AAJ: On Conviction, you chose not to stop between tracks. Is this a metaphor about life? In this decision, was there anything you wanted to portray as it relates to music as a temporal art, or life being temporal? What was the decision behind this?
KS: In the whole, I wanted to create a space to show that life is a continuum throughout all of one's convictions. On another level, all the great records that I love to listen to, I listen to from beginning to end. It's that concept of taking the needle on a record and placing it back on it again. So I wanted to return to the feeling of creating a record that was a whole piece of music rather than track by track. I also took the theme of conviction, and other themes related to it such as balance, courage, truth, and faith to show that there is no separation between those ideas. I also wanted people to meditate and think on their "own" convictions. Not just about what they believe, but if they are actually acting on those convictions. Even though convictions may be different, they all rest in the same place and I wanted the record to be a singular piece of music to be listened to in that way.
AAJ: How does the way you live your life shape your music, thus, resulting in music that creates an ethos of peace?
KS: I lead by example and share what I've learned from the few masters I've had in common with. Those people are inside and outside of music from my mother, my cousins, to even people like Herbie Hancock
who are very spiritual people. I feel like that's the biggest urge I have had in my life, recently. I want to pass on that love and knowledge that I've gained from being around those people, which for me is an intense task because I feel like I'm just a kid that is still learning. More and more I realize I feel like that... and that feeling never goes away. As I'm giving back to students that I'm teaching here and there, I feel that feeling. The more I give, I give back tenfold in love, and in knowledge. That is also what I try to do inside of the music, that is, to give back what I've learn from the masters. Hopefully, that honesty and how I filter that knowledge and love is translated to the listener. So I try to live my life through the act of giving and surrender. Those are two big things in my life that I try to live by.
AAJ: So have you ever had an experience that stretched you as a jazz drummer and what was that experience? Let me give some examples, maybe, it was a particular performance , or working with a particular leader or group, or maybe it was a life experience that pushed you?
For me, it was the time that I spent with Herbie Hancock. We played almost 50 concerts. It's a unique experience when you're a musician and you idolize a person for so long and you finally get a chance to be next to them on a daily basis. You watch them closely. I came to the music with an analytic attitude thinking, "Okay, I've learned the music, I've learned this about Herbie's drummers he's had before, etc." However, I finally realized that playing with Herbie wasn't about music. I realized that music wasn't about music. I realized it was about life. Before each show, Herbie, a Buddhist, chants. I wouldn't call myself a Buddhist but I would go in and I would chant with him. Little by little, I started to see how his life was reflected in his music and that opened me up so much. Talk about stretching! As a result, I started realizing that it didn't matter what technical stuff that I knew about the music, it only mattered how I reacted in the now, and how I surrendered to the moment, learning to quiet the ego and the mind which is always telling you what to do, and to only react to the music that was happening. That was truly a stretching experience.
KS: I remember playing something and Herbie played it back to me in a whole different light. It was kind of the same idea, but when he played it, it sounded like glass breaking. In my mind, I thought, "How did he do that?" It was very humbling for him to take one of my ideas then take it to the next level. So experiences and lessons like this has stretched me as a drummer. To be around someone who took me outside the realm of simply just playing music, and to take it to a higher realm, that, by far, is the best example of me being stretched. To this day I use those lessons from that experience.
AAJ: What is in the future for Oracle?
KS: The next project I'm working on is revolved around time and space. It deals with my role as a drummer, and our role as time keepers. I also look at time as a metaphor for God. I'm also working on composing some poetry and using them as lyrics, spoken word, or not using them at all but just writing the music surrounding the lyrics. This is something that I've really not done before, usually lyrics are secondary. So I'm really excited about starting from that basis and creating the art in a different way.