Interview: Beware of Darkness

Los Angeles Musician, Beware of Darkness, is on an uncanny human journey that aids in providing both wisdom and a sense of lightness that overcomes his fans with joy. I caught up with Kyle for an in-depth conversation about spiritual practices that have aided in him finding peace within, growing and shifting perspectives through the ever-changing tide of social media, the release of “Bloodlines” and more.

Congrats on the upcoming release of your new single, “Bloodlines”‘. Tell us about the message that you intended to portray throughout the new track.

It’s just a simple and fun song about sticking together with someone you care about, whether that’s a friend, family member, loved one, or even yourself. There are some subtle undertones that humans and civilization are destroying the planet and if we’re going to change anything we need to rethink capitalization and raise human consciousness, but other than that it’s a cute song to play at family barbecues.

Though a broad question, what have you learned about yourself and what skills have you developed through working in the music industry.

I think that most unexpected and profound thing I’ve learned from the hardships, let downs, pain, devastations, collapse, emotional abuse, and violent uncertainty of the music industry is that I am spiritual being. All these emotions and energies had to be dealt with in some way, and I was lucky enough to know my body couldn’t handle drinking or drugs so all these uncomfortable situations and “failures” in the music industry led me down a spiritual path of meditation, Zen and Buddhism, yoga, and plant therapy. Thank you for asking this, because it’s the first time I’ve put these two things together. It’s almost like all the pain alchemized and became purpose. I’m now seeing a spiritual practice as a wild and unexpected fruit borne of songwriting. Working in the music industry has been a master class in how to listen to yourself and how to handle yourself when everything is falling apart and everyone is selling you a different way forward. I think it’s also taught me how to be resilient, how to have grit, how to be smile in the face of madness, how to deal with change, trust your gut, and especially how to handle uncertainty. I’ve also dealt with just the most ridiculous stunningly absurd bullshit, which has also been a blessing, because it’s helped me remain a calm frivolity in the day to days of life. 

Photo Credit: Scott Schumaker

Showcasing the human in you, what is a challenging thought that you recently had and were able to overcome over time? 

The most challenging thought I’ve ever faced is one that simply says, “Kill yourself”. It doesn’t scream or shout, it just appears there with the same banal tone as someone asking “Can you pass the butter knife?” It was present with blaring frequency that past 2-3 years of my life, every day, often multiple times a day. It was the first thought when I woke up, last when I went to sleep. It appeared as I was pouring coffee, between chattarangas in yoga class, during sex, subconsciously in every lyric I wrote, and it slipped between every heartbeat, became of part of me and it wrecked me. It added so much more weight to my already present depression and made it life unbearable. That one single thought, I’d compound with guilt, shame, fear, anger, until it became this daily depression tornado of death,  and I didn’t know what to do with it. Thank god, this year I found therapy, anti-depressants, mindfulness meditation, and ayahuasca, which have all help me sit with that thought, get to the actual root of the thought and problem, and now if and when it comes, I can almost befriend it. Now when it comes, I recognize it is only a thought, and I don’t need to label it good or bad, or do anything with it really. I found that when I gave it space, and asked simple questions like, “Who are you? Do I have any control over you? Why are you here?” Its power and grip over my life loosens, and now it barely comes and when it does I treat it like an old friend, and ask, “What can you teach me today? Why are you here?”

What is your perception on the digital world that we live in and social media culture?

I have a lot of feelings and opinions on it. I understand how great social media can be if you are capable of mindfully using it in a healthy way, but I also understand how damaging it can be and how it can wreck your moods or life. I think you have to be very, very, awake and aware to use it in a positive way.

First off, realize that companies build these apps to be as addictive as possible to keep us logged in 24/7. It’s as if we were all handed these 24/7 casinos in our pockets, developers spend billions of dollars on studying how the human brain works to make them as enticing and addictive as possible, finding out what sets off our dopamine receptors in the quickest possible way, while making it so easy and as immediately satisfying for you to gamble all the time, and they smile and say, “Go ahead, just play one hand.” And you, you’re a nun who’s never stepped inside a casino and has never heard of gambling addiction. How do you win? This is what I don’t think most people understand yet. I am aghast when I see small children glued to devices. The CEOs of some of the biggest tech companies have recently come out saying, “We don’t give these devices to our kids because we realize the detrimental effect they have.” You have a classic case of the dealer selling drugs but not using.

We don’t need access to ANYTHING 24/7, and we don’t need Facebook on all 6 devices we own, so I think self-imposed limits and restrictions is key. I also think social media is a mirror. It shows you exactly who you are. I do like that part. If scrolling through and seeing someone else’s “happiness” makes you feel bad about yourself, you now know you have self esteem issues to work on. You can blame social media for wrecking the world or you can take responsibility for yourself, how it makes you feel, and change your habits. Instagram doesn’t care if it makes you feel terrible about your life or gives you low self esteem no matter how many hours you give it, or how many followers you have. Self-awareness is key. Be honest with yourself and how it makes you truly feel, then adjust. Unfollow anyone who doesn’t bring you joy. I also think a lot of social media is theatre. It’s people showing the world who they want to be, instead of who they actually are, and I don’t think that’s healthy.

