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Anna, BB Mayes and David Vella (Satya Graha)

Interview with Anna, BB Mayes and David Vella from Satya Graha
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 03 May 2004, 8:03 PM

There's a spiritual path to follow in life, which comes in many forms. One of them is music and what I mean by path is the expression of our inner, warmest feelings and thoughts. Music can be extremely positive, it can be extremely negative too, when it comes to transmitting the artist's inner energy onto the audience. Satya Graha have something positive to pass onto your ears and into your minds. After my review of Under The Skin – Volume I I simply felt the need to interview those, indeed cultured, musicians behind Satya Graha. Here's a most delightful interview!

Since we’re an online Magazine, I’d like to ask you an Internet-related question first. Do you think mp3s damage the Music Industry or do you believe that on the contrary, the Internet helps a lot of bands to get promoted? Do you use the Internet? Do you read online Magazines?

Anna: I think there are two sides to the mp3 thing.  On the one hand, artists struggle to get $ from their record companies anyway and a big source of revenue for them is album sales.  At the same time, I would be excited for people to get ahold of my music by any means.  I mean, once they’ve heard it, no matter how they hear it, they will be more likely to see my shows as well as buy my album to hear what the rest of it is like.  I do use the internet, but don’t download music cause my computer doesn’t have the capability to handle it.  I didn’t even know that online magazines existed to be honest.  Cool idea, though.

BB Mayes: I’ve always supported bootlegging and welcome anyone to trade and download Satya Graha music. We have songs available now on our website for free downloads. I do not feel that mp3s hurt the music industry. People who are fans buy records. The way the industry is run and the way music is made and marketed it is hard for anyone to become a fan. If an artist does not have an instant million seller they are considered a failure and dropped. How can you become a fan when the group or act you just got turned on to doesn’t even get a chance to release a second or third record? So to recoup the losses of these failed acts labels look to new and untapped revenue streams. Of course it is a business and the goal of any label is to make money, just as us artists would like to make a living at what we are doing. However, there doesn’t seem to be any long term thinking or planning going on. How can the industry expect fans to be loyal to acts if labels themselves won’t be either?

Whenever sales look to be in slump the industry immediately targets consumers trying to find ways to nickel and dime them anyway they can. Instead of signing and producing acts that can release 5 to 7 really good records/cd’s over the span of 10 years, the music industry sticks to this quick fix, single mentality, which in turn encourages people to download mp3s. Why not produce an entire cd of 10 to 12 really good songs instead of 1 or 2 hit songs and 12 fillers? They create and sign these acts and groups to have a 2 year shelf life. They want people to spend their money on every new act that comes along, but people aren’t going to keep going back to the same well if the water is tainted. Why would anyone spend their hard earned money on something they know is polluted? I am not going to buy a cd with a couple of good tracks. And I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to either. Download the single and you don’t run the risk of getting sick or going broke.

I had never listened to your music before and to be quite frank, I was pretty impressed by Under The Skin – Volume I. How easy was it for you, always, to bring out such a beautiful feeling through your music?

Anna: Thanks, that is an awesome compliment!  I think when you are doing what you love more than anything in the world (singing and creating music, for me) it is easy to hear that come through in the finished product.  Singing and performing transports me in a very positive way - when you hear me singing, 99% of the time I’m probably feeling really good at that moment and I think that comes through.

BB Mayes: David and Anna are solely responsible for bringing out this beautiful feeling in Graha’s music. As the lyricist I can only provide the story of our songs, David’s guitar playing and vocals along with Anna’s bring these songs to life. Without them it would just be bad poetry.

David Vella: I wish I could tell you where my style of playing and singing comes from. But to be honest I really don’t know. It is something that I do. Like pieces of a puzzle certain things make sense and fit, and others do not. Music has always made sense. More sense then anything else in my life. More sense than love, work, school, anything. I see B.B.’s lyrics and the music starts coming. The melody is there. The pieces start to fit.

What inspired you to write the songs on Under The Skin – Volume I? What enlivens your writing generally?

Anna: I wasn’t actually part of the writing process for this record - I came in after that part of the process was finished.  But my writing, as I think most people’s is, is inspired by my life.  My joys, my struggles, my sadness, frustrations, etc., etc.  It is my inner self projected in a more material form, so to speak.

