A kind of magic
UK indie veteran Pop Levi explains how his music comes to him from other, extra-terrestrial dimensions.
Ed Power, 16 May 2007
Sssh! Pop Levi is receiving transmissions from outer space. “My music comes to me from other dimensions,” explains Levi, who, with luminous bone-structure and kohl rimmed peepers, is a dead ringer for Johnny Depp circa Pirates Of The Caribbean.
“I use a technique called scrying, which was invented by the magician Dr. John Dee in the Edwardian era. He’d gaze through cracked glass or saucers of water for a huge amount of time, until things were suggested to him. I use my own variation of scrying to write all my lyrics. I’m the vessel. The conduit. The music is revealed to me.”
Levi, a UK indie veteran lately transplanted to Los Angeles, has gone as far as coining a term for his cosmic pop: “astral rock ’n’ roll”. “When the average musician sits down and decides to write a song, they get out their guitar, and then goes into a studio to record it – well, there’s something inert about all that,” he says. “But there’s another way of looking at that. You study what you’re doing to the point of obsession, cutting and pasting ideas, and reducing things to mathematics.”
Shoot the breeze with Levi, who once thunked bass with Mersey electro-poppers Ladytron, and music becomes a point of departure for a free-wheeling dissertation on the nature of consciousness and the role of ‘magick’ in the creative process. Cut through the hippy-isms and the nub of Levi’s world view goes something like this: all of rock music’s truest innovators were, in their own way, conjurers.
“Hendrix was heavily into magic. So were The Beatles, Dylan, Syd Barrett. But did they know it was magic? We’ve had 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll now, and I think it’s time for a different approach. Instead of hoping the lightning will strike, you’ve got to make the lightning come to you.”
Steer the conversation towards more mundane matters – such as rumours that Levi refused to license the song ‘(A Style Called) Crying Chic’ to the producers of the CSI television franchise, and the light starts to flicker from his eyes. If it’s not about the magic, then frankly baby, Levi’s not interested.
“Those things, they happen,” he says, gazing into the middle distance. “Personally, I find that end of the business boring in the extreme. The thing is, CSI wanted me to change the lyrics. Now, obviously, I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to mess with the karma of the song.”
We shouldn’t read too much into Levi’s decision to relocate to LA, he says. For all of its sunshine shimmer, most of his debut album, The Return To Form Black Magick Party was assembled during around-the-globe jaunts with Ladytron.
“It was put together on planes, boats and trains,” Levi explains. “Some of it, I recorded in China. Other parts in Greece. By the time I got to California, it was almost all finished. You can’t pin this music down, man. It comes from everywhere, it comes from nowhere.”
The Return to Form Black Magick Party is out now.