Taller Aire, Sonido y Poder. Festival Audiovisual ZEMOS98 10a

Feraliminal Lycanthropizers: Interview with David Woodard, by JR Bruun

By • Mar 9th, 2008 • Category: DISPOSITIVOS

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Dreamachines, Wishing Machines or Feraliminal Lycanthropizers, anyone?
Interview with David Woodard, by JR Bruun

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Photos: 1: The Feraliminal Lycanthropizer. 2: David Woodard with William S. Burroughs in Lawrence, Kansas, photo by John Aes-Nihil.

It’s a blazing hot September day in Los Angeles. I’m visting my old friend John Aes-Nihil of the notorious Archives of Aesthetic Nihilism. Upon entering his apartment I see and hear a man playing a loud harmonium while Brion Gysin’s invention, the Dreamachine, is spinning right beside him, sending a flickering light throughout the room. In the next few days, this seemingly shy, and soft-spoken to the point of being barely audible, visitor would reveal that ��dhe built and sold dreamachines, and that he had composed and conducted a requiem for Timothy McVeigh on the eve of his execution in Oklahoma City. Or “prequiem”, as he’s fond of calling his compositions for the “nearly deceased”. His name is David Woodard.

In the media, especially in Orange County Weekly, he’s portrayed as a person with a strong need to become famous, and as a perpetual myth-maker, obsessed with numerology and strange synchronicities. One thing’s for sure, famous does not equal popular in his world. It wasn’t easy to stage the performance of the McVeigh piece Ave Atque Vale (“Onward, Valiant Soldier”) with a chamber orchestra in an Oklahoma City church. Originally, he wanted it to be played within the prison grounds, with McVeigh listening. That idea didn’t go down to well with the local authorities. After 9-11 he unsuccessfully tried to��} get his hands on an ancient Persian instrument to play a requiem for the hijackers of the two planes. Lately he’s been working on a planned concert of some of the pieces composed by the multi-talented Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Woodard lived in Lawrence, Kansas in 1997 and visited William Burroughs regularly. Woodard made the dreamachines displayed at a major LA exhibition of Burroughs’ paintings, Ports of Entry, and the one used at Burroughs’ funeral. He has since auctioned off one machine through Sotheby’s, and he’s now writing a book on the Dreammachine, the flicker phenomena and other unorthodox ideas and inventions, to be published by Feral House at some point in time.

Reading about your previous happenings I get the feeling that you always want to twist your surrounding into succumbing to some sort of alternate reality, every performance seems to be an elaborate prank. Jeffrey ��Vallance’s burial of the frozen supermarket chicken in an LA pet sematary comes to mind. But I guess you couldn’t “break character” and discuss this at all?

Actually, I am open about these matters. The sports writer for O.C. Weekly published a story following the requiem I performed for Joe DiMaggio in 1999, in which he caricatures me as a deadpan comedian who never breaks character. Perhaps I appeared that way to him because he was unfamiliar with Messaian, the unlikely inspiration for my Farewell To The Yankee Clipper. Coincidentally, I lived in the Winnetka (California) house in which Jeffrey Vallance grew up, during most of 1998 with Kenneth Anger and John Aes-Nihil. I gather Vallance is more serious than given credit for.

Tell me about how you got in touch with William Burroughs.

In 1984, Burroughs and I began corresponding. I had sent him a privately issued treatise on the magical potential of cultivated anonymity, Breed The Unmentioned. He agreed with my adolescent th��eory that the secret is the secret, and the will to cultural figuredom is a murderous one.

What was Burroughs’ (WSB) life like in Lawrence?

He lived alone in a very modest one-person bungalow. The dining area/livingroom had one table, on which he both took meals and wrote (in longhand). Two rooms on either side of the bathroom, one his work room, the other his bedroom. Up early in the mornings to be driven by a helper boy (there were three or four) to Kansas City for his methadone appointment, where he had figured out a way of squirreling away a little bit each day so that on thursday he could go home and have a second dose. Hence, Thursday was always the spaced-out WSB day. He wrote in the mornings after returning from the clinic, then took a nap around noon, and sometimes wrote some more. At 3pm, the alcohol would begin to flow, often with crackers, cheese and caviar served by a helper boy likely to materi��alize. After dinner, marijuana cigarettes and the dreamachine were routinely attended to.

