They don’t make bands like Black Science anymore, that’s for sure.
Which is more than a cheap way of describing the odd, somehow familiar-future-fueled space rock made by these Pacific Northwest mutants. Quite literally, Black Science is no more.
Somewhere between out introduction to the band, via “Cosmodemonic & Beyond,” a bizarrely singular moon-and-mind-rocking LP, and their latest – and seemingly last – blast, “An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever,” Black Science decided to put their beakers down and let the vacuum-tubes of their alien amplifiers cool down.
Some might think of this as a shame. Some might wish more weird-beard, 100%-geeked out lunar orbits from Black Science, and we have sympathy for this view. Space-lord knows, we’ve found ourselves wishing the echo of “An Echo” would continue to echo – it’s a steel-shined spin through the outer, gurgling reaches of rock and roll mythology, with a gravitational pull located equidistant between the yet-to-be-defined dark matter and the Earth-bound inner-sky-gazing of, say, being guided by voices.
Then we thought of the album’s final, detonating launch code, “Our Sentence Is Up.” Was it our old friend, planned obsolescence, all along?
Black Science has ended, as all things must end, though they undoubtedly will continue, as all things will continue. Life and death. Art and science. Darkness and light. Boobly-woobly synths and sick, loud guitars. “So it means oneness of the duality. Not two, not one. This is the most important teaching.”
The information-overload that defines Black Science’s recorded output will continue to inform – those attracted to the unpacking and decoding of the DNA running through the great music that has so enhanced our lives through all these years will find much to love about Black Science. Perhaps most intriguing, Black Science unpacks and decodes it all for you (as evidenced by the length of our chat below) – and the end result is only the deepened mystery of the cosmic, of the music of the spheres, of the boobly-woobly synths and sick, loud guitars.
Keep your satellite of love tuned in to future transmissions from Black Science’s John Gillanders, who was kind enough to respond – beautifully, at great length – to our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.
What does the term “occult” mean to you? What does the concept of magic mean to you? How do these definitions manifest themselves in your life? How have your own definitions of these words evolved over time? Despite the ways in which you might gauge your own understanding and interaction, what still remains misunderstood, confounding or frustrating to you with regard to magick?
Well, you could define occult in a lot of different ways, and people do. The term occult stems from the word occluded, so in a pinch it can be summed up as the study of things that are hidden, and when you think about it, for any human, that’s the majority of the universe. People are thinking around you all the time and you can’t pick up on any of these thoughts, but you’d be hard pressed to get anyone to argue that it’s not happening. Astronomers tell us that something like 98% of the universe is invisible to us and is comprised of what they refer to as dark matter and dark energy. I find the methodology on that fairly sketchy, but it’s fascinating none the less.
At the heart of it though, I’d say a prototypical magickal practice would involve two basic components. One, making contact with extra-dimensional forms of intelligence, which I’ve found I can do through things like sex magick and astral projection. A lot of occultists just completely gloss over that because they don’t want to sound like they’re nuts, but that’s the most important aspect. Crowley was channeling entire books. Using sigil magick techniques largely credited to Austin Osman Spare, I can put myself in light sex and weed trance and have what classic occultists would refer to as a “conversation with my holy guardian.” It’s right there in the literature and it was happening for quite a while before my rational mind would accept it. So yeah, in a way that’s how my practice has evolved over the years. I’ve gone from being in complete disbelief to being more and more comfortable with the constant high strangeness. I listen more now. Whatever the fuck I’m communicating with, beings from the Sirius star system, grey aliens or what have you, they know things about the world I exist in that I decidedly don’t. They’ve demonstrated this to me over and over and over and over again. They’ve told me they exist “outside of time,” and that they’re me somehow. Certainly a level of precognition going on. I have a lot of psychic dreams.
Just saying things like that makes you sound like you’re on the complete lunatic fringe to most of humanity, but it’s something I taught myself how to do by reading books and was recommended to me by other people, so you know, I’m not sure how that can honestly be considered crazy by any conventional definition. There was a period when I first started doing this where these, what I call hypnagogic light entities, were installing updates in my brain when I woke up in the middle of the night. Information moving faster than I could even come close to processing. This went on regularly in the hypnagogic state (between dreams and sleep) for roughly six months. Then one night these entities were proud of themselves, as if they’d constructed something, a link. Telepathic communications software. I didn’t honestly get it, but soon thereafter I started chatting with them. It took me another several years to truly believe that it was happening.
