Q&A with Guardian Alien's Greg Fox

Text: Periscope

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about Guardian Alien, a Brooklyn-based free-wheeling music ensemble led by Greg Fox, a drummer known for many familiar projects such as Liturgy, ZS, and Man Forever.  What started out as a spontaneous musical collaboration has become a set band, and its current members are Greg (drums, vocals, electronics, arrangements), Alex Drewchin (vocals, synth), Turner Williams Jr. (shahi baaja), Bernard Gann (guitar), and Eli Winograd (bass).  After we heard that their latest video “See the World Given to a One Love Entity” was based on a real experience Greg had during a tour, we asked him to have a chat with us.

The “See the World Given to a One Love Entity” video is based on a real experience?
Yeah, to whatever degree. I would like to say that it is based on a true story because that is the easiest and quickest way to explain it. It is a way of retelling the story of how I got the title for the record and did the album work.  In a kind of goofy way…  It was meant to be funny. I also wanted to be honest about it.
What happened exactly?
I was meditating in the back of the tour van. While I was on that tour, I was having these experiences where I would have visions of me interacting with… presences.  On one particular drive, I experienced a vision of being in a field and having a flying saucer land, the stereotypical image of a UFO.  And this guy got out of the ship and walked toward me.  This guy was a Rasta wearing a yellow Adidas jumpsuit.  It was so specific. He came up to me very familiarly, and said something along the lines of “Hey Greg, how is it going? Here, I brought you the new Guardian Alien record,” and handed me the record, with the title face up. It said “See the World Given to a One Love Entity.” When I flipped it over, the cover image was of him giving me the record.
Don’t you think it was still created by your mind?
I don't think it wasn't, but I also don't think it was, necessarily. I don't know. I didn't have that image running around in my head previous to the experience, I wouldn't think to make something like that. I definitely would not think to put that image or something like it on the cover of any record I ever made…I think it's sort of a ridiculous image. But it was so specific.
I think it is possible that it was in my mind somewhere, and maybe my right brain hemisphere was just playing a joke on the left brain, or something like that. I think the experience in general very much parallels the experience Robert Anton Wilson describes in his autobiography Cosmic Trigger – for a period in his life he was convinced that he was in telepathic communication with aliens from the Sirius star system… Then later on he stopped being sure of what it was, and just accepted it as being anomalous, interesting, and funny.
So you chose to retell the story by injecting a sense of humor.
Yeah, definitely. I couldn't possibly take it completely seriously. But at the same time, I do take it seriously… Because something happened, and whatever it was, I wanted to make creative sense of it. And I wanted to honor it without trying to make it something besides what it was subjectively. It was a very meaningful experience for me. Its less important to me what specifically happened in a material sense.
So you had the title before you actually wrote the piece.
I got the title and the art, and then I was kind of just waiting for the music to come out. Waiting for it to ripen.  Because of the framework that we had been working with, we weren’t playing songs, but we were playing pieces as this kind of continually developing process.  So finally, while we were on tour in November 2011, we played one night in Birmingham Alabama, and all of a sudden it happened. "Wow, that's it. We just did it." We'd been working on it, trying different things, and it had been poking its head out bit by bit, but it finally showed itself. The title had finally met the content.
How did Guardian Alien start?
I was getting asked to play solo shows, and I would invite people to come play with me. So it started to congeal that way, certain people's being there and contributing made sense and stuck, specifically with Alex and Turner. It was really wild for the first year or so… Sometimes we had two vocalists, we had a lot of different people playing bass, saxophone, and a lot of other intermittent instruments and guests. Sometimes we had multiple drummers too. It's been a pretty organic emergence. It's developed in this very murky evolution, like a fish crawling out of the water… Eventually it settled as a foursome, with Camilla Padgett-Coles (of Future Shuttle) playing synth… It got shaken up a bit after a while, we played a bunch of shows as a trio, and then in relatively rapid succession Bernard and Eli joined up, and that has been the lineup for some time now.
So now, is it a set band?
As set as anything ever can be, yeah.
How was the process of making the video?
Matty (Matt Marlin of Starring) directed it. We woke up at 4 am and shot video all day in Prospect Park in brooklyn and at a green screen. Everyone involved was so helpful and resourceful, and it was really a pleasure to shoot. We had a lot of fun with it, as I think you can tell by watching the video. Matty and I edited the majority of it together while our bands were on tour last august. We would sit in the back of Guardian Alien or Starring's van and work in final cut, Matty at the controls, with me throwing ideas at him and us seeing what we liked together. Matty did an amazing job! It was really fun to work on and I definitely learned a lot about video editing and the whole process. It's definitely very exciting to think about communicating with people through video, especially in a way that transcends the language barrier.
We understand you were deeply involved in Occupy Wall Street. Where are you politically these days?
I think I'm in the same place politically. I fell out of communication with people I was in contact  with regularly when I was involved in a hands-on way at Zuccotti Park. Mostly what I was doing at Zuccotti Park was distributing food. People would bring all this food, and I somehow found myself working in the kitchen area of the camp. Ultimately I was somewhat turned off, to be honest, by a lot of the ways people were thinking about it.
One of my biggest problems with Occupy Wall Street is this slogan, "We are the 99%." I don't agree with that mentality, even though I definitely understand it. The way to healing is truly understanding that we are not the 99%, we are the 100%.  One way of looking at what's going on in the world is as though the world is single person. What's the problem that the world is having, what's the problem this person is having, how does that person fix this problem? At the same time, Wall Street to many people represents corporate greed. At a microcosmic level there are definitely serious problems, economically, politically, and socially, and they must be addressed. The taoists say that you can't really change the world- the world is gonna be what it is. It is perfect, beyond the microcosmic perception of it.  We are perceiving problems, that something is wrong here. In the world where we live, we have money and we have to eat and we have to have houses and all these things on the level of being human, which I'm not trying to deny because thats what we are, we are human. But at the same time I think there is a way that you can incorporate a holistic view  into the interpersonal-regular life. I think that's something that can help. Not seeing the situation as being Us vs. Them – but it being just us. I'm not sure how ultimately practical that outlook is – it takes all kinds to fill out the spectrum. So this is my part of that spectrum, I guess.
Going back to your record, do you think your world view is reflected in it?
It reflects the way I would like to look at the world. I don't think I always look at the world that way. As far as I'm concerned, I'm very much not always my ideal version of myself. So it goes right out of the window pretty quickly a lot of the time. However, when I'm mindful of my ideals, I  tend to be able to make things work better for myself. Actually almost always. Actually! always. When I'm able to keep those ideals in mind, when I'm able to act from that place of being mindful, thinking about my breathing, things come together in a way that they often don't otherwise. Being able to integrate that kind of thinking and mindfulness into your regular life, for me, is important to strive towards. To me, the title of the record resonates strongly with that whole idea. "See The World Given To The One…" The one thing gets divided up by names and we have all these different ways of separating it. But it is still one thing. You don't call me like "Leg -leg", "Arm-Arm", "Head". Or instead of five trillions of cells in my body, You identify me as Greg. You can continue that all the way up. But we still have to live in this world. So another important thing is balance. Maintaining the mentality while at the same time eating and living, peeing and pooping, making love, playing the drums, etc. Because as soon as you  go all the way to the One, you don't exist in this world anymore. And I have to be honest with myself, I want to exist in this world! I'm thankful for being here. And I really like playing the drums. While we are here, being made of flesh and bone and walking around and doing other goofy shit, we can think about the one thing, we can visualize it and conceptualize it, and that can help us realize that yes, we are the %100.


Team Periscope is traveling in


  •    RSS Feed