BB Mayes: Because of our Lyrics to Music way of writing songs (meaning I write something which either David or Anna are drawn to or feel inspired by and begin to add the sonic scenery) we tend to pick songs that have a cohesive connection lyrically, and not so much musically. This method hopefully enables us to create records with a variety of different styles that does not bore the listener with the same old sound 10 times over. As far as the underlying message of Under the Skin, songs that call a spade a spade, or a truth a truth, or for that matter a lie a lie. I would prefer not to get to specific. Each listener will come up with their own conclusions as they should. The EP title and song titles are just a hint, a clue. The rest is up to you. And the best part is that there is no wrong answer just as in life. There are only points of view, decisions, and consequences. If you are comfortable with your points of view, decisions, and consequences then who am I to criticize you for it? These songs are points of view, decisions that may or may not be personal, and songs that have consequences. This is what makes up the heart of Under the Skin.

I admire people who pass their feelings in their music. I admire them even more when those feelings or thoughts are completely positive. Don’t you ever feel though the need to transfer feelings like anger or hate into your music?

Anna: Oh for sure.  We don’t live in the most loving and positive world, but I think we try to focus on the most positive aspects of it because, when people pick up a CD, it’s generally to escape from the shit of the world that’s going on around them.  But I do also think there is merit in expressing the dark side through music as well.  There is a lot of catharsis in that for both the musician and the listener.

David Vella: We chose the name Satya Graha specifically because it means the force of truth and love. Not that we are the force of truth and love, but that we are trying to find our own truth and love in this world. Isn’t that what we are all trying to do? I do not want to build a life with anger and hate, and I certainly do not want to build songs with those qualities either. You can not agree with something or someone and still approach it with a positive attitude. That is why Mahatma Ghandi has been such a role model for us. As is Martin Luther King, or anyone that can or has promoted revolution with intellect. Satya Graha music is our form of this kind of revolution

Which musicians were your influences as individuals in Satya Graha?

Anna: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, U2, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Buckley, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Lauren Hill, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder - I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I have a rather eclectic list of influences - I think I’m influenced by pretty much anything I hear that I dig.

David Vella: Nick Drake has been an immense influence on me. His quitar work is just mind blowing. I know Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Raymond Carver are people B.B. really admire. Believe it or not AC/DC is B.B.’s favorite rock band and I’m a huge Black Crows fan. But let’s be honest, all musicians and writers are influenced by everything around them. Jazz, Heavy Metal, Classical, you need to have an open mind when it comes to music. Once you get beyond the sound and get into the notes it is a whole different world.

How’s the response to Under The Skin been going till now?

BB Mayes: Our record label isn’t compelled by a ‘fast return’ policy.  They have had a slow burn kind of promotion of our album, which really suits our music.  Having that faith in us really takes the pressure off.  Feedback is slowly building in momentum and it has all been very positive.  It’s been cool to see how the label has put it out there just enough so that people can find it and not feel they are being told ‘yeah, this band is the next cool thing.’ I think that’s another reason why people have responded very positively to the whole thing.

What are your ambitions as a band and as individuals?

Anna: I can’t speak for everyone, but I would consider myself to be successful if I can make a living doing what I love, which is music and performing.  Even if it’s not on some gigantic superstar scale.  If my music reaches people and touches them or causes them to think, I’ve done my job.

David Vella: Our ambition is to simply make records and songs that stand the test of time. We are songwriters. I cannot imagine any other ambition than being able to do this for ever. Write songs, make records, and play live. For me there is nothing more important or satisfying.

I’d like your point of view on life. I’d also like your opinion about all the violence and hatred going on in various parts of the planet (like Iraq).

Anna: My policy on life has always been that everything happens for a reason and that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  No one’s life is perfect or easy - it’s always going to be a struggle in some way and it’s what you learn from your struggles and the people you meet along the way that matters.  I think that violence in any form sucks.  It seems to me that there must always be another way to solve problems.  Unfotunately, there are places in the world where violence is the only language that they will listen to.

Finally I’d like you to send a message out to all of those who’ll read this Interview from all over the planet. Write anything you feel like writing to them…

Anna: Never forget that you can love and respect someone without completely understanding them or where they’re coming from. Compassion is the greatest gift you can give another human being. THANK YOU for listening to our music!  You are the reason we can keep doing what we love and we will never forget that.

BB Mayes: We do what we feel is natural and hope that it speaks to people, that it connects in someway, shape, or form. When it does, it is an amazing feeling and gives us validation that we should stay on this path, continue writing, continue recording. We do not know where we would be without this connection. Probably, emotionally bankrupt. We have gotten so much back from our fans; it is a debt that we will have to spend a lifetime paying back.



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