Shawn Bowen – aka ObiShawnKenobi Talks the Talk With 1stAngel
Hello, my name is Shawn Bowen, also sometimes known as “ObiShawnKenobi”.
I am a multi-media artist, musician, photographer, videographer, and glassblower. I am very honored to have been asked to do this interview, and when asked I was not sure whether to answer the questionnaire for musician, artist, or photographer… Since music and photography are forms of art, and I am currently trying to market my digital artworks, I believe artist to be the best category as artist covers it all. Also I am not a photographer in the traditional sense, for me my photography is an element of my art. For my digital artworks I like to combine my photography with hand drawn elements and digital manipulation.
I have heard people say that digital manipulation isn’t art, it’s just pushing buttons in computer software, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that… I think most would agree that photography is an art form, but when the camera was first invented many painters said “That’s not art, you just point and push a button”.
I believe strongly in using modern technology as the great tool it is to further the arts.
When did you first become interested in art?
Early in childhood, some of my first memories are the many pictures I was always drawing, spaceships and monsters, I can even remember at around 7 years old I already liked the rock band “Kiss” and I was drawing pictures of myself playing guitar in my imaginary band with elaborate costumes and stage show.
What style of art do you use most?
I spend equal amounts of time working on music and digital artwork images.
Has your style changed from when you first began as an artist?
Yes, very much so, having been born in 1969 there have been a LOT of technological advancements in my lifetime which has very much changed the style of both my art and music over the years.
What about as a musician?
when I was first starting I was strictly hard rock/heavy metal/punk, but I have learned many different instruments and styles of music over the years.
I opened a little music store which specialized in unusual ethnic instruments from all over the world and supplies for the drumcircles, and, during those 3 years the store was in business, I turned on to a whole new world of music.
How well do you take criticism?
I think I take it very well thanks to my life experiences. I was in a heavy metal band that was discovered by Brian Johnson of AC/DC, and then signed and toured with Ozzy Osbourne and many other huge bands.
When you are in a signed band like that you take a LOT of criticism, both legitimate stuff from magazines just trying to do an honest review, and from other musicians who are jealous of what you have accomplished, so I think it gave me pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism
Art is subjective and you can’t please everybody. I think it is most important to make art that makes me feel good and like I have accomplished something, if other people like it that is a huge bonus, but pleasing others is NOT why I make art.
Do you think the internet has altered the way musicians can get known? Has the internet made piracy easier do you think?
Yes, it has been both good and bad, but overall I personally embrace it as I like the DIY approach to making music because you have more control and the music is more real.
Having been in a band that had a major deal there were lots of things that happened that were beyond my control and it wasn’t a good feeling as an artist. I don’t regret the experience as I got to do a lot of really cool things and meet some really cool people, but I do like having complete creative control over all aspects of my career.
The downside is that now everybody with a computer and some software thinks they are a great musician, so the market has become watered down with mediocrity, it seems some of the worst musicians are really good at marketing themselves.
Yes piracy has become a lot easier to do, but I think that most people if they really like an artist will go buy something from them or go to a show after “pirating” the music to check it out so I don’t personally think it’s a bad thing. I do it myself to see if I like something enough to want to own it.
There are so many different genres and sub-genres of music nowadays that radio can’t cover it all and you have to be able to check something out to see if you like it enough to want to buy it.
What medium do you use?
Music, photography, pencil and ink drawing, painting with acrylics, manipulation in Photoshop, videography in Premiere and After Effects, and glass blowing (flame work on a torch-not offhand glass-blowing with a furnace)
What made you choose those mediums?
It has just been a natural progression, it feels more like it all chose me than the other way around.
What is your style of music? Are you solo or in a group?
I play many different styles of music, I record some by myself in my studio, freelance on other people’s projects, and also am in 2 active bands. I front the band “Didges Christ SuperDrum” and I also play guitar and Alien Technology in that band.
I also play guitar and sing backing vocals in a new metal band called “Stones of Madness”.
Do you play an instrument?
