Jamie Shadowlight Interview.
Jamie asked me to bring peanut butter cookies to the interview. We met at the wonderful Europa Café on Turquoise street in PB. Tomcat Courtney was shufflin’ on his guitar in a more honest version of blues out front on the patio. Jamie was just back in town from her Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines Festival performance, and she told me all about it about as I got my microphone out.
I didn’t bring any cookies….
Chris Lougeay: [To waitress] Do you have any peanut butter cookies?
Waitress: Peanut butter?
Jamie Shadowlight: (laughs) It’s just a joke. I look forward to seeing you again (Chris), ’cause I know there will be cookies.
CL: Honestly, I hate peanut butter cookies. Not a fan.
JS: Really? So I’ll never get any cookies. Actually, I haven’t been in a cookie mood. It’s too hot for cookies.
I don’t think it’s ever too hot for cookies.
It is too hot for cookies.
Yeah. Although, (Editor’s Note: Jamie returns to the conversation about Idyllwild.) we were at this house after the show, the president of the academy… he had this giant, wooden… it was the most beautiful, it was like, totally black. Totally pitch dark forest and we came across this giant fairy house. Just all wood. Just the whole feel of it.
Like there should be elves there or something?
Yeah! Like woodworkers, you know? It looked like wood. I can’t describe it…. and in the backyard there was this beautiful gazebo with all these lights and me and Bob Boss were out there, just laughing on the way out. You could look up and see all the stars in this canopy of trees. It was like trees, and Bob was like, ‘Man we just missed Perseids, you know?’ And I said, ‘ah man, I wish we could see a shooting star’, and soon as I said that one when ‘Shoosh!’ We wished for the star before it even happened. (laughs)
That sounds like it should be a song. Like, when you wish…. upon a star…
Yeah! When you wish for a star! (laughs) So which way is time flowing?
Which way is time flowing?
Is time flowing backwards then?
Like, the star comes first, then you make the wish.
I don’t know. I am gonna have to think about that one.
It was really nice. It was pitch black and all you could hear was crickets. And you felt totally safe too, because of just the area.
[Jamie whips out her phone to look for pictures of the Idyllwild festival from the last weekend.]
I saw a cat on your phone.
My cat?! My cat-cat?! My cat’s name is Naima. So this picture (*not pictured here) is from when Gilbert and I did the Jazz meets Starwars show. For some reason she’s never done this since. There is a song called Princess Leia’s Theme. I was practicing it…
Can you play it before we leave?
I can play some of it. (She sings the first few notes of the theme.) It’s really beautiful and kinda like ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. For some reason my cat, every time I played this song…. I pick it up, and she would get all excited and she is the chillest coolest cat… And should would jump up on the table and get as close to the violin. One time she put her head right on the scroll. (Jamie lays her head on my shoulder.) While I was playing, so I stopped playing, grabbed my phone and snapped that photo.
Naima came one night… I was playing a trio, it was foggy, it was outdoors on a patio…. about 2 years ago. Daniel (Jackson) shows up… I can only remember one time when he didn’t show up. He would always just appear and always played. He played the whole night, and it wasn’t for money, it was to support your spirit. So he showed up and he an Mikan (Zlatkovich) started to play Niama. There was only a few people in the audience and they were like…. This is the most beautiful thing we’ve ever heard! They were just in awe, and they came up afterwards….
[Loud music blasts over the house music system and startles both Jamie and I.]
They were like….um… (laughs)
So, Mikan and Daniel were playing this beautiful rendition of Naima….
So I’m listening to it, but I’ve never played… I’ve heard it before, but I’ve never played it. And Daniel looks over at me and they do their part, he says, “Now you play. You’ve heard it.” So I played it! Afterwards I just went home, and sat on my couch and I realized…. I wanna go deep. That tone. That sound. I wanna… find the depth of sound. Then all of sudden I heard this little meow. I said, ‘what the heck its that?‘ Then I heard another little meow. And I opened the door, and Naima is there. I didn’t know she was Naima yet. And I was like, “You can’t come in!’ And she was like, ‘meow‘. And I said, ‘No. Go Away.” I gave her a little pet. And then next night she came back, and I was like, ‘You can’t come in.’ This happens about for about week, and finally I said, ‘ok you can come in.’ So I let her in. She is my spirit animal, I can really just feel it. She is connected to me. We just sit there and we just do this thing, and she just sits there. We go forehead to forehead, you know, and it’s just really…
So you read standard musical notation?
Where did you study?
Since I was 5 years old, privately. I was a classical musician. I won the California Bach Festival when I was, like, 12. That’s where the theory came from. Then I unlearned everything I learned, and I got out of that world. Um, I didn’t unlearn it, but now I appreciate it… now I listen to classical and I love it. I really appreciate the beauty of it.
Have any thoughts on Suzuki method of violin?
I do. It’s like religion. The concept is very beautiful. It’s in the practice of it, and then the understanding and the sharing of it where things get a little…. you know, twisted. I thought Suzuki meant one thing, and then I read his book. It’s really about love. It’s about believing that nobody is born tone deaf. That any one can play music. And with enough repetition and enough love, that anyone can learn to be a musician, at any age. Before him, people thought that kids had to be eight or nine to play the violin, and he said, ‘No, they can do it earlier‘. Someone actually gave me this book a few years ago, and if you read it… what he was actually about was very beautiful.
What was the name of the book?
I don’t remember. So, I just wanna add…. I think peanut butter cookies are really good! (Laughs) I like them when they are homemade. I like ’em when they are little bit crispy.
What’s the ideal peanut butter cookie? So right now, it’s been about 90 degrees in San Diego this weekend so it’s too hot, allegedly, to eat cookies. What makes a connoisseur of peanut butter cookies?
