24 Nov Sananda Maitreya
Photo: Michela Zizzari
Musical genius, emblematic figure of the pop culture, Sananda Maitreya, the artist once known as Terence Trent D’Arby, is back with a masterpiece, “Prometheus & Pandora”, a triple album that will leave nobody indifferent. Metaphorically speaking at times, sensitive and raw, Sananda shares with us his journey, the journey of a true artist who had to bear his cross and reinvent himself completely, to stand under the sun once again.
By Victoria Adelaide + Brooks Giles III | NOV 27. 2017
Victoria Adelaide + Brooks Giles III: You just finalized your trilogy ‘Prometheus and Pandora’. How heavy was the investment in such a gigantic project?
Sananda Maitreya: Prometheus and Pandora is itself the final part of a Trilogy that began with ‘Return to Zooathalon’, a trilogy that was preceded by ‘The Sphinx’. As you might imagine, it was both a breeze since it was an inevitable outpouring stemming from the previous project, and a project that was as emotionally draining as any I’ve ever done since the sheer volume of the work and the deaths of at least 4 close friends and associates hit me pretty hard. Yet I was also aware that after this particular mountain, I needn’t attempt to scale one as daunting ever again, and certainly not any time soon. It felt as if I had to scale Mount Olympus at least once more to retrieve some items I had left there upon assuming my banishment. Prometheus is not particularly fond of Mount Olympus, but it is his return address and he does still have a place there, his little cottage on the hill. Frankly, I did see my own life pass in front of my eyes often enough to both spook and encourage me, although I have enough experience at this point to realize that if I was being scared away from the project by the ‘Valkyries’, naturally it was only because I was headed in the right direction. No one ever tries to scare you from going the wrong way. The fear only comes when you are going the right way and scaring the shit out of the dragons who zealously guard the paths of completion.
VA+BG: Have you always been passionate about Greek Mythology?
SM: Please understand that for me there is no ‘Greek Mythology’. There is only our history and the stories told to keep us in remembrance of our true history. We descend from Gods, period. ‘Mythology’ is used because it is less of a threat to the dominance of science and religion, who between them both fight for scraps that fall from the bread of life and for total control of our minds. Because we are programmed to believe that these are mere stories and not our natural heritage, we assume too much bullshit about ourselves and are easily controlled by less adventurous and inspiring narratives. I believe to my heart that my ancestors are actual Gods of creation, and a system hasn’t yet been invented to brainwash me away from it. Therefore the Egyptian, Greek, Indian and Roman myths are simply the records in often symbolic language of the movements of the tribes from which we descend, and meanwhile we are encouraged to believe in so much bullshit that our souls are hurting from the desperation of separation from our true fountains of youth, our glorious past. Meanwhile Hollywood’s job is to remind us, lest we forfeit our futures by forgetting our pasts. And this is how we ‘Return To Zooathalon’, by the sure path of memory. Our salvation is already encoded in our wonderful and illustrious DNA. We have but to reawaken and remember.
VA+BG: What is your songwriting process?
SM: Generally speaking, my songwriting process is waiting for the package to be delivered whereby I then use what wits are made available to me to complete the ideas I am blessed and fortunate to receive. As with the great majority of my ilk, I am but an antenna and receptor for data and information, which I then attempt to place into a form that excites and amuses me. While capable of writing from any perspective at any time, I much prefer to wait until I am nudged by time to get off my lazy ass and commit to applying myself to what tasks I am fortunate enough to become engaged in. I am a repository for ideas, but I use my laziness as a bulwark against diving into mediocrity, which scares the hell out of me. If an idea doesn’t excite me enough, I throw it back in the water as does a fisherman a fish too small to fry. This helps keep my writing from becoming a chore and it is more a divine process of ongoing discovery. With a wonderful family now to attend to me, this ensures that I have time to hang out with them instead of chasing loose ends I don’t need to chase.
Photos: Michela Zizzari
VA+BG: The music industry has changed tremendously since your beginnings. Do you think this is a better time for an artist to go independent?
