As an artist, it is my goal to illuminate, enlighten and somehow show the way to a more positive, harmonious and healthy outlook on life. Ever since I was a child I have been acutely aware of music and its power and influence. As I think back to pivotal points in my life growing up, I realize that there has been a soundtrack that corresponds to every milestone that I have passed, and that certain songs have helped to shape the way I think and feel about things as it relates to my fellow human beings and society as a whole.
My earliest exposure to music was mostly in the church growing up in rural Virginia. That early gospel music is what laid the foundation for my musical background. Even as a child I felt moved and uplifted by the spiritual element of the songs that were being sung. My family moved around quite a bit as I got older and I became aware of more different types of music from listening to the radio and the records my parents had collected. In the mid- 60s, we lived in Frankfurt, Germany, and that’s where I discovered the Beatles. Like many people, I was captivated by their bright, catchy melodies and brilliant harmonies and what I would later find out was their interpretation of the blues they heard coming out of the United States at the time. It was initially the beat that captured my attention most, and that is what inspired me to want to play the drums. My older brother played the guitar, so he and I just naturally started jamming together, trying to imitate what we heard. As everyone knows, The Beatles expanded and broke new ground with their music, and changed the whole concept of what was considered possible. Many of their songs echoed the hopes and beliefs of a generation trying to make a better society than the one we were growing up in. I was one of the many that followed these pied-pipers, and subscribed to their philosophy that “all you need is love.” After moving back to the states I became more interested in listening to Soul, R&B, Blues, Jazz, Latin, and African music. It was in the mid seventies when Reggae music caught my attention, and that is when everything really clicked for me. The rhythm was riveting and mystical, and the issues that were being sung about; justice, equality, human rights, peace and love were exactly the things that resonated with me. There was also a spiritual element that brought to mind my own gospel roots, and I locked onto it and delved deeply into the foundations of the music to try and discover what was behind it and what gave it such a universal appeal. Of course, Bob Marley was emerging as the voice and conscience of a tiny country, soon to spread that message all over the world.
As I have grown into my own artistic expression, I have come to realize that not only can words influence the heart and mind, but sounds themselves. At the root of my creative endeavors has always been the sound of the drum, which captivated me from early on. It is my belief that the drum, being one of the most primal and ancient of instruments, reaches across lines of cultural, racial, religious and geographical separation to call to a common instinct that we all share, and can create a harmonious response that brings us more into alignment with the natural movements of the Universe, which I believe, is what was intended for us. It seems to me that that would be a far better state of existence than the disharmony and conflict that we see between ourselves in the human race and with our environment.
Of course I know that music is by no means a cure-all for all of civilization's ills. Our problems are deeply rooted and many faceted, exacerbated by the constant quest for wealth, power and progress. Human nature is a tangled web of desire, greed, love, hate, envy, pride, dominance, oppression, struggle, triumph, caring and apathy, light and darkness, and we are capable of the greatest of achievements, as well as the most hideous and unspeakable acts of cruelty. That being said, it's my desire to highlight and promote the positive in us - to cultivate that aspect of our existence in the young ones that are currently being molded by life experiences, and to remind the older ones who have already lived through a great deal.
I know that I am fighting an uphill battle, swimming against the current - whatever you want to call it, because a lot of what we are bombarded with today through TV, radio, internet, video games, magazines etc., seems to deal with the lower aspects of human nature; violence, sex, greed, powerlust, lawlessness and malice towards each other. This is what we (and our children) are fed on a daily basis by the media and music industry and thereby has become the most popular in our society. Yet we wonder why our children are so violent and disrespectful, and why people in general seem to be more mean and rude to each other. I know that I am not the first to try and bring these messages through music, nor will I be the last. I was heavily influenced by the music of the revolutionary sixties era, when social upheaval and the call for change was echoed in the songs we heard and artists weren't afraid to speak out and sing out about what was really going on in our world, and tried to appeal for better. Now it seems that such themes aren't quite as popular, and are even mocked and derided, especially in this "post 9/11" world we live in. Ever since that event, the idea that we "must have war" shades the mentality of a great number of people, and prejudice and intolerance is justified. Meanwhile, our own government has wallowed in corruption, abuse of power and non-accountability, while the common people, whose voice is mainly ignored, sink deeper into poverty, hopelessness and desperation.
So while all this goes on, I want to counter with my own barrage of positivity and joy, even while focused on the reality of our situation. My target audience is anyone with a pulse, because like I said, I’ve found that all kinds of people respond to this vibration. There is something in it that we all recognize on a very basic and primal level. I liken it to the sound of a running stream, birds singing in the morning, waves coming into the shore, or the joyous sound of children playing. It’s a natural and organic sound that uplifts the spirit and restores hope at a time when there seems to be precious little around. At any given show we play you’ll find people with their kids, from infants on up, teens, grandmas and grandpas, old hippies and tie-dyed newbies, both affluent and homeless folks dancing side by side - all races, all classes, all belief systems, casting aside outward differences to participate in a soul cleansing, spiritual revival that has everyone feeling like anything is possible. This is what I live for, and what we could definitely use more of; not that I think I'm the only one that can provide it; I'm just doing my small part for the cause – trying to shine a little Light.
It is my desire to leave something of worth behind when I have passed through his life. I know how music can affect and even change people’s lives. It has definitely had a profound effect on mine. Over the course of my 30 years playing music (and my 50 years on the planet), I have seen how positive vibrations and messages have touched people and moved them, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and knowing how it has made a difference in others as it has in me. I think that if you want to change the world, you have to start where you stand and radiate outward. If you can affect even one person or one thing for the better, then you’re doing good. So, if one person feels a little better about themselves or their neighbor, or wants to try and do something good in their little piece of the world or even on a wider scale because of a song they’ve heard me sing, then, to me, that’s better than any award you can hang on a wall.
Peace through music; if only we could all get it.