Interview, photo: Elena Savlokhova

Luna Vassarotti
August Skipper

OPERANT x Instruments Of Discipline x Bandcamp

Every person has a void deep inside. What does yours look like?
CGI rainbow vape cloud.
August: A glass watermelon.

How would you describe the aesthetic of OPERANT to someone who is not familiar with your music?
Luna: Dissection of bodies, scalpel and space, puddles of neon-pink blood and metal, flesh and organs.
August: Machinal excretions.

What are you trying to convey to humanity with your work?
Luna: Nothing is real.
August: I started out in music as someone writing lyrics with no musical ability, the only way I could communicate my ideas was through words. Now I feel like if I can describe my ideas about music in words then they haven’t conveyed anything essentil. There is an entire universe beyond words and there are different practices to give life to these worlds. Music is one of them. Words can make inferences but the work should have a voice of its own, so without brushing off the question, I am hoping that my work reveals something to me that I can’t give voice to, that maybe in time will make perfect sense to me.

Are you talented, obsessed or possessed?
Luna: I’m obsessive by nature, but I definitely feel possessed and under the spell of something when we play with Operant.
August: Obsessive.

What is the most magical thing about the night for you?
Luna: The night anchors me, things make more sense in the darkness, it feels like home, the absence of light sparks my curiosity and allows my imagination to fill in the possibilities, it feels more fluid.
August: It cuts the world in half.

What values matter the most to you?
Luna: The pursuit of abstraction, furthering the frontiers of perception.
August: Luna.

What limits you?
Luna: Being trapped in my body, panic attacks, the monologues of the different characters in my head, the fear of losing my sanity.
August: Time, money, the immigration office, self-criticism, self-loathing, bodily functions, concentration, memory.

Out of all the artists you’ve met, who struck you the most in terms of individuality/personality?
August: Adrian Kambeck, a writer from Australia who was killed in fight in a back alley in Melbourne after he stole someone’s wallet, Vivian Hopkirk, Brett Whitely’s nephew, a drunken poet who I shared an artist residency with in Australia, the first night we met he fell down a flight of stairs and broke a finger and fractured his hip, both made writing that was deeply abstract and deeply moving to me, both were deeply, deeply, flawed characters, both are now dead.
Luna: August

What do you appreciate the most in each other?
August: Well, everything of course, but to keep things from getting overly sentimental, I would say I really admire Luna’s aesthetic vision, she sees miles ahead of me.
Luna: His talent and artistic vision, he is from another planet.

What psychological or physical effect do you want your music to have on people?
August: I want our music to generate feelings of pure intensity, unhinged intensity, the very essence of being alive, violently enhanced. I want to see people pull chandeliers from ceilings and smoke five cigarettes at the same time.
Luna: To induce little seizures in their brain, I want them to feel like aliens are trying to communicate with them.

How well do you know yourselves?
Less and less through time, but I think If you are only looking for the familiar within yourself you will never evolve.
August: The harder you look, the less you know, you would think things become clearer as you age but the data just muddies things up.  I look at the person I was 5-3 years ago and it seems like a completely different person.  The only wisdom you can acquire with age is to grow comfortable with the unknown and the unexpected, to accommodate the hidden aspects of your psyche that reveal themselves.

What is your favourite conspiracy theory?
Luna: 9/11 will always be a big obsession for me; The Black Dahlia is also fascinating, this man found pictures of a woman in his father’s belongings after he died that resembled Elizabeth Short, a young woman who was brutally murdered in Los-Angeles in 1947, over the course of his investigation into his father’s past, he developed a theory that Man Ray was the inspiration behind this murder. His father was close friends with Man Ray at some point and there is a disturbing resemblance between two of Man Ray’s photographs and the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia. He believes his father wanted to emulate Man Ray’s surrealist style to create a “masterpiece” of his own. I had read James Ellory’s book about the murder in my late teens, the pictures in the book of the mutilated face and torso of Elizabeth Shore have been stuck with me and will haunt me forever, not only for their horror but for their strange beauty too.  When I saw the Man Ray pictures for the first time it blew my mind, I immediately saw the connection.  I’m also a fan of the Charles Manson one, about him being framed by the CIA to destroy the counterculture.
August: For me, as a teenager, 9/11 was the gateway conspiracy theory to all other conspiracy theories.  When researching it, regardless of the conclusion you came to, as to whether it was an inside job, if you looked hard enough and followed the leads, you got a good education in epistemology, a healthy mistrust of authority and an insight into the morally bankrupt nature of geo-politics; also the one about the US govt distributing nano-particulates through chemtrails, that, when enough enter a body, ‘turn on’ and essentially cage the person in a virtual reality, I mean, the government won’t give them healthcare but it is very generous of them to offer their citizens an entrance into the post-human world.

