By Harriet Kaplan
Promoting his 11th album, Introversions, San Diego’s syncopated gothic groove artist Sluka, spoke to BOC in a candid interview. Sluka gave us an insight into his creative processes, nomadic upbringing, what Introversions represents, and much more. A globally renowned visual artist, Sluka’s surrealist oil paintings have graced the walls of galleries from New York to San Diego, and Tokyo to Milan. Additionally, he is an accomplished aircraft pilot. Meet Sluka: a true Renaissance man.
How being raised around the world influence your life? And your songwriting?
Aside from the obvious exposure to different cultures, art, and languages; I would say that the realization that we are all so diverse and yet so very much the same. Which is both wonderful when we’re creative and progressive and pathetic when we are consumed with fear and hatred.
Do you think you developed a sense a cultural sensitivity and awareness because of this this upbringing? Is it something you continue to carry with you to this day?
Very much. But I don’t see myself as some cosmopolitan elitist who thinks everyone should live their lives as I do. Nor do I feel other cultures are “better” than ours. Ultimately we’re all trying to
figure things out for ourselves. Every life is led in it’s own way. I have never met an uncomplicated human being. I do strongly feel we should all beware of those who proclaim to have all the answers.
What country made the biggest impact on you as a person and artist? Why?
After having moved around the U.S. for several years, the first foreign country my family moved to was Germany when I was 7. My father, a soldier, was stationed in Bad Tolz. I was mystified by these people who spoke a different language and behaved differently. I was completely oblivious as to why my family was there. My father was part of a special forces unit that was to carry backpack nukes to destroy bridges and other infrastructure if the soviet army tried to overrun Germany should the cold war turn hot. Prior to that my father had been in Vietnam twice (and a third time after Germany). He was a Green Beret officer, Ranger, Airborne, fluent in
Vietnamese. And here I was a kid growing up amidst all this history, not fully comprehending it, in a magical place in Bavaria, so beautiful and yet so full of it’s own horrible history. How could
you not be moved by all that, especially after growing up and having a better understanding of the implications.
Do you have a lot of contact with your fans through through social media? Have they said anything specific that touches them about your music? What does that mean to you as an artist?
I’ve tried to keep the floodgates of social media somewhat in check. It’s clear that there are many people who revel and celebrate their ignorance of pretty much everything. I find that especially unpleasant. Whereas, throughout my life, it has become increasingly clear that the more I learn and try to understand… the more I realize just how much I never will understand. And again, I am quite wary of those who portray themselves as knowledgeable experts, enlightened, or leaders with a vision. Back to your question, yes I do receive quite a lot of nice feedback, some of it quite insightful, especially when they express how they could relate mymusic into their own lives. Sometimes they ask if a song expressed something that I did not intend. I admit that it did not, but I also let them know that their interpretation is just as valid as mine, if not more so, in that they were moved by the piece, and it then became a part of their lives. And that is ultimately why we are drawn to the arts… for sustenance, catharsis, to be part of a shared community… And sometimes to just have a good time and dance the night away.
Do you think an artist has a responsibility through music to enlighten, uplift, and educate their fans? or to merely share their stories and hope they find something is relatable and touches them?
I think when you perceive art it certainly has the potential to enlighten, uplift, and educate. But sometimes you just find yourself tapping your foot or humming a melody. Other times it is so much deeper and you find yourself with tears of joy or tears of sadness. Every artist and inspiration is different. No one knows where it comes from, so there is no responsibility.
Stevie Wonder released “Innervisions” over 40 years and now you’re releasing “Introversions”. Were you inspired they way he spoke on serious issues? Would you say you are coming from a similar place? Are you shedding light on issues you feel need to be addressed? Is there a theme?
“Introversions” is not an homage to “Innervisions” but I appreciate the comparison, agree with your comments, and I am a big fan of Stevie Wonder. Introversions refers to being introverted and the versions of ourselves we present to each other which varies greatly depending on context (with family members, lovers, institutions, workplace, public restaurants, concerts, etc.). The common theme among all the songs on “Introversions” is alienation. Being literally cut off,… from the beginning of our lives when the umbilical cord is cut. We are severed from each other, our families, lovers, institutions…. even ourselves and our minds (dementia). We can be in the midst of a raging crowd and feel totally alone, and lonely. We spend our entire lives trying to bridge that gap. We try to connect with each other. And we deny or deal with hardships, disappointments, and the inevitable deaths of those we love and our own mortality.
What changed for you as an artist over the course of 10 albums? Would say your sound and songwriting have evolved and changed over time?
I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and art. And yet I realize I must be discerning to some extent or it all gets so overwhelming. I continue to try and understand the deeper complexities of life and work them as best I can into my songwriting. It’s great when it resonates with an audience, but I would do this whether or not there was an audience. Like most artists I create because I must. It sounds silly, but it’s like an esoteric being that demands to be brought into existence. There’s also a bit of “trying to keep the demons at bay.” In the end though, it’s just art. At some point in our history, events could unfold in which we annihilate ourselves as a species…. or the whole planet could be taken out by a gamma ray burst. We are all doomed. Therefore I hope most people will do their best to celebrate their lives while they can and make the most of every moment.
When you run, do you use this solitary time to think about song ideas? If not, what do think about?
I do think about song ideas and many other things while running. Some people pray or meditate. I run. I was the awkward uncoordinated kid that was not very good at team sports. But as a human with a physical body I understood I needed to do something to keep fit. And so I run. I also find it a fitting metaphor for running from problems while also running to solutions…. You know, maybe I should just zone out!