It's no news that Pharmakon has become one of the most established names around when it comes to boundary-breaking experimental music.

Using noise as a form of expression, Margaret Chardiet perceives Pharmakon as a vessel to convey her mind and soul in their rawest and purest forms. With the project now reaching its 10th anniversary, her third album Contact explores the moments where the mind can transcend the body. For it, she studied trance states and translated them into her live performance.

With her upcoming European tour and album release imminent, we had a chat with Margaret over Skype so that we could dig deeper into meanings, discuss potential political subtexts and have philosophical readings on what it means to be human.


I want to start by telling you that I really enjoyed Contact. It shows growth, dimension and a willingness to transcend without repeating yourself. I was able to see your show back in January at Berghain in Berlin, all this before hearing the new album. It was a good first impression.

That show was the first time I ever played any of the new material live. There were some technical difficulties at the beginning. It was a faulty pedal, and the jack was messed up, so it kept cutting the loop. That's definitely not how you want to start a set... especially at Berghain.

Contact left me in a state of anxiety, which I consider to be good. There's a strong dimension to it and a feeling of claustrophobia, which relates to the concept of the album. So my first question is, what's your source of creative power? Meaning, what makes you create the world you call Pharmakon?

I don't really know where it comes from, but I always have this sort of knowing, burning feeling in the pit of my stomach and also just constant existential questions that feel so urgent and that I know they can't be answered.

Do you try to transpose them like your intuition tells you to and they just come out in their rawest form?

It's very much about being human and this sentient being in the world. You know that you will never understand it and you try to make sense of the experience. This is the kind of thing that gives me insomnia and keeps me awake at night. Pharmakon is in the back of my mind at all times, even when I'm having a normal day, hanging out with friends, family or going on about mundane things. It's always threatening to overtake me. What I assume is a universal human experience, and some people are in those moments of clarity more often than others. For me, it's this constant nagging inside my head.

Abandon, Bestial Burden and Contact are heavy albums with philosophical background. Did you use any bibliographical references to study the concept or the impressions you have from trance-like states, or were they all based and collected throughout your live performances?

What ended up happening was discussing it with friends and talking about these concepts and ideas. By writing these lyrics, people ended up recommending books. The inspiration came from inside my head and ended up attracting later on these amazing references.

Can you name one or two?

I love Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian writer. I definitely recommend his collection of short stories. It's called Labyrinths and they are more about metaphysical metrical realism. I read them before any of the new record was written, and one of my good friends recommended me John Gray's Straw Dogs, which really struck me. I didn't start reading it until we were in the studio recording and pretty much lays out exactly the same ideas that I was trying to express and explore, basically imagining a reality that is not human-centric. It's very easy to read and it's written for the laymen and doesn't come across as a philosophical text.

Contact is coming out on a period of serious political questioning, even leading to an overanalysis of who we humans are as individuals, and as groups or nations. Considering that the personal is political, can we say it's also a record with a political subtext?

I think it would be hard not to read it in that way with what is going on. However, I'm not interested in capitalizing on the terrible situation the world is going through right now. When I wrote this record and wrote the lyrics, everything was already brewing for a long time. Let me say it this way: It's about human nature and the human condition which plays into politics and becomes the driving force for what ends up happening. People's paranoias, their fears and willingness to grab power by any means possible has a lot to do with these larger existential questions. I didn't mean for it to be a political record but I do think it is strangely relevant and it would be hard not to look through that lens. It's also so overwhelming and pervasive.

So it's a sideline but not the core topic. We can read the political subtext but it's very much hidden under the main message. In a way, these topics are related but it's all about how a person perceives and reads it.

It's a fair reading because they are related.

Noise is your form of expression. By it being a less approachable genre, especially when exposed to a considered mainstream culture, can it be perceived as a confrontational musical statement/political protest like punk was?

I think people have a funny definition of the word "confrontational". The first thing people think of is some kind of machismo posturing. To me, confrontational is pulling the wool from over people's eyes and confronting is about facing these parts of ourselves that we often deny. There are very important things about ourselves that we need to think about. Confrontation is not a negative thing, it's very healthy and positive.

Pharmakon's live shows can trigger a wide spectrum of opinions. It's definitely an individual experience that varies from person to person. Do you adjust your work through feedback or is the final outcome as pure it can be, and therefore exclusively from your own point of view?

It's a solo project and I'm not making pop music. I'm not even making music, I'm making noise. It's experimental and it's a project, not a band. So it's a vehicle for ideas and I think I take in consideration the sort of critique and opinions of close friends and artists I respect. But ultimately, it's my own decision.

Reading your three albums in a row where they all underline and explore the human condition, and now releasing the third one on the 10th anniversary of your project - do you feel this is a closure point?

Probably not, to be honest. I don't think I'll ever be satisfied and it's not something you can just turn off. There's a reason for having this project for 10 years and I stuck with it. I still have questions and ideas.

In a way, Pharmakon can be a never-ending story and there's always questions that need an answer. There's always other branches that can be explored and analyzed. What was your conductive line when you wrote your artist statement/manifesto?

Lyrics come from these huge several paragraph chunks of prose that I sometimes write. They are often refined down into lyrics. I like that you're referring to the text as a manifesto!

That's how I saw it and interpreted it.

It definitely is! It's an artist statement and it's something that I wrote when I was fleshing out what this record was going to be about. Some of the lyrics are offshoots from it and some others appear on the record. That text is in conversation with the lyrics to form the whole idea. It's a declaration about those ideas but written in a poetic way. If you overanalyze and break down things like lyrics or a manifesto, you lose most of the meaning if you interpret them separately. It's best understood by listening to the record, by going to the show, reading the lyrics or looking at the artwork, not through interviews or dissection. That is important to me and this statement had to be included in its entirety for promos, not paraphrased or cut apart.

Would it lose its soul and integrity?

Exactly. You read a lot of, bios and they are all focused on selling and I didn't want to have something to convince people to buy the record. I wanted it to have its own life and that if someone would listen to the record, those ideas would be out there.

So it's more about creating interest and not about making money, but actually getting your point across in order to make a difference.

Yes. If you have a platform, you have to reconcile with how you use it in a positive way.

You definitely have a big platform for it. Contact is a good example and it's also a strong expression of your direction, ideas and also a piece that exists and is open for interpretation. It should make you feel, perceive and question.

Right! The idea is that hopefully it will become a conversation because it has an open ending. It's not me saying "I know everything and here's how it is." It's always about this open-ended conversation.

Exactly. I wondered if there was any closure, but in a way you don't feel like it does. Pharmakon is a project that always leaves loose ends for continuity.

If you look at truth or any possible reality, it exists as a spectrum. If you explore one end and you understand it as truth, you have to explore the other end. Human nature is dual and the interest in duality keeps it open ended.

Contact is out today via Sacred Bones. We recommend checking it out.