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Searching for the ‘cosmogonic genius’ of Seth Faergolzia

Seth Faergolzia at Boulder Coffee.
Jeff Spevak
Seth Faergolzia at Boulder Coffee.

We allow artists and musicians to define themselves. And they’re generally pretty good at it.

A prime example is Salvador Dalí, who once suggested he is a “cosmogonic genius.” As he famously put it:

“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dalí.”

Dalí. The name that defines surrealism. A collision of madcap antics and outlandish personal style. A relentless self-promoter. A style that is singular and immediately identifiable.

Are we to draw comparisons with Seth Faergolzia? A musician whose sound seems to come to us from the third moon of Saturn. A puppeteer who makes his own clothes. A painter of pictures, sometimes in conjunction with music. A creator of Claymation videos. Composer of the musical “Fun Wearing Underwear.” Mindful of his health, confessing to be “almost vegan,” allowing for eggs and meat every couple of weeks.

How does Faergolzia survive? Especially considering he spent 1½ years squatting in an abandoned New York City building alongside like-minded artistic souls who aren’t bothered by substandard bathroom facilities.

Faergolzia muses about his art on his Facebook page:

“To me it is a direction, to drive headlong into life’s mysteries with a sureness, embracing whatever may come.”

And yet, all is not as it would seem.

Meeting Faergolzia at Boulder Coffee, not far from his home (he also owns a creatively rustic bed and breakfast named “Whenland,” in Naples), Faergolzia hardly seems a broken gyroscope of a wild man. The composer is very… composed.

“I’m an anti-social with two children,” he says quietly. “I’m a cave dweller, I don’t come out of the cave too often.”

Here’s your chance for a Faergolzia sighting: The cave door will be flung open Saturday for a show at Abilene Bar & Lounge.

What has lured him out, and into the public eye? He cobbles together an existence through touring, renting out the B&B, selling things, collecting streaming royalties and through the online artist support platform, Patreon.

And now, a flurry of what he calls “pandemic-driven housecleaning” is coming to a logical conclusion: Faergolzia has released 12 albums over the last 14 months.

“Got that done?” he says. “Next! Got that done? Next!”

With each assembly-line album, he insists, “I gave it my full attention when I was in it, and then moved on.” They’re available on downloads through his website, with CDs soon to arrive.

“I could probably milk it so much more, and do the whole social-media scene,” he says, “but that’s not really my style.

“It’s just, creation in general. It’s my religion.”

Each era of Faergolzia shows creative growth. “As like a person changes in their life, that’s how they’re different,” he says. “Your friend is still your friend, even though you’ve known them for 20 years, and they’re much different than when you met. It’s like that for me.”

The flurry of album projects sets up a tour that takes him to 10 days on the West Coast, Europe in April and May, and again in July, maybe Great Britain at the end of the year. It’s all solo touring. “I know that a band will form, eventually, again,” he says.

He’s had a few of those. Four of the albums feature live recordings by one of his old bands, Dufus, which lived for 13 years. For its last show, at a New York City club, Faergolzia crowded 30 Dufus band members onstage, including Regina Spektor, who he met while they were at Purchase College together.

“She was in Dufus for a minute,” he says, but now Spektor’s gone on to a major-label career.

This is music of multiple personalities. “Every voice is different,” Faergolzia says.

The cover for Seth Faergolzia's "Not Ants" album
The cover for Seth Faergolzia's "Not Ants" album

Dufus could be goofy. Yet, “I guess it was anarchistic,” he admits. “The song structure, talking over it, distorting the original idea, sometimes for humorous ends, unpredictable.”

Another four albums from this housecleaning are recordings — some dating back to 1997 — by his bands 23 Psaegz and Multibird.

And four of the albums are newer works, often performed solo with just a guitar, electronic samples and a looping station at Faergolzia’s feet for layering of his rubber-band vocals.

“It’s really liberating for me,” he says, “because I feel my strongest instrument is my voice.”

If early Dufus was fun, Faergolzia says he was more political after 9/11, for better or for worse. “Looking back at those days, I felt like I was preaching, telling people what I think,” he says.

“I think I was a little more against the system when I was younger,” he says. “I think I’ve just kind accepted it as it is. Not a necessary evil, just the way things are. I don’t know, it’s hard to imagine the world changing.

“I believe we can change our immediate environments, but I don’t know if you can change the general greed of this giant mass of humans.”

A recent song, “Not Ants,” doesn’t quite change that direction. Its words are anti-capitalism, anti-corruption, insisting “that people are not just ants to service the queen, or whatever.”

But in general, Faergolzia says he is now more song-oriented. Writing poetry. Songs of self-betterment. “Sail In a Cave” is one, delivered to Faergolzia in a dream. Dreams dissolve quickly. But when he woke up, he fortuitously wrote down this one, and sang the melody into his phone as well. In his dream, “Sail in a Cave” was sung by Spektor. Now, he wonders if he can maybe get her to record it.

Seth Faergolzea and Regina Spektor.
Daniel Sieradski
Seth Faergolzea and Regina Spektor.

If there is a supreme pleasure in being Salvador Dalí, there must be at least a cool buzz in being Seth Faergolzia. But no, he says, not so much anymore.

A couple of decades ago, when he was squatting in that New York City building, he signed on with ROIR, a New York City punk label, and joined a six-week European tour of like-minded freak-folk musicians.

But something wasn’t right.

“I’d be backstage, laying on a couch, get up, play my set, and lie down again, just dead,” he says. “When we were in Ireland, I took a few days off and met the rest of them again in Holland. After the fourth show, they said, ‘Dude, we’re worried about you, we think you should go to the hospital.’”

The diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, a dangerous inflammation of the large intestine. “They told me, ‘You’ve got to go home or you’re not going to live,’” Faergolzia says.

And he went home. To his mother, in Syracuse.

“That illness was probably the thing that saved my soul,” he says. “Because I was so full of myself. I was so egotistical. I would say bordering on megalomania. It was sort of like God slapping me down, and I was like, “What?’ And I am being told, ‘You think you’re that big?’”

Not anymore. A cosmogonic genius never sleeps. We peer into the cave, and these dozen albums that define Faergolzia.

And there’s always something else….

“I did put out an extra half of an album,” he says. “So it’s 12½ albums.”

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.