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Axel Mundi Music & Press: A bit about me

Axel Mundi, a veteran of the 1960s and '70s social and literary counterculture in Salt Lake City, and survivor of the '90s Seattle Music Scene, is a musician and writer working from his home studio in southern Utah.

In the early 1970s, in Salt Lake City, he founded Babylon Theatre with Nolan Palmer. An audio dramatic collective that included up to five members, the group performed at literary events in the underground poetry scene, and recorded unique improvised word-plays. Babylon Theatre continued until 1983, in several configurations, migrating from SLC to Southern California to Seattle.

Babylon Theatre 1978

After moving to Seattle in 1982, Axel, a life-long musician, began to study ancient musical traditions and the work of modern composers influenced by them. His interest in meditation led him to develop a style of drone trance music with his bass clarinet, using the low tones to produce altered physical and mental states. In a ritual style he performed this music for individuals and groups, publicly and privately, and occasionally lectured on the subject.

Music lesson circa 1990

This led directly, in the 1990s, to his helping found the trance-rock band, Diamond Fist Werny. Combining his electrified woodwinds with real-time-sample drumming by Tim Soba and Tibeto-Hawaiian surf guitar/vocals by Todd Werny, DFW worked its way up in the local music scene, which was in a world-famous phase due to the rise of the Northwest Grunge rock bands. Although unable to attract a recording deal beyond Seattle, the unique band became one of the city’s most popular club acts. Axel has published a book about the band and the Seattle music scene.

Purchase a copy on the Things to buy page.

Diamond Fist Werny circa 1991
Back Story

Axel and parents

Born in 1952 in California and named by his parents Gregory Alan Stewart, he took the name Axel Mundi for his music persona about the time he met Todd Werny and they formed the band Diamond Fist Werny. It is a variation on the term axis mundi from the field of study known as history of religions, or comparative religion.
From the age of eight, Gregory was trained as a musician--beginning in Hemet, California in a church choir under the well-known choral composer/director Lara Hoggard--

Lara Hoggard

and then in fifth grade taking up study of clarinet under the great Iowa music teacher Kermit Chase. Attaining the level of All-State Band in Utah during high school, Gregory summarily gave it up during college in favor of poetry, prose, and drama.

Later, in his thirties, he returned to his clarinet while studying meditation and spiritual traditions of music. He added bass clarinet, which quickly became his preferred horn. Developing a “deep cleansing” style with the bass, he was offering meditation services and workshops when his partner, Peggy Nomura, introduced him to a musician she had met, Todd Werny. This led to the collaboration by Todd and Axel on a new approach to pop/rock music. The trio Diamond Fist Werny, which included the great drummer, Tim Soba, performed and recorded for nearly ten years.

Although being in a rock band was in itself a rather strange development for a bass clarinet player, Axel has been a rock music lover since an early age.

A parade in downtown Hemet in the early 1960s

Living in the Southern California town of Hemet in the early 1960s, he was a fan of the Beach Boys and other "surf" bands. Then, after the arrival of the Beatles and the rise of FM radio, he became a dedicated pop music fan. In its young days, FM was open and experimental, and all kinds of rock and pop were played together. In the growth of psychedelic, progressive, and acid rock, Axel found a form of music he could claim for his own. Thus, it was natural, a little later, that he should become interested not only in the cross-cultural influences that this music often embraced, but also in that other world’s music itself.

While studying Eastern and European traditions of mysticism and religion, he became immersed in the connection between music and spirituality across the world. This led to an interest in the gamelan music of Indonesia (which had fascinated many of the earlier pioneers of minimalism and other avant-garde Euro-American music). So, in the late 1980s, he studied the playing of gamelan instruments with the Seattle composer, Jarrad Powell, founder of Gamelan Pacifica.

A gamelan set

This study could be said to have led, indirectly, to Axel Mundi’s 1991 recording Slow Gong in which, using his bass clarinet, he attempted to create the effect of a single gong stroke elongated to a degree that would allow for the inner complexities of the tone to be experienced at a meditation level.

During the phenomenal success of Diamond Fist Werny in the Seattle music scene, Axel Mundi was able to undertake several solo performances of experimental electrified bass clarinet work, usually collaborating with the band’s regular video-art accompanist, Julius Brown, in improvised sound and light shows. These events gave him the chance to take his free-form inclinations to the level of art-music.


An early DFW performance (note incense clouds) circa 1991

Leaving the band at the end of the '90s out of frustration with the lack of attention paid to the group by the media, and because of personal problems, Axel’s music was dormant for several years. Finally, after moving in 2007 to a house on Kitsap Peninsula an hour’s ferry ride from Seattle, he began a new phase of musical creativity.

AMM headquarters
AMM in Manette (Bremerton) Washington circa 2015

Axel started recording sound as a young boy. His first equipment, circa 1962, included a portable reel-to-reel with 3-inch spools, and a splicing machine.

Quarter-inch recording tape

Now, in the early 2000s, it is a digital recorder and a computer. His current work combines his love of progressive rock, his lifelong fascination with the recording process (he does his own engineering), and his skill and natural ear for composing. His mission: "Psychedelic music for a new era!"

Recording room
It is said that energy cannot be destroyed. It can change form in nature or be changed by intelligent intervention. It is also said that energy vibrates, and thus is in constant motion. The physical world is perceived by us as being more or less solid, but close examination reveals that all matter is composed of energy vibrating at varying rates to produce apparently separate objects. Our senses have the job of organizing these vibrating forms into manageable units so that we are able to carry on as living organisms. Essentially, we see an illusion for the sake of our sense of individual identity. If we could see the world as it really is, we would not be able to function. Part of the illusion is our own construction which we begin in infancy. Much of it is taught to us by the people and institutions that have been here before us. Our senses of seeing and hearing bring us as close as any part of our physical nature can come to being able to perceive the world as it really is. This is because light and sound are responses of our brains to the vibrating energy that is going on all around and through us. Light is a relatively rapid vibration and sound is a vibration of a much slower sort. Visual art is the human use of light, and Music is the use of sound to announce to the world that we are aware of ourselves and our predicament. What is the predicament? It is that we are vibrating bundles of energy in a multi-dimensional energy sea who must act as if we were actually solid objects in a three-dimensional land. (more to come)