Prana Crafter interview with William Sol
Prana Crafter is William Sol, a musical mystic who blends the raw energies of nature with guitars, synthesizers, singing bowls, and a dose of flow-consciousness.
How old were you when you began playing music and what was the first instrument you played?
I have been messing around on instruments that were around my environment for as long as I can remember. There are pictures of me playing with guitars, mandolins, harmonicas, etc. When I was a kid in the 80s, it was still a much simpler time as far as toys go, so I also remember spending a lot of time playing on little radio shack keyboards, the small toyish kind. The first instrument I really tried to become proficient at was the guitar at around the age of 13.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?
My father was a performing bluegrass musician when was a child, his band cut one LP that is still floating around the used record store-circuit. Bluegrass and country music were always a part of my life and my dad was also a record collector who loved rock and blues music. I used to sit in front of the record player and listen to records for hours and hours.
Also, my mom married a guy when I was around 5 years old and he was a conductor of an orchestra and professor of music at the local college. I spent dozens and dozens of hours in the theater listening to orchestra rehearsals and performances as well as all so many hours listening to my step-father’s jazz quintet practice. Curious five-year old at the top of the stairs peering down, sonically enveloped by a tapestry of horns and strings, collective-vibrations amusing, mystifying, healing, perhaps even seeding knowledge?
Were you part of any other musical project before starting Prana Crafter project?
I got my first four-track cassette recorded when I was 15 or so and started making things that were quite similar to what I do now, just not as good. Then I was in a punk band for several years later on, we played shows around town, dive bars, parties, the punk-tolerant venues. After that I went back to making solo creations and that’s still were I’m at today, all these years later.
You have currently four albums released. I would like to go through each of them and talk about the concept and the lyrical meaning behind your music.
Well, there are technically 5 but the first was a very limited run only available in the UK.
Prana Crafter/ST: Reverb Worship (2014)
This album is pretty lo-fi, bedroom/acid folk, but there are some real gems on it. The lyrical content is very much angled towards storytelling. There is a track called ‘King of the Seven Realms’ which is like a tale of a mystic king whose shithead song is trying to kill him to take over, but he can’t get his hands on him because the king has transcended beyond ego as the song says, “You can’t put a noose around thin air and you can’t kill what isn’t there”
Rupture of Planes: Deep Water Acres (2015)
This album had several songs with lyrical content. Predominantly these songs are about my love of nature, my wife Tara, and the mysterious aspects of reality. The title track, ‘Rupture of Planes’, is about contact with non-physical energies and entities, both in nature and through consciousness. The song starts with, “The wind it howled my name, from the mount where it was blowing, my mind and it, the same, for a moment” and later, “Behind me I could sense, something was watching me, as if a breeze with sight, whom knows where it’s blowing”, so both nature as well as the paranormal throughout. The track opening track, ‘Forest at First Light’, is very much about communing with nature.
MindStreamBlessing: Eiderdown (2017)
This was an instrumental album with names that all harken towards my love of the forests where I live in rural Washington State. This album, for me, was like a sonic-energetic-transmission from the forest.
Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice: Beyond Beyond is Beyond (2018)
This was an instrumental album but the titles all reflect certain mystical themes. The title itself is a play off the term Bodhicitta and the Grateful Dead album, Bear’s Choice, named for Owsley ‘the Bear’ Stanley. I think of the names of instrumental songs as sometimes descriptive, sometimes poems, and sometimes listening suggestions. So, like ‘Blooming of the Third Ear’ is supposed to be a suggestion of how to listen to the track, then ‘Holy Tempel of Flow’ is a descriptor and a nod to my love of Ash Ra Tempel.
This newest album is probably the one I’m most proud of as far as lyrical content is concerned. The songs, once again, cover the territory of mysticism, love, and nature. Some lyrical highlights for me are: “the leaves glistening, is the sunlight whispering, in a language that cannot be known, through symbol or through sign. In this world filled with pain, I know that love reigns, in robes woven of golden light, in a kingdom outside of time” that’s from the title track. I also love, “Arms folded, fingers in a spiral, summoning that ancient fire, endlessly burning, never to tire, come in from the cold, warm yourself in my fire, we’re cleansing the mire”, that is from ‘Old North Wind’. And from ‘At the Dawn’, “Waking with you at the dawn, to watch the unfolding of everything that the light brings, together as one, with your face framed perfectly under the sun, it shines between every moment.”
Can you share details how your latest album Enter the Stream was recorded and released?
The album was recorded both at a local studio called South Sound Sound, and at home. I recorded the vocals and basic guitar and bass at the studio and then took it home to add more and mix it myself. The instrumental tracks were all recorded fully at home by myself. I prefer to record alone for energetic reasons and mood, but I don’t have the right equipment to catch the vocals the way I want too. It was co-released by Sunrise Ocean Bender and Cardinal Fuzz, two amazing labels. Eggs in Aspic also released a limited cassette edition over in the UK.
