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Nathan Howdeshell – The Collapse Board Interview

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To backtrack to the hallucinogenic thing for a second, there’s a documentary coming out soon by the same guy who did the Esoteric Agenda and Kymatica films I was talking about on shamanism, art and consciousness.

Oh my god, amazing! I just saw an incredible movie its Werner Herzog’s new film Forgotten Cave Of Dreams. They find a cave and in it is the first art ever. It’s the first example of cave art; it’s the oldest traceable example of cave art. It’s in 3-D. Ancient art is so incredible. It’s like how amazing they found the first moment of art as far as they can trace back.

Art and music have always been here, it’s always been used as a communicative tool and to share information, tell stories. I had a discussion with Ian MacKaye [The Evens/Fugazi/Minor Threat] once about how people used to communicate with drums and things.

There’s so much to say about that. That’s definitely something that’s always rang true maybe even throughout collapsed civilizations that have nothing else to resemble us except that.

If you go to a third world country the culture can be vibrant and the people sing and dance even when they don’t live in the greatest conditions, it’s a universal energy-changing, consciousness-raising thing. Look at slavery in the early days of the US, slaves used to sing songs to communicate with each other, Ahmir from The Roots was telling me about it once.

Oh yeah, wow! One of my most cherished albums I own is called The Mississippi State Prisoners. It’s a record recording that Alan Lomax did with a group of prisoners in Mississippi that were about to be put to death for breaking some kind of slavery laws. They were allowed to sing before they were put to death and they wrote songs to their wives, their children. It’s all acapella and you can hear them hitting their chains against the wall for percussion.

That is amazing!

It’s the most heartbreaking recording I’ve ever heard honestly. My copy got stolen four years ago, it was horrible. I now have a double seven-inch version. I want to write about it somewhere because it’s truly a lost album that’s … you could listen to it like an opera. These guys are writing these songs and they’re ultra-personal. This was at a time when slaves were being persecuted. It’s like a goodbye love song. It’s incredible.

Make a zine about it or write about it for Collapse Board.

I would love to. I was writing Everett about how I’d love to but … writing about music is … it seems like a challenge to me personally. [You should do it, dude. Long or as short as you want. About anything – Ed]

Why is that?

There’s so much to write about. What aspects of a song do you write about? Do you write about how much the vocals are great? Do you write about the album artwork? It’s like how many options are there? Like what aspect do you choose to write about? If you have a paragraph to write about the song, what aspect do you choose? What aspect of an album do you write about? That to me is stressful.

That’s exactly why I don’t write reviews or don’t write about albums. I like to interview those that create things and hear their stories and experiences with these things. I don’t want to add my own comment because really my opinion doesn’t really matter to anyone else but me — people should make up their own minds. With Everett and I, we had a chat about how he used to turn to reviews in magazines first and read that and how I was the opposite and I’d turn to interviews and read that first. People are drawn to what they are and for me I’m not interested in reviewing, at least not in any way that I’ve found so far.

I feel that at the end of the day if I ever agree with an album review … maybe I sound like a hippie but, I don’t view music as a competition at all. Music and art is something that’s given to us that should never be viewed as competition. For it to be viewed as competition is very destructive. Shit like the NME giving something a star rating is absurd! How do you rate an album? If they’re going to rate an album then why aren’t they going to give a Van Gough painting a rating. Why isn’t there a rating for a Michelangelo sculpture? It’s ridiculous. First of all, how do you judge creativity or someone else’s creativity? Besides judging someone else’s creativity, how do we create a scale that we’re all supposed to follow? It’s ridiculous. [You shouldn’t ever be judging someone’s creativity. You write around it, and to accompany it – Ed]

Exactly that’s my feelings. It took me so long to get to that point though. I spent 10 years reviewing records and live shows and then when I started to get into my spirituality project and started nurturing my creative side more something clicked and one day I realised I could no longer do it. I felt so bad for a long while. Whenever I reviewed things though, I always tried to find one thing positive about whatever I was reviewing because I found it hard to judge others art. Now I only concentrate on focusing on things I enjoy, I feel like why waste my time or words on things I don’t enjoy. I’d rather get attention for things I think are amazing rather than things I don’t like.

If you decided to subscribe to an artistic scale, whatever you do, at some point you’re going to be let down because it’s never going to be right because there is no right answer.

Yeah.

If I went to talk to the people that review records for Rolling Stone and they gave the Kings Of Leon album a four star review … I don’t understand where that power comes from. Do these people have to go to college? At the end of the day who really listens to that! It’s ridiculous.

I know for me I’ve never found bands I’ve totally fallen in love with via reviews.

I do feel like that at least in America a lot of people do actually listen to reviews. You find that the successful reviews mimic the success of a song on the radio or financially in a single market or whatever the fuck which is kind of creepy.

Even though I have had stuff published in a larger magazine like Rolling Stone and written for many other publications I’ve still always felt that I wasn’t part of that and that industry — I’ve always felt the outsider.

Oh yeah, me too. I am absolutely not interested in mainstream music at all in anyway. I don’t care about mainstream music at all. It’s pretty much mostly boring and it doesn’t need my support. There’s so many people that obsess over it and buy that already, it doesn’t need any of our support! The Black Eyed Peas have six million other fans, I don’t need to buy a BEP CD and it doesn’t even matter at all. There’s something weird about pop music. I do not understand it at all. Punk music or music that’s not pop is like art. That’s how I feel about the industry. I really didn’t like to think that people were told what to do creatively and musically. It makes me sad to think that there’s people whose kids do shit like American Idol and shit like Britain’s Got Talent; they do all these stupid things when they really truly want to make music and they do something like that and think it’s going to get them all of their dreams and hopes, they do it and they’re told they need to alter the way that they are or that they need to change something. It’s such a weird situation.

I thought it was so rad when you started your own record label towards the end of last year. How’s it feel to be able to put out all your friends’ music and stuff that you believe in just because you want to?

I feel so lucky. I gotta say, I am very interested in creativity and spirituality and this bigger picture of us expressing ourselves — I believe that that is the secret to life. We can do anything we want to do we just have to learn how to turn that trigger on. It’s all about passion. There are so many people in the world that want to make music but they don’t get the privilege. There’s a lot of kids that grow up that don’t get music lessons or their parents would never want them to play music — I mean look at my situation growing up. It’s kind of a bummer. It’s a sad situation. To be able to blindly just say to a young band that I just want to put out what you do because it’s rad and without any bullshit like typical record label stuff about having to make money back. To pick a band up and just go, “I think you’re good and I don’t care what anyone else says”, that to me is exciting!

Illustration: JR

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