Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mike Tamburo 13 questions

Mike Tamburo, also known as Brother Ong, Ong Wah, and Harnek (1977 New Kensington, Pennsylvania) is a musician, sound therapist, relaxation specialist, filmmaker, musical instrument builder, storyteller, writer, Kundalini Yoga practitioner and teacher, Gong Resonance Therapy Teacher, installation artist, painter, music producer, orgone energy enthusiast, floatation tank enthusiast and lover of life currently living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He plays the guitar, hammered dulcimer, gong, shahi baaja, zither, swarmandal, autoharp, the crowned eternal (an instrument he built out of a headboard), tuning forks, percussion, electronic instruments, bulbul tarang, bass gopichand, gulbulgar, synthesizers, singing bowls, bells, random piece of metal and clarinet. He runs 2 small labels called: New American Folk Hero and Sounds Eternal. He is greatly inspired by American folk and minimalist music traditions as well as Indian classical music and the sounds of the environment. 

His current and past projects are varied and often difficult to keep up with.  Most notably he is known for his solo work as Mike Tamburo (1993-current), Brother Ong (2010-current), Crown Of Eternity (2010-current), Don Conreaux and Mysterious Tremendum (2013-current),
Psychic Frost (2002-current) with Matt Mcdowell, Arco Flute Foundation (1999-2003)  Meisha (1996-2001) and Eskimo 88 (1993-1995).

He has also collaborated with Don Conreaux, Natura Nasa, Kukeri, Great Blue Heron, In The Belly of The Whale, Scythling, Livtar, Anthony Molina, Gurunam, Tusk Lord, Josh Beyer, Jeffrey Alexander, Wilson Lee, Scott Verastro, R Keenan Lawler, Live to Love and Insect Factory as well as a number of musicians in the 3HO mantra community.

He teaches Kundalini yoga, Nāda yoga, sound therapy and Experimental Instrument Building.

In his youth he studied with the mythic Sayas Ser. He has also studied in India with Mauno and Yogi Amit. He studies and performs with Gong Master Don Conreaux.  He studied Kundalini yoga at the Kundalini Research Institute in Espanola, NM with many teachers including Dev Suroop Kaur, Snatam Kaur, Nirvair Singh and Gurucharan Singh.  He has also trained in Yoga for Youth with Krishna Kaur.

He has traveled the United States extensively, performing somewhere between 900 and 1000 shows in his career. He writes about many of his adventures in an ongoing collection of stories called Without Beginning, Middle Or End. He has also curated 3 years of the Fantastic Voyagers Music Festival. He runs Crown Of Eternity Vibrational Healing with his wife Gallina Tamburo.  They travel the country together giving workshops on the gong, mantras and deep listening experiences. 

What do you remember about your first instrument?

I think that my first 3 instruments were a toy xylophone, a tape recorder and a casio keyboard. The xylophone had different colored bars, the tape recorder was red and had pitch control and the casio had a samba beat that I remember using a lot. I think I was around 10 when I got my first guitar. It had a speaker in it and used to feedback very easily. It was very hard to tune.

Why do you need music? Can we live without music?

I feel that there are things that I can express with music that can be expressed in no other way. It is the universal language. I think everyone lives better with music.

About half of the sound work I do right now is with Vibrational Relaxation or Vibrational Therapy. I work with gongs, Himalayan Singing bowls, Hammered Dulcimer, Bells and other metal objects. I often imagine at this point in my life that these vibrations are the only thing holding my body together. I do find a distinction between this work and my other musical output.

 Mike Tamburo - If It's The Last Song From The Album When The Music's January 2015

Which is the main pleasure of the strings? What are their main limitation?

As far as my love for strings. My main pleasure is watching open strings vibrate. I have always loved this and I imagine it is why I continue to learn how to play more string instruments beyond the guitar. I love the sound of well placed intervals, especially on zithers or my hammered dulcimer. I love the sustain of the string and the quality of the sound.

The main limitation is that strings break.

Which work of your own are you most surprised by?

I feel like most of what I do has a pretty natural progression. My ideas and playing keep evolving, but I would not say that surprises me. I have always loved strings. I have always loved heavy vibrations. I have always loved overtones. I have always loved trancing out.

Getting into mantras was a little surprising for me at first, but I feel like even that is a natural progression on my path of musical experience. The sound really works deeply into me, it is incredibly freeing and healing.

Where are your roots? What are your influences?

At this point I have been listening to and playing music for so long that I almost forget what my roots really are. I have always wanted to play music. If you asked me this question in the 80s I would have said some metal bands In the 90s it would be Japanese noise and Sonic Youth, Zeena Parkins, Gastr Del Sol and Steve Reich. In the 2000s I have had the great fortune of spending time with amazing musicians who have become my friends and who I get to interact with quite often. I find that to be more inspiring than anything.

A lot of my early inspiration was just growing up around Pittsburgh. When I was younger we had the kind of scene where it made sense to go see Guided By Voices one night, Cecil Taylor the next and The Dead C the next night and the new music ensemble playing Olivier Messiaen the next. There was lots of variety. Plus we had amazing local bands. Hurl, Karl Hendricks, Don Caballero, Shale, Swob, Blunderbuss all blew me away. I loved growing up in the Pittsburgh scene in the 90s. It was a great musical environment.

I find myself being more inspired by a keyboard line in a song I love or some little nuances that maybe I miss the first time I hear something. I am still listening to Television, David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Dylan, The Velvets as well as a whole lot of other things that I have been listening to since I was a teenager. I do not feel like I sound like any of them though. If anything, they inspired me in my love of music and inspired me to do something with it.

Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music.

Seeing Ravi Shankar on a video of the Monterey Pop festival has imprinted me probably more than anything. There was such skill and love in his music.

Psychic Frost  with Matt Mcdowell

There was also a duo performance by Elliott Sharp and Zeena Parkins in Pittsburgh in 1995 or 1996 that destroyed me in the best ways. They had such amazing passion and interplay. They were working with the old digitech and DOD pedals in a way that I had never imagined before and it just hit me so hard. I already had my first looper back then. They showed me how seamless it all could be.

Define the sound you're still looking for, or the sound you'd like to hear. 

Right now I am working on/with what makes me feel good. In the past I worked with/through a lot of catharsis in my musical process. I feel like I have kind of moved away from this need to emotionally vomit through sound. I want to make sounds that are more sustaining. I am looking always looking for a sound that is enveloping and penetrating and something that take the listener and myself to a mental environment that could not be achieved without it.

How would you define the present time in musical terms? 

Fortississimo and Crescendo

What do you dream about?

My dreams fall somewhere between a Terry Gilliam movie and a Romantic Teen Comedy. They are equally strange and sexy.

What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?

Try not to eat anything made in a factory.

Tell me one impossible project do you like to realize?

The only things that are impossible for me are the things I have not yet imagined.

What is the most recent musical concept that has attracted your attention? 

Well after many years being somewhat purposely lo-fi in my recordings, I have gotten really interested in making my recordings sound really good. I used to be just fine throwing up a single mic and capturing my inspiration as easily as possible. When I started trying to record the gong and also singing, I realized that I needed to figure out a way to make everything sound better. I had been focused on live recordings for so long. I almost forgot what an amazing tool a recording studio could be.

Selected Discography

Mike Tamburo

Emperor and Penguin 
Cassette (2015 - White Reeves Productions)

The Way To Be Free 
CD/Cassette  (Sounds Eternal - 2015)

Cassette (Inner Islands - 2013)

Undercover Brother 
Cassette (Sounds Eternal - 2013)

Lives On Air
Digital (Sounds Eternal - 2012)

Another View Of The Gate
CDR (Perhaps Transparent - 2010)

The Tenth Gate and Other Revelations
Box Set - 6 CDR + Book (NAFH - 2009)

In The District Of Noise
CDR (New American Folk Hero - 2009)

The Tenth Gate / Alchemical Marriage
2CDR (NAFH - 2009)

CDR (NAFH - 2008)

Language Of The Birds And Other Fantasies Box
7 CDRS, DVDR + Book (NAFH - 2007)

Dance Enis Dance
CDR (Barl Fire - 2007)

Ghosts of Marumbey
CD (Music Fellowship - 2006)

Beating of the Rewound Son
CD (Music Fellowshp - 2005)

Screwing Six Bolts Into Last Tuesday
CD (NAFH - 2005)

Jade Is The Color Of My True Love’s Fate
CDR (NAFH - 2005)

On A
Cassette (Less=More - 1995)

How Can I Help You Help Me
Cassette (Less=More - 1995)

Crown of Eternity

Crown of Eternity Earth In Space 
CD (Sounds Eternal - 2014)

Crown of Eternity The Cosmos Shall Clear The Path 
CD (Sounds Eternal - 2014)

Crown of Eternity Vibrate The Cosmos 
CD (Sounds Eternal - 2014)

Harnek Cosmic Laya Yoga Chant

Brother Ong

9th Church Of The Ascended Astronaut 
Cassette {Sounds Eternal = 2013}

Aquarian Summer 
Cassette, Lathe Cut {Sounds Eternal = 2013}

Deep Water Creation 
CDR {Deep Water Acres - 2012}

 Mysteries of the Shahi Baaja 
2CD (Sounds Eternal - 2012)

CDR (Sounds Eternal - 2012)

The Architect 
CDR Single (Sounds Eternal - 2012)

Deep Water Creation
CDR (Deep Water Acres - 2011)

The Golden Ray 
CDR Comp/Digital single (NNN /Sounds Eternal Digital - 2011)

Psychic Frost 
 (Collaborations with Matt Mcdowell)

Taking Lizard Mountain (By Frequency)
CDR {Deep Water Acres - 2013}

Hey Enis Dance/Taste the Frost
CDR (Deep Water Acres - 2011)

Are We Not Drawn Onward To New Era?
Cassette (Sloow Tapes - 2007)

At Bohemian Grove
CDR (Rural Faune - 2007)

CDR (Also with Adam Forkner and Honey Owens) (Foxglove - 2007)

God Will Fail John’s Horn
3” (NAFH - 2006)

Searching for Augie Leonard Sr.
CD (NAFH - 2006)

The Uncontrollable Mr. Lechte on Strands Formerly Braided
3way split CD (MF-2006)

Arco Flute Foundation

Everything After Everything After The Bomb Is Sci-Fi
CD (Music Fellowship - 2005)

Everything After The Bomb Is Sci-Fi
CD (Cenotaph Audio - 2002)

I Ate Tony Conrad’s Pierogies 
CDR (Tour Only - 2001)

The Fifth Lesson in New Era Time: The Unconsciousness of Yukon Steve 
CDR (Drone Disco - 2001)

The Third Lesson in New Era Time: 
Running Slow Motion Marathons with Purple Rejoice; 
Who Killed the Party House?
CD (Cenotaph Audio - 2000)

The Second Lesson in New Era Time: 
Exploring the Possibilities of New Wave Villains; 
And What of Boy? 
LP (Cenotaph Audio - 2000)


For Sayas 
CD (NAFH - 2005)

The Secret Of Paul Grouper 
CD (NAFH - 2005)

The First Lesson In New Era Time - The Universal Orchestra Of Pituitary Knowledge Sing Om To The Disturbed Onlookers, Who Were Meisha And Robin Anyway? 
CD (Music Foray Two - 2001)

The Fourth Lesson In New Era Time - Redefining The Sixty Foot Rock Band; The Deaf Will Still Feel Our Vibrations OR Republic Of Meisha 
7” (Pop Bus - 2000)

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever 
(1 Side of Pieces Of A Utopian Puzzle 3LP) (Priapus - 2000)

A Celebration Of Life 
CDR (Gingkoba - 1999)

Meisha Returns Meisha Forever 
CD (Music Fellowship - 1999)

CD (Gingkoba - 1997)

Mike Tamburo and Wilson Lee

Boyinger - 2x3" (NAFH - 2006)

Mike Tamburo and Ken Camden

Of Meisha (NAFH - 2006)

Eskimo 88

Inside Outside - Cassette (Less=More - 1995)
Open Your Ears and Hear a Sound - Cassette (Less=More - 1994)

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