The following is an interview with Bobby BeauSoleil. To some of you who are Current 93 fans, the name might ring a bell, and of course, there are those grim and splendourous years known simply as The Sixties. But, this is 1999. If you want to know more about where Bobby BeauSoleil has been in his lifetime, what he's seen, and what he's done, there are ample histories available regarding the tragedy that lead Bobby to prison in the first place. It is not my intention to discuss those things here, and there is no discussion of them in the following interview. This interview is about who Bobby BeauSoleil is TODAY, and about the music he's been making for most of his life. It's an interview full of joy, and grief, and wonder, and longing, but above all, hope. I can honestly say that I've never interviewed another human being in my life, which was more gentle, more sincere, and more full of colourful joy than Bobby BeauSoleil. His music is just as profound.
Without further ado, the interview:
Kirin: First, I had a feeling, before our interview that I wanted to find out when your birthday was, and I'm not sure if I'm a few days early, or a few days late, but Happy Birthday!
Bobby: Thank you very much! Actually, it was a few days ago. Three days ago. [Bobby's birthday is Nov.6th.]
Kirin: I'd also like to say, thank you, just for being you- for enduring all that you have endured, and continue to endure; for having the strength and courage to become a new man, not a bitter one. Your music is a testament to your spirit - the freedom you've found within, shines through as clear as the morning sun. You, and your music, are an inspiration to me.
Bobby: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
K: How is it, that in the darkness where you are, and where you have been, you are able to soar? What is it that you bring to your work that is so full of joy?
B: It's kind of hard to define, from my position. It reminds me of the idea of asking the centipede how it manages to move all of its legs in a synchronous fashion, to move forward. I imagine if the centipede were to try to think about doing what it does, that it would stumble and not be able to move forward. So, in the same way, for me to say how I do what I do, I think I would stumble; I wouldn't know how to say it, because I really don't think about it.
K: So, it's just natural in you.
B: It is natural; however, I do work at avoiding having the environment define me or my inner landscape. So, what comes out is what comes out of me, and I think possibly, to some extent, it's an answer to my environment – a survival mechanism, where I'm able, in my inner landscape, to experience and promote freedom.
K: I think one of the reasons why I appreciate you so much as an individual is that a lot of people in hard circumstances do become bitter and they seek to turn their own sorrows and regrets and pain into pain for other people. I think what I admire so much about what you're doing, is that you're transforming your experience instead of just staying at the level of darkness that surrounds you.
B: I think perhaps that some of that comes from having been in prison for so long. Certainly, earlier in my incarceration I went through periods of anger and blame and self-blame; all of those things that people in prison go through. It's an environment, by design, intended to make one feel powerless; also anger, sadness, loneliness, all those kinds of negative emotions. At some point, one has to transcend, and come to the realization that the environment, the external, does not define you. The internal is what we use to create our own reality, and we all jointly create an overall reality, mutually experienced in our individual ways. Having come to understand that, I have been able, to a large extent at least, to transform my personal experience; how I relate to my environment; how I relate to the people within my environment, so that it can become something that does not destroy me, but instead empowers me.
K: Right. And the wonderful thing is, that now it's empowering people outside of you. It is touching people outside of you.
B: That's good to know; I mean, I don't... I've never done it for that purpose, and I have been learning that that seems to be something that is happening, and I'm grateful for that. I'm glad for that. It's a good thing, if my experience in here can serve some purpose for the overall good.
K: One of my friends, who went into prison a couple of years ago, wrote to me, and I had been expressing my concern for him and missing him and, he made the comment to me that "Time on the inside is the same as time on the outside, it's all just time." It really haunted me when he said that, because I felt like he was just, in a place of so much despair, but then I began to look at it, and there have been times when I thought, perhaps it's just that those of us who are "on the outside" are simply in a bigger prison that sometimes we don't even look at, and then the other side of that, is that no matter where we are in this life, we all have the opportunity to be absolutely free. I know it's hard for you to feel how inspiring it is, that in the conditions you're in, you have found something within you that transforms, and I think that regardless of who we are in our lives, or where we are, if we're able to articulate our own transformation, that's always inspiring to people around us. And yet, because of the nature of our transformation, coming from within us, and it being so personal, it is hard to say, "Thank you for being inspired by me."
