KZSU Interview with Klintron, Recording and Transcript

If you missed me on 90.1 KZSU Stanford ThermoNuclear Bar last week you can now check it out on SoundCloud, or read the transcript below. We talked about the occult, conspiracy theory, EsoZone, Portland, Psychetect, Mindful Cyborgs, the Indie Web.

Here’s a sample:

S1: Where do you see then your variety of your projects going? I mean we have talked about this earlier. I had said that Technoccult was one sphere, and Psychetect was another, Mindful Cyborgs was another. If you saw any relation between the three other than just you happen to be in the middle or do you see any sort of end-goal coming up for you?

KF: In terms of an end-goal, I think the purpose of all of these has always been to find some way to engage with other people in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. I guess, it’s kind of an abstract way of talking about it, but something like Psychetect is just a different way of expressing myself and hopefully of communicating with people. Things like Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs are more directly communicative projects. I think the only thing that they all have in common is a general interest in thoughts and thinking and consciousness. I guess, the overriding idea of Psychetect is to kind of create audio representations of thoughts or of sort of mental spaces that I don’t feel like I can describe with words. There’s I guess an overlap with something like Mindful Cyborgs where a big part of what we’re talking about is what it feels like to think in a world where you’re always connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and everything you do is being measured by somebody.

Full transcript

(Previously: G-Spot interview with me about Psychetect)

I should also mention that PDX Occulture is still sort of around, and that though EsoZone is gone, Weird Shift Con has emerged to fill that void (though I don’t have anything to do with organizing it).

S1: Wow, 90.1 KZSU Stanford ThermoNuclear Bar, it’s around 4:47 Pacific Standard Time. We have live on the air today, an interview with Klintron of Technoccult. He is well-known for his website Technoccult, which is kind of a compendium of weirdness online. He’s a writer, a journalist, and a noise artist living in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder of Technoccult blog. Served as a lead organizer of the EsoZone series of events and creates and performs noise under the name Psychetect. Most recently, Klint is the co-host of the Mindful Cyborg’s Podcast of Chris Dancy. Klint, are you there?

KF: I’m here.

S1: Wonderful, can you hear me alright?

KF: Yes, I can.

S1: Okay, good. Well, thanks for being on the show, we really appreciate it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been reading your material on Technoccult and you’ve been kind of a growing media force yourself. Do you want the give the general Stanford audience as well as the rest of the Bay Area out there, who are driving home from work now, a good dose on what you do?

KF: Sure. Well, for a living, I write for Wired.com but besides that I’m sort of a man about town for the sort of online weirdness world. So I do Technoccult, the blog, as you mentioned. I used to organize EsoZone, which ran for 5 years. It was annual conference/festival that brought in a lot of outside thinkers like artist Paul Laffoley, filmmaker/theorist, Antero Alli, Dennis McKenna, several other people and as well as performance art and music from people like The Red King, Foolish People, Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule. So just a lot of different stuff there. Most recently, I’ve been co-hosting the podcast Mindful Cyborgs with Chris Dancy which is an examination of the way the world that we live in today with technology and the way that everything is being monitored and surveyed and quantified and how all of that is affecting the way we think.

S1: Right, and it’s certainly affecting the way we act. One of the posts that you recently had on Technoccult was about people in love with conspiracy theories and why they would do that and, of course, today is 9/11. I don’t know if you briefly speak to that. There is then, the underground, cyberpunk world, definitely a love of conspiracy theories and who can weird themselves out the most. But then there are people who kind of tend to go more towards the factual information, still see a conspiracy, but then may they be a hashtagged by the NSA as well.

KF: Well, the important thing to remember is that there are conspiracies. I mean, Watergate was a conspiracy. I think where people start to get into trouble is when they start to extrapolate too much from the evidence that they have. I think more so than extrapolate, just speculate that you have some particular piece of evidence and then you draw a conclusion based on it even though that’s not the only possible conclusion that can be drawn from a piece of evidence or a group of pieces of evidences. Which is why, for example, you end up with such a wide ranging number of theories about what happened on 9/11 or why there’s multiple competing conspiracy theories about JFK. There may be nothing particularly hidden about what happened, but there are various strands of peculiar evidence and a lot of people have drawn conclusions that are not necessarily– You know, they’re supported by the evidence that they have but the evidence they have doesn’t prove conclusively what they believe.

S1: Right, and drawing form that and acting from that can cause a whole bunch of problems. With the Technoccult’s site, besides what we just spoke about conspiracy theories, you cover a very wide range of topics. Do you want to go a little bit into the history of this site and what it means to you now?

