Sunday, May 4, 2014

Interview with Erik of Kama Rupa

Kama Rupa is an interesting name. If you do a Google search on it, you come up with a few leads. You're led to Kamarupa, the first kingdom of ancient Assam in Northern India from 350 AD to around 1150 AD. That one doesn't make very much sense in context of this interview, though I am now somewhat better versed in ancient kingdoms. The second, and more relevant, thing I found myself drawn to was the sanskrit compound word "Kama-Rupa," which translates to "Desire Body." It's a bit of an puzzler though, as Desire Body signifies more along the lines of the part of the body in which desire as well as mental and psychical functions are held, for lack of a better term. Once a person dies, the Kama Rupa is the part of the body that can explore and learn from astral worlds. Loosely speaking, the Kama Rupa is the spiritual part of a human being.

It makes sense in context of the Kama Rupa group, which does not less of a band, and more of a collective. The majority of my experience with Kama Rupa is through their sonic output. They recently released a fantastic cassette on Ascetic House (which you can still probably pick up from distributors or places like Heaven Street in Brooklyn or Mount Analog in Los Angeles) but have been releasing sound documents since 2010.

The definition of the Desire Body makes more sense in light of Kama Rupa's music. There are waves of noise, yes, but there is also a spiritual and ritualistic aspect to the music. To be honest, I have not been able to find some of the recordings, such as a single-sided 12" acetate on Blind Prophet that came out for Tesco USA's 10th anniversary. I've had luck with finding most of the Kama Rupa cassettes, though due to the extremely limited nature of some releases, I am still on the look out (and probably will be for a while). This does not take from the experience though. For me, it actually makes the object at hand as well as the listening experience more precious. Where will you dig to find gold?

Kama Rupa's last cassette was made by Erik Proft, Sean Ragon, and Paul Wolftyr and is a further demonstration of a collaborative ethos. There is little on the internet about Kama Rupa and that is part of the appeal. Unlike usual, I will not be including links, as I think the search is important. That said, your first step may come a little bit easier with Erik as your guide

Jordan: When did you start Kama Rupa? Did you begin by performing live or recording material?

Erik: Kama Rupa was formed inside a locked door inside a squat in the Lower East Side. We started out as a sort of discussion group. We would cook food, drink wine and listen to unhealthy amounts of Zero Kama. Our discussions turned to action and our actions led us to play our first show at the Red Light District. I don't think at the time we considered ourselves a band. I'm not sure if we do now, actually. 

J: There seems to be a changing cast of people involved in Kama Rupa with you as the sole member. How does the lineup change? Is it a conscious decision that depends on the music or more of a logistical thing?
E: Kama Rupa (the outward sonic element) has three main members. Out of the three of us, none are obligated to partake in any mundane recording, but must live our lives according to our codes. We do tend to collaborate with many (like-minded) individuals from various walks of life. We don't want to be stuck in our own little world with our own little belief system. We want to grow, nurture, adapt, and destroy. The sonic documentation of Kama Rupa is nothing more than an aftershock. A boarded up window looking into a long abandoned building. 

J: Many of your previous releases have been only available in small quantities. What was your reasoning behind doing that?

E: Our releases are mainly in small quantities due to the fact that there are few people in this world who get us and fewer who work with us. We don't just hand you the information. You have to fight to understand. We have to fight to understand. We have pressed 1,000 copies of one album, and 24 copies of another. We don't want to jump on every offer we get from all the 'here today/gone tomorrow' cassette labels. We are all grown men. We've taught our children what we have learned. None of us care whether or not you have our records collecting dust in your Ikea shelving units. 

J: Have you ever thought about reissuing some of your earlier releases, like the single-sided 12" on Blind Prophet?
E: I don't see us reissuing anything ever. Our recorded output was made for a specific time and place. It would be counterproductive and meaningless otherwise. Kama Rupa is not a band in any egocentric sense. We are not looking for any sort of recognition or notoriety. Once we're gone, we're gone. The record you're talking about specifically is very important to us. We made them specifically for the 11/11/11 Tesco USA 10th anniversary festival. We put them together in the back room right before our set. The vinyl was still warm and the hand painted covers still wet by the time they were being sold. That was a once in a lifetime event. 

