There is an old notion that songwriters are nothing more than conduits between this world and a spiritual realm, and that songs are channeled from some mythical entity through the artist to humanity at large. As Denver musician Elk Minister tells it, for him that is true — even if his divine inspiration isn’t as well established as that of other songwriters. He says his music —a trippy mix of jazz, psych rock and droning electronic noise — comes from his Great-Aunt Coleslaw.
“All the music that I’m doing this year was composed and written by my Great-Aunt Coleslaw, who lived on the planet many lifetimes and is now in her thirteenth lifetime, living in the year 3144 A.D.,” he says. “She’s able to communicate with me with the help of my friend Gerald, and she gives me all the music.”
Elk Minister’s latest album, Pisces, will drop on March 10. Pisces is the fifth in a series of 26 albums that the songwriter will release this year as part of a bigger project titled The Year of the Elk. And that’s part of an even bigger project, which will extend into subsequent years, called The Book of Slaw: Songs of My Great Aunt Coleslaw. Elk Minister will release one song every two weeks for free on his website, elkminister.com. This, according to the artist, is the way Aunt Coleslaw wants it to be done.
We asked Elk Minister more about this process and what he says to those who may doubt his methods.
Westword: Tell us more about how this works. How do you directly communicate with your Great-Aunt Coleslaw?
Elk Minister: The time schedule for the [songs] coincides with the calendar that she helped create in one of her first lifetimes, many thousands of years ago. That calendar will come into fruition again many hundreds of years from now, when the War of Consciousness is fought and thirteen months will be established with the names of the zodiac [signs].
How, exactly, do you communicate with her? You mentioned your friend Gerald. Is he a medium?
He’s a [wooden] staff that I found in the forest when I was about seven or eight years old. I was walking, I thought it was a stick, and I accidentally tripped over it. But I picked it up, and I noticed an immediate flashback that I knew this piece of wood somehow. I immediately recognized it as Gerald. When I communicate with Gerald, I’m able to use him to then communicate with my Great-Aunt Coleslaw, wherever she may be. Right now she’s in the future, the year 3144. Some of my albums are her music, and some of them are her poetry set to an instrument that she helped create, called the Maya board.
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The Maya board is a musical instrument. Its notes are rearranged. So instead of there being seven letters and twelve notes, there are six letters with a sharp and twelve notes. There’s no G and G sharp; those notes are replaced by D and E sharp. With this instrument, I’m able to get new tones, microtones, that are different frequencies that she tells me to use.
Why do you think your great-aunt contacted you to do this album now?
I released an album last year that was called There’s a System of Control. At the time that came out, I had gone into a severe depression, so I couldn’t promote the album properly. Then she came to me and said, “Now is the time. Now is the Year of the Elk, and it’s your responsibility to tell the world about me.” I feel it’s a great honor to respect my family this way.
What do you say to people who may not believe your, or her, story?
Those people obviously never met my Great-Aunt Coleslaw. I know her very well. If she tells me she is in the year 3144, sending me music, I have to believe her. Why would she lie? She’s sending me this music and [these] lyrics for a reason, although I don’t fully understand why. I think if people listen to the music, they can make a decision for themselves if this story is to be believed or if it is fiction.