Singer, songwriter, rockstar, recording artist, writer, author, activist, thinker, anti-populist blogger, and general raconteur Ed Hale is a hard man to keep up with. Affectionately called “the Ambassador” by friends and fans, Hale was originally introduced to the world at the age of 17 as Eddie Darling upon the release of his debut album entitled EDDIE. He may be best known now as the lead singer and guitarist of the popular Brit-pop/Modern Rock group ED HALE AND THE TRANSCENDENCE; or for his latest hit singles “Scene in San Francisco” and “New Orleans Dreams” — the former blasting up Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Top 30 Chart and staying there for over three months and counting, making Hale the “Most Active Independent Artist and Song” on the chart for sixteen weeks. Both songs are from his latest solo album Ballad On Third Avenue. Hale releases albums and tours, both solo and with his band Ed Hale and The Transcendence, whose newest album, the epic rock-opera/concept album All Your Heroes Become Villains hit stores on November 15th, 2011. His entire catalog is available at music stores and retailers worldwide and everywhere music is sold online including the iTunes Music Store and over two-hundred other outlets such as Amazon.com, Rhapsody, eMusic, LastFM, iLIke, Pandora and Spotify. He is currently signed to Fieldhouse Music/BMG, Cherry Lane Music, and the Dying Van Gogh record label.
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“Still finding myself obsessed with a quiet secret subtle and almost constant gnawing at my insides about the unbearable sadness of how impermanent everything is. Our lifetimes are short here. I remind myself that it is up to me to find meaning while I am here. I try to live my life to its fullest and even then I cannot shake the deep underlying knowing that they are all just moments lived and then soon forgotten. Where is the meaning in that?”
-Ed Hale, from his blog The Transcendence Diaries
Hale takes a break during recording sessions for the new Transcendence album All Your Heroes Become Villains in 2009.
Photo by Gina Rowland.
Watch a portion of the one hour Public Television documentary about Ed Hale and the band Transcendence by Journey of Dreams directed by Diane Doyle.
Ed Hale Artist Bio – Last updated May 25, 2012
If nothing else, Ed Hale is a busy man. He is best known as the singer, songwriter and guitarist from the eclectic Brit-pop/indie rock band Transcendence. He has released eight studio albums over the last ten years, either with the band Transcendence or solo. His newest solo album Ballad on Third Avenue (Dying Van Gogh Records) is a lighter sounding eleven song acoustic-leaning singer/songwriter venture heavy on mood, emotion and lyrics that Hale describes as “whisper-pop.” The style of music on the album sounds reminiscent of Nick Drake, Bright Eyes, Kings of Convenience, Rubber Soul era Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, or Simon and Garfunkel. It was a bold step in a new direction for Hale, who was more well known in the college radio market or the commercial alt-rock radio world.
Ironically the Ballad On Third Avenue album has become the most successful of the singer’s career. Upon its release it debuted at #14 on the CMJ Most Added Chart and stayed in the CMJ Top 200 all summer long. It was named “one of the Best Albums of 2009” by New Times Magazine and continues to enjoy increasing popularity by a succession of hit singles, the latest being “Scene in San Francisco”, which entered the Adult Contemporary Top 30 Chart (as measured by Mediabase) in less than five weeks after its release. Hale’s prior hit single from the album was the delicate acoustic ballad entitled “New Orleans Dreams” which broke into the Top 10 in the Adult Contemporary radio format (FMQB). This was the first time Ed Hale had been in the softer leaning Adult Contemporary radio format, but it does not mean to imply Hale is going soft. On the contrary, many critics have noted that his band’s latest release, the conceptual All Your Heroes Become Villains is one of the heaviest and moodiest of their ten year history.
Over the last two years Hale has been touring the United States and Canada to packed venues and rave reviews in order to promote the new album with a five piece band including two cellists. The new “lush and hushed sound and seated” approach the singer chose for this tour has created an excited and near hypnotic effect on audiences from New York to Vancouver BC. Hale has also been making the rounds in the media as well, doing numerous radio and television interviews in each city he and his band perform in. On top of it he still finds time to make guest appearances at numerous human rights rallies and demonstrations and to travel to remote areas of the world to do volunteer work.
