OnePeople Talks to Steve Roach

The interview took place in the back garden of Steve's house in Tucson, Arizona, in September of 1999.


PJ: Hello Steve. Could you start off by giving us a synopsis of the developments and experiences in your life that pushed you in the direction of your work.

SR: It is really important to know that my first instrument was a synthesizer and I came directly to making the music with one of the early Roland synths that I was able to afford at the time. Up to that point I was listening to music – listening to a lot of the early European Electronica: Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Pink Floyd; as well as the rock music that included some extended electronic passages. I was still not making music at that time, but was feeling this need to start creating, carving, painting, using my hands in a way that a sculptor or painter might approach their work, but with sound. That's how I felt myself being drawn towards making music.

So the synth, when I first discovered it, with the knobs, the patchcords, and this way of thinking, it was a way of thought, a philosophy of creating sound that went along with the actual act of doing it, of how you could conceptualize a sound and then build it from these really raw building blocks. From that point of view, it just seemed really natural to me to start making music and to start making it from an elemental perspective. If I were to start making music now without the analogue foundation, it would certainly be a different story.

It's interesting now that the analogue instruments are coming back into vogue. Even in the computer-based world you can create a virtual analogue synth. Starting twenty-something years ago with the essential beginnings of affordable portable electronic synths, that in itself had a certain large impact on the kind of music I was creating and carving. The way I was carving it out, outside of the instruments, the need to create the sound worlds, the need to create these spaces that I could extend, expand... go in like a sonic surgeon and open the little nerve endings with sound. That in itself is carrying on to this very moment, whatever technology is available. Certainly these days, it is absolutely exciting what is available to us all.


PJ: So based on that, would it be correct to assume you had no formal education?

SR: Yes. The education that I set out to give myself was something that I really could not learn by going to your typical university electronic series of courses. I tried to go that route but my nervous system, my ability to absorb information, and my impatience really didn't mesh with the institution. To learn what I was wanting to move so quickly into, I just set out on my own and did what I had to do to learn directly.


PJ: Ironically then, you set your own curriculum and developed it and now others study it?

SR: I think it's really ironic now that they study what I do in the university. Sometimes I hear there are certain classes who analyze my music. I still get choked up walking on campus. All the things it brings up in my nervous system just because I feel an aversion to getting close to the university in any shape or form.


PJ: In the early '80's recordings, Now, Traveller, Empetus, and Stormwarning, you incorporated a lot of arpeggiated counterpoint rhythms. Could you talk a little bit about your composing and recording methods?

SR: In relation to what I was just talking about, in terms of growing up learning about the rudiments of music as well as everyday electronic music with analogue synths, that offered a certain amount of limitations that were fairly infinite. There's something really beautiful and inspiring to have these boundaries around you to work within and have such an infinite number of combinations to bring out the feeling that I was going for at that time. The repetitive melodic patterns certainly had a lot to do with my early influences with the European electronic music, as well as with Phillip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley. The merging of all of these inspirations was really important to me in the early 80's. I've not lost any of the fascination for that music. Repetitive and trance-like elements in my music have continued, and it's just at a certain point I let go of the melodic aspect and went more for the percussive aspect. The tone being pitched not into a more non-pitched point of view, but using more percussion, samples, various hand drums, all creating the moray and interplay of pattern together.


PJ: Having lived in L.A. in the early 80's, I was aware of the Timeroom being based out of there. In the mid 80's the "New Age" movement flourished and there was a handful of artists who were consciously, or subconsciously, producing music for this movement. You were included in this handful of composers. Did you feel categorized by this or were you happy to at least have found a buying audience?

SR: It was a mixed blessing, absolutely. I felt that the time and the place in which this music was starting to rise up out of its obscurity was largely in part with the commercial exploits of labels like Windham Hill and some of the labels I was recording with as well. For so many years, it was absolutely obscure finding my music. The audience was certainly there, and hungry for it, but not knowing where to find it. Unfortunately at that time, if you were considered an artist in that genre – using the 'n' word as I call it, 'new age' – then a lot of times you had to face the firing squad. It's fading away now. I feel like whatever damage was done there is fading out now and the music lives on.

