My own quest is a transmission of energy. Interview with Marc O’Callaghan of Coàgul

It is probably the enormous energy that first springs to mind when one sees Marc O’Callaghan for the first time at a stage performance of his project Coàgul. At the same time one has the impression that the powerful electronic music of the Barcelona based atist, who repeatedly and maybe a little prematurely has been compared to classic ritual electronica such as TG or early Coil, has arisen spontaneously – arisen out of a certain mood of simply following an inner necessity. The same goes for the performances and the drawings of this enormously active man. In O’Callaghan’s case, all this is not in contradiction to precisely conceived concepts, which show in the strong symbolism shaping the records. Perhaps this mixture of a spirit of improvisation and strong conceptualism is just right for a project that has long been dedicated to coagulation, to the matching and bundling of previously scattered energy shreds. When you’re listening to Marc, you can easily get the impression of an unstoppable creativity, and surely we will hear more of him and Coàgul in the future. Here now the English version of his first German interview.

You’re both a visual artist and a musician. You studied also at an art school, but I guess you did creative things before. How did it all start? What can you tell us about your origins and beginnings?

Well I suppose I could say that I have been doing so-called creative things since I have memory. I could tell you the archetypal ‘artist tale’ about being a very creative child since I have use of reason, that I was a chosen kid with superpowers sent by God with a holy mission on earth; and it would be true, but I prefer not to bore you with that. Let’s simply say that I cannot point a significant origin, I think it is a more or less vague ongoing process of what you unexpectedly go learning from here and there.

To what extent do music and artwork belong together for you? Is Coàgul nowadays a frame that covers them all up?

Music and artwork are both different ways to manifest ideas. One thing completes the other and vice

versa. In the case of Coàgul, when it started the artwork was more based on collages made with photocopies of Reinassence paintings. On the other hand I was doing these automatic drawings that later became my usual way of drawing. At some point I realized that Coàgul’s music and these drawings merged quite well together.

What lead you to chose Coàgul as name?

I was in search of a Catalan name that sounded trashy and ancient at the same time, like the names of some hardcore punk bands that I listened at the moment or as the legendary Catalan heavy metal band Sangtraït. So I wrote a very long list of potential names. But then I wanted that the name for this project also contained, in a more or less encoded fashion, the reason of why I was going to do what I was going to do. When I re-read the list, I suddently saw very clearly that Coàgul had to be the name, because I realized that my intention could be exactly defined by what in Hermetism is called coagulation: to re-unite what has previously been dispersed. My initial idea with this project was to produce songs that each one worked as a sort of accumulation or condensation of specific archetypes or universal ideas or cosmic principles or whatever you want to call it. So when one song is played, the listener gets in contact with that specific cosmic principle in all its splendour. The world where we live today seems to be all about dissolution and dispersion, so my intent was to summon back some sort of ‘necessary concentration’. I loved the idea of a name with several layers of meaning, that can be alternatively read by the profane and by the initiated at the same time.

There are certain genres in which references to the occult are quite frequent and in many cases it seems that it is only used as a prop (to make the music more interesting, to adhere to certain expectations that are connected with a genre). I always felt that Coil were one of the few artists who used references to magic(k) in a tasteful and original way and the way references can be found in your work also hint at a deeper understanding. Would you say that the Occult content is the major motivation for your work?

I would say that the Occult (or more accurately, Symbolism) is just the language I use to reach the aims of my work. In the expressive elements that I use, I try that besides the apparent common language or simply poetical meaning, they simultaneously refer to certain universal archetypes with which I like to play, to make them all have a place in the invisible long strain of primordial tradition, and to ‘hack’ this tradition in some way or another, trying to take an active part in the continual cosmogenesis of reality. But from time to time I realize more and more that it is not necessary to try to make my work look so esoteric to be really esoteric. In fact it is otherwise. And that’s where I think I failed sometimes in the past and where a lot of self-proclaimed occult artists keep on failing. I can be talking about very deep and cosmic problems with very superficial and mundane images, and viceversa. If ‘occult’ means ‘hidden’, what sense does it have to use that word if you just show it all? On the other hand I guess sometimes one cannot contain himself to vomit strings of symbols. The major motivation of my work is what I was explaining at the end of the previous answer, and the Occult might be just the medium, manifesting in a multiplicity of variations that generate the multiplicity of works.

