An Interview with Solace 2007
by Devi Mamak
Published in Bellydance Oasis magazine
Issue 30. October to Decenber 2007
Whether you are a tribal enthusiast or not you would have to agree with me when I say that Solace’s music is world class and very inspiring whether you are a dancer or not.
In April of this year Solace which consists of Jeremiah Soto, the driving force behind Solace, Tim Rayborn and Rachel Lazurus Soto also from dance troupe, Blue Damsel visited us here in Australia for the first time. For the Australian leg of the tour they were joined by Melbourne percussionist Matt Stonehouse While they were here they presented drumming and dance workshops as well as sold out shows.
I had the pleasure of having Jeremiah Soto, and his lovely wife Rachel Lazarus Soto, stay with me for their Blue Mountains leg of the tour. Not only are they both amazing and highly respected artists in their field but they were an absolute “hoot” & fabulous house guests. So in between great food & comparing Aussie wines to Californian wines [no competition there!] we had a chat about…all things Solace.
1] HOW DID YOU GET INTO ME MUSIC?
I have been interested in music since I was about 10. When I was 14, I decided I wanted to pursue a career of some kind in music. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school where I met Dann M. Torres, where music became an integral part of my life. Dann and I experimented with Goth, Industrial, Medieval, and Arabic music and had formed 3 bands, Kokuien, Eventide, and Still.
2] TELL ME ABOUT THE MEMBERS OF SOLACE?
Tim Rayborn, is a fantastic multi-instrumentalist. He is currently able to play about 50 different instruments, including plucked/hammered strings, flutes and percussion. Tim’s great playing contributed authentic sounds to the albums Nagari and Balance.
Matt Stonehouse (Australian Tour) is trained in Turkish and Persian percussion. Our mutual friend Trisna at Underbelly dance studio highly recommended him to join us on the Australian tour. He has become part of the Solace family and look forward to playing with him again in the future.
Ruben van Rompaey (US & European Tour) is a remarkable percussionist versed in the modern Turkish split finger technique. This playing style is a fusion of Indian tabla and Turkish technique. Ruben also contributed his amazing sounds to Nagari.
Susie Hall (US Tour) is a versatile piano player and helps with the layering of the signature Solace sound. Susie can be found on the US tours and also dances with the San Diego group Atash Maya.
Dave Hall (US Tour) is the rhythmic backbone to Solace. Bouncing back and forth from electronic drums to acoustic drums, Dave’s arrangement skills and ability to copy and play all the percussion tracks on any Solace CD is phenomenal.
Kate St.-Pierre (US & European Tour) is a talented and intense singer with a background in Persian vocals and Opera. Her ability to project and vocal range has been a tremendous addition to the Solace tour in Europe and the US. She has worked with Cirque du Soleil and contributed her amazing voice to the Solace titlesBalance and Nagari.
Rachel Lazarus Soto (US & European Tour) has the ability to learn anything and integrate it into the Solace mix, whether it is dance or percussion. Her managerial skills are vital to the success of Solace Tour machine. Her extensive knowledge of dance helps the group understand the dance etiquette that compliments the performance. And she’s hot too!
“ As the world gets smaller and information/music/visuals are more available, DJ’s and composers experiment with ME music (and other world music), mixing it into the genres they like and work in. That’s how I started. I would listen to a song and wish that it would do “this” instead of “that”. So I wrote music that would do “this”. ” – Jeremiah Soto
3] CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR RECENT TOUR OF AUSTRALIA?
Our recent tour of Australia was eye opening to the fact that so many people know who we are. It was refreshing to see people who love the music and appreciate what we do. I enjoyed sharing the music and meeting the friendliest people in the world. Every city we visited was a highlight! We visited Newcastle, Katoomba and Melbourne and we are looking forward to going back in the near future!
4] ON YOUR RECENT TRIP TO AUSTRALIA YOU TOURED WITH DANCER RACHEL LAZURUS SOTO [YOUR WIFE] WHO ALSO CONDUCTED WORKSHOPS? CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT SHE DOES?
Rachel has one of the key roles with regard to Solace and touring. She makes it happen. From the conception of the tour (usually her prodding me to play somewhere), to the actual arrival at the show, Rachel usually handles every detail. Because she plays in the band, yet is also a dancer, she serves as interpreter to the band and guest dancers when we are performing with them. Often the information that the band finds important is not the same as what the dancer finds important, and vice versa. On top of that, Rachel’s understanding of dance and her study of specialized dance forms make her a great instructor. Her workshops and dance help make the tour financially viable.
5] THERE IS A TREND TO FUSE ELECTRONICA WITH ME MUSIC AND IS IN PARTICULAR POPULAR IN THE TRIBAL FUSION DANCE SCENE. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT CAME ABOUT?
