As a retrospective release celebrating the lost years of Chris Simpson (Mineral, The Gloria Record), Mountain Time’s Saint Francis, Zookeeper is out now, featuring the first two Zookeeper releases remastered for vinyl with three, never-before-heard songs included.
The album, out now, comes with a multi-part, YouTube docuseries Mountain Time – The Story of Saint Francis, Zookeeper, documenting the time the music was recorded, the musical phases Simpson was exploring, and the process of creating the music.
The most recent video in the series mentions this is just the tip of the iceberg, with volumes of unheard recordings, multiple takes, alternate versions, unreleased songs, and whole finished albums that have yet to see the light of day.
The video goes on to describe the collection of tracks, “Songs, like stories, exist larger in memory than they do in reality. They often become both more epic or more intimate than anyone recording a performance can suggest. These songs were born with things to do. They came from Chris; they lived with us for a while, but they belonged to everyone—to anyone who wants them, to anyone who needs them, to anyone for whom these songs have become a part of their story, or have let their own story become a part of these songs.”
You can purchase Saint Francis, Zookeeper here and watch the sixth part of the Saint Francis, Zookeeper retrospective video series, “A Street Choir In A Strange Parade” here:
A Street Choir in a Strange Parade by Chris Simpson
People get into music for any number of reasons. I think I was drawn to it initially for the expression. Before I even learned to play an instrument I was filling notebooks with “songs”. Words that told my story in a way I couldn’t in any other medium. Words that sold my soul out. That told my fears and faults. Exposed my heart of hearts. The other aspect of it that drew me in was family.
I grew up on the fantasy of a “band”. A family you could choose. Something deeper than blood. A family you could take out into the world. A family that would “take on” the world together. Mineral and The Gloria Record very much embodied that idea for me. When The Gloria Record ended I felt lost. I knew it was time to do something on my own. Without the safety of a familiar family.
And so Zookeeper would become something more than a family to me. Zookeeper was more like a home. A soul-baring, vision sharing sanctuary of love and acceptance. A home for my deepest truths. A house I built and filled with beautiful, creative, inspiring people and sanctified with work. The work, or the process, was the thing. And whether or not the work was ever “finished” or released was secondary at the time. I truly believed in the righteousness of the process. To be in the flow of ideas, and communion, and expression and documentation, without necessarily being concerned with what comes after that. But there are no unending seasons. The great experience and experiment that was Zookeeper would eventually come to a close. And I would find myself alone in that house again.
In presenting the Story of Saint Francis, Zookeeper I’ve been moved by how much love and passion I’ve remembered. It truly was a magical feeling time. But looking back isn’t all roses. For me, taking stock of those years can’t not include taking stock of what came immediately after them. Knowing where the path I was on at the time eventually led is a burden that has been largely left out of the story. These years of such creative flowering were followed by many of creative impotency and a personal dark hour of the soul, the reverberations of which are still sounding in my life. And yet, through it all, music has been a continued source of salvation for me.
I have said many times that Mountain Time was only a nominal change from Zookeeper. That it was just an old nickname from the Star Seeds days. All true, as far as the body of work and the nickname are concerned. But it is also about a dream I had one night in 2015. I was in Mexico and flying like a bird, soaring in circles around a magnificent mountain. Even in all it’s sun soaked glory, from my winged vantage, I sensed that the mountain was merely beautiful to me. A visual spectacle only. I knew I needed to descend to the ground and climb it if I was ever to know it’s power. It was time. I was simultaneously invigorated by and terrified of what it would entail, and I would turn the dream over in my mind for at least another year before I answered its call. I think the mountain represented sobriety in the dream, but it has come to mean much more to me over time. It has come to represent the idea of surrendering to my true self. Of letting myself be truly and fully human. It is a mountain I am still climbing.
This, more than just the songs and records, has been the legacy and ongoing gift of Zookeeper for me. A rebirth and resurrection that I could feel in my bones at the time we made these records, having no way of knowing what a long time coming it would be. The beginning of a journey I could never have imagined, into the woods in the middle of my life, mistaking it for an end. Mistaking it for a movie. Mistaking it for something merely happening to me. Mistaking it for a dream.
Photo courtesy of Mountain Time