Chris Korda, from Perlon to euthanasia: "We grow up or we die"
Interview by Damir Ivic for Soundwall
“Apologize To The Future”: is it our generation that is more selfish than ever happened to human mankind, or did we have such periods way back in history?
The selfishness of present generations is historically unprecedented. It’s now technologically possible for us to destroy our own future, and we’re choosing to do exactly that. We’re following the example of the rich who lead the way in terms of narcissism and sociopathy. Today’s parents are literally condemning their own children and grandchildren to a brutal existence on an unrecognizable and nearly unlivable planet.
The idea of apologizing to your children came from Dan Miller’s presentation “A REALLY Inconvenient Truth” which is available on YouTube. He lists things individuals can do, and his first item is “Ask your children for forgiveness.” This led me to a thought experiment: I asked myself “How will future generations regard us?” Assuming future generations are lucky—or unlucky?—enough to exist, they’ll bitterly resent us for sending them to hell.
You’re not afraid to opt for strong statements: what are the first things we should dismantle within our Western culture and civilization, in order to establish a safer and healthier society? And, if you think back at early 90’s, do you think your answer to such a question would have been different? If so, why?
When I founded the Church of Euthanasia in 1992 my intention was to persuade people to not have children, and it’s the same today. “Apologize to the Future” is 100% anti-natalist. Its first song accuses parents of disrespecting the future, encourages the listener to take a lifetime vow of non-procreation, and decries the insanity of making more babies. Now that the climate crisis is unavoidable, making babies isn’t just selfish, it’s cruel. There’s no ethical justification for making more humans only to abandon them on a wrecked planet.
But if you think I’m trying to save the planet, you’re missing the subtle humor in my art. The planet doesn’t need saving. The planet will be fine no matter what we do, until it’s destroyed by the sun in a billion years or so. Life is very tough and survived far worse disasters in the past. Look up the Permian-Triassic extinction if you don’t believe me. If humanity disappeared tomorrow, Earth would be repopulated by other species in a few thousand years. What needs saving is civilization. Civilization is more fragile and precious than any tropical flower. Civilization is the most important endangered species on Earth.
I love civilization. I grew up in a huge city and spent most of my childhood reading. I love civilization because without it there wouldn’t be schools or museums or science and we’d all be morons again. Civilization is what makes human beings interesting and worth saving. Earth without human civilization would be intolerably, unthinkably dull. If you’re a fan of human extinction, you should join our sister organization, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). If you want to preserve humanity but destroy civilization, you belong in a neo-primitivist anarchist group, or in prison with Ted Kaczynski.
In my experience people who want to dismantle civilization almost always turn out to have benefited from it. I say this to neo-primitives: If you learned to read and write and do arithmetic, you benefited from civilization. If you went to university, you benefited greatly from civilization. And now you want to pull the ladder up after you by destroying civilization? How incredibly arrogant, selfish and unjust. Rational people will never volunteer to abandon all the hard-won progress of civilization and go back to the Neolithic. The only way you could impose such idiocy is by force.
Civilization contains contradictions and may ultimately kill us all, but I love it anyway because it makes life worth living. According to the latest science, there’s a 90% chance that we’ll self-destruct in the next several decades. If the Drake Equations are to be believed, intelligent lifeforms self-destruct all the time, and that’s why we haven’t heard from any. Intelligence tends to snuff itself out, and that’s the solution to Fermi’s Paradox. The universe is a dangerous place, and failure is a normal outcome. If civilization fails, it was the best we could do, because there simply wasn't any alternative worth discussing.
We were dreaming about dance electronic music being means of expression of alternative culture, non-mainstream dynamics, alternative views and life practices: to which extent is that still true (or at least possible) today?
Party facilitation passes as culture, and it’s a sign of the times. Drug preferences also tell a story. Anesthesia is popular. People want to tune out, and I can’t really blame them. Producers want to be popular, so they make music for tuning out. It’s a vicious cycle.
There’s nothing stopping you from making more challenging music. It just requires the courage to reject the status quo, and some musical training. The 4/4 disco backbeat has got to go. Forty years is enough. Instead of cultivating popularity, cultivate curiosity. Think outside the box.
Music technology companies are partly to blame for the stagnation. There’s a reason why drum machines have sixteen buttons: it’s because they’re designed to make 4/4 music. We need a paradigm shift, and that’s why I make my own tools. Join the polymeter revolution!
If we put on the same shelf “Akoko Ajeji”, “Polymeter” and “Apologize To The Future”, what are the most important similarities and the main differences between them?
I made all three of these albums within the last two years. The main similarity between them is that they’re all in complex polymeter.
Polymeter is the use of multiple meters at once. Complex polymeter is the simultaneous use of at least three meters that aren’t integer multiples of each other. For example, using the meters 5/4, 7/4, and 11/4 at once constitutes complex polymeter. I try to avoid 4/4 because it’s so overused. Essentially polymeter is quantized phasing. If you want to work with polymeter, my sequencer could make your life easier. It’s free.
