Pradžia / Garsas / Sound

IN MEMORY OF Z'EV. Interview by Gerhard Hallstatt. Thoughts by Boyd Rice

Today is a very sad day. A pioneer of industrial music Z'EV (born Stefan Joel Weisser, February 8, 1951 - December 16, 2017) died. According to Wikipedia, he was an American poet, percussionist, and sound artist. After studying various world music traditions at CalArts, he began creating his own percussion sounds out of industrial materials for a variety of record labels. Z'EV was a strong presence in the New York City downtown music scene in the 1980s and 1990s, performing with Elliott Sharp, Glenn Branca, and doing solo performances at The Kitchen, The Knitting Factory, Danceteria, and other venues where experimental music flourished. In 1983, critic Roy Sablosky wrote: "Z'EV doesn't just break the rules, he changes them." Journalist Louis Morra wrote in 1983: "Z'EV is a consummate example of contemporary performance art, as well as modern composition and theater." and, "Z'EV realizes many of modernist art's ultimate goals: primitivism, improvisation, multi-media/conjunction of art forms, the artist as direct creator." His work with text and sound was influenced by Kabbalah, as well as African, Afro-Caribbean and Indonesian music and culture. He studied Ewe music, Balinese gamelan, and Indian tala. Also, Z'EV wrote a big foreword about music's history for the first Lithuanian modern music history written by Mindaugas Peleckis. Z'EV visited Lithuania in 2013 and shook our small industrial music community with his terrific performance. We will miss him.

Gerhard Hallstatt, Boyd Rice, Mindaugas Peleckis
2017 m. Gruodžio 17 d., 17:06
Skaityta: 2169 k.

Z´EV. Interview by Gerhard Hallstatt. Revised 17.12.2017

This interview took place at Hotel Carlton-Opera in Vienna on 13. July 1992. It was first published in Aorta 12 and later in the American and French editions of the book Gerhard Hallstatt: Blutleuchte. All Aorta issues are sold out, but the two book editions are still available from Ajnabound, Camion Noir and also directly from the author via Aorta Mailorder: aorta.mail.order(at)gmail(dot)com.

American edition:

French edition:

Can you talk about your book Rhythmajik?

Rhythmajik deals with the relationship of numbers and proportions and rhythms and how to make use of this relationship. The book includes theory and practice. Someone who knows absolutely nothing about magic may become a rhythmajician with this book. Somebody who is already working with another magical system, for example, the Tarot, can use it immediately because it deals a lot with the correspondences of numbers. If you are dealing with astrology you can make use of it because planets and houses have numbers. The big basis, the center of the book, is a section called “The Book of Roots.” It is like a dictionary with the semantic meanings of all 484 two-number combinations: 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, up to 400-400. It is completely based on Kabbala, but I totally left out the Hebrew characters and just took the numbers. Numbers are universal - someone does not need to learn, to recognize, to read and write another Alef-Bet.

Is there a kabbalistic reason for the way you write the word Rhythmajik?

No, I used it because the ‘j’ relates to the Persian word magic that is spelled with a ‘j.’ I just took it back to its Persian root. I used it to differentiate my work from the normal word magic - or magick.

If someone intends to make a Mars ritual he could look in your book and find an appropriate rhythm?

You can look in one section called “The Lines” and may find all kinds of rhythms that are totally related to Mars in Sanskrit, Babylonian, Hebrew, Arabic and Greek. In Alef-Bets all the letters are numbers, so all words have a numerical value. You can strip away this hieroglyphic shape of the letter and just deal with the number. I was going through a variety of dictionaries and pulled out the words relating to elements, planets, zodiacal signs, etc., and arranged them in my rhythmajik concept. I transliterated all words that are related to Mars into numbers, names of Mars, the quality of fire that is related to Mars, the quality of water that is related to Mars, the quality of different aspects of Mars. I did not arrange the words the way Aleister Crowley arranged them on 32 lines, but basically around nine numbers: 1-10-100, 2-20-200, up to 9-90-900. In the XIX. century a person in America worked on a dictionary of the oral traditions of Judaism. The name of this man was Marcus Jastrow. The Talmud and the literature of the Rabbis is not just about the laws; there is a lot of talk about magic, medicine, astrology. This dictionary is not about magic or anything like that - but he was not afraid or embarrassed by the magical elements. I was going painstakingly through this vocabulary. It was not the initial Alef-Bet of the Jews. They started to use it only around 400 B.C. This esoteric Alef-Bet came from the Sumerian to the Babylonian culture, and then the Jews took it over.


Does Rhythmajik evolve from your work with percussion?

No, the percussion evolves from the occult work. The occult work is the basis that everything comes out of. My percussion is very much about evolving elemental energies. By people hearing them, these elements - fire, water, air, earth - became conscious. In the terms of the materials I use I am kind of specializing in the mineral energies. It is possible to do with it whatever you want: you can heal with it, you can use it for visions - as healings are better to do on an individual base, I deal with giving people visions. For the last six years all my percussion has been performed in the dark. All the lights were out. It was basically for invoking visions.

