Activism, Kenosis & the Second Summer of Love

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Any of you who know me, probably understand what a bittersweet relationship with activism I have.

Primarily, of course, because fear the conflict of the mob – I’m afraid of ‘feeling afraid’, and intimidated by the challenge of integrating groups steeped in unresolved anger. Afraid of my own fight-or-flight tendencies, and what idiocy or betrayal I might enact in a state of panic. I’m so conditioned to ‘fear’ the man.

It’s a slow undoing to attempt to conquer in one lifetime.

Having said this, the number of rallies, actions and vigils I’ve been involved in over the last 15 years is something I’ve lost count of, but still mark in terms of sleepless nights, panic-attacks and futile attempts at buying police officers warm coffee to ease their own frightened glances. There are, I’ve learned, few things which confuse the Police Force more than being called to control a rally, only to be met by bare-foot hippies singing mantras and offering organic cookies to their oppressors.

The language I’m most compelled by, as an ‘artist’ is, ultimately, the language of silence, of kenosis  – the kind of notions which obviously don’t easily for effective ‘protest’, in it’s traditional ‘western’ sense. The didactic prose of protest-speech reminds me too much of its corollary – the call to war, violence, division, witch-hunts and burning effigies.

It’s just not a language I’m barely fluent in. Not unless I’m particularly drunk, at least.

It’s a language where too often,  the power of the ritual, of the mythology, the creative-potential of being together is bulldozed by superlative-tropes which are ultimately too fatiguing to provoke change after the event.

If an even is framed in the language of separation and exhaustion, then what is the ultimate value of the event?

During my time working, almost a decade ago, for the Uniting Church, I rediscovered that so often, it is in fact the power of the mythology which speaks more practical/literal healing that what might be construed mere  ‘facts’. I’m happy to hold and cherish this reality. We all need stories – we demand them; even whilst governments reduce our mythologies to pithy slogans.  This is one of my life’s great personal lessons. The Jewish story of the clay Golem,  Jesus miracle of turning water to more wine for a feast already deeply enmeshed in bacchanalian chaos – what else are these but eternal truths, enriched by the democracy which only stories and their retelling (in a thousand incarnations) provides?

This is why the ritual of the ‘breaking of bread’ is a universal one – its a ritual which is an embodiment of a gratitude which transcends reductionism.

Ultimately, I’m not sure if protest-culture drew me deeper into electronic-music, or vice versa. I’m happy for this mystery to remain unresolved.  I do know, that during my honeymoon years in the mid 90s, techno WAS the music of a radical new form of story-telling for me. Our gatherings in Australia were often in warehouses, or in the forest, smeared in pot-haze, an organized chaos lauded over by NO-one and everyone at the same time. Dirty, flawed, completely impractical.

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Whilst often branded as anarchic, my ‘bush-doof’ and warehouse rave-days were usually, of course, anything but. There was simply too much mutual care, too much to offer, too little money to be made for a shared dream to be squandered. I think we all knew that. What I ultimately experienced was an experiment in controlled chaos which subsided into love, tinnitus and unplanned pregnancies.  An experiment in tenuously decentralized leadership, hybrid-mythology, acid, noise, the gift-economy, and largely ‘faceless’ sonic heroics – a far cry from much of the Ibiza mega-club triumphantalism frequently we see today.

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Photo courtesty Ohms Not Bombs http://ohmsnotbombs.net

 

All this, just to say (revisionist romanticism notwithstanding) rave and techno culture gave me a community, and many inspiring leaders and friends who’ve since graduated to become astounding community leaders, policy-makers, aid-workers and storytellers. I don’t think that this is mere coincidence. It’s why I still believe in the power of mythology, of storytelling, and – very much – in the power of failure, also. My life’s politics and music are inseparable – and the challenge of integrating them is the great challenge of my life.

Two nights ago, we staged a vigil outside the Australian Embassy here in Berlin – an action prompted by the ongoing persecution of asylum-seekers in Australia under successive government policies. I was asked to give an ‘address’, the transcript of which is copied below. I realize that it’s not what might be deemed a ‘conventional’ call to arm – and it is far from perfect (Germany’s own asylum-seeker policies are often the subject of of harsh critique), but I wanted to offer it as a voice in the conversation for asylum-seeker policy-change. For those of us also aching for new mythologies, and what I’d call a re-hewing of the fabric of our hearts. The ground is fallow and ready for new stories.

