Archive for the ‘Steve Roach’ Category
Celebrating Timothy Leary’s 100th birthday, Projekt’s Sam Rosenthal collaborated with the label’s electronic artists (Steve Roach, Erik Wøllo, Mark Seelig, Forrest Fang, theAdelaidean, Jarguna and others) to create Tim, where are you now? Interspersed within the music are trip narrations based on Timothy Leary’s writing, read by Alex Cox (director of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy), Rick Doblin (executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), Reggie Watts (bandleader on CBS’ The Late Late Show with James Corden), Lee Ranaldo (founder and guitarist of Sonic Youth) and others.
Sam talks about the album…
Q — With the music and the album, what are you trying to evoke? How do you want people to listen and engage with the music? What are you trying to show them?
Sam — Well, first it’s a listening experience. It’s music — new sounds and new spaces. The narrators read short scripts that float within the music. The trips come from Leary’s writing. He’s question reality — Is this thing that seems to us to be so firm and inviolable actually real? Is this actually what it appears to be?
Leary wrote in 1968, “…since that first LSD trip, it remains impossible for me to return to the life I led before, unable to take myself, my mind, and the social world around me as seriously.”
Q — How did you gather these musicians and readers?
Sam — I asked Projekt musicians to send me sources to work from. I wasn’t looking for finished tracks, this wasn’t a compilation album. I asked artists for bits of music, perhaps unused individual instrument tracks from their projects. My idea was to compost those sources and make new music. I’d listen to their source, see what ideas it brought up, which portions I’d like to focus on, what sort of song it inspired me to create. I might use an 8 second bit of their source and loop it, or a longer segment as a texture to build upon.
While these songs are collaborations, the structuring, editing, processing was my contribution; I also add my electronics here or there where a texture is needed. On some tracks, I’d get a structure for the song flowing and then go to a specific musician with an idea for a part they could add on top, such as Erik Wøllo’s driving electric guitar part on “Reality-tunnel,” or Ryan Lum’s bossa nova-flavored guitar part on “PSY PHI love means High Fidelity.” Or Steve Roach’s drone in the 2nd half of “Reality-tunnel.” I sensed that area needed some low-end support, and I knew Steve was the magic man to give it the texture it required.
The other track I created with Steve was “Molecular symbol, thinking” which is very abstract and spacey. Steve being ever-prolific sent me a gigabyte of great source material to work from. All of it really lovely. This source stood out because it was oblique, with a psychedelic spaciousness. I edited out some of the places where it took form, to keep it on an abstract level. Listening to Steve’s track, I envision my thoughts drifting away like a train on a swirling track heading off into deep space, the cars growing further and further apart as the packets of thoughts begin to distort and lose their connection and form. It created exactly what I wanted to occur at that point in the album. About two and a half minutes into the piece I laid in a little bit of Erik Wøllo’s processed electric guitar textures — painting with their sounds. I didn’t worry about BPM, or even what key the pieces were in. It was just a question of, “Do these elements sound good together?” Then another minute in I’m playing a short 4-note pattern, giving a bit of earth under your feet. At the end I brush in a bit of Jarguna’s modular synthesizer textures to add some sparkle as the track comes to a finish.
For the narrators, I was looking for marquee names to help spread Leary’s words out further. I sent a ton of emails, asking agents, contacting friends to see who they knew who might be interested. The first on board was Alex Cox, followed by Lee Ranaldo. Hearing them on the finished tracks was exciting! The pieces worked as I had imagined them. Yes! Perfection!
Q — What is your definition of a “trip?”
Sam — Speaking with people at Portland Psychedelic Society meet-ups (pre-pandemic, of course), I know there are all kinds of trips. Some are purely body, energetic experiences. Some are purely visual. Aside from an LSD trip when I lived in Los Angeles in the 90s, I hadn’t done any psychedelics until 5 years ago, when I accidentally discovered that I easily trip on edible THC. For me, trips are very hallucinogenic with experiences that feel absolutely real in the moment. Visuals, sounds, emotions. A single trip contains hundreds of short vignettes, many are past-life experiences. I am there as the observer, and those observed. I rotate consciousness through the people in the scene, often overlaid at once.
