David Tibet’s cover for Create Christ, Sailor Boy
My main impression of Create Christ, Sailor Boy is of its grandeur—not so much in the sense that it’s musically fancy, but more that it has the dignity and courage of a bravura theatrical performance. Where recent Current 93 records have presented David Tibet’s voice as vulnerable, or naked, on Hypnopazūzu’s first release he sings out, summoning a voice he acknowledges he hasn’t used much before, if at all. Youth’s sound-world draws it from him: Here, that means the mad scientist of Space Mountain is using a psychedelic orchestra of strings, bells, horns, synths, tamburas and God knows what else to play compositions that draw equally on 20th-century art music and raga-rock. But all you really need to know is that the album is gorgeous and moving, for which reasons I hereby declare Hypnopazūzu “the hottest new group of 2016.”
Tibet and Youth are two of my musical heroes, as my long-suffering friends will attest; to ride in my car is to enjoy Youth’s Killing Joke in Dub and Current 93’s Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain at high volume. So when I learned of Hypnopazūzu, I immediately began writing sweaty-handed emails to their publicist.
This is Tibet and Youth’s first collaboration since Youth played bass on Current 93’s first LP, Nature Unveiled, released in 1984. (Get the Andrew Liles remix before they’re all gone.) Since the last person I interviewed for Dangerous Minds, Little Annie, also appeared on C93’s debut, I started by asking about that 32-year-old apocalypse.
(When they weren’t busy kicking members of Hypnopazūzu off the conversation, Skype gremlins were hard at work garbling Tibet’s bons mots. I had to resort to “[inaudible]” more than once.)
Dangerous Minds: Coincidentally, the last person I interviewed was Little Annie. So I feel I ought to bring up Nature Unveiled, since I’ve now spoken to so many of the participants in the session. What do you remember about it?
David Tibet: Me, or Youth?
Both of you, since you both participated.
Youth: Let David go first, because it’s his album, really, that I guested on.
Tibet: Well, that’s a shame, because I’d always thought of it as Youth’s album, and I’d wanted to put it out as Youth, featuring me.
Youth: [laughs] I remember the studio in Shepherd’s Bush.
Tibet: Yeah, the studio was a really weird place. It was called IPS, as in “inches per second,” and it was run by a guy called… Pete. Pete something. And the odd thing about it was, Steve Stapleton from Nurse With Wound used to work there, and when I became friends with Steven, he said, “Oh, come and join Nurse With Wound and come down to this studio.” So I went down there. It was in the basement. And we worked there for years. Steve actually had—I think it was Wednesday—every Wednesday booked for something like [inaudible] years in advance, we would go down there on Wednesday. And then the last time I went down there, just before it closed, all the sewers had backed up, and so there was urine everywhere, and other stuff which I didn’t choose to identify. But it was a great studio.
But the bizarre thing is that I was down there getting things ready for Youth, and there was a guy in the studio, working there. And he said, “Oh, what are you doing?” And I said, “I’m working on a new album; I’m waiting for my friend to come down.” And it was Jaz [Coleman], from Killing Joke.
Youth: That’s right! He was walking out as I was walking in. [laughs]
Tibet: It was a time when Youth wasn’t, uh—well, you had—
Youth: I’d left the band, yeah.
Tibet: —you’d left the band, and you were very uncomplimentary about [each other]. But I didn’t know who he was at first, because I thought you said he was working [in] jazz. [inaudible] And I thought, Oh, that sounds horrible.
Youth: There was some serendipity.
Tibet: [laughs] It was just bizarre, looking back. But Youth and I met, I think—it must have been through Kris Needs, mustn’t it?
Youth: And Mark Manning, Zodiac.
Tibet: I think I met Mark through Kris, or Kris through Mark, and then I met Youth. And we used to go clubbing.
Youth: I was sharing a coach house with Kris at the time.
Tibet: You were! Yeah.
Youth: And we were all going down to the Batcave. And also, I’d just done this album with Ben Watkins on Illuminated, The Empty Quarter, just around that time. And Zed had done the artwork; Zed had been doing the layout for Smash Hits. Weren’t you doing something for Smash Hits as well, David?
Youth and Ben Watkins’ The Empty Quarter
Tibet: Yes. Oliver, Zed is Mark Manning, became Zodiac Mindwarp, and that’s who Youth means, I believe, as Zed.
Tibet: I wrote an article on Crowley for them.