Do you first of all follow your own quest or is the transmission of energy to the audience of the same importance?

My own quest is a transmission of energy to the audience.

I am interested in the relationship between the music and the underlying concept(s). What comes first when you start a new work?

There exist two lines or ways of work. One way (that could be called the dry way) consists in first localizing and wagering for a specific aim or idea, and then finding the words that give it consecution, and then making the synthesizer base that gives it the ‘physical body’ of sound to fullfill the construction of the song. The other way (that could be called the wet way) consist in taking some or several sensitive elements that are already wandering through the back of my mind (like some chords from an already existing song that I like, or a numerological concern for some rythmical proportion, or the fascination for some specific kind of sound, or the curiosity to explore the use of some determinate linguistical forms) and through the experimental conjunction of some of them I try to ‘decipher’ some feeling or idea that will trigger the final elements to fullfill the song. I indiscriminately use one way or another in function of my momentary state of being, or sometimes both converge in an equilibrate proportion. For example „La Forja Centrípeta“ and „Semanario Químico“ are totally made with the first way, and the „Ascensor Genital / La Mort És Dolça“ tape or some songs from „La Roda de la Justícia“ are made by the second way.

On “Semanario Químico“ the elements (fire etc.) play an important role and occur again and again in the lyrics. What can you tell us about the concept of that release? To what extent play ideas about alchemy a role in your work(ing)?

This record is about the vertical correspondence of all seven-numbered horizontalities: seven days of the week, seven planets, seven olympic gods, seven metals, seven body tissues, seven perfumes, seven electromagnetical behaviours. To summarize, seven ways or dispositions of being. Each one of these seven dispositions is composed by the combination of a couple of the four elements. That’s why in the third line of the verse of each song it appears a reference to a couple of elements. This points out to how the principle of four (the created material world, the static nature) with the addition of the three (movement, trascendence of duality) gives birth to the principle of the seven (action upon the world). So, ideas about alchemy play the same role in my work as does any other system of correspondences that enables us to connect the perennial tradition with the mundane things of everyday life, and to ultimately satisfy the universal need of the human being to live in consonance with the cosmic order and one day become God himself.

The term ‘ritual music’ is often used like a genre description. Would you call Coàgul a ritual project in the sense that the Performances are conceived as rituals?

Yes, completely. Much more that a specific theatrical aestethic, a ritual is a programmed social context in which ordinary time is interrupted in order to open a connection with the sacred time, a time that is some sort of eternal present. And yes, that’s exactly what I try to do in my performances.

Your music has been released in (very) small quantities. Is that because you feel that your music is only for a tiny number of people?

No, at all. If it has been like this for the moment it’s because of the labels who released the records, either because of their economic limitations or because of a conscious will on their side on making an exclusive hard-to-find product that might be more and more valued as time will pass by. I think otherwise, that the more people discover my music the more accomplished will be the aims that spawned it in the first place. The Gates of Heaven have to be crushed!

To what extent is the medium (i.e. tape, CD etc.) important for each work? Are there particular pieces that are only suitable for a specific medium?

