Interview with a Wizard: Ssengam Niloc

He claims he is “a Flux-u-8ing, Facial, Facade, four-warning, apocalyptic, time-traveling, wizard … who practices alchemy at Bink Tine Mines.” He’s an artist, a do-it-yourself extraordinaire, and a man of many passions and talents. His experience of our universe and his story are fascinating, yet learning so much about him merely left me with more questions, which I hope to ask when we meet again.

Ssengam Niloc, artist, poet, rapper, considers himself, or more rightly, themselves, as a being who’s myriad personas act as an archetype for the human condition. He’s named all of his constant companions, such as Lloonmas Floatkures, embodied by his hat, or his hands, which he calls Hanmas Maykures, and these parts of his fractured being all represent different aspects of human existence. He exists to create art. His latest album, Dark Days … Bright Tunnel was released on February 15th, on his birthday. Lyrical wizardry has ensued.

I began my interview with Ssengam Niloc in a roundabout way. He began by discussing all the strange occurances in his recent life, how all things seemed to be falling apart. We began by comparing our experiences of Mercury in Retrograde, which was hitting both of our sun signs in Aquarius rather hard. He’d lost the original embodiment of Lloonmas Floatkures, who also represents the idea of absurdity, among other strange goings-on.

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Ssengam Niloc: It was just everything. The idea of absurdity disappears, and this hat (he points to his new hat) is just like, “Hello.” Things are going–holes and everything. Masks are falling apart. It’s just bonkers. But other things are becoming anew. It’s pretty great to have Lloon back in action or replaced I guess. Or incarnate.

Lindsay: Ok, so the name of this one (I pointed to his hat) is Lloon…?

Ssengam Niloc: Lloonmass Float Kures. He’s named after a balloon, I suppose, because that’s what I thought happens when your head goes in the clouds and you think about absurd thoughts, or the idea of imagination or absurdity, or conscious thought. So there are ten of them, but ten only represents the whole, and therefore there’s only nine, but one of them doesn’t exist, and that’s the umbrella here, so really there’s only eight, but two of them are twins, so there’s just seven.

Lindsay: Seven.

Ssengam Niloc: Seven.

Lindsay: Seven.

Ssengam Niloc: Seven.

Lindsay: Okay. Seven?

Ssengam Niloc: Seven — TEN!

(laughter)

Ssengam Niloc: But thank you for telling me that about Mercury being in retrograde.

Lindsay: Yeah, you’re welcome. I’ve been expecting the unexpected ever since it started the day after my boss’s birthday.

Ssengam Niloc: Wow. Birthdays. There you go. They’re just following everyone around. Sometimes I feel like the realizations are oh so obvious and hilarious, and that’s what makes my wizardry even more funny, is because I’m just doing the things that people do every day, but then I do them in weird situations, or I guess not even weird situations, but unexpected situations. That’s what makes cutting lemons so weird.

Lindsay: Right.

Ssengam Niloc: I feel like you just need to embrace the chaos when that’s happening, though. And really just listen to it all. Honestly, it’s been a huge learning lesson. Sometimes you just ask, “Why, why is it so frictionous right now, but then, slowing down, it really is worth it.

Lindsay: Absolutely, because good things come out of friction, like diamonds and stuff.

Ssengam Niloc: And fire.

Lindsay: Yeah. So, your artist name is Visitor 10? Is that the way it works?

Ssengam Niloc: Yes. Well, I guess so. That was like a whole debauchery of figuring-ish out. I used to go by my wizard name, which is Ssengam Niloc. Everybody has a wizard name. It’s just your government name backwards. It’s who you actually are. Who the government does not see. They look at you as a number, and your little photo ID.

But really, it’s who you are, what you build and who you want to be, and who’s staring back at you in the mirror. So that means your reflection is the bizarro you that can be anything. It’s totally definable because every time you see that person, you know that they’re always lookin’ like you’re looking right there at that moment, but you know that you’ve changed, that you’ve transcended different times and emotions and feelings and statuses.

But Ssengam Niloc is just hella complicated to pronounce, spell, read, write, all of the above, but I decided to keep it as the umbrella wizard name that harnesses this wacky vessel that navigates this strange reality in a manner that puts together the pieces of the puzzle for Visitor 10 and whoever falls underneath that umbrella at that moment.

Because that was a different umbrella. There’s a different umbrella, a black hat that was split and bisected–there’s one day that I died, and then I was shattered into the pieces that I had mentioned before, as the human archetype, but Visitor Ten can harness all of those characters, who are members of the Maskures family.

It’s all very disjointed and convoluted.

Visitor 10 could also be the umbrella under which another actual separate human being other than myself could also operate. That’s why I’ve done many different projects with different producers. Ultimately, I do just write and deliver lyrics. I’ve tried making my own production before, as Ssengam Niloc.

My ears are very tuned to a dark murmur in the corner of an abandoned room somewhere that is waiting for the apocalypse.

But Visitor 10 just really likes to rap, depending on who the face is, most of the time as a project moniker of sorts. I hope I answered your question in a long, drawn out way.