Youth: That’s right! The Crowley edition. They had Crowley on the front cover of this pop magazine.
Was there a special issue of Smash Hits?
Tibet: It was their last issue, and I said “It has to be number 666.”
Tibet: And it had an interview, I remember, I think in that same issue, with, there was a band called—oh gosh, what were they called? They were a new goth band or positive punk or something, and the guy who was interviewed was interested in Crowley. And then they spoke about somebody that had been killed who was interested in Crowley, who was knocked over in a car accident, and they said to the guy, “What do you think about that?” And he said: “Well, it’s love under wheels.” Which I thought was pretty funny, but I can’t remember the name of the band.
Youth: Good name for a band.
Tibet: Yeah. That’s how Youth and I met. Then I said to Youth, “I’m doing my first album,” and Youth probably looked at me and said, “Who are you again?” And I said, “I’m a friend of yours; we go clubbing, and doing other things that go with clubbing, together.” And then he kindly came down and played amazing bass, and Annie was there swearing in Spanish, and then Youth and I didn’t see each other for… 30 years or so.
Youth: Yeah. That’s right. But I did know who you were, because Zed had been hanging around Sleazy, he’d had his penis pierced by Sleazy and was hanging around the Psychic TV clique of people. There were interesting, alchemizing scenes at the time that were all coming together, and weirdly enough, the Batcave was one of the nexus points. Not just for goths and punks, but also the emerging New Romantics and electronic scenes that were bouncing up. And—
Tibet: It was the guy from Doctor and the Medics. Was it Clive?
Youth: Oh, that was Alice and Wonderland, wasn’t it. That came after the Batcave.
Tibet: Then that was Olli from the Specimen.
Youth: Yes, yes, yes.
Tibet: ‘Cause they got loads of bands to play there. I mean, I saw the Jesus and Mary Chain there before they were—I think that was the same show that Alan McGee saw which made him want to sign them.
Youth: At the Batcave?
Tibet: Yeah, definitely.
Youth: Really? I don’t remember that. But I do remember the club was more based around DJs than bands, with Hamish and Sex Beat. It would go on until two in the morning, so the DJs carried on. It was the dance floor in that club where I thought, this is the sort of beginning of indie dance, really. There was a real special chemistry and alchemy going on there. Lots of ideas came out of that place, and Alice in Wonderland, actually. There’s a new Derek Ridgers book, actually. You know Derek, the photographer who was around those clubs all the time?
Tibet: No, I don’t remember that, no.
Youth: He always looked a bit straight, and he had a beard, but he was doing everything—the S&M clubs, everything. And he’s got a new book out where there’s pictures of me and Zed, I think you might even be in it, from the Batcave in those days.
Tibet: No, I don’t remember him at all. I do remember it wasn’t Sleazy that pierced Zed, it was Mr. Sebastian.
Tibet: Because recently I got a lot of footage of Mr. Sebastian in action. And I was hoping Zed would be there, because I remember, I was actually down there when Zed was pierced—
Tibet: But yeah, the footage wasn’t there. There was other footage, which I’ll be releasing soon if people don’t [inaudible] making huge amounts of money.
Youth: Did he have a semi-chub on, or was it just flaccid?
Tibet: I can’t remember! I was young; I was too busy admiring myself in the mirror, probably.
Youth: Zed’s got a legendarily big dick, goes down to his knee.
Tibet: I heard about that, and Sleazy told me about that, but I—
Youth: I gone on holiday with Zed, the first time he’d ever been on a plane, and I took him to Formentera in Ibiza when we were 21. And we woke up on this nudist beach, totally naked, and the ring in his cock had heated up in the sun [laughs] and he’s fallen asleep and woken up in agony.
And then he had these eagle wings coming out the top of it, tattooed, right? So he’s coming out of the sea with his snorkel and flip-flops, with massive dick dangling between his knees, his eagle wings and a big ring hanging out of it—and all these German families just gathered their children and ran to the other end of the beach. [laughter]
Tibet: Those were the days.
Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
Youth: We ended up taking lots of LSD and living in the cave, for about four nights, at the end of the island. And then there was this one point where Zed said, “I’ve discovered time is an illusion, and I’m gonna prove it. I’m gonna sit in this tree, and I won’t fall asleep, and thereby prove that we don’t need sleep, and sleep’s a conspiracy.” And so he stayed in this tree outside our hostel for like two nights, in his Y-fronts, with me passing him up cans of sardines. And finally, he just fell asleep, and fell out.
