Photo: Press (Xosar)
Xosar’s musical world is a cosmos of its own, a cosmos that does not seem to have fixed boundaries. From early deep house singles like “Elixir of Dreams” to sometimes downright abrasive material that drew on industrial, black metal, psychedelia and techno, Sheela Rahman has never really stuck to one formula while maintaining a certain sound signature. There’s a ghostly and at times occult feeling to the Gyrocyre founder’s music which is also audible on her newest LP, The Possessor Possesses Nothing for the UAE-based Bedouin, her first outside her own label after 2015’s Let Go on Opal Tape’s Black Opal sublabel. It is a liberating record for her, she explains, and her contribution to our Groove podcast seems to pay tribute to that as well: from the lush, modular ambient tones of Abuld Mogard to Mick Harris hard-hitting industrial beats and the aptly titled last track “Feareater” by XiX†iR – likely a pseudonym of Rahman herself -, this mix knows no boundarious but creates a coherent sound cosmos of its own.
Your new album The Possessor Possesses Nothing takes its inspiration from the Tao Te Ching, a classic Chinese text usually credited to Laozi that is generally regarded as the foundation of taoism. How did you come across that book and what drew you to it? Broadly speaking, taoism stresses resilience or “action without intention”. The Possessor Possesses Nothing however is described as an “exercise in decisiveness, action and liberation”. What was the concept of the album and how did you try to translate it musically?
It’s about learning to balance these forces of opposition – having the wisdom to discern when time and energy are best spent on producing an outcome of some sort, and when it’s time to let go and stop trying to control and force or stress over an outcome. For me, gaining the wisdom to make a decision to take action when action is needed liberates me from subjecting myself to conditions that might have been stifling my evolution. Like when people subject themselves to deeply unhappy situations, relationships, jobs, just because they are comfortable and secure and too lazy to strive toward higher alignment of more resonant situations. Honing self-awareness to know whether a variable inside or outside of you is helping or harming your well-being and calmy aligning your actions with things that encourage your health and progress without becoming an obsessive compulsive maniac
The album aims at, in your words, “anti-perfectionism, anti-elitism, anti-censorship and anti-fear based programming”. Does this allude to your on struggle with yourself as a creative person, or is it rather a reference to the constraints of the music industry?
Yes, I struggle with all of these things to the point where it’s lead to immense suffering. Becoming more aware of my flaws lets me think of strategies against them. I do struggle with all of these things. Hopefully it will create awareness and loosen the stronghold that the effects that these often subconsciously embedded ideas may have on people, polluting their work or actions away from their well-being and authenticity. Elitism, censorship, and perfectionism, in their negative extreme polarities can be thought of as fear-based programming- ideas that motivate people to create out of a fear of not having something, rather than motivation to create for the love and affirmation of something. I don’t mean the expression of pain – that is different, that could still involve being motivated by longing or love for something else. I mean when people do things like make records they don’t really like just because they’re afraid they don’t have enough likes or bookings on the unfortunate currency systems which much of reality is currently based. While perfectionism may lead someone to conjure a work of mastery that may change many people’s lives for the positive, in it’s negative polarity, it can create obsessive compulsive mania that imprisons people from ever finishing a task and moving forward. It is often based out of an individuals fear of not being good enough, not being loved, not being accepted. This often happens in people whose parents didn’t show them unconditional love in the affirmation of who the person was – but taught the individual to base their self-worth on the external validation they receive when making some kind of accomplishment arbitrarily deemed as “successful” by society. Censorship, in its negative polarity, is an incredibly oppressive force that can stifle an individual’s need for self-expression. Unhealthy self-censorship might occur because the individual again has been programmed to fear that his or her expressions will not be accepted or loved by society and will put their survival in danger. This sort of self-censoring can have an even more detrimental effect on the person who suppresses it as that emotion will get stored in the body and subconsious and can potentially manifest as a disease of physical health condition or negative pattern of actions that aren’t serving their well being. A solution is deciding to befriend one’s authentic inner voice or inner intuition through healthy modes of expression, being real to oneself instead of trying to please everyone, which will never happen anyway.
You graduated from UC Berkeley in neuroscience/psychology and during last year’s ADE hosted a workshop on sound healing. Which effects of music and sound are most important for yourself? Which role do they play in music production?
Becoming aware on the effects sound, music and tones have on one’s mind and body is a field that is ancient across many cultures, but has only recently began to receive increasing amounts of acknowledgment and validation due to recent developments in science and technology. Biofeedback/EEG is an incredible tool that I’ve been studying for many years, but have only recently began to access and use to observe and re-program my mind by observing the effects that different sensory inputs have on my mind. Producing itself is a process I would rather rely on internal guidance to channel. Spending time learning tools and techniques in the mind, then letting go and physically aligning with chaos and rhythm and allowing the body’s natural translation of sound and energy come through in production. Engaging the practice of shutting down the conscious mind and letting purity of essence flow through more often, and uniting elements that come through in that state to unite with mental technical abilities.
You usually play live and haven’t been releasing many DJ mixes in the past few years. How do you generally approach mixes, and what was your idea behind this specifically?
First I gathered all of the music that’s been inspiring me lately, and did one live run through of the mix to practice, but it was way too long, so I recorded it again and tried to make it shorter. I’ve made mixes before by trying to come up with the track list ahead of time, but that approach generally doesn’t work for me as well as the approach of making spontaneous decisions in real time of what should come next, based on where I feel the journey should flow in that moment. I used a soundcraft mixer since I don’t have a DJ mixer.
Last but not least: What are your plans as a producer?
My plans as a producer are to continue my quest toward learning and channeling.
Stream: Xosar – Groove Podcast 195
01. Abul Mogard – Quiet Dream
02. Zov Zov – Post Six
03. Damcase – A2
04. Sleeper – Simulation theory
05. Fret – List Is full
06. Coletivo Vandalismo – The (Black) Sun’s Burning
07. Ramleh – Pit Bull
08. Xosar – Realm ov Chaos
09. Rhys Fulber – Limited Vision
10. Codex Empire – Slate to Marble
11. Nemmett – Claim your Way
12. t_error 404 – Vajrabhairava (Dark phase edit)
13. Blush Response vs. Bakunin Commando – Neon Blood Goddess
14. Goncali Salgado – Golpe Mortal
15. ANFS – Katzaros
16. Ornviom – Mydrasis
17. Vainio & Vigroux – Luxure
18. XiX†iR – Feareater