This was going to be no ordinary interview. On the other end of the phone was none other than John Rayne, a techno-evangelist bard from a post-apocalyptic American future, here in Nashville’s present to tell us the truth through his eclectic style of modern folk music, which is created by his disembodied spirit, Boom Forest. This, beloved readers, is our conversation:
East of 8th: Tell me about John Rayne.
John Rayne: Basically, I’m just living this life, and the longer I live this life, the more I see inconsistencies in the way that the world works. It just seems like something has always been incomplete, and it was kind of those inconsistencies that made me start realizing that this world that we’re living in is all a projection, it’s all inherently false. It just feels like we’ve been living the same life over and over again and the same days over and over again, and when I realized that I was kind of stuck in this infinite loop, that just caused this strange reaction in me and through that reaction, my spirit got disembodied, the spirit is Boom Forest. He kind of comes and goes as he wants to, and I just kind of await his next move, or wait to see what’s going to happen. I think together he really wants me to wake up, he wants me to get up out of the cycle and be awake again and be fully alive in the real world. I think that we both want that, for more than just music, I think that everyone’s stuck in the projection.
Eo8: How did you get stuck in this infinity loop?
JR: Well, all of humanity did. We kept on making technology that was more and more helpful and more and more invasive, and eventually we hit this point where the machines, called the ‘automatons’, made an agreement with us, that they could keep us alive forever and we’d never have to work again, but in exchange, we would have to go to the White City, which is like a bunch of spires in the middle of the globe. All of humanity kind of shuffled into the White City, and we all got our own little rooms, and in order to keep extracting our human essence from us to keep the White City running, they played these different projections. Everybody’s got their own projection that they see, and that’s what keeps the cycle going.
Eo8: What caused you to embark upon this musical journey?
JR: As sophisticated as the projections are, there are ripples, moments where the laws get broken and mysterious things happen, and I think that those are elements of humanity the machines can’t account for. So sometimes, in moments of love or sorrow, that’s when you get your chance to see the real world, the world that really is, like a beautiful place that’s not scary, and I think that the most common thing for me was music. I’ve been making music my whole life in the modern-day projection. I was in a boy choir, the Madison Boy Choir, and as I got older and started developing more and more the musical side of things. I noticed that I could sort of side-step, like in the music, time would stop and everything I cared about and was worried about would stop. That was when I first realized that there was an escape route to this endless cycle and being a slave. I’ve been drawn to music, I always have, but that’s when I really realized the power of it, that it was a trap door in this endless cycle.
Eo8: How did you end up in Wisconsin, where you’re “from”?
JR: That’s just where my projection had me. I was born in Florida, my parents got divorced and my mom married a Shakespeare professor who taught at the University of Wisconsin, so we moved up to the tundra, where nothing really happens, but the people are great.
Eo8: Why did you move to Nashville?
JR: I was in a band in Los Angeles and we were a rock band trying to be cool and trying to make money with art, which is really gross, and it was kind of the typical story; a dude with a slick haircut and a fast car kind of wowed all of us little midwesterners and ended up kind of dream-crushing us. The dream thing happened, somebody started a label just for us, and that dude ended up embezzling all the money and running off. Our dreams were dashed. Our lawyer was in Nashville, and we were like ‘what are we going to do next?’ and he suggested that we buy a house in East Nashville, so I went an got a house in the scariest part of town that I could. I just found myself here, and that’s been the next chapter.
Eo8: There are lots of projections that are in Wisconsin that I know of, there is PHOX, and Field Report, who I’ve worked with, I didn’t know if you were familiar with or had relationships with them...
JR: Oh I love Chris (Porterfield of Field Report), and PHOX, and the dudes from the band Daniel and the Lion, and my sister’s band Gardening, Not Architecture–we’re all from the same little farm town, population 8,000.
JR: Yeah, Baraboo. We were the artistic misfits, and we all accidentally encouraged each other, helped each other along. Now it’s cool to see everybody thriving and doing their own thing, and it’s cool when we get to cross paths with each other, it’s a really inspirational thing for me.
Eo8: You have an album coming out in November, I’ve been listening to it. The first song I heard of yours was “Baby Teeth”, I love it. I had an idea of what I thought your music was going to be, and then I got your new album, and there’s a little bit of everything on it. There’s folk stuff, an electronic kind of thing, and there’s even some congregational harp singing, so I was wondering, if someone could only listen to one of your songs, to understand what you’re trying to say, the message you’re trying to put out, and the sound that you’re going for, what song would that be?
JR: It’s hard to say. There’s a temptation when you make art to try to edit it down and make it more concise. I started my freshman year of college, and realized that college was not for me, and I always wrote really odd things. Every day, I’d have a different thought, it just never fell into a genre. I’ve spent my entire career just writing a bunch of weird songs and then editing it down to fit a format, and then i realized that fitting a format had never served me, it didn’t make me happy and it didn’t ring true with the best art I could possibly make, so with this album, I was like ‘I’m going to pick the stuff that fills me with the most joy, the things that I would want to listen to in the car when I’m by myself. Those are the demos that I’m going to develop this time.’ It ended up being all over the place, and I think in that is the truth. The long story is, I am a conglomeration of all the weirdness that’s on there, I’ve always had a strange relationship to songs, and I’ve always had a weird group of tastes. I guess probably somewhere deep down I think I always get along with dudes whose first musical experience was being in a boy choir. Whatever that was, it made it so that I was never going to be the Led Zeppelin bands, you know, I was never going to look cool in a jean jacket, that was already decided for me when I was 6 years old. In that respect, I’d say that the most pure, the most raw, would be ‘Holy Ghost’, or those songs where it’s just me and a guitar, and just the thought, just the melody, the minimum, the fact that it can still be a song even though there’s no arrangement means that there’s some sort of truth that can be found there, so I guess that’s like the lowest common denominator.
