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3.12.15 - on release of Alchemy


Q: What was the initial vision / inspiration for this project - what did you set out to achieve when the concept first began to develop?  

There is a type of music that I personally enjoy but have found increasingly difficult to source… this presented me with the only viable solution… to produce it myself! Unusual chordal patterns and craft-fully harmonised voicings were the order of the day. The more unusual the chord patterns the more interesting the improvisations can become. The challenge for me though was trying to come up with something a little more “outside of the box” whilst still maintaining the strong sense of melody that has been a feature of my previous works yet at the same time I wanted a more ‘progressive' approach to song structure avoiding the verse-bridge-chorus formulaic approach the typifies nearly all popular music. With instrumental music there are no rules and all parameters can be stretched to the max. Because this is a more acoustic outing, with most tracks having a free-form approach, they lend themselves to accommodate more room for changes in direction whilst hopefully not becoming so disjointed that the themes lose their form and structure.

  Q:  How did the initial ideas crystallise into a concrete plan of action?   Some of the ideas on Alchemy have been with me for 16 years or more. Most just start out as acoustic noodlings or sometimes nothing more then a couple of interesting chords that in time seem to take on a structure of their own, evolving as it were in the direction they seem to command for themselves. Often you have an idea that you think will go down one certain road but ends up somewhere completely different and unexpected. I always find what helps me is to give a title to each and every track as soon as they have enough form to tell me what it sounds like it is all about… again there are no rules and it is always a challenge giving names to instrumental works as you really want people to use their own imagination and make of it what they will rather then hint at any given direction. Once you name a track such as Siberia your imagination will conjure up everything relevant to that title but name it Trapezium… and well… it challenges the imagination and allows one to put their own definition on it. This format really appeals to me… let the listener decide what they think the track is all about.
Q:  How would you say that this release differs from previous Al Marconi albums?
  The approach I took with this release was a less-is-more approach. Having the confidence to strip away a lot of the production elements found on previous recordings and allowing the guitar to stand alone and naked in its environment. Yet I had to be careful not to end up with a monotonous result where after a few tracks everything could blend in to itself. There has to be enough variety in themes and ideas so as to hold the listener's interest and avoid that numbing effect that can occur when instrumentation takes on a more minimalistic approach… this is always a challenge with instrumental music. This really is the album I always wanted to make, I just needed to wait until I had the right sound and enough technique to get the job done to a degree of satisfaction.


  Q:  How did you go about composing individual tracks for Alchemy?  

Sometimes a single chord talks to you and just evokes some kind of feeling or emits a certain vibe that recollects an image in your mind… may sound strange but that’s how it works for me. Cassiopeia for instance… just a couple of chords and I started imagining the depths of space and conjuring images of constellations in my minds eye… so the track told me what it was all about and how to proceed… keep the voicing sparse with plenty of “emptiness” between notes... a deeper than usual reverb but at some point I would need to inject a feeing of reverence that the awesome majesty of the universe deserves… a real power and emotion... which is where the sitar drones come in, to add a new level of intensity. Siberia similarly just sounded cold…plus the grey clouds forming outside of the window I was looking out of whilst playing around with the initial chordal ideas… and then some snow flakes appearing. What I would say with pretty much every track I have ever written is that the names are never just picked out randomly but a huge deal of thought goes into the naming and the reason why I call ideas the names I do… and as yet I have never written a track with the word love in the title!

Q:  What would you say that the fans of your music might look forward to?  

A fresh and new dynamic that they may well never have heard on record before. This album cannot be defined by categorisation as it doesn’t fit into any known pigeon hole. It’s not classical, not new age, not flamenco… it is just pure Al Marconi. Fans who enjoy my sense of melody, almost exclusively conjured from minor progressions, will, I hope find the ideas challenging yet rewarding. The tone and dynamics have been left as raw and natural as possible. No compression at all was used at any point in the recording so a great deal of care and attention had to go into the recording process and controlling my playing technique to avoid clipping the signal. Listen carefully and you will even hear the effects of a cold I had on a couple of tracks! I had thought at its inception that this album would be a more technical fest with a great deal a speed runs and heavily syncopated harmonisation but in the end it just didn’t call for it and that is the key sometimes. It’s all too easy to show off as it were and display technical prowess but all too often this can come at the cost of ruining creative ideas and result in overwhelming the listener. It’s always better to give the piece what it is calling for and not what you would like to do with it… well that is the creed of my little philosophy that I have used on every album I have written. Maybe one day there will be a call for an out and out shred fest… but this wasn’t it!