Is music a way of escapism for you or is it your reality?
Luna: When I was younger It was more of an escapism for me, in the sense that I would shut off and daydream for hours obsessively listening to music or get lost in the collecting part of the process. Now I think since I started making music it has become more an anchor to reality,  it was also a way to connect with other people and the world, it has definitely brought some structure to my life.
August: Like Luna said, it’s my anchor to reality.  I find if I’m not actively making music I begin to feel mentally unwell. Not to seem romantic, it could probably be other creative/abstract pursuits but I’ve been focusing on music for so many years now it’s become the most efficient way to drain the Kopfsumpf, it’s more like a necessary function of existing, my way of digesting my psychic life.

Why do people hate what is not them?
August: I think more often people hate what is them, the classic notion of The Shadow, the undigested aspects of ourselves, that the bigot can’t see the shared humanity in a person of different skin colour because some parental figure is guarding one of their psychic doors with a wooden paddle or castration device, they project their other into that room and launch all their psychic filth at them, or people are afraid of extraterrestrials because they don’t realise we’re all emanating from the same cosmic throb or they’re afraid of their latent psychosis because they don’t realise they’re already there
Luna: People want to stay asleep and in the comfort of their own reality, they will fear and refute anything that challenges them. Hate also comes from deep trauma and to understand the trauma one must face their demons, demons can be scary, I think most people aren’t ready for that.

What is the best gig you’ve ever performed?
August: Our fourth show at Visions festival was a highlight, the location is pretty spectacular, on an old military outpost on the West Coast of France.
Luna: Prague, it was the first time playing with this really intense strobe we bought…the table and machines were flying, we were in outer space, I could see inside my eyeballs.

How would you describe the community of Instruments of Discipline?
Luna: The last two events we put on in Berlin gave us a strong sense of something nice coming together. We now have a roster of live acts that we’re really proud of and we’re currently working on booking some showcases.

How to celebrate the beauty of the grotesque?
August: I’ve always been attracted to this word, I think the attraction of the grotesque is the complexity of its textures, when you think of a gothic cathedral or the undulations of human organs, or one human growing inside of another and being expelled via an orifice, or two or three or four or five or six or seven or eight people growing inside of another person being expelled via an orifice, and the fact that these people are made out of the joining of two people’s’ genitals when one spurts inside another, and we’re all being hurled through space on this rock, and we’re all just the cosmic deposit of some galaxial spurt. Anything we do is a celebration of the grotesque. To face all this and decide to try and evade it by conforming to one society’s expectations: put on a suit, work in an office etc is really just as grotesque as the grotesque truth you are trying to evade, which is fine. Or you can contort your body into new shapes and feel how it feels to be a shape in space made out of meat and calcium and a little spark in the middle, or arrange bits of sound next to one another and find that it can create the same response in another person that it creates within yourself, and it can feel good to move in rhythm with a room full of people, or a club full of people, or a city full of people, or a country full of people, or a world full of people. All moving together, working, creating, murdering, invading, distorting, eating, breathing, living, excreting.
Luna: Watch surgery videos.

Describe the energy you feel during your performances?
August: Mushy guts and head.  I’m really just trying to get to a place of ecstacy, where I no longer feel like I’m inhabiting my body.
Luna: I blackout.

Give an example you have witnessed of the strongest influence music had on someone or yourself?
Luna: Once we took acid and decided to listen to Arvo Part’s ‘Te Deum’, the power of those chants made me relive all the wars of humanity throughout time and I shed tears for everyone that had their lives taken from them, these entities came to me and I was trying to console them, they were sad at how violent and corrupt the unfolding of humanity was, they were like pure potential, the initial seed of our creation, we were floating in the void as they gave me all the elements to create a new universe, because, I guess, I had seen them, but they were me also, my own trauma trying to communicate with me, appearing in a way that I could tolerate.

What are your plans for this year?
August: We have a sale and quite a few releases on the label coming up, just had Ryuji Takeuchi come out, WarinD in a couple of weeks, a mini-album from Iron Sight, a second EP from HomoAgent, a V/A with heaps of artists we are very excited about, we are currently working on a new Operant EP, which has been inspired by our live sets, so, should be crunchy and high energy, looking forward to putting on some label showcases, in potential talks about something in Moscow, will be returning to Australia for the first time to play a couple of shows in Melbourne and Sydney with Unhuman, then some shows in Japan and Korea if everything goes to plan.
Luna: Throw all records on sacrificial pyre and burn them.

Things you can’t unthink.
August: When is HBO going to make a dramatic interpretation of Carlos Castaneda’s books?
Luna: The unfairness of biological gender assignment, the horror of the meat industry and indifference of people towards it; war, my anxiety, some insignificant but embarrassing thing I did when I was 15 years old.

What question would you want to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
When are music journalists going to stop exploiting musicians for good interview questions?  I have no idea.