After his sudden heart attack and death, WSB’s manager/editor James Grauerholz speculated that he had been “blind-dosed” at the clinic, a frowned-upon practice which WSB had caught them trying on him years earlier. Blind-dosing, illegal in most states but legal in Missouri, involves a clinic lying (or omitting) about dosage to a patient, so that psychologically the patient is content that nothing is changing when in fact the dose is decreasing (very slowly, one would hope). in the case of a seasoned junky, whose metabolism is intricately entwined with opiates, blind-dosing may traumatize the body into cardiac arrest. In WSB’s case, this hasn’t been proven, but it is possible, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all. his health had been seemingly fine for an old codger�� (though he had had a triple bipass five years earlier), his mind cogent.

Burroughs thought a lot about the spirit world and life after death, didn’t he?

In his final months when I knew him, he was obsessed with communications between the living and the dead, reading as much as possible on the subject, usually in the form of mass-market paperback firsthand accounts of ghostbusting (especially, where available, in large print). He lent several of these to me, which I read and returned. It was always interesting to see how thoroughly he would mark up any paperback book with his own little snide comments in the margins, at times cruelly adding something even more idiotic to a character’s already retarded quote. It was as if he considered any paperback he was reading a very rough draft of something he himself was writing. However, he would never write in a hardback.

How did you become interested in The Dreamachine?

I first read about the Dreamachine in Burroughs’ The Job, and Gysin’s The Process. At the same time I was constantly experimenting with other Burroughsian ideas, such as subliminal persuasion in crowds, the Feraliminal Lycanthropizer (courtesy the inventor’s son, Bill Jenkins, Jr.) and mass mind control, with often successful results. I assumed that the Dreamachine was some kind of Beat anarchic hoax, an ultimate “literary device”, as any machine capable of producing the purported effects would surely be everywhere. Then I attended Andrew McKenzie’s (ie., of Hafler Trio) Dreamachine lecture in San Francisco. Though the lecture itself turned out to be an endlessly digressive ramble about the OTO with nary a mention of the Dreamachine, McKenzie had brought several demonstration models, and, to my astonishment, they were effective.

And then you built your own?

My landlord in Napa Valley at the time had been a friend of Gysin’s, and was storing Dreamachine templates in his home. At my request, he kindly lent them to me.

Many would probably be skeptic to the alleged benefits. What makes the Dreamachine different from other occult and parapsychological paraphernalia?

My forthcoming book deals with this question. In addition to bioactive and psychoactive resonant frequencies, and non-electromagnetic (e.g., Orgone) energy, I am including material on notions of immortalit��y and, to a lesser degree, teleportation, popularly maligned topics which obviously have everything to do with the welfare and fate of the Species.

Is the Dreamachine helpful for creativity and writing?

In college, I found the Dreamachine would cure my own writer’s block. When I mentioned this to Burroughs, he concurred. That is the extent of what I know about his use of the machine for that purpose. In 1997, when we were both living in Lawrence, Burroughs tended to use his two Dreamachines together as a postprandial ritual along with a marijuana cigarette. He would write the following morning.��

I think the Dreamachine’s most distinctive property is its (potentially insidious) subtlety. The machine is similar to absinthe, in that both create a residual language-oriented delirium of which the user tends not to be aware. Fortunately light pulses do not yield the additional effect of Syphilis-like rotted brain stem.

In the nineties there were rumours that Kurt Cobain used the Dreamachine a lot before he topped himself …

Let’s not speak of the wretched incident. Cobain’s death was a marital tragedy that, in its wake, voraciously absorbed the Dreamachine and everything else in its orbit.

