Archive for the ‘Steve Roach’ Category
by Mike G Electronic and ambient pioneer Steve Roach started creating his music during the late ‘70s golden age of analog synthesizers, a time when the digital variety was only visible on the horizon. So it’s refreshing that an album which continues that hands-on tradition, Spiral Revelation (2017), garnered his first-ever Grammy nomination.* Chosen in the Best New Age Album category, the album is crafted almost entirely with modular and stand-alone synthesizers, its sound grounded in the dynamic, spiraling interweave of melodic and rhythmic sequencer forms.
With its analog leanings, Spiral Revelation sounds utterly contemporary thanks to Roach’s technological sophistication and creative maturity. Yet the bubbling, kinetic melodies point to his origins, making it a natural place to begin the story of how far and wide he has travelled.
* Roach was nominated for a second grammy for Molecules of Motion (2018)
Born 1955 in La Mesa, California, Steve Roach self-released his first solo album in 1982. His early music was part of a wider progressive ambient movement that rose concurrently with new age music on America’s West Coast during the 1970s and peaked in the late ‘80s. Although it often intermingled easily with the best of the early new age genre, Roach’s music has always been created completely on its own terms, essentially defining his own genre. He drew upon his unique perspective, deeply rooted in a connection to the starkly beautiful landscapes and open spaces of the southwestern desert in which he grew up, to pioneer the inherently expansive breathing quality of his early releases.
“My life at that time was purely focused on drawing out an inner voice that had been building over many years: a feeling born from my immersion in the quiet spaces of the desert environment,” Roach reflects. “I could channel this feeling, this expansive atmosphere and blooming inner awareness. I was uncovering and discovering a palpable sense of stillness emanating from a soundcurrent of ‘silence.’”
Today, with a passionately prolific drive, Roach stands among the giants of modern ambient and is one of the most respected electronic musicians in the world. His discography is enormous with well over 100 releases. All of it is “ambient” in a way, but it’s better understood by singling out three major strands in his sound.
Firstly, there is the deep inspiration Roach draws from the German and European electronic space music tradition. You can certainly hear the legacy running throughout his work from Now (1982), Empetus (1986), Skeleton Keys (2015) and most recent Spiral Revelations (2017). There’s a through-line in these releases, where patterned, sequencer-driven music activates the consciousness with an invigorating sense of heightened perception; emotional and mind-expanding spiraling mandalas of sound are made from interwoven tapestries of melody, rhythm, tone and musical space.
A second strand present in Roach’s releases is floating ambience inspired by a sense of environmental space, time-expansion and silence. These diaphanous chords and suspended harmonics were first heard on his meditative masterpiece Structures From Silence (1984). Here and elsewhere in Roach’s rich oeuvre are outstanding examples of the evolving “breathing chords” central to his ongoing quest to humanize the music and release his machines from their mechanical moorings. This extraordinary sense of natural breath is an organic quality not easily realized with synthesizers. Diverse examples can be heard on the 3-CD Quiet Music (1986), the 4-cd opus Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces (2003), running right up through the recent Nostalgia for the Future (2017) and Long Thoughts (2017).
Thirdly, there is an intoxicating tribal-ambient strand that runs deep in Roach’s music. On his recordings from the ‘90s he pioneered this subgenre, a dark electro-acoustic hybrid that today commands a devoted underground following. It all started with the epic Australia-inspired double-LP Dreamtime Return (1988) forged with tribal percussion, warm washes of synthesizer and location recordings of indigenous music and instrument samples. Later on came a number of benchmark collaborations with the shamanic Mexican musician Jorge Reyes such as Earth Island (1994), and his work with percussionist Byron Metcalf on eight releases including The Serpent’s Lair (2000) and Monuments of Ecstasy (2015). It’s dark-edged global exotica enveloped in Roach’s widescreen soundscapes.
At a Steve Roach live experience you might be fortunate enough to hear all these strands in a single show. Roach is an artist in his element on stage; from the very beginning of his career he has presented live electronic music in venues around the world, bringing this sound to life in the present moment with all its complexity, emotion and visionary nature. Roach invites the listener’s adventurous spirit to surrender to the dynamic journey that unwinds with power and grace. Whether it’s large scale shows in cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, or more intimate performances in his hometown of Tucson, it is a remarkable immersive soundworld performed in real time. There is something deeply elemental about it; a sounding of the earth and the cosmos that’s been rendered into tones, visuals, and emotions that can be felt viscerally.
Always reaching towards what’s next on the horizon, Roach refuses to be tied down in any one stylistic direction. His worldwide audience continues to grow, and his innovations continue to inspire new and long-time listeners. Listening to a Steve Roach album, you’re hearing the momentum of a lifetime dedicated to the soundcurrent, an artist operating at the pinnacle of his artform, with dedication, passion and an unbroken focus on creating a personal vision of electronic music. Roach’s hypnotic swirl and kaleidoscopic sounds makes Spiral Revelation unlike anything else nominated for a Grammy this year and quite possibly, any previous year. It’s just one facet of a multi-faceted soundworld that stretches back four decades.
