The interview with SUN RA, the master musician & prophet, was originally taped & edited by John Sinclair in December 1966 for GUERRILLA. The interview took place in the lower east side apartment in New York City where Sun Ra and his 10-piece Arkestra live and work communally. Sun Ra's music can be heard on The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volumes I & II (ESP-Disk 1014 & 1017), and on 15 albums on his own label, Saturn.
JS: I guess we can start talking about the planet....
SUN RA: Well, the planet is in such a bad condition that it's inexpressible. It was bad enough, but now it's got worse. They're not sure about their religions, they're not sure about their politics, they're not sure about education and philosophy, they're not sure about anything. . . so you've got complete confusion.
JS: Utter Chaos....
SUN RA: They had utter chaos, then ultra chaos... it's knocking on everybody's door. In the past things came and knocked on a few people's doors, but this is a different age. It's like the atomic bomb, it knocks on everybody's door. That makes a different story. Everybody's involved.
JS: I don't think everybody's caught up in this chaos, I mean I think we both know people who have got something to offer. Instead of that.
SUN RA: Yeah, they got something to offer, but can they do anything about it? That's the problem. Just to have something to offer isn't enough now. So many men and women have come around with something to offer, and some of them became successful, but that doesn't mean anything. Maybe success meaning that they were recognized by the masses or by the rulers, one or the other, but they really don 't have any power to retain any success. They're here today and gone tomorrow. If they would come over into another environment or another planet, they wouldn't be successful. And most of of them are caught up in their little bags, in their own little thing, and I call that an eternity, a circle . . . so they stay over in there, because there's comparative safety there--seemingly. And they stay over in there until some unknown force strikes the surface and snatches them out of there and they disappear--they're not on the planet. So they really didn't make t it. Real security means you have protection, I'd say, forever. Even people with guns and all that, like policemen, they don't have any security... something'll snatch them away too. They talk about protecting a state or a government, but they can't even protect themselves. There's something knocking at everybody's door, and it's not to be denied. Governments know it. . . because people are changing, a lot of people are getting so they just don't care, you know, something is happening but they just don't have any go-it-iveness or initiative. So how are you going to rule if you have people like that? If you got people who don't care ? So, actually, the rulers on this planet are in trouble. And I sympathize with them. The people are slowing down more and more, and they're changing every day. So it's gotten to that point now...and this is where a lot of musicians don't really see it. They got their new music, and their new thing, and that's nice, that's a thrill, but what's going to happen after the thrill dies down? What good's the music if you don't have people to play it for? When you got people who are hopeless, it's contagious. So many of the musicians are seeking to escape from all that, I can see that, and for a long time the musicians could escape--but now they're faced with something else. They got to change the way they write, they got to change the way they play, and of course it comes down to strict discipline. The people have had freedom, but they really haven 't done anything. So I'm not really talking about freedom, I'm not even interested in it, because that doesn't help anybody. The only freedom they'll get is over in a cemetary; then they'll be free. It's a scientific truth: people are only free when they're dead. It's a balanced equation. And they're always talking about peace--they'll get that too, when they're dead. So actually, if I was ruling, I wouldn't let the people talk about freedom, I wouldn't let them fight for it, I wouldn't let them speak of it. . . I wouldn't let them talk about peace, I wouldn't let them picket for it, I wouldn't let them have anything to do with peace. Because the whole thing is very simple: they're free when they're dead, and they're at rest, and at peace when they're dead. It actually says so: rest in peace. So when the United States be talking about peace, it's talking about death. They mean that kind of peace. And when the people got a Prince of Peace, the Prince would have to be Death. Of course, this is another kind of mathematics I'm doing...it's something that they can see if they'll just go and look in the cemetary. There's a lot of people out there- it's a city, they got more people out there than they got on the planet walking around. And they are showing you what peace is. Because they at peace - final peace, definite, absolute peace. Nothing disturbs their peace. Now they're free, too- and nothing bothers their freedom. They're free to be dead. I've had a lot of difficulty trying to tell people that they should investigate that peace and that freedom, because what I'm trying to tell them is too incredible to be true. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, but I know one thing--I balance my equations, and I balance them scientifically, and I know that that's the main thing bothering this planet. It's come out in the open now--the only country that's causing all the wars is the one talking about freedom and peace. They got all that power- the power of peace and freedom... and equality. The only equality they got too is that all of them die. I notice that all of them don 't have the same amount of money, though, or the same amount of opportunity --so it's not really true. I know I never had some opportunities that I should have had - I never had them--probably because I wasn't interested in them. Too limited.
JS: You say you've changed the name of the band from the Myth-Science Arkestra to the Astro -Infinity Arkestra. . . .
SUN RA: Well, actually I didn't change it-that's just one of the dimensions. Because when I play sometimes I use "Myth -Science" -- I've got some songs that come under that--and then I had some under the Solar Arkestra. . .and then I got the Astro -Infinity - and all of them mean different things to me.
JS: Other Planes of There....
