The spirit has me, I have the spirit!
“Miss Ulan Bator peak, the explosion like clouds and beautiful warm forest, those days always feel closer to god.”
“Northern Memories” is the first single from Gate To Otherside and wow is it a doozy. This jam slowly builds over almost seven minutes taking us on a psychedelic journey through territories yet unknown. In the text below the band’s guitarist and vocalist, Sun Heting, explains the origins of the song and the group’s quest through Mongolia searching for a Shaman.
This song was inspired by a special trip. In September 2015, a friend suggested that we search Mongolia to find a real shaman. At that time, another friend recommended a book, “The Shaman’s Road,” by anthropologist Mike Hannah. With this book in hand, we took the K3 international train from Beijing to Ulan Bator.
The song, Northern Memories, is not directly related to the Shaman, but the emotions expressed withing comes from a kind of identity. The Shaman is not a religion, but a spiritual ecology, a respect for the entire earth and the planet itself. It is not simply the worship of nature, Shaman are the last of a group of humans to speak to all of nature, including plants, streams, air, and stone. The Shaman’s point of view is not that the environment is something that surrounds us, but that all things in nature are part of one family.
On the third day of our trip, we ascended a mountain in Ulan Bator which could not be named. Ulan Bator is a city surrounded by mountains covered in lush grass and wood forests. Reaching the peak we broke into the open air. Short and fleeting rainbows appeared along the side of the mountain, and at the same time, we saw a deer run into the forest. It was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen on top of a mountain. On one side a panoramic view of Ulan Bator spread-out below and on the other a dizzy expanse of forest. There was not a single person or any noise, we could only hear the wind and sound of the eagle’s wings as it soared overhead, as if fallen from “space.”
Lying on the top of the mountain, it was almost as if we could touch the clouds. I seemed to hear the clouds and cloud “encounters”, the sound of mysterious reactions inside the clouds. A big bang like layers of clouds approaching, “exploding” out from the sun. Every few seconds there appeared a new cloud, and soon, the pitter patter of the rain fell gently on our faces. At that time, I felt my quiet breathing, transparent and calm, while a strange sense of belonging spread in my body. The door of consciousness opened a gap.
This song, called “No” (translated as “Northern Memories) is a long piece of music we wrote from our experiences in Mongolia. Reciprocating the phrase with endless reincarnations of a religious sense, the long wanton guitar riff take us back to that day on the summit. Originally the song had no lyrics, but on the second day of recording, after all the musical instruments were done, I listened to the newly finished demo and began to sing.
A friend told me a fable from the life of the Buddha: a long time ago people were actually very large spiritual creatures a few kilometers high, like the legendary pangu. At that time, people were scarce, and everyone was raised by nature. Later, as humans evolved to our present condition we grew further and further away from nature, and our spirit was lost. Now people have become smaller and smaller, and will continue to shrink. The dark side of human nature, jealousy and possessiveness, will gradually increase and we’ll eventually kill each other. The human race is rapidly diminishing. Eventually, the future Buddha will come and humanity will start a new round of civilization.
I don’t know what it means to travel in a natural way, maybe a trip will not change much, but it will subtly affect the traveler’s decisions and ideas about everything. Back in Beijing, I miss the trip, and when I hear this song, I can return to the top of the mountain. I feel like I’m living on this planet when the wind blows through my body, the sun shines on my face, and the rain drops on my head.
Gate To Otherside’s debut album Dragon Bus Terminal will be released on March 25. Check back here for updates and presale.