Interview w/Karl Anderson
re: Sky Sunlight Saxon
Author: Jeremy of MegaMinistores
Link to Interview
There are hours and hours of Sky Saxon recordings made with an endless number of bands over the past three decades since the early 70s demise of The Seeds. Much of Sky's officially released stuff is only available on hard-to-find vinyl or out-of-print CDs on obscure labels; the rest is tantalizingly unreleased.
Enter Karl Anderson. Karl runs Global Recording Artists (www.gragroup.com), a Petaluma, CA-based music label and studio that has been put in charge of organizing and re-releasing all of Sky Sunlight Saxon's solo recordings.
Karl was a Sky Saxon fan who happened to meet Sky and his wife Sabrina, and it was a match made in heaven. When Sky passed away on June 25, 2009, he had already spoken at length with Karl about what he wanted for his extensive back catalog. With the help and support of Sabrina Saxon, Karl has been busy releasing and planning to release Sky's music.
In this exclusive interview with megaministore.com, Karl reveals the behind-the-scenes work of this exciting, years-long task, talks about some upcoming releases (including a lot of unreleased material!), and discusses his relationship with Sky Saxon.
How did you first meet and get involved with Sky and Sabrina?
It is an interesting story. It seems like throughout my life Sky’s and my paths have just missed crossing. We would be in the same place but never met. It was not until King Of Garage Rock came out that I did meet him. After King Of Garage Rock came out I found out there was another CD called Atlantic Rising that I had never heard about. I tried to locate that CD online but could not find it. I ended up trying to buy it from the Sky Saxon site [www.skysaxon.com] and it turned out it was no longer available, and in the course of emails it came up about me running a record label and maybe releasing material. I was very surprised when I found they were in Forest Knolls just about 20 minutes from the studio.
There was chemistry between me and Sky from the first phone call. The first time I talked with him we talked for about a hour, and shortly after that Sky and Sabrina come out and we had dinner and started to work together. From that point on Sky and Sabrina became a very close part of my life. It was rare that a few days would go by without seeing or talking to each other. Sky was a very special human being and he became a very important part of my life in a very short time.
In general, what did Sky say he wanted for the re-release of his 1970-onward music?
I had many talks with Sky about his catalog not being in print. It was his desire that material he recorded from 1970 further be re-released and that is why we formed Global Universe, to release Sky’s material. It was his wish to have his material available in one place that was easy for his fans to locate. He really wanted his music to be heard and enjoyed and not just be some high-priced collectable.
What Sky Saxon material have you released so far?
So far we have released Back To The Garden by The Seeds and Tyrants In The House that he did with his band Flights. Back To The Garden is strong set of psychedelic material that also features Daryl Hooper [from the original Seeds] on keyboards. Tyrants In The House was recorded during a short break while Sky was recording the unreleased follow-up to the Red Planet CD.
[Note: The Back To The Garden and Tyrants In The House CDs, as well as some Sky Saxon rarities, are available for direct order from GRA Group —Ed.]
What has the feedback been from Sky Saxon and Seeds fans?
The initial response from the fans has been strong and positive. It seems there are still a lot of Sky Saxon fans searching for new material. I think as we build the catalog and get more out it will just grow.
What Sky Saxon releases do you have planned for 2010? Will they have any unreleased/bonus material?
The next release we are planning is a two-CD set of Atlantic Rising. Originally Sky had three discs of music from those sessions but we were only able to locate the two CDs. The first CD will be the same as the first release and the second will be a whole new set of material.
We are also planning on a reissue of the Allright Family Band LP that Sky was on in 1980. Sky used to perform with them when he was living in Hawaii. This CD will feature a very unique version of "Starry Ride".
There was also a whole hour of material that was done with a band called Spaceship in the early 90s. We are working on putting that on CD. That will be a whole CD of unreleased material.
In the works is also a Seeds live CD. It will contain music from a 1968 Melody Land show and 4 live tracks from the Seeds reunion in the late 80s. Both shows have the original Seeds lineup.
We are also working on releasing the Sky Saxon memorial show from L.A. on CD and DVD. That had the Electric Prunes, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Seeds with Daryl Hooper, Billy Corgan [from Smashing Pumpkins], Nels Cline from Wilco, Djin Aquarian from Yahowha 13, and many others. It was a great evening that we are hoping to get edited and released on CD and DVD.
Sky Saxon recorded with many musicians in many studios and released music on many labels worldwide in his lifetime. Have you found (or do you anticipate) any rights/legal issues with re-releasing some of his music?
Each CD will have to be handled individually. We are lucky that Sky recorded most of his own material from 1970 and just licensed most of his material to the various labels that put them out, so that material still belongs to Sky’s estate. But we will have to look at each CD one at a time and contact the former members and work out individual agreements for each title.