Timothy Leary and Stanislav Grof both came to psychedelics from the therapeutic angle: guiding subjects via psychedelic-therapy in a safe environment with attention to set and setting. Grof speaks of our internal healer who knows what we need at that moment; our trip is directed by that knowing. I am very much of the mind that psychedelics have great therapeutic benefits. MAPS.org is proving this with the success of their FDA-approved MDMA trials for PTSD. Psychedelics are also helpful for addiction, depression, and end-of-life anxiety (Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS, reads one of the trips in the digital bonus material.)
Of his first psilocybin experience, Leary later said, “I learned more about my brain and its possibilities and more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than I had in the preceding fifteen years of studying and doing research in psychology.” Progress and connections can be made during a trip that cannot be made in talk-therapy. When the mind is free to wander outside of the ruts, interesting new answers that were not previously available are found.
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The new chapter of sonic tribe gatherings continues on planet earth – 2020 style. This Saturday, Steve Roach presents his second livestream Timehouse concert. The set is going high and deep. Get your food and drink ready and plan for an extended set!
This Saturday, Steve brings you an ultra-intimate concert stream on both YouTube and Facebook. This is the first in a series of concerts from the Timeroom. 🌀 After the show, Steve will host a Q & A. Until the world opens back up for in-person performances, gather with us online to experience the soundworlds of Steve Roach …up close and personal.
Saturday August 22, 2020 7pm AZ & Pacific / 10pm Eastern / 2am GMT (August 23)Watch it on youTube.
“A Soul Ascends is important because it reaches the giddy creative heights of Steve’s other ambient masterwork Structures from Silence. But it is even more important because it is< new classical music for these troubled times.” – Overgrown Path
Steve was interviewed on Tucson’s NPR station about the healing power of sound and his new album A Soul Ascends created as a final farewell to his mother. Alisa Ivanitskaya discusses the philosophy shaping Steve’s music. Stream the interview on Arizona Spotlight, from 15:10 – 26:15.
A majestic, deeply moving sonic suspension drawn from the essence of Steve Roach’s visionary ambient/electronic music. A vast and intimate holding-the-space of heart-centered serenity and compassion, the album couples the body to the eternal flow of a vaporizing weightlessness — back to a divine nothingness, the Tabula Rasa where everything began.
“…slowly morphing and breathing as it goes forward in an unstoppable quest for inward tranquility.”
A review from Exposé by Peter Thelan:
In the four decades that Steve Roach has been making music, he has released close to 150 albums, both solo and in collaboration, maybe even more that I’m not aware of, and each new release has some vestigial connection to all that have gone before it, while also adding new elements that take on new directions – sometimes the changes are bold and sometimes incremental, and even other times reach back even further to elaborate on ideas that were committed to the lost and found, to be worked further, branched out and blossomed into new ideas. That may be the case with A Soul Ascends, which seems to draw on energies and emotions going back to some of his earliest works, calling forth several of the expansive and spacious works from the mid-1980s, with a new glowing warmth that establishes a certain mark of the present. A Soul Ascends, by its title seems to have a connection to some personal loss, but that’s not something that is enforced on the listener; in fact on its surface the music here is quite beautiful and angelic, slowly morphing and breathing as it goes forward in an unstoppable quest for inward tranquility. It consists of three extended movements; the first is the longest at just over thirty minutes, “The Radiant Return” moves patterns of successive colors, shades, shadows and brilliance slowly across a floating sonic canvas, where deep textures and soaring brilliances meet and overlap, like filters that interchangeably obscure and colorize the light of the sun, moon or stars. The second movement “In Present Space” is similar to the first, though at about half its length, continuing at roughly the same glacial pace, but occasionally fades to complete blackness. The third and final movement “Reflection In Ascension” is another long one, opening up some new textures via subtle sequences blending with the slow-morphing sounds introduced in the earlier movements. Like many of Roach’s works, one might get some extended mileage by putting this on in end-to-end repeat mode for an all day or all night marathon.
Steve Roach is a leading American pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, helping shape it into what it is today. Grammy nominated in 2018 and 2019 consecutively, his career spans four decades and nearly 150 releases. Capturing peak moments, he creates a sonic experience that breathes emotion and vital life energy that connects to an ever-growing worldwide audience.Steve’s NYC show has been postponed. Announcement here
Steve Roach Live @ Ambient.Church in New York City, Saturday, March 28 2020 St. George’s Episcopal Church, 209 East 16th Street at Rutherford Place | Purchase Tickets Steve Roach’s first ever New York City show will be a spectacular immersive live “Ambient Church” concert at St. George’s Episcopal Church.
