Editor’s Note: This is the second of a 2 part interview with Crown of Eternity. You can read Part 1, where Mike and Gallina open up about their creative process & the making of When The Music’s On here.
Mike: I love the edge that Kundalini Yoga gives me. It gives me the energy and clarity to excel in each moment and be the best version of myself. I love that Kundalini Yoga is such a vast practice that it can meet me wherever I am. Sometimes I require something very physical and sometimes I need to just sit and breathe or chant or focus on the gong or focus on my listening. No matter where I am in my life, there is a Sadhana that I can work with. I am always able to elevate myself through the practice. It has taken on so many different meanings for me over the years.
Spirit Voyage: Can you give us a sneak peak into your creative process?
Mike: Well this changes from instrument to instrument and from mantra to mantra and song to song. For When The Music’s On, pretty much everything started out with the vocal melody and harmonies. This was a lot different than our previous works which I would say were more guitar driven.
“Ong” came out of a conversation I had with Anthony Molina – that we should Tune in and also Tune out for this record. I remember when we started the album that I was calling it my heaven music. All of the arrangements and meditations really brought me back in touch with the deepest parts of me. The roots of the Ong track were actually in a long instrumental Shahi Baaja piece I had written. We added some gongs and the bell to the track and then it seemed to ask to become “Ong.”
I wrote “Sat Nam Wahe Guru” while I was kayaking. Both of my vocal parts just came to me as I was rowing up the Allegheny River. The melody set perfectly to my breath and my rowing pace. This was probably my favorite track to record. It was really fun to arrange the harp to work with the hammered dulcimer. Musically I wanted to quote Alice Coltrane a bit. To me she was one of the most spiritually turned on musicians of the last 100 years. She has such an organic feel to her music. My hammered dulcimer playing is very inspired by her harp playing. When I layed down the harp tracks, it was like I just had to give Alice the love.
Creating the arrangement for “Wahe Guru Space Choir” was incredibly healing for both of us. I wrote this the day that our dog Chi passed. I was fragile. I was hurt. I missed my friend. I did not even set out to write this actually. Somehow after a day spent crying and mourning, I ended up in our studio and pretty much started howling (something Chi and I used to do together) into a microphone through my effects pedals and into my looper. The melody was born out of this howling. As I released my pain and loss through my voice, the howls eventually started to turn into chanting and slowly as the loops built and the vibration of the mantra repeated back at me I felt a great release and healing. Before that to me Wahe Guru was always the vibration of ecstasy and wisdom coming from a more positive connection with the creator and life itself. It brought me into a new understanding of the direct experience with the creator. It opened me to the other-side of creation, it opened me to seek ecstasy in sadness and in loss and it allowed me the beauty of letting go.
“Laya Mantra” came to me a few days before the Wahe Guru experience. I have written more versions of this particular mantra than any other. It is my favorite mantra to meditate with. My life philosophy exists within the vibration of this mantra. I was listening to a lot of Steve Reich when this one came together. By the time Gallina and Anthony got a hold of it, it had changed quite a bit. I often love quoting my musical influences in my mantra arrangements. The drum beat for this came out of my love for the old Aquarian Marches. I also quote them in my rendition of “Hummee Hum Brahm Hum” from Vibrate the Cosmos. Certainly a lot of those old arrangements feel a little dated now, but the vibe was really strong on those Mantra recordings and I loved how much they were using the snare drum back then. It was like the snare was used as a tool for entraining us into the mantra. The guitars in this are some of my trickiest parts to play. Not too many people have tried to tackle a musical version of this mantra. In my past versions of this mantra, my arrangements were a little dark and I felt like they never captured the way I felt doing the meditation. With this my entire mindset was on Joy. I wanted something that felt really positive, light and expansive.
“When The Music’s On” was the only song that was already recorded before these sessions began. I actually have an entire album of English songs that go along with it. I think my original intention when I came back from tour was to finish that album as kind of a psych rock record. Little did I know how much things would change. I am not sure what I am going to do with those other songs yet. There is a whole other album there already recorded. I had toured solo performing a 40+ minute version of “When the Music’s On” at the beginning of 2014. It had a really long intro on the zither that I only kind of quote at the beginning of this version and it had a thunderous 4 gong crescendo that we decided not to include in the final mix. I ended up laying it down and working with Anthony on it in September 2014 and for some reason I waited to release it. We loved this song and the whole other album, but I just kept thinking that it was something for the mantra community and more importantly, it was something that I wanted Gallina’s input on.
“Ma” had been a staple of a lot of our live performances. It was always evolving from performance to performance. When I started working on it, I had planned on it being an album of it’s own – like a 62 minute version. When Gallina sat down to record her parts, she started improvising the Adi Shakti Mantra about half way through. It blew us away and the track took on a new life.
“Ong So Hung” came about maybe 20-minutes before a retreat we did in Tucson last year. We were teaching Kriya for the Heart Center, which contains Trea Kriya with “Ong So Hung.” We had performed the vocal melody a number of times with more of a drone background. I woke up that morning and I had an idea for guitar parts. We practiced it once before the retreat began and I nailed it. We played it during the retreat and I took it even further. When we got home and worked with it I added a bunch of sounds from my recently acquired mellotron pedal. The fun thing about this record actually is that everything that sounds like a synth is actually my guitar. It has since become kind of a live staple for us.
We had been sharing a bare bones version of the “Long Time Sun” song for about 5-years before I recorded it. We ended up recording it last for this album. We had originally thought we would end with a Sat Nam track that was similar to the “Ong” track – Gong, Spaced out Shahi Baaja and Long vocals. When we listened back it just did not seem like where we wanted to leave the listener. That’s when we decided to do a variation on “Long Time Sun” that we had been doing live and make it as joyful as possible.
Spirit Voyage: What do you hope your listeners experience or learn as they listen to your album?
Mike: We hope that we give our listeners a space to enter into the sound and explore themselves on multiple levels. I hope that we created something that can be enjoyed just as much while doing a Kundalini practice as it could just as a listening experience. I think we have a broad audience. We share our Sound Therapy sessions with so many different people. Many have never even done Yoga, but the Gong attracts them to us. Often once a person has a deep experience with us, it becomes a gateway into our other work. In one direction, this points to the mantra work we are doing and in the other direction it points people to some of my more experimental work. My hope is that this album can act as a source of self discovery for our listeners and a bridge into the many aspects of our musical and spiritual expressions.
You can learn more about Crown of Eternity and the inspiration behind their new album in Part 1 of our interview.
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