Embodying Awareness

One Flow Interview with Illiaster, 
Composer & Visual Artist  

Meet Geoff Doner, aka Illiaster, aka Sam Vega. Three parts of a powerful whole; a musical machine driven by a passion for social consciousness, change through knowledge and self 
re-actualization. It's a journey with a mighty tall order, a journey of awareness through the powerful language of music and good old fashion hard work. 
Geoff is a modern day renaissance man; a lit shadow in the darkness....waiting to emerge.

This is Illiaster's Flow.....

What's your Flow?
I compose and record my own music. I create visual art digitally, as well as traditional means. I study Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture and I’m becoming a budding activist for Tibetan freedom in the process. I look for artistic ways to create awareness about issues in the world. I am also a TV/theatre set carpenter/crew supervisor although at the moment it’s all about the music.

I'm familiar with some of your past work, your creative resume is impressive. Share with me some of your many accomplishments.
Well, I'm classically trained on piano, I play drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, singing bowl and sing. I have recorded over 24 hours of original music as well as soundtracks for short films and art installations. I have worked behind the scenes in TV/theatre/film as a carpenter, a mig welder, a scenic painter, stage manager.....

A true student of art...in what environment did you develop your creativity, school or life?
Life. School showed me some technique, but most of my experiences with art and music in school were uninspiring and stifling.  I did home-study classical piano with the Royal Conservatory for 10 years and that really laid a solid foundation musically, but the confines of classical music forced me to break away and explore subtler and more contemplative musical spaces. My best creative environment has always been in the middle of the night when it is quiet and I can find that ever-flowing stream of expression. As far back as I can remember I was always drawing or painting or sitting at the piano. My parents did a good job of creating an environment that allowed me to explore my creativity at a young age and be surrounded with music. Either my Mom was playing piano and singing or my Dad was jamming in the rec room with his jazz buddies.   

Tell me about one of your aliases, Illiaster.
Illiaster is an idealized version of myself, a persona that exemplifies everything that I aspire to, I guess. Like a stylized manga warrior with unlimited power and wild energy! Through Illiaster I speak my heart and mind in ways that simple words cannot express. The music of Illiaster spans across a varied landscape of genres, from dark industrial pop to darker ambient soundscapes. The word 'iliaster' has been translated as the potential energy at the beginning of the universe, so for me it is that pure creative light revealing itself in infinite forms.

I've listened to your music and I have to say that I luv it, It's dark, mysterious, fantastical. Was that the intention? 
I've always loved the dark side! Anything to do with death and the dark inner recesses that are seldom explored I’m game! I am at home there! I am fascinated with death and it's sobering effect. The immanence my own death and the uncertainty of  'when' is a real catalyst to cut the bullshit out and focus my finite energy on the things that matter. I want to explore and transcend my fears through my music. That means diving into that dark stuff and exploring some surreal

You've poured all of your creative energy into an epic project in the works, a rock opera called 'Dragon in the Darkness'. Tell me about it...
It is an animated feature length musical about death and renewal. The story takes place in two worlds, the City of the Electric Sun and the Kingdom of the Ancient Wonders. The main character, Sam, who lives in both worlds simultaneously and feels like he’s wasting his life living in the shadow of his mortality, has quit his mundane job as a carpenter to complete an epic rock opera. His transformation follows that of a butterfly metamorphosis with a complete breakdown of his notion of himself and the world that he projects. The story takes us beyond his apartment in the city to snow covered mountains in search of the Dragon of Light in the Valley of the Darkest Places. The music ranges from industrial to orchestral to acoustic-ambient and I composed it as well as perform all of the parts. It is still evolving, but if I could just get it in Terry Gilliam’s hands…
So, Sam Vega, the principle character, is based on your own life experiences? 

