Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Q&A 2000ce — Enlightenment

Is shamanism just an anarchic state of mind or does it have real merit to someone on a spiritual trip?? Please help. Love (Grev)

Without the connections of earlier generations of Shamans to help and ground you, the anarchy of shamanism may easily send you off into hyperspace. But the Patriarchal church waged war on Shamanism because it was unique, singular, odd, the work of the One. My work is all meant to prepare the future generations and to equip them both with a library of literature and a canon of sonic works. Krautrock, Funkadelic, the Stooges, the Doors, Black Sabbath; all of these types of rock‘n’roll prepares the Shaman for his rocket ride. Some Heavy Rock will do it, my Odin album will send you In there for sure, but the library must constantly be topped up because most of the works were destroyed by pogroms of the Patriarchal religions. Reading Lester Bangs will do it, reading Carl Jung will sometimes do it, even reading ABOUT the shamanic experience will do it. Reading the biographies of previous shamans can provoke it – e.g. books with accounts of Jim Morrison’s bizarre behaviour will stimulate your need to behave similarly; accounts of the Eskimo shaman Igjugurjuk will force you into confrontation with your shamanic Other. Riding the Rocket, as I call it, is a necessity of Shamanic practise, but doing it as far away from normal people (in the country where no-one walks) is the only way to learn anything AND stop yourself getting arrested. Even the final Eskimo shamans spent a great deal of time in trouble with the white authorities; police, etc., and imagine how much space they had to practise their art. In The Modern Antiquarian, I pointedly asked readers to hold all shamanic dances at ‘non-gazetteer sites’, meaning the less frequented ones. The further away from authority you can get, the closer you get to your own – and your own authority is coming from the Motherlode. Trust it.

About 5 years ago you put some diary excerpts in Q Magazine in which you mentioned being in Avebury with some author who had written a couple of books on the subject. Can you help me in relaying who that was and what the titles were – also any other books on the general subject you can recommend would be great! (Jack, Calgary, Canada)

This author would have been Michael Dames, and the books in question would have been The Avebury Cycle and The Silbury Treasure. Both of these books are essential.

What do you think of the Doors? Is Jim Morrison still a hero to you? (Mr Mojo Risin’)

Jim Morrison is a hero to me and should be a hero to anyone who loves rock'n'roll. He was a God of the 20th century. He was the most exceptional rock'n'roller of all time and paved the way for Iggy, Ozzy, Patti and every other shamanic weirdo – hell, he was chosen as a drinking partner by Gene Vincent. Nuff said. No rock‘n’roll writer could ever have forseen the music of the Doors and NO-ONE could have thought of juxtaposing a shamanic Death God baritone with the Las Vegas Basement sound that Manzarek, Kreiger and Densmore pumped out. It was more garage-y than any garage band, trashed forerunners such as the Seeds and Music Machine, took more risks than any previous rock band had ever dared, and pushed performance to the edge of its limits. While the Velvet Underground hid behind light projections, 4/4 noise and appealed to arts houses, the Doors took shamanism into arenas – and Jim bared his soul and his arse to people expecting Top 40 hits. I tried this in 1981 with the Teardrop Explodes and got mercilessly panned – Jim did it 12 years earlier and got death for his pains. People tend to take Jim Morrison and the Doors for granted because they got so big, and that's dangerous – never overlook the Doors. They are worth re-visiting again and again and again. Their music is shocking far beyond the noise of Krautrock and the Detroit bands, whom I adore without qualification, because the Doors also took silence to its limits, and in front of straight teenagers, too. For that alone, they advanced the stomping heathen cause several light years in 6 splendid albums. No rock‘n’roll writer understands Jim, because they are so jealous that he was loose beyond the bounds of practicality and more beautiful than a man had a right to be. So they cloud the issue and call him a bad poet, even though he was the first rock‘n’roll poet to dare to be that (Lennon cloaked his muse in Goon Show cop-outs as a defence) and managed to confront the whole of society through a medium such as rock‘n’roll, which most intellectuals still ridiculed as Kiddies’ Music. Yes. Mr. Mojo Risin’, Jim Morrison and the Doors are still my heroes and I think of Jim at least once a day. And often with tears streaming down my face.