SM: Absolutely yes. Although, were I a young artist commencing my journey, I would be a fool not to take advantage of what can be learned and gleaned from working with any aspect of the industry available to me. I am the beast I am because I spent my apprenticeship at the service of corporate madness. They ripped my multiracial ass to shreds, but as the great grand master Keith Richards would concur, “That’s the price of an education”. And if you can afford the price, it is worth the ticket. Plus, I am an independent type, not everyone is, nor needs to suffer a life not suited to their personalities and true natures. I came from a culture and society so relentlessly dominating and mind controlling that even the idea of anyone, object or thing controlling me and how I process is now total anathema to my spirit. Whatever the mechanism that allows a person to work well in tandem with others counter to their will, has been destroyed in me. For me independence is bliss. But not everyone has the stomach for it. For many, collaboration isn’t necessarily the dirty word that it has become for me. Likewise I also have peers capable of playing all the instruments themselves (Ok, well not many), but who find the idea of separating themselves from the emotional content of exchanging with others horrifying. While I simply get things done quicker and with much less drama and concern for other people’s feelings. Furthermore, I do truly enjoy the process of just me, my engineer Matteo Sandri and the ghosts that haunt my mind.
VA+BG: Social media, the Internet, have taken an integral part in our lives. How did it change the way you interact with your fans, and how do you see it evolve?
SM: I could see everything clearly by the early to mid 90’s that, were I to realize my artistic potential and visions, I’d have no choice but to get to this system of distribution as quickly as it could be made available to me. The record industry grew bored with itself and chasing its greed around the table as does a priest a nun after a bottle of wine. More to the point, I grew weary of the endless battles for mind control that the industry is obliged to assume. One controls the people by controlling and containing their heroes. In fact this is what the hero factory was designed to produce, subservient fellows that other fellows might follow. For Mount Olympus to control the populations, they only need focus on maintaining the minds of the demigods they create to serve as conduits for their will imposed upon the people. Like Prometheus, I rebelled and heavily advised that they go and make anatomically challenging choices upon themselves, so, as to be expected, I was killed. Spiritually and psychologically as well as emotionally, I was left like Prometheus, chained to the side of a mountain, attacked daily by the dragons of the establishment. Mercy dictates that sometimes they kill you physically, but if cruel enough, they may see the greater benefit of keeping you alive physically while destroying you in all other pertinent ways, so that the other young demigods can get a whiff of what death is like by defying their will which will scare the crap out of them. “Prometheus was banished from heaven and barred from hell because both God and the Devil knew him well”. After my ritual slaughter and execution, I took what bones were left available to me and with my unyielding faith, quietly and slowly began again. They are not the same bitches anymore either, and I am certain that when called upon, my powers are the equal of any God on the Mountain or in Hell below. “They say that I am a fallen Angel, I say I was pushed.” And their total arrogance in their complete control of the game allowed them to fall asleep and pick a fight with the wrong dragon. I did not choose the subject of Prometheus by accident. I AM PROMETHEUS. And to complete your question, the Internet will continue to evolve as we do.
VA+BG: Do you think it is still possible to make money selling records?
SM: You betcha…Listen, a lot of this is just a game to scare the bold and brave away from their true calling. I have a deal with Zeus. I look after my fields and he looks after my wheat. And anyone fool enough to actually believe what they see on the Internet and all of the stories is being set up by and for deception. For the most part, those who do that have always been a gang of greedy hustlers and cattle rustlers. I can promise you that someone is still making money from selling records, while what we are told only allows them to steal even more than they already stole before. Numbers are manipulated to represent the reality of the game, and it is unthinkable that one can defy the game and still have access to the ‘truth’ of what effect they are having despite it all. For better or worse, I am a conscious being and understand completely that most of this exists not for the benefit of consciousness but for the maintenance of Mount Olympus’ control of the people and their greatest asset, their minds. Meanwhile my heavenly father keeps me ever mindful of always living within my means so that I not fall beneath the sway of desperate measures. And I still make money because I was born to make money, I do not see myself as separate from the money I already am. Hear me now, good brethren, no one on planet earth is sufficient to measure my wealth and worth but me myself and because I serve with all of my heart and soul, the laws of compensation will follow me until the very ends of the earth and beyond the tethered graves of death, as the great grand master Ralph Waldo Emerson promised in his immortal essays pertaining to those very same Universal Laws of Compensation.
