By Kevin Alan Lamb
Relationships with people I love and admire serve as a navigational map on my personal journey towards growth and goodness. When I consider the value of the life I have lived, and its impact on others, I take inventory of those who possess great gifts and their willingness to shower those gifts like rain that descends from the clouds above to the dehydrated earth below, medicating each cell and soul it nourishes.
For the last three years I have invested my love into a Bear who shines light where so many others refuse to see; he transforms the gifts he was given into hope and something tangible for others to hold onto; he rides his horse Foxfire along the trail of most resistance to ensure his warrior spirit be tried, tested, and untamed. Nahko Bear is a spirit of great weight who has traveled a great distance to retrace its place in the world, and I’m grateful to call that spirit a friend. Friends invest time, energy, care, and love into those they hope to help build a better world with. I believe in Nahko because of his belief in himself and his ability to deposit that belief into others.
The world is an increasingly scary place when we allow others to dictate the direction of our gaze. Our attention is too easily distracted, directed, and devoured by corruption and evil-spirited people and their propaganda designed to fill us with fear and poison our hopeful and holy souls. By design, we love and wish to help one another, but without intention and communication our design is derailed and detached from its purpose. Let us take control of our gaze and redirect it to those deserving of our love; let us focus on friends and family and strangers who inspire us and remind what a glory and privilege it is to be alive amongst one another.
Now, let us turn back the clock to July and head to Electric Forest where I nearly let my most personal and silly third interview with Nahko Bear slip away; remembering life isn’t about great moments that almost unfolded, rather those we let our intuition insist unfold. Prepare yourself for a psychedelic journey, traveled on horseback, through astrology and Trevor Hall’s nuances, to Game of Thrones, Otus Supply, and ginga’ ninjas.
The scene begins with my main man Norm Kittleson (with whom I stayed in the days between weekend one and two of Electric Forest) arriving fashionably late to the media tent where I sat with Nahko.
Nahko: You guys are classic right now [laughing]. You guys are in full — these guys look like they’re ready to go for another week already. But ginga ninjas go hard, that’s the fucking deal.
Norm: I’ve just had the open house all week.
Nahko: That’s the house you were going to?
Sound & Silence: Yeah my good buddy Norm.
Nahko: Cool. I’m sorry [laughing]
S&S: He’s apologizing to you Norm, not me.
Norm: It’s all good. It’s all good [laughing].
S&S: He understands us well…
Nahko: Your friends are funny. So you didn’t get to hang with Trevor (Hall) much huh?
S&S: Just a chat for a little bit.
Nahko: He’s so like…
Nahko: Even when I’m with him.
S&S: Yeah, he just doesn’t really want to get into it. He’s just like “Wow, that’s a really great question, but I don’t really want to give an answer.
Nahko: He’s a hard one…
S&S: And he’s so lovely and wonderful… but I said to him “You and Nahko, you get into it a lot. Besides saying hello to him, what’s the first question I can ask him?” And he’s like “Oh wow, so many things, but I don’t know.”
Nahko: Thinkers! Aren’t always able to lay it out, but he’s like “Well… I’ll get back to you next year.” [laughing] You know what I mean?
S&S: It’s like Rodin’s Thinker, the statue itself in the pose, and you just don’t know at what moment it’s all going to come to them.
Nahko: Somebody once told us that, they said that he and I are like polar opposites. He actually just finished doing a course on astrology and he inspired me to take the course too. He did my chart and crushed it.
S&S: Nice! Love it.
Nahko: He said, or his teacher told us that we’re like night and day, where he’s earth and I’m air. He’s like the guy who tells the stories in the past, and I’m the guy who tells the stories in the future. So it was kind of cool, and you can see where he’s like “Just listen to my songs they tell all the stories…”
S&S: Yeah! [laughing] Like, “It’s already their man… I’ve done a lot to lay it out.”
Nahko: “What do you mean? I fuckin’ made rice this morning, and planted a tree, so it’s all good.”
S&S: And it’s nice because, earlier Jess and I were talking and she asked me what something was that I asked him and I was like, “On his last album he had told me how his grandmother told him, ‘You can’t rush your healing, even darkness has its teachings,’” and that became a song that really resonated with me. So what about on this album, was their another song influenced by a teacher, and it was his friend who I forget her name, but it was the astrologer.
Nahko: Yeah, it’s amazing, it’s the kind of music that he’s meant for… like “Ahh, he’s arrived!” [laughing]. It’s his coming of age, he’s his own human.
S&S: It was nice to be able to talk to Matisyahu about Trevor, then walk away, then have Matis walking through the crowd and Trevor started singing Jerusalem and he was like “I’m obviously going to walk up” and he joined him on stage.