Welcome to the vortex.
• Feature article in the San Diego Union Tribune. • Radio interview on Tucson NPR’s Arizona Spotlight. Edited interview within the show in the top podcast, full interview in the podcast below. • A page on Steve’s upcoming February 2018 live appearance in Tucson, here • Projekt’s original Grammy-nomination post, November 2017 hereExtended Steve Roach interview:
Steve Roach hour-long interview podcast with Echoes. “As he’s just been nominated for a Grammy Award, I thought it would be a good time to talk to Steve Roach, the critically acclaimed electronic music artist who has released over a hundred albums since his debut in 1982. But his 2016 album, Spiral Revelation, is his first ever nomination in his 40 year career. He’s in the New Age category alongside Brian Eno, Kitaro, Peter Kater and inexplicably, India.Arie. Unlike other Echoes Podcasts, this is pretty much a raw interview in which Steve talked about the Grammys, his musical process, and his guilty music pleasure.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sonic innovator Steve Roach received a Grammy Award nomination for his inspired Spiral Revelation release! As one of the original architects of the ambient/electronic genre, Roach’s 40 years of creating genre-defying soundworld experiences immersed with vital life energy and passion has been recognized by the members of the Recording Academy in this Grammy nomination for “Best New Age Album.”
“Spiral Revelation stands out as a true, mind-tripping, trance inducing album. (It’s) a quintessential example of Roach’s sequencer driven oeuvre.” – John Diliberto, Echoes syndicated radio program
The 60th Grammy Awards will be held in New York City on January 28, 2018. For info: grammy.com
An emotional through-line brings life to Spiral Revelation as the unfurling of time’s windings connects to the vivid present, life-affirming and illuminated. The release is a masterful expression of an artist who has infused his soul into the art form of electronic music through years of dedication exploring sound via hands-on synthesis.
Steve Roach is a pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, shaping it into what it is today. The extremely prolific American artist has a discography of over 125 albums. Following his 1982 debut, landmark recordings include Structures from Silence, Dreamtime Return and 2017’s Grammy-nominated Spiral Revelation. Tireless in his creative focus, Roach constantly challenges boundaries in work ranging in style from rhythmic analog sequencer music, pure floating spaces, primordial tribal-ambient and long-form drift ambient. He brings to the table years of dedication and experience exploring sound via hands-on synthesis. With the sense of an artist working in three dimensional space, Steve creates a sonic experience that breathe power, passion and vital life energy.
Spiral Revelations. The sound of life, interconnected and unfurling. The spiral – a visual symbol of eternity – is a reoccurring metaphoric theme in Steve Roach’s pioneering electronic work. Interpreted into musical form, these six spiraling sonic experiences offer a living activation that connects with a sense of the infinite. Roach’s long history and love of analog sequencer-based styles reveal a continuing, evolving awakening within Spiral Revelation’s 63 minutes. Focussing the mind’s ear upon a filigree of intricate patterns woven with a direct hands-on approach, the artist sculpts and caresses sound into being in real time. An emotional through-line brings life to these pieces as the unfurling of time’s windings connects to the vivid present, life-affirming and illuminated. A masterful expression of an artist who has infused his soul into the art form of electronic music.
Projekt is a Portland, Oregon-based independent record label that specializes in electronic, ambient, gothic and darkwave, started by Sam Rosenthal in 1983. Prominent Projekt artists include Rosenthal’s own Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, Eric Wollo, Voltaire and Lycia. With over 350 releases, it is one of America’s longest running independently-owned recording labels specializing in the electronic music genre.Recent press on Steve’s Grammy nomination
musictap.com synthtopia.com Echoes Radio. John Diliberto writes: Steve Roach tops this excellent 2017 Grammy New Age cast. Spiral Revelation stands out as a true, mind-tripping, trance inducing album. Roach has been recording since the early 1980s, he’s approaching 200 releases, and he’s one of the first names mentioned in certain areas of electronic music. But he’s never been nominated for a Grammy award. But this year, through some quirk of coincidence, talent, artistry and persistence, he’s broken in with Spiral Revelation, a quintessential example of Roach’s sequencer driven oeuvre.Downloadable Spiral poster
Download a free 11×17 poster at http://www.projekt.com/Posters/PRO336-Poster.jpg . Print it on your color printer, or at a local printshop. And please email a photo of the poster at work, at home, etc, and we’ll post your photos on Steve’s Facebook Page.
For several months before actually committing the title track “Structures from Silence” to tape, I would live with the music throughout my daily activities. Often I would sleep and wake with the music playing (since it is stored in the computer memory, it can play indefinitely). This gave me the opportunity to fine tune the piece to a very sublime level. At the time I did not listen to any other music. I also spent much time in silence, a beautiful place. Feeling the music move through that space was vital in its development . . . For me the essence of this music is what is felt when it ends, a returning to the silence. Steve Roach, 1984The return to vinyl
Thirty-three years after its release, Structures From Silence returns to its vinyl origins. Steve Roach talks with Ambient Music Guide’s Mike G about the sublimely meditative album’s creation and reflects on this bona fide ambient classic.
