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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to NewAgeReporter.com. Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Gypsy Soul, Jun. 2007
A Conversation With Michael O'Connell, Mar. 2007
A Conversation with Paul Avgerinos, Nov. 2006
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation with Paul Avgerinos
November 2006
Since graduating from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1980, bassist/composer/producer Paul Avgerinos has pursued a diverse number of musical outlets ranging from Classical to Hip Hop. A short list of artists that he has worked with includes: Isaac Stern, Jean Pierre Rampal, The Beaux Arts Trio, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Charles Aznavour, Liza Minelli, Buddy Rich, Joanie, Madden, Faruk Tekbilek, Joaquin Lievano, Brian Keane, Jewel, Richie Havens, Run DMC and the Celtic Tenors. Adding to his already substantial Classical credentials, Paul has won scholarships to play and study at music festivals in Tanglewood, Aspen, Grand Teton, Taos and Spoleto (Italy). He has also served as the principal bass of several major symphony orchestras and has given solo recitals.

In 1984, Paul built Studio Unicorn, a comprehensive digital/analog recording studio (take a look at the Studio Unicorn website for a full listing of the studio's gear). At Studio Unicorn, he has worked on over fifty film, TV, and cable projects for HBO, PBS, and Lifetime, among others, and recorded twelve albums under his own name. One of those albums, Muse of the Round Sky, released in 1992 on the Hearts of Space label, garnered a Grammy nomination. And speaking of Grammy nominations, his work on Peter Kater's Red Moon also received a nomination in 2004.

Paul's latest release is called Gnosis and it's a good one. Debuting at number one on the NAR Top 100 chart for September 2006, Gnosis features some top notch musicians including: Paul (Cello, Fretless Bass, Layered Choirs, Sound Design, Synthesizers, Percussion, Guitars), Kevin Braheny Fortune (EWI), Steve Gorn (Flute), Rohin Khemani (Tabla), Steve Waite (Guitars), Brahim Fribgane (Oud), Rafiq Khan (Sarangi), Antonios Paravalos (Cantor), Christine Yandell (Vocals).

If you like to learn more about Paul and his music, please vist: RoundSkyMusic.com, MySpace.com/RoundSkyMusic, TagWorld.com/RoundSkyMusic and SacredHymns.com.

Paul Avgerinos
"...to me, it's all about channeling higher, sublime energies, from and through the heart." - Paul Avgerinos
Jamie: You have, to say the least, worked in a wide variety of musical contexts. Everything from solo records and film scores to sideman gigs and album production. Can you describe what you think are some of the common musical elements that tie together your body of work?
Paul: My Classical training and passion guide and illuminate everything I do. When I am producing in the studio, I always seek to respect and employ Classical ideals of form and symmetry, a satisfying balance of male and female energies, compositional structures that emulate the glorious perfection of the natural world and universe. I always strive to create works that will be enjoyable, satisfying and useful many generations into the future. Not a quest for personal immortality, but to create works of art that stand the test of time. Classical training, along the lines of the original Greek university, sets the bar very high. This can be intimidating at times, but just trying your best to achieve your own personal best is very satisfying. When one succeeds, it is a cause for celebration!

On a more practical level, I have great patience and focus, the ability to work on the same Three minutes of music for Ten hours straight without loosing the focus of classical perfection. I have been known to spend weeks on the same piece of music. This would drive most people crazy, but for me, it is my Spiritual path and fulfillment.
"My Classical training and passion guide and illuminate everything I do."

- Paul Avgerinos
Jamie: When you talk about male/female energies in relation to music, are you referring to something specific, such as a particular cadence, vocal/instrumental range or balance of male and female musicians?
Paul: These male & female energies I speak of are the Yin and Yang: the light and the dark, the strongly powerful and the gentle acquiescence, dark and light, soft and hard, the perfect balance of the universe of duality...

In music this corresponds to a balance of styles and emotional/spiritual responses to the sounds: for instance a gentle delicate piece of poignant exquisite floating beauty will be balanced by a more earthy & grounded powerful piece - The Yin and the Yang. So if one finds a way to incorporate these Two different pieces into an album, one achieves a classical balance of Yin and Yang (female & male) energies and helps the listener to experience the full depth, beauty and power of their male and female aspects which are contained within all of us. Now if a composer and producer can find a way to incorporate this balance effectively into ONE piece of music, this is a great artistic achievement and a worthy goal that I aspire to.
Jamie: Is there a piece on your latest record, Gnosis, that you feel you comes closest to realizing your goal of balanced energies?
Paul: Track Two, Follow Your Bliss, is a good example. About 2:27 in we have an angelic floating choir melody led by delicate female voices, courtesy of Christine Yandell. underneath we have a solid world percussion groove anchored firmly by Fretless Bass - Heaven and Earth, Female and Male.
Jamie: In addition to Christine, you have assembled an outstanding group of musicians to help complete the Gnosis sonic picture. What did this group of players bring to the album? Any welcomed surprises?
Paul: Oh Yes! These Eight musicians make one amazing band!

