German version at http://www.musikreviews.de/interviews/04-06-2012/King-Bathmat/
AS - Given the tenacity with which John Bassett, for years has been almost unnoticed in the broad field of prog rock, whilst composing interesting, meaningful music, it was high time to get it to the string. In the question & answer game, the Briton proves a quirky character and expresses views that make thoughtful.
AS- The concept of truth is a rather complex and much-debated one. Do you think that in an age of multiple more or less "real" worlds that are getting closer and closer to one another, the idea of one definite truth is still valid? Don't we all have our own truths?
JB - We all have our own individual beliefs, and there are different levels of consciousness. As children we gape at the world in wonder. Intrigued by the most basic examples of nature. I can remember being fascinated by the greenness of a leaf and sitting contently in a garden whilst watching earthworms pulsate for hours on end. I would pick up maple tree "whirlybirds" or "helicopter" leaves from the ground and hurl them in the air to watch them spin back to earth. This early capability to experience total joy at something so simple is then slowly eroded away by the influence of external forces and our responses to our personal experience of them. Truth is not an ideology, a rule or a principle it is empirical data drawn from observation. Those that observe events and then who wish to relate it to others have a duty to report them in an unbiased manner. If I behold a grossly obese man shovelling the entire contents of a large packet of custard creams into his mouth whilst wearing electric pyjamas, then I have just witnessed a man eating a whole packet of custard creams in unusual attire. If I wish to relay this information of monumental biscuit munching to others, then I should do so, but I should not then embellish the story with fabrication, or include exaggeration for effect or include my own personal subjective opinion. To quote Sherlock Holmes "It is a capital mistake to theorise in the absence of facts, as one tends to twist the facts to suit a personal theory as opposed to twisting theories to suit the facts". If we don't have access to the lucid factual matter at first hand, then all that flows from that initial stream of data is nonsense. All mainstream news is biased and riddled with untruths. If my incredible custard cream consuming man was reported on the mainstream news it would be exploited to highlight a governmental agenda, perhaps an agenda too increase revenue by slapping a tax on sugary biscuits so as too "cut heart attacks and rising levels of obesity". This would then be reported in an exaggerated manner to suit the needs of that underlying agenda. An "obesity" agenda which in itself is reported in a false "caring" way, when in reality it is purely a cold and calculating method to extract more money from us under the pretense of charity. With this abundance of technology in our lives, could we not have a way of cutting out these distortions and accentuations. A truth button, a switch or a mechanism that would strip away all that is pretence and deceptive. Yet if we had such a fantastical tool at our disposal would we be too afraid to use it.
On a side note I do not claim to be a connoisseur of biscuits but I much prefer Chocolate Digestives over the tawdry cheapness of a Custard Cream. Any man who favours a custard cream in such circumstances is not a man too be trusted.
AS - Separating the wheat from the chaff in the fields of news and information is what you tackle with "Truth Button". Can you draw a reference to the music business from there?
JB - Music and Business have compatibility problems. Like laxatives and sleeping pills, when both combined the outcome can be an awful shitfest. The more influence business has upon music, the more detrimental the impact it shall have upon the music. There are many well respected artists who still focus far too much upon milking the cash cow of every drop as opposed to concentrating on their music. These money spinning ideas take the shape of marketing strategies such as releasing the ubiquitous limited editions, deluxe editions or the scarce limited deluxe limited extreme collector's version with irrelevant 42 page glossy book containing moody photographs of steam punk kittens eliciting Gothic tears. It is all a cul-de-sac of crapola. If you are making a comfortable living from making music then continue to do so, continue to release new music. It seems that most musical artists who acquire notoriety are quick to exploit their fans. That initial focus on creativity is then switched to a focus on the acquisition of money.
AS - If one puts aside the thought that all life follows a direction and a purpose, isn't it completely okay to squander time, stay uninformed and just cherish hedonism?
JB - There is a spiritual direction, a natural direction and of course "One Direction" the malevolent spawn of a television talent competition whom discharge noise from out of their pudgy contorted little heads. A spiritual direction is the influence of religion. If we dismiss the concept of a spiritual direction, then we are inclined to question ethics and morals. Our lives follow a natural direction, our lack of immortality provides proof of that. So no matter what, we can't put aside a direction, as we are perpetually gliding towards an inevitable end. But to squander time?, does time even exist? Is time not the result of man interpreting and the measuring the natural phenomena of the cycle of the seasons, so as to protect and produce agriculture in a more fluent manner. If so then time is an artificial creation, much like the boy band "one direction", yet time, unlike "one direction", does serve some purpose.
I personally feel though that time is a major pain in the arse!
Time is a pesky nuisance, a cruel mistress forever whipping our backs, it pervades every moment of consciousness and seems to be forever our ruler and daily compass.
