"walking a personal path, howling at the moon" braden j mc kenna
hoy es el cumpleaños de ana, el momento perfecto para publicar esta conversación con braden j mc kenna, una de esas personas que de no existir habría que inventarla. de nuevo volvemos a intentar descubrir a través de preguntas más personales el por qué de una música tan especial y de la importancia de un sello como inner islands. "the path we make" es el último disco de braden (aka Wyld Wyzrdz aka Coyote Dreamer aka Kaliska), recorramos ese camino con el propio braden.
trees :: i must admit that sean (ashan, gkfoes vjgoaf), stag hare, high wolf and you, are creating the most spiritual music in the outer regions of the world we are living. how is your relationship with the "real world"? ie the world in which we must work to pay bills, mortgage for a house, etc ... how do you deal with the madness floating around us?
braden :: I’m still figuring out my relationship with the "real world". I’ve done a pretty good job the past few years not worrying about money. I try to only work part time to keep my energy free for creating art and music, running the record label and exploring. but lately money and bills and stuff like that have become more real. as I get older my lack of temporal security is becoming more obvious. as for right now I’m just trying to keep a balance, doing what I need to do to survive as a human in the world today.
trees :: where did you grow up?, what was your first contact with music? what led you to create your own music?
braden :: I moved around a bit as kid, but I mostly grew up in Utah and Washington. I was born into a mormon family, my first experiences with music was singing hymns in church as a child. I started playing the guitar at age 15 and first learned to play punk rock. later, as a teenager I got really obsessed with "the glow pt. 2" and that pretty much sparked the desire to record my own records.
trees :: the microphones!!! I got quite impressed with this record too, and of course with “song islands”, specially with“I lost my wind”, have you lost your wind sometime?
braden :: Ya, I’ve lost my wind before. I think most people do from time to time.
trees :: I think you're making the most organic sound out there. do you think it’s affected the place in which you’re living?? or maybe it’s more mental than physical?
braden :: I think my art is equally affected by all of my experiences. whether it’s spending time in nature or meditation, interacting with friends and other humans, going to work, playing video games etc… my art is a reflection of my life, whatever that may consist of.
trees :: what’s your favourite place in the world?
braden :: I am learning to not have favorites, so this is a tricky question. ;-) I resonate with a lot of different places. I recently went on a backpacking trip with my father in southern Utah, the desert there has a very strong power. I’ve also been eating at a local tibetan restaurant called Shambala on a regular basis. that place has such a good vibe and the food is so tasty. but ya, I guess any place can be your favorite if you are in the moment.
trees :: how is the process in creating these mantras?, and technically how is the recording process, and what tools you use?
braden :: my process for creating music can be different from album to album. In reference to my most recent album "the path we make", I was coming out of a period of intense anxiety and emotional distress. so I was kind of in a weird space when I started recording that record. I had made very basic versions of the songs and would meditate on them for hours. the sounds of that album brought me a lot of comfort and peace, it helped ground me. as I got deeper into those sounds it became clearer to me what the album meant to me and I completed the record accordingly.
on the technical side I record music on my laptop. I’m currently using logic pro. my process generally consists of making a solid drone and few loops first, then outlining a basic structure. I then sit on that for a while to try and figure out what is going on. I improvise a lot in the recording process, making loops out of the magick moments. I use a lot of repetition in my music, so a large portion of my time is used making subtle mixing changes throughout the track and honing in on the best possible song structure. It kind of feels like sculpting or painting.
trees :: I often say that humans today have lost touch with nature, its link with the spiritual world. an idea that always comes to my mind when I hear your music. I find it the perfect soundtrack playing in the ideal world, the one i feel plenty, that my head imagines. how do you reach a sound so organic?
braden :: my process involves a great deal of electronics, so I’m glad it still has an organic feeling. when approaching a recording I try to be as honest with myself as possible, only keeping what really needs to be on the record. I want to make music that is totally open and honest, music that comes from a loving place. I want my music to feel human. I guess my intention in creating the music could lead to the organic feeling you have experienced.
trees :: the world is going through probably one of the worst moments of history, rather than the end of the world I think we are about to enter a new dimension of thought. what moves you going out of bed every morning?
braden :: I’ve gone through a lot of changes that past few years and with that have come a lot of amazing experiences as well as many challenges. despite the natural ups and downs that come with being a human there is something deep inside that wants to survive, something that is curious about what tomorrow brings. I still feel like I’m learning what it means to be a human, you know still discovering my self. I also have a very strong desire to keep creating art, so far that’s been enough to get me out of bed.
trees :: "make an island of yourself, make yourself your refuge; there is no other refuge. make your island truth, make truth your refuge, there is no other refuge." (digha nikaya, 16) this words remind me the philosophy of inner islands. am i wrong? what led you to create a music label?braden :: those words definitely dialogue what Inner Islands means to me, but I guess there is not a single specific meaning to the name of the label. Inner Islands is a reference to experiences I’ve had on Antelope Island, as well as the process of personal exploration. I also just think the name sounds cool. ;-)
I had previously ran a label called "magic goat music" for a few years. but as my life began to change, it felt like it was time for a new beginning. I wanted to start a label that had a much more focused intention, I wanted a new record label to reflect the newness of my life.
trees :: absolutely, the name sounds cool. talking about names, where wyld wyzrdz or kaliska comes from? “antelope island” I don’t know where is it but I want to live there! tell us more about this suggestive place.
braden :: Honestly there wasn’t a whole lot of thought behind the name WYLD WYZRDZ. I decided to spell it wrong and use all caps so it would look cooler when written down. I was originally going to use Coyote Dreamer for my new project name, but earlier this year another artist started releasing music under that moniker, so I decided to use Kaliska to avoid confusion. Kaliska means coyote chasing deer. The music I am making with Kaliska is intended to be the sound of survival truth. I feel the image of a coyote hunting a deer fits that pretty well.
Antelope island is an island on the Salt Lake. It’s a special place to me. I’ve had some experiences there that have shifted the way I think about myself and the world I live in. If you ever make it out to Utah I’ll take you there. ;-)
trees :: the other day I saw "encounters at the end of the world" (werner herzog). really amazing, it really struck me (beyond the antarctica's beauty) the co-incidence of extremely interesting people living there. that leads me to think about your relationship with sean conrad (ashan, gkfoes vjgoaf) or garrick biggs (stag hare), how did you meet?
braden :: I’ve seen that film, I really vibe with it. I’ve known stag hare for a while; we started to become friends about 5 years ago. we are both from Utah and our artistic and social paths eventually crossed. stag’s music was very influential in me starting to explore drone-based music in my own recordings. I’ve had a lot of meaningful experiences with stag hare as an artist and as a friend.
I met sean in the summer of 2010. he had just gone on tour with stag and ended up staying at our place in Portland. there was no getting to know you period. sean was instantly familiar. the first time we hung out stag, sean and I recorded the river spirit dragon album. I’ve only spent about three weeks in person with sean, but I consider him one of my closest friends.
trees :: do you remember the “depressed” penguin? he ran towards the unknown, surely knowing that he would die. I envy her, the determination to left the community. maybe we should dedicate one song to the adventurous penguin!
braden :: Of course I remember the “depressed” penguin. I’ll make a song for the penguin and send it to you when it’s done. ;-)
trees :: introduce us sean and tell us his favorite breakfast :)
braden :: the best way to know sean would be to spend some time with him. but if you don’t have that luxury I’d recommend paying close attention to his photos, drawings and music. he is a very sincere artist and puts a lot of himself into the gifts he creates. I don’t really know what his favorite breakfast is, but when we went on tour last summer we mostly ate cereal with warm rice milk that was left in the backseat the car.
trees :: introduce us garrick biggs and tell us his favourite way to spend a sunday morning :)
braden:: garrick is an alien house cat who spends most sunday mornings fast asleep.
