Gaian Mind Festival: The Rich & Exotic Sounds of Kenji Williams
Kenji Williams is an award winning filmmaker, electronic music producer, and classically-trained violinist. From the first ever "Illusion" EP release reaching a global audience of nearly 100,000 in collaboration with John Digweed's Bedrock label, to ambient releases with top labels such as Flying Rhino and Interchill, to the latest full length tech house, tech trance album "Faces of Epiphany", the network of recognition is growing. ~ Passage taken from Kenji's website bio. For more information on Kenji, please visit his website at: http://www.kenjiwilliams.com
Hi Kenji. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for the Gaian Mind Festival. We’re so honored that you’re going to be joining us this year.
For those who aren't familiar with your music and performance, what can they expect from you at Gaian Mind?
Hi Tena. First of all, I would just like to thank you and those organizing and putting on the Gaian Mind Festival. I am really excited!
My sound is a combination of electronica and violin; a rather unique combo. I was trained classically in violin, and then later got into rave culture and techno, as well as reggae, and dub. My sound is a combining of all these musical elements of my life into a rich and exotic experience.
Rich and exotic. That is a perfect description! I’ve been saying it’s ethereal and eclectic. There are influences from classical violin, techno, trance and house, as well as film and multimedia. I know your discography is an extensive journey; Is it possible to give us a historical snapshot of your musical path?
I would like to increasingly present myself, "Kenji Williams", as simply a "Creative Director" in multimedia art. This takes the form of music, performance, theater, and film.
As for my musical path, I started playing violin when I was 7, and really fell in love with the Romantic Composers – rich with melody and evocative storytelling. This comes across in my music today. My work with composing soundtracks for films has also affected the way I make music; in making it very "visual" and holographic. With my deep interest in Techno, Trance and House, my production skills were developed.
In recent years, my violin style has been heavily influenced by Arabic, gypsy, and Asian music. This sort of background, I hope, brings a bit more meaning to those interested in learning about the 'wiring under the board' of my musical creativity.
I'm sure you're styles and productions methods have changed numerously over the last decade as technology has improved. What are your thoughts on technology and how it brings your different fields of interest, such as film, violin, electronic music and performance, all together?
Technology has really zoomed along and has obviously affecting the way I produce and perform. I used to do live shows in Toronto bringing my entire studio to the club and doing everything by Midi. Things have changed!
I now perform with my violin and a laptop and drum machine, making my expression on the dance floor a much easier process. But at the same time, I get turned off by all the hype about new technology, because it means absolutely nothing in regards to the quality of music. You don't need the latest software or computer to make good music. In fact, I feel the quality of music has gone down as technology has progressed. It’s so easy to make a sound, that people get caught up in the tweeking of bits, rather than expressing their soul – and thus, I honestly have become bored with most electronic music these days.
Well, I understand that, and I hope you get to hear some amazing music at Gaian Mind. Are you actively involved in the production of your albums as well as performance? If so, what production-centric advice can you give up-and-coming producers and musicians?
Yes, I produce all my albums by myself. I guess some of my biggest advice and hope for new producers is: View 'production' as only one small step in your creative process. Listen not only to techno, but to all kinds of music. If you want to make powerful music, it is not simply a technical matter. The ability to make powerful music is found in one's ability to integrate spirituality into their life, and then translate that spirit into audio.
Great advice and such a beautiful description. I agree. You can definitely tell the difference in the intent and discovery behind music.
Tell us a bit about your violin, and what other pieces of musical equipment do you regularly work with either onstage or off?
My violin was made in 1926 by an Italian violin maker named Diguini Luigi. It beats every new synth out there.
I use Logic on a Mac and I use various plug in synths, as well as outboard synths such as a K2000, Virus, Studio Electronics SE1, Nord Lead, and various outboard efx such as lexicon reverbs and TC delays. I also use an analog Allen and Heath mixer.
Although in its second year, I believe many congratulations are still due to you for world-wide success with WORLDSPIRIT, with Alex Grey. Would you mind enlightening our readers about WORLDSPRIT? What has that experience been like for you?
