When you enter the studio to lay down tracks what state of mind are
you in that allows your inner creativity to flow out and then into
the recordings that you make?
BM: Well Ideally I like to be
very much in touch with my inner world, and be in a positive psychic
and emotional space. Typically I have one or more ideas really
calling or sometimes screaming to get out. In my case this often will
be a percussion rhythm or groove that I'm hearing in both my head and
body. More often than not, I have a clear idea or feel for what I
want it to sound like. I can be inspired by a wide variety of common
experiences like listening to other artists' music, watching a movie
(I'm really a fan of film music), walking our dogs, and I sometimes
get ideas from working with my clients or just talking with a friend.
Many times creative inspiration comes in my dreams and from various
types of inner work like shamanic journeying, meditation, breathwork,
etc. However, sometimes I don't have anything specific that I want to
work on and I'll just go in the studio, turn on the equipment and
start playing around with some of the gear or software. I can be
inspired by a certain sound that I've stumbled on to, or by
experimenting with a new piece of audio gear.
Other times, I will just practice on the drum set
or other drums and percussion, playing along with some favorite CDs
which typically would be some rock & roll and/or world music,
something that will give me a workout and also has a good, solid
pocket. Occasionally I will play some new groove or pattern that I
like and will then begin experimenting with it and developing it
further, or during the practice session something will just come
through and I'll begin recording some of it. Other times I will have
an entire concept of something I want to create which will also
include ideas for synth, voice, didge, or whatever. Although I don't
play all the instruments, I can hear everything in my head and even
feel it in my body. I attempt to somehow translate and covey this
into the recording and production process. Also, when I'm recording
and mixing, I often have spontaneous images or visions of rituals or
ceremonies where people, or myself, are journeying at very deep
levels. When this happens I'm pretty confident that I've created
something worthwhile and it is meeting one of the foundational
objectives of my music, which is to help people have some kind of
For me, one of the most important things is not
to get too attached to how something should turn out. I really try to
be open to how and where the tracking and the overall process wants
to go. I attempt to treat it as a living, breathing, entity which
possesses its own organic unfolding that I may or may not be fully
aware of. Its not uncommon for a track, composition, or an entire
project to turn out radically different than I initially envisioned
it. This was the case for Helpers, Guides & Allies,
and for The Serpent's Lair project as well. So its
really a process of surrendering to what's wanting to come through at
a deeper level. To the degree that I can approach the process with
this quality of consciousness, things usually turn out well, even if
I end up not using it on a finished project. I will have experienced
some degree of personal growth and for me, that's the bottom line.
How is this process or mindset different when you are recording in
collaboration with another artist like your effort with Steve Roach
that produced The Serpent's Lair?
BM: Beyond the obvious
logistical considerations like scheduling time to get together, I
don't approach the mindset issue much differently. Of course, there
are the added dynamics and nuances of interaction with another artist
which present both personal and professional challenges and
opportunities that one needs to be conscious of. I think my
background as a studio musician, band leader, clinical supervisor,
and psychologist, combined with the extensive shamanic work I've
done, really helps me in this regard. Fortunately my communication
skills are quite good and I can tune-in to what other people may be
feeling and sensing. When necessary, I can easily defer to a
collaborator's creative direction, desires or needs, and assume a
more supportive role.
This is quite natural for a drummer, or at least
should be in my opinion. And for the most part, if things get a bit
charged or tense, which inevitably they do at some point, I don't
take things too personally and just try to roll with and navigate the
process with an attitude of trust and respect. I think some degree of
tension and friction is a good thing and a necessary ingredient that
can help people in relationship to push the edges of their comfort
zone and to stretch and grow. As long as this process is
navigated consciously and with mutual respect, the archetype of
synergism is invoked and collaborating artists have a great
opportunity to break through into new levels of creative expression.
Why is it that artists are drawn to other artists to do
collaborations with? Do you see within that other artist's music
something that expresses some of your deep feelings?