Sam is almost entirely based on me. Sam has been writing the music and story for a rock opera for a few years while working at one job after another but never being ultimately happy at any of them. Sam has always known that he won’t be happy until he’s fully engaged in music and making a living from it. But his fears and habitual ways of thinking have always held him back from diving in full on. He quits his job as a set carpenter and loses himself in the creation of this rock opera. All of this is auto biographical including the demons that haunt Sam day and night. Incidentally, samvega is Sanskrit for the feeling of anxiety in the face of impermanence and the urgency of breaking vicious cycles to live a more meaningful life. 

Everyone can relate to the symbolism of the 'Dragon'. What does it symbolize for you personally?
The Dragon is the energy of fearlessness, of clear vision and volitional power. It breaks through any obstacles, shatters all preconceptions and burns up habitual patterns to allow the vitality of the present to shine through. I am painfully aware of my habits and habitual thinking and it really takes a lot of channeling of frustrations, anger and fear into a single potent volitional force that is powerful enough to break through habitual worlds. The Dragon is that potent volitional creative force, dazzling light, whirlwind of fire.

Let's go back to a time when you were young.....as a child what is of one your favorite memories?
One that comes to mind is watching a spider build a web in my backyard when I was 4ish. It really made me sit still for a while and lose myself. The sun was shining…I remember that nothing else existed except the spider, the web and the grass around it. To be that engaged in something single-pointedly like that is hard to come by as an adult. Meditation helps to get close… 

How old were you when you received your first real musical instrument and what was it?
I was playing piano for as long as I can remember. I really started playing when I was about four or five. The first instrument I owned was a drum kit. I had it set up in the basement of the house I grew up in. I can only imagine what it was like upstairs when all you could hear was me drumming to Slayer in my headphones!     

You've figured out a clever way to combine your strengths, art and music through development of your animated rock opera but there is another important project that you are working on in alliance to all of this. Tell me about MAGT and it's purpose. 
MAGT (pron. Maggot) is a band of like-minded artists collaborating to infiltrate the pop dance music world and eat it from the inside out! Made up of Mimoon, Androidrea, Gii(myself) and Taj, MAGT aims to infest vacuous airstreams with music to inspire, inform, empower and activate. Especially youth! Our most precious resource! Get them kids dancing and thinking! We want to get people on the dance floor and foster awareness about the world we live in, a vehicle for active social change. As theatrical and bedazzling as a Lady Gaga show, but with something to actually say about the world!

As a Buddhist, how has it inspired your life & work? 

I would hesitate to label myself as a Buddhist but I certainly feel a kinship with the principles and as a “system” of realizing truth it is very pragmatic. I am particularly drawn to the notion of impermanence and the uncertainty of the time of my own death or anyone else’s for that matter. That death-awareness is a very potent means of cutting through our self-created 

story lines and habitual patterns. Even more important, as far as how Buddhism has inspired my work, the idea of getting over yourself so that you can help others and that that in fact is the ultimate state of being; compassion for other human beings. This has allowed me to open up and to look at my artistic expression differently, as a means of actively making the world a better place rather than just creating art to say ‘look at me, look at my world, ooo, so dark and mysterious’.

What are your top five favorite bands, aside from MAGT?
Coil, Skinny Puppy, Slayer, Legendary Pink Dots, The Cure

Famous last words......
Something I try to tell myself as often as possible:
"You will die and you don’t know when. Make the most of your life and help others to do the same."

Dragon in the Darkness an Animated Rock Opera coming soon...Dragon Website : http://dragoninthedarkness.yolasite.com/

illiaster Music:
illiaster : http://radio3.cbc.ca/#/artists/illiaster

Merry Go Round, by Illiaster. 
Original Artwork from Dragon in the Darkness
An Animated Rock Opera

Season of Growing by Illiaster,
Original Artwork from Dragon in the Darkness
An Animated Rock Opera

Vairocana On A Lotus Throne, by Illiaster
Original Artwork from Dragon in the Darkness
An Animated Rock Opera

The Sound Of Light, by Illiaster
Original Artwork from Dragon in the Darkness
An Animated Rock Opera

"This is the Sound of Light, This is Enlightened Sound...Dragon in the Darkness..."
Geoff, Illiaster, SamVega...we patiently await the coming of the Dragon!