A tea with Swallow Key

Swallow Key is our new challenge. Probably his name does not tell you anything as he’s practically unknown to the great public. Fortunately, our God Soundcloud.com has revealed some gems to us, like the remix of The Knife/Fever Ray song Silent Shout/If I Had An Heart. We contacted him and between psychedelic Dj sets and tribal echoes celebrating the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, as heard in its debut album Kachina, we have been captivated by the charm of his words.

So Eujene, I can call you Eujene, right?

Yes, I’m going by Eujene while I’m visiting this planet. My full name is Robert Eujene Oakden.

I have been looking everywhere to get info about you, but I only found few necessary ones about.. your music! I would like to know more about you. How and from where your creativity was born?

I hide a lot. It’s a method of covering my tracks in the snow from project to project. But Swallow Key is here until the stars fade out. I’m also filmmaker and an artist. Last year, I was working for DreamWorks Animation on the feature film, Megamind. I quit DreamWorks to pursue my own path as a musician and film director. I changed the spelling of my last name from Ogden to Oakden to give birth to a new being. I thought of changing it to, “Butterfly Rider” or “Catipillar Killer”, but that was too obvious. Even my Facebook is a bit difficult to search for because I use false punctuation to spell it, ÊüJëñë ÕåKdëñ. As a visual artist, I have a few art exhibitions each year here in SF. But music is my saving grace, the girl who loves me for who I really am. The source of my creativity a loaded question.  Because this is a sacred subject, I have to be forthcoming, at the risk of providing ‘too much information’ or TMI as we say in America. I have to say the artist was born at the death of my sister. She was murdered on my 11th birthday. I’ve been creating light from the darkness since then. My first writing is still etched on to her gravestone. Later, my bereaved mother would commit suicide as a result. Sorry to dump that on you. Haha! I know that’s not very lighthearted material, but somehow I survived this and more, by swan diving into the arts deep into alternate universes where I can still communicate with those who have left this plain of existence.

If I have to define your sounds in three words, I would say engaging, contaminated and mystic. What do you think about this summary? If I ask you to describe your music with three adjectives what would you reply?

I like your selections. I might choose; Bizarre, Raw, and (agreeably) Mystic. Mysticism makes my heart race. It’s the source of my aura. I long to chase mysteries and to seek magic in the universe that can’t be seen from beneath the fog of our human suits. With Swallow Key, I’ve made a sacred vow to my spirit and the vision of human advancement. For my debut album, Kachina, I’ve gathered inspiration from the ethereal shaman of the Native American Hopi tribe and likewise things of magic and unicorns and aliens and chocolate.

Is there someone, I mean famous acts, that inspired your talent?

My taste in music goes as far back as time itself. I listen to all kinds of music and I love almost all of it. So I could name many famous musicians. But for this album I’d rather call attention to a lesser known musician named, Carlos Nakai. Carlos is of the Navajo-Ute tribe and his technique of the flute is out of this world.  He creates stargates to other dimensions when he breathes. Undoubtedly one of my favorite musicians. The Native American tribes are still enduring the trespasses of the colonization of North America. So with, Kachina, I’m hoping to bring their ancient spiritual ways of life to a jaded, dirty-dollar-chasing audience.

If tomorrow you would be given a chance to be whoever you wanted to be, who would you pick?

If I was forced into someone else’s body tomorrow, I think I would still miss my dreams unfollowed. But if Eujene was having a bad day, I would have to say, Arthur Dent from Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy.

Nowadays, as we say in Italy, there’s “a lot of stuff” in the music industry! It is an ongoing research of synthetic and aimed definitions. Aside “electronic music” how would you collocate yourself?

That’s very difficult for me. My secret mission has been to stay away from classification. I think this is the cliché thing that most musicians say. But seriously, I’m really bad at defining music genre’s. I’ll leave that up to the rocket scientists. I think my attempted description of Swallow Key might be Alternative Religious Music. And music is my religion.

The discography is not longer for few exclusive labels. On the contrary, it’s available for a wider range and creating music has become simpler with the support of digital technologies. What do you think about your musical future?