B: I would have to disagree, to some extent, with your friend. I suppose, by the clock, time does pass the same for people on the inside the same as it does for people on the outside, but the nature of this experience is such that time seems to pass more slowly in here, on a day to day basis. Although, sometimes years have gone by, and because of the sameness of it, and the lack of things that are distinctively different from one day to the next, it makes it difficult to measure time. It does seem that when I look back, years and years have just kind of flipped by. At the same time, the daily experience... an hour in a prison cell is much different than it would be for someone in, you know, a normal work-a-day living experience out on the streets. It is, I think, to respond to other parts of what you said, that we at this juncture in our journey, what we need to do is form sacred partnerships with each other, for our healing and evolution. I think that this is perhaps part of what you're saying, in reference to me, in reference to my sharing my experience with other people; I think we need to do that more, on a more conscious level. We're doing it, sometimes in spite of ourselves, but we need to become more conscious of that process, and do it actively.
K: I definitely agree. I think we focus a lot on the differences between each other, and differences in age, class, all those different things, and it's interesting that you and the life you've had, can be inspiring to me, and the life I've had, because I was laughing to myself that you actually are the exact same age as my oldest sister...
B: Really!? K: <<Laughter>> Yeah, I'm the baby of the family. And, our... lives...
B: How old are you?
K: I'm... 35.
K: So yes, it's interesting that my oldest sister, it's not that her life isn't inspiring to me, but I think that, um, there are experiences people bring to their relations that make them feel something in common; in my own life, I meet people who have experiences where they have a reference point that comes from enduring great pain or from overcoming intense challenges, and I feel like those people are my family. There are plenty of people in the world who live in a state of despair and the world feels very empty to them, but they don't try to change or learn from it. When I look at someone like yourself, who would have every right to be despairing, and to live in a state of mind where you would be saying "I give up, I don't want to be here, " you are inspiring because you choose to go forward. As sad as it is, those of us who are on the outside, who have, to a certain extent, the best of everything at our disposal, we actually... it's amazing to me that... in our society, it takes someone in your place, to remind us what true freedom is, and what it means to really be alive.
B: There's a lot to that question, if it's a question. <<Laughter>>
K: Well, <<laughter>> I don't know if it's a question either, but, will you comment on it?
B: Yes, okay. Well, there are times when I certainly feel despair and have felt despair, and when that happens, I draw strength and inspiration from those who have overcome difficulties as severe as mine or more severe. I mean, for example, seeing a person who is quadriplegic after having been a very active person, who has gone through a great deal of suffering, and has overcome it, and brought a beautiful spirit from their experience. Or a young woman with artificial legs who has become a championship runner. I find that inspirational, and I can understand what you're saying, that people on the outside, who are maybe taking physical freedom for granted, can draw inspiration from someone who has been confined and yet expresses freedom in a different way. In regards to what family is to me, I would say that there is a gradual change for me, and there has been, most of my life, a change from thinking of family as blood ties, to thinking of family as those who are actively involved in the personal evolutionary process that I'm involved in- you know, spiritually. Those are the people who I can help the most, and who can help me the most. So I feel the greater kinship with people who are actively involved in that process than I do with people who are not, who may even be blood ties. So family has gradually come to mean different things to me. My relationship with Barbara, for example, is much more a sacred partnership than one based on traditional concepts of marriage or family ties. This is what family has come to mean to me.
K: I feel the same way and, I think that I have felt, at times, ashamed of that, because there's so much in our society that tells us that blood family should be the most important thing. I mean, we have the big push for Family Values, and I think if we are able to redefine what family means, then I absolutely agree that family values are very important.
B: Yeah, I think that's really important, to redefine it, because otherwise, what we're doing is using that kind of concept, family ties and family values, as a way of separating ourselves from each other. You know, a "This is my family, and you're not" sort of mentality. What we need to do, if we're going to heal ourselves, heal our society, heal our world- we’re going to need to stop drawing those lines and those illusions of separation between us.
K: Wow, I've really taken some tangents here. <<Laughter>>
B: <<Laughter>> That's all right, I’m willing to do this for as long as you want.
K: Okay, let's see, one thing I wanted to know, is if it is fulfilling to you, to know that the music you were working on 30 years ago, is now such an influence on music today, even though, most people don't recognize you as one of the pioneers of soundscape and emotive electronic symphony.
