Soulacybin. The name conjures up images of mycelial networks and wistful landscapes, lush with texture and emotion. This is appropriately not far off from the music crafted by John LaBoone under this moniker, which combines dub textures with flowing melodies and conscientious production into a sound that is booth smooth, technical, simple, yet deep and moving. During preparations for Symbiosis this coming weekend, we found our first real opportunity to sit down producer-to-producer to talk about our craft, John’s music, and his sources of inspiration.
Be sure to check out Soulacybin at Symbiosis Gathering on Thursday, September 22nd at 4:30 PM at the Juke Lagoon Stage.
A chat with Soulacybin
Sonic Geometry: I have always loved your name, which is a portmanteau of the words “soul” and “psilocybin,” the latter of which is an active entheogen present in visionary fungi. How do you feel your music embodies both a soulful element and a visionary element at the same time, and how do you feel these two contrasting elements come together in your music and work synergistically?
Soulacybin: These two elements are inherently ingrained in the music, as I was communing frequently with the fungi during the formation of this project, and they seemed to approve of the freshly formed moniker. My artistic perspective has been hugely influenced by psychedelic states, and it plays an integral role in the vision that comes to life through the music. My writing process is a synergistic blend of intentional, thinking-brain idea development and intuitive, in-the-moment flow; utilizing both human intention and discretion as well as visionary exploration. It seems like the term “soulful” gets applied to music when there is a prevalent expression of emotion, when singing or playing possesses passionate exuberance. When writing musical ideas in the studio, it is common to acquire more parts than will actually be used for the composition. To determine which parts best serve the piece, I default to my emotional compass of which ideas feel best. The ones that incite an emotional response are generally the ones that stay in the song. While navigating the thinking process, new ideas and happy accidents will occur, leading to new ideas that are born from the moment and are created free from my own brain. These ideas feel as if they are created for the music by external forces beyond myself, and from the writer’s perspective, bring a new level of excitement and unexpectedness to a composition’s birth.
Sonic Geometry: Well said. I really resonate with your process of additive then subtractive composition, as well as being influenced by psychedelic states. Mycelium (fungal) networks below the earth help other plants move carbon from the air into the soil in a process that heals and regenerates our earth, while they also provide a vast chemical network by these plants can send chemical messages to one another. How do you feel that your music embodies this spirit of interconnectivity, healing, and regeneration?”
Soulacybin: I feel that the music has hidden purposes of it’s own agenda, revealed upon reaching each individual listener. It resonates differently with each person who encounters it, and this resonance within an individual will also change constantly, depending on their own personal experiences and point of being. This feels very similar to the manner in which fungal networks send information and natural resources to various sections of the network and the correlating areas of nature. The music finds its way to those who seek it, serving them in a way that is most needed in their experience…sometimes received as inspiration to dance, flow, write, journey inwards, etc. Sometimes the music is not received by someone at all, as it plays no necessary role in their current journey. The music itself will not inherently connect, heal, or regenerate; it is a tool which lies dormant until someone decides to add it into their life. My only hope is that the music continues to reach those who appreciate it, and that it serves as an available and effective tool for anyone’s benefit.
Sonic Geometry: I think that’s the ultimate goal. As artists, we want nothing more than to touch people with our music and somehow benefit those people, no matter what kind of music we make. You label your music as “Hyper-chill.” What does this mean to you?”
Soulacybin: The “Hyper-Chill” genre title was born about a year into the project, when i first started to push myself past the conventional boundaries of psy-dub that I was making at the time. I have a proclivity towards compiling lots of information into my music, and so I began to wonder how to retain the “busy” layers, while leaving the music enjoyable and decipherable by objective listeners. I am still working at that, and make no claims to have mastered this endeavor! “Hyper-Chill” describes the balance of information-dense, highly detailed ideas juxtaposed with down & mid tempo BPM’s and a pervasive smoked-out dub vibe (even beyond my years as a smoker). I will be using the self-coined term in my next release title to further push this concept.