VA+BG: Creative writing and poetry seem to take a huge place in your life. What authors, philosophers inspire you the most if there are any?
SM: My poetry icons are Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, Edna St. Vincent Millay, the Symbolist poets, Rimbaud, William Blake, Rainer Maria Rilke, Apollinaire, Hafiz, Omar Khayyam, Mirabai, Christina Rossetti, the Metaphysical poets, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou, Pushkin, Lord Byron, Shelley, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Derek Walcott, grand master Shakespeare and very much Goethe.
As for the writers and philosophers, Balzac, James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, Salman Rushdie, Eudora Welty, Dante, Milton, Homer, Tagore, O. Henry, Saki, Oscar Wilde, Cicero, Joseph Campbell, Socrates, Epictetus, Michel de Montaigne, Gurdjieff, Osho, Yogananda, J. Krishnamurti, Pythagoras, St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Dr. Seuss. As well as whoever wrote the Kama Sutra, my favorite philosophers of them all. I also loved Plato (but we were just friends …).
VA+BG: Any plans to write a book at some point, and what would it be about?
SM: The answer is yes, there has been a book since my childhood in the works, I was born a book looking for publication. The eternal question is always: ‘How does this all end?’. For quite a few years I have been tempted by offers of a film, book, documentary, but the problem then was: Who the hell is ever going to believe this? Though now the issue is: When will I find the time? And what will this book entail? The longest, craziest most unbelievably mind blowing story you have ever heard (since at least the last one). Few publishers would have the courage or permission from ‘Babylon’ to publish the life I’ve lived and seen. You can trust that I am all too sure that truth is a whole lot stranger than fiction.
VA+BG: You are a family man. When your children grow up, if they want to walk in your footsteps as artists, what would you tell them?
SM: I would tell them to find their own footsteps, since I very barely even survived my own. Most of all I would simply encourage them to seek happiness where they are inspired to find it and that whatever it is, I am there with them. My greatest dream for them is basic simple human happiness from a very basic and uncomplicated life. This business is anything but uncomplicated and not for the faint of heart. A life whereby they are not required to kiss ass or give up any. I wasn’t proficient nor willing in either and did in fact suffer as a consequence. In any event, it would be easier for them to walk the plank, than walk in my footsteps. The sharks in the water are a lot more merciful and considerate than were the sharks I had to swim through in my career.
VA+BG: Could you say that at this stage of your life you have found peace of mind?
SM: Quite frankly I wouldn’t know peace of mind if it broke into my house and threw a bucket of water on my face while sleeping and spooning the Mrs. What I do know is contentment and satisfaction that I am where the good Lord requires and as long as he and the divine mother need me to bear my cross, I am willing. Because the rewards are great, and as the good book says: ‘The harvest is plentiful, though the laborers are few’. I will have total peace of mind when my deeds are done and my karma has earned it. But for as long as I am restless and searching, I may still find nuggets of Gold along the way useful to the time span I am asked to serve as well as those inspired by my service. At the root, I am still but a very simple loyal Christian boy trying to work it all out, while trusting the assignment I was given as well as my posting. For both good and bad, I took it very seriously when as a child I read in the good book ‘Be Thy Faithful Unto Death, and I Will Give Thee A Crown of Life’. And once finally back on the Mountain, I will be kicking ass until they throw me back off again, which in fact always seems like a familiar process to me, no matter how many times it has occurred. Again, as a practice and an article of faith, I never look for anything I haven’t earned.
...I did not choose the subject of Prometheus by accident. I AM PROMETHEUS``.