Hieroglyphic Being: Rolling with Jamal Moss

With Strange Sounds From Beyond 2017 just around the corner, another event we’re no less excited about this summer is our upcoming trip to Marrakech, where we’ll be hosting a stage at Atlas Electronic. Before we set our sights towards the “Red City”, Jasmin Hoek brings us a short interview with an artist of many aliases we will welcome to our stage as Hieroglyphic Being.

Hieroglyphic Being is a household name for those interested in the more experimental side of house, but you might also know Jamal Moss as IAMTHATIAM, The Sun God, I.B.M. (Insane Black Man), and as a member of Africans With Mainframes, Interplanetary Prophets, amongst others. His impressive live sets and productions feel like a fascinating clash of classic Chicago house and an extremely futuristic expression of jazz. With the breathtaking number of individual tracks and records produced under his various aliases, Jamal has proven himself to be one of the most diverse artists making music in recent decades.

Although Jamal’s music is hyper technological and futuristic, it can often simultaneously evoke a feeling that exists on a more spiritual level. Spirituality and technology might feel like two opposites, but Jamal does not see it that way.

“It is something that evolves from within oneself, but that is caused by external stimuli from the realm in which you reside,” explains Jamal. “Your spirituality is like an energy of which, when it emanates from your human form, the movements can be perceived by the senses of other beings around you. In this case the human form is the medium. The same can be said about technology; you can channel that same archetype from your vessel through technology in machines, and the transference begins from a vessel to a machine to another vessels, and this then again renews and re-energizes other vessels spiritually, generating a response.”

A similar spiritual energy surrounds Jamal’s persona, with some of his aliases formed both around the concept of existence (Hieroglyphic Being and IAMTHATIAM) and the idea of a higher power (The Sun God).

“I aspire to be a spiritual person in a warped and sadistic physical world,” says Jamal. “It can be hard at times, but when one can define oneself for the positive, it’s like a force field, and a filter against those negative entities and forces. It helps you keep focused on your life’s purpose, like a mantra you repeat until you cross over.”

Arising from a challenging set of circumstances experienced at a young age, something he spoke about in Resident Advisor’s short documentary ORIGINS, Jamal literally found warmth and shelter in club venues on many a night while he was homeless, in the days before his journey into electronic music began. Having grown up alongside Chicago’s club culture and having found a place for himself within it, he sees more than just a party scene, referring instead to it as “a space of salvation, sanctuary and unification of human kind through a special sound aesthetic”.

It became clear that making music was Jamal’s destiny when he started to notice that the physical and psychological aspect of ethnic soundscapes was beginning to change the vanguard of culture. So Jamal decided that he wanted to contribute to this change that  dominant cultural ethnic music was bringing about. “I realized I didn’t want to be the angry individual complaining. Instead I wanted to be encouraging, proactive and productive to keep some of that aboriginal aesthetic relatable.”

Transitioning to the positive place where he is now, from where he had begun, must have equipped him with an impressive drive and a strong mind. “It really doesn’t matter where or who you get your drive and motivation from,” says Jamal. “It’s what you learn from certain experiences and do with that inspiration or elevation after that divine guardian blesses you with that motivation or opportunity; you can choose to elevate yourself or stay in the same foolishness.”

He seems to apply the same philosophy to negative reception and critique; often approaching such situations with a sense of humor. His cassette mixtape, which he named Worst DJ Ever, comes to mind.

“Criticism doesn’t really hurt me. I expect negative feedback in this whole process; it is part of the territory I am in. It only hurts if people use you, lie to you, steal from you, or interfere with your creative nature and purpose. I just have thick skin; you just have to endure it, be patient, and ride out the negative nuances. If I could have given my younger self advice, it would be to believe in myself, have protocols and self-sustaining empowerment in order to be able to instill self-sustainability and empowerment in others.”

With regards to his art, Jamal draws inspiration from a multitude of influences. “My influences for my own work, which I find in music, literature, visual and other forms of art, are forever evolving. Influences from the past and present aren’t always constant because there are always old artists to rediscover, or you find out who inspired the artists that influenced you. It’s always evolving and in turn you evolve in the production process.”

It is apparent to most that a resolve in changing the way dominant culture considers ethnic sounds forms one of the bedrocks of Jamal’s work. Ironically, these days his work is often conveniently labelled by said dominant culture as being “Afrofuturistic”. In various publications, Jamal has expressed his discomfort at this label in previous interviews.

In an interview with The Guardian last year, Jamal had this to say: “I don’t know any people on the planet who have been through as much rebranding. In the 70s you were ‘black’, before that it was ‘Negro’. We come off an assembly line every 20 years. ‘Afrofuturism’ is for intellectuals in universities, dinner party conversations. I got sick of going to these Afrofuturism panels and events – there’d be 1,000 people, with 30 black people, and one under the age of 19. And that’s in an area where there’s a large black population, walking back and forth to work, mopping floors, driving buses.”

Over the years Jamal has produced a great quantity of high quality tracks under his various aliases, and like one’s children, it is hard for him to pick a favorite. “I can’t really say that without the ego taking over,” explains Jamal. “It’s not up to me to say. I’d rather leave listening and judging up to the audience. I feel like I have another 40 years or so of creating ahead, so get back to me when I’m 88. In the last year of my existence when the body and the ego is ready for transition then I can say which of my own records is my favorite one.”

Clearly, Jamal is not planning on slowing down any time soon. When I ask him about his current and upcoming projects, he responds: “I have a full album on Soul Jazz Records coming up under Hieroglyphic Being – The Red Notes this fall, a collaborative project with experimental jazz fusion on Ninja Tune this summer, and a side alias project affiliated with a sub-label of Warp records arriving in mid summer. I’m also involved with opening up an electronic music training facility in Chicago for under-privileged youth and people who want to learn about music production, different forms of turntablism, or train-wrecking software. It is opening mid-summer, and is supposed to be fully operational by the 1st of October this year.”

Lastly, I ask him what audiences can look forward to in his upcoming performance at Atlas Electronics this summer, and Jamal gave an answer that can only be fitting of the gospel by a Hieroglyphic Being.

“Something that will hopefully elevate the consciousness of the audience, and inspire others to carry the torch to manifest better art forms for all of humanity to enjoy long afterwards.”



In anticipation of our upcoming summer festivities, we’re giving away 2 x 2 tickets to Strange Sounds From Beyond 2017 and Atlas Electronic. For a chance at winning some tickets, send an email to roos@strangesoundsfrombeyond.com. Competition ends at June 11th. Winners will receive an email.