For years before, no one knew what to call it, and for a little while they tried to pigeonhole it into that area. Now I think people are realizing it is music on it's own terms and that's what it has always been to me. I set out to do this music 20 something years ago before any term or genre or slot in a record store existed. I just had to make the music because it was something so strong inside of me. So along the way you just sit back sometimes and say, 'Look what they've done to it this year, what are they calling it now,' Electronica or New Age or any number of different genres that will eventually be out of style. But you know if the music has real integrity and it's coming from a place that is connected deep inside, then it lives beyond all of that, if the motivations are connected directly to the source.


PJ: Your trilogy Quiet Music, which was initially released on cassette only – was this work commissioned?

SR: Yes. At the time, Structures from Silence became quickly a very popular title in that "N" word community because of the quiet nature of it and the quality to bring in a (kind of a) sanctuary-like stillness in the madness of the city. (In) Los Angeles I was sought out fairly quickly by meditation groups and some holistic communities to create some music for projects they had going. They funded, I think it was Quiet Music 1 and part of number 3. There was so much of that happening at the time, actually. I think they funded those. I ended up creating the music and they ended up never fulfilling their creative vision with what they were planning and I had the music as the result. Certainly those were drawn more from wanting to create very specific still quiet places for contemplation and doing some inner work, in a healing sort of way. 


PJ: In 1988 I went through a transformation when I first listened to your record Dreamtime Return. It opened up my ears and eyes. I would just put it on repeat. I felt this was a watershed recording, and I know the audience expanded dramatically based on the recording, and your critics received this really well. The whole story behind Dreamtime Return is a very exciting story. Could you discuss the journey to Australia and some of the experiences that influenced the overall sound of the record?

SR: Absolutely. Dreamtime Return was certainly a culmination of building up to a point where I could feel very much a connection to my own sound that I was searching out. I felt that I'd left a lot of the European influences behind at that point. I felt too, that my connections to my own land in which I'd grown up became really clear to me at that time.

I spent a lot of time Joshua Tree outside of L.A. in the desert region. I grew up in the Southern California deserts. So all of that was there for me to connect to in a deeply personal way, and of course in a spiritual way. I felt like the connections that I was making in my life with the understandings and epiphanies... it was really a critical time. I could feel this sense of expansion, like I was expanding out from beyond this awareness and this understanding from the desert which I grew up in and was inspired by. That's where the Dreamtime concept came from, first hearing the word; then seeing the film by Peter Weir, The Last Wave and hearing the first didgeridoo. That introduced me to – at least a white filmmaker's version of – certain mystical aspects of the Dreamtime and Aboriginal culture in its own obviously diluted way.

But still, it's a significant opening. Fascinated with Australia for many years, I had a friend who moved to Australia in the 60's and came back with great stories of this faraway place that sounded so fascinating, so it was always alive in me. In the mid 70's I was starting to work on preliminary pieces for Dreamtime Return, gathering different impressions, with no idea that I would be going to Australia. I really hadn't thought about it much more than just fascination about the worlds out there, that you can travel to in your imagination.

The owner of Fortuna Records sent me the book Archaeology of the Dreamtime, about the time I was starting to get deeper into the project. Probably within a month of receiving that book and reading it – which was from more of a anthropological point of view of the Australians Aboriginals in the Cape York area (of Australia) – I received a phone call from a filmmaker who was working on a film called the The Art of the Dreamtime. Using that very same book as a reference, he was going to produce a documentary for PBS. He was flying to that very small area with a film crew from a University. One thing led to another and I became the musician / composer on that expedition. They took care of everything for me so I was immediately taken in as one of the crew members and it was just an unbelievable turn of events.

