There's always an exception to the rules‚ right [laughs]?
Well‚ when I was seventeen-years-old‚ I went to see Jaco [Pastorious] perform and that was just one of those amazing things. But that was really God too‚ because it was all timing. I was trying to decide what to do with my life. I was a bass player; I saw Jaco at this concert and bam! -- it hit me. And that's when I decided what I was going to do. But even in that I can say that was God changing my life through that circumstance. It wasn't necessarily those sets of musicians. At that point‚ I'd been listening to them for years. But that night something just clicked. That night didn't keep me from doing drugs and having all kinds of addictions [laughs]. That night wasn't going to save my life twenty-some years later.
Right‚ exactly. You just keep growing and learning and…
Yeah‚ and that's the thing I was talking about with going through stages. I think a lot of people have to go through certain experiences before they start contemplating things eternal. A lot of times it's a birth or a death that brings that on. A good friend of mine dying started it for me…and a few deaths since then. When you start contemplating your own mortality or someone else's mortality‚ it puts things in perspective and you see with different lenses. Sometimes it takes a long time. It took me thirty-five years. For some people‚ it's earlier and they're so blessed. And some people never get it.
You mentioned that experience you had seeing Jaco and… I had a musical experience like that and all I can say is that -- obviously‚ I still have to work at my own life -- but that experience certainly opened up some doors in my thinking that weren't there before. And I guess that's the trick -- where that experience‚ where ever it comes from‚ gave me the tools I needed and it just happened to be channeled through music. And that was huge for me and it was really empowering. There's a lot to it.
There is. I mean‚ I don't buy the whole thing that this is a crapshoot. That's just my belief. I'm not pooh-poohing someone else's belief that it is a crapshoot. If that works for them -- great. I've had too many weird things happen in my life where they can't be coincidences anymore. If it were one or two‚ sure‚ but a million of them [laughter]? No‚ there's not that many coincidences that go on. Even a statistician would know the odds of that are just ridiculous. That's just my life. I don't know about other people's lives‚ but the number of weird experiences that I have had makes me believe they are not coincidences anymore. When I look at it I feel like those experiences were meant to teach me; they were meant to empower me. And if I let it‚ then I will be empowered and taught [laughs]…which is all for the better. It's accepting gifts -- that's all it is. And that's where the idea of God for me resonates because it's the only thing that explains what I've experienced. The theology that I believe and have been shown through life experiences is that God makes the first move -- you were born. It's like when you have kids… I have my kids; they didn't ask to come here. Now I have to do for them as much as I can to make sure that they will get empowered and taught. So these things that happened to me all along the way a million times that other people would say are a million coincidences‚ I see as a divine parent that is saying‚ "Look‚ you didn't ask to be here‚ so I'm providing these things for you to empower and teach you." And all I have to do is accept it as a gift. Or I can be a rebellious little fucking brat [laughs]. And‚ you know…we all know how kids do that‚ too…I'm no different. I think that's why God has to forgive. Anyone who has kids must learn to forgive‚ seven times‚ seventy times -- just like Jesus said. He nailed it. I'm sorry‚ but he nailed it. I look at it over and over again and just say‚ "Wow! Yep…he nailed it."
Well‚ sure‚ Jesus was in touch. He knew.
You see… you sidetracked me. You have to realize that theology is my favorite thing in the world. [laughing] I feel sorry for interviewers that start asking me about God or religion or anything like that. You can edit it later.
It's print‚ not audio‚ so it's okay. Imagine that? "Okay‚ here's Oteil. I just asked him about God‚ so he'll be talking for the next half-hour -- I'm going to grab something to eat." [laughter] No‚ I think this is important stuff.
It's funny because our culture is so un-hip right now‚ and I know because I was that way five years ago; but at the same time‚ the reason it's lasted so long‚ considering how perverted it has been and how misused as it's been‚ the essential core truth of it cannot be stamped out -- because it is true. I think‚ as I play on this neo-hippie circuit‚ it's amazing how much I found that people are not as resistant of it as the television would have you believe. Because it is about life and I see myself in a lot of the Bible stories… in all of them. It's really mind-blowing. And if you think about in those terms and explain it to people in those terms‚ they see it. Human nature has not changed one bit. And that's what the Bible is the story of -- it's the story of human nature; and of God in relation to human nature and how they work against each other and with each other. And…where ever you find it‚ it's an eternal truth and I'm grateful that I have access to it [laughs].
