Sometimes our readers contact us and propose to make interview with their favorite artists. This is one of this type of stories. We thank Ilya for his help in preparation of this material. This interview was made by Ilya Surmay on 18 of January 2018.
The Kalpataru Tree sound is sculpted with a sacred intention of healing through inspiring imagination. Distilled from the souls peak experiences into sonic form, etheric realms unfold riding along a dub backbone. Music in devotion to the mystery. A prayer of sound in resonance with dream like unfoldings of this present reality unfolding.
When and how did you start making music?
I started making music when I was 11 years old. I was fortunate to have access to a keyboard, guitar, microphone, and 4 track recorder because I had older brothers in the house who fooled around with music and encouraged me to give it a try. There was also a piano in the house, and interestingly, my older brother and younger brother both took piano lessons, but I didn’t take lessons. I just improvised.
I also had a computer in the house, and one of my older brothers turned me on to Nine Inch Nails, and said to me “this guy makes music on a computer”. I was intrigued and searched around for how to make music on a computer. I discovered “tracking” programs, and used a “tracking” program that ran in MSDOS called “FastTracker 2”. I believe this was before the “internet”, and I was going online using a modem and BBS systems, and finding “tracks” written by people over in Europe. Nobody seemed to be doing it in the USA.
Is there a story behind the name ‘Kalpataru Tree’?’
Yes. Kalpataru means “wish fulfilling tree” in hindu mythology and it is a parable about the nature of desire and the unsatisfactoriness of chasing desire as a means to fulfillment. I was listening to a spiritual teaching once, and when I heard this parable, it really stuck with me in a big way. It’s kind of a long story, anyone can google it if they want, but the way I interpret it is that “enlightenment” comes from realizing that fulfillment of desires just leads to new desires for infinity and the only way out is to realize that desires do not lead to fulfillment. This is realized because when you sit underneath the Kalpataru Tree, everything you think manifests as reality, it is literally a “wish fulfilling tree”.
I feel like each of our lives is a “Kalpataru Tree”, and that this tree represents the Chakras and our spiritual evolution or development. I think that our lives and the free will associated with having a human life, allows us to generate as many experiences as we want and chase as many desires as we want, and the ultimate lesson that we may or may not receive is that the fulfillment of these desires will not make us happy, or free, or enlightened.
The cool thing about the Kalpataru Tree is, there’s no “right or wrong” or “good and bad” about having desires and fulfilling them, but the parable does impart a message of a certain kind of danger involved if one does not wake up to the fact that they are sitting under a Kalpataru Tree generating experiences. For instance, at one part of the story, someone sitting under the tree thinks of a demon and then a demon appears. Because he doesn’t realize he created the demon, the demon seems real, scary, and frightening… And it eats him. So, I guess it’s pretty important to realize the mind is creating our life experience.
Could you describe your music making process and equipment that you are using?
My music making process is loop based and multitrack based. I use Ableton live as a DAW. It’s been working great. I used to rewire Reason with Ableton, but eventually I ditched Reason. I’ve refined the process as simple as I can get it. I used to think “more is better” but now I think “less is more”. In today’s world with an infinity of plugins, it’s very important to find what works for you and ditch the rest. It’s very tempting to think that some plugins are going to give you “awesome sounds” which will up your production. I don’t think so.
Right now I use Ableton with a few plugins. Omnisphere (synth), Battery (drum programming), Fabfilter (texture), Nexus (for driving, arpeggiated sequences). I must be forgetting something? I suppose not, because over 50 percent of my music is organic bass and guitar riffs driven through a hardware effects unit. Another reason why I am promoting minimalism right now is: every piece of software you get is another thing you have to learn how to use.
Some of these plug ins are deep. You would be surprised what you can get by diving deep with one plug in instead of wandering away to the next one in search of that “awesome sound”. The same goes with this overpriced hardware effects unit I got called the “Helix”. Sure, it’s true, it can do everything. But I can’t let that distract me. Actually, I prefer to find maybe a half a dozen to a dozen effect chains and tones and stick with those… Otherwise, i’m not making music. I’m getting a headache sifting through an infinity of sound all day. I hate that shit. That’s the thing about there being an infinity of sound available to us. You can get lost, quick. It’s kind of like the internet…. You have access to everything and its overwhelming, there’s no way we can process all that information. We’ve got to focus if were going to create something.
Today, we would like to share with you interview with Kalpataru Tree.
How do you play live?
Ahh… The computer musician’s “live set”. What an embarrassing topic, why did you have to bring this up? Well, here’s the thing: if I was making a living at this music thing -> I could prepare for some epic live sets… It’s totally possible. Honestly though, I’m lazy, and usually too busy to properly prepare properly for a live set. The good news is, I don’t do what the majority of “live acts” out there do, and that is “press play”, dance on stage, and tweak a knob from time to time that will filter the sound a little bit during a transition point.
I think I do the second or third most laziest thing, and that is, to render my tracks as “stems” so that I can remove various parts of the instrumentation and then play new instrumentation over those parts. I also try to find percussionists, and singers, maybe even guest musicians too. Then it all starts to feel pretty live and exciting. It still ends up sounding pretty close to the original track though….And it’s not as live and spontaneous as I would like it to be.
I do this other thing “live music for yoga classes” where I truly, in the moment, compose an evolving track. It ends up sounding pretty epic. The only thing is, I need a variety of instruments to create the magic – and if i’m playing a “live set” somewhere it usually means I have to travel by airplane to get there. That’s why I do the live yoga thing only if its local or i’m travelling by car.
