Vibe Tribe

Investigating secrets of the universe has lead Sector 9 to find wisdom in sound

by Lee Abraham

Shattering boundaries of perception is every artistís holy grail. Especially musicians. Bands talk about it all the time. They all want to create a new, innovative sound. Most of the time itís just talk. Or lack of awareness. After all, the more you know, the more you realize just how hard it is to come up with something new. Maybe thatís why the big waves of change in music were started by youngsters. From Mozart to Elvis, more creative fires have been stoked by the inspiration of youth than the wisdom of elders.

Sector 9 is looking to change that. Sort of. Sure, theyíre young, in their early to mid-twenties, and yes, they have a fresh sound. Kind of a live-techno-jazz-fusion thing. But unlike most of their contemporaries, the 9s creative output is fueled by teachings from the distant past as much as the pleasure of the moment. "A search for truth," is how guitarist Hunter Brown describes the relationship between the ancient Mayan culture, Sector 9ís music, and their lives. "We found it individually. Itís really crazy, we all came to it on our own... itís all about harmonizing to the right time on earth."

The harmony shows. A self proclaimed "Sound Tribe" from Athens, Georgia, the 9s are all clearly on the same wavelength. "A lot of the techno vibe comes from earlier in our lives, before we did Sector 9," says percussionist Jeff Lerner. "That just started to bleed in the more we developed our own musical style." While drawing heavily from techno, as well as jazz fusion and to a lesser degree, world beat, the real key to Sector 9ís musical -style- is replacing machinery with humanity. "Itís all about a live musician doing it," says Brown. "I donít want to say that there arenít DJís out there that have complete soul, you know what I mean, but there is definitely a lack of soul sometimes with a lot of it... thereís a lot of dry techno music out there. But when thereís multiple souls involved playing instruments, I think thatís automatically going to come through."

And so does the Mayan mysticism. Even though Sector 9ís music is instrumental, each song is rich with imagery. "The point of lyrics would be to tell a story and weíre trying to tell that same story through the universal language of music that applies to all languages and cultures," explains keyboard player David Phipps. "To translate those truths into musical archetypes is a challenge, instead of trying to spell out a tiny piece of a story through a parable." The Sector 9 story starts in Ď96. Drummer Zach Velmer, bassist David Murphy and Brown formed the original nucleus. "We started practicing and getting together," says Brown. "We had a real good time, it was all we ever did." In í97 they met Phipps at a party - he was playing with the band before them. "We asked him to just keep his stuff onstage because we wanted him to play with us," recalls Brown. "We told him that we were gonna call him up around the third song, to come up and play. About ten minutes into the first song, I opened my eyes and heís already sittiní there at his keyboards just going off!" The current lineup was completed about a year ago, when percussionist Lerner moved into the band house.

Since then Sector 9 released a debut CD, -Interplanetary Escape Vehicle-, and has been back and forth across the country twice. The most recent tour was highlighted by shows at the High Sierra Music Festival, and a sold out gig at Mickís Lounge in San Francisco. The 9s have also been busy recording. Look for a new studio album by the fall. Before that - a brand new live CD.

Sector 9ís success is no fluke. Ask anyone whoís seen them and itís always the same - these guys are on to something new. "Itís all about getting people into it, and dance music, techno music is what itís all about, the crowd and the dance, this whole tribal thing going on," says Hunter. "Right now thereís kind of an awakening going on in music. Thereís been so much done over the past that people now are just really open to new things."