Ambient Church is a nomadic experiential event series dedicated to working with artists to bring new ecologies to architecturally unique spaces through transcendent audio and visual performance.
On this long-awaited evening, American synthesist and undisputed master of electronic music, Steve Roach takes us on a 2-hour journey, featuring work spanning his 40-year career including Dreamtime Return (1988), performed in a 1100-capacity church in Gramercy Park.
Steve Roach Q&A @ Come Together Record Fair in Queens, NY, Sunday, March 29 2020 MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101. MoMA PS1 and iconic record shop Other Music present the fourth annual Come Together: Record Fair and Music Festival, offering a record fair featuring recent and rare releases, merchandise, and ephemera from more than 75 record labels and other vendors. Steve will do a Q&A at 3pm. Purchase Tickets
Past Steve Roach Concerts | 2020
Steve Roach Live @ Electro Bloom in Tucson, Wednesday, February 12 2020 Following his finale performance at 2019’s All Souls Weekend, Grammy-nominated ambient/electronic pioneer Steve Roach returns for an intimate 45-minute “Deep End” immersive set Wednesday February 12 at at Electro Bloom @ Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E Toole Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701. Details and tickets | Facebook event page. This set will stream live on SomaFM Deep Space One
Steve Roach Live @ PVCC in Phoenix, Friday, February 7 2020 The Phoenix Synthesizer Festival at Paradise Valley Community College. PVCC Center for the performing arts, Mainstage 7:30pm. 18401 N. 32nd Street. General Admission. Full details and tickets | Facebook Event Page. Watch a stream of the entire show from Francisco Mendez Livestream link on Facebook.
Past Steve Roach Concerts | 2019
All Souls Weekend in Tucson AZ Saturday November 2 – Tucson, AZ – Night of the Living – full concert at MSA Annex outdoor festival venue Sunday November 3 – Tucson, AZ – All Souls Procession performing the ceremony finale Details at: allsoulsprocession.org/
Not able to make it to Tucson? Fear not! We have a busy weekend of streaming for you!
Saturday November 2
8—> 10pm PT (starts at 11p ET / Sun 0300 GMT) • Steve Roach live concert from All Souls’ Night of the Living Fest (Tucson) on SomaFM Deep Space One or “SomaFM Deep Space One” in your radio app.
Sunday November 3
5—> 6:30pm PT • SomaFM Deep Space One Trance Archeology album premiere
8pm—>? MST • Steve Roach’s All Souls finale livestreamed on Vimeo (streaming begins at 7pm, Steve’s set time approximate based on progress of procession)
9—> 11pm MST • Sam Rosenthal (of Black Tape For A Blue Girl & Projekt) interviewed on Amelia Poe Love Show on Tucson's 99.1 FM Downtown Radio.
Saturday Nov 2 – Night of the Living – full concert at MSA Annex outdoor festival venue Gates open at 5pm, two opening acts, Steve 8-10pm. Purchase tickets. Not in Tucson? SomaFM broadcasts this concert at 8pm PT / 11pm ET (Sun 0300 GMT) on Deep Space One.
Watch the full 2-hour concert on youTube.
Sunday Nov 3 – All Souls Procession performing the ceremony finale Procession begins 6pm. Steve’s set time based on progress of procession, approximately 8pm Mountain Standard Time
Watch a 40-minute multi-camera video of Steve calling in the spirits during Sunday’s finale (cue in 31 minutes to the beginning of Steve’s set) restream on Vimeo.
Steve Roach presents a 2-hour concert the night before at MSA Annex outdoor festival venue in downtown Tucson. And performs the ceremony finale at Tucson’s All Souls Procession on Sunday November 3.
The All Souls Procession Weekend enters it’s 30th year as one of North America’s most inclusive and authentic public ceremony. The entire All Souls Weekend is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones and ancestors on the other side. Today well over 150,000 participants gather on the streets of downtown Tucson for a two-mile long human-powered procession that ends in the ceremonial burning of a large Urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes for those who have passed.
