MUSIC INTERVIEW - ALIGNING MINDS
- On release of Universal Automation
Can you begin by telling us please what led
you into a life of music?
both got into music independently for pretty much the same
reasons. I would say we both knew music was our primary
life direction from the age of around 13-14. We grew up
in a remote, isolated location in Western Maryland, USA
where there wasn't much to do other than individualistic
pursuits. I grew up in a house of music because of my father,
who's an accomplished guitarist and musician who definitely
put the love of music in me from a very early age.
Mike, well- he just knew 'what was up' from an early age
I guess. :)
We were both very angry, rebellious teenagers and at the
beginning music was a way for us to explore our individuality
and express our frustrations with living in the midst of
a...less than open-minded, progressive culture. We were
both pretty serious about dark metal music for a few years
before we even met. We were both guitarists who spent most
of our time practicing and trying to find people to start
bands with. This was very difficult as there weren't many
people around who were even interested in music. We both
started toying around with 4-track recorders and other accessible
home recording technology at the time, in order to realize
our own ideas. Again, this is all before we met.
Then when I was about 17 and Mike was 15, we happened to
meet through some mutual friends and immediately connected
in a very powerful way. We understood each other instantly.
We then had each other to reinforce our mutual and growing
obsession. Through growth, friendship, experimentation and
many 'pychonautic' explorations at the time we kept exploring
our musical interests. This mutated from very melodic 'post
apocalyptic' gothic and thrash metal compositions that we
were pursuing... then into industrial music heavily influenced
by artists like Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, Velvet
Acid Christ, Haujobb, etc.
As our explorations progressed, so did our motivations,
tastes and techniques. Both in our lives and therefore our
music, we grew out of being so angry and started turning
our attention to creation rather than destruction, so to
speak. We started becoming increasingly interested in purely
electronic music and consciousness exploration through its
utilization. We discovered dance music and then experimental/braindance/idm
or whatever you'd like to call it. First we were incorporating
electronics into guitar compositions and eventually we were
so fascinated by synthesizers and non-conventional 'future
music' that our guitars started collecting dust...
This was all over the course of several years and it just
It completely turned into an obsession and direction for
our lives to come.
How has the project Aligning Minds grown from
inception to its current state?
Ha, it's been a long and interesting journey...
Continuing from the last question, although we were continually
growing together musically, until around 2002 we were still
making purely our own music. We hadn't been collaborating
on the actual music, but more just supporting each other
in terms of progression of our own work. We had developed
as individualistic control freaks with our music out of
necessity. It suddenly dawned on us that it would be doubly
effective to work together. We wanted to create a platform
that would serve as a joint outlet for our ideas and efforts.
The concept was to build something that would gain momentum
that was beyond its founding members, simply because of
the concept itself. That concept was unity through music.
Although a lofty notion, it was what we felt and we set
about writing the music that expressed it to us. Until mid-2004
or so, we just incubated and remained very secular, developing
that vision in a musical representation. We established
what, to us, was and still is the sound of Aligning Minds.
We finally reached a point where we felt the need to break
out of the bubble we were in, both in our music and life
situations. With that came the need to perhaps finally share
our work with someone, anyone, and to allow it to lead us
wherever it would. Through a series of fateful meetings
with people, we started performing in the Baltimore/Washington
DC area regularly at many different events.
At first we just took whatever we could get, it wasn't about
profile but just about sharing the music. Then we met several
key people who started booking us at events that provided
much bigger opportunities. We aligned with the Eighty Eight
crew based out of DC and we became residents at several
events which allowed us to perform monthly, sometimes weekly
with a huge variety of artists ranging from producers, dj's,
vj's, dancers, performance artists and designers. We were
suddenly immersed in a community of like-minded people who
were supporting and encouraging our work. It was quite a
difference and step forward for us and to this day was one
of the biggest pivotal moments in our lives as artists.
We were meeting, performing and working with artists whose
work we had followed and admired for years, and the networking
that was achieved was unbelievable. From there, we got kind
of addicted to performing and connecting with people.
We continued writing and performing and started bridging
in new directions, through both collaborating with other
artists and touring. Somehow, around this time we were exposed
to the psytrance scene through the Gaian Mind festival.
Although we had never originally thought of our music as
relating to that scene in any way, it seemed to be very
well received within it. We were blown away by the culture
and ethic, and became increasingly involved in performing
at psy events in the down tempo areas. This also led to
discovering the artist Bluetech, whose music we immediately
fell in love with and reached out to for potential opportunity.
He, in turn, connected us with Aleph Zero and subsequently
the Beats and Pieces label, with whom we signed with for
a full length album release.
We decided to embark on our first tour, called 'Immerse',
which was with Kilowatts and The Great Mundane. This was
all before we even had a proper, largely distributed release
out which was in many ways, over-zealous. This inevitably
led to more events, remixes, singles and then - another
tour! We were, admittedly, very new to understanding how
to structure our work-flow and set a functional agenda.
