A SPACE AND TIME OUT OF THIS REALITY
June 22nd, 2009
Ya Ho Wha 13 were the band formed out of the pre-dawn practice
sessions that served also as morning meditation for the Source
Family, the L.A.-area religious sect that ran their own health food
restaurant during the '70s. They released nine albums but recorded
hours of material. Drag City has collected nine unreleased songs for
this month's Magnificence in the Memory. This interview by Dan Collins.
--How did you get your name, Isis?
Isis Aquarian (Source Family historian): It was the family name given
to me. Father said that the names we were given were for several
reasonseither because that's the name that we needed to learn from,
or that's the name of who we were, or that's the name we needed to
get qualities from. In other words, whatever name we had, nobody
could go on an ego trip about because you never knew why you had that name.
--You never had an ego trip about being named after an Egyptian goddess?
No, not really! I always related to her, though. Manly P. Hall from
the Philosophical Research Societywho did Secret Teachings of All
Ageswas a mentor to Father when he was Jim Baker, before he became
Father and started the Source. And we had gone over to see Manly P.
Hall in the early days, and he handed Father a list of names, and he
said 'These names are the names to give the people in the Family.'
And we went back and people either picked what name they liked, or
Father gave them a name. And somebody gave me the name Isis, and I
didn't relate to it. I said, 'No, I'm not going to take that name!'
And Father was standing there and he said, 'No, that's your name.'
--What was your original role in the Family and in the Source?
I had known Father as Jim Baker, when he had his other restaurant
called the Old World. He had three restaurantsthe Aware Inn, the Old
World, and he opened up the Source. And they were all within, I would
say, four or five blocks of each other on Sunset Boulevard. And they
were all very famous. And he had his first two as Jim Baker. I met
him, he had the Old World, and he was living with his wife of the
time, Dora, a French girl. And I became friends with Dora, and I hung
out at the Old World. And I knew Jim, but we never seemed to really
connect, which was very strange, because he was very good looking,
and he was the kind that would flirt with everybody. But there just
seemed to be a hold on us at the time. But then I went my way, and he
went his way, and I ended up living with Ron Raffaelli. He was a
famous rock photographerhe was known as Jimi Hendrix's photographer.
That's how I met him. I was asked to go on a shoot with Jimi Hendrix,
and we became engaged. And I had my life at the studio with him for a
couple years. And I had heard that Jim had opened up the Source, and
was being known as Father, and was starting a spiritual family. We
were looking for a group of people with long hair that looked like
Jesus, because we were doing a poster for Jesus Christ Superstar. And
I said to Ron, 'I know where there's a bunch of people running around
looking like Jesus. They're at this place called the Source! I'm
going to go down thereI'll get us some models.' So I drove down to
the Source, and oh my god, the place was incredible. As soon as you
stepped near it, you knew something was happening. And I stepped onto
the patio, and I asked for Jim Baker and somebody said 'Oh, you mean
Father.' And he came walking out, and he was like 6'3', and he looked
like Moses. He had long hair and a beard, and he was no longer the
Jim Baker I knew. And I was immediately smitten, as they say, and he
just embraced me and said 'I was wondering how long it was going to
take you to come hometo come back.' And I basically forgot what I
was even doing there. And he invited me to come to morning meditation
the next day, and then I basically never left. So I just walked out
of my home life and became a full time part of the Source family.
--How old were you?
I was in my late twenties. A lot of the kids were sixteen, seventeen,
and in their early twenties. I'm not saying I was the oldest one
there, but I had also known Jim Baker so I wasn't intimidated by him.
Most people were finding their guru and their masters, and I found
him as my earthly spiritual father, for sure. But I knew that I had a
destiny with him. I basically became his right handthat's what he
called me. The Family had other names for me. 'Bulldog'you know
there's a bulldog in every family. And 'hatchet lady,' 'dragon lady'…
--Did you like those nicknames?
It didn't bother me, no. In fact, 'Dragon Lady' was kind of
endearing! You had your role, and you played it out, and Father
always had my back.
--When did the band Ya Ho Wa 13 start?
