Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth
Edited By: Ola’s Kool Kitchen
Syria is not just a place to me. It’s a place where some of my favorite music comes from. 100,000 people are dead there. I’m not political scholar, but I do know that there is a war going on right now, and it’s for power over the people. So, I think it all ties together. Not only should you care about everyone on this planet, but if we cared about each other, we’d be strong together.
The most important thing to me, particularly when it comes to speaking with musicians who permeate a persona of otherworldly powers and knowledge is to understand their humanity by cutting through the fog of musical mysticism and folklore. Dax Riggs‘ fans idolize him, and the connection he has with them seems to be very profound.
If I did believe that Gods and Goddesses walked the Earth, I would still want to know how they felt in their human form and what they wanted out of their time on this planet. Riggs’ music examines, pokes, prods and experiments with the ideas of death, angels, demons, God, Satan and general the war between love and blood. As a listener, he confounds me in how he has found a way to flow through these notions in a career of 20 years and yet avoids overt repetition. His music never uninteresting, and in this interview he speaks about his influences, which includes middle eastern and world music which is something people may not expect to be inspirations for his swampy soulful requiem ballads.
During our interview earlier this summer, he mentioned to me that there were times that he felt like a priest to his fans, so, I made it a point to ask him what he really thought about the world, his music, his fans and his lifestyle.
In regards to song-writing, you speak a lot about your influences. Artists like John Lennon and Nick Drake seem to have been quite prominent to your artistic out-put . When you write records, do you take all that into account, and plan your albums with a long-term futuristic vision, or do your ideas come one at a time?
Definitely one at a time. I’m trying to figure out what I’m trying to do next. There isn’t really a plan. I’d like to smash some doom metal into the next record, but not in a typical way. I’d like to play music as if Kris Kristofferson was playing doom metal.
As a popular cult musician, you seem to have a very strong relationship with your fans. How do you handle the deep connectivity your fans feel with you, and does it make you happy?
Does it make me happy? When there’s someone who understands what I’m doing in the same way that I do, it’s fun to meet people like that. It’s great to meet people who are intensely into the music as I am. That’s certainly a good thing. Sometimes I feel like a priest or something. There’s a lot that comes with it. It’s not always on the happy side, but yeah it’s pretty intense. Each show is spiritually and psychically charged. You get enough people in a room that believe real heavily, that’s when something magical happens.
Is your experience with your fans isolating?
No. It brings me into the circle quickly. I mean, I might be lucky and things may work out great for me in certain ways, but it’s also good for me to keep in touch with people who have nothing but bad luck, and who know that. Those are my people.
How do you separate yourself from the pain and loss that you’ve been through in order to be so available for others?
I’m one of those people who will look towards the light. I guess I have certain Buddhist qualities in a sense that I feel like things come and go, and it’s supposed to be that way. I can deal with it all, because I know that it means everything, and that it means nothing. I know this whole thing is a blessing, and if you have perspective of that, then you go into a bad place.
Us breathing right now and being able to look around is the most sacred blessing we will ever know. There’s nothing greater than the spirits that we have, and to get side tracked, numb and dumbed down from everything; you can’t allow others to do that to you. You’ve got to go out and grab a handful of dirt and rub it into your skin.
So, with your new album, you’re still doing demos? Have you laid any songs down at this point?
No, not the real thing yet.
You tend to express yourself through genres, or artists you’re into. When you write a new record, are they your own concepts, or are they based solely on music you’ve been listening to over the course of a few years?
The songs come whenever they want to, I guess. I more or less look at the world and speak of what I think of what I think is not here, or what I think is missing right now, and I think, what do I need? It’s really a selfish kind of thing, because I write about things I want to be here, things I want to exist in our reality. So, I’m going to make singer/songwriter style music and mix it with punk blues, and I’m also going to be reinventing some ancient ballads and folk songs.
Working on music is not different for me every time, it’s more like a long, long progression. When I was very young, I was into Iron Maiden and thrash music. So I appreciated Joe Cocker and Ray Charles type vocalists, but I could not understand how to really sing like that back then. I think I’m getting closer to what my dream was with that. I always wanted to get close to that, but I heard the music and felt like that was the real spiritual tool that I could get my hands on and doing something with it.
I’m also really influenced by Zambian music, a lot of African music, Turkish music, Iranian music, outside of folk, that music is my main influence. The way I see world music is like it’s the first step to loving someone or a culture that you can’t understand.
Do you consciously take the responsibility to embed Universal concepts to people who grew up in areas like the Bible Belt? Is that a purposeful mission for you, or do you just play music for the experience?
Well, it’s for me, but I believe it’s for everyone. I am from the Midwest. I was born in Indiana. I never really thought about it too much. I mean, I do make sure I turn people onto music that they may not have heard before, so that’s a part of it. It helps us all evolve. But to answer your question, I only put these ideas into my music because that’s where I am at the moment, and that’s where I’ve changed, so I am no different.
Listening to your music over the years, it seems like you look at death and God and Satan from a billion different perspectives. Can you expand on your music’s spiritual and lyrical content?
When I create music it’s never a preconceived thing. It’s a very trance-like, spiritual thing for me. It’s a language of the spirit. I just try to listen to myself, and what comes out of my mouth is what I’m trying to get out there. These ideas are so important and so big, and they’ve kept me up so many nights. In the beginning, it was like I was really wondering what’s going to happen. But now, it’s that I’m coming to an understanding where there is no understanding. It’s like finding something that makes me feel better about joining the darkness, and to look at it in a peaceful way, the way it really is.
What have you learned with age?
I guess I could sum everything up by saying I got control of my soul. It was really just raging and howling, and unforgiving of itself. I believe that I’ve done a lot of studying of how to be ok. My spirit was in such agony. Now I feel like I’m feeding it the right things, and the right information and trying to battle to stay creatively alive, and stay in it.