The Native Axeman – An Artist Who Carries the Cry of His People

Exitwound

[wpaudio url=”http://tomacasindiecafe.com/audio/Native_Ways_Exitwound.mp3″ text=”Native Ways by Exitwound” dl=”0″]

He was born in 2002. That was the year he came to understand and accept that his life was not his own. It belonged to music and it belonged to his people.

Warren Michael said of The Native Axeman (Exitwound): “Music has a power that is often misunderstood, even by those who craft it. This power is built by the emotions of the players, transferred to the instruments or vocal chords, and when it leaves their bodies, either as instrumental or vocal music, it is transformed into a part of their own personalities and placed into the minds of the audience. We all have experienced this many times. Have you ever felt emotion from a song and had it overwhelm your senses? How many times have you heard people speak of “their” music, meaning the music of a particular performer, that the speaker uses to get to a special emotional place? …” — Warren Michaels as written by John Havener.

 
 
TIC: “…Experience the cry of his people as they are brought to life in his songs…” Talk about this. How do you carry the cry of your people in your music?
 
 
NA: This comes from what I’ve seen with my own eyes and heard through my own ears. All Natives experience so much racism in the U.S. They’re put into the back seat. A lot of us had some pretty wicked upbringings; I myself had it pretty rough and I’ve seen a lot in my time. For instance, a lot of people don’t want to get sick on any of the reservations because they don’t get adequate medical care like the rest of the country. We’re not treated fairly or as equals in anyway. So the Great Spirits give me music for healing, not just myself but for many others – all cultures. It is a bridge between the Spirit World and this one. I express all of my emotions through what I do best.
 
 
TIC: What made you wake up in 2002? What events took place and made you embrace your gifts wholeheartedly?
 
NA: Deep self reflection, self evaluation. Looking at life, where I had come from and the direction I was headed. Looking at the condition of my people and all humanity. I wasn’t happy, knew I had to make a change and I just said “okay God, what do you want me to do?” And the answer was to focus on my gifts and to serve a higher purpose. I play several instruments and I am completely self-taught. I recognized that it came from somewhere. So I turned back to my true calling – back to the music. Through this rebirth, I was given a second chance at life and I am trying to be a voice for people. I have a mission and the voice of people are part of the big picture. There are times when people need to speak up, but a lot of people are afraid and don’t want to cause problems. I will speak for them through the music. Music was given to me to give back to the Natives as a way to help.
 
 
 
 
TIC: Do you ask anything of the music? Are you seeking anything for yourself as you bring it to life?

Paul Underwood of ExitWoundNA: Yes. I seek peace from the music. It has healing properties and I feel that it’s so special that I won’t play in clubs and bars — party atmospheres where people are drinking and partying – the music is spiritual.

I recognize that I am just a vessel and I don’t take credit for the gift. Especially because sometimes what comes out of me is mind boggling. People will come back to me and ask, “Well how did you do this? Where did that idea come from?” and the only answer I can give them is that it comes from the Spirits, from the Universe – the Creator. There is a lot of emotion tied into the music and in its creation.

The music that comes out of Hollywood — the commercial music — you can’t feel it, you can’t feel the music. Music is supposed to be alive. It’s all in the approach.

 
 
TIC: How is music alive?
 
 
NA: We are living beings of substance. Music is supposed to touch your very soul. If it doesn’t do that then it doesn’t come from the right place. Its creation is not coming from the right place. You have to allow yourself to be used to create.
 
 
TIC: You said you wanted to prove a point to people that if you have talent, you can develop the discipline to create something significant. 8 Cds in 6 years – and with you playing all of the instruments – awards, honors and notariety for the music. That’s quite a feat and all the result of hard work and dedication. Is this the significance that you speak of or is there something else coming? And who are you proving this point to? Who do you specifically seek to inspire?