I hope, that, taken within the context of more discreetly pragmatic voices (and there are many great ones) it might help provide offer some salve and pause amid this madness.

Deep thanks and gratitude to all who turned up and made our vigil feel worthwhile – for the  offerings of the many candle-holders, message-writers, silent reflectives, musicians and organizers. And thanks to the German Polizei for respecting our right to gather, so kindly. Berlin continues to surprise me.

Speech for Light The Dark: Vigil for Asylum Seekers at Australian Embassy Berlin | 23 Feb 2014

“It’s an honor to share this night with you.

Thank you to everyone who has turned up tonight for our small, somewhat ramshackle, chapter of “Light The Dark” – prompted, not only by organiser Michelle O’Brien, but also by individuals like her sister Natalie O’Brien, one of thousands of younger, deeply compassionate advocates working in Sydney to help mobilise a number of concurrent events across Australia. Their voices give us hope and courage.

There are so many striving for good in Australia – and this gathering is for all of them. May it resonate as a voice of support from afar. This gathering is for our local communities, media outlets, for those who are demanding robust, transparent and compassionate discourse. This night is also for those in Berlin who have invested and engaged in an issue which is currently germane to Australia, but which is also a fundamentally global concern. This night is also for those of us who just don’t know what the hell to do right now.

So this is what we’re doing – a brief, conscious remembering, together in the hope that good things might grow from solidarity, and our shared hope might become bigger than the sum of its parts.

I offer the following thanks and reflections not as an activist or politician, but merely as an individual, as a concerned voice, swimming like so many of us in a familiar yet deeply turbulent sea. As an artist abroad in Berlin, who has previously worked for and with refugees in Australia for groups like TEAR, The Australian Refugee Association and the Uniting Church Department of Social Justice. In education, advocacy, arts-work and simple friendship with asylum seekers.

Like many of us, I’ve visited some of our horrible detention centres. Enough has been written about these gulags in our own press, much of which I don’t need to re-articulate here but which I encourage you to keep abreast of. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has a fantastic presence online and offers a great springboard for further engagement.

So then. It seems curious, for many of us who’ve left our ‘homeland’ to know what an appropriate response might be to the events we’re seeing unfold in Australia. This ‘Pacific Solution’ being, in fact, instituted by none other than Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during his previous tenure and now fortified in its current incarnation by the Abbott regime.

This is clearly a bipartisan affair and has remained so since the Howard era’s reactionary ‘Children Overboard’ scandal over 10 years ago, and the horrors of indefinite detention and temporary protection visas – which I know many of us protested against en mass at that time. These policies are a cemented by a hysteria with a deep historical through-line, a reflection of a certain ongoing crisis of our unreconciled national identity – from the alarmism of the Yellow Peril, to the Stolen Generation, Cronulla Riots and beyond. Stories and patterns ricocheting and reverberating in the echo chamber of our short, “White-Australian history” – the politically dominant history, yet only one of so many diverse stories – stories rich in grace and tenacity, kindness and re-invention.

We have yet to see a single ‘people smuggler’ prosecuted or named. Yet we now have thousands of personal refugee details ‘inadvertently’ publicly leaked on official websites – names, ages, nationalities, family status etc. of thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers seeking protection.

There is little logic and even less humanity here.
Meanwhile, the tendrils which seeking to ‘outsource’ Australia’s moral responsibility are extending not only to poorer nations like Papua New Guinea, but now also to Cambodia, according to recent statements from the Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

I contend that this is an endemically patronising foreign policy – the notion that poorer countries and individuals can be purchased, silenced, bought, tacitly settled and annexed via private dealings in human trade, masquerading as some sort of social responsibility, where even naming the dead is seen as subversive.

Reza Berati is dead. Reza Berati is dead.

How do we actively engage with this without becoming fatigued and bound by feelings of helplessness or betrayal? How do we radically ‘open up’ the official histories of Australia, to celebrate and honor the riches afforded us from those who’ve come across the seas? How do we frame our own stories in the light of this debt of thanks we owe to ‘outsiders’? How do we move forward – through and beyond necessary policy change, to a changing of the fabric of our hearts?
I want to suggest that perhaps, in fact, that certain answers are far closer than we may imagine.

Many of us have found our own little homes here, because Berlin has testified to the gift of slow, luminous change and healing, and in so doing has valued our voices as outsiders here. It’s a healing springing from collective confession and admission of the horrors of the past. I take great heart that by way of the model this city has embodied, we are inspired to find solutions and healing for Australia’s current challenges – by way of honesty, creativity, simplicity and a process of deep, healthy grieving.