Tibet: I remember Zed offering to be my guru, and he showed me the Mayan glyph tattoos on his wrist—
Youth: That’s right, that’s right! That came from doing The Empty Quarter album sleeve.
Tibet: Yeah, yeah! And then he said [inaudible] and “I can tell you anything you need to know.” And I thought it was unlikely, so I didn’t take his offer up.
Youth: A couple of years ago, him and Bill Drummond were doing a “Bad Wisdom” column in the Idler, where people would ask advice, and they’d give them really bad ideas [laughs], which was really good. But then also, Oliver, Zed became quite a big associate of the KLF with Bill Drummond and a lot of the things they were doing, and now is a very significant painter, and Damien Hirst and Keith Richards are amongst many people who collect his paintings.
Tibet: I saw that you had a load when I came over to your house and studio.
Youth: But Zed, that’s what he’s been doing mainly for the last few years.
Tibet: I hope he kept that first edition of the Silver Surfer comic when he signed the contract.
Youth: Yes, that’s right. That was the biggest deal in history at the time, wasn’t it. And then, of course, famously, they went on tour with Guns ‘n’ Roses when they were a poodle-rock band wearing Lycra and all this, and Zodiac Mindwarp had this sort of biker bandanna look, and they completely copied it.
Tibet: I didn’t know that Zed had gone on tour with Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Youth: Yeah. And then Zed also wrote a few books, a couple with Bill Drummond, and then he did a couple of his own: Get Your Cock Out and Crucify Me Again and Fucked By Rock—that’s the one. They’re sort of memoirs of his touring days in America, when he was a rock star, and they’re up there with the best of rock books—and poetic, they’re great books.
Tibet: I didn’t know that, I’ll need to check that out. So there you are, Oliver, there’s a long discussion of Zodiac Mindwarp.
He just went by Zed?
Youth: I call him Zed, everyone calls him Zed, but it is [short for] Zodiac. We came up with the name in Ibiza, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, Cobalt Stargazer, and we thought: If we all have these pseudonyms, when we had huge success, we’d know that we’d never lose it, because we knew they were pseudonyms, and that really I was Youth and he was Mark. And of course, his first hit—before the deal was signed, that had all gone out the window, and he’d sacked me and Jimmy Cauty from the band and brought some younger guys in. [laughs] Signed the deal, kept all the money, and then, two years later, married the model.
And at the wedding to the model, he’s wearing his sunglasses. And I went like, “Mark! Mark! Isn’t that amazing!”
He goes, “It’s not Mark. It’s Zed.”
“When we did that thing in Ibiza, and we’d know it was always gonna be Mark…”
He goes, “It’s just Zed, baby.” [laughter]
Tibet: It’s really Diana Ross, isn’t it?
I knew a guy who sang with Diana Ross once, and apparently he had to agree to all sorts of conditions. Like if you have something to say to Miss Ross, you don’t say it directly to her, you say it to someone else and then she’ll repeat it to Miss Ross.
Tibet: You weren’t allowed to look at her in the eyes, and so on?
That’s right, yeah.
Tibet: She dated Gene Simmons, right?
That’s right, I had forgotten about that.
Youth: Oh that’s right, yes. But Michael Jackson was supposed to be like that; maybe he got that tip off her. Prince was like that as well. But I saw her do a gig, I don’t know, must’ve been about eight years ago, in a Knightsbridge restaurant, which she apparently got paid a million quid for, and she just did one vocal over a backing track CD of “I Will Survive.” Just one song. I was amazed; I thought “Wow, what a gig. One song.” You know what I mean?
Nice work if you can get it.
David Tibet, photo by Ania Goszczyńsk
So I’ve had a couple months with this Hypnopazūzu album and it’s really joyful—I just love this album, I find it uplifting.
Tibet: Oh, that’s sweet. Thank you.
You’ve both remarked that people seem to really like it, and I have my own ideas about why that is. But what do you think they’re responding to?
Youth: Well, I think they’re responding to David, mostly, ‘cause that’s the focus of the record, and I think David’s performances are great.
Tibet: Well, I was just on the phone to one of my oldest friends, a guy called Mark Logan who co-runs my labels and has a record shop in Kitchener, Ontario. And he loves the record, but he was saying: the great thing about this record—and he loves my work, and he loves Current—but he says it’s Youth, it’s so amazing hearing this massive production, these really intricate arrangements. So I think that people who are interested in my own work with Current 93 and other projects… what’s really different about this is Youth, it’s really Youth.