Jim Morrison wrote: “There are no longer ‘dancers’, the possessed. The cleavage of men into actor and spectators is the central fact of our time. We are obsessed with heroes who live for us and whom we punish.” What are your comments? (Mr Mojo Risin’)

I wrote a song called ‘Soul Desert’ which continues this theme. It has the chorus “Be, and I'll just watch you, ’cause being is just too hard for me.” Jim returned us to the idea of the ‘possessed’ far more brilliantly than even he could ever have anticipated. The shaman has returned to society, but is often rewarded so lavishly that he refuses to accept the inevitable (and necessary) death. When Blair took over from John Major, my wife was almost squealing with delight to see Major’s car caught in the traffic jams of Whitehall. “He’s hardly out of office and he’s already lost his fucking police outriders”, she screamed. Unlike the USA, Britain is still inherently pagan and this act bore witness to the fact. When I do something to be considered inferior, I am punished by extremely hurtful remarks from both the press and my own fans. What neither realises is that having such high expectations of me only shows in what high authority they hold me. Like Keith Moon’s answer to the question: “Do you think you're the best drummer in the world?” “No, but I'm the best Keith Moon-type drummer in the world.” Noel Gallagher is a second-rate Lennon-McCartney, but I’m the greatest Julian Cope who ever lived.

I grew up thinking Jim Morrison was macho romantic crap, but one day his genius hit me like a ton of bricks and, since then, I’ve been obsessed with every moment of his life. Yet many of the contributors to your forums slag me off for loving him. One guy called him a “fat dead guy in a bath”. Some even say “Been there, done that”. What is your opinion? (Mr Mojo Risin’)

Anyone who says they’ve been there and done that to Jim Morrison obviously never went there in the first place, and never did much understanding either. They’ve fallen for the current trend which preoccupies many rock‘n’roll writers and also a great deal of rock‘n’roll fans. Because the Doors were so big and mainstream in their success, shallow types have convinced themselves that the Doors’ message was also mainstream. Keep your obsession with Morrison. It’s a beautiful thing. If it pisses people off then fuck ’em all! That quote you threw at me is from “The Lords” isn’t it? There's more wisdom in that book that all of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity put together. I’m not so crazy about the poetry in “The New Creatures” but it probably hasn’t hit me yet. I first got into the Doors for real in 1973, and 27 years is nowhere near enough time to allow all his genius to be subsumed into my brain. It’s so easy to dismiss Jim Morrison, but the truly inquiring mind must return to him again and again and again.

I’m always a bit confused about why you think Courtney & Madonna are trying to be men in terms of achieving success – can you explain? And following on from that question, since humans are polar beings, don’t you think there is space for masculine and feminine in the way they act? (Jason)

In the 400s, wealthy Ancient Britons dressed in Roman togas and lived in villas to prove themselves as good as their Roman leaders. In the early 1960s, black men walked around in suits and tried to prove that they could be ‘as good’ as white men, which turned out to be a falsehood because they were then using white rules and could only lose out by aiming to live by a rule that white men had made. Even Arthur Lee of Love de-kinked his hair and tried to straighten it. Then forward-thinking black men like Jimi Hendrix said ‘fuck it’ and started dressing in African styles and were proud of their tight curls of black hair. They operated by rules that they could be proud of and within which they could be successful. Unfortunately, for all its change, the ’60s was a male decade and women only really got free from it in the ’70s, and they're still not completely free of the Patriarchal way of thinking. They still think they have to compete with men using men’s rules. They de-feminise themselves by losing weight and becoming stick thin and working 9 to 5 and saying: “I can do all that shit AND be a mother.” How many times have you seen some skinny mother with her ale-bellied slob husband? It’s so standard nowadays that most people don’t even see it. But it is pure slavery. If Courtney had been as free as she claimed, she wouldn't have used her money to conform to the Patriarchal Hollywood Ideal – she would have broken right through and had Frances Bean on sucking on her teats in photos and said “So what I got a big flat wide back and no tits. Fuck You all!” I had no such expectations of Madonna. She was the ultimate Material Girl and said so herself. But even when she tried to free herself with that book Sex, every nude photo is naked Maddy with some patently gay Black New Yorker. So it’s back to titillating cheesecake with no threat. Few people are in a position to change the way society thinks, but these women are.

