What’s the Frequency, Iasos?
If you’ve ever had a near-death experience, chances are you’ve been fortunate enough—depending on how you look at it—to hear music that sounds identical to the blissed-out tones produced by the mononymous minstrel Iasos. In 1989, a scientist at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire discovered that Iasos’ music—in particular a piece called “The Angels of Comfort”—bore a remarkable resemblance to the divine strains heard by people as they dipped a toe into that sun-dappled dimension between the present and the not-so-present. Yet that information would not surprise Iasos one bit, because the 66-year-old believes he is an earthly conduit for the musical expressions of a being named Vista, who transmits ideas to Iasos telepathically, which he then turns into song. Iasos, who was born in Greece but raised in California from the age of four, has enjoyed these visitations for some 40 years, during which he’s released many albums of enlightened instrumental music and held workshops around the world on the restorative qualities of sound.
A true outsider and in many ways a visionary artist, Iasos is up there with the likes of Vangelis, Brian Eno, and his old pal Steven Halpern as one of the electronic pioneers of what became known as new age music in the mid-1970s. In recognition of his restless spirit, Chicago’s Numero Group recently put out Celestial Soul Portrait, a selection of tracks from the first decade of Iasos’ career that draw attention to the experimental nature and uncanny beauty of his work. For a cosmic voyager, Iasos was surprisingly easy to get hold of—we spoke on the phone—and came across as pretty normal and, as he puts it, “grounded.” He lives in Marin County, north of San Francisco, where his daily routine includes meditation, yoga, feeding the local deer, and spending time in the studio making music and visuals.
VICE: Greetings, Iasos! How are you?
Iasos: I’m fantastic! I just came back from a concert in Los Angeles and it couldn’t have gone better! It was sold out; standing room only. It was a young, playful crowd. There were a lot of beaming, happy faces. I had quite a time.
Do your concerts always go so well?
The one before, in Portland, Oregon, was even better. You see, I measure the dramatic impact I have on the audience by how much stillness there is when I take a bow to signify that the concert is over. Because if they really get it, they’re really zoned out and no one gets up. In Portland it lasted so long it was almost embarrassing. I bowed to signify it was over and then I went to the front of the stage and nobody got up. Then one minute went by and nobody got up, there was silence. Two minutes after, six minutes after… I thought this is too much and walked into the lobby and that broke the spell.
A lot of people will encounter Iasos for the first time through Celestial Soul Portrait, which shines a light on your earlier work. Is there renewed interest in your music?
It’s funny you say that. Ever since I started, my close friends have always said, “Iasos, you’re way ahead of your time.” And now that it’s 2013, people are getting interested in music I released in 1975. So it kind of verifies them saying that.
I have to say it’s encouraging to hear you talking like a completely normal person. Having seen photos of you and listened to your music, I had the impression you’d be a pretty zoned-out individual.
[hysterical laughter] That’s very funny! It’s funny that you expected me to be zoned-out. I am grounded and present.