Volume III, Issue III Autumn 2004

Sound Tribe Sector Nine updates psychedelia for a new millenium

While the hypnotic rhythms and multimedia show might hearken back to the late 1960s, the members of Sound Tribe Sector Nine arrived at their brand of psychedelia second-hand.

Sound Tribe Sector NineToo young to remember (or even have been around for) the Summer of Love, the members of STS9 came to their instrumental jam music via acid jazz, r&b, Afrobeat and techno.

"We were seeing a lot of acid jazz," drummer and founding member Zack Valmer said from his Bay Area home about the late 1990s, when the members were living in Atlanta and just starting out. "A lot of heavy cats lived in Atlanta at the time. And when they weren't doing their money gigs, they would play the Yin Yang Café. We kind of got in with them."

Valmer explained that the Yin Yang was populated by backing musicians for major pop artists like Janet Jackson, and playing on their own allowed them to do something different from the hits the stars' audiences wanted to hear.

"It was very avant garde – a release for them. Everybody was really expressing themselves. Our thing really stems from that. We wanted one sound; five members to move as one sound."

Since founding STS9, the band has released three albums (a fourth, "Artifact," is set for a February release), and earned a respectable if still off-the-radar following.

And yet, somewhat oddly for a band with as firm an identity as STS9 (electronica jam), Valmer said there was no grand plan when the members founded it.

"It was never a concept band," he emphasized. "It was always just really what we were inspired by."

As far as the light shows and other multimedia elements to their live shows, Valmer said it all came about in the same organic manner as the music.

"We had friends wanting to be a part of it," he explained. "One friend had a real love for the particular art, and we gave him the space to create that kind of art. We have a lot of family to back us. It wasn't a concept. One friend is the production man; he does the lights, has the feel for the stage – not just the band members up there, but a vibe. There's a vibe. He took it under his wing and had inspiration and vision. That's his art, like I play the drums.

This combination of improvisational jam music and multimedia stage show has led to STS9 having what Valmer says is an incredibly broad crowd.

"Honestly, it is everything. It's hippies to people driving up in Mercedes, young kids to older people. It is an incredibly diverse crowd.

"And it varies by region – go to New York, Chicago or LA , and it's a little bit of a different scene than if you go to, say, Tulsa, Oklahoma. When you go to Austin, you have hippies but also music lovers who just live in Austin."

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