Your second question isn't clear at all. I obviously think there’s a place for the masculine and feminine within us all or I wouldn’t go on stage in a dress and wear make-up sometimes if I didn’t. I’m just saying Courtney and Madonna should not feel forced to bow to outmoded archetypes when they’re in a position powerful enough to destroy those archetypes and rebuild new ones.

You use the term Forward-thinking Motherfucker a lot. It also crops up on the TV Antiquarian, and Droolian was released on MoFoCo. Could you state your reasons for this phrase? (Ron Barrett)

I got it from my obsession with the rock‘n’roll enlightenment of the Detroit scene. When Rob Tyner died, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith described him as a “Forward-thinking Motherfucker” and that's the best way for anyone to be remembered. Ford Motor Company was always FoMoCo, so I figured MoFoCo was a good post-Detroit, post-Car Culture image. I always use the term ‘MoFo’ when I’m around kids or older people, something the Detroit scene would never have considered, To them it just had to be Motherfucker. But most of them never had kids and never took the revolution to that next level. I tell my kids that adults need to swear to ease the pressures of their everyday existence and that they (my kids) don’t need to use those words – yet. I used MoFo throughout the TV Antiquarian because it was going out at 7pm on a Saturday. I also had to withhold the roots of the name Kennet and its relationship with ‘cunt’ because of the early evening schedule. But if I only have to make such slight compromise, it’s easy to deal with. That's because I’m a Forward-thinking Motherfucker!

You seem pretty shameless in what you produce – do you have any inhibitions as an artist? (Amanda)

I’m post-Christian, so no.

You’ve gone on record as saying you are a pagan. Do you practice any particular tradition? Do you celebrate Christmas? (Amanda)

Actually I’m a Heathen, rather than a Pagan. Heathen means one who dances on the heath in celebration of the old Gods, whereas Pagan tends to conjure up some modern my-cult's-older-than-your-cult world view. We recently changed one of the forum names from Ur-Pagan to U-Know! Because too many people misunderstand – what we’re attempting is Education not a new Religion. I try to practise the Water Babies tradition, that is: Do as you would be done by. My family celebrates Christmas and all the other Heathen festivals so discourteously nicked by the uptight Christians. Christmas is actually the Winter Festival, hence its remarkable closeness to the Solstice, just as Easter was conveniently nicked from the Anglo-Saxon Eostre, who was the fertility Goddess of spring from whom the word Oestrogen comes.

I’d like to ask some questions about your everyday life: Are you a “New Man” (ie, do you help with the cooking, cleaning, split care of children and stuff like that?) Where do you do your food shopping? (Cathy C)

I do the washing up and look after the kids, but mainly just by hanging out with them and our doing art and music together. I do the shopping when Dorian needs me to, but always from her pre-prepared list. No, I’m not a New Man and I know she doesn’t call herself a New Woman. We decide together as to whether or not my art is going to next be a book, or a record, a tour, etc., then we put that into operation. I asked her about this question and her reply was: “I don't have any hang ups about who does what best in this household. We work as a team in everything.”

We shop at Safeway in Devizes and Waitrose in Marlborough and various local vegetarian and health food shops which provide the best and most right-on services.

