Before he became the so-called Yodeling Astrologer, Mij had a motorcycle accident that seriously damaged his hearing. The crack to the noggin had him literally seeing stars, and opened his vocal range to something of Orca proportions. He spent three hours in a studio shattering eardrums in 1969, and then ESP Disk put out a record of it. After that, the guy disappeared into the twinkle of Tomita's eye, never to be heard from again. Until a few weeks ago, when he popped up like Punxsutawney Phil and talked the ears off of the guys at the label about out-of-body experience, horse communication, his voice carrying for ten blocks, theories of zeros, an out-of-body experience caused by a football game, UFO abduction, ghosts, robots, and the age-old war between good and evil. We interviewed him to see where he's been all this time...
Vice: So you just resurfaced to deliver some missives about love and communication? What have you been doing all this time?
Mij: Well, it’s been a wild trip around the world. I usually do it with one-way tickets since I’ve found it is near impossible to leave if you don’t just do it. You always need more money or this or that, and it never turns out like you think. I went to Japan three times because I wanted to get out of government contracts building destructive missiles.
Hang on, what? Are you telling me the government hired you to build missiles?
No, I work for temporary agencies that contract us to aerospace companies. I am an electronic technician. But most of the aerospace companies do work for other companies, like Northrop makes the middle part of the Boeing 747 and another company makes the wings. Rockwell makes the space shuttle but Northrop makes parts that go into the space shuttle. But also Northrop makes jets and missiles for the military. I just do electronics. The problem with these companies is the pressure they can put on you because they have all these security things and pressure from your seniors and etc. So I prefer to work for someone that lets me be myself.
That’s a pretty common sentiment. So what happened with your aerospace career?
[The government came in] and brought the engineers that actually write the mil spec standards for the tests we do, so you couldn’t fool them. They walked up to the IC testers and said, “Do these testers test every parameter to every specification?” The whole room is frozen because we only do NO-GO test on them. Which means we punch in the name of the part and assume the tester knows all the parameters and it will say “pass” or “fail” and that’s it. So I walked over and punch out all the data for them and they left. Northrop was really worried too because the government just closed down Hughes in Arizona and was finding lose parts in the nose cone. You see, they must keep up with the schedule or they could lose their contract so they send the missiles incomplete and say the fault was in shipping.
I guess you can say I more or less destroyed aerospace in California. I was contracted to Northrop and the space shuttle blew up.
Are you taking personal responsibility for shuttle failures?
I just say that jokingly.
I have to admit I'm not at all following what's going on.
Ok, every company like Northrop gets their parts from other companies. But we have to test them again to the exact specifications that the manufacture does so this is double testing, first by the manufacture and next by Northrop. All this information is used in whatever project they are doing. So we had to test everything that comes into Northrop again. My suggestion was to have them send the test procedure with the parts so we don’t have to go down and spend two hours looking for the test procedure on microfilm and print out the test procedure, and because of security we had to throw all those test procedures away after the test. But the government said that they also manage those companies that send us parts. So they said we don’t have to test them again because the manufacture of the parts can send their own test results. So every company in aerospace was doing double testing. This means they have to hire more people to test all the parts again when they come into Northrop. So my suggestion allowed them to think, “Well, all these companies don’t have to do double testing anymore because the manufactures of the parts can just send their own test results. So my idea is efficient …but they don’t need as many techs anymore. So everyone had to downsize from my suggestion.
So I killed my own job three years later and probably the entire aerospace industry too…. [So I started using] these contract jobs so I can travel the world and it won’t make my job history look bad. I traveled three times into Japan to try to find more interesting jobs with music electronic companies to build products for people, not weapons to destroy people. I always ran out of money before I could find the job. The last time I went to China and was pick-pocketed in Shanghai on a bus.
You were Shanghaied! Sorry. Continue.
