to play like that. With Snow we felt we just had to respond to the energy of the song, and let it go where it wanted to or was supposed to go, even if it produced unexpected results.
What is the future for CCC?
Forthcoming CCC releases include Sonic Underground, which is a collection of remixes of unsigned indie bands, an EP of CCC originals, as the Liberty Lunch EP, which is house covers of 90s bands like Pavement, Sonic Youth and The Pixies.
Buy the book here: http://www.ccceditions.com/index.php?/project/ccc-003–on-acid-a-field-guide/
Buy the Acid Age EP here: http://igetrvng.com/discography/112/