J: There's a consistent theme of runic knowledge and ritual. Is this a big part of Kama Rupa?

E: We all feel an absolute affinity for the runes, but we try to minimize their usage in KR. It's absolutely there, but we don't wish to use them as a marketing ploy. Our records are literally saturated in their various meanings even if their image is absent. 

J: What aspects of Runic knowledge, Northern Mysteries, and Rituals are interesting to you? How did you begin learning about them?

E: I do perform my own personal rituals, but do not wish to speak deeply about them to a generalized public for fear of ending up on the 10 o'clock news. That being said, currently my rituals take me well outside of my comfort zone. Know the Hel-Runes. Halju-runas. Mysteries of death. 

J: Are there any books that you would recommend for someone interested in learning more about Runic Knowledge, Northern Mysteries, or Ritual?

E: I'm not used to talking very broadly on the subject. These are very personal subjects to me and I rarely verbalize them. Perhaps that is why we (KR) tend to create records and not pamphlets. I'd hate to recommend a book to someone who is not yet ready to read it.  I think I got more out of a book called 'The Story of My Heart' by Richard Jefferies then the majority of widely accessible runic texts.

J: Have you ever thought about writing about what you learn or do you already write about your learnings?

E: I've have written an article for Hex Magazine about an experience I had while working the cranberry harvest. I don't spend a good amount of time writing. I have ideas and the most natural way for me to communicate them to both myself and others is through "music". 

J: You recently put out a cassette on Ascetic House with the tracks "I Don't Want To Know" and "Death Rune." Can you tell me a bit about how you recorded the songs and what you were thinking when you created them?

E: "I Don't Want To Know' was a mantra I came up with after a year of dead end relationships, jobs, and musical projects. I was surrounded by snakes. Constantly being lied to. When you look into someones eyes and see they're lying to you you can either choose to be offended, or not care. I chose the latter and walked away from these people. By doing so, I strengthened other relationships around me and awarded myself a better quality of life. "Death Rune" is a rune poem written and performed by Paul Wolftyr. It deals with what I briefly mentioned before, Halju-Runas. We recorded both tracks at Heaven Street Records in NY late at night after a few incantations and bottles of wine. 

J: That release enlisted the talents of Paul Wolftyr and Sean Ragon. How did you guys end up deciding to collaborate on the release?

E: Sean Ragon is a long time collaborator with Kama Rupa debuting his talents with us on 11/11/11. Since then, he has been a staple. Paul I know from a certain underground Heathen organization. There would be no better person to bring you a rune poem.

J: What is the picture on the album cover? I see a man in a robe with a Kama Cross, but where is this?

E: Could be anywhere at any time. It feels to me a prison or maybe even a sort of self exile. Perhaps it represents the immediate feeling one gets while being lied to. It's open to interpretation. There is no right answer.  

J: Do you get to perform live often? Do you enjoy that aspect?

E: We do not perform live often at all. It's hard to say whether I enjoy performing or not. I've been a musician for many years, so my mind is geared towards performing live more than perhaps the others involved. Still, do I enjoy playing Kama Rupa live? I'd have to say no. I think of KR as a less social form of communication than a show can capture. Right now I'd say the best way to listen to Kama Rupa is at home. Preferably alone. But all this might change. We will play live again. Maybe one day we'll figure out how to project these thoughts more thoroughly in a live session.  

J: What all is in the future for Kama Rupa?

E: There is a cassette featuring 4 studio tracks and our live set from 11/11/11 that will be out any day on Lust Vessel from Japan. Also, expect a new full length within the year. This one will be very different from the others and features some very interesting collaborators. 

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

E: I appreciate the chance to speak about these things. I very rarely get the opportunity. Hopefully my answers weren't too ominous. Thank you so much! 

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