DIVINE MASCULINE: DAVID LE'AUPEPE
He has always been mercurial, like ether, many couldn’t grasp the anomaly that was David Le’aupepe. The divine masculine is extremely human, it is not the energy of a "god among men" rather, it is an experience where the individual appreciates his human-ness and is not afraid to show it, to express it, to share it and expose it. The divine masculine energy is the safe harbour, where we go to be nurtured and loved.
Way back, in the early days of Dave, he tripped on stage. He fell over, mid song. He alchemised a moment with a thousand eyes upon him. Those eyes for most would have rivalled a humiliating end, the recurring “worst case scenario” and nightmare of many a performer, fulfilled. Just like that, a prophecy; “This stage is too small for me." he said. It was.
2017 opened swiftly, beckoned me into its embrace, the sweet sounds of Gang of Youth's reverberating through our home. My mother, sister, Jung and Dave (both of Gang of Youths) and I sat, reeling after an evening of ebullient chatter, champagne, whiskey and spontaneous jaunts into the New Years crowds. We listened into the early hours of January 1st, our bodies completely enveloped in sound. I lay on the living room floor, our stomachs full of vegetarian fare, buzzing and bathing in the sublime creation that swam around us. This creation was Gang of Youths' forthcoming sophomore album.
I'm no stranger to Dave Le'aupepe. His presence has been marbled through my life for years. A friend, a talent, a dinner guest, a luminary. His simultaneously extreme self-deprecation, and complete faith in his propensity for success is captivating, full of heart and inspirational. Whether he knew it or not, the rest of us did. Exuding charisma and authenticity, with a brain on him comparable to his notorious Top 5 Philosophers, I have sat back and championed his success as a friend for many years and simply put, he never ceases to amaze me. Throughout this time, even without the presence of Gang of Youths, it was always evident that his success was predetermined, even if he couldn't always see it. His stint at Mosman High, (and our meeting place) seemed to prognosticate his inevitable triumph.
His soulful, musical dexterity is evident to anyone who has had the pleasure of a Gang of Youth's listen. He doesn't rest in his personality or his art, constantly deepening and widening, discovering a richer aspect of himself. Alchemy is about change, about transmutation and as Dave puts it "(you can't) be someone who creates for a living and not undergo enormous amounts of change". He is ever-evolving, admitting he is a work in progress. A thoughtful, deep, rich innovator and thinker, his music and the stories he weaves for his audience are thought provoking, raw, totally veracious and an exposition of the most human emotion, sensation and experience.
He was the most fitting man to open this segment, welcoming the divine masculine into this ever-evolving conversation. A complete embodiment of vulnerability, resilience, strength, electricity, passion and support of the female. Each of these forming the incredible powerhouse that is the woman, simultaneously fused together to also herald a new paradigm for the masculine.
Ondine: Basically, to begin, I’ll give you a rundown. I'm interested by the concept of alchemy and the subversion of what alchemy truly means in the 21st century. To me, it's the perfect fusion of mind and spirit. That's why I thought you would be the perfect way to introduce this conversation with men. Alchemy is about change. It's about being open to the inevitable human evolution, and standing by as things unfold through seemingly insurmountable difficulties. How has change played a part in your life, thus far?
David: Pretty mucheverything I do as part of change is in my personal life. I don't think you could be someone who creates for a living and not undergo enormous amounts of change.
O: Uncomfortable change as well…
D: Yeah, considerable uncomfortable change. I think most of what I do is change-dependent, and change is essential. Often when artists stop changing, they become stale. They become stagnant. I think, for the most part, what I have to do is constantly figure out ways to change and better, more significantly relatable ways especially for an audience.
O: I'm fascinated by the multitude of ways that the concept of alchemy can be applied to the modern experience. Music is alchemy. We know the power of mantra and prayer and chanting. We know that for a practitioner and for even an audience, music can be incredibly healing and opening. Is writing for you a healing process?
D: Yes. I go through horrible things that damage me in order to write songs that heal the damage. That's essentially what it is. I tend to wear everything I do more than a lot of other people. It affects my personal life and my private life and my public life and that kind of stuff.
O: I think that fades into this concept of effortlessly straddling the line between vulnerability and strength. I think that's what you do and embody.
D: Vulnerability is strength.
O: I completely agree. But to many, it's a very confusing concept, particularly for the male experience, you’re told you can’t have both.
D: For me, they're not. It's something honourable. In order to become strong, you need to make your muscles vulnerable to tear. The idea that somehow they're exclusive is a weird, dualistic way to look at anything. The relationship between the two is really fucking important.
O: In regards to that, I've spoken a lot with women and what femininity is. I don't really know how to elucidate what the masculine is.
D: Me neither. I don't know.
O: Often when I talk with women about vulnerability and strength, they do compartmentalise it. The question arises; how can you embody the feminine - the fire, strength and passion and be that sensitive woman?
D: For me, I don't look at life in any duality or dualism. I think dualism is really pointless. I think if you're seeing anything in a binary fashion is what Jacques Derrida really explored, this idea that we tend to look at things in binaries. My practice is not that of a binary or dualistic nature or to anything. We look at the masculine, feminine as a spectrum-type of undertaking.
O: It's one in the same.
D: I don't really have a breadth of perception that covers that in the same way.
O: This brings us to unravel vulnerability and as old mate Leonard (Cohen) would say “exposing the crack”. You are very adept at exposing yourself to people in a way that strikes them at the core of their being. The first time I met you, you can’t exactly put your finger on your energy. It's not tangible. People are attracted to people who expose the most primordial, human parts of ourselves. I know we've also spoken about fear and the role it plays. I’m a huge believer in fear. I've watched it envelop me and know that it gives me a threshold for where I need to step in my world.