Over the last ten years Ed Hale has been written about, interviewed and reviewed in magazines, webzines, podcasts, blogs, and newspapers all over the world and has toured throughout the United States, Europe, and South America. A darling with music critics for nearly a decade for their unique, passionate, and selfishly eccentric sound and style, Transcendence the band – which is more of a “collective” than a singular rock band strictly speaking – is a highly prolific outfit, though the band was forced into near exile in 2006 due to massive changes in the music business and a legal dispute with their former distributor. This absence created a large backlog of unreleased material which resulted in Hale releasing two new albums at the same time (All Your Heroes Become Villains and Ballad On Third Avenue), as well as still possessing at least five more unreleased albums due to come out in 2012. The long awaited and much touted All Your Heroes Become Villains is enjoying a steady stream of critical acclaim, while the band sits tight on a second new album of rumored garage-rock one-offs entitled The Great Mistake. The two new albums couldn’t sound more different and yet both still oddly sound like the same group. If that weren’t enough, Hale and company are still in the recording studio adding finishing touches to Hale’s new follow up solo album entitled Born to Lose, and the long in the making 24 song two-disc set of Hale’s entitled L’ntrigue de Femme/Finding Francesca. Both are set for release in 2012.
Ed Hale and The Transcendence have been consistently played on over one-thousand college and commercial rock radio stations around the United States, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia and have released five albums in the last ten years: Their world-music meets modern rock debut Rise and Shine, which gave them their first taste of commercial success with the song Better Luck Next Time; their second album Sleep With You which was a major commercial breakthrough for the band yielding three hit singles – Superhero Girl, Vicodin, and Minnie Driver – and climbing to #24 on the Modern Rock Charts in the US; their third album Nothing Is Cohesive – which many claim as their best from the three – was honored as “one of the most important albums of the year” in 2005 by HellFire and featured three popular hit singles – Somebody Killed the DJ, the fan favorite Caetano, and the heart-breaking All This is Beginning To Feel Like An Ending. In 2008 the band released the twelve-song rarities collection The City of Lost Children (named after the French film of the same name). This album featured two never before released but already well-known songs, the MTV favorite Whenever I’m With You – made famous on the Nick and Jessica Simpson reality TV show, and the September 11th tribute song Rebuild America. Songs by Ed Hale and The Transcendence can be heard on a variety of television shows on VH1, MTV, NBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS and in numerous films. They are also well known for their electrifying live performances due to the group possessing some of the most popular and respected musicians in the Miami and New York music scenes.
Hale has also become increasingly well-known for his frank and sometimes outlandish brand of social and political activism — at times showing up at anti-war rallies either sporting his trademark FUCK WAR t-shirt or dressed up like a United States Army General who walks around carrying a United States flag with the words “World We’re Sorry” painted on it. In the last two years Civilian Diplomat was added to his resume’ as his newest title. In 2008 Hale attended a 15 day Peace Delegation to the country of Iran where he and 11 other Americans, including Rolling Stone contributing editor Robert Dreyfuss and writer Larry Beinhart — best known for his books-turned-movies Wag the Dog and Salvation Boulevard– were hand-picked to fly around the country to meet with leading government officials including former President Mohammad Khatami and leading religious clerics and Ayatollahs to discuss ways to improve US/Iranian relations and increase peace between the two countries. The film department at Siena College is currently creating a one hour documentary about Hale’s trip, which he took extensive footage of while there. A few months later Hale appeared at the 2008 United Nations General Assembly Meeting in New York City to attend a private conference with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and leading figures of the US peace movement. Hale is also scheduled to participate in a similar two week peace delegation to Israel/Palestine in the Fall of 2010 with the IFPB organization, as well as tour the country of Pakistan to film a TV documentary focusing on two American-owned schools for girls started there.
Actively involved in volunteer work when time affords, six months before Hale was in Iran he was in a remote village in the center of Ghana on the West Coast of Africa building houses for the native people there made of not much more than mud and clay with Habitat for Humanity. Hale filmed the entire trip and created a documentary about the experience called Going to Ghana, which can be viewed on YouTube, but soon will be able to rent or buy due to a recent deal with Warner Home Video to release his Transcendent Television series. He has also taken similar trips to the city of Cartagena in Colombia, South America for the same purpose, home and community building, with the United Methodist Christ Church of New York City.
Besides music and activism, Hale’s other passion of course is writing. Known for the unyielding frankness and personal nature of his online journals, he has posted daily entries to his online blog, the Transcendence Diaries, under the name “Fishy” for more than ten years running. The “Diaries” feature more than three-thousand pages uploaded since its inception in early 2002. Hale also wrote a guest columnist spot on the Sundance Film Channel’s Website regarding how “green” peace on earth can be. He is also the author of the award-winning screenplay for the road-movie The Tribe Moves to London; and just completed two new books: a memoir-styled pop-culture exploration of contemporary sociology entitled We Are the Revolution: Life in the Age of Personal Expression, and The Casanova Diaries, whose title probably speaks more about its subject matter than the newly married Hale may now be comfortable with. Both books are in the process of being published.
Domestically Hale made two trips to the post-Katrina Gulf Coast helping to rebuild homes in 2006, and locally he works with the New York Mission Society volunteering with underprivileged children from the Bronx and Harlem. He also volunteers with a local Homeless Shelter, a Food Bank, Covenant House, Big Brothers & Sisters, and is a certified Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteer.
Two of Hale’s newest charity projects include the non-profit website www.TuneInTurnOnHelpOut.org which funnels attention, awareness, and monies to some of his favorite notable causes and charities; and www.PeaceWithIran.com, a website that attempts to show a different side of the people and culture of Iran by acting as a vehicle for enlightened journalists and alternative press coverage of Iran. The charity also atempts to expose more Westerners to Iranian culture — similar to what Hale did with the people and culture of Brazil during the early 2000’s upon the release of his Rise and Shine album when he recorded several songs in Portuguese and toured there.
Hale is a member of NARAS (The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), the performing rights organization ASCAP, the International Avatar Network, Amnesty International, International Rescue Coalition, the ACLU, United For Peace and Justice, the ANSWER Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, Smartmeme, Greenpeace, MoveOn.org, Save the Children, Easter Seals, Christ Church United Methodist, and the Christian Children’s Fund.
FAST FACTS AND TRIVIA
Ed Hale is the singer/guitarist in the rock group Ed Hale and The Transcendence along with other members Fernando Perdomo (Dreaming in Stereo) – guitar, Roger Houdaille (Ex Norwegian) – bass, Allan Gabay – keyboards, Bill Sommer- drums, founding members Jon Rose – (Jon Secada, Billy Elliot) piano and keyboards, and Ricardo Mazzi (Tereso, The Tremends) – drums. Other Miami notables who record and perform in the group include Derek Cintron (DC3) – drums, Karen Friedman (Trophy Wife) – background vocals, Matthew Sabatella (Ballad of America) – harmony vocals, Zach Ziskin (Passion Seeds) – guitar, background vocals, special effects, Greg Byers – cello. The band has released five albums to date. Ed Hale has released four solo albums.
Half of the songs on Hale’s new album Ballad On Third Avenue were co-written with young newcomer Tyler Bejoian, notable because Bejoian was fifteen years old at the time the two co-wrote many of the songs. The two started collaborating before Bejoian had reached twelve years of age; their first publicly released song was the controversial Iraq War protest song White House Jihad which can be seen on YouTube. Hale and Bejoian met while they lived in the same apartment building in Manhattan. Hale took the younger Bejoian under his wing as a tutor and older brother figure and the two often got together to talk music, art, politics, film, and literature. Hale often turns to Bejoian for lyrics and collaborates with him on a regular basis.
The song “Caetano” from the Nothing Is Cohesive album Hale wrote as a tribute to the “Tropicalismo”-era Brazilian superstar-singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso. Hale met with Veloso backstage at a concert event in Miami Beach and presented the musical icon with a personally signed copy of the song. Hale claims Caetano Veloso is one of his biggest musical influences and one of the reasons he traveled to Brasil to learn to speak Portuguese.
