How would one even begin to describe Todd Pendu? Part musician and part manager, part artist and part organizer, part magician and part philosopher, he truly is a Jack-of-all-trades.
Among the many kings that populate the city that never sleeps, none present such a colorful array of skills, or such a distinguished court, as the one they call Todd Pendu. Todd’s domains are vast beyond imagination, as one can see just from looking at his recording studio, his magazine, his art gallery, his erotic film production company and the festival he founded and still curates. But he hasn’t been the only one to notice his work: this already impressive character has also been blazoned with many accolades as a writer, musician and visual artist. Hardly content with all this, he delves deep into the realm of the occult and performs tarot readings. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start at the beginning.
Todd Pendu was not always known by that name. He used to be Todd Brooks, but somewhere along the way he changed it to Pendu, after the 12th Trump of the Major Arcana. “It’s a card of mysticism and of drawing the heavens down to earth”, he says about his choice. “A message of libido or sex over reason. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but for simplicity’s sake, that’s a general idea.” Those were simpler times, but they foretold the tempest he would eventually unleash: “I’ve been booking shows and making art and records since I was 20 so it feels like I’ve always been doing this, but before I started doing Pendu full-time, I worked at various bookstores and music and video stores.”
His interest in occultism is not the shallow, trend-following kind that one is used to see in Tarot booths, but instead rather deep. He’s a hard-working student whose whole life journey is testament to his knowledge. “Occultism is a kind of outgrowth from my Satanist days as I’ve slowly become more interested in currents and cosmic energy,” he tells us. “Originally I started with Anton Lavey’s works and then became familiar with Aleister Crowley, etc. and then eventually got my hands on the writings of Austin Osman Spare. That’s when I started reading Peter J Carroll and Phil Hine and others and really got into Chaos Magick. It’s the kind of system I can get into, a fully individualistic path and yet still existential and pragmatic. It’s not all about wearing robes or following any scripted dogmas; it’s really more about learning how to design your own system and finding what works for yourself.”
It seems that this notion of designing your own system has played a major role in Pendu’s philosophy. After all, a man with so many facets must have solid thoughts empowering his actions. Todd found this power in the word YES as the ultimate expression of individuality. “I don’t mean the word YES as referred to conformity with a crowd, I mean YES as ultimate empowerment to the individual. ‘Do what thou wilt’ or ‘Yes Aktions’, as I call them, shouldn’t be based on rebellious or reactionary motivations. Do what you want because you want to, not because you’re told not to. Yes implies a no, but the difference is that saying NO gives validation to what you are saying NO to and feeds off that energy. Whereas YES moves where it wants to and does what it wants to on its own energy conjured up through the power of saying yes. I feel like my younger years were filled with a NO mentality and one day I woke up and saw things this way, and I’ve been down this path ever since.”
But all this raw energy could go to waste without any boundaries. As the self made man that he is, he follows “adhocist” principles that consist on working with what you have at your disposal. It’s a procedural belief that originally comes from architecture, but that he applies to everything he does and, most impressively, to his Eye and Ear multidisciplinary festivals, which draw by NYC artists as well as musicians. “Adhocism is about taking materials at hand and then re-combining them in new ways by using them in ways they weren’t originally intended for. Collage, found objects, whatever the person wants to use in any way they want. Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel is as perfect an example as turning a thrift store t-shirt inside out and printing on the other side. It’s where my focus is. NY Eye & Ear is about bringing local musicians, artists, and the local record labels together so that everyone can meet, learn about each other, trade with each other. And secondly to bring this city of music lovers out to rally around some really hard-working artists who are making exciting work in our city. I don’t plan to change the format as far as NYC artists go. I would rather encourage offshoots to happen in other cities that are based around the same concept. I’d love to see Eye & Ear Festivals happening in San Francisco, Chicago, LA, Austin, etc.”
The festival has been going strong since 2008, featuring the likes of Blank Dogs, White Ring, Xeno & Oaklander, Effi Briest, Blondes, Sightings, Silk Flowers, Magik Markers, Liturgy and Talk Normal, among others. But he doesn’t stand off to the side as a spectator throughout the parade of talents he summons. He collaborates with free-jazz legend Daniel Carter in Ghost Moth and performs under the moniker Chaos Majik. Like everything else he does, the soul of his music has deep roots in his holistic eclecticism. “I believe that sound can be a conduit to receptivity to altered states of consciousness which is the first step toward any kind of magical act. I hope people at least will find themselves experiencing a new state while listening. I use three oscillators, one of which is a light-sensitive oscillator that is powered by a strobe, and candles. This creates a kind of mesmerizing environment to visualize and connect sound to what one sees. The mind and body are definitely connected and physicality is just as important as imagination. I like to appeal to both at the same time through volume and spectacle.”
Much is left to be said about this man, but I hope this can at least outline the complex picture. He’s currently working on his own Tarot deck in collaboration with many different artists, and his record label has released Sasha Grey’s aTelecine’s debut album, A Cassette Tape Culture. He’s also working on his second book, a historical account of a relatively obscure French literary collective from the early 19th Century. After all this, what is a man to do? “Maybe take a vacation? Do some traveling for a little while.” And we hope that each step takes you further into your destiny, Todd.
Todd Pendu photographed by Anna Rose // Text by Oscar Gomez Poviña for VNFOLD Magazine Issue IV.Share: