The Darryl Klassen (J.D. Miner) Interview

Davina Graham photo
Davina Graham photo

J.D. Miner is a B.C.-based acoustic folk duo comprising singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Darryl Klassen and Chad Joiner.

The Mindful Bard has been following J.D. Miner in its various forms since 2007, then mostly a trio often joined by other musicians and now mostly a duo often joined by other musicians.

We’ve done a series of interviews with the band’s founder and singer-songwriter, Darryl Klassen, and have never failed to be impressed with his deepseated sense of lovingkindness, joy in simple things, and commitment to honouring the earth and those who work on it.

The music has such an essentially Canadian quality as to be close to defining what that quality is: Apparently it has a lot to do with a multicultural perspective, because as the son of a missionary Darryl grew up in Canada, the U.S., Germany, and Switzerland. It also has a lot to do with simplicity, love of the earth, and taking joy in one’s work, however humble that work might be.

We recently did another interview with Darryl after the release of their new album, Waltz with the Wind.

From the 2016 Interview

Waltz With the Wind is one of the most Zen albums I’ve ever heard, grounded in a sense of contentment with simple things, a love of nature, and an abdication of judgmentalism. Yet it’s clearly informed by Christian teachings. What’s the connection? And what kind of Chritianity is this?

Oh, this could get to be a long answer.

Years ago I chose a sort of personal mantra: “cultivate contentment.” One can either long for, chase after, etc. things that one does not have or be content with the things one has. (I still have a lot to learn, and this is not nearly as easy a thing to do when times are tough, as when they are good.) And it’s not just things. It can be relationships, status, employment, weight, etc. But if my focus is always “over there,” I’ll never be satisfied.

There’s an excellent passage in Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintainance where the protagonist is hiking with his son. The son is always looking up the trail (“won’t it be cool when we get to that ridge,” etc.) but never realizing that the place he now stands is where he was so recently longing to be.

Davina Graham photo
Davina Graham photo

In my experience God often speaks to me in nature. Once even audibly. But it requires a deliberate intention, a silence on my part . . . as in— SHUT UP.

I don’t believe that any belief systems, or the adherance to any specific theology guarantees us anything, but I’ve chosen to be a follower of Jesus. No more, no less, and a damn poor one a lot of the time. I count on, and hope for his grace in all things here, and hereafter. God called Abraham his friend, and Jesus called his disciples (us) his friends. (“From now on I call you friends.”)

I like much of the creed of the “Marginal Mennonite” on Facebook, but most of all the concluding point: We could be wrong about any or all of this, but for now, this is what we believe to be true (paraphrase).

I believe it’s incumbent on anyone who wants to have a relationship with God the Creator, in humility, not refusing to listen to, or learn from others, to nevertheless work out their own personal relationship and faith. And if it is not in agreement with that of others, or with religious institutions, even heretical, then be that as it may. I think that we are all probably mostly wrong when it comes to how our pea brains think about a Being who is so far beyond us in every way. Another core belief: Pretty much everything that can be said about God or the spiritual realm is metaphorical, and metaphores are never strictly right or wrong. They are at most good, hinting at something true, or bad, misleading. That’s about as close as we can get.

I do believe that Jesus was and is, uniquely God. He claimed to be, and did many miracles, which I believe actually happened pretty much as described. He was not just a great teacher, etc. I like the Apostles’ Creed, which was pulled together by themselves and perhaps very early leaders of the new sect. I like it (shsh) partly because it came before Paul and all of his theological overlays.

Do you have any thoughts on the state of Canada, and the world, today?

Lots. I am so pleased, as are most Canadians, that in our recent election we finally turfed the conservative government of Steven Harper. It’s like exiting from a bad dream of the dark ages.

The world ? God have mercy, and if I’m right that Jesus promised to return, now would be a great time, the sooner the better, and then there will be some serious butt-kickin’.

Do you think that artists have a responsibility to respond with their art to the suffering in the world?

Hmm. I was raised in a pretty conservative, even fundamentalist Christian bubble. In this worldview the arts were important only in as much as they could be used to evangelize. Art for it’s own sake would be an immoral, or at best an irresponsible waste of time that should be spent on more important things. I think we all have a responsibility to use whatever we’ve been given to respond to suffering and evil in the world, probably starting in, but not limited to our own neighbourhood. Everyone, the artist no more, no less.

What have you been reading, watching, and listening to lately?

Just finished a book documenting the last days of commercial sail. I cannot fathom the hardship and risk that was routine only a hundred years ago. Last of the commercial around-the-globe sail ended in sround 1915. That’s only 35 years before I waas born!

I like Frederick Buechner a lot, both his reflective work and his novels. Once in a lifetime find.

Don’t watch much but I found it interesting that The Revenant created such acclaim. Upon watching it, I was disappointed. Way too Hollywood. In about 1971 this true story was made into a film called Man in the Wilderness, with Richard Harris. It was in my opinion a much better film, and more historically accurate. But the real reason for my liking it was the profound ending. It made the film and the story. I named my first son Zach, after the lead character. It’s on Youtube.

Another son starred in the movie Smoke Signals. All native written, acted, directed, shot on a reserve in Spokane. Another of my all-time fave movies. Funny, and a profound ending. Shot in the 1990s.

Davian Graham photo
Davian Graham photo

Choice Klassen Quotes From Previous Interviews

Darryl Klassen has been such a source of inspiration for the Mindful Bard that we can’t help but include some of his more valuable insights from past interviews:

Mostly I feel like I discover songs in an instrument. They are just there, waiting to be found.

I’ve always reacted strongly to the view that the arts are compelled somehow to convey a message. We don’t expect carpenters to build only hospitals or churches, or mechanics to fix only school buses or ambulances. A song, a poem, or a painting stands on its own and should be judged accordingly.

Music either speaks to me or it doesn’t. I am sometimes moved to tears by the beauty of a melodic line. Authentic songs originate somehow in one’s own experience.

Politically I’m less “aligned” now than in the past. I think there tend to be good and bad ideas on every wing of the political spectrum. I am a disciple of Jesus. I’m not a very good one, and I’m sure as hell not very religious, but I think we live in a created, orderly universe. There is an invisible realm that surrounds us—call it spiritual if you want—and it’s somehow more important than this visible one. Its primary characteristic is love. 

Davina Graham photo

I think religion has been added onto Christ, but I guess that depends on your definition of religion. Religion is made up mostly of ritual and doctrine. I hope it has something to do with everything I do. The song “Mystery,” that kind of hints at something. It’s like that cartoon of yours where the two rabbits are looking at the moon and saying, “I know I’m loved.” I think too much of Christendom is quantifying Christ and dogmatising him and completely missing the point.      

Hubble has photographed galaxies 12.4 billion [light] years away. When I go out into my yard on a dark night, some of that light falling on my hand goes back almost to the beginning of time.

God loves me just the way I am and not the way I’m supposed to be, because I ain’t ever going to be the way I’m supposed to be. Not in this life, anyways.

It’s impossible to transform myself. At most, and this ain’t likely, I can change my behaviour, an outside thing. God is transforming me as I just get out of his way. But he’s sure taking his time.

Darryl on the left, Chad on the right, and Joe Worst, who often joins them in the studio, in the middle







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