As unprecedented wildfires currently burn throughout the Western United States, the effects of climate change are becoming clearer, more horrific and harder to ignore.
While the topic often feels too big and devastating to wrap one’s head around, longstanding artist Chris Korda has concisely summarized the issue, and set it to music via her new LP, Apologize to the Future.
Out now on vinyl via the revered Berlin label Perlon and set for a digital release in October, the six-track album is altogether a 1,200 word statement — sung by a robot choir — on the realities of the climate crisis, who is to blame and who will suffer for it. “Your life is built on convenient lies, and the time has come to apologize, corporations lie, that’s what they do, but you lie to yourself, and that’s on you,” the robots admonish on the album’s title track.
The now Berlin-based producer, performance artist, activist and software developer has long preached about the realities of climate change and what humans can do to address it, primarily through her longstanding, and controversial, Church of Euthanasia. Based on a single commandment, “thou shall not procreate,” the church espouses myriad methods of decreasing the global population as a path to climate salvation. This antinatalism — the idea that humans must stop procreating in order to save the planet — is also a major theme of Apologize to the Future. Aurally pleasing in spite of the subject matter, the album incorporates training as a classical music, her work as a software engineer and her love of techno.
Here, Korda discusses her belief system, the new album and the anesthetizing effects of modern dance music.
1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
110 feet above sea level, relatively protected from sea level rise. It’s a beautiful day.
2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourselves, and what was the medium?
Deep Purple’s Made in Japan, on vinyl.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think of what you do for a living now?
Let’s leave my family out of this. They paid their dues, and I’m too old to worry about what they think.
4. What was the first song you ever made?
The first song I wrote that’s worth remembering is called “Wisdom.” Its lyrics appear in issue #4 of “Snuff It,” which you can find on the Church of Euthanasia website.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into electronic music, what would you give them?
Ralph Towner’s 1979 Solo Concert, because it revolutionized my understanding of harmony.
6. What’s the first thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?
I always expected my art to cost more money than it made, and in this respect it’s never disappointed me. Art isn’t obliged to be responsible, or politically correct. Art isn’t marketing, and doesn’t result from committees or focus groups. Art is personal. The best art faithfully represents the inner world of the artist. I’m a peculiar and polarizing person, and my art often reveals those same qualities. It’s a sign of fidelity.
My advice to novice artists is this: Practice your craft, cultivate your intuition, and never stop learning. If you want to be rich, become a lawyer. If you want to be famous, become an influencer. Artistic achievement is its own reward.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.” “Take your silver spoon / Dig your grave” is one of my favorite lines. “Rulers make bad lovers” is another good one.
8. What’s one song you wish you had produced?
I don’t produce any music but my own. I’m primarily a composer and regard production as a necessary evil. I spent the last few years teaching myself atonal harmony and pitch class sets.
9. How are you filling your time during quarantine?
It’s a good time to face hard questions. Why is humanity worth preserving? How do we find meaning in existence? What are our shared goals? Who are we? A long-lived intelligent species would have answers to these questions.
I’m a workaholic, so quarantine doesn’t affect me much. I often work all night, sleep for a few hours, and then get back to work. Love, work, and knowledge give my life meaning. Wilhelm Reich had that much right.
“There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.” -George Washington
10. What’s distinctive about the place you grew up, and how did it shape you?
It was densely populated, which made me cosmopolitan, and I’m grateful for that. Cities are bastions of literacy and critical thinking. I won the sperm and egg lottery, and spent my childhood reading and comprehending. I benefited from civilization, and I’ve tried to use the gift wisely, by participating in and contributing to civilization.
11. What’s the first electronic music show that really blew your mind?
Led Zeppelin blew my ears at Madison Square Garden in 1976, and my mind followed shortly thereafter. Those were different times. My idea of a music show is virtuosos singing and playing instruments. The French word “discotheque” means “nightclub for dancing” and precedes the musical style “disco” by decades. The mirror ball dates back to the 1920s. When I first visited a discotheque they played rock records, because disco music wasn’t a thing yet.
12. How did you come to adopt antinatalism as your cause?
Even as a child I understood that there were too many of us consuming too much. In 1992 the climate crisis roused me from my dogmatic slumber to create the Church of Euthanasia. Today overpopulation is painfully obvious. As the album says, “Earth’s in disarray, and someone has to pay.”
That someone will be your children and grandchildren. Procreating isn’t just selfish, it’s cruel. There’s no ethical justification for creating new humans only to abandon them on a wrecked planet. Future generations will suffer for crimes they didn’t commit, while the perpetrators abscond, smugly dead.