The medium is important in the measure its temporality is. For example, the tape mechanism implies that it must be reproduced cyclically, in the sense that when you finish one side you are at the begining of the other. I see this as as symbol of the gradual relationship between contraries, a sort of Ouroboros. So when I recieve the proposal of releasing a tape, I search for a pair of opposites that give birth to each of the two songs/sides. To illustrate this with an example, I will tell you that right now I am working on two songs for a tape, whose lyrics will be written in the following way: each side will contain ten verses, and each verse will start with a syntagm and end with a question. When you listen to the question, if you change the side of the tape exactly at that moment, what you will listen in the other side will be the answer to that question. When I am going to release a vinyl, I concieve its concepts in a similarly dualistic way, but having in mind that in this case is more easy for the listener to skip between tracks. When it comes to the CD or directly mp3, I try to make songs that are more free in some sense, trying to come with a corpus of work whose parts function equally well when subjected to permutability, randomness and fragmentation. To put it in Deleuzian terms: the tape and vinyl would work in an orderly fashion and driven accordingly to an initiatic program, as a tree; the digital format would more likely work chaotically and driven by contingent necessity, as a rizome. Sometimes CDs also follow a program, but instead of cyclical is more a sort of a one way trip. Well in any case let’s say that format plays a relevant role as one of the elements that determine conceptually a work.

Besides this, each format implies a listening approach in terms of concentration. To listen a record in the computer will probably imply that the listener is doing other things at the same time, and to listen to a record on a vinyl player might encourage a more ritualized listening experience. But I guess this is so subjective and the exact opposite situation can happen aswell depending on the behavioural virtues and vices of the listener in question. But for example, with the last LP „Tot Encaixa!“ I decided to avoid to upload the whole album for online listening, mainly because I think that its songs require a more attentive listening to exeprience them as they are meant to be experienced. Also because the first song of each side contain very serious questions that I prefer that the listener percieve in a reflexive situation rather than in the dispersion and hyper-simultaneity of that chaotic psychic sea that the internet is.

Do performances and releases have the same importance for Coàgul? How would you explain the difference of your concepts in a live context or on a record?

They have exactly an equal importance in terms of quantity, but their are totally opposed in terms of quality: on a record the concepts are expressed as a doctrine, as a sacred text, as a theory; in a live context the concepts are expressed through a real-time experience (both for me and the audience), and totally dependant on the particularities of space and time, as the practical realization and actualization of the doctrine that have been previously exposed on the records. On the other side, I have to say that both directions can become the opposite when driven to their limit. When a live concert is so archetypal and timeless it can have all the attributes of the doctrine, and when a record is listened and used in the most functional way possible it can reach the same consequences of a ritual live action.

How essential is humour in your work? Do you think underground music needs more of it?

Besides that humour is a way of shortening the distance between the speaker and the receiver, I think its a way to suggest that you have nothing to hide, that you can show yourself as human-all-too- human as you are. When bands try to look too serious I think that they are communicating a lot of insecurity in themselves, probably without wanting it. When people pretends being so serious about what they are doing, they are suspicious to me. Of course I think it needs more of it. Laughing of oneself is almost a masochist deference or duty, an act of love, a way of putting yourself in a lower position than the watcher to show him or her that you are also made of the same flesh and bone.

By the way, what sorts of music do you listen to when you’re not creating your own one? Any secret tips?

I listen to all sorts of music. I try to be aware of what’s hype at the moment, because no mattter how much I avoid absorbing things from the current trends, that my envionment will always inevitabilly infleunce whatever I do. It’s a matter of connecting oneself with the zeitgeist… if you want to influence reality, whatever you do must be placed in tune with the parameters of your most immediate space-time context. Another exercice that I try to do as much as I can (and a ‘secret tip’ that I would recomend to everybody) is to force yourself to listen to the music that you dislike most at first glance. From time to time your taste will mature and your creativity will have a broader field of possibilities to explore. That’s why I love to watch these mainstream music video TV channels with these really awful songs whenever I got the opportunity. We have a lot to learn from shitty music, because in its core it is truly functional muzak, as it is proved by its effects on population and its self-sustaining capitalist endless chain of reincarnations.

You often use Catalan language in titles, poetry and paratexts. Is this mainly because its your mother tongue or is there also a regional cultural element of your origin that plays a role in Coagul?