Nahko: That’s cool.
S&S: I love that community. I love the closeness of Y’all. I had the chance to talk to Protoje from Jamaica and brought up Nattali Rize, and when you first meet a giant weird looking Viking with a Good Sign, it’s hard to put that in one place, but you start talking about someone like Nattali Rize who he toured with all over the world and then he asks to take a photo with it… and it’s pretty cool. We’re doing the same thing, in different ways.
S&S: And he started to embrace it.
Nahko: Yeah… yeah. Was that yesterday or?
S&S: He was here the first weekend.
Nahko: You have some pretty rad chats?
S&S: Yeah… it’s been great. It’s nice to see that it’s a break for them when we have an actual chat – a dialogue.
Nahko: Chillin. Rather than just discussing things.
S&S: And it’s nice that you’re one of the people I was most excited to chat with and the fact that you ended up being our last interview of the weekend…
S&S: I was like “Man I’m going to be at Electric Forest for a month…[collective laughter] like 30 minutes ago I was considering leaving because my main ride had to leave for the hospital for medical reasons…
Nahko: Aw shit.
S&S: But it’s like, I know a lot of people, this is my home, I was like “I’m not going to walk away…”
Nahko: I’m glad you didn’t leave because I was excited about this one because we have our repertoire… K. K!
S&S: And I never got to tell you this, but last year we had a team, and we were doing video and I found out a little after Electric Forest that they deleted the video, he deleted the file to make space, and that’s why there was only an audio recording that I had to type up…
Nahko: Ohhh bummer.
S&S: That was soo hard for me…
[Nahko grabs the recorder]
Nahko: [Intense voice] This will not get deleted.
Nahko: No deleting today! We’re making triple, quadruple copies [intense voice continues]. No deletion… alright! [laughing]
S&S: But the best thing about that, it was one of my best friends and I was so grateful to be able to work with him, and I gave him a stern “Dude, I’m gonna need a fuckin’ minute but, I love you.”
Nahko: You Game of Thrones’d him.
Nahko: Are you Game Of Thrones fans?
S&S: Of course.
Nahko: Alright at some point after the interview, I have to tell you my Game Of Thrones story. I have a Jason Momoa story.
S&S: Yeah I like stories and you’re in it so…
Nahko: Alright you ready!? I’ll make it right quick.
S&S: Let’s do it!
Nahko: So were at a blues fest in Australia in March and we got in there on Friday, and it was our day off so we go to see some music and saw, who’d we see… We saw Patti Smith, The Legends, and after we saw Patti Smith we were leaving and I was walking by the porta potty backstage and there’s this, three giant guys standing by the porta potty right? Waiting in line to take a piss and I did the double take and I was like “That’s fuckin’ Jason Momoa right there…
Nahko: And he looks like he’s straight outa Game Of Thrones, he’s got this huge Nicholas K. hat on, with the big leather things, and he knows my Auntie Pua from Hawaii because he’s Hawaiian, and I knew that he knew my Auntie Pua and she always said “If you ever meet Jason you have to say hello for me and aloha iā ʻoe (I love you),” I was like cool. So I saw him and I was like “I’ve gotta say hi he knows Auntie Pua, I’ve gotta say hi.” So, I go running up to him and he was double fisting beers, right? Of course.
Nahko: He was chatting with one other huge dude by the porta potty and I was like, “Are you, Jason?” And he’s like “No, I’m in line to take a piss Ha-Ha-Ha” giant laugh right? I’m looking at the giant and he’s laughing and I’m like “Oh my God am I offending him right now?”
Nahko: And I said, “Oh well I just wanted to say hello because you know my Auntie Pua.” And he was like, “Which Auntie Pua? There’s a lot of Auntie Puas.” Then I’m thinking, clearly, he’s wasted right now, I want to get through to him that I know a very dear person of his, who’s dear to me, let’s see if it translates. So I said, “Auntie Pua from the mountain” and he was like “Ohh.” And then he kinda looked at me like “Ohh shit okay.” Then he begins to shake my hand and he says “What are you doing here?” And just as he shakes my hand this other dude comes from around the corner and he goes for the toilet and Jason shifts gears in half a second, grabs the guy’s arm, fully Game Of Thrones, throws him like a peasant [with emphasis] and he says “I’m in line for the toilet you asshole!”
Nahko: Throws the guys, opens the door to the toilet, turns around, there’s this really strange purple light in the toilet on his head, so he’s at the door like “Call me Auntie Pua again!”
