George Sarah was raised in the South Bay and currently resides in the San Fernando Valley, but Santa Monica is where his music thrives. An electronic-based composer and producer, Sarah has been a regular fixture on Westside radio stations like KCRW 89.9 FM and KXLU 88.9 FM, and is a frequent performer at venues like the Temple Bar, where he will be playing this Monday.
“I’m more worried when I play in Echo Park,” he confesses. “But, on the Westside, people show up.”
For Sarah, attention in the 310 grew when KCRW DJ Kevin Lincoln began spinning his compositions. Eventually, other DJs at the station picked up on his work and his “Sonata for Petra” hit the top spot on the station’s weekly charts, an elusive feat for someone with no record label.
Sarah’s musical career began far before the release of this crucial demo CD. Inspired by the harsh sounds of industrial music, he formed the duo Stereotaxic Device as the 1980s segued into the 1990s. After two full-length albums, several West Coast tours and one European tour, the group split. Shortly thereafter, a chance encounter at a rave featuring techno legend Aphex Twin led Sarah down a path to create electronic music that wasn’t necessarily geared for the dance floor. He spent the latter half of the decade as part of THC, a trip-hop outfit who made a few waves with the single “Darjeeling.” He ended the project in 1998 to pursue solo endeavors.
Of these pursuits, Sarah is perhaps best known for his connection to the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After several appearances on the show, he joined forces with Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles, to collaborate on the album Music for Elevators. Released in 2002, the effort has earned a strong cult following.
“I get several emails a day,” says Sarah of the response to this album five years after its release.
Working with collaborators has become second nature for Sarah. Recently, he has joined forces with David J. (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets), Monique Powell (Save Ferris) and Gingger Shankar (The Passion of the Christ); the latter two he met through a performance at the Getty. Perhaps one of his most interesting collaborative efforts, though, is “I Know Trees,” from his latest demo, which features Michael Archuleta, whom Sarah met through a Skirball Center music program, on a customized five-string requinto guitar. Mixing Spanish guitars with Sarah’s grand piano, a rich string section and a dance floor-friendly thump of a beat, the track is indicative of Sarah’s inventive nature.
A primarily self-taught composer, Sarah frequently performs with a string section. In most instances, this is limited to a trio or quartet, although for bigger events the line-up can grow to a string sextet with additional vocalists and other assorted instrumentalists. For his gig at the Temple Bar, Sarah will be joined by two cellists, a violinist and a violist.
“For that space, sometimes it gets a little cramped when you expand,” he explains. “It’s a place to do more of an intimate type of show.”
Check out George Sarah at the Temple Bar on August 27.