Adam Forkner's changed his band name like 45 times in the last five years—from Yume Bitsu to Yarn Lazer to Soft Dolphin to Reggae Moth to ((vvrssnn)) and on and on—but that's just because he wasn't sure if people would be into "the straight trypp." Now he's White Rainbow, and his ambient slams of vibe-heavy loops and pattering hand drums are totally blasting the hell out of his concrete bunker in industrial Southeast Portland, OR. To mark today's release of White Rainbow's epically mandala-riffing Prism of Eternal Now, writer Claire L Evans talked to Forkner about Dr Bronner's, being a jazz kid, and his drug of choice (surprisingly, it's not weed).
Why don't you tell me about the last book you read?
You mean The Source? The book about Father Yod and the Source family? I don't really smoke weed, unlike Yod and his children, who smoked the Sacred Herb. What surprised me and inspired me most was how much they talked about The Eternal Now.
What's your relationship to The Eternal Now?
In all honesty, I think music is my drug of choice. Playing music is like my meditation, or rather it has a similar effect on me, which is to bring me to total presence.
Is that why most of your recordings and performances are improvised?
Something like that. Coming from a deep jazz background, improvisation was ingrained as the pinnacle of creative process for me. I grew up a jazz kid, my dad plays jazz. With jazz, you have to develop a vocabulary of things you can use in the moment of improvisation. I guess it would be the same for a freestyle rapper, or a slam poet. My stuff is pretty much ambient slam.
What kinds of sounds do you consider to be part of that vocabulary?
Well, I've worked with the same gear, the same instruments for many years, and then as I get too comfortable, I add new things, like hand drums or voice or things that keep me on my own toes. With looping devices you get into this place where you can pretty easily hear how things are developing, and then react in real time to that delayed output. It's similar, spiritually, to the first time you recognize yourself in a mirror, or hear your voice recorded. You know that vibe?
Yeah, very much, but I've never experienced that with music. You must identify totally with what you're making, right?
Because what you did remains, it is also sort of like making a painting. After a while, you start to react to what is there in front of you, that you made. There's an Oblique Strategy card that says "the tape is now the music," which I interpret as: it's not what's in your head that you want to get out, its what is coming out, and how you groove with it.
Since loops are such a deeply ingrained part of your process, does it feel weird to just play guitar or something, without that identity echo?
Yes, very weird. It's a totally different instrument, a different process. I'm not a songwriter or composer—I'm pretty much completely lacking in those skills.
So, in a way, what you're doing with loops is making music more concrete and less ephemeral.
The Now is totally concrete. Presence is concrete. It's when I am aware of the very concrete moment of Now that I can start to unshackle myself from "the story" of my "self" and just Be. Is that Heidegerrian? Or Deepak? Or Eckhart Tolle?
It must feel strange then, to record and sell those experiences, and be like, "This is White Rainbow."
It doesn't feel as weird to me to put those types of recordings out as it does to fake that I am a composer or songwriter, which I've done in the past. With Yume Bitsu, Surface and VVRSSNN, I always was fusing song with the core tryp. I am no longer interested in that. I was pretty much just faking it, and like, why waste anyone's time? It was a mistake to think that people wouldn't want the straight tryyp, and it's more embarrassing to have someone come up to me and sing an old Yume or VVRSSNN song to me, because I know in my heart that it was always a bit forced.
What's the relationship between your music and New Age thought?
To be honest, I'm not quite sure. My personal relationship with New Age thought is one of deep fascination. I'm not really a True Believer type, in that I can never fully release myself into one philosophy or another, but I doubt that l'd be interested in the development of philosophy and spirituality—and I guess more specifically the last 60 to 100 years of new world experiments in spiritual thought—if none of it ever resounded in me as being true. What interests me, I guess, is the different amalgamations that people have developed, the inventiveness of it. In a sense it's like magic. It's just as fascinating to experience a trick, as it is to investigate how it was done—within New Age, I enjoy both the front and back end of different groups and guru vibes. I believe there is truth and wisdom from even the cheesiest of New Age sources, and I also enjoy the "sell."
What's your favorite new world experiment in spiritual thought, aesthetically?
I meant that as an exclamation. There are some good ones. Bronners is awesome, obviously, Father Yod and the Source family is my latest interest, Unarius was a big one for me, Rastafarianism, Mormonism, Scientology. The list is endless. It's hard to pick a favorite. I kind of like to let all of the different vibes just wash over me. But in all seriousness, spirituality shouldn't have to be all serious. People like OSHO who constantly stated as much, those thoughts resound in me deeply, more deeply than some pure sincere spiritual interpretive dancing to Pink Floyd, which is very funny, but doesn't like hit me in my soul. The whole "I am being so serious in my prayer, my meditation," that shit is old and boring, and the fact that people feel the need to be so somber is maybe coming from some puritanical vibe. Austere religious seriousness is seriously fucking up our planet. That sort of conviction that Bush has, or Islamic extremists, or all the assholes of the world coming from this deep "serious spiritual righteousness" place...fuck 'em all. Indian dance to Pink Floyd.