Through some trials and tribulations, we completed the album
'Universal Automation' for the Beats and Pieces label in
Over the last 15 months or so, we have taken a hiatus from
working together, for various reasons. However, now we're
back with a fresh stance and outlook on our future as Aligning
When you set out to create Universal
Automation – what was your vision?
wanted to create something unique that had longevity. As
per our usual desire musically, even within the composition
of an individual track, we wanted to create an emotional
progression. The concept/statement of 'Universal Automation'
was to create through universal design. To us, this means
putting aside the logical, rational mind and surrendering
to a deeper intuition. This is where truly powerful music
comes from in our opinion, all throughout the ages regardless
of time, space or genre. It's about surrender and allowing
the universal intelligence to embody and speak through you
as an artist. Also, playing on the term of 'automation'
within electronic music production, it's as if we are simply
parameters in the universe that have been programmed/automated
to perform certain functions for a specific result. That
result is to channel from the source energy. Therefore,
we wanted to create an album that really put forth our vision
in that regard. Also, we had a deep desire to transcend
limitations of genre definitions and all of the associated
consequences of that. Deep melodies, rich atmospheres and
exploratory rhythms are the components of that language
How do you write your music? What’s your process?
mostly the same for both of us, whether we're writing together
or individually. Usually it’s sitting down in front
of the sequencer with a craving, for some sort of mood or
space. More often than not, a track will start with the
beats. We'll put the time in to create a rhythm that creates
a 'moving skeleton' that will do well in supporting some
sort of sound-scape. Once the basic beat is established
and it's interesting enough on its own, a basic element
of mood will be the next focus. This could be anything from
a weird sample, to a basic melody, to an improvised, live
melody played in on the keys... to just a pad sample, basically
anything that creates a sense of space and a foundation
for a mood/emotion. Then, this and the beat get worked on
in tandem, in order to make them really intertwine and interact
in a complimentary way. Then, more elements are added in
the same way - a melody, a harmony, more spacey bits, anything
that will add or embellish it in a complimentary way. At
this point we're usually starting to get hypnotized and
the other elements just start revealing themselves. Sometimes
these will be just sketches at first; other times there
will be more time spent realizing the sonic character of
each element before moving on. It just depends.
Then, once enough elements are layered together, we start
sketching out a basic arrangement and energy progression.
The main body of the track and variations, bridges and transitions
are all written and dropped into different places to play
with energy contour and tension/release. While this is all
happening, time is spent to tighten things up and mix the
elements properly. The actual mixing/production process
is pretty synonymous with the writing/composition at this
point. Compression, limiting, EQ, spatial processing, etc.
- they're all getting applied in between phases of additional
composition and arrangement. Of course, we will most likely
come back to that very obsessively later, but at least the
basic groundwork is getting laid out for each layer.
Once the track is mostly written and arranged, it’s
really just zillions of times of playing it back and getting
lost in the vibe of the track - listening objectively and
subjectively - and doing detail work. Intro, builds, fills,
glitches, added percussion, mixing, etc. It's the detail
work that takes the most time honestly. Adding all the little
details that keep us and the listener engaged upon multiple
listens. We've always admired music that presents something
new to hear with each listen, music presenting nanosecond
hidden artifacts and subtle characteristics that affect
you on a very subconscious level.
What gear do you use (both live and in
studio and live, it’s very simple... We've been using
Ableton Live for years and it's our DAW of choice. We use
lots of plugins of all varieties that we've collected and
are always accumulating...
Pretty much anything Native Instruments related, especially
Reaktor, SpectraSonics stuff, Waves, Izotope, native Ableton
plugins. Drum racks, instrument racks and effects racks
that we've built over the years. All sorts of free and randomly
APC 40's for control and Novation Remote Sl's for keys.
We've been through various models of monitors and headphones
-Mackie HR8's, Event ASP8’s, KRK Rokits, Ultrasone,
etc. Some tracks were even written on consumer level ear-buds
then mixed down later on better gear. We used to use some
hardware and definitely want to get back into that more.
Software is obviously just so accessible and control-friendly
and the potential, quality and design is always expanding.
Live, we just bring out our laptops with APC 40's for control,
and sometimes the Novations for keys. For live performance,
simple and effective is what we're into really – not
getting tied down technically and just focusing on the vibe
of the music. At the end of the day it’s the resulting
music that matters.
How do you create those intricate beats
on the album – can you break down the process for us?
||Mike and I
both have varied processes for this, but the concepts are
and results are mostly the same. The main beats are programmed
to carry the pronounced, foundation of the rhythm. Kicks,
snares, fundamental hit hats and percussion and various other
hits. Then, other poly-rhythms and embellishments are programmed
and layered with the main beat. These are then run through
various effect chains and algorithms, which are automated
depending on the desired results. This is all then sampled,
multiple times with different automation each time, in order
to get different layers of textural, tonal and time variations
on the original content. You then end up with your main beats
and a huge resource of unique, character-rich rhythmic layers
and samples that work with the beats in different ways. These
layers are then broken down into chunks, single-shots, etc.