Nahko: Then he slams the door… and I’m like “Oh my God, this is a big misunderstanding, I was – not calling you Auntie Pua, I was just saying you know my Auntie Pua, she’s your Auntie Pua, maybe tomorrow we should chat. Maybe this is a bad time… Until the next day and I found him and we talked and he forgets, he didn’t even know what happened. It was hilarious because the whole night we were like [Drago’s voice] “Call me Auntie Pua again!
Norm: That was the bumper sticker for the week.
Nahko: For sure [laughing]. So, of course, I call Auntie Pua and I was like “He was fucking [mumbles] and she was like “Oh my goodness, he is so dear to me, and I was like “He was just wasted,” and she was like “I know. I would not want to get in the way of that dude when he was drunk.”
S&S: Did she ask you to describe the toss?
Nahko: She didn’t get the reference, she doesn’t watch it.
S&S: Was it one-armed, or two armed?
Nahko: I just said it was a one-arm toss, like the way a Hawaiian would toss a heavy stone. That’s my low key Jason Momoa story.
S&S: Since we’ve last chatted we’ve been doing something cool in Detroit called Otus Supply, and Otus…
S&S: Otus, o-t-u-s, is the genus of the Great Horned Black Owl, it’s where we drew our inspiration, where the owl flies around the Great Lakes, all the folks who migrated to…
Nahko: So, Otus is Latin for Owl?
Nahko: Cool. And that’s like local to the area?
S&S: Yeah, and it’s a music venue, chef-inspired restaurant, and bar.
Nahko: In Detroit?
S&S: Yeah, so we opened this kinda jam, Americana, bluegrass, funk…
Nahko: Since last year?
S&S: Yeah, Christmas.
Nahko: Ohh congratulations.
S&S: And we won best new venue, best restaurant, fuckin’ best chef, and it’s like this Viking, Italian fusion, like everything made in-house.
Nahko: Wait. So Viking food?
S&S: Viking Italian yeah.
Nahko: Bro! What!? [Enthusiastically]
S&S: And it’s all designed like Game Of Thrones…
Nahko: What!? This is insane.
S&S: Yeah, it was like a four-and-half million dollar, two years, 12,000 square foot project. All the folks who, Alex Morales from Smartmouth Designs who does The Hangar Stage here, they did Otus Supply, they were the designers – so think of the cool crazy, weird, funky Hangar vibe, now take that and do some super, high end food menu that’s also like, come as you are space hobbit meets…
Nahko: That’s amazing. So I have to come there?S&S: Yeah! We’d love you to come by and have a meal….
Nahko: And jam!
S&S: Obviously you’d jam. You know, when you get the chance.
Nahko: Whattt? That’s super cool, I haven’t spent much time in Detroit.
S&S: I feel like… it would look good on you and vice versa.
Nahko: Have you – invited Rodriguez?
Nahko: That would be legendary.
S&S: Yeah, that would be legendary. There’s that fine balance because it’s a 300 person room you can get some people, but not other people, but now that we’re going into our second year we’re getting folks who do underplays, like Dave Simonett from Trampled By Turtles, playing with his side project, Dead Man Winter.
Nahko: Solo kind…
S&S: Yeah! He loved it, and now he wants to play with Trampled By Turtles, and it’s nice to have a home away from home where you can come and be treated really well, eat really well…
Nahko: What’s it called?
S&S: Otus Supply.
Nahko: Oh yeah, you said that [laughing].
S&S: Yeah it happens.
Nahko: I was thinking about owls and shit and I wasn’t thinking of the name of the place…
S&S: Yeah I threw you off… [laughing] A lot of people have no idea what the name means…
Nahko: I was like owls, cool yeah! What did you say the name was? Owls and shit! Yeah….
[Intense laughter and some clapping from Nahko]
S&S: Not to get touchy, but have you thought about having another pet, or dog, or relationship since…
Nahko: Aww yeah I actually adopted a horse!
S&S: This is making sense now… (recalling Instagram photos of Nahko on a horse)
Nahko: Well I asked the Universe, I said “I need a pony” then sacred Facebook came through and said “We have a horse for you” so… when was Electric Forest? What month was it?
S&S: June, July, and now it’s actually July.
Nahko: It was last year right? That we were talking…
Nahko: So I was getting Facebook messages last year, at this time, about this horse and it wasn’t until probably right after I was here that I went and officially adopted him. That’s so strange to me that it was last year that we did that because it seems so much sooner ago, anyway, weird.
S&S: Yeah, time goes fast.
Nahko: Foxfire is a dope horse. He’s 10-years-old, and what’s really crazy, when I went to go meet him, I walked into the field with him and I said, “Alright, we’ll see what’s his deal, who is this guy?” Because the lady was like, “I feel like he’s your horse”, and I was like “We’ll see.”
Nahko: She was like, “I want to give him to you” but I was like “We’ll see.” So we get into the field and I was like, “I’m gonna see if he will run with me,” so I started doing laps and he started to chase me and we started to run together, then he came up to me and I was like “Holy shit you remind me of my dog.” Then I had the thing where like, oh yeah, the spirit has returned in a different way. So he is like my dog, a 1,200 pound, dog [intense laughter]. He eats a lot, like – a lot. Yeah, guys massive.
S&S: Is there going to be a new album and a new song about…
Nahko: Foxfire!? I mean maybe, we’ll see if he earns it! [laughing] Just playing. I just finished a new record actually, and it wasn’t about Foxfire, which is fine, [Intense voice] “You’ll have your time, Pony! Pay your dues!”
Nahko: He’s good though. He will have some stories, for real, he’s only 10. But the record is a collection of songs that I wrote from 18 to 21, so it’s actually volume one because I have volume two of all these old songs that I still have to record, because when we first hit the road in 2012-13, and we put On The Verge out, there were all these old songs that we never recorded officially, but it’s pretty much a trip though, but Patricio, my bass player co-produced it with me, it’s a solo record…half the band is playing on it.
Nahko: And we’re gonna all tour together in October, but the point of calling it a solo record is I didn’t want it to have to file underneath the grandiose Medicine for the People records, and I wanted different catalogs ya know? It was an experiment too, but also such a fun experience. Eighteen-days we recorded the whole thing.
S&S: Do you find since you’re pouring through a lot of old songs and great memories that it’s…
Nahko: Flashback Friday, every day!
S&S: Therapeutic, and all these moments of deja vu…
Nahko: Yeah and just like telling the story of like wow, who I was back then, definitely deep medicine thrill dropping back into that time.
S&S: A little bit of a DeLorean… time travel.
Nahko: And that helps me define the records we do have because it was the time before I met my mom, before, On The Verge, Dark As Night, Hoka ever came out so it’s the songs of finding first love, leaving home for the first time, exploring… 98% of the songs were written on or during psychedelic experiences, so they’re really the psychedelic kind, coming of age, super fun.
S&S: The best thing about something like that, as it useful for other people, all of these people experiencing music or coming to age, and it’s nice to have someone who they respect and love who can talk them through it, like, this is all good and great and here’s a little roadmap.
Nahko: Well yeah, dropping back into that time as well, the teachings through the songs, the affirmations that are in the songs are still valid to me, you know? Sometimes you go back, like way back in the poetry and you’re like, “Oh my God I was horrible”. But these to me are still worth listening to, and I still, believe me, I believe myself, I believe it. If you believe yourself you… [laughing]
S&S: Sometimes you look back at your writing and you impress yourself, like whoa man, what was going on then [laughing].
Nahko: What’s going on? Wow.
S&S: And other times you’re like, “Shut the fuck up”…
Nahko: Yeah, a lot of the time.
S&S: Yeah, and that’s alright, that’s what it takes right?
Nahko: Yeah! It’s also very vulnerable to say that was me then.
S&S: So, want to hear a silly sixth-grade version of Kevin?
S&S: I had a language arts teacher that said “Write a poem” so that’s what I did. You speak and speak of nothing much, though you have nothing better to do, I ask you why you speak this way, you mumble with a little reply. “For what you say is nothing much, is something very much to me. As you stare at my subtle face, I am a man of different race, but the only real difference between you and me, is the very much that you can’t see, that is everything to me.”
Nahko: That’s some like Ram Dass shit right there. And I love that you remembered every single word, you’ve been reciting it [in a funny voice].
S&S: It’s what happens. It’s part of sharing. It’s like when someone comes up to me and says “You sang me Happy Birthday in Lithuanian!” And I’m like, “Fuck, it’s the only thing I know how to say in Lithuanian!”
S&S: I love to dish it out. That’s how I keep my mom with me, like this (pointing to my tattoo “Mirstantis Romantics”) is The Dying Romantic in Lithuanian, it’s the title of my book that’s published in…It’s my heritage, my people.
Nahko: Very ceremony.
S&S: Yeah, fuckin’ a man.
S&S: For those of you keeping score at home, it is day 182-and-a-half of Electric Forest, we are with one of my favorite humans, the talented, the beautiful, the humble, the focused, Mr. Nahko Bear and his medicine, the people, and This is a Good Sound.
Nahko: [Vibrant horse nay/purr]
[Giant and enthusiastic hug]
Couldn’t be more excited to see my Medicine Tribe this Wednesday at The Majestic for Nahko – My Name is Bear, where I’ll be joined by Big Chief and Bosnia. You are a miracle made up of particles, and I believe in the good things upon us.
And — Nahko should totally come jam at Otus Supply after the show. With the owls and shit.