The way we approach each day, our thoughts and fears, clocking in at work, a mid life crisis, a woman's biological clock ticking away, yet another birthday celebration that signifies another step closer to the grave.
These are all characteristic emotions and stereotypical actions and anxieties created by the elapsing of artificial time, passing through its frantic and premature motions. Time is a controlling element that restricts and dehumanises us.
I would like to advocate a world without time. Why not eradicate time from our lives, let us regress to living our lives using only natural time. Days could be judged by simply noting the dawn and dusk of the sun and our life could be conducted by the rhythm of nature. Every facet of life, from learning at school, work and home life could be governed by its own intuitive and instinctual process.
An instinctual process which would be much less organised and more geared towards collective hedonistic pursuits. Which might be a lot of fun! Although a hedonistic outlook can also involve hard work and ritual organisation to produce overwhelming happiness.
AS - I notice the sounds of a cardiograph, a clock and a music box throughout the songs. Do these things sum up the main motifs of the record, like counting time, keeping pace and pacifying oneself through entertainment? ("Time is my jail, denying bail" - it is impossible to grasp everything)
JB -Yes. The music box is a snapshot of a simple, and yet trivial form of entertainment from the past long gone. We all need to be entertained to distract us from the ordinary and monotonous. But today we seem to be bombarded with an avalanche of monotonous entertainment that is beamed into our sensory receptors through those various mediums of the Internet, television, newspapers etc etc, and this entertainment is mostly of guff quality, it is poppycock and worthless nonsense. This drivel is aimed to stimulate our primitive desires in order to keep us dumbed down and distracted, so that we don't ask too many questions. So that we are gradually evolved into more pliable and placated beings. Socially engineered into beasts of burden.
I love the music box. The modern equivalent of a music box today would probably be a flash app for a smart-phone, a pixelated soulless electronic trinket of nothingness that leaves no resonance once the light goes out. That's not too say that I am a "Luddite" who is afraid of new technology and advocates the quashing of all new technological discoveries and innovations. If that was everyone's ideology then we would still all be standing around naked in caves staring intently at each others private parts.
AS - If you use the image "Behind the Wall", does this address the strained search for meaning behind the mass of trivial bits that flood us day by day? + Do you think one can generalize: While socializing has never been easier, the fear of confronting strangers has grown and borders on paranoia? In this context, does "Am I delusional or are they who they claim" refer to individuals or rather a nebulous authority?
JB - The song "Behind The Wall", lyrically explores a metaphysical theme. I have had a number of unusual paranormal encounters recently that defy explanation, and I'm basically stating in this track, that on account of these bizarre occurrences, I now feel quite sure that there is something else out there, something behind the wall of our everyday consciousness that is not acknowledged in the public domain. I won't comment any further on my experiences as I fear the accusation of mental illness.
AS -"Abintra" means "from within"; you can read it both ways: on the one hand, there is the person that gets more and more isolated (the Japanese have named this "Hikikomori "), but in return, you can also interpret it as a hint at a potential uprising from one single cell, triggering revolutions
JB - I like the idea of a revolution, bringing down the establishment, for they do seem like a most corrupt bunch of numb-skulls, but I fear the reality of such an endeavour would be disastrous for all concerned. Any procedure of change would have to be accomplished through peaceful means of stealth and infiltration.
AS - The lyrical line "Delusional receipts, forever indiscreet" makes me ponder?
JB - "Delusional receipts, forever indiscreet" relates to the purchases that we now make being predominantly cashless transactions, these digital transactions whether through credit card, internet, debit card etc are traced and tracked. This results in the "forever indiscreet" junkmail, uninvited phonecall's and emails from companies who have procured your information from that initial transaction.
AS - This fits well then with the lyric "Tracing every step without you leaving home"
The internet as the government's tool to keep the populace ignorant and humble?
JB -Yes. Advancements in technologies are perpetually utilised to restrict us and watch over us. In the UK all emails, telephone calls and web use is monitored. Nothing within these mediums is private. And due to our compliance with offering our private information to social networking sites, they now have the infrastructure in place, to do this more effectively.
AS - "Be My Friend, Until The End, I'm Poison, Poison"
The unknown person that sneaks into your online-life and is able to hurt you badly?
JB - Yes, and that devious upstart could well be an enterprise such as a google or a facebook, who with all of that information on you, are free to rewrite your personality and history if they deemed to do so.
AS - When I use the term"The observing elite", I think of conspiracy theories.
Are you prone to conspiracy theories?