KF: Sure. It’s been over 13 years now, almost 14 years since January 2000. I was a senior in high school in Sheridan, Wyoming. I can’t remember the exact impetus for the site but I kind of wanted to build a site that was sort of like disinfo.com was back then. So it was less of a blog in the beginning and more of a collection of articles, of short articles with extensive links at the end. I’ve actually gone back to doing some of now with the Dossier section of the site. And then about a year later, I started doing it as a blog. And so the original intention was just kind of to collect information about stuff that I was interested in. The very first dossier I did was on Industrial Records, which was the record label founded by Throbbing Gristle that Also released Monte Cazzaza’s early works. I think some of Boyd Rice’s early work, at least one Cabaret Voltaire release. And then it just went from there. The funny thing of it is, I ended up reading Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, later that same year.

S1: I was going to ask you.

KF: Yeah, it had a really profound effect on me but the odd thing is if there’s like this corporation in the Invisibles called Technoccult, spelled the same way, but I had already set up the site before I ever found the Invisibles comic… well, before I read the comic.

S1: So it’s just retro-causal action right there right?

KF: Yes. That company doesn’t even show up in the first few issues of the comic, but the first time I found out that it had anything to do with The Invisibles, was I tried to register the domain name, Technoccult.com and somebody else had it back then. Whoever had it had put their company name as The Invisibles. People probably think that that was me all along, oddly enough because they lived in Portland and now I live in Portland. For the first 6 years that Technoccult was around, I didn’t live here. I didn’t get the domain name until like 2003 or 2004. So somebody else wanted to do that back then.

I got interested in the occult after I started Technoccult, I wasn’t even really starting it with the intention of really being like a website about– It just sounded to me like kind of a cool name. I wasn’t really interested in the occult, but I was interested in certain occultist like Genesis P. Orridge and the other Industrial Record/Throbbing Gristle people. I was interested in Alan Moore, I was interested in William S. Burroughs and that was actually what led me start reading about the occult and there was an awful lot of that stuff on this stuff on Disinfo and then once I started reading the Invisibles, I just felt like I just had to start actually trying that stuff.

S1: Right. You were going to also talk about where you see Technoccult now. But is there a way to possibly tie that in with your particular, current read of occult literature?

KF: I guess there was a period when I was really interested in the occult but Technoccult also reflected that interest. And these days, you won’t see very much of that sort of thing cross the wire on Technoccult. That’s largely got enchanted with that whole field. I think that there’s a lot of people who have really deluded themselves about the effectiveness of those methods. That actually ties in with EsoZone so maybe I’ll go into that a little bit.

EsoZone kind of grew out of a couple of things. Two of different online discussion sites, Irreality and Key 23, neither of which are around anymore, and then a local Portland meet up group called Portland Occulture or PDX Occulture. During the time that I was organizing that event and being involved in those meet-ups, I got to meet an awful lot of occultists and most of them are actually, completely, totally well-adjusted, nice normal people, but I didn’t see any evidence that magic or whatever was actually improving their lives in any way. I, also, unfortunately met a minority of people who are just badly damaged people, who pretty clear were using magic as sort of a maladaptive coping mechanism for the way their lives had gone so terribly wrong. And I could start to see that people were not able to use this stuff to solve even the most basic of life’s problems or to advance themselves in any way. One example, why is it everyone who is an occultist rich or at least affluent? You can say, not everyone is really concerned about those material things but there’s so many things that can enrich your life, having good positive relationships, having good creative output. I was just seeing there are way too many people – generally, the people who are the most into these stuff – were the least fulfilled I think in any other aspect of their lives.

That was really disillusioning and I was also finding, having spent about 7 years battling in different forms of ritual and magic that I couldn’t really say that I was getting positive results. I think it’s really common for people to sort of get false positives in the beginning and then become really convinced that it works, which is what happened to me. But over the years, I think it becomes harder to defend that position.

S1: Now, one of the things that you have spoken about was the EsoZone event that had grown out of several different websites and real life meet-ups. What do you think is different in say area, like San Francisco Bay area where you know you have Silicone Valley, but you don’t really have as many sort of– well, you do have cultural events, but they seem a little bit different that something that PDX would have. Do you see any sort of reason for that? Do you think the underground here is different than the underground up there?

KF: Well, it’s hard for me to say because I haven’t lived there and I visit there some, but it’s usually for work. So it’s tech stuff that I’m down there for. I can speculate a couple of things. One, it goes on but it’s happening between people who’ve known each other for a while. The way PDX Occulture got off the ground was it was a whole bunch of people who were new to Portland for the most part. There have been some people who have been here for a while, but it was propelled by I think a desire on the part of people who were brand new in the city, to get together and meet people. Portland is such a magnet for young people, for newcomers, that I think that a lot of people were just really excited to meet each other.