I want to use this “live looping” completely in the moment method of “playing live” but a few obstacles are (1) im lazy and/or am not being paid the financial resources required to deliver such a performance. (2) the equipment issue: I suppose a venue could give me a bass guitar, guitar, and midi controller on site, but usually the event producers aren’t equipped to do this, if they can pull it off, they have to hit up their friends for access to these things – and usually musicians are pretty stingy with “lending” their gear to venues, which are usually late night venues with chaotic energy where things could easily get lost, stolen, or broken. I suppose for most musicians… It boils down to money and the impracticality of lugging around a bunch of equipment. A lot of the successful acts out there are really excited that they can play huge venues and get paid and all they really need to do is bring their laptop and a midi controller on the airplane.
How much time did it take to create your first album?
My first album as Kalpataru Tree was created in about a year. I was attending a school in San Francisco called “Globe institute” which is a recording production / sound healing school. It was super inspiring. We learned about mystical principles of sound, practical principles of sound, cymatics, sound healing, and music production techniques. I was on fire. I then proceeded to move to the woods of southern oregon and go into a musical trance. A year later, I had all these nature /mysticism inspired psy-dub dreams recorded into audio form.
You had a long break in making music since 2012, how does it feel to release something new after such a break?
It feels great. It’s the best thing I could have done. Attaching your identity to music or art scenes of any kind is exhausting. It’s a highly competitive, ego based, hierarchical world of “are you good enough?” which is stressful on a sensitive ego with a stronger desire to “create magic” than to “be somebody important or special”. Also, I got to a point where I had to admit how real financial stress is. In your 20’s it’s fine, you can live in your cousins basement and travel around in a beater car, never have more than 300 dollars to your name, whatever.
But in my 30’s this type of living began to take its toll, and I didn’t feel comfortable consistently borrowing, begging, scraping, “doing without”. I took a look at my attachments and needs for financial and social capital in regards to “recognition and compensation for my musical contributions”, and it just wasn’t making sense. Around the same time, a computer musician I had looked up to for quite sometime, Bluetech, was expressing his struggle in making ends meet financially, and this was someone with a much wider reputation than I, someone constantly gigging, etc. and a huge anxiety bomb went off in me I realized even if I did “succeed” in this world, I would still be struggling financially, and I don’t even have the desire to get on a plane and tax my nervous system sleeping weird schedules and being in intense environments, etc. All of that and even if you do succeed, there’s no guarantee that you can perpetuate that success, and then you’re financially vulnerable again. I realized there were too many eggs in my “im an ambient psy dub music producer” basket.
So I let it all go. I realized there is so much more to life than “trippy music”. And there is so much more to life than trippy music! The good news is though, after a 5 year break… I realized that I authentically enjoy making music… It feels good. And I’m willing to do it without any “need” for any kind of external validation or compensation. I think if you’ve been doing something all your life, you can’t really stop. My recent “wave of excitement” comes from this new place where I can do whatever I want without attachment…. And because there are “no rules, needs or expectations” … Getting back in the studio, released from the attachment of “making it” means I can do whatever I want! Its liberating!
How would you describe your upcoming album?
I would say the main themes of “Rhythmic Fractals of Earth’s Imagination” are the same i’ve always been grasping at: how can I take my experiences and realizations of being a mystically inclined human being on the planet Earth and convey a story of hope and possibility and magic to other seekers on the path? It is my desire to impart to the listener a world of imagination, a portal into another world which is the same as this world. A world where when one steps out into nature, one can talk to and communicate with the forms and fractals of intelligence in resonance and familiarity. A remembrance of things once forgotten, where instead of feeling alienated from our environment, we feel woven into it. Included. Integrated. I create the music with the intention to remind those who listen that they are woven into a great mystery.
Sonically speaking, the tunes are rich and layered, the soundscapes are full. Similar techniques to previous releases, heavy in organic bass and rich guitar tones. The songs stretch beyond psy-dub and fly into more mid tempo funky grooves. Apart from all those fancy words, all else I could say is go take a listen!
Are there any other projects? Several years ago you had a collaboration with Wahkeena Sitka, what about any future collaborations?
Yes, the door is just beginning to open again. I am currently in a side project with my partner who is an amazing vocalist. I am also opening the doors for collaborations with all kinds of amazing musicians and vocalists local to the area where I live.
Who are your favorite artists now?
Recently I found “Kyoto” out of Russia. Kind of reminds me of Saafi Brothers. Dreamy, you feel like your flying. A lot of incredible music seems to be coming out of Russia actually, it’s like they are having a psy chill renaissance over there.
Over here in the Pacific Northwest of the USA there is Yaima, which is really deep, mystical, downtempo with vocals. As far as deep ambient goes, Alio Die out of Italy is a favorite of mine. Stratosphere is an up and coming producer who is dropping some amazing stuff, just check out his track “Grandfather”. Bwoy De Bhajan was my favorite at Tribal Gathering festival in Panama last year.
What is your motivation to keep producing?
To inspire myself and other people!
What inspires you?
The possibility of creating meaning, beauty and purpose using our human willpower in a world thirsting for meaning and beauty and purpose. The idea that we might one day be able to live in functioning non toxic sustainable communities. Nature in all its forms, the intelligence of plants and animals and fungi and the interconnectivity and symbiosis. Natural building, permaculture, gardening, plant based medicines.
Do you have plans for the future?
With my studio up and running again, I wish to devote a portion of my time to crafting new works of sound. I seek to achieve a balance between my visionary life and my practical life. I’m not the kind of artist that wants to throw myself off a cliff or cut off my ear or go insane to prove how artistic I am. I seek balance and peace and sustainability in what I do.. So my goal for 2018 is balance. Balancing the practical and the visionary. Paying the bills while also dreaming a future world with sound.
Bandcamp – https://kalpatarutree.bandcamp.com/
Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/kalpatarutree
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/kalpataru-tree