B: Um, well, first of all, again, it's... I never consciously intended to be a pioneer, although I may be one, in terms of electronic symphony, because I was one of the early birds, and have devoted much of my life to it. I never began it with the notion of receiving recognition as one of the vanguard. As you point out, other people really don't know what I was doing back then, so I don't know how much of an influence I could have been; I can't credit myself for necessarily having played a major role in influencing that process. However, I'll say that although the instrumentation, in terms of using newer technology, is something of a difference, emotive symphonic music has been around for centuries, so really it's just the change in the tools we're using. The different modes and ways of expressing music that have changed are reflections of who we are now, as music-- all art, really, always expresses the culture and the times from which it derives. It marks our position on the path to wholeness.
K: I can appreciate the notion that you didn't start out as a pioneer; I think that's the wonderful thing of doing things that just are coming to you naturally. You end up being a pioneer. But, I think, I heard someone describe recently, electronic music as the new folk music, because people now, with home computers, are able to create and mix music at home and burn it onto CDs and make music for their friends that is, at least, the same recording quality as music that the big record companies would want to sell for much more money, so there's a certain taking back the music to a very personal level. But the thing that was amazing to me, about your music, was the difference between even... for instance, the tape I have of the film Lucifer Rising, has "Invocation of My Demon Brother" at the beginning of it, and so then, I as able to compare the work that Mick Jagger did on his soundtrack for Invocation, with the work you did for Lucifer Rising. I think both pieces are pretty amazing in their emotive qualities, but at the same time, I think that a lot of musicians working in electronica even now are not able to articulate the balance you do, of the darkness and lightness of sound.
K: There's a texture you get, in the music you make, that may come naturally to you, which is an incredible gift, but I think that's what makes your music ground-breaking in its time, and timeless now.
B: You know, I, I feel a certain need to clarify something. I understand technology… but, to compare what Mick Jagger did on one soundtrack, with what I did on another is maybe a little unfair to Mick. To begin with, he's not a synthesist. For him, it was like, "Okay, I'm gonna goof around on the synthesizer and do a movie soundtrack", he didn't really approach the instrument with any understanding of what the technology was about, whereas, I do. Although, at the same time, much of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack was not synthesizer at all. It was a lot of guitar, and so forth... Live musicians played quite a bit of that, although some of the instruments that were used were instruments that I built-- various types of keyboards and experimentations in electronic guitar. So, there is certainly a pronounced electronic sound in that, but there was relatively little synthesizer.
K: At the time though, wasn't that considered pretty daring?
B: <<Laughter>> Perhaps, though I wasn't doing it to be daring. I was just... I had a passion for using electronics in my music, as far back as the mid 60s, quite some time before the technology even existed. I had these ideas... like when the original Orkhestra was formed, (this was '65, '66); the original concept of that group was to use all electrified instruments, and it was very difficult to do because the technology didn't yet exist to do, for the most part, what I had envisioned. I come at this from a long-held abiding desire to use the technology to make it possible for a fewer number of people to create symphonic music. You know, where you could create vast textures, without having to have 150 musicians.
K: Right. It is pretty amazing.
B: Yeah, it is. So, yes, I come from that adventurous mindset.
K: It's interesting because even to this day as much technology as we have around us, there are people who consider the music that is electronically influenced or changed or filtered, really soul-less music.
B: I certainly disagree with that. However, there is a lot of soul-less electronic music in existence, because people are not creating it, they're just letting the machines do what they do, or they're playing it but not putting any passion into it. I don't care what instrument you use, if you use an old viola da gamba or something, and play passionately, the passion is going to come through. If you play an electronic instrument passionately, the passion is going to come through. If you don't put any soul in your music, there's not gonna be any soul in the music. And unfortunately there are a lot of people who are just playing at music, not really playing music, who are making program-crafted electronic music. As a result there are naturally some people who come away from the experience of listening to electronic music, with this idea that it's soul-less. It's not the instruments that are doing that-- as always, it's the musicians. So for people who may have prejudice against electronic music, it's just a matter of broadening their listening palette; they just need to listen to more of it and listen to people who are putting their hearts and souls into it. You don't have to go very far. VanGelis has been around for a long time. He puts a lot of heart in his music.
K: Absolutely. He's actually who I thought of when you said the thing about creating a symphony without having to have 150 people there. I definitely remember the first time I heard VanGelis, and my chin remained on the floor for quite some time. That is music with a LOT of heart and soul, and I completely agree with what you say, that if the person making the music is coming from a place of just, really putting their life into the music, then it's going to show, because, god knows, there's plenty of pop music out there made with no, you know, maybe electric guitars, but not electronic music, that is completely soul-less.