JB - I believe the term "Conspiracy Theory" is in itself a Conspiracy Theory. This phrase is used to ridicule individuals who openly ask questions and think unconventionally. Whenever the term conspiracy theorist is uttered it seems to be loaded with negative connotations and is then aimed in the direction of the person asking uncomfortable questions to belittle him and therefore his argument. If you are in a position where you question, within reason, an event, organisation or policy, and then someone in a position of power then labels you a "Conspiracy Theorist" in reply. Then you are probably closer to the crux of the matter than you may believe. Although if George Bush is truly a shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrial lizard from the planet nimrod then surely he would have chosen a far more attractive disguise than the one he currently adopts?
AS - "Don't sign in, remain anonymous, this contract's binding you to a digital curse"
Faustian pact: gaining something (what?) but losing the soul?
JB - Those lyrics are from the song "Book Of Faces" which is an anti-facebook song. I find Facebook a highly suspicious enterprise. There are numerous well founded rumours about the funding of facebook that make me believe there is far more to this organisation than just a money devouring, data mining network. As far as I believe Facebook won't allow you too truly delete your account, you can only deactivate it, which they kindly refer, as to allow you the opportunity too reactivate it at a later date if you have a change of mind. If you wish to permanently delete your account then you must submit a request. It is amazing to observe all of this data that people are freely donating to this organisation, their personal details, their photographs, their place of employment, their philosophical and political views. All of this information given to an organisation that is an uber-capitalist experiment that employs creepy facial recognition technology in order to be able too search for a person with only a photo as evidence. I am somewhat of a hypocrite as I am on facebook, but only to publicise the music. John Lennon once said that "Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself" and unfortunately facebook at this time, is the virtual Rome/New York of the Internet, its where everyone on-line seems to be, and if I want to promote my music, then I need to be where everyone is. But If I had nothing to promote, I would never sign up to a facebook account and I would strongly recommend that too everyone else.
AS - "Money flows through the gates, the currency deflates, between the devil and the deep blue sea":
The dilemma of cheapening yourself by exposing yourself, while exposure is necessary in today's day and age for personal success?
JB - Our so called leaders congregate at these G8 pyjama parties and chant the mantra of financial growth, this filters through the media and we assume that continual growth is all that matters. Why not scale everything down, instead of pushing for more and more growth. I had a fungal growth once on my toe, I sought medication and therefore annihilated that little sucker into oblivion. Growth all of the time is not good and it is also not possible.
AS - "False are the words, that tumble from the screen / Help is the lie disguised as charity":
A reference to dubious calls for charitable contributions that are never to reach those who need them?
JB - Yes, Haiti is a good example. If we can believe any reports that we are told, it has been stated that approximately, only 30% of money raised in the US has been disbursed to Haiti, and this is still the situation 2 years on. I'm sure if Haiti was an Oil rich country then the outcome of this crisis would have been far different. The process of acquiring money for a big name charity seems to be that of a similar process to those used by shopping channels and pushy salesmen with the extra added bonus of the psychological trick of imbuing us with a guilty complexion. Here in the UK we have various charity telethons year after year, continually asking for donations, and they receive them, yet, year after year they return with the same reports of poverty which only highlight the insignificance of the whole enterprise. Charity and altruism is a beautiful thing, but have some of these well meaning companies been hijacked by bigger well financed duplicitous associations who see these charities as opportunistic. I don't know the answer, I'm merely just asking the question.
AS - What is the difference between "Truth Button" and the subjects Porcupine Tree's "Fear Of A Blank Planet" addresses?
JB - I'm not so familiar with "Fear Of A Blank Planet". I lost interest in Porcupine Tree from around the "Deadwing" era. But If I may be so bold as too estimate the theme of the aforementioned album, I believe that it has something to do with the alienation of youth in society, and the negative influence of technology upon their lives. I remember hearing a song from it mentioning the monotony of shopping centres and the xbox being a god in the eyes of these young people. And I wholeheartedly agree that the journey upon the path of spiritual enlightenment does not require that you spend two hours every Saturday aimlessly wandering the shopping centre. FOABP addresses the youth of today and shows concern on how they will evolve, while "Truth Button" is more concerned with the ambiguous landscape of everyone's consciousness and how a feeling of detachment is manipulated and encouraged by technology, technology which in itself is shaped by the powers that be, who are in turn, merely a reflection of us all collectively.
AS - What do the lyrics of "The End of Evolution" and "Dives And Pauper" mean? Honestly, I don't have a clue.
JB - "Dives and Pauper" means rich and poor. It's about the effect of small alterations performed by the rich few at the top which then create big problems for the many poor at the bottom.
"The End Of Evolution" is an amalgamation of the story of Frankenstein and something of a personal matter. I'm not saying there is a direct correlation between myself and a man made creature cobbled together with parts of exhumed corpses, but I have at times felt an outsider or an alien, whose attempts to integrate himself into human social patterns, usually has the result of failure. And so the lyrics for this song are somewhat a Frankensteins Monster, a combination of two disparate ideas.
AS - John, that was all. Thank you for your eloquence!