Parvati Magazine Music Editor Rishi Deva spoke with bhakti musician Miten about his new album “Temple at Midnight”. This conversation has been abridged.
Miten: I came from a songwriter tradition. I was born in England and I was around in the folk time in the 60s. When I came to India and got into meditation, I dropped the whole thing for a good long while, so I could heal and get some kind of perspective on life. It took me a while before the music came back, and then the songs came very simple, very un-self-conscious. The songs kind of pinpoint some of the experience we get from chanting.
PMAG: What’s it like to bring your folk-rock-blues chops to this record?
Miten: I’ve been playing this music for the last 20 years interspersed with the mantras. The thing that’s new is that the album captured some magical atmospheric moment, and that was due to the producer for sure, Joby Baker.
PMAG: The production is notably good. Why did you choose to work with Joby?
Miten: I’ve known Joby since he was like a teenager. He came and played in one of my bands in Amsterdam back in the day. Now he’s 40 something, he became a really fantastic producer, [with] a couple of Grammys for production. He came to Australia from Canada with his recording rig, and he set it up in the house we are in right now. That’s what makes it so amazing. If you listen you’ll hear the cicadas outside. I wanted this feeling of a temple at midnight. I didn’t want it to be in a dead space. The first thing Joby did that was really interesting was he told me, why don’t you lower the key. [demonstrating in low voice] “What if you sang down here where you talk?” I took the guitar and lowered everything down. We moved into a different feeling and suddenly we had a vibe and I was just hanging out. It would be maybe late at night and “let’s do a couple of songs”. He had it all set up so we could just sit there and play. And after that he did the vocals and then took the tracks back to Canada and finished the album there. He’s playing upright bass, he’s playing the drums, he’s playing the piano. A lot of those backing vocals are Joby.
PMAG: Who else is on the record?
Miten: Deva sings those mantric chants we kind of wove into a couple of the songs. And Manose, our bansuri player, played the flute on the track Guruji. Richard Moody played the viola and the mandolin. He’s a great musician. And then there was a horn section, trombone, trumpet and saxophone.
PMAG: That happened back in his studio on Vancouver Island?
PMAG: How long did it take to make this record?
Miten: A few weeks. Not long. We did it fast. We didn’t care too much about refining details. We just wanted to get the vibe and the feeling and the performance and let’s just see if the songs nestle happily within that framework, and they did. I’ve done other albums, but I’ve never captured the vibe of the way I feel the songs as well as Joby did on that album.
PMAG: Temple at Midnight has the potential to appeal to listeners beyond mantra music. What’s your wish for people to understand about devotion through this record in particular?
Miten: Well, love is the only prayer, you know? And you can’t really go wrong if you love yourself. So the basic thing for me is don’t waste time with distractions. I know it’s not easy to focus and stay silent and whatever it takes to internalize your reality and find your way of loving yourself, find your way of being at peace and accepting who you are inside, because that’s holy ground. For me, that’s where the songs come from and if they inspire people to feel the joy in their own inner hearts and their own inner being, then job done.
Miten was a stalwart on the British folk/rock scene in the 1970s before becoming disillusioned with it, joining an ashram in 1980 and taking up meditation. He met Deva Premal, his musical and life partner, in 1990. They now tour the world continually, performing mantra music. Learn more about Miten, Deva Premal, and Temple at Midnight at mitendevapremal.com.