B: Right. And you know, I've heard electric guitar players, (and I love electric guitar,) who are technically superior to me in many many ways, who can play these incredible licks with incredible rapidity and accuracy, who play without soul, and it doesn't move me. They may be extraordinary players, but they don't have... there's no soul, or just not enough for me. My approach has always been to express and communicate emotion, so, I mean, that's just how I approach it; all music, regardless of what instrument I'm playing.
K: What artists and/or authors have had the greatest impact on you in your life? What books, music, painters, films, etc. would you recommend to young people today, who are just breaking out of the shells of their childhood and thinking, "Hm, it seems there's more to the world than I thought there was."
B: Well, I can tell you, um, about artists that have inspired me or moved me in some way, but I couldn't do that as a recommendation to young people necessarily. I find that the information that a person needs for their own personal growth and evolution, to become more aware of the world, makes itself available when it's needed. I will say that I've been inspired by just... probably everybody. I love the romantic era of paintings; I love the illustrations, paintings and illustrations from what is called the Golden Age of Illustration, from the turn of the century, and in the 20s. Arthur Rackham, um, I like Virgil Finlay's work, I like Beardsley, <<laughter>> 'bit of a cliché I guess. I love Maxfield Parrish, his use of colour is just extraordinary to me, it moves me. I also was inspired by the fact that he didn't care what people said about his use of photography- incorporating photography as part of his technique. He was criticised for that, and I think it was extremely innovative and effective. There's been a number of film makers-- it’s funny I can't think of that many right now that I can actually refer to, but I have been moved by many many films. I love some of Anger's work, in certain ways, particularly his use of colours and symbols. I like Fellini's work. I thought Fellini was doing something extraordinary with film morality play. A lot of films, as far as getting information out, and something thought provoking or emotion provoking, um, can express that in fiction, in fantasy, as readily as what is supposed to be depictions of true life.
K: Mmm hm, if not moreso.
B: If not more so, right. There's more freedom in terms of communicating ideas and concepts in fantasy, than in recreations and re-enactments. Film, I think, at its best and at its worst has a lot of the morality play in it, and there are lessons to be learned from films, in that they can reflect life. Hmm, books... at the right time in my life, about 7or 8 years ago, I found Gary Zukav's book "The Seat of the Soul" extremely inspiring and helpful, but then I was at a time in my life where it was exactly what I needed, it was exactly where I was. It wasn't something necessarily that I didn't already know, it was simply there to reflect where I was in my own process and helped me to define it. In many cases, books have done that for me. Again, I can't really say that I'm recommending this book or that to young people coming up. Like Gary Zukav's book for example, I gave it to my daughter, and while she is consciously on that evolutionary path, she's not ready for that book. New ideas and experiences find the people when they're ready for them. In that sense, I can't make recommendations, but I look to films, books, paintings and music intently, and I draw all sorts of things from them.
K: When you were talking about colour, and you being moved by colour, one of the things that stands out to me about your music, is when I listen to it, say, in headphones, with my eyes closed, it creates a lot of colour. I mean, it's really, what I think could easily be called a psychedelic experience...
B: Well, that's my intention!
K: Okay, that's what I was going to ask you, is if you, um, if that was intentional and if you feel that you... consciously make music in what I guess would be called a painterly fashion.
B: Well, I'm... I am making... movies for the mind. I'm doing it for my own mind- I mean I'm creating colours that speak to me, and putting them down in recordings, and clearly, some people are hearing what I'm putting into them, and are experiencing the feelings I'm putting into them. I'm being a visual artist as well as an aural artist. I intentionally put colour, I mean I want to hear colour in what I listen to, so I'm naturally creating these things. I'm intentionally putting colour in there, and I'm... hopefully, in the experiences people have when they listen to my music, it takes them to places where I was going when I was making the music. They are experiences for me; they are little journeys in a vast internal landscape.
K: Absolutely. That's what I hear in it, so, that was my question when I heard it. I thought, "I wonder if he feels this while he's making it... and if he... "
B: If musicians can't communicate anything in music, it's because they're not feeling. I don't think you can hear emotional content in music where the artist who created it was not putting feeling in.
K: I think sometimes it happens though, with artists who haven't had the experience behind them that you have, where they have their heart in it, and it happens somewhat accidentally, and then they have trouble recreating it.