What’s your favourite album of yours? (Ian W)

Jehovahkill is the most mysterious of my own albums because it had genuinely occult moments which even freaked out the record-company, in whose studios I was recording. But Odin is the album I still listen to everyday. I listened to Odin 500 times before Dorian suggested that we release it, and I’ve listened to it everyday since then.

When was the last time you cried and why? (Ian W)

I answered this question over a period of weeks and it just kept changing, so I kept them all in:

  1. When I saw the tennis heroes of the past parading at Wimbledon. I couldn’t believe how much joy those heroes had given to us over the years, and I was totally moved by the ones who dominated my pre-teen years.
  2. When I saw the parents of the little girl who had just disappeared appealing to everyone for help on the TV news.
  3. When Avalon got her special certificate for being the first child in the school to get 60 stickers for being good. We had to attend their Friday assembly, which has no religious content, and I was extremely moved and thrilled to be wearing shades.

Since I discovered you in high school at the Metro in Chicago, I have enjoyed following your latter career path. From ‘Peggy Suicide’ onward, your worldview seems to share space with that of Wordsworth, Blake, and even Clive Barker. You are all artists who resonate. I would simply like to know more about the artists you consider to share the same ‘head’ space, and the importance to you of crafting a—if you'll let me get all wordy here—world space for your work. Say, Blake had his world order of angels and demons/innocence and experience; Barker plugs into Nietzsche and Plato and has worlds of dream and waking, etc., Are you able to map your artistic space? (Richard P.F. Hayward)

I decided a long time ago that the only way to create a workable ‘world space’ for my work was to actually create a new kind of work which was based on both my own experience and that of the most achieving engineers of our culture. There was no point in trying to make scientific thought stoop to my point of view, since it was clearly created by all the genius minds of those fields. The only difference between them and myself was that I believe a bigger hand to be at work than the mere chance that scientists often subscribe to. I knew in my heart that modern science was religious in nature, since I’d read that Albert Einstein’s eyes were in the hands of an American scientist. If that wasn't a perfect example of latter day sciento-saints’ relics, then surely nothing is. But my art is not based on vision alone, and is supported by most of what has been so far discovered. That is, I have faith in the Ancestore, be they 5000 years ago or even 20 years ago. My job is to clear away the classical and post-classical linear thought and bask in the pre-patriarchal — that is returning us to Metaphor and Visual Allusion. For that is the way in which Human thought and Culture began, and all that ‘superseded’ it was merely pasted on top. Unpeel the layers of cultural wallpaper, and underneath is the wall that supports everything.

As an example, my Book of Odin appears in my forthcoming book Let Me Speak to the Driver. Here, I show that it is not Dionysius but Odin who is the rightful role model of the modern holy man, who is the rock‘n’roll singer. I show this not by asking for a willingness of the reader to suspend disbelief, but merely a willingness to explore the already explored – the current world of language, via myth and legend and landscape. Look at the Vikings’ version of Odin, and you are shown a warrior God with one eye and an aptitude for war. But that is just the one we are shown. In the earlier Scandinavian myths, the pre-Patriarchal Odin is also known as Od, who is the one or the singular. He is also Ode, who is the poet, but the Vikings had no use for a poet God, so his unnecessary aspects were snuffed out and subsequently never brought up. But Odin was also known as Unn, from which we get un-conventional and un-fashionable. Again, the shamanic singular is evoked by his name. Look further into the myths and you see Odin is also the one in Russian, for one-two-three is odin-dva-tree.

You see here how my scholarship is in no way weird or indecipherable – it is in your face and clear. Indo-European language reveals all of our past because it is the building blocks from which we began. I am not like Blake, who trusted his visions and would not edit them. I have plugged into the colossal repository of ur-Thought and am currently sifting through it in order to re-order it. It is a huge job, but it is quite achievable and will eventually allow us to see exactly where our culture came from.

