Alibi V.25 No.51 • Dec 22-28, 2016 

Music Interview

Summoning Summon

Local hip-hop artist invokes music, magick and madness

Summon
Summon
Eric Williams Photography
Albuquerque based hip-hop artist Israel Summon is a keen, self aware, 38-year-old skater who produces some of the more interesting and intelligent beats and lyrics in Albuquerque. In addition to a discerning ear, Summon has an impressive ability for finding meaning and connections through his perspective as a student of the occult—without sounding like a crackpot whose last acid trip never ended. People have been known to go mad combining Kabbalah, the teachings of the Golden Dawn, Crowleyism, Christianity, Buddhism and the poetry of Blake, leaving them lost in the abyss between neophyte understanding and the enlightenment of a master magician.

Not Summon. When the artist explained the specific track order on his recently released album, Anumals, with rapid fire numerology, I couldn't help but be impressed. Similarly, the purposeful intensity of a Summon live performance—complete with incense and dragon's blood—not only fairly rocks the house but casts a spell over listeners in the tradition of seminal industrial bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Willing members of the audience might achieve a mystical experience; others might just get the hell out of the building. That’s the power of Summon.

As Summon told Weekly Alibi, “People who have never experienced any sort of ritual freak out, those who haven't smelled real frankincense or myrrh or smelled real dragon’s blood, find it very overwhelming. Which is exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm painting pictures, like Dalí—you think Dalí wanted everyone to be comfortable with every one of his paintings? Fuck no, he wanted to create an uncomfortable environment because discomfort is anti-lazy. You get people moving, thinking, painting their own new picture.”

Anumals and Summon’s previous album, Scapegoat—which was picked up by Sage Francis' label Strange Famous—engage the listener on an arcane intellectual level beyond a soundtrack for a haunted house. For better or worse, Summon's chopped and screwed beats, eerie samples from nature recordings, cult movies, Aleister Crowley recordings and the like place his music in a little-known micro-genre called “witch hop.” That’s a musical phrase deliberately coined by two guys from the dark wave groups Pictureplane and Shams. Like all neologisms of today it was social media that spread the over-specific—and ultimately hokey term—around certain parts of the interwebs, until it stuck. It’s another way to say “dark,” with a tablespoon of goth.

I stood outside Deep Space Coffee with Summon, and we talked before heading inside for more conversation where a Thomas Christopher Haag mural gently vibrated behind Summon as he wrote down some notes on a purple strip of paper and we settled into a booth.

Weekly Alibi: Are you a native New Mexican?

Summon: I feel 100 percent local now. The four years I’ve spent here are the longest I've lived anywhere. I was born in North Bend, Ore. and I lived in Eugene, Ore. The road has been my life, I was born on the road; mom and dad were coming out of the Redwood Forest, taking acid or something, talking to fairies and trees and my mom said “I'm having a baby!” Dad was like, “Yeah, I know.” “My great-grandma is full-blooded Romanian gypsy; she was adopted and married into our family. She used to break glass with her voice and do tarot cards; she had a weird color to her eyes—the yellows that my family has in our eyes, including my daughter, reflect her presence.

“I definitely bring ritual to the live format. So I bring lots of things, like my altar. If a show is gonna be on Saturday, I’ll bring things for Saturn and you know different symbols and really create a ritual out of it. Incense, masks, bells, stones ... “

Do you keep black books or rhyme books like some rappers?

I do but I go through them fairly quickly, filling every scrap piece of paper in my vicinity with ideas, numerology notes, rhymes and interesting or bizarre things my mind seems to feed on … finally these things manifest as lyrics. But I've [also] got a spell book; I've got a dream book that I've been trying to record mine and my daughter's dreams in. I have very lucid dreams that I can remember but sometimes, you know, I only remember something.... Mugwort is helpful for remembering dreams, some Mugwort tea before sleep; I try not to smoke weed right before bed. There are more dreams if you don't smoke a couple hours before bed. I have an active mind and weed mellows me out a bit.

You only write lyrics these days, where does the music come from?

Friends and collectives around the world like Chuck Chee: He's a pirate, he's from Germany; Wydow is from Spain, he's very cool. Anumals is a different kind of thing. It was inspired by the Parq Central Hotel and HP Lovecraft and Crowley. I got beats from Jade Palace which is another collective that I'm in, and they're from New York City. The mixes are all my production. I basically put all the tracks together, and I make them so they overlap in one long set and create a story out of different songs.

What are your musical and spiritual influences?

I started off on the West Coast and was influenced by East Coast music like Jedi Mind Tricks, and then I moved to the East Coast and was influenced by Living Legends, Project Blow and a lot of death metal and psychedelic music. A lot of my music uses symbols to portray thoughts. Symbols are a road map to our existence, and musical vibrations, samples and words tap into parts of our psyche that we’ve forgotten about. The energy in our collective consciousness doesn’t disappear, and symbols help us tap into the experiences we’ve had in multiple lifetimes.

How do these beliefs affect your performances?

I definitely bring ritual to the live format. So I bring lots of things, like my altar. If a show is gonna be on Saturday, I’ll bring things for Saturn and you know different symbols and really create a ritual out of it. Incense, masks, bells, stones ... different sorts of things and I take my shoes off, and I just kinda forget people are there—I'm creating something that's very personal to me and bringing it to everyone for everyone to see.

What’s the Mothership Alumni collective here in Burque about?

It’s awesome, it’s totally neat. As a collective we are really taking over as far as getting our stuff out, getting it into the news, building a really neat new hip-hop scene that's more like going to a festival in the woods with a bunch of kids high on mushrooms and listening to EDM. We're playing a lot of local clubs. Last night we were at Duel Brewery. A show a month is usually what I need to do to keep myself quasi-sane.

How did the Sage Francis record consignment deal come about?

He's been, you know, stalking me, and I stalk him, and we stalk other artists, and we watch each other. I've been doing shows and throwing shows since 2002, 2003. People say, “Oh you're trying to take over shit.” I’m like, no, I'm trying to stay sane. I need somewhere to put all of my crazy energy, so Strange Famous was an obvious outlet; one of my albums is available through their webstore, but I’m not officially on their label. Then the other thing is that all of my albums are for free or are for donation at summon.bandcamp.com and so I just do that. I work really hard on these albums to give them to you guys because I love to see people squirm. I love to see reaction, and I love to see what people do and feel from my work.

Anything else for our readers, any gigs coming up?

I’m everywhere and nowhere, but mostly on the internet right now. Details will reveal themselves in time.