Being in those remote sites... and exploring that... listening to pieces on headphones that I'd already created before landing there... one thing lead to another and that point of synchronicity was so incredible to be standing upon. Meeting David Hudson, who I went on to produce three didgeridoo records for, and who taught me to play the didg. We were really instrumental in bringing the didgeridoo sound over here. At the time there was still not even a solo didgeridoo album on compact disc, we set out our sights to do such a thing with Celestial Harmonies right here in Tucson. So it was a tremendous opening for me as an artist, as a human being, and as a person who really listens with their ear to the ground very closely. That to me was a direct relation of when you listen to your heart, then these things can happen. They continue to spiral out and happen and I feel like they are still reverberating from that point – the understanding that I came to during that time of making Dreamtime Return.


PJ: Did you have a major epiphany out there in the desert?

SR: Yes. Of course it was my first time out of the US and here I am flying for 18 hours on this plane. That in itself was going into my own personal dreamtime... feeling also incredible connections to the deserts of southern California and the desert region of Australia; feeling those things that happen inside of you as a person if you let yourself really go into that land. This was beyond the Aboriginal experience or Native American culture at that time. Feeling, being totally open to all that land as these people are when they are living close to it. I felt like I was really able to absorb a lot of information by being available and quiet. Open again as an artist, just letting all of those influences to come in, in ways difficult to describe.

Somehow I feel like at the time, my abilities with the instruments and my desire to create this feeling in the music came together at the right moment. I was able to transmit something that again seems quite awkward to put into words. So that is why Dreamtime Return has a quality, to me, that you can put in loop mode and listen to for hours on end. It just has a nourishing kind of quality, that this land also provides, the desert in that sense. It's an essential kind of quality to it that I can feel absolutely nourished in constantly. It's hard to leave sometimes.


PJ: I wanted to touch on your collaborations. You've put out over a dozen collaborations with other artists. What is the common thread that remains constant, or is there one?

SR: Yes, the thread is that there is a mutual fascination with the power of sound and with the elemental. There is a common understanding that we share of this quality of music – or the sound worlds, for lack of a better word – that we are so passionate about trying to find in ourselves, and bring out. So when I find a collaborator, in a lot of ways I think it might be, like two jazz artists that come together... they just have the understanding and feel. They don't have to spend a lot of time transmitting to one another what it is they want to say.

Basically setting out the parameters, looking at part of the landscape, and then together going to it, you find yourself in a brand new place. One you may not have found by yourself. By having that kind of interaction you're really offering a synergistic point of coming together and finding new ground to draw from. For me, collaboration is very important for growing as an artist... balancing that with the solo work.

I feel very fortunate to have found people like Vidna Obmana, my recent collaborator Vir Unis, and Patrick O'Hearn. These relationships are also very much based on we are friends. We have a lot of fun together, we can spend large amounts of time together in the studio which is all really important in bringing that quality into the music. You can feel it if it wasn't there, but there's a sense of excitement when we get it together. The fact that we're not in the same city adds a kind of excitement as well. We're sending things back and forth by mail, or talking ideas over the phone and when we finally get together we feel as if we have a certain amount of time to capture that spirit. That sort of thing is again something you can only do with a collaborator who understands the terrain you're travelling in. It's not a common thing but I feel with the few collaborations I've found, we have a really deep well to draw from and to map out some new terrain together.


PJ: Are you recording and mastering all of your works here or do you actually go to other facilities to do that work?

SR: With the types of music that I do, the kind of time that I spend creating it, and the states of consciousness that I need to be in doing it, a lot of times I'm sleeping with these sound worlds. I'll sleep in the studio with something going in loop mode all night to absorb it, and wake up immediately and respond to it and that's something I have to do right here. That's why I built the studio in such a way and built it off the grid, so to speak, as far as being out of the big city. Everything happens here. The mastering happens with Roger King who's just 5 minutes from here... basically we have our entire operation based right here in Tucson.


PJ: The record you did with Roger King was Dust to Dust.

SR: Um hmm.


PJ: Unlike a lot of your works, this follows more of a song structure and that's more Roger's impetus as a guitarist.

SR: Absolutely.


