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Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with John Heishman and Sam Lemos of Moksha from 2011

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

John Heishman: I've been studying music since I was about 15. I started learning music theory on guitar and soon after started playing percussion. I then picked up a bass and instantly thought, "I've finally found my instrument." I realized that I was preparing myself for bass the whole time without knowing it.

As for Moksha, we always tend to play what makes us feel the best and have fun while doing it. We try to push the envelope as much as possible.

Sam Lemos: I was originally a saxophone player from the age of nine on. Jazz was my thing back then. In fact Brian and I went to high school together at the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts and many of the more significant realizations and breakthroughs in my early development as a musician came then, most likely in and aided greatly by Brian's presence. Then I had a difficult transition creatively and in many other respects with the move from high school into the collegiate world and, though I did very well as a jazz performance major when I first entered college, after my first semester I gave up my major, my university, and my instrument and took the next semester off to do some spiritual and mental reorganization.

After a few years as an English major,  post hiatus, I decided that I loved words nearly as much as I loved music, and that the best way to marry the two would be to become a lyricist/vocalist. And after a long and difficult struggle to learn as a person in his twenties to do two things creatively that I had never previously attempted or even thought possible, here I am today, a member of Moksha making music I am proud of with people I love.

The history of Moksha goes back to a night (I even remember the date: Oct. 13th 2006) that the band I was in at the time (Vav Ohm) played a show opening for a band called “Stretch.” Vav Ohm was my first attempt at fronting a band as a vocalist and included as members both Brian and Pat currently of Moksha. What was significant about this night was the fact that Vav Ohm was on the brink of collapse and Stretch on the brink of transformation. Stretch's members included John and Jeremy of Moksha, and Pat also would sit in as their drummer. That night Stretch's keyboardist couldn't make the gig so Brian sat in as well.

Basically after Vav Ohm got finished playing Stretch got on stage in a configuration (John, Jeremy, Brian, and Pat) that would in a matter of months after the collapse of Vav Ohm become the first and core incarnation of Moksha. I even remember watching them that night and noticing how well the four of them played together. I joined years later (about a year ago as I write this) after being involved in a few other projects. I helped compose and sang on a song for Moksha's first album Mammal Or Machine which ended up being a kind of audition amongst the several singers that were on that record, and a few months after the album came out I became a permanent member.


If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Sam Lemos: My dream ambition is to be a novelist, although I currently lack the necessary skills. I'd like to think that is what I'd be doing.

John Heishman: I'd probably be running my own gourmet restaurant.


How did the name of the group originate?

Sam Lemos: John's wife is very into Eastern philosophy and suggested it. This is what I have come to understand. I wasn't around at the time.

John Heishman: We were looking for a name that was kind of obscure and didn't have a loaded meaning. So when we we're mulling over band name ideas, “Moksha” was suggested by my wife Jaime (girlfriend at the time). Moksha seemed obscure enough and when loosely translated means: “release” or “liberate,” which we thought was fitting for our music or music in general.


Who would you see as your musical influences?

John Heishman: The Beatles, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, NOFX, The Grateful Dead, Phish and STS9 to name a few.

Sam Lemos: Radiohead is my favorite, has been since high school, good chance they will be for the rest of my life. Also The Beatles, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, John Coltrane, Tool, David Bowie, Brad Mehldau, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, James Taylor, Neil Young, Talking Heads, Miles Davis, Joe Henderson, Bill Evans, Tom Waits, and many, many more.


What's ahead for you?

Sam Lemos: I aim to improve as a composer of music, manipulator of language, and master of discovery in general.

John Heishman: Right now I'm fully focused on making Moksha a success. We hope to land some sort of management team and start breaking the festival scene.


I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

John Heishman: Like the '60s had sex with the '70s and had a baby. That baby then somehow met a time traveler from the future and they had sex and had a baby. We sound like that baby riding a freight train. Hypno Rock/Funk

Sam Lemos: Dance Prog Funk Rock


Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

Sam Lemos: Kurt Rosenwinkel, any member of Radiohead, Brad Mehldau, Jon Brion, Nigel Godrich, Joni Mitchell, Ben Taylor, Rufus Wainwright...although in all cases I feel like I'd be so intimidated I don't know how I'd function as a musician without some serious time to get used to the shock of being in the presence of any one of these people.