Years ago, I was asked to played a beauty launch at what was rumored to be David Lynch’s mansion. There were around a 100 people there, and every single room had a photo booth in it. No one talked to each other, everyone looked sullen, and they’d walk into a room to take a content photo, and when the camera was up they’d put up the “I’m having the time of my life with all my friends” face, and when the photo was done they went back to being lifeless drones, and would repeat that throughout the night. I thought, oh my god, it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s all bullshit. Social media is about sacrificing real experience you can give the illusion to a stranger of an experience. 

I think of the girl in the Midwest who looks up to these “influencers.” She doesn’t see the makeup, professional cameras and lightening, touch up and edits, and the overall isolation in the room. She just sees someone having fun and will probably compare how lame her life with how glamorous their lives are. And it’s all bullshit.

For years, I was addicted to social media.  I let it wreck my moods, ruin my self worth, and hurt me. I was on it all the time, thinking it mattered. I hated it, and I’d use it and feel terrible about myself. It wasn’t until an ayahuasca journey where I truly saw how it made me feel, and was able to have the clarity to become free of the addiction, and now it’s something I can enjoy. I took immediate change and put all my social media on an iPad that never leaves the house and I’ve never been happier. 

Photo Credit: Nick Smalls

No career path or amount of followers negates the fact that you are a human being that has feelings. Tell us about some parts of you beyond being a musician that you take pride in. 

I love reading books. This year I started reading through Don DeLillo’s books. Mao II was spectacular. I’m now pouring through Tom Robbins entire collection. A friend recommended Still Life with Woodpecker and it floored me. I’ve never read anything like it.

I am a diehard Nintendo and video game fan. I love been taken to other worlds and living inside their stories for a while. Some of my favorite games are Breath of The Wild, Sonic Adventure 2, Ocarina of Time, Fire Emblem Awakening, Skyrim: Elder Scrolls.

When the band was falling apart in 2016 I clumsily started a daily yoga practice, because it was the only thing that reduced my depression and anxiety at the time. I’d show not knowing how to do any of the poses, not doing anything right, but kept at it, and over the past 3 years, yoga has blossomed into one my life’s passions. I did a 200 RYT teacher training and became a certified teacher. To this day it’s so much more than a physical practice but has become a way of life for me.

As you are exposed to tons of stimulus, how do you proactively take care of your mental and emotional health when you’re out on the road?

Well the short story is I didn’t. I got high. I got depressed and suicidal. I broke down. I developed such an uncontrollable anger problem that my own band and crew were afraid of me, afraid to go near me or confront me. When we toured with the Smashing Pumpkins I took so much anger on stage, their tour manager forcibly grabbed me after our set, and said, “What the hell are you doing? You’re gonna kill yourself, and it’s not helping anyone.” It was a lesson I had to learn the hard way, and it took me years. 

Here’s my advice:

Make taking care of your mental and emotional health a priority whether you’re touring or not. Reminds of the quote by Bruce Lee, “I’d rather be a warrior in a garden, than a Gardner in a war.” I’d suggest meditation, yoga, eating right, exercise, being sober(especially on the road), finding a therapist, and making sure you have an attitude of gratitude, and have the right perspective. There will be hard days no matter what your job is, and just remember every single day how much of a blessing and miracle it is that you are a musician on the road.  It doesn’t matter whether your crowds are 3 or 3,000 people. For years, I have been pre-buying my food for tours so I can ensure I’m eating healthy on the road. It’s also much, much cheaper.  Also if you need to stop, stop, because no amount of followers, fame, or success is worth your mental health and well being. 

You have toured with a wide variety of musicians over the past years and have played at some major festivals. Tell us some words of wisdom that you collected along the way. 

Treat people well.  I mean everyone. You’d be horrified to know how many of your favorite bands treat their members and crew like disposable pieces to a financial puzzle instead of real humans. Some of the stories are shocking and heartbreaking. People don’t want to help you if you’re a dick, and its marvelous how much the world will open up to you if you’re kind. I just ask you, “What kind of legacy do you want to build? What do you want people to say about you?” How about you make every show, every night the best experience for everyone involved; fans, promoters, bands, local hands? My dream is to build an empire on kindness and treating people well, curating an environment that is healthy and nourishing where everyone wins.

Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?

I deeply and truly love and care about my fans as people. I want to make them happy, to see them win, I want to give them the best experience possible, and want you to know I’m on your side, on your team, and I support you.

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