There’s something about the hypnotic rhythms of drone music and stoner rock that’s trance-inducing. It’s not particularly that far removed from some of the principles of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a form of meditation used for relaxation, stress reduction and self-development. Director David Lynch has been practicing TM for years, and his David Lynch Foundation has been raising funds to help use TM to heal traumatic stress and help at-risk populations. Metal Insider has partnered with DLF Live and Sacred Bones Records to present two shows at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus to benefit the David Lynch Foundation. Featuring drone pioneers Earth, Cult of Youth and Dream Police on September 25th, and JG Thirlwell and Sarah Lipstate, The Soft Pink Truth (who just released an album of electronic black metal covers) and Dominique Leone on October 4th. We caught up with DLF Live executive producer Erik Martin to discuss how the lineups came together, the cause, and the similarities between experimental music and TM.
Explain what the David Lynch Foundation and DLF Live are about.
The foundation was started by David Lynch in 2005. He started seeing the positive results of TM on people in schools and people suffering with PTSD. And so he and our executive director Bob Roth thought, “Why don’t we create a Foundation that raises money so that anybody who wants to learn TM, who is suffering from any of these sort of problems, could have access to it free of charge?” So that was the initial thing. And there’s been a lot a research on the effects of TM on various toxic stress and stress related disorders for a long time, especially as it relates to hypertension, PTSD and cortisol levels. I got involved with DLF Live a little over a year ago, after having seen a documentary screening with David talking about the effects of TM. It’s a film called Meditation, Creativity, Peace where he went around the world lecturing on the topic. I had never really known much about mediation other than the images we all see of Maharishi with the Beatles, and that was my experience with it. But I was a big David Lynch fanatic. And I saw this film, was really intrigued to learn myself, and then roughly a year later, here we are. My colleague Jessica Wisk and I came to the foundation to say “Why don’t we try to work with all of these amazing artists in all disciplines. Film, music, comedy, visual art, you name it - who want to help David with his mission to raise money, and do that through the artistic process.” And so DLF Live was born.
How long ago did that happen?
It’s just a little over a year old. We started in May of last year. And so, our first year has been about just creating the awareness and putting together concerts and designing a website and working with partners in the music business and the film business to help us get launched. We’ve done a few high profile shows that were geared towards large fundraising gala type audiences. One of those was a show honoring the music of Ringo Starr, who of course has been a meditator for a long time. We did a show in Los Angeles on David’s birthday, honoring Ringo with a “Lifetime of Peace and Love Award” and many of Ringo’s collaborators came out. Ben Folds, Bettye LaVette, Joe Walsh, Don Was, lots of people. And that was the birth of DLF Live, the concert division.
And that was last year?
That was January 20th of 2014 on David’s birthday. And what was cool about it was we realized from doing that how much the musicians wanted to give back and wanted to help David, and especially to honor fellow musicians, so it was this double whammy of good will. What it did for me as a producer was to think, ‘Well, this works across all genres and demographics.’ The audience who might come to a Ringo Starr show is a lot different than the audience who might come to a Sky Ferriera show, which we produced a few months ago, which is certainly different than an audience that’s gonna come hear Earth or Soft Pink Truth or any of the other things we’re doing with you guys and with Sacred Bones Records and Saint Vitus. And it was sort of like an epiphany, that meditation helps you access this universal field within, and it reminds me personally – this is just my own personal experience – of what it’s like when you have that transcendent experience listening to music. And I was thinking about music, I was thinking about community, I was thinking about being in an audience having the audience be together in this communal space. And it was at a concert that one of our board members was producing in Knoxville, TN. The Big Ears Music Festival. And Earth was one of the artists featured. And so I went to hear them, and I had known their records, but being in that space with the audience and with Earth, whose music lends itself quite beautifully to this deep droning transcendent experience, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. This music needs to be heard in that context to help us raise money to help more people through music. So it was kind of a lightning bolt moment. And we’ve been doing shows like this since and are presenting shows later that are gonna be like this as well.
That’s great. And is that how you picked all the bands for at least the two shows that we’re doing with you?