Myriad altars, performers, installation art, and creatives of all kinds collaborate for almost half the year to prepare their offerings for this amazing event. The All Souls Procession, and now the entire All Souls Weekend, is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones and ancestors.
On Saturday the 2nd, Steve will be featured as a headlining artist at Night of the Living Fest at the MSA Annex, with a special two-hour set and album release party. On Sunday the 3rd, Steve performs an amazing soundscape for the finale of this 30th Annual Ceremony, which is free for all to attend.
September 21 & 22 : Steve Roach in Santa Fe, NM Paradiso 903 Early St.; Santa Fe NM 87508 Doors at 7, show at 8
Experience the full spectrum of Steve’s work including material from his new releases. At Saturday’s concert, Steve is joined by fellow electronic innovator and collaborator Michael Stearns (Kiva, Desert Solitaire) and didgeridoo master Rob Thomas (Inlakesh and Monuments of Ecstasy). Steve’s Sunday concert moves into the deep end of pure sonic immersion and sacred spaces.
(Photo credit: Brian Sweeny)
Steve Roach returns to Los Angeles for a spectacular immersive live “Ambient Church” concert at First United Methodist Church of Pasadena. Order tickets
Venue address: 498 E Colorado Blvd; Pasadena, CA 91101 7pm Doors; 8pm Show
Ambient Church is a nomadic experiential event series dedicated to working with artists to bring new ecologies to architecturally unique spaces through transcendent audio and visual performance.
On this long-awaited evening, we are thrilled to present Grammy-nominated, pioneering American synthesist and undisputed master of electronic music, Steve Roach. Steve takes us on a 2-hour journey, featuring work spanning his 40-year career including Dreamtime Return (1988), performed in a 132-year-old church in Pasadena.
Steve reflects, “I am currently in the deep end of prepping my set for the Pasadena concert — my live return to Los Angeles. The energy is building as the memories of coming back to where it all started — Los Angeles in the 80s — adds to the excitement. For this performance, the wide dynamic range of my work will be experienced, including portions of 1988’s Dreamtime Return. The church’s large concert hall environment significantly adds to the anticipation of performing in Los Angeles; that’s combined with knowing friends-of-the-music from as far way as France are coming in for the set. It all adds up to a special moment in time.”
Throughout the performance, the space will come alive with immersive, architecturally-mapped projections.
Saturday August 31 : Steve Roach meet-n-greet in Pomona
1pm-5pm. Meet & Greet at Noisebug, including a collective exploration of the legendary Moog IIIP Syntheseizer. Steve says, “I’m looking forward to meeting old and new friends at a fun afternoon gathering at my favorite gotta-have-it-now synth shop.”
Noisebug is an independent online electronic music store, synthesizer showroom and event space located in the Downtown Pomona Arts District. 252a South Main Street; Pomona, CA 91766.Links: Steve Roach bio | Steve Roach press image download gallery
Projekt’s Sam Rosenthal edited a montage of Steve Roach creating in the studio set to the track “Synesthete” from BLOOM ASCENSION — watch at youTube.
From a review at All Music: “The entire LP sounds impeccable, with every minute detail sounding clear and distinct, constantly massaging the soul and inspiring the imagination.” Purchase CD or LP from the Projekt website.
A wide selection of Steve Roach’s passionate & powerful electronic ambient CDs are on sale — just $5 for single discs & $10 for doubles or triples! Special pricing limited to one week. (Bonus good news: Projekt pays Steve and his collaborators full royalties on these items.) We’ve got so much great music in the warehouse; we’d much rather it lived in your CD player where it can be enjoyed!! Pick through the bins and take home some great music today
Steve Roach LIVE
info on all upcoming concerts on this page of the Projekt website
Steve Roach is headed out to Santa Fe for his two concerts at Paradiso this weekend. On Saturday Steve is joined by fellow electronic innovator and collaborator Michael Stearns (Kiva, Desert Solitaire) and didgeridoo master Rob Thomas (Inlakesh and Monuments of Ecstasy.)