B: Right, that is definitely true. I try to be as spontaneous as possible, but you can't, at least in my experience, force the magic to happen. I don't write... I don't compose written music. I use electronic media. In other words, I don't write by hand, I don't write a written score, but I do compose in music sequencers or multi-track tape decks, whatever. It's just a different medium. I consciously work at keeping the heart in it, and not left-braining it to death. Letting the spontaneous come in. Although I want that complexity, that symphonic complexity and the use of colours, aural colours, I try not to overwork it. I try to make sure that the initial inspired spontaneous soul isn't lost in the process.
K: Right. You let it breathe.
B: Yes, and that's important.
K: Do you read notes?
B: Yes. <<laughter>> With pain.
K: Well, you know, it's funny because I actually play piano and some other instruments, but just from... I hated music class when I was a child, and in my adult life I've continued to refuse to read notes and, it's somewhat... it takes away from the experience of your own music when you can't read notes, but yet there's also a wonderful kind of spontaneity when music just comes out from a really personal experience with the instrument, that has that... what did you say... the left brain taken out of it. So when I'm playing the piano, there's no left brain involved, it's just going into this darkness of just seeing what happens, but at the same time, I think... well, you see, for a while I was an art student and it nearly ruined the experience of painting for me because I had these people breaking down paintings that had been favourites of mine forever, and taking them apart and pointing out the pieces of what they were made of, and there was a part of my heart that was just cringing and saying, "Oh, you've ruined it!"
B: Well, you can intellectualise art to death.
K: Right! So what I think is so beautiful, is that you are able to... you have enough of a knowledge of music to have a structure, and yet, from that structure, you're able to express something that is completely spontaneous and lovely, and I think it's hard to have both, because you can overanalyse it and try to make the perfect piece and the perfect composition, but like you were saying about the guitar player, he's so technical that it doesn't sound alive anymore.
B: Exactly. And for me it's been an experience about... working to find that right... That balance. There's something to be said for the left-brain part of it too, otherwise the spontaneous can lack form and definition and lack harmony and rhythm, because it's just so out there, and so nebulous. So it's important, at least for me, to strike that balance, and to create a certain structure, within which the spontaneity can occur. I like them both. I'll define a certain framework for the painting, I'll define the size and general shape of the canvas first, and then I will paint within that framework, but spontaneously, not thinking about the preconceived notions, and put as much of my real being into it as much as possible. [part 2]
Kirin: One of the things I loved about the concept of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack was a sense of balance between the energies of male and female, dark and light, and so on. However, when I look at the world around and within me, I also see a world which is becoming increasingly androgynous- physically and spiritually, and less polarized in that regard. There is, of course, a reaction to this androgyny, which is an almost satirical polarisation of male and female traits, and religious orthodoxy. How important do you think gender ultimately is to spirituality? Do you think the goal is balance, or integration?
B: I would say that the goal is balance... and ultimately, integration. We came from one, and we return to one, so that would sort of suggest that the genders will become one, beyond the polarisation and the duality. That may be the ultimate goal. I don't know, but instinctively I feel this probably is true. Instinctively I believe we did come from one, and then there was two.
K: You know, that's a wonderful way to put it, because honestly, I had never put it, in my own mind, so simply like that, but that's a really beautiful way to put it.
B: <<Laughter>> I didn't think it was all that profound!
K: No, I mean, it's really... it's something I already know, because when you said it, I said "Oh yeah, definitely" but I guess just to put it that succinctly, I mean, people are writing books that are hundreds of thousands of pages long, just trying to say basically what you just said… and it's so simple to put it that way.
B: Yeah. But you know, mythology really teaches that. I mean, in the ancient mythologies, the lesson is there; you just have to see it. We need to develop the ability to perceive what the meanings of those mythologies are. In the physical realm of humanity's evolution, I'm not sure we will ever completely become one, in terms of gender distinction; I think that's more on a spiritual level, rather than the physical world...
K: Yes, and yet, there is a part of me that is inspired by childhood fantasy stories that always wonders, how, at some point in our evolution... how much... what happens on our spiritual levels will someday... if it will ever effect the physical realm.
