May 28, 2019
Blood and Rockets: The Making of an Occult Music Video
(Living Esoteric Cultures Series Interview 1)
The SHWEP is delighted to bring you the first of a series of occasional interviews looking at the way popular occulture is formed. How is esoteric knowledge transmitted from esotericist circles or academic studies into mainstream culture at large? What mutations does it undergo along the way? What does ‘popular esotericism’ even mean? We will be interviewing musicians, artists, writers, and hopefully even politicans to try to delineate the contours of information transfer from the ‘hidden’ to the open sphere, hopefully creating a series of snapshots of the processes of transfer and evolution in esoteric ideas.
In an interview bringing together Les Claypool, Sean Lennon, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, and L. Ron Hubbard (with a special cameo from Kenneth Anger), we talk with Rich Ragsdale, filmmaker, musician, animator, composer, and all-round gentleman of parts. Rich was commissioned to make this video for a song by the band The Claypool Lennon Delirium telling the story of Jack Parsons, autodidact rocket-builder, occultist, and sex-magician and disciple of Aleister Crowley. If you don’t already know this story, the almost impossible events of Parsons’ life are worth the price of entry all on their own!
Here’s the interview:
But the main interest of the interview, it seems to us, is the window it affords on the actual process of creating a piece of ‘occulture’, and this is especially fascinating in that Rich is not himself an occultist. Nevertheless, we can be sure that his video is being received with delight in some occult circles. In the episode, however, we discuss the video’s reception by a different sort of esoteric mindset, fundamentalist Christian conspiracy-theory. As often, esoteric ideas brought into the open forum seem to have a special power to cause unforeseen freak-outs in the culture at large.
Here are our Christian friend’s comments:
With this interview, it seems safe to say, we at the SHWEP are flagging in an unambiguous way our allegiance to the occult Illuminati who control the world. So there; we just came out and said it.
Works Discussed in the Interview:
You can check out lots of Rich Ragsdale’s work on his website, as well as at the site for his company KNR Productions. In the interview we mention a couple other videos he worked on:
- this one, for the song ‘Animals’ by Ghost of a Sabre-Toothed Tiger, features a lot of homage to Kenneth Anger’s work. The song has a really nice heavy bass sound, a bit overdriven, which somehow works great in the context.
- The video for the Avicii and Lenny Kravitz song Superlove. It’s hilarious and features some serious moves.
- Anger, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon (Paris: J.J. Pauvert 1959; San Fransisco, CA: Straight Arrow Press/Simon and Schuster 1975).
- Carter, John. Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House 2004).
- Pendle, George. Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (Harcourt 2005).
Films and Music:
- Brian Butler’s Night of Pan, starring Kenneth Anger and Vincent Gallo, has some heavy synthesised music by our interviewee Rich Ragsdale.
- Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler’s Technicolor Skull.
- Kenneth Anger’s famous film oeuvre is now all available freely online. This is amazing. When I was a kid this stuff was strictly for the elite cognoscenti. Check out The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Invocation of my Demon Brother (1969), and Lucifer Rising (1972).