Steve's recent concerts are intense, intimate, immersive and stunning. From ethereal segments off "Structures from Silence," to not-yet-released driving analog sequencer pieces, to tracks from his latest releases and from the classic Dreamtime Return, Steve's set is a 2-hour career-spanning immersion in the realms of electronic music. As I type this, I am listening to this youTube video with excerpts from Steve's recent Pasadena Ambient Church concert. It's incredible — the intensity and focus Steve brings as he crafts a stellar flow of music, taking us on a journey of sound all in real time with real instruments!
A not-to-be-overlooked aspect of Steve's concerts is the community of fans who gather for the event. People fly from Europe — as well as from around the country — to be there. It cool hanging out with people I met at previous concerts, as well as making new friends. I try to get to town a day early, settle in, hang out, find the local brewery or taco truck. Mercy and I had a nice berry pie for breakfast the day of the Pasadena show, walked by the space where the '92-'95 Projekt office was located (the building is gone now), and celebrated their birthday with cupcakes! It's so worth it! Taking some time out of our busy life to do something different, fun, new! Experience some of what life has to offer!
It's also interesting spending time with friends who've gotten involved as facilitators with Plant Medicine and Technologies of the Sacred. Last time we met, they were in rock n roll bands, now they're helping people journey and heal from past trauma. Great to see people doing this work — our society needs more understanding, pain relief, and consciousness enhancements.
I'm flying with Mercy to Tucson for the November concerts, which are part of the All Souls Procession — a weekend-long celebration that incorporated many diverse cultural traditions with the common goal of honoring and remembering the deceased. The weekend culminates on Sunday November 3 with Steve's performance at the finale ceremony, with as many as 100,000 people coming off the parade route and crowding the streets for the event. The day before — Saturday the 2nd — Steve performs a full concert at MSA Annex outdoor festival venue.
Tucson, here we come! I've got our room booked at the 100-year-old Hotel Congress, the designated hotel. It can get loud at the Congress, it's an old building right in the middle of a hopping dance-club-filled downtown. It's a great space though, nice restaurant and five bars — worth the noise. I stay there every time I visit Tucson. I hope some of you make it out to this once in a lifetime weekend. Drop me a line if you're going, so we can say Hi in person!New York City 2020 Exciting news! Steve confirmed his first ever New York City show; tickets now on sale. It's an Ambient Church concert on March 28, 2020, in the beautiful St. George’s Episcopal Church off Stuyvesant Squark Park, between the Gramercy Park and East Village parts of town. I expect I'll be there too. It will be nice to visit the city after being away for a few years. video for “Synesthete” from BLOOM ASCENSION
Projekt’s Sam Rosenthal edited a montage of Steve Roach creating in the studio set to the track “Synesthete” from BLOOM ASCENSION — watch at youTube.
Artist interview > 2017
Unfortunately, the Red Bull Music Academy website is shutting down. We didn’t want to lose Ned Raggett’s in depth March 10, 2017 Steve Roach interview. We’re archiving it here on the Projekt site for posterity….
Synth Musician Steve Roach on Tapping into Currents of SoundA master of meditative soundscapes shares his creative philosophies
Following his enthusiastic interest in experimental electronic and progressive music as a young man in California in the 1970s, Steve Roach now stands as one of the core figures in the open-ended field. His daunting, astonishingly rich catalog of albums, covering solo work as well as a multitude of collaborations, ranges from cold, grim sequencer voyages through blackest space to warm, bright evocations of vast landscapes, often inspired by the Arizona desert where he and his family have made their home for decades.
While his landmark 1984 release Structures from Silence has received due praise in recent years, any number of other releases deserve recognition. His one-off collaboration with guitarist Roger King, 1998’s Dust to Dust, captures an eerily beautiful sensibility of the high desert, while the multi-volume Immersion series from the mid-2000s explores a series of detailed and sublime compositions measuring hours in length. A contrast can be found in 2012’s Back To Life, which is just as immersive but likewise feels free and open, a movement through space as much as time.
In February 2017, Roach released his latest effort, The Passing, an hour-long composition that was completed and made public on his 62nd birthday. In this career-spanning interview, Roach discusses his creative background and writing process, questions of time and language that persist in his work and advice for younger artists in the field.
photo: Adam Fleishman
If we could start with the creative impulse – what, where and when was your first sense of a particular creative or artistic accomplishment that you did in any field?