WORLDSPIRIT is a DVD that I directed that was perhaps the biggest project I have done so far. It is a DVD of a multimedia performance collaboration between myself and Alex Grey. I would like to invite those reading this to check out an article I wrote, explaining the whole story behind Worldspirit. It is titled "The Miracle of Worldspirit". http://kenjiwilliams.com/release/worldspirit/WORLDSPIRIT_miracle.htm
Having traveled extensively to perform at many global tribal gatherings, what is your perception on the prevailing impact that electronic music has on the future path of humanity?
Hmmm, big question!
Well, speaking for myself, electronic music was a gateway to future consciousness and spirituality. But, I can't really give that rosy a picture for the culture as a whole, because I unfortunately don't give it that high marks these days for innovation. This is why I am gravitating more towards theatrical performances and films lately… as I don't see a future in electronic/rave/trance culture except for a tiny portion of this culture. I believe Gaian Mind is one of these bright spots.
Electronic music has the ability to elevate consciousness, and has this profound power that other types of music do not. Yet, it is such a rare thing to witness it these days, as this power depends on the environment, the crowd vibe, the sound system, the quality of the music, the context of the event. These elements all need to be on line to really bring out the power of electronic music. Otherwise, I get a bad headache, or get pissed by wallpaper electronica!
It seems you spend much of your time performing in ancient temples and shrines; would you say that the stage has become your temple, or that your performances have become your own personal way to revere the divine?
Both! I feel that the stage naturally becomes the temple WHEN one connects with the Divine on stage. This is what a temple is. Japan has been an incredible journey in my creativity as an artist. I wish there were more temples in the West… we need to build them.
The stage is my temple, because my music and performance are my spiritual practices. This is what an "integral artist" does… your art is your spiritual discipline, and you use it as a transformative process to elevate yourself, the media you are using, and the audience. But of course, just being in a real ancient temple brings out the divine in any person. They are there to remind us that we are all divine, that we are all godly, and that we all have this potential, and can live our lives in alignment with that vision.
On your blog you have an entry entitled, "hollow democrats need a soul". Could you share with us your vision for our political world?
Ha! Well, if you read my answer above (and change some of the text), one would think I am a conservative Christian republican. For all the hoo-ha about the religious right, there is something there that is powerful. The problem is that evangelical Christian spirituality is not universal, and is exclusive. So is every other religion.
The center of gravity of republicans tends to lean towards tradition, power, and egocentrism. The center of gravity of democrats leans towards modernism, postmodernism, and pluralism. There is more of a "global awareness" and environmental awareness in the democratic political talk.
So, on an evolutionary scale, in general, democrats are more evolved than republicans – in an extremely general and intellectual sense. However, this is only hollow, because there is no spirituality that gives them any sort of backbone to push their agenda forward.
This is what Worldspirit is about in many ways – evolution from Ego centrism to Universal centrism; evolution of our spirituality from exclusivity to a recognition of truth in all religions. Every religion in this world has a truth, but each one - in and of itself - is outdated for the world we live in today. Democrats are in a position to create a vision for the future, but they have NO vision, because they themselves do not have a spirituality that matches the future. The republicans have this powerful base that is fueled by the Christian right and it is powerful because of this… Unfortunately, it is outdated, and does not fit into a future earth spirituality to sustain life on this planet.
If Global warming is a problem, it is not just a technical or political problem, it is a global spiritual problem as well, and the dems haven't a clue about integrating and tapping into this potentially powerful energy of the mainstream. If you can touch the hearts and truths of every faith - this is a party of 6 billion, rather than a party of 50million half hearted supporters – then the world will change for the good of all.
What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any pending projects on the forefront?
Yes! Look out for Tokyo Dream Theater, High Definition music videos, and the first ever space art collaboration with the Space Station…. No kidding!
Thank you so much Kenji! We all look forward to your presence at the Gaian Mind Festival and wish you much success on all your future endeavors!
May 13, 2005