Peter Gabriel - The Apache of San Jacinto
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
A Quietus Interview
An Invasion Of Privacy: Peter Gabriel Interviewed
John Doran , September 19th, 2011 07:05
Early on the album there is 'San Jacinto' which very much suits the orchestral reworking. It's a song that's very rich in imagery and the song, as I understand it, is about the contrast between the initiation ceremony of a Native American and a Ballardian view of the American leisure resort Palm Springs. Can you tell me a bit about the chance encounter that inspired this song.
PG: We were in the Mid West somewhere on tour. We used to drive ourselves and we'd just checked into a motel after a gig. I got chatting to the porter who turned out to be Apache.
He said, 'I'm sorry, my mind isn't really on the job tonight because someone phoned and told me that my apartment's burning down. I don't really care about it but my cat's in there.' I said, 'Why aren't you there?' He said he was working and didn't have any means of getting there, so I drove him. And true enough, when we got there he wasn't bothered about any of his things, just his cat, which really impressed me.
His neighbour had his pet, so that was OK. So then we sat up most of the night and he told me about the initiation into being an Apache brave. There was a warrant out for his arrest on a trumped up murder charge so he'd had to leave Arizona but back when he lived there, each of them at the age of 14 were taken up a mountain with the medicine man who had a Rattlesnake. Once they got to the top, he would take the rattlesnake out and get it to bite the boy, who would then be left to have his visions.
If he made it back down to the village - as most of them did - he was a brave and if he didn't he was dead.
And so many cultures seem to have that custom where the young man, traditionally at least, is forced to face death in some way. And I actually think that in most cultures where death is ever present, they manage to live life more fully as a result.
Later when we were driving through Palm Springs and Arizona we saw the way that the Native American country had been turned into discos and restaurants. There wasn't a whole lot of respect for the real culture there just the commercial aspect of it.
When I started climbing up San Jacinto, I saw these ribbons on the trees and I knew that this was part of an initiation process. This became my little vehicle. I didn't have any visions myself but I had the fantasy of what it might be like and that became the focal point. San Jacinto is a snow capped mountain surrounded by desert and it was once all Native American land.
I wonder if any of the young Native Americans came to the realisation that life was actually four videos running slightly out of sync after getting bitten by a rattlesnake.
PG: Ha ha ha. Yeah.