The other primary component that would go into a basic magickal practice would be casting spells, for lack of better terminology – projecting sigils as one might call it. This involves trying to change the universe in accordance with your will. Basically it’s the concept that you can influence outer reality with inner gestures. Again, completely crazy things to think about from a Western perspective, but if you’re looking at it from the point that we’re all tied together inwardly and that matter is comprised of consciousness, it makes perfect sense. I’ve done a lot of this, and in all honesty, it’s very difficult to judge the results in any kind of scientific manner. Maybe in another ten years. I can say that your life becomes an increasing amount of impossible synchronicities and that you begin to expect them. You start to realize that this whole thing’s basically a sort of dream. Again, incredibly hard to accept for someone with a more materialist upbringing. I mean, I’m a guy from Ohio who grew up listening to rock music, drinking beer, and playing basketball. That’d be the other thing – I didn’t choose magick, it chose me. Long story that involves spirits awakening me from a sort of hypnotic trance and telling me to pursue magick. Sounds odd, but again, nothing uncommon at all. I’m not the first to report this type of summoning and I won’t be the last.
Those two components however would be considered your low magick. Your high magick would be the pursuit of whatever it is you’re passionate about in the world, or maybe just figuring out what that is in the first place. The low magick should be fueling the high magick.
As for things that are frustrating, I’d go with the church slandering the occult to the point that everyone thinks it’s Satan worship. There’s a reason the term witch hunt exists. I look at a lot of metal bands and think … you have noooooooooooo idea what you’re talking about, at all. Summoning your “holy guardian angel.” Not super dark or evil, but rather Jesus-y in all actuality. Sorry, metal dudes.
Where do you think your interest in and attraction to what we might broadly term as “the esoteric” stems from? Have you always felt more or less “out-of-step” with the world around you? Can you recall your earliest memory of having the thought that there is something more to our surroundings, power in the unseen?
Psychedelic drugs. That’s where it started. I have an abnormally strong reaction to things like LSD and mushrooms. I see what I jokingly refer to as “transdimensional demon lords” everywhere. My entire micro-verse is bombarded with what I can best describe as rapidly mutating transcendent art. I turn into living, breathing art which moves and changes faster than I can possibly process, and there always seems to be an interaction or communication going on. Like I’m staring into the face of a higher intelligence and it’s imparting information into me on a subconscious and sometimes direct level. The best way I could communicate what this is like visually to someone is by showing them this painting by Luke Brown called “Baphomet.”
I see shit like that. Everywhere. I’ve also had the typical “thousand eyed god within” visions that you see in the works of people like Alex Grey, before I ever saw those paintings. I did mushrooms once when I was 18 and didn’t have the ability to perceive the world in the same way ever again. There’s just no accounting for that kind of thing. If you saw it for two minutes you’d be contemplating radical ontology as well. Very abnormal reaction, but then, you read about people doing DMT, which I’ve never actually gotten ahold of, and it’s like, well, a lot of people see similar anomalies on that. In a way smoking pot for me is like taking acid. When I do that and meditate, or ganj-i-tate as I like to call it, I see incredibly intense visuals and hear music that I can typically control to a certain degree, in my head.
So yeah, psychedelic drugs randomly lead me into astral projection, as my mom had experimented with it in her youth and still had the tapes and books. I could talk about that for hours as it’s so fucking bizarre and flies completely under the radar. In a nutshell, you intentionally put yourself in a sleep paralysis state and attempt to separate your consciousness from your body.
Ten years later, I had this hypnotic awakening experience where I became a “sorcerer” or “magickian” or “mystic” or “shaman” or whatever you want to call it. Something in me snapped and I realized I had these abilities but was afraid of them and ultimately pretty much wanted them to go away so I could lead a normal life. This is where most of my misery was stemming from at that point. It’s what people in the shamanic world would refer to as “submission to a higher order of knowing.” It was instantaneous and seemingly tied to another astral encounter in my youth where I was pulled from my body into what I can best refer to as a psychic sky temple by myriad versions of me.
