Wonderland Magazine feature: E*Rock & Yoshi Sodeoka

by Eric Mast in

This was a two way interview from Wonderland magazine with E*Rock and Yoshi Sodeoka talking about psychedelic video for the Mu show in The Netherlands. I used text recognition software from a scan of the print magazine, so please excuse any digital typos.

New York based multimedia artist Yoshi Sodeoka’s dense videos hit you like an onrushing tsunami of stretched and distorted imagery and ejaculated noise. His psychedelic offerings dislocate your sense of space and time, as if he has exposed the source code of reality then thrown us entirely unprepared into an alien realm. Sodeoka’s latest video, for The New Psychedelica exhibition at MU in Eindhoven, Violet Dark Spring of the Numinous Orb, brings time-lapse footage of nature under his refractive lens for the first time. To a skittering jazzy soundtrack of soft plucks and piano cascades, iterations of forests or rivers flow towards us as the sun and stars dance across the skies. While the explosion of psychedelica in the 60s followed the discovery and popularisation of hallucinogenic drugs, the group of artists brought together at MU are inspired by technology. What links their works is the onslaught of data they throw at us - an extreme reaction to an age in which we are constantly deluged by flashing visuals and endless information. Through pushing their technology and software to the point where it crashes, these artists produce works that test the limits of our own ability to experience, understand and process the real world. joining Sodeoka in The New Psychedelica exhibition will be the videogame inspired and seizure-inducing overloads of Portland, Oregon based polymath Eric Mast, aka E*Rock. A prolific video artist and musician, running two record labels and a production team, Wild File, E*rock’s visual landscape crams everything from 80s cartoons, 8-bit console graphics to SoCal hip-hop into the lo-fi crescendos of a Flash-rendered apocalypse. Wunderland brought these veterans of the digital frontier together to explore the relationship between their work, the Internet and psychedelica.

Yoshi Sodeoka: We’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years or so we’ve seen each other’s work before and talked about doing something together. Eric Mast: Yeah we probably started around the same time, in the late 90s, getting into animation and stuff. I feel like there’s a loose crew of people that you get to know that make similar stuff around the world, so eventually you run into everyone. YS: Our approach is pretty similar I think, we both make music and visuals to go with it. EM: Definitely, almost everything I do has music as a core element, even when it’s a noise piece. I definitely work around audio as a starting point for almost all my visuals. YS: I know what you mean. I actually don’t play or write music anymore but my mind is still there. When I make videos in my mind I’m still playing in a band, making psychedelic looking videos, so I think music is an important aspect of what we do. EM: lt’s always pretty tied in there. But I think that the idea of information overload was definitely something we were both into for a while too, that really dense aesthetic of pushing things... YS: Yeah, computers allow us to push everything to the max. I tried to put so many effects, layers and all that stuff on my videos to try to see when it would break. Just to see how much colour it could produce in a very short amount of time. I’m really into extreme types of music so if I try to lay down a track to one of my videos the visual has to catch up to it. EM: I think it’s changed over time too. It used to be that you’d put on as many layers as you could until your programme crashed, and nowadays the computers can handle a hundred times more than it used to be when we started. YS: Yeah I go through phases, so I used to do a lot of really busy, noisy types of stuff, but for this show I tried to do something mellow at the same time. I wanted to experiment with nature footage, the type of new age clip you can find on You-Tube. But I tried to put a different twist on it so it’s not just nature clips and has got like a really twisted psychedelic element to it. EM: For me, when I got into a lot of video stuff I befriended a lot of people that were posting stuff online. The Internet definitely connected a lot of the different artists. We were checking out each other’s stuff and developing mutual influences. It’s nice to find other people doing similar things because everyone doing video work is a little bit isolated in a way. YS: Right, it’s easy to connect with people through the networking aspect of the Internet. It’s great because you can find other people’s videos and get inspired but that couldn’t happen before. It’s hard to think about its influence for me, because I sample a lot of footage. I grab everything, distort it and make it my own. I couldn’t do that without the Internet. It’s not something I think about anymore though because it’s just there, it’s always online. EM: I guess it’s become such an integral part of it you barely even think about it at this point. YS: Right, yeah. EM: It’s interesting for me too that for most of these psychedelic artists that have become our peers, I feel that none of it really comes from like a psychedelic drug background. Everyone comes from a different background. I feel that video is such a tedious medium that I don’t know where everyone gets their inspiration from, it’s more like kids coming from different pop cultures and its sensationalism that people get into more than that. YS: Yeah I know! Like ‘psychedelic’, that name is uncomfortable to me because I think of the 60s, the hippie movement and I’ve got nothing to do with it But I guess there’s a new way of thinking about psychedelic, like someone’s reinvented this new term. It’s pretty different from what it used to be. EM: Mmhm, yeah I definitely have some influence from that era, but. ._ YS: It might be a good description, psychedelic, I guess what we try to do might be pretty similar to what it meant. Not that I take LSD, get like high and make videos.The process is a little different but I was reading an article about how when you listen to music you get high, there’s some chemical produced in your brain. I guess our works have some effect like that, like from browsing the Internet, listening to music and all that stuff we get high out of nowhere perhaps. EM: For me there was definitely a period where I was getting into the super dense thing, I was definitely interested in that, testing the limits of what you could take in by making overly detailed, constantly changing works. I noticed that through the process of making those videos you became accustomed to that specific piece -just through the repetition of watching it. But I feel there’s definitely an information overload going on right now in terms of how much access people have. I think it’s more interesting to see younger generations of kids growing up with that and how they’re really good at multitasking and are moving beyond us in new ways. YS: Yeah I know what you mean. Same thing for me too, I’m pretty used to seeing a lot of stuff at rapid speed. It’s the same way you process the information on the Internet. I have many different phases in five minutes of video, but I don’t particularly think about that, it’s pretty subconscious to me. I’d try something extreme and the next thing I want to try something mellow. EM: I feel like the idea too is that when you reach your maximum overload it reaches a point where it’s like giving a hyperactive kid Ritalin, you’re basically giving kids speed, you reach that climax point where you go beyond, you’re over-stimulated and everything becomes like a texture almost, ambient almost. YS: It’s like the same thing as making music, there’s this up and down, like a syncopation. It’s like that process is embedded in our mind.

The New Psychedelia runs from April 8 to June 5, 2011 at MU Eindhoven.