We called the premie band JIVA on the phone just as they were beginning to work on their new album. Two weeks before they'd signed with George Harrison's Dark Horse Records for a three year recording and performing contract.
First off, how did Jiva first come together; you've been playing for quite awhile now, haven't you?
Three of us have known each other for six years, and we met Jim a year and a half or two years ago. We were in bands together before, but Knowledge brought everything together.
Before the Millennium festival, Michael Lanning and I were in a band together. We went to Millennium and after awhile the band broke up. Then after Guru Puja, Amherst, we formed JIVA. We got together because we needed some money for rent. Mike, Tom and I knew Rito (Michael Reed) who was a drummer. The four of us played one night at a club in San Bernadino.
When was that?
July 30th was the first night we played together. It was Rito's birthday
So you just started gigging after that?
We played there a couple more weekends. Then we started practicing originals and Rito moved down here. We started doing programs for Guru Maharaj Ji in Los Angeles. That's what really turned Rito's head around. He was playing for Maharaj Ji even before he got Knowledge. He set up his drums right beside Maharaj Ji, and he just blissed out.
Did the rest of you already have Knowledge?
Yes. I had Knowledge first, then Michael got Knowledge, then Tom, then Rito.
So what happened after that? You did an album?
Yes. We wanted to make an album just for the premies. So we made that Hans Jayanti album, "By His Grace". And it really was by his Grace. By coincidence, my girlfriend's brother was an engineer at a studio, and on the spur of the moment we arranged it with him to make an album.
How did you go from there to meet George Harrison? Did the album have anything to do with it?
We made the album in October, and the first thing we wanted to do was take it to George. He was on tour then and we couldn't get a hold of him, but his girlfriend Olivia is a premie, and a very good friend of ours. At Hans Jayanti in Toronto we gave her a copy and when she went over to England she gave it to George. Then, back in L.A., we met a guy named Alan Parieiser who's our manager now. He's also a good friend of George's. So the coincidences started to string together.
How did you meet Alan?
One night we went over to visit a premie who knew a few people in the business. He called this girl Trish who happened to be Alan's ex-wife. She came over, listened to one tune, and then picked up the telephone and tried to call George Harrison right there, but he wasn't home. Later she got in touch with Alan and gave him an album. He listened to it, took it on vacation with him, and listened to it some more.
When he came back he wanted to hear us live. He came over and we played for him down in our basement. We have this little tiny practice room in the basement with brick walls. He really dug it.
When did George first hear you live?
When they got back to L.A. after the tour, Olivia took George to see us play in a place called the "Topanga Corral". He said the night reminded him of the Beatles' first days in Hamburg, Germany. It was in this really funky club and all the premies were flipping out for us. He said it felt like the old days when the Beatles had people yelling for them.
How did you finally come to sign with George, with Dark Horse Records?
Before we ever talked to George, Alan had us shop around with the really heavy labels, like Atlantic, Warner Brothers, and ABC - and a lot of big record companies came to see JIVA. The thing is, big companies are so impersonal, and not very spiritual. We really wanted to go with George all along. So finally Alan took it over to George and we got the contract.
Can you explain the contract how many records are you going to make?
The contract is really tailor made for us. We've signed with Dark Horse Records, a subsidiary of A&M Records. A&M is the largest independent record company in the world, and they'll do all the distribution and promotion. The contract itself calls for seven albums in three years: three for the first two years and then two for each year after that. Then if JIVA becomes a hit group like people are predicting, we'll be making lots more albums.
How much is George involved with JIVA now; is he producing the album himself?
No, George isn't producing us himself - our sound is kind of funk rock n' roll and that isn't George's style right now. But he is being incredibly helpful to us. He's had a lot of experience trying to put across a spiritual message to the maya - he knows the ins and outs of it all; how much you can be direct and when to lay back. Mostly we're just becoming good friends - George comes down and jams every once in awhile and just kind of hangs out with us quite a bit. He's a really beautiful brother. It's hard to say if he's coming close to Knowledge; he's really into Krishna Consciousness, but there's definitely a feeling of something being shared.
How soon will the first album be coming out?
We'll be releasing a single from the first album by June, and then we'll go on tour, probably in July, doing concerts all across the United States. The album itself will be released in August - the best time for a new record to sell.
What kind of songs are on the album? Are they songs to Guru Maharaj Ji?
They're all to Guru Maharaj Ji, but we haven't mentioned Maharaj Ji's name. That's a no-no. Of course a song like "Something's Going On Inside LA" naturally talks about Knowledge.
The lead-off song on the album will probably be a song called "Take My Love." Maharaj Ji really likes that song a lot. The first time we recorded it, he suggested we do it again without the background. Then George wanted to re-record "Ocean of Mercy" off the Hans Jayanti album, because he really liked it, so it might be on our first album, too. The rest will probably be all new material. We've written 30 new songs.
The album's going to be really commercial - we've cut almost everything down to under three minutes, really fast. Our first album will only have one ballad, a song that Guru Maharaj Ji likes a lot, called "Love Is A Treasure." He asked us to do it for one of his home movies.
Have you had any contact with Maharaj Ji since you found out about the contract?
No, not really. He's been very busy in India. But before he went we made him a demo tape. He wants us to do a wedding song for the movie of his wedding. We're going to go ahead and do that at the record plant at our studios. He doesn't know that yet, but if he comes home soon we'll tell him.
So you're meeting a lot of people in the record industry?
It's really amazing. This guy named Derek Taylor, who was the Beatles' road manager, heard the demo tape and flipped out. He went back to England raving about it, and got all the Apple people into it. Here, in New York and in Europe, people are talking about JIVA.
