Local chameleon Chris ‘Fat Shan’ Healing is the kind of guy who can’t sit still for long. For most people, starting a record store would be sufficient to feel accomplished and occupied for a couple of years. But after co-founding Fat Shan Records in the CBD, Chris swiftly progressed to hosting shows, promoting other events, working in graphic design, DJing, managing acts and more. Now he’s forging sprawling audiovisual works of his own under the moniker FEYEK. I slide through the city just after dusk and descend Fat Shan’s glowing staircase. There, I find Chris blasting digital beings to smithereens on an Xbox. “We’re pacifists, here, really,” he assures me, and we migrate to the couches. FEYEK’s got its first major show coming up, performing a long-form piece called “Everything In Life is a Memory” to headline a wide-ranging art and sound exploration at the State Theatre Centre courtyard. Discussing this intriguing event, I hit the “record” button.
LYNDON BLUE: I’m coming at this with very little knowledge about the project whatsoever, so I’m legitimately intrigued as to what’s going on – when did it start, how did it come about?
CHRIS HEALING: I did a speech at a Kickstart Youth forum… the space was in the Kickstart Hub opposite the Bird, and it’s such a beautiful old room, nicely lit, all old furniture and stuff and I was like: do you guys do shows in here? Sam Leung [of Propel Youth Arts] said, well, we really want to but no-one’s done it yet. And I said I’d love to do – yknow, not even thinking about myself at this stage – just do an avant-garde kind of night with lots of different mediums and music. And Sam said, do you want me to speak to the state theatre and see if we can use the theatre courtyard as well.
LB: Nice one.
CH: Around the same time I was thinking about performing live with the material I’d been doing in my bedroom for the past year or so, which is more ambient, instrumental, noise and stuff – synth, filters, very soundscapey sort of stuff. I didn’t want to do this event at say, The Bird or something, and I didn’t really want to charge people for it either, as it was going to be one of the first things I was doing. So they said if you tie it in with the Kickstart Festival, and make it free, you can have the space for free. So I had the opportunity, and just had to work out what to do with it.
LB: It sounds like you’ve planned a lot of cross-discipline type stuff, collaborations, that sort of thing.
CH: The night opens up with a play, by Chloe McGrath (who plays in The Morning Night); Tem and Mike from Lanark do the sound design for that. There’s two live artists – chalk artists – who’ll work from 7 to 11. There’ll be a live sculptor inside, Dimity Magnus… photography projections – some of Jarrad Seng’s stuff… ummm, and, coffee art!
CH: It’s a coffee tastings stall, but they do amazing pourover and drip filter coffee, which is – you know – really beautiful to watch. And there’ll be a WAAPA dancer doing interpretive stuff while I’m playing, improvising to different sections of the performance.
LB: I’m interested in the audiovisual aspect of your own project: was FEYEK conceived as a kind of multi-sensory, crossover project or did it start more as a musical thing that grew into other directions?
CH: Well, I’ve DJed for… forever. Then, as I got more confident, and cared less about what I was playing to people and played more of what I was interested in at the time – drone, and so on – I started tying that in with visuals. I started changing up the music so much it became more of a production and I thought I might as well just do an original thing rather than using other people’s stuff. The visuals just complement it, I mean, no-one wants to look at me, you know, standing at a desk…
LB: So it really grew out of a DJ thing, into production, and now this audiovisual experience with dance and the whole thing… how many shows of the original material have you done?
CH: Sunday [at The Bird] was the first one! It was terrifying.
LB: Did it go well?
CH: It went better than I thought, but not as well as I hoped – if that makes sense.
LB: That makes sense!
CH: I thought it was going to go awful, I hoped it would go super well. I made some mistakes that I think come down to focus and pressure being on you – it’s completely different from being in your headphones. It’s terrifying.
LB: And something about making that kind of music – it can be daunting to present that to people.
CH: Yeah, like a lot of the time it’s very quiet, and although there’s stuff happening, it might seems like there’s not a lot happening. Sometimes I felt like I was doing stuff to try and compensate for… people’s boredom?
LB: Like, if you’re doing an extended drone, you sort of have to let that play out for it to work – but there’s also a niggling worry that maybe you’re boring everyone.
CH: You can start overthinking it, so maybe you cut it off short. It really gets to you. If you’re by yourself you can play the same note for half an hour, but live you can feel like you have to do more. Someone like [German sound artist] Alva Noto, you know, he barely does anything. He might play for an hour and a half and it might not change much throughout, but it’s beautiful: he really holds himself back, and I think that’s really difficult.
LB: What’s an ideal set length for you?
CH: I did 50 minutes the other day, this one will probably be about 40, 45. It won’t just be ambience, there’s some some vocals, some guitar… there’s 13 different section to the performance. The idea is, it starts at the beginning of the universe – lots of aggressive, disjointed sound – it settles down into stardust, floats into the human aspect of evolution, then it gets a little dark with “the human plague” and the future destruction of our selves. It comes full circle. That all syncs up with the visuals, too.
LB: So how does that – uh, narrative I guess – tie in with the title [Everything In Life Is A Memory]?
CH: Well I mean – everything – is memory because it’s what you’ve learned, or been told, or come to know, which ties in with the name too. FEYEK stands for Forget Everything You’ve Ever Known. That is, not believing everything you’re told, taking your own original thought, and creating things. [At this point, Chris starts telling me about a friend’s “Galaxy Machine,” before we get back to the question]… Everything is a memory, which you need to take a critical eye to. You can go to work every day and not really assess it and then you die. And you might have just been a character in The Sims and not known about it.
LB: We could be in a video game.
CH: In a video game, playing video games. Those people [points] on the Xbox, have their own consciousness somewhere.
LB: I might stop the recording there [both laugh].
Feyek’s “Everything In Life Is A Memory” event happens from 7pm on Saturday May 25 at the State Theatre Courtyard, 192 William Street Northbridge.