We had musicians in the Family that would always gather and play. We
weren't doing anything 'musically,' but we did realize we had some
very talented musicians. Music seemed to be playing all around the
house. And that was the thing to do back then. Everybody carried a
guitar. It was like music was the new language. And one day I think
Octavius came in and was talking about being a drummer, and a lot of
people had been musicians, and just gave it up when they came
inwhatever any of us were, we gave up when we came in. It was of no
necessity at that point. And I just remember Father one day saying,
'Wait a minute. I have a drummer. I have a guitar player. I have a
bass player. We have singers. We have a band. Let's do some music!'
So, bands started being formed to see what we wanted to do with them.
And at this point, Father wasn't really in themhe was just having
fun seeing what we could do. And because we were very famous, and
everybody came to the Source, all the movie producers, directors,
musiciansJohn Lennon was there all the timethey all came there. So
we figured, 'Well jeez, we can just start letting people hear it and
see if we can do something with it.'
--I heard you would play every day from 3 to 6 in the morning! When
did you sleep?
Right! That was when we gathered for morning meditation. Father would
be so full of energy and so excited, and he would say, 'Let's go to
the band room!' And the band room was just a converted garage off the
meditation room, and speakers had been hooked up, so no matter what
was happening, we could all hear it. Because we all couldn't fit in
the band room.
--A lot of your movement's spiritual beginnings and influences have
been chronicled. But what seem less well known are the specifics of
the musical side of things.
He formed Ya Ho Wa 13 and started playing with it, and that was like
his signature when he started playing with the Family. It's not like
he could play or sing. It was another way of morning meditation. It
was another way of his talking about the wisdom teachings. He often
said, 'Long after I'm gone, my teachings will continue because of the
music we're doing now. Music has no barriers. Everyone understands
music because it's a soul thing.'
--One of the interesting things about your band is that, given your
spiritual and cosmological underpinnings and your emphasis on
improvisation and spontaneity, I was expecting you to sound like Sun
Ra or something jazzy. But you guys are a rock 'n' roll combo.
Very much so. When the band first now started getting back together,
I was wondering how it was going to work. Because when you have the
head guy no longer there, how does that work? And I know the public's
been going on the albums that had Father in it, like Penetration. So
when the three Brothers got together and decided to continue playing
as Ya Ho Wa 13, it was interesting to see how that was going to play
out: Octavius, drummer, Djin, guitar, and Sunflower, bass.
--Was there ever fighting about the music?
There were disagreements, but we never got into bickering or arguing.
The short time we lived together was so incredible because we lived
in a space and time out of this reality. Certain things didn't exist
that exist for us now that we're back. We lived in a kind of free
zone where certain rules and regulations didn't exist. We related to
people's souls, not their personalities. When the Family
dispersedand now we're trying to deal with each other again thirty
years laterwe're just starting to relearn those techniques. In 2001,
we had our first big reunion, and the last ten years we've just been
dealing on a social level with each other and trying to be nice. A
lot of stuff has come up that we never got to work on, because we all
just left. It was like The Day the Earth Stood Still. We looked
around and nobody was there.
--I remember reading that the Beatles were a big influence on the band.
I think definitely because that's what the band grew up with. The
Beatles were very cosmic. They had stepped over into spirituality,
and they were given incredible messages.
--Were there specific Beatles songs that you wanted to emulate?
No, once the Family was formed we didn't listen to other people's music.
--You never stepped into a discotheque or club and heard another band?
The only time that happened was in the early days when we did try
stuff like that. We got booked at the Whisky a Go Go, and we walked
into the Whisky a Go Go in our robes and our long hairand we did get
laughed at! But when they got up on the stage, everybody was quiet
because they could sing. They had some good music happening.
--But you must have noticed that at the same time you were making
this music, bands such as Pink Floyd, they were doing the same…
Oh, yes, absolutely! I do know that we opened the Crater Festival in
1976, sunrise, here in Hawaii for the 200th anniversary of America,
and we opened for Sly and the Family Stone. We asked for that slot,
and we led the thousands of people in Diamondhead Crater in star
exercise, and we got them chanting.
--Do you think if any band forms, even if it's just four or five
people, that something spiritual forms?