And what Youth has done, he’s certainly given me a very different and amazingly powerful field to play in with my vocals. But he’s also, and a lot of people have said this, brought a voice out of me which I don’t often use, and maybe I’ve never used. My work, vocally, especially over the last five to ten years, my voice has been more intimate and more confessional, whereas with Youth, I really felt that it was possible that it was possible to project, as Pazūzu would have liked. Maybe not projectile vomiting, as in The Exorcist, which is what Pazūzu is [inaudible; in The Exorcist, Pazūzu appears as the demon that possesses Regan].
It was really different for me, and really powerful to work with Youth, and also for me not to be trying to be in control all the time, which is what I tend to do with Current. So that’s my feeling. So I think it’s Youth.
Youth: Well, that’s very kind of you, David, but I think the actual reality is, I provided some backing tracks for David’s poetry and performance, and that’s what makes it really, really unique and special, you know?
Tibet: We really disagree on that, because they weren’t backing tracks. I really felt I was there as an ornament. Perhaps the icing on top of the most delicious cake.
Youth: Yeah, and it was really good fun working on some of the arrangements of the vocals, as well, with you. And also, it was a kind of honor, because I know that you’ve got a very fierce reputation of being very in control of every element of it, so to let go of that and just throw yourself in and let us just jam and pull it through was great. But there was a kind of energy and a magic that facilitated it quickly, I think, and it was really a pleasure.
[Youth is disconnected]
Tibet: I think Youth, really, for me, did most of the work, because he had all this amazing music prepared, and I had the text, and I went and sang, and then Youth would work more on the music; but one thing I did feel was that it was very spontaneous, and there was really no discussion. Youth didn’t say, “Well, I’m going to do this, and do that, and how would you like this music this way.” He really provided the music, and I’d sent him examples of the texts, some of the lyrics, and it was so spontaneous and so easy. There was no pressure on me from Youth, and I don’t think there was any pressure from me on Youth. It was just easygoing.
Youth: Like a leaf falling from a tree. It was very gentle. We did this initial surge, and then we kind of sat on it for a while, didn’t we? And then I reviewed it and I was like, “Oh, it’s not quite right,” and so I changed a lot of it. And then I sort of had the idea, we’ve gotta have this Moog bass thing come in as a feature, and I got a little worried that some of the ambitions of the strings were making it a little too faux-classical or something; I needed to counterpoint that with some dirty psych distortion and Moog and just lo-fi the whole thing a lot. Having said that, people say the production’s really epic and lush, [laughs] so I’ve obviously failed! But luckily, people are liking it. I think it’s good timing that it’s coming out now. Maybe if we’d done it two or three years ago, people might not have got it, or be open to it so well, I don’t know. It’s an interesting, mysterious journey, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m listening to it a lot, and listening to it now, I’m hearing it almost like I’m not involved with it. And now we’re beginning to prepare for the live show, and I’m starting to think about how we can interpret that live, and that’s quite exciting.
Can you reveal who the players will be?
Youth: Not yet. I don’t know yet; possibly a core group around my guys here that I work with a lot, and maybe… any other ideas?
Tibet: We haven’t really discussed it at all, have we?
Youth: No. We had that one email about it, where I said we could do it with about four or five people. I’ve been listening to the album a lot this week, actually, and playing my team the tracks, and we’re just discussing how we can do it and what we can do. I’m pretty clear about how we can do it, and get something that’s fairly close to the record but also can veer off.
Tibet: Well, I’ve got every confidence in you, Youth.
[David is disconnected]
Youth, photo by Glen Burrows
Did you create this music with David in mind?
Youth: Some of it, yes. Other bits were just kind of magpied from various things I’ve been experimenting with, some more filmic, cinematic ideas that didn’t really go anywhere, but they were just floating. And when we discussed the idea of doing something, I kind of knew exactly how I wanted it to sound, initially, or an idea of that. I wanted it to sound at times melancholia, at other times celebrationary; fearlessly epic, in a way, at times, and then other times— [Youth is interrupted by technical difficulties]
Different dynamics and juxtaposed atmospheres… trying to get something timeless, really, that was also referencing other things that I’m very inspired by and listen to a lot. From Mahler, Bach’s symphonic work or Arvo Pärt to the more sort of Stockhausen-y noise, Can, free instrumental, Popol Vuh, devotional music, John Tavener. Long pieces, initially.