With his distinctive mélange of analog and digital synthesizers, acoustic instrumentation and imaginative soundscapes, American composer Steve Roach is a giant in modern ambient music and one of the most respected electronic musicians in the world. Active since the late 1970s, Roach has an enormous discography of solo albums, collaborations and compilations; his range of styles and influence is vast.
1984’s Structures From Silence marked a move away from the sequencer-driven, kinetic Berlin-school trance of his earliest releases toward an album-length foray into beatless ambience. There are just three pieces – all extraordinarily delicate. The slow-motion melodic strains of the 30-minute title track, in particular, breathe with exquisite gentleness.
Roach’s music is part of a wider progressive, electronic-ambient movement that rose concurrently with the new age scene on America’s West Coast during the 1970s and 80s. Initially the pathway to the audience was neither through an artist nor a record label, but a radio show: Music From The Hearts Of Space. This groundbreaking public radio program was founded in 1973 in San Francisco by sound designer, producer and former architect Stephen Hill and the late Anna Turner. In 1983 it went national and is still on the air today. Although it was not the only radio show of its type, its influence and importance cannot be overstated – both its role in the development of American-based electronic artists and the part it played in bringing ambient styles to a wider audience.
By the 1980s this California-based scene was rich with adventurous musicians giving birth to an extraordinary new direction in music. It was within this creative ferment that Structures From Silence was birthed. Roach says, “That time was exciting. All that mattered to me was living inside this soundworld I was discovering and wanting to share with those who were open to it. I was creating from a purely instinctual place; I had no concern of genres or boundaries.”
Structures-era Timeroom Photos by Thomas RonkinOn the air
Radio was the medium of the day and was crucial to the album’s initial success in America. Structures was originally a self-released cassette when it caught Stephen Hill’s attention. He heard the album through his friendship with Michael Stearns and Kevin Braheny, two accomplished West Coast ambient composers who were living near Roach in L.A. at the time and helped him with mastering and spatial enhancements on the album.
“I remember right after it was released in 1984,” Roach says. “Stephen came to my tiny bungalow in L.A. near the MGM film studios – to see what this guy was all about. Those little gingerbread-looking houses were originally built in the 1940s for the workers at MGM a few blocks away. There was a vibrant beehive feeling all around with fellow visual artists, film and music people. My early albums from Now to Empetus were all created in that Timeroom (Roach’s official name for his studio) or perhaps better described as the Timewomb.”
Hill describes the meeting, “I vividly remember visiting him in that bungalow in Culver City, where he was living a monk-like existence. It was a stucco motel-looking place. The main room had been turned into an early Timeroom, with all his equipment set up and purring out fat analog waveforms 24/7. I don’t recall seeing a bed – he was probably sleeping in the studio – but there were two folding wooden chairs so I sat down and he offered me a glass of water. We had everything in common artistically, and we talked for hours.”
Roach laughs on hearing this, “Well if I slept, it was standing up or sitting at the Oberheim. Pretty much the same as now.”
From that encounter, big things grew. “The music was perfect for Hearts of Space,” says Hill, “and we used it on the national radio program immediately. The track ‘Quiet Friend’ became a kind of closing theme song for a while. This was before we started HOS Records, so I recommended he contact Ethan Edgecombe of Fortuna distribution who was building his own label. Ethan put it out right away on vinyl and cassette. That release on Fortuna helped Steve establish himself as an electronic artist to pay attention to. His raw talent and awesome work ethic did the rest.”#10 best album of the 80s! “Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence remains one of the most important ambient albums ever crafted… its enduring influence has been unmistakably visible in the three decades since its release. It has never been more relevant.”
– FACT MagazineBreathing the deep
The pieces on Structures From Silence evolved outside of the direct influence of the 1980s time zone in which it was created.
“My life at that time was purely focussed on drawing out an inner voice that had been building over many years: a feeling born from my immersion in the quiet spaces of the desert environment. My connection to the profound atmosphere of the desert areas of Southern California – Joshua Tree, Anza-Borrego, Death Valley, the Mojave Desert – was essential. I finally had my hands on the tools with which I could channel this feeling, this expansive atmosphere and blooming inner awareness. I was uncovering and discovering a palpable sense of stillness emanating from a soundcurrent of ‘silence.’”
One of the album’s extraordinary qualities is the sense of natural breath in the music, an organic quality not easily realized with synthesizers. These diaphanous chords and suspended harmonics would become the DNA of Roach’s music as he sought to release his machines from their mechanical moorings.