PJ: What was your role in that recording?

SR: The first two tracks, especially, came from Roger's guitar form of playing. I produced and of course, engineered the album. As you get deeper into the album, it starts moving into this impressionistic realm. You have the Ribbon Rails of Promise which again, is drawing on repetitive patterns, but it feels like you're riding the train out west.

I really had this very strong mythology about people coming out west a hundred years ago, and the kind of struggles and the kind of hardships that they had to encounter, and at the same time moving in time to this moment, feeling the same kind of restless spirit that's driving people west. There's a different set of hardships, but people are not comfortable where they're at in the East or in the Midwest. They want to go west. They have a whole family that dissolves and they come out on their own, or they come out here and their family dissolves. You can translate that back in time or forward. It just felt like a powerful metaphor. A lot of times in my ventures outside of the city I would find little ghost towns or just little places that have no names and you'd see where a family had been buried and you could see where the young child had died and then the mother, the brother and the sister, all within about 5 months. But no one would ever know that spot existed or the people. No one knows anything, it's just there in some remote spot off an old dirt road in Tucson.

I started feeling the significance of these people that came west and how many sacrifices were made for me just to be able to drive out here on paved roads, and I had a lot of visuals. A lot of these visuals I'd share with Roger while we were working on this album, and Roger was sharing them back. Roger grew up in Tucson and so the whole idea of creating a soundtrack to an imaginary film was just something that grew out of us being so connected to the land. Dust to Dust is completely about the interaction of people, and what can happen in a place that has such an extreme element that totally overrides the weather, the sun, intense storms and incredibly rugged terrain. That really separates survivors from those who cannot.


PJ: You've gone on to produce a dozen other artists. What are the qualities you look for in someone else's work before you make that decision that this is something you would like to do?

SR: It's something I feel, I just resonate with as another artist that feels they're reaching into themselves in the deepest way that they can, wanting to bring that out in a way that feels really honest to me. If it's a younger artist I really want to help pull them up to the next rung on the ladder, to get their music out, and to share, of what to look for in the business and that sort of thing, in order not to have that flame blown out so quickly and easily as it can happen today. Above all, it's just a connection to their work in a place that feels completely from an artistic and focused point. From there it takes care of itself.


PJ: You touched on something earlier about your move from from L.A. to Tucson.

SR: '89 is when we moved here. I had just reached the end of the road living in Los Angeles and felt that the things that really nourished were now calling me with a voice that was so loud that I really could not ignore it anymore. On my second trip to Australia, that's when everything was coming together, as far as moving to the deserts somewhere, finding a spot in America, in one of the deserts here. For a while I entertained briefly the notion of moving to Australia, but it was too monumental, I think with all the different relationships I had established in the United States, so I moved here with Linda (Kohanov). We set up our lives here and things were just really unfolding in a beautiful way the moment we hit the ground here. So it really felt like it was home and it was welcoming us. From that point forward, it's been a non-stop flow of creative interfacing, projects, recordings, new understandings and a lot of travelling, as well as a lot of international travelling. Everything started to come into focus once I landed here in Tucson.


PJ: Do you believe that artists have a social responsibility to their audiences or communities?

SR: That to me is a complex question. I feel that as an individual creating this music from this place that's so deep inside of myself, and that's been driven for so long, that I've created a language that speaks outside of myself. I've created a larger circle that I stand in. I feel like I'm drawing this from such a place inside but I feel like, through the feedback I get from around the world, that it's not a place I'm alone in. It's not a circle that I stand by myself in. There are a lot of other individuals that are here together as a group. It feels really reassuring to know that we're responding and hearing and inspiring each other in a way that's mutual. So for me, that adds to the creative impetus of my work; knowing that there's a larger community out there that's listening, responsive and is honest. Listening to the work that I'm doing, giving me feedback, and then I feed that back to them and create this kind of a loop.