Do you think of this as a rock album?
Youth: Oof… ah… no. The closest it gets to rock is psych, maybe?
I know it’s a ridiculous question, but I was thinking about this album and genre, and I feel like there’s a kind of spectral presence of the ‘70s on this record. I suppose that’s in David’s lyrics and not so much in the music. Does that make sense to either of you?
Youth: Right, it’s a good question.
Tibet: I don’t know; I always hated the idea of genres for anything. You know, as I think everyone that’s creating stuff does. But I suppose if I think back to the music I listen to, really it’s either plainchant or the music that I listened to growing up, which is ‘70s music, whether it’s T.Rex, Groundhogs, Shirley Collins, Atomic Rooster. I think I said this in another interview—yeah, the one with BBC when they couldn’t get hold of Youth because of Skype problems—but I don’t listen to modern music, just ‘cause I don’t have the time nor do I have the access to it. So I think Youth is far more aware of what’s happening now. Really, I listen to the same stuff over and over again, and it’s stuff that I liked when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen…
Youth: I’ve been accused of being genre-blind many times.
That’s a strength, right?
Youth: Yeah, I think it is. And now, the world is much more in tune with that generally, but coming out of the ‘70s and the ‘80s, before the demise of the tribes, it was still very much, if you were seen to be doing anything other than one thing, you were a jack-of-all-trades, dilettante—which I quite like as well. But certainly, I had to work under a lot of different pseudonyms in different genres before getting taken seriously enough to just be Youth, and [having] people consider me for other projects that were outside of what I’d begun to be associated with, which was post-punk and industrial rock, I suppose, through Killing Joke. So I think there is a sort of genre-blindness to it, but it does definitely graze sort of philosophies and associations of the ‘70s, as David suggests. I don’t think David would like me saying this, but I mean it as a compliment: There’s quite a lot of Bowie in David, or there’s a lot of David in Bowie, maybe. [laughs]
Tibet: I’m quite surprised, because although I liked Bowie as a child, I never listened to him. And even then, I preferred T.Rex, Sweet, Alice Cooper. I did like Bowie. Youth and I, I guess, are roughly the same age.
Youth: The first album I bought was Slider by T. Rex, as well. I was more into Marc Bolan than Bowie. But looking back now, Bowie was experimenting in lots of different ways, and maybe more in tune with the way you work—I don’t know, I don’t know about that. But certainly there are unusual experiments and esoteric ideas coming through that you wouldn’t normally get in pop music, and there’s that element. But sonically, I think there’s, again, like with Bowie, you’d have some big string arrangement, so you’d have this fearless ambition, and then you’d have these bits of intimacy, so there’s a thing there. But it’s got a lot more to do with probably stoner rock and things like that, as well.
Tibet: I think the string arrangements, for me, I was thinking more of the second side of Uriah Heep’s immortal second album Salisbury.
Youth: [laughs] Great.
Tibet: And also, I really love Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Trilogy, I think, is one of the best ten albums ever made, and I always loved it. And also, Deep Purple with Concerto.
Youth: Right, yes. The Roger Glover one, yeah.
Tibet: It’s a terrible album, but I think that—
Youth: At the Albert Hall.
Tibet: Yeah, that’s the one. But I go back to T.Rex a lot, I still listen to them, but out of all those bands, really, I go back to the Sweet the most. In terms of the glam rock period, I listen to Sweet much more than I’d listen to Bowie, whom I still love the idea of, but a bit like “Stairway to Heaven,” it’s something I love, but really I’ve heard it so many times, that it plays in my head [inaudible] to not listen to the track again.
Youth: I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘70s compilations recently.
Tibet: Oh, which ones?
Youth: Well, just like Sounds of the Seventies, you know? And it’ll be like, [sings] Terry Jacks, “Seasons in the Sun.”
Tibet: He’s a genius! But did you hear his work with the Poppy Family? With his sister, Susan Jacks, he was in the Poppy Family, and he did really extraordinary stuff. “Which Way Are You Going, Billy,” a Vietnam War protest song. “No Blood in Bone.” Just extraordinary.
