Interview w/ Steve Sklar of Big Sky
[Sounni] Tell me about the band. It's
members, how it was formed...?
[Steve] We started Big Sky in early 1994, mostly as a
vehicle for developing and
presenting Johnna's songs. We had at that point disbanded our previous
band, Little Green Men, a sort of "avant-garde jazz-fusion" ensemble.
THAT'S challenging stuff to market, though the time might be better now.
We started out with ex-LGM keyboardist Michael Pelz-Sherman, and old
Scott Anderson and Joe Miller from Head Octet on bass
and drums. As is the way of things, we play musical chairs every
now and then as people's lives change.
[Sounni] How would you define your
[Steve] Well, it's equal parts heaven-and-earth, fire-and-water;
it's organic and
electric at the same time.
[Sounni] You have described your music
as Beautiful Pop/Rock/Ethno. Why Beautiful?
[Steve] Well, that's one of the things listeners always call it.
Some artists like
to express angst, or rage, or pain; we recognize those and may touch on
them, but we prefer to focus on beauty, the spiritual relationship between
ourselves and nature, and the rising to meet challenges rather than
complaining about them. Life's not a bummer to us, nor a happy fantasy;
rather its the great and wondrous mystery!
[Sounni] Your lyrics are an integral
part of your music. What are the influences
for them and is there a particular message that you are trying to present
[Steve] Well, most of the lyrics are Johnna's, so I have to
presume to speak for
her. Besides what I said before, I think that it's important to understand
that usually she's writing from the heart about her life and how she
experiences it. Lots of real-world situations and relationships, rather
than "I'm going to write X-sort of song today."
[Sounni] What is Siberian Tuvan
[Steve] Throat-singing, properly called "khoomei" is a family of styles and
techniques from Central Asia. Khoomei singers are able to produce very
unusual vocal sounds and timbres, and can sing multiphonic parts. That is,
2-3 or even more notes at the same time by an individual singer.
It's been my great fortune to have as friends and teachers the members of
the great Tuvan group, Huun-Huur-Tu. Some lessons and years
have helped me to learn to sing in several Tuvan (Tuva
is a southern
Siberian republic where Khoomemi is very common) styles. I visited Tuva in
1995, and I'm now one of two teachers in North America.
You can hear two styles of khoomei on "Siberia," track 4 on "Standing on
[Sounni] Tell me about your debut
release, "Standing on This Earth".
[Steve] "Standing on This Earth" is Big Sky's debut CD,
though we'd recorded some
earlier cassettes, too. It features 12 original tunes, 10 by Johnna, and 2
by our bassist at the time, Marc Roemer. It's been very well-received,
gotten great reviews, and some even say that it's a worthy purchase for
the artwork alone!
We recorded it at Kevin Hovey's Parlour of Redemption, a private
the Twin Cities. Kevin used to engineer CDs and tours for Prince and
zillions of others, and as Co-producer/engineer he's been a great asset to
"Standing on This Earth" is available on the web from CD
Baby at and from Amazon.com and others.
People can preview it at mp3.com, amp3.com, rollingstone.com, and
[Sounni] How has being based in the
midwest influenced your music?
[Steve] Hmmm...it's kinda hard to say...maybe if we could be from
too, for perspective ;-) There are some geographical references to
mid-western places, but otherwise...not that much.
[Sounni] Would you consider Big Sky a
local, regional or potentially national act?
[Steve] I don't see any reason why we wouldn't be well-received
anywhere, at least
in this arm of the Milky Way! I honestly think that our music has
international appeal, and that's backed up by fan mail from around the
[Sounni] What kind of fan base have you
developed? What is your relationship to
[Steve] Well, it's been a great thing hearing from so many people
world. It's a wonderful thing these days with the Internet; such exposure
would've been possible a few years back. So, we enjoy our local fans,
who support us at gigs, and all the listeners in Australia, Russia,
France, you name it. As for the relationship, it varies from the folks
that just email or write to let us know how much our music means to them,
to khoo-maniacs that seek info or lessons.
When we play shows or put our music online, and hear back that it's helped
someone through a difficult time, or changed their idea of what music is,
or just put a big smile on their face, that makes our day, too!
[Sounni] I see that you have a presence
in mp3.com. Has it helped?
[Steve] Yes, indeed! Same thing with amp3.com, and many other
sites. It's now
possible to build and reach an enormous audience worldwide, and to market
directly via the web. The thousands and thousands of downloads we've
received represent new fans, and indicate wide-scale appreciation of our
It's also been invaluable for building a "buzz;" so many in the industry
are aware of us now, and interested.
[Sounni] How does Big Sky use the
Internet to advance its goals?
[Steve] Several ways. Here are a few:
1. Direct marketing. It's now simple to present ourselves and our
music to the public.
2. Networking: We've learned a lot from fellow musicians online,
about opportunities, marketing approaches, musical ideas (I have a
collaboration coming up with mp3 artist Tom Aragon), and business
connections. We met our manager, Phil Frazier, on the IndiBiz
3. "The Buzz" There's no longer time to be everywhere on the web,
with so many new sites every day. But it is possible to work it hard and
be nearly omnipresent, so that people notice us over and over again. They
can see that we're ambitious, working hard, and read our reviews, quotes,
and hear our music nearly instantly. The internet is still so new, and
many folks are either not on it yet, or just getting going. But it's
growing exponentially, and presents great opportunities for those
interested in learning how to use it.
Check out a review of Big Sky