The Glam Descend. What is it exactly? I think I read too fast but I tried putting the phrase in context and can't figure out exactly what the Glam Descend is? (Janet DeForest)

The Glam Descend is my musical term for those great descending guitar-led 70s hits like “Metal Guru” and “All the Young Dudes”. But its roots come from the Druidical curse known as the Glam Dicenn, in which the poet stands on one leg, screws up one eye and extends one arm and delivers a mighty poetic blow to his opponent. As the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology comments: “The victim of the Glam Dicenn would be shunned by all levels of society.” I have incorporated this idea into my work in order to show the power of the once-outsider both in terms of the poetic Glam Dicenn and the musical Glam Descend.

Do you think the way your life has gone (and life in general) is in some way pre-ordained?

Not at all. I think that the plasticity of the future is what allows me to continue in hope and vitality.

If the 1980 Cope came face to face with the 2000 Cope, what one thing do you think they’d say to each other? (Vernon)

“Wow!!!”

Was it intentional or coincidental that Repossessed covered the same number of years as Head-On (seven)? Will the proposed third instalment of the autobiography follow this pattern and cover 1990-96? (Vernon)

It was probably co-incidental. The next instalment will probably take in 1990-98, right up to the publication of The Modern Antiquarian.

Having read the article in MOJO – where the journalist says that at the mention of your experiencing your visions, which lead you to write Peggy Suicide, and to help and heal the Mother, Dorian had tears in her eyes. Was it worth it? You are a great influence. (Grev)

I think we’re all brought up to believe that Rock‘n’roll is a Barbarian art form with no fixed possibilities of great achievement. I'm lucky to be at the forefront of a generation of artists who are discovering that rock‘n’roll is thee life force and restorer of the Ancients.

More a suggestion than an actual question – could you please actually find Sly Stone for your next book? I know James Brown & George Clinton are still alive but I think Sylvester Stewart is the greatest rock'n'roll M.I.A. ever. (Chris)

Sly was the shaman who got away. We’ve had all we’ll ever have from him and that’s more than enough. The shamanic self-immolation trip doesn’t matter because he transferred to about half a dozen other people, and that’s what the shaman is about. Listen to Sly's “Funk Gets Stronger” on the Funkadelic LP “Electric Spanking of War Babies” – George gives him full reign and suddenly we’re back in the middle of Fresh, only more full on than ever. Like Sly and George got it from James Brown – that ability to allow their musicians to do for them; that confidence to surround themselves with genius. Only greatness is confident enough to shine a light on to its surroundings. That’s why I’ve always allowed Mooneye and Donneye and Doggen to shine – so I can bathe in their reflected energy and subsume them into my own trip.

What’s the most “shamanic” thing you’ve ever done so far? (Chris)

On a positive level, that would have to be The Modern Antiquarian. It was a long and sustained journey inwards to repossess the truth of the neighbourhood lands; something which we all could benefit from. When the shaman is working properly, he conjures up something which is of great use to the universal (Of course, many of my early actions have been shamanic to a cliched negative degree, but surely that is the age old problem of shamanism – and is the very reason that the Christians subdued sects such as the Curates, and Islam subdued sects like the Whirling Dervishes).

Do you reckon they were onto something (about giving yourself up to a higher force) in Star Wars, with, funnily enough, ‘The Force’? (Jason)

As all the greatest science-fiction is written by forward-thing Motherfuckers, I should think the authors of Star Wars knew just what they were on to.

Some (allegedly?) spiritually enlightened people have sought an alternative life style by dropping out of society entirely. What do you think of this – too denialist or luddite maybe? (Jason)

When the Danes were attacking the east of England in the Dark Ages, they kidnapped King Edmund of the Saxons and shot him full of arrows, then sent his broken, pierced body home to send fear through the land. Edmund’s brother was so freaked out that he gave up his crown and went to live on the south coast as a monk. His lands were subsequently ravaged by war and turmoil and the savage deaths of his people. For me, this has always been a perfect historical reason for not ‘dropping out’, as it is termed. One of the reasons that the Vikings attacked Lindisfarne and killed the monks so ruthlessly is because the Vikings saw these so-called men of peace as cop-outs who were opting out of real life. I have to say that I agree. It’s like Edmund Burke wrote: “It is necessary only for the good to do nothing for evil to triumph.”