I started modernizing my sequencer in 2018, and “Akoko Ajeji” evolved alongside it. The “Polymeter” record came later and has more advanced harmony. Increasingly I’m hearing atonality, so I use pitch class sets instead of scales. The track “Overshoot” on “Apologize to the Future” is an example of algorithmically generated atonal harmony.
Who are the artists (being music producers, or even working within broader fields) you find most inspiring, in the last couple of decades?
The last couple of decades were musically tepid, but a few things come to mind: “Dots and Loops” (Stereolab, 1997), “Tales of the Inexpressible” (Sphongle, 2001), and “10 Fake Ids” (Masonne, 2004). More recently, Kate Tempest’s “Europe Is Lost” inspired me to find my own way to rap, and I admired the clever juxtapositions in “I’m Not Racist” by Joyner Lucas.
My main inspiration for polymeter and phase art is Thomas Wilfred. Look him up in Wikipedia. I saw his work at the Museum of Modern Art when I was a child. Some of his “Lumia” machines permute for years without repeating. I’m also inspired by outsider artists, particularly James Hampton and Simon Rodia.
Is there any place for a nostalgia feeling about what was happening in the 90’s, within the electronic music scene? Is there any place for nostalgia feelings anyways?
I’m nostalgic about the 1970s, when songs had chord changes and odd time was in fashion. The complexity of music has declined steadily since my childhood. Music is increasingly made by non-musicians. Music technology corporations market their products by convincing people that music is sound design, but it’s a lie. Having the most blinking lights in your studio doesn’t make you the best musician. To compose harmonically complex music, you need music theory, and music theory is math. Math is free, it just requires concentration.
Activism, political engagement look like back in the game again, after years of (apparent) silence, especially if you were just staying at the surface of the music scene: is this definitely a good thing in itself? Or do we run the risk to “fashionize” crucial topics (…or let them be fashionized), turning them into clever and subtle means for selling?
The late 1960s and early 1970s were a period of great upheaval. Post-WWII redistribution of wealth had greatly improved the standard of living for ordinary people. Many of them rebelled against suburban conformism and undertook brave social experiments. Their optimism and idealism are reflected in the music of that time.
Forty years ago the rich started clawing it all back. Ayn Rand set the stage by proclaiming greed a virtue and denying the existence of the common good. Under her banner, the capitalist system was programmed for disaster. Privatization and deregulation have paved the road to climate chaos. Such dire circumstances should provoke politically engaged music. Perhaps others will follow in my footsteps. I hope so.
“Collapse is almost certainly unavoidable”, you’ve just written on the latest post on Metadelusion. A few sentence later, you quote “Only civilizations capable of [switching] from an economical society to a sort of ‘cultural’ society in a timely manner, will survive”. Is this switching process likely to happen only after a brutal collapse? Or is there any hope for a sort of “soft” transition?
If there’s a brutal collapse, civilization will be irretrievably lost, and that’s unacceptable. Hence the only option is to change course rapidly before collapse occurs. Unlimited growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. I’ve been publicly advocating de-growth for most of my adult life. It was a good plan. It might even have worked. It’s a shame more people didn’t listen to me back in the 1990s.
Things have inertia. The bigger a thing is and the faster it’s going, the more advance notice you need to change its course. Civilization is like the Titanic hitting the iceberg. By now it’s too late to avoid impact. The time to start slowing civilization down and turning it around was thirty years ago. Instead we accelerated into the catastrophe. We’re still accelerating today. Wake me up when the Keeling Curve reverses direction or even plateaus.
Are Church Of Euthanasia foundations solid and inevitable today, as they were when you established the Church itself?
Today the Church of Euthanasia is more relevant than ever. Issues that seemed far-fetched in the 1990s—climate change, loss of biodiversity, mass extinction—are now front-page news. From its inception the Church of Euthanasia predicted worsening overpopulation, overconsumption, and environmental chaos. Tragically, its predictions have proved correct.
Homo sapiens may be an intelligent species. We’re about to find out. If we’re intelligent, we’ll prioritize our long-term survival. We’ll become more cooperative and altruistic, and devote ourselves to removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Otherwise, the future won’t include us. A world without us would be a tragedy, but only for us.
Seems like an odd question, but maybe it’s not: is there (and should there be) any relationship between humor, philosophy, economics and social sciences?
The clock is running out. Mass extinction is underway and tragedy on that scale demands respect. It’s a time for the direct, heartfelt communication that’s so lacking in our national and global discourse. Along with COVID-19, we’re suffering from a pandemic of solipsism, the mistaken notion that only the self is real. Rejecting reality leads us to an infantile world of made-up facts. What’s needed is the proverbial glass of cold water in the face. The truth of our predicament must be spoken plainly so that everyone can understand it. We’re hairless apes clinging to a ball of rock in a hostile universe that’s utterly indifferent to our fate. We grow up or we die.
…this is it, thank you so much for attention, your words, your music!