BM: In terms of the latter
question, for me this is absolutely the case. To use Steve Roach
for example, I've been a fan of his for many years. His music has the
ability to take me to some very different and sometimes strange and
challenging spaces within myself. This very often results in my
opening to new creative ideas and directions. I think this is
probably true for most artists and musicians because if you really
like someone else's work, you will naturally gravitate in that
direction at some level, even if its unconscious. When I get a chance
to work with another artist that I admire, as was the case with
Steve, I will most certainly grow and expand not only in my musical
expression, but I am also enriched in terms of my soul's path and the
overall sense of who I am.
And as I just mentioned, the synergistic effect
of working with others almost always will bring something exciting
and new to the musical experience. Just yesterday a friend of mine,
who lives out of state, was here for an overnight visit and he
happens to be an excellent percussionist and all around fine
musician. We started jamming with some frame drum rhythms and within
a couple of minutes we had some very cool grooves and patterns
happening. We were creating something that neither of us could do by
ourselves and both of us immediately knew that we wanted to do some
sort of collaboration in the near future.
Tell me about performing live and how your mindset changes from
working alone in a studio to standing on stage in front of an
audience and even interacting with other performers?
BM: Most artists will say
that studio recording and live performance are in most ways,
radically different experiences. I've done a lot of both and this is
certainly true for me.
In live performing, I'm want to be very much in
touch with the audience and the energy in the concert hall or
whatever the venue may be. I'm less concerned about whether I'm
playing "perfectly" in terms of locking in a tempo
or making some small mistake which might result in another take or
overdub in the studio. In performing live, I'm mostly wanting to
tune-in to the energy of the other players and the audience and try
and support and inspire the overall experience. There's a kind of
emotional freedom in live performing that I've personally rarely
experienced in the studio. When all the other performers are really
engaged with one another, it can be completely mind blowing for me.
Its exciting, fun, ecstatic, sensual, and powerful .....I've
experienced the most incredible highs during a really good live
performance. I think that this is what most performing musicians live for!
I've never been a solo performer and I've never
performed live by myself so I don't really know what that experience
is like. During the past few years, except for the workshops and
healing ceremonies I've been involved in, I've done very little live
performing at all. And in the ceremonial context I don't consider my
playing to be a "performance" per se. I spent almost
21 years performing live and at this particular stage of my life and
musical career, I'm not really interested in it unless its something
unusual or really different than anything I've done before.
For the most part I prefer being in the studio
alone if I'm working on my own music. The solo studio environment
offers obvious opportunities for absolute free experimentation that
wouldn't be available if others were present or some other external
factor was involved. Of course, on occasion I really enjoy working
with others in the studio as would be the case with my drummer friend
I just mentioned. And this is obviously the case when I'm serving in
a producer/engineer role. But when it comes to carving out the final
mixes, I really like closing myself off in the studio until I¹m
ready to have others offer feedback and comments on the result.
Do you think ambient music has more reach today than it did just 10
years ago? Is it that the population is just aging into this genre of
music or is there something else that drives ambient music to draw in
BM: Yes I definitely think
ambient music has more reach today, as well as world music and other
more esoteric and previously obscure types of music. I'm convinced
that a major factor in this is the proliferation of the internet and
especially sites like mp3.com. Artists are getting exposure for their
music that would have been impossible even 3 years ago. With
broadband technology now becoming more available, more and more
people will be able to explore and indulge their musical curiosity on
these sites which obviously will result in more exposure across the board.
In terms of the second part of your question, I
think now that the baby boom generation has entered middle age,
and this is a huge population, for many there is a natural tendency
at this stage of life to gravitate to the types of music that support
psychospiritual introspection and inquiry. In general, the ambient
music genre' fits this category better than any other. Remember also
that the boomers were a major part of the 60's and many of them began
their adult lives embracing spirituality, freedom, inner exploration
and so on, so its not surprising that ambient music has grown in
popularity much in part due to this particular demographic group.
Additionally, there's recently been a very strong renewed interest in
legitimate psychedelic research and therapy as well as experiential
shamanism which utilizes psychoactive plant medicines. In light of my
previous comments, to me this is not surprising. Some of the
researchers are colleagues of mine so I'm aware that ambient music is
a foundational component in much of this kind of work.
What do you see as ambient music's greatest strength right now and
what is its greatest weakness?