Can you say what have been the most important events/ happenings/internal workings to have affected/influenced you over the past decade? (Alistair)

That would take a book in itself, and is one which I am planning. My journals and fieldnotes of the 90s were very systematic and full of illustrations and instructions.

1) You’ve never been up Silbury, yet it’s clearly the centre of your universe. You say in your latest Address Drudion that you were due to climb this May but chose not to. Why was this? (Summer)

2) Julian, in your latest Address Drudion you state that you are still a Silbury Virgin and wish to remain as such, however I see pictures of you climbing and sitting on virtually every other cosmic place.
Would you still be a virgin if there was not a fence acting as a very unnatural barrier stopping you? I can appreciate that there is a lot, lot, lot more to it for you than just climbing but my mind also conjures up the visions of you hiding under tables in your semi-reclusive Tamworth period. It’s as if your total goal is to climb and you need to be fully prepared but you are also absolutely shit scared that once you climb then you have lost the total goal. It then reminds me of finally laying my hands on Tarot, the last of the Top 50 in Krautrocksampler. My goal had been achieved but the preparation was the key to achieving the goal. If I had bought Tarot at an earlier stage then I would have totally misunderstood. Where now? (Shrimp)

Why go to the Himalayas when the greatest mysteries are on our front door? I have seen Mount Fuji and the Serpent Mound of Ohio and the Maori of New Zealand and even the Polar Ice Cap, but Silbury conjures greater mysteries in my mind than all of them. I think I choose not to actually climb Silbury precisely because, physically, it would be one of the easiest achievements in the world. It’s in view from my bedroom and our kitchen and yet, by not making that climb, it remains one of the greatest mysteries in my life – right there in our back yard. It is my muse and my meditation and I recognise it from every part of the sacred landscape. Silbury reminds me of my wife. I have been with her since she was a teenager and yet she remains the greatest mystery of all. She and Silbury are my everyday life, and my constant companions. Yet both are unfathomable.

I've been wondering about this for a while. About six years ago I was doing some reading in The Portable Jung and I ran across an interesting passage which immediately caught my eye due to its similarity to the spoken-word bit in "Not Raving But Drowning." It said something about "treacherous nixies & sea serpents, living in the depths of the ocean," etc. There was even a line about "the man of importance" a little further down in the passage. It was obvious to me that you must have run across this same passage and either consciously or unconsciously adapted it in your excellent tune. My feeling was that this was an instance of "cryptomnesia," made even more interesting by the fact that the borrowing came from the person who first defined the concept. Am I right, or did you do this consciously? And if I am right, had anyone ever pointed it out before? (Razor Pengiun)

Yes, I took that passage word for word from Carl Jung. I was most awesomely struck by his ability to speak great truths in a style of sheer poetry, yet he was quite unable to see this himself. Check out Droolian for "Jellypop Perky Jean", where I turn another piece of Jung into a kind of Hank Williams-spoken word thing. In the sleevenotes, I talk about Jung's poetic genius and his inability to see this in himself. I'm so glad you picked up on this. Rock!

Have you ever explored the writings of Henry Miller or D.H. Lawrence? Given the nature of your quest, I would think you would have been exposed to both of them at some point, and I'm curious as to whether you got anything of value from either of them. It seems you're hip to Cowper Powys, at any rate. (Razor Penguin)

No, I've never read Henry Miller or D.H. Lawrence. I'll check them both out. I'm more into Vachel Lindsay than John Cowper Powys, but really spend my time reading non-fiction because of where my studies are leading. I check out fiction whenever it's recommended to me.

Me and my gurl went to Silbury, years ago, near nightfall, and I saw a 'watcher', on the footpath side, at the base, near a little tree. It scared me. Was it you, or was it Sul? (Morfe)

It was probably me.