Diva Dompe Wants to Heal Your Soul
Diva Dompe (Yialmelic Frequencies) talks with PopMatters about ambient experimental music, inter-dimensional travel, the magic of Los Angeles, and healing the planet.
18 May 2018
Diva Dompe is an artist with many identities. Post-punk-rocker, ambient experimentalist, online radio host, Reiki practitioner, aural healer. Where does one identity end and another start? For Diva, the boundaries which distinguish one form of creative and healing expression from the other have progressively faded the longer she works with them.
Her latest musical project is Yililok, the second album produced under her Yialmelic Frequencies identity. As Yialmelic Transmissions she's been producing ASMR-themed guided meditations for the past eight years with Dublab, an Internet radio station based in Los Angeles. Diva has found a special creative home with Dublab, which she describes as "a very special art community".
The material on her new album consists of instrumental edits drawn from the guided meditations produced for the show. But the creative inspiration for Yialmelic Frequencies has a much deeper source, rooted in the visionary experiences Diva recalls experiencing since she was a young child.
"Originally I started making the guided meditations as a safe space to explore these experiences I'd been having," she tells PopMatters. "Since I was an adolescent I would have these metaphysical experiences, sleep paralysis..."
She would also see other beings, she says, which people told her were hallucinations. Coupled with her own vivid imagination, she says the powerful visionary experiences were empowering and frightening at the same time.
"It was a very beautiful experience for me, and the source of my creativity in making music and as a songwriter ... but it was also a thing that I was afraid of because I thought that I was mentally ill. So it was always something that I had a complex relationship with, and would shy away from at the same time as I would love it."
In her mid-20s she began creating guided meditations as a safe space "to explore those worlds without judgment." Through her guided meditations she came to understand her experiences as representing an interdimensional existence.
"I learned about my relationship with this place called Yialmel, and that's where most of my guided meditations journey to, and that's what this music is inspired by. I originally created it as an aid to go along with these guided meditations, to be this interdimensional journeying tool.
"Energy and matter and consciousness exist on a much more flexible gradient [on Yialmel] than they do here on Earth ... we perceive those things as being separate, as being matter and consciousness. But on Yialmel you see them as part of a gradient, and it's easy to shift between them as a being. On Yialmel everything has its own consciousness, and it's really easy to interface with those consciousnesses. You can interface with the consciousness of a plant, or a mountain, for instance.
"I don't like to get bogged down in 'is this real to me or is it not real', or 'is this a creative art project.' I like to talk about this as if it's real. It's easier," she notes.
Finding community with others who were open to these experiences, and deepening her knowledge of magick, ritual, astral travel and other ways of perceiving reality, also helped. "I still haven't really come to terms with it, but it's something I try to heal through with the art that I make. But it's something that I struggle with, the fear of being crazy and delusional. I cope with it by making art. That's what I did then, and that's what I do now."
Creating Space for Vision and Healing
Diva had her art to help her cope with the experiences, but not everyone is so fortunate. Society tends to be more flexible with artists, yet is quick to label visionary and otherworldly experiences with dismissive labels, especially as indicative of mental illness. It's a particularly western approach to the variety of spiritual experience, Diva observes.
"There's no room for it really in our culture, [whereas] there are other cultures that honor that role and honor that experience," she explains. "In United States culture, in western culture, there's no space for it. It's like 'Oh, that's wrong' because it's not seen as productive. I think that's one of the key things, the obsession with productivity and how -- just like being an artist -- these things that are seen as mentally ill in our culture, they aren't seen as being productive in a conventional sense. But if you were able to be open-minded and decent, you could see that every single experience has its own value. I know that on a very deep level, but I'm still so conditioned by growing up in this culture that I have so much self-doubt and guilt around these experiences, still."
Diva expresses her creative and visionary experiences not only through music but through healing practices as well. She's a trained and certified Reiki practitioner and incorporates flower brushing and other energy techniques in her work, but she approaches healing with a DIY creative aesthetic and prefers not to draw lines between her musical and healing practices.
"I do workshops with people and one on one healing sessions, and in my process of learning what that was going to look like there have been times when I've tried to separate the two," she continues. "I would still bring sound and music into my healing experiences, and spiritual and metaphysical things into my music a lot, but then I always kind of kept it separate. It's like as a healer, there's this level of professionalism that has to be, 'Oh this has real results', or is making your life better or something like that -- you know, having to be marketed. But I've been finding that to be limiting in how I want to do that work, so lately I've been trying to hold space for all those things to co-exist together."
Photo courtesy of Stones Throw Records
The Many Musical Sides of Diva
Diva is a person of many musical faces. She's the daughter of Kevin Haskins, well-known drummer with Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets. She was already performing in pop-punk band Blackblack as a teenager, with her sister and then-boyfriend. And she's presently a member of the super-trio cover group Poptone. That outfit -- she refers to it as her "day-job" only half-jokingly -- comprises her father Kevin Haskins, fellow Bauhaus/Tones on Tail/Love and Rockets alumni Daniel Ash, and herself, and revisits songs from the back catalogue of the older two veteran musicians.
Growing up with a post-punk superstar for a father was an interesting experience.
"It was amazing!" Diva enthuses. "A lot of my parents' friends were musicians, and they were really young when I was born, so they would just bring me with them, you know they didn't stop their lives. So I would go to shows and concerts with them all the time growing up, and festivals, so that was all exciting and beautiful to me. Seeing that at a very young age, I was very inspired by it. And so that's always been what I wanted to do."
