Name: Meta Dia
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, composer
Current release: Meta and The Cornerstones' Dia is out via Metarize. Five years after Meta Dia's previous full-length Hira with his congenial band The Cornerstones, the album has the appearance of a new beginning. While Hira felt laid-back and dubby, peaceful and blissed-out, the new material is urgent, edgier, and insistent, a call to action rather than a journey inwards. References to classic Marley or Toots & the Maytals are still there, but they're merely a point of departure for a deeply personal collection. To be precise, Dia's songwriting sounds more to the point than ever – next to the formidable singles, stand-out piece "Majesty" may be his most accomplished composition yet – his lyrical precision at its peak. This is not to say that this music is any less soul-searching or spiritual than on any of its predecessors. It merely means that this time, you can experience it on more levels than ever – a mesmerising onion peeling leading straight to the core and essence of his art.
If you enjoyed this interview with Meta Dia of Meta and The Cornerstones and would like to get to know more about his work and history, visit his official homepage. For current updates, tour dates and release information, check his twitter profile or facebook page.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
It comes from life, being in harmony with people, places, cultures, spirituality, nature, sounds, vibrations and energy. Everything plays all the time.
As a creative person, you feel connected to everything around you. Things you see, hear, taste, smell, touch and feel. Being a creative soul, you are in touch with a spiritual force.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
It comes spontaneously for me.
I have a habit of writing already. Everything that I see makes sense. Even a banner at the train station can trigger me to write.
Writing comes with visualisation, sometimes I am in the centre of the subject and sometimes I am outside it, to have a different view.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
When I start to hear the melodies, while I am writing, then I feel what the melody needs in terms of instruments. So, I might grab the guitar, the piano or the drum or just chant and it develops itself along the way.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I don’t necessarily have a ritual toward creating. I just go with the flow and don’t pay attention to any ritual. It’s already spiritual for me when it comes to music and writing. It’s like all your senses are open and vulnerable to receive the information at any time.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
I start with what my gut says. It may be a phrase or a sentence but within that word, all of my thoughts are in it, so from that word it gives birth to the whole topic and I put my puzzle together. The first note is always there as I feel I am the first instrument interacting with my thoughts.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
I believe it’s already written, it’s somewhere that I tap into and I hear it. Sometimes, I hear the music before the lyrics and other times I hear the lyrics before the music but mostly they come together.
Life is a spinning vinyl record full of songs. When you listen you can hear it.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
With lyrics - It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. If how you say things is pure and honest, with its own humour, for me - that’s good lyrics.
It’s like looking at a painting, it speaks to each and everyone a certain way, good or bad, all of them are serving a purpose. With an open mind, we can embrace what humanity is offering.
My ambition is continuing in the consciousness, writing to heal, to motivate, to uplift, empower and highlight the beauty in the dark and the beauty in the light. Kind of like extracting what’s good in every little thing and letting it be.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
It needs patience and being open to the experimental aspects of it, trying different colors and different tempos. When it starts speaking to you strongly, then you know that you are on the right path with it. I say that because, who feels it knows it, and who knows it feels it.
It’s a very natural process for me but I am in control once it comes to printing it, meaning recording. The quality of the recording is very important for me. The musical instruments and their statements in the music are crucial, including the groove, the tempo, the mix and the mastering.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
When great ideas come along the way, it’s meant to be. Might as well let it spice up the meal.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
It is without a doubt spiritual. I acknowledge the most high, the divine, the most generous, the master who taught the man, by the pen which he knew not.
The creative state is being able to tap into anything that I want to, like wind or water that always finds its way.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
The satisfaction you have when you know it is ready and you’ve given it your full heart and respect. That marks the end of the process.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
It requires patience and guidance and the rest will manifest itself. If you are really in touch with your craft, when it’s ready you know. Even if I feel pressure, I use it to fuel patience because with patience comes great things.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
From the beginning to the end, I’m fully invested.
The role of production is key because the love I have for the music and the desire of giving something great to the world with my art. All of that plays a part and motivates me to challenge myself to make a great masterpiece.
I utilise trust because that’s the only light that can help put the puzzle together. The mixing engineer, the recording engineer, the mastering engineer are all connected with trust. I have great confidence in the team. Everybody on the project plays a significant role.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I cannot relate to that. I feel satisfaction and fulfillment.
Based on my experience, the state of creativity never stops, not only do I feel fulfilled in sharing it with the world, I also feel the urge of going out there and playing live music and being in that state of creativity.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
There is no difference, I am my music.