Posted: March 10, 2011
interviewed by Chris Richards, November 2010
Evan “Bluetech” Bartholomew is an internationally acclaimed downtempo/chillout producer, and a Bromeliad gardener living in Hawaii. His unique approach of combining deep ecology and music is continually inspiring to the Autonomous Music family as well as listeners around the world.
Greetings, Can you give us a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?
My name is Evan Bartholomew, and I am a composer and producer. The majority of my music has been released under the name Bluetech, but I also work under a few other aliases including Invisible Allies (with KiloWatts), Evan Marc & Evan Bartholomew.
What Goals do you have with your music and its impact on the world?
I think that my goals have evolved throughout the course of my career. When I first started I was seeking what most young artists are seeking: recognition of my voice, an audience for what I had to say musically, and a confirmation that I actually had something interesting to say with my work. The first chapter of a career is a desperate struggle to be “heard”.
As I’ve gotten older, my own need to form my identity as a musician has become less and less important, and I’ve tried to figure out how to communicate something through my music. Today, I would say the most important message I have is one of place, or rather awareness of place. This means knowledge of who you are in relationship to your environment, both the physical environment and the environments of community and social structure, as well as the environment of thought and ideology which surrounds you. For me, I can’t have any understanding of myself, without acknowledging how important environment is to my understanding of self. If there is beauty, and truth, then they exist in relationship to how I perceive myself.
Seeing the self as part of a larger whole, and not merely as an individual, brings a sense of responsibility to care-take those things that are worthy to save which exist in the whole. In simple terms, there is no beauty I can express which is not a mirror of the beauty of the natural world. My strongest goal right now with my music would be to bring awareness of interconnectedness, and hopefully to instill a sense of responsibility towards things that are bigger than your own small life. Whether that expresses itself through political action, social action, environmental action, or spiritual action is up to each person to figure out.
What message or messages are you trying to instill in your audience and listeners?
The message is really to Listen and to be Aware. See the world around you, and find your place in it. If natural beauty is inspiring and important to you, then figure out what it will take to bring yourself into service to that. So much of the “scene” is self important: declarations of higher consciousness, the search for ego gratification through success or popularity, the overwhelming drive of individualism. All of this is great, but unfortunately I travel from city to city to city and it often seems like we’re preaching to the choir, or even worse that nobody is listening and all they want to do is be obliterated. It is great to talk about conscious evolution with people who believe what you do, to go to parties and enjoy the flowering of community, but if this never translates as an extension of these concepts into direct action within the surrounding world, it becomes pointless. As I said before, the goal is really to instill a sense of responsibility toward something other than the Self.
You run a Bromeliad nursery and magazine, how does ecology and music tie together for you?
At its clearest point, it is about inspiration. From the very beginning, my music has been about ecology. When I was younger, I stood under a full moon in a tropical valley with horses running around me, and I was tempted by the ascetics path. I couldn’t think of a single part of modern technological society that mattered to me more than the peace of being “in place” in the natural world. I honestly was ready to abandon all cities, and learn to live off of the land. Perhaps naive, but it was a crystal clear revelation. An understanding that I belonged to the earth, that I was a part of something larger.
I then realized that if I disconnected myself from the larger organism of society, then I would have accomplished nothing with my life. I got a very clear command that I needed to find a way to speak the voices of nature back into a culture which has forgotten. For me music is the way to speak these things. It took a few years to remember that as I got sucked into the lure of the shiny lights and popularity contest of electronic music, but when it came back it came back hard.
The connection between ecology and music is that language in and of itself is inadequate to express to beauty of nature. I use music as a way to give voice to things that are outside of myself, and explore the flows and expression of the natural world. Hopefully my music is able to exist as a conduit for the exceptional grace and virility of the wild to be expressed in a way that can be received.
What first led you to the decision to utilize your gifts as a musician and Bromeliad gardener as a tool for expressing your personal views on environmental, social, and political issues?
The bromeliad obsession grabbed me and grabbed me hard. It was a part of the whole process of returning to the land, returning to Hawaii, leaving the city and re-finding my own connection to the natural world. It was a way of remembering what it means to be human. Human, in context of the wild, instead of in context to the structures of language and culture which we have created to keep the wild at bay. There is a wisdom that comes from being with plants which can never come from books. It is deeper than language and more powerful because it speaks in the rhythms of biology and physicality which resonate in our bodies.
I hear the voice of the wild, and for me it’s very potent when working with bromeliads. This is a plant group which is at the forefront of evolution. Mostly epiphytic, these plants have learned to survive without getting nutrients from their roots. Epiphytes attach to anything they can and utilize ambient humidity and light to obtain all their nutrients. If a bromeliad is dislodged from its place, it can easily attach where it lands and learn to survive. There is something so poetic about this for me, and it creates a great metaphor for my life. Learning to survive wherever you land. Not only this, but the more stressed a bromeliad is, the more fantastic and vibrant the color and patterning is. They manifest the most beauty under duress. Not hard to find inspiration here.