SUN RA: Yes... all of them are based on these other planes, which is actually. . . I mean I think people need them now. They should be trying them out, see what'll happen. In fact they're gonna have to - because I might be on Jupiter or Mars by then. Because I'm not stopping my program. Now I got the Solar Arkestra, the Myth-Science, and the Astro -Infinity -and soon I'll have something else. I'm just like a university- I've got my different courses set up - and they deal with things that are going to be beneficial to people. But it's not religious, like some people are saying- I'm not the least bit religious, I'm not interested in that. Because churches don't do anything but bring people. . . peace. What I'm talking about is discipline - that's what people need. All of them need that. Instead of dissipating their energies and striving for things that will never be, they need to discipline themselves so they can do something beneficial for people. But they keep talking about peace. Like I say, the only time they'll be peaceful is when they're dead - they'll look very peaceful then, and they'll BE very peaceful. Now, my contention is that some people or some intelligence has fixed up words for people, and they got a choice of what they want. There are some words that sound very bad, but they are very good for people. And there are some words that sound very good, but they very bad. And this is what is really happening on this planet- it's very simple. Some intelligence set up words, and enticed the people to be part of that word. They set up civilizations, churches, educational systems, all based on words. You can see that something is wrong--and if something is wrong, it must be the educational system and what it teaches them to think. It's in the political system, and the religious system, it's even over in the science department so to speak.
JS: What does the music have to do with this, then?
SUN RA: The music... a lot of musicians are ideal, they're in tune with the earth, they're in tune with the people -please the people- they please the people or please the rulers. They're the ones who've got the money. They're playing what the people want, or what they say the people want. But these musicians are really quite afraid--afraid of stepping beyond tradition, into something that would require new ways of thinking and new ways of action. However, they're not afraid to go out there in space and all, like the astronauts... because it's necessary in these times. And it's necessary for them to keep agitating for peace, and to keep killing each other like they do. That's the main thing about science, that it's set up to find new ways for people to kill each other. And yet I used to think that was so bad. . . but now, after looking at people, the more I see them I'm not going to condemn them for eliminating each other --not any more I'm not --not when I see what they are. I thought they were very nice and true and spiritual and it hurt me to see them doing what they do. But now it doesn't bother me, because I'm involved with my other planes of discipline. I'm trying to discipline my self -I mean my other self, because I'm not too worried about my self. Because they teach you not to be selfish anyway, not to think about your self. So I think about my other self- that's the self that's never really had a chance. The music that I'm playing, that's my other self playing. And that disturbs some people because they never gave that other self a chance. The natural self. So that's my natural self playing. And it's very serious--a lot of people think they can just come on this planet and do what they want to do, be what they want to be, and there's no repercussions whatsoever. But that's not true. It's not a matter of having no hell--this is hell here--but it's just a matter of, eventually you reap just what you sow. Whether it's good or bad. You set up something, and then it starts to happen. It's like when I started studying, I wanted to find out what was happening on this planet Then I found out that it's in a worse condition than I ever dreamed of, and I didn't want to have any thing to do with it. But since I had set that up as my objective, I can't avoid it.
JS; How did you start studying?
SUN RA: I suppose it started back when I was going to Sunday school. . . and I just didn't feel like going there. I liked to walk around with my friends in the sun and talk and see each other.
(continued on page 11)
That's what we'd do--play hookey from Sunday school and walk around in the sun and talk--three or four of us--I felt happy then, being outside of school, because they taught the same thing every year--it was like a commercial thing--never anything else. I never learned anything in school--just repeating words. The people in the school were nice--they were nice people--but there was just something wrong. I kept on feeling that wrongness, and something kept telling me it was wrong. Then I had to really study, read a lot of books. Then I went to college, and that was interesting too, read a lot of books there, but the men who taught me didn't prove anything. The point about it was, if there wasn't a god, then people wouldn't die. I came to that conclusion, that the only reason people died was because there is a god, and the only reason people are suffering is because there is a god. The way I look at it, the way people die proves that something is killing them--something superior to them always wins. A superior force. So death is a god, if nothing else, and all people are subject to it, so death's their god. They aren't actually subject to the United States or Russia or anything, they're subject to their god-Death. That's very obvious. The point is, having reached that point, what to do about it? If they ever reach that point. Should they be obedient to the god Death or should they be rebels? Because if they're obedient to God and are righteous, then the most appropriate thing to do is to die. Then, when they're dead, they're holy and righteous.
JS: What happens if you rebel?
SUN RA: If you rebel, then you move over into uncharted paths and...and of course they won't like it. What would God look like if his subjects were to rebel? But you don 't have nothing to lose--because you don't have anything anyway, really. I don't see anything Death gets people --might send them some flowers, but they can't even smell them. The only thing it offers them is... absolute peace. It's so ridiculous to say that everybody has to die--it's a waste of time--people with magnificent minds, magnificent talents, why can't they keep on and on and on? Because it doesn't even make sense that they shouldn't. That's what I'm talking about in my music --All my music really has happiness over in it...and people can listen to it and get that from it.
(To be concluded in the next SUN)
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