Youth: I have to check that out, yeah. But even the ones like Smokey and stuff, they’ve got a sound. It’s almost like when I listen to Françoise Hardy, who’s from the ‘60s, there’s an innocence of Paris in ’64 or something that I can hear on the record. When I listen to the ‘70s one, there’s more of an informed innocence, because they’ve had the ‘60s. But I don’t know, the sounds, as well, are quite innocent. They’re quite naïve, in a lot of ways, from our perspective now. So that’s all sounding really fresh to me at the moment.
I listen to a lot of modern music as well, unlike David. I’m listening to bands like Om—
Youth: —lots of different kinds of psychedelic, experimental music—
Tibet: The band Om? The two-piece?
Tibet: Oh, yeah! But I’ve played with Om a lot, and we worked together.
Youth: Have you?
There’s a split record, right?
Tibet: Yeah, I did a split record. And the first time we played San Francisco, Om were our special guests, and Al Cisneros [inaudible].
Youth: Yeah, and even a lot of the post-rock bands I kinda really like; you know, God Is An Astronaut, Explosions In The Sky a little bit, and Mono—
Tibet: They’re just names, I haven’t heard any of their stuff.
Youth: —and there’s this Kiwi band Jakob, three-piece, fantastic, and they’re all big, instrumental, epic soundscapes that go very quiet to very loud. It’s quite generic now, that genre. But it kinda bleeds into the more stoner, noise-rock scenes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and I’m quite interested in those soundscapes as well. Although I don’t know how much of an influence that had on what we were doing, but I think there’s probably a little bit.
Tibet: Yeah, I do see the ‘70s thing, but again, it’s purely ‘cause it’s really all I listen to; it’s either 1970s or 13th century and [other than] that, there’s not much, really.
Youth: Good dynamic.
Tibet: Yeah, you need a 600-year gap, at least, between your basic [inaudible].
Youth: Don’t you listen to Górecki and Arvo Pärt and things like that?
Tibet: I know Arvo Pärt a little bit, but not really so much. Górecki, I only really know the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Really, the music that I listen to the most is plainchant, Gregorian chant. And, of course, Pärt and [inaudible] take a lot from there. But plainchant means the most to me because it’s the perfect balance of silence and sound, with the emphasis on silence.
Well, you know, Youth mentioned—I think this might have been when you fell out of the conversation, David [it was], but Youth mentioned devotional music. Does this music have a devotional element to it?
Tibet: Not consciously, for me. Devotional music just in the general sense of music for God?
Tibet: Not for myself, no. It doesn’t—in terms of how it moves me, and how I move it, and the words, in that sense it doesn’t differ from anything that I do with Current. It differs because of working with Youth on it. But I didn’t think that I had to adapt how I would sing, or the words that I would write, because it was a different project with Youth. So if Current 93 is devotional music, and on a personal level it is, then the Hypnopazūzu album is still. But it’s not specifically devotional in a way that I’m not with Current, if that makes sense.
Maybe a related point, the covers for the album. You’re both visual artists, and even the title of the album relates to artistic practice and imagination; you both seem to (I think) have had visionary experiences. Can you talk about the covers you made for this album, and how it relates to the music?
Youth: The cover for me came about in an unusual way, because I’d actually sent David a different painting that was more like an abstract landscape or something, that we both liked, but I couldn’t get a high-res picture of it! And somebody had bought it, or somebody’d gone somewhere, I couldn’t get a hold of…
Tibet: And your gallery couldn’t do it, either.
Youth’s cover for Create Christ, Sailor Boy
Youth: So we were getting closer, and we were going around in circles with it, and finally, I said, “Look, how about this one?” I’d been doing these new paintings, which were of some drawings I’d been doing, and I’d been experimenting to find a way to paint them on canvas for a while, and not succeeding that well. And finally, I found this technique that I was really happy with, after trying to copy a kind of Goya color composition; he used a lot of black backgrounds, you know? So I was doing these paintings, and at the same time, we were having this conversation with David where we’ve gotta get the album in. And I suddenly went, “Well, I’ve got this one. What do you think of this? This kind of fits the vibe of the record in a way.” And everybody just loved it, so that’s how it became… I certainly didn’t do it with the music in mind. Although I don’t about, David’s might have been done like that.
