Finding The Other Others – Daisy Eris Campbell Interview
WRITTEN BY JOSH RAY – MAY 2017
23rd November 2014 can be looked back upon as the moment a catalytic spark was cast. When Daisy Eris Campbell followed in the footsteps of her father and staged an adaptation of a Robert Anton Wilson novel in Liverpool, she caught the zeitgeist at the perfect moment. John Higgs had already sewn the seeds for this newfound interest in Discordian ideas with his book, ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic And The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds‘, meaning everything was primed for Daisy to pull the Cosmic Trigger in Liverpool and her Conferestival weekend.
The play was an incredible success, as was the whole weekend, which was followed by a small run of shows in London. The play set the ball rolling and a whole network has emerged since then, leading to more gatherings and collaborations.
Now with the backing of Arts Council funding, the play returns to The Cockpit in London, with a run of shows lasting 23 days from today. We caught up with Daisy as she prepares to pull the ‘Cosmic Trigger’ again…
NOW MORE THAN TWO YEARS HAS PASSED BY, HOW DO YOU LOOK BACK AT THE COSMIC TRIGGER CONFERESTIVAL YOU PUT ON IN LIVERPOOL IN 2014?
I look back like it really was the moment we pulled ‘The Cosmic Trigger’. I mean we were sort of saying we were going to pull the cosmic trigger in Liverpool but we didn’t know what that meant. It feels – having witnessed everything that’s come to pass since then – that we did!
The first gift was the extraordinary Festival 23. As joyful as the Conferestival was for us, we’d all been working so hard and were in that mad state of trying to pull an overly ambitious thing together with not enough money and all the rest of it, so whilst we were loving it, it wasn’t until we got to Festival 23 and went, “oh my god, this is the gift we’ve now been given by the people who got inspired by what we did.” So then we were thinking, “who’s gonna give Festival 23 that gift?” Then of course, you guys did with the Super Weird Happening. So who’s going to throw you your joyous festival as a thank you for doing that..?
There’s this sense that everyone’s getting inspired by everyone else and there’s lots of collaborations on projects and all sorts of brilliant stuff has resulted. This has what’s been so joyous, the community that’s developed since then and strengthened through all of these gatherings.
It’s not just been Festival 23 and the Super Weird Happening, I’ve now done a few other shows that were built around the work of people I’ve met, so John Harris, the money burner – he wrote ‘The Money Burner’s Manual’ and he only got his name as ‘the money burning guy’ at that October 23rd gig because someone had forgotten to put his name on the guestlist so he’d just been scrawled down as ‘the money burning guy’ and that was the moment when he realised, “I now know who I am, I know my role.” He went on to write the manual, which I then staged a version of here at The Cockpit, where we’re doing ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ again.
Likewise, Alistair Fruish was asked to come and do something at the Conferestival and so wrote a whole piece about the first encounter he had with a prisoner – he’s the writer in residence at Leicester Prison – so he wrote a whole piece about this encounter with the prisoner who happened to be a Robert Anton Wilson fan. That developed into a full-blown incredible novel that’s one sentence long and is entirely comprised of single syllables and I also staged a reading of that at the Cockpit.
For me it’s just been this incredible meeting of minds, it’s brought all the most extraordinary people out of the woodwork and that’s just on my track… Meanwhile, Tommy [Calderbank]’s been creating ‘The Lost Doctor’ series with all sorts of people and others have been writing songs and books, and there’ve been rituals. A gang of us went away to this sort of Hobbit land in Bangor for three days and yet more inspiration was had.
There’s this feeling of – I’m quoting one of the ideas of Hakim Bey – this idea of ‘immediatism’ as an important cultural device. It’s immediatism because it’s unmediated – it doesn’t go through any of the traditional mediums, it’s just really the art you do for your own tribe, in order to strengthen those bonds and be present with each other.
There’s been so much of that going on ever since that first trigger pulling, from my point of view, but I’m sure lots of triggers were getting all over the place -the time was ripe for the finding of the others. It was extraordinary, as a piece of magick it just worked so well!
IT SEEMS LIKE THE MAIN THING TO COME OUT OF IT IS THIS NEW NETWORK.
