> CRASH WORSHIP Interview by John Eden & Justin Mitchell (Issue 1, Ov Magazine)
Crash Worship formed in San Diego in 1985 as a studio project. Their music is a pounding, tribal, percussive affair. You can forget all about those droning backmasked ritual music CDs – THIS is what the joyful experience of ritual is all about. News has filtered down through the nett-work about ADRV’s (that’s Adoration De Rotura Violenta to you, pal.) live shows for years.
Their use of all four elements, flesh, blood and sheer unbridled ENERGY is well known in the U.S., though attempts at a European tour haven’t been too successful to date. Above all Crash Worship ADRV remind us of the participatory, magickal nature of live music, something that today’s performers have neglected completely.
John Eden and Justin Mitchell (of Cold Spring) spoke to Simon Cheffins of Crash Worship ADRV on a rare visit to the U.K.
JE/JM: So, can you tell me briefly how it all came about – how did Crash Worship start?
SC: It started as a studio project and we got through our first performances and we realised that we were onto something pretty different, at least where we were playing there was nothing going on like what we were doing. So we started to sort of scientifically look at the reactions of people to various things that we did and after a couple of years we were able to create a new system of…..
SC: No, not so much of playing, although we did that as well we created our own musical language after a couple of years. But we found ways of working with an audience and sort of manipulating their experience in a way. Just beyond standing and listening to a group or dancing.
JE/JM: How many people are involved?
SC: Right now there’s six musicians two full time drummers, one person who doubles on drums and working with the audience. We have a guitarist who, if you heard a tape or something, you wouldn’t think it was a guitar. People after our show will come up and wonder what all the sounds were if they didn’t see the guitarist. We normally have some pre-recorded sounds that we work in as well. And then there’s two guys doubling on vocals and audience manipulation. They work as a team pretty much, a two headed monster. And then often we’ll have people come with us to help out, to work with the audience. They’ll know what we’re doing – they’ll know the show.
JE/JM: OK, in what way do you “manipulate the audience”?
SC: Well, this one guy that used to come with us just used to do his own thing. He would be naked, or nearly naked, and run around coming up behind people and caressing them from behind and then disappearing hopefully without being seen. Or he would crawl around through people’s legs and try to dislodge them one way or another. Some people will grab people who are standing around the walls, around the perimeter, trying to be cool and safe and clean, and drag them into whatever’s happening in the centre.
JE/JM: So quite friendly, really.
SC: Oh yeah. We’ll bring out various gifts for the audience, like burning things or huge trays of fruit and we’ll always need help with that. Occasionally we have the to move the instruments down from the stage into the middle of the floor. We’ll bring all the drums down, like 20 drums, basically, and have a marching set up. We have everything portable – 3 drum sets we can wear and a portable guitar set up, battery operated. So we can leave the stage at any time and march down into the audience and we’ll have people come down with us, sometimes doing extra percussion, and passing out burning things and liquids.
JE:/JM: It sounds like, with a set up like that it would be quite difficult to get people to accept you, because I know you use things like fire in your set quite a bit. Certainly over here it’s very difficult to get standard rock venues to accept that kind of thing. So what kind of places do you play?
SC: Well nowadays we do the best we can to let the people know what’s going to happen, because we don’t want to go and not have the freedom to do what we do. We play warehouses if we can. Those are the best sort of spaces and often outdoors we can do what we want to. Some clubs in the States will let us do what we want to do because we make them money and so they just put up with whatever risk and mess that is left. But often if the communication breaks down before we get somewhere and they don’t know what’s going to happen and they are surprised and frightened when it does, they’ll shut us down. On our last tour we did a few colleges. At least half of them shut us down and we’re talking Fire Dept., Police Dept., coming and escorting us off campus.
JE/JM: Just in the middle of a show?
SC: Oh yeah.
JE/JM: Blimey. Do the police give you any trouble or do they just take you away?
SC: A couple of people have run into trouble and it’s not us normally. Actually in Denver, for about two weeks preceding out show there, there was some rumour of us being involved in some sort of satanic activity, which just does not happen at all. I think some reference may have been made to paganism and these christians think “pagan = Satan”. So these cops actually created this nazi satanic task force and they turned up at our show. They knew they were going to bust us before we even got to town. Lots of people have an overactive imagination, I think, and when you give them some reason to have an overactive imagination they just go crazy. They can see us as a vent for all these fears they want to put onto something so they can be afraid of it.
JE/JM: You said you weren’t satanic, but there’s obviously a magickal input into what you do. So what’s the story, Simon? I know it’s not something that’s easy to express…..
Affiliations with organisations?
SC: No, not any more. A couple of members of the group were involved with T.O.P.Y. U.S., and of course T.O.P.Y. U.S. has been very helpful to us throughout our whole career. Our first couple of tours were set up by people involved with that network. But there’s no affiliation now with anything like that. Everyone has widely differing interests and we actually don’t talk about it that much.
JE/JM: I think that’s good because it keeps it quite pure.
SC: Right. We used to be wrapped up in a lot of that sort of imagery and a lot of phrases come along with various releases of ours that were tied up in that kind of thinking. But we decided a couple of years ago that we would stop doing that in our “public relations”, but at the same time it happened with us. I was inspired by this group I heard about. The four musicians each spoke four different languages, it was an improvisational group. In a way that’s how we’ve become. Not so much improvisational all the time musically, but as far as how we focus and direct our events and actions are all understood in terms of direct experiences as opposed to experiences that are thought of in terms of various occult schools or philosophies.
JE/JM: So it’s more from the source than being intellectualised?
JE/JM: Tell me about when you decided to travel and study percussion in places like Nepal. How did you go about trying to learn the rudiments of traditional music in places like that and how has it been assimilated into the Crash Worship sound?
SC: Well, I think I’ve just been interested in that music, a lot of us have, and in various other musics and cultures from around the world. The music is of course so integrated into the culture anyway. I just went to see what was missing from my own experience of life, basically. And once you’re in a place like Bali, if you make an inquiry into something you’re interested in, the people really welcome you and are more than happy to show you their culture. I didn’t go there with the intention of studying music, exactly, I just went to learn and let whatever happens happen. But I found a music teacher and studied gamelan for a month or so. As far as assimilation, it’s not something that would be done intentionally, and then I will listen to something we’ve done sometime later and I’ll hear some gamelan in there or some Moroccan drumming or something like that.
JE/JM: Have you ever met someone who’s into Crash Worship and understood the sources and where you’re coming from?
SC: Yeah, I think a lot of people who are into any sort of independent or alternative music in the States, I don’t know about here, are interested in all these other things from around the world as well. Not so much “world beat”, but especially a lot of the African and Indian music.
JE/JM: What kind of people come to your shows?
SC: All sorts. It’s a pretty diverse audience, which is good because it’s hard for people to really understand where we’re coming from and we don’t come from any specific genre of independent music. So it’s all it’s people from all sorts of different types of music will come to see us. Some punks, some people who go to raves, Industrial types.
JE/JM: What kind of experience do you want them to have?
SC: Well, I just know what sort of experience I want to have and that’s what I go for. I think a lot of the time I’m very self conscious, always wondering what people are thinking. I walk on egg-shells a lot of the time and when I play at one of our shows I become the opposite of that. I feel a power that’s inherent in me, myself and everybody.