by Andrew Frey
November 2012



Master myth historian Joseph Campbell may be an unlikely roll model for a band, but Wookiefoot is no ordinary band. Cross-breading cosmic intellect with earthbound paradigms to create now age anthems of “Reggae-Jam-Rock-Funk with sitars, bag pipes, and a circus” is unthinkable for most groups, but Wookiefoot takes it all in stride. Their followers are even called “Bliss Junkies” a variant of Campbell’s famous saying, “Follow your Bliss.”

In fact, when talking about their new release, Mark Murphy, vocalist, visionary and guitarist for Wookiefoot admits that, ““‘Ready or Not…’ is mostly focused on ideas from Joseph Campbell, including - we all have to eventually travel into our own abyss, but while it can be dark and scary, it’s also where your treasure lies and necessary for our spiritual development. Also, that we are first and foremost Earthlings, and all other labels that create a false sense of division are counter to compassion and empathy… AlienNation is the greatest enemy to all Earthlings. To find your heart you must lose your mind. And lastly… you will never see a hearse with a trailer hitch.”

Wookiefoot just released ‘Ready or Not…’ at the festival that they put on in September called Shangri La at Harmony Park, a park located near Geneva, MN (about an hour south of the Twin Cities).

I happened to be in attendance at this festival and the carnivalesque Wookiefoot performance outfitted with several fire spinners, a variety of dancers, crazy costumes, and a packed audience was by far the pinnacle of the festival and one of the best Wookiefoot sets I have seen to date.

“We have been throwing festivals at Harmony Park for over 10 years now!” Murphy exclaims. “We have so much appreciation for (park owner) Jay Sullivan and the entire community down there. It has been quite a wild ride and has given us the opportunity to create and paint on a much larger canvas. We can sculpt a vibe and event over the course of 3 days as opposed to a couple hours in a normal show. I must say, it is a very unique experience. A team of us work for 6 months every year to prepare for those 2 weekends!”

Every band has a different way of writing music. How does Wookiefoot do it?

“We have quite an unusual recording style actually,” quips Murphy. “We collect musical ideas and bits of scattered philosophy from our travels and our community over the course of two or three years, and then we make a sound track to it all at once. I do most of the writing and recording at the same time. Unlike most artists who play their tunes for a few months before tracking them, we believe that their is nothing that can replace photographing the ideas at their conception. Sometimes they may sound a little raw or unpolished, but what you’re hearing on the CD has literally been written just seconds ago, and it’s often the first or second time I’ve ever sung or performed it.”

In 2006 Wookiefoot created a nonprofit called ‘Be The Change’. How did this come about and what is the current state of the charity work?

Mark enlightens us, “We try to travel for a few months every year to maintain sanity (or insanity, depending how you look at it)... and in our global travels we encountered many amazing people that were making extraordinary differences in their communities. We decided that it would be a win-win if we could bridge the resources from our community to theirs. We found that many of these local heroes were greatly underfunded because they were not large nonprofits, but rather just local concerned people. Over the past seven years we have raised well over $300,000 to help these organizations in their efforts… Ranging from removing landmines in Cambodia, to a birthing center in Bali, too helping with medicine for refugees in Burma and Darfur. The hidden benefit to all of this was that it also raised awareness and created an opportunity for participation in our community here in United States. I would also invite people to visit our website to learn more about our nonprofit”

Wookiefoot has developed a very ardent group of followers, but how are they best described? Murphy ponders the question solemnly before answering. “That’s hard to say in a single summary… The first words that come to mind are energetic, diverse, and loving. What seems to be a common thread is a strong belief in family and community. That’s what helps enable the entire co-creative process to happen at Project Earth (A Unique Co-Created Interactive Festival Experience) and Shangri-La. It’s funny to me that sometimes we get credited for some of the amazing installation art or scenes that happen at the festivals, when I’m just as surprised as everybody else when I see them. I see that as a great testament to this community. They really understand the concept of co-creation and community playground. I’d say other commonalities seem to be the shared beliefs in sustainability, creativity, peace and love. I can’t even express how grateful I am to this tribe and how it really is the inspiration that keeps this whole train moving!”

If you feel like becoming a Bliss Junkie yourself, Wookiefoot will be appearing costumes and all on Nov 16 at the Majestic Theater in Madison, WI and Nov 17 at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago, IL. This tour is not to be missed. Murphy notes, “We travel with a group of 16-20. Matt Cartee on drums, Scooter Jones on Guitar Percussion, Larry Koszewski on Bass, Marcus Schmid on Keys, Joe Mechtenberg on Sax… and also featuring Pat McCormick on Bagpipes, Andrew Nasvik on Vocals, PeeWee Dreadlocks on Vocals, and Heather Zehr on fire spinning, dancing, and costumes. It’s quite an army!”

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