Lindsay: I think that was awesome. So Visitor 10 is not just an artist name. It’s a symbolic representation of you.

Ssengam Niloc: I would hope so. I would hope that it’s a symbolic representation for anybody really because it’s an extremely arbitrary number, but yet, it seems so specific. The reason why I picked Visitor 10 specifically was because I didn’t pick it at all. It picked me.

I was deep in the midst of trying to figure out my life course as far as school major-reations and what I was going to choose. Was it banana-wrap fabrication or dust collecting? I don’t know. I ended up picking both.

But within that moment, I remember discovering this pin in the ceramic’s studio just randomly chilling there. It’s not actually even the original–it is slightly different. (He finds his bag and takes out the original.) This one’s caughten some abuse, as you can see, from a magnet.

You see, I carry–well my left pocket is designated strictly for things that never leave. It’s a black hole. A black hole pocket, that’s what we call it, or pocket marination, is another term. What does stay in this pocket at all times, which gives it its electromagnetic energy field is, um, well, magnets. I put magnets in there, and a lid cap for organization. Then I place things in this pocket gently over the year, making sure that I don’t overload myself. It’s like a memory recording device of sorts. I empty it once every year and put it in a jar. For what reason? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter.Visitor 10 Pin

Either way, it got run over, this pin, with a magnet stuck to the back of it because these cops were pulling out my pockets. It was on the night that Occupy got evicted, and we were marching until the wee hours. We were just going to march for the rest of our lives, but they finally realized that, and they wanted to put a stop to it. So they pigeonholed us right there on 15th street, blocked off the front and the back, and they were like, “You can’t leave.”

They split us right down the middle and pushed us onto the sidewalk. Right then and there, they decided that they could emulate a situation in which we were potentially breaking the law, which we weren’t at all, but they just said that we were, and that was “obstructing the highway.” They slapped some other charges on there, too, criminal conspiracy and something else. But all of them got thrown out of the window anyway. But conspiracy got thrown out last. They threw out the first two charges, and then they said, “We can’t do that last charge because it needs other charges to be charged with.” So charge ’em up. Charge your phone and shit. iPhones are a hell of a thing. They just die instantly.

So. Two prison buses. Thirty squad cars–squad cars and unmarks. There was a bicycle cop fleet. And then two helicopters. And a slew of plain-clothed cops. But that’s what ran over this pin. One of them.

I was trying to figure out what to name my website, and I realized that my initials for Ssengam Niloc were SSN like “social security number.” I said, “Oh, wow. This is random. Because that’s kind of what I’m obsessed with at the moment is why we’re defined as a number in the eyes of the government, and how can we transcend that potentially? and is that all that life is about? Just going to our job and working, and returning fuel to the system and not having enough energy to fuel our own creative passions on the side?

The Foxs ToothThe only jobs I could ever keep down were food industry jobs. That was the magic that The foxs tooth drawnsociety wanted for me until I broke into tattooing, and that was a much better way to have a passion, to express myself creatively and be rewarded monetarily to stay alive, ’cause I guess surviving is apparently necessary.

So it just smashed itself together being that the pin was already in existence at that time, and I discovered my initials, I figured it would be a good idea to start segueing into a language that potentially people could understand, even though I was convoluting it with a bunch of different wackiness and absurdity and improvised mishmash of nonsense.

SSN 10, that’s great. People know that they have a social security number, they know that it’s referred to as SSN, and 10’s easy to remember. So then I decided to move the pin from my backpack that had been chillin’ for three years, and I decided to go back to the Cypher Circle.

This was at Temple (Temple University), and that’s where I met all the Hungry Ghosts. They knew me as Ssengam, as I was rapping. I tried to go by SSN 10 for one show, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue. I asked, “Why haven’t I just actually considered the tag that labeled me from the get-go?”

I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t be so trusting in this universe thing. Everybody spoon-feeds you things, and then they tell you to ask questions, and they tell you to be skeptical, but then, I like to read the literature of serendipity and figure out and feel where that goes.

So is that not trust within itself? Why do I trust that? Why would I trust anything? I feel like you gotta have trust, you gotta have faith, that’s one of the things that I’ve actually been learning this year. I feel like the stupidest things are the things that I’m learning now.

Like how not to be afraid.

And what fear is–’cause you can be afraid and not actually know it, not actually be afraid. Fear is actually a synonym for everything. And so is love. And that’s really awesome that we have those dichotomies. I’d like to operate more out of love than I already do, but I already feel like I try to embrace it as much as possible, but understanding is wonderful.

That’s why I feel like you’re born every day, and the birthday thing happens. I feel like I have to teach myself this nonsense every day. Every day is a new challenge. Sometimes I remember lessons easier than others, and sometimes I remember it all, like right then and there, swiftly, and I can execute that day with grace. And other times it’s like, I dunno.

Lindsay: Swimming through mud.

Ssengam Niloc: The mind is a weird thing.

Lindsay: Yes, it is. It’s a strange animal. So Visitor 10 actually describes your art and the different personas or characters you’ve fractured your personality into–but you said you died. Can we start at the beginning? How did you die?

Ssengam Niloc: The beginend?