In alchemy there is a tract called Medicine of Metals. Is healing a desire of your work?

Yes. I think at this moment the most necessary thing is a very conscientious attitude towards the earth. We are at a turn-around-point. In a certain sense we are the most advanced aspect of the earth. People should always be aware of this and aware of the fact that we have to send the energy we take from the earth back to her, make the energy-loop return into the earth. Much magic and ritual used to be about maintaining harmony.

Where is the energy going now?

It is kind of loose, like in a light bulb. When the earth breaks, the light bulb is burning out. When you turn on the light it goes … and it stops. It is clear that we are in a kind of shorting-out state.

In many traditional cosmologies the world is in a decline from the Golden Age towards the Iron Age. Do you think that we are living in the Iron Age?

I think it is not a decline but a part of the evolution on the tree of life of the Kabbala; the next number after 5 = Mars is 6 = Sun- solar beauty, balance. That is actually where we are going. Mars came out of 4= Jupiter, also a kind of balanced concept, luxury, the color purple. Now there is Mars: strong, red, iron. Iron is one metaphor for Mars. Fear, justice, reverence are other names for it on the tree of life. I do not see it as a de-evolution. It is just a step in the process of evolution. A de-evolution, in fact, is at any time an evolution. When you make a breakthrough you get depressed afterwards; when you get very high then there is this depression coming afterwards, before you get back to normal. That is what is going on now.

Do you consider your work as a kind of musical therapy?

Yes, but it all depends on intention. If somebody intends to use it only as a means of entertainment then they will only be entertained by it. If somebody decides to use it to accompany a ritual of divination they can use it for that. Intention is still the most operative aspect. If someone intends to do nothing with it then nothing will happen.


Do you see your work in the shamanic tradition?

Yes. Rhythmajik is a kind of return to an earth-based shamanism. It is rooted in the earth.

Some people distinguish between an emotional and spontaneous shamanic work and an intellectual, almost rational ceremonial magic.

One big difference is the relationship to the magic mushroom. Ceremonial magic for the most part has lost its relationship to the magic mushrooms, whereas shamanistic magic is still totally involved with it. Another big difference between shamanistic and ceremonial magic is that the majority of ceremonial practice evolves out of Catholicism - although most ceremonial magicians are not aware of that.

There is a shared body of information between Rhythmajik and the Kabbalistic work 777, but it is presented differently. It is not presented for ceremonial magic. One could call it shamanistic kabbalism because it is very much related to sound and feeling and direct experience, and not related to a formal ceremonial magic with all the robes etc., like in Catholicism.

It is luxury.

Yes, luxury. It costs a lot of money to do real ceremonial magic. It is something for the wealthy. In the XII., XIII., XIV. and XV. centuries ceremonial magic was practiced more by the court and clerics than by the people. During that time the masses of the people were just using the Psalms. The book that comes out after Rhythmajik is called The Magical Uses of the Psalms - everybody in Europe was a mad magician, everybody practiced magic by using the Psalms. If your cow was sick there were psalms, if your child was sick, then you wanted to keep your time from going sour for the next year you had a psalm to say over it. It was a very specific magic. Of this book there will maybe be three or four volumes. In a library in Amsterdam I found a manuscript from 1785 that was very much about the magic of the Psalms. For each one of the Psalms there were angelic sigils and talismanic seals.

You collaborated with the Austrian group Monoton for the opera Parzival.

This was eight years ago. It was a kind of multi-media event. We used films and slides, stage sets. It was designed as a ritual opera. Theatre evolves from shamanic rituals. The main intention of the Greek theatre was to achieve catharsis. The audience should have a very strange experience which should clear them out. In Parzival I worked on the stage sets. I worked on the soundtrack. I made the instruments. I did not perform live. I was mixing tapes, working on a more subliminal level…

… similar to your recent collaboration with Monoton two days ago?

Yes, similar to that.


I was surprised because I thought your stage appearance would be a synergistic work of metallic percussion and techno.

That will come in a future project. It is still difficult to find a balance, but we are working on this.

Do you think techno has this trance quality?

Techno is about trance. Trance is one of its operative terms. It is a positive term without being a loaded term, without being related to any specific formulated esoteric or religious system. Techno is getting very large, and many people are integrating trance into their lives. It is still left to see for the future how that is going to develop, what they are going to do with that. I find it tremendously important and significant that many kids are interested in an ecstatic trance experience. There is an esotericism to techno, but most musicians dealing with it are mainly about practice, not much about theory. That is no criticism. It is an observation. I see a complete relationship between the industrial work and techno, but I do find it very interesting that most of the people who are doing techno have no idea about the history. They have absolutely no idea. But, as Konrad Becker/Monoton is starting to deal with it, and I am starting to deal with it we, and our work, are getting known in that circle a little.

