When you started Sequoia, how aware were you of the New Age marketplace and did you have a strategy when it came to marketing your music accordingly?
When we started Sequoia in 1982 we were influenced by Brian Eno's ambient music such as "Music for Airports." We created ambient soundscapes of music and nature sounds and called them "Environmental Music." At the time we noticed there was some music being sold at metaphysical book and gift stores so we tried selling there. Our music started to sell well in these places so we continued to release more albums there and slowed added record stores over time. Eventually the music in these stores became known as "New Age" but we had been doing it before it was called that.
How has New Age music changed since you started the label?
In the beginning New Age music meant ambient music for meditation and healing. Then in the 90's there started to be an inflow of world fusion music into New Age, which is the time when we recorded "Sacred Earth Drums" which became a very influential world fusion recording; in addition there started to be Celtic, Sanskrit chant and other styles. In recent years even Electronica Chill/Lounge started to become sold in the New Age genre. We have welcomed all of these changes because we never wanted to be limited to one kind of music.
Sequoia seems to be putting out more compilations that are reminiscent of Buddha Bar series, with the Buddha Lounge compilations, is this again a marketing move on your part, or have your own tastes in music evolved more towards the down tempo and ambient lounge experience?
We've never really been motivated by marketing and business. We're musicians and producers so we are guided by our creative tastes more than anything. The good part is that we seem to have been in tune with what our audience has enjoyed as well and therefore our business has continued to grow. In the 90s after doing many years of ambient records we become drawn to drumming and Worldbeat then in the last 5 years or so we discovered downtempo chill-out music. Both of us are very into this kind of music now. We really enjoy the combination of beats, electronica and world elements. We have created some good relationships with some producers and artists in Europe so we have access to some of the best chill/lounge tracks around. With each chill/lounge release we put out we feel that our quality level keeps going up and has really become world class now that we have artists such as Jens Gad who is the co-creator of ENIGMA.
How much has the yoga boom changed New Age music?
Yoga music has not so much changed new age music than become a smaller sub-set of it. There is a whole selection of chant and India-influenced releases out now that appeal to a certain kind of yoga enthusiast. But there are also lots of people into yoga who like to use world music such "Drum Prayer" or "Sacred Earth Drums" or ambient new age such as "Perfect Balance" or even chill/lounge releases like "Le Spa Sonique" or Hotel Tara
Do you think that New Age music as a genre still exists?
This is an excellent question because new age music has expanded now to include so many different styles of music that it is getting to the point where calling it New Age music does not make much sense any more. Where I see it going now if for the world fusion, celtic and chill/lounge music to become a part of World and Electronica, which then leaves only ambient meditation music and yoga-chant left under the classification of New Age. To us this is a welcome change. We now consider Sequoia to be a record label with releases in many genres that span New Age, World, Chill/Lounge, Contemporary Jazz and Folk rather than just New Age.
What's been the greatest challenge as a label that was considered to be in some ways emblematic of New Age music to evolve and continue to have a relevant sound and vision?
We have never felt constrained by the new age label which is probably one of the reasons we have flourished. Since we started before the term New Age, we never thought of ourselves as being limited by it. Instead we just released music that we enjoyed and thought that others would also enjoy. In doing this we ended up expanding what people think of as New Age. The only common thread which connects all the music we have released and will continue to put out is that, whether it is music to chill out to, do yoga to, put on at a party or dance to, all Sequoia music makes you feel good.