NA: I want to inspire the youth and anyone else who says they can’t do it. On the reservation, there is so much negativity, people have given up hope. I was told repeatedly what I couldn’t do, what I didn’t have and what was impossible — for most of my life. During my heavy period of self-reflection, I decided to embrace all of the negativity that was poured into me to stand and prove that those people were wrong. Yes, I had attitude! I went back to the music and I practiced and learned and practice and learned. I fully dedicated myself to the music and thus all of the accomplishments were a result of that.

I want to inspire people. I talk and talk and talk to the youth. If there’s just one person who gets it in the group, then I have accomplished something. I need them to look at me and understand that if I can do it, so can they. I tell them that dreams do come true. I am living proof of that. I want to inspire anyone and everyone to do so much more with their lives and to embrace their gifts, whatever they are.

And there is more coming, much more on the horizon for me as an artist. There is no Native American artist on the mainstream radio stations. I need to accomplish more significant things to give people more to aspire to. I want to motivate people, let them understand that if they give 100%, they can accomplish whatever they want to. As I said, if I can do it, so can you.
 
 
 
 
TIC: You also spend time with the elderly in your community. Why do you do this and what does this give you?
 
NA: I am a part-time home care person. Take care of the disabled and the elders. This interaction with thise human beings influence my music heavily. It is the Cheyene way to take care of people which is very respectful. I was brought up by mom and uncle and it was drilled into my head to take care of children, widows and singles moms. Help out where you can. It is the natural way of our people.
I learn so very much from the elders. They have solutions to a lot of the things we go through in life. I have nothing but respect and love for them. Also, old people have a lot of jokes. I get great jokes from them!
 
 
 
 
TIC: The wolf, the moon, the feathers. You use the images of those three things; tell us the meaning behind them.

NA: The wolf spirits…wolves run in packs. In nature you see them; they’re very strong, protective and deadly. They are protection. I look to them for protection – to watch my back. I have custom-made trenchcoats with three wolves on the back of each of them. And, like the wolf, I will stand my ground.

Eagle feather – it represents honor. Eagles are sacred. My kids made an eagle feather with a medicine wheel attached to it. I keep it on my guitar. They are special and have significant meaning.

The moon gives you light so you can see for the journey ahead on a dark path. I’m in new territory as far as making inroads in American society with my music. This journey can be scary, so I need the moon to light way. I am a Native American in a spot where there are no others. I am being a role model; I am being the voice.

I am told all the time that “the world needs you. This is your calling” and it’s scary. People are looking for escape from pain and have been able to harness this type of music that takes you on a journey. In invite people to come along and come with.

 
TIC: You chose the name ExitWound to signify a personal healing process. Realizing that healing for all of us is process of growth over the period of a lifetime (and maybe beyond that), do think you will get to the point when healing is done and change the name?

NA: The name “Exitwound” was given to me by Ted Tafoya 13 years ago and it will remain.  It represents all the states all the bad judgment – the healing process, making the amends – changing my ways.

 

TIC: Have you experienced discrimination as a Native American artist?

NA: Yes. I experience it on both sides in that I am half white and experience it on that side and also from the full bloods, the Natives. I learned how to live in both worlds and know how to mingle and created my own world. Now my focus is on building new bridges here. I am taking the opportunity to create something that has special meaning. I want to help out where I can.

Everyone listens to music. It can depress you, soothe you, rile you up and heal you. I want to give something to somebody that will help them out. It’s all about being that music and letting it go heal where it needs to.

 

 

Awards
2007 “Debut Artist of the Year” Nominee
2007 “Best Instrumental Recording” of the Year Nominee
2008 “Best Male Artist Nominee
2009 ” Silver Arrow Award” Winner

 

The New Exitwound Project Band:
Paul Underwood Sr: Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Bass, Synthesizer’s.
Sheldon Scrivner: Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Synthesizer’s, Bass & Back-up Vox.
Gary Ramsey: Lead Vox & Bass.
Lewy Stix: Drums & Percussion

 

Listen to the Native Axeman’s interviews on the Michael Warren Show from NY
Show 1: click here
Show 2: click here

 

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