I am a singer and I also play guitar, sitar, various keyboards including harmonium, tanpura, hammered dulcimer, drums and percussion, bass, various types of woodwinds including flute and bamboo saxophone, and kazoo.
What made you choose those instruments?
They choose me. Any instrument I pick up that resonates with me I add it to the instruments I play. I have a large collection of exotic instruments in my recording studio thanks to the 3 years I was selling instruments.
People tend to ask me “Is there any instrument you CAN’T play?”
YES, I suck at violin!
Do your ideas come from life or imagination?
Both!! I like to take images and ideas from real life and put my own imaginative twist on them, be it songs, photos, lyrics etc.
How do you choose your images and colors?
As far as images I just choose whatever appeals to me, I don’t really have to go looking for it, I find amazing things around me all the time!! For colors I am told by tests that I am somewhat colorblind, which seems funny to me because I think I see color just fine, but I have had a few disagreements with people over what color something actually is, and I eventually was proven wrong, so I guess my perception of color is a little bit different from “normal”. I tend to like what I perceive as deep, vivid colors.
What were your musical influences growing up?
Kiss, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Skinny Puppy, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC
Do you work in a studio?
I have a home recording studio where I do all my music and visual digital manipulations, I call it “The Bridge” as in the Bridge of my spaceship.
I have a 16 track digital recording setup in a room with beautiful wood siding and floors that gets amazing sounds, and a MacPro computer which I use for both sound recording and my digital artwork.
I also have a carport area I have turned into my glass studio where I make mostly small jewelry type items and neat paper weight/knick-knacks/marbles, but sometimes even some odd wine goblets or jars etc.
Do your write your own tracks?
Yes, I have little interest in playing other people’s music except to occasionally attempt to do a remake of a song I really like. Didges Christ SuperDrum recently did a remake of a 100 year old Scottish folk tune called “Black Is The Colour” but our version is VERY different from the original.
Who is your favourite artist?
If you could have anyone’s music career, whose would it be?
My own, I have many influences but really am not envious of anyone else’s career. It is not an easy struggle for anyone, even if it looks like it was from the outside. I only want to walk my own path.
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
That changes all the time, but currently it is probably the “light painting” I did of the Buddha with lotus candles, or maybe the Ganesh…
How about in your music?
Right now I would have to say it is the DCSD song titled “Grind to the Slaves”
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
Anywhere from an hour or two for digital works that come right to me, to several months-paintings seem to take me the longest.
I like to paint to a certain point and then just have it in my studio and look at it in between working on other things to get more ideas of what to do.
I think digital artwork goes quicker because you can try all kinds of crazy stuff without ruining your original. I like to save it at different points, that way, if I go too far and ruin it I can go back a few steps… With actual paints that isn’t an option so I am slower and more calculated.
What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?
Fortunately I work in so many different mediums I never really feel like I have a true block, if something isn’t working for me I just put it down and create something else and maybe come back to it later or let it sit on my hard drive with the millions of unfinished things I have tried that didn’t work out for me.
Fire is also a useful tool in doing away with art that doesn’t work.
How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?
That is a good question and one that I believe I have a hard time with sometimes… With some pieces it is obvious when it is done, and it’s easy to just stop and walk away. However, I think sometimes I am unsure and maybe mess things up by not stopping at a certain point, then it is not so easy to walk away… I will stare at it, or listen to it over and over and go maaaan, I was really on to something, what happened???
Have you had exhibits in galleries?
No, I have not done any gallery exhibits as of yet, but there are a number of galleries where I live in Sarasota, FL. I do plan on getting a bunch of my newer works printed up so I can try to do that.
Have you had concerts/records?
Yes! I have lost count of how many shows I have been fortunate enough to play!!
As I mentioned, one of my former bands “Neurotica” was discovered by Brian Johnson of AC/DC who also produced our first album titled “Seed”. He also let us do a remake of a song he wrote called “Deadly Sin”, and sang backing vocals on that song, and let me play a Gibson acoustic guitar from his collection that was formerly owned by the Everly Brothers on our song titled “Easyspeak”.
