Stillwater Black came together in 1991 when Chris Thayer met Ahmed and Sam Pierstorff while playing in the pit band for a high school musical production. Issac McCorkell was quickly recruited on drums and the band recorded its first EP, The Last Virtuous Lady of Athens.

In 1995 they signed with Cleaves Entertainment, a now-defunct independent label based out of Southern California's Inland Empire. Stillwater Black recorded their debut LP, Adam. They played frequently with local and national acts including Dishwalla, Save Ferris, Reel Big Fish, and IE punk/ska mainstays, The Skeletones.

In 1997 the members parted ways and the project lay dormant for two decades.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Media, flipped

Twenty years ago, I walked away from Stillwater Black. I stopped playing music. I stopped listening to music. I got rid of all of my recordings, CDs, cassette tapes, and videos. I stopped listening to the radio. And I got rid of my television set.

That was 1997. Stillwater Black was on the cusp of some wonderfully exciting things. We had a record deal. We had local radio airplay. We were doing interviews for local and college outlets. There was talk of touring. We had an amazing group of people that were turning out regularly for our shows. It was a good time.

Back then, our bass player, Sam, also had very big things coming up in his life. Graduate school, poetry- these things were starting to take up a lot of his time. It was getting harder for him to make rehearsals. His priorities were shifting.

As were mine. I had graduated from nursing school. I was working longer hours. My faith tradition, which had always informed my ethics, was becoming a bigger priority. I wanted to explore what it meant to be more fully Muslim.

An artist whose experience seemed to parallel mine (in action, not scale!) was Cat Stevens, now known popularly as Yusuf.

A very successful musician, he became Muslim and walked away from everything to more completely immerse himself in his spiritual practice. What is and remains true about music specifically, and media in general, is its incredible emotive power. Among those who have not worked to develop their spiritual capacities, the ethereal, emotional nature of music can be very easily confused with spiritual experience.

But there is a huge distinction. Feelings and faith are entirely different facets of human life.

And, perhaps like Yusuf, I needed to get clear on that. Which, for me, also meant walking away from all of the noise.

That was twenty long years ago.

I don't regret the decision, but I am only now fully realizing the price attached to it.

As part of the decision, important connections were broken with people. What I have learned over the last twenty years has informed a decision to once again involve myself in the creation of music. Specifically, I am interested in the power of music to extend and amplify communication, to reach others that might not otherwise be reached.

I think that's where a lot of musicians stop, and that's unfortunate. Because there are so many possibilities that bubble up once your music has been heard.

The people who listen to our music are themselves worth learning about. Their stories also need to be heard. Their stories have intrinsic value, but these are also the stories that can take an artist out of his own head. The mind of a creative person is a wonderful place to visit, but an exceedingly dangerous and selfish place to stay.

We shared Molly's story. And in the near future we intend to put the spotlight on others. Next week we'll talk about a new friend, Abby.

If you have heard our music, if you were part of our 90s crew or you're only just learning about us now and you want to talk, please send us a note through the We'd Love to Hear From You! widget on the right.

Also, if you put your email address into the Get on the Blacklist! widget to the right you'll get blog updates right into your email inbox. Automate your life, baby!

If you haven't listened to longshot today, you should, over and over . . . .

We're up to 400 views! Thanks, mom :)

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  1. Missed you Ahmed! Glad you are getting back to music buddy!

    - Shane

    1. Shane! So great to hear from you, brother.

      Do you remember coming out to a show in San Diego? I can't remember what happened exactly, but I recall coming home afterward only to realize we had forgotten something AND WE DROVE ALL THE WAY BACK!

      I'm pretty sure you were along for the ride. Or am I making that up?

      Send us a note in the We'd Love to Hear From You widget. We need your email address!

    2. Haha yes I remember... it was that my car broke down. That's why you guys had to come back. 😀

    3. THAT'S what happened! Good Lord. Thank you for filling in that blank. LONG night and a fun memory :)

    4. Really missed you man... and the band of course! I miss the impromptu adventure trips! It seems like so much life was squeezed into a very small time frame. Really glad to have the music back. We will have to reconnect in person soon!