What can you tell us about your own personal musical evolution? What was the first music to truly capture your attention in your adolescence? How have your feelings about that music changed over the years? What were some of your earliest musical obsessions? How do you think your own sense of musical appreciation has progressed over the years?
I grew up in the 90’s in suburban Youngstown, Ohio, pre-internet, but my mom lived in Seattle so I spent my summers here. There was a bit of an awareness of the underground because of that, but not much. I was fortunate to grow up during a time where artier shit was being pushed by the mainstream more, so that helped. As I moved to cities like Columbus, Ohio, and later Seattle, in young adulthood I realized how vast the musical sphere truly is. I listen to so much music these days it’s preposterous because I write music reviews and have people sending me shit, and I’m completely addicted to buying music online. I actually spend a lot of money on downloading music despite the fact that people give me music for free, and I browse the library and grab random stuff I’ve maybe kind of heard about there as well. I have to constantly listen to new stuff. It’s a compulsion.
The first psychedelic music I got into was like Monster Magnet, Sonic Youth, Kyuss, old Verve albums, Meat Beat Manifesto, and The Future Sound of London. The first time I ever ate acid (I’d done mushrooms) my friend kept playing Dopes to Infinity on repeat. I mention that because despite listening to so much shit over the years I think you can fairly easily hear all of those influences in Black Science. In a way I think what I was trying to do was take everything that I think sounds cool when I’m high and cram it into one band. Stoner metal, shoegaze, noise rock, and weird electronic stuff.
Truthfully, we were always just trying to be a 2012 version of Pink Floyd. Definitely the band everyone in that project could agree on more than anything else. Take a simple song, insert jam here, repeat. What we didn’t realize is that the more we jammed the more structured it got which isn’t what we were planning but what we just found ourselves doing intuitively.
Oh, and I used to yell in an incredibly angry neo-spiritual rant metal band called The Nemesis Theory before I started Black Science. Completely different vibe as I didn’t write any of the music in the project. Worth a listen though and you can grab those albums for free at www.dmioccult.bandcamp.com. It’s funny, the occupy movement came around and I was suddenly like, maybe we were onto something with that.
At what point did your interest in the occult and your interest in music intersect? How would you describe your initial attempts are bringing the two realms together? Do you feel that music holds a special place in the hearts of those seeking magical power? What is it about music that makes you feel powerful? What is it about magic that makes you feel powerful?
Well, oddly, before I started actually directly dabbling in magick, I did in fact attempt a rudimentary experiment which was partially inspired by an article I read about William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. I made an album comprised entirely from samples of local metal bands and I honestly had no idea what the intent was. They were bands The Nemesis Theory had played with or liked. I guess I was trying to harness the psionic energy in the local metal scene or something. Odd idea, and one of the most brutal records I’ve ever made, as it’s you know, remixes of metal bands. Anywho, I called it Sorcery and the first night I played the final mix, during the first song, the volume on my stereo jumped to full, scaring the living shit out of me. I went over and turned it down but like five minutes later it happened again. If you think I was startled the first time, this time I was perfectly terrified. It was so sudden and loud, and also, you know, shouldn’t have been happening.
It was during this period that I started to conceptualize what I was doing as a musician more precisely. I’d been making sampler driven psychedelic music for years. I started when I was roughly 19. It’s a project I eventually called Thanaton (after the Paul Laffoley painting), but I almost never play shows doing that stuff although I’m thinking about maybe doing some in the near future. It’s music I make primarily just to fuck with my own head. Eventually I realized that what I’m doing is a summoning ritual of sorts. It’s an offering to the aforementioned transdimensional demon lords – I’m trying to draw them into my world. Works when you’re high, too, but mainly for when you’re tripping.
I actually did an experiment with this. I gave myself a low dose of psilocybin intentionally so I could kind of gauge whether or not it was the drugs or the music that was spurring the visions. Sure enough, I wasn’t getting any visionary stuff but when I put the music on, for the album’s duration I had my prototypical psychic invasion thing happen. A swirling pit of infinity even opened up on my floor on cue. Then when the album was done, the visions stopped and I went right back to normal low dose perma-grin territory.