Yeah definitely, and I think Robert Anton Wilson has so much to answer for that, even if he wasn’t the direct point of contact – with John’s [KLF] book pulling people in from all different angles. Something about gathering people in the name of Bob meant that you got the real good guys, cause it’s this thing about intelligent optimistic. You know, most of the time we equate intellectualism with pessimism: despairing with the world perpetually, but there’s this band of intelligent optimists who are waiting to connect. There’s obviously more to find, which is what we’re doing now with this run of shows. For us, it’s this next stage of reaching out and bringing the next wave of intelligent optimists into the mix.
WHEN I INTERVIEWED YOU BEFORE THAT FIRST SHOW YOU SAID IT FELT LIKE A MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE, WITH EVERYTHING FALLING INTO PLACE AT THE RIGHT MOMENT. WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE THIS TIME AROUND NOW YOU’VE PICKED UP THE THREAD AGAIN?
Well I think there was a degree of PTSD for a lot of people, it was kind of effortless and yet the hardest work anyone had ever done – it was that sort of paradox. Then we had the joy of meeting all these new people when we came out of that. This time around we’ve learned a lot, we learned so much.
We’ve approached it with a slightly less manic quality in the air and we’ve got a venue on side that really believes in what we’re doing and is giving us technical and moral boosting support – we felt like we were slightly fighting the system in all the venues we were in before – but this one gets what we’re doing. I went into this theatre in London and they’ve got Ken Campbell above the door. The first thing I saw, literally the words “Ken Campbell” and they call themselves “The Theatre Of Disruptive Panache” so we knew we’d found a good home to do a London run.
How has it been different? It’s interesting because we’ve approached it knowing more but the juggling act this time around has been not letting creeping professionalism drive out the magic – this has been a key thing. There’s quite a funny dynamic where I set things up, like having a new William Burroughs every night and our fantastic team go, “very good, we’ve got all that sorted then”. “Oh what! So that’s all done then? We’re not going to be able to grab one off the street and walk them in..?” So I’m always trying to think of another chaotic, risky strategy.
It’s been really interesting, you make mistakes if you’re trying to follow the magic, if you’re trying to do what Alan Moore says and really take through the idea that art and magic are really just the exactly same thing and if you apply that mind-set to a piece of art, you create a piece of magic. It can lead you down some blind alleys if you get carried away with what seems to be an incredible piece of synchronicity or connection and sometimes it’s just a dead end. Sometimes that’s a bit painful for those involved so there’s been a few of those lessons.
I was thinking about it, how do you avoid that happening with people in theatre or anyone involved in any sizeable event? You just make it a completely professional process; you audition everyone, you make sure you look at everyone’s CVs and all of that… But then you iron out the life of it and you close some potential doors of creativity. You know, a genius might be just around the corner waiting to give you all sorts of stuff if you don’t stay open but equally you might be inviting chaos to the party as well.
So it’s been really interesting having a bit more space to meditate on those conundrums and hopefully striking a really happy balance of a slightly less manic team who are slightly less stepping into the unknown, as we were the last time around but equally keeping all the danger and the risk alive.
USING ALL YOUR DAD’S BEST TRICKS TO KEEP PEOPLE ON THEIR TOES.
Well hopefully yeah… It’s definitely around again.
I’M REMINDED OF A SALVADOR DALI QUOTE I SAW RECENTLY, WHERE HE’S SAYING YOU HAVE TO SYSTEMATICALLY CREATE CONFUSION BECAUSE IT SETS CREATIVITY FREE.
I saw that doing the rounds on Twitter actually… That’s it! You keep a certain danger alive but you have to strike that balance as well because it’s either going to be brilliant or eggy and you’re always walking that tightrope.
YOU’VE ALREADY MENTIONED ONE BUT HAS THERE BEEN MANY OTHER SYNCHRONICITIES NOW YOU’VE STARTED ALL THIS AGAIN.
