September in Colorado means change. Changing colors, wardrobes and coffee flavors are all not only norms of the month but also exciting traditions that inspire speculation of the world around us. One thing that remains in tact for this season is the annual two-day performance at Red Rocks from the legendary electronic-jam group STS9, which will mark a staggering 20 times this weekend for the band. While the event has in fact engulfed itself as a staple in the fall concerts that grace the world’s most iconic amphitheater, one could argue that STS9 has made a career of evolution and change, in addition to enforcing a command of its listeners to pay attention to the transformations that this spinning sphere we call home endures.
303 Magazine had the great fortune of conversing with STS9 percussionist Jeffree Lerner, who, along with the other four members of STS9, just released the new project The Universe Inside to the ears of the public last Thursday. What better way to celebrate a highly anticipated album than to leave it dripping on the crimson stone during their 20th performance at Red Rocks?
303 Magazine: Your 20th show at Red Rocks is coming up this weekend. How does it feel to have such a remarkable history at one of the world’s most iconic venues?
Jeffree Lerner: It’s an honor to play there. To have a weekend there every year is even more incredible. It is something that we look forward to; it is something special that we plan for.
303: What goes through your mind looking up into the 10,000-person crowd at Red Rocks?
JL: It’s like no other venue. You really have to tilt your head back up to see the top row. It’s inspiring; that’s the bottom line. It’s pure inspiration.
303: What is your favorite memory of the last 14 years of playing Red Rocks?
JL: I’m a tough guy for favorites, because every show is so different. I can think back to all of those shows and have fond memories of things that come up.
303: This album goes deep into the past of mankind, touching on goals of humanity and perception of time and space like little else. How does that wonder of expression and unity translate to music?
JL: We are just speaking to what informs us, to what inspires us, what concerns us, and what we as artists want to share at this specific time. That’s our message. I think other bands are doing it; it’s just everybody has their own way. We are in awe of our own universe, as musicians and as artists it connects us. We hear from NASA every other week about discovering planets and the amount of information about our world that is available to us is like no other time, and we just wanted to speak to that a little bit.
303: We’ve all heard “World Go Round” and “Totem” before. Is it interesting now to put this and other tracks onto an actual album?
JL: I mean it is; we are excited for all of the tracks. The tracks that we have been playing for a while are different on the album. The songs that are on the album that we haven’t played live are going to be played [differently] live, than how they are on the album; they are designed to open up and stretch. To answer you straight, we have been wanting to have this piece of art to share for a while; it is more true to where we are. I can’t wait. I said it in another interview; this is the piece of art that if I met a stranger on the street, I could give it to them and it would be a representation of where I came from, where I’m going and where I’m at.
303: What are you most looking forward to playing the new album at Red Rocks?
JL: Just to share it. I am excited to see how people react to the first time, or the second time or first time live. Just to share the creation with the world; that’s what we are excited about. To have this music reach as many ears as possible.
303: The story behind your beach recording in the song “Give and Take” is beautiful. What drew you to make that recording, and later add it to such a deeply meaningful track?
JL: In the past I have been the field recorder; I go out and record things that we come across. We were in the studio talking and decided we wanted nature recordings, so I went out on a full moon, and went down to the ocean and recorded it for a while. You’ll also hear a mocking bird; he went through all kinds of sounds, a car alarm, you name it. The intent is just to acknowledge the world around us and hear what is going on in the beauty of nature. And those moments might spark a special memory that someone may have, and we are just trying to connect all of the dots.
303: Over the years, STS9 has given so much back to communities near and far. What is it like to have been a part of that?
JL: You say we give back a lot, but it is kind the other way around. We feel that we have been given so much through our fans and through the support of our music. Our life is not possible without the fans. It’s about not putting blinders on. Just look at the stats of Conscious Alliance from the last few years. To me it’s not an option. It’s just a testament to the collective force that when we come together with common goals, whether all five us as a band or all of us are down as a community, we can effect change. We should do more.
303: What venue have you played the most times?
JL: It might be where I’m standing right now, which would be the Tabernacle. We have played here 30 times.
303: There are noticeably a lot more lyrics on this album; how do you feel about that coming off in the live shows?
JL: I guess the way to put it would be that we have more to say than we’ve ever had.
STS9 has created, challenged and broken through so many musical boundaries in their nearly three-decade career. The Universe Inside is, at its most basic of terms, simply another facet of communication between them, us and the many worlds of inspiration we all feel, taste and hear. The Red Rocks performances will take place on Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10.