I had to go to the American embassy to get a new passport and the ticket was from Hong Kong back to USA. So I took what little money I had left in the Chinese bank and took the boat to Kobe, Japan. I got there with two computers, a video camera, and about $150. Well $150 could probably last you only a week in Japan. I managed to get to Tokyo and sell one computer at a youth hostel. But I could not find anyone in any of the airplane shops who could speak English well enough to find my airplane ticket in their computers. So I got stuck in Japan. I made some friends on the boat and decided maybe I‘d have to go back and get on the boat to Shanghai again and see if I could find a way to Hong Kong, see if they can find my ticket. I went to see these friends and they said, “Don’t go back to China. Stay here and look for a job.”
I looked for English teaching jobs or anything I could. I found an English newspaper that talked about how day workers live. These are the worst, most downcast people of Japan. This is in Osaka and they live in the area where the Yakuza are.
And that’s where you went to work? Sounds a little scary.
The Yakuza never bothered me. They all had tattoos on their bodies. But many trucks come to this train station to pick up people to do work for them. So you must stand there and hope someone will ask you to go out and work for them. Since I was the only white person there, everyone wanted me to work with them. It seems that if they work with me since they are the lowest class in Japan, that I raise their class up. It is funny.
What did you do?
Every job was different. One job I had to go out and tear down old buildings. This day we had to tear down a house. The man pointed to a fence and tried to get the idea of pulling down the fence. There was a rope at my feet. He turned and walked away. I picked up the rope and made a lasso like a cowboy, I started swinging the lasso round and round and threw it to the fence. He suddenly turned and saw the rope go past him. He looked so surprised. Next everyone wanted me to teach them how to throw a lasso.
There were no communication problems, considering the language barrier and your hearing issue?
My having a deft left ear drives people nuts, because they have to turn to get what I say and they hate to repeat it. [But] in Japan I have never been hit by anyone there about my hearing, and I was there four years. So it was a joy to be there without someone always making a comment about my hearing. Even if they knew I couldn’t hear well they would never say anything, but the Westerner never does this. It’s like I must be punished the rest of my life because of a motorcycle accident and they aren’t willing to let me forget it.
Well it worked out in your favor in the end, didn’t it?
I took my album around Hollywood. I let some record companies look at it. They would do a quick few seconds check of each track and hand it back and say they are not interested without ever hearing the high voice. I learned they are only interested in pushing sex or protest songs and I already saw with the few protest songs I made to try to be like some artist who comes up with the strangest wording I’ve ever heard was not so easy for me. But I did learn how to make newer, unique, very cleverly written songs that had meaning to life rather than a kind of protest, but I felt the record companies were only interested in trash and a bunch of freaks on stage slamming guitars on the ground and throwing chickens to the crowd. I’ve seen this sooooooooo much in the Western world it is like everyone is a screaming individual SO MUCH SO they will do anything like become an African monkey with bones in their noses to get some attention. I found it was totally different in Asia.
Go to an American party and everyone is in competition to dominate the table, and if you try to say something you are immediately cut out of the conversation with the guy who can come up with the more clever communication. I don’t need this … this is NOT communication. He is only communicating to himself, really thinking everyone else is really interested in him. At an Asian party everyone shares the communication and it is fun and easy, not maddening, compulsive, must-have-the-center-of-everything.
I met a producer in Hollywood and he said it is better to sing in a foreign country and become famous because you will be more unique to them and they will be more interested. Most of the famous artists made it in a foreign country. So I was trying to get a base in Asia to try to start new from there, because I saw their movies and I could see they would be more interested in art than sensationalism.
In the stuff on the ESP Disk web site you say you went out of your body at a football game. I'm surprised someone like you would even be interested in activities of your average jock.
My dad sent me to Military school in Hollywood from Utah, believe it or not, to protect his third wife’s little girls from the evils of possibly what they thought would happen with her daughters and my father’s kids too. So I did track and football because it was a six-man football team and I could build up my body. There were no girls there so what else can you do except be mesmerized by some TV?