BM: My initial response is
that the answer to both of these questions is very much related to
technology and this clearly isn't confined to just ambient music.
Recent innovations in digital recording technology has made it
possible for anyone with even a modest budget to purchase gear
capable of producing extremely professional sounding recordings. For
those artists possessing both the musical talent and recording skills
and who have something fresh and original to offer, this is a
wonderful thing. They not only can produce really good recordings,
but as I just mentioned, the internet gives them an opportunity to
get their music heard. On the down side, this same set of
circumstances is also responsible, for the internet market at least,
to get saturated with some really poor quality stuff. A quick surf
through mp3.com certainly will confirm my point here.
Another weakness has to do with the small amount
of viable record labels that are interested in ambient music. Even
though interest has grown in the genre over the years, its extremely
difficult for a label to make it in today's market if they're not
selling an incredible amount of product. This same problem affects
jazz and classical music as well. Incredibly talented artists are
sometimes forgotten or never get to be heard as a result, and I feel
strongly that as a society, we all are cut off from part of our
collective soul in the bargain.
And.....I think that the term "ambient"
is really confusing to many people. Hell sometimes I wonder what it
really is! ;-)
You've just had a new CD released not too long ago, Not Without Risk.
I'd like to know where the title came from and what meaning
does it hold for you?
BM: The title is fundamental
to my life philosophy and beliefs. As I state in the CD's liner
notes: "Any worthwhile endeavor is not without risk."
My music is designed to support, encourage, and occasionally drive
people into areas of the self that are often very challenging and
difficult to confront. If psychological and/or spiritual work is to
be truly effective and facilitate real change and transformation,
then we must be willing to risk letting go of the
familiar.....surrendering to the unknown. This needs to be much more
than a lofty "new age" mental construct and requires a deep
and personal experience with something more essential and greater
than we think we are. Sometimes a person can get into very difficult
processes during the journey and there really is no absolute
guarantee that one will navigate the experience successfully. True
shamanic initiation is incredibly difficult and one primary objective
involves confronting death, at least at the psychospiritual level.
Ask anyone who's ever participated in an ayahuasca ceremony and they
will probably tell you that it felt like they might
"literally" die. What happens of course is an "ego death"
or more accurately this is a psychospiritual death-rebirth experience.
We live in a society that is, for the most part,
extremely unwilling to take responsibility for almost anything that
might be considered negative. We want guarantees that if something
goes wrong, we will be compensated in some way, usually involving
some form of law suit. In my view this has resulted in cultivating a
society of "victims." Archetypal psychologist James
Hilman refers to this as our insistence on living in an "air
bag society." This is obviously completely naive and
unrealistic and only insures that we as a culture remain
psychologically and spiritually immature and cut off from our
essence. Living fully and to our maximum potential as human beings
requires great sacrifice and courage, and to choose this path is not
When you first conceive of a project like this what are some of your
first steps on the road to making it a reality?
BM: For my own projects, I
usually start by just working on various compositions and ideas and
see where the process takes me. As I mentioned before, sometimes I
have a general sense of where I want to go with it, but more often
than not, it has its own unfolding and will end up quite differently.
For example, three of the tracks on Not Without Risk
were originally slated for The Serpent's Lair project.
Prior to TSL, Steve had agreed to produce my solo follow-up to my
first CD Helpers, Guides & Allies, and I had
already recorded some basic drum and percussion tracks for that.
After Steve and I began playing a bit together, he suggested that we
do a full collaboration. Of course I was honored and very excited
about this opportunity and shelved my solo project until TSL was
completed. Steve initially wanted to use about 3 or 4 of the
drum/percussion tracks I had already recorded and I began working on
a few more. We originally had a different working title than The
Serpent's Lair and as the project developed, morphed, and
revealed itself over the course of about a year, we both saw that the
3 original tracks I'm referring to no longer "fit"
what TSL had evolved into and we decided not to use them. I actually
was really happy about this because I then could use them in a solo
project as I'd originally planned. So again, I just start
experimenting, trying to create something new or something that
begins inspiring a specific direction or attitude and attempt to
cooperate with and surrender to where the spirits are guiding me.