13. Your new album is called Apologize To The Future. If you were to write an actual apology, what would it say?
The album is told from the point of view of future generations. I’m giving the victims a voice, and that’s my apology. One of the roots of the album is Dan Miller’s presentation “A REALLY Inconvenient Truth” which is available on YouTube. He lists things individuals can do, and his first item is “Ask your children for forgiveness.” This led me to ask myself “How will future generations regard us?” Assuming future generations are lucky—or unlucky?—enough to exist, they’ll resent us for sending them to hell.
14. You say that your album has a “militant existentialism.” What does that mean to you?
We’re alone in a hostile universe that’s utterly indifferent to our fate. No one is coming to rescue us, and we have nowhere to go. We succeed or fail on Earth. As John Gielgud’s character says in the film Providence, “Out there in the icy universe, there’s nothing.”
The album’s first track, “A Thin Layer of Oily Rock,” refers to the Permian-Triassic extinction, the so-called “Great Dying” which eliminated 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species. In certain cliffs it’s possible to identify a thin strata composed of the pulverized remains of the countless organisms that died during that catastrophe.
We stand on the shoulders of giants who lifted us up out of the slime and built civilization with its order, progress, literacy, and evidence-based knowledge. How tragic if we waste that monumental effort because we couldn’t manage to limit our growth.
15. How do you reconcile the message of your electronic album with the escapist, often hedonistic tendencies of the electronic music scene?
I don’t. I excoriate those tendencies every chance I get. Clubbing is a globally standardized industry primarily supported by alcohol sales. Party facilitation passes as culture, and it’s a sign of the times. People are into anesthesia, and I can’t really blame them. Producers want to be popular, so they make anesthetizing music. It’s a vicious cycle.
The trend is toward chaos and incoherence, but I’m swimming in the opposite direction, towards unity and deep mathematical structure. So many producers live their entire musical lives on the tiny, overcrowded island of 4/4 time, but I left it years ago, never to return. The ocean of the unknown is big enough for everyone, so hop in, the water’s fine. Join the polymeter revolution. My software may help you, and it’s free. Google “polymeter sequencer.”
16. You encourage people to accept the fact that a mass extinction is underway. How do we each individually reconcile that fact?
In the Kubler-Ross “five stages of grief” model, we’re stuck at denial, and we need to get past that to arrive at the crucial final stage, which is acceptance. Now that disaster is upon us, hating humanity is pointless. Instead we should feel sorry for ourselves, since we’re our own worst enemy. This observation is the essence of the post-antihuman Church of Euthanasia.
We need to realize the truth of what we’ve done. In an eye-blink of geological time, we’ve exterminated our nonhuman fellow travelers and wrecked our life-support system. Admitting it intellectually isn’t good enough. We need to feel it. The album is supposed to hurt. We need to grieve for what we’ve destroyed, including our own future. Without remorse there can’t be restitution.
17. What electronic producers have you taken influence from?
I’m influenced by jazz, and by psychedelic and progressive rock, particularly the band Yes, from which I get my obsession with odd time. I studied under Jerry Bergonzi for years. My single strongest influence is John Abercrombie. I heard him play live many times, and transcribed some of his delightful solos.
Musical complexity has declined steadily since the 1970s, in terms of rhythm, melody, harmony, and lyricism. Music is increasingly made by non-musicians, and it breaks my heart. Music technology corporations market their products by convincing people that music is sound design, but it’s a pernicious lie.
18. You decamped to Berlin last year. Why does the city suit you?
I don’t mind where I go. I borrowed that line from one of my favorite movies (again Providence by Alain Resnais). One city is much like another, and people have similar things in their pockets, thanks to globalization.
19. Your work is often called controversial. Do you enjoy controversy?
I enjoy telling the truth. My work attacks solipsism, the idea that only the self is real, and that reality is just whatever you believe. Solipsism blossomed in the 1970s along with new-age ideologies and psychedelic drug use. The bitter fruit of solipsism is the post-truth era, epitomized by Trump’s gaslighting.
Magical thinking was presumably adaptive in our original evolutionary environment. It’s easier to handle a lion eating your brother if you believe in an afterlife. But our proclivity for fairy tales is having tragic consequences in the 21st century. We’re hairless apes on a rock hurtling through the void. Unless we wise up fast, the future doesn’t include us. If that’s controversial, so be it.
20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Brush your teeth more often and more gently, avoid free climbing, and thank you for not breeding!