Music seems to touch the largest amount of people at one time than
anything I know about all over the world. It has no barriers, it has
no race, it doesn't distinguish between color, religion, and
nationality. You can put a song on and put it out over the airwaves,
and thousands of people, their soul can get out of it whatever it
gets out of it.
--Contemporaries of yours in the avant-garde, such as La Monte Young
and Angus Maclise, have kind of said that there is a spiritual plane
you can achieve with pure musical tones. Was there a certain way of
playing for you that was more in tune with your spiritual quest?
We were into frequencies. Likethe F note is the sound of nature. And
the fact that vibration, if you tune into like a F note and another F
note comes before, then you vibrate. Like a tuning fork. He tried
that with the gong and the kettle drum. We had the gong from Dr.
Zhivagothe movie! He bought it and we still have it, and it's huge!
Often in morning meditation, when we weren't even doing anything with
the music, he would have us all go into meditation, and he would do
the gong throughout chakras because the gong had the frequenciesall
the frequencies of the chakras.
--There was kind of a no-drug policy, wasn't there? Despite your band
being considered psychedelic?
I think marijuana, since we don't consider it a drugthat is probably
--But psychedelics like mushrooms or LSD?
No, no, we didn't do it in the Family, and as far as I know, it's not
being done now. The family dispersed and we all went our ways and
created a new life with new members, and so some thirty years later,
we all are not on the same page and we are not responsible for what
anyone does or does not. As human beings now out here on our own, it
has made it somewhat harder to 'ante up' as they say.
--Sky Saxon, who joined the band later, has been known to have some
drug issues. Did he have those when he was in the band?
Sky Saxon was an entity unto himself. He does his thing. I'm talking
about Ya Ho Wa 13.
--Whoa! Are you saying the album he recorded with Ya Ho Wa 13 was
outside the realm of what you consider their music?
Um… well, during the Family days, after Father left and said he was
no longer going to be in the band, he invited Sky'Arelick' was his
family nameinto the band. And they renamed the band Fire Water Air.
And it either didn't do anything, or we moved. We didn't accomplish
or finish a lot of what we did because we would move and go on to
something else, and it was disruptive of what we were doing.
--Was Sky part of the Source?
He was. He would kind of come and go, though. Father loved him, but
he was always just Sky! The way he is now is the way he was back
then. And I think Sky does a lot of things that the rest of us don't do.
--Was there a conscious decision about which instruments to use in the band?
No, that's just the instrumentation that the band played. And I think
it's the basic formation of a band that you have drum, guitar, and bass, right?
--Definitely in rock 'n' roll. But did you ever introduce any other
I think they brought in Pythias for a while on guitar, and Lovely
with a violin. Lovely was Andre Previn's daughter. That was one of
the forms of Ya Ho Wa 13 that Father was trying to put together. And
they brought in a couple other brothersHome, who sang and played
guitar, and Rhythm, who played piano. After we left L.A., we tried
different forms of the band, when we moved to San Francisco and moved
--Brian Wilson considered himself a very spiritual songwriter, and
made many songs about Hawaii. You still live there now! Is there a
spiritual purity there?
There was to us. Hawaii is very clean. The air is clean. We don't
have pollution. We have nice weather all year. It's called paradise
for a reason!
--Were you happy with the Obama presidency being that he was a
resident of Hawaii?
I don't really 'do' politics, but as far as being a local Hawaii boy,
he's right here where I liveKahlua. When he stayed here, he was just
like three blocks down the street. We saw him on the beach all the time.
--Did he go surfing?
He tried to, but the Secret Service wouldn't let him surf anymore!
YA HO WHA 13'S MAGNIFICENCE IN THE MEMORY RELEASES TUE., JUNE 23, ON
DRAG CITY. VISIT YA HO WHA 13 AT YAHOWHA13.COM. FOR MORE INFORMATION
ON YA HO WHA 13 AND THE SOURCE FAMILY, SEE THE SOURCE: THE UNTOLD
STORY OF FATHER YOD, YA HO WHA 13 AND THE SOURCE FAMILY BY ISIS AND
ELECTRICITY AQUARIAN AVAILABLE NOW FROM PROCESS MEDIA. PROCESSMEDIAINC.COM.