It was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and that band recorded 3 records in all.
We also got to do some pretty extensive touring including Ozzfest. It was a great honor to get to work and tour with some of the artists I loved so much while growing up!!
After that I started a musical project called “World Collision” which was a world/rock music fusion, the debut album titled “Embark” I wrote and recorded all the tracks myself playing all the instruments except on one song my friend Jeremy Lembo played didgeridoo. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/worldcollision
We put a band together under the World Collision name and recorded two more albums, one titled “Trancention” and another titled “On Fire”. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/worldcollision3
During that period Jeremy and I started a side project and called it “Didges Christ SuperDrum” which has evolved into my main band and has recorded 2 full length albums so far, one self titled, http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dchristsd and the newest one called “Alien Technology”. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/didgeschristsuperdrum
Do you prefer writing or performing?
I like them both equally, writing is more of a release for me to finally get ideas out of my head and express myself. Performing tends to be a little bit stressful, but is a great deal of fun when it goes well, performing just has so many variables that are out of your control that sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
Here you can stream the entire 11 song Didges Christ SuperDrum album titled “Alien Technology“
Have you any exhibits or music planned for the future?
As I mentioned above, I do plan on trying to do some gallery exhibits in the future but don’t have any specific plans there to talk about as yet, I have at least 50 pieces I would like to be able to show. It will be an expensive endeavor to get them all printed up, but that is really the only way I can tell what people will like and want to buy, I find that generally the ones I like the most aren’t really the most commercially viable.
This is our most recent music video which was directed by Karen Lam and features footage from her upcoming feature film titles “Evangeline” which is currently in post-production in Vancouver BC for a fall release:
This music video is one of only 7 official selections for the KahBang Film Festival in Bangor Maine this year http://kahbangfilmfest.org/portfolio/black-is-the-colour/ and is also an official selection at the World Music and Independent Film Festival in Washington D.C. where we won 2 awards in 2012 for a music video I made for the song “Finding Our Way Back OM” http://youtu.be/xnYNQ_SRr2g
Didges Christ has many shows already booked for the coming year including the Paralounge Drum Festival in October http://www.paralounge.net
Didges Christ has also already started writing new material for the next album which will probably be released in 2014.
I have also started playing in a new band with my former Neurotica bandmates called “Stones Of Madness” and we are about to release a 5 song EP and hopeful a full length album before long, our debut show is going to be July 14th in our hometown of Sarasota, FL.
Are you nervous playing live?
I have been playing live since I was 15 years old and enjoy it very much, I have been fortunate enough to do some major touring with my former band “Neurotica” who toured on Ozzfest with Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, and many other awesome bands.
I currently still perform very often with Didges Christ SuperDrum.
We haven’t toured to the extent that Neurotica did yet, but we have played out of state. Last year we got to perform live at The World Music and Independent Film Festival in Washington D.C. where we were up for and won 2 awards “Most Creative Music Video” and “Best Alternative Music Video” as I mentioned earlier for my video for the song “Finding Our Way Back OM”.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I am honing my skills at “light painting” and doing new art pieces almost daily for my portfolio and to sell as prints.
“Light painting” for those who don’t know is taking long exposure photographs and using various lights to “paint” while the shutter is open.
I use my cellphone, LED lights, glowsticks, EL wire, fire and other various forms of light as my “paintbrushes”, I have even used blacklights and taped glow-in-the-dark guitar picks to highlighter pens to use as my “paintbrush”.
Also I am starting work on new material for my music project “Didges Christ SuperDrum” as we released our latest album “Alien Technology” on April 20th, 2013 and it takes a long time to write enough material for a full album.
What are your plans for the future?
Just to keep on doing what I do and hopefully one day be able to make a decent living at it, it’s still very much a struggle and I find myself doing odd jobs to pay the bills. Nothing wrong with that, but I do believe the meaning of life is to figure out what makes you feel like you are living your life with purpose, and do it…
When I am creating art and music is the only time I feel like I am doing what I was put here to do, but it doesn’t always pay the bills so I sometimes find myself doing things that feel like a waste of my time on the planet just so I can put gas in my van and pay my bills.