Well. The Maskures family is actually the fractioning of my personality and what I believe to represent the archetypal human, of sorts.

But my death was the hammer to the porcelain egg that created this whole mess. I guess it was, well, I ran out of options, and I was feeling a particular kind of way. I had already been suicidal at one point in my life, but I knew that it wasn’t for me physically, and I knew that I couldn’t commit to it in the physical sense.

So on July 14th, 2007, I decided to commit to it in a mental sense. And there was a myriad of metaphors and symbols that were able to assist in this action that were certainly influenced by material in this reality. Pop Culture, different things. For example, the Matrix metaphor came into play for whatever reason, but I think that also, it’s like a mixture of archetypal historical information and spiritual belief that is potentially subconscious and reaching out to the world wide web of mental thought, or the cosmic unconscious of sorts, that was reminiscent of what my brief human experience was at that time in my life, which was pretty material still.

In 2007, I was 18, and I had already discovered that I was “a star-child, sent to earth with the sole purpose of making art.” And that’s what I felt I was a vessel for at that time. So, school was the only thing that mattered to me at all because that’s where the art was. They were asking me to make art anyway, so I just committed myself fully and mostly so because I was under the guise that I didn’t have any other purpose in life. Because I didn’t. I didn’t before.

In 2004, I got kicked out for distribution in high school, and parental prison ensued, and I was grounded for like 8 months. That was me being–well, not a momma’s boy–but a very ignorant human. I went to school because I thought I had to. I did these things because I thought I had to, but I was definitely listening to the whispers of Loki, I feel like, throughout my life, with my desire to do little, punk-kid things. And also, I like to challenge authority. My mom always said she thought I just had a problem with authority.

But yet I still went to school. For some reason, that was a mandatory for me. I don’t know why. But then I got kicked out for a year, and then I came back, and I was like, “Pointless.” All I really thought I wanted to be was the stoned kid in the hallways. I thought that’s what life was, high school. I didn’t know what college I wanted to go to because I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but then my art teacher reached out to me.

That was three days before my 16th birthday, February 11, 2004. So the birthday myth started early. That was what brought me here. If I didn’t decide–if TV didn’t get super boring when I was in the clutches of parental prison, I wouldn’t have reached out–I wouldn’t have buried my head in a notebook and started drawing and exploring the paper. And then my art teacher reached out to me. And then, skip a couple of years, and I’m a kid in college thinking that continuing on my path and realizing my sole purpose in life is to make art, and then I died.

Because I listened to the language of the universe through my ego. My ego told me the story back to myself. And what he decided to say was–I just thought we could even ask him, but I don’t even want to. He’s an ass.

So he told me this whole convoluted story back to me in which I was God, and that I was the sole creator of life, and that everything that I was experiencing here on this planet was just meant for me and my entertainment. But then I asked why.

And I guess that’s my sensory organ, maybe. Why was everybody suffering at the expense of my entertainment? If I was actually all-divine, omnipotent power, such as that, why would I want to continue on any further? Why would I want to experience that? And in one respect, I’m grateful, because that’s the day I did kill my ego, or something like that. Ego death or whatever. I’ve been hearing snippets about that.

But this was just an experience that I really didn’t know what was happening at that time. I was just focusing dramatically on emotions and perception and what I was experiencing, and the conversation that was happening in my head. At which point, it was too overwhelming, at that point, and I decided to kill myself.

Not killing my physical body was problematic because, well, I guess it would have been like I really left, and potentially became a vegetable of some sort. But for whatever reason, either I came back, or “I” came back. Both “I’s” are standing for different things, but of the same nature. There are these things called “walk-ins” but maybe my soul at that point was ready to go and somebody else just stepped in.

And that’s where I think Lloon came from, cause he’s a story all to himself as to his past and history. But it came back, and it was like “fragmented” Colin Magness, at that point, and then this new idea of what life was and absurdity that was like mashed with this other individual that further fed the overarching dichotomy, added another multi-faced point as to where everybody was on that dichotomy, I guess. But, yeah.

So at that point, your skin gets removed, and your skeleton decides to beat your exposed brain into the ground. And then they scooped me onto a stretcher and brought me to a hospital.

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Although his death was only the beginning, it seemed a fitting place to end given how oddly time was operating by this point in the interview. Ssengam Niloc shared his story of awakening, of change, and of coming to understand his role and voice in the world with me, and I felt I’d met a brother, another who sees the darkness around us all but who yet works to bring light to others.

The truth of the matter? The young see with eyes unclouded, past politically correct speeches and lip service to causes. Perhaps we all want to clean the world up–it’s a bit of a mess what with all the wars and starvation and such. Some of us may be angry enough that we wish to see it burn, but perhaps our anger stems from forced integration into a system that fails to allow for full self-expression. The means artists take to break themselves from fear-based programming and accept themselves may seem extreme to some, but I say it is necessary. How else can true change occur, unless we choose to change ourselves?

My entire conversation with Ssengam Niloc skipped around, looped back, and jumped over and then through time, and yet it came to an end far too soon (although we spoke for several hours, I think). Time traveling wizards sure are hard to pin down.