(Funnily enough, Woodard’s 10 year old Plecid CD has almost the exact same cover design as the recent best of Nirvana CD, an all black cover, with slim shiny serif lettering on the front, the only difference is that the Plecid lettering is purple, while “Nirvana” is written in silver.)

High Times reported that there were a string of suicides associated with the machine since the sixties …

I am constantly told and asked about things along these unsubstantiated lines. As with any psychoactive chemical reaction, disphoria always comes down to set, setting and the user’s psychological state. Although the Dreamachine merely produces a flicker, the pulse signal it causes the optic nerve to send into a user’s cortical tissue unpredictably alters the brain’s neurotransmitter activity. Therefore, if a user is mentally imbalanced to begin with, the condition is likely to worsen.

What is your typical Dream Machine experience?

Horrific hallucinations more lethally addictive than heroin … Seriously, for me it is almost always a metamorphosing Persian rug which is eventually augmented by ��multiple-exposure home movies from a nonexistant childhood. It’s a waking dream which begins with optical hallucinations and, if you’re lucky, eventually subsumes your entire being.

What is your most exceptional Dream Machine experience?

Falling asleep with the machine on, waking four hours later and composing. Pardon me, but this seems to bring us to Los Angeles Chamber Group. Currently the ensemble, of which I am a member, is engaging in a number of special projects spawned in part by Dreamachine use. Most of the musicians are young virtuosi, and until this year all material has been original. In February 2003 we are recording Wagner’s 1844 Trauermusik (“funeral music”, actually, a gorgeous piece Wagner created from three distinct Euryanthe motives to accompany the exhumation and repatriation of Weber’s corpse in a torchlight procession from England back to Dresden). The recording will appear as side B of a 45 RPM vinyl��` disc showcasing Ave Atque Vale (2001’s McVeigh prequiem) in a joint release by AJNA Records and LACG’s own burgeoning label. Further, we are honored to be working with little-known composer (/better-known pathologist) Jack Kevorkian on the orchestration of his unpublished organ works (made possible by Geneva’s EXIT). A tremendously anticipated collaboration next year is with Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche’s ad hoc Neu-Germania choir of Paraguay, for which we happen to be in quest of a suitable sponsor.

What is it people are actually seeing with the Dream Machine? Some say that it allows glimpses of the future or of secret worlds. Skeptics would say that it’s just light dancing beneath the eyelids.

Assuming the sensitive user is able to transcend its overt, plastic effects, the Dreamachine is an extremely effective divination tool, theoretically si��milar to a crystal ball and dreidel rolled into one, yet practical. The Dreamachine is also a gorgeous furniture item certain to devastate today’s most discriminating tastes.

What is the Muslim connection with the Dream Machine?

A protester at the Museum of�� Neon Art (MONA) opening was complaining about the perceived inappropriateness of the Dreamachine’s inclusion, given America’s post-911 fragility. My response was that if anything the flicker phenomenon would seem to bridge the Abrahamic Triad, in that each constituent is known to have made some sort of magical use of it.

Tell me about your show at Museum of Neon Art.

The ermine, copper and cocobolo Dreamachine built for�� Burroughs’ funeral was exhibited at MONA in a show that opened this September. When Sothebys auctioned the machine in November, it was replaced by a standard Bohemian model, which continues to be exhibited there through March of ’03. The curator of an Allen Ginsberg retrospective (taking place in 2003 in Pennsylvania) won the auction. Assuming he secures cooperation of the museum’s Board, Burroughs’ funeral Dreamachine will be present at the Ginsberg show.

You’re doing lectures on the Dream Machine, right?

Yes, American Program Bureau ( will be booking lectures at campuses and other venues in the U.S. and Canada. ��And I’ll be at the Turnament Festival in Los Angeles (, due to the classic Dreamachine’s use of a recalibrated 78 RPM turntable.

What is a Wishing Machine? Was it invented by WSB in his The Western Lands book?

