home listen a- z back next

Sophe Lux

A Conversation with Gwynneth Haynes (continued)

PM: But this record, Waking the Mystics, is really an amazing record. I mean, it's not the easiest record in the world to walk into.

GH: No.

PM: But once I got far enough inside I felt, okay, I see the neighborhood I'm in now.

GH: Wow.

PM: And this is really a wonderful bunch of sounds and songs and players. So I want to find out all about it. Where does the name come from?

GH: Well, it comes from Sophia, which some people have associated with the female part of the trinity, or before some editing by Christian forefathers that Sophia was originally part of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But she's associated with wisdom.

PM: Yeah, she got boxed out by the early Christian policy makers.

GH: She got boxed right out.

PM: That wasn't working.

GH: Sorry, you know, honey, we really appreciate you, but can you go up in the kitchen?

And she's in a lot of the mystical traditions, you see her in Gnosticism, you see her in the Hebrew Kabbalah, you see her a little bit in the Bible in Proverbs, like they talk about "wisdom is a woman"--which is kind of an interesting way of looking at it. So she represents Sophe--

PM: Is that the actual quote, "wisdom is a woman"?

GH: I think so--or it might be--

PM: Oh, I'm stealing that right away. Let me write that down before I forget. I'm stealing that.

GH: Steal that from the Bible right now. [laughs]

PM: Amateurs borrow, you know what they say. Professionals steal.

GH: But yeah, so a lot of the concept right now that we've been living in an age of such intense concentration of masculine energy and masculine consciousness, the sort of pendulum has been sort of tightly wound around this very masculine thing. And the concept about Sophia is that she's sleeping in matter, and she has to be reawakened. And part of the mystical concept is that the celestial Sophia is to connect people with their own wisdom, with creativity, with imagination.

PM: And the "Lux" part of the name?

GH: I think the direct translation, it's from physics, the SI unit of illumination, but it's also a word for light.

PM: Right, light. That's what I associate it with.

GH: Yeah. So it's kind of--if you put it together, it's like light of Sophia, or light of what Sophia represents. And it's not something that--I don't want it to sound pretentious, it's just the love the wisdom, the love of the light of wisdom, the love for the search of wisdom and creativity and imagination. That's sort of the sentiment behind it.

PM: Works for me. You are the principle songwriter, producer, and the center point of the initiative, right? It's your vision most of all.

GH: Right, right.

PM: Give us a sense of your human and musical origins, if you would.

GH: Okay. Did you say human?

PM: Yeah.

GH: I like that, that's interesting. I was raised in southern California, in the epitome of a Jewish artsy family. My first job was making television commercials at age six. My brother is a film director--I was his first actress. And he was always putting me in plays and theatricals and movies from the time I was about six. And we were the kids--like in the Billy Crystal movies, where like the kids are performing for their Jewish relatives, that was us. We did that.

PM: Wow, that was you.

GH: Yeah. We did Vaudeville skits for Christmas. That's what we'd do every day after school, we'd get together and play and do plays. And so there was always imagination, there was always art. My grandma was a classical musician and abstract artist, and she'd take me to the symphony once a month. So I was deeply entrenched in classical music, too, from the time I was really little. We'd go to the Hollywood Bowl. I've got these great memories of just being at the Hollywood Bowl and listening to like a beautiful Beethoven sonata, and looking at the stars.

PM: So few children have that in their background.

GH: Oh, my God, I was so blessed. I'm so lucky. And I went to an amazing school for children, which was a very free spirited kind of find your own self-expression.

PM: What was that called?

GH: This woman was named Virginia Rothman. And she was this amazing kind of woman Einstein--she even looked like a female Einstein. She was just crazy, wonderful, and kind of wild. And she just supported the concept in each child that you can create whatever you are created, and that there is no wrong or right, truth can be blue, truth can be orange, there's no drawing in the lines. And with that, you instilled in each child a sense of courage about their creativity and their self as a creator, a little creating being. And it was one of the most nourishing experiences of my formative years.

PM: And were your folks musically inclined?

GH: Well, my dad actually was a DJ. And he was in a band in high school. And then he married my mom, and then he didn't do that anymore. But he loves music. And he and I love music together. I mean, we really bond around music a lot. My mom is a visual artist and an actress, so more of the theatrical... So that was it, and then I went to a real progressive liberal arts high school, did lots of performance art. Then I went to New York and studied painting and theater. I started writing music at fourteen, and would play my guitar on the sidewalks of L.A., people walking by.


GH: And I was like a little vagabond with my sidekick Alita Pierce. She was the first girl I would do songs with.

PM: And what would she do? Would she sing--

GH: She was really great. She was an amazing songwriter. And she was probably influenced by--we were influenced by like Peter Gabriel and the Talking Heads and David Bowie, and Joni Mitchell.

PM: So, very much children of the '80s, yeah.

GH: Yeah, yeah. We were growing up in the '80s, and just loving that whole rich musical--I think there was a lot of rich music going on in that time.

PM: Absolutely. Someone was just saying they were kind of backpedaling the '80s, but I think the '80s had incredible music.

[Matthew Ryan expressed similar feelings in his interview in this issue.]

GH: I know. People kind of forget, right? Like Kate Bush, I think she--

PM: A huge influence, I would say.

GH: Yeah. And high school, like maybe '86, I discovered The Dreaming. And I think that album was probably one of the most stunning masterworks I've ever come across.

PM: Amazing work, yeah.

GH: Brian Eno was a huge influence. I'm quite taken with Brian Eno's work, from Here Come the Warm Jets to his collaborations with David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts--very kind of playful avant-garde stuff. Then I did have a big Nirvana phase. After the '80s got into the '90s I was having my Nirvana, Sonic Youth moment, discovered the Velvet Underground, that kind of thing.

PM: Yeah, that's important for balance.

GH: Yeah, I think it is, because it's not a pretty--I mean, even Kate Bush was such an intense edge, you definitely have to get into--you need to discover dissonance and anger to also find your power as a musician. And I've always loved Tom Waits, Radiohead, Beck, Shannon Wright. Of course, Elliott Smith was a huge influence--I think he's one of our greater songwriters of the last decade.

PM: Yeah, truly important.

GH: Really important in returning us to that integration of beauty and edginess with beautiful construction.

PM: Yes. Johnny Thunders once told my brother Bill, he said, "You got to have the beauty...and the terror." [You'll have to imagine Johnny Thunders saying it.]


GH: I love that! Oh, that's great. That's great. That's a beautiful concept.   continue

print (pdf)     listen to clips      puremusic home