Duality is thy name!
(Editors note) I broke out this interview with Barry Adamson back in 1998. I was in New York and did the Q & A at the headquarters of Mute Records. Barry was on the other end of the phone, in his home in London. It was a crazy time for me in NYC. It was like I had stepped into an alternate dimension and strange phenomenon was unfolding around me on a moment-to-moment basis. I won’t go into details here, but I do refer to it cryptically in the intro.
Barry Adamson is one of the most talented musicians and artists you’ve probably never heard of. He played with Magazine and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and then carved out a brilliant solo career, that in many respects, surpassed that of both Howard Devoto and Nick Cave. Barry Adamson also happens to be a Gemini and it is indeed, his birthday today. If one delves down into the canon of his recording career, they can see the tell tale signs of duality all over the place. In the interview, we really focused on topics like; “As above, so below,” “Light and dark,” and “Good and bad.” All, tasty topics for any Gemini. This interview originally appeared on Pete Darling’s Art-Damage site. Pete is an uber-talented friend and is one of those people who could have easily been a rock star if he’d wanted to do the wrong drugs and screw the right people. Here’s me and Barry.
New York; Summer of 98′ things are falling all around me–like something out of a Fortean tale of misplaced gravity. Everywhere I go the sky is descending. And then the numbers start coming; sixes and nines, variables and their fated triple-digit-deity. I escape the crash and tumult for a few moments ducking into the offices of Mute Records. I’m here to talk to Barry Adamson, the former Magazine and Bad Seed Bass Player, on the phone from his London home. On solo terms, he’s become known for noirish soundtrack work such as “Soul Murder”, “The Negro Inside”, “Moss Side Story” and the brilliant “Oedipus Schmedipus.” His record of the moment is, “As Above, So Below” (Mute) and with Adamson, the cradle of potential is vast in it’s meaning. Of mixed racial origin, he embraces contrasting cosmologies and diverse scales; polyrhythms and whitenoise, Nile gods and Atlantic sea wardens; demonic muses and angelic hosts. As heaven crashes around me, Barry’s trying to reconcile it all in his music. From New York to London, we attempt to ground the dipole in extremis for a Trans-Atlantic free-exchange of shadow and light.
RP: What has the response been in terms of the British Press and some of the other magazines towards your newest work and how that compares with some of your earlier stuff?
BA: I think its generally been quite favorable. There is always the odd fellow that doesn’t get it really. They’re off on their own sort of thing. I think generally what has happened- I guess with each album I kind of raise my profile a little bit more, getting to the hearts and minds (if you like) of the ever-listening public. In that way it has been a success. I think the feedback has been encouraging. I think this album and the Oedipus album particularly has kind of moved the goalposts into a place more accessible for people; they can get what’s going on and they seem to enjoy what’s going on, which is always encouraging for me. Definitely the step forward in a way that I hope to be. I am pleased with the way its gone.
RP: The title of the record As Above, So Below: It reminds me of Heraclitus.
BA: What’s that?
RP: Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher. His whole contention was above so below- like it is in Heaven as it is on Earth. So there is a metaphysical connotation there. But it also to me reminds me of “as above so below”: as above the waist so below the waist.
BA: That’s interesting. I never thought of that. I kind of did have a little subtle idea about that: above the waist, also below. I guess for me, it is that thing as in Heaven, so shall it be on Earth, and perhaps even lower. I think that you can’t have one without the other. Just that whole faith, love and fear… and all those things have ramifications in the world as well and that’s what makes man as a sensor of the whole cosmos-type thing as well. I think for me its about balance as well: as above so below and therefore stepping out into the world is like okay about everything. I think that was kind of the establishing factor of where to go from in terms of exploring Heaven and Hell in the confines of the record, if it’s possible.
RP: Are you familiar of the material of William Blake?
BA: Only in passing, do you know what I mean. I am not really in a studious way at all. Of course a picture comes to mind (I don’t know the name of course) of the guy pointing down from above?
RP: With the Sun. Yeah.
BA: Very powerful image.
RP: It seems like in your work that there is a definite sort of a psycho-analytical yoga or work-out.
BA: I think it is. I think I could realize that one could pretty much exorcise and exercise various- you know, whatever it may be, if you’re troubled you could put those troubles into a song. Or what you’ve experienced you may want to pass that information on.
RP: How does the cathartic process of your work effect you? For instance, do you feel more catharsis after you’ve finished a certain piece or after you’ve created a whole piece?