Before music I was drawn towards using my hands and painting, some sculpting and working with material. The compulsion to make something from nothing, I would say when I was a young teenager, became really at the forefront for me in terms of what I was drawn towards. I was starting to paint on my own and work with that kind of spontaneous expression with color and shape and form, in a nontraditional, completely freeform environment. I wasn’t taking classes or being instructed by anyone, I was just following these inner impulses to create something expressive.
At that time, I would say it was quite connected to a lot of time I was spending in the desert areas of Southern California, out beyond San Diego and the Anza-Borrego desert. There was something there that really opened up doors for me of this kind of space and this kind of creative process that seemed almost like a birthright, like something I was discovering through that process of doing it. Certainly early music from the early days inspired me – the early progressive music, the early music from the Berlin school, Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream and early electronic music, Pink Floyd of course. The longer tracks, and tracks that had no vocals and were more what you would think of as sound paintings at that time, were already lighting me up in those ways.
(That was) setting the stage for when I then would first find an affordable portable synthesizer in the late ’70s. That would have been the ARP 2600, the first full-blown synthesizer that I saw in a local store, and combined with hearing the music from Europe, that whole progression became so powerful, so appealing and almost compulsive that I had to have it – to start shifting that sense of painting and shaping and working from abstract forms into forms that seemed more architectural, but formed and shaped in a way that I was almost tasting and seeing in visual form.
I had a lot of the aspects of the arts from a painting and sculpting state of mind, but sound – once I got my hands on those instruments, it was like I already knew the process. I had this sense of, “I know how to do this.” So I continued through my own process of teaching myself how to work with it, just a classic woodshedding story where you lock yourself in your little space for as many hours of the day or night that you could.
You’ve spoken in other interviews in some detail about tactile creation via your chosen instruments. Could you say a little more about the sense of physical approach and how you contrast it with what might be less fulfilling approaches?
It’s interesting, because I was just looking at some soft synth instruments that I was looking to explore, and I’m basically 99.9 percent a hardware instrument composer of electronic music. They have knobs and sliders and there’s a feel to them, they have a whole particular unique combination of aspects to them that you can identify with the same way a guitarist might identify with a Telecaster or a Stratocaster or whatever different guitar you’re drawn to.
But beyond all that would be the sound itself, the quality that one synthesizer at that time would make over another. The subtlety and the nuance that comes from the analog synthesizer and the analog experience is something that is the throughline through all of my work that exists all the way up to this morning, when I woke up and was carving sounds out on another hardware synth that I’m exploring and working with right now.
That connection to an instrument, where there’s zero latency and you’re not interfacing with what seems like a facsimile of a controller into a computer or something like that – they’re so sophisticated now, I know, and there are so many options there that are off the chart, and there’s a whole universe of comparisons that can be made now. But I tried to do that, and I just keep coming back – the experience of creating just doesn’t have that same kind of engagement and that same kind of flow. It’s just fun. It’s a real experience of just connecting with a synth that’s designed really well, and it has an ergonomic flow, and there’s no screen, and you’re not getting locked into the visual. You can get really lost in visual with the screen tracking everything. Then I find that you start to stop listening or hearing in the same way when you take away that element and you just are working through the sound field, meditating, staring, focusing intently on the space between the speakers with no screen. That’s a powerful place.Just a slight, tiny little adjustment of a few different knobs can make a universe of emotionally engaged difference and perception.
I do use the computer for recording and for arranging and for building my pieces; it’s invaluable. I couldn’t imagine not having a workstation for the nonlinear approach to building these worlds that I do. But in that way, I guess the parallel would be if you’re a filmmaker, then you’re out shooting scenes of things that are happening and you’re capturing performances between actors, you’re capturing light shifting in the afternoon with some occurrence that’s happening there, and you’re completely tuned into that as the experience that you’re capturing.
That’s how I record so much of my music, is more in that context where you’re capturing a living, breathing experience that’s happening right between your very ears and in front of your eyes, and you’re shaping it and carving upon it at the most subtle level that the analog stuff brings, where just a slight, tiny little adjustment of a few different knobs can make a universe of emotionally engaged difference and perception.
