MUSIC INTERVIEW - AMONSGST MYSELVES
20.07.12 - on release
Firstly can you please tell us a bit about
your early experiences with music?
My siblings had a great influence
on my listening. My parents didn't really listen to music,
in fact I can't remember them really having a radio or record
player. We, my brothers and I, had a big box full of pop
singles from the 60s like Jan and Dean, The Beatles, The
Monkees but we also had more unusual records like "Quiet
Village" by Martin Denny which was done on a Moog modular.
This really intrigued me as it was full of sounds that weren't
the usual four piece rock band. One of my brothers who was
still living at home and starting bringing home stuff like
George Harrison's "Electronic Sounds" and other
strange albums that were in some way related to rock music.
It was also during this time we found a radio program called
"Scratching the Surface". We thought it was funny
as well as scary – hey we were only young. The music
played on this program included lots of Electro-Acoustic
and sound scape type pieces. It was unlike anything we had
heard before. A favourite of the time was Turkish composer
Ilhan Mimaroglu's “Wings of the Delirious Demon”.
My brother's interest in classical
types of music saw him buy albums like "Snowflakes
are Dancing" by Isao Tomita.
At this stage I was exposed to synthesisers
being used to create orchestral sounding instruments and
more so to create classical sounding music with a twist
like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rick Wakeman, Genesis, Mike
Oldfield. All using synths as a main part of their music
but nothing new in the style of music but then again I was
listening to them 10 years after they were made. It wasn't
until I found another radio program called “Dream
Time” that I started to hear pieces that used synthesisers
as an instrument in their own right. Tangerine Dream would
have been an initial spark for me also as introduced by
another musical friend at the time. This lead to Edgar Froese's
"Epsilon in Malaysian Pale" which certainly had
a great influence on my future in composition. Another album
that was part of that era for me is David Bedford's "The
Odyssey". For me the long pieces with minimal sequence
lines really started me off in the direction of long form
beat-less music. Continuing on, Steve Roach, Brian Eno and
Robert Rich helped bolster my direction.
How did you develop your interests and
style to become Amongst Myselves?
My whole basis for Amongst
Myselves' music is textural more than melodic. The line
between sound scapes and real world sounds are being blurred
in my mind. Long form pieces were always my goal more than
likely because of the total immersion effect that I got
from those early influences. I've always found percussion
used as a constant beat to be something for pop music, yes
I know I've done this also due to having a background in
rock music as a guitarist and bass player playing in bands
since I was 13 years old.
I found the re-ignition of ambient music
that came with the dance scene in the 90s to be a double
edged sword. It certainly helped to give ambient music a
gritty edge and make it popular again but I think the down
side for me is, once again, the need for a 4/4 beat to be
hammering away. In my opinion for a piece of instrumental
music to have a prominent beat almost negates the need for
anything else in the piece but people get into it, that's
what makes it pop music. Maybe I'll get used to it one day.
Don't get me wrong. I love rock music and lots of pop as
well but I don't see a place for a 4/4 constant beat as
part of my ambient music. I did get
reintroduced to ambient due to this scene though. Here was
a group that was not only doing pieces that were full of
sound scapes but also techno and that was "FSOL"
or Future Sound of London. They really did bring me back
to ambient and what made me end my career in the film industry
and want to follow this music area. Not that I sound like
The name is an interesting one - is there
a story behind 'Amongst Myselves'?
||It's pretty simple really. The
previously mentioned band, FSOL, have a track titled "Among
Myself". I changed it slightly to reflect that I was
now a soloist with all the ideas coming from me, one person
and with little or no other influences musically and quite
clearly self obsessed. Their album "Dead Cities"
was something that was right up my alley.
How would you describe your musical output prior to Fragments?
I still think what I do is a little fragmented and doesn't
fit nicely into a sub genre but that's what I like about
it as well. I find the idea of creating a style of music
that people like which then gets repeated for following
releases to be really boring and predictable. I suppose
that's why I don't actually own many cds of any one ambient
artist as I hear a wonderful piece by that artist, then
get bored because that's the only sound or format they do
and then the magic is totally gone.
Before "Fragments" I was still
finding my feet and I still am. I like experimenting with
different ideas that people think belong to other genres.
I think it's strange because pop music is allowed to get
away with cross genre pollination eg. Sigur Ros (another
one of my favourite bands of recent times). Although Sigur
Ros are probably more a product of the public (especially
in Australia) being open to these sounds. But you have electronic
music where someone uses a certain synth patch and it's
instantly labelled under genre X. That's just weird. The
whole genre thing annoys me and affects what I do. Several
reviewers of "Auburn Silhouette", my release previous
to "Fragments" which has a rocky track as the
last track, couldn't deal with this and found it totally
inappropriate, but I found it worked really well as it suited
the mood. I would love a review to say that one of my albums
is like a compilation of different artists as this would
be a great compliment to me.
What sparked the initial idea for the
think that I would be better as a remix person because I
regularly hear where instruments and sequences could fit
to create something totally different. I suppose "Fragments"
was my first true long form piece, although it clearly has
different sections and tracks, it certainly flows as one
piece for me. I can clearly see the reason it worked well
as it was created as one piece with different moods over
a 2-3 year period as opposed to my other albums which are
generally a collection of tracks.
For "Fragments" I started playing
around with taking an instrument or layer from one piece
and mixing it with a totally different track off another
album and found that it created something interesting and
new. Luckily or sadly, which ever way you see it, many of
my tracks are in the key of D, that's if they have a key,
so that side of things was easy. I also wanted an album
that focussed a little more on field recordings. I love
doing field recordings. It's something that takes me back
to the days of the radio program "Scratching the Surface"
which often played artificially created field recordings.