I’m convinced a fundamental paradigm shift in how we define our official ‘Australian Story’ needs to occur, and that indeed it shall.

This small gathering then, I feel, is, not only very much for Reza Berati who was killed on Manus Island under Australia’s care, or for the countless recently injured or continuing to suffer, but is in fact also for ourselves and those who strive to live with dignity and compassion in difficult times.

The fact is, the suffering of all refugees under our government’s care is a suffering we share, and must share, and which we are all inextricably bound to. Those who suffer in detention are none other than our people, though most we have never met.

Perhaps our hope can be theirs too.

I’m reminded, curiously, of the words of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Naht Hanh, which seem to eloquently summise Australia’s ongoing crisis of identity, framed through his gentle Buddhist eyes.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

For our voices to be unified, we need not only the tenacity to demand justice, but also the salve of forgiveness, silence, and the simple ritual of being together – not only with political ‘solutions’ but with recognition of our willingness to see and become part of the process of being change, and becoming changed.

We bring open, honest, wounded hearts, and perhaps even tears tonight as an offering toward hope and mobilisation.

I know that many of us have felt frightened by our own rage, our own despair, are own unexpected panic here. I’ve found my own vitriol often so personally crippling, paralysing. How do we manifest change in a way which keeps our hearts free from the poison we fear?

I’m not sure. But a small gathering like this just may be part of what we can offer. It’s not an isolated gesture. There’s a voice, there’s a value here. One we can and must take heart in – echoed abroad.

Again, the oft-cited Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, writing about his experience in the Soviet forced labour-camps put things thus:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

There is no doubt that the deeds being committed in detention camps around Australia are, for want of a better word, ‘evil’ – they are undoubtedly abhorrent, inhumane, illegal, unjust and cruel.

But, perhaps more accurately, they are acts and policies of ignorance which are grounded in deep, deep delusion, a temporary national amnesia, a sort of political sleeping-sickness, a spiritual malaise. Cycles we see echoed across decades of Australian history. A story must re-build together now.
There IS no ‘Great Satan’ over the waters, hiding and steering boats. The Great Satan is us … yet our story shows that there are enduring enough moments of rare light showing  that political norms can be overturned, transformed, reborn.

Australia is a nation of refugees, living as guests on indigenous land.

The fact that we are here – as grateful outsiders in Berlin – I hope can remind us of our own power and voice, as well as our responsibility to show reciprocity to our community here. We must build the Australia we want to see wherever we live, in our collective dreamings, and in the dismantling of the Walls and Borders in our own hearts. It has been done before, and change does come.

Thank you once again for coming this evening. Thank you for your offerings, hopes, prayers, tobacco, candles, beer and collective wisdom. Please continue to share them.

Shortly we’ll hear from three fantastic musicians, Ray Mann, Remarkable Shipwrecks, and Wasp Summer– but now we wish to offer five minutes of silence.

For Reza Berati.
For all asylum seekers currently detained.
For the many more who will in future make Australia their home.”

- Rick Bull, 24 February 2014, Outside the Australian Embassy of Berlin

 

DEEPCHILD ‘DIRT THIEF’ EP RELEASED

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Thanks to our wonderful friends at Thoughtless Music, I’m proud to announce that the long-anticipated Dirt Thief EP is finally out this week. It’s more slightly ‘garij’-infused proto-techno from myself, with some brilliant remixes by Safeword, Jens Bond and Tomas Jirku, and features one of my favorite B-side cuts of the year, “Safe Passage”. You can hear previews HERE and, incase you missed if the first time, catch a little video of myself performing the aforementioned track at Electron Festival in Geneva earlier this year – right here:

Deepchild Electron Festival from Deepchild on Vimeo.

Image credits for the Dirt Thief cover-artwork go to the ever-inspiring Michelle O’Brien
You’ll be able to grab the EP shortly from my Beatport page, as well as where all half-decent music is sold!

 

Oh, and here’s what the big-guns are saying about the release!