  Q:  For those not yet familiar with your work - how would you describe the music of Al Marconi and specifically that of Alchemy?   Music to evoke the sense?…not sure. That really is the whole approach for me… to be able to go in any direction the music calls for. A real cocktail of world fusion elements… at times, Arabic with Eastern flavourings, sometimes Mediterranean or Latin, other times neo-classical or contemporary new age. It is really music that transcends categorisation. Perhaps calling it “Melodious, world fusion instrumental spanish guitar" would somehow suffice…bthough I could probably add another dozen descriptives in there.


Q:  What would you say have been the most gratifying aspects of recording and playing your music over the years?   Well it’s definitely not the financial rewards…but rather the satisfaction of having brought real pleasure to my listeners. All those over the years that have expressed their appreciation in so many ways… and those that have recognised that illusive X-factor… no not exploitation... lol but that special something that rises above the ordinary. I have always believed I play and perform with a level of intensity and passion all too often never seen today. I don’t have the greatest of technique and I’m not the most studious of the instrument but I have a passion and intensity about my playing that hopefully makes up for it. My simple philosophy is to play every note as though it is the first time I have ever played and… and could possible be my last! The day I find myself simply going through the motions is they day I will hang up my guitar.
I have had great success with sales of albums in the past… my greatest achievement at the time was my Terra Nova album which allowed me to explore all the potential that sampling instruments and the latest in software provided me with. A whole new sound palette was at my disposal and with little experience in sequencing I was able to conjure up a pretty impressive soundscape on some of the tracks… this was truly an exciting period of creativity for me and one I would admit to getting a little carried away with. The desire to be the next Hans Zimmer was encroaching upon me… but after two albums of exploration into the more symphonic side of things I made the return to my roots with Alchemy…and the love of the instrument that began it all in the first place. I will no doubt explore those more orchestrated possibilities again in the future if the future allows for it.
  Q:  What part do you have in the creation of the artwork for your music?
  I now produce all the artwork and design for all of my recordings using images from external sources, simply because of the need to cut production costs and... well yes I would admit to being a bit of a control freak that likes to do everything himself.


Q:  What can you share with us regarding the future?   I’m kind of back on tracks as a DJ and plan to travel again for gigs, I enjoyed working on the compilation even though it took me ages to really get into it. And now of course, I’m already thinking about chapter 4! But we have quite a few plans for releases on Ultimae so it’ll have to wait a little. Asura’s album is in the pipeline, we have EPs coming up for I Awake, Lars Leonhard, Miktek; Circular are working on a new release as well, Nova is nearly done with his compilation, we’re going to reprint Interloper from CBL… Oh and I nearly forgot to mention, Vince is working on an album in 4 parts to be released on vinyl next year and our first collection of audio samples.   Q:  How would you say that your music has been affected by the current attitudes to downloading music?
  Well this is the tragic part and the travesty that is occurring in what must be one of the toughest professions on the planet to survive in, let alone succeed in. Despite honing my craft for over some 33 years, improving and developing my technique and my compositional abilities. Despite the more refined production quality and mature and less naive approach to song-writing I find the results merely from a revenue aspect worse then ever. It seems that with greater exposure and a far wider and ever reaching audience and fan base there are more and more opportunities and avenues for people to listen to and even to download music without the need to pay for it. So much so that music is now considered a free resource and people almost resent any implication that it should be paid for… therefore music now seems to have no intrinsic value. It has become nothing more then a lost-leader, promotional material to advertise touring and live performance. We are constantly encouraged to network ourselves and get our music out there. There is a plethora of exposure opportunities at out disposal… the industry creates more and more every single day. I am constantly bombarded with opportunities to gain more listeners… but always for a cost and with no promise of a return but just more "exposure" and you begin to question the whole set-up. The digital revolution has signed the death warrant for many of today's music creators. On the one hand it gives an opportunity to everyman and his dog to 'get their music out there' and enter into the market place, but with no quality control structure that market is flooded under the vast weight of opportunists seeking fame and/or fortune from what is an evaporating resource. The cake is no bigger now than it ever was only now we have millions upon millions all trying to get their slice and it is simply unsustainable. So we are told to give it all away for promotional purposes… with what end result I ask you? With the result of lining the pockets of the likes of Amazon and Apple who increasingly devalue the work of music creators whilst professing to be the saints of the industry. I never conceived when I started out as a professional in the industry some 25 years ago that there would come a time when I would be making more money from advertising on my YouTube music videos than the very music itself… a fact that does not bode well for the future of any but the most fortunate.

Thanks to Al Marconi for allowing us that interview.