B: And yes, certainly it does. I mean, we are not physical beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. (And I'm not the first one to say that.) I have to say, that in our revolution, I believe we're going to need to go through the process of balancing harmoniously the masculine and feminine aspects. That's part of the process. I mean, you can see... an interesting thing that occurs, is that the nature of our relationships as people, towards each other, particularly in regards to gender, are largely reflected by our cosmology. For example, the relationships of men and women in Islamic countries; women are less than second-class citizens- they are treated horrendously. And there is a predominant cosmology in those cultures, which reflects that. So, I think part of the process is that we need to embrace-- to see, to understand and embrace, the feminine aspect of the divine. I think that's very much a part of the process that we need to incorporate that which has been left out of many religions as part of the process in finding balance, and ultimately oneness. The Christian religion, for example, did not begin as a patriarchy... it evolved into a patriarchy... into a male power-over paradigm. The role of women in the cosmology was relegated to the role of the Virgin Mother, and only until more recently, was that even given the emphasis that it is given now, because that was not something that had served the agenda of the power structure... you know, Father Church really suppressed the feminine in the Christian cosmology. So, there was the result of… unbelievably horrible things being done to women, in a male dominated culture, and just the shabby treatment of women and wives and daughters in general. And that's not just Christian religion, but Islamic and other religions; the culture reflects the cosmology and vice versa. So I think, in answer to your question, I think that we need to evolve... and I think that the process in our evolution, a large part of the process, is to embrace the feminine aspect of the divine and understand that it is partnered to the male aspect, fully.
K: You know, the sad thing I see, is that our society right now is so out of balance that even when people embrace the feminine aspect and embrace even just the idea of feminine or female goddesses, there's a whole group of people who then want to embrace the feminine to the point where it becomes a matriarchy which negates the male gods and aspects, which then puts it completely out of balance in a whole new way.
B: Of course, and that has happened in history. There has been the converse of the patriarchy, in history, in many cultures of the world, and you know, again, what I'm speaking of is balance and harmony, and that part of that process for people who see that they are coming out of a mindset that diminishes the importance of the feminine- they are going to over amplify, to begin with, the feminine aspect. The focus will be on a sort of matriarchal vision. And, I think that's going to happen, that there is a certain amount of overshoot. But I think ultimately there will be balance... like how sloshing water in a jar swings back and forth by its own inertia for a while and then eventually settles. And I think that's going to happen. I see that process occurring, and at least from my own perception, I'm not so worried about it swinging the other way for a while; it doesn't concern me too much. I think it's just part of the process.
K: We were talking about evolution, and you had mentioned one time that you had read some Timothy Leary I think... And someone had told me that Leary had a theory that the evolution from primate form, to what we know now as human, had a lot to do with psychedelic experience. That was his theory of how we evolved from a more animalistic state to a more divine being. Do you have any opinions on... how in the 60s everyone was beginning to experiment with psychedelia, and then suddenly it was extremely illegal and use of it doesn't really happen in a guided atmosphere as a spiritual tool any more. So, as far as our evolution... are we stuck?
B: First of all, I need to qualify something, and that is to say that I've never really read much of Leary...
K: I haven't either...
B: I thought he was pretty irresponsible, actually. I mean, he played his role, and I suppose it had some value... the promotion of the psychedelic experience. But in answer to your question, I don't think we're so much in a stasis as we are in a period of assimilating that experience. I mean, it takes a bit of doing before we can go on to the next level. And it certainly won't happen because we are imbibing substances. That was needed as the instigator, as a way of opening the channels, so that we could appreciate new experiences and a new awareness and understanding... to get a peek through the door. The experiences that come by way of the substances are not truly lasting. You go on a psychedelic acid trip or mushroom trip or something, and you forget most of what you experienced. At the time it's happening, you are marveling at your new awareness, but it doesn't stick. It's still there, you know, you don't lose the memory, but it takes a while to really assimilate it into the long-term process of what we're calling evolution.
K: For me, honestly, I've never taken an acid trip by choice. I got dosed once, and it was awful, and it was something I wish I didn't remember parts of.
B: I understand.
K: But, as far as things like, your music, music and art have always affected me in the ways that I hear other people describing what acid does for them. So, I think it definitely doesn't... the acid isn't the part of it that needs to be there, but I think in my own life, there have been periods of extreme grief and things like that, that brought me to the place in my mind where I was open to really feel what's there to feel. And, I guess what frightens me is, when I look around me, people my age and younger, it just seems like everybody's caught up in what kind of clothes they're wearing and cars they're driving, and pop music, and, it seems like everybody's really focused on shallow things, and I see people growing older, and not wiser, and that's frightening for me. I don't know if that's really something NEW in the world particularly...