These are then thrown into another sampler and programmed
again, or simply placed in different areas of the arrangement.
This is again run through more chains and the process is repeated,
often an absurd number of times.
What you end up with is a handful of very carefully handpicked,
well-crafted glitches and rhythms that are programmed to 'dance'
with the original, main beats. Then, the main beats are re-programmed
to interact with these new layers in new and interesting ways,
and often times, EVERYTHING is re-sampled a few more times.
In the end, the result is a big soup of interesting pieces
and it's a process of elimination and careful placement. The
vision of how the beats should sound emerges increasingly
throughout the entire process.
What has inspired your particular style
||In many ways,
diversity. For a very long time we were isolated and not in
any way involved with any sort of scene and its associated
genres, trends, and approaches. We spent years just listening
and observing from afar, never going to events or meeting
anyone face to face. It was just us, our ideas and all of
these diverse influences we were picking up from listening
to so many styles and sounds, but never being specifically
involved or affiliated with any one of them.
For instance, we were obsessively listening to and therefore
being influenced by everything from avant garde idm, drum
n bass, breakcore, ambient, downtempo, industrial, glitch,
world music. Anything we could get our hands that we thought
was interesting. Yet there was no real allegiance to any one
style or format. Although at the time, I think we were going
a bit crazy by feeling so far away from the world of music
that we wanted to be involved in. We compensated for this
by devouring loads and loads of diverse music. This really
worked to our advantage because we started incorporating all
of these different strains of influence into our work. It
all culminated in a unique sound, I think. We never understood
why there was this kind of 'closed door' policy between genres,
scenes and cultures. Also, just life, living it hard and really
writing from the heart. We never set out to make a particular
genre or style, but just to write music that expresses how
we feel- which results in extremely personal expressions.
Often, a bit too much – so we end up having a hard time
letting go of it.
Who does what within Aligning Minds?
||We get asked
this a lot and the answer is that it really varies. It depends
on the the project at hand and what it needs. There are some
things that are just completely one of us. There are other
things that are 80 percent one of us, and the other person
elaborates on or finishes up, adding their flavor. Then there
are other tracks that are complete collaborations. It's very
balanced in its own odd way. We both write basslines, beats,
melodies, atmospherics - there's not necessarily any clearly
defined role in terms of who does what. We just do what the
music is asking for.
I will say this: Mike is a mastermind at glitch and all of
the really intricate rhythms and edits. His inherent abilities
seem to naturally lie around the more downtempo, idm influenced
stuff. My abilities are more in the straight ahead, energy-oriented
structures. Mike has a knack for the playful, wistful melodies.
I have a knack for the really looming, haunting, brooding
stuff. We really just try to combine all of these things into
forms that interest us, mutually. We feel like the tracks
are living entities, unto themselves- it’s what they
ask for from us that are important, not the other way around.
That may sound strange, but it's really the way we feel about
it. In many ways, Aligning Minds is two individual artists
who have a common vision and understanding of music, and work
to achieve different shades of that vision.
What are you currently working on –
how do you spend your time?
we've both had to take a bit of a hiatus from music in order
to pay attention to practicality. We're currently working
day jobs to pay the bills (IT / Design / Web). I have an 8
year old son and Mike just had a son 3 months ago, so those
things are presently keeping us pretty busy. Mike has been
playing a number of performances in the Asheville, NC area
under the Aligning Minds name.
We have a plethora of unreleased material and are working
to sort out a new album/EP, contribute to some compilations,
and get our backlog of unreleased tracks out there in some
digestible format. We're both of course working on new music
at any given opportunity – I’m actually about
to self-release an EP under the name 'Deep Subject' and Mike
is working on a sound design project with Volvox Films. We
also just redid the Aligning Minds website and are pushing
our social platforms. You can find all that stuff at - http://www.aligningminds.com
What goals do you have musically for
looks very bright and we have quite a lot in store. The recent
break has allowed us to kind of reinvent ourselves personally
and now we are working on translating that into what Aligning
Minds will become over the next few years. For the next year
or so we really want to focus on releases, we plan to get
the majority of the stuff we have been sitting on out there
for the world to hear. We are looking to link up with some
labels based in the US and really push our sound. Expect to
see it trickle out through EP’s, compilations, remixes,
and when it’s ready a full length album for Aleph Zero
Records. This past summer we did several remixes and releases
for artists like Emancipator, Invisible Allies, MusSck and
currently have a few other in cue.
On the live front, we want to work on realizing a more profound
live show that incorporates video, projection mapping and
a reinvented live setup. We are currently seeking interactive
visual artists to help us develop this further. We will continue
to do select performances and festivals in the meantime.
Overall the last year has been a bit of an incubation bubble
that allowed us to return to form; now we are genuinely excited
to see what new forms and experiences morph out of it.
to Daniel for doing the talking and to Mike allowing us