I am truly obsessed, and again I have to think about my goal of understanding the individual in context to a whole ecology. If I draw inspiration and beauty from bromeliads, instead of following the western path of collecting for myself, and wanting to possess for my own gratification, I have to think about the whole system. Bromeliad habitat (among many others), is dangerously threatened. I realized that real love is love in action. If I truly love bromeliads, then it is imperative that I find a way to utilize that love to help save endangered habitat where bromeliads grow.
It is a learning process for sure. How do I redirect the incredible amount of energy that people throw my way because of my music into creating resources for ecology? I’m still figuring it out, but running the bromeliad nursery and magazine is a way to start shining the light on a fantastic expression of true organic beauty. Hopefully I can inspire a new generation of people to really stop and look around themselves and begin to appreciate and feel a sense of responsibility toward the wild. I think the basic messages of conservation have become dulled somewhat by repetition. Yes, we all know we need to save the rainforest. But when you see a plant that is so incredibly magnificent and awe inspiring that it invokes a sense of wonder and love, and then realize that it is about to be extinct in the wild, _then_ it becomes personal. Then it starts to hurt, and you ache for all of the masterpieces of the organic world which have already been destroyed.
Ideally, what experience or impact would an audience member take away from your live show?
I would hope that they would feel something bigger than themselves. A show is a difficult platform to communicate because realistically people are there to party. But I believe that there are ways of communicating which are deeper than language. If I have been successful at encoding some wild frequencies, some ecstatic rare plant communications in my music, then I’ve planted seeds inside some people. It may take a while to yield results, but my hope is that the music acts as a sort of virus, and replicates its
self through the listener, little corticeps of plant energy coursing through people’s consciousness. Abstract I know, but it is the vision which keeps me going.
Do you have advice for other writers, musicians, or artists who are creating politically focused art?
Ha! Create good art! If you expect to communicate anything of value in an aesthetically driven culture, then you have to put it in the biggest most beautiful package as possible. And don’t preach. Use the power of storytelling and myth to get the message out. Music is about feeling, and creativity, and expression. If you tag a bunch of left brain concepts onto it, then it’s like mixing oil and water. If you can present the message in a way that also excites a sense of wonder and emotion, then you will be way more effective at having it connect.
What personal lifestyle choices have you made which reflect the views and opinions expressed through your music?
This is a continuing process. The despair of modern life is that there is no way to live completely holistically, and sacrifices have to be made in order to stay functional in society. I live on 5 acres in a rural area where I can pick fresh fruit directly from the trees. I walk to the nursery and back every day. I cultivate and grow as many rare and endangered species as I can find space for. But this in and of itself is not enough. This is where it gets hard, and I struggle with the disparity of paradigms. I walk to the nursery to work with plants, but then I go on the road and I’m burning fuel like it’s going out of style flying from city to city, to try and express a message that our resources are only going to be saved through personal responsibility.
Yeah, it’s really hard actually. I see the inherent hypocrisy of the medium I use to communicate. I haven’t really seen a way out yet. My lifestyle choice is to be moving towards a more holistic existence, having less ecological impact as I get older. Since this is hard as a touring artist, I have to balance the scales somehow through creating awareness and supporting projects which are doing direct ecological action.
Is there any hope for success?
There is always hope for success. One person at a time. Even if absolute and total annihilation is 100 percent guaranteed, then hope is still valid. Living present in the moment and making a difference in the moment is still wiser then succumbing to despair and doing nothing.
How important do you feel it is for artists/writers to communicate and discuss these topics and themes via their art and writing, as opposed to spending their time developing sustainable personal practices?
I think it’s about balance. First and foremost, who has the right to discuss ecology and sustainability if they don’t practice it themselves, or aren’t finding ways to put it into practice? The ground of personal practice is the compost through which authentic communication can grow and flower.
Given that your music is partially instrumental, what devices or techniques do you use to communicate your message(s) non verbally?
Music is incredibly intuitive for me. It’s very easy for me to be analytical, but when I am composing something else takes over, and I have to get the “I” out of the way as much as possible. My hope is that the things that matter, the voices of nature which I have asked to speak through me, use this opportunity and flow through me like an instrument. This is my hope, then when it’s all said and done, that what I am remembered for has nothing to do with me. I hope that what is remembered is that I opened doors, and allowed people to glimpse a vision of themselves in harmony with the wild, in harmony with whatever their concept of the Divine is, and that the wild and sacred spoke to them in return and reminded them of who they are.
More information on Bluetech and his many projects can be found on the following sites: