The Washington woodland psychedelic drone-rockstar William Sol aka Prana Crafter is well known for his ability to traverse space and time through an atmospheric guitar, or a well timed piano stroke. Earlier this year he released his album Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice which has been met with unanimous praise by many circles, and was featured on Bandcamp as an Essential Release earlier this year. He was kind enough to answer some fanboy questions from me regarding his music, his process and the ideas he draws from.
1. So, just in the title and the album cover we get a sense of some kind of concept that’s prescient in the album, in your own words, or the words of others, how would you describe the story of the album? Like who is Bodhi Cheetah and what was his choice?
The title, Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice, was meant to be multidimensional. My hope was that it would be something that intrigued people and they would want to understand it, so that would lead them to wonder about it and that would lead to enquiring about mysticism. So, the actual phrase has two symbolic dimensions, the first is a nod of respect to one of my favorite bands, The Grateful Dead. They had a patron early on who also helped design their sound-system, his nickname was Bear and there is an album called The History of The Grateful Dead Vol. I; Bear’s Choice. I feel like as much as anybody wants to poke fun at them for any number of reasons, the truth is that nobody else before them or after them could create the kind of transcendent, hive-mind, musical tapestry like they did in their prime. The words ‘Bodhi Cheetah’ are a word play on the term Bodhichitta, which has many meanings, two of which are the energy of enlightened-mind and the energy that moves the mind towards liberation. By saying Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice, I was trying to express that when I play improvisational music, it is the spontaneous energy and the state of consciousness that makes the choices, not me as the guy holding the guitar or pressing down the piano keys. Improvisation, to me, is something really magical and I’m glad that people are enjoying my music because it means they are resonating with the energy of spontaneous presence! I don’t have allegiance to any religion but find myself very aligned with Tilopa and what he taught.
2. And where did you draw the inspiration for the associated concept and imagery from?
When I started talking to Mike at ‘Beyond Beyond is Beyond’ (which is a phenomenal label if you don’t already know their output) about the album, I told him my dream for the artwork would be a meditating cheetah. Mike had the brilliant idea of contacting Nik Rayne from the band The Myrrors and Nik agreed to create the artwork, which I loved.
3. What were the differences in creating this record when compared to your previous two? Any particular process or concept you feel you attacked differently than in the past?
Process-wise it was very much approached in the same way I approach all music, let improvisation lead and then following my instincts as far as mixing and aesthetics went. I was more conscious this time about having the entire album flow together, which is something I did even more so on the next album I have coming out. On the next one, all the songs literally flow together.
4. What musical inspiration do you draw from in the album, any particular scene or artist that you feel you artistically resonate with?
There are a few artists who I think epitomise the ability to go into an ecstatic-flowing, state-of-consciousness and bring out some serious sonic-nectar, so I end up listening to a lot of stuff from people who I think can do that, in my opinion it’s really rare but there is nothing better. If you’re wondering who I mean when I say that, I listen to a lot of Jerry Garcia, Manuel Göttsching, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young; I think John Fahey is a really good example . I have a few friends who are like musical encyclopaedias and they help me out immensely by knowing my tastes really well and turning me onto new music that’s great and tons of obscure older music that is really amazing.
5. There’s been a lot of discourse around this album and it’s psychedelic elements, in current discussions of genres do you find this category to be fitting with what you feel your music is?
Psychedelic makes sense to me because I hope that the music has a meditative effect, like a mind-massaging or a cleaning of the dusty old third ear! I think of the music as acid-folk, psychedelic, mystic, and resonate with a lot of music deemed kosmische, cosmic, or space-rock.
6. Additionally, how do you find you engage with this genre? What does psychedelic music mean to you?
For me, psychedelic music has to be a little unpredictable in terms of not following exact genre cliches and it should be music that puts you into a different headspace somehow. I think the best psychedelic bands are those that can really cause a shift in the listeners consciousness, just a little tweak that makes things seem strange and somehow different than an everyday state of consciousness. I think there is also something about the visual art and the song titles and lyrics of psychedelic music that help the mind shift a bit more towards the mystic and magical dimensions of reality.
7. Following that, what was the kind of listening experience you tried to create or that you associate with the album or is this idea not so relevant in the music creating process for you?
I want the music to be like an energetic transmission of both the forest/mountain/ocean energy that surrounds me physically here in Washington and the indivisible energy of love and peace that is present in every moment if we allow it to be. I wanted it to be an inner journey, which is also what I hope the next album is, a sonic journey down stream.
8. What’s next for Prana Crafter in music or otherwise? Will the sonic areas explored in Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice be returned to again? If it’s a sequel album will it be called “Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice 2 many choices”?
Ha, no there won’t be a sequel! The next album is called Enter the Stream and it will be out this summer on Sunrise Ocean Bender and Cardinal Fuzz Records, both as a vinyl LP and as a digital album. It’s a really beautiful album that combines the mystic energy and spacey sounds of Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice with elements of acid-folk, I’m really excited about it! As for Prana Crafter, I will be wandering the woodlands of Washington and playing music around the Pacific North West. I have a website, pranacrafter.com that has updates on what’s happening and where to find things related to the music.
Listen to “Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice” at the Prana Crafter bandcamp where you can check out William’s other music and support his progress and stay tuned for ‘Enter the Stream’.