Music came naturally to Hale at an early age, and perhaps for good reason his family says in many archived interviews, stating that “it’s in his blood”. He is the great-nephew of the famous producer, arranger, and musical conductor Antonio Morelli, conductor and orchestra leader for the Sands Hotel’s infamous Copa Room during the “Rat Pack” years of the fifties and sixties for twenty-five years. Morelli appears on more than three-hundred recorded albums by artists like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin as either producer, arranger, band leader, or musical conductor. His former home is now a registered Historical Landmark in the State of Nevada, the Antonio Morelli House.
Music may have come naturally to Hale who started playing piano at age four inspired by seeing the film Sound of Music for the first time, but one newspaper article claims that Hale got his start in music when his mother spoke with a psychic who suggested that her troubled son was very creative and recommended that she buy him a guitar in order to give him a creative outlet and keep him out of trouble.
Other articles recall the same story and corroborate the “troubled youth” history reporting that Hale was expelled from school for the first time in the first grade (a rare feat if ever there was one), and continued to be expelled throughout his school career having to attend three different high schools in the same town in order to graduate – including a year at a military school. Hale never graduated.
Hale’s first real band post the EDDIE album period, Broken Spectacles – formed with childhood friend (now popular Americana singer) Matthew Sabatella – got their name from the cover of the Yoko Ono album Season of Glass, which featured a photo of the shattered and blood-stained glasses of slain Beatle’s singer John Lennon.
Though Broken Spectacles never became the household name that they seemed destined to be, they did achieve a national buzz in the college radio circuit and especially in the music industry itself. The band’s debut album was engineered and produced by famed producer Brendan O’Brien (Black Crowes, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen). A failed attempt by legendary drummer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Hall and Oates) to produce the band’s second album produced mixed results and was never completed, though Hale has stated it was one of the most important experiences in his musical career. “I think we learned more about making music, about making good music, about what good music is, in those few months working with Jerry Marotta than in all the years before or since. His knowledge of music and how to make it actually sound good and unique and different was just way beyond what we were capable of at that time as players. His influence has been huge on me and how I look at music. He was the first guy I ever met and worked with in person who really lives in that other world where real artists live. Just totally transcendent beyond all the talk and bullshit of most people in the business,” Hale said about working with the famous drummer.
Ed Hale released his first album, Eddie, at the age of 17 on the Alarming Talent record label out of Atlanta Georgia. He was discovered while still in school by music critic-historian and talent agent Murray Silver who wrote the book Great Balls of Fire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story. Silver produced Hale’s first album entitled EDDIE. Hale’s first professional live concert performance was opening for the band REM at the Fox Theatre for 5,000 people. It was after this period as a solo artist that Hale formed the group Broken Spectacles, wanting to be more than just a “pop singer and be in a real rock band”.
After the breakup of Broken Spectacles, Hale toured the east coast as a solo artist doing pick up gigs at coffee houses eventually landing in New York City. While there he recorded 12 demos for SONY Records which were never released. Ten of those demos were eventually remixed and digitally remastered and released on the Acoustic In New York album in 2000. Several of the songs from that disc have since been reworked and recorded on future albums by Hale’s group Transcendence, notably Paris and Bored.
The original band name for Ed Hale’s current group TRANSCENDENCE was Ed Hale and The Troubadours of Transcendence. The group originally had eleven members and was meant to create what Hale was then calling “planet music” – the style that can be heard on the band’s debut album Rise and Shine. Hale and drummer Ricardo Mazzi are the only two original members still in the band today. The name was shortened to Ed Hale and Transcendence for the band’s debut album Rise and Shine released in 2002, and eventually shortened to simply Transcendence by the band’s second album Sleep With You.
The nickname ˜the Ambassador” was given to Hale by long-time friend and video gaming maven Michael Nichols due to Hale’s love of travel and the fact that he speaks six languages. Hale also sings in a variety of languages on his albums — which adds a multi-cultural approach to creating his art that helped first garner his new band Transcendence public attention. Hale attests that it also helps him in his travels as a volunteer, activist, and Civilian Diplomat.