Who is behind the cover artwork for your releases?
The art work done by Kevin, who runs Sunrise Ocean Bender, I’m not sure if people know he’s a very talented graphic designer who has done some other album covers as well. He actually did my cover for Rupture of Planes, using a picture I took of the burl on an old growth stump out in the Olympics. The front cover image is actually neuroimaging of the human brain and Kevin blended some water imagery into the brain. The back and inner images were kind of a play on real and imaginary stream scenes. Here is what Kevin said about the cover: “I came across the 3-D modelling of the brain (credit is on the LP) and really liked the image but felt it had to be tied in more with ‘you’ and the LP so I started playing with the water (from ‘stream’ of course), etc … You and I had explored those other more complex and busy covers that never seemed to nail it, so part of it was a reaction to those, to mellow it out, turn the volume down. And of course, the brain/mind imagery seemed totally appropriate for the concept of the LP, the vibe, title… enter the stream of your own mind, man!”
How would you compare Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice to your latest album?
I see them as similar, as coming from the same vein, even though one is a bit more folky. Both draw from the same energy and I always try to have certain dynamics come through, certain tensions and moments when things unravel, I think both albums do that well.
Is there any other material available?
That’s pretty much it but I do occasionally put acoustic covers onto my soundcloud. I have ones up there of ‘Ferries Wear Puts’, by Sabbath, ‘White Rabbit’, by Jefferson Airplane, ‘Have a Cigar’, by Floyd, ‘Ship of Fools’, by the Dead, and ‘Dark Globe’, By Syd.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?
As soon as I had enough skill on the guitar to make a song I started making them. I first started writing songs at 15 and performing out a bit at that same time.
What would you say influenced you the most? Have influences changed during the years?
Musically, I’m most partial towards Jerry Garcia, Manuel Göttsching, Neil Young, Leon Russell, Agitation Free… those are my absolute favorites. I like a lot of jazz that is of the looser variety, west coast 60s stuff, kosmische, and UK folk from years gone by. I used to be really into stuff like The Misfits and Bad Religion, so things have got a lot more spacey over the years, but even when I listened mostly to heavier stuff, I still dug things like Floyd and the Dead, so some things haven’t changed. And really, I’m consistently pointing out how heavy some material is that came from ‘space rock’ bands and even the Dead, there is some really heavy shit.
What does the name “Prana Crafter” refer to in the context of the band name?
The name refers to the act of molding raw improvisation-manifested energy into song-form, basically intuitively crafting prana into sonic-offerings through the medium of consciousness and my physical body. I came up with the name for a short story I started but never finished. In it there were forest wizards called Prana Crafter’s who lived in the forest, smoking herbs, meditating, and doing magic.
What’s the songwriting process like?
For instrumental tracks I go off of instinct and improv until I find something I love and then develop it by intuition from that point forward. Even the mixing process is very much just done on instinct, not a lot of strategizing, that’s just the way I operate.
When I’m writing a lyrical song it’s a longer process. I still use improvisation to help me get the melody and initial content, after that I spend a lot of time developing it. I won’t release a song unless every lyric feels right to me. I am a writer, so it means a lot to me that the words are poetic, evocative, and sound good when put to music. As you can tell from what I said before, I pretty much only write songs about mysticism, nature, and love.
What kind of process do you have at mastering material for the release?
I let the labels handle the mastering, they tend to have wonderful people in mind to do it. Carl Saff did Bodhi Cheetah’s and Eric Carbonara, who is a performing guitar player himself, did Enter the Stream.
What are some future plans?
I’m working on a dissertation right now involving musical improvisation, so that is pretty much the main thing I am focusing on. The workload is heavy enough that I can’t make any tour plans or anything right now. I have a split album coming up with the amazing Tarotplane, that will be sometime in 2019 and I think we put together something really special, deep, deep, kosmic music. I also have two tracks coming out on a compilation called SplixTape through a new cassette label called Hypnic Jerk. The next full-length Prana Crafter album will have to be recorded after my dissertation is completely.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Some of my favorites are:
Garcia and Wales – Side Trips Vol. 1
Agitation Free – At the Cliffs of River Rhine
Ash Ra Tempel – Live at Bern, 10-9-71
Dirty Three – Ocean Songs
Elkhorn – Lionfish
Dire Wolves – Earthquake Country
Wooden Shjips – V
Tarotplane – 358 Oblique
Miles Davis – Agharta
Evening Fires – Where I’ve Been Are Places and What I’ve Seen are Things
Neil Young – Dead Man as well as almost all his early albums.
Old and in the Way – Acoustic Archive, Vol 2, Breakdown
Leon Russell – Just love Leon all around.
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Thank you Klemen, I appreciate you helping me to spread the word and am really happy you are enjoying the music!
– Klemen Breznikar