The other possible difference is that it’s a lot cheaper to do stuff in Portland. And still, there might be more of an opportunity to do stuff like this in Oakland, somewhere on the East Bay. But I don’t know. It was expensive to throw EsoZone here. Renting spaces, paying for flights and all that, it was an expensive thing to do. But trying to do that in New York or San Francisco, it would have been so much more. I don’t know how we would have pulled it off.

S1: One of the things we have yet to talk about a project of yours is Psychetect and that’s your foray into noise creation. I’d like to play a track off that and then if you want to give a back story. This song is called “Solar Rattle” and it’s of the extremism EP that’s available on Psychetect at bandcamp.com. You have a crazy one AM story about the creation of this song?

KF: No, but it’s funny that you ask because it’s named in part or inspired in part by some of the writings on a website called, “Hyperstition,” that was founded by Nick Land, who is somebody I’ve just been reading more about recently because a collection of his works just was just published. I think it’s actually been a few months now, but I only just found out about it and read some of the retrospectives. He’s a deeply weird dude.

S1: Okay, so we’re going to go into a portion of Solo Rattle here, and we’re live at KZSU Stanford with Klintron Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs Podcast and this is the track Solar Rattle, of the extremism EP.

90.1 KZSU Stanford speaking about the deeply weird, that was the first three minutes of the epic “Solar Rattle.” We’re here live in the studio, not in the studio but over the phone with Klintron. Klint, you still there?

KF: Yes, I’m here.

S1: Okay, great. So let’s talk about the founding of Psychetect and the whole background of the story of that.

KF: Sure. I had started to do noise also when I was in high school, when I was 15, 16 years old and just got busy with other things and then picked it back up again, until 2008, when I was in the middle of organizing the second EsoZone. At the time, I was working at a technology company doing IT help desk support stuff and I was organizing the event and I was putting together Technoccult TV, which is a series of video and interviews I did.

S1: Oh yes, those were great.

KF: Thank you! Yeah, mostly those are with people who were speaking at EsoZone. So the majority of the work on that was video editing. So it’s spending a ton of time doing video editing, doing tech stuff and those organizing events. So to use the old left brain, right brain, false dichotomy – I was really using my left brain a lot and I really wanted to do something creative to unwind, during all of that, so I just figured that I would start doing noise. It didn’t mean I had to learn how to play an instrument or buy anything because I could just use software on my computer. That ended up being a little bit more work that I bargained for, once I started doing it. But that was the initial impetus.

S1: Right, and you’ve gone to a little bit instruments. You did a track with I believe a broken cymbal and some feedback loops and live, you’ve done that as well?

KF: Yeah, I ended up getting some hardware, mostly controllers. But then I’ve also been experimenting with using a broken drum cymbal and a cello bow and a contact microphone. Basically, I bow the cymbal, which isn’t a particularly new technique. Le Monte Young has been bowing gongs since at least the 60’s, but using the contact microphone, I could send the output of that sound into my computer where I could process it with various effects. So I was able to do some I think, relatively interesting things with it.

S1: Yes, so you’ve been bowing gongs since the 60’s yourself?

KF: No. La Monte Young…

S1: Well, where’s Psychetect now? How’s it standing? Are you doing anymore shows?

KF: It’s sort of on hiatus right now, because I’ve been focusing on writing, just both for my journalism work, as well as a little bit fiction writing on the side. But I do hope to pick it up again at some point. Part of why it’s shelved for the time being because I feel like I need to do some learning in terms of if I need to do some more music theory. I do know how to read music, I was in band and stuff when I was in high school, but I don’t feel like I have a really deep understanding of music theory, or the science of sound, audiology, and that sort of thing. I really want to spend some time getting involved in that before I do much new work. But I do have a new track that’s going to be coming out on a compilation – I can’t really say very much about yet.

S1: Well, it’s possible that we may be able to leak that song or what?

KF: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re still cool with playing it. I just can’t talk about the compilation. You can still play the track.

S1: Okay, cool. One of the things we can talk about is one of your newer projects that’s really coming up in podcast land here is Mindful Cyborgs. Do you want to give the listening on the ship a little taste of that?

KF: Sure. So that came about, Chris Dancy asked me if I wanted to do something like that. I had met Chris at CyborgCamp, which is another sort of oddball event here in Portland. Chris was explaining how he does some really crazy self-tracking, self-quantification stuff. He wears multiple sensors all the time and he just tracks everything he does on his computer and posts it all to this crazy looking Google Calendar, so he can go back and he can see what his heart rate was at practically at any time of the day, any day in the past as well as what he was working on that day. Like: “I had a conference call, my heart rate was this rate.” That sort of thing.