He explains, “I wasn’t hearing this quality in electronic music at that time. With an acoustic instrument you have to be 100% there to make a sound. Traditional instruments draw from the physical body’s interaction. With synthesizers emerging in the 80s, it was clear that you could almost stop breathing, lose the body connection, sit disconnected in a chair, and still manage to make sounds. This realization was a big piece of my entire waking and sleeping focus. I worked to deepen and nourish the connection to the essence of sound, body, mind and breath awareness when creating with synths. This was directly translated into Structures From Silence – conscious breathing, the sigh and the expansion of this place in-between. Creating from within this present moment, and playing that state through the analog warmth of the Oberheim OB8 was a sacrament of sound. The intention was direct and pure.”
The Oberheim OB8 synthesizer – the source of the resonate voice of the title track – had recently been designed and built in nearby Santa Monica, California. The new synth could play up to eight notes at once, making it the gold standard for polyphonic analog synths in the early 1980s. By his own admission Roach became utterly obsessed with owning one. Priced well beyond what the young sonic aspirant could afford from the wages of working at a local record store, he eventually secured the instrument with a very high interest loan. This consequential move would prove to have a long lasting impact in his life’s work.
The OB8 remains in regular use in his studio today. “You can buy a software version of this instrument now, but it’s like comparing a Formica-countertop laminate and a rich exotic wood. You can’t match the original in terms of texture, warmth and emotional impact, not to mention the fact that it’s a beautiful hardware instrument I feel drawn to today, in the same way as in 1983.”“Structures From Silence is like riding the perfect wave in slow motion… as if sculpting liquid, Roach carefully shapes his sounds into a stately crescendo for an eternal dawn.”
– John Diliberto, Echoes RadioThe listeners speak
Structures From Silence is the album that brought Roach’s work to a global audience of listeners, radio broadcasters, fellow composers, music fans and deep listeners alike. The album has been praised over the years by magazines, fanzines, therapists, Yoga practitioners, and medical MDs; it continues to appear in best of polls, often topping current lists of all-time ambient albums. It struck a chord with a diverse cross-cultural audience from varied backgrounds. The epiphanies of Roach’s formative years of inspiration drawn from the desert and nature’s dreamtime found its way indelibly into his work and his unique personal voice. The stories continue to come in from around the world on how the album breathes life with original and new listeners.
In 2014 the Quiet Friends tribute was released with sixteen electronic artists creating Structures-inspired pieces in honor of the album and timed to the remastered 30th Anniversary 3-CD re-issue.Top-40 Best Ambient Albums of All Time “Contemplative bliss, full of purring drones and high notes that shimmer and fade. Like a desert mirage, these structures hover forever at the horizon, an oasis from the din surrounding it.”
– Pitchfork.comThen and now
When asked how he sees the album today in 2017, Roach reflects, “It’s like looking at a picture of home from years past – one of comfort and peace, warmth and safety. The emotional and personal resonance of the pieces remains connected to my core and part of an uninterrupted continuum from that point to now.”
This limited vinyl edition has been remastered at high-definition 24bit – 96kHz and sourced from the master analog reel-to-reel tapes, highlighting all the subtle detail and harmonic content always present in the studio recording but not fully realized in the original vinyl release.
As Echoes radio producer John Diliberto says, “I think the more important aspect is not when I first heard it, but how resonant and undated it sounds 33 years later.”
Whether you were there in the 80s or discovered the album later, Structures From Silence continues to resonate – across time, cultures, and musical genres. In creating the album, Roach infused the music with yearning emotions and a powerful sense of stillness. Like timeless art from any genre, a rarified expression of humanity is present in this work. That, perhaps, is the key to the enduring appeal of Structures From Silence.
Hi…. Projekt no longer prints posters for our new releases; they’re bulky, hard to store and expensive to ship. But I had an idea! With color printers in every office, I’ll make you a downloadable 11×17 poster that you can print yourself. And it’s free! Enjoy! – Sam
1 – Print it on your color printer, or at a local printshop. 2 – Email a photo of the poster at work, at home, etc, and we’ll post on our Facebook Pages.
The 30th anniversary edition of this electronic classic is back in print, reissued on CD in digipak with original artwork. To celebrate, the CD is on sale for just $10 through midnight on Monday January 30th! At Projekt’s Bandcamp page, you can grab the deluxe digital download for name-your-price, through midnight on Monday January 30th. It includes The Early Years rarities tracks.
Orders placed at the Projekt webstore this month include a download card for a copy of Forrest Fang’s Letters To The Farthest Star
New Releases for FebruarySteve Roach: Emotions Revealed CD or download A delayed transmission from the early 80s. These lost tracks created just prior to the Structures from Silence era represent two then-emerging sides of Steve’s artistic muse. Erik Wøllo: Visions CD or download This remastered $7 budget-priced collection brings together 8 standout tracks from the 12 Projekt releases by this renowned Norwegian electronic artist. Visionsinvites you into an hour of the impressive and kinetic music of Erik Wollo. Steve Roach: Live In Tucson – Pinnacle Moments CD or download Limited edition of 300. Recorded February 14th, 2015 at Tucson’s Solar Culture Galactic Center. The flow of energy this music holds offers an empowering way to ride an emotional soundwave into the present moment.