B: It's not. I mean, that's always been the case, and there's a tendency... I mean, it's frightening to be part of the evolutionary process, part of the vanguard in adapting in new ways, and diversifying. It is frightening. And people find safety in sameness and fashion and all those things that are really distracting, but ultimately everyone is going to become aware in the end, at some point. I don't know about multiple lifetimes or whatever, I don't know what it's going to take, but it's something that's going to happen and I try not to concern myself... I mean, I'm entrapped in a system that is stuck in those very modes that you're speaking of. I long for something different. I long to be out there with the people I love, and to get on with my life. I mean, it's really serving no purpose, in terms of ostensibly what it's supposed to be about. So, I experience what you're referring to, in a very pronounced manner. At the same time, I'm not worried that we're going to be stuck. You know, I do worry about humanity sometimes, and that we won’t adapt and diversify fast enough to avoid destroying ourselves. I can't help but feel that concern, but I think that's just part of the energy of that process; part of the impetus. It becomes vitally important to communicate, to create, to do all the things that represent this process of diversifying and adapting.
K: You said an interesting thing when you were talking about the process of healing and that we need to begin a conscious dialogue between each other that is beyond the differences we all have, be they age or class or whatever. I was pretty amazed by that, just from people I've known who are in prison or have recently gotten out of prison; talking about how... they are more focused on differences in race. They're really into just staying with their own race. They tell me, "You have to understand prison, and you have to understand what kind of world this is", and I can understand where they're coming from, but I also thought it was pretty amazing that you, where you are, in the midst of all that, are also saying something completely different, and also different from what is happening on the outside, with people collecting up guns and getting ready for a race war and things like that. It's seems like such a reactionary attitude to something I feel now, which is more of a "can we find the spark of humanity within all of us, that doesn't depend on race or sexuality or class or whatever". And of course then that makes me a bleeding heart liberal to some members of my family and so on, so... what are your comments on all that?
B: Well, you know, the power-over paradigm, which exists now, and which we are all working to come out of, thrives on fear. Its tool, its element, is fear. It becomes manifest in these ways that we come up with- these ways that we invent, to separate each other, separate ourselves from other people, separate them from us: the separateness error. We get stuck in it because we're fearful, and we have to rise above our fear. I'm not sure what necessarily makes me different in that regard, in relation to a number of my peers, who are very much caught up in that separateness, otherness, sort of mode. Except for the fact that I've been in prison for so long, and have been in situations where fear was extremely intense, and I've learned to rise above my fear, and to see my commonality with others, in terms of race, gender, class, and so forth. This whole dying dinosaur of separation, the good guys and bad guys, the us and them, all of that, in its death throes, is going to be more desperate to cling to its old self-reality. So, there is, and will continue to be, for a while at least, this desperate clutching to the old paradigm, the old thing that no longer works. We talk about the differences between feminine and masculine roles, and that is something that has come out of our history, our primitive history, where the male had to be of a certain separateness from women, who brought the children into the world, and raised the children, and their role as hearth keeper; the male's role was to overemphasize his masculinity, and be the hunter and the warrior and all of the things that have created this sort of division, this polarity, in the dual aspects of gender. That mode of separateness and overemphasized difference between genders was necessary but is no longer necessary. It's like extra trimmings that no longer serve the purposes they once did.
K: Kind of like our little toes. <<Laughter>>
B: Exactly! Our toes in general, really; I mean, at some point in our evolution we probably used them to cling to trees, but now they're just these appendages on the end of our feet, covered with shoes, so we no longer have much use for them. So, there's a lot of left over stuff, and we're trying to figure out how to get past it, and the way a lot of people deal with that, is that they feel safer if they cling to those old modes that no longer serve the evolution of the species.
K: I don't know if I can speak on a global level, but it seems like it's a painful kind of process, to be in this place, and yet, I don't know if you know much about spiders, but I have a pet tarantula, and they molt- they break their old skin and have to come completely out of it, and it seems like we're in that place. The old skin is actually broken already, but we're in that painful place of waiting to crawl out of it, and it's a hard time, but yet there's also something really beautiful at the core of it.
B: Exactly. And I think that's a perfectly good analogy, a perfectly valid analogy; we’re involved in this very painful process of sloughing off the old skin.
K: I want to talk to you a minute now about... some of the people I've shared your music with, have asked me if there is any way they can send you things, or if there's anything you need... stamps, paper, books, anything like that. I mean, is there anything in particular that you would most like people to send? B: Well, yes, people can send stamps, but, really... other things, I mean, I can only get books directly from the publisher, but if people wanted to send postcards, and just, little things to get in touch, I would like that. They could send it to the P.O. Box, to Barbara, and she will get them to me. [See below for P.O. Box information.]
