What do Madlib, Trey Anastasio and Lonnie Liston Smith have in common?
What do Madlib, Trey Anastasio and Lonnie Liston Smith have in common? They all revere the man who called himself Sun Ra.
On March 18th, 2017 the Sun Ra Arkestra is kicking off their 60th Anniversary World Tour in Maastricht (get your tickets here). To prepare we’re doing a series of blogs about the Arkestra and their revered leader Sun Ra. We’ve dug up quotes from some of the best musicians alive talking about how they were influenced by this interstellar ensemble. If you know any other good quotes please let us know in the comments!
American DJ, Producer and Rapper, one of the most prolific creators in the R&B scene. Collaborated with the likes of MF Doom and J Dilla.
“Its got to be sun ra.. He’s one of my favourite jazz artists ever.
He’s like a space age big man…he can go from free, to the classics, to funky, to anything.”
Wayne Coyne – The Flaming Lips
Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the psychedelic alternative rock band The Flaming Lips.
“I’ve often thought about Sun Ra. My reasonable mind would always conclude, ‘He thinks he’s from outer space—he’s crazy. And I would think, ‘I’m not like him.’ And yet some part of me really admired this way that he was.”
“Suddenly one day you just stop being one person and you become another. You become a person that is your own creation. It is the truth of all creative people. Some change their name, like Bob Dylan, and some change everything but their name, like Miley Cyrus, and either way they become a brand new version of themselves. And for some reason this ‘change into a made-up character’ allows them to be more real and more true.”
Producer and pioneer of the Detriot electronic scene.
“I was heavily into jazz as a kid. Later I was into fusion jazz, so this led me to appreciate a musician such as Sun Ra later on. The messages in his music and poetry concerning planet Earth and the black race was influential to me. And his concept of discipline was a great example to follow as a musician.”
Jamal Moss AKA Hieroglyphic Being
One of the must influential Chicago House artists.
“Sun Ra’s music was a shock to the system at first. His music wasn’t about making sense: it was just about receiving these transmissions, this knowledge.” “His music felt like a great form of escapism, too, but Sun Ra taught me that there are no boundaries and no limitations. Ra’s crazed synth solo noise and astral chant bliss music are what did it for me. It let me know that there was more to the world around me. It expanded my total self.”
Thurston Moore – Sonic Youth
Singer, Songwriter and guitarist of famed Noise Rock band Sonic Youth
“I can remember everybody came marching out and they started playing and I just sat there thinking this is the most beautiful, otherworldly music.”
“And then the Arkestra came out at the end of this lecture and they played this rousing ‘Space Is The Place’ and they played ‘Cosmos Song’ and as they’re finishing, they all walk into the audience and out into the street and I’m sitting there going, ‘Man, this is the greatest day of my life’ and all of a sudden I feel two hands on my shoulders and I turn and Sun Ra’s looking at me, smiling, and he whispers in my ear: ‘Play the Cosmos Song’. “
Multi-genre music producer, electronic musician, DJ, filmmaker, and rapper from Los Angeles, California.
“He’s one of the early seekers of a world beyond this world, a true visionary pioneer, free thinking. His influence has definitely shaped beyond jazz to hiphop, electronic music, all different kinds of genres cuz that was the kind of cat he was, he was just all over the place.”
Instrumental hip hop producer and DJ from Los Angeles, California
“Well, it started like this… I used to shop all the time at Aron’s Records and there would be the first place I ever seen a Sun Ra album. The album covers with the crazy song titles used to catch my eye and interest, so without listening I just grabbed My Brother The Wind (orange joint) because it looked more musically accessible to my sampling taste at the time. I took that record home had a listen and it literally had me on some edge-of-seat shit. I never heard a record like it before, it was spiritual, bluesy, and cosmic all at the same time. It made me go back and buy more Sun Ra.”
Lonnie Liston Smith
American jazz, soul, and funk musician who played with artists such as Pharoah Sanders and Miles Davis
“Just by being around Sun Ra and the band and listening to Sun Ra, that automatically opens up your mind. So for me ‘to see him’ didn’t mean anything because my whole thing is being based on the hearing, that’s the most important thing, because most of the things you see are illusions anyway.
