I worked with Nakona (my tattoo artist as well) to bring about this tribute album cover. We wanted to keep many of the Dio elements while transforming them into versions that suited the mindset and intention of my music, my shakuhachi playing and the spirit of high-energy, sacred new nature music with depth. The other direct elements of this process were Swamp Thing, of course, Alan Moore’s earth elemental, as well as the land and forests in which I live in Forest Knolls, CA (Marin County), and the great chimney rocks and beautiful air of Prachovské skály, a.k.a. Český Ráj, a.k.a. Bohemian Paradise in the Czech Republic, which I had the good fortune of spending 3 days in just before the International Shakuhachi Festival Prague 2016.
While it pains me to say that a handful of otherwise adept musicians and woodwind performers–rock, classical, jazz and world–deeply misunderstand what is actually involved in transcribing, arranging and performing a “cover song”–and keeping its true inner mojo intact–of the type that is featured on this and my upcoming Shakuhachi Unleashed albums, it is probably not their fault, so to speak. When faced with something so new, strange or unknown, a natural response is to assume that it might be pretty easy to do or come up with. Without another example against which to compare it, the brain is not sure what to do with it. Plus, there is a generous supply of far-below-excellent, soulless, stripped-of-vitality “cover versions” of songs on, yes, sometimes shakuhachi, and many other wind instruments. This threatens to poison the well, conceptually, even I must admit this. For non-musicians, however, you can actually set all that aside. I hope that everything on Holy Flute would simply be experienced as what we can call Good Music. Music with depth, creativity, skill and discernment. Music with soul, life and energy. Thankfully, I have friends, family, colleagues, fans, students– and blog readers ;-)–who have the Deep Creative Vision also, and enjoy joining me in these adventures.
By 1983, Ronnie James Dio had been a professional musician for about 25 years, and this album, Holy Diver–its caliber, energy, spirit, songwriting prowess and musicianship–released that year was a culmination, a zenith, a peak, and fans responded and continue to respond accordingly. By tapping into this iconography, culmination and response, I hope to catch a piece of the rainbow, so to speak, and shine some of that Holy Light upon our bamboo sounds, songs and prayers in the world of Zen and shakuhachi, and woodwind music performance.