Cosmic Trigger: Daisy Eris Campbell Interview
WRITTEN BY JOSH RAY – NOVEMBER 2014
What do you do after turning on, tuning in and dropping out? You find the others of course and, historically speaking, Liverpool seems to be one of the best places to start looking. The city Carl Jung famously described as “the pool of life” proved to be the ideal setting for Ken Campbell’s epic nine-hour production of the Illuminatus! Trilogy back in 1976 and now his daughterDaisy Campbell – conceived backstage at that same production – is about to continue his story by adapting the non-fiction sequel THE COSMIC TRIGGER, naturally, in Liverpool.
Staging the world’s longest play while the rest of her friends were taking their A-Levels, Daisy was thrown in at the deep end early on by her father, standing her in good stead for the trials and tribulations of adapting a Robert Anton Wilson novel, which she is now attempting at the exact same age her father was during his production.
With The Cosmic Trigger ready to be premiered tonight (Friday 21st November) at Camp and Furnace, the Discordians are flocking back to the city to “find the others” over a weekend-long Confestival named after Timothy Leary’s infamous call-to-arms. To find out exactly what’s happening,Josh Ray ventured into the Chapel Perilous to speak with the second Campbell to unleash Eris upon the world…
BILL DRUMMOND HAS SAID THAT WHENEVER HE’S WORKING ON SOMETHING HE HEARS YOUR DAD’S VOICE IN HIS HEAD TELLING HIM “WILDER, BILL IT SHOULD BE WILDER.” DO YOU THINK IT WAS THIS MINDSET THAT MADE YOUR FATHER GRAVITATE TOWARDS THE WORK OF ROBERT SHEA AND ROBERT ANTON WILSON?
Yes… Well, I mean you know the story of how Illuminatus! came about. It was pure synchronicity, he just found it and saw it had a yellow submarine on the front. He knew he was doing the show in Liverpool – that was the first clue. Then he checked to see on page 223, to see if there was anything interesting because Jung’s dream was on page 223 of the other book and it mentioned Carl Jung… So he decided that was synchronicity enough.
He was one for superlatives – put it that way. So it was “the greatest book ever written.” He declared it absolutely the best thing ever written and made everyone read it. That was the rule; if you wanted to be in the show you had to have read it cover to cover… In fact there’s a line in Cosmic Trigger, he always used to say, “basically we wanted an excuse to live insideIlluminatus! So the best way to do that was to stage an epic production and then that way we’d all get to live inside it – and not only that we’d get to pull in all our straight actor friends into this whole potty world because they’d all have to learn the lines and immerse themselves in this extraordinary work.”
ADAPTING A TRILOGY OF ITS SORT WAS A MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT. WHAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE HAVE YOU HAD ADAPTING THE SEQUEL?
Everything has presented itself just at the moment it’s needed to present itself. So it’s been, for me, a really mystical experience – I can’t explain it any other way. I’d been in the creative backwaters for quite a while; I’d been a mum for a very long time – not really able to throw myself into any big productions.
And then with my father’s sudden death I went through a five-year process of kind of figuring out who I was in relation to my dad. I’d worked incredibly closely with him throughout my whole twenties. I’d been involved with every production he’d done – assistant directing, helping write stuff, doing The Warp. Then I had this really strong need to distance myself. I was always stuck with this dilemma… He’s always doing the most interesting stuff.
Then of course he died and I had this real sadness. God, if I’d have known that he wasn’t even going to see my 30th birthday, of course I’d have just worked alongside him every single step of the way and learned everything I possibly could from him! But that’s the way these things go…
I don’t even think I was even aware that I was waiting for a sign for something to happen. I knew I was in the real creative doldrums and it was time to do something about it. So that was 2013 for me. I began it saying, “this is the year of following the thread, I don’t know what the thread is, I haven’t even found the end of it yet.”
That’s when I started to get these phone calls about doing Illuminatus! and that’s when I thought, ‘hang on, Cosmic Trigger that’s the next step – that would be a kind of bridging thing and it would give me the opportunity to tell a more lucid story.’
I feel it’s exactly like you say, really optimistic. One of the things I love most about Robert Anton Wilson is that he is an intelligent optimist. There’s a great line in the play where Wilson says, “this notion that to be moral you must be perpetually suffering,” and he says ,“I’m still so optimistic that I seriously annoy ecologists and Marxists and all those people who think that you’re only intelligent and moral if you’re constantly in a bleak state of despair about humanity.”
And he’s so not that because actually his feeling is – neurologically speaking – he optimist is likely to find ten solutions that the pessimist can’t see. So neurologically it just is a better adaptation to stay optimistic and it’s a better adaptation to distrust all beliefs and to distrust all limitations because you’re so much likely to evolve into a higher state of functioning if you don’t set those kinds of limits.
From then on everything presented itself; I met John Higgs – he said he was doing a talk about Robert Anton Wilson – then a week later I was talking to the already collected up hardcore fans of Wilson who of course were just like “yes lets make this happen!”
There was a sense that Wilson was going to be forgotten, that his work wasn’t going to be remembered. So John Higgs and I have become this kind of two-manned Robert Anton Wilson appreciation society. And for me one of the most heartening things as this all unfolds is all the messages and all the tweets and all the rest of it, of people saying, “I’m reading Cosmic Triggerready for the show.” That to me is the best outcome, to increase the Cosmic Trigger readership.
THE NETWORK OF LOVE!
The Network of Love! Yes, Discordians and Robert Anton Wilson fans are two of the best sets of people to work with. They’re generally really fucking hard-working and don’t really give too much of a shit about what other people think – really free-thinking. But the Discordian maxim is “we Discordians must stick apart.” We’ve discovered what happens when you stick together for a year… It creates a lot of chaos it has to be said, but it creates a lot of magick as well.