Eo8: Can you tell me about making the album? What was that experience like?
JR: It was a totally different experience; most of this record was already done by the time we went in to record. My friend Eric Hillman, who’s got a great band called Foreign Fields, those two guys are like my best buds, and found some other Wisconsin guys that we grew up in the same projection era. I was hanging out with him and started playing him some of the demos I was working on and we just decided that we should collaborate. It was his first time ever being a pure producer and not being an artist. We both decided to learn together. I trusted him and I handed over the demos, and he ended up slicing tons of stuff away, kind of like shaping what I had done into these more fluid movements. Then whatever we needed after that, we know so many great musicians over our years in Nashville, people who think outside the box and have skills. Everybody who played on the record–the rule was that on what you performed, you had to be focusing on that instrument for over a decade in order to play a note on the record. There’s a temptation to be like ‘all we need is this one bass line’ and pick it up and just play the root notes, and instead we just called a friend up who is this incredible player from Brooklyn who just moved down here, and he would come and all I needed then, he would play. He’d play some line that we’d never expected that made the song. it was a treat to have an idea of where we thought it could end up and then to be constantly one-upped by trusting other artists and trusting the collaboration process.
Eo8: You have a release show coming up…
JR: Yes we do. There’s a rumor that Boom Forest is going to materialize, so…
Eo8: Really? What exactly does that entail?
JR: I guess it’s kind of like possession, except not really, because it’s all me. It’s like the realest me. It’s when I feel the best. if I could have that all the time I would, but right now we’re still figuring out logistics of that. The White City is hunting down Boom Forest all the time, it’s like a game of cat and mouse, but we know we can make these appearances. I feel it, it’s kind of like my body is a puppet and there’s something a lot bigger that’s moving and in that it’s one of the best feelings in the world because I realized my entire life in music before I met Boom Forest, I had it all backwards. i though that you were on the stage because you were the most important person in the room, but what i learned through the process of this band and being of two minds, is that to do it right, you have to be the least important person in the room, the most humble, and you have to make sure that you do everything you can to make sure that everybody in the room understand the same beauty and truth that you do. It’s more of a servant mindset. Boom Forest comes, he lends me a lot of strength, and we try to support everyone on stage and support everybody in the room, and make sure that everybody who wants to have a chance to side-step things, to forget their troubles, or have a moment where they don’t need to worry about the trappings of the modern day, the number of likes and the number of pokes and the number of retweets, hopefully we can give them that sort of service.
Eo8: I get the feeling that John Rayne or Boom Forest is rogue in some aspect.
JR: Yeah, I mean, I could be totally wrong, and Boom Forest could be totally wrong. The White City wants us all to be plugged in so we can stay safe, and I want us to unplug and in that there’s an inherent danger. I could be totally wrong, but this is my best guess for me. i know the White City thinks that I’m a terrorist, like a human terrorist, because I believe that humanity should be moving in a different direction. i don’t blame them for wanting to hunt down Boom Forest and destroy him, it’s such a different mindset. It’s hard to know sometimes; it’s hard to know if you’re the hero or the villain, you know?
Eo8: What’s next for you, John Rayne?
JR: This world that’s happening behind the projections, the real world, there’s so much to tell about it, and since I’ve been getting to collaborate with all the these great artists, it’s like we’ve all been getting to wake up together, and there’s this growing group of artists, visual, and audio, and performance art, and I’m just trying to bring as many people into the process as possible. We’re creating a graphic novel about Boom Forest’s backstory, and so that should be out first quarter of next year–kind of as an alternative to buying a piece of plastic with the music on it, instead you can get a graphic novel and download the same music. Getting it in a different format. I’m really excited about that. I think Christmas is really beautiful, and I love family and togetherness, and everything about it, so every year, i’ve made a Christmas record and I think I’m going to do that again this year, try to have as many of my friends as possible for a couple of shows, one in Wisconsin, one in Nashville where we kind of do our takes on some Christmas songs. There’s a lot of expanding and trying to find the soft spots to connect to real life and being a real human.
Eo8: Is there anything else you want me to share with my readers?
JR: We love to connect, we’re just trying to give more ways that we can all connect and find each other. You can give them the number to my space horn. Boom Forest doesn’t use the internet, he’s kind of wandering around so he’s got a space device that you can call him on, and the number is 608-514-4242. You get Boom Forest when you talk to that, you can tell anyone that they can call anytime and he’ll get back to you if he can’t answer.
You will have the chance to witness Boom Forest himself materialize at The Basement in Nashville tonight and celebrate the release of their new album called Post Knight Errant; tickets for the 21+ show are only $5.00. Doors are at 8:00 p.m. and the show starts at 9:00 p.m. Don’t miss it!