Well… There has and I wish I had them all at my fingertips. The problem is… There’s a great Clarissa Pinkola quote, she’s the one who wrote ‘The Women Who Run With Wolves’ – a great book. There’s a story she tells, she goes travelling and she comes back to tell her very mystical grandmother about her travels and she says, “it was the most extraordinary thing because every time the message came I needed to travel to the south or whatever it was, there was always a symbol that guided her.” So she’s explaining all these extraordinary synchronicities that have happened while she’s been on her travels and her grandmother says, “do you run around saying, “I’m breathing! My heart is beating!”” When you’re dealing with this stuff, it gets to that point where you have to go, well yeah, this is just what life is now. It’s always 23 past whenever we check the time…
This was an interesting one, it’s a rather sad, poignant one but Luna, who my daughter, Dixie plays, she died on the 4th October which is the same day as Dixie’s birthday but what we didn’t realise is that it was exactly 23 years to the day between Luna’s death and Dixie’s birth – that was one that gave us a bit of a pause for thought.
What else? I had an extraordinary one, less connected with ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ but just prior to – I don’t know if you know about our mad backwards tarot working, that’s a kind of long magickal work, very tongue-in-cheek. There’s a quote in ‘Illuminatus!’, which is used in ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ from a tarot reading character called Miss Portinari and she claims that the order of the tarot was deliberately reversed. You’ve got to remember that ‘Illuminatus!’ is basically a book that tries to create a worldview in which every conspiracy theory exists and so who knows whether there’s any basis.
I did find something of a basis that someone changed the order. If you reverse the order of the tarot you set up this whole thing with the final judgement and the idea of the triumphant race and all of that end days mentality that leads to ovens for the Jews. Portinari says this is because of meddling with our archetypal order. So we thought, great we’re going to reverse this order and work backwards and it will become obvious when we have to move from each card to the next.
We started with ‘The Gathering Of The Fools’ – it kind of struck me that your event was on the 1st April and had this ‘fools’ based theme. Our gathering of fools was a year to the day after we pulled the trigger in Liverpool, to say “let us step together into the unknown”. So we all gathered and decided we were cosmic fools and we didn’t know what was happening next but we would all leap together – that was a fun, very silly night.
Then we were onto ‘The World’ so we were like, “let’s face reality as we find it, let’s actually do an Arts Council bid and recognise the fact that you do need money if you’re gonna put on these big crazy shows, you can’t always go for the Crowdfund options.” So we made lists and rotas and meeting and got proper and serious about dealing with world stuff and then of course once we got our bid in, we were into ‘The Judgement’ phase and we were in judgement when we went to Festival 23. What I do is, I have this magic ‘Cosmic Trigger’ business hat that I wear on trigger business and I always wear the card in the rim of it, whatever the one we’re on is. So I was there with the judgment card in my hat and halfway through the play reading I was doing the card flew away and we realised we had been judged, and we hadn’t got it… So there was some soul searching and we didn’t know what to do, we nearly didn’t go for it again. Then The Cockpit said they’d put in some money so to try again because they can match it this time and it might improve the bid this time.
This whole judgement phase was quite prolonged but we got enough in the end, which meant we could proceed. That marked the fact that we were coming into ‘The Sun’. So here we are in the sun phase and then on a completely different job, helping out to do this sixtieth anniversary event for The Royal Court – they wanted to decorate the walls with old programmes. So I was called in to do this decorating job and we were given, I’m not joking, about sixty boxes in a room and the first box I opened, the first programmes that were sitting on top were for my dad’s first ever professionally produced play, called ‘The Great Caper’. Of course…
So that blew my mind. I’d never seen it before, this programme, and I didn’t know the play. I opened the programme and on the first page I got to, there was a print of ‘The Moon’ tarot card – which would be the next one we’d transition to. We had a magical mandala making man come to The Cockpit so that we could all do a magickal ritual on April 23rd. We’re really ready to pull in the whole magical side, we’ve been stuck in production, spreadsheets and rehearsals and all the important stuff but we’re gonna go, “no, this is about transmitting enough magick to those who come to bear witnesses.” Our painted mandala contains all of those intentions and it’ll hang over the stage, thus marking, not the shift fully from ‘The Sun’ to ‘The Moon’ – this was John Higgs’ idea – not yet marking the full shift, but that we’re performing ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ under both sun and moon. As you may know, the Alan Moore quote, the idea that moon without sun will basically bring you undone because it’s imagination without will, so you’ve got to have the will of the sun but also have the imagination that comes with the moon. So we decided that we’d do ‘Cosmic Trigger’ under both. But anyway, that was a very long-winded way of describing my own personal mental illness to you… From one perspective – or the interesting magical forces at play.