Catalan is my mother tongue and it is the language in which I articulate my inner thoughts, but I’m not a Catalan nationalist at all (neither Spanish). If I value the use of this language is because its local implications: I am persuaded of the idea that if I use Catalan for the lyrics it connects my work with the local context, and this contributes in making that work a sort of an archival document of a particle of history or a specific time and space. In the beginning I used it simply because I was fascinated with the blood-and-iron sonority of it, that I discovered since I was a child through the band Sangtraït. At some moments I had in mind the universalist idea of using whatever language depending on the audience to which each work was oriented; and that’s why I released a couple of records in Spanish, because they where released by labels from Madrid, or also a split tape with Dvnkel Reich and as he used the Spanish language I sang in that language aswell to put my efforts in making that tape a more unitary work. The first Coàgul work was called „Wargasm!“ because it was intened to by addressed to the whole humanity. But from time to time I also realized that singing in Catalan gave a unique archaic folk character to the project, that could be also attractive for a non-Spanish audience for its exoticness; and from then onwards Catalan have been the vehicular language of Coàgul, to the point that now I see it as a sort of a holy language like Latin, that centuries after the language is already dead it is still used in the Catholic Church or in legal slang, that must be deciphered by whosever from other countries who wants to access the metaphysical revelations encoded in the lyrics. I also love the fact that, for the people around me, Catalan sounds so homely. And the fact that it works for such music is contemplated by them with hilarious disbelief. A friend once told me that through his first listening of Coàgul he restored his faith in the use of Catalan in music.

When I was in Barcelona my colleague (who is fluent in Spanish) was faced with the situation that some people preferred to reply in English rather than Spanish. What role does the Catalan language play (for you as well as for others)?

I don’t know anything about the situation of your friend, but I think this is a rather unusual case. Maybe these people preferred to reply in English because they thought it would be an easier and faster way to communicate with him, or maybe they took it as an opportunity to practise their English. That’s exactly what happens to myself when I’m working at the souvenir shop of the Cathedral, that as most people coming are tourists, I activate my mental automatic pilot in speaking English all the time to be faster and more expeditious in what I’m doing. Besides of this, the truth is that I don’t give much a shit about the Spanish vs Catalan controversy. Most people defending either one side or another are just plain assholes that have more in common between themselves (at the end they live the same way and they are trapped in the same close-minded mental schemes) than what both of the two supposedly-antagonical groups have in common with me or with the people I heart. Be it from one color or another, one tongue or another, one sign or another, economical lobbies are always the same shit: they dress themselves with the cloaks of idealisms or good intentions again and again, but at the end their only interest is to satisfy their boundless greed. Power sees no further than itself. Although as I already said Catalan is the language I have spoken since I was born and the tongue in which I think, in my day to day life I speak whatever tongue I feel more at ease with my interlocutor. I wish I could speak all existing languages.

Actually there’s a quite prolific underground music scene in and around Barcelona with bands, venues, labels and record stores, but its not as well known as it should be in other parts of the world. Do you think it needs something like a ‘Catalan Occult Psychedelia’ hype (compared to the term ‘Italian Occult Psychedelia‘, which was used quite often in recent years) to print your city’s name a bit bigger on the map?

I don’t think it could be possible that such ‘Catalan Occult Psychedelia’ can even exist, fristly because to be an occultist means you have to believe in some immanent or trascendent entities that can exist independently of humankind, and I think almost nobody in the Catalan music scene believes in anything beyond what’s human or material. Very few of us believe in any God. Neither I think the ‘psychedelic’ label can be applied, as on one hand the people practising psychedelic music are not very psychedelic in the metaphysical sense of the term, and on the other hand the people who can be considered truly psychedelic in eseence are not interested in psychedelic music at all (which I completely understand). Well in any case I don’t think there is any common stylistic denominator in the Catalan music scene as to use a stylistic label to refer to it, at least not now. If Barcelona’s name have to be ever printed bigger on the map I guess it will be for other reasons than for the credit of an hypotethic music style. It is plenty of diferent sub-circles of people making a lot of things, that’s true, but each one in it’s own way. There’s not any unity. But I think this is not a local issue, I think this is happening everywhere in the world right now because of globalization’s acceleration consequence of the hyper-simultaneity of the internet way of life. My position on that is that we should simply keep on doing what we really believe we have to do, and Time will tell.