We collected questions from followers on the Steve Roach Facebook page. Here are Steve’s answers:
David DeWolf: Steve, what inspires you the most in creating sounds? Thank you for the endless beauty within your music!
Steve: Creating sounds from a blank slate is like mixing your own colors to paint with; there is a kind of blending of many senses during this process. The sensual nature of hearing and feeling sound is vital in this, and it’s what defines an artist’s “voice.” The pathways into one’s perception as these sounds are developed over time is an experience I crave on a daily basis. The inspirations come from living life itself with a curious mind, from the subtle points of awareness that can’t be described with words. The same feeling I receive when discovering a new place out in nature for example. The sound carving impulses are also certainly drawn from the larger more dynamic episodes of the day to day as well. In most cases the creation of the sounds comes first, then the music emerges.
Louie Bourland: Steve, it was your music that introduced me to the sounds of the didgeridoo. Can you please share how you first came in contact with the didgeridoo? Also, what advice or tips do you have for musicians that are just learning how to play the didgeridoo?
Steve: I first heard the didgeridoo in the movie the Last Wave in the late 70′s. Immediately the sound spoke to to me the same way certain organic synth drones did in those days.
Eventually I started on the early ideas that would become Dreamtime Return. As fate would have it, I was reading more on aboriginal culture and working on the music when a filmmaker heard my music and contacted me to score a documentary on the Aboriginal Rock painting art of the Australian Aborigines of Cape York. The very book I was reading was part of what the film was drawing from.
Soon I was traveling to Australia to experience all this firsthand with a expedition into the deep of the outback and the sacred sites that few westerners had ever seen. During the adventure I met Aboriginal Didg player David Hudson as part of the music/dance group he led in Cairns. This meeting was pivotal for me and the didgeridoo infusion. In the late 80s, I recorded David’s Wollunda. At that time there were no CDs of solo didgerdoo music anywhere on the planet that we could find, Wollunda was the first. I had to convince the owner of the record company there there was audience for this.
Eventually I learned to play from him. As for new players and ways to learn, there has to be a lot of youtube demos. Back then, I was giving day-long workshops on how to play.
Also for learning, playing along with didg albums is a great way to entrain the brain to circular breath. I continue to use the didg in various modes morphed and blended with the electronics and play it for fun and health benefits – deep breathing!
David Leavitt: Steve, what similarities do you see or feel between mountain biking and the process of making music? : )
Steve: David! Yes we have had some great rides in the outback of Tucson. The movement of the rotating mass is highly psychoactive for me, and it’s been fueling the music for years. I have been riding mountain bikes since the mid 80′s; this is great way to get out there and – at the same time – deeper in there. With the kind of mountain bike rides I do, the power breathing, cardio and brain functions are all working towards a sweet spot of what I like to call the endorphin dreamtime, otherwise known as the zone. I access a lot of insights and just pure raw emotion, unassigned joy, and body ecstasy from this state. It feeds the creative fire immensely and might help me to live a bit longer too.
Jamie Blackman: What was Jorge Reyes like, not so much as a collaborator, but as a person? He received practically no English-language media coverage, so I’ve never even read an interview with him. Anything you could say would be awesome.
Steve: Jorge was a man of the world. He spoke 5 languages and was quite well versed in many areas from an intellectual dimension and into the shamanic realm he lived so fully within.
There was a certain wild feeling in him as well. I could feel this when he was staying at my house; wild like maybe a kind of animal – a wolf-like feeling.
He was also gentle and had a warm open heart; and then we would go to these places together in the music that were just off the chart – dark and confronting.
His concert with me in Tucson was his first real U.S. appearance. We were planning more, and I know if he was still here he would be much more known in the states now.
He was very well-known in Mexico; he was on TV and played large concerts for thousands on a regular basis. We did some of those together in the 90′s, and these remain the largest audiences I have played for.
Also his presence in Europe was strong. Lots of interviews occurred in Germany, Netherlands, and Spain. He played constantly over there. That’s were we met.
Philippe Jeudi: Almost no musician today has interest for multichannel engineering, although technology for both recording and music playing are more available than ever. Even the companies who promote these technologies have no interest in native multichannel music. Pioneers like Edgar Varèse in the 1950′s would probably have enjoyed it. Is it something you would like to experience for your music?
Steve: While I feel my music is suited for this kind of application I don’t feel the demand is there to support the overall investment this would involve. Or maybe there’s a multichannel world out there I am not aware of. I am just not able to go out on a plank to find out.
Tim Preston: I want to know if Steve would consider coming to the UK or Europe in the near future.
Steve: I played in Europe over the course of 12 years up through 2003. These days I am keeping the travel here in the US. That can change if the right situation appeared with the proper support to make it happen. It’s a complex matter to air travel my gear these days, after 9/11. We will see.
For the time being, my US concerts will continue to be the destination if people want to see me live.
Robert Millsop: Steve, what might you have to say about your experience(s) working with the late Jorge Reyes? I’ve been specifically fascinated with the Forgotten Gods album and how that came about.