I consider the industrial and hard-core quality of techno, its technosophical appearance, also as a counter-current to New Age…

It is more practical whereas New Age is much more theoretically based, people spend more time thinking about that. Techno is much more physical and direct, doing it without thinking about what they are doing, without any big theory. The people are spontaneous. There is no theoretical basis. And, probably there won’t be because it has gotten this far without it. It does not need it…

What do you think about Chaos Magic?

I looked at Pete Carroll’s Liber Null, but I find a lot of it completely irresponsible and ridiculous. He has a ritual about how to take over other people’s bodies, and things like that. Some of it was interesting, but it seemed to me too much on the power side, and I think it is very difficult to get results when you are just into power. You have to really be an incredible adept to be able to make power magic and not get burnt by it. His second book, Psychonaut, reminded me of a special New Age syndrome - one of the failures of the New Age is that it is very much about instant gratification. Instant pleasure. New Age is not strong on discipline. This notion of fast cooking, many results, instant gratification, seems to be a large part of Chaos Magic. The company that publishes the Necronomicon - its supposed version - released a second version. In its introduction they wrote that they published it because the first version would require years of practice and study before one can use it… so they released the second version to allow an immediate entry into it. It is the drugstore syndrome, the fast food syndrome. They forget to develop discipline and self-regulatory abilities.


What do you think about the synthesis of politics and magic?

In some sense this was the old structure where the queen was the high priestess and the king the high priest. That is actually the way things should be. But presently, things are too much on the power side as opposed to the peace side. It would be good if magic was recognized more, but that would be a problematic thing for most power structures because they are so much into power that they would use it for manipulation and not for creating harmony, healing the earth, healing the atmosphere, healing people…

There are sometimes rumors about Kabbalists being in the Israeli Secret Service, Mossad.

I do not know what they would use them for, but I think they might. The Second World War was very much an occult war. The Nazis were heavily into the occult and, at a certain point, Churchill also started using occult people. They had a lot of witches along the Dover cliffs singing up storms against the Germans, so it would not surprise me. Kabbalists could do a whole lot of things. In this tradition, to achieve special abilities is no problem if you are an adept.

But you would be surprised if there were real adepts in the Mossad?

Yeah, I would. Because I do not know what Jewish Kabbalists would have to offer them as they are mostly concerned with aesthetic states, not so much with practical magic, at least now. And, I do not think that non-Jewish kabbalists would be interested in working for the Mossad. There was a large amount of occultism being used in the Second World War. Trevor Ravenscroft writes much about it in his book Spear of Destiny.

Did you visit the Spear of Destiny?

Yes, some years ago in the Schatzkammer…

How should politics manifest?

I think it is just a matter of priorities. It should stand up very strong for environmental issues. If their intention is to heal the earth it does not matter if they do it for an occult reason or not.

Are spiritual values necessary to find an ecological balance?

No, ecology is the most important thing. What someone puts around it, whether they deal with the earth as the Great Mother or not does not matter as long as there is any healing of the earth. That is the point. There is a book of an African drummer who talked about the danger of the destruction of totems. In some regions the Muslims destroyed all the totems. Some of them existed for, literally, 5,000 or 10,000 years… This drummer thinks that the dryness is a result of this destruction. No rain for twenty years in some regions. When the totems are destroyed there is no home for the spiritual line to reside anymore, and the spirits leave. What we are seeing is the result.

Boyd Rice's thoughts (from BOYD RICE/NON Facebook page):

Just received word that long time friend Z'EV just died. Cause uncertain at this time, but he had spitting up blood recently. He spent last winter in our guest bedroom pursuant to the train derailment he was airlifted from, because his doctor told him he met get not survive a winter in Chicago. And the man we met at Denver international airport was a shadow of the person I've known for over four decades. His spirit was still tough as nails but physically he seemed devastated and had difficulty ascending the stairs to his room. Three and a half months later much of his strength seemed restored; he had survived the winter and the outlook seemed good. We had recently heard from him that he was doing some shows in Mexico and was going to spend this winter in Santa Fe. I'd assumed that even if he would never be 100% again he was at least back on his game. I had convinced him to release a box set of recordings through a German company that would chronicle his entire career and that I would write the perfect liner notes for it. I would say that Z'EV was to the avant garde what Iggy Pop was to rock and roll: total intensity, energy and raw power and he often left the stage in the early eighties cut up and bleeding from the injuries he received from his own instruments. I'd made extensive notes for my text and look forward to promoting the life and career of a man I thought was one of the most under appreciated figures in modern music. A linguist, an ethnic musicologist, a scholar, a mystic; but a man who could distill all this into a performance so intense that it could captivate an audience in a punk rock venue. That was his unique gift. He was one of the most talented people I have ever met. And there has never been any performer akin to him.