So yeah, that’s the intention to what I do. It’s a type of auditory spiritual technology designed to put the user into contact with whatever the fuck otherworldly forces I’m in contact with. It works on me and that’s the point. Does it work on others? I have no idea – give it a whirl. Me suggesting this potentiality might be the most important part of the whole equation. Research into psychedelic drugs has been fairly impossible to get done although it’s starting to happen again. Obviously things like hyper-maximalism, delay pedals, drone, reverb, echo, etc., sound cool when you’re high or tripping, but you can’t get research done to prove something like that at this point. It’s an obvious fact. Why do you think psych bands have been doing it for so long now? What I’m trying to do is create a tear into another reality via your subjective perception of time. Psychedelics might be referred to as a time decelerator to a certain extent. I’m creating a wormhole distortion by which “they” can get in.
As far as magick making me feel powerful, well, as much as I have psychic abilities that most other people don’t at this point in human history, I’m still honestly trying to figure out what to do with them. It’s an ongoing process. Moreover, it really makes me feel like I know absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Very humbling. Becoming acceptant and comfortable with the idea that you don’t know dick and you never truly will as a human is the key. Ego destruction. You’ve got to embrace the mystery. It’s all pretty hilarious if you look at it right.
How would you summarize the approach of Black Science over the years? Of which things that you accomplished as a band are you most proud? In which areas do you feel the band still had fertile soil to till? What was the most surprisingly gratifying experience you had with Black Science?
Well, what’s funny is that when the band first started out, I kind of thought it’d be more about my songwriting, which you can hear on our first lo-fi album. We weren’t even honestly a band at that point, just some guys recording and we needed another member at least. We realized pretty quickly that the band should probably be far more about my guitar playing rather than my songs.
I think we could have done more, but it had run its course. My brother Adam (guitar player/vocalist) is moving to Edmonton with his girlfriend and the drummer is having a kid. Kind of both at the same time. At some point, I’d say I’ll probably have a new band that sounds kind of like Black Science and plays some of that material. I might call it Black Science – haven’t honestly decided.
As for a surprisingly gratifying experience, I wanted to play a show in Portland last summer and I asked my friend Vivian from Redefine to help me book something. It ended up being one of the coolest shows I’ve ever played, or have ever been to for that matter. It had performance art dancers, psych bands and a general occult theme, based on her knowledge of my interest in mysticism. Midday Veil, Swahili, Billions and Billions, and Golden Retriever played, so, you know, radtastic. So yeah, Emily (from Midday Veil) and Vivian are going to be doing two of those a year now apparently, and the fact that I unintentionally inspired that kind of blows my mind.
What are your thoughts on the final Black Science album, “An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever”? What did you hope to accomplish with this album, and how does the final, released piece of art differ (either positively or negatively) from your original intention? What can you tell us about the song “Anywhere”? What do you mean to communicate with the words, “Same vision/Same faces/Same programs/Same motivations”?
I think it turned out phenomenal, but more than anything, I just feel a sense of progress. That’s the fourth full-on studio album I’ve made. I’ve made tons of lower-fi electronic stuff, but that’s fairly easy to record. So, the second Nemesis Theory record was better than the first in my mind, and the first Black Science studio album (Cosmodemonic & Beyond) was better than that by a long shot, and then Echo is better than that, so there’s definitely a sense of progress there in my mind, which is important. Same deal with the art. I’ve been getting better on the visual end as well. I did all three Black Science layouts and again, definitely a sense of progress.
The song “Anywhere” is actually the only song in that band that was initially written by another member, my brother Adam. He demoed the chord progression, concept and everything. Of course, I completely re-wrote the lyrics and added a bunch of shit to the arrangement, but it was his baby. It’s actually about the corporate takeover of America and how a lot of times, if you go anywhere outside the city, the towns look fucking identical due to exact same chain stores, strip malls and what not.
That was Adam’s idea, but of course I added a mind control aspect to the whole thing and joke that it’s about the Illuminati – the desire for hollow materialistic pursuits and militarism implanted into the minds of America through their televisions. It’s pretty tongue in cheek as well. I had a hard time singing the line: “I can’t take all the psychic mind rape” with a straight face.