There is a constant influx of younger belly dancers and they are listening to new and unique sounds. As the world gets smaller and information/music/visuals are more available, DJ’s and composers experiment with ME music (and other world music), mixing it into the genres they like and work in. That’s how I started. I would listen to a song and wish that it would do “this” instead of “that”. So I wrote music that would do “this”. Electronica is a popular mix for ME music, and it also provides a different sound, a different inspiration when it’s listened to. The addition of electronic music also reflects the movements and fashions of Tribal Fusion dance. I appreciate that ME music and dance is evolving. It keeps things interesting, and provides new inspiration for dancers and musicians alike.
6] SOLACE COLABORATES & PERFORMS WITH DIFFERENT MUSICIANS AND DANCERS. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THEM?
Dann Torres, who is Knossos (www.ambientoud.com) and one of the first to be signed to EMP, has been a major contributor from the early days of Solace, especially Shawaza , The Gathering Season and Ahsas. He was also involved in the early line-up of Solace Live.
Satya, an experiment with Indian music, features Gopal Marathe on vocals and tabla, his daughter, Shruti Marathe, on vocals, and his son, Nishad Marathe, on tabla.
I’ve played many times in the past with Gypsy Caravan, filling in their percussion section when we would meet at events like Tribal Fest or Caravan Studio’s Tribal Quest Northwest. The Gypsies have long been good friends and I always enjoy the opportunity to be in their company. I also had the pleasure of working with Jeff Rees on a remixed version of ‘Cybele’ which was released on Vadalna: Solace Remixed.
Vadalna features many great artists all rearranging Solace songs in to their own vision. Such artists include the legendary DJ Cheb i Sabaah, Hendrick Gršger (Warrior Productions), DJ Filth, Joseph Maken, and Rod Walker and Eric Dansby of the Shroud (Jr. Samples).
Alex Spurkel of Naked Rhythm contributed his percussive skills to the album Ahsas, and he also created a remix for Vadalna.
The dancers we have worked with are far and wide and really too many to mention them all. Some dancers of note: Shawna Rai (NatyaHara) has worked with my wife Rachel and her former group, Devadasi, creating choreographs to a medley of songs from Balance, which they performed live at Rakkasah, Tribal Fest and Tribal Cafe. Unmata sponsored and performed live with Solace in our first ever Sacramento show as part of our Pacific NW tour in 2006. Blue Damsel had some improve fun with Rachel Brice and Mardi Love of the Indigo while at Tribal Fusion Faire last year in San Luis Obispo. We’ve also worked with Underbelly on our previous US tour and for our show in Melbourne. They created a fantastic choreography to ‘Cybele’. While in Katoomba, Ghawazi Caravan performed an amazing choreography to the ‘Cybele’ remix. It’s always great when a group finds the essence of a song and interprets it well.
While in Europe we had the pleasure of playing for Selene (our sponsor in Madrid) and Morgana of Madrid, Spain (twice!!), Apsara of Kšln, Germany, Eva and Yesirah Tribal of Vienna, Austria, to name a few.
Eventually, I would like to see a complete show, with a story driven performance, come from Solace Live.
7] YOU HAVE A NEW ALBUM OUT CALLED NAGARI. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?
Nagari is the accumulation of 6 years of writing, growing emotionally as a writer and a man. Nagari is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning ‘enemy of the snake.’ This is a personal story of struggle with religion and relationships. It’s a question of being bound to the earth or to focus on things of the spirit. Thus the snake coiled around the man and tree, symbolizes how I, you, and us, are all tied to the earth and material things.
8] YOU ALSO HAVE A MUSIC LABEL? WHAT SORT OF ARTISTS DO YOU SIGN UP?
I am the founder of Eventide Music Productions and I started the label because no one would sign me. I knew I wanted my music to be heard, so I chose to self-produce my records.
Signing artists is very simple: I have to be touched emotionally within the first minute of a song. I am very picky, very non-commercial, and seek artists who have unique sounds and a potential to grow. I would like to expand the label with more world music artists that inspire all forms of dance. We’ll see what the future holds for EMP!
9] WHERE HAVE SOLACE TOURED OVER THE YEARS?
Solace has only toured on the West coast until recently. We barely touched Canada, spent two weeks in Australia, and of course we just returned from our tour of Europe, which encompassed Spain, Ireland, England, Poland, Germany, and Austria.
10] ANY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
EMP is releasing a new CD by Maduro called “Juno Wakes”. EMP is also releasing its first CD single by Solace titled, “Sleeping Sober” in the middle of August 2007. This single is a limited edition and with be available exclusively on our website (www.empcds.com) I am also working on new material that will most likely be released in Summer 2008. We are setting our sites on a possible Japanese tour and revisiting the Pacific Northwest of the US.
11] WILL YOU BE COMING BACK TO AUSTRALIA?
I would love to return to Australia. I have decided that Australia is my favorite country outside the US. Any takers for another tour?