Originals are dope! DVS1, Hush

Nice tunes – will try out, thanks! SLAM, Soma

I’m digging the trippy, dubby, spheric building vibe around the beat – very useful. Thanks! JOEL MULL, Drumcode

Nice pack, will play the Jens Bond remix! MIHAI POPOVICIU, Pokerflat

Support – Deepchild for Resident! SACHA ROBOTTI, Robosonic

Liking the remix from Jens – will play in my deeper sets. D-NOX, Sprout

I really like the ethereal vocals here. Will definitely play out. ERIC VOLTA, No.19

Great release; Safeword’s remix is my favourite here! FABIO GIANELLI, Get Physical

Diggin’ Safe Passage, lovely arrangement. JAMES TEEJ, My Favorite Robot

Great EP! Jens made it for me. NICO STOJAN, URSL

Really cool tune – will play Dirt Thief! FLORIAN MEINDL, Riemann

Jens Bond remix for me! SOMEONE ELSE, Little Helpers

Really great package! Love Safe Passage and the Jens Bond remix of Dirt Thief; will be playing “Safe Passage” on my radio show this week! Thanks! STRYKE, Ovum

Support – I like both originals. BAIKAL, Maeve

Dope tracks!! Love Safe Passage!!! DANCE SPIRIT, Supernature

Support – will play more than one! ALEXI DELANO, AD Ltd.

All are solid, hard to choose a favorite here – will support and play. JONNY CRUZ, Touch of Class

Deepchild can do no wrong – great as always. Super nice remixes too, especially Tomas Jirku’s. Thanks. Support!! BRYAN ZENTZ, Minus

These tracks all sound amazing. DEREK MARIN, Superfreq

Will try out the Jens mix soon. Pulsing, hypnotic groove. Thanks again. TYLER STADIUS, Proton

Great grooves and vibe – Jens Bond mix for me. LESS HATE, Kindisch

Another well-rounded and diverse release from Thoughtless. Big ups! TAAL MALA, Modern Math

Great tracks. CHUCK FLASK, Paxahau

Dirt Thief original is fantastic. NICK WARREN, Hope

Support on all, thanks! DANIELLE NICOLE, Subtrak

Deepchild with Jens Bond remix – tight! Safe Passage is also badass, right up my sonic alley. MATT XAVIER, Railyard

Great EP, will support with club play and FM radio plays too! ROB PEARSON, Artform

Fantastic original and remixes. CHRIS FORTIER, Fade

Excellent release, thanks. SUMMER, Mo’s Ferry

Fantastic broken warehouse music. So good. LONGSHANKS, Subdivnet

All tracks are hot here – great work! JAMES PATRICK, Timefog

Great release! POINTBENDER, Guidance

We love all the tracks here! Remixes and originals are amazing! Full support from Mexico. SIGNAL DELUXE

DEEPCHILD PLAYS ADE 2013 (official!) + FREE DL!

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To celebrate the appearance of Deepchild on the 2013 Amsterdam Dance Event – Official Page (official!) program, for DJBroadcast International, we’re happy to offer a free, limited download of the currently unreleased “Bad Nutmeg”.

Play it loud!

More information about the ADE showcase can be found here:

http://www.facebook.com/deepchildmusic

Chicken Wings and Artistic Vulnerability as High Commerce

I’m sitting aboard Air Berlin’s morning-flight to Moscow, traveling with fellow dj’s Dave Vega and the inimitable Ewan Pearson – all 3 of us bracing ourselves for the wilds of Russian summer-hospitality and all it entails. Previous trips have involved their fare-share of surprises for the uninitiated – brothels, vodka, more vodka, pole-dancers, fried-bread and dried fish, starched white collars framing sunken eyes and thick necks, and breathtakingly beautiful women in heels which are entirely impractical to all by the highly-skilled.  If I live through further incarnations, I’ll be sure to learn the leathered mother-tongue, along with some Cyrillic. As things stand, my Russian history is in dire need of brushing-up, and my daily Deutschsprachen is keeping more than busy already.

I play LIVE tonight at Flacon Cube Club, returning tomorrow to play again in Berlin.

This month, on the eve of a upcoming (and tightly-booked!) Australian, New Zealand and US tours, I’m happy to be able to offer a couple of much-needed dj-mix updates, for your listening pleasure. Firstly, episode 6 of my Diversions radio-podcast series – my ongoing foray into all things ambient, experimental, contemporary-classical and dubwise. For me, Diversions is something of an exercise in unwitting musical anthropology, and an opportunity to weave together disparate threads of musical-influence, in a format less demanding and restricted than the deepchild ‘club’ template.  You can check episode 6 out here along with previous episodes.