To date we have been working on material that artists have contacted us about. The Spaceship material we did not even know existed. We were contacted by Chaz Martin after Sky's passing and that is how that came about. The same thing happened with the Allright Family Band. The Atlantic Rising material was in progress when Sky passed.
In 2007 Sky posted a comment on a fan blog asking if the blogger could create and send him MP3s of the 1986 Purple Electricity album. I found it surprising that Sky himself didn't have a copy, since even now the original LP is easy to find for $10-$20. Then again, I personally have never seen the two Fast Planet albums or Flashback by Sky Saxon's USA for sale anywhere, either online or in a shop, though Sabrina tells me they will be re-released. Is it difficult to clear up the confusion and locate original source material for Sky's music?
Sky actually had very little of his old recordings. Most of them had been lost over the years. I was a fan of Sky's so I had a large archive of his material and some of the items released will come from vinyl sources. It seems a lot of Sky’s masters are lost. Most of the masters from the 70s seem to be lost. A lot of the masters from the 80s and 90s are turning up.
I have only one of the Fast Planet CDs myself and that came from Sky. I know Sky wanted that re-released but nothing has been negotiated on it. Just the other day the video of Fast Planet performing at the Chet Helms benefit turned up. So you just never know when it will be found. I have had numerous talks with Dana Smith about the USA album and re-releasing it, and there is a very good possibility that will see the light of day again soon.
Some Global Recording Artists releases are available in MP3 format from vendors like Amazon and iTunes; the Seeds' Back To The Garden album however is not.
That is a long story. Basically we were in the process of switching distributors and I finally settled on BDC distribution out of Oregon. They handle the specialty market for my kind of material.
Do you plan to make Sky Saxon re-releases available as MP3 downloads?
You will now start to find Sky’s material available through physical stores and on MP3 soon. My digital distributor IODA services over 300 download sites worldwide and they will be available at most sites soon: iTunes, Virgin, Napster, Sno Cap, Amazon, etc.
How about the distribution of the CD version of Sky's albums?
The CD will also start to be available to stores nationwide. So you will start to see it in stores that will carry Sky material. We want to have it in places where it will really sell. That means it will probably be in more independent stores that cater to 60s or psychedelic music.
You will start to seem them online at Amazon, Borders, Best Buy, CD Universe and of course we prefer it if you just come to www.skysaxon.com or www.gragroup.com and shop directly with us.
Other than MP3, are your releases CD-only? Are there vinyl or cassette versions?
At the moment we are only doing CD and MP3 releases. Believe it or not, only less than one percent of all music sold in the world is sold on vinyl. 85% is sold on CD and about 14% is paid downloads. So at the moment I cannot justify the cost of selling vinyl but in the future I would like to consider that option if we continue grow.
Do your Sky Saxon re-releases have new art and liner notes? Do notable friends/contemporaries of Sky's contribute?
So far we have been doing new artwork and liner notes for Sky’s releases. Some may have the original cover but many will be repackaged into new packaging. It really depends on the cover it had to begin with. We redid Tyrants In The House and it is much better than the original.
I am also hoping to have liner notes from people who performed on the albums. It is nice if they can write something about the CD and Sky and make them more of a memorial testament to Sky’s legacy. Something heartfelt and personal is what I am hoping to have with each of them.
You've mentioned two discs' worth of unreleased Atlantic Rising music as well as an unreleased album by Sky Saxon & Spaceship. How much unreleased Sky Saxon music is out there?
The answer to that question may not be found for a long time. So far there are hours and hours of unreleased material. But we keep getting contacted by people who performed with Sky and more and more material keeps turning up. So at the moment I have no idea how much material is out there and how much of it is worthy of release. But it is a substantial amount for sure.
I am sure you will be suprised at the volume of material that should be coming out over the next few years. I have a feeling that if we do 4 or 5 titles a month this will still take 4 years or so to complete and with more material coming in, who knows -- it may be endless!
Do you have any plans for box sets or DVDs (besides the Sky Saxon memorial), or will you be focusing on individual albums?
At the moment we are mainly looking at one- and two-CD sets. I am not sure if we are going to re-release only albums or may group some of the material. None of this has been negotiated yet, but it may be nice to package all of the Fire Wall material together into a two-cd set, and do something similar with the Dragonslayers. I am not sure if we need a bunch of 30-minute CDs out or if it makes more sense to group things. But these are things that will have be determined down the line as each item is negotiated with everyone involved.
As a Sky Saxon fan, do you have the greatest job in the world?
I think there was some divine fate with me meeting Sky at the time that I did. There was some sort of cosmic timing in the fact there we were able to sit down and map out a plan for his material and transfer it all over for me to work on just months before he passed. I do feel very fortunate to have known Sky and to have had his influence on my life. The Sky I knew was a caring compassionate and loving human being. I deeply miss him but I am sure he knows we are still here and carrying the ball forward for him.