Interview with D’urban Moffer
November 1, 2021
MM) American Kashayas is nonlinear, and you’ve talked about your distaste for linearity because time folds in on itself and we don’t experience things linearly. Is it more authentic to write in patchwork fragments that adhere more to momentum than trajectory? Is it more accurate and pure? Your process with the Alt-Write podcast seems to reflect that.
DM) I don’t think linearity truly exists. It’s one of the ways the simian brain organizes things- point A to point Z with all the stops along the way. I believe it’s possible for a human mind to occupy a number of liminal and/or fixed spaces simultaneously. Astral projection is one commonly known method of achieving a level of this, usually easier to achieve during sleep/delta functioning. Additionally, humans experience ‘reality’ in fragments. I mean, look at stream of consciousness- what is it if not the mental sorting and decoding of a sea of random stimuli, both internal and external? My understanding of ‘reality’ is that everything is on a continuum. Conversations are often incredibly fragmentary, as is memory.
You mention momentum and that’s something I often think about and work with in both professional and personal ways. It flows any way you push it. Sometimes it takes a few pushes. To me, there’s something appealing about the rising action, punctuated by detours and the unexpected, a change of pacing that still maintains tension. It’s about layering on the atmosphere, the vibes. When you gather enough information, conduct many experiments, a bigger picture comes into focus. Alt-Write exemplifies this pretty well I think. Each episode is a facet of a larger picture. It’s about building moods, increasing tensions, embracing the chaos of Future Shock and the increasingly fragmentary society Toffler spoke of decades ago.
MM) You produced and participated in the second season of Alt-Write, during which it became more abstract and sonically adventurous, with music and found sound collages, unidentifiable guests, and a narrative through line. How much would you say this is the culmination of bibles’ ideas of currentivism? I view the show as effectively writing. Do you agree? What’s the implication then? Also, tell me about cumulative vs linear approaches to writing.
DM) I would say that currentivism factors in as heavily as you’d imagine being that Alt-Write’s bibles’ brainchild. Contrary to how I portray our relationship on the podcast, I cannot speak for bibles in this arena. However, I feel that his choice to retain me as editor and co-host is born from a recognition that I seem to understand what he’s going for with both his writing and attendant projects. We both have the Project/Object mentality, in other words. I have felt the kindred spirit from the first few Appropouture pieces I read but our artistic relationship really began when he requested an illustration for a piece he released on Misery Tourism. The approach has become more about psychology and vibe- with a tip of the hat to the Dadaists and surrealists- rather than a straightforward interview/writing discussion show. Those are a dime a dozen. Amid the arcs of story lines that arose organically I include real time and surreptitiously recorded snippets from my neighbors and friends, spam calls, all the things that add to the highly specific environment of the audio world we’ve forged. In the editing process, I select moments that are as raw as possible, as authentic and in the moment as it gets, and this adds a certain soap operatic quality that is very much a part of any scene where humans play. The show has been pretty different from the beginning, all I’ve done is magnified those differences and we’ve played our parts to perfection. Without bibles and his biblessounds, the quality of the show would be totally different. He’s given me free reign to be as experimental and provocative with the hundred plus hours of audio we amassed [over the course of quarantine with nearly daily recording sessions], which has made this artistic experience among the most fulfilling collaborations, yet.
I totally approach the podcast from a literary perspective. With regards to momentum or cumulative effect, I recommend anyone interested in listening to Alt-Write to start with the first episode and listen consecutively. The arcs and leitmotifs will become apparent with greater clarity the further you progress. It’s an Appropouture book, broken into chapters, with recurrent characters and readily identifiable themes that are neither spoonfed or apparent upon a cursory listen. The program, in my estimation, is also about an ongoing and omnipresent struggle with tech, the problems of communication among humans that seems to be amplified or obscured by static. It represents the mindset of a person distracted by sounds and voices, unable to function or focus the way he/she thinks they should because of the barrage of information and sensory stimuli. It can be viewed from a variety of vantage points and interpreted in a few different ways which, in my humble opinion, makes for a most entertaining experience. It’s also demanding, like a Cormac book. Not an easy listen, but you never really learn anything from easy art, do you?
MM) You’re an intensely spiritual person and your book is essentially vignettes of American attitudes, particularly from an Ohioan perspective. Can you talk a little bit about your spiritual path and your relationship to Ohio? It’s described by you as “the heart of it all” and “the womb.” Why is this the most important book about Ohio? Do you like Sherwood Anderson? There’s such a wealth of human perspectives here which suggests a wealth of occupational and interpersonal experience as well as a lifetime of spiritual study and I’m hoping you would divulge some of those origins so people know what they’re getting into.
