Pedal Flower Steve Tibbetts: Interview & CD Review of "Natural Causes." By Willi Paul, PlanetShifter.com Magazine
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Natural Causes by Steve Tibbetts
by Willi Paul
her book of tools
guitars love worn down to glass
swimming in Chandogra
soft exploding sands and purple black moon sets
hair on my neck stands up as scales
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Interview with Steve Tibbetts by Will Paul - July 4th, 2010
You have journeyed to far-away places to collaborate with other artists. Like a hero in Joseph Campbell's eyes.
Yes, I've traveled to far-away places. But it would be a stretch to find any commonality with Joseph Campbell's paradigm of "The Hero's Journey." I had always wanted to travel, and as a musician you get lots of opportunities to join travel with the creative process.
Lots of opportunities came up, and I took all of them. Any modern-day self-styled Odysseus would be a little suspect in my book, given the ease of intercontinental travel. For instance, I traveled to Mt. Kailash last year, and, while the travel was difficult, it was easy to arrange, and fairly painless to undertake. If you compare that with the trials one would undergo even 50 years ago it was a walk in the park. Easy. Not exactly a "hero's journey."
I think the real hero's journey takes place in solitary retreat
* underpreparation" might be more suitable.
Are you at peace with your human form and soul? I feel a higher stirring sometimes when I close my eyes and listen to your music.
Yes, I enjoy being in my body. I make it work out every other day. I feed it coffee and chocolate sometimes. If I play well in right field at our Wednesday night softball games I let it have a cigarette to go with the beer I am pouring into its mouth. "Playing well" means I have to have caught all the fly balls that came to right field, and gotten at least one hit when I was up to bat. That's the rule. Then everything is peaceful.
I don't know what a "soul" is, exactly. Mind? Thoughts? Memories? It's hard to pin anything down as existing as a particular essence. I don't think there is a separate, single, and permanent self or soul.
What does your innovation process require to make authentic sound?
I recorded this CD without much EQ or compression. I mixed it in a concert hall, in order to utilize natural reverb. That might qualify as "authentic."
We make our own samples. Marc and I have recorded drums, gongs, and natural sounds in our travels. The sounds are ours, like clay we dug up and fired ourselves. Is that "authentic?"
What is community? Can you describe the web of human and natural relationships that drive your art?
I don't know that relationships drive much of what I do. I had some wild years between 1985-96 that drove the insane electric guitars on "Exploded View and "The Fall of Us All." Lots of webs formed and dissolved. I wouldn't want to re-live those years, or re-live some parts of them, but the time certainly drove the music.
What is your purpose here on Earth?
I think it would be a little arrogant for anyone to say they have a "purpose" on earth. We're just animals. Mammals. Suppose your dog or cat started talking about their purpose on earth. Wouldn't you be a little surprised? Having a purpose would presuppose that someone gave you one. That's a little self-centered.
You are a shaman. This is central knowledge when I "get" Steve Tibbetts. Your view?
I am not a shaman. Shamans are trained from youth. I just wanted to be in a band like Blue Cheer. Vincebus Eruptum. Hendrix, Parker, and Coltrane might have been shamans.
I confess: I do not know what the names of your songs mean on Natural Causes. How important are song and album names in the meditation?
The titles aren't that important. But, they do have something to do with the music. You just have to search for the meanings yourself! One caveat: there's not much to find out. Better to spend that time listening to a shaman like Coltrane. "A Love Supreme."
When the band collaborates with high spirit and merges into One force, where are you physically?
Oh, probably right there, stage-right. Sweating a little.
Tell us about sonic initiation, alchemy and the metaphor - as you transmit or convey your heart message through notes, phrases and song.
I don't really understand this question.
What are the sounds from pre-history that inform your work? Do you sample Nature?
Who would know anything about sounds from pre-history? By definition, they would be unknowable. I do like folding in the sounds of chanting in such a way that they lurk just under other sonic features: cymbals, drums, and so on. It gives a sort of "voice" to the instruments. These sorts of sounds rest just under the threshold of consciousness. It's fun to play with perception in that way.
I don't actively sample nature. However, in sampling gongs and other instruments in Bali, I found that the sounds of frogs, bugs, and chickens were also recorded. I left those sounds in. It gives the samples a nice organic buzz on the top.
Are you working in sustainability?
I have an electric bike. By coincidence, I took delivery of it on September 9, 2001. It's a Bridgestone XO, outfitted with a Curry electric motor. I've put about 3000 miles on it, and ride it to my studio from April until November. The only other real nod I've made towards sustainability is being a vegetarian.
I find it difficult to take anyone's exhortation of sustainability seriously if they're eating a hot dog. A politician friend here, for instance, held a meat raffle to raise money for global warming awareness. That's similar to sending one's slaves out to do literature drops or door knocking for civil rights.
Eventually, however, in a million years, things will work out. Humans will have gone extinct, and DNA will have recombined into some new form.
The only other project I'm involved in that might warrant the moniker of "sustainability" is a retreat foundation I'm working on with a friend. If nothing else, being in retreat for a month or two takes people completely off the grid.
How do you think women's reverence for the sacred differs from men's?
I'm not sure that there is a difference. I've known batshit-crazy women and saint-like men. I do believe that having children connects one to the web of life in a visceral, down-to-earth way that men can never know.
Share a favorite myth please. What stories are critical to your spirit these days?
I like reading Jung's " Red Book." Have you seen that? Well worth a look.
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Please enjoy my first interview with Steve Tibbetts and Marc Anderson
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