John Heishman: Yes, I'd love to play with Robbie Robertson, Jimmy Page, Neil Young, Santana, Paul McCartney, Damian Marley, Jay Z, Trey Anastasio, Page McConnel, Steve Kimock, Bob Weir and John Medeski. That's the short list.


Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

John Heishman: It's hard to gauge in this day and age. I think it sucks that album sales aren't what they used to be and that everyone thinks it's okay to never pay for music. I always get on my friends that download free music or buy one album and share it with a dozen friends. It can be somewhat beneficial when people share music with each and discover new artists that they might not have come across without sharing, but only if you buy it when you like it. So if you find music you like, support the band by buying their albums otherwise they'll disappear into oblivion.

Sam Lemos: Both. It will balance itself out one way or the other. There's a transition happening right now so it's hard to see how the industry will end up, but I'm not too worried about it. Ultimately music should be free. It's money that's the problem. But a necessary problem that must be accommodated, as it has been and shall be.


In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Sam Lemos: Love it. As far as Moksha's concerned, at the stage that we're at right now, I just want people to hear us, form a relationship with our music, and ultimately come to love what we do.

John Heishman: I'm all for live recording and trading. It helps spread your music and give a sneak peek into your live shows.


If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Sam Lemos: Anyone who has ever unjustly taken credit financially or creatively for something they had no part in creating.

John Heishman: Whoever created autotune because it's been severely abused and over-used


If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

John Heishman: This is a tough one because it doesn't ever seem to work out when you put random musicians in a super group. I'll run with John Lennon, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and Jon Bonham.

Sam Lemos: Honestly I'd just like to see Radiohead team up with Kurt Rosenwinkel. For me it doesn't get any more perfect than Radiohead, but add Mr. Rosenwinkel as a compositional and performative influence, make some room for a bit more improvisation, and I feel the results might cause me to assume I've died and gone to heaven.


If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

Sam Lemos: Take all the musicians mentioned in the answers above that are still alive and making music, add Phish, and that would be that.

John Heishman: Phish, Burning Spear, Tool, Sizzla, Jane’s Addiction, MMW, Funky Meters, Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, Damien Marley, Jurassic 5, Arcade Fire, StS9, My Morning Jacket, Jay Z, Neil Young and Pink Floyd.


What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

John Heishman: My Morning Jacket's Circuital

Sam Lemos: Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps is the last CD I bought. Lately I've been listening to a lot of spoken stuff, interviews with David Foster Wallace, Terence McKenna, David Lynch, Robert Anton Wilson...If I told you what music I've been listening to it would be again be a repeat of much of the above.


Have you read any good books lately?

Sam Lemos: I am currently in the process of reading everything of David Foster Wallace's that's been published. After I read Infinite Jest I kind of became obsessed.


What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Sam Lemos: Phish at Tahoe. Incredible show. My first Phish show, in fact.

John Heishman: Outside Lands Festival


Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

John Heishman: Dub Step

Sam Lemos: The closest thing I've got to a guilty pleasure is the music of James Taylor. I listen to his music all the time, just about every day. I feel no guilt about it, though. I just feel his music is misunderstood by many people to be dismissible as easy listening or something like that. People who think that probably haven't really listened. I think “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Close Your Eyes,” “Carolina In My Mind,” “Something In The Way She Moves,” etc. are some of the most profound and psychedelic songs ever created, both lyrically and musically.


What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Sam Lemos: Probably when I gave up jazz for rock and roll, because according to the Tap: "Softer like jazz: it's based on fear...The fact is that jazz is mistakes. You're playing a song, but you're playing it wrong...It's a lot of wrong notes. Especially the people playing jazz saxophone. They're the worst...And they teach that in schools. You can get a degree in how to play it wrong...Jazz is an accident waiting to happen." I couldn't have said it better.


If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

John Heishman: John Lennon, Bob Marley and Albert Einstein

Sam Lemos: I'm gonna name six: Terence McKenna, David Foster Wallace, James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Anton Wilson - my kind of dinner party.


What would be on the menu?

John Heishman: Tapas and Sushi

Sam Lemos: Oysters, sushi, fish and chips, and fine wines.


Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

John Heishman: Check out our new album Here To Go at


Sam Lemos: Yeah. In the words of Wesley Willis: "Be cool fool!"

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at
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