Yea, the two shows that we’re doing started with Earth. The idea of Earth’s music, hearing them live, and then, I called Caleb who runs Sacred Bones Records, because he has been a huge supporter of ours and he releases David Lynch’s albums in the US, and he wanted to get involved to help, and so two bands from the Sacred Bones label, Cult of Youth and Dream Police, really wanted to participate, so he helped curate the bill to accompany Earth to make an evening. The second show flowed from there, basically. So I thought, well we have Saint Vitus who’s donating their space, and really wanna help us promote. And we have Sacred Bones and we have Metal Insider. And then I saw a review on Pitchfork of The Soft Pink Truth’s album. The new album, where Drew Daniel takes black metal songs and covers them in an electronic dancey way, with a real manifesto about the racist and homophobic politics of a lot of these metal bands. And so it’s sort of a statement of his. And I had heard about his music from Dominique Leone, who’s also on the show, who’s a really good friend of mine. He was my roommate in college and he had turned me onto Soft Pink Truth’s music a while back. So it was all these little connections that started coming together so we built that show. The same with JG Thirlwell & Sarah Lipstate, I’ve been a huge fan of their music and JG had written, I think, a top ten list one year about his favorite artists and Dominique was on it. So all these connections started coming together and I just called everybody. And I said, ‘Look. We’re doing these shows; I think you guys would make an incredible triple bill. Dominique Leone, Soft Pink Truth, JG Thirlwell & Sarah Lipstate. Could we do this?’ And they all said yes, and they all said they would donate their time to help. It just started happening organically.
You said seeing Earth and the droning ambience of their music led you to be like, “Hey this is kind of like TM.” I would assume that’s not necessarily a common link for all of the bands because, Ringo Starr’s music isn’t necessarily that…
In Earth’s case, it’s a very specific connection and a very easy one to understand. But with the other music, it’s really more about music in general. I mean, I’m a huge fan of rockabilly and country, you name it. And essentially, to me, I mean I define music as the language of the soul, which is, in my opinion, what meditation is doing, it’s tapping into one’s own natural DNA. I guess the connection I’m trying to make is that it’s really the same language. What music does to people, the effect it has on one’s physiology, one’s state of mind, one’s experience, is very much like what meditation does. And that’s just my own personal experience with it, and so I wanted to try to communicate that in some way to audiences. To say, look, this collective experience we’re having, this music, this thing that we all love is powerful. You know, if you go to Bonnaroo there’s 100,000 people communing together over music. It’s really kind of the same place we’re tapping within on a daily basis for those of us who practice TM. So that was my connection there. It was like, “Wow. This is universal, just like TM is universal. It works for everybody. Doesn’t matter what kind of language you speak. Nothing matters, it just works.”
How important is it to you that the musicians performing are aware of TM and practicing it?
Not at all really. It’s important to me that they understand what we’re about, and what we’re trying to do, and why we’re raising money and who we’re trying to help. But, we’ve had lots of different musicians and lots of different contexts. Some who have been meditating for decades, some who are just starting to meditate and were really kind of profoundly affected by it, so they wanted to get involved. And others who just know about it and just love David and his work and were like, “You know, I don’t practice myself but I want to learn more and be a part of this and help David with his mission, so I’m gonna do this show.” And then, very often they might learn after the fact and then have their own sort of experience with meditating after that. It’s certainly not a criteria at all.
And how involved is David with the music? Does he have final say over any of it, or is he just happy to see people coming together to support his cause?
He’s just such an open personality. You can probably get that when you see him in interviews. He’s very very down to earth, especially when it comes to creative people expressing themselves. He has lots and lots of favorite musicians. And lots of people that he’s collaborated with, that we’re trying now to work with to do concerts in the future. But it’s not like we’ve ever brought anything to David and said, ‘Hey we’re gonna do a show with this’ and he’s said, “Oh, I don’t care for that” or “I don’t like that.” He’s just really happy that all of these creative people are giving of themselves and their times to help. So, it’s never been a thing, and I don’t expect that it will be.
And, what’s next? Can you announce anything that’s coming up?
A few of the things we’re working on still don’t have contracts. I wish I could but I can’t yet.
Is there any message you want to just give to people that might be considering coming out to these shows?
It’s really about the shared musical experience and what kind of effect we can have on consciousness, and what kind of effect that can have on helping people heal. We’re working with survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking. We’re working with veterans who are on the brink of suicide, struggling with PTSD. We’re working with kids in very violent schools with really bad situations. The fact is, if people come out to these shows and enjoy this music and share in this music it really does help, because all these artists and venues and everyone involved are donating their time, so we can then send money to fund these programs. David’s initial wish was that people who need this and don’t have access to it and can’t pay for it, can have it. And that’s essentially the whole reason we exist, so that would be my message to people. Come out and hear the music and be a fan but know when you do that you’re actually doing something powerful and it actually makes a difference.