Rafiq Khan, from India, is a Seventh generation Sarangi player with very little English. At first, he tried to understand my music with Classical Indian Raga scales. After a fruitless hour, I sat on the floor with him, folded my hands in prayer and said, "Bhakti, Bhakti, devotion, devotion..." and putting my hands across my heart I said, "Just play from the heart". He went back into the studio and played the soulful tracks that are on Gnosis,.

All these musicians bring such wonderful gifts, but I must give a nod to the legendary Kevin Braheny Fortune who has graced my last Three albums with this hand built Electronic Wind Instrument driving an analog synthesizer of his own construction. Kevin still surprises and amazes me with his ability to intuit exactly what is needed at every moment.
"After a fruitless hour, I sat on the floor with him (Rafiq Khan), folded my hands in prayer and said, "Bhakti, Bhakti, devotion, devotion..." and putting my hands across my heart I said, "Just play from the heart"."

- Paul Avgerinos
Jamie: Your response segues nicely into my next thought... From reading the liner notes for Gnosis, I have a feeling that your spiritual views and your musical perspective are closely related (perhaps even one and the same) -- that there is no divide between acoustic and electronic instruments, or between written music and playing from the heart.
Paul: That's a really good point Jamie! Writing with traditional compositional skills, producing live acoustic tracks, layering electronic sound design... to me, it's all about channeling higher, sublime energies, from and through the heart. Skill is great, but nothing beats skill coming from a place of SOUL! For me, production IS my Spiritual Path. It fills me with Gratitude and Joy.
Jamie: And speaking of production, you have quite a studio! Studio Unicorn, your Redding, CT-based studio looks and, from listening to Gnosis, sounds first-rate. What do you like about having your own studio? What drives you nuts?
Paul: Thanks Jamie :-) I am very grateful for my Studio, windows looking out on the forest, cathedral ceilings, state of the art gear... It is a wonderful blessing to be able to spend significant time on 'labor of love' projects like the Nine months spent making Gnosis. Ironically, spending a whole week editing the solos on one piece can drive you a little nuts! When you are deep inside a project with no time limit or fixed budget, I call it 'the hall of mirrors'. You really can drive yourself crazy if you don't know when and how to stop - an art I have been studying over the years:-) "It is a wonderful blessing to be able to spend significant time on 'labor of love' projects like the Nine months spent making Gnosis."

- Paul Avgerinos
Jamie: Oh man, do I ever hear you... I find it incredibly hard knowing when to stop working on something. Obviously that makes me somewhat biased, but I have a real soft spot in my heart for artists who show a meticulous attention to detail. Which brings me to my next question.

The industry is clearly in the midst of a profound change. While the CD format still seems to have some legs, digital delivery of music via downloads is grabbing an ever increasing share of the market. However (and it's a big however), it remains to be seen if revenue from downloads will equal that from CD/album sales. So... the question I'm most asked by other artists is: how can I make a record and make a buck? What are your thoughts on this?
Paul: Yes, we are working and living through some BIG changes in the Biz. However, it's always been difficult to make money with 'artsy' projects and I see that a lot of the old basic rules still apply. Build your fan base steadily with shows, conventions, fairs, all forms of broadcast, reviews and hard core Internet marketing - Myspace & Tagworld have brought me 100,000 listeners in the last Six months, mostly people that have not heard my work before. Also, it is important to always look for ways to exploit your master, by licensing to compilations, TV/film, re-branding/private label deals, alternate uses, etc...

That attention to detail that you and I love ends up paying off, because if you make a really high quality album with some soulful substance to it, you can exploit and sell it for 20 years and more! This year I had some really great licenses and sales from an album I completed in 1988. An artist needs to have a long term plan and work steadily to achieve it.
"...it's always been difficult to make money with 'artsy' projects and I see that a lot of the old basic rules still apply."

- Paul Avgerinos
Jamie: And you've obviously done just that -- worked consistently towards a long term goal. Of course, over time goals can, and often do, change. How is your current long term plan different from when you started working professionally?
Paul: When I started out in 1976, I was focused on success as a working musician, a Bassist. Opening my studio around 1987, the focus turned to making Studio Unicorn a success. Although I worked at my Ambient New Age music during all these years, it was really not until 2005 that I made Round Sky Music a priority. I guess you could say I am really just starting out again! "I guess you could say I am really just starting out again!"

- Paul Avgerinos
Jamie: Well, it sure has been a long (and interesting) ride for you! So what's up next? Working on any new recordings? Upcoming gigs?
Paul: Doing shows in New England/New York and working on an OM chanting album with a student of OSHO from India named Anugrah (Bliss full Gratitude). Also a project for Michael Red Sky, a Cherokee Healer and Flute player. I keep a list of my shows at MySpace.com/RoundSkyMusic.
Jamie: Sounds terrific! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this artist-to-artist conversation. Best of luck on your upcoming projects and please stay in touch!
 
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