I feel responsibility, in the sense that I have a momentum built now with my work. I want to honour that place, in a lot of ways I've earned by hard work. At the same time I've been supported through feedback and through all of the people around the world, over the years that have helped support this music's continued growth, through the simple act of buying a CD or an album, or something. So in that sense it continues the evolution of the ability, to understand things at a different level as we evolve, as I evolve as a human being over time. Mutual support is something that we can equally grow from and make a better place to live within together.

Just yesterday, in fact, I received a fantastic piece of art from a man who works with concrete . He's created his own unique style of carving with concrete. He's made his own special blend of concrete he can carve. And as he listens to my music while he moves into the space with his work. He's created a whole universe of work from that point of view. So he's sent that back to me and it was immediately such a visceral feeling, of feeling this loop happen again and I just immediately could see this interaction with my music again, feeding it back to him.

So that's something that's very tangible and it's something that's clearly alive and well in this creative community that I feel we've tapped into. We're equally nourishing each other. The influences can expand out beyond just the art world, so to speak, but into the lives of day-to-day activities and people who really can draw some nourishment from the work. One thing that I find so interesting over the years is how my music is used in situations in the hospice program. It's used quite a bit in the final stages of life, and at the same time, it's used in birthing communities where people are using Structures or Quiet Music, or these types of albums, for the first moments during a child's birth. And then on the other extreme, the last moments in someone's life; and all the things in-between. It's a rich circle. It really has that feeling of being complete, where all of the ends are touching.


PJ: Knowing that your music is so visual, have you been approached by any people to provide soundtracks for film?

SR: Occasionally they seek me out, but more occasionally they license pieces of my music. That happens fairly regularly, but to take on an entire film as a composer, that's something I'm also not really putting out, in terms of wanting to do that. The one question I do get asked a lot is how come I'm not doing scores more, and it's really a tremendous change in your career and in your lifestyle. That's not something you just go in and casually do. I think that's really for a special breed of musicians and composers, and it's not the kind of world I want to go in; the commercial side of it, having to play all of the games, the politics, the studios and that sort of thing. Having lived in L.A. for 12 years, I was very clear about closing the bridge into the castle, so to speak. And once you're in there, you know you might be saying goodbye to your own music for a long time. That's something I'm absolutely protective about, the space I need to create the worlds I need to create. It's something that would not operate under the pressure and time clocks of Hollywood. I think that's why it's best when they hear pieces that were created on my terms and they can drop it into a film. That works out just fine, so that's something I always welcome. Again, with the right film, the right concept and the right team it could be something really fantastic and you know I'm certainly waiting for that as well.


PJ: One of the things we have noticed in the last two years, is that the Internet has gone from being just a communications tool, to actually being a viable ways for people to generate income in business online. Artists can literally publish their own works and distribute that. How have some of these developments influenced you?

SR: I've been making my own music available since the beginning, essentially meaning in the early 80's. When I put out my first cassette, I was immediately interfacing with OPTION magazine. At that time, that was the main sort of monthly for underground and independent artists, radio stations and writers to gather information about what was going on. From that point forward, I've been a do-it-yourself kinda guy with putting out my music, and at the same time establishing relationships with record companies.

There's always been this tension between the record companies and myself – and artists like myself – who are not content with the old school paradigm of putting out an album every 14 months or something. There are too many discoveries and too many different worlds full of nuance to experiment and explore – and that are all justifiably worth hearing. Because you can travel in so many creative avenues. So over time, there's been this growing battle using myself as an example and the larger labels that I've worked with, and that they didn't want an album coming out too soon, this one is competing against the other one on this other label.

There's a constant interplay, a constant moving of different characters on the chess board trying to set up just the right combination where one company isn't put off by the other. All of that finally burned itself out like a fire when the Internet started to mature. In the last 2 or 3 years, web sites have become such a common point of reference now. Any artist not living in a cave has a web site, and you can access any number of other artists from his website, and the whole thing is just absolutely what it says: a worldwide interconnected latticework of information.

