COTTON FEROX INTERVIEW - KRZYZSTOF AZAREWICZ, ANXIOUS, POLAND 2003

1. Carl, you are well known from your very wide spectrum of cultural activity. In context of our magazine, first thing I’d like to ask about is musick. Not so long ago you created your new musical incarnation - Cotton Ferox. What happened with your long time existing project White Stains?

CA: Well, in 1994 me and then member Peter Bergstrandh thought we’d done enough. We had just finished a European tour together with Cassandra Complex. It was all very interesting, but there was absolutely no money involved. The German label Danse Macabre released our final album after the tour but had promised to release it before the tour. Things like that. We had also, in our minds, delved well into different styles of music and made some pretty great albums over the years. It was a good time to quit. After this, I continued making music on my own. There’s one unreleased Tan Trick album and in 2000, the project Oiling Noregs vs Deform Project released a CD through my art fanzine BULT. So the music-making has kept haunting me – It’s very hard for me not to be involved in music...

2. Do you consider Cotton Ferox as some kind of continuation of White Stains? Does it have the same motives, ideas, etc?

CA: Considering the project consists of me and Thomas Tibert, another seminal White Stains character, it’s hard not to regard Cotton Ferox as White Stains, part 2. Our communication and rapport is better now than it used to be, and although we’re very different as persons, our unions are usually very constructive. Our differences are actually an integrated part of our goal for Cotton Ferox: the union of opposites. Whereas differences often led to arguments and headaches in White Stains, we now strive at actively playing around with contrasts and conflicts in Cotton Ferox. As for other motives and ideas, one could very well say they’re the same as they used to be: We want to make psychedelic music that activates the intellect.

3.Your first album, First Time Hurts, has unique, evocative atmosphere. It oscilates between etheric space and tribal soundscapes. Everything is riched by your vocals, almost „spoken words”. The whole has almost meditative charakter. Was this effect intentional?

CA: In a way, yes. But we didn’t start out seeking a specific effect. We always have very vague visions when we start out. Meaning we know what we’re after but often have a hard time defining it mentally. And it usually ends up very different anyway. But it was certainly a distinct concept to make the first album ”spoken word” oriented, to include the poetic aspects of words so that it wasn’t merely another ambient album. We also wanted to include friends in this way, hence the contributions from Genesis, Michael and Krister.

4. Since many years you’ve been known on many fields of art. Tell me, do you think there is possibility of creating something original in music? Does it have any limits? How does original seem to be music of Cotton Ferox?

CA: As a concept, I guess we belong more in the art sphere than on the regular ambient- or electronica scene. As we actually have things like concepts and like to work with intellectual, philosophical or political themes, that makes the experience a bit more extended than just plain trip-indulgent music. In that sense, I do think that we’re original, as being intellectual and psychedelic pathfinders. I do think it’s a shame though that a lot of the music has been dictated by the current music technology. I would like for us to strive for more instrument use on the coming albums. Although there’s a lot that can be done with current software and technologies, I do think it confines the music to one very, very flat dimension. I don’t mean that this could be solved by using more reverb. I mean that the digital sphere is simply not organic. That’s something I’d like to produce in Cotton Ferox: more organic music. Music that’s throbbing and pulsating with blood, sinew and muscle... If we can arrange that, we would certainly be original today! In general, I do think it’s absolutely possible to create truly new and original material in all fields of art. However, this must stem from the soul of the artist, not from the technology used. I can’t stress this enough. The creativity that we’ve seen over the past decade, for instance, has been technology-based. I.e. tools like Cubase, Reason, Photoshop etc have been so predominant that people are just drifting and expecting the software to be the artist. And then claim that ”they” as persons have created something in making certain minor technical choices or adjustments. I think that the more primordial and raw the expression is, the more refined and adept is the artist in question. We’re living in an era of narcissistic ironic mirror-art, mere self reflections with a certain sense of wit. Art should rather be subtle or brutal explosions of will, intent and life force, if you ask me!

5. On your debut I found names of a few quests, among others, M. Moynihan, G. P-Orridge... With this last you recorded an excellent White Stains album, At Stockholm. Your acquaintance with Genesis has a long history. When and how did you meet each other?

CA: We first met in London in 1986. I’d been inolved in TOPY for a couple of years then. Parallel to this, I edited a fanzine called ”Lollipop”. I interviewed him in 1986 and we had a chance to discuss both TOPY-related things as well as then current music-related things. I think we’ve managed to keep a very healthy and constructive relationship over the years. We’ve worked on musical projects, book projects and we’ve even been on holiday together. I have very few friends that I’ve kept so close for such a long time.

6. You coocreated an idea of TOPY as well. What’s going on with this project now? I know that officialy activity of Temple was finished years ago. Any plans for ressurection?