Despite the eye-rolling that may occur, what can you tell us about your interest in comic books? Which comic book had had the most enduring influence on your life, what is that influence and why do you believe it has made a lasting impact on your life? What do you think is the most harmful preconceived notion that non-initiates carry regarding comic books?
Well, that’s particularly pertinent because the most well know occultists of our time, and in my mind the two most interesting spiritual philosophers, are Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, who are both comic book writers by trade, not spiritual philosophers. Definitely something odd about that, but also not surprising, because in the comic universe things like alternate dimensions and psychic powers are a part of the whole cosmology. So, I imagine growing up geeking out on that stuff probably hypnotizes you slightly to be more acceptant of the possibilities.
An interview in Arthur magazine with Grant Morrison is what got my interest peaked and starting to read about the occult in the first place. Kind of embarrassing in retrospect but at the time I had no idea who he was. Two years later I was a practicing occultist after the whole hypnotic awakening thing. Even more strange, it was right around that period where I realized that the library stocks tons of graphic novels, so I got waaaay into that again for a while, catching up on a bunch of stuff I’d missed. I’d turned my back on comics as a young adult mainly because they’re expensive, but for free at the library, why not?
As far as biggest influences, that’d definitely be The Invisibles by the aforementioned Mr. Morrison. That work was intended as what he referred to as a hyper-sigil designed to influence and raise the consciousness of the reader and it’s fictional but largely based on his experiences with the occult. Kind of what I was talking about earlier with the music, similar concept, art as spiritual technology. I have a freakishly good memory, so I rarely re-read things, but I’ve read that twice and will probably read again, because there’s so much going on. So many layers.
As a matter of fact, Black Science is named after a storyline in that, so we were trying to directly capitalize on the energy of the sigil that Grant ignited (well, truthfully, Adam just liked that name better than the others I’d written down but we ran with it). I’d say about a month after I decided I’d name the final track on the album “Our Sentence is Up” – which is the final declaration in The Invisibles – we learned my brother was moving and the drummer, Gael, was having a kid. So is the nature of magick.
Even more eerie is that it plays on the whole 2012 thing, which I’ll talk about here because I was told to mention it while in a trance state last night, which is hilarious because I don’t honestly understand what I’m talking about here much at all. Basically, what my cosmic over-soul wants me to think is that we’re about to enter a new era in human history, which will be the third world – Aeon of Horus, the conquering child, as Crowley called it, but that’s just one way of framing things. So, if you’re familiar with all the ancient architecture anomalies, it seems apparent that there was another civilization which predated ours, based on feminine energy and shamanism. And now there’s this Aeon based on materialism and misogyny, which is now nearing its end. 2012 specifically has never been mentioned, so I have no idea how long this process will take, but we’re destined to evolve into a hybrid of the two. I’ve been told flat out that consumerism is going to fail completely, which we’re already seeing.
With that being said, I think the biggest misconception a lot of people have involving comics would be that because a lot are about super heroes, they’re not serious art and just for kids. What they’re missing is that since a lot of the super hero titles pay, they attract some incredibly talented writers. Oh, Christ, and have long been a bastion for psychedelic concepts, not to mention on the forefront of censorship battles back in the day.
Despite the eye-rolling that may occur, what can you tell us about your interest in psychedelic substances – substances like “drugs”? Which psychedelic substance had had the most enduring influence on your life, what is that influence and why do you believe it has made a lasting impact on your life? What do you think is the most harmful preconceived notion that non-initiates carry regarding psychedelic substances?
I certainly touched on that earlier, but I think it’s of incredible import. My favorite psychedelic drug is weed. What, say, Robert Anton Wilson was trying to tell us in books like Cosmic Trigger and Sex, Drugs and Magick is that at the heart of all these occult conspiracies, what almost never comes up and is kind of the elephant in the room is the idea that through weed-induced sex magick you can communicate with forms of intelligence hitherto unknown. I’m honestly just continuing his work, which he in fact abandoned because he couldn’t deal with it. So yeah, I think if marijuana is legalized, which seems imminent, there’s a lot greater transformative potentiality there than anyone I’ve ever talked to is recognizing. It possesses incredible potential in helping to re-program your brain, which we’ve barely explored at this point.