trees :: ana wants to know what about looping "being here" from laraaji :D
braden :: oh no! has ana been spying on my last.fm account? I developed tinnitus over a year ago. when it first started the constant ringing in my ears caused me a lot of distress. I would lay in bed and get really freaked out, my head would begin to hurt and I wouldn't be able to sleep. I started to listen to music while going to bed to help mask the ringing in my ears. the track "being here" by Laraaji became my comfort track, I'd just play it on repeat and go to sleep.
eventually I started doing meditation to change my perception of silence. I still have the constant ringing in my ears but I am in a much better emotional place with the situation. I can now fall asleep fine while still hearing the ringing in my ears, but I'm currently living in a house with five other people and I am a light sleeper. so if people are up late and being noisy I use the laraaji track to help me drift into dream land. It's kind of like a drug to me, as soon as I hear the song my body knows it's time for bed.
trees :: musically what caught your attention lately?, what do you think about "dolphins into the future", "taped sounds"?, and what labels you recommend?
braden :: I’ve been vibing on erykah badu quite a bit lately, but she’s a usually in rotation. I’ve recently been getting back into gamelan music. I’ve also been getting into “from there to here” by sunhiilow, really into the blend of darkness and light on that album. recently I’ve discovered the band medicine. I’ve been digging their album titled “the buried life”. the guitar sounds are so warped. I’m living in the house where “seven feathers rainwater” is recording their new album; it’s sounding really good. so stoked for people to hear that when the time comes.
I’ve only heard a little bit of “dolphins into the future”, but I have been down with what I’ve heard. and honestly I know of “taped sounds”, but am not too familiar with what they do. as far as label recommendations, my buddy seth from “seven feathers” is gearing up to get “moon dial” going again. there are a handful of high quality releases that should be out within the next several months.
trees :: oh! I really love “dancers of bali – gamelan of peliatan” you should listen to it! I’ve heard hear hums “opens”and sounds bit different than the usual vibes on inner islands. How’s the way you decide to release one record? what about the near future releases?
braden :: ya, hear hums is a bit different than the classic Inner Islands sound. recently I felt it was important to expand the vibes of the island. there are a few more releases lined up that will shake up the vibe too. mainly I just want to work with open and honest people that are making music from a loving place. I like to work with people I know personally, but have recently been venturing out to releasing music from people I only know through internet communication. It’s kind of scary for me to do that, but I feel it’s important for me to branch out if Inner Islands is going to grow.
trees :: what was the last great movie you saw?, what about the last great book you read?
braden :: last night I watched “where the dead go to die”. It’s a cg film that was written, animated, and directed by jimmy screamer clauz. the film is totally fucked. super dark and crazy, the film never lets up. I was totally drained by the time the film ended. It really explores a lot of the darker aspects of humanity and the psyche. despite being into it I would have a hard time recommending the film to too many people.
I’m not the most avid reader in the world. I’m currently going through a collection of short stories by haruki murakami titled blind willow, sleeping woman. this is my first time reading the works of murakami and I’m really feeling it so far.
trees :: do you feel a strong affinity for any animals? and trees?
braden :: my spirit animal is the coyote, which can be a tricky thing. ;-) I really love cats and make it a point to chill with every cat I come across. I also resonate strongly with deer, antelope and horses. I’m a fan of trees. when I was going through some pretty bad anxiety over a year ago while I was living in Portland I’d go on walks down to the willamette river and put my forehead on the trees. It was good medicine, in a matter of moments I’d begin to feel grounded and normal.
trees :: trees are friends :) I have no more questions, I only want to tell you one thing. thanks for existing, “from a stone” is probably one of my 5 favourite records ever.
braden :: oh gee, thanks. I’m really glad you are resonating with that release. “from a stone” is very special to me. I really feel like trish’s vocals on the album took it to another level. before I go I’d like to thank you for the wonderful questions. I’d also like to give a shout out to my dear friend andrew alba. he is an amazing visual artist. his work can be found at stones in a river and moonfaced.
no sé a vosotros pero a mi braden me devuelve la fé en el ser humano. felicidades braden y felicidades ana!!