The Wishing Machine is a device I learned about from Burroughs’ The Western Lands. It is an audio amplifier with two paralell copper plates attached to the input terminals and an antenna attached to the output terminals. The user places a wish in the form of text, image and/or diarama between the plates and keeps the machine on until the wish comes true, usually within ��“a week or two. When I told Burroughs of my admiration for the story within the novel, he disappeared into his study and returned with an actual Wishing Machine. He used this device regularly for practical purposes, like getting to his methadone appointments on time and killing Allen Ginsberg (coincidentally my birthday). However, he was not the inventor. He had read about the Wishing Machine in a book called Beyond the Frontiers of Science by the late G. Harry Stine (later republished as Mind Machines You Can Build). A local acquaintence of Burroughs’ in Lawrence, Len McGruder, was almost as old as Burroughs and at least as eccentric, though Burroughs made his contempt for McGruder pretty obvious. Anyway, it was McGruder who lent Burroughs “Beyond the Frontiers of Science” and built him a Wishing Machine according to the book’s instructions. I was working at a bookstore in Lawrence and decided to order Burroughs his own copy of the book. When it arrived at the st��Xore I decided to first send it to the author in Phoenix and have it inscribed to Burroughs, whom Stine had never heard of. One conspicuous thing about Stine’s Wishing Machine description was that its plate must be copper. The plates on Burroughs’ machine were aluminum, the least conductive metal. I pointed this out to him and offered to replace the aluminum with copper, to which he agreed. I went to the exacting Reuter Pipe Organ Company (where the Lawrence part of Carnival of Souls was filmed) and ordered the correctly sized copper plates. Unfortunately, Burroughs keeled over before the new plates were ready. Hence, I built a Wishing Machine for myself, and have built several others since then.

I have two orgonomic wishing machines on hand and have been commissioned to build these devices in the past, with interesting and positive results.

What is especially interesting to me about the wishing machine clients is that they were all adolescent males with some sort of horrendous affliction. the first was a clinically diagnosed schizophrenic in alabama, who had already purchased a dreamachine and was finding that the dreamachine helped him to feel more stable and focussed on creative endeavors. he wanted a wishing machine to aid with romantic pursuits, and ended up using it to control the weather so that a particular romantic interest could drive safely to school. The second was an Australian who had already purchased a dreamachine and was now seeking a means of curing his extr��7eme (including facial) psoriasis. he also wanted to fly, though i warned him before sending the machine that he should attempt the latter with caution. The third and, to me, most interesting case was a boy in Texas dying from a malignant brain tumor. he had tried every other recourse, had been hospitalized for months and been given “less than a year” to live. His girlfriend wrote me on his behalf and explained his dilemma. In his race against time, he had spent all of his family’s money on possible means of staying alive. i agreed to place a wish on his behalf in my own wishing machine, in my office. Later in the same month, the boy himself wrote to say that something had happened to his tumor. Doctors had told him it had not merely gone into remission, which itself would have been a miracle, but nearly all trac��Ses were now gone. all that remains was a kind of tumor corpse, which would continue to emit pus indefinitely. Some sort of drainage device was implanted, allowing pus to emerge from the top of his head, and he was released from the hospital. He went on to explain that he had already lined up lawn-mowing jobs around town to save for his own wishing machine. I offered a 33% brain tumor discount, and shortly thereafter he purchased the machine that had saved him. Next time i’m in Texas, I hope to meet him, Eden is his name.

What is a Feraliminal Lycanthropizer?

The Feraliminal Lycant��hropizer, invented by Bill Jenkins, is a low frequency thanato-auric wave generator. Known for its use by the Nazis and for its animalizing effects on human subjects tested within measurable vibratory proximity, the machine electrically generates two subsonic sine waves, one 3hz, the other 9hz. Together, these two frequencies (one acting as carrier, the other as program) generate a lower third, 56hz. In addition, the machine contains four tape loops containing textual material.

What are the effects?