Outspoken social and political activism may also be something that came to Hale naturally. He is the nephew of Eleanor Cutri Smeal (Born 1939) who is considered one of the leading feminists in the United States of the 20th century. She was the only woman to serve as president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) two separate times, once from 1977 to 1982 and again from 1985 to 1987. She was also president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and continued to organize, publicize and promote feminist issues well into the 1990s. A feminist activist, political analyst, lobbyist, and grassroots organizer, Smeal has appeared frequently on television and radio and testified before Congress on women’s issues over the last fifty years, and has organized numerous events around the world and given speeches on the concepts of feminism, equality, and human rights as they pertain to people in and outside of the United States.
Unbeknown to most fans of his music, alongside his music career and activism, Ed Hale is also a fiercely ambitious entrepreneur and businessman who at times comes across as passionate about business and innovation as he does art. Over the years he has founded numerous multi-million dollar companies in his spare time including The Garden of Eden health food stores, which he sold to the GNC Corporation in his mid-twenties, and the international vitamin manufacturing company Ageless Foundation Laboratories which he sold to publicly-traded Naturade Inc in 2005. Obsessed with anti-aging science he developed the UltraMax-HGH line of products which can be found in health food stores all over America today and fourteen other countries. He also has his hands in real estate investment in The Hale Daniel Corporation, founded and presides over the multi-media company Transcendent Media Group – which acts as a record company that is home to artists of various musical styles from rock to Americana to hip hop, a web design firm, and a television production company which co-produces the reality show Transcendent Television. He also owns a clothing line which features 36 different t-shirt designs.
Hale refers to his various forays into business as “a hobby and fun way to express his creativity.” His newest business venture is a company called Optum Consulting, a New York based business consulting firm with team-consultants in different cities all over the world that specializes in corporate and product branding, advertising and marketing, and integrating Web2.0 technologies. The firm helps start-ups and entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies optimize their businesses, helps them run smoother and more efficiently, and bring new products to market.
Hale has been associated with the organization called Star’s Edge International and has taken all of what are called “The Avatar Courses” numerous times since 1994. Though he does not speak about it publicly, Hale is Methodist and is a member of Christ Church United Methodist in New York, NY. He claims to have had several “super-natural spiritual experiences that brought him back to religion after years of professing to be agnostic”. “It isn’t something I personally had a lot to do with. I’ve heard it said that you don’t find God, God finds you,” Hale said in an interview about his conversion. “After some of the things I experienced I decided it was better to stop denying the existence of a God because of my dislike of organized religion and instead explore these other realms or dimensions. I’ve not been sorry for it so far. I’ve found it quite rewarding.”
Ed Hale converted to Islam and took the Muslim name of Haafez in order to marry his current wife, former Microsoft Engineer Nahal Mishel-Ghashghai, in a proper Persian ceremony, and she then immediately converted to Christianity in order to marry Hale in a traditional Christian ceremony. “I don’t see it as that big a deal,” said Hale at the time. “If anything it just shows that true love transcends everything, including what society calls religion. It’s semantics. We both believe in a ‘divine force’ and we both believe in love. So we did what we had to.”
Hale has had his own YouTube channel called TranscendentTV since 2006 where he often videoblogs or posts new songs before they are professionally recorded and released to the public. In 2006 Hale posted ninety-six different videoblogs to YouTube as an experiment to measure what the most popular subjects in Western Culture were. Conclusion: for better or worse, sex sex and sex.
Ed Hale is half English and half Italian. He was estranged from his biological father since the age of three and was raised, along with his younger brother, by a single mother, but reconnected with his father when he was 28 years old.
On his mother’s side, Hale is a descendant of the 17th century Italian Engineer and Mathematician Niccolo Tartaglia – who developed the solution for algebraic cubic equations and is best known for his books on applied mathematics Della Nova Scientia and General Trattato di Numeri et Misure.
Ed Hale is married. He and his wife split their time between their two homes in New York, NY and Seattle, WA.
