If like many in the Electro scene, you are a die-hard fan of the group Drexciya, then it's a good chance that by now you have heard of a graphic novel that is out now called "The Book of Drexciya: Volume One". Illustrated by one of the most iconic visual artists in the Techno and Electro scenes, the one and only Abdul Qadim Haqq of Third Earth Visual Arts, this journey to the bottom of the seas takes a dive into the conceptual world of the Drexciyan Empire that James Stinson often talked about, with beautifully crafted characters and underwater worlds that truly, and for the first time, bring the mythical empire of the Drexciyans to life.
In this insightful interview for Electric Kingdom, Abdul Qadim Haqq talks about the new book, what it means in concept and to him personally, and how it all relates to this incredibly tumultuous and pivotal moment in history where in particular in the United States, thousands have been demonstrating and unfortunately, rioting, and even engaging in tremendous violence in protest of inequality, and racial and political division. While these are all important issues, and ones most of us have been very frustrated with, not all is at it seems, and we must be very vigilant at the "solutions" proposed to us.
Here we will discuss not just these important topics, but also highlight the iconic illustrator's beginnings, and who his most important influences are, amongst other things. So without further ado, let's get started!
Electric Kingdom: Welcome Abdul! It is truly an honor. Your history as a man working behind the scenes with both Electro and Techno is extensive to say the least, so it's with great pleasure to get a chance to talk to you and have you tell your story to our audience. Let's begin, how did your passion with music start? Who are your main influences in general?
Abdul Qadim Haqq: My passion with music started in the 70’s with Disco. We would listen to it at school sometimes. Then I got a radio in the early 80’s when I was about 13. I would listen to the Electrifying Mojo and Jeff Mills known as The Wizard at that time.
I have many influences from decades of listening to music: Kraftwerk, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Eric B. and Rakim, KRS-1, Underground Resistance, etc.
I can see your musical palette is very broad! But with that, it must be pointed out that this is a very different interview from anything we have ever done before, because we are talking to someone who has been such an integral part of the music being released over the past 30 years, yet, you are not one of the musicians making this music, but rather the illustrator who gets to visually express the themes within the music.
What was the catalyst for you taking this particular road in the scene, and who are some important influences with your work? When did you know you'd be an illustrator? Was there ever an inclination to become a producer as well?
It didn’t happen on purpose that’s for sure. One thing sort of led to the next.
I’ve been influenced by:
I knew I wanted to be an illustrator/artist about junior year of high school. I’ve never been interested in producing music.
You went on to begin your career fairly early on as an illustrator within the Electronic Music scene at about the time when Electro and Techno were both just getting started in the 80's. Some may not know you were actually responsible for many famous record covers for labels such as R&S, Red Planet, Transmat, and even Underground Resistance. What in particular led you to Electronic Music?
The Electrifying Mojo introduced me to Electronic Music in the early 80’s. Kraftwerk and Cybotron are the ones I remember the best. The Egyptian Lover was very popular as well. Later on in college, I would go to clubs that played it, and by that time they were playing it everyday and especially on the weekends at night.
How have things changed since those days in your view? Do you feel as if anything has been lost along the way? How do you feel about the idea that artists are more empowered now than ever before?
Many things have changed since then. And many things lost. The music industry is pretty corrupt. Even though artists are more empowered, there still is much corruption. I always hear about the small payouts to artists even after these music apps play their songs thousands, or even millions of times. So artists have to be even more careful than ever before.
It is very true. I can attest personally to the fact the payout for streaming in particular is a bit of a slap in the face. Something that really needs to change. Artists could benefit greatly from what could actually be just small changes to that system.
Alright, let's get into one of the really important topics of this interview. You have a new book out that has been in the works for some time, it is called "The Book of Drexciya: Volume One", and prior to its release actually built up quite a bit of hype; particularly within the Electro scene. No surprise there of course, since the book deals with the legendary duo Drexciya, and from the get go it dives straight into concepts James Stinson spoke of before in regards to the Drexciyan Empire.
For those who may not know, could you go into a little more depth about this concept?
The group Drexciya had a background story of their origins. Pregnant slaves were thrown overboard from slave ships during the transatlantic crossing. Some of these women gave birth in the ocean. These babies adapted to their ocean environment, thrived and became a highly technological civilization.
I think many could argue, that this book could not have come at a better time, given the tensions not just in the US, but around the world as people amass to protest police brutality, inequality, and racial division. How do you feel about all of this? Where does the story of Drexciya fit into all this from your personal perspective?
These are very troubling times. My country is heading in a bad direction unfortunately. I feel trapped here. The story of Drexciya is for these times. There has never been a story like it. Empowered and sovereign black people with their own civilization. The greatest warriors and scientists the world has ever seen. Somewhat like Black Panther, but several levels deeper. Like the abyss!
As with anything in life however, it is always healthy to question everything. There are many that argue that groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter are being exploited at the very top for a very different motive than what those at the grassroots level are aiming for. Many of not just Antifa's leaders, but even people such as Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, have expressed very openly that what they seek is a Communist Revolution, and make no secret that they are "well trained Marxists".
It would not be the first time that a revolutionary movement would be co-opted, with perhaps one of the most recent examples being the co-opting of Occupy Wall Street several years back. Some things going on right now, at least to me, stand out as huge red flags that these riots and protests could actually bring about many more problems than solutions.
How do you feel about all of this? What do you think of the calls for Communism, and of the tremendous violence we are seeing, especially towards whites as these riots that are anything but peaceful continue to burn our country down? How can racism and hatred be defeated via more racism and hatred? What's the way forward you think?
A few years ago I watched a video on YouTube from an ex-KGB agent named Bezmenov. He outlined 4 steps for the subversion of the USA. I believe we are in the 3rd step of his theory, and it is very frightening! Neo-Marxism and postmodernism has taken over the country. The "Struggle Sessions" of Mao are commonplace in America today just under a different name. I’ve never seen the USA in such a bad condition, and I’m afraid it’s going to get worse.
I am against all racism. The old/current system is bad enough, Communism is much worse! The people will have to stand against it and be aware of the tactics and propaganda being used to bring it about.
I couldn't agree more. There are important issues to discuss on many levels, but we cannot allow these social movements to become a Trojan Horse for something as horrible as Communism to be brought into this country.
Moving on, let's dive back into the Electro seas. What's the state of the music for you? Techno has enjoyed many years of huge support, but not so much for Electro. Recently, that's been changing quite a bit however. How do you feel about it all? Any artists that stand out to you at the moment?
I like the feeling and energy of being at a live venue. I really miss it now. The current state of music is pretty bad with the virus still very strong here in the USA. I’ve grown tired of live streams and long to go to an event or show. Before the virus, music was in a good state. I’m glad Electro is becoming more popular to more people. It’s always been popular in Detroit though. I like all the classic artists of Techno and Electro of course. Some of the current/newer artists I like are Amir Alexander, Outlier and Marcus Raute.
Are there plans for a follow up graphic novel to the Book Of Drexciya? Any other projects in the works you'd like to talk about?
Yes! For sure! We’ve started the early stages for Volume 2! I’m going to be doing another crowdfunding for it soon. I’m currently working on projects for Japan, Algeria and Belgium!
Thanks for the interview!
Thanks to you for your time, best of luck with the next book!