I wrote a story about what he was doing for Wired and we did a follow-up thing, it was like a live video interview on Wired.com. We spent a lot of time talking for those things and hit it off and just decided to try doing our own podcast, where we could just keep talking about the stuff we were talking about.

S1: It’s really grown. Every other week there’s a new episode out, very short, as opposed to say like a Joe Rogan podcast, where’s like 3 hours of some guys with really just too much THC in their system and they just kind of hang out. You guys are really, boom, boom, boom, boom! Let’s go to the story, let’s go to the analysis, and let’s move on and that’s a really great thing.

KF: Yes, I think we had originally for the episodes to be like 21 minutes each but I think they’re always over half an hour, I think they get closer to 40 minutes, but yes, we try to keep it short.

S1: The most recent episode as of now – I can’t really say his last name correctly. Alex, uh…

KF: Pang.

S1: Pang, and he was speaking about his new book, The Distraction Addiction and do you want to just kind of give like a brief rundown of what occurred during that podcast to people to kind of get a sense of what they can listen to.

KF: Boy, I can’t remember. But his book outlines a concepts he calls Contemplative Computing, which was actually a big influence on me in terms of what I wanted the whole podcast to be about. His thought is that there doesn’t need to be the idea that computers always have to be distracting and just psychically damaging, I guess. He thinks that we can use computers in a way that’s more mindful in kind of that Buddhist sense of being mindful, both through a more thoughtful design of applications, but mostly just in the way that we as individuals approach how we use computers. We talked a little about the things one might expect by taking a digital Sabbath once a week, unplug. But he also talks a lot about just really thinking about what you’re tweeting, what you’re posting on social media because you might be wasting somebody else’s time by just tweeting mindlessly.

S1: It’s almost compassionate in a way too.

KF: Yeah, yeah totally, and it’s actually that Chris has talked a lot about on the show previously. So it was a great meeting of minds.

S1: One of the things I’ve noticed lately, with the advent of Google Glass and ubiquitous computing and things like that. There seems to be a recent movement like stopping this or ho\oping to stop this is a Neo-luddite movement. And in the description for that particular podcast, they were speaking about, I think it was Chris saying that this book can be used as a weapon as both for and against the idea of techno-utopia or something like that. Do you yourself see this dichotomy as coming to a head sometime soon?

KF: I don’t know, it’s a good question. I think the surveillance stuff is what’s really politicizing people, but there’s also just the day-to-day grind of being on Facebook or Twitter and trying to keep track of all this stuff, and going on all these “listical” websites that just have these lists, and lists of more lists to look at and just the way it’s so easy to just get sucked into these things and distracted. And the hot button approach to politics where everything is kind of just designed to get you angry, so you’ll donate money. That’s something Clay Johnson, who wrote Information Diet, was talking about it.

Those are things very much on my mind. I don’t know if it will come to a head though. I hope that we can actually just get some reasonable synthesis of skepticism and technology. I guess that’s kind of what the Indie Web, which I’ve written about for Wired, is about in some ways, is giving people more of an ability to control their content and their data and their identities online by actually hosting their own servers where all their social media lives. I think, maybe, if you combine contemplative computing with the indie web, we can actually have a hi-tech society that is a little bit easier to live in.

S1: Yes, is that an invite only “Indie Web” sort of thing? I just want to know how you would avoid getting into your own particular corner of the web and just stay in there, because the advent of just the nonstop information, also hopefully sometimes allows you to see outside your own box, your own reality tunnel.

KF: Right. Well, the Indie Web is a broad term for a lot of different types of projects. So it’s not like it’s an invite only thing. But I think to answer that question, I don’t know. I think that is the same, we would have that same issue with the Indie Web or with Facebook or Twitter. I mean, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you can usually just choose who you want to follow and only follow them, only click the links that you want to click on. Only follow the people that you already agreed with, that sort of thing. You already have to make a conscious effort I think to follow people or publications that are outside of your comfort zone. I don’t really see that being any different on the Indie Web.

S1: Okay, very interesting. We’re here live with Klintron of Technoccult and this Mindful Cyborgs podcast, speaking about information overload, Psychetect, his noise project. I guess now will be a perfect time to play Brain Rust. Would you like to intro this for a second?

KF: I don’t really have anything to say about this, other than that it was my favorite track of that album, Return to the Wasteland.