Tibet: No, that painting I did a while ago, and I did it because I study Akkadian, the Akkadian language, and I was reading some connected texts. And I’ve been interested in the Kabbalah for a long time, and there’s a particular area of Kabbalistic literature called the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature which speaks of chariots and thrones and so on. And I had the idea to paint a chariot, and the cover doesn’t look anything like a chariot, but it came from reading that literature and deciding I wanted to paint a chariot. And that was it. And it’s an image that I like a lot, and means a lot to me.
And when Youth and I were doing the album, obviously, it’s completely him and me, we’re equal. And I thought, we need a cover, but how do we agree on a cover? It’s not fair if Youth has the cover, it’s not fair if I have the cover. We both have our own cover, because the rest of the album is purely Youth and purely me, and the cover should be like that too.
Youth: Interestingly, also, in my painting I’ve got this sort of figure holding a pole with a smiley figure on it, which is—you’ve used that a few times, haven’t you?
Tibet: Yeah. Well, exactly. This is how I think of Youth, really, or one of the things that I admire about him: that he’s serious, absolutely, in what he does, but he’s also got a great sense of humor. It’s a dark humor, the music is dark humor, the covers themselves, the paintings that Youth did—it’s dark, but it’s humorous. I love that balance of sinister, playfulness. Which I think, for me at least, is in the music and the lyrics. And it’s also in the cover, in both covers.
Youth: Yeah, great. Good point.
Yeah, it is playful. “Pinocchio’s Handjob.”
Tibet: The very best. Not cheap!
Youth: “Dragonfly hard-on” is my favorite line at the moment.
Tibet: Which is not what Zed ever had, I’m sure.
David, since you mentioned your Akkadian studies: the name of the band, with [the Greek] hypnos, meaning sleep, and [the name of the Akkadian-Sumerian demon] Pazūzu—does that have anything to do with the dreams of cuneiform engravings that you’ve described in the past?
Tibet: Is that where I speak about the doors?
Tibet: Well, it’s funny you mention that. I didn’t think of that. I’d been studying Coptic for a long time, which I still do, and then I had a dream, as you perhaps know, then, of two huge doors, and I turned around to see what they were, because they were behind me, and they were covered with cuneiform, and I thought: I have to learn cuneiform. But the name of the group really is just, I was trying to put together various things that move me, so: the hypnagogic state, the god Hypnos, Pazūzu the demigod or the demon or however you wish to describe him. And it’s also a mixture of Coptic text, using a Graeco-Coptic word, and also the cuneiform dingir Pazūzu, which is one of the ways that Pazūzu would have his name spelt in cuneiform. But I haven’t actually thought for a long time about the dream that I had that set me off studying Akkadian in the first place. So firstly, thanks for mentioning it, but secondly, it was not connected to the title of the project, unless it was there so deep I didn’t see it sleeping.
It was a name I liked, and when we were discussing it, I think Youth at first had spoken about calling it “Youth and Tibet,” or “David and Youth” or something, but I really felt… I like the idea of it being a separate project, a separate group, who hopefully will carry on and make other work together. And I like group names; I’m not so keen on, you know, X and Y. So Youth was happy enough with that. The basis that we called it Create Christ, Sailor Boy, which really wasn’t an instruction or a channeling of any creativity in the title itself; it was just the first lines of the text that came to me. ‘Cause when I write stuff, I really just wait for it to come to me, and then the entire text for the album or whatever it is just comes down. And that was the opening line, and I have no idea why; it’s just what God gave me.
Youth: But that’s actually a folk tradition, like the first line of the song would be the title often, although it’s not the title, either, it’s just the first line of the song. But I was very happy to defer to David’s vision and ideas on that in the same way he has with the music we’ve done, so it’s worked out great, I think.
Tibet: Well, on everything, we discussed it. You know, there was never a case of Youth saying to me, “David, I think it should be like this.” We both came up with ideas, and I’d say, “Youth, what do you think of this?” And he’d go, “Oh, yeah!” or he might go, “Mmm, not so sure,” and we deferred to each other. It felt absolutely friendly, there was never a disagreement, I’ve never had a disagreement with Youth. It went really smoothly. It was such a delight, and it is a delight to work with Youth, who’s so talented but so easy and so generous in his spirit.
And it was nice linking up with somebody who was really so important at the beginning of Current 93. Even though Youth didn’t do anything really for Current after the first album, he was there right at the beginning, and it was really important for me to have Steven Stapleton from Nurse With Wound and Youth. I was a massive Nurse With Wound fan, and with Youth, I knew Killing Joke’s work, and I liked it, but I wasn’t an enormous fan in the way that I was of Nurse With Wound, but I was an enormous fan of Youth as a person. Just meeting him, talking to him, his ideas were so inspirational, and all over the place, and funny and bizarre. So having Steve Stapleton and Youth right at the beginning, and Steve Stapleton I still work with, and then Youth coming back in, was really fantastic.