My web site first went up five years ago and it was created by a student at the University of Albequerque, a fan who loved the music. He called me up one day and was explaining to me what this web thing was. I had to have him explain it a few times. This was just before it was common in language, before you would see biscuit companies with web sites or any number of things.

So at this point, everybody has a web site, but the most important thing for independent artists now, is that we have the web site, which is really an updated monthly, daily, weekly journal, magazine of your own creation that you can provide the right information – or at least your own version of your own information out there as you want it to be perceived – and have it be absolutely direct. A simple conduit that's just wide-open directly between me and you. And that to me is what I've always been for with the music because I create the music and have the experience and then it just goes right to the other side and then it comes back. Immediately the feedback comes back. The e-mails that come back, the responses, all that is helping to shape the future with the interaction now.

So the idea that an independent artist, I mean certainly you have to have a body of work, and hopefully you have something to share, and then you have this energy that builds around it. For myself, having this large body of work and having that large body of work be fragmented over time, and people not being able to find it in most stores. They find something that's recent or they can't find anything older than two years. Now I can be on the same playing field with Amazon; my web site and Amazon's are absolutely the same. I mean you can go to me or you can go to them. It makes absolutely no difference.

It's an equalizer for the little guy and the corporate entity, which is exciting. You can offer something so direct and so pure, and from an artists point of view that's the foundation of it. In that way it's liberating the independent artist more than ever. I put right in my web site, 'By supporting the Artist directly, you're supporting the continuing growth of music without compromise'. Now, I've never been an artist that's had to compromise with the labels that I've worked with. They've supported me absolutely to do whatever music I had to do. I mean, they never ask for any kind of album. They're just wondering what I'm delivering next so that's something I really feel fortunate about. It's just that the frequency at which the music comes out now with the web site is something that can work really well together; where you have the Internet-release projects only. They can come out every three or four months, if that's what needs to happen, and then you have your larger profile releases that come out and end up in the retail environment and stores you normally find records in. They're there, but they're Timeroom Editions releases. Now I think that's the solution that's creating a much more healthy environment for everybody, so it's positive in that sense.


PJ: You don't tour much in the States. You do gigs here and there. Could you share with us what your plans are for these next three performances are? Do these performances include collaboration, any visuals, or what? How do you go about planning a live performance of your work?

SR: Presenting my music in a live situation is something I really love to do. At the same time, I'm selective about how it's presented and how many times a year. It is involved. It's primarily me, solo, working on stage, or in the venue that we're presenting it in. There's quite a bit of preparation for that, so in the midst of all the other recording projects, a few concerts a year, depending on how many other projects I have going. That's usually what I structure into the program. It's a nice balance.

I tend to end up doing concerts where the interest is. I would be in Atlanta, for example, if there was someone there who says, 'We really want to present you here in a situation'. They'll call me and it's that simple. I say, 'Well, I need (this much) to be there, and we can do it in (this) kind of space'. That's how I first went to Germany. A fan from Germany called and said, 'We want to bring you to Germany'. We made the plans and put a tour together. It was not an official organization that brought me over. Quite often it's people who really love the music. It's a grassroots kind of thing. I'm putting that out even more now. I'm available for smaller, even more intimate events which is really where I feel the music is better listened to, better heard. It serves the situation that much better.

The last two concerts that I presented, one was in Italy in the Spring. Fantastic space in an old stone farmhouse from the Middle Ages, converted into a concert space. It was part of their house. We could have 30 people there. Deep Listening Weekend is what they called it. Then I recently did a thing in Prescott, Arizona. But these are unique intimate gatherings and for me it's the ultimate setting to hear this music in. You can lay back and be free to go into whatever kind of space you want to go into, and that to me is what the music is all about. I think the idea of sitting in rows of chairs and being really confined, sitting very proper and listening, that has to fall away now, that has to die. That's really an old way of trying to perceive what's happening with the music, and it's not about a guy twiddling some knobs and playing some exotic instruments. It's more about creating the space that you're in and having this interaction and being able to feel free to move in the space and not be focused on some guy up in front.