Sonic Geometry: I like that. It’s like an affirmation of forging your uniqueness, which is very important as a musical creator. It’s important for us to craft a sound that’s all our own instead of falling into the typical genre traps that happen all too often with electronica. You have been able to set yourself apart within the world of squelchy downtempo psychedelic music with a lush sound that incorporates dub/reggae, lush textures, and simple yet effective melodic structures. What tools have been effective for you as a producer (plug-ins, production techniques, writing techniques, hardware, etc) in creating this sound? What are your go-to’s? What is your latest favorite new toy in the studio?”
Soulacybin: My studio setup is fairly simple. I predominantly use Sylenth for my squelchy basses, on top of which i’ll add various effects depending on what the song calls for. Lately I’ve really been digging Waves guitar stomp box effects: Phaser, Pitcher, Wah, etc. as further sculptors of the sounds. I am also a big fan of Serum, and its ability to create your own wavetables. I have gotten some interesting sounds out of sampling mud, food, farts, etc, that make for interesting patches to layer with other sounds. One plug-on that is indispensable to my sound is the Waves H-Delay. This unit sounds amazing, and achieves some classic Jamaican dub sounds…it is used in literally every single one of my songs! I also use the Waves True-Verb a good deal, in addition to the Lexicon reverb unit. Big reverbs and heavy delay are crucial elements to my sound, and foundational to dub music in general.
Sonic Geometry: H-Delay! For a plugin suite as old as Waves, H-Delay remains a unique and wonderful delay sound, and despite my recent love affair with Serum you’re making me think I should go back to toying with Sylenth a bit more. Finding new tools and new techniques is one great way to make music creation feel fresh and new every day. As an artist, seeking refreshing inspiration is an ongoing journey. Where have you sought inspiration lately? How has this influenced your music? How do you avoid creative staleness, and how do you keep music an exciting and refreshing process for yourself as an artist?”
Soulacybin: I am always finding inspiration in new music, be it new to me or new to the world. Some of the most inspiring producers I hear these days happen to be friends; namely Sixis, Bogtrotter, Tribone, Somatoast, kLL sMTH, Cualli, and Duffrey. Cualli has a new unreleased album that is absolutely fantastic in terms of composition and sound design…people are going to flip when they hear it! He has a lot of influence on me in terms of work ethic and attention to detail, as well as being a dear friend and exemplary human being. Somatoast just put out a new album that is top notch as well, and he is one of my favorite people to share a bill with. I was lucky enough to receive a prerelease copy of his album “Goop” from him, and its been in heavy rotation since then. Mark (Somatoast) is a master of silly, psychedelic carnival dub, and his work reminds me to make sure there are elements of “fun” in my music, and to keep things dubby! Tribone has inspired me to write at faster BPM’s and to further embrace the psy-trance elements that i have been getting into over the past few years. His album “Beneath and Beyond” single-handedly brought my tempo range from mostly 70 – 80 BPM’s up to 80 – 95 BPM’s over the last year. kLL sMTH is just an all around ridiculous producer and a really fun guy, which is reflected in his music. His productions have impeccable precision while maintaining strong musical ideas, keeping a jazzy element alongside his razor sharp sounds and arrangements.
I find that one of the best methods of fostering creativity is to show up to work as often as you can. Inspiration doesn’t flow perpetually, which can make sitting down to work feel like a difficult chore. I find that even in these times, I will be rewarded with breakthroughs and new ideas if I can persevere and commit time to the creative process. Another important aspect to staying inspired and excited as an artist is to make sure you live an active life in the world and in the live’s of those you care about. Having experiences to draw from in your personal life seems to lead to new approaches within the music, and helps the Art evolve as you do personally. The more enriched and engaged I feel as a human, the more vibrant the music seems to become.