D: It's survival instinct as well as fear. I have a difficult relationship with fear because on one hand, some fear is good because it keeps us alive. On the other hand, those fears are rational but also they're super-not rational in a myriad of different ways primarily because the perception of fear is that it's a reticence…it's a life-negating impulse. I think it's a part or why I do have a fluctuation with my attitude towards it. Sometimes, it's positive. Sometimes, it's good. Sometimes, it works for me.
O: How we utilize it is paramount.
D: Fear is something I love and hate. I mean in one way, it's irrational but it's super-rational. I think there's inherent contradiction with how we perceive fear. What kind of fear is good? What kind of fear is not? What kind of fear is life-preserving? What kind of fear is life-negating? Writing about fear, talking about fear, that in and of itself, takes a certain kind of courage. It transcends that very native fear that we all have in relating back to vulnerability and whatnot.
O: Our own experience of fear morphs and shifts with each step over our self-imposed fear threshold, its unremittingly taking new shape.
D: Fear's an expression of anxiety, I honestly feel like the fear is a certain manifestation of the anxiety that's in the soul. One of my great heroes always says that anxiety was fear of the imminent as related to loss. We only have anxiety because we've experienced loss.
O: It gives you that context.
D: Exactly. It gives us context for those fears.
O: Would you be able to describe the feeling of being on stage?
D: I would say it's like a drug addict getting a hit of the drug they need most.
O: I think it would be different for different people as well. Some people would be like they're shitting themselves every time.
D: For me, I get my hit. It's the most myself I can ever be.
O: That's incredible that you get to do that, all the time.
D: That's all I want.
O: Is there somebody who you would call a ‘Woman Almighty'? Do you have an almighty woman in your life, living or otherwise?
D: Numerous. In fact, my life is made up of the most important women I've ever met.
O: Lucky you! Many don’t even realised they’re touched by the female energy in such influential ways. I’m constantly grateful to be surrounded by that.
D: I could come up with a woman I don't know personally, but I know probably like 15, 20 women personally who are that for me. I'm surrounded by powerful, strong, inspiring and inspired women. I wouldn't be able to pick one.
O: Who is someone that you don't know…it doesn't have to be one. Top five.
D: I have a list. Helen [Mirren], Leslie Feist, Pattie Smith, Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon.
O: I met Kim Gordon!
D: Zadie Smith, the writer, Margaret Atwood, also a writer, George Eliot - otherwise, Mary Anne Evans. I love her very much. Middlemarch is a good book. Hannah Arendt, the philosopher, Simone de Beavoir. I think I said Meryl Streep, right?
O: You said Helen Mirren.
D: Yeah, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. There is so many more. There's even modern, younger ones that I can probably think of but I can't off the top of my head. Gloria Steinem. She's Christian Bale's stepmother.
O: What quality do you most admire in a woman?
O: Similarly, what quality do you most admire in a man?
O: How do you define alchemy?
D: I don’t. I don't have to. That's the whole thing. That, in and of itself, is a meta way to finding what I believe alchemy really is. It's something indefinable and something I'm not able to contextualise.
O: It's like….it's air, its ether. It's everything. Its experience.
D: Yeah, exactly. It's a structrure-less, entity-less. If we're going to get esoteric about it, I can't define it. I don't know what it is - intangible.
O: Spirituality and your religion, your faith. You had an upbringing that was steeped in it.
D: Yeah, deeply religious.
O: In a totally different way, mine was similar. It's completely paramount to the way I grew up. What role does it continue to play in your world?
D: It informs literally every creative decision I make and most of the personal ones, it is easy to make without even letting it or trying.
O: Is it innate?
D: I wouldn't say it's innate. It was definitely indoctrination. What was important was this Judeo-Christian morality centre for the most part. I'm often trying to be transcend, justify, reinforce, all these kinds of different things. It's still so deeply ingrained within who I am. That's something that's very, very hard to be able to shake. I embrace some of it. I embrace various parts of it. I reject a lot of it.
For the most part, all the questions I'm asking creatively are, in some ways, traceable back to this God, this Jesus idea, this man in the sky or whatever it is. At the genesis of all my questions, there is a longing for God or search for God or are reason to believe that he's there or there’s me trying to wade through the arguments as to why he isn't.
O: Top five philosophers, this is your chance. You've been waiting.
D: Top five philosophers: Heidegger, Nietzsche, (Søren) Kierkegaard. I like Michel Foucault a lot. One more. This is really cool. I love Mill Kieran. Kieran's really cool. Oh, Albert Camus. I like these people.
O: The top is Nietzsche, hence, the tattoo and all the Nietzsche conversations over dinner, all of that.
D: If you want to get into existentialism, get into Nietzsche first. He's a lot easier to understand than a lot of those other guys. Heidegger; that's the last person you should be looking at.
O: You gave me a book for my birthday. Peter Singers “How Are We to Live?: Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest.”
D: I disagree with most of the stuff he says. I like him because he's a deeply compassionate person. He wants to make the world better. He did this thing called 'effective altruism'. That's what he calls it.
O: I know you just love astrology. From your own research in this stuff that we've all talked about, would you consider yourself a classic Pisces?
D: From everything I've been told, I am the most classic Pisces.
O: We've just spouted our opinion at you. We’re like, "You're a Pisces."
D: I had a conversation with someone the other day. I started just talking about my life. She's like, "You're a Pisces." I'm like, "How'd you know?" She's just, "You're just classic Pisces." I'm the most textbook Pisces you can ever get, apparently.
...and with that, David Le'aupepe continues to spread his roots across the world, bestowing authenticity, fire, and the healing power of sound wherever he goes. Alchemising, whether he likes it or not.