Secondly, and focused squarely on the bass-bins, is a new dj-promo mix, ahead of the upcoming slew of shows. Take a listen here. On that note, I’m excited to be working with new management, in the form of the highly-respected Dan Cole, who’s currently overseeing booking and licensing-requests, and offering me further reason to ensure that my liver is in check in times of stress. Any and all Deepchild-related requests are best directed to him, via management@deepchild.com

Closer to home in Berlin, I’ve been willingly shackled to my DAW of choice, Ableton Live, working on making headway with mastering the new, and rather special Push hardware-surface, and generating new material for some new, rather lo-fi techno projects. I’ve been sifting through found-sound recordings via www.archive.org, recording the line-hum of my badly-grounded synthesizer collection, looping washes of static until they become mantras. And so it goes. Sonic anthropology, wading through the lives of others, ‘cross Bardos  and twilight realms. All whilst the Berlin sun (finally) beats down after a long, cold winter.

In the midst of increasingly busy times, I’m not only thankful for excellent management, but for unique community of friends – both those who continue to set the bar higher for artistic-integrity, and those who don’t perform music at all. Berlin’s utopic freedom can easily degenerate into myopic nihilism, were it not for the voices of solitude, sanity, and simple reminders that our ‘smears on the canvas’ are as ridiculous and inconsequential as they are needed.

I’m reminded, often, of talks with the very dear TJ Eckleberg, himself a brilliant artist – and, moreover, one who values ‘practice’ as  a central ‘dharmic’ choice, rather than a necessary evil. The older I become, the more I’m inclined to feel that ‘practice’, in a sense, is ALL there is. The practice we do for 5-7 hours a day with our instruments, our craft…the practice on stage, the practice spent on long-haul flights, the practice of every out-breath. The practice of going to sleep. The practice of learning to stop caring so much.

Perhaps it might be helpful to care a little less, and practice a little more?

“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one’s way anew from the materials at hand.”  - Lewis Hyde

When I was growing up, I was very-much sold the Anglo-Capitalist narrative that being an ‘artist’ was, in effect, being a ‘conduit for the divine’ – in a sense which implicitly denied that “non-artists” could access this special insight – that those with more mundane vocations and cares had nothing to add to the cannon. These days, I feel compelled that, as an artist, my ‘calling’ (if indeed this word is a helpful one – what of those who’ve never heard the ‘voice’?) is, at least in part,  to dismantle, to examine, to question this narrative.

The very same fables which suggests that artists are ‘specially gifted’ channels for the divine-voice is the story which sells consumer-goods to already full houses, and processed chicken-wings in buckets.

The very same voice which tells us we can ‘transcend’ or we ‘should transcend’ or ‘think bigger’ is the voice which implants and sustains neurosis of those learning the quiet joy of practice. I mean, god, what else do we want? If our dreams are always ‘too small’, how can our desire ever be satiated? There’s a darkness hidden in the shadows which demand ‘transcendence’ and increasing ‘abundance‘. What do these words REALLY mean? Are they useful, and are they kind?

On that note, some Dave Chapelle truth…

Much, too, has been spoken of about ‘vulnerability’ as being core to both honest artistic-practice, and any functional-relationship. On the flip-side, the cult of the ‘talent show’ or the ‘self-help’ blog sees a latter-day elevation of public confession and tailored vulnerability elevated to the realms of high-commerce – the post-human, the almost oddly invulnerable and codified. Tears and confessions as signifiers of ‘authenticity’. Public-confession of sins past and present as tickets to the Kingdom of  Saleability. Lines crossed, granted, by most of us, with some frequency.

I’m not interested in being callous or cruel, but there’s a corollary here, too, one I’m fascinated in following up – a particularly Western fascination with fetishising suffering, separatism, redemption, perceived ‘triumph’ over adversity – yet when ‘adversity’ doesn’t exist, the imperative seems, increasingly, to fabricate OR brutally construct it – to perpetuate the cycle of discontent, of consumption, under the guise of ‘authenticity’. There’s a tragedy here, and emotional poverty at play which is acutely dissarming.

The question remains, as ever, for the artist – perhaps my ‘suffering’ is legitimate enough – and perhaps it’s a reality which needs no justification, or clean and clear resolution or triumphant divinely-breathed artistic response.

Increasingly, too, I feel in deep debt (incase you didn’t pick it up) to artistic-cultures which embrace a sense of restraint, of silence, of leaving things unsaid. It feels like a necessary antidote to so much white-noise…

Perhaps, just perhaps our presence in the midst of practice and struggle is enough.