If ever a musician was rooted in the past, acting in the present and looking to the future it is Kalya Scintilla. Scintilla, real name Yaegon Lamagaia, is a pillar of psychedelic electronic music and culture. Since the late aughts this Australian producer has pioneered a now popular sound - a juxtaposition of earthy, instrumental world beats with squelchy, spacey synths in a psybient mid-tempo mold.
Scintilla takes great care to draw listeners into the thematic world beyond his sounds, one of ancient energy, myth, intention and alignment. Ahead of his Back to Roots tour stop at Knitting Factory Brooklyn, supported by Whitebear and The Rust Music artist MALAKAI, we were fortunate enough to speak briefly with Yaegon about his music and ideas.
As the NYC tour stop draws closer we’ll also share a conversation with Whitebear, the other half of the Back to Roots tour, who for the last few years has been carrying the mid-tempo torch lit by Scintilla and others into deeper and darker territory to illuminate new sonic spaces.
The Rust: You’ve said the drum is the oldest instrument and that its ancient rhythms unlock ancient mysteries within us. How about the synthesizer? As a new instrument with a digitized soundscape, what can the synthesizer potentially unlock within us?
The drum is ancient and the synth is future. The synth can carve out new and different unexplored worlds, propelling our imagination into something unseen. That's why I love the fusion of the two world. It's like having your feet in the earth, your mind in the universe and your emotions everywhere between.
The Rust: You purchased your first computer to make beats in 2005. What was it like to make a beat on the computer over a decade ago? Is there anything you miss about the composition process back then?
I do miss the simplicity of a decade ago. There is such a heavy saturation in the digital music technology market now... and the crazy thing is that most of it is amazing. So it's a challenge now to keep a simple palate of sounds and textures and explore them intensely. I always recommend to artists just starting out to keep it simple. When you keep you setup simple, your focus and thirst for learning and pushing the limits of what you have is greater. Slow down with getting new tech and learn what you have... this is also a reminder to myself HA!
The Rust: As the head of Merkaba Music, are there any new artists or sounds that you admire right now?
The sounds that push boundaries for me are not necessarily ones that are trying to be the next new sound but sounds that are a true expression of an individual's soul. As each soul is different, when a soul shines through music it's always a magical and unique feeling.
The Rust: As a leader in psychedelic sound design and composition, what’s next for Kalya Scintilla’s sound? Do any musical challenges still lay before you?
Art and creativity is infinite and inspiration can be found everywhere so while I feel I have accomplished so much I feel in some ways that I am just beginning. I have visions and more creations on the way for both Merkaba and Kalya Scintilla and a few other secret things I am flirting with at the moment. I see art and the creation of something truly original and profound as a deep and infinite exploration. A fun one!
The Rust: You once said a great awakening took place within you when you listened to Herbie Hancock’s “Manchild” on vinyl when you were younger. What will the next generation be awakening to? Is it problematic that the next generation will likely be listening on mp3, youtube, or a streaming service instead of the organic wax?
I have come to know that the feeling, intention and story of a piece of music can be experienced regardless of the tuning or bit rate. But why not quest for the most detailed representation of a piece of art? I feel that with the way digital storage is becoming, and with a push from many in the industry to always have the best quality possible, we will evolve away from MP3 and towards a higher quality standard. But you can’t beat the feeling of a good vinyl!
To anyone reading this I recommend taking that voyage [“Manchild”] in a dark room by yourself.
The Rust: If sound is much more powerful than most people realize, and I believe we agree on this, is the power of sound being used for negative purposes? If so, what does this look like?
MTV pop music! This is the best example of music being used to ill effect. Sound is creation and destruction so it goes without saying that there is some truly destructive sound on our planet. How much destructive music is created intentionally? Probably not a lot. When money, bitches, guns, 'satan', death, ego, etc. are fed to a society as the norm and as status symbols, it's natural that humans would mimic and imitate that in their own art. The question is who planted the seed in the first place?
Who indeed? Kalya Scintilla certainly knows how to plant a seed or two of his own with his transcendent, mid-tempo music, seeds which soon sprout roots, roots which we may eventually come back to. We’re extraordinary grateful to Yaegon for taking the time to share his thoughts with us, and with the world.
Don’t forget to check back with The Rust as Back to the Roots at the Knitting Factory Brooklyn draws closer. We’ll be diving a bit deeper in our conversation with Whitebear, so stay chooned!