CA: There are offshoots and spinoffs and splinter groups all around the world. The interesting thing is that it seems like both structure and idea have been equally inspiring to people. I feel very much involved in carrying on a living tradition, if that’s the correct term to use for such a young group. I couldn’t cope with the structure, meaning I didn’t have the time to deal with the administration anymore. Gen felt the same way, as did the American counterpart, Tom. We more or less took a new direction together, without knowing about it. I still work with Gen and what we do is very much a continuation of what we did a long time ago. For instance, the second, coming Cotton Ferox album, ”Wordship”, which was done together with Gen, is the follow-up to 1990’s ”At Stockholm”-album.

7. You worked on the book about Gen as well. I mean Painful but Fabulous which contains your texts and photos. It’s not your first photographic revealing... You published a book with your pictures taken in Tibet. What is so fascinating in photography for you?

CA: The Tibet book actually contains photos by Max Fredrikson who is also an old friend of mine. I wrote the text in it. But it’s true, I did take a lot of photos on the various Asian trips. And there has been more and more interest in my work as a photographer in terms of exhibitions. I really can’t explain what’s the reason behind my fascination. In essence, I think it’s that I belong to the now almost mythical character, ”the gatherer”. I go on treks, either near or far, and bring back material to my cave. I’ve been working as a journalist in the same way: traveling, interviewing people and bringing the wisdom or folly home. If you prefer to look at it from a psychological perspective, you could say I’m a voyeur. I like to watch and document at a distance and then draw my own conclusions from my findings. A private kind of anthropology study.

8. The trip to Tibet was connected with project of Institute for magicko-antropological comparatistivic studies. [I’m really sorry but I don’t know the „proper” name of this Institute.]
Could you tell me more about this body? What is the whole idea about?

CA: At first, it started out as ”The Institute for Comparative Misanthropolgy”. I liked to toy with labels, names, umbrellas, think-tank-structures etc. This was in the early 1990’s. In the mid-90’s, I changed this particular one to ”The Institute for Comparative Magico-anthropolgy”, as I felt that had more potential in terms of actually creating something substantial through it. It went from being an idea, a concept, to a real, very tangible project. The project has as its aims to gather information about how man relates to magic and ritual. The Tibetan project was extremely interesting in this sense. We interviewed monks, nuns, lamas etc every day for several moths. This will eventually be published in a more text-oriented book than the photo book ”Bardo Tibet” that you referred to earlier. It’s such an intriguing subject–and such an important one!–in a world where superficiality is forced upon us even by violence today. I feel it’s my duty to preserve–if only in documentation–this hugely important aspect of human life and human culture before it’s totally eradicated. I see this as a project I will work actively with all through my life, in the hope that there will one day be a museum specifically for magico-anthropology that I can donate the lot to.

9. You seem to be very busy man. Publishing books, editing magazines, doing musick, photography, etc. Creativity is very important part of your life...

CA: Yes. Over the years I’ve certainly had my share of internal struggles about this... Early on, I decided to follow my own intuition and later on my own will. This could have been fairly easy had my interest or will been limited to one specific thing, like, for instance, writing. But in my case, it’s been a mix of writing, taking photos and making music. These parts have been the essence of my life. Now I just live with that, and quite happily so. It’s not a bad life after all... One good thing about being diligent and hardworking is that as you grow older, there’s bound to be if not fame, then at least infamy! Which means you can attract editors or publishers more easily when it’s a matter of the writing. Models, girls, bands, artists etc contact you when they’ve seen your photos, as well as editors and gallery people. And with the music, it’s the same there: When people know you exist, they get in touch and want you to come play. That’s the main advantage of never giving up and just sticking to your own vision, regardless of whether life is cruel or kind: It’s the hard times that give you strength to carry on... And that strength will always lead on to new manifestations.

10. Is this creative factor connected with any obsessions (in A.O. Spare’s meaning of this word) which drive you in particular direction? Do they have any common denominator?

CA: Well, I guess you could look at this in many different ways. I don’t value psychology highly enough to merely say that ”massive manifestation suggests an inferiority complex” or something similar. I believe that psychology is just a very loosely-knit and extremely experimental science, if one dares call it even that. What I do believe though, is that when you have a talent for something, it’s your sacred duty to the whole to pursue it and work hard with it. One can refine and develop one’s qualities indefinitely, but one can never really become a different person. My need for manifestation I think more has to do with the fact that I like to work a lot and I like to see things manifested, in books, magazines, records, exhibitions etc. It’s become a lifestyle. I do hope that whatever it is I do can inspire people too.
If you’re smart, do something smart, if you’re beautiful, do something that displays the beauty, if you’re musically talented, you simply have to make music... It’s as simple as that! The only time you can really lose is when you’re pretending to be someone else. One should also be careful in constantly evaluating oneself and be honest about the findings and never be concerned about what other people might think. It should be totally irrelevant what other people think or say.

11. What is the difference between creativity and following scheme and trends in the art? Is creativity in modern, fixed and consolidated cultural pattern possible at all?

CA: Yes, I think so. Basically it has to do with being open to ideas and to the primal energy of creation. I think there are as many, if not more, creative people in other walks of life than art. The art world is a huge illusion and the idea of an art school is preposterous to me. Creative people are those with a passion for a certain thing and who also work very hard with it through an accumulated experience of life. I think that creativity exists all around us and especially in people you’d never suspect at first glance. Very few people who’ve attended art school eventually end up as artists. This has to do with the fact that a direct experience of life is necessary: the fight and struggle of life at its rawest. In a secluded and academic environment this is not possible.