It has a sensual, aphrodisiac effect on subjects. But that is peripheral to the machine’s essential function: to trigger states of urgency and fearlessness, and to dis��armour the intimate charms of the violent child within. Documented experiments include cases in which subjects previoulsly unacquainted with one another are found freely sharing inner thoughts, secrets and vulnerable feelings, in several cases to the point of impetuosly shedding the veil of clothing. Others involve extraordinary strength and detailed focus of will. For example, a dilettante Catalonian national using the machine daily over a period of five or six weeks eventually managed to ingratiate himself with Adolf Hitler, persuade his quarry to adopt the swastika as high totem and emblem of the burgeoning National Socialist Conference.

I’m not so sure that the world really needs tons of brutally honest, naked, horny nazis, but each to his own, I guess … You’ve also done some research on ketamin, and you wrote the essay The Ketamine Necromance in the Apocalypse Culture II book. Any comments on that drug?

It is extremely useful f��or treating addiction or otherwise turning obsessive interest away from anything. Though it acts as an hallucinogen in subanesthetic doses, ketamine differs from most other hallucinogens in that it reduces the user’s worldview to a few archetypes and causes the attention to turn drastically inward. Hence, while tryptamines such as psilocybin, LSD, DMT and even marijuana may be considered erotic in nature due to their abilities to enhance interest in outside phenomena, colors, textures, objects, organisms, ketamine is decidedly thanatotic. Users tend to develop strong convictions about death, e.g., perhaps that death is a lie. Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrance”, for example, becomes sensible and tangible on ketamine.

What are the effects of the plant you wrote a piece for in the 4 CD set Infernal Proteus, released by The AJNA Offensive?

Calea zacatechichi is a Mexican shrub tha��t induces a divinatory state in the user while dreaming. After smoking and drinking an infusion of the leaves, one goes to bed and dreams. In those dreams, one is likely to find lost objects, people and/or animals. On waking, the subject now knows where to go to find those lost objects, people or animals. I was fortunate to sucessfully grow Calea zacatechichi in my back yard in the Richmond district of San Francisco during the 1990s.

When my friend Tyler from the AJNA Offensive invited me to contribute a piece to his compilation CD set and book, the theme of which is plant life, I didn’t hesitate to choose Calea zacatechichi as the subject of a motet which was performed by an all-Hispanic public junior high school in East Los Angeles. My approach was to te��ll the choir director that I had composed a choral work which was certain to advance his students’ interest in their cultural heritage and boost their morale. Remarkably, he never asked what Calea zacatechichi is during the two months the choir was rehearsing and recording the piece. I never had to say, ‘Well, uh, actually it’s a psychoactive drug, and the CD set it’s going to appear on is entirely dedicated to mind-altering substances.’

The title and only words are Calea zacatechichi, and, though the choir didn’t quite attain the technical brilliance of Vienna Boys Choir (which I heard in my mind while composing), I nonetheless felt a sort of miracle had occured when the director came by with the final tape with still nary an ide��va of what Calea zacatechichi is.

Do you have any other recordings out?

Commercially available are other compilations to which i’ve contributed, under the name Plecid. these include: Perpetual State of Oracular Dream (Anomalous Records), A Blind Man’s Gallery of Mirrors and Unbecoming (both: Freedom in a Vacuum) and others. Also, the company that released “Infernal Proteus” ( initially launched when it released the self-titled ‘plecid’ cd. recently. I also wrote the horn quartet intro to the song Wotan’s Wilde Jagd for Waldteufel’s first full-length cd. I should probably mention plecid’s main output, which is a series of three cassettes, all of which may still be available from Happiest Sound on Earth: Plecid (1986), from which AJNA’s CD was later issued (though the cassette version is superior), Plecid II (1987) and Industrial Gems (1988) ��More info stored at:

David Woodard’s own web site is His handmade dreamachines are $500 and up, with a cheaper mass-produced model planned sometime ahead.

John Aes-Nihil has available a rough edit of his unique footage of William Burroughs, Woodard and the Dreammachines, taped at WSB’s home in Lawrence, Kansas in 1997. Nihil’s web page is now at

This interview was first published in Headpress #25: Flicker Machine Edition, and the web zine New World Disorder #3

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