Actually, I’ve only had, like, two peanut butter cookies in my life. But they were really good. They were homemade and crispy and peanut buttery!… But what I wanted to mention was, when I was young I was taught the language of music. At five I learned it just I like learned how to speak Korean. Korean is my first language and I learned how to speak English by watching Sesame Street. My parents spoke very little English, and I taught myself English by watching Sesame Street.
Who was your favorite charter on Sesame Street?
Cookie Monster! (Falls over laughing)
I think there is something deeper going on here.
The journey into becoming an artist. I think, it starts from a deconstruction. You know? You’re constructed. You’re brought up and you’re given all these skills as a kid. You’re just following a path that’s given to you. You’re parents are directing you. Luckily, my mom was a percussion player. She was a dancer and a Korean percussion player. And if you go to into Korean drumming, the buk, the Changgu, it’s a very disciplined, heavy art form. The women carry the drum in my country. If you look up the Korean drumming, they dance while they’re drumming and it takes a lot of… discipline…
Is there Korean word for this? Maybe ‘discipline’ or the word you are trying to find doesn’t translate into English?
No, it does. It’s discipline. It’s taking the time to do the work. So my mom was my discipline. As a five year old… No kid plays the violin naturally. You may sing naturally. You may beat on a drum naturally, but violin is an instrument that takes discipline. All string players know that. So for years, my mom was my discipline and she pushed me and she got me to work out. And when you’re a kid you just wanna watch TV and eat cookies and hang out with your friends and all that. She was, like, “No. You’re gonna do this. You’re gonna play piano. You’re gonna play violin. You’re gonna take some dance classes. You’re gonna do some Korean scarf dancing. You’re gonna learn how to write Korean. You’re going to be able to speak this language, even though you’re in America now. You’re Korean.”
So you were already here by five years old.
I came here when I was two and half, three years old.
The most popular music video in the history of the world is Korean. How does that make you feel?
It is!? What video is it?
Gangam Style. Do you know the dance?
I do know the dance.
Wait, you know how to do Gangnam Style?
No! I don’t know how to do Gangnam Style. No, no. And If I did, I would not broadcast it to the world. Would keep that secret. Do you?
No, I don’t.
A lot of white people do know how to do it.
(Sigh) White people… an interesting group.
The last thing I define myself is as a Korean. I’m always trying to break the mold… I don’t want to create a mold to live in. Everything I do is try not to live that, and it’s worked so far (laughs). It leads me to beautiful moments and interactions with beautiful people and if you have an open mind you get to work with and collaborate with… I’ve worked with a vast array of different people. Different spirits. What I respect the most is when they follow… when they listen to that inner voice and they decide to follow that. And that can lead into so many different ways, so many solutions, so may different lives.
A lot of people say, ‘music is the universal language.’ Space is a vacuum and sound waves don’t travel through vacuums. You know, trees are alive. Naima is alive. You can’t communicate with a tree. So when people say, music is the universal language does that apply to the infinite cosmos that we live in?
I think people say a lot things. When it comes to infinite cosmos, it all matters and none of it matters. I don’t think there is a universal language. There maybe no language. I think silence is the universal language, if anything…. If you have to put a definition. I think what they mean when people say that is, in the human language, that music touches the souls of… past the Babylon, past the Spanish, French, you know and all that stuff. They can hear the music and they can hear the tone of it and it connects all. I think that’s what they mean by that.
When you go into the cosmos, talking about language is something that is kinda obsolete, or non-relative I guess. When you go into the cosmos…. I think you’re talking about the mystery. You know, it’s a giant mystery.
You know, I thought about it for about twenty seconds and then…! (Laughs) And a lifetime!
If you had to choose five elements that make up music, what would those be?
Space, pitch, tone, rhythm and soul. If you had asked for six, I would have said touch.
When you use pedals to change the sound of your violin, what kinds of sounds are you going for?
It depends on the music I am playing. I have one set of pedals that I use for jazz fusion. I go for those guitar sounds.
Can you name the pedals you use for that?
I use a Big Muff for distortion, a Bad Horsie wah-wah, and Analog Delay Boss, I think. And I also use a harmonist. I try to keep it simple when it comes… there are so many cables it’s, ugh. The other thing I use is to create the an Ohm. I use the Bad Horsie and the delay. I create sounds of the cosmos. I call it Cinematic Meditation Music. It’s kind of like soundtracky….
[Lush 1970’s orchestral strings from a John Denver song saturate the room with cheesy nostalgia.]
John Denver pause.
[We both begin to play air violin.]
…. and these Reggae guys were there and they were like, ‘That reminds me of a ninja movie’, where time the slows down and the blades are slicing through the raindrops. It’s very cinematic. When I play that I take a journey. Sometimes it’s an hour. Sometimes it’s an hour and half. Sometimes it’s thirty minutes, twenty minutes. It’s an unbroken flow of tone. I was influence by Bert Turetzky and Mark Dresser, what they do with their instruments. They create these worlds. And usually when I play this…. I did a show at The Kava Lounge… Usually at that place, everyone is hanging out talking and when we started playing everyone sat down. I looked around and everyone was like this (makes peaceful face). It’s not even a meditation space or anything.
Kava kinda’ has that effect on people.
It does! That was the first time I had kava. I was so relaxed.
Did your face go numb?
What is your message to the world?
Contribute something of beauty to the world, express yourself, and love each other. Be good to each other.
I believe in the moment.
나비사람사랑, “The Love of the Butterfly Person | By: Pulse of Life
Copyright © 2015. C. Lougeay
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