So after you decided to forgo Hollywood and the US and you made one record, you seriously never checked back to see what happened?
Living on the road was too much and the hippie and 60s were gone… I had to eat. So I was trained in the US Navy to repair computers. I just couldn’t explain to anyone what I knew so I couldn’t get the job. So I found this organization called Scientology and I took a course on how to study. I went to a library and checked out some books on electronics. I knew how the electronics worked. I just couldn’t say the words. So I cleared every word I could find in a week. I went to a company and got a high score on the electronics test and got the job. I still had my plans for music but I decided to just get enough money to go to Europe or Asia and do my music there.
But you need money to do something like that. ESP Disk went broke in 1974. They didn’t restart the company until a couple of years ago so I had no idea that my record was re-issued. I found a guy in Hollywood and he did concerts and he heard the voice and decided to put me along side of Jefferson Airplane in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Utah. Strange. My hometown. He didn’t want to get involved with my seven-year contract with ESP Disk so he wrote the words and I made the music for a single. We got in a studio on the weekend with studio musicians and had the record down with the high voice again. And he had copies printed by Monday, and then I was off to Salt Lake to do the concert. His idea was that [radio station] KCPX covers five states and has been able to get many hit bound records there. So he took this single we made to KCPX and told them to put it on. They said no, they didn’t want to put on such a strange record. He yelled saying, “I gave you all the air promotion of Jefferson Airplane and you won’t put my record on?” He got them to do it.
By late that night KCPX was announcing, “Hit-bound record!” They got so many calls in because of the sound. This man was a promoter and he was also a gigolo and he had two women from Texas who were backing the show. One of them was old and one was young. Somehow they met and one got mad and pulled all her money from the concert and Jefferson Airplane did not pull in enough people and money to cover the concert. My voice shattered the room. It took Jefferson Airplane an hour to get the crowd back after I did that sound. So after this I decided to take that Hollywood producer’s idea and try my music in Asia. Well I didn’t do the high voice that much anymore. It takes a lot of work to keep the throat clear to be able to do it. So now I got to do it all over again …Aaaawwkkkkk any mucous in the throat can keep it from happening. So I took lots of lemons. Wonder if there is another way? Go on an all raw food diet maybe…
These people who hassled you about your hearing, why didn't you just turn to them and tell them you're the Yodeling Astrologer, so go piss off?
People hassle me everywhere I go. My boss, my friends, if they talk to me from the left side I can’t hear them. So they think I am ignoring them. If I tell them I can’t hear in my left ear they start yelling at me and that is worse … You don’t know what it is like. But people get the idea you are just “NOT THERE” … like maybe I’m in some other world because they can’t get my attention. It is hell. As for Yodeling Astrologer, this is the first time I heard they called me that. Weird. I am not an astrologer.
You go by Mij. Where'd that come from?
Mij is [my real name] spelled backwards. It is a mirror. This is a Tarot card, the Fool. I picked that card because of its translation, which you can read about … the prince of the other world on his travels through this one … the spirit in search of experience…. But it also symbolizes what I thought the Beatles were talking about in their song “Fool on a Hill,” which is like the sage or Buddhist or someone in search for truth or enlightenment. Everyone sees him as a fool but his wisdom is infinite.
If you feel such a kinship with that card, why not call yourself the Yodeling Fool? Maybe that'll be for your next record...
My voice is not a yodel. It is just a second falsetto range and like in a flute range but much stronger. We have to call it what it is—a Martian love call because NO ONE ON THE PLANET CAN DO IT BUT ME! Ha! And I should translate those words I made up in the Grok song to mean something like, “love is everywhere … can you feel it?” and just say it is from the Martian language. Ha!
What would you say to people who'd say you sound like a lunatic?
I play the fool … because it also protects me. Some people can’t have it. So I know they won’t believe me … so it is a waste to try to convince them. So if I have to, I just suddenly say, “Oh, I was just kidding.”
Mij - "Grok (Martian Love Call)"