I thank the stars for outlets like Soundcloud. It’s a great way to reach an audience.  I’ve gotten to this humble level of musicianship by making the best of what I have. It doesn’t take much to woo the senses. Godard said, “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” I find this true with many things in life. But when it comes to promotion and marketing, I’m a fish out of water. I feel awkward posting about my music often. Self promotion is a sticky ego.  So while it’s become more accessible for music to be created, getting distributed is still a full time job. This is where labels are helpful to the cause of music and where I lack in the digital movement. I don’t really know where to go from here other than, live. On March 5, I’ll be releasing a Swallow Key cover of The Doors song, ‘The End’ on Soundcloud. I’m rehearsing the live show now with a few of my closest friends. We’re gearing up for a wild live spectacle complete with performance art and a cosmic visual experience. We’ll be playing out this summer. I’ve started working on the second Swallow Key album.  I’ll be self-releasing that album as well, at this point. I make music only for the love of music, in hopes of uplifting or touching someone else. Speaking of which, a quick shout out to the Soundcloud Swallow Key fans. Thank you for your comments. They are my payment for creating and more valuable than gold. As long as there are ears open for Swallow Key, new musical paths through wild sunlit forests will be trampled.

Dark Lit Paradise is.. cool! The video as well is incredibly suggestive: limitless nature and this charming native Indian girl dancing in harmony with everything she is surrounded by. Where this explosion of sounds is from?

Dark Lit Paradise’ is a defining track for Swallow Key. It embodies the idea that out of darkness we can create light, if we choose to. Each one of us struggles in some way in our experience on Earth. Learning how to submit the ego to a higher source is a practice that I continue to rehearse. For the sound, I visited ancient deep drums and a dark saw synth accompanied by a vulnerable voice and hints of something colorful from the other side. I directed the video and filmed it in Novato, California. For the record, the performer, Inka Siefker, is not Native American. In my time in San Francisco, I’ve been so lucky to acquire an amazingly zany circle of circus friends; contortionists, aerialists, acrobats. I’m guessing we’ll see more of them in future Swallow Key videos and live shows. San Francisco is one big circus, everyday. ‘Dark Lit Paradise’ speaks to my concept of a lover’s devotion. This is a strange time for love in America. (Probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever said.) But it seems this generation so caught up in their selves that they treat love as if nothing is sacred, disposable. In my idea of love there is nothing that could sway a lovers devotion. Even when times are tough for dreamers. Which they are.

We Got The Honey is a cryptic track: the title itself  is a code. This crowd of monkey men getting wondering around  with bikes in a non-era. What is the hidden message?

Well it wouldn’t be ‘hidden’ if I told you! The lyrics are ‘We got the honey, Don’t want the money.’ This speaks to the thought that a species our priorities are a bit fucked right now. The footage reminds me of a time when we could terrorize the neighborhood and our cares where not so dire. I was doing things like these monkey kids when I was young. And so a symbiosis of image and sound took place.  The song and the footage seemed to marry each other without even asking me first. Coincidentally, after I released ‘We Got The Honey’ I met a girl who has bee hives on the rooftop of her apartment where I live in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco. She introduced me to the bee’s, and the bee’s and I worked out a deal, so I can give free home-made honey to Swallow Key fans with the purchase of the Kachina album. I’m almost out of honey till Spring!

One who has spread your knowledge, to be more precise the Dj producer Erroi, wants to have the honor to ask you the last question: “Silent Shout is, on my opinion, the masterpiece of The Knife. Dark and surgical but at the time ethereal and scratched. Which is the common ground between Swallow Key and The Knife? How did you get in touch with them and why such a remix?
Thanks for being a Seeker, Erroi! I think The Knife and Fever Ray are very important to the world today. I agree with you Erroi, “Silent Shout” is a masterpiece. To be honest, I listened to the song so many times that I couldn’t listen to it anymore.  But I still wanted to. So I created the remix so I could hear it under a different light.  There is no ‘one-upping’ this song, that is to say, it cannot be made better. I only tried to accent its’ magnificence in the remix. I think in the common ground between Swallow Key and The Knife there is biding thread of alchemy. I have a special affinity for metamorphosis and for music that transforms caterpillars into butterflies, for music that can visit the mysterious realms of humanity and return to digest the experience for the people who wear suits to share, to catch a glimpse, and be haunted.