12. I know you are interested in magick. What is the place of magickal arts in cultural paradigm in your opinion? Do they create some kind of vital influx in culture? Do they fix current of cultural development? Or maybe magick is an alternative for all ruling philosopohies or culural trends?

CA: These are interesting questions. Magic as a phenomenon has undoubtedly been a very marginal thing up until recently. There is definitely an increased interest and a resurgence in real life as well as in its reflection: entertainment. Music, books and movies, to name but a few media, have brought on a huge mass of information and inspiration to look further and deeper. If even only one percent of all the people exposed to this influx are genuinely affected, i.e. actually start treading a path of genuine spiritual development, then that’s considerably more than what was the case 40 years ago.
What started in the 60’s with the Eastern romance and the drugs have now caught on to something very much more substantial and constructive: young European people embrace their own cultural heritage and embrace it in a religious or magical way. For me, this is the only hope for mankind not to starve spiritually. I would like to see a greater heterogenization of ideas and values. Increased interest in the world is fantastic and home is naturally always where the heart is. But I also think that one always returns home in a physical sense too, meaning not to a specific house, but to a specific culture. This, I think, is the greatest reason for the problems we can see in America today. There’s such a huge amount of general historical as well as ethnical confusion plus other internal problems that they have to project the anger and confusion outwards in order not to implode. I think a lot of people in Europe are waking up to the fact that European history is more tangible and real than ”Beverly Hills 90120”.
Neo-Paganism, for the lack of a better term, I see as a great beacon of light in this respect. All good trees have healthy and steady roots. Young people not only should but must look to their roots and their origins and unite with the past in order to build a better future. I mean, what’s the point in Polish people taking absurd orders from a Roman power structure based on Semitic ideas? It’s absurd, a degradation, and, in terms of the contraceptive orders, a systematic rape of many generations of Polish women. I hope the Catholic Church will lose its grip of Poland and that soon. I’m much more curious in what went on and, hopingly, what’s still going on in the Polish forests at night!
Magic is very hard to define and I don’t think that even Crowley succeeded that well. It’s too much of an individual thing. But given that this creative blossom is allowed to grow, whether at night or day, magic is certainly an agent of transformation all through life. Perhaps one definition could be ”directed life force”. How people relate to that I can’t really say, but I certainly hope that they do!

13. Is your musical acitivity connected with any magickal experiments?

CA: Certainly. On a philosophical level, as mentioned, we actively work with the union of opposites. We either softly integrate minimal opposites or by force clash two contradicting elements against each other. On a more subdued level, we integrate ideas and concepts we know are seeds, either for personal or for larger flowers that will eventually bloom as a result. Also, in the structures, we like to use things that we know are inspiring or evocative for other people, in their own meditations-listenings-trips-etc... Certain sounds, scapes, rhythms, collage effects and so on. That’s what really makes Cotton Ferox a worthwhile experience for me: that it’s such a multifaceted tool to work with. We’re certainly not a band in the traditional sense.

14. In this context I’d like to ask you about playing live. What does ideal relation between musicians and audience mean to you?

CA: Here we come again to the music technology of today and its inherent advantages as well as drawbacks. There can never be organic interplay between musician and audience if there’s noone there to actually physically change the vibrations. I have been hesitant about our live work, as I feel we’ve been too attached to our computers. That’s not a good thing. The concert you saw in London is one of the best so far. I was in good spirits in terms of my own recitations and Krister Linder is a true singer, a true and geuine musician. We need to have more of that before we can affect people live. Strangely enough though, we had really strong reactions in Denmark in April. One woman came up to us almost in tears afterwards and said she’d enjoyed it so much. We didn’t have Krister along then but we did have a new and more powerful play of images on the backdrop. Things like that affect too, but it can never replace the organic vibrations stemming from one human being to the other. It’s almost like a sexual energy that transcends gender concepts. Computers are the condoms of music. You can fuck around as much as you want and you’re always safe. But you can never conceive new life. And that’s what I think the live shows should be all about: an explosive and vibratory orgy totally in tune with the harmony of the spheres.

15, Well, I think that’s all. Thank you, Carl, for All. Just, please, tell me about your nearest plans; when can we expect senond album of Cotton Ferox?

CA: As mentioned previously, the next album is called ”Wordship” and is a collaboration with Genesis P-Orridge. It’s the follow-up release to 1990’s album by White Stains and Psychic TV called ”At Stockholm”. We hope to release it in the autumn of 2003. I’m very proud of this album as I think our music and his words and voice complement each other fantastically well.

16. Last word belongs to you...

CA: Well then it’s in good order that I thank the beautiful young women and men from Poland who’ve been in touch over the years and have expressed interest and support. I haven’t been to Poland for over ten years now, but hope to return some time soon to meet more people and take more photos and write more and make and play more music for Polish people.

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