“Axis Mundi is the album that Dave and I wrote during the year of his battle with leukemia. Excluding ‘Tortured Boy’ which I wrote for him in the first stage of our relationship, these songs were written in the months leading up to his diagnosis, and the months following his bone marrow transplant, when he was confined to our home. As long as he felt well enough to be working, he was. He would spend hours in our home studio, meticulously recording and rerecording his parts – full drums, guitar, vocals, percussion ideas…
“This album is different from our others in that it is, in many ways, the album we always wanted to make. It is fuller, louder and more rock-inspired than our previous efforts, while still holding tight to the Middle-Eastern and Eastern European influences we’d become known for. We’d intended to record the record at home during Dave’s recovery, and release and tour on it when he was well enough to get back on the road.
After Dave passed, I poured myself into finishing the record, working with friend and engineer Seth Manchester at Dave’s and my home to record my parts into Dave’s existing demos. My brother, Spencer Swain, acted as producer. Staying true to Dave’s and my original vision for it, Seth, Spencer and I had the record completed just three months later.
The name, Axis Mundi, is a phrase I found written in Dave’s lyric notebook. Upon looking it up, I learned that the ‘axis mundi’ represents the place where heaven connects with the earth. Often associated with mandalas (which Dave had tattooed on his hands, and which are often featured in our imagery), it expresses the point where the four compass directions meet; where correspondence is made between higher and lower realms. Anything or anyone suspended on the axis becomes a repository for potential knowledge.
Axis Mundi, though it wasn’t our intention, is a body of work which illustrates our musical and personal journey together. Musically, it spans our evolution from solo project to psych-rock, Balkan, Romani, blues inspired duo. Lyrically it alludes to our joy and our pain. Obviously this album is very close to me. Though Brown Bird will never tour on it, I believe that our story is an important and a universal one: One of love and hope and the belief that we each leave a legacy after we leave this earth.
In January of 2014, Dave wrote: ‘I tend to measure the value of the music I make by several things. One is by how well I’ve expressed something within myself that can’t be expressed in words alone. Another means of measuring value is the depth of impact it has on those listeners that it really speaks to. Whether it’s on an intellectual, emotional, spiritual, visceral or some other indescribable level, if my music can speak to someone on one or hopefully several of these levels, it has value.’
This April marks one year since Dave passed. It is imperative to me that our final collection of music, made together, finds as many people as possible.
* Axis Mundi will be released April 28th, 2015 on Supply & Demand Music.