YOU FIRST DELVED INTO DISCORDIANISM BY READING THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY, I BELIEVE AT THE AGE OF 23, DO YOU THINK YOU NEEDED TIME TO GROW A BIT BEFORE YOU COULD ADAPT A DISCORDIAN WORK?
There were casualties from that Illuminatus! production… It was strong magick and it was not great medicine for everyone involved. There were serious casualties and my dad ended up feeling very responsible and looking after those casualties for a long time. It’s quite nihilistic. With conspiracy theories, you can disappear down the rabbit hole, you easily can slip into paranoia. That’s why, for me, Cosmic Trigger… [is] incredibly lucid. It’s explaining the whole birth of Operation Mindfuck, of Discordianism but also very personally of Wilson’s experiments with Aleister Crowley, rituals, acid, tantra and yoga. A whole – more intimate quest – kind of story.
But because during that whole period he’s writing Illuminatus! so I knew I’d be able to put in some of the more memorable scenes from Illuminatus!There was a distancing though, let’s pull back – let’s not take the red pill or the blue pill or whatever it is this time.
DO YOU THINK YOUR DAD PROTECTED YOU FROM THE BOOK A LITTLE BIT AFTER HE SAW WHAT IT COULD DO?
Yeah, he did. I mean he didn’t make it easy for me to get my hands on a copy so I had to seek it out but I knew about all the legends surrounding that production. Not least because it’s where my mum and dad met and it’s where I got my middle name from and all the rest of it.
Yeah, I’d say he did. I’d say he was very wary of returning to it and that’s something that factored into my thinking when everyone wanted to doIlluminatus! again. I wanted that more optimistic vision but I also want that Discordian spirit and I feel like The Cosmic Trigger’s really got that. So I just thought, it’s a good homage to Bob, it’s a good homage to my dad and it also feels very personal as a story in many ways as well.
AND AFTER MAKING THE DECISION TO ADAPT THE BOOK, THE JUNGIAN SYNCHRONICITIES STARTED APPEARING AGAIN.
Yeah, all of those synchronicities around the Jung bust and this sense of coming together, this inevitability of stepping into doing something like this. The experience was very soon after my father’s death I had this sense of a calling while I was at the Jung bust and it was like “oh my god, everything’s connected and I’m part of this network.”
To begin with I got the first draft written and I floundered and my mum said, “this guy John Higgs has just been in touch and he’s written this whole book about the KLF and it’s got your dad in it” – that was the first booster. Then I was having another sort of… “oh I don’t really know about this” [moment]. And then there was a ring at the doorbell with an enormous smiley face on a big yellow mask from the Cosmic Trigger props department – of course Jimmy Cauty and the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance and I was like “fuck that’s a sign then isn’t it!”
Some would say it’s my biggest folly but I’ve made this project a magnet for the right people. So the people who want to come get involved, can get involved. For me that’s what gives it this lovely rough around the edges – it gives it a proper caper feel. Most of the actors are professional but the people building the sets, creating the costumes and stuff aren’t and they’re having an absolute ball doing it.
And then you know of course getting to go and meet Alan Moore because John Higgs was going to see him and he said “actually why don’t you ask him if he’ll do some lines in the play and have his voice recorded for the play, I think he’ll be really into it.”
All of that happened and then going on that visit and Alan Moore saying to me that art is magic and the idea of high magick and high art – where you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing and you just proceed like everything’s a message from the universe and I thought “that’s exactly what I’m trying to do!”
I knew if was for some important reason and I’ve just got this feeling that there is going to be something… And when I say magick I do mean the true chaos magick that comes from a collaborative creative effort and a grand Discordian experiment. I don’t know on what plain it’s going to be important but I’ve got a feeling that Eris wants this to happen and we’re pawns in her game.
There are reasons, but I don’t know if materially we’ll be aware of it or not – or whether it will just be on the cosmic plain. And of course, Robert Temple coined the phrase ‘cosmic trigger’, he’s one of the people speaking at the festival. The quote was something along the lines of “how do we know what will be the cosmic trigger that will reignite contact with extra-terrestrial life? Could it be that this very book you hold in your hands is the cosmic trigger?”
IN THE MINDSCAPE OF ALAN MOORE, THE GREAT THINKER SPECULATED THAT – DUE TO INFORMATION OVERLOAD – OUR CULTURE WILL MOVE PAST A FLUID STATE AND INTO A “CULTURE OF STEAM” AROUND 2015. CONSIDERING IT’S THE “POOL OF LIFE”, DO YOU THINK THIS CHANGE MIGHT SPRING OUT OF LIVERPOOL, WITH YOUR PLAY PERHAPS ACTING AS A TRIGGER?
Haha! Well… I’d hate to speculate. But you know, there are forces in heaven and earth that are beyond our philosophy. There [are] so many things happening; what Greg Wilson and Super Weird Substance have been up to, the fact John’s book came out when it did. This has all inspired and pulled together as many enthusiasts as it has. The fact it’s the time since Wilson’s death, it’s the right time to celebrate his life and return to his philosophy.
And in Liverpool itself… You know I didn’t even know that Drummond had come back and stood on that manhole cover for seventeen hours on his sixtieth birthday until I got going with this. You’d think we’d all coordinated in some way but no, not at all… The pool of life is turning to steam. I think that’s exactly what’s happening and it’s infecting all of our minds!
My dad always said, “Go to Liverpool, everyone says ‘yes’.” He’s said that to me from when I was really little, “if you ever want to get anything done, that’s where you go” and he’s absolutely right!