Edward Ka-Spel, the enigmatic spiritual lyricist/vocalist behind such moving electronic artists as The Tear Garden and The Legendary Pink Dots, and anequally illustrious solo career, has been weaving webs of magick and glory since 1980; and his work is continually, without fail, transcendnt. An unhindered challenge tosheltered minds full of wretchedly delusional mundanity, Ka-Spel’s music is like a beaconof divine light beckoning to the truth-seeking soul.
Today, particularly in the States, our shattered culture is so transplanted that we have no spiritual basis through which we can find the fortitude to resist the mindless distractions of mass consumerism and consumption. Religion, the structuring of group belief, rituals and mythology could perhaps provide the base which contemporary society lacks in abundance. Unfortunately for many, the dogma of religions are, and have always been, incredibly oppressive.
Much of Ka-Spel’s work expresses this fear of religion’s intrinsic oppression, but also a measurable sadness at our communal disbelief. Certain songs, like “Pennies from Heaven” from Legendary Pink Dots’ The Maria Dimension album, are unquestionable attacks on religious structures. Yet, most prominent in the ethereal and spacey vocalist’s compositions is an ongoing personal odyssey: a search for salvation, a search for self, and perhaps a search for the world.
It has been written that you believe in a personal spirituality. What are your attitudes towards religion, as a collected body of mythology, philosophy and ritual which can be shared by a group of like-minded people?
I suppose my view of religion is changing with time. I used to find the institution laughable, indeed a way of boxing up spirituality – more roles for a world in chains. While I don’t subscribe to any religion, I think I’ve learned to have more respect for people (who do). There are deep-thinking Catholics, Muslims, even Jehovah’s Witnesses. Let people be, as long as they harm no one… All religions interest me. Basic truisms run through all of them; it’s only the dogma that bothers me.
Do you have any personal gods? If so, would you care to share them?
Personal gods? The angel that’s just beyond the corner of my nearly blind left eye, she is always there, no matter what the situation. I don’t even know her name. It could be Miriam. She has a gentle laugh and protects me from the Black Dog.
Is creating music for you a ritualistic experience? What other personal rituals might you participate in?
Music is a ritualistic experience. A Legendary Pink Dots show is an amber mass. Music transcends language; it’s the code of naked emotion. It can reveal the colour of your soul. And still, I haven’t gotten close yet… I have personal rituals. Stretching my arms before addressing the mass, feeling the energy stream through my body. A coffee and cigarette at breakfast somehow makes the world a better place, too.
Do you believe in objective mystical experiences, such as magick, visions and/or meaningful coincidence? Can you share any particularly beautiful or interesting experiences you have had?
My life has been riddled with various unexplained incidences, occasional premonitions. Wonderful ones and some unpleasant frightening ones, too. (Like) the Black Dog. I have no option than to believe in magick. It’s real. I’ve been a witness, but I don’t practice it and never will. These forces are not puppets controlled by human hand. They play with us; they have the possibility of driving us insane. I value my sanity.
Have you ever been directly affected by these mystical experiences in your creative process?
My most powerful experience in creation was when I used to listen to the radio (news) throughout the night. I figured that the latest news report (that I heard before falling asleep) would shape my waking dream. Once it did, I dreamt about an air crash. There wasa bridge, an icy river; a guy saying, “Well, it just dropped out of the sky.” Naturally, I checked the first news broadcast once I had woken up, and there was no mention of the crash. My first serious premonition, and I wrote the song “What’s Next?” on the Tramstadt I cassette. The crash happened one month later… in Washington, D.C. of allplaces.
In the creation of your music, what is the role of Doubt? Of Ego? Oh Hope?
It’s all there. Sometimes that ego stops me from enjoying some pieces later on, sometimes the doubts are confirmed. But I remain the eternal optimist.
Your music is replete with the search for transcendence, while only occasionally do you express overt political ideas. What do you feel is the relationship between political and social issues and art and spirituality?
Politics and art are related because we live now, and it’s impossible not to be affectedby decisions of the “powers that be.” I’d exile the lot of the bastards given half the chance. (But) I’ve always had the secretive desire to be a dictator, but I’d probably fuck it up like the rest of them. The world is lucky that I make music instead.
What responsibilities do you allow yourself to be affected by in the creation of your work? To what degree do you feel confined by these responsibilities, and to what extent do they inspire you?
There are responsibilities I suppose, especially when some people hang on every word. I’m just not so very responsible when it comes to writing and creating. (But then) it would be less than honest to dilute what comes out, (to) throw in a sweetener.
In what ways do you make use of commerce and other structures of power in creating your music, and how do you feel about these things?
All of the Dots have to live from the music we create, so the commercial aspect is there. We just pay no heed to it when making the music.
What is your feeling about the rapid rate of technological advancement at present? Do you believe that a full recognition of our ritual experience is necessary to cope with the madness of our technology?
Technology is fine as long as it is stretched. However, I can’t relate to computers at all. (They’re) great typewriters (with) brilliant possibilities, but how the hell do they work? Our music is its own world for the listener to accept or reject. It exists by its own rules. I don’t believe that technology equals madness. I believe people should perform their own rituals, or not perform them, as the choose. What I create is for me, and if others like it, then that’s great.
-interview by Michael Estabrook