K: Okay, this question is kind of a silly one, but I'll ask it anyway. If you could have your name mean something in another language, what do you wish your name to mean? For example, my name is Kirin, and I'm told that in Japan, my name is a symbol for a mythological animal, which is a giraffe with wings. I love giraffes, and the idea of a flying giraffe even better, and so... if you could have your name create an image in people's minds, what would you have that image be?
B: Well, actually my name does mean something in another language, because, in French, Beau means beautiful, and Soleil means sun, so my name means beautiful sun. But, if I could have my name create an image, I would want people to feel from my name... from me... light, and warmth.
<<At this point in the interview, Bobby has to go, and call me back. All is well, except that I forget to turn the tape recorder back on! Therefore, the interview, in its verbatim form, ends here. The following is paraphrased from what Bobby told me in that last 10 minutes or so. It's kind of nice, in a strange way, because the last word from Bobby, as far as this interview goes, is "warmth.">>
I asked him about the instruments he's been making through the years, and he said the first time he ever made an instrument was when he was very young. He laughed, and said it was made out of a crate, and a bunch of other things. The instrument he's put most of his time into, is one that, in its first inception, was called a syntar. It's an instrument that frees the synthesizer from a constrictive keyboard; to become an instrument played more like a guitar. Bobby said he'd been working on that concept for quite some time, but then, in prison, it's hard to have the time and materials to really be able to experiment with ideas and create what's in his mind's eye. He said that a few years back, he met a fellow on the outside, named Harvey Starr, who brought an instrument to market incorporating similar ideas, called a Z-tar. The instrument has continued to evolve, and some of the syntar's unique design elements have contributed to the Z-tar's continuing development. Bobby said that he has one of these instruments with him, and expressed a great deal of joy, that the instrument has finally been able to find it's way into the three-dimensional world. We discussed a little bit, the wonder of having dreams and ideas become manifest, and how fulfilling that is. My next question to him was about how often he gets to work on his music, and if any new music is in the works. He said his job in prison actually involves working with music and video every day, because he's creating training and instruction videos. He mentioned that he first started working with audio/video, at least in the prison context, in the 1970s. Some of the work, he said, seemed rather mundane at times, but he's able to be creative even within the context of doing soundtracks for information videos, so it's not all drudgery. He said that sometimes, the instruction film soundtracks actually do bloom and become full-fledged songs. He said that several of the songs on the "Running With the White Wolf" album, started as ideas at work. He also said that the Mantra album came mostly as a request, from his fellow inmates, for music that would allow them to meditate and focus their minds, even in the midst of the chaos and the noise of prison life. As far as the new music goes, he said he is indeed working on new music, and most of it is recorded, but it'll take a while to mix and master it, and get it out into the world. Things take a little longer on the inside. He said the new album will be titled "Orb." I then thanked Bobby again, for his work, and for his music, and his life, and told him that he does touch people's lives in very profound ways, and that he is not forgotten.
Once again, he expressed thanks and gratitude, for my sentiments, and for the opportunity to do the interview. About this time, I looked over at my tape recorder, and had that sick, "I've just locked my keys in the car, and I'm 200 miles from anywhere" sort of feeling. I'd forgotten to turn the tape recorder back on. Ah, the little joys and surprises that life always has in store! Bobby, of course, in his good natured and down to earth way, just laughed, and said it was not a problem. If it all was lost, we could do it over. I think that attitude, that easygoing, "it'll be okay" kind of feeling, is what I'll always remember about him. In my mind, he is, truly a beautiful sun. Just from this hour or so of being able to talk to him, he touched my life profoundly. He, and his music, will always remind me of the very things he wishes to be... I will always think of him as Light, and Warmth.
by Kirin Anderson
the green in my belly says "go"- says "the world will be okay, somehow"-
says "yes, spirit, music really can change
the world"; colour really can
change the world, but
what is it
on a steady diet
of a supreme consciousness
full of jealousy
to an idea
of a higher love-
a further place-
the buddhist ideal-
and the synthesis
fill the sad spaces
in the outback of my mind.
the world over-
as you sleep
i am thankful
for your dreaming.
i am thankful
"Without music, life would be a mistake." -Nietzsche