APPENDIX – Sample Articles about the Author
SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND: ED HALE, MUSIC, & THE MEANING OF IT ALL
by Meera Subramanian
WASHINGTON SQUARE NEWS
New York, NY
August 01, 2005
Ed Hale is warming up over a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts decaf. He talks about, among other things, his weekly schedule (French language lessons one night, kickboxing classes another), his ambitions for a reality television show where he interviews a famous Bishop and other random people, his novel in progress entitled The Cosmos is Great and Large, Darn Right, (“like Huck Finn with superheroes”), and about the Army General’s uniform that hangs in his closet. Dressed in black fitted jeans, a black DKNY shirt, and black boots, he slips easily into the New York City landscape, recently transplanted from his native Florida. His curly, shoulder-length brown hair is pushed back from his face with a pair of dark sunglasses, also DKNY, and his heavy-lidded blue eyes are eager as he talks about everything and everyone that gets him excited, punctuating his explorations with an easy laugh and expressive stretching out of words like “brilll-yant!” This is all on decaf, remember.
But Ed Hale is, by profession, a rock musician. Lead singer of the band originally named Ed Hale and the Troubadours of Transcendence, shortened to Transcendence by fans that filled Miami venues. Singer-songwriter, guitar and keyboard player, Hale’s sound is reminiscent of Bowie, U2, and the Beatles blended with a unique world-beat undercurrent. His music has been described by reviewers alternately as lush, original, bland, well-crafted, perverted, mildly entertaining, and hauntingly familiar yet futuristic.
By no means a music critic, I hear good ole rock ‘n’ roll, heavy on guitars and drums, with a solid driving beat. A few of the tracks on Transcendence’s third album, Nothing is Cohesive, which is being released this month, slow down more than usual and become a dreamy mix — love songs to Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso, or Hale’s own sense of becoming.
Ed Hale is a work-in-progress, a man evolving. It’s easy to forget that music is even Hale’s first passion, what with all his talk about emerging consciousness and revolution. And money. And women. Oh, and religion too. Not necessarily in that order.
He says: “honestly, seriously, everyone thinks I’m thirty,” but the faint lines on his high forehead and smile lines around his mouth reveal a few more years. He’s old enough to have become established as a world renowned musician as well as in other more practical realms. “My non-capitalist days are behind me. I’m a capitalist,” he says off-handedly. “I own companies.” Was it four, or five that he mentioned? Vitamins. Real estate. A record company. “I believe in social responsibility,” he says, but he drives around in a convertible BMW. “I dig that stuff. That’s why we have America. It doesn’t mean that you don’t give.” And he does give. One friend, Kerri Huckabee, remembers learning that Hale was sponsoring kids in need all over the world and cutting checks to numerous churches and charities each Christmas. “He didn’t even mention it. He just does it. We go out to dinner and then drive around town looking for a homeless person to give the leftovers. And then Ed gives them money too. That’s how he is.”
It was in this spirit that Hale sought out protest leaders of the anti-globalist movement when they arrived in Miami in 2003 to oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. He’d watched the 1999 WTO protests on television and been inspired enough to write the song, “The Journey (A Call to Arms)” from the band’s 2002 album Rise and Shine that he describes as a “wake-up call for his generation.” He walked into the makeshift welcome center of the protest movement, where organizers from groups such as United for Peace and Justice, SmartMeme, and the Citizens Trade Council were scrambling with limited resources to organize thousands of people. “I’m wearing shiny pants and my hair’s all coiffed,” Hale recalls. “I said, ‘I want to help you. What do you need?’” He offered the headquarters of TMG Records (one of his companies) for the week, located in one of the buildings he owns. They moved in and set up shop.
“I expect rock stars to be assholes,” explained Patrick Reinsborough of San Francisco-based SmartMeme, “But Ed Hale was quite an angel, and he’s got CDs! He sounds like Bono!” Hale set up the new Media Convergence Center for these total strangers with seven phone lines and Internet access on the spot. “We named the space Transcendence,” said Reinsborough, “an incredible place of calm in the middle of a police state.”
Hooked on street protest, Hale went costume shopping. An Army General’s uniform seemed perfect, and when the Republican National Convention hit New York City, he tucked his long hair under a hat, painted a sign that said “Peace!” on one side and “World – We’re Sorry!” on the other and stood silently, “acting like a fucking pissed off army guy” among the thousands that had gathered.
Raised Catholic by his single mom as she moved him and his brother from town to town in pursuit of work, Hale said, “I lived in sixteen towns before I was eleven.” Now, he explains, “I’m not a believer but I like going to church.” Church is just another place to soak up the nectar of life. “Most people write off religion. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. My soul believes in God, but I don’t, ya know? It’s weird.”