Steve: I will add to the part about Jorge above. We met at a festival on the Canary Islands in the early 90′s. Guitarist Suso Saiz was also at this event. The concert was in a volcanic lava cave made into a theater. I would say this set the tone for our entire run as a group and our duo collaborations, playing in locations that feed our process.
We were asked of do a set together and afterwards the connection grew. Some more concerts in Mexico occurred, and we made plans to create an album together at my house in Tucson.
At that time Linda and I had just moved to Tucson so the Timeroom was in the master bedroom of the house. This is where the entire Forgotten Gods album was recorded and mixed over a week’s time.
The album was built in a live mode; we would play and compose through improvisation, and then record live to capture the feeling, adding the final brush strokes in the end. We completed Forgotten Gods in a few days; as soon as it was finished John Diliberto flew in to record a living room concert in our house for the Echoes radio show. We just moved the gear from the studio to the living room, set up and with about 15 friends around – and John recording the music – we performed what we had just created the week before.
We went on to do a tour in Europe and recorded Earth Island in Madrid, Spain, and Osnabruck, Germany.
Philip Thompson: What was the last CD you played in your car?
Steve: Alive In the Vortex – my new release coming in December. I was listening to a test master on the way to the airport for the Philly concert.
Before that the Jimmy Page remastered Led Zeppelin 3.
Parrish S. Knight: How is something like “See Things” scored? It’s hard to see how you could create sheet music for it.
Steve: All of my music is created the way a painter works: starting with blank canvas of silence or no sound and then letting the first impulse be revealed…
From there the interactive process unfolds in the way which I think any creative act evolves as you focus on your intentions, or just going with the flow of no exceptions.
George Martindell: Hi Steve. Being someone who prefers composing and creating music at night, my question to you is this: do you find yourself recording and composing your extraodionary music more so during the night, or in the day hours? Thank you.
Steve: Indeed the more womb-like pieces are often created in the deeper hours, but many are often made at high noon. If it’s an ongoing piece that involves lots of tracks and arrangements, I might work on these throughout day into night. But I would say the initial birthing is more nocturnal for the pieces that have night feeling. I also really love to work on sounds and explore first thing in the early AM. Wake up, cup of coffee and meditate to the carving up of sounds or playing and working on music before the day gets started.
It’s a great way to merge into the day and sometimes before you know it something lights up a small spark from a sound and this could become a larger piece that keeps drawing me to it.
Tweedel Dee: How many licks does it take to get the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop out of your kid’s hair the night before school picture day?
Steve: This seems obvious. The best workaround is to use scissors.
Amay Progrez: A lot of your albums have the spiral shape. What is the significance of the spiral shape, or is there something about the shape that appeals to you?
Steve: The spiral is a visual metaphor for my work on many levels and the unbroken connection of this creative life I live. I always sense a through-line of life when I see this shappe. From the center outwards, or into the center, it’s a visual form I receive energy and grounding from. Also with its presence in the different cultures and ancient rock and cave art and throughout the world, there is the powerful universal imprint contained in this form.
Witek Borkowski: How much of an influence did Jean Michel Jarre have on your music?
Steve: In the early days I listened to his classics always looking to learn and see how people were creating music with the emerging technology.
I can’t say there was big influence but a strong appreciation.
That live performance DVD from a few years ago of him with the group playing Oxygene was pretty amazing.
Rod Smith: What was the set list for your recent show at St. Mary’s Church in Philly? It was one of the best shows I have ever seen?
Steve: Thank you. The set you experienced had, along with some of the familiar themes, a lot of material that was being created on the spot never to happen again.
In this list “new” means it was created in the moment as you were hearing it.
Opening the Space – the piece out front on the solo synth. – new A Majestic Void – new Endorphin Dreamtime Flow State – new Primal Portal – new Looking for Safety Kairos Portal Vortex Immersion Zone Going Gone Melting Gone – new Spiral live part 1 – new Spiral live part 2 – new The Way-back Machine – new Its All Connected This Delicate Life – new Today Structures From Silence – Epilogue version
Jonathan Graham: A two-part question. A: What piece of equipment or instrument (digital, analogue, acoustic or otherwise) have you had the longest and still use? B: the most recent one?
Steve: The Oberheim Xpander-Matrix 12 and the the Oberheim OB8 are the elder analogs. The DSI Prophet 8 and 12 are the recent current synths to join the studio.
The DSI has the deep matrix patching and feels connected to the Oberheim Matrix 12 and Xpander in terms of the intuitive flow, sound exploring options and build quality.
New synths always pass an initial test of my personal needs to get installed in the studio. From there it can still be a few months of working with them to see if they are in for the long run.