As far as I know you plan a Split tape with Escama Serrada and a new album on Nekofutschata. What can you tell about these releases?

By the moment I’m writing this, the new LP on Nekofutschata is already out and available through TUT/RUR distribution. It is called „Tot Encaixa!“ and contains three songs on each side. The six songs were recorded during the same sessions as „La Forja Centrípeta“, in April 2014 at Barcelona’s La Cova De La Bèstia with the assistance of Daniel Muerte (the bassist of the Catalan punk band Una Bèstia Incontrolable). „La Forja Centrípeta“ was a very programmatic and conceptual album, and these six songs were more freely spawned little tunes with no previously thought destination. When „La Forja Centrípeta“ was already on its way to the pressing plant, I decided that I wanted to release these six songs in some way or another. At the same time and by total chance, I started to speak with Jürgen from Nový Svět through the internet. The way by which I got in contact with him is still blurry in my rememberance. On one side I remember that Christian Schoppik, a very cool guy I knew because he proposed me to go to play to Würzburg in January 2015, once told me about a secret Soundcloud profile of Jürgen. On the other side, Sergio from Escama Serrada revealed me that it was Ulla from Nový Svět who anonymously bought me some engravings and prints through my webstore to give to Jürgen as Christmas presents. Then I asked Jürgen to recommend me labels to which I could write with a proposal to release these six songs. He kindly recommended me a couple labels, but before I even replied him to say thanks he wrote me again saying that he wanted to release these songs himself and that he wanted to reactivate the Nekofutschata Music Cabaret again just for this reason. As being myself a huge Nový Svět fan since years ago (even before starting Coàgul), my joy and suprise in not only learning that they knew and liked my work but also that they were interested in releasing it was so big that there was almost no room in my heart for such immense emotion.

What can you tell us about the pieces on it?

The title track of the album was conceived in Spring 2014 as the soundtrack for a short film called „Hathor“, produced by the collective Ex Abrupto and by CopdeCap (the moniker of Zoë Valls, the daughter of Jordi Valls from Vagina Dentata Organ), in which I was also featured nude as a ‘dog-man’ being carried by a girl through a poppy field close to the deep Catalan village of Moià. This is also the context where the inlay photo was taken by the Ex Abrupto photographer Efrén Razquín. Later in Summer of that same year Ex Abrupto arranged a festival at Moià in which I participated as a resident artist, staying for a whole week in an empty room of an abandoned hostel painting its walls with motives related to folk tales of that rural area. By the end of the residency I performed a live action playing the „Tot Encaixa!“ tune for the first time. From the audiovisual register of that work, captured by the camera of the great artist and friend Adriana Petit, come the photograph of the mural painting featured as the artwork of the LP aswell as the video running throgh the net. Even as being a more miscellaneaous corpus of unrelated songs, all of them have in common that they are in some way or another a document of that time and space, and also that all of them are equally conceptually related to a more day-to-day situational and social ideas. The title track is concieved also as a sort of formulae or axiom that points to the synchronical nature of the universe. Like when you think of a specific person and then you bump with him or her on the street, or when it happens that whenever you look at the clock it always shows repeated numbers: 11:11, 23:23, 03:33, etc. The cosmic law of the invisible cords connecting the different coexsiting universes through symbolical correspondences. The ‘micro-macro’ law by which magick and religion function. And also the paranoiac feeling, understood as a sixth sense that helps us perceiving these correspondences when they are most hidden. I now understand that this same idea of an ode to the coincidences of life is at least a ‘karmic justice’ way of honoring back the same coincidential dynamics that finally drove to the materialization of this LP. There is also another video of the second track, called „Efedrina“ running through the net. The album will be presented with a specific live action in the context of the next Ex Abrupto intervention, that will be held in a palace where blessed Sant Antoni Maria Claret had a vision of the Virgin Mary, in the deep Catalan city of Vic. This will be the next 28th of May in the context of the „Paradazero“ festival.

What about the release with Escma Serrada?