S1: Okay, great. Well, here’s Brain Rust, following the theme of ubiquity and computing. We’ll be right back with Klintron and enjoy.

90.1 KZSU Stanford, ThermoNuclear Bar. It’s about 5:23, here on Wednesday, September 11. We’re live with Klintron. Klint, you still there?

KF: Yes, I’m here.

S1: Great. So you had mentioned earlier that you’ve been writing for Wired. Do you want to give a little bit of background on what you’re doing for them?

KF: I don’t want to talk too much about what I’m doing there because I don’t want to make it sound like I speak for Wired at all. But some of the stuff I’ve been covering lately is the Indie Web stuff that I mentioned and just this whole movement of people working on open source projects that can hopefully get people, as I said, a bit more control over their data, their content. So I talked to the people behind a project called MailPile, that’s a new email client that’s designed to handle encryption from the get-go, built from the ground up to handle that. But should also be as easy to use as Gmail and have some of the features that people expect of a modern web UI. Or a project called Trsst, which is still raising money I believe, to build a Twitter alternative that’s built on web standards so that you would be able to follow publications and people through it already without having to get everybody to sign up for yet another service, but that wouldn’t necessarily run through any one company servers in order to operate.

S1: So you do a lot of interface with, I would say, up and coming tech companies and individuals. Is there anything that you’ve noticed that seems to be similar between people like the ones who do particularly interesting stuff to you? What do they normally have in common?

KF: Yeah, in a lot of cases, that’s actually the very same people. Once you start to talk to tech people, you often find that they have interests in cybernetics or the occult or some form of radical politics or another. You find a lot of crazy out there, left-wing people and the crazy out there right-wing people. I usually feel pretty at home with at least with the nitty-gritty technical people. I don’t always feel very at home with the business people.

S1: Where do you see then your variety of your projects going? I mean we have talked about this earlier. I had said that Technoccult was one sphere, and Psychetect was another, Mindful Cyborgs was another. If you saw any relation between the three other than just you happen to be in the middle or do you see any sort of end-goal coming up for you?

KF: In terms of an end-goal, I think the purpose of all of these has always been to find some way to engage with other people in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. I guess, it’s kind of an abstract way of talking about it, but something like Psychetect is just a different way of expressing myself and hopefully of communicating with people. Things like Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs are more directly communicative projects. I think the only thing that they all have in common is a general interest in thoughts and thinking and consciousness. I guess, the overriding idea of Psychetect is to kind of create audio representations of thoughts or of sort of mental spaces that I don’t feel like I can describe with words. There’s I guess an overlap with something like Mindful Cyborgs where a big part of what we’re talking about is what it feels like to think in a world where you’re always connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and everything you do is being measured by somebody.

S1: Well, I wanted to thank you Klint for coming on the show today. It’s been a wild, wild run of a lot of different subjects and we appreciate the clues that you have given us to our future endeavors for humanity’s sake online and stuff. We have another future endeavor of yours coming up here I like to share. You have a track upcoming that we like to play. It’s OV in Walrus, what was the name again?

KF: Two Tabs of Walrus.

S1: Okay, cool and that’s coming out somehow right?

KF: Yes, I don’t know when it’s going to come out but all I can say is that it’s going to be on a compilation.

S1: Excellent. Okay, well once again, Klint, thanks so much for being on the air. If you want to give a rundown, where do people can catch your work?

KF: Sure, Technoccult.net and also Klintron on Twitter. Those are probably the best places to find me online right now.

S1: Excellent. Well Klint, thanks so much. We appreciate you being on the air. I’m sure that some people driving home from their slave labor jobs here in Silicon Valley were enamored with our discussion. That was great.

KF: I hope so. Thanks for having me on.

S1: Thank you. Here’s a track by Psychetect. This is 90.1 KZSU Stanford. Thanks so much, Klint.

KF: Thank you.

1 Comment

  1. I had meant to talk a bit more about the good side of occultism, but got distracted talking about other things. Mostly I found that magic — or more specifically, sorcery — didn’t really work, at least not as advertised. There are other interesting aspects of occultism and magic than just trying to make stuff happen, but I find that most of that is a bit too obscurantist.

    For example, there’s Magic in the Alan Moore sense — as it being something akin to pure creativity — seems fine, at least for those who think of it in that way. But why call it magic, other than just because you like calling yourself a magician?

    Then there’s consciousness and personality exploration. I think most people will get more out of something like the exercises in Prometheus Rising, or maybe a good book on Buddhism or Hatha Yoga (I can’t recommend anything there), than they will out of a typical “Magick 101″ book, but as with all things, your mileage may vary.

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