Let Dr Lenz's Music Teach
"I asked the Zen Master."


Jan.1,1985 - We played together for the first time at a New Year's seminar at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. We improvised most of the material that night, but some of the tunes, i.e. Spaceflakes and Canine Plane, ended up on future albums. It was this performance that became the music on the Network Sounds tape.

Later that spring, in April, we played at a public seminar in Boston as 'Nirvana', and the music from those evenings ended up on "Music From Nirvana". One evening after a seminar meeting in LA that July, we went into a commercial studio with Rama to record some of that material, but bad planning, technical and personal difficulties forced us to scrap the idea. Shortly after that, we took a long break, at Rama's suggestion, of approximately 8 months.

In 1986, Rama brought us back together as Zazen. We reworked our older material, added some new tunes, and put together an evening's worth of stuff which ended up becoming Samsara I and II. We recorded it live at the Wilshire Ebell during a seminar, later remixing it in the studio. Not long afterwards, Rama approached us with the challenge of creating six albums in the next year, one every two months, and performing them live every other month at his public seminars. The albums that were produced and released during that year were... Samurai, Urban Destruction, Light Saber, Zen Master, Occult Dancer, Mandala Of Light, and one more for good measure, Retrograde Planet.

After those albums were done, Rama asked us to do Atlantis Rising over a period of three months in 1987, and Mystery School immediately after that in 1988, our first two real 'studio albums'. He liked them so much he released them on CD as well as tape. Mystery School was the first album in which he played an active role in the production. Up to that point, he had given us album and song titles and general concepts. With Mystery School, he got more involved with production ideas. In addition to the 'in-house' release, Mystery School was later licensed and commercially released on Terra Nova Records in 1991.

Next, Rama gave us our biggest assignment to date, Tantra, a double album about our past lives in India, China, and Tibet, and our current American incarnation. In the course of production, we began to implement a more straight ahead rock approach, particular on the American songs. It a was very ambitious project and took six months to complete.

After Tantra, we embarked on an experimental project, Hard Rock. We were exploring in more depth the rock aspects that we had touched on in the American songs on Tantra. We worked on it for a few months, but abandoned it before completion. Rama simply decided it was time for us to shift gears and do something else.

It was decided that we should revisit our earlier albums with the intention of tech-ing up, re-writing and re-mixing them. So began a period of nearly two years starting in 1989, when we re-did Samurai, Urban Destruction, Zen Master, Light Saber, Mandala Of Light and Occult Dancer, on a three month schedule, i.e. an album roughly every three months. After completing those projects, we then attempted to re-do Retrograde Planet while shutting down our current recording studio and simultaneously building a new one. For six months we worked on the album with makeshift equipment set up in my living room, but Rama was never happy with the results and the music was never released.

Upon moving into the new studio in 1991, Rama changed the direction of the band. He wanted to sell Zazen commercially and felt that our music to that point was too complex for American record companies... so he decided to diversify in order to make Zazen more categorizable. Two divisions were created, a hard rock division and a new age division. We were now doing two projects simultaneously. Zen and Bodhi worked on a new hard rock version of Retrograde Planet which had nothing to do with the previous album of the same name, while I was in charge of a series of meditation albums (on which Zen and Bodhi performed and composed songs for) in a softer, more commercial new age style than our previous music. Retrograde was rewritten and revised several times over the next few years and became an ongoing project. Meanwhile, we completed and released Enlightenment, Canyons Of Light, Samadhi, Ecstasy, and Breathless during that same time period.

Retrograde Planet was finally completed a few years later, circa 1993, and Rama had Bodhi and Zen begin a new alternative rock project, "Zazen Rules", which attempted to fuse virtuoso guitar work with heavy alternative rock textures a la Ministry and KMFDM. This album was abandoned in mid-production, and around that time, Rama and Zen decided he should leave the band to pursue other interests. At about the same time, Bodhi and I re-did Samurai again, softening the sound and incorporating Rama's spoken aphorisms into the music, making it an authentic meditation album.

Simultaneously to all of this, I was working on Techno Zen Master, a re-do of Zen Master as a dance album. It went through several revisions and releases over a period of a few years. During the same time period, circa 1994, Miramar Records signed Zazen to a three album contract, purchasing the rights to release Enlightenment, Canyons of Light, and Breathless. Upon signing the deal, we delivered improved mixes of Enlightenment and Canyons to Miramar.

In 1994, I left the band and Rama's study. My last task in Zazen was to deliver Techno Zen Master as a finished album. I worked on it by myself in Los Angeles, using Bodhi's previously recorded guitar tracks, and mailed it back east to NY when it was finished in 1995.

And that is a nutshell history of Zazen. I left a few things out and the dates aren't exact, but that's an general overview of our project history. Since I left the study, Bodhi and Rama recorded and released Ecologie, and also re-did Breathless as Cayman Blue.

Steve Kaplan

"He didn't answer.
Or perhaps, he did."