So while that’s happening, I’m recording all of this constantly in the studio. A lot of times it’s being recorded as a stereo file. There’ll be maybe 30, 40 tracks up on that board. I have a large analog mixing console to go along with all the different instruments. Then the board itself becomes a palette where the artist mixes his paint. So between the paint-mixing, the levels, the synth, the dialing in and tuning of all these interrelationships between the instruments while they’re running live, then the processing, the reverb, the hands-on aspect of the board itself – I mean, the board is one massive instrument. That’s really another big piece in my music.
For the way I have evolved as an electronic music artist and what remains important to me… To start at the top, the list would be just the emotional impact of the sound, and then right there, almost at the same level, is how you’re extracting it, how you’re tuning into it with your body. If your body’s an instrument, which I feel it is for me – it’s one of the first instruments – then the tools, the surgical tools of sonic surgery, just need to be something that I have this relationship that I’ve also built and developed over almost 40 years. So all of those are important things to stay connected to and to not give up.
How does the conception of time figure into the limitations of recording technology in this sense? You’ve seen everything from the specific limits in terms of how much music can be presented from vinyl to cassettes to CDs to now the theoretically infinite space online presentation can give you. Is there a constant struggle between where and how to draw the lines, or how to act as an editor of your own work?
The dynamic of the listening process, the idea that something is going on too long or not long enough – it’s still completely as vital as ever. Now we have the ability to have basically an eternal space where I can just broadcast it out. Let’s say I’ve set up a station on one of my sites, and I can have music and dronescapes and all that sort of things just going on from here ’til the end of electricity. That’s a world that I really love to live in, this whole immersion world, and the Immersion series I started years ago really grew out of wanting to not leave the sound current. I always connect to this sense that there’s sound running in this current all the time, all around me, and I’m tapping into it, reaching and grabbing a section of it for a while and shaping it and presenting it out into a form that captures a certain limited sense of time.
Somehow the CD became a 74 minute medium, and now through different ways of presenting files, compressed or whatnot, you can have things extend for a long time or, like I say, a live broadcast of something running off into infinity. But the idea of composition and the way I work with time, and the way I work with sonic motifs – when I say “motifs” I’m moving beyond what would be a melody or a harmonic chord structure, but it’s something that’s so prevalent in electronic music, these episodes of sound that become signatures, and they can be completely abstract or completely unique to themselves. But there’s still an aesthetic to them that you can connect to and listen to and engage with. At a certain point you have to know when it’s overstayed its welcome, for example, or when something has made the statement and it needs to shift into the next place, or that sometimes something cannot sustain or breathe long enough to let you settle into the space and let your body engage with it.
There’s a big piece of the music that emerges from body awareness, and there’s the conscious mind awareness, and then there’s the subtle energy awareness of something that can play forever. I would learn early on I would have certain pieces that would be too short, essentially, and I would hear from listeners that it was too short. “I wanted to hear it for another 45 minutes.” [laughs] And I would agree with that in some cases.
But especially in the days when I was moving away from the influences of the European electronic music, I was consciously interested in shortening pieces and making a point and then moving to the next place, and evolving that to where the statement is made within a seven or eight minute space, which would be a shorter time frame when you grew up listening to 30 minute sides of an album.
Eventually I would return to the longer forms, and that’s probably what my preference is now, to have these movements happen within these longer forms to that sense of altering of time, where you’re slowing time down, where you take markers of time out of that space, where you’re in this continuous amniotic fluid and you’re almost floating in a womb-like state that’s not just ‘tape some keys down on a keyboard and then make lunch and come back.’
The sustained drone zone music, if you’re fully engaged with it, there’s a whole thing happening down at a molecular level with that stuff, way down inside, where movement and interaction and layers all work together in the way that, when you see large-scale abstract paintings that have a vibration and a frequency, there’s this compelling, magnetic quality to them that pulls you in and lets you experience yourself outside of normal perception and enhances your perception and expands your boundaries of your perception at the same time.
The new piece I just released called The Passing came together pretty quickly. I like to release a piece or do a concert or do something to mark that moment in time when I happen to have another birthday, and so this one, through Bandcamp, finishes up the thought with your sense of when something goes on too long, or “what’s the timing on it” or “too short.” It’s this theme I created in the mid-’90s for a compilation, and at that time it just felt so truncated and unrealized. It was really like a sketch that normally I wouldn’t have let out into the world. It had so much energy to it and had this emotional resonance to it that felt like it needed to just completely be allowed to breathe and develop. So it took a lot of years later, but that inspired me a few weeks ago just in terms of the emotion in the piece.