Emil Karlsson: Hi Steve, I’m pretty sure I’m one of your fewer younger listeners here, but an avid one all the same. I was just really curious about when you have an idea for a new project, do you do any kind of planning beforehand like many artists/composers? Do you draw out a “map” when you set out, in a figurative sense, or do you simply allow the music and soundworlds to evolve, thus taking on a form of their own in a “spur of the moment” fashion as you work on them in the Timeroom? I hope this isn’t too broad of a question, since it’s really for any of your projects, though if there’s one you’d like to talk about in particular. I’m all ears, and it would be very insightful indeed.
Steve: Great to know you’re listening and curious. Some projects can take months or years to take seed and start to grow, they can live either in the realm of thought before action. Some pieces are created over time that start to reveal a the bigger picture. With Skeleton Keys the desire to create these pure analog-based mandala-like pieces came before the music. As it started to build, it felt like pulling a cord off of a spool, unrolling a connected and highly electrified current. Once you start this kind of connected feeling, the pieces build an energy with a pull that won’t let go.
In this case it was created all live in the studio. Other pieces like Bloodmoon Rising are created in layers and offer the opportunity to listen and work on over time, like a painting on an easel.
This is where the times of day, the magic hour at the end of the day and the light changes in the studio and in the view I have, the deep hours of the night, all inform the process of working on the piece.
Kim Lynn Blackhurst: what is the most favorite piece or composition that you have done and how does it differentiate from your other compositions?
Steve: It’s nearly impossible to choose any one piece. Something like Dreamtime Return has some very deep memories infused into it. Going to Australia as part of the creation of the music, and that time frame over all. There was so much opening up within myself and in the world around this music at that time. Each recording has this kind of imprint of the life I am living at the time infused into the music; even if it’s not something a listener will ever be aware of, it’s there and I can hear it and feel it years later. It might be a subtle awareness that is recalled when I hear the piece or a reconnection to one of those Ah-ha moments.
Johnathan Woodson: Would you ever consider reissuing Structures From Silence on vinyl?
Steve: There is talk of it now with a few people maybe for next year.
Next up on vinyl is NOW, my first release. This will include a unreleased 23 minute-piece from that era. I should have this in November.
Robert Logan: Hi Steve! How did you get such a great sound in the live acoustic percussion recordings on your ‘tribal’ releases – particularly on something like Trance Spirits? (Sorry for such an engineery question . . . But it’s all part of the depths of feeling in the music!)
Steve: The acoustic percussion was recorded in a studio with a collection of great microphones by Jeff Fayman. It was recorded with a few percussionists all locked in together, and that energy is captured in the tracks and processed and enhanced the final tracks and built the pieces on these foundations.
Patrick Van de Ven: Steve, while listening to your more sequencer-approached music, I’ve often wondered if you’ve ever played with/considered odd time-measures like 7/8 or 9/8. A good example of a 9/8 sequence part is in Kit Watkins’ “The Impulse of Flow”.
Steve: I always go with a feeling that sits in the body and mind when carving out these sequencer pieces. I often use different length sequences set against each other. That’s a big part of the beauty of this style of music: the way the patterns interlock and then cycle around and back into phase. I tend to go for a feeling in sequence music that hits a kind of sweet spot, where it grooves and hits you at that body pulse place, so really the groove element is essential in this music for me. There is an infinite calculation of options to what you’re talking about, and we all have a different take on it. Speaking of Kt Watkins, one of my favorite pieces in the style you mention is from his group Happy The Man and the song “Service With A Smile,” great track!
Maarten van Valen: Are there any artists who you would like to collaborate with which would draw you out of your comfort zone?
Steve: I would like to combine my comfort zone with Jon Hassell’s to tell you the truth. I know Jon a bit and was in contact with him back in the late 80′s when he first moved to LA.
Right now I have so many ideas in my own universe I am consumed with, I am mostly focused on my solo work.
I do have a wicked collaboration coming with a young electronic artist based in London. His name is Robert Logan, you can find his music online. We have been working on tracks for a few years along side all the other work. It’s very kinetic and the generational difference is creating a nice melting pot. He is in his 20′s and brings a different perspective on things. At the same the time, he was drawn to a lot of my music both in the deep ambient and pieces like Body Electric, listened to a lot of this in his formative years. He has a brilliant feeling for creating the full range of this music, talented and musically wise beyond his years. 2016 will see the release of our album BioMass.
Thomas Lowther: Not sure if anyone asked this yet. How do you come up with your track titles?
Steve: Sometimes the titles emerge first, and I will live with them for long time before any music is made for that set of words or title. They gather an atmosphere and energy and work like keys to a place that help visualize the music. Other times when the piece comes first, the hours of living with the music will reveal the title or set phrases or words that are born from the essence of the piece. It’s a ongoing mysterious process.
Andy Barbara Dent: Does the desert remain a mainspring of inspiration?
Steve: The desert remains my soul tone zone from which I can return to for recalibration and renewal. At least 3 days a week I venture out into my local outback areas and never take it for granted.
Blair Harrington: Hi, you were the only person I’ve ever listened to that has the ability to to create three dimensional music. I would like to know how you created this. How can you make it sound like you’re playing in a canyon or landscape? Your subtle, very quiet and distant echoes of some of the sounds actually create the landscape around you as you shut your eyes and listen to it.
