I grew up in London to English and German parents and came of age during the punk era, turned on by hearing “Anarchy in the UK” on pirate radio one night in a bedroom in the suburbs, and by a recording of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”, also heard in that same bedroom. I studied English literature at University College London, while writing reviews for the New Musical Express, DJing warehouse parties, and making trips to New York where I encountered the splendorous world of NYC hiphop, graffiti, Afrika Bambaataa, electro and other dance scenes.
I moved to New York in 1987, working as a freelance writer. For much of the 1990s, I was involved in AIDS activism, writing for the PWA Coalition’s journal, participating in Act Up’s Treatment and Data Committee, and working for several years at the Community Research Initiative on AIDS as an assistant to the great AIDS researcher Joseph Sonnabend. I wrote an SF novel Brain Forest, a devastating but unpublishable allegory about the AIDS crisis, and received a PhD in Comparative Literature from New York University, where I worked with anthropologist Michael Taussig, cultural theorist Andrew Ross and literary theorists Avital Ronell, Richard Sieburth and Jennifer Wicke. My dissertation, The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs, was published by Harvard UP in 2002.
My second full length book In Praise of Copying was published by Harvard University Press in October 2010.
Since moving to Toronto, I have continued to write about music and sound for The Wire, and about yoga, Buddhism and other spiritual traditions for Ascent. I was also one of the four members of the MAMA DJing crew, who ran an awesome party devoted to emerging global dancehall rhythms at Senegalese nightclub Teranga, and underground space DoubleDoubleLand in Toronto from 2009-2012.
I collaborate with my wife/partner Christie Pearson as TheWaves on immersive vibratory environments of various kinds: we created the now infamous all night swimming pool installation/party Night Swim for Toronto’s first Nuit Blanche in 2006, an all day celebration of Toronto’s forgotten histories of public bathing Fire in the Water at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion in 2012, and our first full vibratory environment at University of Tasmania School of Art in Hobart in 2015.
I was part of Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities study group on sound in 2011-12, and I am currently working on a book entitled The Politics of Vibration, which attempts to expand the philosophical bases of sound studies in the direction of practices of vibration and energetics. The book explores experimental and subcultural approaches to vibration, but I am increasingly interested in the complexity of animal and other nonhuman mobilizations of vibration, as providing models for — what could be.
In 2015, the University of Chicago published Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism, co-written with Eric Cazdyn and Timothy Morton. This is my first attempt to write about Buddhism, and to argue the importance of Buddhist philosophy and practice in contemporary philosophy and everyday life.
I am currently working on three other book projects: one a reader on the concept of practice, which I am editing with Gabriel Levine; the second a new edition of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s The Third Mind entitled The Book of Methods (which MIT will be publishing), edited with Davis Schneiderman; the third a book of conversations with mathematician/composer Catherine Christer Hennix.