Album and song titles, by default, provide a linguistic context to your work that otherwise has no such element, in terms of there not being any lyrics. Do you struggle with the “right” titles for albums or songs, or is it more casual or random or easy than that?
I wish it was casual, random and easy. It is that, sometimes. But it’s still having a title that has a very significant and profound connection to the piece. Let’s say I’m working on a piece that’s come through just from the direct experience of all these different influences that are bringing me into the studio and creating the desire to go in this direction or that direction. It can be spontaneous, it can be completely unconnected to what I thought I was going in to do, but ultimately the titles are so important in the music in terms of the reflection that they can shine upon your perception when you hear the title and then you see the cover and then you hear the music, and then those things can work together for me.
It’s like a door that has three locks on it, and all three of those locks can have even more impact if those words resonate with the feeling in the music and the cover image is also connected congruently to that. So you think of Structures from Silence, or (1988’s) Dreamtime Return, for example, at a certain point the words will start emerging, shaping and carving the album into shape.
If nothing’s come through by the time that I’m at the mastering stage, then I just put full focus on listening, sometimes all afternoon into the evening, and I just keep going deeper and deeper into the place that the music’s taking me without any engagement of technical aspects like EQ or mastering. I’m just listening to it in a way that’s active and stimulating the mythic imagination, let’s say, and letting the music take me to the places that I’m hoping that it takes the listeners to.
Sometimes it takes quite a while to birth the title after the music is complete. I’ll have that discussion with Sam (Rosenthal), who runs Projekt (Records), and we’ve got everything ready – we might even have the album cover ready to go, and there’s no titles on anything. It’s sitting there waiting for that stage. I can take it that far into the birthing process of finding that. But I’ll always have working titles, or usually have working titles or words that convey the feeling. If I’m talking to visual artists, then I’ll use those kinds of descriptions to help draw material through visually. Or else I’ll take photos myself, or do whatever it takes. Really, it’s a complete engagement, and it’s way more complex than I think a lot of people would be aware of from the outside, where they just think, “Well, he’s having fun cranking out some music, and now he’s got this album out.”
Then, the details that go in behind the scenes with the mastering and the subtlety that goes on there – I’m really having some great success working with Howard Givens, who owns the Spotted Peccary label with partners. His whole setup is ultra high-end, analog front-end mastering tools. It’s making a big difference for me. I can hear it and I can see it in the response, also. So between Howard and Sam with that end of the production, we’ve got a great team, and I’m just really grateful to be working with those guys at this point.
If a younger artist in any field approaches you and asks for advice or even a simple suggestion about what to keep in mind for the future, what would be your response?
I would probably first ask them questions about their creative process to get a sense of what it is that they’re drawn to, what they’re aiming to express. Then I would have to ask them if they’re coming to me and they’re interested in what I’m doing, regardless of their age or my age, or just the art form itself. I would share the techniques that we’ve talked about in this interview thus far, and I would talk about their connection to yourself as a person before you approach any instrument or any tool. It’s just getting your intention and your clarity and getting a wide view of what it is you’re wanting to express.
Even if you don’t quite understand it enough to articulate it with words, finding that emotional landscape to draw from, and then trying to stay connected to what really feels right for you, for the artist, rather than being seduced by all the newest, most recent innovations in technology or the flavor-of-the-month stuff. I know it’s quite affordable, and you can build a whole studio’s worth of material inside of a MacBook Pro, but it doesn’t take much to bring in a few hardware pieces that just give you that hands-on subtlety. Really listen and draw from the things that inspire you. It could be musically or non-musically, but find the pulse inside of that.
I just also remind younger listeners when they respond to some of my classic titles like Structures or Dreamtime that those were all created on what would be considered very archaic, very simple equipment at that time. There’s this sense that I wanted to defy the technology all the way along. It really didn’t matter what I was using; I would use things that people would come back around and say, “You used that? To create that? Recorded that on a four-track or a cassette player?” I have a lot of pieces that were recorded on a Nakamichi cassette player, and captured at that level. That’s basically the multifaceted question towards a younger composer of today.