Steve: Thank you Blair, there is no easy answer as to how this happens. I think the complexities of being human are what defines the soul of an artist. It’s the way of an artist to apply this understanding to the process of creating and pushing the boundaries of one’s self. Indeed I use a lot of modern tools to make this music now; but even 30 years ago — when the tools I used were considered modern and are now vintage — the feeling and desire to make these spaces transcends the technology at hand. In this way I see something that plugs into the wall for power the same as elemental instruments made of wood, clay, stone, or metal; they are all working together to create the expansive, transcendent picture. I am driven to keep reaching for the inexplicable and bring it into form.
Steve Roach: music created at the leading edge of now STEVE ROACH BIO
Steve Roach is a leading pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, shaping it into what it is today. An extremely prolific composer with a discography of over 100 albums since his 1982 debut, his landmark recordings include Structures from Silence and Dreamtime Return. Tireless in his creative focus, Steve has released seven albums in 2015 (so far) including the analog sequencer tour-de-force Skeleton Keys and the ultra reflective Etheric Imprints.
Drawing from a vast, unique, deeply personal authenticity, his releases cover a wide range of dynamic styles all of which bear his signature voice. For 35 years the boundaries are constantly challenged in Roach’s work, ranging in style from pure floating spaces, analog sequencer music, primordial tribal, rhythmic ambient, dark ambient, long-form ‘drift ambient,’ and avant garde atonal ambient.
Steve’s artistic path is filled with new discoveries, both nuanced and dramatic. He brings to the table years of dedication and experience exploring sound via hands-on synthesis. With the sense of an artist working in three dimensional space, Steve’s skill set creates albums that breathe power, passion and vital life energy.
The most recent release – Etheric Imprints – contains mesmerizing soundworlds from the sensual realms of electronic/ambient sonic creation; it’s a plunge into the deep end of introspective music. On analog synth masterwork Skeleton Keys, Steve connects to the European EM masters at the roots of his electronic heritage while simultaneously mapping the soundworld of today’s contemporary technology-based music. The result is warm and engaging retro-futurism, a continuing evolution upon the musical structures Steve has unlocked in the restless pursuit of his soundquest.
“To fully enjoy Steve’s music the listener must be curious – not just with how it was made, or by whom, but with what happens when we allow ourselves to momentarily disappear into it.” – Chuck Van Zyl, The Gatherings
In concert, Steve creates transcendent electronic music emerging from an elemental instinctual mode. These events bring together an audience from around the country and as far away as Europe, all looking to experience the on-the-edge experience that erupts in the live setting. This make Steve’s concerts an entirely different experience from the recorded medium. With months of preparation absorbed into his system, evocative soundscapes blend with ecstatic rhythmic sections born from hands-on analog sound creation and sonic shapeshifting. The result is a direct transference of creative energy from the artist through his instruments out to the listener.
Live performances are the place where Steve’s music thrives, created at the leading edge of now.
A video profile created by Chuck Van Zyl of the Gatherings:Steve Roach’s first East Coast performance in 8 years – Sept 12, 2015 Live-related text removed from the Bio
Steve Roach live in concert with opener Jeffrey Koepper on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 8:00PM (doors open at 7:30PM). In the church sanctuary of St. Mary’s Hamilton Village at 3916 Locust Walk (just east of 40th & Locust) on the Penn campus in West Philadelphia. Limited admission! $30 cash at the door night of show. $10 for full-time students with proper ID (limited availability at the door). Advance tickets through Ticketweb. The Gatherings website.
Steve Roach live is presented by The Gatherings Concert Series, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization producing innovative music performances in Philadelphia since 1992. Learn more at The Gatherings website.
This Philadelphia show coincides with the release of Steve’s limited 4-CD set, Bloodmoon Rising. An atmospheric release with four ‘nights’ created for the Bloodmoon Tetrad that concludes September 28.
Small earlier bio:
Steve Roach is a pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, shaping it into what it is today. The extremely prolific American artist has a discography of over 125 albums. Following his 1982 debut, landmark recordings include Structures from Silence, Dreamtime Return and 2017’s Grammy-nominated Spiral Revelation. Tireless in his creative focus, Roach constantly challenges boundaries in work ranging in style from rhythmic analog sequencer music, pure floating spaces, primordial tribal-ambient and long-form drift ambient. He brings to the table years of dedication and experience exploring sound via hands-on synthesis. With the sense of an artist working in three dimensional space, Steve creates albums that breathe power, passion and vital life energy.
Friday July 17 @ Noon Pacific / 3pm East Coast
SomaFM streaming radio premiere of Steve’s Etheric Imprints — http://somafm.com/dronezone/
Etheric will not be up for streaming at Spotify, etc, but you’ll be able to hear this mesmerizing introspective electronic / ambient music on THE DRONE ZONE. There’s a chat window that Sam will be participating in, typing in answers from Steve.
See you there!