Even now, decades after the grittiest Velvet Underground years, with a long-term commitment to tai chi practice and clean living, Lou Reed's latest project is surprising. A meditation album? From the man who told us to "take a walk on the wild side" and growled "heroin, it's my wife and it's my life"?

But devotees need not worry that Reed has strayed into Yanni territory. On "Hudson River Wind Meditations," an album that overflows with electronic and natural sound, there is not a scrap of tinkle nor an ounce of chant. Reed's venture with Sounds True, a label best known for its personal growth CDs, is a hypnotic, multilayered disc that both soothes and wobbles the mind.

The notoriously interview-phobic musician recently opened up to Beliefnet about turning wind into music, how tai chi transformed him, and why he prefers not to give anyone advice about anything.

 Listen to Lou Reed Speak:

The Wind On the Hudson River
His Non-New Age Sound
Centering Yourself
Music to Enrich Experience
Tai Chi, Two Hours a Day
'I Would Never Advise Anybody'
Meditating in New York

Sample Lou Reed's Album:  

Hi, Lou. How are you doing?



How cool.

It is pretty cool.

Do you have a direct line?

I do.

No, I mean to Him.

Oh, to Him.

Or Her.

Sometimes, I think. I heard that you recorded this album for yourself and then shared it with friends and it kind of grew from there.

That's pretty much it. I made it for myself to do certain things. I use it for meditation and tai chi and body work. And I wanted to have some music that I liked. So, I made this for myself. And since then, different--we use it in our tai chi class now. And I have it on usually all the time. It's really nice in the city because it seems to absorb the outside sounds and blend them into something. And that's it.

The album is very spare, but it's also very layered. And there are times where I can actually hear that nice ambient whoosh of the city in it. Was that something that you were consciously thinking about?

Well, on track three, you certainly are hearing the whoosh of the city. On track two, we were hearing that as we did it. And track one, the same thing. So, it's an integral part. It's what I'm hearing as I'm doing things. So, I purposely put on track three, so you could really hear it.

And what kind of instruments were you using?

They're a combination of all kinds of different electronic gadgets.

Was there actual Hudson River wind?

The Wind Over the Hudson River
Oh, yeah, that's real. Oh, God. No, that is not a simulated wind. No, that is the wind. That is the wind off the Hudson that I'm looking at as we speak. It was just a particularly good day to record it because it was whistling, it was so strong.

All of that nature sound came off of one day, in one day?

Yes. Yeah, made a pretty long recording of it. And I got very lucky with the microphone I was using, so.

You made this because you felt like other meditation music wasn't really meeting your needs, it sounds like. What did you feel like you needed that?

His Contemporary Non-New Age Sound
Well, it's not like I'm familiar with everything that's out there. It's just, this isn’t New Agey or anything like that. This is coming from a different place, I think. And it was just--I liked that it was a sound you've never heard before. And that it was from a time you wouldn't hear. It was very contemporary. And that it was a sound you couldn't identify with, so you didn't have to think in that kind of musical term.

Explain what you mean there.

I mean that it freed you from preconceptions--so, music or tempo, this, that or the other thing. It was, I thought, a pretty enabling kind of thing. I hate to use that word, but there it is.

And when you say enabling, you mean conducive to that relaxed or serene state during meditation?

Centering Yourself
I just think it's very, very useful for centering yourself, for experiencing these different kinds of disciplines, be it meditation, body work, tai chi, yoga, whatever. Or I like to just have it going all the time because it makes the outside sounds into a more musical environment.

And what kind of physical or emotional state does it tend to put you in?

Well, that's for me to know and you to find out, isn't it? Hopefully, an alpha state.

Was that the idea? For other people to be put--?

Yeah. The idea is to make things better, to make things more beautiful, have more access, be able to ground yourself, be able to experience something in a more agreeable environment.

I read somewhere that you asked your tai chi master for his approval for this album. Is that true?

No. I mean, this music is also useful for doing tai chi forms slow and fast. And we tried it in class in that sense. But, it certainly didn't need his approval for these other applications. But it's a moot point because he loves it.

What did he say when he first heard it?

Very much in favor. Very much liked it. We used them. We used two of them in class.