DM) I hate to describe myself that way to people, because I’ve had bad experiences with individuals who claim ‘deeply spiritual’ leanings and eventually seen what assholes they be. However, I do have personal practices and pantheons. I was born into Catholic families of Polish (maternal) and Italian (paternal) immigrants and their Catholicism never prevented them from using their old-world folk magics to ward off ‘The Moloch’ [evil eye] or other such afflictions- so, I grew up in a hybridization/bastardization of those two. I feel like I’ve always been a student of comparative religion. From an early age. I start studying Zen/Taoist Buddhism, followed by Rosicrucian tracts, followed by Scientology, etc.
On the Ohio tip, well… it’s very Christian in many ways. But we’ve got such large cross-sections of world culture that you can learn quite a bit and have unique experiences. I guess that’s no revelation because you can do that wherever you are if you’re open and inquisitive. A dear friend used to call Ohio ‘the womb’ because of the cloud cover, humidity and lush landscapes of the outlying regions. Lol. But seriously, the motto of the state used to be ‘The Heart of it All’ and was emblazoned across our license plates; thankfully that’s gone away. The state’s a test market for many things, fast food has been one of Ohio’s major contributions to American culture, but that’s by no means the end of it. This is where my keen awareness of being a guinea pig comes from. Columbus itself has a large pagan community. The Ohio Valley’s bisected diagonally by a ley line and boasts a ‘civilization’ built upon a great number of Native American burial grounds. This makes it both a powerful and dangerous place to live and practice magick and I think that might be a draw for some people. I guess if I were to cheekily sum it up: Ohio’s the birthplace of luminaries and ideas wrapped up in a cozy, moist landfill.
Did I say I thought this was the most important book about Ohio, Mr. Marrero? Damn! Well… Sherwood Anderson can kiss my white butt. Just kidding. Or am I? Anyway… I have compared American Kashayas (AK) to Winesburg, Ohio for a number of reasons. I like that you’ve called it a scrapbook, because I feel that I’ve unconsciously thought about it that way. I keep scrapbooks and have for years, so that probably bleeds through. I’ve only read one Sherwood Anderson piece in my life and it was Winesburg, Ohio. Unlike Poe, Brautigan or Burroughs, I was never compelled to pick up another offering. Winesburg DID offer a fairly honest look at the psychology of the times in a small town. It’s a series of stories or vignettes he wrote over time (a couple years as opposed to decades) with overarching themes, threaded characters and perspectives that shift in or out of focus. I’m a sucker for the voodoo of psychology and I focus on psycho-social dynamics heavily in all of my work whether it’s visual or written. I’ve spent a lot of time working with people in the ‘healing arts’ because I’ve always tried to be something other than some of the shits I write about (including myself). All we can do is try, right? Or is trying dying? Anyway… I worked in a psych ward for close to a decade in my twenties as I went to art school. This informs much of both my outlook and output. Other day jobs have included: farmhand, perfume salesman, escort, carryout clerk, dock worker (truck loader, forklifter), waiter. I worked in Lex Wexner’s megafactorymall for half a day and left at lunch. Now I work for Big Brother’s Holdings Company. What I’m learning there of what happens behind the mechanisms of government is invaluable to my ongoing mission which is partially enacted through art.
MM) You say that writers are naturally drawn to magic. Why do you think that is? Do we unknowingly or inadvertently cast spells? How is a prayer analogous to a spell?
DM) I would say artists of all sorts, up to and certainly including musicians are drawn to the occult for a number of reasons. There’s a type of freedom that it offers from the traditional established paradigms of Christianity. Christianity is a new religion. Many artists are interested in looking below the surface to a greater or lesser degree. Even a shallow dig will yield evidence of older belief and practice systems that informed the modern ceremonies in commonly accepted communities, so… I think, there you go. It’s worth noting that, in my humble experience, pagans and artists are composed largely of outcasts and misfits [due to increased sensitivity and the proclivity for the mentally ill to make exquisite, timeless art]. These belief systems provide a refuge for those looking for alternatives. Besides… if you’re a pagan you can do whatever you want, right? Uhhhhhhhh… fucking NO! I’m not going to get into that here, but FUCKING NO!
I have inadvertently cast spells with written and visual works: accidentally hurt folks because of uncontrolled flares. Magick is a lifetime of discipline and study: control is vital. I have years of ‘coincidences’ to back up this personal gnosis. Magick IS real and the Jesuit bone is connect to the Catholic bone so… again… if you know anything about the Jesuits, there you go (see Ars Notoria- The Notory Art of Solomon or Verus Jesuitarum Libellus-The True Petition of the Jesuits, which are nothing if not magickal texts). Thus, we do our spells in Latin, the language of Angels, following in the tradition. The Catholics are not only an S & M type outfit, they are as mystical as their Jewish brethren.