But even the costumes were way ahead of the time. You have to give Sun Ra credit because he was really ahead of his time with all the different sounds, so he was definitely the pioneer. The main thing that you could learn from Sun Ra was that you could just keep going, so far as experimentation was concerned… because what he was doing no-one had thought of.”
Trey Anastasio – Phish
Guitarist and composer for the genre smashing american band Phish
“I’ve been listening to a lot of Sun Ra,” he says, referring to the late avant-garde big band leader. “We’ve got a couple of his movies. Have you ever seen ‘A Joyful Noise’? It’s an incredible video, and lot of it is interviews with him. One of the things he talks about is that children in this culture have been raised on the word ‘freedom,’ and freedom is an important concept. But he thinks that the word ‘discipline’ and the concept of discipline, in the end, create more freedom than the word ‘freedom’ does.
“I just did an album with Michael Ray and Marshall Allen, two guys who both played with Sun Ra, and they were telling me that Sun Ra would get the whole band together, and they would learn the entire Fletcher Henderson book — everything, every tune — and then never play it. They just learned it for the sake of learning it. So even in their free blowing, these are people who have a history behind them. It’s different than kind of picking up a horn and squeaking away.
“I just did an album with Michael Ray and Marshall Allen, two guys who both played with Sun Ra, and they were telling me that Sun Ra would get the whole band together, and they would learn the entire Fletcher Henderson book — everything, every tune — and then never play it. They just learned it for the sake of learning it. So even in their free blowing, these are people who have a history behind them. It’s different than kind of picking up a horn and squeaking away.”
MCDE AKA Danilo Plessow
Stuttgart based soulful Techno/House artist
“My favourite Sun Ra LP has got to be one of his later efforts entitled Sleeping Beauty. While I’m also very fond of his early, more hard-bop adventures in sound, Sleeping Beauty just moves me like few other albums out there. The delicate, out-of-tune and lo-fi aesthetic of the record hits a soft spot for me and in the right moment it will make me feel either full of joy or really really sad. The power of music I guess!”
Fhloston Paradigm AKA King Britt
Electronic artist/Curator from Philadelphia
“I was five and six and saw these brothers in costume playing this really out there music. I was living in a house where my mum was into jazz and my father was really into funk; he also owned a barbershop where I’d hear Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. All of that, to me, explores and is the foundation of Afrofuturism now.”
King Britt paid tribute to Sun Ra with the Fhloston Paradigm Live Transmission Mix, which he called “a displaced re-interpretation of Ra’s Space Is the Place.”
American multi-instrumentalist, composer, actor, tap dancer, producer. Co founder the jazz/world band the Pyramids
“I had never experienced a “live” Sun Ra concert and to this day I can see flashes of color, sun bursts of notes and sounds rising and circulating in my minds eye. I ask myself, “was I there? Did I really see Sun Ra on the same stage as Alice Coltrane… on the same night?” Or was it something I experienced on another planet… in another time? After a brief internet search, yes, it happened those many years ago and I was not imagining it.”
The evening was a transformative experience. The melodic sounds… the otherworldly sounds… the cacophonous sounds fed my soul and spirit. It was like a musical three ringed circus on the planet Venus with Sun Ra being the ring master conducting the proceedings with a wave of his hand, the bend of a finger, the movement of his cape as John Gilmore unleashed a sonorous gut wrenching barrage of cascading notes. Marshall Allen playing his alto like a golden serpent that had to be stroked… flailing his fingers across the scales and coaxing unheard of sounds… screeches… howls… human cries of unmitigated freedom and expression.”
Guitarist in the famed Scandinavian jazz outfit Jaga Jazzist
“I had the pleasure of playing a split show with the Sun Ra Arkestra in Belgium a few years back. They still wore costumes and did a great show. I still didn´t get it though. A few years after I had the pleasure of meeting John Schwed, the author of Sun Ra´s biography, I got the book from him and read it with enthusiasm. I really like Sun Ra´s concepts and how he didn´t go with the flow. Very interesting reading and also very funny. After reading the book, it was also more interesting for me to listen to the music.”