What is science fiction? I propose this definition: It is a feeling one imagines will be the structure and mode of being in a world that is far ahead of your place in time. You feel what it might feel like to be in this world that is not yet yours, this unrealized place you are drawn to, this setting, this other kind of social existence you may never see or experience in your lifetime. There are certain buildings and sculptures that can dislocate us from the present and relocate us to this future time and space—some of these works are deliberately science-fictional, others are not. Oddly enough, Seattle, a city that was invented recently and has several major high-tech (indeed futuristic) corporations, is a place we find a lot of science fiction in its accidental form rather than its deliberate one. (I'm completely ignoring in this piece the Cold War monument called the Space Needle.) There was a kind of space program that thrived in local hiphop between 2008 and 2012, but it was mostly a retro or collector's science fiction. Rappers and DJs were mining records and sounds of a future as it was imagined by the past, the Space Age.
One of the few local artists who has made science fiction that is not reflexive and actually looks forward is Vox Mod. This producer/musician/futurist has released five LPs/EPs under his name, is the drummer in the space-rock band Lazer Kitty, and recently collaborated with RA Scion on Shaper Tool; Bigger Weapon. He is about the production of a science fiction that is on the horizon of our point in time. Meaning, he is not a collector of the retro future, he is about the future of our city space and the future of our outer space—planets, starships, astronauts, and glittering rings of Saturn. He makes music with the design of transporting us to a civilization that has the technology to colonize the moons of Jupiter. In his music, we feel the blazing trail of a comet passing a spaceship, we enter a gas cloud that's a nursery for newborn stars, or we see the sunset on an urbanscape that has no end and no beginning, and from parts of which dark rockets are regularly launched into the thinning twilight. Vox Mod's music is big, bold, vast, and fearless. Are these not the noble attributes of a race of humans who have left the familiar and ancient rhythms of the spinning planet, the seasons, the orbit of our star for the great unknown?
This is why speaking to Vox Mod about his work is so refreshing. He never winks at you, he is not reanimating some forgotten Soviet-era band that was big in Star City for a second or two. He is, in short, not a hipster. He is a producer of science fiction that explores, with current technology, galactic and urban (cyberpunk) states. This is what he had to say:
"I really come into science fiction from films—science-fiction films. They are my primary source of inspiration. The first film that made a big impression on me, with its futuristic imagery and its speculations about human evolution, is Akira [a classic of Japanese animation that came out in 1988 and is set in 2018]. I saw it at the recent Sci-Fi Film Festival at Cinerama—it was a lifelong dream come true. I finally got to see it on the big screen, and it was amazing. It really changed how I feel about the world, how I see it.
"Because science-fiction films are my main inspiration, each album or record I have made is really the soundtrack for a movie I did not make. Abstract, which is an EP, is more a fantasy. It's about little talismans, little ruins, little trinkets floating in a mountain cave in a faraway world. This world is covered in snow. It was once inhabited. We do not know by whom. We just see these floating things and the snow. Hazmat, my first Vox Mod album, is just straight up galaxy and universe stuff. I imagined comets, the tails of comets, and satellites circling Titan.
"Syn-Aesthetic [which was released last year and features a rap by Shabazz Palace's Ishmael Butler and production work by Erik Blood] is more about physics, about a quantum journey through space-time dimensions. These are the emotions I try to capture and expand. Each song attempts to access these places that are not at all like the ones we are familiar with.
"The Great Oscillator, which was released at the end of April, is the expansion package of Syn-Aesthetic. It goes deeper on its themes. And I also wanted it to be like a link to another world. In that world, everything is caught in this massive galactic oscillation. I'm trying to see that place and feel it is real. This is the music on the tracks, the energy—the matter that happens in this fantastic place is for me real."
RA Scion and Vox Mod are premiering their new video featuring Blake Lewis and members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.