EVERY GREAT artist or writer or band is bound to go off the map at some point. Kerouac left behind Thomas Wolfe-ian prose for craziness culminating in Old Angel Midnight's dreamscape-flow. Hella ditched speed prog-rock for alien noise adventures. The list goes on, those big bruisers who left their popularly accepted aesthetic for something uncharted, wild eyed, and—for good or ill—deeply personal. If you look at Adam Forkner and Honey Owens, you could call Forkner's Yume Bitsu and Owens' work with Flags of the Sacred Harp-era Jackie-O Motherfucker their pop periods. Which, I guess, is funny to say, considering neither project was anywhere near pop. That being said, both were accessible enough to make the artist behind them "popular" and brand them with their actions. (Kids everywhere will immediately associate Forkner with Yume's delayed-out space rock or Owens with Sacred Harp's folk psychedelic tapestries—or they'll remember her for her work with Nudge, depending on where you're comin' from.)
So now, in February 2007, the work of both artists, Forkner's White Rainbow and Owens' Valet, is further off the map—weirder, less inclined to song structure, more willing to take chances and embrace shaky ground. Even further out there is their work together as World, which shows the two so far off the map they've fallen off the Earth's flat plane and splashed into cosmic seas.
Live and on record, World is an exercise in freedom. In the interview below you'll see Forkner and Owens repeating their mantra: "No rules." It may seem a little redundant, but their "no rules" stance and what that means for their music cannot be stressed enough. They truly do say "fuck it" to any idea of what their band is and what their band should be. There are no "band meetings," talk of strategy imposed upon the record industry, no mapped-out set lists, rehearsed stage moves, and—above all—no songs, at least those set in stone and practiced to death. Instead, World, from the instruments they choose to the style of music they play, depends upon how they feel at that point; it's music very much in the now. (Of course, a lot of this comes after years of learning the rules first—but still.) Maybe they won't want to play music for six months—sure. Or maybe they'll get serious and this'll become everything. Whatever may come, it's left up to desire, mood, and chemistry—things devalued by most bands as not tangible enough to help them "make it." This I think is admirable in a music world where bands carefully market everything from their personalities ("Okay, you're the shy one; I'll be the brooding dark one.") to their look ("Don't wear white sweatpants on stage, that's my look.") to the very notes they play ("We should be, like, Can meets Xiu Xiu!"). If you're feeling the soul sucked out of art by modern life and big money, World might just be some shelter from the storm.
On their self-titled Marriage Records release, we see Forkner and Owens playing long, spacious minimalist jams. Sometimes it's slow-building breaths of guitar, other times the music stops altogether and you hear the room, feel the still air. It moves along like that for three tracks—haunted, barely there—but the secret track comes on as a fuzz bomb of raging psychedelic rock. That goes on for a little more than four minutes—a stark contrast to the rest of the album, the shortest track of which is more than 16 minutes long. But really, that song just cements what the band is all about. No rules, no rules, no rules, ad infinitum.
I got a hold of Owens and Forkner to see what the good word was. They answered my questions collectively.
MERCURY: What's World's 2007 looking like so far?
ADAM FORKNER & HONEY OWENS: Well, first, it must be said that World as a group has pretty much been inactive and semi-retired for over a year, and this show is a sort of "reunion." We've been focusing on our solo stuffs, Valet and White Rainbow. World as an idea for a band or a collaboration in sound and performance between two people who live together has always had one rule: NO RULES. This means that it's pretty unpredictable what we will do in the future. So who knows what 2007 will bring, but probably not much as we haven't been thinking about it for a while. There is a new CD of material that's coming out on Onomato soon, but besides that, we cannot know. Maybe our life is the band and when we are working our jobs or sleeping or eating chips we are really playing a really long, deeply conceptual show, much of it to an audience of ourselves.
What has World been in the past?
Oh, the past of World... a fiery, short-lived love affair with the Present and the Jam as one. We played some shows and did some recordings in 2004-2005. We would ask each other how we were feeling and pick out instruments that we needed for whatever our vibe was. Then we would just fucking go for it, any which way but loose, maaan. Our friends liked some of our shows which was weird for us because we felt like we were just fucking around and at any moment it could and would all fall apart. There is always this pressure to do a repeat performance but it's not about that. It's about being totally immersed in the moment with each other, the instruments, and the people in the room. It's challenging to come up with exciting and interesting things when you are playing a lot of shows so we decided to take a break. That way when we do play it will be special.
What's it like making music with the person you love? A lot of people might be scared to do this.
That's why there's gotta be no rules. That way there are no weird expectations and if things in our personal life need more attention than our "band" then no one gets bent out of shape. No pressure. No preconceived notions of what we are. If one of us wants to take things somewhere creatively but the other isn't feeling it as much, there isn't a rule or expectation that we have to go along with it anyway. We can push and pull each other as we work together, and there is a nice tension to that. Or we can just wait and not play together for a while. It's a cool feeling to know that at each moment the other person could just walk away from what's being built together but instead they are choosing to build something together; an absolving of traditional senses of the ego. If things were preconceived, I could see being in a band together as being harder. We try to treat everything in our relationship in this way, with this attitude of unconditional love with no rules or exceptions. It makes you conscious of each moment, that at each moment you have a choice to be doing what you want, with who you want, how you want.
When you guys record as World, do you go in there with any idea of what you'd like to lay down?
NO RULES! Like Dr. Bronner: ALL ONE! We will not accept pre-programmed ways of thought as WORLD is 100 percent about NOW presence, about experiencing the MOMENT QUA MOMENT-ness. To bring the mind and body to presence with the universe of NOW VIBRATION is to fully feel the flow of everything through space and time from the past through the present as it creates the future in front of our eyes in real time. Feeling the connectedness of all things, the flow of the flow of flowing. A turning off of mental and emotional projection, a pure state of natural focus on things as they are happening in the moment. A beautiful experience of the essence of creation itself! How can you plan for that? The only plan is to plan on throwing away all that excess mental, emotional, and/or "spiritual" baggage that keeps you from getting into the moment of Now! NO RULES! INFINITY NOW!