It's not everyday that you meet someone as interesting as Sarah Fimm. She has already culminated nine albums (which she self-released), and has worked with a ton of really cool artists. Her music is both catchy and intense, her voice, her energy and her talent are completely unstoppable.
She is clever and innovative, and when she released the Karma Phala Music Project, she gave it away for free on a USB in turn that people pass it on. She is a total visionary, and it's not just her DIY work ethic that sets her apart, it's her passion for music, art and humanity. After Hurricane Irene, she went to Arkville, New York and took footage of the devastation there to help raise money and awareness.
Sarah has a knack of bringing all types of wonderful people together. She hosted Sparkle Camp, which was happening in May 2013 at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. This was an amazing opportunity for anyone to be inspired, and in turn inspire others. Sarah opened up to us and shared some pretty amazing personal stories and I was riveted throughout the entire conversation.
THINK: I saw your video for Everything Becomes Whole and I was wondering who inspired you to make this video with the idea of advocating human rights?
SF: I actually learned it from my grandmother, who is a holocaust survivor (along with her three sisters). They survived several camps during the holocaust. It's hard to forget things like that, you know, especially when it plays a huge part in my own existence.
I'll tell you a story: after the war, my grandmother and grandfather fell in love and wanted to get married. Back then they had nothing and they were very sick and traumatized from the camps. My grandmother was upset and said to my grandfather, "We can't get married. We have nothing." My grandfather disappeared out into a field with his cigarette and coffee rations from the camp, and he returned two days later with a parachute from a soldier. My grandmother's sister knitted the parachute together and made a wedding dress so that my grandmother could get married.
THINK: That's amazing!
SF: It is! A few years ago, in 2008, I traveled to the Ukraine, and I went with my grandmother to see her wedding dress on display at the BergenBelsenMuseum in Hanover, Germany. That was a two and a half month journey to Europe and it was very powerful to stand there with her, my mother and my family. It was hard to imagine the horrific things that happened. That really had a powerful effect on me, and it was the culmination of a lot of information and history (including my genetics), that I was able to see and experience through a parachute that was recovered by my grandfather.
THINK: Wow! That is so cool
SF: I went to see the dress in Hanover, after going to the Ukraine and visiting where she was born and where the Nazis had taken her from. I literally got to come into this village in the Ukraine. I got to see the cemetery where my great grandmother's stone was vandalized, and then restored by good people. I got to go into the village where people were so friendly; they offered everything that they had.
We rolled into the village in the rental van and my grandmother met with us, then we drove over the border into Budapest together. It was about a fourteen hour long journey, and when we arrived in the village, there were no cars. We saw a lot people with their heads covered and my grandmother said, "Stop, I recognize somebody!" (laughs)
So we stopped, and she gets up with her two canes and she leans out the window, and this elderly woman looks back at her and yells, "Babushka!" She gets out of the van, and at about one mile an hour, they head towards each other and they hug. Many of these people are people that she knew when the Nazis had come to take them away. I got to meet the man who was charged with the task (under direction of the Nazis), of bringing my grandmother and her sisters to the camp. He actually cried when we saw him, and he apologized to my grandmother, and my whole family. He said he had to do that or they would have killed his family. I would say that this is one of the circumstances that deeply formed my life as I go on.
THINK: I have goosebumps! That is such an intense story.
SF: I just love her, she's so inspiring. She actually danced at the entrance of the camps. She threw her canes down and danced, and she cried, "We made it! We made it!" All I could do is cover my mouth with my hand and smile.
It defies anything a lot of us can relate to now. I think of most people in our country find it hard to relate to the fact that it was a reality not too long ago. We've forgotten, and look what's happening. There is a lot of suffering going on and these stories of love are inspiring. We need to talk about the love that rose out of those horrible, horrible things because it's there for the taking. One thing my grandmother has always asked me to do is tell people that this can never happen. Genocide of any kind must not happen.
THINK: I totally agree with you about that. I love that you are honoring your grandmother by telling her amazing and uplifting story.
SF: Those steps from A to B are a lot shorter distance than you think. It's very prevalent to me on that level.
THINK: I completely agree. I have read that you have worked with some really talented artists, like Tony Levin, Josh Freese (who is featured playing drums on her Infinite Possibilities album), Iggy Pop, and Peter Murphy (just to name a few). Is there a memorable story that you can share about one of them?
SF: Any particular person you have in mind?