Sonic Geometry: I could’t agree more. We need to live exciting lives to inspire exciting music! Also, many artists have said that they don’t work because they are inspired, but they are inspired because they are working. This is often easier said than done, though, with the emotional ups-and-downs of being an artistic creator. The life of an artist, especially one on tour, is both very strenuous and very rewarding. What are your biggest challenges you face on the road? What are your biggest triumphs, joys, and shining moments.”
Soulacybin: One of the biggest challenges about traveling as an artist, is finding time to be creative. I’ve recently experienced such a busy festival season, that it’s been difficult to find uninterrupted, consecutive days of studio time. It’s possible to work on ideas in an airport or plane, or to get a day in here or there around festival weekend obligations, but it doesn’t equate to having days on end to submerse yourself in the creative flow. There’s a romantic feeling about living with a piece as its being written, having trouble falling asleep because its on your mind and waking up early because you are craving working on it. Not that I am complaining, its really a joy and blessing to travel and share my music, its just a sacrifice that I’ve had to accept. I’ve also learned that when you have a day or two between traveling dates, it is sometimes best to attend to the details of your personal life- spending time with loved ones, eating healthy foods, general life maintenance tasks. This really aids in going back on the road with a nourished Heart, healthy body, and renewed energy and intention.
I feel that every set played where at least one person really enjoys the music and has a deeply personal connection with it is a shining triumph. Music has impacted my life in such a positive way, and if I can return that favor for even one person, I am completely satisfied. Seeing a packed floor of squiggly, dancing, happy people is really special , and helps to affirm that all the time spent making the music is worth it. Most artists thrive on feedback- positive or negative- and its a matter of learning how to channel that back into making better art, not inflating your personal ego.
An especially amazing moment from this summer was celebrating my 31st birthday on a beach in Israel with several hundred beautiful people, playing a 2 hour set as I watched the sun set into the ocean behind the crowd. They even surprised me with a cake and sang “Happy Birthday”.
Sonic Geometry: Wow. That sounds amazing, and it’s a better birthday than anyone could ever ask for, but wonderfully apt for a musician celebrating his journey forward through life and advancement as an artistic creator. Your most recent album “Stazi” left the most developed incarnation of your sound ringing in our eardrums. Your continued developments can also be heard on the Aquatic Collective Compilation Vol. 2, which is appropriately a benefit album for the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). What’s next? What are the latest sounds can we expect to hear from you at Symbiosis this year? How do you see yourself furthering your sound, your niche, and your mission as an artist and a human?”
Soulacybin: I am currently sitting on about 90 minutes of unreleased music, and am still determining the best way to release all of it. It will most likely end up as an EP and a full length, though only time will tell. Currently I am leaning towards making the EP feature a smaller spectrum of the variances in my style, with the full length showcasing a broader range of tempos and energy levels. For my Symbiosis set, I will be highlighting a great deal of this unreleased music, working in as many of the tunes as possible to appropriately suite the afternoon set time. Playing songs live over several months provides many instances of feedback about each song, and it develops understanding about which songs work best in a given set. Often times, song placement can lead to a tune going over really well live, or being a dance-floor clearer.
My style is constantly becoming more refined with time, a result of staying inspired by new sounds, ideas, and personal growth, and remembering why I make music in the first place- to give back that feeling that music has given to me throughout my entire life. Any expression we create- even that of being a human- is one that can always be improved and developed over time, and if one looses the drive to push themselves, their Art will often lose it potency. I am looking forward to having more time to experiment and write in the studio after the festival season and my fall tour are finished. All of the amazing experiences of the past few months have significantly built an inspiration surplus, and it will be nice to tap into that. As time goes on, and more experiences are accumulated, I will undoubtedly evolve and grow as a human and artist, but i don’t foresee the mission of my Art and life changing…to spread compassion and love through all my expressions.
Thanks for the amazing interview questions, Andrew! It was truly a joy to be challenged with such thoughtful queries.
Sonic Geometry: You’re welcome, John! I am tickled by your wonderful responses, which themselves have provided me with a refreshed outlook on life and music. Thanks for the insightful thoughts and the different perspective. Never stop inspiring us.