Am I delusional? You’ll be the judge and, of course, you’ll be right. You always are.
MM) There’s a sense of numbing ourselves to the fact that we never get away from our childhoods and a child-like innocence to some of these voices, a bewilderment at more conventional adult behaviors. How much is your inner child involved with this life’s work?
DM) Unfortunately, that brat has ruled me throughout certain phases of my life. When he’s a delight, he’s a delight. It’s hell getting him to bed (to sleep). Rn, he’s in a special room in the new house so he’s pretty happy and he may write things because, unlike some creators, he can do so with a sunny heart.
MM) I want to highlight the fact that you’ve been a quintessential part of the expat fabric for a long time. Through producing Alt-Write, which has been described as the official podcast of expat, in which our intertextual and interpersonal lore is enlarged and expounded on, and through our tribal kinship, mutual friends, etc. Why do you think this book needed to come out on expat, insofar as you believe in destiny?
DM) I found much value in the works you published, Mr. Marrero. Then bibles introduced himself to me and I was getting acquainted with Atticus Davis, Ryan Bry as well as others like Johnny Scarlotti who has published on ExPat. bibles got you into my stream (sounds naztee, don’t it?) on Telegram and the rest is his-story, baby. With regard to the overlap, our works do share some similarities regarding thematic interests, vibe and a tendency to more florid, sometimes maximalist, narratives.
MM) Tell me about the pornography book you’re writing.
DM) I’m actually thinking it should be the next one out. When I finally got around to submitting a real manuscript to a real publisher, I had three books nearing the finish line: AK, the porn book (working title Presidential Bukkake Interns) and my own version [filtered through the lens of a cult leader] of Life’s Little Instruction Manual. The porn book is as straightforward a narrative as anyone’ll ever get out of me. It centers around the industry with a focus on gay porn and the psychology of the individuals involved whether they be on the production, financing, health or acting ends of it. Ends of it. Get it?
MM) There’s an abundance of dialect and musicality to the prose and poetry, and the book doesn’t teach you how to read it. It more or less plunges you headfirst into a character’s subconscious and language flows from it. The stories therefore feel conversational, the characters orate, there’s internal monologue, or like a sort of vaudeville of set pieces. There’s also your visual art and paintings, which you’re quite prolific in independent of literature. How does it all work together, the visual art, the podcast, the relationships, the people you’ve known who you seek to carefully and compassionately represent, and the poetry? It belies its own referential density with a compulsively readable openness of structure, where you can more or less begin anywhere and continuity folds in on itself.
DM) Frank Zappa had this notion, he probably wasn’t the first one, that all of his work was interconnected… much like bibles’ claim that everything is ‘the stream’. It intersects because the themes are shared, the visions are interrelated on a meta level. At this point, everything I do is part of my own personal Project/Object. It IS all part of the stream, now. I approach every piece, visual, written audio etc., with the same experimental, multi-layered approach. That’s why it usually takes me forever to finish things… I’m a recovering perfectionist. I also relish the great imperfections, too. Don’t get me twisted.
This is where the scrapbook analogy is a good one. Personally, I have always enjoyed leafing through a varied text. There was this Blues Brothers book I had as a kid that was like a case file on Jake and Elwood with interviews photos, psych evals, police reports, drawings or letters that the brothers had done throughout their lives etc. I fetishized that book. There was another one DIY Brain Surgery which I got hundreds of hours of kicks from before I knew about sex and marijuana. It is important to note that I also appreciate a book that has pieces varied in length and style to suit my ever-changing moods and mindsets.
MM) Is there a political message about how we as humans haunt the land with fracking and exploitation of natural resources, etc? There’s a lot of oil and filth and illness in your American landscape, a genetic memory you explore having to do with possession and infirmity, a pursuit of well-being through exhumation of trauma, demons, hexes maybe. Am I reading this right?
DM) The area of town where I live is filthy. Ohio is a landfill with nature doing her best to swallow it all. She’s still succeeding but… oh, the poor girl. The old guard in family, I’m pretty sure, bit the dust due to working in the steel mills in Youngstown and the rubber factories in Akron. Every single one of them got cancer. Maybe it’s genetic… ALLLLL genetic. I call bullshit. Sure it factors in, but this state has been historically industrial. I remember the Cuyahoga River Fire. I see the algae blooms on Lake Erie and the three eyed fish in the Olentangy River. I have become a Toxic Avenger. Hey ho, way to go Ohio- you’re a major part of my book because of it.