If I had my choice I'd be inside a cocoon. I've often envisioned a stage presentation where I was inside of something. You would be forced not to watch. You know, people, the audiences coming in, finding the fascination, hearing this sound that is multi-layered and absolutely overwhelming at times, and very subtle down to something like the Cicadas that we hear right now. Then multi-layered rhythms, didgeridoos and thunder blasts and back down again. That sort of thing can be fascinating presented in an audience-stage scenario. Still for me, it's not the answer to the bigger question, and that's creating new venues, new forms to experience these sound worlds, and that's something I would like to see in the next 10 years. Venues and places we can present the music – 'present sound worlds' is how I continue to rephrase it because it's more than music. It's not about going to hear music now.

It's about the same feeling you might have when you live in the city, going to the park in the afternoon and you're taking in all the sensations of the park and it's something that's nourishing you more than just going to see a concert. I mean, when you go to a concert in a park, you're seeing the music being performed there, but you have the whole other side of circumstances around it. You can walk away, listen to the music far from the hill, or you can hear other sounds. I'd like to see music presented in more and more alternative venues.

As for the concerts I have upcoming in Philadelphia, this is the third year I've played there recently but I've been playing and working with WXPN-FM for 10 years now. They are probably,in the United States, the most supportive for doing concerts and putting on a regular series of electronic music that's not tied into the academic world. There you can have just a fantastic audience that listens to the drop of a pin or the roar of the didgeridoo with equal fervour and excitement. It's a perfect audience in that sense. From there, another radio show that has a very hand-selected concert series in Connecticut with another really solid group of listeners. These are the places where they've been bringing me because they love the music. They've been listening to it for years. You're playing to the converted, you might say, in that kind of situation.


PJ: In regards to the didgeridoo and some of the older ethnic instruments you use, could you discuss some of your own personal spiritual awakenings with these instruments and how they embody your work so much now?

SR: After Dreamtime Return, when I was living here in Tucson, and actually just about at this very spot, I remember having an incredible breakthrough playing the didg. Really early in the morning or something, just in a rarefied state of mind working on Origins. I felt like all of this work, all of the questions I was asking, and all of the answers that I was starting to get, musically and spiritually, in my own dreams and in my own waking moments of the in-betweens... all of those things were really starting to come together, ith Origins and Artifacts, stepping out of a smaller circle, one of "Steve's Little World" and then stepping into the collective unconscious memory bank that was there for so many years beyond my own lifetime.

So I felt like I was really tapping into that space at that moment. The didg, really the act of breathing and synchronizing and letting go – surrendering, was taking me to these places as well. The questions that I was asking myself, the work that I was doing, the musical and sonic sonorities that I was reaching for were all keys being unlocked at the same time on many different doors. There were moments that were so overwhelming and so ecstatic and so terrifying. It was paralyzing.

Linda and I were just speaking about that the other night: how quickly I forgot those states of mind that were just so overwhelming because of the questions and answers that were being asked and given all at the same time. It was not an easy place to be, it was a real initiation that I was asking for and calling up. The responsibility to hold that energy that I was given is part of that responsibility you were talking about earlier. And that to me is the real responsibility: when you really ask for that freedom, for that connection to what it is you understand as a human being. When you get that, you better know what to do with it, and how to respond to it, or it can be a real waste, or it can self-destruct in one way or another. Through that process, I've had to learn how to temper it and bring it into the work and into my everyday life. It's not just music now. It's completely a way of life that I'm talking about.

The music is another more accurate way for me to describe these places that I understand so well in the non-verbal state. So that is the aim there. That to me is why the instruments now, whether it's didgeridoo or some prehispanic flutes or clay water pots or guitar, it makes no difference. They're just all tools to map out this landscape of consciousness that I'm so obsessed with; wanting to share with and respond to, to feel the infinite connection to and with in all directions back through time, before my time and forward as well. I feel like the shadows, cast from all different shapes created by the music, extend in many different directions in ways that I'm still discovering and learning about.


PJ: Thank you Steve.



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