I got annoyed because April 23rd is when the moon is almost at its most waning, not full like it felt it ought to be. It was John that went, “wait a minute, from then and during that whole period you’re performing the moon will go through its whole phase”. I’m still myth-fudging that one, we’ll make it work.
YOU’VE GOT TO CREATE YOUR OWN MYTHOLOGY AS YOU’RE GOING ALONG.
Exactly. Just keep stirring in a little bit more to the pot, to ‘the ever-thickening mythos’ as John and I are referring to it.
CONSIDERING THE FACT THE NEWS IS RESEMBLING ‘ILLUMINATUS!’ MORE AND MORE EACH DAY, DO YOU FEEL ‘THE COSMIC TRIGGER’ HAS BECOME EVEN MORE URGENT NOW?
I feel that Robert Anton Wilson has increasingly got an important thing to offer. I think a lot of his warnings about the dangers of belief and belief being a real sort of mental virus – I think that’s kind of being borne out. Also, lot’s of his really positive predictions, which he thought would all happen way sooner, they’re turning out now – the growing awareness of the whole fields of longevity research and transhumanism. Then, for me at least, he was one of the only people I saw writing that in a technological society there will come a point where people will not be needed to do laborious mechanical tasks any more, and this should be celebrated because it gives more time for us to be doing the good stuff. His thing was talking about a universal basic income essentially, which, its time may not have come but it’s certainly being taken increasingly seriously.
I feel like the more I dive back into his writing, the more I go, “bloody hell!” You know he really was seeing a lot of the dark forces. He’s got an interesting quote I’d not seen before, which I just came across. “The left think that all the problems are with big business and the right think that all the problems lie with too much government, the answer is they’re both right.”
I think he’s still got so much wise to say about how to survive in the weirder times. One of the things we’re noticing just in terms of the period – the play is now very clearly set – the opening scenes happen very much around the 1968 Convention, which wasn’t as clearly marked when we did it before. Now we’ve made that a very clear moment in time when they’re all gathering in Chicago for the Democratic Convention and it had a similar quality in some ways that time. There was a lot of insane shit going on with governments and people needed to take to the streets. There’s all sorts of interesting parallels in terms of the historical context but I definitely think Robert Anton Wilson has still got so, so much to offer us when you get into his writing; recognising that we are all living in our own reality tunnels, the way that social media is creating this echo chamber, surrounding yourself with people who have exactly the same opinions as you, you really can see that it’s more and more like a tunnel. You know that feeling when you come out of your own timeline…
WHEN IT BOILS DOWN TO IT WITH THIS RUN OF 23 SHOWS, WAS THERE WAS AN ELEMENT OF YOU WANTING TO LIVE INSIDE THE COSMIC TRIGGER AGAIN?
Did I want to get back inside it? I’m not sure this has come from me if I’m really honest, I’m not sure I’ve led this charge. I think I’ve been very much led by all the people involved and all the additional people who didn’t necessarily get to come and play last time but wanted to come and play this time. There’s this feeling that we only did seven shows in total; two in Liverpool, one of which was a preview, and then five in London and there was this feeling that we’d only scratched the surface, in terms of it being a good piece of art that we wanted to take to another level and let it have a bit more time to develop.
If I’m really honest I felt like, “we did it, didn’t we?” We pulled the ‘Cosmic Trigger’. We did the magick thing – it nearly killed us but we did it! So I was a bit like, “don’t look back, what next chaps?”
IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO GO BACK TO THE SOURCE THOUGH.
I think it’s really good to go back to the source. I think it’s really re-inspired everyone involved actually, opening up the possibilities of what we can be doing next. But also, I think what it came down to, not enough people saw it. We needed it to be seen by more so this has become the ‘find the other others’ run of shows. The people who respond to it positively have initiated themselves and you kind of know, oh good, well if you thought so then you ought to be part of the gang then.
There’s no way that I know that’s better to pull together a real hardworking, merry, optimistic bunch of can-do people. This is the best process I’m aware of, and it’s definitely doing that again, no question about it.
HAS IT EVOLVED MUCH SINCE THE FIRST PRODUCTION?