It helped, she says, that unlike other teenagers who face parental pressure to give up their musical dreams her own father was an example of a successful musician.
"Seeing that reflected in what my father does, was like--oh, that's a legitimate career path to take," she recalls. "It's always been such a really important tool for me, especially in times when I've been feeling alienated, I've always been able to find music that I've been able to relate to, that alleviates that alienation."
While performing in Poptone is a very different experience from the experimental and ambient music she produces on her own, she loves the opportunity it provides to engage artistically with her father.
"It's been really fun playing with my dad. I've been grateful to be able to spend that kind of time with my dad. It's rare. And it's creative and special. It's very different from doing my own music because it's not my personal creative expression -- even though I relate to that music and it has a place within me; it's more the space I was in as an adolescent. I was really into punk music back then. I've kind of grown now, I make my own ambient music, so it takes a moment to get back into that frequency of punk and post-punk, but it's been healing for me. That part of me got to rise again and get expressed."
While she started off working in pop and punk, the ambient and healing expression always worked its way in.
"I used to do a ten-minute guided meditation at the beginning of my pop music performance, in these stag bars, just kind of bringing that experience into an unconventional setting like that," she recalls.
Los Angeles -- A Magical Place
Another element that works its creative influence on Diva is her hometown of Los Angeles. She was born and raised there and feels a profound sense of connection with the place.
"I think it's a magical place because it's a city that was built on making dreams a physical expression, making ideas and visions a physical expression," she continues. "That's what the industry of this city was built on -- film -- and I feel like there's so much manifestation of magical energy here. And before LA had films there's a rich culture here of the Indigenous people who lived here before, and so it probably had that energy before the film industry started being centered here, but I think that the film industry was centered here synchronous because it has that kind of energy to it, that kind of magical manifestation energy of bringing visions and dreams into matter."
Diva is also well versed in the spiritual and occult history of the area, noting its propensity for producing communes and cults and other experimental spiritual communities. But for her, much of the magic of place is rooted in the intersection between urban community and the natural world.
"The house that I grew up on is down this little-secluded dirt road -- you wouldn't be able to find it, it's very hidden. There's this huge expansive view of the whole city. It's in the mountains, the hills are all around us, it feels very rural up there, but you can see the whole city around you. There are coyotes and bobcats and raccoons ... There are all these little parts where you can go up real easily, ten minutes, into the forest, and feel like you're in the mountains, with waterfalls. It's very easy to escape into nature in the middle of the city.
"So I was able to have this kind of sanctuary space, and really expansive vista for that kind of internal daydreaming. But also this place where I have access to so much community."
Healing Powers in Dark Times
Idyllic though much of her upbringing was, things are changing, and not always for the better. Even the city she grew up to love is developing a sinister edge in some ways, she feels.
"It's getting a little difficult. I feel like all through my 20s it was easy to find a cheap place to rent that was still a cute house and had a yard, which was kind of the point of L.A., but now housing is getting more expensive, it's getting more stressful to live here. There's a housing issue; things are getting more expensive. I hope I can stay here."
While much of Diva's energies have been focused on healing practices, it often seems the world -- and the United States in particular -- is becoming a harsher and more politically polarized place. Does she have hope for Americans' ability to rise above the growing inequality and violence that mars their country?
"I don't know," she reflects modestly, but then the optimism takes hold. "I've spent a lot of my life wanting to heal the world and make the world a better place, and fixating much of my energy on that idea ... I think a lot of people need to work on themselves and healing themselves, for one thing, and I think that would help the collective. I think there's just generations and generations of trauma built up in all of us. This is a deeply traumatized and sick culture, and it's not functioning in a healthy way at all. I think it's going to take really deep healing on everyone's part.
"I'm an optimist, and I think that that's possible," she continues. "I have very utopian visions of the future, and I'd like to hold space for these visions of the future as a paradise. I think there's potential for that, and I think it's important to hold space for that. I think there are so many visions of dystopian possibilities, and I understand why, but if I'm still able to envision something really joyful and pleasurable and harmonious and beautiful, I'll try to hold on to that.
"Humanity has become so entrenched in patterns of suffering ... the best thing we can do is heal ourselves on an individual level. That's what we have the most power over. Sometimes it's frustrating because it doesn't feel like enough, but I think it's the most powerful tool that we all have.
"And keep learning. I feel like the last three or four years I have so much more awareness of racism in this country that I thought I was knowledgeable of but I wasn't at all. I think learning and becoming aware, and doing really deep healing on ancestral trauma [is important].
"We are humans, and we're part of this huge spectrum of experience and healing on Planet Earth."
Diva is excited about having had the opportunity to collaborate with some great fellow artists on the new Yialmelic Frequencies album, for which a video -- Clay -- is also being released. She'll be releasing both the new Yialmelic Frequencies album, as well as the first album (Zjumk--originally released as digital only) as a cassette compendium release.
While she would have preferred to release digitally only -- she likes the idea of minimizing physical possessions -- people "really wanted to have something to buy," she laughs. "So we made the cassettes. It's a lot more accessible financially than making a vinyl ... It's much more accessible to be putting cassettes out in a DIY way."
"No matter if I make money off it or not, it's something I have to do anyway, so I'm going to keep creating it. It would be nice to feel supported through it and feel compensated, but I wouldn't change the music to be more commercial. I don't think I even know how to do that."