Then, George is always running in and out. In the song, "Something's Going On Inside LA", we mentioned Ringo's name. When George played the song for Ringo, Ringo had him stop the tape when he got to that part and play it back. It's really funny what you might call the highest strata of the record business is hanging out with us premies. It's hilarious. I'm telling you. And our producer, he really knows there's something besides what he sees. He knows Knowledge works because of the vibe of our music. He knows we have it. He's gone through an incredi-
ble change since we first met him. Like last night he was hugging us -I couldn't believe what he was doing.
Do you have a lot of satsang with the people you're meeting?
Most of the satsang isn't direct. They all know we're devotees of Maharaj Ji, and they all know about Maharaj Ji, but the music business is really a strange country, so the satsang is mostly just us and our music. It's the best satsang Maharaj Ji's given them. They all know it's just the underlying vibe. It's so groovy and it's so beautiful - it's clear to them what's happening but nothing's really said. There'll be a point where you'll want to tell somebody - like we'll be right there and there'll be someone like Al Kooper or Stevie Wonder or somebody really close to us, and it'll just be us and them, and you'll want to say, "Hey, listen man, Guru Maharaj Ji's here, and like we should all do something beautiful for humanity." Every once in awhile we'll come out with some satsang, but it won't be like a rap.
Sometimes, when we're playing in the practice room and there's a bunch of people there who aren't premies, and we start playing a song, sometimes it gets so high. They know what we're saying, what we're singing, and sometimes it's so HIGH I can't even believe it - because we're singing right to them, singing right to their soul.
Do you guys have a lot of satsang between you about what's happening?
Yeah, a lot. If we don't, forget it. Before our rehearsals we always try to meditate for awhile - it keeps it together.
Are you reaching any new heights, playing music with Knowledge?
It's really high, but I'll tell you, Maharaj Ji has a subtle way of not letting you what you'd call "feel the glory" of the old days. It used to be a really big ego trip to play music. But this way it's such a feeling of service. From my own personal standpoint, it's almost just like any other service. But then when we're all on stage playing, there's a funny kind of energy that takes over. It's like a ball of light that we toss between us on stage - magic.
We've been rehearsing for the album with this organ player who's not a premie. The vibe's so different with just that one guy playing that I realized just how much magic there is with the four of us because we've all got Knowledge, and we all know what we're doing and what's going on. The feeling then is incredible.
What's it feel like to be a success?
What's happening is really beautiful. I write a column for the Los Angeles premie community paper and I get letters in response to my column. Sometimes the letters criticize the premies, saying they never make more than $2 an hour, and that they're lazy. But it doesn't have to be like that. It looks like JIVA is going to make extremely big money. It's a breakthrough for us premies to have this kind of contract and to be treated on that level - it's sort of a shoe-in for the other premies around the area. Also we can get Maharaj Ji some nice things. This is what we'd really like to do because nothing else satisfies us. It really doesn't matter whether you get to buy a Rolls Royce for yourself or anything, because for a devotee the only real thing is seeing Guru Maharaj Ji. And either way is just as real - we'll always want to see Guru Maharaj Ji, but we'll always see Guru Maharaj Ji in all those other people too.
Is there anything else you want to tell the premies?
Well, you can tell them JIVA just means "your own soul," and we honestly feel that all the premies are doing this together with us, and we happen to be at the top of it only because we're supposed to be. A guitar is made up of tuning pegs, a body, a neck, and strings. Maybe we're the tuning pegs. But it's not just those pegs that are doing it, it's all the premies.
Whenever we play, there are always lots of premies yelling for us, and they're really really beautiful. Without them, I'm telling you, we would be nothing. We're just an extension of them. We started playing in satsang and as far as we're concerned we're always playing in satsang, no matter where we are. If there's anything we want to say to the premies everywhere, it's just that we really really love them, and we really feel an affinity with them.
This is such a far out step for everyone. It's far out to sing the praise, and the praise is going commercial.
When the newly completed film Power of Love arrived from DLM Australia last month, it was sent to Maharaj Ji straight away - or at least that was the intention. The film was first sent to Denver where Guru Maharaj Ji wasn't; then on to Miami where Guru Maharaj Ji was. As soon as he got the film, Maharaj Ji wanted to see it. He liked it. In fact he liked it so much that he had the film shown every night for the whole week he was in Miami, and agreed that all the premies around the country should get a chance to see it as soon as they could.
The Power of Love is a satsang movie. Filmed during Maharaj Ji and Durga Ji's visit to Australia and New Zealand last October, it is a gentle weaving of power and devotion for which there could be no more apt a title. The movie shows the power of the love that exists between Guru Maharaj Ji and his devotees. While the camera moves through a series of informal darshan shots - including some beautiful scenes from a boat ride in Haiku Bay, New Zealand, and Durga Ji's surprise birthday party in Sydney - the title song, Power of Love, written by Geoff Bridgford, underscores and highlights Maharaj Ji's presence on the screen. And his presence is incredible: there is something about the film that can carry the vibration of Maharaj Ji closing a satsang saying "Blast off" in a way that can never be expressed in words.
Above all the Power of Love is new darshan. The film is a powerful chronicle of Guru Maharaj Ji and the message he is trying to get across to the world now. In all fairness we have to give a hand to the Australian crew for their production. Although the footage is roughly a straight forward coverage of Maharaj Ji's visit, the crew has taken it, and in a superb job of creativity and technical expertise, turned it into the best satsang movie yet to come.