Thursday, October 9, 2014

My interview with the author of new Cloud Cult biography

Mark Allister will release his latest book, a biography titled "Chasing the Light: The Cloud Cult Story" on Oct. 15. Allister is a Professor of English, Environmental Studies, and American Studies at St. Olaf in Northfield. For those who do not know, Cloud Cult is an experimental rock group from Duluth, Minnesota. 
What drew you to write about Cloud Cult?
Mark: When I first heard about the band, I was strongly attracted to their environmental principles. The more I learned about their personal history, about their young son dying and the grieving that followed and got played out in the music and career, the more interested I became, and the interest grew even more when I learned about Craig Minowa's spiritual seeking. I wouldn't have written about the band if I hadn't liked their music very much -- the orchestral rock, the immense variation, appeals to me. But I didn't imagine writing a book about the band until I had witnessed a few concerts and saw the incredible caring that the band displays toward its fans and the incredible devotion that fans have for the band. I wanted to understand that more. What made Cloud Cult fans so passionate? And beyond that, I began to get interested, just partly for my own life, in questions about why we respond to music as we do.
You said earlier that the band is not just for Cloud Cult fans. What can non-fans take away from it?

Mark: This book will appeal to anyone interested in indie rock or popular music, or  the practices of doing green business. Readers interested in Eastern spirituality or how art can help someone move through grieving might like this book. Here's truly the kernel of what I believe about the audience: Chasing the Light tells the inspiring and compelling story of a band who has lived out its principles in its business, and who has made great art and an affirming story out of loss and hard times -- and therefore it's a book for anyone and everyone. 

How much access to the band did you have during the writing/researching process?

Mark: I met (typically for a long lunch) with the members of the band except for the Minowas, and also former manager Adrian Young, John Burgess (who made a film about them back in 2008), and Jeff Johnson, their tour manager. Craig and Connie Minowa and I exchanged emails -- I typically posed a question or asked them to clarify a subject, and they'd write me back. I didn't meet the Minowas until the book was pretty much done -- I went down to Madison in 2013 for a concert, wanting to write a present-tense "day in the life of an indie band" (opening to the final chapter). That was when I met Craig and Connie.