I’ve always felt this about Current, that as we were at the beginning is how we are now. Some things have changed, but they’re only superficial aspects. Current is still the same now as it was then. When people join, or when they work, they can’t leave. So Youth was already in Current right at the beginning, and he just had a break. And it really meant a lot to me. Over the last five or six years, even though we hadn’t thought of Hypnopazūzu, I did occasionally email Youth and say, “Would you be interested in playing bass for Current? We’ve got this concert coming up,” and Youth would say, “I’d be really happy to,” and then he’d look at the dates, ‘cause he’s so busy, and go, “Well, I can’t do that, can you move the show?” And I’d say, “Unfortunately, no.” So, I always felt that Youth was there, and I still feel that.
Youth Yeah, great. That’s a lovely way of doing it, isn’t it. It would have been great to have done some more work with you over the years, but it’s kind of a nice, full-circle feeling now with this. And it’s just a beginning again, I think. I’m already starting to collate some little ideas, and piano motifs, ideas I’ve been playing around with over the last few months that I think, “Oh, this could work well with David, potentially.” I’m sure when we start rehearsals, we’ll actually be beginning another album at that point.
Tibet: Well, Youth and I have been speaking about that already, and of course there’s a live album from the rehearsals. [inaudible, though I believe he’s joking about doing an Unplugged]
Youth: And, as we’ve discussed recently, a lot of the earlier versions of the songs are very, very different from the way they are now, and some of them could be used for something.
Tibet: Yeah, absolutely. They were very different. Because we worked on the album—probably started about three years ago, right?
Youth: Yeah, yeah.
Tibet: It was a long time, and Youth doing his other things, and me doing other things—
Youth: But I’d just done Poly Styrene, who was also living in [Tibet’s place of residence] Hastings, just before she died. We just managed to finish her album. She didn’t know she was ill until just towards the end of the album, and then she died very quickly.
Tibet: She did, yeah.
Youth: So there was a little connection there, as well.
Poly Styrene’s Generation Indigo, produced by Youth
Tibet: I didn’t know her very well at all, but I used to speak to her, and I said “Let’s meet up,” and then, of course, she passed. But it was super sudden, it was really sudden.
Current were rehearsing for a show about four or five years ago, and this was one of the really expanded lineups, where Andrew W.K. was playing bass and Matt Sweeney was on guitar, and we went into the local bar in Hastings to have a drink and dinner, and Poly Styrene was there. And I said, “Oh, Poly,” and I introduced her to the band, and, like, Matt Sweeney and Andrew W.K. were “Oh my goodness, it’s Poly Styrene! How fantastic!” They were very much in awe of her. She was a remarkable woman and a great artist. Really lovely person.
Youth: Yeah, she was an incredible person. And I just… It was just such a lovely thing to work with her before she died. But also, the legacy that she pioneered, amongst a few other female artists in the 70s with punk, is just some of the best of that genre, really. “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” is probably in my top three favorite punk records, easily, and her enthusiasm, DIY, can-do… Her and the Slits were hugely important on today’s music, I think, definitely, hugely.
Tibet: Well, Poly Styrene, ‘cause she wrote that amazing song “I Am A Cliché”? And of course, that’s the most remarkable and idiosyncratic and unique and bizarre and completely un-clichéd individual. Looking back at punk, which, a lot of it seemed exciting at the time, a lot of it has aged very badly. And when you heard it, you thought, “Whoo, this is so fast!” And now, of course, it sounds like pub rock, which, in fact, a lot of it was—not good pub rock. But play some Poly Styrene, totally unique. And also, the idea that she was punk, even, is a huge misconception, because she was so—we were talking about genre from the beginning—beyond all categories. A remarkable, unique person. And there’s not been anyone like her, because how could there be? She was just absolutely so individual.
Hypnopazūzu will make its live debut at London’s Union Chapel on October 22. The group’s Create Christ, Sailor Boy is available on CD and LP from the House of Mythology label and from Amazon. Below, stream my favorite track on the album, exclusive to Dangerous Minds: “The Crow at Play.”