My plan for the future is to change that and be able to focus on creation full time.
and, with your music career?
Just to keep on doing what I am doing and hope for the best!
I am trying to market my artwork and music to the point where I can make a decent living from doing what I do best, I have kept my life very simple and don’t need to make a huge amount of money to make a decent living so I think it is a reasonable goal.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
The fact that you can’t please everyone…
What advice would you give new artists?
Do what feels right to you and makes you feel accomplished, even if other people don’t like it or are made uncomfortable by it. Like the airplane pamphlet says-you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. For some people, like me, I can’t breathe without creating my art.
How about new musicians looking to get into the profession?
I would say if you are planning to be an original artist, and not play cover tunes, you better figure out a way to make money that won’t interfere with playing in a band, because making money at music is not easy.
If you start playing covers it can become a bit of a hamster wheel that you can’t get off, but if you just want to perform and get paid it is certainly easier to get paid at then being an original artist.
Have you done any courses to help you?
I have not taken any courses in particular, but these days I find that when I want to learn any kind of new technique I can Google it and find very useful free tutorials on YouTube to learn how to do just about anything.
I have never taken any kind of music courses either, but I do think that some courses in business and marketing would probably be very useful to anyone wanting to get in the music business, especially now that it is mainly DIY.
I took a handful of guitar lessons when I was starting out, and liked to get together with other guitarists who were better than me to jam and pick their brains a bit.
What do you do to market your work?
So far I have only been marketing my work online.
Facebook I have found to be an extremely useful tool in marketing the various things I do.
I have been told Twitter is very useful as well, but I barely have the time to manage my online life as it is, so I haven’t tried it yet, but I do plan in the near future to hook up with Twitter as well, I see once you have it all up and running it integrates with Facebook and vice-versa so I’m sure it’s another helpful tool.
Social media is great for marketing music, also CD Baby is amazing-it’s actually a much better deal than you would ever get from a traditional record label, if those even still exist, you just have to do your own legwork.
CD Baby does everything a record label does for your music except the physical publicity…
Thanks to CD Baby my independent albums are all available at any record store and major internet outlet, just Google “Didges Christ SuperDrum” and you can buy our music at a bunch of different sites including iTunes of course.
Are you available for work?
Absolutely, you can contact me on my Facebook page, or at obishawnkenobi-at-hotmail.com, or call me at 941-266-2648
Do you have a girlfriend? Is she supportive?
Yes, my girlfriend is VERY supportive, and she even performs with my band Didges Christ SuperDrum doing interpretive dance to the point that she is considered part of the band and even pictured on our most recent release titled “Alien Technology”.
What do you dream about when asleep?
My dreams are so varied and off the wall I wouldn’t know where to start, I usually wake up from them going whaaaaaa?? What was that??? hahaha
Have you got hobbies?
I enjoy watching movies, mostly Sci-Fi, and every Sunday here on Siesta Key Beach there is a weekly drumcircle I have been attending for over 15 years that is very fun and relaxing. You can Google “Siesta Key Drum Circle” and you will find plenty of news and videos about the event. If you ever find yourself vacationing in the area I highly recommend it, there is another one on Saturdays in Nokomis about 20 minutes south of here.
This is a video I made of the drumcircle one day where I put a GoPro camera in my girlfriend’s bustier while she did her Sufi style whirling dervish thing around the circle with a sword balanced on her head…
I recommend putting it on full screen and sitting close to your monitor!
Also I have a friend with a honey business, and we have made a deal where he has parked a bunch of hives in my yard and I get to sell honey and learn about beekeeping myself as it is something I would like to get deeper into in the future. Bees are very important to the future of the planet, and raw honey is delicious. Many people are still unaware that much of the “honey” you find in grocery stores has either been so filtered and heat processed that the pollen and health benefits are gone, or even worse it is fake and is really honey flavored corn syrup.
Where are you based?
© 2013, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.