Well, this time we’re doing it in the round, so staging-wise it’s a real different beast. Everyone’s much closer to the action so therefore you can be a bit more subtle with it. You saw it in Liverpool which was its least subtle rendition but equally so its most joyous because that was the night it was written for. It was written for that one night when the room would be filled with everyone who got every single line, every single in-joke and got it down to its last thing. Then of course, when we brought it to London people would come and be like, “fucking hell! That was incredible” but you didn’t feel it coming at you in the same way because it had this different quality to it.
Here at The Cockpit, it’ll be able to be a more subtle thing in some way, which is not a word I’d associate with the kind of theatre I do! – but definitely subtler. It’s got those moments, which is really nice to have that. We’ve got a really, really brilliant company, it’s mostly the same performers but there’s a few new people involved and they’re all absolutely excellent and they’re all come through their own synchronistic things; been through The Warp or worked with Ken in the past, all sorts of things like that. Really it’s just had a tighten up you know. It’s obviously meant to be a play that worships Eris, goddess of Chaos and Confusion so it was always going to be a bit of a chaotic and confusing thing but it was more confusing than I’d intended originally, in terms of the telling of the tale – when were we in ‘Illuminatus!’ and when were we in ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ – because there’s obviously these multiple realities running alongside each other. So that’s all been made tighter and clearer. I think it’s going to be a better show for sure, a tighter, better show. Will it pull everyone’s triggers? Yeah I hope so. I think there’ll be some trigger pulling happening.
YEAH I THINK PEOPLE ARE READY FOR IT AT THE MINUTE.
Yeah I think so… It’s very validating for people who get stuck in all this ‘either-or’ thinking, I don’t want your black or white, in or out, Tory or Labour… There’s this new scene we’ve put in from ‘Illuminatus!’ where Hagbard describes them as non-euclideans – just that thing of the rejection of the either or feels really timely. So hopefully that message comes through loud and clear as well.
But it’s a bit of fun too! It’s potty costumes and silly wigs and proper acting and farting about in disguises and all that, it’s proper.
IT WORKS ON A FEW LEVELS.
Panto, tragedy, kitchen-sink, full blown musical numbers, puppetry: we’re definitely of the ‘more is more’ school haha… There’s no doubt about that.
WE’VE PICKED UP ON AN IDEA CALLED ‘OPERATION MINDFIX’ RECENTLY, WHICH I THINK ORIGINALLY CAME FROM AMOEBA, WHO DESIGNED THE STAGE SETS AND VISUALS FOR THE COSMIC TRIGGER – JOHN HIGGS WROTE A BLOG ABOUT IT. DO YOU THINK THAT NOW WE’RE AT A STAGE WHERE ALL OUR BELIEFS, SYSTEMS AND TRUTHS HAVE BEEN TORN DOWN AND BROKEN APART, WE’RE AT THE STAGE WHERE THE REBUILDING STARTS?
Yeah, I think the big question for radical politics at the moment is if the techniques of disruption of trying to wake people up to their realities, has been co-opted by those in power – you can kind of clearly see Operation Mindfuck techniques being played, but maybe they always were… Maybe it’s just become more laid bare now.
I think that’s it, I think there’s been a mass waking up because it’s got so absurd it’s become surreal. The thing that made me piss myself recently was Trump stood next to an enormous white rabbit, which of course is one of Robert Anton Wilson’s deities, Harvey the Pookah – basically he put any weirdness in his life all down to an enormous rabbit from County Kerry who’s fucking with him and there’s absolutely no danger that he or anyone else is ever gonna fully believe that so that, in later life, became his store for all insanity that happened to him.
So to see Trump next to an enormous white rabbit on the steps of the Whitehouse, with the caption underneath saying, “President Trump (Left)”… Just in case haha! It’s a little snapshot of the reality that we find ourselves in.
We’re living in a Robert Anton Wilson novel so those of us that have read RAW novels are slightly better equipped to be amused and not get down, because as he says, the optimistic mind-set will find solutions with things the pessimistic mind-set will dismiss. So it’s actually vitally important that we maintain optimism or else we won’t see the solutions, we just won’t see them through a pessimistic reality tunnel. It’s really vital to take charge of your own wiring and circuitry and respond to these mad times with all the positivity we can muster – all the coming together we can muster, and all the fun, coming together in celebration – I think it’s really important.