THINK: Just any story that pops in your head.
SF: (laughs) "I have a lot of people in my head." (We both laugh and she thinks for a moment). "They are all very different and interesting people. I would say that the most memorable for me was Josh Freese, well….and Tony Levin….what about more than one story? Can I do more than one?
SF: Alright! The first time I was recording with David Baron -I've made a lot of music now with this incredible person- he is at the heart, in my opinion, of a lot of the music that happens in this community. He's a very good person who supports artists all the time in a very quiet, wonderful way. He makes incredible music beyond what is available now. There are these legendary, amazing human beings that hide in little pockets in the mountains.
When I met Dave, I was living in the city, and we went to the Edison Hotel. We had a pile of food and one thing after another; I realized I was meeting someone that was going to have a huge effect on me in ways unknown. Seven years later, here we are. We've made around five records, working on six, but there is nine total. (laughs) After sitting with Dave at this little table in this tiny little room, something really changed in my head. He was telling me about Woodstock and so I decided to come up here, and I fell in love with the artistic community and the environment itself, including the history. These old mountains just pulled me in. Once I was here, I realized why. It was that people like Tony Levin, are right around the corner. People like Joel Bluestein are right here in our backyard. So even tonight, I get to go play music with a lot of them because that's what we do.
THINK: That is so cool!
SF: After I got to Woodstock, we started recording and so many people were possible for making the recordings you hear now. I remember when I met Tony Levin, and the first thing I thought was: incredibly tall (laughs). The next thing was when I looked in his eyes, that he is so incredibly kind. When he took out his bass, I thought, wow, because he plugged it directly in. Sometimes a lot of players have a lot of effects and pedals, but he just plugged it right in! It sounded transcendental. I knew immediately I really stepped into something magical, and I would really have to be conscious and respective to these people.
I have played on occasion with Tony a few times, and I remember when he came to play at a benefit we had in March. We had four shows, one a week and we donated each week to a different charity. It was such a wonderful thing and when Tony showed up to do that, he asked me to come play a song. I chose Here Comes the Flood, and the minute that we were on stage with all these musicians, and playing that song with Tony, it was a very special moment. I was enamored. Since then, I have had no shortage of opportunities to get to work with incredible people that literally make your jaw drop on the floor the minute they pick up their instrument. That's how it is. It changes you through mechanisms that we don't even understand. Okay, I'll tell you one more.
SF: When Dave asked me who I would want to come play drums on my album, I said "Josh Freese," but then I thought, "He'll never come." I was very doubtful of myself. Dave was the one that told me, "If you want it to happen, call him."
It was very tough love. (laughs) So, I said okay. I ended up calling him and he was so nice. It wound up that he was coming to New York and so we arranged for him to come play, and he ended up playing eight tracks on Infinite Possibility and he showed up in the studio with a little recorder. He would laugh into it, then speed it up and slow it down. So you would hear this chipmunk-style laughing, and then this deep sounding whoa ha ha. It was really funny.
We started recording, and I asked him if he had anything to eat. He said, "I've had three hotdogs and a coke, I'm ready to go!" (laughs) I've never blown through eight tracks like that before. That was a very high moment, being able to play with him. He's one of the greatest rock drummers of our time, he's talented and funny. It's very easy to forget that these are just people and I feel like that imposed distance contributes to people feeling separated. That's just an illusion, you know?
THINK: That is really well said.
SF: We are all just trying to survive through making music.
THINK: Is there anyone you would want to collaborate with that you haven't yet?
SF: Oh yes! (laughs) I am very grateful to people that I have the opportunity to collaborate with. I am also very excited about the people that we are collaborating with for Powered By Dreaming. We are able to put together, in the same place, an extremely spellbinding, magical environment. You can take these people of different interests and you can make a place where they can become more of the sum of their parts once they are together.
THINK: I was reading about Sparkle Camp, and it sounds awesome! Was thatthe first year for it?
SF: Last year, we did Sparkle Park, and we did five thousand mirrors sewn together with fishing wire, and a lot of people came out to decorate them, including children. A lot of people would come and step up to the grass, and the minute they stepped over the mirrors, it was like out of Field Of Dreams, they just changed. They became children, so that essence is what is now embedded in this idea of SparklePark. Then after a month of hanging the mirrors, we hung five hundred solar lights, which created a wild field of rainbows.