The album with Escama Serrada is neither a tape nor a split. It is a collaboration in which Sergio and I started working long ago when we know each other, back in 2013 or so. The process consisted in the surrealist well-known techinque of the cadavre equis, by which each participant produces something and sends to the other so the other adds more things on it, accumulating layers and layers until it ends by being a work of the two. This album will be called „Sub Luna Regis“ and it is all about the joys and sorrows of the subconscious mind. Sergio suffers from insomnia and I was sonnambulistic when I was a kid, so we both have strong convinctions about these issue. I firmly believe that the world of dreams is an equally real world as the ‘real world’ that we percieve when we are awake, but that it works according to a logic so different from the daily logic that we cannot comprehend it at all. When you dream that you meet some person (alive or dead) in your dreams, I believe that you are really meeting that person in that parallel world. Ancient religions asserted that dreams where messages of the gods, specially the dreams that one remembers for the whole life. During some times I tried to keep record of every dream I had every night and of every live experience I lived during my every day life, with the intent that more and more the two worlds mixed in one single total reality: something like the gesamkunstwerk of experience. The title track „Els Regnes Subllunars“ is about that undeterminated realm where both sides of all (conscious and unconscious, day and night, good and evil, reason and folly) collide in some sort of a Faustian confusion. This track will be featured in a film by director Xavi Martínez Soler (who introduced us our common friend Eva), in which we will appear at some scene playing Escama Serrada & Coàgul in an abandoned factory amongst lost souls driven by the pulses of the music. It also contains a Roy Orbison cover that we are still not sure if we will leave in the album or not. In any case the nine tracks constituting the album are already finished by now, and at this moment we are searching for labels who might be interested in releasing it. So if you permit me I will take avdvantage of this opportunity to say that whosever is interested in releasing this recordings don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

Are there any other projects you’re already involved in?

Other recordings in which I’ve been recently working and that are planned to be released soon are: 1) A 90 minutes tape to be released by Demonodrome Records (the label of Víctor from Dvnkel Reich, +++, Assassani), containing very extended 45 minute long ritual versions of the coagular songs „Baixa Baixa Pel Camí“ and „Puja Puja Entre Les Branques“, intended to be a functional record for strictly liturgical use. 2) A 20 minutes tape to be released by Conjunto Vacío (the tape label of Sergi and Andrea from Dead Moon Records, Wind Atlas, Boston Pizza Records) in their batch series. This will be the tape I told you before whose lyrics will contain questions whose answers will appear if you switch the side of the cassette. It will be a sort of a thesis about the transformation of the urban zones by the process of gentrification, explained through its correspondence with a social application of the two opposite alchemical ways moist and dry, though twenty stages determined by the Arcanes of the Tarot. 3) The collaboration of Coàgul with noise-punk band Cadena, which we recorded after our live concert together at the Conjunto Vacío festival last Autumn and that we have the intention to release as a co-edition of several Spanish labels including Boston Pizza Records, Discos Enfermos, and Broca Records. This record is all about issues related to the metaphysics of urbanism and modern-world nihilism. 4) Another cadavre equis between Coàgul and the Valencian kosmiche synthwave band Polígono Hindu Astral, to be released by Cintas Cromo (the tape side-label of Burka For Everybody), which is almost getting the form of a new project called Polígono Coagular Astral and that is also related to the metaphysics of urbanism and the application of sigil workings by flanneuristic derivés through the geometrical association of planetary magic squares with the forms of the city maps.

Another Coàgul-related thing in which I’m working right now is a sort of an illustrated inventary in which I am listing and compiling all the performance art actions that I usually do in the live coagulations. It will be like an instruction book but also a sort of a ‘performance curriculum vitae’ that I plan to release through whatever independent publishing house that might be interested in it, or if not I will release it all by myself in the poor-means fanzine-style that I always used to do.

(M.G. & U.S.)

Fotos: Abel Castells, Adriana Petit, Efrén Razquín, Zoë Valls

Webseite von Còagul & Marc O’Callaghan

Còagul @ Bandcamp