And yes, Mr. Marrero… you’re reading all of that correctly.
MM) Tell me about the numerological significance of Halloween and your superstitious heritage. Is there enlightenment you’ve reaped and has it made you happier?
DM) I spoke about the heritage earlier, but I will say that I have always loved Halloween because I was a huge monster fan as a kid. I had glow in the dark Frankenstein and Hunchback of Notre Dame models, coloring books and all the related consumables. I read Poe, Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, Jack London, Anthony Burgess, Gore Vidal, y’know the usual YA fare for a kid growing up in the seventies.
Halloween itself shares the date/time frame with Samhain which is when the veil between worlds is the thinnest and flow through is easiest, in the conventional pagan mindset. Numerologically, the 31st represents the new year (Irish Celt calendar) the beginning, the source, the all. The Omega is how I like to think about it. Zed is an important number to me— the number representing the wise fool.
Magick, using it to help others mostly, has significantly improved the quality of my life and relationships. You can say I’m superstitious, out to lunch, what have you, but I ask you this: how often does a ‘coincidence’ have to happen before it’s no longer correctly identified as a coincidence? I am not satisfied with staying in one place or mentally stalled in one of Freud’s slips.
MM) You’ve struggled with some of the Kashayas, like anger and greed, and you lay out your struggles here. Have you learned to live well by yourself and others? Tell me about anger and greed. What do you indict, if anything?
DM) I indict wanton ambition and the desire for total comfort over anything else. I indict hypocrisy in myself and others, exceptionalism in any form (as it prevents a willingness to accept real fault or responsibility and work toward a betterment). I have been greedy in my desire for lovers. I am not starving. I have a nice shelter, abundant love in my life and a stable, albeit ridiculous, governmental job. I give back to my community in a real way. I try not to be a shit. Have I conquered it all? Am I satisfied to stay exactly where I am in becoming who I was meant to be whatever that is? Hell no! There is more work to be done by nightfall, Mr. Marrero. Much more work to be done.
MM) The inspiration for these stories can hardly be summarily contained. You present a panorama of idiosyncrasy and humor, and horror, and it’s beautiful and wild and polysemic/polyvocal without being semantically opaque. The feeling or the attitude comes through. If magic is a last resort, where does this book come into play for you, as a totem or antidote? Rather, what do you hope readers will get out of a book, what do you get out of it, being fundamentally antithetical to what people tend to expect from books? Is it an effort to divinate or spur such divination? Have you gotten much off your chest with this?
DM) I would say totem and antidote both. I like ‘Grimoire’ to an extent, although I don’t think it’s quite accurate. Ultimately, I hope any audience for this book get a laugh, a shock and somewhat tumescent. Is that too arrogant? Too much to ask for such a grotesque ‘coffee table book’? You did categorize it as a coffee table book, right? Or was that a bathroom book? It’s a book for some room in your house… toolshed or crawlspace perhaps?
MM) Tell me about your outlook on the state of the world in metaphysical terms. Are there more demons now than before? Are we in permanent retrograde? How much of this is self-programmed misery and how much is malfeasance on a mass scale, and again, who do you indict? Why the psychological pain? Are we cursed? Is the spirit world in crisis?
DM) The forecast is partially cloudy with a chance of EMP. Demons are surrounding us, coming through the televisions in spells uttered on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and American Horror Story compounding the tear that Hadron collider ripped in the sky over CERN. And, we all know Jay-Z’s doing his part. We are in permanent retrograde, spiritually, intellectually and health wise. The further we try to divorce ourselves from our natural world, from the fact that we’re simians, the more trouble we buy. Most of what ails us is self-inflicted through Kashayas and No-Kashayas- Ego, Greed, Anger, Deceit (the big four). The spirit world takes care of itself, we create the havoc because of how we respond or don’t respond to spirit, to nature, to whatever you want to call it. Call it Boogedybops.
MM) In various pantheons, there is the redeemer. What do you think of the spirit of the Holidays and particularly Christmas?
DM) I celebrate Yule and it’s a little bit of a different approach, but re. your question: Jesus is alright with me… Osiris and Horus, too. The Ghost of Christmas Present is great for the consumer index which is the only thing we’ve really come to care about anyway. To me, it would be preferable if we brought back such classic Christmastime icons as the belsnickel or Krampus and not as a meme, but IN A BIG WAY. I want to go back to Christmas being a season of misrule where the social classes became inverted and the rich were obligated to open their homes and liquor cabinets to the poor or face defacement and public ridicule. I know it’s not realistic, but it sounds nice, doesn’t it?