THERE’S DEFINITELY A SENSE THAT THERE’S SOME REALLY IMPORTANT CONNECTIONS BEING MADE AT THE MOMENT. WHAT’S YOUR LATEST ON THE CAPERS IN SANTA CRUZ THIS JULY?
So basically, the way I described it is that cosmic triggers have a tendency to go off in your hand, so we were really conscious from the moment we ran that Crowdfund to try and raise money for the first trigger pulling, a lot of support came from the United States – obviously because that’s where a lot of Bob’s support is and all the rest of it. I don’t think we promised it but there was always a sense that if this goes well, we’ll get the show over to the States.
That was our kind of stated aim, to be there for July 23rd 2017, which is Robert Anton Wilson day in Santa Cruz and the 10 year anniversary of RAW’s death. So it felt like a really auspicious time to aim towards and we while we were all fundraising we were starting to realise we may have bitten off more than we can chew with this one – we were basically trying to put on the show by simply getting there and finding people to “turn up in three weeks on this date and know these lines, it may yet happen”. Trying to pull it together in a truly Discordian fashion.
And then, really unexpectedly, and really last minute – because like I said we kept getting knocked back for this Arts Council bid – the money came through and it just became obvious that there was just no way to do both. So that felt like a bit of a climbing down but at the same time, once I sent out that email, almost the following day I started getting a response. We’d always said it would be a push-pull kind of production but there hadn’t really been any pull, I’m not saying that’s because the people over there don’t want it enough or whatever. There obviously just wasn’t enough interest: it was running up to the Trump election, I think people’s minds were on very different things.
So we accepted that there just wasn’t much pull and things weren’t really falling into place, we couldn’t find a sympathetic venue, it was all just a little bit not the flowing magic that we’d discovered here: from the minute we announced it we had everyone, “yes” “what do you want” “I’ve got that” – it just wasn’t happening like that over there.
So almost the day after I sent that email saying, “I’m really sorry we’re just not going to be able to bring the show over in any form on July 23rd” suddenly “Oh, here’s so and so, who’s got venues” and “here’s so and so who can do this” it’s weird, it sort of unlocked it and made it less anxious. A layer of anxiousness about the whole thing kind of went and so the thing started going again.
Then of course Greg said he’s going to add Santa Cruz to his US tour and it sounds like there’s going to be something of a Super Weird Happening in Santa Cruz now on July 23rd so I’m definitely going to be there and I believe that Wilson’s daughter and the guy who runs the estate Richard Rasa are going to be there doing talks and there’s obviously going to be a party, we’ll probably show a film of some bits of the play and other Wilson related stuff and there’ll definitely be a point of pilgrimage.
Hopefully those seeds can be sewn in a much more organic way to see where does this thing want to go next, does it want to grow in some form in the States? I do feel there’s a really important part of this web, which is connecting Discordians and Wilson fans on both sides of the pond. There’s something that keeps feeling really compelling about the need to do that – but I don’t quite know why yet. It may or not be to do with ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ or it may be to do with the ‘Discordian festival to end all Discordian festivals’ in 2023! It could be that, I don’t know… Yet…
I’ve sometimes described ‘The Cosmic Trigger’ as a kind of poultice of weird, wherever it is applied, it’ll draw out all of the surrounding weird from the area. So that’s what we hope! And of course, Super Weird Happenings have that affect as well don’t they. So we hope to apply a nice poultice of weird in Santa Cruz on July 23rd.
AND I TAKE IT THAT YOU’LL BE IN LIVERPOOL ON THE 23rd AUGUST?
Certainly will! My god, the ‘pool of life’ – the pull of the pool only gets stronger, it’s so interesting. And the frigging manhole cover! That thing is just gaining potency like nobody’s business. Suddenly I’ve realised how Freudian the whole thing is, the whole thing’s been birthed out of Jung’s manhole… We’re all inside Jung’s dream still.
The Cosmic Trigger is at The Cockpit in London from 4th-27th May. Tickets available here
‘Cosmic Trigger Play’ photos by Jonathan Greet & Elspeth Moore