In several places you have very simple sounds - a field
recording of crickets and frogs on a calm river and layered
on top of this is a single note synthesizer. I think it
makes the listener concentrate on those simple sounds and
thus they hear more textures and naunces. I can' t remember
if I left them in or not but on this particular field recording
you can hear me in the background unloading my ute (pickup
truck) and dumping my camping and cooking gear at a nearby
campsite which adds to the sound scape as I'm the only one
who knows what the sound is and the listener's imagination
fills in the rest.
How did the music for the album begin
to take shape?
||I'd take a layer from one track
and mix it, or convolve it with another layer from a completely
different track. At the time I was doing a few sound scapes
for some short films and during the creation of these film
soundtracks I started creating musically sounding sound effects
tracks which held up by themselves without any need for dialog
or "traditional" music. It was only when I started
to make complete pieces that I began to think I could do a
whole long form piece along these lines. I was limited to
the sounds and layers from my own previous 4 albums although
I did cheat for "She Who Loves Silence" which is
a totally new track but something that was needed at this
stage of the album's progress. In reality this track came
partly from a sound effects track that I did for a short film
but you'd not be able to pick it if you heard the original.
Could you tell us something of your recording/composing
I'll start with a synthesiser patch which I've either downloaded
from somewhere or more often I've created via a randomiser.
Then from some strange part of my mind I will start to play
something that fits that sound. Of course this is when working
with a chromatic sounding and playable patch. This can evolve
from here to the point when I have created what I would call
a bed piece which dictates the changes in moods or chords.
From here I often use the sound or mix of what I've create,
and funnel it through a convolution effect. This basically
takes the characteristics of one sound and applies them to
another. A good example of my use of convolution is the track
"5am Melbourne 1996" from my "Sacred Black"
album which is mostly a guitar strum being convoluted by a
television commercial which gives the guitar a sort of wave
crashing on the shoreline effect. From there I often pull
the piece apart again and use the interesting sounding parts
and start to create again.
As far as my composing tools I use a PC running Sonar and
Sony Vegas, which also doubles for my video work. Most of
the time I just use these programs like an old multi-track
tape recorder where I would play a synth and layer up another
part. I have a basic set of effects which I can configure
anyway I like to create the sounds I need. Of course I have
the wonderful ability to copy and paste things around and
for the most of it I couldn't do what I do without a computer.
I do find that I spend little time playing a keyboard or
guitar and more time just recording single chords of sounds
and then manipulation them with effects and creating my
piece from there.
I've recently starting taking the approach of limiting
my options whereby I only use a small set of software synthesizers
and effects. The reason for this is overwhelming choice
which slows the act of composing. So instead of having several
softsynths that are sample based players, I have one flexible
one. Limiting myself also allows me to learn this one synth
to a greater depth as not knowing your programs also slows
the process down. A sample player like "Dimenson Pro"
is quite extensive and if the user goes to the extent of
actually creating their own patches as opposed to relying
on preset patches, or at least modifying the presets, the
sound world is endless.
Another step I've also starting moving on is the use of
analogue modular synths and other analog electronic sound
making devices. Having a reasonable grip on the world of
electronics and construction I recently built up a noise
making box. This contains a MFOS Weird Sound Generator,
MFOS 10 Step sequencer, PAIA 9700 mini modular along with
a custom matrix mixer and quad effect unit. The noises this
thing can make are wonderful. The plans for more stuff is
also in the pipeline. MFOS stands for "Music from Outer
Space" which is a synthesizer project microcosm created
by the wonderful Ray Wilson.
Are there any interesting anecdotes regarding
the creation of Fragments?
(These might be things that happened during recording, background
information or anything that somehow provides a personal touch).
||All the track
names are either book titles, lines from reading material
or town names. The track "Town on the Hill" comes
from the English translation of the Cornish town "Ventonleague"
where part of my family emigrated from in the 1800's. Another
example is the opening track "Smell of the Sun"
which is a children's book "Mona Minim and the Smell
of the Sun" by a favorite New Zealand author, the late
Janet Frame. In the process of checking the use of the book's
title for my use , I didn’t realize that the person
I was dealing with was in fact the niece of Janet Frame for
whom the book was written.
completed the project - how would you like the music to
|| It's a road trip through different environments.
Like listening to a film with just the sound effects and music
track turned on. That's the way I've thought of the music
for this album myself. Mostly the music is sound effects that
straddling the line between the two. Like most of my work
I imagine the listener in a dark and quiet environment, listening
with headphones to take them totally away from their own environment.
After all this is the way I generally listen to ambient types
there been any feedback that you have found particularly gratifying/interesting?
||My most humbling response to Fragments was
the nomination for Best Ambient and Best Electronic album
for 2010 from Zone Music Reporter and a national radio program
here in Australia also made it one the best albums of 2010.
It really shows that if you are into your music then it's
a good chance other people will be as well.
are you working on currently - or planning for the future?
||I've plans for a dark drone release which
has been slowly coming together over the last five years.
I do love the dark side of ambient. As part of this I want
to spend more time working the visual elements into my music.
Although ambient video doesn't appear to have a big audience
or be part of the ambient music scene, it is part of what
I do. I'd love to create a piece that integrates more of my
timelapse photography and 3d graphics. My most recent release
"Ambient, Landscape and Space" used these basic
techniques for what was originally intended for live performance
projections and I'd like to explore this in a more structured
and narrative way via a piece which will either be a track
or tracks from the album or the whole thing. At this stage
I can't tell. The film side of things, especially timelapse,
where I have constructed the gear to do the filming, takes
lots of time away from music creation but for me this is all
part of the process.
to Steve for allowing us that interview.