After that, we had a benefit challenge where we raised about twenty eight hundred dollars by donation, for the organization SEVA Foundation, which was co-founded by Wavy Gravy. They are very wonderful people who save people's eyes. They do preventable blindness surgery and they form mobile eye clinics. I've been immersed in their work, it's very powerful. It only takes fifty dollars to save one persons sight, and it takes fifteen minutes for the surgery. One of the people attending Sparkle Camp, is Dr. Chundak Tenzing.
THINK: What a great cause! I read Chundak Tenzing's bio. He is truly inspiring.
SF: Yes, he is. He will be attending as well as Julie Nestingen, who is also from SEVA. One of my goals is to hang one hundred paintings on the walls (donated by various artists), and every painting sold will go directly to SEVA, so someone can see that painting, be inspired, and go meet the people that are actually going to make that happen. They can put the money in an envelope and give it directly to them, so that connection is made.
One of the things that has troubled me a lot over the past couple of years was Bernie Madoff, and how that's hurt a lot of charity organizations. One of the ways I want to combat that, is by introducing people directly to the ones that make it happen. They know exactly where it's going, and I have been speaking to these people and formed a relationship with them. There is some type of very important credibility that needs to be restored live and in person. People need to realize that the power of art and music isn't met by itself, and when you combine that with the power of the people that do these kinds of things, it works. You just have to think outside the box and think about ways that everyone can benefit at the same time. It's not a traditional benefit because the event has to pay for itself. There is that reality, that as artists and musicians, we don't have big fancy budgets. We rub two nickels together and make magic, and that's our job, you know. I'm so happy that all of these people see it and believe it and they feel it. They are putting their support behind it and lending their friendship. It's very, very meaningful to me.
Then there's Tasman Rosenfeld, who is a thirteen year old musician and has his own non-profit called Pollinate the World. I know him personally, and when you put him in front of a bee garden, they come right to him and hover around his hands. It's incredible! It is truly something to see. So, you take a young person like that and introduce him to Michael Schacker, who had a traumatic brain injury, but manages to write books constantly. He is an incredible author, scientific investigator, and environmentalist. We sing together on the phone! I get to experience the process, that was invented by his wife, Barbara Schacker, who taught him to speak again through a new method she developed. She is a very educated and impressive human being. I find those two are incredibly inspiring. Now you have merged these beautiful minds. You know? In that, something blooms that is more than any one individual.
There is some pretty neat stuff. This is what happens when you are surrounded by fifteen thousand mirrors. The five thousand mirrors from the first SparklePark, has now grown to be fifteen thousand! They are largely donated by amazing people who believe in this, and a lot of people have donated the solar lights as well.
THINK: What will be going on in Sparkle Camp?
SF: At Sparkle Camp, we will have fifteen workshops on site. Some have to do with music, some have to do with science, some have to do with just doing something fun and inspiring to widen our minds. We have shows every night, and dance parties where everything glows and the entire field twinkles, and we all wear sparkle glasses, and we get so inspired that we can barely even handle it!
THINK: I just keep smiling hearing you talk about it.
SF: I honestly believe you can take an idea and expand it above and beyond. We have to lift the dreamers in this world. We have to do that. It's so important because they design tomorrow.
THINK: I love that you think that way. That's why I love writing so much, is because I get to help musicians. Being an artist myself, it is so important to help others. I see the path you are on and we are totally sharing that same road!
SF: Definitely! People need to be supportive of other people. There is interconnectivity that every human being craves. We want to feel connected, and when we don't feel connected, bad things happen. When you see the force of inspiration there is nothing like it. Inspire Art is a group of thousands of people which I have gathered together and tried to facilitate them coming together in the name of lifting each other and fighting for human rights. The reason that the SparklePark exists as a physical representation of lights and watching them sparkle with each other. As you can see, there's a lot going on here.
When I wrapped up the interview, I felt enlightened. Sarah is such an extremely genuine and thoughtful person. Her courage and passionate dedication is infectious. I'm sure the people that know her will agree that she has what it takes to put herself on the map for more than one reason: her music is just one side of her multifaceted talent. After talking to Sarah, I felt like I had met a kindred spirit. Not just because we are both musicians and artists, but the fact that we shared the same philosophy in life. I really admire Sarah for pulling people together for the greater good. I feel that we need more people in the world like that, and I'm glad that it's someone like Sarah Fimm.
Article originally published in Coolgrrrls