His latest focus is the all-black Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he recently inquired about membership, mainly to avoid having to stand in line with the other white people who come from all over the world to visit the house of worship listed in Frommer’s guides in every language. Emerging from a recent service on a cold winter day, he sums it up: “It gives me juice.”
But getting juiced up in Harlem isn’t enough. When it comes down to it, Hale’s better at squeezing his own juice than drinking up others’. An idea sprang out of his time with the protest organizers in Miami, where he was inspired to organize an impromptu roundtable discussion with all the activist leaders present. He found a filmmaker to record the session, with the idea of posting it on his website (www.transcendence.com) for fans to experience. Then he thought, why not do more of this? Why not take it to television?
For example, what would a rock singer and an Episcopalian Bishop have to talk about? Hale spent a year and a half getting the runaround before he finally landed an interview with the controversial Bishop John Shelby Spong (best-selling author of the book, Why Christians Must Change Or Die). With cameras rolling, Hale and the Bishop ended up talking for five hours in the study of Spong’s New Jersey home, where they covered everything from the state of religion to Hale’s personal theories. (Done with the “Age of Technology,” Hale claims, the “Age of Personal Expression” is next, and with it will come complete human evolution, where mankind becomes humankind. “That’s where we are now, the Personal Expression Age. But who am I to name an age?” he asks with a laugh, but it’s not necessarily a rhetorical question.)
While the Spong interview was years in the making, Ed Hale is just as likely to have as intense a conversation for just as long at, say, a café on the Upper West Side on a Sunday afternoon, where he recently befriended a Metropolitan Opera singer. Kevin Chap, CEO of Polar Productions, describes Hale as a “true social butterfly. It wears off on the people around him… this magic presence he possesses.”
Chap and Hale are transforming the recorded interviews into a pilot for Transcendent Television, which Hale describes as reality TV meets talk show. Chap calls it: “A look at life from the other point of view.”
Whether a studio like 20th Century Fox is willing to pick up a reality television show with people talking, as opposed to undergoing radical plastic surgery or eating worms, has yet to be determined. Chap said, “Ed likes to see the best in human nature. He wanted to bring the hopefulness of humanity back into reality television, but the reality TV business is not necessarily based on that concept. Would people rather watch a baby being born or a car accident? Unfortunately, it’s usually the car accident. Transcendent Television is a brilliant idea though. We will see.”
The Seeking Continues
But for all the flash that Hale portrays – the glossy albums with young naked women, the sunglasses after the sun’s gone down, dropping up to a grand on clothing a week – Chap considers Hale “a stubborn headstrong artist” unwilling to sell out. In an Ink19 review of Rise and Shine, Transcendence’s first album, Hale is accused of just the opposite: “Hale…seems to admit that his brand of cross-cultural consciousness is nothing more than a way to buy hipster credentials and corporate consumer satisfaction.” But Chap contends, “Ed would rather take a loss than compromise his artistic concept.” Whether he is more pure to art than image is hard to tell. “Prostituting my integrity to secure this false celebrity,” he sings on “Bored” from the band’s latest album, Nothing is cohesive.
But really, most people don’t turn seeking into a lifelong quest. Most are quite content to do what needs to be done, settle down to quiet lives (Thoreau would say of quiet desperation) filled with simple pleasures and pastimes. When asked what the meaning of life is, they just shrug or refer to whatever particular religion they belong to for a convenient answer.
Maybe The Transcendence Diaries, Hale’s online blog written under the rubric of The Adventures of Fishy is more honest than Hale intended, when he writes, “Still finding myself obsessed with a quiet secret subtle and almost constant gnawing at my insides about the unbearable sadness of how impermanent everything is. Our lifetimes are short here. I remind myself that it is up to me to find meaning while I am here. I try to live my life to its fullest and even then I cannot shake the deep underlying knowing that they are all just moments lived and then soon forgotten. Where is the meaning in that?”
Meera Subramanian holds an MA from NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism — Journalism. She is the Associate Editor of the literary Quarterly Killing the Buddha and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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