People largely gloss over the fact that Timothy Leary was obsessed with Crowley and even explored this very avenue of channeling via his Starseed transmissions. Most people of this era are so wedded to the potentiality and infallibility of science, they fully ignore the fact that’s it’s just as corrupt as the government, business, or anything else in our culture. Take psychiatry. It’s fairly obvious that psychedelic drugs have the most potential of anything to actually help people, but that research has been basically impossible. And so we get mind-control, numbing drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which are total bullshit for people who aren’t severely depressed. Basically, take pills rather than addressing your psychological issues. Run away from your problems rather than confronting them. Heinous.
I have a degree in psychology and I realized pretty quickly that you can’t study this stuff inside mainstream academic institutions. It’s fucking impossible, which is why I went rogue. Ask anyone that’s tried to study even, say, psi-phenomenon in general. If you get results, no one will even look at them or care, and they will slander the fuck out of you for having the gall to even bother based on philosophical underpinnings alone. The problem is the powers that be have no idea how to make money off of it. It challenges everything. Look at the studies into remote viewing. As far as I can tell, they’ve proven the reality of psychic phenomenon, but seemingly no one cares at all. The idea that I’d ever get a study funded based on sigil magick is a complete joke. No fucking way. If I wanted to study, say, the efficacy of prayer and pursued that, checks would be falling into my lap. Einstein said, “imagination is more important that knowledge,” and more than anything, psychedelic drugs have the ability to expand our imaginations and save us from the materialist dead-end we’ve created. I like a lot of the materialist dead-end stuff, though. We’ve made some great records.
Jeffrey J. Kripal writes the following:
“Usually, the human imagination is a producer of fantasies, a dreamer, a daydreamer. But sometimes, sometimes, it is infused or ‘empowered’ by weird metaphysical energies. In these moments of influx, the human imagination is no longer a projector but a kind of ‘translator’ or ‘mediator’ of Mind, which communicates, which probably can only communicate, to the social ego through symbol and myth. Here the fantasy is also the fact. The trick is the truth.”
If someone were to listen to me talk about the occult and say, “That’s crazy!,” I’d say: yes. If they said, “Isn’t that just your imagination?,” I’d say: exactly. We’ve never solved the mysteries presented to us by things like schizophrenia, and I’d be the first to admit that I’m kind of touching on that with what I do. I think as a mystic I’m kind of like a half sane\half schizo hybrid.
Shamanism and westernized materialism are almost like completely opposite philosophies. One tells you inner experiences are the only things that have real meaning, the other perspective tells you that they are completely meaningless. Developing a balance between the two is the next step for us a species. Dreams, visions, and such are just as much a part of my life as anything that’s happened in ordinary waking reality. I remember them just as well, and they are just as much an influence on my behavior. A westerner would read this and think: this guy is totally batshit, and a shaman would look at it and think: this guy is incredibly naïve. A materialist tells you psychedelic visions are drugs influencing chemical reactions in your brain making you hallucinate, a shaman tells you you’re talking to gods. From a more shamanic perspective: thought does not arise from matter, matter is comprised from thought. That’s why magick works. It’s all a dream and you can tweak the parameters if you’re clever enough.
What’s next for John Gillanders?
I have a new project I’m working on called Chapel Supremesus with Dean Swanson who’s in a great band called Hidden Number and who recorded the two Black Science records. It’s incredibly anti-structural stuff and I think we’re going to intentionally skewer the dark occult mythos that’s so trendy these days. Also, I’m going to start working on more video, which is new for me. I’ve been doing graphic design for a while so it seems like a natural progression. Also, I might be starting another band with the drummer from The Nemesis Theory. It’s a ways off.
Other than that, I have a book about my experiences with the occult, The Galactic Dialogue, which should be out in fall. It’s my second and the first one I’m actually quite proud of, mainly because it’s straight up non-fiction which is something I was running from. If you think this interview was intriguing, you’ll freaking love it. It’s a non-fiction book which is weirder than any piece of fiction you’ll ever read and all entirely true. Well, as much as memory can be considered true. Also, when that comes out I want to do some spoken word, which is something I’ve wanted to do forever but have never been able to find the proper venue for. Where do you give occult lectures exactly outside of the podcast world? I have no idea but I’m determined to figure it out. Stay tuned true believers.