By Joseph Robertia
The high school years and those that immediately follow are times of exploration. Trying to “find” oneself can be tough, though, and in a small town, even tougher. But sometimes the seeds sown in youth begin to sprout during these tumultuous times, helping young adults find their niche no matter how itty bitty the burg in which they grew up.
“In my early childhood, we didn’t even have TV and I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music — I come from a really conservative family, so my musical influences were severely limited. I could only listen to Christian music, and then, once I hit junior high, I talked them into letting me listen to other music, but I had to hide a lot of it because of explicit lyrics,” said Orion Satori, a third-generation homesteader living outside of Soldotna, who late last month released a six-song EP through iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby and other online music distributors.
Despite growing up where musical variations can be somewhat limited, Satori got his fix for rhythms and rhymes via ever-advancing technology.
“We got plugged into the Internet when I was 17, so my musical influences expanded greatly,” he said. “I was talking to people from all over the planet, and they were hooking me up with music that I would never hear in Alaska or even the Lower 48. We never had MTV and I rarely ever made it up to Anchorage for big shows, so my influences were based off of Anchorage radio stations and my exploration on the Internet,” he said.
Satori also grew up in a musically inclined family, which he resisted as a boy, but grew to accept as a man.
“My mother and sister play piano, and my brother and dad used to play guitar. We all have different musical tastes. My mom would listen to classical music; my sister would listen to pop music/boy bands, my dad would listen to country, and my brother was into ’80s metal and ’90s rock. I was into rap, dance, rock and different electronic genres. We all lived in a different musical world, but I think I was more exploratory in my taste,” he said.
Satori was introduced to playing instruments as a kid.
“My mom tortured me with piano lessons when I was about 10, but I wasn’t into it and she let me quit after a few years. I got really into rock in my teen years and picked up the guitar when I was 17 and played obsessively. I ended up playing the piano again after I heard Ben Folds Five,” he said.
As Satori got older and developed as a musician, he wanted to play music outside his home, but unlike big cities or large college towns, Soldotna offered limited options for finding like-minded musicians.
“I originally wanted to form a band and felt that I couldn’t do the type of music I wanted to do without one. Being in a small town in Alaska made it impossible to find serious, qualified musicians with the same influences and I all but gave up on being a musician in my early 20s,” he said.
A few years later, though, it was the Internet that once again inspired Satori.
“Then, when I was about 26 and was feeling lost in life, I got really into electronic music. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to listen to all sorts of music that was never played in Alaska and hardly played in the Lower 48,” he said. “After some research, I realized I could be a one-man band with how far technology had come, and how society had largely come to accept one guy onstage with a laptop and maybe a few instruments. So, I started writing and playing again. And, so, Building Castles was born. Now I want to keep it a solo act, as I don’t have to worry about dealing with band mates who have different creative directions or a bad work ethic.”
Satori said that he chose Building Castles for his musical moniker because it represented how he came to be a one-man band from just an initial love of music and belief in himself.
“Building Castles is a term for daydreaming or dreaming big. I had originally wanted to use the name Day Dreamer, but after an Internet search, I saw it was taken. I looked through similar terms, and when I saw this one, I knew it was the one. It’s also in the lyrics of a song from a great Trance artist, Ian Van Dahl. I actually like the name better than my original choice,” he said.
The sound of Building Castles is a fusion, of sorts.
“I try to blur the lines between genres with my music and combine different elements from rock, hip-hop, dance and trance. I build orchestral pieces, layer them with synthesizers, maybe throw in some guitar, and stack it all on top of a hip-hop or dance beat,” he said.
Satori’s lyrics are equally unique.
“I draw from a lot of different areas in life. Some are based off of my own experiences in relationships and personal life, others are based on my religious or political views, and some are inspirational songs based on tough issues I’ve had to deal with in my own life or what I’ve seen others go through. I generally try to keep my lyrics positive, or at least, direct the anger, sadness and negativity towards a positive resolution,” he said.
Prior to the Nov. 20 release of his EP, Satori also played live concerts at the Relay for Life event this past summer, and he did a show at Icons 907 in Kenai. His music is also in rotation on the FM radio station 104.9 K-Wave.
While his band title reflects his actualized dreams, Satori chose “Visions” as the title for his EP, and he said that while this, too, symbolizes how far he has come, this title reflects his hope that others will be inspired by example to believe in yourself.
“I came up with the title ‘Vision’ for the album because I have a vision for my life and I feel like my EP is a big milestone in fulfilling that vision. It’s not just about a creative vision, but what I can do in the world through my music. I’d like to be an advocate for equal rights, animal rights and the environment,” he said. “I also want to have a positive impact on people’s lives directly through my music. Music has saved my life. I’m basically straight edge (doesn’t use alcohol or drugs), so when I have tough times, I binge on music, and it’s actually healthy rather than destructive.”
In the future, Satori said he hopes to play locally at Hooligans, Chilkoot Charlies in Anchorage, and somewhere in Homer, and “just about anywhere that has an audience that wants to hear something a bit different than the usual,” he said.
To learn more about Satori and Building Castles, check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/buildingcastles, or visit his Web page at http://www.buildingcastles.us.