Well‚ it's really interesting because for me… and as well as a lot of younger musicians that I talk with‚ well‚ like where you were at when you were nineteen‚ where music was your spiritual outlet before you had the wisdom from your life experiences to tell you otherwise.
Yeah‚ and that's why I don't denigrate it because everybody is where they're at in their particular journey. I think music is just another thing that God provides to lead you on this staircase upwards. It's just a matter of where you are in the journey; and if people get stuck in a loop where it's the staircase but it's not the top of the mountain -- they think music is the top of the mountain‚ but they'll quickly find that it's not… if you live long enough [laughter]. When I'm really out of sorts and really needing help from God‚ there's no CD or concert that I can go to that's going to do it. I'm just going to be lying on the floor‚ not having showered‚ and in agony and crying out to God until I get a revelation or relief. It's not a light switch anymore… I've played music too long and I've heard music for too long to think that it's going to do that for me. It can do a lot for me‚ and it can do a lot when I'm feeling incredibly in touch with God -- it's the best time for me to write music and to see it. It can't be it though. And anyone who is old enough knows that… you know‚ where they get to the point where nothing is going to work. And that's what addiction is all about -- whether its food‚ drugs‚ sex‚ alcohol‚ or going to concerts. You get diminishing returns with addictions -- no matter what it is.
Yeah‚ slowly you go lower‚ lower‚ and lower and you begin to be removed from what you were searching for.
I think that's why a lot of this stuff… drugs play such a big part of it. You need more to enhance what it once was. And with musicians‚ you know‚ part of it's healthy if it's done in the right way -- it's like exercise. I know a lot of people at my gym who are addicted to exercising like a heroin addict… but‚ you know‚ that's a much healthier addiction [laughter]. And with music you can get into these higher states and that's a great mediation and I love that‚ getting to those higher states. And that's why I love this chemistry I have with my band because it's so much easier to get into those higher states with less effort. It just happens when you get that certain group of people together. But even that can't be it because when the music stops… you may have this incredible feeling where you're on another plane for a few hours‚ but eventually that wears off and you're left with yourself and God [laughs]. If you know that it's you and God‚ and if you don't then you feel like you're left by yourself‚ and that can be a real dangerous place for some people.
The drug use is a real funny thing; it's such a double-edged sword.
It is because they can be really positive for people. Col. Bruce used to say‚ "The people who need to use drugs are the people who won't do them‚ and the people who are doing them are the people who don't need them [laughter]." You know‚ Col. Bruce thinks that Dick Cheney is the one who needs to do acid -- not the hippie. The person who is open to doing acid is not the person who needs to do it. I saw George Carlin the other day on Inside the Actor's Studio and he was talking about pot and cocaine; and he thought that pot was something that was really positive for him‚ being a creative person up to a certain point. And then he saw where it became negative‚ where he stopped seeing anything positive come out of it. He started abusing it and he had to stop. So that goes back to what we were talking about with going through stages -- I think you can hit all those stages without drugs. I certainly have had the most intense‚ what people would call hallucinogenic experiences‚ not on any kind of drugs. But‚ I saw those to be spiritual experiences and they were very intense -- more intense than any of my drug experiences by the power of twenty. But for some people‚ hey‚ they need a little help [laughter]. At least one time to get you out of your state of mind. But the way Americans do things in such a consumer‚ brainwashing mentality‚ it can't help but to be negative. We don't do anything right [laughter]. Not even religion.
Right‚ we totally screwed that up.
We turned it into the same consumer experience where we seek to control. It's like you make your religion your heroin or alcohol. That's not it [laughs].
I was down in DC recently and I went to the new Smithsonian Museum -- it's the American Indian Museum. And I was reading how this one tribe in the Southwest used peyote as part of their religious rituals. It's funny because the first settlers came here for freedom of religion; they came and took over the land… and then basically told these Indians that they can't use peyote. So basically‚ their freedom of religion only applies to their religion [laughter].
Exactly‚ it's like the inalienable rights of life‚ liberty‚ and pursuit of happiness -- except for black people or women. I think God was involved somehow in the writing of the Constitution because it's so idealistic even though more than half of them didn't practice it. And it's the same thing with religion and the Indians. And there's always that battle. I face that battle and everybody faces that battle between what they know to be right and their weakness as a human being and how much they can live up to their ideal. There's this Christian writer named Madeline L'Engle and she says any sincere Christian writer will acknowledge the fact that they are a complete fraud [laughter]. It just speaks to the duality of humans. And I'm not letting the early Americans off the hook‚ but at the same time I understand their struggle because anyone who is honest with themselves goes through that.